We had a chat with Jeff Spock and Benoit Humbert from Amplitude Studios about the Mexican and Mesoamerican inclusion in Humankind, their new 4X game readily available on Windows and Xbox Game Pass for PC. 

When Amplitude Studios announced Humankind, their new turn-based strategy title, one thing was for sure, we were going to be able to play some of the history of EgyptiansGreeksRomans and Vikings. Something that is basically the normal in these kinds of games. What we didn’t expect was the team looking at Mesoamerica to include some of the region’s most important cultures. 

After developing Endless Space and Endless Legend, with science fiction and fantasy themes respectively, Amplitude’s new 4X project tackles history and is trying to be closer to reality where they hope to give Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs the respect they deserve as they evolve to modern Mexico as the game progresses. This is to ensure that they are not portrayed as just some barbarian tribe as we have seen in games like Civilization, for example. 

We had the chance to talk with Jeff Spock, Humankind’s Narrative Director, and Benoit Humbert, the resident historian at Amplitude Studios, to learn more about the addition of these cultures in the project, and what we can expect about the treatment of their legacies. 

Source: amplitude studios

How important was it for the team to consider Mesoamerican cultures for the game? Were they considered since the beginning of production? 

Benoit Humbert, Historian (BH): As a major cradle of civilizations, and with so many fascinating cultures, of course it was one of our goals to represent as many cultures as possible from this region. In fact, the most difficult part was to select just a few among dozens we had in mind. 

What was the idea behind selecting these specific cultures? 

Jeff Spock, Narrative Director (JS): There have been a huge number of cultures from South America that are famous for their role in the history; we could almost do a whole other game by including famous nations like the Inca and Aztec, not to mention less famous cultures like the Norte Chico and great modern states like Chile and Argentina. What is difficult is to choose among them in order to give a good geographic and cultural representation of the richness of the peoples from that region. We felt that these four civilizations were good initial choices in that they covered a wide range of historical eras, and within those eras stood out for the impact and importance of their effects on humankind. 

The Olmecs importance in the region is massive as the mother culture, it is a mystery how it happened in the real world but, how are we going to see the Olmecs evolution process in the game?  

BH: As you said, the Olmecs ’legacy and influence on later groups in the region is well admitted. This can be seen through their legacy trait, a bonus you will keep all the game long, even if you’re switching to another culture. You will also keep their architecture as an heritage because any city centers and Olmec colossal Heads you would have built will remain the following eras. 

Source: amplitude studios

How does the team mix fiction and history to fill these blank eras in the game? 

JS: We use as little fiction as possible—it is important to us that the individual bricks of the game are as true to history as possible. That is why, for the Olmec cities, we are forced to use the modern names of the archaeological sites rather than Olmec names. In fact, nobody knows exactly what the Olmec language was like, so we cannot name buildings or units either. It was frustrating, but we decided to go with the modern terms rather than using something that would be approximate but inaccurate, like Nahuatl words. 

Everything we reproduce has been researched carefully, to make a recreation for the game that is as accurate as we can make it. It is the decisions of the player and the map that they are playing on that provide the fiction! 

On the same note, what is the process for the historians in the team to come up with realistic ways in which these Mesoamerican cultures interact with others from the other side of the world? Something that would not have happened in real life. 

BH: In the game, the player can reenact history and arrange everything the way he wants, so in fact, he is the one who decide how he will interact with others, and if he will try to remain close to what we know of the past, or to create an alternate version of history. 

Looks like involving Mexican and Latin-American cultures and/or territories in games is becoming a trend, do you see more opportunities for the industry to explore the vast history of the area in more games? 

JS: I certainly hope so! Many people in our team have developed a fascination for the area, having traveled there for work or pleasure and subsequently fallen in love with it. I (Jeff) have traveled to Peru, Chile, and Colombia and am eagerly looking forward to coming back. 

In terms of both culture and geography it is a rich and vibrant region, full of amazing monuments, artefacts, natural wonders, agriculture, industry, … there is a great deal to discover, and I hope that people across the world will be able to do so through our game. 

Source: amplitude studios

Not only SEGA’s studio has shown love for the region, this year will see the launch of Forza Horizon 5, the AAA racing game by Playground Games and the Xbox Game Studios will have Mexico as its setting, and also independent studios like Lienzo with Aztech Forgotten Gods or Cosmo D with Despelote are putting the spotlight on Latin-American culture, something that could become a constant in the coming years. 

But while we wait, Humankind is already available on Windows and it is a Day 1 title on Xbox Game Pass for PC, leaving little room for excuses to not try it if you are subscribed to the service. 

Lego Rodriguez

Article Team

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