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Real-world/historical influences in RPGs  

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  1. 1. What time period(s) do you prefer for RPGs to draw upon, in terms of culture, architecture, and themes?

    • Ancient era (Egypt, Homeric Greece, Bronze Age).
    • Classical period (Greece city states, Roman Republic/Empire).
    • Dark Ages/Early Medieval (Vikings, King Arthur, Early Christianity, etc.).
    • High Medieval (Norman England, Crusades, Joan of Arc).
    • Gothic/Late Medieval (Notre Dame, Vlad the Impaler, palace castles).
    • Renaissance (da Vinci, Marco Polo, Black Death, artistic patronage).
    • Age of Discovery (conquistadors, pirates, colonies, exploration).
    • Early Modern period (Reformation, Enlightenment, citizen militia, etc.)
    • Late Modern period (Napoleon, Industrial Revolution, Manifest Destiny)
    • Something more recent/not included here.
  2. 2. Which broad cultural group(s) should Project Eternity draw upon?

    • Sub-Saharan African
    • Oceanic and/or Native American
    • Middle East/Islamic
    • Celtic and/or Scandinavian
    • Slavic/Eastern European
    • East Asian/Japanese
    • Near Eastern/Greek/Hebrew
    • South Asian/Indochina
    • Central Asian/nomadic
    • Southern European/Romance/Iberian
  3. 3. Which genre(s) of RPGs do you enjoy the most?

    • Fantasy
    • Science fiction
    • Steampunk/retro-futuristic
    • Post-apocalyptic/dystopian
    • Gothic/horror
    • Western or Modern
    • Historical


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Both fantasy and science fiction draw heavily upon the real world and its history for inspiration, whether intentionally or subconsciously. There's been a lot of talk about how Project Eternity is set a bit later on (in terms of technological development) than most of the Infinity Engine games, and that includes an opportunity for it to depict a more cosmopolitan mixture of cultures. Josh made that one thread about linguistics that further hinted at the variety that will be seeing, so I wanted to see how people felt about this. Unfortunately I can't capture all the vast options in the poll, and let me know if I've forgotten anything obvious.

 

This has been highlighted by a few games that I've been playing recently, such as Europa Universalis (which pays a lot of attention to cultural religious diversity and the social issues it has historically created) and Bioshock Infinite (which if nothing else is very interesting in its somewhat atypical choice of setting). Even though I can barely take the series seriously, Assassin's Creed IV is going full-on pirate, which should be quite interesting. The classic medieval fantasy RPG is a fairly obvious case, based on England, France, and Germany during the Middle Ages, but I think we're starting to see a lot of series move away from pure high medieval stuff. Other fantasy RPGs often incorporate a wide range of influences, such as the samurai-based Akaviri, Viking-based Nords, and Greco-Roman Imperials in The Elder Scrolls (one could even make the case that Morrowind's dark elves . Even so, I think there's a lot of opportunities for diverse influences that the genre hasn't even begun to cover, so let me know what you'd like to see.

Edited by mcmanusaur
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I feel as though the RPG genre is too stuck in its European rut. If nothing else just for a breath of fresh air. 

 

For example, I loved getting to Samarch(?) in Storm of Zehir, because it looked and felt different, very South-East Asian/Indian in visuals. It's rare to get that feeling of something truly different. Even in more original RPGs and settings, it tends to be either "more authentic European" or "different part of Europe" that's the primary influences. 

 

For a full game with more rarely used locales and feel to it, look at Expeditions: Conquistador. Another game that is truly excellent in term of being different, believable, and still cohesive is Final Fantasy X. They really got the world building right in that game. 

 

Edit: To contribute something that will actually answer the question directly, I would love to see an RPG with a lot of Near Eastern, Bronze Age influences. Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Assyrian, etc. Would be so cool. Not sure how well it would fit with PE though. I suppose it could be cool to make the original Glanfathan inhabitants a mix of Celtic and Near Eastern influences. Could make for something interesting, if they're mixed cohesively. 

 

On the whole, I'm really quite satisfied with what we're seeing, actually. I think the cultural outfits in particular are looking really, really good. 

