History for all has the pleasure of meeting Gilles Gaudray, one of the biggest representatives of the modding scene (modification of a video game in order to improve or transform the original game) on Paradox Interactive games. He tells us about his vision of the historic video game, his passion for history and the development and conception of one of the biggest mods in the game Europa Universalis III: MEOU.
"[I wish we could] have Spain formed by Castile and Portugal and not Aragon, to have a Protestant reform that develops more or less depending on luck ..."
Story for all: Hello can you, first of all, introduce yourself and explain to our readers how you came to mod a game like Europa Universalis III?
Hello, my name is Gilles Gaudray, better known by the nickname Gigau, a 36-year-old scientist. Gigau is the combination of my first and last name ... and, luckily, my favorite meal! We are French or we are not! One day, in a supermarket, I came across Europa Universalis II (EUII). I liked the cover, especially since a decade before (or so) I was playing Defender of the Crown, a game for an early Mac. I missed this game, and there, to review a map system with provinces .... I bought it. Quickly, looking for patches, I landed on the Paradox forum and discovered other games with, in particular, Crusader Kings (CK). There too, immediate love. My pleasure was to do parts starting with Crusader Kings, migrating to EUII, and sometimes even continuing with Victoria. After a while, I had a problem: the differences between the cards of CK and EUII, as well as Victoria, were too large. Inféris, a Paradox forumer, had just made a tool to modify the EUII map. So, I started a project to modify the map. After a few weeks of work on the said card, EUIII was announced. When the demo came out ... I immediately saw the potential of the game, and got down to the task of reworking the map, but this time for EUIII, even before the game was released.
The word card comes up very often in your comments. Certainly Paradox games are games that require an excellent card. However, when EU3 was released, if you remember, the debate was about the lack of historical events unlike the old Paradox games ... A real sandbox where the player could get bored quickly. Is there a reason you preferred to focus on cards rather than vents?
Actually when the game came out I was focusing on the map .... and when I'm focused on something I tend to have blinders on. In addition, this absence of events seemed to me a good omen. Let me explain ; like i said i loved EUII passionately. That didn't prevent me from criticizing him for having too closed a vent system. It irritated me that by playing Spain, being careful about my economy, I ended up with a nation bankruptcy, just because it was historic. So I was already considering the possibility of having an events system (note: events programmed in the game) allowing never to have two identical parts, to have events by playing in a certain way, but not to have by replaying the same nation but in a different way, to have Spain formed by Castile and Portugal and not Aragon, to have a Protestant reform which develops more or less depending on luck ... .and not a fixed apparition on such and such a date and in such provinces. So, in a sense, the card seemed to me to be a priority.
"Scientific research is my profession .... history my passion"
Something hit my mind. It is the fact that, when you made your first purchase, it was the provinces that attracted you. However, you have just developed a vision of what a historic game should be, which we will come back to later, but before that, do you like history or just the game?
Scientific research is my profession .... history is my passion. This is how I would sum it up. The provinces of EUII baited me ... the historical side hooked me. For lack of time, and especially given the staggered schedules of many of them, I miss most of the interesting documentaries. For books, I find it hard to read biographies of Charles VIII or any other such book. But I have a passion for novels which share the lives of people "at the time" such as The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett or the novels by Christian Jacq. I know that the story itself in the novels I'm quoting is fictionalized at best, if not fictional ... But the substance, as far as I know, reflects the lives of the people of the time. In fact, my main source of information is the large web, although sorting through the information there is not always easy.
Do you have a period or historical theme that you prefer?
I have strong eclectic tastes in fact. The post-1945 period interests me much less ... although the decolonization phase is rich in lessons. The central and late Middle Ages ... the emergence of the Anglo-Saxon "Dark Ages" and the long process towards rebirth are exhilarating for me. Hence, besides the atmosphere of the game, my interest in Crusader Kings. The era of EUIII also, with discoveries both in the field of exploration and in the scientific field; what causes them and what results from them interests me a lot. The 19th century is also interesting with all the major discoveries ... which pass off the discoveries of the 20th century as just improvements, not real progress. Equally important is the upheaval of World War I (very well shown in the Great Illusion). But also ancient Egypt, Rome ... like I said, I don't have a simple answer.
"Civilization is not really a historical game"
I don’t know if you agree, but I think the storytelling and strategy games somehow convey one or more story views. Civilization, for example, has a view of history where space is a field of possibility and where the player must go towards progress primarily: thus, the Romans can be victorious by being a people who are close to the poles. The heart of the game is the concept of civilization championed and, in a way, defined by Sid Meier. EUIII defends another vision of history, time and geography. What is your take on this question: does it define your idea of the game or is it separate in the sense that you think of the game differently from your view of the story?
