Jump to content

PoE Lore, culture, history - Outstanding, Josh Sawyer!


Recommended Posts

After all utterly undeserved vitriol poured over Mr Josh Sawyer as a game mechanic, as it were, mostly rooted in nostalgically lopsided convictions about how he doesn't comply to some specific IE-game format or this and that D&D 2nd Ed CRPG adaptation, I'm happy to report that this thread is all about praise for Josh as an extremely skilled provider of lore, culture and history for PoE. As a history buff, I can tell you, he sure has his game together on all accounts. :)

 

I've been scouring the materials that now trickle in via the Internet, and I'm simply blown away about how meticulous and ambitious Mr Sawyer has been as a world builder, even down to presenting us with lore-consequent linguistics, place names, etc.

 

 

 

Josh has this to say in the Foreword:

 

 

We want you to feel that you are a part of this world, one of the many forces that can push and pull the Eastern Reach from its tumultuous present into its promising future. With that in mind, please take the contents of this book for what they are: snapshots of one corner of a world that is, like our own, ever in motion. We hope that you can help us illuminate the contents of many more volumes in the years to come. 

 

 

Not only has Josh created something that is very rare to see in CRPGs, a world totality, where broad strokes of culture, history, religion and all sorts of lore still have been chiselled out in quite some detail - sometimes, reading it, I get Tolkienesque vibes of learned detail, and I mean that in a very good way indeed.

Nonetheless, these details have lots of depth to them, so it's like sociocultural and religious history in 3D.

A fellow forumite just wrote this:
 

 

Drilling holes into skulls of living people who were perceived to be mad was a practice in the Middle ages.

As usual, I'm very satisfied with the lore's complexity and depth, and happy to recognize the touches of a fellow historian wink.png
 


During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, trepanation was practiced as a cure for various ailments, including seizures and skull fractures.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trepanning#Pre-modern_Europe


A popular philosophy during this time, which had become the basic form of psychology was interactionistic dualism, where the body was believed to be governed by the soul (Brown & Menninger, 1940).

http://mentalillness.umwblogs.org/middle-ages/

 

 

If I compare Sawyer's approach to building his CRPG world here, to for instance Salvatore's in Kingdoms of Amalur, or the creator of the latest Dragon Age game, I feel that he wins, hands down, and the reason for that is that Josh respects the roots of his world tree, so that the tree stands tall and steady, while at the same time binding the entire game world together, factions and monsters and the NPCs (as far as I can tell, obviously). Centrally, though, these roots grow, intertwine and die over and over. They turn over the soil, constantly mixing in new nutrients that change things up and transform them, leaving familiar shells, vines and tendrils. However, in KoA and DA:I, a lot of focus has been made to write the factions and their conflicts (almost like: "Look, they are at conflict, this is politics, so I know change!"), and then those conflicts become personal for the player character, as well as for companions or major NPCs. The religion, the history and the various cultures and societies are merely backdrops, or even worse, just stuff hinted at. Instead, the individual, as a concept, is at the forefront. We get to follow a few companions or NPCs (and of course the pc) as persons wronged, misunderstood and unseen on a personal level with personal agendas of revenge or regret. In fact, it mirrors the individual focus of today - everything is about me, myself, and I. The result is at best a Machiavellian drama - some power-hungry tragedy in the vein of Game of Thrones, for instance - and at worst, just wafer-thin paperdoll factions fighting it out over structures and superstructures that in fact never change at all: X vs Y, Z vs W, and later a surprise, some underlying faction U, for instance, hell-bent on destroying the others.

 

In Sawyer's world, however, factions are ever-shifting facets of the world itself. Each monster, each river, each place, is a node in the living, breathing web of religions, cultures and history. This means that we get this layered-cake effect. Here and there and everywhere in PoE, we get glimpses and even sections of cultural layers, to which meanings have been ascribed in the present, perhaps done for political gain, but which still reveal longue durées, slow-moving historical structures that lock stuff up and then grinds them down, almost like glaciers, while at the same time representing misinterpretations as eternal truths - almost like Chinese whispers over the centuries.

