Constructed language

Warpmind

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So, I've been thinking a bit on this...
Would you/what would make you consider constructing a new language for your game?
I mean, if you have elves, Sindarin or Quenya might be a bit problematic for a commercial game (licenses et cetera), yet you might want to use some different language for them, if you don't want the player to understand without some serious effort. Obviously, using a real world language is possible, but that would make things just as hairy, since some players might be fluent in that, too...

Thoughts on the issue? It seems to have worked with Hylian in the Zelda series, and so on...
 

Pine Towers

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If elvish_proficiency == 0; // Never heard off
[The man speaks a language you don't understand];

Elif elvish_proficiency == 1; // Heard off
[The man speaks elvish, but you can't understand what he says];

Elif elvish_proficiency == 2; // Basics
[The man speaks elvish, something about chest and weight];

Elif elvish_proficiency == 3; // Not-so-basics
[The man speaks elvish, his chest and a weight];

Else elvish_proficiency == 4; // Good enough
"I'm relieved to take this weight out of my chest";


Sorry about the pseudo-code. Personally, I think building a whole new language isn't an easy work and would take too much time from developing the game.
 

Idril

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I have a general rule with constructed languages and that is - just because Tolkien did it does not mean just anyone can do it too. Believe me, I've tried. It's a mess and it takes too much time away from gamemaking, writing, and life in general.


I think what a lot of people, myself several years ago included, don't fully realize is that J.R.R. Tolkien's day job was closely related to linguistics. He translated tons of Middle and Old English works, and he had a great understanding of tons of languages. That understanding lent itself well to creating proper fantasy languages with rules and grammar and all that good stuff. But not everyone is Tolkien. I'm sure not Tolkien. I'm not a linguist and I can't seem to wrap my head around tons of real languages, so why try to create a new one?
 

Warpmind

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I have a general rule with constructed languages and that is - just because Tolkien did it does not mean just anyone can do it too. Believe me, I've tried. It's a mess and it takes too much time away from gamemaking, writing, and life in general.


I think what a lot of people, myself several years ago included, don't fully realize is that J.R.R. Tolkien's day job was closely related to linguistics. He translated tons of Middle and Old English works, and he had a great understanding of tons of languages. That understanding lent itself well to creating proper fantasy languages with rules and grammar and all that good stuff. But not everyone is Tolkien. I'm sure not Tolkien. I'm not a linguist and I can't seem to wrap my head around tons of real languages, so why try to create a new one?


Actually, linguistics wasn't just his day job - it was his passion and his hobby, as well. He rather does make a statistical outlier, to put it bluntly.
Now, keeping in mind, I don't think Hylian is a "complete" language, as such - I'm given to understand it's basically a handful of phrases with an approximate translation. Much like Klingon was up until, oh, Star Trek: Next Generation or so?

So, adding the distinction between creating a complete language and just a very crude phrasebook, would that change your answers? :)
 

Shake0615

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I've tossed around the idea in my own games since I teach foreign languages for a living and am an amateur linguist. I would only bother constructing a legitimate language if it really added to the lore or was a central part of the game itself. As others have mentioned, if you want it to sound and function like a real language then it will take a long time and a lot of experience in the field. It's a drastic undertaking to do it properly.


That said, I'd be interested in helping people out with such a thing if anyone ever needed it since I'm a total language nerd! It has the potential to add depth to a game, though it would have to be a pretty expansive project to do it justice.
 

LightningLord2

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You could do the easy way of constructed language by using proper english, but obscured with a wierd alphabet.


A Link to the Past was even lazier with Hylian texts, which is just a random assortment of special characters if you didn't use the Book Mudora (which lets you read them properly).
 

Idril

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Now, keeping in mind, I don't think Hylian is a "complete" language, as such - I'm given to understand it's basically a handful of phrases with an approximate translation. Much like Klingon was up until, oh, Star Trek: Next Generation or so?

So, adding the distinction between creating a complete language and just a very crude phrasebook, would that change your answers? :)
I don't think Hylian is a complete language, though I could be proven wrong. Although I imagine, considering the large amounts of Hylian text in some of the more recent Zelda games, like Wind Waker and especially Twilight Princess, that they do have quite a few phrases written out in it. Or maybe all the spirits just say the same things, I don't know :)


To answer your question, that does change my answer, in that case I think it could work! I do like that idea - a phrasebook, not a full grammatically-ruled language.

You could do the easy way of constructed language by using proper english, but obscured with a wierd alphabet.
It doesn't really count as another language, but I did use a bit of binary text in my first game. I guess that could count as a weird alphabet?
 

Azurecyan

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Any form of language in-game or not have to have some basic knowledge of linguistics and grammar. Kajiuran(Yuki Kajiura's own made up language), Hymmnos(Ar Tonelico), Aratanaru(Nier), Nouveau(Nier), Nuadhaich(Nier), Hylian, Relares(Tales of Legendia) are one of many languages in games that have some sort of structure and linguistics. Though some(like Aratanaru, Nouveau, Nuadhaich) are augmented modern day languages; in-game it represents the augmentation of languages through thousands of years. 


