Real novelty in culture-building

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Real novelty in culture-building

Post by Spooky on Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:28 am

all = you = {Shturmi} // disambiguation

Dear all,

This post is mostly about listing terms which should be defined, and open a discussion intended to define them.
Following a recent thread some of you might have viewed, I decided to open the eminent question of actual novelty in culture-building. To what extent is it possible (if at all) to really make up a culture which is not in fact a jumble of elements from existing cultures? This raises a few more issues:

1. What are the constituting parts of a fictional culture? How much do you actually have to make up in order for your audience to get the feel of a fictional culture?
2. Are there instances of real novel cultures? I strongly tend to believe that the concept of Elven culture is novel in this sense. If any of you has an objection, I am able to support this claim. The cultures in Iceland and Serena, which some of you might be familiar with, are in fact sub-cultures of the Elven culture, or at least are intended to be. Additionally, I feel that the Colors culture from Warbreaker might be original, though it does not have a distinct feel as much as Elves do. The African culture I created, which is inspired by Colors, is partially an attempt to transcend Colors into a concrete culture which retains the novelty presented in Colors.
3. Less so, certain original Warcraft cultures might possibly qualify as novel. For instance, Orcs, Gnomes & Dwarves, Shadow Trolls & Taurens (even if they suck), Forsaken (though they are not human enough to be a clear case of 'culture').
4. I believe that cultures should be detailed enough (where 'enough' is an arbitrary boundary to be defined in retrospect) in order to count as such. For instance, Trolls & Taurens, while seemingly novel, are very sparse in details, and in fact there isn't hell of a lot we can actually say about them. But they do convey a certain distinct feel. Or do they simply convey 'tribalness' with new colors?
5. What is the status of cultures which are very interesting or aesthetic, and convey some sort of feel, but lack some fundamental part of being a culture? Classically, these cultures are termed 'Alien' (not in the sense of 'xaizaryim'; cf. Korat & Shturm (2013) for details). The problem with these cultures is well exemplified (Korat & Shturm, 2013) by the fact that it is not clear what is the equivalent in this culture of going to the bathroom. It is commonly assumed in subsequent work (e.g. Korat, 2013a;b among others) that the creation of these cultures is useful to generate NPC cultures, meaning cultures meant for NPCs, not PCs, but is ill suited to create main cultures where the PCs should actually live most of the game.


Korat & Shturm (2013), The conversation in Ha-Barzel st., unpublished
Korat (2013a), 'Storm Isles Chronicles: The Iceland', Storm Isles, Omer's Dropbox
Korat (2013b), 'Paralax', Omer's Dropbox

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Re: Real novelty in culture-building

Post by Shturmi on Fri May 01, 2015 11:59 am

Just to draw some sort of outline to my standing in this topic - the entire approach I use for creating something that feels or passes the impression of being novel is more minimal. As I explained to Semler, look at elves - they seem to have their own culture even if the amount of actual content associated with them is not that great. The reason for that success is mainly, in my opinion, that the culture conveys a main meme or atmosphere; let's call it cultural ambiance, or CA. The elves' CA is being mysterious, mystic, very "cultural" in terms of etiquette and such, and sometimes an appreciation towards nature. It really is an "emotional package" that is really easy to accept *as a whole*. What you want, if you're trying to create a novel culture, is some CA that people will understand easily through your art and can think "yeah, X, what a culture huh?" (it actually works in real life too, to a lesser extent... like the fact that memes like "Leaves falling from the willow tree, like the days of our lives, gone in the windy morning" just screams something Japanese).  That's why I based the Shore World on the CA I felt from final fantasy and other Japanese franchises – if you played even some of them for real, just seeing this main menu will definitely make you understand:

or something.
What I did is mold the design of other cultural aspects after I had the main CA in heart… And some parts fit very well. Some don't, but the more rich a fictional universe is the less uniform it is, so it makes sense.
I have specific patents for creating some fundamentals of cultures and peoples, but this^ is what's really important.

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