 

TL, DR (or DU):

Josh is one clever guy. He's done a stellar job on the game world of PoE. Gratz! :)

Edited by IndiraLightfoot
  • Like 13

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I reserve judgment until I've played the game.  For me, we need to balance the idea of individual motives against cultural motifs.  As someone who has lived in Asia, I don't like to put this up as a struggle between 'Chinese long views' and 'Western short views' clichés.  The individual and societal forces struggle against each other in every culture.  If one emerges triumphant, there is chaos.  If the other is the undisputed victor, there is stagnation.  What I want is a balance between what my character does within society against what my character must do for himself.  If Sawyer does that, I will praise him.

 

For a variety of reasons, I *want* to praise PoE, but I will *not* do it if I cannot do it honestly.

 

However, Indira, I can dig your position.  The individual can impact the factions, but rarely creates them.  So, the PC comes into a dynamic situation and *then* makes his impact.

  • Like 7

Fionavar's Holliday Wishes to all members of our online community:  Happy Holidays

 

Join the revelry at the Obsidian Plays channel:
Obsidian Plays


 
Remembering tarna, Phosphor, Metadigital, and Visceris.  Drink mead heartily in the halls of Valhalla, my friends!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've thought about this a lot as well. The setting is a huge part of what makes a game great for me. PoE's setting thus far is only looking better and better. In the end, making a setting is about introducing new concepts (such as souls in PoE, world geography, et.c.) and make these consistent with science as we know it. Arcanum is a perfect example of this. Make an interesting new concept: "What if a fantasy world would eventually go through the industrial revolution?" and then draw logical conclusions.

 

Tolkien famously worked mostly with linguistics, and with Finnic and Northern Germanic folklore. It's easy to criticize him afterwards when "fantasy" has become an established genre, although his attention to every separate language is superb, there are other things which could have been more fleshed out, and more potential sources of inspiration. The best person to construct a setting is probably a person who obsessively reads both history, linguistics, and anthropology.

 

The joy of exploring a truly well-crafted consistent invented world can thus approach the joy it would be to discover hitherto lost civilizations in the real world.

  • Like 3

"Well, overkill is my middle name. And my last name. And all of my other names as well!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've thought about this a lot as well. The setting is a huge part of what makes a game great for me. PoE's setting thus far is only looking better and better. In the end, making a setting is about introducing new concepts (such as souls in PoE, world geography, et.c.) and make these consistent with science as we know it. Arcanum is a perfect example of this. Make an interesting new concept: "What if a fantasy world would eventually go through the industrial revolution?" and then draw logical conclusions.

 

Tolkien famously worked mostly with linguistics, and with Finnic and Northern Germanic folklore. It's easy to criticize him afterwards when "fantasy" has become an established genre, although his attention to every separate language is superb, there are other things which could have been more fleshed out, and more potential sources of inspiration. The best person to construct a setting is probably a person who obsessively reads both history, linguistics, and anthropology.

 

The joy of exploring a truly well-crafted consistent invented world can thus approach the joy it would be to discover hitherto lost civilizations in the real world.

I'd like to second these paragraphs, as they so nicely clarify my joy over a well-crafted fantasy world. To me, it brings a whole new richness to fantasy, and now to have it in a CRPG is just exhilarating. :)

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr Josh Sawyer as a game mechanicHowever, in KoA and DA:I, a lot of focus has been made to write the factions and their conflicts (almost like: "Look, they are at conflict, this is politics, so I know change!"), and then those conflicts become personal for the player character, as well as for companions or major NPCs. The religion, the history and the various cultures and societies are merely backdrops, or even worse, just stuff hinted at. Instead, the individual, as a concept, is at the forefront. We get to follow a few companions or NPCs (and of course the pc) as persons wronged, misunderstood and unseen on a personal level with personal agendas of revenge or regret. In fact, it mirrors the individual focus of today - everything is about me, myself, and I. The result is at best a Machiavellian drama - some power-hungry tragedy in the vein of Game of Thrones, for instance - and at worst, just wafer-thin paperdoll factions fighting it out over structures and superstructures that in fact never change at all: X vs Y, Z vs W, and later a surprise, some underlying faction U, for instance, hell-bent on destroying the others.

 

It goes to the fact that those settings were designed for the sole purpose of the players resolving specific conflicts. Amalur was (ironically) about the Fateless One, and the whole setting was a foil for the player's actions. Dragon Age is obviously building up to the RETURN OF THE BLACK CITY OR WHATEVER and how the players will stop it - that is why Thedas exists, that's what it's about.

