‘Far Cry Primal’ and Imaginary Languages

Matthew Hadick
Indie Games Nintendo
Indie Games Nintendo Games

With just a little more than a month until the launch of Far Cry Primal, Ubisoft has provided fans with a pair of videos to get them excited: a fast-paced trailer showcasing the game’s neolithic world and a behind the scenes featurette detailing the lengths to which Ubisoft Montreal has gone to build a convincing language for the game. Check out the videos below:

The latter video contains interviews with the University of Kentucky linguists consulted to create Far Cry Primal’s era and location appropriate language, an invented tongue based on proto-Indo-Europoean that estimates the ancient language’s building blocks — proto-proto-Indo-European, if you will. “We looked at certain very ancient features of proto-Indo-Europoean and we assumed them to be the baseline for not only the Wenja tribe but also the Udam,” says Assistant Professor Andrew Miles Byrd, “The creative team views Uzula as a more advanced tribe, so we thought it a good idea to give them a more advanced stage of the language.”

It’s easy to understand why Ubisoft Montreal is putting so much emphasis on this aspect of the game. Constructing language systems for games, whether from scratch or basing them off of existing linguistic models, can help foster a more convincing world for players to explore. Language itself is a great source of mystery and lore — constructing new tongues provides players with a new layer of intrigue to unravel, suggesting a cultural history decidedly different from one’s own and making characters seem more alive.

Many games have employed invented language to great effect. These five games were made better by the developer’s decision to enrich their worlds by constructing imaginary tongues.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The_Wind_Waker_Prologue_(Part_6)

In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, remnants of the lost language of Hylian can be found throughout the Great Sea, adorning a variety of ancient ruins. When the player encounters ancient deities throughout the game, they communicate only in the lost tongue. The game will only translate this dialogue if you play through it a second time via the new game plus mode.

The Sims

simlish

Will Wright
created Simlish for The Sims because he believed using real languages like English would prove distracting and repetitive. By creating a language based on gibberish, he allows the player to create meaning themselves.

Ico/Shadow of the Colossus

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Team Ico‘s pair of PS2 masterpieces, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, both enhance their mystical worlds by using imaginary languages that punctuate each game’s ghostly ambiance. Ico even incorporates hieroglyphic symbols that can be translated using a simple cipher.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

dragon

There are a number of fictional languages in the Elder Scrolls universe, from Banthan to Dwemeris. Most memorable, however, is Davohzul, or the Dragon Language.  It can be heard by dragons in shouts, on word walls and in names. The language has been studied extensively by the game’s fans and a detailed pronunciation and grammar guide can be found on the Elder Scrolls Wiki.

Myst

myst

Richard Watson spent a lot of time and care developing a language for the D’ni culture of Myst. If the player hopes to solve all of the game’s puzzles, they need to demonstrate their understanding of the language. The Myst wiki contains a variety of resources to help you become fluent!

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