Real Life Inspiration for Uncharted 3

#1 Edited by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

Alright bombers, I decided to do a little Google search for this Iram of the Pillars place and I found this great New York Times article that gives a good background. Sounds fascinating:  

UBAR   
 Review of THE ROAD TO UBAR (Finding the Atlantis of the Sands) 

by Nicholas Clapp (Houghton Mifflin, 1997, $24) 
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

The Koran, the Arabian Nights and countless Bedouin tales have recounted the story of a fabled city known as "the Atlantis of the Sands," a city hailed as "first among the lost treasuries of Arabia."

It was, the legend went, a magnificent city of enormous riches and indulgence, a city abruptly destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah, by the wrath of God, and since covered by the windswept sands of the Arabian desert.

Of the city's king, Harry St. John Philby, the flamboyant Arabist, wrote: "He had waxed wanton with his horses and eunuchs and concubines in an earthly paradise until the wrath came upon him with the west wind and reduced the scene of his riotous pleasures to ashes and desolation!"

Philby was apparently not the only explorer to search in vain for this legendary city, known variously as Ubar, Wabar, Qidan and Iram. Over the years, the explorers Bertram Thomas and Wilfred Thesiger, as well as a British airman named Raymond O'Shea, all made forays into the region, and a few years after World War II, an American adventurer named Wendell Phillips put together a team to try to find the mythical city.

Even T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) was reportedly contemplating a search for Ubar, in the days before his death in a motorcycle accident in 1935.

It would be a complete amateur -- a documentary filmmaker named Nicholas Clapp -- who helped put together the expedition that found the ruins of a lost Arabian city in 1992, a city identified in all probability as Ubar. In his book, "The Road to Ubar," Clapp sets down his account of his quixotic quest, and its improbably happy resolution. The result is a delightfully readable, if often highly speculative, volume that's part travel journal, part Walter Mittyesque daydream and part archeological history.

As Clapp tells it, his search for Ubar began one day in a Los Angeles bookshop, where he stumbled across a book called "Arabia Felix" by Bertram Thomas. Clapp and his wife, Kay, had been looking for an excuse to return to the Arabian desert -- they had recently been in Oman, doing a documentary on an endangered animal called the oryx -- and the book's talk of the elusive city of Ubar set the filmmaker to thinking.

Clapp began researching the lost city in the library stacks at the University of California at Los Angeles, and began to wonder whether Ubar might be the city identified as Omanum Emporium on a map of Arabia drawn by the Alexandrian geographer Claudius Ptolemy in the second century A.D.

The city would have been a vital trade stop on the incense road, used by caravans bringing frankincense from a far corner of ancient Arabia across the desert to the great markets of Petra, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Damascus and Rome.

Having read a newspaper story about an airborne radar system that had located some Mayan ruins, Clapp put in a call to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to ask whether the space shuttle could be used to help locate the ruins of Ubar. Amazingly enough, his call was transferred to a geologist named Ron Blom who said he would try to help. Clapp's quest to find Ubar was on its way.

On the way there would be a series of delays, dead-ends and difficulties, ranging from antenna problems with NASA radar to sandstorms in the Arabian desert to a little complication known as the Persian Gulf war. But Clapp and the expert team he helped assemble -- including Blom; Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a British explorer with close ties to the Sultan of Oman, and Dr. Juris Zarins, a specialist in Arabian archeology -- persevered, using the space images they'd obtained to identify ancient camel tracks, hidden beneath the desert's blowing sands.

Once on the ground in Oman, the expedition encountered a host of practical problems: poisonous scorpions and snakes, gun-toting shepherds and debilitating, brain-frying heat. Clapp describes such encounters with lots of comic verve, while regaling the reader with assorted myths, tales, rumors and some archeological history.

After ruling out several possible sites for Ubar, the team found themselves back at the ruined fort that marked a small oasis known as Shisur; the fort had been described by earlier explorers like Thomas and Thesiger, but was written off as being no more than a few hundred years old. Upon closer observation, however, Clapp's team began to speculate that the fort had simply been (italics)rebuilt(end italics) in the 1500s and that it in fact marked a far more ancient site.

Under the direction of Zarins, the team began excavation, and within weeks had unearthed the wall and towers of a fortress dating back more than 2,000 years.

Although there was no way to say without reservation that the site was Ubar, says Clapp, the evidence uncovered suggests "a convincing match" for the legendary lost city: even the legend of its destruction matched evidence that the fortress had been destroyed when the well around which it had been built collapsed into a giant sinkhole.

The destruction of Ubar, Clapp argues, probably occurred after some six centuries of prosperity in the incense trade. The city's physical collapse, it seems, came sometime between A.D. 300 and 500, when a faraway earthquake precipitated the collapse of the limestone table underlying the fortress's main gate; the real cause of Ubar's demise as a trade center, Clapp adds, was the rise of Christianity, which diminished the demand for incense (previously used in funeral rites and as an offering to the gods).

Toward the end of this book, Clapp inserts a highly conjectural chapter that tries to reconstruct, through the devices of fantasy and fable, the experiences of a king of Ubar. This foray into fiction not only undermines the author's narrative authority, but also fails to fulfill any useful function.

