Project Eternity Social Round-up, Continued

We have rounded up another batch of developers' posts and comments on Project Eternity from the folks at Obsidian, coming from places such as Formspring, the official forums for the title and Something Awful.

On the magic system, cooldowns, etc. (Formspring, Something Awful, and the Obsidian forums)
There have been some concerns regarding Cain's proposed Wizard magic system. Mainly that it means we can use every spell repeadetly in longer combat encounters. Can you calm our fears?

I think it depends on what you consider "longer". Practically speaking, even a mid-level mage would have to be in an encounter for a long time to both exhaust entire levels of spells and then continue the battle long enough to see those levels unlock again.

Let's assume a 10th level PE wizard has the same number of "castings" per level to cast as a 10th level wizard in D&D 3E. I don't know how we would want to roll over levels of spells from per-rest resources to timed lockout resources, but for now let's say that the wizard's 5th and 4th level spells are per-rest resources (just like normal D&D) and that 3rd, 2nd, and 1st level spells are on timed lockouts. For simplicity, let's also assume that it takes about the same amount of time to cast these spells in a full round as it would in an IE game. Though we will not use the same timing as the IE games, it's likely that wizard spells will be among the more time-consuming actions to perform.

Using D&D spells for this example, the wizard could cast fireball three times or fireball once, then haste, then slow, or two hastes and a fireball -- in any combination, the wizard has exhausted all three of his or her 3rd level spell slots. All level 3 spells are now locked out for 30(ish) seconds. The wizard would have to cast another five spells before the level 3 spells were available for use again. Either the wizard is going to use up a lot of 2nd and 1st level castings (possibly locking out one of those two levels in the process) or is going to be eating into his or her per-rest resources.

There are a number of tools we can use to balance how this works: 1) the number of castings before a level is locked out 2) the time that an individual level is locked out before it can be used again 3) when a wizard's spell levels roll over from being per-rest to timed lockout (e.g. in this example, maybe 3rd level spells should still be per-rest, but 2nd and 1st are timed lockout) and 4) the power of the individual spells.

Our goal is to allow casters to contribute to combat in a way that is more substantive than hucking sling stones without always needing to chew into a per-rest resource. Additionally, we want the caster's higher level spells to be reasonably powerful but also a strategic resource for the player to manage.

The addendum to this is that your number of available spells per level (i.e. things you can actually choose from in the moment) is pretty limited. You have to switch your tome to access different spells, which automatically locks out virtually all of your spells for the same ~30 second period. In theory you could tactically swap tomes during combat, but that's a high price to pay. In most cases, switching tomes (or what's in a tome, which also triggers the same ~30 second lockout) is a strategic action taken between combats.


As a character levelled up, would his or her higher level spells always be per-rest, while his or her other spells would become timer-based as he or she levelled up?

That's the basic idea: higher level spells are per-rest resources, lower level spells can be cast a certain number of times within a given time period before being locked out for a fixed period of time.


Nice! The magic system sounds even better than D&D:S to me, it seems logical that higher level spells can't be spammed while lower level are easy to cast. Hopefully it changes with level too, so that lvl 3 spells first require preparation but when you're casting lvl 6 spells they are easy (or something like that).

That's the idea. And as I wrote in my Formspring post, your lower level spells aren't unlimited. You will still temporarily lock out all spells of that level once you've cast enough of them.

On eventual weaknesses/advantages in the character system:
Any chance we will be able to chose weaknesses for our character in character creation? Would such a system be too hard to balance (in Daggerfall you could become pretty powerful, chosing weaknesses that wouldn't hinder you anyway)?

I think systems like that *can* be hard to balance, but I don't think they're impossible to balance, especially if strengths and weaknesses are sort of rolled together like Fallout's trait system. I like them, but it's too early to say if we'll do something like that for PE.

On the crafting system:
Yeah, we haven't designed the crafting system at all, but we're almost certainly going to partition crafting ingredients from other items.

On the HP system/regeneration/healing/etc. (plus a little segue on SA):
How do you plan to deal with HP regeneration between combat encounters and is there "permanent death" like in the IE games? Also is there some sort of mana or other magic resource required for casting spells?

I haven't thought through a lot of the details, but I was considering something similar to Darklands, where characters have both Endurance and Health. Most damage taken in combat would Endurance, which is relatively easy to restore (through abilities and magic) and regenerates rapidly on its own, both in and out of combat. Damage to Health would be more serious and much harder to restore (probably only through consumables and/or rest). Having your Endurance lowered to 0 would knock the character out. Having your Health knocked to 0 would kill the character outright (though there may be some optional, lesser version of this effect for non-Expert players).

We've talked about characters having a mana-like soul resource for using abilities, but I don't know that it's necessary.


