Project Copernicus Would Have Dealt With the Consequences of Eternal Life

13 Sep 2012

The ill-fated MMO codenamed Project Copernicus, which was to be set in the Kingdoms of Amalur universe that had been first shown in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, apparently included a storyline that dealt with the consequences of eternal life, at least according to Kotaku's transcript of a panel from lead designer Ian Frazier and "visionary" R.A. Salvatore at DragonCon.

The game would have used the Well of Souls, a plot element introduced in Reckoning, as both the in-world explanation for respawning players and also as a plot hook, a mix I would have potentially found very interesting had the project survived.

Here are a couple of quotes from Salvatore that detail the reasons for this choice and the philosophy he and the team were applying to the story:
“You have to come back from the dead — that’s level one, every MMO has it, whether you spawn naked in Freeport and have to do a corpse run,” the author continued, referencing one of the original EverQuest‘s finest and most punishing features.

...

“What does it mean to the societal structures of the world when all of the sudden you’ve got immortality?” the author asked. It’s one of those deep questions my generation would ponder back when it was in its late teens, the party dying down and the munchies running out. “The obvious answer was everybody’s going to be happy, we’re all going to live forever!”

But it’s not so simple. Population, for one thing, doesn’t stop growing. The world becomes more and more crowded.

...

“This was the philosophy of Amalur. When you did something that was going to have implications you had to explore those implications,” Salvatore explained. “Instead of giving me a quest series to go collect 11 rat ears… give me the quest about the woman that doesn’t want to go through the Well but her family wants me to. Give me the quest about the bitter person that’s trying to get back at the Gnome who she thinks created the Well of Souls in her town because her son died before. Give me those kind of quests. That’s what we were trying to do.”

While on one hand I find this kind of premise very interesting, especially in how it merges a tried-and-true MMO convention with the title's lore and story, I can't help but wonder if the usual mechanics we've come to expect from the genre wouldn't have hurt this kind of storytelling focus.