281: Fresh Frontiers

Saladin Ahmed

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Fresh Frontiers

Designers tired of churning out the same old space marines and fantasy adventurers can draw fresh inspiration from the pages of history - and literature.

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Kenko

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Yeah, pretty much all of those suggestion i'd play. Sure I may prefer games revolving around norse mythology (Not that theres any good games using that setting around.). But yeah, definatley more RPG's and other type of games focused on the ancient middle-east when they werent a theocratic dictatorship(islam) would be cool. There's also a huge lack of slavic mythology based games.
But theres sadly an overabundant sludgepile of "Crusader-esque" games and "Space Marine shooters."

As for a victorian'esque British RPG in a horror setting, that would be quite awesome.

But the reason why theres little games based on the middle-east and its history and mythologies is likely because the countries in the middle east have other priorities then game making. Like either not getting shot by american troops or getting hacked to bits because their daughter didnt want to marry a taliban. Not alot of infrastructure for game-companies. There may be countries down there with it, but their priorities from what ive gathered depending on the countries ive read about tend to be focused on religion most of the time.
 

GothmogII

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Kenko said:
Yeah, pretty much all of those suggestion i'd play. Sure I may prefer games revolving around norse mythology (Not that theres any good games using that setting around.). But yeah, definatley more RPG's and other type of games focused on the ancient middle-east when they werent a theocratic dictatorship(islam) would be cool. There's also a huge lack of slavic mythology based games.
But theres sadly an overabundant sludgepile of "Crusader-esque" games and "Space Marine shooters."

As for a victorian'esque British RPG in a horror setting, that would be quite awesome.

But the reason why theres little games based on the middle-east and its history and mythologies is likely because the countries in the middle east have other priorities then game making. Like either not getting shot by american troops or getting hacked to bits because their daughter didnt want to marry a taliban. Not alot of infrastructure for game-companies. There may be countries down there with it, but their priorities from what ive gathered depending on the countries ive read about tend to be focused on religion most of the time.
Huh..but, why does it necessarily have to be Eastern game studios that -have- to make a game based on Middle-Eastern mythology?

Oh wait...may be there's a certain tendency to mis-interpret certain aspects of the mythology or focus only on the 'cool' aspects, see: Prince of Persia, Jade Empire. Still, like I said in Ahmed's previous topic, I do want a BioWare RPG take on the Thousand and One Nights, though, I guess given what I just mentioned above, I should also wonder if they could do it justice given their more recent trend toward spectacle and 'focus on the cool'.

As for the over-abundance of repeat settings, there's a little piece of advice that I think can share some of the blame for this: Write what you know. Or create what you know, whether through your own research or personal experience. It's not I think bad advice, but it seems to create this kind of bubble for a creator to sit in and only explore topics that they feel comfortable with exploring, which I think explains why things such a sex, gender roles, race, religion and mythology and the like are rarely messed with mainly because game designers are overwhelmingly white and male or simply don't have, or feel they don't have the right knowledge to do things right.

Though really, that has nothing to do with being proactive and actually doing the research, I don't really get why more devs don't do that though.
 

Kenko

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GothmogII said:
Kenko said:
Yeah, pretty much all of those suggestion i'd play. Sure I may prefer games revolving around norse mythology (Not that theres any good games using that setting around.). But yeah, definatley more RPG's and other type of games focused on the ancient middle-east when they werent a theocratic dictatorship(islam) would be cool. There's also a huge lack of slavic mythology based games.
But theres sadly an overabundant sludgepile of "Crusader-esque" games and "Space Marine shooters."

As for a victorian'esque British RPG in a horror setting, that would be quite awesome.

But the reason why theres little games based on the middle-east and its history and mythologies is likely because the countries in the middle east have other priorities then game making. Like either not getting shot by american troops or getting hacked to bits because their daughter didnt want to marry a taliban. Not alot of infrastructure for game-companies. There may be countries down there with it, but their priorities from what ive gathered depending on the countries ive read about tend to be focused on religion most of the time.
Huh..but, why does it necessarily have to be Eastern game studios that -have- to make a game based on Middle-Eastern mythology?

