The time has finally come – we’re now onto the final push towards 0.8’s release, URR’s first ever (and quite extensive) gameplay release, which means generating dialects, and then adding in the game’s conversation system. Although this is the final coding task, this is still quite a substantial one, so I anticipate a few months of programming, but it will most definitely be worth it. The first part of this process has been figuring out how, exactly, the dialect system is actually going to work. I long ago decided that I wasn’t going to have nations actually speaking different languages that had to be somehow deciphered; this was just going to produce too substantial an obstacle, and I couldn’t think of any way to implement such a system in a way I’d actually be happy with, so all feudal and nomadic nations will wind up speaking English (with the assumption that the player character is multi-lingual and actually speaking multiple languages, much like many films have the actors speaking a single language whilst the characters implicitly speak several) – however, I am actually going to have tribal nations speak different languages. I think that would offer a small amount of interesting deciphering gameplay, without it overwhelming the rest of the game; I think it would also stress that these are quite isolated nations away from the rest of the world, without doing something to make them seem explicitly “primitive”. So: you remember all those extra font characters in the lower part of the URR font file? Those are going to be deployed for tribal nations, but once translated, they will also have their own dialects.
What all of this means is that the maximum number of possible dialects in one game – if every feudal, nomadic and tribal nation possible spawns – we need around forty dialects. To do so, I’m breaking down “speech” into several categories, with many many variations in each:
Name Style – how names for individuals in a civilization are created!
Phrases – how people from a culture greet others, how they say farewell, how they threaten others, and so forth, which are all dependent upon ideologies, religious beliefs, and the like.
Sentence Detail – how many clauses are usually in a sentence, how much detail people of that culture give when they peak, how descriptive they are, how to the point they are, etc.
Location References – how people in that culture describe locations, e.g. with reference to where people live, to historical events, to natural structures, etc.
People References – how people are described, with reference to civilization, sex, race, hairstyle, clothing, behaviour, weaponry, etc.
Information References – how things like historical events or artistic works are described, which breaks down into lots of subcategories.
These have some overlap, so Information Reference Style #24 will yield more detail if Sentence Detail Style is #21 than #46, and so forth. For this entry, however, we’ll be looking specifically at name generation. I’ve implemented a grand total of 42 archetypes so far, each of which will then vary massively according to the words it uses in its lexicon and the lettering in its consonants and vowels. For instance, if a particular name-type calls for animal words, it will naturally draw upon animal words appropriate to the geographical region the culture originates from; similarly, if it uses religious terms, then it will obviously use words appropriate to the particular religion, and same goes for everything else. Here are some nice lists of names generated for the same civilizations, to give you an impression of how some of these look. Most name-types can apply to any civilization, whilst a small number are specifically dependent upon there being particular ideologies present within that culture. Some of these are quite strange, but there have been some profoundly “strange” (by our reckoning) ways of naming people in the past, and I needed to maximize the possible variety as much as possible.
One archetype, based on Icelandic names:
Another, based on “homeric” names:
Another, with titles and only single names:
Jartinar, Quiet Fern
Nobboran, Soft Breeze
Ratjon, Red Sand
Bortjaan, Flowing Leaves
Another, with three short names:
Another, with a kind of thematic ownership:
Zapotel of the Great Mountain
Latapota of the Open Sea
Ponzalot of the Winding River
Epolatoz of the Rolling Plain
Another, with animals, places and features:
Feather of the Hawk
Snow of the Peak
Howl of the Jaguar
Cry of the Wolf
Another, for an “exploration” ideology nation:
Another, for an “isolationist” nation:
And another, with declining lengths of names:
Mertohurtam Murri Mo
Huttomerra Hart Han
Muerhurtammo Mont Mu
Turnamortan Tunna Tor
And many, many other variations besides – naturally, as I say, the sets of consonants/vowels/syllables also vary every time, so even if you encounter the same overall name archetype again, the names themselves will be very different in a range of ways. I’m in the process of transferring these from my development file into the game proper, and so soon I should be able to go around the world map and get these accurate cultural names on every NPC (important and random-in-the-crowd) I encounter on my travels.
Next week: probably some AI improvements from the feedback my playtesters will send me, and then a discussion either of some more speech generation, or thinking about how conversations and styles of speech are going to work. See you all then!