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Robert E. Howard's "Hyborian Age"


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I've played 0 A.D. for quite some years, and though I congratulate the team on its historical focus, I do at times crave the thrills of ahistoric and even supernatural elements which I originally experienced in games such as Age of Mythology.  Recent glimpses of 0 A.D.'s new campaign system have reinvigorated my imagination in that regard, with thoughts of Robert E. Howard's "Hyborian Age" coming quickly to mind.

Let me state at the outset that I am no programmer.  I may be able to cobble together and modify bits of code, given enough examples, but a mod that transforms 0 A.D. into the Hyborian Age is quite beyond my capability.  The same goes for art assets (a bit of SketchUp is all I'm good for), and even the knowledgeable pairing of Hyborian source material with its historical analogues might be biting off more than I can chew.

My goal in starting this thread is simply to get a feel for what's involved in creating a mod of that caliber, solicit the opinions of those familiar with both Howard's work and the innards of the game, and hopefully gain some level of comprehension as to whether I would even have a place in any such project, should it someday be attempted.

Off the top of my head, here are a few thoughts....

  • The peoples of the Hyborian Age bear the hallmarks of various real-world civilizations, often stereotypes meant to quickly paint a certain picture in the minds of the early 20th century pulp magazine audience.  This means that some modifications might be as simple as altering the names of existing 0 A.D. elements, or patching together different units and buildings to synthesize something "new".
  • An Hyborian Age mod would likely be best as a world map and/or a series of regional maps, all with story features, landscapes, and cities immutably placed.  There would no point in mixing it with actual historical factions, except for sheer novelty.  This means that the mod might be a "full conversion" rather than an add-on.  How that factors into keeping it up to date, I do not yet know.
  • Ideally, the mod would be based on Howard's work alone.  There might be room for cross-overs with the works of his contemporaries, and perhaps even the posthumous edits and pastiches that came decades later, but the core project should focus on a purely-Howardian experience.
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To flesh out a full "game" experience, you may have to expand from Howard's original works. Later novels had some cool stuff in them. When I was a kid way back in the 1990s, I did a book report on this one, which fleshed out the Turan Empire (executing condemned criminals and traitors was especially sporting for the population!), the Vilayet Sea geographical area, and had some really neat elements, such as a wizard inventing a rudimentary steam engine, giant centipedes rowing galleys, pirate queens, etc.

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@1F409 You may want to refer to this page as a tutorial. It is quite detailed and I learnt modding from it. I recommend that you target this mod for A25 since A24 doesn't have much time left. https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/Modding_Guide

Feel free to visit my github repository for different mods that I made. Some might contain errors but there should be a few helpful examples: https://github.com/Yekaterina999?tab=repositories

You can also PM me to ask questions :) 

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I actually started developing a mod with precisely this theme from alpha 23. I even got pretty far with it. I had several kingdoms well fleshed out and playable in game, however a couple of issues dissuaded me from continuing to work on it after alpha 24 dropped:

  • The copyright status of Howard's work is difficult to assess, at least in my country. Due to being published after his death, I've read that parts of his Hyborian Age lore have not yet entered the public domain here, and thus determining which ideas fall under which legal regime will take a lot more painstaking research than I am willing to commit to.
  • The martial world building of the Hyborian Age is a lot less fleshed out than one would expect (at least in the subset I've read). While there are tidbits of cultural differentiation in the text, like the idea that the Shemites are the best archers in the world, there's not a lot in the text to back up what those characterizations mean in practical terms. Basically every "civilized culture" Conan encounters fight using devastating heavy spear-cavalry, supported by pike infantry (who get talked up a lot but never do anything except die), and superhumanly skillful foot archers. All wear predominately chainmail armor. The barbarians are all unarmored foot infantry with javelins, swords, daggers, and clubs.
    In any sort of prolonged mundane combat it is always the archers who are described as being decisive, while for shorter skirmishes or when there is supernatural or heroic intervention in the mix, it's the cavalry. In short, the martial world building in Hyborian Age stories is mostly about creating a mood to frame the heroics of the protagonist. If one wants to build a well differentiated and balance strategy game from that foundation, it is obligatory to seek for the preponderance of ones inspiration from outside the actual texts, while discarding a lot of Howard's own characterizations, at which point are you really making a Conan game?