Oh wait...may be there's a certain tendency to mis-interpret certain aspects of the mythology or focus only on the 'cool' aspects, see: Prince of Persia, Jade Empire. Still, like I said in Ahmed's previous topic, I do want a BioWare RPG take on the Thousand and One Nights, though, I guess given what I just mentioned above, I should also wonder if they could do it justice given their more recent trend toward spectacle and 'focus on the cool'.

As for the over-abundance of repeat settings, there's a little piece of advice that I think can share some of the blame for this: Write what you know. Or create what you know, whether through your own research or personal experience. It's not I think bad advice, but it seems to create this kind of bubble for a creator to sit in and only explore topics that they feel comfortable with exploring, which I think explains why things such a sex, gender roles, race, religion and mythology and the like are rarely messed with mainly because game designers are overwhelmingly white and male or simply don't have, or feel they don't have the right knowledge to do things right.

Though really, that has nothing to do with being proactive and actually doing the research, I don't really get why more devs don't do that though.
And since they are usually Europeans/Americans developing the games, they will develop the games for their market that they know will sell. Thats why a middle-eastern (or a development crew with great knowledge about said time,era and geographical location) gamecompany would have to make it. As they are more comfortable with the setting and subject matters it will explore. Thus they will not likely make games about the Middle-east that revolve around its history. They'll stick to making American Dickwaving fest call of duty type games.
 

Rawle Lucas

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Kenko said:
And since they are usually Europeans/Americans developing the games, they will develop the games for their market that they know will sell. Thats why a middle-eastern (or a development crew with great knowledge about said time,era and geographical location) gamecompany would have to make it. As they are more comfortable with the setting and subject matters it will explore. Thus they will not likely make games about the Middle-east that revolve around its history. They'll stick to making American Dickwaving fest call of duty type games.
This fellow does have a point. Perhaps developers are afraid of getting an "exotic" setting wrong and being bombarded with accusations of ignorance, insensitivity, historical inaccuracy, etc.

Still, though, that doesn't mean that someone can't invent a setting with a different flavor from the comfort foods.
 

Sabrestar

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Rawle Lucas said:
Still, though, that doesn't mean that someone can't invent a setting with a different flavor from the comfort foods.
Indeed. These are good jumping-off points. Maybe some young D&D aficionados could dig up some musty old Al-Qadim sourcebooks to see a fantasyish take on that setting. (Don't know how out-of-date and politically incorrect those old TSR books may be, but they're a source of ideas if nothing else.)
 

FURY_007

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It's be pretty cool to have a game based on the Ottoman Empire at the height of it's power to its decline leading into WWI, that'd be interesting
 

warrenEBB

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fun article.

* I'd love to see a game that tackles that time when science was viewed as immediate threat to religion and royalty. (I haven't played assassin's creed 2. don't know if it's in there) 1500s?

* Reading this rant about tycho brahe's adventures stunned me:
http://io9.com/5696469/the-crazy-life-and-crazier-death-of-tycho-brahe-historys-strangest-astronomer

I love hearing about any classic philosopher/scientist who figured out how to prove common beliefs wrong - then had to flee for his ^#%[email protected] life. (Also love dueling to settle a math dispute, and having you nose chopped off. yowza.)

* more recently, interesting to read of political theorists who were hounded throughout Europe as criminals, for challenging ideas of noble rights. (Karl Marx, basically). Would be nice to see a game that focused on their day to day action, and let the politics hang in the background (more of a "here's the man behind the controversy").

Guess i'm thinking more of "philosopher action stars" than environments. hmm.

* similarly, I'd love to see someone make a game in early 1600s which focused on the environment that spawned the whole concept of "copy right law". (thinking of those early british printing press owners, who struggled to invent a reliable way to control their expensive machinery investments. It's interesting how they tried to maintain it as a rich guy guild, and keep the government out, for like 50 years?).
just seems like something very relevant to modern copyright complaints.

* would also like to see something focused on civil war era medicine (basically, because medical practices were soooOoooo crazy barbaric, up until about 1900).
 

Namewithheld

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I'd love, LOVE, for a setting in something transhuman. A game where your "save point system" (In this case, the ability to upload copies of your mind into a new body) is used by all the enemies too. So you can kill a bad guy, but then fight him again in a new body.

Also, your body becomes another tool to customize your play style. Slip into a child's body and you'll be harder to hit (As you're smaller) and you can sneak easier! (You're smaller and lighter).

