If you’re making a historical game everybody involved should be reading and studying this time period you’re working with. Not just the designers, everybody on the team. Because this should be a labor of love, and if everybody on the team is immerged in that era, all those tiny details should just naturally sort themselves out somebody on the team is gonna catch the historically inaccurate horns on the helmet or the comically short Napoleon. But where we often fail to apply accuracy is in giving the player the very questions and problems that people of that time struggled with. Often we use history merely as a skin, and then leave the player to check this website and make purely gaming decisions within that setting.
What do I mean ? Well i’ll pick on Rome two a little bit here because despite its bugs, James really enjoyed that game and the first rome total war serves as an excellent contrast for this. You see in Rome two, they added leveling trees to all of your characters so you could pick what skills they learned as they gain levels and progressed. Whereas in the first rome you can only influence how your units developed, making sure they didn’t end up lazy or as a drunkard by sending them out into the field or raining in their temper by making them administer a town rather than fight in constant battles, but even these actions could sometimes backfire spectacularly. The thing is, this second system where people just developed as they developed with at best a nudge from the player in the right direction, felt much more like being the head of a Roman family, struggling to make do with the inept brother that you’re cursed with, or having to pack your son off to the army before his scandalous reputation brought down the family, mirrored the decisions of paterfamilias would have to wrestle with, as they tried to grow the strength of their family in the world of Roman politics.
By having the player be able to make every choice on a leveling tree in the new game, the player made only game decisions. Is this ability or that one more likely to win me the game ? Rather than having to work through a real aspect of the period and live a part of history, and you know the game was less engaging for that. And I get it and the designers tried to throw in leveling trees because it worked in the multiplayer of their last game and well games have leveling trees, wouldn’t the player want to be able to choose what abilities they got to use. But in doing that, although they paid great attention to accuracy in terms of the names and places in the world, the equipment the soldiers were using and all that, they let slip, to me, what is perhaps the most important accuracy of all in a historical game, mechanical accuracy. If the mechanics of the game don’t feel like being there in that time or in the shoes of those people, if they don’t present to you the problems that somebody in the role your ostensibly taking on might have to face then you aren’t playing a historical game you’re playing a shooter or a strategy game with an historical skin. So that about wraps it up for us today but I’d like to put out a plea for historical games in other genres, today we mostly talked about strategy games as the majority of historical games currently fall into that category.
Beyond those there’s a good handful of shooters a few action titles and then… Almost nothing… Role-playing games seemed perfect to take on historical settings. City sims used to delve deep into this genre with things like the Caesar series but not anymore for some reason. So if you’re thinking about making a historical game, but we just like to ask that before you immediately slap into the strategy box, think about what genre would allow you to use mechanics that truly enable the player to explore the period. Now don’t get me wrong we love strategy games, we love shooters, please please keep making those too but there are so many other aspect of history that are just waiting to be explored see you next week