Wander: A Little Research

Wander: A Little Research

Okay, this is another post about the process of my creating a game with Wander that’s not really about Wander itself, so much as it is about an aspect of game creation independent of the system.  Honestly, I don’t know how much more I’ll have to say about Wander until I finish my game with it.  If I run into any other interesting aspects of the system that weren’t evident on first examination, I’ll certainly bring them up; otherwise I may just find other things to blog about as I continue working on the game.  I’d go ahead and mix in some posts on the next game in the list, except that I want to finish up with a year at a time, and Wander is the only game for its year.  I’ll certainly be mixing in some more posts on current game creation systems, including probably Super Tony Land—it turns out the editor will still sometimes load large levels; it’s just not reliable; and once it’s loaded I can keep editing it, so I may try to finish up the levels I was working on anyway.

Hm.  At this point I’m worried the preamble may end up being longer than the main topic the post was supposed to be about, so I’d better get to it.

The game I’m working on using the Wander system, “It Should Not Be”, features a caveman as its protagonist and is set in prehistoric times.  When in prehistoric times?  Well… that’s an issue I had to deal with.  I wanted to avoid any inconsistencies about prehistoric animals that didn’t coexist.  That means, of course, no dinosaurs, but it means more than that; the post-dinosaur prehistoric mammals didn’t all live at the same time either.  The “Age of Mammals” (the Cenozoic Era) lasted sixty-six million years, and most specific mammals were only around for a few million of them.  And, of course, even animals that did live at the same time could have lived on different continents… I wanted to make sure that all the animals appearing or mentioned in the game were animals that really did live in the same time and place.

Yes, this is the same game that I’ve mentioned before includes magic words.  I… I didn’t say it was completely historically accurate.  (Or… prehistorically accurate?)  But I did want to at least eschew any paleontological errors.

In particular, I decided I wanted the protagonist to at one point find a large dead bird.  But what kind of dead bird?  The most famous prehistoric giant birds were the Diatryma and the Phorusrhacos.  But the game already mentioned mammoths and sabertooths, and I wasn’t sure either of the birds lived on the same continent as those.. for that matter, I wasn’t 100% sure those two animals lived on the same continent as each other

So I did some quick research.  Mammoths were fairly cosmopolitan, living in all the continents of the Northern Hemisphere, though they were gone from Africa by the time Homo sapiens arrived on the scene.  As for the sabertooth, well, the best known genus, Smilodon, lived in North and South America, but there were other genera of sabertooth—not all related; some were the product of convergent evolution—that were found pretty much worldwide.  Okay, then, so far so good; so having early humans, mammoths, and sabertooths all coexist in the game was fine, and left it open to be possibly set in large parts of Europe or Asia.  (There were mammoths and sabertooths in North America, but there weren’t humans there in the time period when the game is set.)  I’d also considered including cave bears, and that would be fine too; they also were found in Europe and Asia.

But yeah, both Diatryma and Phorusrhacos were no-gos.  Phorusrhacos was South American, and Diatryma was North American.  But there’s a relative of DiatrymaGastornis, that did live in Europe.  In fact, as it turns out Diatryma may not be a valid genus at all; it may be subsumed in the genus Gastornis, which was named earlier and would therefore take precedence.  But even if Gastornis lived at the wrong continent, it lived at the wrong time—and so did Phorusrhacos and Diatryma, for that matter.  All three of these birds (or two, if you lump Diatryma in with Gastornis) died out millions of years before humans showed up.

That doesn’t mean there were no big birds in Pleistocene Eurasia, though.  One bird I found that suited my purposes fine for the game is the ostrich.  Present-day ostriches are confined to Africa, but fossil ostriches have been found in Europe and Asia, so… there we go.  An ostrich it shall be.

Actually, there was one other animal I’d planned to appear in the game that I figured I’d check on, though in this case I was pretty sure I didn’t have much to worry about: the ant.  And yeah, ants go back to the Cretaceous Period, so I’m on firm ground there.  There were plenty of ants in the Pleistocene.

Although it just occurred to me that there is one more animal mentioned in the game that may not fit in; the game mentions that the protagonist’s loincloth is “made from the skin of a sloth”.  I had in mind, of course, not modern sloths, but the big prehistoric sloths like Megatherium, but… where did they live?  Did they coexist with humans?  Modern sloths live in South America; unless prehistoric sloths were a lot more widespread I’m going to have to change that.  And after some quick checking… welp.  Prehistoric sloths were South American too.  Right time period; wrong place.  So I’m going to have to pick some other animal skin for the loincloth to be made of.

Would many players be bothered, or even notice, if I included animals in the game from different time periods or parts of the world?  Eh, probably not, but I think I’d be bothered.  I want to try for some sense of realism, and if that means a little research, so be it.  Yeah, there are other elements of the game that aren’t so realistic, but the parts that are based on the real world I want to get right.

Anyway.  Like I said, there may not be many more posts on Wander until I’m done with my game.  But there’ll be other posts on modern games in the meantime.  I’m looking forward to getting done with “It Should Not Be” and moving on to the next game system, though… not because I dislike Wander, but just because I want to make progress.

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