It demands prowess, it demands precision, but it demands your attention even more. Sine Mora just came to PC. You’ll know that because I’m finally getting around to talking about it. Created by Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality, this “shmup” as they have slurringly been labeled, is a shining example of how art can still be the focus in such a technical game. But that’s not why we’re here, we’re here to discuss the art of discussion. Especially the variety which no one understands.
I must point out that though the language of the game, Hungarian, is a completely legitimate language, my previous research led me to believe that the developers were moving forward with a sort of made up dialect. As it has been pointed out to me after playing, this is not true. I traversed this entire game thinking of the language as made up as my ears picked up on absolutely no familiar verbal cues. I do not mean to insult those in the audience who are, or speak Hungarian, it's an awesome language. There has been much that I've had to omit from the original draft due to this fact, but the thoughts invoked here-in are still legitimate to myself.
Though it takes place in a completely fictional world, with completely fictional characters, speaking a language, that seemed to the untrained ear as fictional as peter pan’s scrotum (a fact I would later learn is simply not the case), I feel that they are trying to draw you into a someone emotional experience. I had basically zero connection to any of the characters or their trials and tribulations. Maybe I’m just a cold hearted and callous jerk, but I’ll tell you, it was easier to pay attention to how loud my computer was while running the game, than any emotional strife they may have impressed upon me.
The main story beats struggle for a number of reasons in my opinion; this is mainly due to a good portion of the campaign being read to you by text. I’m not going to say that I hate text in games. I think it’s an affordable and effective way to convey a narrative. Except when you’re trying to read and someone’s speaking a foreign language at you at an incredibly high volume. The developers decided to use Hungarian as the language of choice, and then proceed to voice it over the mission briefings before some missions. This was fine DURING the mission scenes when it almost seemed to add a bit of incomprehensible charm to the between-pilot-communications banter, but when faced with a black screen full of white text at about a 14 point font, things become difficult.
And so it was that it became harder and harder for me to concentrate on these mission briefings. And harder and harder to care about what was happening in the story. Then eventually harder and harder to even understand what was happening, to the point where it was tempting for me to simply skip every portion of the game when I wasn’t unloading bullets into something
I began to contemplate this idea very heavily. This concept of games and fictional languages. Even though Hungarian is no where NEAR made up, I was struck with many thoughts revolving around why developers choose to give a universe its own made up gibberish language?
- It’s cheap -
I believe first and foremost in a lot of publisher’s minds, the idea that they will not have to spend exorbitant amounts of money to translate a game (at least in audio form) across multiple platforms is paramount.
- It’s unifying -
Think about a universe where everyone speaks the same language and automatically understands each other. Games in which people speak made-up nonsense talk give us a small window into that. The characters in the game seem to understand each other across ethnicity, age group, and social class. A game which comes from a different country, where the characters all speak English, or Japanese, whether their words have been translated through text or NOT, is bound to leave someone out. A game where everyone says crazy whacked out phrases that do not make any sense is unifying on a global scale because to everyone across the globe, it’s un-interpretable nonsense.
- It’s interesting -
It’s undeniably full of character. We’re probably twice as likely to have our ears pick up some speech in a game our friend is playing across the room if it’s something we don’t understand, then regular boring old people-talk. As well, it can be humorous, something EA development houses understand implicitly. Hearing and discovering the made up dialects throughout the pc game, Spore, was very interesting to me on its face. I know plenty of people hated that design choice, but I know that Maxis have had plenty of legitimate reasons for doing this over the years.
After considering all of these facts, I began consider why it would and wouldn’t work in a game. I think it all comes down to placement and priority. Though I know now that the dialect chosen is infact Hungarian, my prior knowledge of Suda 51 and his team's predilection for the bizarre pointed me in the direction of thinking the language was made up. This fact is especially hammered home when you consider the fact that the characters were originally intended to be human, but that idea was nixed when the creative director for the game, Theodore Reiker, who has officially gone on record as saying they didn’t think that was “crazy enough”. And while unique and special character in a game is something which should always be cherished and accepted, I don’t think the words “weird”, “bizarre”, or “strange” should have to come out of anyone’s mouth on the cutting room floor. I think unique genius is an immaculate conception, not an artificial one. But we’ll discuss that more at length another time.
All in all, Sine Mora is worth checking out. From an artistic stand point, it is gorgeous in more ways than one. I will spare you the textual details and just give you a few pick-a-chures to hammer my point home.
Sine Mora has just been released on steam for 10 dollah. Get it while it’s smokin. Those diesel-punk dishes are best served piping hot!
Thanks user Grethiwha for pointing out my major mistake. I figured I'd make some mistakes on my first steps into video game writing and journalism, just hope I didn't come off as too ignorant. :D