Obsidian On Project Eternity, Old-School Innovation

I think – after all these years – it might finally be safe to say that a few people kind of liked Baldur’s Gate. Admittedly, there’s not much evidence to support this insane theory of mine, but Obsidian’s Project Eternity is scraping by decently I guess. In light of that, I got in touch with Obsidian creative overlord Chris Avellone to discuss his company’s Kickstarter-fueled overnight success. Among other things, we discussed how different systems (progression, leveling up, choice, etc) will work, why Obsidian picked a fantasy setting, why Project Eternity’s PC-only forever and ever, the potential for something like Fallout 2’s idiot dialogue options, and developers’ ability to innovate in spite of confining themselves to “old-school” rules. Contribute $586 million to the (non-existent) RPS Kickstarter to unlock the “after the break” stretch goal.

RPS: You make some pretty big claims about Project Eternity’s lineage – likening the game to Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape Torment. Can you explain how it’s like those games on more specific terms, though? For instance, you say it’ll have the “mature thematic exploration” of Planescape. What kind of themes does that entail?

Avellone: Baldur’s Gate was a party-based, tactical D&D RPG that had a strong storyline, strong companions, and stayed true and faithful to the RPG experience. The biggest takeaway from the BG example is in the way we approach the companion design. We feel that people formed attachments to companions in BG for many reasons – their humor, their backstories, their unique touches in inventory items and barks, and even how they dealt with each other and the player. Also, the amount of questing and exploration, especially in BG2, is something that people love and would love to see again.

Icewind Dale was a party-based, tactical dungeon exploration RPG across a variety of diverse environments that were a hell of a lot of fun for the level designers to make, especially Icewind Dale 2. IWD had some of the most beautiful, crazy-ass locations we’ve ever done, locations that are notoriously hard to do with modern engines.

Planescape explored the philosophies and religions of other races, it explored the idea of the mind shaping reality, and it put forth the question of your place in the universe and then gave you mechanics to compliment that. It purposely bucked many archetypes and tried to re-examine them from the opposite direction, and we’ll do the same in Eternity. We want to explore the ideas and perspectives of other cultures, religions, the concept of language and oral tradition in a world where books aren’t commonplace, and the concept of self in a world where souls transfer from being to being. What kind of cultures and religions come into being in a world like that? What does that mean for you and your companions?

RPS: Why opt for a fantasy setting? I mean, gaming has quite a few of them. How will you set your mythology apart – as opposed to simply being another world of orcs and elves and dwarves and totally-not-hobbits?

Avellone: The type of races and concept art that’s been revealed for Eternity we hope display our commitment to showcasing seemingly-traditional races with unusual gear and traits – including the fact our women characters wear… appropriate armor. In addition to the more easily recognizable races, we have a number of specialized races as well, including the god-touched races and even more unusual races we intend to unveil later. In addition, the technology level and the concept of souls puts a further twist on the races and classes of the world in an interesting way.

RPS: Black Isle’s RPGs included all sorts of amazing, totally optional details. For instance, I always got a kick out of Fallout 2’s idiot dialogue options and how much thought went into that system. Will Project Eternity have any surprises along those lines?

Avellone: Yes, we want to examine the dialogue mechanics, and one thing we’re going to do is low-intelligence options – either based on Intelligence or a trait – and have the sequences play out differently according to the player’s intellect. As a narrative designer, I enjoy writing interactions like that, and I had a blast with the stupid options in F2 in Vault City and New Reno.

RPS: That was pretty innovative for its time, come to think of it. Meanwhile, Kickstarter seems to be ruled by nostalgia these days, and I feel like Obsidian’s a perfect example of why it could be a problem. On one hand, you’re making a very intriguing game. On the other, Obsidian’s created some truly innovative and forward-thinking features in games like Alpha Protocol. Does this trend put progress on hold? Is it dangerous for everyone to be indulging in nostalgia like this?

Avellone: Innovative concepts don’t need to be tied to modern blockbusters or to nostalgia. While RPGs have lost some mechanics over the years in their transition phases from PC to console, there’s plenty of innovative elements you can do in old school nostalgia games – for example, low intelligence options were pioneered in Fallout, and that didn’t require any special tech whatsoever. It just required the Fallout team to think it up and put it into practice.