Hey Ropekid, in Darklands, Endurance and Strength are both statistics that apply to other tasks, aside from health. When you get damaged, your actual strength goes down, and you are worse at the tasks that are associated with strength. So if you have 40 str and get hit real hard, you drop down to 25 str, and now you aren't hitting nearly as hard with your morningstar. Is that something you're gonna do in this game at all? Because if so, awesome


That sounds like a death-spiral type arrangement? Maybe I'm not understanding (since I've never played Darklands) but doesn't that just quickly add up to your character operating at less than peak damage-output, which means you're going to lose more fights/take more damage and further injure your stats?

It does. It's one of those mechanics that ostensibly "makes sense" but produces an inordinately high incentive for every character to have high Strength and Endurance -- even more than if it "just" affected whether you live or die in any given combat. I was not planning on replicating that aspect of the mechanic for PE.

On lockpicking and "one-click" tasks:
How have you planned (if at all yet) to deal with lockpicking and other (possible) similiar "one click" tasks in PE? Will it be hard thresholds (like in NV, but without the minigame) or skill versus lock chance or something different?

Probably soft thresholds with a scaling resource cost (e.g. lockpicks) for marginal shortfalls.

On "crazy" fantasy areas/concepts:
Most stuff shown so far for PE looks like it could come from Forgotten Realms, albeit with the potential for interesting twists and nuances. Will PE have some truly weird and unique concepts, and can you show some of those before the Kickstarter ends?

It will. I'd like to show some of them before the Kickstarter ends, but only if they are ready to show.

On criticism against the lack of details of the original pitch:
I've seen quite a few people complain that the original pitch for PE focused too much on name-dropping CRPGs Obsidian has been involved with and not enough on describing the actual project. Do you think that this is a fair criticism?

I think it's a fair criticism from the perspective of an individual backer. If a potential backer doesn't like the ambiguity or doesn't like the specifics of what we *do* reveal -- well it's their money, after all.

From the perspective of running a Kickstarter campaign, I don't think what we're doing is inherently bad. When we looked at a lot of Kickstarter campaigns, we noticed that some of the most successful were very "high-level" in what they described. The pitches focus on broad goals, feelings, and often a lot of nostalgia.

Specifics in the pitch (the video, especially) often seem to drag interest *down*. Also, as developers, we want to be frank and straightforward with the type of game we're making, but we're extremely early in our development process. Anything we may say about an individual mechanic or detail of the game is more likely to change the more narrowly focused it is. To be practical, if the game were already fully designed, we wouldn't need to run a Kickstarter campaign.

Finally, with a lot of our "weirder" ideas, it can take a while to bring those to fruition. Speaking from recent, painful experience, when you start developing something that is genuinely unusual, everyone involved in the process of creating it invariably has a different picture of that thing in his or her head. In some cases, individuals may be unable to visualize it at all.

The first few attempts at creating that thing often fall flat on their face or at least involve a lot of iteration. And sometimes... well, sometimes it was just a bad idea and it takes time to realize that you need to go in a different direction. We would rather spend that awkward iteration time to get the weird things right than rush out the first rough sketch we can muster.

On the pacing and difficulty of encounters:
For me, it's much more enjoyable when things are based around the encounter instead of the adventure. When done properly, it decreases the incidence of trash mobs and allows each battle to be epic.

I don't agree. If everything is epic, nothing is epic. If each battle is of more-or-less equal in terms of resource applicability, everything proceeds at at a similar pace. Additionally, I've never played in a D&D adventure where the tempo of resource consumption was paced to taper perfectly from the beginning to the end. There are almost invariably two or three (sometimes four) bigger moments within an adventure that encourage an up-tick in resource consumption followed by a strategic rest -- either by retreat or by fortification within the adventure area.

This has applied in every edition of A/D&D I've played, including 4E. Using your dailies is something you really don't want to do on a "lesser" encounter, but sometimes you need to. One of the major 4E differences is that at-will and encounter powers ensure that you can't completely exhaust your capabilities if you wind up in a bad circumstance with no dailies.

On the general direction of combat:
I still don't know what direction Obsidian even wants to take the combat. A more next-gen, "evolved", modern sort of system with modern combat dynamics, or something quite close to BG2/IWD/PS:T.

Close to BG2/IWD.

On Dungeons & Dragons' influences:
I'm guessing D&D would have an impact on design somehow, what I am wondering is, which edition would have the most influence over developers and what would be taken from it.

I'm going to assume a few things from 4th edition would be sticking out of PE system.

I'm speaking generally, but I'd say 3E/3.5E influence with some 2nd Ed. and 4E bits here and there.

Some excerpts on music/audio from Justin Bell:
[On orchestras and the associated costs] In terms of cost, the range can vary quite a bit. I did say in that one post that Orchestras can be prohibitively expensive, and they can. That said, there are some Orchestras in Europe and Russia (like gakmen suggested) that are less expensive and will still sound great.

