Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Not finding any Glory in this whole Quest for Glory bit? Need a hint? Or just want to discuss Quest for Glory - this is the place to do it!
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Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Nowhere Girl » Thu Mar 15, 2018 12:40 pm

I really liked how different games from the series are set in different lands with diverse, distinct and recognizable cultural identities. It makes the series as a whole more colorful and diverse. It is, of course, widely known, but to sum up, it went like this:
Quest for Glory 1 - Germanic
Quest for Glory 2 - Arabic
Quest for Glory 3 - African
Quest for Glory 4 - Slavic
Quest for Glory 5 - Greek
and, also, Heroine's Quest (as its "spiitual successor" and female version) - Nordic
I keep thinking what other cultural settings could be used if someone makes new adventure-RPGs... "Quest for Infamy" doesn't have a very distinct "cultural identity", "Unavoved" could count as an adventure-RPG (albeit on the more "adventurous" side), but it will be set in modern world, and "Mage's Initiation" also "doesn't count" because its setting will probably be yet more fantastic, not related to any terrestrial land. I keep thinking, for example, about playing adventure-RPGs in Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Native American settings. I'd really love "Heroine's Quest 2" to be made, but it doesn't seem likely - there is not even a character save at the end (which could probably be patched if the team ever had an opportunity to make another one)...

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Tawmis » Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:50 pm

Nowhere Girl wrote:I really liked how different games from the series are set in different lands with diverse, distinct and recognizable cultural identities. It makes the series as a whole more colorful and diverse. It is, of course, widely known, but to sum up, it went like this:
Quest for Glory 1 - Germanic
Quest for Glory 2 - Arabic
Quest for Glory 3 - African
Quest for Glory 4 - Slavic
Quest for Glory 5 - Greek
and, also, Heroine's Quest (as its "spiitual successor" and female version) - Nordic
That was, aside from it being RPG based, one of my favorite elements about QFG, that I think really made it stand out.

I, shamefully, have never finished QFGV or Heroine's Quest.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Rath Darkblade » Thu Mar 15, 2018 5:28 pm

Tawmis wrote:I, shamefully, have never finished QFGV or Heroine's Quest.
Then here be thy quest: thou must finish these two, By the Power of Greyskull! ;)

Silliness aside, both QfG5 and Heroine's Quest are two very fine games. (In fact, I recently fired up HQ again, just to try it once more. The memories). :)

Back to the point of the thread! Yes, the cultural settings of the QfG games really made each one stand apart. When I first played QfG1, it struck me more as 'generic medieval' rather than 'Germanic' - but that's only because I was 13 at the time, and didn't know better. :lol:

Looking at it with fresh eyes, it's probably either Germanic or Austrian-ish; but don't forget the minor Greek influences there, too (Hilde and her papa are both centaurs, which are definitely Greek mythology). :)

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by adeyke » Thu Mar 15, 2018 6:33 pm

I did appreciate that about QfG. It made the games more interesting than if they were just generic fantasy.

I do think QfG1 is the weakest in this sense, though. It's not just a Germanic setting (which would include Scandinavia and England); it's a specifically German setting, as indicated by the names. However, given this, the German influence is a much lighter touch than for the other games in the series. There's very little in the game that I perceive as distinctly German. There are certainly things from Germanic mythology, but since that influenced Tolkien and thus what we consider "generic fantasy" now, it doesn't mean that much. Meanwhile, the centaurs, dryad, and minotaur in the game are distinctly Greek, and Baba Yaga is distinctly Slavic. There also isn't much German text there at all (presumably because the hero can understand it, so it's rendered in English). And there just isn't much place to engage with the culture.

A lot of this can probably be attributed to it being the first/earliest game in the series, and I don't blame them for it.