Edited by Greensleeve
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I really admire it when RPGs go in different cultural/period directions, because it can give an excellent spin on the setting and really bring something new to the table. I applaud PE, as I applauded Arcanum, for bringing in a less-used time period and setting, and I hope that will add to its staying power.

 

Unfortunately, when you're dealing with fantasy content people (as groups) need something they can relate to in order to follow the story. Oddly, fantasy needs familiarity more than most genres. The second and third ports of call for that familiarity are cultural location and time period. The first, inevitably, is the moral compass of the protagonist. Very few fantasy games feature protagonists who don't subscribe to modern western cultural values - even when the player character is able to make decisions. If you were to thrust a modern western player through the cultural narrative of a viking marauder most players would find it desperately difficult to relate to and it adds to the stack of things that can alienate.

 

Most western fantasy rpgs (c or pnp) still don't tend to deviate greatly from the works of J.R.R. Granted, horizons broaden to include new settings (steampunk and post-apocalyptic being two obvious examples) but even with that the bulk still sit in some form of Middle Earth. A lot of it boils down to lack of originality, but it mostly comes from people wanting to be told more about what they already know.

 

Realistically, any rpg wanting to explore a less well-travelled culture is best off doing so by juxtapositioning it next to a familar style. When you're doing that, you can realistically explore any culture you know, or any culture you want to create, and people won't tend to kick up a fuss.

 

As to the polls, I have no preference to specifics. Anything new that will still sell copies is fine by me.

 

For a full game with more rarely used locales and feel to it, look at Expeditions: Conquistador. Another game that is truly excellent in term of being different, believable, and still cohesive is Final Fantasy X. They really got the world building right in that game. 

 

Expedition: Conquistador basically sells itself completely upon the setting, because by the time you finish the first island you've experienced everything the game has to offer - at least when I last played it. The setting is lovely, though.

 

Final Fantasy X has one of the most wonderful settings of any game, and in general it has a knack of doing the things it does right so right that it remains one of my favourite games of all time despite having a combat system that I would chew through my own wrists to get away from.

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Yes personally i'd like to see a recognisably different setting, something like King of Dragons Pass where one has to change ones perspective and conform to the differing culture (managed not to use the word immersive for the sake of those who can't understand its meaning - do I win a prize?) Truth be told however I do think that any setting can be interesting if one invests enough detail, personality and internal consistency into it. This is why i'm confident of Mr Sawyer's view of Eternity, he seems just as interested and attentive as the most pernickety of players, and for me that usually ensures a setting of satisfying logic and reactivity as opposed to the usual poorly disguised modern setting under a thin veil of renaissance fayre flavour.

 

Really love to see a more authentic Viking setting sometime, kenning poetry, futhark runes, womens rights, holmgangs, the quite existential advice of the sayings of the High One, wool and fine craftwork over the usual false representation as fur wearers, those wonderful norse earned names like belly shaker and hairy breeches, the small tough horses that they used, the unique position they had on faith being a mans personal business etcetera, etcetera.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Modern day school setting in the American heartland.

 

Sounds like South Park would be perfect.


"Things are funny...are comedic, because they mix the real with the absurd." - Buzz Aldrin.

"P-O-T-A-T-O-E" - Dan Quayle

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I dunno, but I think I'm going to make a content mod set in another place: a fusion between Arabic and Persian culture for one part, and Indian(the one in Asia) and Inca.

 

And a generous dose of fantasy.

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I like attempts at unusual settings, but for the most part they have bombed. The question is whether this has to do with the developers and the games themselves, or as Kjaamor suggests,  simply that people need familiarity in fantasy. Post apocalyptic and Scifi rpgs make up the minority of games with at least moderate success. But consider that both Vampire rpgs, Jade Empire, and Titan Quest sold fairly poorly, which is a shame considering in my mind they all have many redeeming qualities. While I like the Middle Age settings fine, I would really like to see more games in other settings.

 

Very few fantasy games feature protagonists who don't subscribe to modern western cultural values - even when the player character is able to make decisions.

 

 

I agree, though I'd say that MODERN western values can only be to some extent in the middle ages.  Many medieval ideas about torture (and justice in general), slavery, the roles of women (and human rights in general), faith vs. reason, et. are hardly modern. One could also force such ideas back on any culture. Few games are historically accurate when it comes to the cultural values of the time. Few movies are as well, even when they purport to be historical. I think such media is meant to be entertainment, so the goal is that we relate to it, hence the quite intentional injection of modern values.

