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The title of this Eurogamer article is a bit misleading in that when Obsidian's higher ups were turning the potential Game of Thrones RPG down, back in 2005, there was no hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones. There were only a couple of A Song of Ice and Fire books, and those books don't really translate well into a proper CRPG. Here's an excerpt from an interview with Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart and Chris Parker where they explain why:
It was six years before Season One of Game of Thrones aired on TV, nevertheless Obsidian co-founder and CEO Feargus Urquhart was well aware of the Song of Ice and Fire books - he'd followed them since the series started in 1996. He knew intimately what he was turning down, and he believed he had a good reason why.
"My feeling was, understanding the IP at the time, it's about this political intrigue, and people's connection to the IP is to all these characters - that's how the books are written, each chapter is a person and what's happening to them," Urquhart told me when I visited Obsidian recently.
"Other than what weird stuff is going on beyond The Wall, and the dragons, and some hint [of fantasy/magic], there are no magic users, there are no clerics, no thieves. Basically there's dudes with swords and armour and a little bit of mysticism, but within the main land [the Seven Kingdoms] there's no goblins, no kobolds..."
What would players play beyond a soldier? What would they fight? Not much was known about beyond The Wall at this point. It was really relationships between key characters that set A Song of Ice and Fire off.
"And," Obsidian co-founder and vice president of development Chris Parker added, "you can't give the player a character they can play that is important in this world. All of the important characters are all clearly spelled out and you can't even really go have a conversation with them."
"Looking back at it," added Urquhart, "the only thing we could have done is what BioWare did with Knights of the Old Republic. They basically said Episodes 1-6, you can't touch it, so we're just going to go way back. But even then some stuff had already been written about it in the [Star Wars] Expanded Universe. With George R. R. Martin there was no other... they talked about some history... we could have done that."
Or, do what The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (2011) did and pick on a spin-off thread, in this case the other Fellowship up north who were doing a bunch of stuff to help the main Fellowship Tolkien wrote his books about. Obsidian actually pitched this LOTR idea to Warner, but then Warner bought Snowblind and made War in the North.
"So maybe there could have been something we could have done," said Urquhart, getting back to Game of Thrones, "but we were starting to think more about open-world RPGs, and we wanted our players to have agency, to be important in the world.
"Back then [real-time strategy games] were more relevant and I said, 'I just don't know how we could make... It just feels more like an RTS game.' You have different factions and you put more political intrigue in there."