Project Eternity Social Round-up, Continued

04 Oct 2012

While the project hit its $2.3 million stretch goal, which includes optional customizable difficulty modes and the Godlike race, we've decided to take some time to do another round-up of the various posts and comments on the project, focusing mostly on what Project Lead J.E. Sawyer had to say.

First of all, since the debate has been raging recently, here's on cooldowns and the magic system in general (I have no pretense to be exhaustive since the discussion is still ongoing):
In tabletop games, the "Vancian" systems do make strategic gameplay more important, but a lot of that is lost in a game with reloading. Especially if the choice of spells has a dramatic effect on efficacy (e.g. did you memorize dimensional anchor before fighting creatures that are constantly teleporting all over the battlefield), failure to select the "right" ones can result in catastrophic failure. In the absence of information required to make informed decisions, those choices aren't strategic; they're just guesses. After a reload, they're meta-strategic, but I doubt most players feel clever for making a retrospectively obvious choice.

I think it's possible to still make prep meaningful by allowing the player to switch between pre-built (by the player) suites of spells at a frequency that is less than "per rest". I.e. if the player can only use a subset of spells at any given time, but can switch between those subsets with a time penalty (or only outside of combat), that still makes the choices important without the system strictly being Vancian.

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I'm not going to rule out cooldowns and I'm not going to design the entire magic system on the fly over the course of three weeks. Both Tim and I want the magic system to feel expansive, powerful, and flexible. We want the player to have to make prep choices when selecting spells for active use. These things do not require a Vancian system, nor do they require the absence of cooldowns as a mechanic. As I wrote in one of the class threads, our goal with class design is not to limit the role of classes but to ensure that every class does have at least one combat role they can clearly excel in. This does not mean that wizards won't be able to cast protective spells, transformative spells, etc. It is likely that they will not be able to select from all of those things in the moment but unlikely that we will require the player to rest to change what he or she has access to.

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Here is something I would like to hear opinions on. Take the following circumstance, which is not uncommon in the IE games and would be somewhat similar to the KotC "campsite" system in circumstances were you are not locked off from backtracking to a campsite.

* You are in a location where resting is either prohibited or extraordinarily likely to result in an encounter. You do not know the location of the next campsite/safe resting area.
* You have cast many of your spells and the ones that remain are not entirely appropriate for the encounters you are now facing.
* Because you came from an area where you could rest and are not locked in the location, you have a cleared (by you) path back to the area where you can safely rest.
* It will take you three minutes of real time to walk back to the camp, maybe thirty seconds to reconfigure spells, five seconds to rest, and another three minutes of real time to walk back to where you had left off.
* Because you killed everything between you and the campsite, there are no threats between you and the campsite.

In this circumstance, what is good about the experience of walking back to the campsite?

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All I am asking is why this artificial Cooldown time? Why not instantaneous regeneration POST combat?

The amount of time that a spell level lockout should last isn't something for which I have a solid answer. It could work in a manner similar to 4E where the end of an "encounter" resets the lockout on the majority of abilities, but "combat" states in engines is something that, in my experience, is often triggered on/off in weird ways. If a lockout lasts for something like 30 seconds or 45 seconds, that lockout will likely last longer than the remainder of the combat, but not so long that the player would have a compelling incentive to "spam stand", which I agree is bad. Whether the answer is a timed lockout or a combat state-released lockout, I'm not sure.

I think health and hit points can be handled differently because the player always has a high incentive to avoid as much damage as possible for all of their characters. I.e. conserving health is (almost) always in the player's best interest, but conserving spells may not be.

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Seeing how this whole cooldown thing has garnered such a strong reaction on all sides, does that mean you guys will have a brainstorming meeting or something to take every angle into consideration ?

We do not have a spellcasting system designed. This is not something we have to "change" because the majority of what we have developed for things as complex as the spellcasting system are ideas. It's three weeks into a fundraising campaign to make this project. I cannot tell you what final form the spellcasting system will take, what elements it absolutely will or won't have. All I can tell you is the sort of goals we have and general ideas of things I'd like to see and avoid.

