4.2 Dieselpunk and the Gaming Industry
Dieselpunk features prominently in the gaming industry, in both tabletop role-playing games and computer and console video games.
The trend-setting Children of the Sun role-playing game, according to its publisher, now defunct Misguided Games, “might not look too different from a typical fantasy game. Several fantasy races, including humans and elves, magic, a pseudo-polytheistic ideology revolving around elder spirits, and many of the other mainstays of the fantasy genre. <…> However, what sets CotS apart is it’s inclusion of “arcane engineering” – essentially, magical technology, that has allowed the fantasy society to approach early to mid-20th century levels of technology and culture, complete with firearms, artillery, skyscrapers, radio, railroad, and just plain strange devices of intricate complexity and magical result – a blend that the authors of the book dub “dieselpunk.” The end result is an interesting blend of modern innovation and fantastic adventure.” According to Mike Zebrowski @ RPGnet, “the level of technology in CoTS is poorly defined. While it is similar to Earth of the 1920s, there are many deviations due to the influence of arcane engines and magic. Unfortunately, what is and is not available is not described anywhere. The best that one can do is comb the equipment lists and take a guess. For example, radio was discovered a long time before the setting’s current day; however, the telephone and telegraph are still unheard of concepts. ”
Another influentional table-top RPG, created by Jordan Weisman and Dave McCoy, Crimson Skies is “a fictional Alternate Universe in which the United States of America collapsed in the 1930’s into a bunch of quarreling nation-states. With the collapse of the federal government comes the collapse of the interstate network of roads and railroads; but goods still need to be transported across state lines. Stepping up to the challenge are air cargo services based around massive cargo zeppelins; but with modern air shipping comes modern air pirates! <…> So far the series consists of a board game from FASA, a collectible miniatures game from Wizkids,a series of books and three arcade flight-based video games published by Microsoft Game Studios: Crimson Skies for the PC, an arcade version and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the Xbox.” (TV Tropes). The creator of Crimson Skies, Jordan Weisman, has announced that he intends to “resurrect” the game.
Among role-playing games, GURPS Cliffhangers by Steve Jackson Games, Daredevils by FGU and Pulp Hero by Hero Games put the players into pulp action serials of the 1930’s. Other games such as Operation: Fallen Reich by Fallen Publishing, which puts the players in a whimsically eccentric take on World War II, are light in tone, while games such as Call Of Cthulhu, published by Chaosium, can be dark and foreboding. According to TV Tropes, “… the machines and equipment of the Imperial forces in Warhammer 40,000 can have a very dieselpunky feel to them. For example, the Imperial Guard Leman Russ battle tank and the Imperial Navy Lightning fighter. ” TV Tropes lists as dieselpunk or dieselpunk-related games like Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure / Past As Future, Iron Storm, Pathologic, Silent Storm, Steel Battalion, The Ship: Murder Party, and Progear. Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven could be easily added to this list.
Dieselpunk video game titles have been extremely prominent in recent years, with the success of the popular Fallout and Bioshock series of games. Iron Grip: The Oppression is “a 2006 Total Conversion for Half Life 2 by indie game developer Isotx, set in the steampunk and dieselpunk-themed fictional universe of Iron Grip. ” (TV Tropes)
Second Life gaming community has its own Dieselpunk Chapter, called Seraph City, complete with a website, social network (members only), and Flickr pool.
World War II is also a popular theme in dieselpunk games.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first person shooter video game published by Activision and originally released on November 19, 2001. It was made available on Steam on August 3, 2007. The single player game was developed by Gray Matter Interactive and Nerve Software developed its multiplayer mode. id Software, the creators of Wolfenstein 3D, oversaw the development and were credited as executive producers. The multiplayer side eventually became the most popular part of the game, and was influential in the genre. Splash Damage, an independently owned game developer in London, created some of the maps for the Game of the Year edition. Splash Damage also developed a downloadable multi-player only sequel called Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which is one of the most popular free downloadable games on the internet. A further sequel, titled Wolfenstein, was released on August 18, 2009.
In the campaign, Allied agents from the fictional “Office of Secret Actions” (OSA) are sent to investigate rumors surrounding one of Heinrich Himmler’s personal projects, the SS Paranormal Division (also see Ahnenerbe). The agents are, however, captured before completing their mission and are imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein. Taking the role of Blazkowicz, the player must escape the castle and continue investigating the activities of the SS Paranormal Division, which include research on resurrecting corpses, biotechnology, and secret weapons.
Return to Wolfenstein Wallpaper
Other games set in dieselpunk versions of the World War II era include Command and Conquer: Red Alert and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty.
In 2011 Rockstar Games along with Team Bondi released the video game titled L.A. Noire that’s set in 1947 and involves an police detective in Los Angeles attempting to solve a series of crimes including arson attacks, racketeering conspiracies and brutal murders.
Recording artist Thomas Dolby has announced the upcoming release of a game titled The Floating City, which he describes as a “Dieselpunk dystopia.”
Gatling Gears, published by Electronic Arts and available for PlayStation, Xbox, and Windows is a dieselpunk “twin-stick” shooter (see rockpapershotgun.com review).
In 2011 Digital Reality announced a Crimson Skies influenced Sine Mora shooter, available only for Xbox.
Another 2011 release is Voltage, a brain-puzzle game for iPhone and Android, developed by Boolba Labs and “styled in a dieselpunk theme inspired by Bioshock.”
Dishonored is a first-person stealth action video game being developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is scheduled to be released in 2012 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. On April 17, 2012 the online news site TG Daily described the game as “Dieselpunk-themed.”
The plot of the game centers on Corvo, who was once a legendary guard for the Empress, and who is being framed by the Lord Regent for her is assassination. Corvo then seeks vengeance against the Lord Regent using swords, guns, daggers, supernatural powers, and “Dieselpunk-era gadgets.”
The video game Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor was released for Xbox on June 19, 2012. Published by Capcom, the game involves mechanized warfare in the year 2082 during a major world war. Due to the effects of a silicon-eating microbe, the major powers fight with pre-high tech weaponry for world dominance. Peter Chapman at the web site TheSixthAxis.com, though critical of the quality of the game, describes it as “We’re quite firmly in Dieselpunk territory here.”
The gaming company ISOTX is developing a multiplatform game titled March of War. According to the web site Worthplaying.com the game will be “set in a unique 1940s dieselpunk era and rendered in stunning 3D graphics. Players can savor the rich tactical challenges typical of a TBS game, while also enjoying the high production value battles complete with immersive 3D effects, unit movement and audio-visual bombast usually reserved for first-rate RTS games!” The declared release date of the beta version is April 1, 2013.
In October 2013, Cliffhanger Productions released the alpha state of AERENA on Google Play. In the game, each player chooses his or her Champion, upgrades them, and then has them battle in a flying arena. The production company describes it as “a twisted reality of Tesla-meets-Dr. Frankenstein dieselpunk”.
In November of 2013, Studio Mono started a Kickstarter campaign to develop a new online RPG named “Insomnia”. The company described it as “a co-operative online role-playing game with tactical elements and unique game mechanics in a sophisticated universe designed with a dark retro-futuristic dieselpunk style.” The goal of the Kickstarter campaign was set at $70,000. No release date is set at this time for the game.