Fallout really opened my design eyes to the possibilities of a mechanics-driven dialogue system that reacted to your attributes, skills, gear, and more. We’d like to continue that tradition, and it’s easier to do when everything’s not voice-acted and super expensive for every line you have to fight for.

RPS: You’re placing a premium on positioning and formation in combat. Why do you think that tactical element fell out of favor in the first place?

Avellone: The camera view and number of party members you can control both were changed to the point where formations fell away. Formations when you only have 2 people in the party – and you often have to give them fire-and-forget AI commands – aren’t as valuable or needed.

RPS: What sort of progression system will Project Eternity have? Will it be pretty standard leveling up, talent trees, and gear collection? Or will there be other elements – for instance, involving souls?

Avellone: We’ll have traditional levels and advancement options. It’s also important for us to tie the setting and mechanics together. We feel that worked well for New Vegas, for Torment, and Mask of the Betrayer. We’re exploring how we can allow the player to use soul-based advancement elements specifically tied to their character and his/her personality/background – outside of class-based soul abilities.

RPS: How about morality and choice? Will it involve a point system/meter of some sort? I attended a talk at GDC where Project Eternity’s own Josh Sawyer deemed them essential in showing the player the results of their actions.

Avellone: I don’t believe in a morality bar for the player. It was excluded from Alpha Protocol on purpose. Something like the reputations – personal and faction and community – that were in Alpha Protocol and New Vegas feel more true to me.

RPS: Are you hoping to make choices more evident in the way the world reacts to players’ characters, then? How big of an impact can we make? 

Avellone: That’s what we did in New Vegas and made apparent in community barks – as well as all-out hostility. We also had a number of trigger events that would occur based on quest completions or even events triggered by actions the player took elsewhere in the world. One thing we’d like to avoid is special casing everything. I feel Alpha Protocol was reactive, but designing that reactivity was a much larger commitment than the more fluid way that I feel New Vegas was able to implement it.

RPS: Old-school RPGs weren’t perfect. Animations weren’t great, controls were clunky, menus required a billion clicks, numbers were everywhere, etc. How much are you modernizing the old-school template vs reproducing it?

Avellone: You should expect to see changes across all those departments – with added technology, recreating the old-school experience can be beautiful, as Legend of Grimrock proved from the look of dungeons to the look of the monsters.

RPS: Obsidian’s had its fair share of ups and downs with publishers – for instance, the Metacritic controversy with Fallout and Alpha Protocol not living up to Sega’s sales standards. Did those things, at least in part, prompt your decision to go to Kickstarter?

Avellone: We just want to make an isometric game without having to “sell” it to anyone other than the players. If the players want to support it – and they do – that’s enough for me.

RPS: Publishers are clearly still needed to produce truly big budget game projects. Is that simply a necessary evil at this point? Would you even consider it any sort of “evil”?

Avellone: I consider it a different financial model that has advantages and disadvantages, but I don’t feel it has its own morality bar, no.

RPS: You’re hoping to turn this into a franchise, right? If so, how? Add-ons to the main game, new characters and locations, etc?

Avellone: Our hope is we can keep making brand new Eternity titles, yes, and keep the franchise going into brand-new full games. We’d like Eternity to keep going as long as players want to support it, and we want to make it worth their while.

RPS: You’ve taken a very ardent stance on being PC-only. Meanwhile, many developers claim that designing for consoles doesn’t compromise their ability to create a truly great PC game. Why do you think otherwise? Is it mainly a matter of the genre you’re working with?

Avellone: It’s difficult to control a party tactically with most console controllers nowadays. And when you have 5+ party members in addition to 20+ potential enemies running around on a level, most consoles don’t appreciate that level mob mentality, either. This isn’t to say we haven’t had fun designing console RPGs, but there are limitations, sure.

RPS: Obsidian’s always been a cut above, well, pretty much everyone in terms of writing. And yet, it’s arguable that you haven’t had the success you deserve. Why do you think gamers don’t value great writing in the same way, say, movie viewers do? Or do they? Does modern culture in general discount great writing?

