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All work on the coding and art side has been halted as I come up with a clear idea of the direction we are taking the project from here regarding the theme. This has been a consistent topic through all the history of the project (nothing new!), but as we get closer to the first public versions it’s about time to have certainty about some things.
This is a delicate topic, and I debated whether or not I should discuss details about it publicly, but in the end, I decided it made sense to do it as the history of this project has always been transparent, and I’m interested in your feedback as an early supporter. I may regret this later.
In its current incarnation, the game still suffers from some issues in spite of (maybe even caused by) our efforts to avoid it being perceived as a glorification of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, a complex period of history.
What we have right now
- A mixed setting with the (mostly historical) Spanish exploring a jungle inhabited by a fictional group of people known as the Tqnda.
- The exploration of this land is portrayed as a mostly peaceful journey without any kind of hostile interaction with the indigenous people.
- Combat only happens versus wild animals or the group you are sent to capture in some of the scenarios.
- You cannot establish settlements in the land.
- You can only do small scale trade for survival (not for profit)
- The way we are portraying the Tqnda physically is based on the Muisca culture, and for their settlements, we are using a mix of different styles inspired by historical Muisca, Aztec, Mongolian, and Indonesian architecture. (This is probably the biggest pain point currently)
- You can play as both the Spanish and the Tqnda, in scenarios with similar objectives but different themes.
- We have a campaign centered on the Muisca, but it needs to be completed (we currently have 4 out of 6 missions), fleshed out with better gameplay, and translated to English (including voice-overs).
After lots of discussion with friends and contacts specialized in the topic, I have considered many options including:
- Retreating to the safe ground of (Medieval?) Fantasy
- This would probably be an instant ticket out but would feel like betraying the original vision of the game and missing an opportunity of educating about history (as well as a distinctive marketing point).
- We already have a distinctive visual style (I think) which may not be 100% compatible with medieval fantasy. We’d have to redo the towns and discard lots of work we’ve done for the indigenous population.
- Besides, aren’t there too many games already using this setting? It would be harder to stand out.
- Basing the game on alternate reality (Historical Fiction)
- Kind of what we have now, but it comes with the dangers of “white-washing” history if we portray these Spanish expeditions as simply curious people interested in knowing more about the land.
- Also comes with potential issues depending on how the native populators are portrayed; if they are fictional tribes we run into the problem of erasing the identity of the real historical indigenous people, and if they are “historical” then they may be misrepresented as they are affected by the creative liberties of this alternate reality.
- Adopting an “archeological explorer” fantasy theme
- Very similar to above, but replacing the nationality of the explorer with some fantasy nation.
- Can add giant bugs, which are a very effective enemy.
- Would be a bit more unique than standard medieval fantasy, but would still carry a lot of the issues of Historical Fiction.
- To counter this, I considered setting it as some kind of “Atlantis” continent, populated with Greek-descendant people. But it looked weird and would require a lot of work to create them and give them narrative strength.
- Setting the game on a different type period (away from Spanish Conquest), say 200 years after.
- The problem with this is again how to portray the populators of the land (since the indigenous populators would mostly be gone by now, and their cities replaced with colonies), as well as keep the sense of “unexplored territory”. Both are core gameplay elements.
- In the end, it would only be partially successful to address the question of colonial exploration and their motivation.
- Center the game on the Indigenous people instead of the Spanish
- Is a pretty good choice, and I’m giving this a lot of weight in my current solution.
- May make it harder for the non-indigenous players to feel connected with the exploring party (but that’d have to be proven).
What I’m thinking
My current stand on this is a mix of a lot of the ingredients above:
- Stay as a historical game with geography inspired by current-day Colombia, populated based on the inhabitants recorded by history for the period being represented. (Spanning from 1100CE to 1800CE)
- Continue allowing the player to represent both Indigenous and European expeditions based on the protagonists of the different scenarios (see below).
- Include some fiction scenarios, separated clearly from the non-fictional ones.
- Revive and finish the development of the Muisca campaign, “Children of Bachué”, which is inspired by both the myths of the Muisca and the known history of their conquest by the Spanish.
- Strengthen both our historical research and our collaboration with indigenous people groups to polish our historical scenarios, and provide a summary of the history that inspired each scenario and the creative liberties that were taken.
The Planned Scenarios
The following scenarios would complement the 6 ones from the Children of Bachué campaign, there will be a mixture of mostly historical but also openly fictional.
Also, these are just drafts based on initial research. More research will be done to give a proper background to each, as well as proper descriptions and themes.
- 1100 – The Salt People: Seeking a place to settle, a group of explorers arrives at a fertile cold plateau, bringing with them the knowledge of Bochica. Your mission is to share this knowledge and look for resources that will allow the Muisca civilization to flourish. (This is the scenario that will require the most research.)
- 1469 – Rise of the Guecha: The Zipa of Bacatá, Saguanmachica, is determined to bring an end to the Panche assaults on his southern border towns, and expand his domains there. He sends a group to survey the dangerous area in preparation for a massive assault.
- 1500 – Quyca Chihisaba (fictional): The Iraca, Sugamuxi, has sent you to journey all around the land looking for 10 sacred animals. Find them and return to Suamox, keeping an eye out for the Muzo and Panche raiders.
- 1536 – To the last man: A heavily armed Spanish expedition has left the outpost of Santa Marta, marching inland through the jungle in hopes of finding a route to the riches of the Inca. You set yourself and your men to stop their progress at all costs and prevent more villages from being sacked.
- 1537 – Fate of the highlands: Upon knowing of the progress of the Spanish invasion forces in his territory, the Zipa of Bacatá, Tisquesusa, sends you with a small group to the town of Suesuca, where the advancing army is currently stationed, to gather information on the army strength and prepare for their inevitable strike.
- 1537 – The Spear of Chaquén (Fictional): Travel the Andes highlands to unite the people of the Muisca Confederation against the Spanish invaders, and push them back into the sea, before it’s too late.
- 1680 – Quyca Cuhumin Sospqua (Fictional): A plague of deadly giant insects is spreading through the land, you must find a way to stop them.
- 1783 – The envoy of Mutis: Your expedition departs Santa Fe de Bogotá into the deep Andes, with the mission of extending the botanical catalog of the kingdom.
- 1800 – The little apothecary: The Bourbon Monarchy has authorized your self-funded scientific expedition into the Spanish America territories, enabling you to spend your fortune to explore the settlements and nature of the Viceroyalty of New Granada and beyond.
All scenarios will provide a set of objectives as well as parameters for the procedural generation and population of the land. Of course, we won’t be able to build all of these from the start, but they provide a roadmap for us to work on.
I am going to use this as a base to do an initial set of changes and produce the playable demo we are eager to put into the hands of our closest contributors and potential publishers.
Stay tuned for updates!