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Default Rampant Games - Why Orcs?

February 18th, 2011, 03:55
Jay Barnson's latest editorial discusses hurdles in presenting a unique setting to players because they lack the context that comes with familiar settings - but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done:
For me, as a player, I want just enough background at the outset to know why I should care. The rest I can take in as I need it. The world should not be one that requires a massive info-dump at the outset.
Tolkienesque or D&D-style fantasy worlds have had decades to simmer in the popular geek culture’s mythology. That makes it very easy to use as a foundation for a setting and provide shortcuts to the player’s understanding. With just a few visuals or lines of exposition, you can effectively say, “Medieval fantasy world. Elves. Dragons. The orcs are named ‘borks’ but are functionally identical. We’ll tell you more later.” Done. You can then explain the critical importance of the annual Bork Pride Parade in the capital city of Sniffleheim at some point prior to the player needing this information.
It’s really hard to present a really unique fantasy world to players. Quite honestly, we tend to lose interest early on because it’s hard to construct that new mental model of the setting. This is why we keep falling back to variants on this traditional setting.
More information.
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February 18th, 2011, 03:55
Asheron's Call actually worked pretty hard to break out of that setting (though they still had some run-of-the-mill undead).

It's interesting (to me, anyway) that science fiction has no such standards. Yet they seem to get along just fine. He points out some near-future games at least have a similar setting but what about games like Mass Effect? That's gotten along great without having cliche races. Xenosaga dumped you into an even more alien universe head first. So why do fantasy settings feel they NEED to have elves and dwarves every time?
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February 18th, 2011, 04:40
I'm not so sure about the no-cliché of science-fiction / space opera settings.

As pointed out in the article, any fantasy settings goes first with the commonly know mythology (orcs, elves, …) and then, hopefully, build something new from these bricks (another kind of political and social organization, a new kind of threat, etc …). SF just use a different set of basic bricks.

You see a huge space ship cruising in the starry emptiness of space, nobody is going to have to explain to you that it has a kind of warp drive. If an alien comes into view, it's going to be either a seriously advanced benevolent race, a violently threatening one or a mysteriously enigmatic one. They come in different shapes, but they usually match a known archetype. And don't get me started on lasers or AI.

It seems to me there is as much (or as little) explaining going on in both genres. The exposition just have to go over different things.
Last edited by Jogurt; February 18th, 2011 at 04:41. Reason: forgot the AI
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February 18th, 2011, 12:25
I would think the game with a unique setting is far far more interesting than a game with a cliché setting. For example Albion was a really interesting game to explore just because it didn't stick to all these cliché stuff.

Same would go for final fantasy series. And several other.

Exploring cliché things we have already done 100's of times… it is getting boring to burn down another orc camp, or get help from another elf.
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February 18th, 2011, 12:35
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Same would go for final fantasy series. And several other.
The Final Fantasy series developed its own set of cliches a long time ago.
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February 18th, 2011, 13:02
I see a problem if someone tries to break out from these "standards" by giving Elves or Dwarves a completely new destination.

The results are usuall of the WTF type and/or "THAT'S WRONG !!!!111!! DWARVES JUST ASREN'T LIKE THAT !!!1211"

TDE has such tries … The Hill Dwarves are just called "Aventurian Hobbits" by some TDE fans - and that, although the aventurian Hill Dwarves are clearly Dwarves, no other species … And the Elves are beings that have literally dreamt themselves out from the Light into Reality … How esoteric is that ? And a Bosnickel is called a Leprechaun (I'm sorry, but that's just nonsense to me …)

People seemingly like to stich to what they know. "What the farmer doesn't know, he won't eat !" is the translation of a proverb here.

So they sometimes try as hard as possible to put some creatures into drawers.
Some people just seem to fight the idea that somethuing might be "new" or even "unique". Imho.

When I wrote my short story "The Adorant" set in my own fantasy universe, some readers couldn't understand the way the Goddess I portrayed there behaved.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 18th, 2011, 15:27
I don't like cliches either, the problem is, the reason a cliche is a cliche is that you've seen it before many times. Now, I believe game marketers have a target population for their games, and that population is not 40 year olds. It's teenagers, and for them, those 'cliches' are not so, they haven't seen it before, or just a few times.

I prefer games that don't have an 'evil race', where you're not 'the chosen one', but let's face it… having an evil race with a very very evil and powerful villain, who can only be defeated by you, the chosen one, is an attractive situation, if you haven't experienced it 2293 times already, and for teenagers, that could be the case.
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February 18th, 2011, 15:59
It is quite easy to create a new race… yet most RPG developers, like the industry at large, suffers from the "METOOMETOO!!!"
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February 18th, 2011, 16:13
This is one of the issues I have with Arcanum. I'm not that familiar with steampunk, but what little I have seen has really piqued my interest. However, since I lack that background knowledge, I've found Arcanum a bit difficult to penetrate. True, it comes with a huge manual filled with tons of background (which I am reading through), but that's a lot of work just to get to a point where the game makes sense.

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February 18th, 2011, 16:28
The saddest part is that you don't even have to invent anything new, just drag creatures from myths and legends, maybe from other spheres than the Nordic one, that haven't yet been exploited.

You already can find a few creatures from the Japanese/Chinese myths in some games, but they are almost never organized as a society, like elves or dwarves can be. And there are many pantheons that, as far as I know, have been completely ignored by games. I'd love to see some where you deal with Loas or Tikis, for examples.

What we need is find another Tolkien, born in the Southern part of the world, and tie him to a desk until he has written a 2000 pages trilogy.
Last edited by Jogurt; February 18th, 2011 at 16:29. Reason: spelling
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February 18th, 2011, 16:50
Originally Posted by Jogurt View Post
The saddest part is that you don't even have to invent anything new, just drag creatures from myths and legends, maybe from other spheres than the Nordic one, that haven't yet been exploited.
I very much agree.

I'm very often very astonished in how little peopl look into ancient myths for inspiration.

The material, it's there.

What we need is find another Tolkien, born in the Southern part of the world, and tie him to a desk until he has written a 2000 pages trilogy.
Right. Although … A thing like that exists already : http://www.tekumel.com/

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 18th, 2011, 17:04
Did you try jade empire ? it was full of those chinese and india mythology stuffs….
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February 18th, 2011, 17:57
I never got around trying Jade Empire, though I've heard mostly good things about. At the time I could easily have found a copy, I was put of by a friend who told me that the whole thing was too manichean (he also actually spoiled a large part of the plot, by explaining his point). I will definitely give it a try if I can find a copy somewhere.

The Tekumel serie seems like it's set in a blend of SF/fantasy universe, but it looks quite interesting. Thanks for the link. Have you read any of the novel ?
Last edited by Jogurt; February 18th, 2011 at 17:59. Reason: writing the same thing, using understandable English, this time.
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February 18th, 2011, 18:55
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Did you try jade empire ? it was full of those chinese and india mythology stuffs….
I've begun it, but stopped at one point in favor for another gam,e I don't remember anymore … But I plan to re-start it again, yes.

Originally Posted by Jogurt View Post
The Tekumel serie seems like it's set in a blend of SF/fantasy universe, but it looks quite interesting. Thanks for the link. Have you read any of the novel ?
No.

At one day, I stumbled upon it through an online article of a newspaper stating that this role-polaying world is literally several decades now. I think even Tolkien knew about it, the article stated. And if I remember it correctly, the article stated that its playing sessions are still going on, since several decades.

This must be an incredibly detailed world … I guess. But I know next to nothing about it.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 19th, 2011, 01:24
I've always thought that Jordan's Wheel of Time universe would make an excellent RPG setting, but I gather the one (non-rpg) game made with it, wasn't very good.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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February 19th, 2011, 12:28
I played a MUD based on that. Best game ever made.
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February 19th, 2011, 13:05
Every time I find these "huge authors" being mentioned,I *seriously* wonder whether it is really possible for young authors anymore, to build up a similar "huge" enviroment/setting …

I mean it like with a kind o proverb I developed :

"Goethe is like an huge, old german oak.
It is old, huge, steady, and dominates the landscape.
But unfortunately, it doesn't allow younger saplings to grow in its shadow, either."

This is always the case when I read these "huge names".
Like Tolkien or Gygax, for example.

And I'm so sick of it.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 19th, 2011, 21:59
Originally Posted by Jogurt View Post
You already can find a few creatures from the Japanese/Chinese myths in some games
Especially the ones written by Japanese or Chinese ;)

Anyone tired of the old orcs&dwarves and who`s allergic to jRpgs is advised to dust off Superhero League Of Hoboken
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February 19th, 2011, 23:45
I think there is sufficient speculative fiction on the landscape with alternate settings that don't copy Tolkien explicitly. Martin, Mieville, Wolfe come to mind. Yes I know they are all old now and Martin has Dragons, Mieville has vampires and Wolfe is Scifi. I dont know that those works translate to video games particularly well though I would like to see some attempts.

Most companies probably would rather develop their own properties to avoid licensing fees for more obscure properties and retain creative control and I think the blog is correct that Orcs and Goblins and what not are easier to pass off without explanation. Planescape needs a lot of exposition to explain its landscape and I dont think most video game companies could do it justice. PST was exceptional and even then I don't think it did as well as it could have. I almost didn't buy it myself because I didn't understand it immediately (and I didn't really want to be seen buying that box).
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