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This is a problem I have been pondering for some time now. Say I'm a developer interested in developing an RPG game (commercial or otherwise, it doesn't matter). I have a choice to make at the planning stage of the game: which fictional world to set my game in. At first glance this seems like a simple enough choice, I can use one of the following options: 1) Use a fantasy world already developed by one or more Authors, such as Middle Earth, AD&D Forgotten Realms, or Games Workshops "Old World". 2) Get my writers to create a new world from scratch. However, both options can have disadvantages. For 1) you will require the explicit permission of whoever owns the intellectual property rights (copyright) to that world. This could turn out to be a real problem for an indie development team if you set your heart on a specific world and then get turned down by the copyright holders. There is one instance I know of where this is not the case - the 80 year copyright on the world used as the setting for the "Conan" books is actually due to expire soon, after which you can set your game in Conans world without having to ask anyones permission, and without having to pay any royalties. For 2) I think a big risk is being taken. Authoring a detailed and convincing fantasy world is no mean feat, and can take time away from the more important task of authoring a plot/sub-plots for the game itself. Indie gaming teams may not be up to the job. I have thought of a potential solution to the problem though. Why not start a fantasy world as a wiki? Writers, artists and so on could contribute to the wiki with stories, artwork, maps, characters, histories etc. The conditions of contribution would be that anyone could use the material you submit in a game, story, novel etc. as the information is in the public domain. Comments, ideas etc. would be appreciated. Jon

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A decent idea, I think, if executed well. I think it would be important for someone, or some small group, to 'oversee development of the world', such that they can decide if the content submitted is a 'good fit', and is cohesive with the overall general vision of the world (which they would develop). Otherwise, I think it's too open to inconsistencies, etc, across content.

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Original post by RDragon1
A decent idea, I think, if executed well. I think it would be important for someone, or some small group, to 'oversee development of the world', such that they can decide if the content submitted is a 'good fit', and is cohesive with the overall general vision of the world (which they would develop). Otherwise, I think it's too open to inconsistencies, etc, across content.


Absolutely. In a way, thats a bit unfortunate and not very "wiki-like", but some form of editorial control/set of standards needs to be exercised, otherwise you could end up with a thousand pages of junk very rapidly.

Would anyone else find such a site of use? [Assuming it was of a decent standard]

Jon

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pessimist flag : ON

And you will see dozens of teens describing how the character they imagine totally rock this fantasy world. Then you will have dozens of pen-and-papers gamemasters describing how a secret society lurking for millenias is about to take over the world and pull the strings behind the scene

pessimist flag : OFF

Because of all this, you can't set up a wiki and just except it to fill by itself with coherent stuff. However, if you manage to interest enough motivated and mature people, the job of the writter could become the job of an editor : selecting and correcting various submissions that would become canon. I think your best tool would be forums or mailing list with a website that the writter would keep up to date.

See for instance how the OSS game 'Battle for wesnoth' evolved and how various submitters constantly suggest in the forums to add new races to the existing ones (dark elves, pirates, etc...) while occasionally succeeding in interesting occasions (outlaws, drakes)

Btw, I will sound trollish but creating a world for a fantasy RPG isn't very hard. Create a rough map in 5 minutes on a piece of paper, find various names or generate them, append "Barony" "Realm" "Kingdom" "Empire" to them according to their size, imagine a few royal families, design a magic system, choose a technological level, read some random History events of Europe or Asia during middle-age and transpose them (they happen to be in the public domain) and you'll get a good setting.

Ex : The Holy Kingdom of Miara mourns the death of his King, Feretium IV, during his crusade to liberate the Saint city of Guinyst, center of the Haptial religion, from which the famous Haptian mages draw their powers.
Go on with the succession war, the inference of a foreign military power, transforming the province in a group of warring states, etc, etc, etc ..

The setting is often secondary in a RPG game. First the players will see the gameplay and the graphics. The game world has just 'to be working'

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And you will see dozens of teens describing how the character they imagine totally rock this fantasy world. Then you will have dozens of pen-and-papers gamemasters describing how a secret society lurking for millenias is about to take over the world and pull the strings behind the scene


Yes, I'd already thought about this. As suggested above, the wiki would have to restrict editorial access to a small number of trusted people to start with. In addition, a set of publically available guidelines should help: something along the lines of 1) Please do not use superhuman characters, demi-God like characters, ancient secret societies, and so on, as plot devices. 2) Prefer resue of existing locations in plotlines above creating your own, 3) When fleshing out an NPC's background, character etc. discuss the developments with the original author... and so on.

