22 October 2017 -
When creating a video game you're always trying to immerse the player in the world you've created, you want them to forget what time it is as if nothing else really matters. Good gameplay is enough to keep a player interested for a certain period of time but it isn't enough. The lore of your video game will keep players playing through periods of the game that are less interesting from a gameplay perspective and also build a fanbase of people interested in what is to come in future iterations, a hardcore fanbase will always spread the word about your IP bringing more players in.
When creating a fictional universe you need to focus on the past that brought your characters and your world to the present. No universe can start with everything being fine up until the start of the game (at least not an interesting one); there needs to be prior conflict for characters to reference and mystery where not all of your characters know the full story, this makes for great theorising material that keeps fans talking about your IP.
There is another way to get people interested, that's by having your game piggyback off of history in some way. That can be by retelling history, creating an alternative history or just by having historical figures. When implemented well, it provides a host of historical information to implement into your game as well as information you don't have to even reference as it is already so well known to the public or available to those you've successfully engaged. A few examples include a host of World War II FPS's, Wolfenstein and Civilization.
Civilization is a great example of how fictional and non-fictional settings can go terribly wrong or very well. The historical setting of the numbered iterations gave players a history of information to form their own story of their own game by pitting their favourite civilisations and historical figures against each other. Their futuristic iteration, Beyond Earth, didn't give players the same amount of information to base their game on. Players knew very little about the history of the People's African Union or the Pan Asian Cooperative to really give the game the same amount of character as the numbered iterations did through their implementation of historical knowledge.
You could say a game that was able to make the switch from fiction to non-fiction well was Total War. After many non-fictional iterations they eventually made the switch with a Warhammer iteration. This worked so well as it brought together two communities of grand strategy video gamer's and tabletop war gamer's by using the history of the Universe already created by Games Workshop.
By looking at this information you could say that it is a much safer bet to create your game based in some sort of historical setting, and you would be correct. Though the payoff for successfully creating and implementing your own Universe provides a hardcore fanbase that will stay interested in your Universe no matter what direction you decide to take it. Whether you make the switch to a different category of game to try and portray a new take on the Universe or even if you decide to export it to a new medium like making a film or a book.
Creating your own Universe can fall flat on it's face if not implemented well, but if done correctly can morph into the next Warcraft or Warhammer. There is more value to be had when taking these creative risks, as basing your game solely in history likely wont define you as your own unique IP.