I'm trying to create the feeling of strategic spell selection and tactical spell use in D&D while avoiding the constant rest spamming that was so prevalent in the games I made. There are probably a number of ways to solve this problem. I have some ideas on this, but we haven't settled on them. I want to tell people about general ideas and opinions I have, but I don't think spending a day trying to design the system in the forum is going to produce good results.

On level scaling or lack thereof:
I don't know where this topic came from, but I don't expect to use level scaling much, if at all, in PE.

On the differences between wizards and priests:
Wizards have an enormous potential list of spells to choose from, but they have to find or research a lot of them. Most of their spells also have to be bound in physical grimoires that they use for casting.

Priests don't have to research or find prayers, but their overall access is limited by their faith, much like priestly spell spheres in D&D. Also, priests (in general) are a little less casting oriented, more "get your hands dirty" than wizards.

Segueing into wizard's tomes:
Tomes/grimoires are enchanted objects. Even if there were magic to copy text (there is not), it's not a matter of just having a photocopy of the spell in front of you. The tome essentially acts as a linked spell battery.

The root source of power in a tome is the soul of the person who enchanted it, though the initial enchanter is not intrinsically linked to the tome after he or she enchants it.

Not all spells that wizards cast require a tome. Tomes just make the process of casting spells much easier.

On the map and its toponymy:
This might not matter much, but that's a fraction of a continent. What you see on that map is maybe comparable to an area the size of Spain and most of the locations were named by regular settlers who came across the sea. Ordinary people usually give places simple names. I grew up in Fort Atkinson. It was named after General Atkinson. There was a fort there. Down the road was Whitewater. There's white sand in the riverbed. And then there's Watertown. There's a river there. The peninsula that juts off into Lake Michigan is called Door County. That's because the strait between the end of the peninsula and Washington Island was called Porte des Morts, i.e. Door of Death. A lot of people died there.

There are a bunch of Vailian cities south of what's shown on the map that have names that have mean something to people who speak the Vailian language, but to the people in Dyrwood, they're just a bunch of names: Barda, Girrara, Ancenze, Ozia.

I'm not sure if it's better for things to have straightforward names or meaningless names. I just try to name things as I think the people in the area would likely name them, not as if the continent's poet laureate were given the sole task and ultimate authority.

On the pacing and the combat/exploration split:
We'll probably split the difference. Some parts of IWD2 were definitely combat slogs, but there were also many empty, open areas in BG. We want our exterior maps to feel more open and interconnected than IWD, definitely.

Also, audio designer Justin Bell has posted quite a lot on the forums lately, a few highlights:
Q. Will there be (a) signature tune(s) for the game (e.g. Maybe, A Kiss To Build A Dream On for FO1 and 2, Baba Yetu for Civ4, Suteki Da Ne for FFX)? To have a particular strong piece deeply associated with and conjuring up images of the game is I think one of the most powerful things music can do.

A. That's a great idea, but I would need to think about that a bit more. It would have to be done right, and wouldn't be worth doing at all if it didn't fit or wasn't great.

Q. Will there be usage of leitmotifs for characters and/or locations? PS:T did that very well, not to mention the obvious power it had in Star Wars.

A. Yes indeed! That's how you build memorability into music, and that's very important for us here.

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I'm not crazy about the first track which sounds a bit too... "epic fantasy" for my taste, though it's most certainly not bad.

Really like the Music so far though I hope there won't be a massive use of choirs in every song [...]

Great comments. I would say that the "epic screaming choirs" (for lack of a better term) Prelude is more about the "litany" of classical RPG titles flying at the screen and Obsidian and it's history than it is about Project Eternity specifically. I just wanted it to saturate your senses, and that's the first thing that came to mind. That said, we know we don't want the entire score for PE will sound that way.

I kinda hope the score will be a bit more creative and "experimental" (within the confines of the context of the game, of course, not going crazy with it) than what I heard in the tracks.

Yes and yes! As a matter of fact, we have talked specifically about using non-traditional instruments in the actual score. We want the instrumental pallet to diverse and interesting, but also appropriate to any given moment in the narrative. Another way to put that; the story is the master and the music is it's servant. So if a part of the story calls for traditional european instruments, we'll use that. If it calls for an interesting texture, we'll use that too.

In many ways, the music that you hear was really just written for the trailer and the message it was trying to send. Specifics of the story were just being developed (and still are in fact), so representing the actual sound of PE wasn't really that high of a priority. Though when we do finally get around to doing that, I can gaurantee we'll spend as much time as is necessary to really create that "unique" voice I mentioned in the update.

This is a great update! The music is looking solid and seems to already have found its style and instrumentation. Female choirs, glockenspiels, full strings, all sound pretty good, albeit a bit too synthetic. Your bass drum is rather underpowered though: something with more resonance and "oomph" would be great.

You have good ears... I suspect you are a musician or have a musical background... Am I right? I agree with your assesment of the synthy strings, and I think I know which parts you're talking about too. Interesting note, I had sort of a digital orchestration "breakthrough" as I was wrapping up the music for the trailer, and those especially synthy bits were written beforehand.

RE the bass drum... Low frequencies are such a tricky thing aren't they. I'm always wrestling with them. Those bass drums are really just sub hits more than anything. Truth be told, I rolled back a lot of low end right before we launched the campaing because I was concerned about how well the mix would translate across an untold amount of listening devices. I'll think about what you said though, there's probably a middle ground here that I just haven't found yet.

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Just wanted quickly jump in to talk about the music we put up for download vs. the actual music for Project Eternity. The pieces on Sound Cloud were tailor made for the Kickstarter launch trailer. There might be some elements from the trailer that'll make it into the actual score, but mostly it was written to support the message of the video. We're really happy to see so many of you enjoy that.

Now for the best indication for how the music will sound, look no further than the main portion of the update (i.e. "Music with Soul" etc). That really spells out our high level vision for the music. It's going to be great, and we can't wait to dig into that and eventually share it with you when the time comes!

And finally, a few Kickstarter comments from Feargus Urquhart, mostly replying to questions asked by the backers:
are you going to be showing us how much money/many backers you're getting from paypal so we're aware of what goals have been reached, and what's left to get to them? would be kind of useful for people who aren't sure what level they're going to go for, or how much they want to push others to get in on it. if they see we're like 100 backers away from a new dungeon level when adding in the paypal numbers, i can see people going to try to get people to just pledge even a dollar to get there.

Yes, we are going to do that. I am not sure how often we are going to do it, since it is a little more manual. We are talking about it more tomorrow and we will then have a better answer.

do you have plans how you will distribute non-steam (aka drm-free) version of game for linux/mac?

Not sure yet. Our hope that is that GOG will be supporting all of that by then. I don't know that they will or anything - but we are hoping. If not, we will figure something else out. Maybe ourselves.

Quick question: I like the typical fantasy tropes as much as the next guy, but will there be any love for the bizarre in PE, maybe in some side quests? I'm talking David Lynch levels of weird here. I love me some mind-bending surreality.

I don't know about Twin Peaks weird, but one of our goals/pillars with the project is to have that part of it be different. We can have the traditional with a twist, new that really ties into the world and then a bit that is weird/different.

Thank you. I sometimes forget how early in production the project is. How long do you estimate pre-production might be for PE if you have any estimates at all in that department? Sorry if that seems a silly question. Just curious.

I know this has been brought up several times, but are we likely to see any far reaching goals much farther off than the current ones? I love what we have so far though. Are there any chances of seeing a goals featuring more classes or is 9 going to be the cap on classes so it doesn't get too bloated?

I do love the idea of a possible documentary on the making of the game. I love hearing from all of you on the work that goes into it all and how things are progressing.


Pre-Production Time - We generally do 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. So with a project that is 18 months, that means 6 months in pre-production, 6 months in production and 6 months in post-production. We have a leg up with the Unity engine and already have basic movement and formations working, so it might be more like 5 , 7, 6 for PE.

Longer Stretch Goals - There is one up on the whiteboard right now. We talked about it a lot last night, an bit tonight and agreed that we would decide tomorrow about it.

Documentary - We actually met with a group about that. Trying to figure out if the cost is something that should go into it or the game.
 
 

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