 

Much of the appeal of the old IE games, on the other hand, was that they were local. Everything from the side characters to the weapon lore to the NPC backgrounds reinforced that. The work that the players were doing was important, but it was also only one part of a much larger world, a world big enough that even its major players didn't truly have a handle on it or on its workings. It didn't even matter that in most of them, said world was Toril and therefore complete garbage; you didn't know that. What you knew was that out there, beyond the borders of your own conflicts, were strange and terrible places, heroes and villains, tragedy and triumph; a world that you were part of the fabric of but that was not yours.

 

And so far, PoE's lore does give me that feeling, does make me feel make my characters are living and acting and contributing to a larger universe that does not mute their actions, but also doesn't accept them as the inevitable arbiter of all things. Hopefully the actual game will manage that as well.

 

Mr Josh Sawyer as a game mechanic

 

I'm for reals imagining Josh Sawyer as an entry on my character sheet now. "Deflection 62, Fortitude 39, Josh 52, Will 37"

  • Like 5

If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

[T]hose settings were designed for the sole purpose of the players resolving specific conflicts. Amalur was (ironically) about the Fateless One, and the whole setting was a foil for the player's actions. Dragon Age is obviously building up to the RETURN OF THE BLACK CITY OR WHATEVER and how the players will stop it - that is why Thedas exists, that's what it's about.

 

Much of the appeal of the old IE games, on the other hand, was that they were local. Everything from the side characters to the weapon lore to the NPC backgrounds reinforced that. The work that the players were doing was important, but it was also only one part of a much larger world, a world big enough that even its major players didn't truly have a handle on it or on its workings. It didn't even matter that in most of them, said world was Toril and therefore complete garbage; you didn't know that. What you knew was that out there, beyond the borders of your own conflicts, were strange and terrible places, heroes and villains, tragedy and triumph; a world that you were part of the fabric of but that was not yours.

 

And so far, PoE's lore does give me that feeling, does make me feel make my characters are living and acting and contributing to a larger universe that does not mute their actions, but also doesn't accept them as the inevitable arbiter of all things. Hopefully the actual game will manage that as well.

 

 

Yet another set of lovely sentences capturing something that Mr Sawyer seems to have grasped, mastered and even expanded on, in the sense that Forgotten Realms sometimes have a generic feel to it, which may overlook the more intricate and complex stuff that results in societies, cultures, technology, mythologies, etc, changing structurally. Obviously, there are plenty of fantastic exceptions (and I love Faerûn and most stuff in it), but just like Rostere said; it shows that Josh has been reading entire libraries of history, anthropology and linguistics/ethymology, and he really put that knowledge of his to some impressive use from what we can tell so far.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot
  • Like 1

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whilst I do enjoy the story, lore, books, comments and history of Eora and snippets from here and there of the world building, I feel a lot like Cantousent, reserving judgement (I'm 99.9999999999...% positive that I am positive about Eora & Pillars of Eternity based on experience with it and what I've read on Wiki and PoE knowledge and participation since it all began :p).

I also don't like putting one person on a pedestal and praise only him/her, because I'm certain that Obsidian Entertainment employees and staff have been very influencial in the world building as well (See: Raedric's Hold, and how it was made).

I hardly doubt Josh sits in a wardrobe all by himself in darkness with a lantern and conjures this lore without zero feedback after all, and Obsidian Entertainment is a professional team studio that knows what they are doing and most likely work a lot and communicate together (like most professional workplaces that want to succeed with anything).

So, I'm going to praise Obsidian Entertainment as a whole :D because it feels unfair to the rest of the studio to only praise Josh.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whilst I do enjoy the story, lore, books, comments and history of Eora and snippets from here and there of the world building, I feel a lot like Cantousent, reserving judgement (I'm 99.9999999999...% positive that I am positive about Eora & Pillars of Eternity based on experience with it and what I've read on Wiki and PoE knowledge and participation since it all began :p).

 

I also don't like putting one person on a pedestal and praise only him/her, because I'm certain that Obsidian Entertainment employees and staff have been very influencial in the world building as well (See: Raedric's Hold, and how it was made).

 

I hardly doubt Josh sits in a wardrobe all by himself in darkness with a lantern and conjures this lore without zero feedback after all, and Obsidian Entertainment is a professional team studio that knows what they are doing and most likely work a lot and communicate together (like most professional workplaces that want to succeed with anything).

 

So, I'm going to praise Obsidian Entertainment as a whole :D because it feels unfair to the rest of the studio to only praise Josh.

