The RPG has been kept under wraps, though. We only have a working title (Game of Thrones RPG), and many of the game's plot and gameplay details are still completely unknown. Nonetheless, we recently had the opportunity to interview project manager Thomas Veauclin and we did our best to uncover as many details on the upcoming RPG as we could.
GB: Cyanide landed the rights to do video game titles based on the A Song of Ice and Fire books back in May of 2009. Can you tell us a little about how this deal came about? Did Cyanide approach the publisher or were you approached with the idea?
Thomas: It will be 7 years ago that we first made contact with George R. R. Martin, via his agent. It was a deliberate move on our part as many of us had read one or two of the books and we had the board game in the studio. However, it took 5 years between the time of our first contact and the day George said "yes". However, the wait was worth it and we had grown a lot, so in fact George said "yes" to both a strategy game and an RPG. When I look back over the period from first contact to the agreement, we did pass a watershed with our "Loki" action/RPG. That really was a massive development project for us and we learned a lot technically and organizationally. We therefore began the "A Game of Thrones" project with the necessary resources and technology in place. For example, we didn't pussyfoot around when it came to the choice of a game engine; we went straight for the Unreal Engine 3.
GB: Is George R.R. Martin directly involved with either project? Do you regularly check with George or other sources to ensure that the lore within the games matches the books?
Thomas: He's not part of project meetings, but we do submit concepts, artwork etc to him. We've also met with him to show a playable prototype. However, he's a very busy man, so we try to avoid inundating him with questions. Fortunately, there are several people George has worked with during the production of other licensed properties, so we've been able to call on them when we need clarification or validation. However, George does retain final word on everything.
GB: Where do you currently stand with the development of the AGOT RPG and how much longer do you expect its development to take? Is its release in any way contingent on the success of the RTS?
Thomas: The adventure began two years ago, but the two are totally separate projects, with the RPG being developed in France and the RTS in our Montreal studio in Canada. The release of one is totally independent of the other and the guaranteed success of the RTS will impact in no way on the RPG. From a development viewpoint, we aim to finish the RPG before the end of this year.
GB: Can you reveal a little of the plot's setup and how you're structuring the game world (linear or open)?
Thomas: We spent a lot of time thinking about how we would structure the game because we wanted it to reflect the very particular structure of the books. We were not developing just any other RPG; it had to live and breathe "A song of Ice and Fire". However, we didn't want to just shift the contents of the books across into video game format, as most readers (and they do number in their millions) would not be very motivated to relive a story they already knew. We therefore took the universe of the books and wrote between the lines, creating our own story within the vast edifice created by George. We use his foundations, but we build a few levels of our own.
I won't go into much detail, but as mentioned above, the plot of the books is conveyed through the eyes of several different POV characters, each with dedicated chapters. This narrative mode is untypical of RPGs, but it is the route we have chosen, although with fewer main characters. We have two "heroes" and as the story advances, chapter by chapter, the player swaps from one to the other, switching point of view as he goes. The player thus has several windows on the game through which he can view many different stories. Bit by bit, he will mold them into one narrative which provides a complete overview of the plot.
We won't carry all fans of the series (be it the books or the HBO adaptation) with us, but they can all be assured that George is aware of what we are up to.
GB: We know it's early, but what can you tell us about the game's character creation and advancement system? Will you be taking a numbers-heavy approach with attributes, skill checks, combat rolls, and such, or will the game be more of an action RPG? Also, will there be a fixed protagonist or is the game going to allow for character customization right from the start?
Thomas: We are working on a linear storyline in which our two main characters are "delimited". This must not be equated with constrained; it just means that a coherent story requires that the dramatis personae be coherent. The two of them thus have a well-defined background and a given mindset, which impact on their relationship. Of course, the player will be able to customise the equipment and attributes of his characters and this will allow them to evolve in a direction chosen by the player.
The same goes for the storyline. It would be impossible to offer an epic adventure if the game was played in an open world. Depth can only be provided if we keep the player to a linear path. Again, the player will be able to make vital choices at key moments, so he is not a captive of the game scenario.
As for gameplay, we are very much tactical RPG-orientated. That's why, in combat, we use an active pause system which allows skills to be stacked while the game is switched into slow motion.
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