Quote:

Because of all this, you can't set up a wiki and just except it to fill by itself with coherent stuff.


Yup. I'd need to start with a small group of reasonably experienced writers, and gradually expand. The writers would also need to share some form of common vision, whilst retaining the freedom to express their own ideas.

Quote:

I think your best tool would be forums or mailing list with a website that the writter would keep up to date.


Hmmm. Perhaps this would be a better format than a wiki.

Quote:

Btw, I will sound trollish but creating a world for a fantasy RPG isn't very hard.


Right, creating a fantasy RPG world isn't hard. A 5 year old can do it. Creating a decent, enjoyable, and absorbing world in which many campaigns, plot lines and interlocking narratives can be set is significantly more difficult. I think this is maybe where you and I have diverged in our thought process. In this instance you see the fantasy world merely as a vehicle for a single, possibly very linear, game. What I am trying to get across is a larger, richer world, such as those described for the Forgotten Realms campaigns (which has over 30 years of creative writing behind it), which have led to games such as Baldurs Gate and Neverwinter Nights, both of which are moving the player away from a linear gaming experience, and toward something a little more open ended.

Thanks for the feedback so far.

Jon

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Quote:
Original post by Talroth
Creating a GOOD world over a day? Very hard.

Working on a world for a few months to a year or more, very easy.


I didn't mean this to be done in a single day. I was thinking of a very long term project, months, more likely - years. Eventually the project would get to the point where it could be used as a backdrop for games/novels etc., but this would not signal the end of the worlds development. It would keep evolving independently as authors continue to add to it.

Jon

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A fantasy world wiki will have lots of internal inconsistencies, and will turn out cliche because no one is imposing any overall creative vision. Plus, who owns the rights to contributed material is questionable (I bet some copyrighted fan material will sneak in), and what is motivating people to contribute if they aren't getting paid and have to give you the rights to their stuff.

Designing a fantasy world does take time, but I don't see any reason why it should take away from authoring a plot - on the contrary, the best plots are those which depend on a unique way on the worldbuilding, and aren't some generic story which could be told in any world.

If you are paying your writers, you should be able to get one(s) good enough to handle the task, and if you aren't paying them you can recruit more so that the additional time needed is not a problem.

But creating a fantasy world is an artistic task, and just like any other work of art, if no one has a vision and a whole committee of people muck around with it, you will only get a pile or crap. You can't make art by committee.


Also, there are plenty of writers around who have already created a world and are trying to get it made into a game, if you don't have a strong preference for what the world is like why not team up with someone like this? That they have already done a lot of the work will save time, and they will be a committed team member because you are bringing their baby to life.

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Penny Arcade did exactly what you were suggesting with Epic Legends Of The Hierachs: The Elemenstor Saga. A brand new fantasy world complete with all the mythos you could ever want, even if it is a bit on the ridiculous side. Oh, and magically animated talking furniture.

http://elothtes.pbwiki.com/

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I think it's a great idea. In fact I was on the edge of doing this myself. For the past 5-7 years I've been playing message board driven role playing games. I've seen millions of names for them but we had adopted the term Message Board Role Playing Game (MBRPG) for ours.

The idea is great. The admin creates the world in which all players can create a character and interact with eachother. We had ground rules to prevent god modding and such and it worked for a long time. We shut down our site last week due to lack of activity.

Now why do I say this? Because I think that it's hard to make an entire world on your own. Here we were (two guys on their spare time) trying to create a huge world where people would try and fit in their character. Instead, people would invent their own country/realm where they were from. In the end, we had something like 10 neighbouring countries on the northern border. It just doesn't work.

That's why the wiki idea is so great. I was going to use the PA example given in the post above but he/she beat me to it. I think it would definatly work (given you have some kind of editorial staff).

