In lieu of full voiceover, Pyre devs created a language to give characters texture

Posted by on Aug 2, 2017 in Voice-Over | 0 comments

The purpose of [the Sahrian language] is to provide texture and personality to all the various characters you meet, seeing as we knew we this game wasn’t going to be fully voiced.”

– Greg Kasavin on why crafting Pyre‘s own language was more practical than a fully voiced game

One player’s question on the Steam forums about the in-game language spoken by the characters in Supergiant Games’ Pyre brought about a surprisingly in-depth answer from one of the game’s developers about how the fragmented language of Sahrian came to be.

The vast majority of dialogue in Pyre manifests itself as written text, but characters utter phrases in Sahrian as the actual lines appear in on the screen. While the words spoken don’t exactly translate directly into the written text, creative director Greg Kasavin explains that the unintelligible words still have an important meaning in the context of the game.

“None of the Sahrian phrases in the game are strictly gibberish and all have English counterparts,” writes Kasavin. “For the actors, knowing what the phrases mean and the subtext behind them is very important to them being able to deliver a believable performance.”

“In the game, however, I don’t necessarily match up the lines 1:1 with their English counterparts, and picked them chiefly based on what best fit the tone of the line,” he says. “Still, I reused certain terms deliberately in many spots to reinforce the idea that it’s a real language, e.g. you hear ‘Ligaratus’ frequently when characters are referring to the Reader. I built up a dictionary of hundreds of terms during the course of the writing.”

The language itself is “meant to sound authentic, vaguely recognizable, and old” and accomplishes this by pulling inspiration from Latin, Russian, and Japanese. There’s a noticeable difference in the cadence for different characters as well, and he says those different dialects help to add more depth to characters and texture to the overall game world. 

In his full forum post, Kasavin dives into a little more of Sahrian’s background and discusses the Sahrianto-English dictionary he kept in hopes of easing along some of his writing efforts. Kasavin also recently discussed the power of ‘small touches’ on a Gamasutra Twitch stream that might also be worth checking out if Pyre’s surprisingly in-depth language has piqued your interest. 

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