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I wonder what would be considered "Historical" RPGs and how they're different from "Fantasy".

 

The title that springs to my mind when I hear Historical RPG would be Expeditions: Conquistador, which allows the player to basically retrace the footsteps of Cortez but do things differently this time (or not). But even then... supernatural elements plainly exist in that game in the form of, for example, the portal to Mictlan guarded by an Aztec god and that guardian spirit (or whatever it was) in El Dorado (which is itself legendary).

 

So does it count as historical?

 

If it does, where you do draw the line between it and fantasy?

 

If it doesn't, have there been any historical RPGs?

Edited by WotanAnubis

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For me, I generally prefer RPGs to have a setting without clear references to real-world factions or regions, like not-Catholic Church or fantasy-France. That said, I think that incorporating elements from certain cultures into a fictional culture does make sense if they live in similar geographic areas as the real-world culture. As for time-periods, I generally prefer either a medievalish setting or a modern/futuristic setting, because I tend to like the whole notion of slaying dragons clad in full plate or using a powerful energy weapon to blow away mutants and/or robots. On genre, I can enjoy almost anything that bucks realism to some degree, but I would really like to see "genre fusions" like Fantasy Post-Apocalyptic, Steampunk Western, and Sci-Fi Horror. I would also really like to see a well done superhero RPG, but I think that balancing the system would be a bitch.


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I wonder what would be considered "Historical" RPGs and how they're different from "Fantasy".

 

The title that springs to my mind when I hear Historical RPG would be Expeditions: Conquistador, which allows the player to basically retrace the footsteps of Cortez but do things differently this time (or not). But even then... supernatural elements plainly exist in that game in the form of, for example, the portal to Mictlan guarded by an Aztec god and theat guardian spirit (or whatever it was) in El Dorado (which is itself legendary).

 

So does it count as historical?

 

If it does, where you do draw the line between it and fantasy?

 

If it doesn't, have there been any historical RPGs?

 

I happen to know that there are a lot of historical PnP/tabletop RPGs, but I'm not aware of too many video game examples (despite my search for the latter which has only led me to the former). Perhaps it's an area of untapped potential.

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Copy-paste my questions from another topic with no anserws:

 

Speaking of cultures.... does anybody know are there some sort of distant cultural connections in the game? Stories, items, npc's and such? Warhammer, Forgotten Realms etc. had their equivalent (sort of) for East Europe, China, Japan, Araby, Mezoamericans. How much of the world is explored and what is the knowledge of other distant cultures in Dyrwood?


It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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I have the feeling the story of P:E resembles somehow a parralel world in which a high civilised african "Columbus" has discovered a lesser technical advanced slavic/celtic/roman europe. Something in that way with soul magic.

 

 

distant cultural connections in the game? Stories, items, npc's and such?

mostly celtic/slavic/germanic until now. But we nearly know only the monster's names, the similarity of languages/words.

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Anything except for  another Celtic  inspired  fantasy, I mean I love Skyrim, Lord of the Rings etc but I think celticness and  its  byproduct of using  Irish/Scottish and regional English accents in fantasy games has run its course, time to move on maybe.

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Anything except for  another Celtic  inspired  fantasy, I mean I love Skyrim, Lord of the Rings etc but I think celticness and  its  byproduct of using  Irish/Scottish and regional English accents in fantasy games has run its course, time to move on maybe.

 

Skyrim isn't very Celtic, it's Norse. They actually did a surprisingly good job of adapting Norse mythological customs and ideas in the game. One of the best jobs in video game history, actually, though that isn't saying much. Bloodmoon is better, but Skyrim is good. 

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I'd love to see a greater diversity of fantasy settings. Even though it wasn't the deepest fantasy world, Jade Empire is my favorite Bioware game because it was so refreshing to have something other than Forgotten Realms style fantasy.

 

In general, my preference is for anything Near East related (I like deserts, which is why I'd also love to see another Dark Sun CRPG), so I'd love to see an RPG set in a fantasy setting inspired by the ancient middle east. I also wish someone would make a CRPG set in a fantasy version (or even a straight-up historical version) of ancient mesoamerica.