First of all, for me Civilization is not really a historical game. I like this game ... I played the first version in 1994 on one of the computers at the Faculty of Science in Nice ... and I have all the versions since. But it's a sandbox game using real nations. EUIII, much better than EUII, is a historical game ... or at least "historical plausibility". It allows us to remake the world (literally, I would say) by studying all the possibilities and even allowing us to see that in many cases, what happened in history is only a sum of improbable events. So, in a sense, how EUIII works, and more specifically in the modding aspect that I undertook, allows for a more intimate analysis of the story, how and why of past events. I hope it's not too bombastic, but it's my take on it. An example is my current work on the Protestant reform. I have just discovered things that I was far from suspecting and which are truly fascinating. The mechanisms leading to the Protestant reform, when we study them in detail, have a side that is both fragile and inevitable. On the fragile side, there is the failure of John Wycliffs, lollards or Jan Hus, etc ... But there is also the fact that apparently Luther is only looking at the start to start a dissertation, a theological discussion at the University of Wittenberg. His placard aiming to invite theologians to come and participate will later be considered as his "95 theses". He does not do this out of schismatic spirit, especially after the great Western Schism (note: papal crisis which splits Christianity in two with two popes between 1378 - 1417). It was Rome's reaction that ultimately caused the schism. You could almost say that we have come close to not having a Protestant Reform historically. I was unaware of it until recently and my research for the mod. But it is also this succession of reform attempts that shows that changes were ultimately inevitable as long as Rome remained rigid.
EUIII was a first attempt in this direction but you push it further like the Magna Mundi mod. Do you think we can model history?
I do not think so, no. It's quite funny that you put it that way; in fact, on the Paradox forum, i was criticized for staying too far away from the idea of Magna Mundi. Magna Mundi is a mod that comes closer to the idea of EUII: "If it didn't happen in the story, it shouldn't happen in the game". I totally disagree with this idea. For me, the game must be able to model all the possibilities ... However, there are some points that cannot completely change. Let us take my example of the Protestant reform: it emerges during the period of MEIOU (post-1356). However, its roots go back to a period prior to 1356. It therefore seems inevitable that this reform will happen. However, in its form, it can take any form. For example, it may be confined to a few provinces, or cover almost all of Europe. In the future, I intend to add a way for Rome to accept the Reformation, even if it means having an ultra-conservative Protestantism, adding a new religion.
"Mihi Est Imperare Orbi Universo"
I think both Magna Mundi and MEIOU are modeling history. Only the goals, objectives and philosophy differ. Can you tell us what MEIOU is?
"Only the goals, objectives and philosophy differ." They differ profoundly, indeed.
MEIOU is a mod that actually aims to increase the content of the game:
- a more detailed map for a better representation of the world.
- more nations for more wealth and more diversity and competition (why not try to establish an empire from the County of Nice?).
- additional religions to model the main driving force of the world of the time.
- cultures more in line with reality, while keeping in mind that the culture in the game is not quite the same as the real culture.
- additional resources, by adding a little spice: MEIOU, before the other mods and especially vanilla, incorporated the idea of unknown resources in the provinces to be colonized.
- new political cursors such as the religious / secular aspect of the nation, or its isolationist / expansionist aspect.
- a very different approach to the availability of settlers depending more particularly on the national population, not on a building or a national political idea.
- trading posts for colonizing nations in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan.
- a modeling, with the available tools, the Treaty of Tordesillas dividing the world between Spain and Portugal ... except that in the mod, it will be for the two first colonizing nations.
- and a collection of events and decisions to take into account a whole host of possibilities ... For example, the game must allow England to form the United Kingdom of England and France in the event of 'a victory of the latter during the Hundred Years War.
All of these developments help give the player and the AI a wide variety of choices to make, allowing every game, even playing multiple times with the same nation, to be varied and rich, and ultimately more interesting. .
Can you explain to us since when and how MEIOU is made and what is behind this acronym which may seem barbaric and its origin?
As I said earlier, I started working on the mod in January 2007, between the demo release and the official EUIII release. As for how, that's a lot of trial and error, trial and error, discovery, and discussion on the Paradox forum. Photoshop, Notepad ++, Winmerge, Gimp, and some gamer-created tools have been my friends all these years. I have also benefited from the advice and help of many players, Fuzzbug, Dharper, Helius, Solo_Adhémar, Lei Saarleinen, James Manring, SAS, Gregelsho, Publicola, to name a few among the contributors. As for the name, it is unrelated to my love for my two cats. I wanted to choose a name, basically, that reflected my primary interest in the card. But the best names had been chosen for the visual aspect mods of the map. By chance, I came across a motto of Emperor Frederick III Habsburg: AEIOU. The precise definition wanted by the emperor is unknown but one possibility is "Austriae Est Imerare Orbi Universo" or, more or less "it is the destiny of Austria to rule the world". I modified it to indicate that it is the destiny of the player to try to rule the world: Mihi Est Imperare Orbi Universo
Your team is international, has it changed the way you think about the game or the historical period covered by the game? And is your mod in French?
The team of which I am the only permanent member is indeed international. It has enriched the mod in every way possible. In particular, it allows to have a new light, a different vision of things but also information on their areas. For example, I am currently in discussion, thanks to the mod's Facebook page, with a Thai ... providing information on Siam and its surroundings.
My main collaborator has been Fuzzbug an Englishman of Welsh origin. Our discussions allowed us to enrich our knowledge by the different vision that the French and the English have, for example, of the Hundred Years War. I was able to get some info on Anglicanism as well. Suddenly, the mod is above all in English.
However, a real effort is made to have the French translation completed.
Is there a final point you would like to mention to our readers?
Although in English, there is a Twitter account and a Facebook page which gives info and updates as we go, as well as an Online Manual for the mod under construction. But the player should be aware that there are still many concepts of the mod that remain to be discovered by the player.