Wendigo: the world

When we talk about a game’s stetting, we have to take into account its design, and how it supports the setting with the mechanics it employs. Wendigo’s design works with most settings, in a sense that most fiction genres work well under its mechanics, whether they are futuristic or fantastic, or any point in between. Of course, its whole idea was designed for a character centric game experience, on a semi-flat world, and fully three-dimensional game worlds probably won’t work on this kind of engine.

The specific setting I chose was not taken into (much) account during the design process of the game basics, because I know that pretty much anything I created would blend well into them. And it does. Of course, available technology was taken into account when designing the combat and character systems, and the latter was also influenced by available areas, quests and resources.

The game is set its own world, and its called Earth, just as our very own planet. I preferred not to call it anything else, otherwise it might have sounded artificially contrived. Besides, the name of the planet isn’t a big concern in the game world, and it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

It is a small planet of roughly 4 thousand kilometers of equatorial radius. It’s very similar to Earth, both in its basic shape and environment. Here’s a rough map, for better understanding.

The world itself is made from scratch having as basis multiple civilizations and beliefs, so the social organization in Wendigo is fairly different from our own actual global society. There is no globalization, there is no global village, and the contrasts that arise from that fact serve as both its fundamental characteristic and plot-driving force. The tensions created by the occasional and not so occasional contacts between different peoples and countries cause wars, myths, religions. The differences between those different peoples and their inability to establish durable and steady relationships caused drastic differences between them.

On a brief note about the creation of the world itself, I kept details and minute information to a minimum on this high level stage. Often, you find worlds created with lots of detail regarding things like ecology, past wars and the like. The only real issue I kept in mind when creating the map, and in fact, the fundamental issue that I worked on to create it shape is the the political nature of the conflict I will describe bellow. Things like the particular history of each place and landscape are meant to be defined as we go, and regarding each place in particular, as they are created.

The world’s surface isn’t known in its totality, despite the technological advancement of some of its cultures. In this specific case, the big isle in the east isn’t known by most people, and even those who know of its existence, don’t know its surface very well at all. Even so, its inhabitants will play a role in Wendigo‘s plot. The southeastern archipelago isn’t known at all. This lack of knowledge is due to a latent disinterest about communication between different peoples, but also due to the specific technological fields developed, which generally don’t require territorial expansion or large amounts of resources that are not readily available.

The world is living in agony in the days the game takes place. I do understand this as a possible cliche, but as soon as we get into the plot of the game, and the details of the war the causes this agony, you’ll realize it’s nothing like that. A great war arose from the two biggest economic and technological forces of the time, and the consequences are catastrophic to the economic climates of every single known country or tribe, either because their commercial supplies are cut off, or because their lands are devastated or under enemy control. This war is both political, physical and psychological, as will be explained ahead.

Now, it’s important to understand that, in a world like this, there’s going to be all kinds of political and social issues arising at every place. In Wendigo, the player is going to travel long distances and visit different places with different people. To talk about these issues at every step of the way, and to have many characters actively caring about them isn’t the best approach. On the one hand, it will steal focus from what we, as the developer, want the player to care about, which is, basically, the plot and the characters. It will also, on the other hand, increase the complexity of what the player has to assimilate in order to understand the world he’s playing in. Besides, it’s not necessarily important to tell the player about, for example, the independentist movement in the eastern lands, or about the economic tensions related to the dictatorial regime of the a specific northern country. If that’s important for any character in particular, or for a specific mission or task, then it’s only natural that that kind of background information is made available, but always in a natural and slick way. After all, a world as huge as this is always going to have something else to tell, so it’s very important to keep the mess to a minimum and keep focus, while still providing all the minute info necessary to create a sensation of cohesion and detail.

Since the primary point about the setting of Wendigo is the differences between its world’s multiple peoples, and, of course, since the “main event” of the time the game takes place in is the war, I’ll start by explaining the nature of the conflict and the different positions of each faction, their motivations and beliefs.

First of all, these differences should be emphasized in the game to really show that diversity off. And since it’s always hard to know what’s really going on, because everybody’s got their opinion about it, we leave the player wondering and wanting to dig deeper, wanting to find out if the rumors and opinions he heard are actually true. […]

Taken from Wendigo design document ver. 0.2b, October 18, 2009, chapter 14, points 1 and 2.

More on Wendigo‘s setting very soon.

Disclaimer: the image at the top is from Risen, not from Wendigo.


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