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Exclusive interview with Project Eternity’s Josh Sawyer

Marie-Anne Soetje October 3, 2012 Editorial, Opinion Comments

So what happens…

when one of the most acclaimed and beloved gaming company opens a project on kickstarter?

Reaching a mind blowing 1.5 million dollar goal in less than 24 hours is what!

Obsidian is remembered throughout the gaming community for incredible titles such as the epic Baldur’s Gate and the award winning Fallout series. While gaming industry writers and story makers are busy squabbling over the definition of art, whether a game fits into it, and debating the idea of games as concrete and valuable storytelling mediums; Obsidian was just out there doing it.

Their newest concept Project Eternity promises to be as epic, as gripping and as rated M as any of their previous work. Here is a quick rundown of the game, as per their Kickstarter page:

“Project Eternity will take the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of Baldur’s Gate, add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of Icewind Dale, and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of Planescape: Torment.”

If you’re not excited yet, we’ve managed to get our hands on the legendary game designer, Josh Sawyer who gratefully answered a few questions for us on the upcoming title!

XP4T: You mention that combat is real-time with pause. Will there be an option to get true turn based gaming out of it?

Josh Sawyer: Because our combat system is designed for real-time with pause from the ground-up (as opposed to adapting a turn-based system), it would be difficult to adapt the real-time system into turn-based.  Tim Cain and I talked at length about his experiences implementing a split real-time/turn-based system in Arcanum and we agreed it made sense to stick to just the real-time with pause system for Project Eternity.

XP4T: Why the decision to make a rated M game?

Josh Sawyer: It’s not so much a decision to make an M-rated game as much as a decision to make a game that deals with some really brutal aspects of how people behave.  That often winds up pushing things out of T and into M.  I worked on a project once where the publisher complained that we weren’t really “using the M-rating to its fullest potential” (i.e. blood, guts, sex), which I think totally missed the point.  There may be blood, guts, and sex in Project Eternity (hopefully not at the same time), but we’re not setting out to make something that thrives on shock value.

XP4T: How has the Kickstarter experience influenced the direction of the game so far?

JoshSawyer: Listening to feedback from the fans has helped us realize that people can be pretty polarized on what they want, even among a group of people ostensibly united by a love of the same games.  For us, that means prioritizing options is important.  If people don’t like a certain aspect of how skill checks are presented or how combat works, we should give them the ability to turn that off, resources permitting.

XP4T: Will Project Eternity be solely single player? Or do you hope for multiplayer gameplay as well?

 Josh Sawyer:  Solely single player.  Though most of the Infinity Engine games supported multiplayer, the real strength of those titles was in the single player experience.  Since this will be a relatively small project, we believe multiplayer would be too large of a distraction for us.

XP4T: Souls as the source of magic, and energy. Is it far out to imagine pits of humans thrown together in order to harvest their energy for dark purposes?

Josh Sawyer: No, it isn’t too far out!  That’s actually something we like about the soul concept.  It lends itself to interesting ideas of how societies might function based on the reality of souls being a source of power.  One idea we’ve discussed is the idea of a culture where those in power control the economic environment of the populace to such an extent that people literally sell their souls (in a fashion) to free themselves or their families from crippling debt.

XP4T: 1.5 million is certainly no small amount of money, how does it feel to get THAT much backing?

Josh Sawyer:  It’s fantastic.  We’re really excited to see where the funding winds up, but we’re confident we can make something awesome with the backing we’ve received so far.  The response from the community has been amazing.

Kickstarter makes things very personal with future players, how do you deal with the requests and feedback and demands? Do you feel obliged to follow them?

We try to read as much feedback in as many different places as possible, on the Obsidian forums as well as places like RPG Codex, NeoGAF, Something Awful, Penny Arcade, and others.  There’s a broad spectrum of responses, but I think we’ve been doing this long enough to know how to sort a signal out of the noise.  There will always be outliers, people who want really specific things that fall outside of the scope and focus of the project.  In those cases, the best thing we can do is politely let them know that we’re going in a different direction.

 For the people who are talking about things that can go one way or another and do fall within the scope of what we’re doing, we try to think about the pros and cons of what they’re talking about.  Often, we’re already doing something in line with what they’re thinking.  In other cases, we can give the person the feeling that’s behind what they’re saying without actually doing what they’re saying.

As developers, we need to put effort into interpreting a variety of desires and opinions and synthesizing the best solution for the game.  That best solution is only rarely a “somewhere in the middle” answer to the debate, but we do try to take in the full spectrum of feedback.

 Want more?

And if all that doesn’t sound awesome enough to make your RPG heart melt, there’s more. Or the possibility of more! Their kickstarter is still running, that’s right: 2.5 million dollars and counting! Join now, win some pretty awesome goodies for helping out, and become part of one of the most anticipated RPG project in recent years!

 

 

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About The Author

Full time mother and gaming industry professional on a high speed race to hopefully somewhere