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Race and Setting - Orcs, Medieval Knights, ...

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I have noticed that many role-playing games and strategy games largely base their characters on typical races and times like Medieval Europe, Lord of the Rings type species (Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, etc.). While certainly it is easier to use a predefined race and setting (most of which were defined in fantasy books such as Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King), why not create new settings and races? Taking a peak at various popular games such as Warcraft III, Civilization, Age of Empires, etc. we see these settings continually re-used. (1) What is it about these races and these time periods that makes them so attractive for fantasy games? (2) What other possibilities are there for races, settings, etc.? Or what other structure could be used other than races, kingdoms, nations, etc. (3) What similar fantasy games have implemented other structures or used different race types and themes? negcx

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1.They are already recognised by most (or all) gamers so its safe ground hence the publishers aprove of it. (publishers have all the power)


3.example: final tantasy series. they have moogles, chochobos, shuumi/moombas etc. etc.

want to see some cool races? play the game ascendancy.

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Classic Fantasy contains races as orcs, elves and dwarves.
Tolkiens "Lord of the Rings" was based on several myths, telling from such races.
The world of LotR and "The small Hobbit" was the first setting of that, what the common sense of Fantasy today is.
But the roots of this Fantasy were these myths and due the fact it are european myths, first told in the middle ages there are knights and castles and so on.

LotR and "The small Hobbit" were the first "modern" fantasy-books and their success leads to the Fantasy-setting we known today: Orcs, Elves, Dwarves...

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For question 1, I agree with Origin2052 in the sense that those races are already recognized by most gamers and still very popular, but I''m sure all of those races (Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, etc.) started out at some point unfamiliar to everyone. If you make a race that is fun and appealing, yet different from all the currently known Middle Earth races, then it will thrive. People will come to learn the intricacies of the race, their past, their personalities, etc. RPG''s would best suit a new race, as this game genre gives you time to explain details of the race. If you use your race with a RTS or FPS, people won''t care where the race came from, why they eat certain foods and not others, or why males are "chosen" to carry the child during labor, (or other weird aspects). They''ll only choose to like that race if it gives them an advantage in the game.

The great thing with the Elves and Dwarves and such is that the LOTR books acted as a detailed background for each of the races. They were each described thoroughly, and now that people know them by heart, using them in games is comfortable and familiar to them.

Anyway, for question 2, yeah, limitless possibilities for races.

And question 3: Final Fantasy, indeed, has used different races and such. Xenogears and Xenosaga as well had a few new themes and whatnot. Just look at a few of those for ideas.

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To be fair the Tolkins races are based off of norse mythology. All the race are portrayed basically the same he merely took a little creative licenese.

But there are 2 main reasons that you see the same races, and settings over and over again.

1) proven market - publishers know these kinds of games sell.

2) Similar inspiration - if you read through various posts on where people draw inspiration you'll find that many of them are drawing inspiration from the same small pool of work. The same is probably true of where the authors of those works drew inspiration from.

So in a sense we have inspiration inbreeding, so its not surpirising that people are becoming less and less enthusied with these kinds of games as they get older because they've seen the same ideas all there life.

Thats why I much prefer original and unusal ideas.
If you want to try a fun original game download the demo of "Uplink".

Writer, Programer, Cook, I'm a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

[edited by - TechnoGoth on November 6, 2003 1:36:11 PM]

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1) those races and periods are not attractive per se, IMHO. They are because they are MADE attractive. The whole point of the game design is to MAKE whatever your environment is, attractive.
If you are good at it, you can make any environment interesting and compelling to the player, that''s what being a good storyteller / second hand cars salesman is all about, selling your product and make people feel happy about it.
Why do we end up with the same old same all the time ?
Well, I think the answer is quite obvious : the industry is becoming big, and with the dominance of the Americans, it''s gradually, but inexorably turning into the same shit that Hollywood is. Lots of money to create the same thing, over, and over, and over again.
Yeah of course there are exceptions. But the exceptions, as we say in French, only confirm the rule. :/

2) What other possibilities ISNT there ?

3) if you want to see a brilliant blend of scifi and fantasy, with original races and some that will look familiar, you can try a RPG called Albion, made by Blue Byte IIRC, a German team.
I spend the first part of the game absolutely delighted to wander in a totally alien looking country, with weird creatures, vegetation, and a whole ecological civilisation. Really unique stuff. And no, the aliens didnt look like a bland copy of Alien, they were actually original, with some really interesting concepts for them.
Aaaah, the memories

I liked the gargoyles in Ultima, that was a really cool idea, too.

And I am not even gonna start with pen n paper RPGs...
OK, just one name, Shaan. 12 races, all with superb concepts, although all reminding a bit of more "known" fantasy races. Different yet oddly familiar. Works very well, this sort of stuff.

hope that answers your questions a little bit ?

Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

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