As for Heroine's Quest, I think it's good as a stand-alone game with a beginning, an end, and an epilogue. That character's story is done. Also, it really went all the way with the Norse setting and mythology, something it wouldn't have been able to do if that was just one culture the heroine would encounter. I'd certainly love to see another stand-alone HQ game with a different protagonist in a different setting, though.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Tawmis » Thu Mar 15, 2018 7:23 pm

Rath Darkblade wrote:
Tawmis wrote:I, shamefully, have never finished QFGV or Heroine's Quest.
Then here be thy quest: thou must finish these two, By the Power of Greyskull! ;)
Silliness aside, both QfG5 and Heroine's Quest are two very fine games. (In fact, I recently fired up HQ again, just to try it once more. The memories). :)
When(ever) I get around to returning to my Let's Play Sierra Games channel, I will be playing Hero's Quest / Quest for Glory through to V... (But I am not sure when that will be!)
Rath Darkblade wrote: Back to the point of the thread! Yes, the cultural settings of the QfG games really made each one stand apart. When I first played QfG1, it struck me more as 'generic medieval' rather than 'Germanic' - but that's only because I was 13 at the time, and didn't know better. :lol:
Looking at it with fresh eyes, it's probably either Germanic or Austrian-ish; but don't forget the minor Greek influences there, too (Hilde and her papa are both centaurs, which are definitely Greek mythology). :)
Well - to me, with fresh eyes (like you, I didn't see it as Germanic back in the day) - but I think it is cool that it's mixed. To me it shows that the world is bigger than just this little piece. So it'd be normal that creatures from different parts of the world would be mixed in everywhere. But the over all theme (with the names and such) was Germanic (or perhaps, as you said, Austrian-ish).

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by notbobsmith » Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:43 pm

adeyke wrote:I did appreciate that about QfG. It made the games more interesting than if they were just generic fantasy.

I do think QfG1 is the weakest in this sense, though. It's not just a Germanic setting (which would include Scandinavia and England); it's a specifically German setting, as indicated by the names. However, given this, the German influence is a much lighter touch than for the other games in the series. There's very little in the game that I perceive as distinctly German. There are certainly things from Germanic mythology, but since that influenced Tolkien and thus what we consider "generic fantasy" now, it doesn't mean that much. Meanwhile, the centaurs, dryad, and minotaur in the game are distinctly Greek, and Baba Yaga is distinctly Slavic. There also isn't much German text there at all (presumably because the hero can understand it, so it's rendered in English). And there just isn't much place to engage with the culture.
I also liked how QFG borrowed from our myth and folklore. Too many fantasy settings can be... overdone. There were quite a few examples that made QFG1, if not Germanic, certainly Western European. The look of the town is very medieval Germanic (in the same way that Skyrim is vaguely Scandinavian). The Frost Giant spoke in rhyme reminiscent of old Norse poetry or like Beowulf. Perhaps since the look is so recognizable, we don't view it as particularly unique. It's pretty easy to make Tarna recognizably Egyptian.

I suppose the centaurs could be immigrants from Silmaria, although I think the locals must have given them their family name. Perhaps as a joke. Pferdefedern=horse feathers. Or actually "horses" (plural) feathers. It really should be Pferdfedern to be horse feathers.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by adeyke » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:21 pm

(It doesn't make any sense to treat Austrian as separate from Germanic. Trying to define "German" in the context of a work set not only in the past but in a fictional universe that's merely inspired by our own would be complicated, but "Germanic" is a more broad term, which unambiguously includes ethnic Austrians.)

The Frost Giant Brauggi isn't a native to Spielburg. He's just there in search of food.

From an in-universe perspective, it does make sense that, as long as there aren't actual barriers in the way, there would be some mingling. However, that would have its limits. A merchant might have reason to travel far to sell their wares, but it makes less sense for a farmer to come from a distant land. And dryads don't seem the wandering kind (what with being trees and all). Also, Spielburg is just a small village in a small valley; it's not exactly a cosmopolitan hub.

From the perspective of it as a game, that sort of mixing just dilutes the experience. That each QfG game takes place in a different setting with a different culture is one of the series's strengths, but that's decreased if it's all mixed together. QfG5 in particular had this problem. They wanted to tie up all the loose ends and bring back all the important characters, but all this meant that there were almost no new, significant characters that were actually from Silmaria.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Rakeesh » Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:53 pm

I like that QfG1 has non-germanic elements. It gives the impression of a cosmopolitan, wider world. That there is some other fantasy world outside the forest you can currently see.

Dryads, Minotaurs and Centaurs are indeed Greek, but IMHO they are now genericized and dissociated from the ancient Greek background.