I wonder though, what about just having some live musicians mixed with the sampled score? Small ensembles would definitely cost less and would still have a positive effect on the overall sound. That can add a lot to enhance expression and realism, in fact I did that on one of the campaign trailer tracks with some of the Horn parts... For those concerned about budget, what do you think of that as a solution?

Just curious when you say prohibitively expensive. As in... up to say a quarter of the budget!!?? What sort of figure would we be talking??

No no, not that much at all. A budget for a hollywood caliber orchestra can cost as much as 80-100k+ for a full orchestra (80+ musicians), conductor, engineer, orchestrator, copyists etc for about 60-ish minutes of music. Which is lots of money, especially for a game like Project Eternity.

But there are ways to bring that price down significantly. The size of the ensemble, their international location, and other factors play into that. In otherwords, there are options, and the example I gave of the "prohibitively expensive" orchestra is definitely on the higher side of those options.

I do appreciate you coming in here to answer particular concerns with your knowledge; rare accessibility on the creation side of things, much thanks. I think small live ensembles would be a great compromise--string quartets, whatever, soloist parts--music is significant in setting/amplifying mood and immersion [...]

My pleasure. This is what's great about Project Eternity. We're free to talk to you all.

I think if the community is vocal enough about it, and it matters to enough people, this could be feasible. I can't promise anything but it's worth a shot. That said, even if we don't get an orchestra or a budget to record musicians, we're still going to do everything we can to make the best score possible for the game.

EDIT: One other thing I feel is important to note... In terms of the budget for the game, if there was ever a feature that seemed too expensive or that perhaps threatened to minimize the core experience in some detrimental way, I don't think we would pursue it. So if it's determined that hiring live musicians just isn't feasible for this project, there will more than likely be a very good reason for it.

I'd like to reiterate my desire for Classical guitar. I know it might not be possible, but how many actual instruments will you guys use?

Guitar holds a special place for me, no question. I started playing when I was 13, and I later dedicated about seven years of my life studying classical guitar performance. I've performed solo, in a quartet, and with chamber orchestras... It was amazing and I wish I had time to do that more. So yes, I'd love to figure out a way to weave guitar in. I miss playing in a quartet most of all.......

Maybe I'll hurt my "cred" bringing it up, but I think FF12 had some great field themes (when I say field themes I just mean 'not in a city or dungeon')

No way! I love FF music, it's great. Talk about memorable. The opening music for FFIII (VI, whatever) is so evocative. Even today when I hear that music I'm reminded of playing through the game.

Funny story, one of the cues that I was writing for PE's trailer ended up sounding VERY FF. It was good, just didn't fit so I abandoned it.

50 minutes seems to be a bit short for a game of this scope. Would it be feasible do you think for an expanded soundtrack to be set as a stretch goal? (subject to Mr Bell's concurrence, of course).

Let me put it this way: someone is going to have to come in and say "Dude! NO MORE MUSIC ALREADY!" Heh. So 50 is a good estimate I guess? Impossible to say at this stage, though I'm keen on putting as much music in as the game needs.

Has anyone every played Castlevania: Lords of Shadow? Amazing game btw, if you haven't played it, give it a shot. Anyhow, the music in that game was reused quite a lot. But it didn't have the effect you might imagine. Instead of sounding repetitive, it sounded more "cohesive", if that makes sense. Brilliant work, really.

Any composers you draw inspiration from?

Great question. I tend to gravitate toward music that has, what I perceive to be, depth and emotional gravitas. And that can come from anywhere, and because of that its hard to single any one source of inspiration out.

If I were to name some composers off the top of my head... JS Bach, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Debussy, Ravel, Villa-Lobos, Barrios, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Scarlatti. Even listing out those composers feels a little weird to me, because there's so much more.

I really enjoy Michael Giacchino's music, I think he has an incredible gift with musical story telling. Particularly his Pixar stuff. I've said this before, but one of my favorite game scores of all time is from Morrowind. I recently played through Bastion and Limbo, and I thought those were incredible. Shadows of the Colossus was great, and so was Journey. I loved the way music was used in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

Are there any plans on going for a certain cultural 'feel' with the game music? What software do you use to make your music?

I've always been interested in exploring a sort of fictional ethnomusicology for games. So I think this is something I would definitely like to explore, though we haven't talked about it much at the studio.

In terms of software, I mainly use Cubase for music and Nuendo for sound design. I own a bunch of sample libraries that I regularly use. Some of the better sounding strings from the KS trailer is from East West's Hollywood Strings. I also own their Symphonic Orchestra but the new strings are way better.