Or something like that.
 

JohnGD117

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I feel like the whole Imperialist period from the end of the Renaissance through the mid 19th century is almost completely void of game titles. In that time period, you have the colonization of America, Africa, and the East as central locations or themes, but even simply the general time period seems ripe. The combination of swordplay with single shot ranged weapons seems like an interesting gameplay mechanic only really implemented in the mainstream by fable. Clothing styles, mannerisms, and cultural norms like duals all seem like an interesting back drop for any story, especially Victorian era. Throw in some steampunk and you win.

Why so few Western games too?
 

Rawle Lucas

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Pontus Hashis said:
Why don't you go make a game instead of sugesting stuff?
Cuz i like your ideas ^^
Ideas are cheap. Implementation is a whole other ballgame. I'm positive lots of people have these ideas as well -- but because they lack the necessary skills to make a game, they don't have the slightest clue how to do it well.

I'm not knocking those who want to try, I'm just pointing out the reality.
 

Mopbucket

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Good article, but I have to be a little critical. Medieval Middle East, for example, I could probably list at least 20 or 30 games off the top of my head that are either based on this setting, or have at least one location based on it. I don't know, maybe I just play too many old or obscure games.

In any case, it's cyclical, usually one developer will have a successful game based on an original setting, then suddenly 10 more will come riding in on its coat-tails. I'll just follow the good games regardless of setting. I think I'd rather buy a solid game set in the standard fare rather than something based off of the Plains Indians or bronze age India or whatever, if it ends up making the game feel gimmicky.
 

108Stitches

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Saladin Ahmed said:
Fresh Frontiers

Designers tired of churning out the same old space marines and fantasy adventurers can draw fresh inspiration from the pages of history - and literature.

Read Full Article
...and have our kids actually learn something? BLASPHEMY!
 

Xhoyl

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Kenko said:
Yeah, pretty much all of those suggestion i'd play. Sure I may prefer games revolving around norse mythology (Not that theres any good games using that setting around.).
Really? You've never heard of Valkyrie Profile? It may be a rare Playstation title, but it got a re-release for the PSP. Best use of Norse mythology to date probably. I would check it out.
 

Jakale

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Some fresh mythologies would be cool. Like Australian aborigine or some of the North American ones. I think the closest I've ever gotten to that is Beyond Atlantis, and that was Mayan. Don't think I've ever seen a game try for any of the Native American mythos.

Or even for some fun, mix genre settings a bit and get things like space faring folk suddenly having to deal with gods and other non science fiction things or alien invasions in medieval times.

I do agree that the game still needs to be good in the first place.
 

Rowan Kaiser

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I like these suggestions, though I thought the article was going to go in a different direction, and suggest classic stories which could be updated for video games - kinda like the Herakles myth and the first God of War.

I think the fact is that any astute student of history (or even the natural world) can see potential game ideas in virtually any setting. The issue is more that people are scared to go outside of the AAA/Hollywood comfort zone. I think Jade Empire is a pretty bad example of how to do that, as it played almost exactly like Kung-Fu KOTOR.

@JohnGD117 - both the Europa Universalis and Imperialism games focused on that era, and both are good-to-great.
 

LostProxy

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Namewithheld said:
I'd love, LOVE, for a setting in something transhuman. A game where your "save point system" (In this case, the ability to upload copies of your mind into a new body) is used by all the enemies too. So you can kill a bad guy, but then fight him again in a new body.

Also, your body becomes another tool to customize your play style. Slip into a child's body and you'll be harder to hit (As you're smaller) and you can sneak easier! (You're smaller and lighter).

Or something like that.
if you're into tabletop games look up Eclipse Phase. It may be what you're looking for.

I would love to play any of the games listed though I would also love to see games based on lesser known mythologies. Indian and African myth are ripe with all sorts of heroes. From the clever to the brain bashing. A game following the legend of Anansi would be a fun puzzle/action game.
 

PrototypeC

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Still seeing quite a few tired old tropes squatting amongst these otherwise brilliant ideas like trolls under pristine bridges, but considering the current, dull old video game climate these stories could be the stepping stones out of predictable into interesting territory.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Most of the things mentioned here have been tried before.