The need for praising all the Obsids goes without saying! :sorcerer:  :thumbsup:

However, having followed PoE take shape from the start, I know this is Josh's domain, and I really feel he deserves praise individually too.

 

See what I did there? :brows:

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on what I have heard it sounds great. But just as I have kept an open mind about the mechanics I am not going to bury or praise Josh until I actually experience the game.

 

I am optimistic on both counts though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll certainly second the praise to the studio, but to be honest from what little I have read and from playing the bb I detect the hand of a certain Mr Avellone more. Certainly in the more "mystical" side.

"Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, 'He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destruction. She is Love.' So, to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, though, everyone who beholds them."
"So they play that on their fascist banjos, eh?"
"You choose the wrong adjective."
"You've already used up all the others.”

 

Lord of Light

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I compare Sawyer's approach to building his CRPG world here, to for instance Salvatore's in Kingdoms of Amalur, or the creator of the latest Dragon Age game, I feel that he wins, hands down,

9cbx0Ok.jpg

 

sry but Sawyer-kun loses

 

(but in all earnestness, as banal as Amalur setting was, the PoE soul thingie sounds very similar to the Amalur Fae lore)

The ending of the words is ALMSIVI.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Obsidian for me always produces worlds that burst with verisimilitude, and thus are far more interesting and nuanced than the usual modern world with a thin veneer of renaissance fayre flavour that other developers create. In Obsidians worlds I tend to ruminate and ponder more on every single event and situation.

  • Like 2

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!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Story wise I always thought Amalur was the definition of potential unrealised. Smelled like PS:T, but didnt explore and flesh out the ideas it had.

 

Anyway I'll also reserve my judgement for the world Obsidian built untill the game ships. So far I've noticed they put in a lot of meticulous details, which can be either good, making the world feel more organic/alive, or bad, obfuscating everything with unimportant details.

 

I'm also hoping they'll make something new (or at least do it good) with the history of the world. We've seen the "rediscovering an ancient advanced civilization" thing many times already.

 

And lastly I'm hoping the game will have a nice "theme" feel, like PS:T and KOTOR2 for example, where side stuff built on the story line or explored aspects of it. I'm a little sad they wont have those "lore excuses for mechanics", I thought they made stuff fit better together, even if in the back of the head you knew they were just excuses :D .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've seen the "rediscovering an ancient advanced civilization" thing many times already.

 

We have probably need everything many times already. Actually come to think of it this was never a theme of the IE games. I guess the Elder Scrolls has this going a bit with the Dwemer but its kind of a sideshow.

 

On the other hand it is going to be a major part of inXile's Torment game.

Edited by Valmy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm also hoping they'll make something new (or at least do it good) with the history of the world. We've seen the "rediscovering an ancient advanced civilization" thing many times already.

 

Like ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, ancient China or ancient Greece. They all left long lasting monuments and knowledge that over-lasted their society. It's just that Eora has magic on top of maths, physics, chemistry and astronomy.

Azarhal, Chanter and Keeper of Truth of the Obsidian Order of Eternity.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

gonna need play the game.  we got some questions 'bout animism and undead that need answering.  

 

...

 

am also gonna make an observation that will not be embraced by the excited and cheerful board population: josh is not our favorite obsidian writer.  we believe that josh frequently gets hung up on his lore and forgets that such stuff is only just a framework on which to be developing theme and character.  we know josh worked hard on caesar's legions in fo: nv.  we could see how much attention to detail went into his crafting o' locations o' histories and backgrounds in honest hearts.  the thing is, josh contribution to lore and history details o' a game frequent make the game less palatable for us.  we get that yxunomei were s'posed to have, at least on the surface, a cold, rational and remote personality.  fine.  unfortunately, that is josh's writing style.  we didn't care about edward sallow or pretty much anybody in honest hearts.  josh, in our experience, treats world-building as an end rather than a means.  all the lore and attention to detail is useless unless it makes game more evocative. 

 

http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/64298-josh-sawyer-on-the-importance-of-real-world-knowledge-for-game-design/?p=1363878

 

"infusing knowledge/reality to make evocative = good.
"treating reality as a goal, in-and-of-itself = bad."