I usually reach for Vienna Instruments when I want woodwinds, they sound very authentic. Brass is usually a mix between Project Sam Orchestral Brass and EWQL Symphonic Orchestra. Percussion is all over the place since there are tons of great libraries, but my workhorse library for that is True Strike 1.

For synths I mainly use Omnisphere. For basic plug-ins I use Waves Gold or the bundled ones in Cubase/Nuendo. I use Altiverb for verb.

I'm not arguing for all out electronica in Project Eternity but I'd agree with other posters about mixing in other styles, a small village might have a folksy vibe while a somewhat technologically advanced location could bring in some of the eerie weirdness of synths.

This is a good opportunity to clarify instrumentation. We will not limit the instrumentation pallet to just orchestra for Project Eternity. My policy on this is that we'll use whatever most effectively supports the narrative. I consider CRPGs like PE longform art, and you need to keep the sonic presence of the score refreshing in order to have that succeed over the course of time. Instruments are like colors on an artist's pallet. If we were to paint the music of the entire game "red", there's a risk things will get boring. To keep things new and refreshing, its in our interest to evolve that pallet in interesting and relevant ways.

So if its a renaissance era Sackbut, then its a Sackbut. If its Vangelis Juno patches, its Vangelis Juno patches. String quartet, tabla, classical guitar, 12 string guitar, didgeridoo, orchestra, choir, synths, banging on a metal bridge with drum sticks.... Whatever it takes to make the music awesome, we'll put it in.

In the end the score will be cohesive, and nothing is off the table at this point.

By the way, what is your opinion of the music from the first The Witcher game, which was suggested above?

Interesting thing about the Witcher 1 soundtrack... Its all computer based, not live :)

Anyhow, more to your question. It's great music! I have to admit I haven't played the game, though I do own it. I think I'd be in a better position to answer that question after playing it, since context plays a huge roll in how game music is perceived.

How was music made for Infinity Engine games?

I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet it was a blend of live and sampled instruments. You can tell when listening to the tracks. Live musicians tend to sound more subtle, expressive and nuanced. At least they "tend" to. It's impossible to fake, though you can get *pretty* close with virtual instruments.


It's very hard to get virtual instruments to behave like an actual musician. It's always going to be a facsimile. Real musicians are by nature imperfect, and its actually those imperfections that make them sound amazing! Virtual instruments are always at risk of sounding too perfect, and that's the give away for most people wether they know it or not. Recognition of those limitations can make the difference between a succeful score and a poorly executed one.

So yeah I agree with this. You have to play to the strengths of your medium, it's too obvious to the listener when you fight against it. I think at the end of the day though, its the music itself that determines how successful a score is. Ultimately, we here at Obsidian are keen on having the most fitting and high quality score possible. And we have plenty of time on our hands to make that a reality. I honestly don't think most people will be disappointed, and I don't mean that to sound arrogant.

This is a great discussion by the way!

And finally a few comments from Feargus Urquhart to the Project Eternity Kickstarter page:
I know you can't give too much away but are we going to see the extreme stretch goals in this next update? All stretch goals that we've seen to date have been relatively shoo-ins for the final build especially if kicktraqer is to be believed. I want to see the goals that will cause people to buckle down and raise more support because we're unsure we'll be able to reach it.

Very soon.....


Are meetings specifically regarding the Kickstarter and those more focusing on the game seperate from one another usually? Odd question I suppose.

Yep, we separate them quite a bit. The design meetings that occur right now are mostly between Tim, Chris and Josh. Adam and I jump in, but we are handling most of the KS stuff, so that those guys can focus more on the game. As for agendas - he KS ones have agendas to a point. The design meetings have a topic, but not a list of things to discuss about the topic necessarily. After KS and when there is another designer or two, the meetings will get a bit more agenda driven. However, early on we try to be careful about being too structured meeting heavy.


Is there any chance you might do an RPG in a more contemporary setting in the future?

That's a hard one. We would like to explore other settings, but we have to be careful. There are ones that people seem to gravitate towards and ones that they don't. Back at Black Isle, us and Bioware really wanted to make a Kung-Fu RPG called "Five Fingers of Death" but there just wasn't a lot of support for doing it - and I don't think Brian and others were necessarily wrong about being concerned about the reach of it.


Is Obsidian planning to run a similar live stream event during then last hours of the Kickstarter as Brian Fargo did with Wasteland 2?

That's the plan. Quick announcement of that in our next update tomorrow morning.


Paypal is about the same $29K and 650 people. Hmmm....


We have talked about at least four or five more, maybe six. Plus a couple of ideas for farther stretches.


One aspect the old IE games were famous for, was the almost epic length of gameplay (80h+) in comparison to more recent games (20-40h). Where is Project Eternity aiming at?

Our goal is to hang in there with the old games.

We hope you enjoyed this info round-up and we'll try to keep you updated now that we're getting closer to the end of this Kickstarter campaign!