Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lineage and more on the Weight of History

I've been splitting my time lately between writing and another of my great loves - game design. Having recently discovered the wonders of pygame (a code library for Python that, amongst other things, supplies graphics rendering and input handling) I dusted off some old design files to see which project might benefit from these new tools. I chose a game that I'm currently calling Patrician, where you assume control of a noble family in a classical-era city state. Think of it as trying to capture the feel of the Roman Republic circa 300 BC.

Reading - and subsequently expanding - the design docs for the game, I realized that my love of that "Weight of History" feeling extends in great part to games, as well. I love strategy games that take place over a huge amount of time, like Civilization or some of the Total War games. I love being able to remember the humble beginnings of my empire and the struggles I had to go through to make it survive and thrive.

My designs for Patrician reminded me of Rome: Total War (which has a sequel coming out soon). In that game - in fact in many of the Total War games - your empire has a leader, who is complete with a family tree. Many of the people in that family tree are also characters you control, generals on the battlefield or mayors in your cities. They had various traits and abilities which were affected by what you did with them.

This family lineage could grow quite large in the end. I vaguely recall a couple of games that I played, start-to-finish, which had four or five generations with a few dozen "characters." You could trace the descent of your current emperor from your first one, whether or not he was a blood relative or married in or even if he was adopted into the royal line (a la Octavian, aka Augustus Ceasar).

These are powerful catalysts for story. History, after all, is story. I intend to integrate the same sort of mechanic into my games where appropriate. Certainly in Patrician, where it will fit perfectly - and  of course, the same sort of thing has its place in stories as well. Inheritance, lineage, descending from powerful legacies, and of course nobility itself are all interesting subjects with a vast amount of romanticism surrounding them. Interesting enough, in fact, that I think I'll need to make them their own post...

1 comment:

  1. The "Weight of History"... yeah, I can get behind that. In both literary and game media that "weight" provides context and relevance to the events and choices that unfold.

    It doesn't require a full history lesson, but the sense of continuity and the dual perspective of "looking back" and "looking forward" gives the present moment more shine and substance.

    Thanks, Tristan... you cast a light on a cool perspective that writers can put to use in their tales.