 

now before you think we is slamming josh...  well, we is kinda slamming him.  even so, we believe, from what we has heard, josh is very capable at managing a game development, and as far as working on mechanics o' combat and other gameplay considerations, we will chooses sawyer over cain every day and twice on sunday.  is not that we believe that josh sux as a game developer-- quite the opposite.  heck, in the limited context o' board interactions, we would even say we like josh. a developer who is willing to interact with the fanbase such as josh does is rare, and we applaud his efforts and courage... and even his infrequent but memorable fits o' pique. that being said, we want him less involved in story development.  have josh create a kinda working history and mythology for the game is ok just as long as other writers don't feel the need to force-feed us details. let such lore stay hidden in early design documents unless there is a need to share. use josh efforts to inspire other obsidian writers is fine, but we genuine believe that his world building efforts and writing contributions in past games has hurt at least as much as  helped. 

 

countdown to flames o' Gromnir in 5... 4... 3... 2...1...

 

HA! Good Fun!

  • Like 1

"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Totally agree about how lore should be handled in a game, especially a game that introduces a new world with its own physics. That's one of the things that didn't help me get to the end of Dragon Age. It was a classic setting, yet the over-explanations about its lore through the exploration made it feel kinda forced and most of the times unnecessary. I see that they wanted to show they worked on the thing, but that didn't help them in the end.

Now I don't say I agree about JSawyer since I have no idea what he wrote and what he didn't in games I've played like New Vegas or IWD. Don't really know what his writing is about.

If that's things like when in New Vegas Caesar talks about hegelian dialectics, then I'd understand, that moment really made me feel like a student in front of a teacher, a pretty awkward dialog for sure :D

Edited by CaptainMace

Qu'avez-vous fait de l'honneur de la patrie ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I don't see why anyone would flame someone else over an honest assessment.  Funny thing is, I enjoyed Honest Hearts.  I like the detached perspective on things.  I especially liked Graham's character.

 

However, I *do* agree that the setting and lore should be backdrops for a great story.  Sawyer tends to put possibility above story, which means that having some sort of rich lore with an extensive history that allows the player to roam and wander sometimes seems more important than having a tightly unfolding narrative.  In that spectrum, Fallout is superior to Planescape.  Since I've been huge fans of both, I'm not making it an either/or proposition, merely preferential.  Nevertheless, I would say that this is opposite of my tastes, but I don't think it's like there's this sharp division, some sort of line in the sand where you either want freedom or you want story.  I want a great story with enough freedom to become my own person.  I'm sure most folks who enjoyed Fallout liked having the freedom to do and explore as they wished, but enjoyed an exciting narrative that made them part of the events in a personal way.  Why else would the epilogue endings be so popular?  Those *are* stories about how the vault dweller made his impact on the world and its inhabitants.

 

EDIT:  I figured maybe it would be better if I actually finished one of the sentences.  Maybe not.  <.<

Fionavar's Holliday Wishes to all members of our online community:  Happy Holidays

 

Join the revelry at the Obsidian Plays channel:
Obsidian Plays


 
Remembering tarna, Phosphor, Metadigital, and Visceris.  Drink mead heartily in the halls of Valhalla, my friends!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Gromnir. I dislike any 'lore' , world building or history that is not in service to the games theme(s) or its story telling intent and It should be excised without remorse. There's a very disheartening appetite, particulalry in games, for extraneous, pseudo empirical content: expanded universe bibles and entire wikis filled with this crap that chronicles all the minutiae of fictional settings as if they're real places.

 

Versimilutde and immersion are shackles on creativity: I'm currently reading the Bhagavad Gita in which the supreme god head gives a great warrior some real talk  about souls and how we are all eternal in this way beyond our mortal bodies. Souls move from one life to another and are eternal, similar to PoE in that way, and it's beautiful and spiritual and can you imagine the warrior saying "uhh that's great but what's the in-universe explanation for how that works and what level of canon are we talking"? hahaha

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

gonna need play the game.  we got some questions 'bout animism and undead that need answering.  

 

HA! Good Fun!

 

What questions, go ahead, ask, this Guidebook I'm reading can probably satisfy. 

 

http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/66230-the-morality-of-animancy/?p=1452259

 

is three or four o' these threads in which we were active.  never got good answers. However, am thinking, for better or worse, we don't wanna be spoiled.  however, thanks for the offer.

 

btw, does guidebook explain how the improved interruption talent works? interrupt is no longer a % based calculation, so am not sure what/where the +15% comes into play.  oh, and does guidebook explain why we are still getting persistent status icons?  oh, and...

 

HA! Good Fun!

"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...