In this week’s bulletin, we discuss Minecraft’s Anishinaabe culture, Valheim, Frozenheim, an interview with Guthixian, the Six Days in Fallujah Saga, Stronghold: Warlords, some cool presentations on video games and history and an awesome mod for Crusader Kings III!
Minecraft: Manito Ahbee Aki
Minecraft is a great tool for education, as we have written many times before. The game can be used to teach children about many great things, and Microsoft has embraced this in a dedicated Education version of the game. In a new addition to the Education Edition, you can now explore the Anishinaabe culture from North America. You can travel back in time, before European interaction with the continent, and learn about the culture, community and worldviews of the Anishinaabe. You can even participate in a bison hunt! Check out more on the Education Edition here.
Like we said last week: it cannot be a bulletin without mentioning Valheim. We love the game, like many others, and have put many hours into our lovely VALUEheim village. It has been out for just over a month now, so it was time for some retrospection. The Washington Post had a talk with Henrik Törnqvist, co-founder of Iron Gate Studios and one of the devs of the game. Henrik states the team was baffled with the amount of players; over 5 million in under a month is an incredible feat for a dev team of just 5 people. That’s is also why one of their first priorities is to hire more developers. For the devs, the last months they have mostly been working on fixing bugs, it is still Early Access so there are of course some wonky bits. For example: something in the physics engine made boats catapult into space. Weird, and that needs some fixing indeed. Even though the developers have planned some updates to the game, including new content, we have no dates just yet.
One of the selling points of Valheim is the ability to build amazing buildings. We are of course trying to build the Ancient Wonders of the World (and succeeding!) So far, we’ve finished the Trollossus and the Lighthouse of Trollexandria. The Mausoleum of Trollicarnassus is under construction, but will probably be moved as our CPU’s are melting just being near that thing. But we are not the only players taking their time building amazing real life builders. User GIPV showed their Notre Dame build on Reddit. yes, someone has build the famous French Cathedral! In the deadly Plains biome! However, they did cheat a bit as GIPV used the console commands (Games Radar), which lets you fly and spawn in unlimited building materials. Still an amazing feat (as it looks awesome), but almost impossible without cheating. We stick to our survival game, and therefore need to make sure we have enough materials at all times (as it is very annoying to run out of wood at the top of the Lighthouse of Trollexandria).
More Norse building
If you have played many hours of Valheim, but aren’t tired of some good old Norse building, you might want to check out Frozenheim when it releases in Early Access on May 20th. Frozenheim will be a city-builder (yes, we need more of those), but will also feature RTS combat. So if you didn’t like Valhalla because it had to much stabbing, and don’t like Valheim because it has too much crafting (how could you not like Valheim?), Frozenheim might be something for you! Read more on the game on Rock Paper Shotgun.
An interview with Guthixian
Yes, you read that right! The African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) interviewed Jochem on his internship at VALUE, and the amazing stuff he is producing. Jochem explains how he is working on a extension for the The New Order mod for Hearts of Iron IV, which will focus on Africa and decolonisation. That topic is often overlooked in games (and mods), and thus deserves more attention. Jochem will also develop a Twine Game in co-operation with TRAFIG (Transnational Figurations of Displacement) and Dignity Kwanza (a not-for-profit organisation in Tanzania) about refugees. Read the entire interview here!
Six Days in Fallujah debacle continues
A few weeks back, we mentioned the uproar when the developers of Six Days in Fallujah claimed the game wasn’t making any political statements. As well as claiming that war isn’t political, the devs made some dubious claims which were not taken lightly by critics of the game. It will portray an incredibly violent battle, where human rights and laws of war were violated by the U.S. led coalition, and that lead to some heavy critique. The devs have now dialed back the comments made by lead developer Peter Tamte, and stated that the game is of course political, but it is not trying to make a ‘political statement’. They’re trying to explain the political context, without making statements about that context. Every historian in the world is jealous of their ability to describe and explain a political event, without making statements about that event. Someone should probably tell them that not portraying war crimes is making a political statement. Read more on Eurogamer.
Stronghold: Warlords review
Stronghold: Warlords was released this week and the reviews are in. And they are mixed, to say the least. The Stronghold series was once a household name in RTS world, but has since fallen back a bit. Warlords was meant to be the big comeback, but it hasn’t really been just that. Ian Boudreau of PC GamesN wrote a review of the game, and he concluded that even though it has it’s fun parts, it’s mostly too complicated and tries to do too much for it’s own good. The newly introduced warlords system might be ok, but it: ‘it’s another layer of complexity heaped onto a game that’s already creaking under its own weight. With so many bits and pieces to learn, it’s no wonder that the single-player campaign often feels more like a series of stern lessons than a piece of entertainment.’ Boudreau concludes that he wants to give Stronghold a chance, but it might need to find a dedicated playerbase on multiplayer to not be a huge flop. Read the entire review here.
Some presentations on video games and history you can watch!
There are multiple cool presentations on video games and history we want to share with you, so here’s a short overview! First off, you can now watch a very well constructed analysis of Socrates in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Alexander Vandewalle takes us through the many stages of Socrates in the 2018 game, in about 2,5 hours. It’s a long one, but it’s definitely a watch worth while!
The second video you can add to your watchlist is ‘Deus Vult ex Machina: The Crusades in Strategy Computer Games’ by Robert Houghton. Robert is of course well known for his in depth research of the medieval era, especially when it comes down to games such as Crusader Kings II. This presentation deals with the representation of the Crusades in strategy games, such as the obvious Crusader Kings series. Robert also held a presentation at TIPCO2, which you can watch here!
The last item for your watchlist isn’t a video, but a webinar you can sign up for. On March 24, Andreas Garbe and the representatives of Paintbucket Games from Berlin, Charles Games from Prague and Sarepta Studio from Hama will talk about how we can represent Europe’s difficult history in video games. The studios, known for games such as Through the Darkest of Times, Attentat 1942 and My Child Lebensborn are experts when it comes to games about difficult histories, and are often troubled by either policy makers or media for the depiction of certain histories. The webinar will be about that, but also how we can use these kinds of games to make difficult histories more discussable. You can sign up for the webinar here!
Crusader Blade mod
Are you a fan of Crusader Kings III and Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord? Or do you wish you could actually play your battles in CK3? Well look no further than the Crusader Blade Mod! This mod developed by George will actually let you fight out the battles from CK3 in Mount & Blade! How awesome is that! The mod takes values and data from CK3 and will transport those to similar units in M&B. It is still in development, but plans are to make the actual units from CK3 into M&B. Read more on Rock Paper Shotgun or on the Crusader Blade Patreon.
Omar ‘oomzer’ Bugter is a recently graduated Cultural Historian from Utrecht University. Since interning at VALUE, he’s stuck around, mainly working on the Interactive Pasts website and the weekly streams. He wrote a thesis on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI and mods, so knows this game very well. He likes many other games, including F1 2020, Hearts of Iron, Mount & Blade and Crusader Kings III. He’s also still looking for a job, so tweet to him at @oomzer if you want to know anything about Civ or have a job for him.