QfG4 is indeed very original for choosing a slavic setting. I have never seen any other video game or significant fantasy work using slavic folklore as a source (although I have seen Rusalki in Betrayal at Krondor)

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by adeyke » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:58 pm

I do like when the cultures interact, but for that, you'd first need to establish a baseline of what belongs to which culture's identity. We do see some of that. The kattas and Abdulla Doo are from Shapeir and Brauggi is from the north. In QfG2, Rakeesh and Uhura are from Fricana. However, for the Greek beings in QfG1, there's no indication that they're from elsewhere. So it isn't really an indication that Spielburg has interactions with a Silmaria and instead just means that Spielburg culture is a weird mix of German and unexplained Greek.

I'll note that minotaurs, centaurs, and dryads do all take a role in defining QfG5's Greek flavor. But even if they are treated as just generic fantasy, they're not German.

Imagine if, in QfG2 or QfG3, you encountered elves or dwarves, with no mention of them coming from elsewhere. I think this would be weird and wouldn't improve those games.

I touched on this lightly, but I should reiterate that I underatand why they wouldn't go all-in on the German flavor in QfG1. The game was already very experimental in a lot of ways, so I can see why they'd keep the setting relatively "safe". That means a European setting, a lot of fantasy creatures anyone could recognize, and veryvery little cultural stuff that would be unfamiliar to players. Technological restrictions (e.g. floppy sizes) may also have played a part. The game is relatively streamlined, with not much there just for the flavor.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Rath Darkblade » Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:32 am

notbobsmith wrote:I also liked how QFG borrowed from our myth and folklore. Too many fantasy settings can be... overdone. There were quite a few examples that made QFG1, if not Germanic, certainly Western European. The look of the town is very medieval Germanic (in the same way that Skyrim is vaguely Scandinavian).
Skyrim isn't 'vaguely' Scandinavian; it's recognizably so, especially in Whiterun. The architecture, with the distinctive X shape on top of the roof, is definitely Scandinavian (you'll also see it in Heroine's Quest and in the LOTR films - one of the things that PJ got right). There's an general insistence on family unity and clan feuds, which played a big role in Viking times. Then there is the spectacular Aurora Borealis effect at night.

Naturally, Skyrim doesn't try to replicate everything about Scandinavian culture, and there are probably many things I've missed. But that's because, first and foremost, it's a product of entertainment, not education.
notbobsmith wrote:The Frost Giant spoke in rhyme reminiscent of old Norse poetry or like Beowulf.
Really? I've read some old Norse poetry, as well as Beowulf in the original old English; it doesn't sound anything like Brauggi. Neither Beowulf or any old Norse poetry I've read comes even close to rhyming.
notbobsmith wrote:Perhaps since the look is so recognizable, we don't view it as particularly unique. It's pretty easy to make Tarna recognizably Egyptian.
Hmm... the only Egyptian thing I found about Tarna are the step-pyramids. Lots of different cultures - Mesopotamia (the Great Ziggurat of Ur), for instance - have built pyramids,including some of the African ones not related to Egypt.

The Welcome Woman, the savannah, the visit to the Simbani village, the jungle - all of these are much more reminiscent (to my eyes) of somewhere unspecified in Africa.
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Now I'm just wondering, adeyke. What kind of German flavour would make Spielburg more German? A statue to Arminius would probably be totally out of the question, I understand that. *G* Dwarves or dwarfs have their origin in Scandinavian mythology, even if Wagner made capital out of them (or, at least, one very specific dwarf). I don't know as much about German culture as you do, naturally, so what did you have in mind to make Spielburg more 'German'?

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by adeyke » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:11 am

Rath Darkblade wrote:
notbobsmith wrote:Perhaps since the look is so recognizable, we don't view it as particularly unique. It's pretty easy to make Tarna recognizably Egyptian.
Hmm... the only Egyptian thing I found about Tarna are the step-pyramids. Lots of different cultures - Mesopotamia (the Great Ziggurat of Ur), for instance - have built pyramids,including some of the African ones not related to Egypt.
Tarna has a temple to Sekhmet. That's explicitly Egyptian.
Now I'm just wondering, adeyke. What kind of German flavour would make Spielburg more German? A statue to Arminius would probably be totally out of the question, I understand that. *G* Dwarves or dwarfs have their origin in Scandinavian mythology, even if Wagner made capital out of them (or, at least, one very specific dwarf). I don't know as much about German culture as you do, naturally, so what did you have in mind to make Spielburg more 'German'?
Scandinavia is Germanic, so there's a lot of cultural overlap between that and other Germanic people. Dwarves would absolutely not be out of place in a setting based on German mythology.

