The new release from Ubisoft, “Far Cry Primal” is one of the most anticipated games of the year.
Not only is it unique in its setting and gameplay, but it used a language that was created 10,000 years ago.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognise the unfamiliar sound of “Wenja”, the language from many moons ago. Wenja was put together over two life times ago, by Andrew Byrd, an assistant professor in English and linguistics. and his wife, a linguist that specialises in teaching languages Brenna Byrd.
Andrew Byrd has spent many years researching Proto-Indo-European (PIE), which hasn’t been heard in over 5,000 years. With his wife Brenna, specialising in teaching people languages, they were the complete package that Ubisoft needed to bring the game to life.
“We had to ‘translate’ backwards in time. We needed to create a proto-PIE language, a language that may have been spoken about 7,000 years before PIE existed. Brenna and I used what we knew about PIE to imagine what an earlier version of that word may have been,” Andrew Byrd said.
Wenja comes from the study of PIE. Ubisoft wanted to have a proper stone-age language instead of the alternative that is stupid generic sounding grunts and snarls that we hear all too often in games.
The couple then came up with a language that even slightly pre-dates Wenja using their knowledge of PIE and Wenja. The language they created had over 40,000 words with syntax’s and proper grammar.
“The hardest, but probably most fun, part,” he said, “was coming up with appropriate war cries, celebratory chants, curse words.”
Then it was Brenna’s job to teach it to all the actors that were voicing over the game characters. They were submerged in the language and really embodied it. Brenna said they started to speak Wenja off set, in their spare time and when they met up out side of the recording room, really bringing it back to life.
“That’s when this hypothetical ancient language — just a jumble of sounds, really — began to feel tangible, natural, a living language.” Brenna said.
The couple study PIE, where all language descends from. It was spoken by people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C. Sadly, for linguists and professors alike this is a language that was never written down, only spoken, making the study of it rather tricky for academics.
“Scholars have known for some time that a number of languages spoken in Europe and Asia derive from a common source, which was likely spoken in the Russian Steppes 6 to 8,000 years ago,” said Andrew Byrd
Far Cry Primal is also a big deal for academics. It is the first time that PIE has been put into a game. Although Andrew is just happy to have been able to work on such a unique and intuitive project. “Besides,” he said, “it’s just plain fun, [and] more primal to scream as you attack an enemy ‘u mi-gwaru hada’ instead of ‘eat my spear.’”
Designing a realistic world, that would be more than just a game was Far Cry Primal engineers overall goal for the project. They wanted to create a world that could have really existed 10,000 years ago.
Paleontologist helped the designers and artists fill their game world with plants and animals that actually existed in 10,000 BC. They populated their world with mammoths and saber toothed tigers and included three tribes of interacting prehistoric tribesmen.