Kajiuran, if I recall correctly, is mixed with some Latin, and some other languages.


Hymmnos is probably the biggest one that has been built upon that can be understood when learned, just like Tolkien's language of the elves.


Made-up languages can be a chore especially if it's elaborate with different grammar structures, conjugated verbs and tenses, declensions, gerunds, etc. If it's something simple like the Al Bhed language(more or less), then go ahead. The language you put in-game should add something to the layer of depth of the game and not just something there for the player to learn. Each language in games have some sort of purpose to the lore and world, as well as the story it's put in.
 
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Shake0615

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I've often considered developing a few languages for use in RM games in the same way that we have community characters and the Arum universe. I don't know how many would actually use it, but I would have a lot of fun creating it.
 
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Chrispy

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I once 'made up' a language for a school project by taking Spanish and just replacing all the words with made up ones and using a different letter frequency so it couldn't be compared to a real language at first glance. It was Spanish in every way but looked and sounded different. It definitely sounded horrible if you tried to speak it, and I only ever replaced the words I needed to use, but it served its purpose.


As far as games go, I don't think I would ever create an entire language with its own structure and rules. I would create only the few words I needed, and nothing more.
 

Euphony

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While it's a nice idea, I think constructing your own language a la Tolkien would be incredibly time-consuming for an independent game developer. In the case of Tolkien, he was kind of a genius when it comes to that stuff, and he put a lot of time and effort into it because he was creating an expansive world with a massive history that spanned over several volumes. It was worth the extra time and effort because he was creating something on a such grand scale.


For a hobbyist developer in a community where lots of games only span a few hours, I think something like the Hylian language in Zelda would be much more realistic. All they did there was use a cipher, replacing each letter of the alphabet with a made-up symbol. It would be quick and easy in RPG Maker to switch the font to some kind of wingding or rune (there are plenty on dafont.com) so that when your fictional language is being used, it just looks like gibberish symbols. Alternatively you could shift the letters of the alphabet in some way, so like the first vowel (A) becomes the second vowel (E) and so on. Or you could go even simpler and just have a babbling speech bubble over the character sprite's head. It would get the point across and be kind of cute~


In any case, I'd use the fictional language sparingly and only if and when it made sense within the context of the story. Maybe incorporate it in some kind of dungeon puzzle that includes translating foreign riddles or unlocking ancient doors. If just thrown in for the hell of it, it would probably come across as gimmicky.
 
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Phonantiphon

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You don't need to construct a full language, all you need to do is make the bits you need consistent, and you use it sparingly - you can get away with all sorts of stuff then.


Having said that, the easiest thing to do is the most obvious, steal bits from existing languages!


I've written stories where the lead characters spoke a mix of Gaelic and Celtic; it was meaningful and could be translated correctly, but it was different and exotic.


You can also construct any amount of "Pig-" languages, using latin and anything else that you want - (It's a sad fact that most people are so unfamiliar with latin that you can make it completely exotic-sounding simply by throwing some words into a blender and mixing them with any other language you wish).


Also, take a leaf from things like Cyberpunk - they don't use full languages, but they throw in enough Japanese and so forth to sound "pigin". You can write stuff phonetically or however you wish - just be careful you don't alienate your players by chucking ridiculously obscure stuff in.


We, on this planet, have an immensely long and rich culture of both spoken and written language - unless you are Tolkien, there really is no need to invent your own original one, just utilize the ancestry that we have. :)
 

Warpmind

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So, is this the point where I say "Screw it, I'm ambitious! Conlang, here I come!"? ;)
 

Idril

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Haha, if you want to do it, go for it! :D It'll probably be fun.
 

PsychicToaster

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A naming language, as it can be called, is far simpler to create than you'd first believe. It doesn't require you to have an intimate relationship with linguistics, nor does it take much time. I was directed to a blog that laid out some rather easy steps in regard to the making of a basic language, complete with structure and how to put things together. A naming language is easy to make because you aren't defining and creating an entire language, just what you need for certain things. Take a look at it here:


https://worldbuildingworkshop.com/2016/01/29/constructing-languages-creating-the-sounds-naming-language14/


A second, likely easier way of going about this would be to head over to http://www.dialectcreator.com/?nav=create and work with this tool. You simply choose the sounds you like, save it, and go to http://www.dialectcreator.com/?nav=generate, choose the "User Submitted" option from the dialect type dropdown menu, and find your saved language. From there you can change some of the parameters of the words it generates as you see fit(does need some basic understanding of grammar structure) and keep playing with it until you see some things you like. I created a few languages this way by looking at the most common sounds found in a few different languages and selecting those, as well as some that I thought would be neat. I ended up with words like "vogro", "ateren", "hieruk", "heremat", "sumi", and so on. It's a neat tool.


One last tool you can utilize, although the results can be a bit wonky and it's hard to get set up properly, is http://fantasynamegenerators.com/language-generator.php#.Vxxv-zArKUk which takes letter inputs assigned to a corresponding letter of the English alphabet and essentially "translates" English words into new words via letter swapping.
 
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