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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Wagadu Chronicles: Afrofantasy MMO on Kickstarter

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I came for the cow-petting, but there's a very ambitious project here that deserves our attention.

There was a Kickstarter game project that opened a month ago (and has 9 to 10 days remaining... but is already fully funded): The Wagadu Chronicles, designed for PC and Mac. It's an ambitious game from founded-in-2019 German indie company Twin Drums, which describes itself as “borne out of the desire to place diversity, and especially blackness and queerness, at the center.” Those aren't words typically embraced on KoopaTV, and I personally tend to balk at the notion that diversity based on characteristics like race or sexuality inherently buffs group/company output.

The Wagadu Chronicles isn't just a normal Player vs. Environment (PvE) massively multiplayer online game—it's also a tabletop roleplaying game (or called pen and paper). (Compatible with Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.) They say it's “built exclusively for roleplayers” and the first “online game 100% tailored to role-players, from lore to mechanics” in the Dungeons and Dragons sense, not a Western RPG or Japanese RPG videogame sense, even if they're inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, that's quite a feat.


Instead of different Tolkien-style races, there are different human lineages based on different African areas (Africa is a very, very diverse and large continent) that are documented in a massive lore book, and Twin Drums states there will be even more lore updates to come. The tabletop experience is “interlinked” and “feeds into and supports the video game” according to the developer. That actually, and ironically, runs into some identity issues.

I've read many comments on the Kickstarter project and on Twitter about the game from people who aren't interested in videogames, but are interested in African culture/lore and want the (physical) book/tabletop experience. They don't care about funding the videogame. (I haven't seen anyone who is interested only in the game and not the tabletop roleplaying, probably because the gameplay premise isn't unique but the lore and culture are. ...Also because we haven't seen much of the game itself.) Based on the comments, it turns out that there isn't as much overlap as the developers expect... but based on the funding amount, there is overlap, because the funding has beat the Kickstarter goal.

I don't know how to properly evaluate a lore book, but based on the free one they've provided, the Wagadu Chronicles writers have put a deep amount of thought into research and world-building. I'm willing to wager that's where a lot of talent and resources and passion went. Will the game be any good? I dunno, but you can pet cows in it. That's sort of rare in the videogames we have today, so maybe there's something that this Afrofantasy genre is doing right that other, Eurocentric games aren't:


The Wagadu Chronicles pet the cow Swala Afrofantasy MMO Africa
From researching the lore book, this is a Swala person (and they have COW SPIRITS and a strength-granting “Buffalo's Blessing”) petting a big, beautiful cow.
Screenshot taken from a petting .gif from the game's Twitter, where they accurately state,
“Have you ever seen a cow close before? The cutest animal.”


The developers actually described the Swala's herding experience as “a theme rarely seen in video games” so it may actually be a benefit of Afrofantasy. In which case, the gaming industry should've seen this a long time ago.

Despite KoopaTV's Earth headquarters being IN Africa (Sierra Leone, to be exact), I don't know much about African culture, and that's like saying just because you're in the United Kingdom you know about European culture. It's very different, and it seems like The Wagadu Chronicles will allow us to experience various different cultures (but without explicitly saying “this experience is based on such-and-such part of Africa”) that are under-represented. We'll find out sometime soon if they're under-represented because they're not worth representing, or if it's because they haven't been given a chance versus the homogeneity of thousands of games worth of European stuff (which, again, not all Europe is the same, but they've had thousands of games to work out the nuanced differences) and... Japan. Meanwhile, all I can think of for games inspired by Africa is Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, which is an unpolished indie title that is repetitive and middling in quality. I only know about its existence because Samantha Lienhard wrote about it five years ago. Afrofantasy hasn't seen much, if anything, since. KoopaTV's never covered the genre before, at least.

If you are worried about the ability of an indie company being able to maintain and handle an ambitious MMO game, know that they have the backing and support of Riot Games of League of Legends fame. This is... very problematic, because Riot is owned by Chinese company Tencent, and KoopaTV is maintaining an anti-Tencent policy that applies to everything from Tencent, be it Pokémon UNITE or this. I don't think Tencent is helping with the tabletop RPG portion, however, so it probably is in the best interests of EVERYONE if those became disassociated.

I have no theories on why Riot would be interested in supporting this project. Share your theories in the comments section?



Would YOU like to support the project as well? If not (and Ludwig won't), what do you think about the project challenging the game industry's lack of African-inspired lore? Do you see that cultural diversity as a benefit? Do you think that the tabletop bit and the MMO game bit should be disassociated, as many Kickstarter would-be backers seem to be requesting? Why don't other cultures appreciate bovine more?


To be clear, this game experience doesn't take place in Africa, but is inspired by the continent's lore and themes, so Ludwig thinks it meets a standard of creativity.
Story of Seasons clearly isn't Afrofantasy, but there's cow-petting there as well.

6 comments :

  1. أنت شرموطة و أنتو أمي و أيضا شرموطة.أنت شرموطة و أنتو أمي و أيضا شرموطة .أنت شرموطة و أنتو أمي و أيضا شرموطة .أنت شرموطة و أنتو أمي و أيضا شرموطة . إن شاء الله ليس كذلك شرموطة. لقيام بأشياء لطيفة وجعل هذه اللعبة. الحمد لله وشكرا لريت جيمس وتينسنت. شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة شرموطة. كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء كل خراء

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dude wtf I thought you'd like this. >.>

      Delete
    2. yeah i did it was cool! good article koops!

      Delete
    3. ...Thanks.

      Do you have any specific thoughts on Afrofantasy?

      Delete
    4. i did but now i cant remember them

      Delete
    5. Well, this comments section will be around if you ever remember them. I'd genuinely like to hear it.

      Delete

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