IG: Likewise, the Kickstarter showed that people implicitly trusted Obsidian to deliver that type of RPG, and in part I think’s due to the reputation the studio has for great writing. What has been the process for writing characters, lore and quests for Eternity? Has it differed much from previous Obsidian games?
AB: Whew, this is a big question to tackle in a simple answer because there’s a lot involved with the narrative process for this game. Narrative design is a big deal for us at Obsidian. The narrative process is a large collaboration between our narrative and level designer teams (a boat-load of people) with no single person writing the entire game. It’s nice having so much design experience and talent on the team.
If you want to learn more about the narrative process, our great designers, Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer, and George Ziets have written Kickstarter and blog posts about world building and writing.
- Building Better Worlds
- Project: Eternity and Characterization
- Ziets on Pantheon Design
IG: Obsidian titles are also pretty well known for offering proper systems of ‘choice and consequence.’ Will there be quests in Eternity with as many options and outcomes as (say) “Beyond the Beef” from Fallout: New Vegas?
AB: Yup, complex quest design is an Obsidian staple and we are going to continue to make quests like the ones you enjoyed in our previous games. All of our quests contain reactive choices, and we take care to make sure that the quests have many solutions with great role playing opportunities for the player. Many quests lines are deeper than how they initially appear on the surface and some may have a turn or two that could take you on unexpected adventures. And this will make you happy: Eric Fenstermaker, the designer of ”Beyond the Beef”, is the Creative Lead on PE, which should instill confidence in our quest direction.
IG: With Kickstarter-funded titles there’s always a sense that the game will benefit from backer feedback. What parts of Eternity have substantially (or partially) been altered or re-shaped due to player input?
AB: We’ve removed item durability from the game, and we’ve made changes to user interface design and game mechanics (like spell casting) after getting feedback from the community.
IG: Whenever an update relating to the RPG mechanics of the game is posted it seems to get pretty heavily debated in the forums. What process do Obsidian use to filter that huge amount of feedback into something helpful? Is it simply a case of late nights combing the forum threads?
AB: Josh Sawyer (PE’s Project Director) and I read almost every post on our forums. We discuss general reaction to our updates on the next day, and we will respond to the thread to lead the discussion into a direction that will help us understand people’s ideas, concerns, or issues.
IG: You’ve been designing your game lore and the RPG systems Eternity will use pretty much from scratch. What difficulties and challenges did this decision bring with it?
AB: Making a game completely from scratch isn’t an easy task, but we have a good idea of what our backers expect in our system and world design. All of our rules are brand new, so some of the difficulty comes from how much different we should make PE from the IE games. We do want to do some things differently, but we don’t want to alienate our backers. It’s a balancing act, but I believe we are doing a good job of it based on feedback on our updates. There’s also extra world building that we had to do in pre-production, but we have a clean slate where anything is possible. It’s a nice change of pace from working with an existing IP.
IG: Some of the Kickstarter reward tiers allowed backers to design their own NPC, or even mercenary company. Have you started collecting those player-created aspects yet, and what happens if you receive something that really doesn’t fit into the game you’re creating? Will it spark a diplomatic incident?
AB: We’ve contacted our backers for the Inn/Taverns already, and soon via the backer portal we will be collecting data for all of the other tiers including portraits, NPCs, items, and adventuring parties. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks if you did back Project Eternity at the higher tiers because you will need to fill out your survey soon.
The team is going to work closely with the backers because they are the people who are making this game a reality. Our backers aren’t game developers, so there might be a few cases where an idea doesn’t fit with the world, or the idea is larger than what is possible. In cases like these we would like to work with the backer to make sure the spirit of their idea makes it into the game.
IG: You worked on Alpha Protocol, so it’d be remiss of me not to ask whether there is any chance whatsoever of those characters (perhaps under a copyright-dodging new title) being revisited? If not, would Obsidian ever revisit that type of game structure? Telltale co-opted your timed dialogue wheel for The Walking Dead, so the spirit lives on there at least.
AB: I think everyone at Obsidian would love to do another Spy-oriented RPG, or another game set in modern day, or even a game with the same type of conversation system. All three of those are pretty rad.
IG: Obsidian’s financial situation seems to have been a bit dicey at various points over the last few years (probably not unusual for this industry.) Is a Kickstarter success like Eternity enough to offer longer-term stability?
AB: It’s a start. Thanks to our backers, Obsidian has its own IP which is very important for future stability and growth. Our goal right now is to just make the best game possible for our backers, and hopefully that will lead to future success down the road.
IG: Bonus fashion question - I swear I’ve seen someone (maybe you!) wearing some sort of custom Obsidian football (soccer) shirt in some of the update videos. Do you have an in-house team? Or did I imagine this whole thing like a big weirdo?
AB: Hah, you aren’t a weirdo. We did have a soccer team many years ago, and had custom Adidas Squadra II Obsidian jerseys made for the team. Unfortunately we had only one run made.