Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

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BTIsaac
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by BTIsaac » May 8th, 2018, 9:47 am

Sapient wrote:
May 8th, 2018, 9:24 am
Now let us have a moment of silence for all the innocent units who lost their lives.
There's a reason why I'm a spastic save-scummer.

That being said, looking at the comment and it's tone gives me these bad vibes, especially because of specific choices of words. I might just be paranoid here, but I suspect much bigger complaints in much fancier tones can be expected in the future. The internet has been getting crazy these past few years.

Still, the writing does need to be polished, especially if more exposure and consequently more criticism will be coming this way. I might be able to help out with suggestions of my own. I recall a few descriptions that could use a bit of an overhaul.

EDIT: By the way, in regards to the master bowman's description, I'd avoid using terms like zenith. It's a bit extravagant to be used in this mundane context. Really gives this "Hey look, I know fancy words and use them when not necessary" impression.

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Flameslash
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Flameslash » May 8th, 2018, 11:44 am

I don't think anyone's saying Wesnoth the setting has to be free of racism; in fact, there's good opportunities to explore the concept - will the Wesnothians and Dunefolk view each other as more alike, due to the presence of non-human species? Or will they see each other as just another species?

What that review seems to be getting at is that the descriptions of some units are very biased, and I see no reason why that shouldn't be fixed.

---

As for UnwiseOwl's revisions:
Lieutenants are respected commanding officers, often seen leading smaller-scale incursions and overseeing sectors of larger battlefields. Though they are armed both with sword and crossbow, their real strength is their superior knowledge and training in military strategy, and the outcome of many a battle has turned on the competent leadership of an alert Lieutenant in the right place at the right time.
I'd change "the outcome of many a battle has turned on" to "the tide of many a battle has been turned by".
Elves are quick to acknowledge the abilities of those who have experience in combat, and often rally around those individuals who have shown an aptitude for command. The quiet strength of the Elvish Captains lie not in their own considerable skills in battle, but in effectively utilising and augmenting the skills of their compatriots.
"Lies", not "lie".

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by BTIsaac » May 8th, 2018, 2:28 pm

Hm. That makes me think... is the thread title here even appropriate? Makes it look like there are either racist elements, or that we want to purge all references to the theme of racism. I don't think either impression is a favorable one, especially when the goal is to make the descritions sound less like they favor one race over another - which is a completely different thing.

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Caladbolg » May 8th, 2018, 2:47 pm

* in general, I don't think comparisons between races should be proactively avoided.
* revisions should be made keeping in mind the gameplay and consistency with the lore regarding the politics of Wesnoth and such; not as knee-jerk reactions to one extremely biased person who seems to be reading between the lines much more than he's reading the lines themselves

Unwise Owl's description revisions:
* Lieutenant: it's an improvement
* Elvish Captain: as skeptical_troll said said, the difference between elves and humans is that elvish leadership units are chosen from common fighters whereas human ones are advanced from a unit that is not recruitable in default. I think the previous description should be kept, but "In this they differ greatly from humanity, for whom leadership is often a matter of coercion and intimidation" should be changed so that leadership in humans is a matter of social status more than coercion.
* Master Bowman: The new description makes it sound that elves being better at archery is questionable or that it's only due to elves living longer (it's not, otherwise they'd be better at swordsmanship and all else too). Elves being the best at archery is a common trope and I see no reason to avoid it. The existing description also seems more flavorful so I think it should be kept.
* Elvish Archer: I don't have an issue with the existing one, but I don't have a problem with the new one either. I slightly prefer the existing one.

Other units the reviewer mentioned:
* Orcish Archer line: it'd be good if fire arrows were mentioned in the descriptions
* Orcish Sovereign: yes, it'd be good if "The surest way to disperse such a host is to slay this rare orc who can hold it together." is removed
* Wolf Rider line: the descriptions are not the most inspired, but the reviewer is quite obviously inserting huge amounts of his bias in interpreting the descriptions; it is mentioned that higher levels are very dangerous and the only thing that can be construed as "mocking" is that lvl1 Wolf Riders have a more amusing role in combat (from their perspective)
* Goblin Spearman: the reviewer seems to be making a case that Wesnoth is promoting eugenics, which makes him seem...well, I won't go there. The complaint boils down to "orcs are depicted as orcs are usually depicted" :roll:

*Bitron's suggestion that unit descriptions are given authors is interesting and I think it was even done for some user-made faction (Nightmares of Meloen, I think). It was pretty cool, but I'm a bit divided on how that'd look like in mainline
* I'm for renaming Rebels to Sylvans
* I'm surprised the reviewer hasn't complained about the undead desecrating the bodies of the dead. I think we should preemptively change the undead to Rockmen, just in case someone gets offended in the future (older users will get the reference)

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by monochromatic » May 8th, 2018, 3:15 pm

I don't particularly mind the racism in the writing, since HttT is presumably the flagship campaign of the game and everything in the game is written from this perspective. What we should be, however, is consistent. If we want to portray all the races as equal, then I think the MP factions should be changed to reflect this.

