Project Eternity Interview

In an unsurprising turn of events, we're still getting a good number of Project Eternity interviews past the end of its Kickstarter campaign, and this time it's the turn of Cybergamer's chat with project director J.E. Sawyer. The interview touches on a number of lore and mechanical matters such as the concept of souls in the world, the leveling curve, the playable classes and more.

Here's a couple of snippets to whet your appetite:
One of the first things mentioned about Project Eternity was the concept of Souls being important and a source of power, that you were interested what world building ideas are generated from that design mechanic.

Where did the inspiration behind this concept come from ? I've heard many people mention NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer, although I personally thought of Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader.

It actually came out of some thoughts I had about the physical and metaphysical underpinnings of our own world. When worldbuilding, I think a lot of designers want to explain everything up front. There's obvious value in defining how the world works because it helps everyone wrap their heads around what the setting is about. Over the years, I've felt that breaking down the supernatural into easy-to-comprehend chunks drains the magic from it.

Compare this to our own observation and understanding of the physical world. Public reaction to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle was very telling. Despite the scientific community's general requests to stop calling it the "God particle", the public and media couldn't help themselves. A discovery that potentially explains, if not the "why", at least the "how" of existence is appealing.

Project Eternity's world has a similar level of flawed understanding. They can perceive souls, they can detect and record some data about them, they can verify their findings to a certain extent, but they still don't really "get" how it all works. Arguably of greater importance, they don't understand why souls work (and don't work) the way that they do. Individuals also don't agree on the role the gods play in the cycle. Last week, our art director, Rob Nesler, came in and asked me, "Are the gods actually gods or just beings of immense power?" While there aren't many people in the world of Project Eternity who deny the existence of gods, that question is one that people in the setting have debated for millennia.


At first I was a bit scared of the combat being like Dragon Age or an MMO when I heard that the rounds/d20 system was being done away with and some form of cooldowns being used, but after a while it dawned on me that you guys have the potential to create a freaking amazing combat system unlike anything we've seen before in this style of game. Tim Cain has mentioned Real-Time Strategy games as a drawn influence for the system design of this game. What real-time strategy games have influenced some of the design decisions? One wanted feature I've seen mentioned on the forums is a Warcraft 3 style mini map.

You'd have to ask Tim for his specific influences, but personally I think unit responsiveness is very important (and often lacking in RPGs), positioning is important, and the ability to combine units in different arrangements for different challenges is important. We want people to feel like they have a lot of tactical options for approaching a challenge. A challenge that requires one specific build to overcome isn't really tactical gameplay; it's more of a combat puzzle. I think that's less satisfying in a party-based game where you control the composition and build of your group.

A good example of a tried and true RTS combat system is the one used by Warcraft 3/Defense of the Ancients/DotA 2. Units and Heroes have a Base Attack Time in seconds (1.7), as well as an Attack Animation time (eg 0.5) a Damage point, and a backswing time (eg 0.7) and attack speed is calculated by scaling these values [ Animation or BAT / (1 + attack speed bonus)]. Is this a similar direction to the one you're going with moving combat system design away from the d20 system ? The ability to cancel attack animations/casting animations has disappeared in more recent games as well but these were handy in the IE games.

Calculating actions (and cancels) in frames (or seconds, from a user perspective) is something we've had to do on most of our recent titles, especially Dungeon Siege III and Fallout: New Vegas. It's less important for the player to perceive when it's not a direct input system (like Dungeon Siege III or New Vegas), but working in real-time means, yep, you have to think about things on a real-time scale. In a round-based system, increments to attack rates need to be made on a coarse-granularity scale. That's why older editions of AD&D had attack rates like 3/2 before 2/1 and GURPS gets into some complicated time unit subdivisions. When the round is the basis for combat timing, you don't have many other choices.