Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by name » May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am

Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 9th, 2018, 2:26 am
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.
Are you serious? These are fantasy creatures! Orcish feelings won't be hurt because there are no orcs in our real world.

And it is a totally acceptable and normal thing. Have you not played the campaigns? One species constantly prejudges and insults the others with slurs. What we might call war crimes and genocide take place on a regular basis. This is a game of brutal, primitive warfare in a pseudo-medieval setting.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am
Weaker or dumber is one thing as long as it's not played up too much; "more villainous" though is just stereotyping them.
It is much more than a stereotype, it is indeed in their nature to be villainous by almost any imaginable standard of morality. Their obsession with and disposition for violence goes far beyond that of even real world Chimpanzees.

This is how they are in every situation of every mainline campaign, save for one plus one short scenario.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am
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.
Goblins have no strong points. They are cheap canon fodder level 0 units with negative traits. And so small they can ride wolves.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am
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.
The orcs are likely illiterate and no other race that might have been willing and able to write these obviously in-universe descriptions would paint them in any other light. Orcs are a constant threat to any race that has ever met them.

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by BTIsaac » May 10th, 2018, 6:40 am

Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
It is much more than a stereotype, it is indeed in their nature to be villainous by almost any imaginable standard of morality. Their obsession with and disposition for violence goes far beyond that of even real world Chimpanzees.
...
Goblins have no strong points. They are cheap canon fodder level 0 units with negative traits. And so small they can ride wolves.
...
The orcs are likely illiterate and no other race that might have been willing and able to write these obviously in-universe descriptions would paint them in any other light. Orcs are a constant threat to any race that has ever met them.
Oh for crying out loud. I'm probably the first person to object when someone goes out of their way to see racism and bigotry where there is none, but this is ridiculous. I personally don't have any problems with making an entire race villainous either, but there's that, and there's just baiting the moral police. This sort of stuff plays so well into the recent mass hysteria about dogwhistling and whatnot. Do you honestly want that?

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Pentarctagon » May 10th, 2018, 6:56 am

BTIsaac wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 6:40 am
Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
Goblins have no strong points. They are cheap canon fodder level 0 units with negative traits. And so small they can ride wolves.
Oh for crying out loud. I'm probably the first person to object when someone goes out of their way to see racism and bigotry where there is none, but this is ridiculous. I personally don't have any problems with making an entire race villainous either, but there's that, and there's just baiting the moral police. This sort of stuff plays so well into the recent mass hysteria about dogwhistling and whatnot. Do you honestly want that?
To be fair, goblins do quite literally get the traits Weak, Slow, and Dim.
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by BTIsaac » May 10th, 2018, 7:00 am

Pentarctagon wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 6:56 am
To be fair, goblins do quite literally get the traits Weak, Slow, and Dim.
Yeah but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Ben Kuchera taking a screencap of that post and writing a long article about how the wesnoth community are a bunch of racists. People like him love reading into stuff.

Regardless, I'm gonna stop tempting fate here.

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Sapient » May 10th, 2018, 10:37 am

BTIsaac wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 7:00 am
Regardless, I'm gonna stop tempting fate here.
Yes please, let the dead horse have a rest. Owl has clarified the intent of this thread and even updated the thread title.
http://www.wesnoth.org/wiki/User:Sapient... "Looks like your skills saved us again. Uh, well at least, they saved Soarin's apple pie."

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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 10th, 2018, 5:26 pm

Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
Are you serious? These are fantasy creatures! Orcish feelings won't be hurt because there are no orcs in our real world.
I don't think you quite understand how racism works.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
And it is a totally acceptable and normal thing. Have you not played the campaigns? One species constantly prejudges and insults the others with slurs. What we might call war crimes and genocide take place on a regular basis. This is a game of brutal, primitive warfare in a pseudo-medieval setting.
Well, that's in the campaigns; it's maybe not great there but I can accept it. We're talking about unit descriptions here, not campaigns. Whatever goes on in the campaigns is almost totally irrelevant to this topic.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
It is much more than a stereotype, it is indeed in their nature to be villainous by almost any imaginable standard of morality. Their obsession with and disposition for violence goes far beyond that of even real world Chimpanzees.
It's not in any species's nature to be villainous, and especially not when that creature is intelligent, like the orcs are. They have some reason for their violent disposition, probably a cultural reason, and if you knew what that reason was, they'd seem less villainous. You might not agree with the reason, mind you.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am
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.
Goblins have no strong points. They are cheap canon fodder level 0 units with negative traits. And so small they can ride wolves.
The hilarious thing here is that you don't even realize that you just contradicted yourself. Being small enough to ride wolves is a strong point.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:35 am
The orcs are likely illiterate and no other race that might have been willing and able to write these obviously in-universe descriptions would paint them in any other light. Orcs are a constant threat to any race that has ever met them.
We really have no reason to believe the orcs are illiterate. Sure, we have no reason to believe they are literate either, but... don't go assuming things. Also, I'm pretty sure they're not actually a constant threat to anyone other than themselves. As far as I know, most of the time their internal squabbles largely keep them in check. They'll raid nearby human settlements, sure, but they're on the level of bandits, not an enemy nation.
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Re: Removing racism from Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by name » May 11th, 2018, 5:59 am