Avellone: Good writing does not make a popular or accessible game. While we value stories and deep character interactions, there are other factors at work that feed into success, and the Kickstarter is proof of our success in the industry. People are willing to back our ideas and stand behind them, and we’re ready to prove ourselves.

RPS: Dungeon Siege III appeared to finally kick Obsidian’s bug problem. What exactly did you change, and are you planning to refine the process even more with Project Eternity?

Avellone: It was our own toolset. We had our own bug-reporting and tracking software, and our programmers who knew the engine inside and out were just down the hall. We found it easy to change and iterate on code and toolsets to make DS3 go smoothly. Speaking from a narrative design standpoint, for example, having a customized dialogue editor that caters to everything we’ve learned about writing reactive dialogues over the years was a blessing.

RPS: You’re calling it Project Eternity. Given the history of certain other games that named themselves after infinite expanses of time, I think you’re tempting the fates. You’re saying it’ll come out in 2014, but let’s be real here: 15-year development cycle, right?

Avellone: Sure, let’s be real – April 2014, that’s the target.

RPS: Thank you for your time.


  1. Cinek says:

    I supported the game as one of the early backers + beta access. But I don’t feel like I’m going to up my pledge by even a single $.

    They ask for this game as much as I can spend on a completed game from a shop. But at the same time we don’t have anything other then very vague description of the game, few concept arts, and info about engine their chosen. And the release date in 2014… probably till the day comes I’ll forget about even having an account on the kickstarter in a first place.

    Honestly? It’s as blind investment into the title as it gets. No idea why people put hundreds of dollars into a big corporation with vaporware (cause that’s what they have currently). This early backer pledge is already a huge investment comparing the the involvement Obsidian got into the title – guys, seriously, they don’t even have a proper microphone in one of their updates! What the heck….

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      When I put my money behind this I’m not just buying a game – a game which I expect will be very good by the way – I’m buying a voice, a voice that says a big loud “screw you” to every bland, designed-by-committee, mainstream flashy-graphics consumerist computer game where I thoughtlessly blow up Muslims, Arabs and Russians.

      Furthermore it’s a voice that’s asking for creativity and obscurity. I’m sick to death of washed out fantasy stereotypes – just remember some of the utterly insane stuff in Planescape. The first level alone had more incredible items, ideas, speech, themes and characters than most modern RPGs rolled together. I will happily pledge money to anyone who wants to bring even a smidgen of this into gaming.

      • JackShandy says:

        This morning, the creators of COD will read about your backing and spit their coffee all over their morning newspaper. “H-HexagonalBolts bought Project Eternity?” they’ll splutter. “Where did we go wrong? How can we fix this terrible, terrible mistake?”

        “Perhaps if we made a game about hitting orcs with swords, instead of shooting arabs with guns!” cries a talented young designer with a gleam in his eye. Everybody cheers. The company is saved.

        • HexagonalBolts says:

          That did make me laugh. But seriously, there’s a lot of people putting their money behind things that just a year ago people thought were far too distant from the mainstream to ever be made. Even if it is just a few million dollars and 10 or so games, perhaps it will have some small effect on the industry as a whole if only by changing people’s expectations of games and developer’s sources of inspiration.

          • walstafa says:

            Hexagonalbolts: At present there’s just over 52,000 backers on the Kickstarter. Barring a miracle, that won’t top 70k total. If a CoD sold that many copies, heads would roll.

            I’m glad this game’s being made, I backed it within hours of it launching and I can’t wait to see the finished product. That said, I don’t think the number of people who will end up playing the game will make any Triple-A company rethink the “error” of their ways.

          • Cinek says:

            If anything is bound to happen – I think it’s just that large developers will see kickstarter as yet another way of sucking money out of people. As noone reasonable will “rethink his way” due to 2 or 3M founding of the game when AAA title can easily cost over 50M – according to some polls average cost of developing a game in 2010 was 20M.

            Meanwhile in whole history of kickstarter not even a single game exceeded 4M.

