Jump to content

Can Jeff be compared to Tolkein?


Recommended Posts

Not so much for creating thousands & thousands of years of mind numbing history (filled with impossible to remember names) for his own universe, but rather the (three/four different) massive universes for us to explore.  I was having a conversation with a friend earlier in the day about Avernum and the incredibly comprehensive/fleshed out universe that Jeff created/populated with 'real' characters & events.  She wasn't getting it until the phrase Tolkeinesque came to mind.  Now granted, pretty much 'any' RPG has to create a universe for us to go play in, but Jeff seems to do a deeper dive into creating unique stories/situations than most. And then continues those stories onto six chapters (Avernum, 5 for GF, 3 Avadon, ? for QW) keeping the continuity more or less intact/growing.


Now granted Tolkein is pretty much 'the' standard upon who's shoulders most all fantasy world building (no matter the medium - books, games, tv, movies, music, etc) has been based upon for closing in on 100 years.  Does Jeff deserve consideration to sit at the feet of the master?


(things have been quiet around here, time to kick over a rock & see what comes up...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll set things off with a plump "no."


Not out of any disrespect -- they're simply very different.  There are two very different approaches to world-building and story-creating here.


Tolkien was attached, on many levels, to the internal consistency of his worlds (see in particular his essay about sub-creation), down to gritty details.  He had no interest in "creating unique stories/situations" in isolation -- something that Jeff definitely does, and does well, in his games.  Correspondingly, Jeff is a lot looser about canon -- Tolkien may have retconned things here and there over the decades, but he never, say, forgot an entire continent existed.  Jeff delights in out-of-context cameos and parodies that speak to the present day; Tolkien wanted something that felt ancient, and went out of his way to disclaim any allegories in his books.


Their world-building focuses on very different things.


I guess Jeff has more in common with Tolkien than a big gaming conglomerate might.  But that's not saying much.

EDIT: Visual comparison:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jeff does what he does well, but I would not call his world building unique.  From Ultima to Elder Scrolls on the computer side and many fantasy and sci-fi authors have created rich, detailed universes.  I would agree that he cares more about the story than plenty of other programmers, but I would not say that there are not others who care just as much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I'd say one similarity is that Tolkien's fantasy universe was partly a fantasy version of England and Europe, whereas Vogel's fantasy worlds seem slightly North American to an European observer, or at least they do to me (yeah, I should speak for myself).


Both Exile/Avernum and Valorim have something of a Wild West spirit, and even the Shaper empire reminds me of the USA, with the Chinese Drakon as its main rival. ;) 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had never considered that feature, but all of Jeff's games are relatively new, settler colonial societies. Central Terrestia in Geneforge is described as being under Shaper control for hundreds of years, but Eastern Terrestia is more recently settled. I was very interested with the indigenous themes that were brought up in G5 and wish those had been expanded on.  Valorim is also described as being recently settled, and Avernum obviously is a very new society. Queen's Wish follows this trend, literally (re)starting the process of colonization and conquest. Avadon is the only game I can think of that doesn't have that feeling.


Even when these games have old, established metropoles, they're never where the action takes place; it's always at the frontier. I haven't finished QW yet, but the vast majority of the game is set in Sacramentum, not Haven proper. Aside from an assassination, Avernum takes place entirely at the frontier, or even the frontier of the frontier. Geneforge 5 explicitly avoids sending the PC to the Nodye Coast or Lethia Province, and we only get a glimpse of the Shaper Citadel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me, Avernum really falls into the American model with the late arriving exiles (human, slith or nephil) taking the land (cave floor?) and resources away from that native Vahnatai and establishing their own, separate society.  The Vahnatai appear to have a lower population density and lower tech base (notice I said appear).  While I have not finished QW either, it seems more to me like the British in South Asia or South West Asia with fairly large and reasonably dense native populations, but fractured governments that allow the Havenites to exploit the differences and conquer the area without expending a large amount of resources.  Of course I could easily have said Romans, Ottomans or several others for QW.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Goldengirl said:

Valorim is also described as being recently settled, and Avernum obviously is a very new society.


Valorim is the newest continent settled by the Empire but, IIRC, it's not exactly newly settled, there are big cities all over and Shayder's sewer system is getting old.  There's no frontier as such, just the odd places inside the Empire's realm which are not well settled.  Until the plagues, it was mostly very firmly under Empire control.


OTOH, Upper Exile is still very much newly settled by humans and their slith or vahnatai allies.


1 hour ago, Edgwyn said:

And of course Nethergate does fit into Alex and Goldengirl's colonialism theory.  It has been a while since I played Nethergate, I cannot remember if it is early in the Roman occupation or later.


IIRC, Boadiccea is mentioned, so that's not quite a generation after Roman had conquered Britain (or at parts of it).

Edited by Thaluikhain
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess our sense of scale is different. In Krizsan Province, there are people who talk about when the province was settled. Granted, it was the last one to be settled, but that still means that it hasn't been so long. I'm also fairly certain people in A3 refer to Valorim as a frontier, directly. I think when we can talk about centuries of settlement, then we can say that settlement is more established.


Adding on to the discussion of QW, it's definitely mostly just about getting vassals, not settling, and in that sense is more of a traditional imperialism. The entire central part of the continent is literally a settler colony, though.

Edited by Goldengirl
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...