BTIsaac wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 7:00 am
Yeah but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Ben Kuchera taking a screencap of that post and writing a long article about how the wesnoth community are a bunch of racists. People like him love reading into stuff.
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Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:26 pm
Whatever goes on in the campaigns is almost totally irrelevant to this topic.
Untrue. The campaigns provide a largely honest and detailed look into how Irdya's inhabitants operate, as well as their perceptions. The descriptions only summarize this information, and are apparently written from the viewpoint of one or more of these inhabitants.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:26 pm
It's not in any species's nature to be villainous, and especially not when that creature is intelligent, like the orcs are. They have some reason for their violent disposition, probably a cultural reason, and if you knew what that reason was, they'd seem less villainous. You might not agree with the reason, mind you.
Any simple learned behavior can be instinctive behavior. Whether it is information encoded into the brain's memory or the cells' genes it is ultimately just information.

Their reasons for ceaseless murder are:
1) they want your stuff
2) anyone in the world payed them to do it
3) killing you should be easy and fun
4) killing you proves they are stronger

But I am sure they are just misunderstood. If we just get to know them better whilst they are killing us, they might seem less villainous.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am
The hilarious thing here is that you don't even realize that you just contradicted yourself. Being small enough to ride wolves is a strong point.
Damn, you got me. If only goblins could be small enough to ride mice, then they would be really strong on the battlefield. Mouseriders!
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 12:38 am
Also, I'm pretty sure they're not actually a constant threat to anyone other than themselves. As far as I know, most of the time their internal squabbles largely keep them in check. They'll raid nearby human settlements, sure, but they're on the level of bandits, not an enemy nation.
You should really play the campaigns.

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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Pentarctagon » May 11th, 2018, 6:55 am

Anyway, back on the topic of the proposed description modifications, I don't have any objections to the current four proposed changes.

I think the main point, that I agree with, is that while the campaigns can and should cast their own light on the events that take place and the races that take part, the unit descriptions should be more objective and neutral.
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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by BTIsaac » May 11th, 2018, 7:07 am

Cold Steel wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 5:59 am
But I am sure they are just misunderstood. If we just get to know them better whilst they are killing us, they might seem less villainous.
I guess now is as good a time as any to point out that the original stories the orcs were inspired by were medieval accounts of real raids, by real people. I heard an interesting theory about what the word "ogre" originally meant, and it makes a lot of sense for anyone familiar with european history. It's funny how people back then used to say this exact same stuff about the original "orcs". And no, I don't find it offensive, I find it amusing how people today are still traumatized by something that happened over 1000 years ago.

Edit, okay, back on topic.

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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 12th, 2018, 12:16 am

Cold Steel wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 5:59 am
Untrue. The campaigns provide a largely honest and detailed look into how Irdya's inhabitants operate, as well as their perceptions. The descriptions only summarize this information, and are apparently written from the viewpoint of one or more of these inhabitants.
But we can do better and should.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 10th, 2018, 5:26 pm
It's not in any species's nature to be villainous, and especially not when that creature is intelligent, like the orcs are. They have some reason for their violent disposition, probably a cultural reason, and if you knew what that reason was, they'd seem less villainous. You might not agree with the reason, mind you.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 5:59 am
Their reasons for ceaseless murder are:
1) they want your stuff
2) anyone in the world payed them to do it
3) killing you should be easy and fun
4) killing you proves they are stronger