Perhaps:
+1 for Rebels --> "Sylvans"
Loyalists --> "Kingdom of Wesnoth"
Northeners --> "Orcish Hordes"

Maybe we should take a look at "Drakes" again as well to include saurians? Could be as simple as "Drakes and Saurians" or something more flavourful..

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Bitron
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Bitron » May 8th, 2018, 4:23 pm

Be aware that with renaming the Rebels to Sylvans, you force UMC creators who made an actual 'Sylvan' faction before, or is panning to do so, to think of a different name. Except they don't mind having their faction the same name as a default faction, but I doubt it.
And there are definitely a few of them out there.

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 9th, 2018, 12:15 am

Thank you for the slippery slope, Sapient.

Moving on...
Flameslash wrote:
May 8th, 2018, 11:44 am
I don't think anyone's saying Wesnoth the setting has to be free of racism; in fact, there's good opportunities to explore the concept - will the Wesnothians and Dunefolk view each other as more alike, due to the presence of non-human species? Or will they see each other as just another species?
I'm not even going to argue that the Irdya setting has to be free of racism. However, it's not suitable in the unit descriptions.
Bitron wrote:
May 8th, 2018, 9:09 am
I'm not exactly with the idea to rename the Rebels to Sylvans. IMO, Sylvans are creatures of the woods. Elves however do live in the woods, but they are not creatures of the woods. The only units in the Rebels faction that would deserve this title are the Wose and maybe the the Shaman line as they are half faeries, but that's it.
The elves are "close" to faerie creatures, so that's why I think the term fits. It doesn't fit the mage or merman, admittedly, but... it definitely fits the wose and isn't a bad fit for the elves, so it seems good enough to me.

Still, if you can come up with a better name, feel free.

However, if we're going to discuss renaming factions it should probably be moved to a new thread to keep this one on-topic for the bias in unit descriptions.
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octalot
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by octalot » May 9th, 2018, 1:55 am

On the wolf rider line, I think the Goblin Knight's description is in need of a major revision. It currently has
The Goblin ‘Knights’ have little in common with the men who share that title, and the title is bestowed in mockery by their enemies. The similarity is simply that they are the elite of the wolf riders, likely promoted to their position by their success in some audacious raid.

The wolves they are given are bred for speed and strength, making them quite dangerous in combat.
Ideas to replace that:
For a wolf and rider, battle experience strengthens not only the physical aspects, but also the bond between mount and rider. The term "goblin knight" refers not merely to the rider, but to rider and mount together. Unlike human knights, who may ride different steeds in to battle, the pairing of a goblin knight is based on a fierce loyalty between between a tamed wild beast, and the person who tamed it.

Among orcs, the riders are treated as a class above goblins, even when separated from their mount. Orcish grunts, while feeling themselves superior to goblins, also recognise that picking a fight with the rider is also picking a fight with jaws that strike faster that an orcish sword, and almost as hard.

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by name » May 9th, 2018, 2:15 am

Renaming "rebels" to "sylvans" makes sense for a host of reasons.

However, removing the unreliable narrator literary device from the unit and race descriptions will make the game less flavorful and only appease the PC crowd for all of the few weeks or months it will take them to discover something else they find problematic about the game.
Sapient wrote:
May 8th, 2018, 9:24 am
Racism in a fantasy setting is just the tip of the iceberg! There is also killing, death, and murder in a fantasy setting. The campaigns should be revised to have the units sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya. Now let us have a moment of silence for all the innocent units who lost their lives.
Also the Wesnoth Development Team must issue a public apology to its Human and Orcish fan communities!

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 9th, 2018, 2:26 am

I like octalot's goblin knight description.

And, an unreliable narrator is hardly a prerequisite for flavourful descriptions. Fantasy racism is still racism and should be treated as such. That doesn't mean it can't be used, only that it should not be treated as an acceptable or normal thing. This has nothing to do with "appeasing" an imaginary "PC crowd" and everything to do with simply not being a jerk about things.
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taptap
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by taptap » May 9th, 2018, 7:52 am

It feels extremely weird to have this discussion without noticing that BfW mainline features genocide (against Saurians). Enacted by players. Encouraged by these shining examples some add-ons explore this topic further and are extremely verbose about the necessity to wipe out orcs once and for all incl. all the pseudoscience about population pressure, genetic disposition etc. A lot of tropes are lifted from Tolkien, but without the overarching narrative (where a Saruman can become the lieutenant of the devil and the heroes are the most insignificant people in the world) it indeed becomes racist drivel.

