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Bruce Shelley discusses Age of Mythology historic accuracy

From Bruce Shelley’s Ensemble Studios blog archive

Letters from Gamers: The most noteworthy letter I have received recently came from a 10 year old boy who wanted to point out 10 mistakes he believes we made in Age of Mythology. He disagreed with what roles we had assigned to various gods (“Anubis is not a god of judgment”) and our spelling of a god’s name (Ra or Re). He finished his letter by saying the mistakes he points out may not be absolute but that he believes he is correct and that he hopes we do better in our next game.

I am going to completely disregard the fact that a ten-year old is playing a game rated T and say good for him for getting so into it that he takes the trouble to contact us. I think it is great that he was so interested in the topic of mythology that he obviously has done a lot of research.

I did write him back with several lame excuses for our different interpretations, including these. First, I doubt many scholars today completely agree on how the different gods of Egypt were perceived in ancient times and I expect the roles of individual gods may have changed over the multiple thousands of years that they were worshipped. I have been to Egypt and I believe I recall being told that the roles of various gods changed over the millennia as the underlying culture went through changes. And secondly, we were making a game to be entertainment, not educational software.

When we decided we wanted a special effect or power in the game, we matched as we wished a god to that power, whether he or she was directly correlated or not. Gameplay came first, not mythological accuracy. We borrowed from what we could learn about the different mythologies to make a game that was fun to play. Beyond entertaining people we did hope that the topics of the Age games had the secondary benefit of encouraging people, especially young people, to learn more. In this case it sounds like we succeeded.

We receive communications from gamers regularly, often suggesting ideas for improving one of our games like the one above, or just saying thanks for games particularly enjoyed. Since the announcement that Ensemble Studios was to be closed by Microsoft, we have received a lot of support and thanks from many of you as email, forum comments, and even actual letters. We appreciate all of this.


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