          • HexagonalBolts says:

            Walstafa the games don’t need to top COD to be successful, I’m just happy that they exist at all in an environment that seemed so dominated by corporations until recently.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            walstafa: I don’t think he’s saying it’ll make them see the error of their ways. Obviously, if their aim is to make money they are doing a great job.

            Rather, he seems to be saying that perhaps consumers will alter their expectations (not ALL of them! but enough to have a voice) and that consequently developers in general (not ALL of them! but enough to make some games for some people) may develop more games for us gamers who would like to see games development progressing in those oft overlooked directions.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            You guys are talking about funding for the game through donations, though. It remains to be seen how big an impact these games can have on the market. Will they just deliver to the donors (pre-orders) or will the games actually sell?

          • Dark Nexus says:


            Don’t forget that only just over 9k have put down as much money as new-release pricing on AAA titles, with almost half of the people at $20.

          • Cinek says:

            Dark Nexus – with only difference they did not put enough money for AAA title. If you hope for Project Eternity being an AAA title for 2 or even 3M – you are cheating yourself. In these days it’s impossible to produce anything considered AAA for such a low amount of money. Either Obisidian will find a publisher for a project, or it’ll end up as text-mostly B-class title (good, but still b). And good indies made by 1 or 2 people sell for similar prices as well. So I wouldn’t go too far into conclusions.

            Alternative for Obsidian would be to use it’s own money, perhaps that’s exactly what they plan to do?
            I hope so.

          • InternetBatman says:

            @Sparkasaurus Someone from Obsidian mentioned that Baldur’s Gate II sold over a million copies, obviously it’s doubtful that project eternity would ever get that high, but they’re only at 52k backers, so there’s certainly room for growth. I think a more likely scenario is that it brings them a small amount of consistent monthly income like Psychonauts does for Doublefine.

          • mouton says:


            A title being or not being “AAA” does not mean anything in terms of actual fun and/or quality. Analogies in other entertainment sectors are legion.

          • kuhlka says:

            Keep in mind that’s over 50,000 people who essentially PRE-ORDERED a game 2 YEARS before it’s supposed to release. I’m sure that 50,000+ number will multiply like mad when the finished product is out and getting stellar reviews.

          • D3xter says:

            Total sales for all Baldur’s Gate releases as of 2009 counted 5 million sold: link to books.google.de
            The first game alone sold well over 2 million copies into 2005.

            KickStarter backer numbers say nothing about the amount of people willing to buy when the game is out. A lot of people don’t know about KickStarter, a lot more will likely not take the risk to “pay for a game they know near to nothing about and is 2 years out” or similar. As soon as a game gets released and gets popularity on Distribution platforms like Steam or GoG as well as all the Reviews etc. hit it gets a very different amount of exposure and interest.
            Faster Than Light is a prime example, only short of 10.000 people backed it: link to kickstarter.com , but it was Top Seller on Steam for several days (amount of money made, not copies sold even) and is still at #11 as we speak.

        • Sunjumper says:

          It is not about having Infinity Ward and the likes see the errors of their ways and admit their sins, it is about showing that there are alternatives.

          The Cal of Duties and Medal of Honors have their place in the market (obviously) and they have all the money they need. The publishers are a risk averse lot who are also driven by their irrational need to maximize profits would not touch things like Eternity with a 10″ pole.

          So HexagonalBolts contribution works.
          Much better than him not buying CoD, because there his wallet vote amounted to nothing.
          Here he voted for something to be made and it seems to be working.

          This is how an investment works. There is someone with a bright idea and no money and someone with money who likes that idea. They get together and the guy with the money pledges a certain amount to see to project see the light of day and turn into a success. In a more classic example of investment the money giver would simply get his money back plus a bit extra, in this case it is a game and depending on your donation, a bit extra,
          Investments are always connected to risk. Projects can always fail and never see the light of day.
          Or they see the light of day to the deafening roar of utter disinterest. This is actually a point where you have a serious advantage with kickstarter projects, because here you will in the end get a game.

