Project Eternity Interviews

We have rounded up a couple of new interview for Obsidian's Project Eternity, the isometric Infinity Engine-inspired RPG funded with a so far extremely successful Kickstarter campaign.

Shadeheart chatted with project director Josh Sawyer:
B: Apart from other games, what would you cite as your influences (with regards to Project Eternity)?

JS: Personally, I take a lot of inspiration from history. Because Project Eternity is set during an era of exploration and colonization, I'm looking at the interactions, violent and otherwise, between colonizing and colonized cultures. I'm interested in exploring daily friction and the difficulties that people run into when they try to live in the area between two (or more) cultures. There are famous (great men of history) examples like T.E. Lawrence, but I'm more interested in figures of lesser notoriety like the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci or Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea. Also, I find some of the more contemporary (reverse) colonization trends like the French Congo's La SAPE movement fascinating. I'm also starting to look in more detail at the state of epistemology and metaphysics in the medieval world prior to the rise of humanist thought, mostly exemplified by writers like Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. The printing press doesn't exist yet in the world of Project Eternity and academic disciplines still tend to be elitist and exclusionary. Popular movements, on the rare occasion that they do occur, tend to be driven by passion and basic human needs rather than any sort of widespread philosophical movement.


B: I've been on the forums for a while now and it's easy to see how varied opinions are on, well, everything really. How do you keep from getting overwhelmed? That's a lot of feedback!

JS: When feedback is really intense, I try to not get involved, or to only get minimally involved so I can see various ideas players present in their conversations. Often, the weight people give to a developer's comment can be disproportionately large and unfortunately, often disruptive to healthy conversation.
I try to filter things by trying to read between the lines and find what the high-level desires are. A lot of people can get caught up in individual mechanics or ideas. Ideas and mechanics are important, but we use those things to achieve goals. Often there are many ways we can achieve a goal with a variety of approaches. It just takes time and some patience.

While 1UP has an interview with ever-talkative Chris Avellone:
1UP: Cultural themes from the real world added so much to Fallout: New Vegas. Negative and positive traits of the American government were reflected in NCR. Caesar's Legion wore the influence of the Roman Empire on its sleeve. Well, its shoulder pads. These familiar concepts were used as launching points to dig into the setting and its society. Have aspects of Project Eternity's world been similarly inspired by real cultures?

Josh, our project lead, is very interested in these takes, and it'll be apparent when more on the cultures are revealed. I tend to err on the side of not building on real world historical elements (which I'd argue is a failing) and instead focusing on extrapolating on the actual nature of the location where a people came to be as well as cultures that have been influenced by game-specific events or game-specific causes.

One of the best Game Developer lectures I attended (with Ken Rolston and Mark Nelson) outlined how he proceeds from creating an interesting, explorable, and potentially never-seen-before type of fantasy locale/dungeon, and then building a culture or area design around that cool region, which I don't think is a bad way to go... it's a lot of fun to build cultures and people when they live on a plane where matter is shaped by your thought (githyanki in Torment, for example). It lets you imagine how they would survive, hunt, feed themselves, and what they would focus on and deem their most important philosophies as a result (which we brought to the fore with the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon, the "bible" for the githyanki in Torment). That kind of creative effort really interests me.


1UP: You also mentioned that a companion's presence should not be forced upon the player. This made me think about optional content that has appeared in Obsidian games, such as dialog with several outcomes and the way that Alpha Protocol revealed so much of its world through multiple playthroughs. As a writer, how do you feel about creating content that many people might not experience? Can it be frustrating, or is there a reward in knowing that the extra effort will be enjoyed by players that care enough to poke around and play your games several times?

I'm more than fine with it, and I sometimes find that one of the biggest lessons junior designers have to learn is that it's fine if the players don't see everything, especially in a true game with choices and consequences... they need to resist shoving everything down the player's throat, making companions immortal until they perform their "chosen role," etc, etc. Let players adventure with who they want to, even if it's nobody at all. It's their damn game, not a companion designer's excuse to force a companion connection that isn't there.