As for the copyright regarding this wiki... Hmmmm I think you should make it "open source". Anyone could use the world as is, and/or add what they'd like to it in their own game. I don't know if you'd like the exclusive rights to the world but I think it would be awesome if anyone who felt like using it could. They'd just have to acknowledge the wiki in their credits. "World based on the XXX world @ www.wiki.rpgworld.com"

Bah... I talk to much.

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Difficult, but potentially fun.

Bit of a brain dump:

In order for the universe to be cohesive, contributors must be quite knowledgeable about all that has already been written, before they make their own additions. To be knowledgeable about the world, they must spend time reading through the existing contents of the wiki. Therefore, a clear, simple and interesting writing style must be encouraged. Additionally, it would probably be a good idea to have short, sharp summaries of various things.

In order to keep absolute consistency, redundency must be minimized. If there is a page that states the lineage of one of the characters, then that must be the only page to give that information (if you want to refer to it elsewhere, link to the page).

The hardest part is getting it started. If you have 10 pages of information with only a short paragraph on each, then your fantasy world will never flourish. There needs to be enough on the initial seed pages to be able to get an overview of how things work. The seed pages need to lead by example with the writing style and structure that you want people to use. They also need to provide plenty of exposed surfaces so that external contributors can get started easily.

Editors would be a very good idea (and if the thing becomes popular, those editors will have a big job to do)

On factual or technical wikis, there is correct information and incorrect information. In a wiki describing a fantasy world, anything goes. But it mustn't be allowed to. Wacky ideas are all well and good, but they need to make sense within the framework of the world.

Good luck with it. It's definitely something to try for.

John B

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Well, thanks for all the input so far everyone. I'm pleased to see everyone is raising the same issues that I thought

were of importance.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
A fantasy world wiki will have lots of internal inconsistencies, and will turn out cliche because no one is imposing

any overall creative vision.


I don't see why a fantasy world with one author is less likely to turn out cliches than one with a dozen authors. If

anything, assuming the editorial work is sound, cliches and inconsistancies would be found and elimated much more

quickly using a wiki format. In addition, as I said above, there would have to be an overall creative vision

which the editors would have to share. Without it, you'd just end up with 3000 pages of nonsense.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Plus, who owns the rights to contributed material is questionable (I bet

some copyrighted fan material will sneak in), and what is motivating people to contribute if they aren't getting paid

and have to give you the rights to their stuff.


No one would own the copyright, all works would be in the public domain. Before submitting each and every piece of

material an author/artist would have to acknowledge that their work would be in the public domain, free for use by

anyone. As for motivation - you may as well ask what motivates people to contribute to any wiki, Open Source

code project, or similar; if the writers expect to retain copyright and make money from their creations, then they

certainly wouldn't (and shouldn't) be submitting material to a wiki. Copyrighted fan fiction is bound to sneak in - I

agree there. But part of the rationale behind the wiki format is that such material can be removed quickly, and with

a minimum of fuss.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Designing a fantasy world does take time, but I don't see any reason why

it should take away from authoring a plot..

Hmm. Perhaps I'm failing to get the central tenet across here. If you are authoring a single, fairly linear, plot,

and the world you create is simply a vehicle for your plot, then fair enough - no need for a wiki. However, I believe

that RPG games are moving away from such linear play, and toward a more open-ended format. Worlds with a depth of

history and wide array of characters are going to be required for such games. This is fine if the backdrop for your

game is Forgotten Realms and you have licence to use their (Wizards of the Coast) material - but how are you to do it

otherwise?

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
...the best plots are those which depend on a unique way on the worldbuilding, and aren't some generic story which

could be told in any world...

I partly agree with this. Have you read the "Hero with a thousand faces"? It's required reading for any fantasy

author [grin]. However, say you are trying to develop an intricate and complex web of (political) plots. All of a

sudden the linear nature of the plot drops away, and you find yourself having to write more and more material in

order to keep the plot convincing - character motivations, conceits and histories, betrayals and unexpected events.

For example - I often look at the history books for inspiration - If an author had written, say, the American War of

Independance as a work of fiction, do you think that the story would have been half as intricate and fascinating as

the real thing? Would the author have included so many instances where both the Revolutionaries and the British had

so very nearly won, but for a single mistake? Would the author have included characters such as Benedict Arnold - a

man without whom the war would have been lost, but who in the end would betray his own side?