Between these two issues, it makes more sense to me to create a derivative original fantasy setting, over trying to actually adapt Robert E. Howard's work.

That said, the appeal of the concept is not lost on me, and there were some things in my experiment that definitely worked really well: The promotion system for one really sold the idea of a power curve, where individuals could differentiate themselves by heroic achievements. Auras also really fit the setting.

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@wowgetoffyourcellphone

At this point, I don't even know what a "full 'game' experience" would entail.  Personally, I would avoid pastiche elements like the plague.  Many of those you mentioned, though, sound like changes under the hood that wouldn't require new art assets -- e.g., giant centipedes in place of rowers would likely be concealed below deck.


@Yekaterina

I'll look into the resources you mentioned.  If it's something I can wrap my head around, I might give it a shot.


@ChronA

If you have already laid the groundwork, it would be foolish of me to repeat it.  I still don't know what I could bring to the table, but perhaps collaboration is the first step.

Regarding copyrights or trademarks, I believe that the question could be avoided by merely including a disclaimer that warns people to not download the mod if it's restricted in their area.  At worst, the mod would have to be published by a team member who lives outside the jurisdiction.

As for the disparity between Howard's ideas and 0 A.D. unit mechanics, I would say design the armies as per the stories, then let the chips fall where they may.  In such an abstraction as a computer game, I doubt there's any serious way to gauge which is more accurate.  Alternatively, it would be an interesting task to provide certain heroes with auras that boost surrounding units in ways which happened to work out well in the stories.

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Posted (edited)

Is there an option in 0 A.D. to make a map with curvature, even if it's only a fragment of the globe's surface?

Howard's maps of the Hyborian Age cover an area the size of Europe and northern Africa.  Whatever real-world map he traced over to build his fictional prehistoric geography, the distortions would be sufficient to hamper playability if interpreted as flat.  A number of visual examples can be found here: https://theblogthattimeforgot.blogspot.com/2012/09/hyborian-musings-mappa-mundi-secunda.html

Is there a game technology available for adding spherical maps to 0 A.D.?  If so, wouldn't continually aiming the vertical axis of a unit toward the sphere's center allow easy calculation of forward movement based on the steepness of the climb?  Number-crunching-wise, would it be significantly more complex to position units that way, as opposed to merely up/down on a plane?

Edited by 1F409
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  • 1 month later...
Quick update: I looked at some guides, then unpacked and examined the mod structure, but found it rather overwhelming. I had expected that all data regarding, say, the hero Lionidas, would be in one directory; however, for programming reasons that I can at least in part comprehend, I see that instead the pieces are spread throughout various directories. Sadly, it appears that the program recommended for easy management of such assets is one that is not native to my GNU/Linux environment, so that saps my enthusiasm a bit, too. All in all, any attempt at this on my own will be a steep uphill climb, so perhaps instead the best thing I can do is lend my knowledge of the Howardian franchise to others more capable of implementing the mods. I'm not giving up on it, just trying to soberly recognize where, if any place, I'm qualified to play a role.
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32 minutes ago, 1F409 said:

Sadly, it appears that the program recommended for easy management of such assets is one that is not native to my GNU/Linux environment

Hm? Blender and Gimp? Or are you talking about ActorEditor which is part of pyrogenesis and runs on Linux as well?

Anyway if it's Linux all you ever need is a text editor.

 

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Yes, ActorEditor must be the one; but then I wonder what made me think it was inaccessible to me. Perhaps when I looked it up, it was something to be compiled on one's own, and that threw me off.

Edit: "Note: Actor editor is currently broken on Linux and OS X, see #1553 and #1554. If you're not on Windows, you should use a text editor to modify the actor XML directly." Edited by 1F409
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23 minutes ago, 1F409 said:

Edit: "Note: Actor editor is currently broken on Linux and OS X, see #1553 and #1554. If you're not on Windows, you should use a text editor to modify the actor XML directly."

Well, #1554 is marked fixed and #1553 not reproducible, either by @Itms as stated on the bug nor can I. My distribution installs ActorEditor as 0ad-ActorEditor alongside pyrogenesis as 0ad.

That line, wherever you came across it, should be deleted me thinks and the bug closed as no longer reproducible.

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