GameStar is trying to comprehend the success’ phenomenon of a Kichstarter’s crowdsourcing area with the help of series of interviews with the legends of industry, whose projects bring or have already brought heaps of money. The first number of our program is Project Eternity — an ordinary child of Kickstarter and the second game of Obsidian after the Alpha Protocol, creation of which is based on new unique intellectual property. But this time Californian team is free of the obligations to the tough publisher and don’t have to account to anybody. In fact, announced RPG is a game of studio’s dream and genre’s fans also. It is an old-school role-playing project, which is created according to the stringent rules. Prominent features are well-known to every cognoscente, these are: the World as the Baldur’s Gate, fights as the Icewind Dale, dialogues and relationships of the characters as the Planescape: Torment. The creators of the game are the legendary Chris Avellone, Tim Cain, Josh Sawyer, Feargus Urquhart and many other vets with long-standing work in the genre. The sum needed is $1 100 000, and it was collected by studio in 24 hours, because audience excellently accepted the ideas of Project Eternity due to nostalgic impulse. Little remains to be done — create a game, as a matter of fact.
We get connected with one of the founders of Obsidian Entertainment, Chris Avellone, congratulated him and his team on the success of Kickstarter’s campaign (at the moment these lines were being written the project had already collected more than $2 000 000!) and questioned him in detail about coming “RPG of our dreams” within the series of the articles "Alma Mater — Kickstarter".
I’m Chris Avellone, creative director of Obsidian Entertainment, and more specifically, a narrative designer on Project: Eternity.
What stage has developing of the Project Eternity reached? Who, and when, has created the main idea of the game? Who became the initiator and inspirer of this project?
It was a collaborative effort with people throughout the studio. Everybody took part in the process and helped carry it. While a number of people wanted us to do this type of RPG for a while, it was a matter of organizing it and getting all the pre-conditionals lined up to make it happen. If I were to point to three people who were instrumental in getting the logistics figured out and making the Kickstarter a reality, I’d point to Adam Brennecke (one of our project leads), Feargus Urquhart (our CEO, without him, this wouldn’t have happened at all), and Darren Monahan (our Operations Officer, without him, we wouldn’t be able to have the resources to run the Kickstarter).
As for the rest of the team (Rob Nesler, Josh Sawyer, Tim Cain, and more), our involvement has been on world creation and reaching out to the community where we can to share what’s cool about the game.
Is it easier for you to work on the game without a publisher standing at your shoulder? Do you feel freedom and perspectives being opened then, or it makes no difference?
It’s different. Now the fans are looking over our shoulder much earlier in the process, and I like that more, because we’re making the game for them. It’s great to be able to share content with them, get reactions, and iterate accordingly.
What were your ambitions for the game?
I loved working on the Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment, and my only goal is that I’d want to work on another game like that in my lifetime, it was just a matter of how. I enjoyed the dungeon design, the exploration elements, the party-based combat, the cool companions (like in Baldur’s Gate), delving into deeper and more mature takes on the fantasy genre (like we did with Torment) — just the idea of being able to do that again was really exciting.
Several years ago we interviewed Chris Avellone, and he told us that creating an isometric RPG and its further selling is a real trial in the modern industry. Nowadays you have been making a large isometric RPG, and the audience is fascinated about it. How did you venture on the developing of such game?
This is our chance to return to doing the types of titles we did at Black Isle, there just wasn’t much of an avenue to getting a project like that funded until Kickstarter came along and we had a way to ask the fans directly.
Are you concerned about player reception, since you are fighting the nostalgia factor?
I was initially worried about it when we launched the Kickstarter, and within 24 hours, I wasn’t worried any more… I was worried about keeping up with player expectations. The outpouring of support for the title and the level of passion of the fans has made me realize people were wanting something like this for a long time.
Why did you choose just that fantasy setting and not, for example, post apocalypse? Because you know, many people love you due to Fallout series, and, say, Tim Cain had some assets of so-called post-apocalyptic RPG at the time of Troika Games bankruptcy, which their team had failed to finish.
We discussed a variety of genres, and it came down that we felt doing a fantasy RPG was the one we felt the most excited about. We felt that genre still has a lot of room to evolve and Eternity seemed to be a great way to explore those themes and elements.
What kind of story are you trying to tell? Will it be possible to play a game almost without killing anybody as it was in Planescape: Torment? How many endings are you planning to create? Has work on the scenario been finished yet? Will the storyline of the game be nonlinear? Is it necessary to be a good hero or it will be possible to choose a really bad guy?
We want the player to have the freedom to role-play, and that’s important to us. More details will be released on this in the coming days and months, but the core goal is that we want to ensure that our character building mechanics and attributes (not just things like strength, but character elements like reputation) are accurately reflected in the world and meaningful.
Is there an open world as it was in Skyrim, Risen, Fallout, or it will be broken into several locations, which we will have to explore during the walkthrough, as we did in The Witcher?
The world exploration and layout will be a lot like Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, that’s our target.
Could you tell us about game’s world in detail? What climate and landscapes are expected to be seen by players? What will be the atmosphere of the game’s Universe? Will it be the dark fantasy?
More to come in the days ahead, but we can say this: we want to set up beautiful, interesting environments for the players to want to explore (we had a lot of fun in the Icewind Dale series creating dungeons like Dorn’s Deep, the Severed Hand, and even exploring the jungles of Chult). Dungeon crawling and being able to see the wonder of the fantasy world around you is one of our pillars. It won’t be doom-and-gloom fantasy, we want to shoot for a broader range of elements and experiences for the player, and we also don’t want to be too restrictive on the climate either. More to come!
Are you planning any randomly generated elements in the game, like quests, interesting meetings during the journey, different locations and subterranean, loot?
Right now we’re focusing on the core content and specific hand-crafted placements of encounters, areas, stats, etc.
What races will be represented in the game? Are there going to be NPC life simulation or they are strictly hooked to appointed places for the plot?
We will have a mix of traditional, less-traditional, and never-before-seen races. Even with the traditional ones, we want to re-examine them for our world so they feel like they fit appropriately and aren't just thrown in.
What graphic engine are you planning to use for the game? From your point of view, what is the importance of project’s technological effectiveness? Do you have as purpose the detailing or, on the contrary, cartoons, stylization etc., as Blizzard did with World of WarCraft and Diablo 3 before time?
We’ve decided to go with Unity, it’s the best tool for the job, we feel.
What audience do you expect to be interested in the project?
Anyone who enjoys the old Infinity Engine games and would like to play them again.
In the promo of the game, that we’d seen on Kickstarter, the names of Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer and Tim Cain were constantly mentioned. What is the particular role of each of them in developing of Project Eternity?
Josh Sawyer is the project lead (and he’s involved on almost all aspects of design, including races, lore and world tone), Tim Cain is doing the same (he’s currently delving into system design) I’m doing narrative design (focus on story and characters).
Do you have a release window in mind?
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