When it comes to getting the gods into the world, he says, "There are various ways that we do this. If Pluto is walking around in the world, then he becomes just another character. Instead, we wanted to keep the gods interesting, mysterious and otherworldly, and there were plenty of ways to do this that are suggested through the source material." He mentions the numerous ways gods talk to mortals in classical mythology, such as "through their priests and oracles, through their attendants in the animal world as well as creatures of myth and through natural phenomena - flames, cloud, rain. Additionally, lesser gods appear in person sometimes, and there are plenty of those. Eventually, a player might see a god, but we want to make that a moment with a lot of impact when it does happen."

I was curious about that source material he mentioned, asking him if the team buried themselves in the myths and legends of Rome, or if they just took what they knew and winged it. "We have piles of books and DVDs, as well as plenty of frequently-visited websites," he says. While Stieg himself was the initial "font of knowledge for Roman culture, Greco-Roman myth and myth in general," he soon found challengers for the title, though he retains a trump card. "I do continue to be the dead language expert of the bunch, however, since I'm not sure how many people in the world could write dialogue in Etruscan." When they have to wing it, the team "often [makes] decisions based on the fact that our main goal is to entertain, and then go back to the myth, history or whatever, and try to marry what we've invented with something appropriate from these sources. Often, we'll read or see things and say, that's just cool and we need to use it; so there's really a lot of back and forth between those two methods."

The willingness to submerge himself in myth isn't something mandated by Perpetual, he says. "I've always felt duty-bound to know the subject matter inside and out. But I think even more important than that is to understand people and the world. I've studied philosophy and psychology extensively, as well as pop culture, which I think is one of the most important ways of understanding people, as the ultimate context of the games as well. People sometimes think it's weird that I'm as likely to quote NWA as Shakespeare, and it's not by accident."

One of the problems with building characters to be god-powered heroes seems to be, well, they're god-powered heroes. I asked him how they compensated for the fact that their player characters are blessed by the gods. "That's certainly the challenge of characters who are demigodly," he answered, though he turns to mythology for an example of coping with that dilemma. "If there's a snaky-haired gal whose gaze turns folks to stone, you need winged sandals and the cap of Pluto to deal with that. Typically, in the myths, there's more of a one-to-one relationship between magical challenge and magical solution, and the gods either provide the solution or at least tell the hero where to go to get one. That's what really changes - instead of Perseus nicely handing the sandals and cap back to Mercury when he's done harvesting heads, in a game, he's going to continue to use that stuff anytime he likes." In planning for their demigodly players, they "needed to keep escalating the challenges: There are always larger and more powerful obstacles in your way. Looking at myth, we're really looking at epics, the tales of Hercules and Jason, The Odyssey and The Aeneid in particular, as the source for this. So when Jason yokes the fire-breathing oxen by using an ointment, he still has to figure out how to defeat the Sparti, get past the Sirens and Talos, and so on."

Moving from the people to the Roman culture itself, I figured it just wouldn't be Rome without murder, poisonings, politicians and fiddling while the city burns. But I was curious, and asked how far they were going into the dark side of classical civilization. "I think those are the kinds of things that a lot of people expect in a game about Rome, so we brought as much of it in as we could. We're shooting for a T rating, so obviously, we couldn't go fully HBO or anything like that." However, he cites the Rogue class from the game as the embodiment of the darker side of Rome, saying, "Now, sure, plenty of RPGs have a Rogue character, and we certainly named the character so that people could get an idea of what he is about, but this is one of those cases where we really spun the class based on our fiction and setting. Just looking at the lexicon of Latin, you'll find a large number of ways to speak of thieves, bandits, assassins and other shady characters. I think this, together with various literary sources, paints a picture of Rome as a dangerous place. There is this marginal population that is unwilling to fit into Rome's structure of laws, classes, taxes and order in general, and so they live outside of the accepted society, but [are] still very real and present in the culture."

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on