For example, people tend to forget that TSR released "Al Quadim" as a campaign setting for 2nd Edition AD&D, and that there was even a video game adaption. Like many such things, it did well for a while, but eventually fell by the wayside and was cancelled due to a general lack of interest. Various "Oriental Adventures" type settings keep appearing for the Pen and Paper version of D&D but few last very long. So far no oriental RPG setting has yet to see an OFFICIAL adaption, though there was a game called "Deathlord" for the Apple II which came pretty close.

George Alec Effinger wrote the "Marid" books like "When Gravity Fails" which were Arabic cyberpunk, while interesting, and even seeing a PnP RPG Adaption as a supplement for "Cyberpunk 2020" along with a book for "Hardwired" which was mentioned above. It didn't obtain much interest or ever see a video game adaption.


In general Western sword and sorcery is internationally relatable, as is "World War II" because everyone knows it. It can be argued that Western/American culture has influanced the culture of the rest of the world, especially places like Japan (who themselves have marketed internationally) to the point where the concepts pretty much work anywhere.

When you start messing around with some of these other ideas, you either have to mangle the idea to the point of being almost unrecognizable, or have a better than average chance of actually offending the people who the work is based on.

To put things into perspective, let's look at the biggest hot button issue presented here as an example (I know your looking at things beyond what was mentioned): making a game set in The Middle East. You go too many years in the past before the current Muslim culture and your going to slot them off because of the people they replaced (OMG! The Oppressors Of Muhammad). You show a picture of Muhammad and that could actually get you attacked. In most fantasy games we insert "women's sufferage" into things and re-imagine a european setting that way. Today Muslims freak out about foreign women wandering around uncovered (and stupidly we play along for diplomatic reasons in official functions). Do a fantasy Arabian-Nights thing with women not dressed in body tents or getting slapped around, and again they get offended. Simply put you make this game as described, especially nowadays, and your liable to wind up in a similar position to the dude who wrote "Satanic Verses" and his publisher. You can point fingers at "Aladdin" but understand that was before a lot of the current tensions, and there were both Muslim outcries to the Disney movie, and I believe Disney World still receives periodic bomb threats. If you do a search for "Aladdin" nowadays your liable to find that it's made lists as one of the most contreversial movies of all time (#25 I believe). People wonder why nowadays, but they forget about the furor it raised at the time, especially seeing as Muslim groups have other things to complain/threaten about right now.

See, even when something isn't going to result in violence and threats, it can still offend. What is "exotic, differant, and a change of pace" for the US audience, is how people actually live in other countries. To the people of India for example, Hinduism is not just exotic local color, it's how they live. People like to paint Christians as being intolerant, but for the most part if you make a video game about how The Devil is a good guy, and a bunch of teenagers are going to kill god (the plot of your typical Shin Megami Tensei game) little is going to happen. Do something similar with Hinduism, especially a AAA release video game and your liable to seriously slot some people off.

To put things into perspective India has (from what I've read) a city where Monkeys are sacred, and allowed to run free. It's a crime to harm, or even disturb one. So they pretty much have free reign of the place and do whatever the heck they want. I seem to remember an article about how one of them got into the governor's office and there wasn't much he could do until it left. To us this is nutty and exotic, to them it's a way of life. This is why your not liable to see any near-future games involving "ascendant nations" any time soon. You portray this kind of thing as being "overcome" and in the past, you'll offend people, you try and portray it accuratly but don't do it right, you'll offend people.

Understand, for all of of the navel-gazing, soul-searching, emo-rants about how we in the US are intolerant bigots, we and our closest allies are the most tolerant, and permissive places on the planet. People just don't "get" that people around the world are not like we are in those regards, or what actual society racism, bigotry, or theocratic/pseudo-theocratic goverment is like and how seriously these things are taken. It's not some colorful and
exotic game, or a bit of local color put on for tourists. I think one of the reasons why Americans have a bad reputation is that they don't "get" that and think that games like this would be a "nice change of pace" for example.

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Otherwise when it comes to the idea of doing a setting like "Cthulhu By Gaslight" or TSR's old "Masque Of The Red Death" setting, I suppose that could be cool as an RPG. We've seen a few things akin to that with games putting say Sherlock Holmes against Cthulhu or Dracula, but they are invariably Adventure games. I don't think we've ever seen an RPG or survival horror game set in that period... except one portion of the old game "Waxworks".