 

That said, I don't mind European fantasy, I'm just a bit burnt out on the whole "robed wizards and plate-armored knights fighting dragons" thing. For that reason, I'd rather see a dark ages setting rather than a high middle ages one (and yes, I know P:E is set in the late middle ages; I'm just talking about what I'd most like to see in a future, non-P:E rpg). A setting inspired by medieval Iberia might be pretty cool: a land where dry, hot tableland gives way to rainy, forested mountains in the north; where European and Middle Eastern cultures meet; where warring kingdoms are as likely fight their brothers of the faith as their infidel neighbors; where pagan hill people ambush those traveling through their mountains; where battles are fought between lightly armored skirmishers instead of near-invincible noblemen in the midieval equivalent of a tank. You could even mix in some Basque mythology and have the Gauekoak, or "night ones", come out after sundown, making it dangerous for humans to leave their homes in the dark.

 

Anyway, my point is, the vast majority of fantasy is inspired by midieval England/France or by the Roman Empire. I'd like to see a bit more diversity in that area because I'm getting bored with those two settings. There is an amazing variety of historical settings to draw inspiration from; let's see some of them!

Edited by eimatshya
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For the poll: all of the above, and... none of the above. It's useful to draw upon historical examples as they provide a sense of familiarity to the player. However, it's a new world setting that has followed its own development path. Thus I'd be okay with some really unique touches that don't fit our experiences. All I really expect is a certain sense of consistency, with an underlying rationale of causality--a chain of cause and effect.

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Sub-Saharan Africa? Now you're just pulling my leg. Can you even name any RPG that has a Sub-Saharan African setting/theme? Or even Saharan Africa?

 

It's also something of a mistake to classify Hellenic (ancient Greek, distinct from the modern country or culture of "Greece,") culture as something totally distinct from "southern Europe," to lump the Italian peninsula with the Iberian in terms of culture, or to lump the Hellenes together with an arbitrarily chosen/the most well-known near-eastern culture like the Hebrews (with which the Hellenes shared very little in common.)

 

 

I feel as though the RPG genre is too stuck in its European rut. If nothing else just for a breath of fresh air.

I'm not even aware of any Western RPGs that are inspired/thematically associated with most of these settings/time periods. Nearly all of them are a jumble of the various stages of the medieval era (600-1200 AD.) Jade Empire is the only Western RPG I'm aware of with an "East Asian" theme, and it's basically a generic "Westerners showing their inability to do research/display of Western misconceptions of China" sort of thing.

 

Whenever Western game designers look toward the far East, the result is American Ninja/Mortal Kombat-esque results. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't trust a bunch of white guys of European descent to accurately or interestingly portray any ethnic group or culture they're not familiar with (i.e. anything other than Europe.)

 

It'd be nice to see a game with a broad array of cultures and influences, but something that strives for originality rather than reflecting a fictionalized real-world time or society would be ideal. Second after that would be something that draws on cultural concepts other than medieval Europe.

 

 

For the poll: all of the above, and... none of the above. It's useful to draw upon historical examples as they provide a sense of familiarity to the player. However, it's a new world setting that has followed its own development path. Thus I'd be okay with some really unique touches that don't fit our experiences. All I really expect is a certain sense of consistency, with an underlying rationale of causality--a chain of cause and effect.

The issue is that humans creating fiction have nothing to draw on but the experiences of the real world (first or secondhand doesn't matter, a fantasy novel with a novel setting you enjoy was still created with the real world having a dominant influence,) anything you imagine is inevitably going to be informed or influenced by what you know/have been exposed to. Example: Most "new" artistic movements in any given period of time emerge as a reactionary rejection of the status quo, they're an endeavour to be different from the mainstream, and are thus defined by that mainstream.

 

Anything except for  another Celtic  inspired  fantasy, I mean I love Skyrim, Lord of the Rings etc but I think celticness and  its  byproduct of using  Irish/Scottish and regional English accents in fantasy games has run its course, time to move on maybe.

