Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New Languages for New Worlds

The New York Times is running an interesting piece on the fictional language Tho Fan, which was invented for BioWare's epic Jade Empire. Creating completely new languages seems to me like a great way to fill in the cultural details of a virtual world, solidifying the experience for players. Tolkien did it. Star Trek did it.

I haven't played Jade Empire, so I can't really comment on the effectiveness. Has anyone noticed this new language? Does anyone have any insight into whether it helps the game at all?


At 6:25 PM, Blogger Seg said...

Cyan developed the D'ni Language. Nothing new here.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Foopy said...

I believe that Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Sega Saturn invented its own language too.

I haven't played Jade Empire yet, although I plan to very soon... My general impression, though, would be something the end of the NYT article implies: that designing an entirely new language would be more valuable during the creative process of designing the game, rather than as an end-product for players to notice. I remember when playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic that I found aliens speaking in their native tongue very immersive, yet it wasn't until I'd played the game for dozens of hours that I realized the game was playing the exact same sound sample over and over.

So, I think that using different languages with subtitles is a powerful way to affect player immersion (it's also great at masking both bad voice acting and bad dialogue), but I'm not sure if creating an actual language "from scratch" would affect much from a player's point of view, unless that language was somehow central to the game's theme or the gameplay itself (which may have been the case with Cyan's D'ni language).

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Foopy said...

So a friend of mine got Jade Empire, and the weird thing about it is that a lot of the sampled dialogue for Tho Fan is much shorter than the subtitle translation. For instance, the voice actor might say "bana weep bo ninny ban", whereas the subtitle will be a couple long sentences of text. It doesn't happen all the time, though, and I'm not sure how it happened--my friend thinks they may have changed some of the dialogue after recording the voice acting--but when it does happen, it sorta hurts the immersion. In cases like that, I think it's more effective to just play the same sample over and over (or something like that) for a reasonable length of time, like KOTOR does.


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