          I always wondered why it was so incredibly hard for even established teams to get enough money to get a decent project off the ground, why there was no one willing to give them the money they needed to make a game that built on their strengths instead of chasing the newest trend of the market.
          It seems I had totally underestimated how incredibly risk averse many people seem to be.

          • Cinek says:

            I agree that it’s the way kickstarter works, sure, but many games made by 1 or 2 people got more solid presentations then this “product” developed by enormous company moving millions of dollars a year.
            I’m really disappointed by this fact.

            Even whole kickstarter for Planetary Annihilation got much more solid and concrete campaign where you could see that Uber really needs these money and really asks for people’s support. They did everything I would ask for in this type of project, and even more – they made an updates in a middle of the night when some important goals were reached.

            Meanwhile Obsidian can’t even afford a proper recording equipment for an update… lol

          • HexagonalBolts says:

            … Hmm, that is a good point Cinek.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Well, I think Obsidian are intentionally using low grade recordings to appeal to a specific audience. Liewise, their lack of hard details seems intentional – with frequent updates and taking a great deal of feedback on the forums and such. The effect being that as backers, we are (hopefully) feeling like we have a large degree of impact on the development.

            This wouldn’t necessarily work for a bold new idea in an experimental genre but for a significant audience who has been clamouring for the game this seems to promise to be (with decades of wishful thinking to draw on) a chance to shape the outcome is a big pull.

          • Ragnar says:

            The difference is in how the two games were conceived.

            Planetary Annihilation was conceived as a $2 million game that started as a $900k proposal. They planned out the game ahead of time, set the goal to half of that, and thus had everything else to use a stretch goals. If they met the goal but failed to reach the stretch goals, it would have felt as getting a partial game.

            Project Eternity was conceived as a game with an unknown budget. They established the basics – isometric, party-based, fantasy RPG – and then set how much money they would need to make that basic vision. Everything is somewhat vague because Obsidian is waiting until they have a final $ amount before they plan out the game, the idea being to make a full game at any funding amount and to make the best game they can for the full funding amount.

            From a project planning standpoint, I feel that waiting to see how much money you have to work with before planning out the details of the project is a better approach to a successful project than planning out the project ahead of time and then hoping that you get the necessary funding (which is, on the other hand, a better approach to sell the project and thus get that funding).

      • Hoaxfish says:

        (un)Funny thing is, with all those backers calling for various things it could very easily fall foul to “design by committee”.. Though I’m fairly sure Obsidian will be able to keep their heads above the frothing nonsense.

        • Cinek says:

          Yea, for that one I’m not worried. Guys at obsidian got quite clear vision of what they want to achieve – people don’t agree, or have millions of ideas, but I doubt any part of them would be heard in a way that reaches people responsible for decision making in the game. Some generic concerns hit the board, but most of the “design committee” gets filtered out.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            JE Sawyer in particular has been quite active in the forums – largely on topics he’s passionate about himself. Also, the updates have tended elaborate on the trending topics in their forum. So I think the community voice is being heard.

            But I would say in general that yes, the devs will likely do what they think is best – although the community may focus their attention on specific areas even then, the devs judgement will win out.

          • Cinek says:

            I think Obisidian is smart enough to realise that following wishes of the community is a quickest way to the total disaster. IQ of a crowd is as high as an IQ of dumbest person in it.

          • Klonopin says:

            ” IQ of a crowd is as high as an IQ of dumbest person in it.”

            That’s not even remotely true. Studies done on the subject have shown repeatedly that groups of people or animals generally make quicker and more accurate decisions than just the smartest person in the group isolated. I mean, why would a group suddenly start following the dumbest guy there?

            I do agree that adding a bunch of uninformed opinions to a smaller group of game-design experts is unlikely to improve the final product. It really comes down to having a good group management system so that the worst ideas are ignored before they create distraction.

    • Torn says:

      Honestly? It’s as blind investment into the title as it gets. No idea why people put hundreds of dollars into a big corporation with vaporware (cause that’s what they have currently).

      Err… you’ve described most of kickstarter.

      Why I’ve put money in is because it’s a team with a proven record, who are very likely to make the kind of game I’ve been wanting for quite a while. It’s also the only way to fund this kind of development, as I doubt modern publishers would even touch a deliberately-oldschool CRPG.

