Tribe of the Accord DevLog - Research
Hello, Shaun here. Thanks for joining me again as we explore the development process of ‘Tribe of the Accord’, my stone age survival game. In this second post, I want to walk through the process I undertook as part of my research for ‘Tribe of the Accord’. You can check out my previous post for an overview of the development process for the game.
This research included much discovery-based investigation involving the late stone age and the upper palaeolithic era, when Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons once co-existed. This research—alongside some creative freedom—formed the ideas for my characters and what species of animals would be present in the game, along with the climate, typical settings, forms of shelter, and the everyday life of those who once lived in this gruelling period. Let’s get into it.
Inception of the Neanderthals
Let’s start with the Neanderthals. They were named after the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany, where the first key fossils were found. They lived roughly from 400,000 to 40,000 years ago, and are considered the stereotypical cave dweller. When you think of a cave dweller, you probably imagine something very specific: someone who is simple-minded, wears animal hides, and swings a big club around whilst grunting and groaning. However, Neanderthals were actually intelligent, social, and compassionate beings, as well as resourceful toolmakers. They had some anatomical differences to the Cro-Magnons, such as long, low skulls, prominent brow ridges, large, wide noses, and big front teeth with a recessed chin. Their stocky physiques were suited to cold environments, with shorter legs and arms to provide more power in close range ambushes.
What is a Cro-Magnon?
Cro-Magnon is a name scientists once used to refer to what is now referred to as Early Modern Humans or Anatomically Modern Humans. They lived alongside Neanderthals for 10,000 years. Eventually, scientists discovered enough differences between them and Neanderthals to give Cro-Magnons a different name. I thought the time of coexistence of these two important species would provide a great setting for my story. There was more to this era than biological evolution and natural selection, though. There was also a very prominent advent of society and culture with evidence even suggesting Neanderthals had religious beliefs and performed burial rituals for the deceased.
What did they do?
Groups traversed large swaths of land and created small, temporary settlements along the way, usually near rivers or other water sources, where labour such as gathering, cooking, child-rearing, and hunting were divided among them. This inspired the structure of the game loop, using a daily cycle of waking up in a settlement and heading out for the day to hunt and gather, then returning to the settlement with the catch of the day for the night’s feast. A question I asked myself early on was, ‘What would be the best genre to fit this idea?’ Well, I’ve always been a big fan of RPG adventure games with a good story. This allows the player to explore the land, roaming freely to gather resources and hunt wild animals. If you lose all your health, you’ll return back to your settlement, while losing anything obtained on that run. You can use items collected in the wild for food or crafting weapons or even more valuable items. However, I’ll cover the game loop in more detail in another post.
So, what type of items could the player collect as they venture into the wild? I turned to my research once more. Scientists looked at DNA in plaque from Neanderthal remains located at a Spanish site and identified some of their food sources. They were eating mushrooms, tree bark, pine nuts, and even moss, but there was no indication of meat. Another site in Belgium revealed quite the contrary: a meat-heavy diet of mountain sheep and woolly rhino. Data suggests they feasted on meat during cold periods. In warmer and greener environments, they subsisted mostly on plants, seeds, and nuts.
What about materials? What resources could be used for weapons, tools, jewellery, or even shelter? Typical excavations found objects made of bones, fibres, wood, stones like flint, feathers, shells, animal hides, and clay. A lot of these materials would be valuable items to include in the game, especially when considering a crafting system. There would likely be plenty of items to store, so a container of some kind would be a nice addition, where you can choose to stow away items for when you need them, similar to Resident Evil’s storage chest mechanic.
Another important question was, ‘What kind of enemies would be good to make this daily venture into the wild a bit more challenging?’ Well, first and foremost was the Smilodon, also known as the saber-tooth cat, which is one of the most iconic creatures of the era, so that was definitely going in. They would wait for prey to get close and launch a surprise attack. One piece of information I found interesting was that researchers believe Smilodons developed the strongest forearms of all cats, and used this strength to hold down their prey as they repeatedly dug their fangs into the prey’s neck. Brutal…
Of course, how can I forget one of the biggest mammals to ever walk the Earth: the woolly mammoth. Apart from their shaggy coats, they are famous for having extremely long tusks, which measured up to fifteen feet on the largest of males. You’d think that their astonishing size and weight would mean hunters would be put off from trying to add them to the menu, but because of their warm pelts and fatty, tasty meat, this wasn’t the case. Once the meat was gone, Neanderthals could build bone and tusk dwellings from what remained.
One enemy I very much wanted to add to the list was the cave bear, known as ‘Ursus spelaeus’. Early humans possessed enormous respect for the cave bear, and is a major theme in Tribe of the Accord’s story. A Swiss cave contained a wall stacked high with cave bear skulls, and hints of worship for the cave bear were identified in Italy and southern France. There’s no evidence that early humans hunted cave bears into extinction, but alongside cave lions and hyenas, we made their lives much more difficult by occupying the most sought-after subterranean dwellings. Other creatures I identified that would fit well into the game with varying degrees of threat included rabbits, ibexes, wild boars, bison, dire wolves, and woolly rhinos, all with a wide range of strengths and weaknesses. All this would be enough to work on the MVP of the game, which is the Minimum Viable Product, explained in the prior post in this series.
With all this research in mind, I had a rough idea of the game I wanted to build. I built a few basic mechanics to gauge how fun the gameplay would be as a small proof of concept, while also referencing popular games with similar mechanics. The next step would be to identify the game style. There are so many artistic and functional directions to take, and I thought I’d start with a collection of games that stood out to me, both from my childhood years and from what’s out there now. In the next post, we’ll explore those games that inspired the design philosophy behind Tribe of the Accord. Thank you for listening and until next time!
The book adaptation of the game is available in the following stores: