Project Eternity Interviews

We have rounded up three new interviews about Obsidian's Project Eternity, a return to the roots for the Californian developer, which will feature party-based Infinity Engine-reminiscent gameplay and has been made possible by Kickstarter.

Ars Technica chats with project director J.E. Sawyer:
Luckily for Obsidian, going through crowd-funding has allowed the company to make the game they want without trying to sell a publisher on the idea. That has given them the freedom to create a new fantasy world from the bottom up, basing their game around the idea of the soul and the implications of a world where those souls are routinely manipulated.

"If souls are a real thing and souls really get reincarnated and folks can really use the power of their soul to do superhuman things, that's kind of a big deal," Sawyer said. "When we start to bear down more on individual cultures and the characters in them, we should be able to easily create a bunch of ideas for conflicts because we have a solid basis for how the world works."

Not having to start from a well-established game franchise or outside license has been quite freeing, Sawyer says, but has also introduced its own difficulties into development.

"I think it's important to establish the reality in which everyone is operating. ... With an established world, you sort of don't have to worry about the idiosyncrasies or logical conflicts in them. Fans have probably already ignored them, accepted them, or mentally contorted around them. When you put something out for new eyes, there's a lot more pressure not to misstep."

Being free of publisher constraints and things like the ESRB ratings system will also allow the game to delve into more mature subject matter that fantasy worlds normally ignore, Sawyer said. Things like "slavery, hostile prejudice (racial, cultural, spiritual, sexual), drug use and trade, and so on" will all help flesh out the story and add a believable core to the highly fictional world, he said.

While TIME got a hold of Chris Avellone:
I'm assuming $1.1 million is a fraction of what you'd typically require to make games like Neverwinter Nights 2 or Fallout: New Vegas. How'd you settle on this figure?

Yep, it's a much reduced amount because you're not doing all the extraneous features (total voice acting across all languages, the latest super graphic video card enhancements with tint control and crotch rumbleâ„¢ technology, multiple skews across consoles, etc.).

We looked carefully at the budgets for previous Infinity Engine titles we'd done in the past at Black Isle [Studios], made adjustments for personnel (personnel costs have risen a great deal since then), kept the technology costs in mind and made a reasonable estimation of what we can accomplish. Our CEO (Feargus Urquhart) is pretty ruthless about stuff like that.

We're in a good position because a number of us have made this type of game before (Josh, Tim, Feargus, me, etc.) and even better, we've done this type of game several times. Now this is our opportunity to take that production knowledge and make it even better. Knowing the process from start to finish helps reduce a lot of the X factors in terms of implementation and avoid many of the pitfalls in development.


Pledgers are probably wondering, say you hit all your stretch goals, are there any ways Project Eternity will feel like a (lesser) game than something with a tens-of-millions budget? Should people expect a game world at least as artistically, narratively and mechanically rich as Baldur's Gate 2 or Planescape?

So here's my view I don't feel Baldur's Gate 2, Planescape: Torment, or Icewind Dale are lesser games. At all. I feel they allow for more differences than modern blockbusters, and I'd argue they're more RPGs than a number of triple-A titles on the market, mostly because they allow more freedom for the player to bring their own creativity and voice to the experience. Want your own portrait? Sure. Want your own bio? Sure. Want a spell and combat system that's not limited to the controller buttons? '˜Twould be our pleasure. Prefer having a world that's not limited by console memory? '˜Twould be our pleasure x2. We couldn't have made many of the locations in Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment in a current console-gen title without blowing out the memory or making compromises, but in a game like this, we have more freedom to effectively paint a landscape for a player to explore.

Finally, Pure Sophistry has a radio interview with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart, which lasts about 15 minutes and tackles a variety of subjects, some of which are only tangentially related to the project. I'm going to take a quote from their teaser transcription snippets:
You mentioned Bioware, with the recent news that the Docs in charge are retiring- What's your opinion on that?

Feargus: Well Ray and Greg are great guys and still very much my friends, I talk to them frequently and I wish them all the best. They put an immense amount of time trying to build the RPG brand at EA up and I think that sometimes you need to take a break.If you work so many years so intensely you tend to burn out and sometimes you just need to take a brake.

But you're not at the (Taking a Break Stage) just yet?

Feargus: No maybe I'm just more of masochistic then they are (Laughs) I still love making role playing games. It's kind of hard for an independent developer- for those who don't know what that means. We kind of work for people who are going to pay us, which is a challenge but also means we have more options. If we don't want to make a certain style game- we don't have to pitch that. Which puts us in a very different position. Of course the challenge is then getting that funding- which is why Project Eternity was a hard sell.

Why make the choice of developing this particular project on Kickstarter?

Feargus: That's a really good question, I think a lot of it is we want to make the game. It's a game we really want to make and it's a game we feel that we can really make well. It's funny, I was just talking to a publisher about an hour ago and he said, (Why didn't you come and talk to us about publishing Project Eternity?) I said, I'm a pretty good salesmen- but not good enough to come into your office and ask you for money for a PC Roleplaying game. It's just not something alot of the publishers are built around. It just made sense to (Kick-start it)