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Elves and Dwarves Don't Define Fantasy

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 6 Mar 2012 17:00
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Alternatively there's the full-on "contemporary fantasy" thing of having fantastical elements in an otherwise recognizable world, as in the Dresden Files or Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Not just a fantastical thing invading a real-world setting, like The Darkness or Crysis 2, but a modern world where magic and monsters have always existed and are just kind of there. I can't think of many video games that do that, except maybe Shadowrun on the Genesis. Imagine if you played out the plot of The Lord of the Rings in a modern-day city, like Frodo has to journey to the top of Skyscraper Doom to see if he can get better cellphone reception.

2. Steampunk in space

Steampunk as a concept is by no means ill-served by video games and hipster twats, games like Bioshock even delve into the related electropunk genre, but one thing I haven't seen done in a good long time is a steampunk game about space travel. The only ones that come to mind are Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams and this one incredibly shit game I played once on the Amiga that was based on the Space 1889 pen and paper RPG setting.

I know I sound like a stuck record sometimes saying there need to be more organic free-roaming space exploration games, actually there's a pretty good one called Evochron Mercenary been released on Steam not too long ago, but what always tends to get in the way of the fun in such things is that they feel the need to bring all the science up ins. So everything's ten billion miles from each other and even on short trips you have to set the cruise control and find a book to read for a while. And space combat turns into madly rotating around like a gyroscope hoping for the enemy to come into view for just long enough to shoot at for a second.

Which is fine, but I do think that if you set a game in a vision of space assuming that everything people popularly assumed about it circa 1800 was true, that would be a fine setting indeed for a pulpy, swashbuckling adventure. So the planets of the Solar System would all be inhabited by various colorful civilizations and they'd all be within a few hours' drive of each other. And in-space battles would be more like naval warfare as you perched along the side of your wooden space ship and fired blunderbusses at oncoming pirates.

I dunno, whatever. I'm just trying to provoke a bit of creative thinking, here. Because it may be true that making a nice comfortable safe elves and dwarves wizard parade might get better sales, from a cultural perspective you have to think about what people are still going to remember a year or so down the line. Will it be the game about the Dixons employee fighting puddings with a blunderbuss? Shitting yes!

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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