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In the last entry, I made a brief introduction of our Egypt: Old Kingdom game. It's not just based on history, we're basically trying to recreate the history in a game form. Of course, it requires a tremendous amount of research!
Sometimes people ask us: "Why did you choose Hierakonpolis/Memphis as the main location, and not Thinis or some other important settlements?"
The reply will be: because in order to make the game really historical, our location of choice has to be very well researched. We need a lot of information about the location: events, personalities, buildings, lifestyle.
The research was done by the game designer, Mikhail, and I think he can now get his master degree as an Egyptologist because he knows A LOT about Ancient Egypt thanks to his research! He did the research by himself for Bronze Age and Marble Age, but then it got too hard to keep up with both research and game design. For the next game, Predynastic Kingdom, we contacted the scientists from the Center For Egyptian Study of Russian Academy of Sciences (CES RAS). We're lucky they agreed to help! Predynastic Egypt was the first game made with their support.
For Egypt Old Kingdom Mikhail created a huge database containing most of the known events, places and personalities of the Old Kingdom period:
Every little thing about the period is studied thoroughly in order to immerse the player deeper in the game. We learn about kings’ deeds, their authority, did they properly worship gods or not, did they start any wars or not. We study climate, soil, vegetation, natural disasters of that period. We learn about the appearance of ancient Egyptians, their dress, their food, their houses.
Sketches of Egyptians' appearance:
When the database is ready, Mikhail goes over it with the scientists. They check everything, correct what's necessary, provide more information and details. Like every other science, history has a lot of controversial points. For example, "The White Walls" of Memphis is something that scientists can't agree about. There are two major opinions about what could it be:
1. It is the walls of a palace.
2. It is the walls of burial grounds.
In our game, we don't want to take sides, so the scientists of CES RAS inform us about such "dangerous" topics as well. This way we can avoid the controversy and let the player decide which theory he prefers.
This is Mikhail (left side) discussing the game events with scientists In the middle - Galina Belova, one of the most famous Russian Egyptologists. The director of CES RAS to the right.
During this part of the work we sort out all of the events and divide them in groups: the most important events which must be in the game; less important events which can be beneficial for the atmosphere of the game; insignificant events.
When this part of work is done, and all of the information is sorted out, the design of the game begins. In the process we still keep in touch with the scientists, because some events are not easy to turn in a game at all.
For example, one of our goals is to make the player fully experience the life of Ancient Egypt. We want to make player think like Ancient Egyptians, to make him exparience the same difficulties. In order to do that we have to know what Egyptians were thinking, and also through the gaming process, we have to put the player in the same conditions as Egyptians had.
Ancient Egyptians strongly believed that if they would not worship their ancestors and gods properly, the country will experience all kinds of disasters. This belief was unconscious and unconditional, that’s why they were building all those funeral complexes, made sacrifices, trying to please their ancestors. Even cities were built only as a way to please gods and ancestors! They were sure if they will stop properly worship them, the country will be doomed, because ancestors will stop to protect them.
We wanted to nudge the player to build all these pyramids for the same reasons as Egyptians, and this is how stat “Divine favor” appeared. This stat is mostly necessary to worship the gods’ cults, and player can earn it by working in temples and worshipping ancestors. But what really makes the player to feel like Egyptians did is the feature of “Divine favor” stat – it degrades by 0,1 every turn. It happens because people are dying; hence, there are more and more ancestors that must be worshipped. If player will not pay attention to this stat and it will degrade too much, more and more disasters will start to happen, such as fires, earthquakes, droughts, etc. If will greatly influence the economy and the result of the game.
That's how we turn history in a game. It can be fun and challenging! There are many other examples of similar transitions. We'll definitely keep working with the scientists, not only Russian, but also foreign. In fact, we hope to engage more and more people in the process of game making.
That's it for now. Thank you for reading! Comments are very welcome!
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