There's nothing Celtic about Skyrim. Celtic culture is rarely, if ever, represented in RPGs. Or video games in general. I don't think you even know anything about it, given you believe Norse culture to be Celtic culture. Celtic culture is vastly different from Nordic and Germanic cultures (which are related.)

 

Finally, looking at the poll results, it seems that a clear, though not large, majority of respondents prefer the status quo, which of course explains why the status quo persists.

Edited by AGX-17

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This thread makes me want to play a roughly historical Japanese Skyrim. All the architecture, armor, monsters, weapons, factions ... plus the myriad of things that are uncommon and basically unknown to the West. Not to mention the geography, ocean coasts, snow-capped volcanoes, hidden islands ...   

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Anything except for  another Celtic  inspired  fantasy, I mean I love Skyrim, Lord of the Rings etc but I think celticness and  its  byproduct of using  Irish/Scottish and regional English accents in fantasy games has run its course, time to move on maybe.

There's nothing Celtic about Skyrim. Celtic culture is rarely, if ever, represented in RPGs. Or video games in general. I don't think you even know anything about it, given you believe Norse culture to be Celtic culture. Celtic culture is vastly different from Nordic and Germanic cultures (which are related.)

 

Finally, looking at the poll results, it seems that a clear, though not large, majority of respondents prefer the status quo, which of course explains why the status quo persists.

 

The fornsworn, hags as priestesses of the Old Gods, rituals related to nature, sounds very Celtic to me. Albeit a corrupted version of the Celts which serves well to represent them as having been consumed by their struggle and having gone to extremes to regain the Reach.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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Sub-Saharan Africa? Now you're just pulling my leg. Can you even name any RPG that has a Sub-Saharan African setting/theme? Or even Saharan Africa?

 

It's also something of a mistake to classify Hellenic (ancient Greek, distinct from the modern country or culture of "Greece,") culture as something totally distinct from "southern Europe," to lump the Italian peninsula with the Iberian in terms of culture, or to lump the Hellenes together with an arbitrarily chosen/the most well-known near-eastern culture like the Hebrews (with which the Hellenes shared very little in common.)

 

Ten poll options, broski... If I had more space I wouldn't be lumping them together, but this seems like the fairest way to do it.

 

The issue is that humans creating fiction have nothing to draw on but the experiences of the real world (first or secondhand doesn't matter, a fantasy novel with a novel setting you enjoy was still created with the real world having a dominant influence,) anything you imagine is inevitably going to be informed or influenced by what you know/have been exposed to. Example: Most "new" artistic movements in any given period of time emerge as a reactionary rejection of the status quo, they're an endeavour to be different from the mainstream, and are thus defined by that mainstream.

 

Celtic culture is vastly different from Nordic and Germanic cultures (which are related.)

 

Indeed.

Edited by mcmanusaur

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Whenever Western game designers look toward the far East, the result is American Ninja/Mortal Kombat-esque results. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't trust a bunch of white guys of European descent to accurately or interestingly portray any ethnic group or culture they're not familiar with (i.e. anything other than Europe.)

 

 

 

Well, none of those designers have experience with medieval Europe either and I'm sure real medieval Europeans would roll their eyes at many persistent fantasy tropes.  As long as it's not deliberately offensive I think it's rather silly to get all worked up because a work of fiction misrepresents your culture. Fiction rarely presents an accurate totally depiction of anything and that's not what it's meant to do either

 

Also I think it's good if a setting pushes a player out of their comfort zone and makes them think about moral dilemmas in different ways. That is what role playing should be about IMO. Not playing "myself only super-strong and smart". I'd love to see them make an exotic setting rather than a cut-and-paste Tolkien-verse (I love Tolkien but it gets boring when so many fantasy settings shamelessly rip him off).

 

I think Kickstarter funding gives them more opportunities than a purely commercial project to experiment with things like this. This is one reason why the KS funding model appeals to me so much.

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When i said Skyrim  was  celtic...ish  I  was just remembering the  art/design work on banners/inns etc.  Of course   Nord  culture is very Norse itself. 

But in retrospect I get what your'e saying, Ok i'll  rephrase myself  - I have enjoyed North European pre christian inspired  culture  and art styles in fantasy but I think I've had my fill for now.

Edited by brownypoints

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