It has been said that history is the great free license, and historical games have an enduring popularity.
Regardless of size or genre, historical games rely on accurate research to maintain their authenticity in front of an audience that can be both well-informed and critical. Historical research can also turn up some fascinating oddities that add immeasurably to a game. Here are a few examples:
• Ottoman armies sometimes used trained monitor lizards to climb the walls of besieged cities, carrying ropes which were then used by the attacking troops.
• Although possibly myth (or at least extremely rare), the iron-clad jarnbardi adds a powerful unit type to Viking war fleets.
• Combining the super-agile AA-11 “Archer” air-to-air missile with the Shchel-3UM helmet-mounted sight gives Russian pilots the ability to kill an enemy that is behind their aircraft.
• The Puckle Gun, a revolving musket patented in 1718, achieved a rate of fire of nine rounds a minute, which was three times that of a standard musket. It also featured an optional barrel for firing square rounds – thought to cause more damage – at “infidel” enemies such as Turks. However, it was never adopted by the British Army because of manufacturing problems.
• The Air Loom, an early 19th-century Infernal Device that tormented its victims using magnetically-directed “pneumatic chemistry,” probably never existed outside the mind of a patient in London’s infamous Bethlem (Bedlam) mental hospital. Nonetheless, its alleged construction and abilities are very well documented and it makes an ideal doomsday weapon for a proto-steampunk supervillain.
1982-1986: I planned and carried out a Ph. D. level research project at the University of Durham to compile and systematize all published data on late Neolithic and early Bronze Age burials in the local region.
1991-2010: I have researched and written almost a dozen sourcebooks and over 20 articles for tabletop roleplaying games on historical topics including the Vikings, the Celts, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Crusades, and Colonial America.
1992-1993: At MicroProse, I researched modern and near-future aircraft and air-launched weapons for two combat flight sim games, one published and one canceled.
1995-1996: As design lead for the edutainment division at Magnet Interactive Studios, I researched material for two CD-ROM products. One Small Square: Backyard won gold at the 1995 New York Film Festivals and was awarded the Family Channel Seal of Approval.
1996-2002: At VR-1 Entertainment I researched WWII armaments for Microsoft Fighter Ace and a canceled online version of Hasbro’s popular Axis & Allies board game. I researched WWI fighters and 1930s Egyptology for two further canceled titles.
2006-2007: The Creative Assembly called me back to help develop the BAFTA award-winning Empire: Total War. Among my tasks was detailed research on the American Revolutionary War; I also scripted several short videos associated with the dueling function.
2009: While AiLove’s iPhone game Viking Tales has a light-hearted tone, my knowledge of Viking history, literature, and archaeology enabled me to create humorous character and place names that still carried a whiff of authenticity.
2011-2012: As a contractor for Kabam Inc, I researched Arthurian legend and the history of sub-Roman Britain to develop backstories and plots for multiple titles in the best-selling Kingdoms of Camelot social strategy game series. The first release, Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, became the top-grossing iOS app of 2012.