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
But creating a fantasy world is an artistic task, and just like any other

work of art, if no one has a vision and a whole committee of people muck around with it, you will only get a pile or

crap. You can't make art by committee.


I agree. But thats not what I am proposing. There are a number of examples where groups of authors have produced

great, in depth, fantasy worlds, following a single creative vision. For example, I love Warhammers "Old World". It's

dark, gothic, and can be genuinely creepy. The feel of the material produced by all who write fiction for it

is very similar - they all conform to a shared vision.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Also, there are plenty of writers around who have already created a world

and are trying to get it made into a game, if you don't have a strong preference for what the world is like why not

team up with someone like this?


For reasons stated above, and because (with a wiki) they would likely impose their own singular creative

vision and expect everyone else (in the early editorial team) to conform to it. I don't think this idea will work at

all unless you start with 3 or 4 author/editors, all of whom are entusiastic about a single shared vision. Single

authors of fantasy worlds are likely to feel it is "their" world, and will be unable to "let go" - to let others

author changes without their permission or immediate control.

Wow. Thats a lot of text. I have a lot more to write, but have to do some work now. Cheers,

Jon

[Edited by - polly on January 12, 2006 6:30:55 AM]

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Original post by polly
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadowPlus, who owns the rights to contributed material is questionable (I bet some copyrighted fan material will sneak in), and what is motivating people to contribute if they aren't getting paid

and have to give you the rights to their stuff.


No one would own the copyright, all works would be in the public domain. Before submitting each and every piece of material an author/artist would have to acknowledge that their work would be in the public domain, free for use by anyone. As for motivation - you may as well ask what motivates people to contribute to


I think what s&s means is that people could sneak other someone else's IP into it without anyone noticing. For example, someone might try to sneak his favourite obscure pokemon in as a monster, or some other beastie that he didn't realize was copyrighted. While such things should be easily removed if spotted early, it could become problematic if they aren't noticed until late in the development of the world, and large amounts of content might need rewriting in order to remove the offending item.

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Original post by Sandman
Quote:
Original post by polly
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadowPlus, who owns the rights to contributed material is questionable (I bet some copyrighted fan material will sneak in), and what is motivating people to contribute if they aren't getting paid

and have to give you the rights to their stuff.


No one would own the copyright, all works would be in the public domain. Before submitting each and every piece of material an author/artist would have to acknowledge that their work would be in the public domain, free for use by anyone. As for motivation - you may as well ask what motivates people to contribute to


I think what s&s means is that people could sneak other someone else's IP into it without anyone noticing. For example, someone might try to sneak his favourite obscure pokemon in as a monster, or some other beastie that he didn't realize was copyrighted. While such things should be easily removed if spotted early, it could become problematic if they aren't noticed until late in the development of the world, and large amounts of content might need rewriting in order to remove the offending item.



Yes, as said above I don't think that theres much you can do about this. The only thing I can think of is to actually restrict write-access to the wiki as a form of quality control. If I do this, then it would be much less "wiki-like" in the sense that there would be no universal-write access.

Jon

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I think this a good idea. After a period, maybe you need to finalize and give it a version number, or else once you started using it in your game, if other make changes to the wiki, it will kinda become a plothole or something.

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It sounds like a good idea to me. I think you need to develop some sort of a basic world first though -- complete geography and some politics probably including a war or two -- and then allow people to write stories that fit into the same framework. That way everyone will be on the same page. I can imagine it being something like the extended Star Wars universe -- it's created by many people and has a few inconcistencies, but it's all based on the same original plotline and it fits together pretty well. I think you should also have some sort of continually updated page to give an overview of the history as it evolves and introducing some of the major characters that develop so that people can start writing without reading hundreds of pages. And I doubt you'll have any problem finding contributors; many people enjoy writing well enough to put in a few stories.

One major area where you'll have to think about the rules is with characters. Unless people can use each other's characters, the world won't feel connected. But people will grow very attached to their characters and won't want them developed differently than they imagine or killed off by someone else.

Just my two cents on the idea.

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Its a cool idea. You need to give a theme as a guideline for users to follow in order to maintain the same ambiance for your world then. And some mods to prevent sabotaging.

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