Indeed, its fictional drama pales next to the gripping real-life story of the Ubar expedition recounted in earlier portions of this volume. 

---------------------------------------------------------------- 
For a brief summary, in 1992 this explorer who had heard about the city, just like Nathan, went on a harrowing trip and found the remnants of the legendary place which dated back over 2000 years. He found that it was likely buried after an earthquake that aggravated a sinkhole around 300-500 CE.  
 
One detail that may be interesting if the game looks into it: Ubar financially collapsed after the advent of Christianity since its main product, incense, was no longer as sought after.  
 
I love the historical aspect of Uncharted, and, as long as we have to wait for gameplay and story elements, I figured looking at the history might be interesting. Enjoy.  
 
Edit: 
 
Also, according to the Qu'ran, God smote Iram (which I guess is a city, while Ubar is a region) because its King Shaddad dissed the prophet Hud so God created the sandstorm that buried it. Any posters of Muslim faith who can talk about the relative importance of that event please do!
#2 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

Okay, not to be the dick that bumps his own shit, but, c'mon, I can't be the only person that finds this interesting. What say you, 50+ viewers of this thread? What say you?!

#3 Posted by JeanLuc (3794 posts) -

Very cool! I always love when video games use real history. That probably why I love both Uncharted and Assassin's Creed so much.

#4 Posted by Three0neFive (2299 posts) -

tl;dr

#5 Posted by TwoOneFive (9787 posts) -

sorry it took me 5 hours and 18 minutes to read this.  
anyways this is neat. i love that they dont just go ahead and make some shit up. they base it around real stuff and then they make shit up lol.  
i cant really add to this i am not muslim and i know nothing about this. still, and interesting read thanks. 

#6 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -
@TwoOneFive said:
" sorry it took me 5 hours and 18 minutes to read this.  anyways this is neat. i love that they dont just go ahead and make some shit up. they base it around real stuff and then they make shit up lol.  i cant really add to this i am not muslim and i know nothing about this. still, and interesting read thanks.  "
Heh, hence the summary at the end there. You internet people.... of which I am one.  
 
Anyway, like you said, it's neat when video games take real shit and add mythical shit to them to make fun shit. And I like that Naughty Dog keeps looking into stories from places like Tibet and Arabia that most western players may not know much about. It's edutainment!
#7 Posted by _Nuno_ (195 posts) -

Really liked the article. Props to you..

#8 Posted by CptChiken (2058 posts) -

Thats some interesting stuff, i wish i had a ps3 so i could actually play the games.

#9 Posted by RobotHamster (4236 posts) -

Very interesting, I didn't read it but I bet it was pretty good.

#10 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4712 posts) -

Nice find. But how the fuck does satellite imagery find "ancient camel tracks"? That kinda freaks me out, that we can do that now.

#11 Posted by SSully (4625 posts) -
@MarkWahlberg said:
" Nice find. But how the fuck does satellite imagery find "ancient camel tracks"? That kinda freaks me out, that we can do that now. "
My guess is because it is basically an ancient trade route, so camels were walking on that spot for hundreds of years, so when the route stopped the tracks were kind of hard printed, so they give a different heat signature then the rest of the ground around them since they are slightly lower down in the ground.  
 
Also that is one of the reasons i love the uncharted series. I always feel more connected to the games because i have learned about a lot of the things in the game, although they are obviously exaggerated and a lot is made up, it still makes it much more interesting. Good find TC.  
#12 Posted by moelarrycurly (731 posts) -

That's awesome!  Leave it to Naughty Dog to find yet another fantastic setting for Uncharted.

#13 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -
@SSully said:
" @MarkWahlberg said:
" Nice find. But how the fuck does satellite imagery find "ancient camel tracks"? That kinda freaks me out, that we can do that now. "
My guess is because it is basically an ancient trade route, so camels were walking on that spot for hundreds of years, so when the route stopped the tracks were kind of hard printed, so they give a different heat signature then the rest of the ground around them since they are slightly lower down in the ground.   Also that is one of the reasons i love the uncharted series. I always feel more connected to the games because i have learned about a lot of the things in the game, although they are obviously exaggerated and a lot is made up, it still makes it much more interesting. Good find TC.   "
That explanation makes sense to me.  
 
I'll be interested to see how a location like this, where the ruins have been found and look like, well, ruins, can be a goal for a journey without being disappointingly realistic. My bet is that the real treasure is information, not shiny things. Nate'll learn something about the world and about himself in an exotic location, just like every adventurer should. 
#14 Posted by owl_of_minerva (1485 posts) -

Something I would like to see more of is the exploration aspect that was touched on in Uncharted 1, the blue flame sequence is the one I'm thinking of in particular. It would be cool if in Uncharted 3 there was increased emphasis on looking for clues using various tools or what have you, something to simulate the feeling of being a treasure hunter searching for a lost civilisation. With more environmental interaction and less linearity this would tie into the narrative of UC3 nicely: the historical narratives that the OP referred to would be excellent source material.
Every adventurer should have some adventure mechanics.

#15 Posted by IBurningStar (2194 posts) -

I think they were also inspired by, like, sand. And stuff.
 
Seriously, though, good read.

#16 Posted by MYCAELIS93 (31 posts) -

yep i look all that up on the day the trailer was released

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