Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anaxa-whatever his name is

Even though Greek history and myth are full of interesting stories, cultures, and people to draw from when building the world of Hellenica, it's not as great for providing reasonable names for any of these things. For example, when researching Greek people that might work well in a steampunk setting, we found a famous astronomer who was exiled from Athens for his theories. This character became the inspiration for a wandering inventor in our setting. But there was a problem: the inventor's name was "Anaxagoras", which aside from being cumbersome, was likely to be confused with other overlong "A" names that might show up in our setting, such as “Alcibiades” and “Artaxerxes”.

We thought about changing the name, but liked how it reinforced the unique Greek flavor of our setting. Additionally, using authentic names for historically-inspired characters made real history a sort of "alternative universe"(where the steam revolution hadn't happened) full of additional stories about our characters. It was almost like having the whole lore codex of a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age for free.

It was actually from the Mass Effect and Dragon Age Codex system that we found a solution, or rather, from thinking about what we disliked about them. Even though we loved all the additional details and history that lore entries provide, looking them up was a jarring break in gameplay flow. The player would (often in the middle of a conversation) get a pop-up informing her that lore had been unlocked. Only after the conversation had passed could the player consult the entry (by digging through several menus to find it).

We wanted to provided much more immediate access to that information, so we began building a glossary that would be accessible directly from conversations. Any proper noun or event can be highlighted, and when the player clicks/taps on it, she is provided with additional bits of relevant information and even a picture (if it’s a character).

I just finished another pass on a prototype version this week, so here it is (with all placeholder art, obviously).

This sort of system makes it much easier to keep our various characters straight, since if the player is ever confused about who’s being referenced, she can just click the name and get a brief description and a picture. We still need to focus test to make sure, but we’re hopeful that this system will make the Greek names manageable and help convey the rich narrative background of Hellenica.

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