Translation of interview for "Histoire pour Tous"
This an interview that i has with Titus Publicola (that some of you know on the forum), for a french website called "History for All". The subject of the discussion was my vision of the historical video game, my passion for history and the conception of MEIOU.
"[I'd like to] have a Spain formed by Castile and Portugal, and not Aragon, have a protestant reformation that can spread more or less depending on the situation,..."
History for All : Hello, could you, to begin with, introduce yourself and explain to the reader how you came to modding a game like Europa Universalis III ?
Gigau : Hello, my name is Gilles Gaudray, a research scientist of 36 year old. Gigau is the combination of my first and my last name... and by luck it is my favorite meal ([ndlr] gigot is lamb leg) ! One is french or ain't !
Once, i was in the supermarket and stumbled upon Europa Universalis II (EUII). The cover looked great, especially as i saw a system of province map, akin to the one of an old Mac game i played around 1986 ; Defender of the Crown... so i bought the game. Very quickly, in search for patches and for informations, i landed on the Paradox forums and found out about other games, notably Crusader Kings (CK). Here too, love at first sight. One of the great things was to play grand campaigns, starting CK, continue with EUII, sometimes persuing with Victoria. At some point, i became annoyed by the differences between the map of each game. Inferis, forumer on Paradox Plaza, had built a tool to mod of the map of EUII. And, at this point, i started on my map project. A few weeks later, EUIII was officially announced. When the demo was released, i realised the potential of the game, and started working on the map but for EUIII, a few days before the official release of the game.
HfA : You often mention the map. Of course, the Paradox games require a good map. However, at the release of EUIII, you might remember there was a debate over the lack of historical events, contrary to its predecessor... making it a sandbox game, if you will, where players could get obred. Was there a reason for you to favour the map over the events ?
GG : Well, at the release, i was really focused on the map... and when i'm focused on something, i tend to overlook what lies to the side. Moreover, this lack of events felt like good news. Let me explain : as i previously said, i loved EUII big time. However, it didn't mean i didn't feel it had flaws, mainly an event system too "strict". It was irritating, when playing Spain and being cautious with my economy, to get a bankrupty of the nation, just because it historically happened. I was therefore imagining a system of events allowing for playing twice the same nation in different manners, and not get wice the same events, like have Spain formed by Castile and Protugal and not Aragon, have a spread of Reformation more or less widespred depending on chance and on the countries' actions, instead of an apparition of Protestantism as a fixed date in given provinces. Thus, the map remained the priority at that point.
"Scientific research is my profession... history my passion."
HfA : A striking fact is that what first caught your eye were the provinces. Nevertheless, you just developped a vision of what a historical game should, aspect will talk about in a minute, but, could you first tell us if you like history or just the game.
GG : Scientific research is my profession.... history my passion. Here's how i would summarize it. The province system of EUII was the bait.... the history part hooked me.
For lack of time and because of the hours of most of them, i miss most of the interesting history documentaries on television. Regarding books, i don't enjoy that much the biographies of Charles VII or other historical figures. On the other hand, i really love fictions showing us how the people "of the time" lived, like in the Pillars of the Earth of Ken Follet or in the books of Christian Jacq (ndlr : french egyptologist who wrote fiction taking place during Ancient Egypt). I very well know that the story in itself is of course is mostly, if not entirely fiction. But, for all i know, the details in the description of how the people lived are true.
In reality, my main source of information is the big Web, although the sorting among the information sources isn't always easy.
HfA : Do you have a favorite theme or historical period in history ?
GG : Not really, as a matter of fact. I have less interest for the post-1945 period... although the phase of the decolonization is quite rich with lessons.
The end of the Dark Ages and the slow process towards the Renaissance is quite fascinating. Hence, beyond the atmosphere of the game, my love for the Crusader Kings series.
As a scientist, i enjoy the EUIII era too, with its many discoveries, both explorations and scientific advances ; the causes and consequences that related to those are of great interest for me.
Then comes the XIXth century, true century of major discoveries, that dwarves those of the XXth century... making the discoveries of that century merely improvements of the discoveries of the previous century.
The changes of the society, at least in France, during the First World War, as shown in the movie "la Grande Illusion" (ndlr : the Great Illusion, a french movie of the 1930s) are as important.
But the is also Ancient Egypt, Rome,... as i said, i can't give a simple answer.
"Civilization is not really a history game"
HfA : J'm not sure wether you agree or not, but i think that games linked to history and to strategy, share, in a way or in an other, a vision, or several, of history. Civilization, for example, has a vision of history in which space is in the realm of possibilities and in which the player essentially thrives for progress. In this model, Rome can win, being a people going from one pole to the other. The heart of the game is the concept of the defense of one's civilization, as more or less defined by Sid Meyer. EUIII defends another vision of history, of time and of geography. What is your point of view on the matter : does it relate to your idea of the game or is it distinct in the sense you would think the game different from your idea of history ?
GG : First of all, according to me, Civilization is not really a history game per se. Don't get me wrong, i love the game, since i first played it in 1994 on the computers of the Faculty of Science of the University of Nice, and i've bought all the sequels. But it is a sandbox game using real nations. EUIII, much better than EUII, is a history game... or at the very least of "plausible history". It allows the player to change the world (literally, I would say) by studying all the possibilites, and, better, shows that our History is the sum of improbable events and outcomes.
In a wayn the way EUIII works, and mostly the modding part of the game, lead me to a more throrough, more intimate analysis of history, to not only know how events happened, but, most of all, understand why it happened. I hope this isn't too grandiloquent, but that's how i see it.