As for what would need to be changed, that's difficult. QfG1 is the game it is. A game that's really dedicated to a German setting would be a very different game. I'm not trying to make the point here that they should have changed this or that. I'm just saying that, as the game currently exists, its German setting is relatively superficial. Changing this wouldn't just be a matter of replacing one character with another, but of making an entirely different game. Even some little things, like eating local cuisine, participating in a festival, playing a local game, or just talking with townsfolk, would be nice additions, but none of those would fit into QfG1's existing structure. Which is fine: QfG1 is what it is; it just isn't very German.

Although, if we are just talking things that could be tweaked, it'd be nice if the bakery had a pretzel on its sign instead of a loaf of bread, and if more of the names were German (and if more care were taken to make the German names authentic).

(I was also going to comment on the language (i.e. wanting the in-universe text to be German), but that's complicated. The player and character can both understand all the important dialogue across all the games, but at the same time, there are words rendered in the original language and there are some townsfolk you can't talk to because they only speak the local language. Also, all the puns are English-based and don't work in translation. I think this is all just a way of making things convenient for the player, without a plausible in-universe explanation.)

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Tawmis » Sat Mar 17, 2018 8:59 pm

adeyke wrote: From an in-universe perspective, it does make sense that, as long as there aren't actual barriers in the way, there would be some mingling. However, that would have its limits. A merchant might have reason to travel far to sell their wares, but it makes less sense for a farmer to come from a distant land. And dryads don't seem the wandering kind (what with being trees and all). Also, Spielburg is just a small village in a small valley; it's not exactly a cosmopolitan hub.
But there's something that draws people there - because the Hero's Hall - and the book with all the signatures. A powerful wizard (and his hilarious side kick) took up residence there as well. (But structure wise; yes, it is a very small village - with what - 12 buildings? Maybe 18 on the opposing wall that we can't see when you go to the other side).

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by adeyke » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:45 pm

That brings up something I'd been thinking about. It's easy to get too literal when looking at how a game portrays a setting. However, with finite file size and artist time, any reasonably large setting would necessarily need to be simplified in order to make it into the game. Even though the game shows only four screens of buildings, something that tiny would be unsustainable. There are probably hundreds more inhabitants that just aren't shown. The same goes for the valley itself; if you're walking from one point to another and cross N screens, you can't just add up the size of those screens; there must also be some indeterminate amount of travel between them. This sort of thing becomes clear when you realize that the town and castle each occupy just a single space in the map grid but consist of multiple interior screens (and the buildings inside the town are then also bigger on the inside).

Unfortunately, this means that it's hard to judge just how small Spielburg really is.

This sort of simplification also applies to the characters. They're all very static; they just stay in the same screen, perform their idle animations, and answer the questions the hero asks. They must have much richer lives than that, but we don't actually get to see it. It means, however, that we can't really say anything about the characters' motivations. We don't know why Erasmus (or Baba Yaga) is here or what they actually do all day. Ditto for the monsters: we only see them when they're chasing the hero, so we don't know what they do the rest of the time. We don't see where they sleep, whether they have families, or anything like that.

Just generally speaking, the setting is designed in a very player-centric way. There are shops because you need to be able to buy things, there are are people because you need to get items or information from them, there are monsters to provide challenge, experience, and money, and there are things the player either needs for their quest or needs to overcome as obstacle to their quest. Anything that isn't needed by the player just isn't there. That's what I meant by "streamlined" earlier in the thread.

What all this means is that you can come up with pretty much any fan theory and it won't be directly contradicted by what's in the games, because there's so much room left for extrapolation. However, that's not the same thing as the theory actually being supported by the game. And there's nothing in the game that actually distinguishes between the Germanic creatures and the non-Germanic creatures in a way that indicates that the latter came from outside Spielburg (with the exception of the kattas and Brauggi, whom I'd already mentioned). And in the case of the dryad, it's pretty clear that she's as native as it gets.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by Tawmis » Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:54 pm

adeyke wrote: That brings up something I'd been thinking about. It's easy to get too literal when looking at how a game portrays a setting. However, with finite file size and artist time, any reasonably large setting would necessarily need to be simplified in order to make it into the game. Even though the game shows only four screens of buildings, something that tiny would be unsustainable. There are probably hundreds more inhabitants that just aren't shown. The same goes for the valley itself; if you're walking from one point to another and cross N screens, you can't just add up the size of those screens; there must also be some indeterminate amount of travel between them. This sort of thing becomes clear when you realize that the town and castle each occupy just a single space in the map grid but consist of multiple interior screens (and the buildings inside the town are then also bigger on the inside).

Unfortunately, this means that it's hard to judge just how small Spielburg really is.

This sort of simplification also applies to the characters. They're all very static; they just stay in the same screen, perform their idle animations, and answer the questions the hero asks. They must have much richer lives than that, but we don't actually get to see it. It means, however, that we can't really say anything about the characters' motivations. We don't know why Erasmus (or Baba Yaga) is here or what they actually do all day. Ditto for the monsters: we only see them when they're chasing the hero, so we don't know what they do the rest of the time. We don't see where they sleep, whether they have families, or anything like that.

Just generally speaking, the setting is designed in a very player-centric way. There are shops because you need to be able to buy things, there are are people because you need to get items or information from them, there are monsters to provide challenge, experience, and money, and there are things the player either needs for their quest or needs to overcome as obstacle to their quest. Anything that isn't needed by the player just isn't there. That's what I meant by "streamlined" earlier in the thread.

What all this means is that you can come up with pretty much any fan theory and it won't be directly contradicted by what's in the games, because there's so much room left for extrapolation. However, that's not the same thing as the theory actually being supported by the game. And there's nothing in the game that actually distinguishes between the Germanic creatures and the non-Germanic creatures in a way that indicates that the latter came from outside Spielburg (with the exception of the kattas and Brauggi, whom I'd already mentioned). And in the case of the dryad, it's pretty clear that she's as native as it gets.
I've always imagined Spielburg as a farming village, outside the walls. (After all, as you said - the people you DO see in the various buildings have to have lives elsewhere). So for example, I always imagined the Centaurs had a farm (and thus the apples). But when - you, as the hero - go out into the woods - you don't go see the farming villages, because it's not applicable to the game. So all you have access to are the various screens related to the quest (and/or) monsters.

It's similar to Daventry, in King's Quest. That's an entire Kingdom - but you only see about 20 screens of it. There's clearly more.

I think the one game that handled this the best (in regards to remaining Sierra specific) was Gold Rush. Gold Rush showed a lot of houses in the beginning, that felt like there was an actual neighborhood - and that was further enhanced by the random people walking back and forth on the street - that would come and go off the screen. That really gave life to the starting area of Gold Rush. Despite not really being able to interact with the people - it gave those screens a sense of "life was still happening" whether you stood in one place or not.

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Re: Cultural identities of the settings in adventure-RPGs

Post by notbobsmith » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:32 pm

Rath Darkblade wrote:
notbobsmith wrote:The Frost Giant spoke in rhyme reminiscent of old Norse poetry or like Beowulf.
Really? I've read some old Norse poetry, as well as Beowulf in the original old English; it doesn't sound anything like Brauggi. Neither Beowulf or any old Norse poetry I've read comes even close to rhyming.].
Rhyming was the wrong word, but both make use of alliteration:

Wikipedia:
Anglo-Saxon poets typically used alliterative verse, a form of verse in which the first half of the line (the a-verse) is linked to the second half (the b-verse) through similarity in initial sound. In addition, the two halves are divided by a caesura (a break in a verse where one phrase ends and the following phrase begins): "Oft Scyld Scefing \\ sceaþena þreatum"

From William Langland's Piers Plowman:
A fair field full of folk || found I there between,
Of all manner of men || the mean and the rich,
Working and wandering || as the world asketh.

From Brauggi (I added the caesura):

"Find me some fruit || for to mellow my mead horn
Gift I will give || of a gem that now glows--
Jewel from Jotunheim || flare of the frost flame
Fetch to me fruit || that will fill up my fists!"

To me this just seems to me that the Coles were trying to imitate this form of poetry for a character that is from this type of folklore. Brauggi also uses the term "frost fields" which could be an example of kenning.

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