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Of journey. Of discovery. Of reward.
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I had a substitute teacher back in junior high that would on occasion make use of the phrase, "If opportunity knocks, open the damn door!" I didn't really think of that phrase until tonight, when in chat with Fruny on the #gamedev IRC channel, he directed me to a tool called Inform. This wouldn't just open the door to opportunity, this would blow it off its' hinges.
I had never heard of interactive fiction before, but after browsing the site for less than 30 minutes, it was clear this was to be the natural first step that Fahrenguard would go in.
Fahrenguard is first and formost a world of people, with history and culture as deep as can be imagined. The world depends on storytelling, and interaction will be a critical necessity for any player to become immersed in it. Inform will be the tool that introduces the player base to these histories and people, I'd like to share a small sample of it now:
Inform is a near-natural language interactive fiction tool that produces MUD-like outputs, though it lacks any real character customization properties. This allows for direction-driven stories, but gives the user/player an option to explore and find their own path through these stories.
Very straight forward, simplistic language construction, and the output follows:
Simple. Effecient. Multiple action-based triggers. This is something I've been looking to find for a very long time.
I'm a writer in a land of programmers, and I'm doing just fine. [smile]
While most of my activities for the past few days have involved starting a number of retrospective threads in the lounge, I have been quietly working on the races of Fahrenguard.
When deciding upon the races of the world, I had dozens of animals to choose from, numerous geographical locations, and far far too many similar types to group together. I had at one point considered a grouping of nearly 20 races to populate the world, but for the sanity of myself, and my future players, I wanted to keep the number to a manageable level.
Each race will contain traits from the real-world animal it is based on, but have enough originality to set it apart and provide rich historical, cultural, and sociological write-ups to supplement each.
Now, I'd like to share them with you. In a very brief preview, I will be sharing their racial name, the original animal (with picture) that I am basing their race off of, and a note about each to give a quick summary of where I plan on taking them.
Avanlorn (European Hare)
Known as the plains-runners of Fahrenguard, the swift Avanlorn make their home in the grasslands and surrounding hills. They are the eyes and ears of the world, often lending their services to others.
Large and meandering, the Borma find comfort in the desert oasis' of the world, oftentimes traveling great distances between each for trade and commerce.
Hailing from the lofty mountains and dark forests below, the Dunlopar are a fierce warrior race known for their bravery and fearlessness in the midst of battle.
Gatekeepers to the rivers and other bodies of water, the Toridae are a neutral race that protect the various borders of the world. They are known for their keen engineering feats and steadfastness in accomplishing their goals.
The Wesel are master hunters and trackers of the forest and beyond, and are perhaps the most adventuresome of the races of Fahrenguard. While they stake their claim to the forests and outlying lands, the Wesel can, and have, integrated into nearly all corners of the world.
Over the coming months, I will be profiling each of the races more in-depth as the world is built up around them. I plan on tackling each "biome" of Fahrenguard one at a time, including geography, demography, history and culture.
I look forward to sharing more of Fahrenguard with you all, and if you have any inquiries to my mind, my world, or myself in general, do ask away, I'm a friendly enough fellow. [smile]
When creating an entire world based somewhat off our own, where do you draw the line when it comes to originality versus idea by example?
In creating Fahrenguard, I am aiming to produce a world rich in history and culture, where not only is there an identifiable past to the realm, but each location, each people, have their story to tell. In a world of magic and technology, there is bound to be some overlap in ideas and historical events that will shape the world, but when does the fiction become too "historical" or "everyday" to be called anything but an alteration of past events and people?
I am finding the opposite of this to be one of my first big challenges when generating the cultural history of Fahrenguard. The races of the world are anthropomorphisms of mostly common animals found throughout our own planet, infused with a bit of magic and original ingenuity. Other than that, they're walking, talking versions of our furry friends (and enemies). Where the hurdle lies is in giving each race a uniqueness to them without straying too far from identifiable trademarks that we associate with the original species. Let's take a look at an example:
Beavers are known for their dams and homes in the middle of rivers; in the world of Fahrenguard, their equivalent race is a gatekeeper to the various provinces of the realm. Rivers are of much importance in the world, providing natural boundaries and defenses for these provinces. The beaver plays a mostly neutral role in controlling these access points, and generally keep to their own business. Where then does the real world tie-in appear? Are the bridges and dams they build of similar nature to ones we find here on earth, or are they great stone structures with intricate machinery? Will players be able to make the connection from this race to the beaver, or simply see them as river-dwellers who happen to look like them?
While creating races based off of real-world animals, I would like the player to have a connection to a race from their own impressions and understanding of the real animal. Will giving the race too much deviation from the true-to-life species cause players to label these creatures as knock-offs, or will they enjoy seeing a common river-dweller turned into a master of structural engineering?
However the races of Fahrenguard turn out, I believe you (the player) will find them intriguing, enjoyable, and fun to interact with.
As a first post to my development journal, I pose the question: What animal are you?
Animals have been a part of storytelling for many thousands of years. Some the first artistic depictions ever discovered were of deer and other beasts scrawled across cave walls in southern France. The Native Americans follow a type of spirituality/religion that have close ties to the natural world, and many animals play a significant part in their beliefs. Aesop's fables would not have stuck with so many generations if the use of animals hadn't been present.
The above examples are merely a small sampling of how animals have played a part in our culture and storytelling over human history. Where does this fit into game development, and my own interests though?
Animals are a constant in video games, the most memorable ones being Sonic the Hedgehog and perhaps Yoshi of Mario fame. Many of these animal protagonists are found in the genres of platform and puzzle games, leaving a wide swath of space open for further development in other genres. We've all (hopefully) played Frog in Squaresoft's Chrono Trigger, and without a doubt he is one of the most popular playable characters of the game. This is a good indication that animals are a popular alternative to human-like player characters within the fantasy-RPG genre of video games.
If you haven't read the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, I highly encourage everyone to at least read his first installment, this will give you a good idea of how animals can easily be brought into the fantasy genre and succeed wildly.
It is with these interests in storytelling through animals, and the past success of playable animal characters, that I am setting out to create a rich and thriving world much like our historical world, seen through the eyes and experiences of animals.
I am not looking to write the perfect plot, or to have a single game produced, let alone conceived, without an amazing and magical world full of history, peoples, and cultures to support these endeavors. What I am looking to begin with is, like most any good reality, is a history to recount to children, a world to explore with the mind, and a story to tell to those with an open ear and open heart.
I am the beaver, the architect of community, of home, of hearth.
Welcome to my home. I call it Fahrenguard.