A good example of this is the part i'm currently working on, the protestant reformation. I have discovered aspects i was far from suspecting. The mecanisms leading to the Reformation, when studied in details, gives a feeling of both frailty and inevitibilaty. On the fragile hand, there are the "failiures" of John Wycliff, the lollards, Jan Hus, etc... But there is also the fact that Martin Luther, initially, only writes a dissertation, to start a theological debate at the University of Wittemberg, a common practise at the time. His "95 thesis" is in fact an invitation to theologians to participate to the debate ; it is later propaganda that will give a protestation explanation to his action. Especially after the Great Schism of Occident, Luther didn't want to create a new schisme. In the end, it is the reaction of the Rome to the debate that triggers everything. One could therefore argue that we went close to having no Reformation historically. Most of this i ignored befoer doing my research for the mod. On the other hand, this succession of reform attempts undoubtly shows that these changes were inevitable, at least as long as Rome wouldn't accept to reach some form of compromise.
HfA : EUIII is a first attempt in this direction, but you apparently push it further, much like Magna Mundi. Do you think on can modelise history ?
GG : It's doubtful. It is funny you would state it like this : on the Paradox Plaza forum, some have complained that MEIOU wasn't enough like MM. I think the MM is a bit like EUII : "if it didn't happen in history, you get, at best, a slap on the wrist for trying to achieve it in the game".
I don't quite agree with that approach. I think the game should attempt to model all the possibilities, although keeping several guidelines in mind. Let's come back to my Reformation example : it appears well within the MEIOU era (post-1356). However, its roots go back prior to 1356. It therefore appears inevitable to have it in the mod. That being said, the nature of the Reformation could be for anyone's guess. Will it appear in a limited amount of provinces ? or will it spread all over Europe leading to the asphyxiation of the Papacy ?One could even imagine Rome accepting the reforms, protestantism the becoming an ultra catholic conservative mouvement (possibly as a new religion)... at least this is a possibility i'd like to add in the mod.
"Mihi Est Imperare Orbi Universo"
HfA : I think that both MM and MEIOU model history. It is by the goals, means and philosophy that they differ. Could you present what MEIOU is ?
GG : I indeed think they differ greatly.
That being said, MEIOU is what we could call a "content extension mod", containing :
- a more detailed ma for a better representation of the world
- more nations among which to pick for more diversity and more competition (want to build an empire as the Comté de Nice ?)
- additional religions to better model the driving force of the world at the time
- a better culture setup to keep closer to reality, but keeping in mind the imperatives of the game
- additional tradegoods to spice up the game
- MEIOU, before any other mods and before vanilla, had introduced the concept of unknown tradegood in the colonizable provinces
- new policy sliders like secular-theocratic and isolationist-expansionist
- a different approach for the availlability of colonists based on the country's population, and not a building or a direct effect of a national idea.
- a system of trading posts for colonial nations in Africa, in India, in South East Asia, in China and in Japan
- a feature to model, with the availlable tools, the Treaty of Tordesillas splitting the world between Spain and Portugal... except that, in the mod, it shall be for the first two catholic colonial nations, whoever they may be
- a wide panel of events and decisions to take in account several possibilities...
For example, the game should allow England to create the United Kingdom of England and France if it wins the the Hundread Year's War.
These features should allow the player and the IA for a great variety of choices, allowing each game, even when playing the same nation, to be different from the previous one,
HfA : Could you tell us since when and how MEIOU is being built ? and what hides behing the acronym that could appear as barbaric ? and its origin ?
GG : As i stated previously, i started the work on the mod in january, between the release of the EUIII demo and the official release of the game.
How the mod was made ? through many trials and errors, discoveries and discussions on the Paradox forum.
Photoshop, Notepad++, Winmerge, Gimp, the collection of player-built tools,... have been my friends along the years.
Nothing could have been done without the help of the Paradox community, plus a bunch of french players. Among all, i'd like to particularly thank Fuzzbug, Dharper, Helius, Solo Adhémar, Lei Saarleinen, James Manring, SAS, Greg El Sho, Titus Publicola,.... and the list could go on and on...
Regarding the name of the mod, MEIOU, well, depsite the sound of it, it has nothing to do with my two cats. My first idea was to go for a name related to the map, but the best names had been picked by mods improving the visual aspect of the map (like TOT for those who knew it). By sheer luck, i found the motto of holy roman emperor Friedrich III von Habsburg : "AEIOU". Nobody is quite sure about the true definnition intended by the emperor, but one of the possible explanation is "Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo", meaning more or less "it is Austria's destiny to dominate the world". I have modified it to fit the player's destiny to rule the world : "Mihi Est Imperare Orbi Universo".
HfA : Your team is international, did that change the way you envision the game or the historical period covered by the game ? Is the mod availlable in french ?
GG : Indeed, the team of which i'm the permanent member is international.
This has enriched the mod in every manner possible. In particular, it has provided me with a different perspective, a different vision of historical facts, not to mention the informations and sources on their respective locations. At random, let me, for example, mention a follower on Facebook from Thailand who provides me with informations on siam and its surroundings. And there is, of course, Fuzzbug, an anglo-welsh player with whom i've had discussions on the Hundred Years' War, and the differences of percetpyion of it between French and English. I've got more insight on what Anglicanism is.
The fact that the team is international explains why the mod is mainly in english. However, the french version is actively being worked on.
HfA : One last word ?
GG : Beyond the Paradox Plaza MEIOU section, you can find informations on the MEIOU Facebook page, on the MEIOU Online Manual, or by following the MEIOU Twitter account. Needless to say that several features of the mod remain to be discovered by the player.