Lore in Need: Feudal Japan




samurai1For as popular as Samurais, Ninjas, and Japanese architecture are, it’s surprising  there isn’t a mainstream MMO that makes full use of them.

Unfortunately, virtually all fantasy MMO’s are stuck in some derivative of Middle Earth, a western style fantasy.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Middle Earth, what we’re complaining about here is the lack of variety.

WoW, WAR and D&D… all derivatives of Middle Earth.

Obviously we’ll give LOTRO a pass.


AoC takes place in a low fantasy version of ancient Rome, Egypt, and Germania.  Once again, western.  And DAOC is of course, Camelot.

The closest we have to a mainstream MMORPG that touches upon feudal Japan is an expansion for Guild Wars.

But here’s where it gets weird…Wander over to Asia and sure enough, they have their own MMO’s that touch upon feudal Japan.  But when Asian developers do it, they prefer an over the top high fantasy magic, extravagant armor, etc. etc.

What we need is a well done version of AoC  with Samurai, Ninja’s, etc.  In other words, a MMO that takes place in a low fantasy version of Feudal Japan.


Let’s face it, a lot of us would love to play a flat our Ninja, or Samurai.  For magic users we could have mystics and priests.  Feudal Japan even had primitive rifles, which could make for a fun ranged class.

The pool of lore for feudal Japan (especially a low fantasy version of it) is a lot deeper than it appears at first glance.  Hopefully at some point a game developers will realize this we’ll get one heck of a game.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nick June - 2009 at 8:36 am

The only game of any sort that I’ve seen tap into Japanese mythology with any depth is Okami, which might be an instructive example here. Cherry blossoms. Lots of cherry blossoms.

Strange thing about WoW is, in spite of its fantasy roots it’s always been an amalgam of whichever folkloric tradition happens to fit… the whole conception of the demonic in TBC and the Burning Legion is of explicitly Judeo-Christian origin (and you can tell by a lot of the names, which appear to be Hebrew-derived). Then there’s the whole Norse bit in the Storm Peaks, and the Inuit in the form of the Tuskarr – even if we don’t see much in the way of the Inuit mythos.

What would be neat is if an expansion like the Maelstrom had a zone that took inspiration from the Japanese. The Pandaren were clearly set up that way (though yes, I know pandas are from China). There’s already a lot of inspiration that Naga lore can take from other Asian traditions, and Japan would seem like a stark omission.

2 John Evans June - 2009 at 8:51 am

?kami is not exactly low fantasy. You play a goddess in the form of a wolf who has the ability to reshape the world with divine painting. 😉 I absolutely love ?kami, no question, but I don’t think it’s what he was talking about.

Better models might be Tenchu or Samurai Warriors, the latter in particular because it’s based on a very specific time period in Japanese history, with (somewhat fictionalized) versions of real historical figures. Kind of like a historical novel, in video game form. Dynasty Warriors does the same with the Three Kingdoms period of China, which is itself a rich source of material (quite frequently mined by Asian developers…I don’t know if there’s a Three Kingdoms MMO, but there certainly should be!). Warriors Orochi turns up the dial on the fantasy a bit by adding demons and sorcerers, but it’s still mostly “low fantasy”. (And ancient China and ancient Japan are somehow melded together through time and space, but they seem to go together pretty well…)

3 PopeJamal June - 2009 at 5:30 pm

“AoC takes place in a low fantasy version of ancient Rome, Egypt, and Germania. Once again, western.”

Cool. So how long has Egypt been a part of the “Western World”??

4 Jaidal June - 2009 at 6:55 pm

I was just looking for rpg games based on feudal japan. I happened across both your site and another one about exactly what you are looking for. It’s not done yet though:

Tatsumaki: Land at War
http://www.landatwar.com/

Overview:
Ever lay awake at night dreaming of a simpler time, a time when the sword ruled and people still lived off the land. Step into Japan in the beginning of the 16th century and join an ever expanding world rich with life. Help your friends overthrow the Shogunate, or take up arms and hunt down the man who assassinated your father. Fish for rare creatures as trophies and food, or craft decorative armor for the Emperor himself.

* Unique combat system more similar to a Fighter as opposed to a MMORPG.
* Complete lack of monsters, experience, classes, or races.
* Weapons and armor that maintain a realistic feel without unrealistic damage or defense qualities.
* Ability to do any job or follow any belief you wish in true role playing spirit.
* Build your own homes, castles and entire towns.
* Weekly special events, as well as many other recurring events.
* Realistic weather system where the weather actually effects the game.
* Innovative pricing system, quite flexible and competitive with current MMORPGs.
* Free-to-play option.
* Experimental crafting system that opens up millions of crafting possibilities.
* In-depth Alchemy system never seen before, with ties to Fireworks creation.

5 Cocles June - 2009 at 7:07 pm

Jaidal — Nice find. I’m very curious how that one will turn out. It almost looks as if it’ll be straight feudal Japan, not even “low fantasy”. I’ll be keeping my eye on it. Thank you.

6 Jaidal June - 2009 at 7:20 pm

@ PopeJamal

I guess it depends on your definition of the ‘west.’ However, it was part of the Hellenistic World early on. The Greek Ptolemies ruled the kingdom since the time of Alexander. So basically you could argue that it was part of the Greco-Roman World and the Greeks and romans heavily influenced Europe for centuries after. A lot of philosphy, mysticism and mythology comes from there and there are those that argue that Christianity is based much on some Egyptian figures.

7 Jaidal June - 2009 at 7:22 pm

Good finds are for sharing! 😉

No prob.

8 Bairdos June - 2009 at 1:46 pm

I think Nick has really hit on something about the naga in WoW. So far, the naga haven’t been treated with any depth. They will need a lot more background when they take on a significant role in WoW, and Asian mythology definitely seems the number one choice. However, I don’t think we will find out if that’s right until the fourth expansion, which is a few years away.

9 doc May - 2012 at 11:25 am

Silkroad online is pretty eastern.

10 LoveofJapan July - 2012 at 8:07 am

Just for the people that read this. Tatsumaki will never be done. They started working on it with the hope of getting it done, but no one even works on it now. Hardly anyone actually goes to the website now, lol

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