Hi everyone, Oliver here. Today I’m going to be talking a little bit about the challenges and opportunities of inventing a religion for the game.
In many games, you have an in-game religion or set of gods that either definitely are or definitely aren’t real, within the game’s fiction. Fantasy games, in particular, do this all the time – all their pantheons, even the mutually exclusive ones, tend to be unproblematically there, working approximately as advertised. Any philosophical issues thereby brought up tend to be swept under the carpet, in time-honoured style (Judaism was originally henotheistic in this kind of way, about three thousand years ago, and indeed the word ‘Baal’ – now thought of as naming a demon in Christianity – means ‘lord’ in Hebrew and originated with a Canaanite god known to the Israelites simply as ‘the Lord of the Canaanites’). This didn’t seem like a satisfactory solution for Alliance.
Having the Empire’s religion simply be true would be a cop-out from the idea of faith, to start with. You don’t need to have faith in Tolkien’s Valar, for example, any more than you need to have faith in your refrigerator – they’re just there. But we didn’t want to simply opt for an absentee God, either – the player’s natural assumption in that case would be that the religion is simply false and cynical. Much as the Alliance of the Sacred Suns universe is full of falsehood and cynicism, we didn’t want to do that, either. It would be too easy.
What we chose to do, in the end, is take a third way, more interesting than either of those alternatives. In Alliance, you are personally acquainted with Sol Invictus (the God of the Solarian religion), without it being clear whether he actually is all he claims to be. On the face of it, it’s quite possible – he has a plausibly Godly agenda, he has unexplained knowledge, he speaks with the narrator’s voice (something that just happened naturally when I was writing the first dream scene in which you encounter him) – but there are tensions at the very heart of the idea of the sort of God who picks favourites and pursues agendas within his own creation, and you can get the chance to tug at one or two of these, depending on how you play the game, and see how he responds and whether you find it convincingly Godlike or not.
This, of course, means I have to convincingly write the voice of God.
Wish me luck!