I am fine with many different kinds of storytelling: realism w/ dragons, epic history, catholic high fantasy (aka Tolkien), fairy tale high fantasy. The problem in mainline is often that tropes are lifted without any thought given to the genre. HttT is a particularly bad mishmash and sets the tone. I mean the story of the first part is exposed as a flimsy excuse in the second part and most of it doesn't make sense either way. And then you have UtBS squatting at the end of times and tainting and devalidating all possible stories you can put into the universe anyway. Compare to Imperial Era undeveloped as it might be, but even that little gives a sense of history. Empires rise and fall, it is plenty brutal, but campaigns manage to explore different sides. Compare to Alariel's Story etc. unapologetic fairy tales. A completely different genre, but this works as well.

What always surprised me about the community as a whole is the huge investment in the bad stories while the gems are hidden away on the add-on server and lingering without players, feedback etc.
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Sapient » May 9th, 2018, 9:10 am

This is a really bizarre idea that we can't (at risk of being a "jerk") have a fantasy setting where some races are officially weaker, dumber, or more villainous than others. Yes, even in the unit descriptions. Of course, there can be campaigns where we reverse expectations by turning that trope on its head. We have plenty of those. But, it doesn't mean that other races suddenly became just as great as the elves simply because we have one campaign that sympathetic to their viewpoint.
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BTIsaac
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by BTIsaac » May 9th, 2018, 11:06 am

Well the elves may very well be super special awesome and all, but there's being awesome and there's rubbing it in.

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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by UnwiseOwl » May 9th, 2018, 2:00 pm

Well, some of these responses serve me right for not reading and rereading my posts beforehand and trying to form coherent arguments late at night. For clarification:

- I've changed the thread title because the word 'racism' just gets people all worked up. I'm not trying to fix society, Wesnothian or Earthbound, and I should have known better than to use that title.

- I'm not against comparisons between races, that was poorly phrased, I'm against those comparisons being unnecessarily derogatory. The idea of deliberately playing up derogatory nature and then putting a fictional characters name on it has some attraction to me, but it would be a big job that I'd prefer not to start just yet.

- I don't want to just remove those comparisons, I want to write better, more interesting descriptions and fill in more detail, not just cut things out. I think some of my attempts have accomplished that, but there's obviously more to be done on these to get people to agree that they're an improvement, and there's lot more where they came from. I just presented the options without them as a hack easy to translate option if people felt that strongly about it, which I think we can all agree was a silly idea. In future I won't provide those mini-proposals.

- I'm not suggesting these changes because of one negative review, I'm doing so because as someone who at one point in my wesnoth life sat down with the unit directory and read each and every unit description to get a bigger picture of the setting, I'd like these descriptions to represent the units as they exist in the mainline campaigns that we have, and since we have campaigns from every viewpoint, a measure of impartiality is in order.

- I'm not really interested in the perennial Rebels/Sylvans argument. If people want to talk that one out, I'd suggest a dedicated thread and a long, drawn-out poll process similar to the one about renaming the Dunefolk. (Yes I am still upset the Dunefolk don't have sandworms).

- Zenith is a good word and I'm keeping it :P

Thanks to:
Flameslash for the suggestions/corrections. I've editing them into my drafts originals.
Caladbolg for the good feedback. Gives me a good idea of what worked and what didn't so that I can have another go at those that you didn't like.
Octalot for the Wolf Rider description, it's great and I'm going to steal it and add it to my first post as if it was my own. :lol:
taptap for saying nice things about the Imperial Era. :mrgreen:
celmin for constantly phrasing my own arguments better than I ever can.
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am

Sapient wrote:
May 9th, 2018, 9:10 am
This is a really bizarre idea that we can't (at risk of being a "jerk") have a fantasy setting where some races are officially weaker, dumber, or more villainous than others. Yes, even in the unit descriptions.
Weaker or dumber is one thing as long as it's not played up too much; "more villainous" though is just stereotyping them. And if you want to declare them weaker or dumber, the description shouldn't just paint them as an inferior race; it should also call attention to some of their strong points.
Sapient wrote:
May 9th, 2018, 9:10 am
But, it doesn't mean that other races suddenly became just as great as the elves simply because we have one campaign that sympathetic to their viewpoint.
Well sure, maybe they're not all "as great as the elves", but this isn't about contests of who is the better race, it's about being as neutral as possible in the description of the race. The orcs shouldn't seem as glamorous as the elves, of course; they're the petty, warlike race, after all. But they shouldn't be painted as evil barbarians, either.
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