But I am sure they are just misunderstood. If we just get to know them better whilst they are killing us, they might seem less villainous.
None of this really makes sense. They're not engaging in ceaseless murder, they're engaging in banditry and/or mercenary behaviour. Murder is completely different. In particular, loss of lives in banditry is more incidental rather than the key goal. I doubt the majority of orcs kill because it's easy. They kill because they need something you have and they're not good at negotiation, and they figure they're stronger anyway so they'll just take it by force. If they discovered you to be stronger, or if you offered what they need in return for something else that they can give, then of course they'd stop killing you (and presumably Asheviere for example did this). Perhaps they enjoy fighting and battle but not necessarily killing in particular; it just happens to be a side-effect of the fighting.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 5:59 am
Damn, you got me. If only goblins could be small enough to ride mice, then they would be really strong on the battlefield. Mouseriders!
Well, that's debatable, but also not a corollary of anything I said. Goblins being small enough to ride wolves is a strength; that doesn't mean making them even smaller makes them stronger. There isn't a linear mapping from size to strength.
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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by name » May 12th, 2018, 5:32 pm

Pentarctagon wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 6:55 am
I think the main point, that I agree with, is that while the campaigns can and should cast their own light on the events that take place and the races that take part, the unit descriptions should be more objective and neutral.
Trouble is, that strategy for distributing objective versus subjective information is about directly opposite to the way wesnoth has always been and should be written.

Campaigns are the right vehicle to deliver objective and neutral information. What characters say and do there is first hand. Players are witnessing the world for themselves.

The flavor texts on the other hand are written beforehand from a wesnoth-centric perspective. Quite likely by a mage of wesnoth, someone equivalent to Pliny the Elder, documenting everything he knows or has heard about the world and adding his own personal assumptions to fill in any gaps. This perspective allows things further out from the land and norm to be treated with greater uncertainty and mystery, like the ancient wose's flavor text as just one example. It also adds another layer of world authenticity, charm and fun, as the writer's quirks slip through on occasion, such as the elf-fetishism.

Rewriting the flavor texts from a neutral, perfect, all-knowing perspective would spoil them.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 12:16 am
None of this really makes sense. They're not engaging in ceaseless murder, they're engaging in banditry and/or mercenary behaviour. Murder is completely different. In particular, loss of lives in banditry is more incidental rather than the key goal. I doubt the majority of orcs kill because it's easy. They kill because they need something you have and they're not good at negotiation, and they figure they're stronger anyway so they'll just take it by force. If they discovered you to be stronger, or if you offered what they need in return for something else that they can give, then of course they'd stop killing you (and presumably Asheviere for example did this). Perhaps they enjoy fighting and battle but not necessarily killing in particular; it just happens to be a side-effect of the fighting.
There is a word that applies to every motivation you listed in that whole paragraph. That world is villainous.
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 12:16 am
Well, that's debatable, but also not a corollary of anything I said. Goblins being small enough to ride wolves is a strength; that doesn't mean making them even smaller makes them stronger. There isn't a linear mapping from size to strength.
It is a weakness. Weakness and cheapness are the two things that define goblins. And that is okay because, as has been repeated on the multiplayer development forum quite possibly some hundreds of times by now, units are not balanced against units; factions are balanced against factions. The wolf rider is a fairly weak and inferior scout unit, but if northerners were stronger in this department they would be too strong overall.

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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 12th, 2018, 5:56 pm

Cold Steel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 5:32 pm
Trouble is, that strategy for distributing objective versus subjective information is about directly opposite to the way wesnoth has always been and should be written.

Campaigns are the right vehicle to deliver objective and neutral information. What characters say and do there is first hand. Players are witnessing the world for themselves.
This, uh, doesn't really make any sense? Players witnessing and judging for themselves is pretty much as subjective as you can get.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 5:32 pm
The flavor texts on the other hand are written beforehand from a wesnoth-centric perspective. Quite likely by a mage of wesnoth, someone equivalent to Pliny the Elder, documenting everything he knows or has heard about the world and adding his own personal assumptions to fill in any gaps. This perspective allows things further out from the land and norm to be treated with greater uncertainty and mystery, like the ancient wose's flavor text as just one example. It also adds another layer of world authenticity, charm and fun, as the writer's quirks slip through on occasion, such as the elf-fetishism.

