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When developers don't know the subject matter

When developers don't know the subject matter

OPINION

Having just edited one of our preview articles, I encountered a statement that made me look deeper just to check if the game developers had actually been as ignorant as that statement made them seem. Unfortunately, my remaining trust in humanity suffered yet another blow as I found further proof of the fact. What was it that upset me so much, you ask? Read on, and despair.

Having just edited one of our preview articles, I encountered a statement that made me look deeper just to check if the game developers had actually been as ignorant as that statement made them seem. Unfortunately, my remaining trust in humanity suffered yet another blow as I found further proof of the fact.

What was it that upset me so much, you ask? Read on, and despair.

Well, the game in question was Two Worlds II, developed by Reality Pump, and the statement went pretty much like this: "Olympic fencers were brought in to choreograph the fighting moves...". Now, I know that anyone who understands Olympic fencing and history will immediately grasp what I'm driving at, but let me just say it out loud:

Olympic fencing is a sport involving weapons that are reminiscent of thrust-only swords (smallswords). It is also a sport with clear rules on how you may attack the opponent and where you may hit him or her etc. In essence, Olympic fencing is an abstraction of historical fencing where you had no rules (only schools of thought) and where the danger of death was ever-present.

Someone might come up to me at this point and say that even though the Olympic fencing is not the exact way that swordsmen of the old fought, it is still close enough for the purposes of a game. There are several arguments that I could use to thwart this statement, but let's focus on those most pertinent to the game in question.

Time period. Even though Two Worlds II is set in a fantasy world, you can easily see that it follows the time-old tradition of fantasy RPGs by setting the game in a medievalesque time, where knights wear heavy armour and thieves walk around in more-or-less scanty clothes (depending on their sex). In short, the characters are not likely to wield epees or foils (weapons used in Olympic fencing), or smallswords (c. mid 17th and late 18th century), or even rapiers (c. 16th-17th centuries). Rather, they will most likely use weapons that stand a chance against heavy armour: hand-and-half-swords (or longswords, if you will), falchions, scimitars, single-handed arming swords etc. None of these weapons can be used with modern sports fencing techniques.

Fighting style. Even if you do have some characters who opt for lighter weapons (perfectly reasonable in cities, for example, where you will not have to fight heavily armoured opponents) such as rapiers and/or daggers, you will still look at a style of fencing that differs completely from that used with modern fencing swords. The reasons for this difference are easy to list:

1) Rapiers were double-edged (not only for thrusting, but also for slashing),
2) Rapiers were heavier than modern Olympic swords (rapiers weighed about 2-3lbs whereas Olympic swords weigh less than 1lb),
3) Rapiers were usually used in conjunction with other weapons in the off-hand (dagger, cloak, net etc.) which changes the posture of the fighters completely,
4) Period swordplay included body contact, e.g. wrestling moves, that are forbidden in modern sports fencing.

All these reasons (and others too numerous to mention here) affect every aspect of the fencing technique to be used and you'll never find any student of historical swordsmanship who considers modern sports fencing in any way similar to historical swordplay. Using modern fencing techniques with period weapons would only get you killed.

Did the developers have any other choice than relying on Olympic fencers? They certainly did! There are numerous schools of historical fencing all around Europe and the USA that teach longsword and rapier fighting to their students - using fighting styles and weapons that are based on actual study of history and period manuals. The fact that the developers decided to use sports fencers instead only shows how ignorant they are of the subject matter that their game deals with.
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