Author Topic: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!  (Read 902 times)

Jubal

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So I thought I'd share this one with you - I'm hopefully going to be designing and then, in the winter semester later this year, teaching a course on game development and medieval history and digital humanities and how all of those intersect.

My rough plan is to take a set of thematic topics and then look at each from two angles: firstly, a "thinking critically" section where we discuss how current games present that topic, what the medieval source material or evidence might imply about it, and how those connect up. Then it'd lead on to a "making models" section on the theme where we discuss the challenges and simplifications needed to model the concept in a computer setting and some ways of doing that.

So for example a theme section on travel would be fun - we could look a bit at medieval travel narratives, the actual issues and realities of medieval travel, and compare both to how travel is presented in medieval/ancient/fantasy themed games. Then we'd move on to looking at how historians model historical travelling routes (like al-Thurayya, a mapping system for the medieval Islamic world) and the challenges of representing medieval travel in both digital history and gaming contexts. Other probable themes could be material objects, medieval aesthetics and art, race/ethnicity, heroism and the hero in society, warfare, gender, power & rulership, etc.

I dunno if this is too ambitious, but it'll be really fun if I can pull it off and I thought I'd drop a post here to see if anyone here had thoughts given this is probably on the crossover of other peoples' interests too.
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Clockwork

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2019, 11:25:30 PM »
Sounds great matey, personally this (link below) is my favourite theme in medieval story telling and I find that RPGs at least use this dichotomy between fate or destiny and choice/consequence as portrayed in the medieval sense really well because it acutely fits how games are made - fate is predetermined and fighting against it means you won't complete the game (i.e. don't do the main questline), while choice and the consequences arising from doing moral (or amoral) things along a non-linear storyline (sidequests, worldfiller, exlporation etc.) creates the drama, the falls and the reward. Just my 2c :)

https://www.slideshare.net/norque/paper-cultura-4

P.S perhaps the classic example would be Fallout - where you must complete the main quest (your destiny) in a time period otherwise you fail, spend too much time choosing your own path and you suffer.

P.P.S I realise this theme is older than medieval era but specifically how stories like Beowulf and (pretty much all) Arthurian legends handle it really appeal :)
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Jubal

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2019, 12:15:23 AM »
Ooh, that's a fantastic idea, I really like that one - thankyou!  :)

Also that can tie in really well with digital humanities stuff: it invokes the question of whether we're trying to represent the past vs trying to model or simulate it.

I think the biggest challenge in this may be restricting the scope of the course to a size that students can reasonably do...
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Clockwork

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2019, 12:40:34 AM »
Glad you like it :)

Yeah that's a great tie in!

Hehe, well if that's your only problem, not the worst one ;)

If you have an idea and want a few games which encapsulate it well, give me a shout too I likely will know one if not more.
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Jubal

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2019, 11:44:36 PM »
Thankyou! Yeah, I may pick your brains at some point - I know a decent amount about game design but the range of games I know the playthroughs of in depth is pretty small and weirdly skewed to niches like 1980s adventure gaming!
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Tusky

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2019, 08:13:52 AM »
Sounds like a brilliant idea! I wish I were able to attend, sounds like something I might benefit from.

I think your approach sounds good. I think that one challenge might be when you are comparing what medieval realities were to how they are portrayed in games is getting a examples of games where it is accurately done, since I imagine a lot of the time writers will take shortcuts for gameplay or narrative reasons. Or is that not too much of an issue for you / the point?
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Jubal

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2019, 11:54:06 PM »
I'm sure I can get the course notes to you when I've actually produced them :)

I don't think I need games where it's "done accurately" - partly because one of the ideas of the "thinking critically" section of the course will be to pull apart the idea of accuracy as we tend to think of it. There's a whole ton of stuff from the middle ages that a game literally can't simulate, not just from a tech perspective but also that the player is by definition not coming at the game with a medieval experience and brain behind them. So one of the things I want to look at is what people actually mean when they want "accuracy" (which is different for different people), and I also want to look at exactly what you mention re how writers balance want to use enough medieval to create immersion vs the needs of their engine and narrative :)
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Clockwork

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2019, 12:42:40 PM »
Ah I think that accuracy thing was talked about by the Call of Duty devs at one point where they were making a peculiar technical definition they made up by saying that they try for 'authenticity' over 'accuracy', the gist of which is:

Sweat the small stuff - make sure bullet casings match the ammunition the gun fires. Have the right bootprints, rappelling gear, flashbangs. Get the sounds perfec.

Don't worry about creating realistic scenarios because they're, by and large, a crapton of walking and not much shooting.


If authenticity, accuracy or realism gets in the way of creating a good gameplay experience, forget it.

It's just one take on it, there's a whole spectrum of ways to do this and various studios are known for keeping to one side or the other. Counterpoint: ARMA.

I have looked but can't find the original article anymore, it came out around the time of Call of Duty 4.

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Tusky

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2019, 06:50:09 PM »
I'm sure I can get the course notes to you when I've actually produced them :)

That would be great! Would love to read them.
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Jubal

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2019, 12:53:09 PM »
@Clockwork - yeah, that's the sort of thing I'll be talking about. But one of the points is, what counts as "authenticity" vs "accuracy" is partly arbitrary. And some of those decisions are driven by gameplay (that is, design), some by narrative/story, some by digital capability (aka what are easy ways to represent or deal with something in a computer) and some by expectation (people expect certain things of medieval settings, especially when you get into social structures). I think representation of the law is an interesting example of the last one - it's really rare to see a medieval themed game with lawyers hanging around, when actually they're really well documented from the medieval period, and I think it's partly that lawyers don't serve easy gameplay functions compared to priests, blacksmiths, etc, but also that people just don't expect medieval lawyers, it's not a thing we're primed for by common understandings of the period.
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beebug_nic

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2019, 05:26:58 PM »
So you are telling me I can't cause a stone castle to catch light by hitting it repeatedly with a sword?
« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 10:54:49 PM by Jubal »

Clockwork

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2019, 07:15:40 PM »
The lawyers thing is really interesting actually because, yeah, thinking about it I can't think of where they've been portrayed in games, TW Saga: Thrones of Britannia has a small trivia section in the law building descriptions I think but maybe that's it? Otherwise it's burgermeisters/burgomasters (which leads nicely into a tangent about naming conventions, probably :P )and sheriffs and lords just sentencing folk.


@beebug AoE2 memes are still being made afaik ;)


Image result for age of empires 2 memes
« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 07:24:56 PM by Clockwork »
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Jubal

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2019, 10:57:59 PM »
Mod note: I just realised that I edited my post into Nic's rather than quote-posting which is what I thought I'd done. I'm really really sorry, I'm an idiot, I feel awful about that and I don't think SMF has any way for me to do rollback on post edits :( I've now undone my quote-bit but I can't restore the rest of the post. I am a rubbish admin sometimes.



I am definitely going to be making AoEII references which my students will not get at all. This is, alas, inevitable.
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beebug_nic

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2019, 10:08:40 AM »
I thought I had written more than that :-) Don't worry about the mistake, these things happen :-)

Jubal

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Re: I'm designing a course on game development & the middle ages - ideas!
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2019, 12:03:45 PM »
I'm still really sorry :( I very rarely mess that sort of thing up, but it's super annoying when it happens.
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