Rewriting the flavor texts from a neutral, perfect, all-knowing perspective would spoil them.
Well, no-one has ever said that a neutral perspective must be perfect and all-knowing. I'm only advocating for a neutral perspective here. It need not be perfect. For example, it could be compiled from the journals of a famous explorer who travelled all over the world and documented the quirks of all the races. That still leaves room for some subjectivity and false assumptions while at the same time allowing the coverage of the races to be less biased. Like your example of an academic mage sitting at home and compiling stories, this too could add a layer of "authenticity, charm, and fun", but without the expense of painting some races as villains or saints.

(If we do want to do this, I also suggest adding a byline to the unit descriptions like someone else suggested earlier.)

In any case, the unit descriptions are akin to encyclopedia entries. That's why they should be less subjective.
Cold Steel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 5:32 pm
Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 12:16 am
None of this really makes sense. They're not engaging in ceaseless murder, they're engaging in banditry and/or mercenary behaviour. Murder is completely different. In particular, loss of lives in banditry is more incidental rather than the key goal. I doubt the majority of orcs kill because it's easy. They kill because they need something you have and they're not good at negotiation, and they figure they're stronger anyway so they'll just take it by force. If they discovered you to be stronger, or if you offered what they need in return for something else that they can give, then of course they'd stop killing you (and presumably Asheviere for example did this). Perhaps they enjoy fighting and battle but not necessarily killing in particular; it just happens to be a side-effect of the fighting.
There is a word that applies to every motivation you listed in that whole paragraph. That world is villainous.
No. The word "villainous" certainly can be used to describe all those actions, from an outsider's perspective; but villains do not (usually) think of themselves as villains. They have their own motivations for doing what they do, their own reasons for believing that the other options are not available to them. Labelling their actions "villainous" erases any motivations that may even be justified, and in fact, if you switch perspectives, it's very likely you'll find the humans also doing many things that could be labelled "villainous".
Cold Steel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 5:32 pm
It is a weakness. Weakness and cheapness are the two things that define goblins. And that is okay because, as has been repeated on the multiplayer development forum quite possibly some hundreds of times by now, units are not balanced against units; factions are balanced against factions. The wolf rider is a fairly weak and inferior scout unit, but if northerners were stronger in this department they would be too strong overall.
Calling small size a weakness is extremely naïve. Small and agile can defeat big and bulky. Maybe the goblins are inferior units, but every unit has its ups and downs.
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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Pentarctagon » May 12th, 2018, 7:52 pm

Cold Steel wrote:
May 12th, 2018, 5:32 pm
Pentarctagon wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 6:55 am
I think the main point, that I agree with, is that while the campaigns can and should cast their own light on the events that take place and the races that take part, the unit descriptions should be more objective and neutral.
Trouble is, that strategy for distributing objective versus subjective information is about directly opposite to the way wesnoth has always been and should be written.

Campaigns are the right vehicle to deliver objective and neutral information. What characters say and do there is first hand. Players are witnessing the world for themselves.
Campaigns are quite literally the opposite of how to show objective information, since you are actively playing as one of the sides in the conflict.
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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Computer_Player » May 12th, 2018, 10:26 pm

Pentarctagon wrote:
May 11th, 2018, 6:55 am
Anyway, back on the topic of the proposed description modifications, I don't have any objections to the current four proposed changes.

I think the main point, that I agree with, is that while the campaigns can and should cast their own light on the events that take place and the races that take part, the unit descriptions should be more objective and neutral.
Not necessarily. In fact we could use biased perspectives as a world building tool (IMO the lesson of post-modernity is that its impossible to have complete objectivity anyway, specially in art). I think the main problem is that the descriptions are only biased one way when we have seven factions, some composed of alliances between multiple races i.e. Knalgan, Drakes, arguably the Northerners, so the perspectives could reflect that. One way to solve this, indeed make things more interesting, is to make the descriptions biased from the point of view of the races themselves (i.e. its doubtful that orcish archers would be so disparaging of their own skills with the bow, goblins could highlight their grit and determination to contribute to the orcish army despite the perception of them being inferior - maybe check out Swamplings campaign for a view of goblins as themselves for example -).

P.S. Not all descriptions need even be revised with this "culturally derived descriptions", like as mentioned, the wose description is perfect as is - but it doesn't try to describe wose's culture. Same with Shadow description - it could be approached more scientifically i.e. from a Necromancer's perspective; but I think I like the way it works now (in fact we could even make it scarier, since we're revisiting :P)
Last edited by Computer_Player on May 12th, 2018, 10:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Revisiting Wesnoth unit descriptions

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » May 12th, 2018, 10:39 pm

Hmm, that's actually an interesting idea...
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