      • Cinek says:

        No, not really. All of the kickstarter projects I supported got solid material, prototypes, and very well described investment scheme.

        Project Eternity is nothing alike. It’s just a pile of ideas with few MP3s and JPGs made in less then 1 week.

        • LintMan says:

          No, not really. All of the kickstarter projects I supported got solid material, prototypes, and very well described investment scheme.

          I tend to do this with my kickstarter donations also, but have a sliding scale based on track record. The more proven a track record and the more established as an operating company the dev is, the more slack I’m willing to cut them as far as solid progress I want to see at the start of the project. So I’m far more wiling to give inXile, DoubleFine, Obsidian the benefit of the doubt as far as showing their progress.

          Project Eternity is nothing alike. It’s just a pile of ideas with few MP3s and JPGs made in less then 1 week.

          I think that Obsidian can crank out an engine for this sort of game in their sleep Particularly when their tools are already actively being tweaked and updated for Wasteland 2 support. The real work here at this point (IMHO) is designing the classes and systems, establishing the lore and locations.

        • mouton says:


          You are free to have your own requirements for supporting a title. I support Obsidian because they are positively awesome. If you don’t trust them without them providing solid material, then do not support them.

    • atticus says:

      For me, my support comes as a direct result of this project giving me the kind of enthusiasm for a game that I haven’t felt for years.

      I don’t know why I don’t feel the way I did about games anymore… Maybe it’s because I’ve entered my thirties, maybe it’s because all new games are too available, or maybe they’re all shit.

      All I know is that I yawn as I scroll through the long list of games in my Steam library, not finding a single title remotely interesting.

      So there’s no guarantee for what kind of product this will be when it’s released. But it gave me something to be really happy about and to passionately look forward too. And that, for me, is worth my $500 pledge.

      And buying a beer at a bar in Norway costs $15. So for me, it’s only like buying 33 beers. Not that big of a deal, really.

    • MrMud says:

      So I have put money towards this, quite a lot more than needed just to get a copy.
      Why would I do that?
      Its simple, I want to make a statement that games of this kind by developers I trust is something that I am prepared to pay for.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I have no idea whether or not this is true, but I think one reason almost all of the large projects have been vague is that they didn’t have the money to get as far along in production like smaller groups. If that’s the case, who wants to waste what little money they have making an overproduced kickstarter video when it could get the reaction of Republique? It seems like shitty video is almost expected of fans.

      I’m pretty sure that Planetary Annihilation, while super cool, did not have images from the actual game in it, it was just a mock-up.

    • devil_92 says:

      Well i think it depend on what your ecenomic situation is,maybe they can afford to throw away a hundred $,But it is also an Blind investment in someone you KNOW can create something awesome

    • Shralla says:

      I must have missed the brand new titles being released for $25 in shops these days. Clearly I need to keep my eyes peeled.

    • Branthog says:

      The reason you back a project is pretty simple. If you say “I refuse to back this and will only give them my money after the game is launched”, they won’t have the funding to make and launch the game and you will never have a game to buy. (Or, if you do, it will only be due to them finally getting backing from elsewhere, which may inevitably alter the tone and type of game that was so appealing in the first place, to appease the new investors who are not the gamers).

      In other words, there is risk when backing a video game project via crowd-funding, but you’re also “investing” not just in a final game, but in increasing the odds that said game will ever get to be made, in the first place. If there were tons of these games out there already being made and launched, I’d be off buying and playing those. But they aren’t. So I’m backing projects that are working toward those things so that I can play *those* later on.

      How much that is worth chipping in for is dependent upon each player, of course. With few exceptions, I’m not willing to spend more than $15 or $30 — unless I’m also getting something more with my contribution than just the game (a making-of documentary, for example).

  2. Themadcow says:

    The lack of bugs in DS3 thing is interesting. MCA puts it down to having their own toolset and tracking software. If I recall correctly, Eternity is using the Unity engine though…

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I find that a bit “off” too. Hopefully the wide-spread Unity community will be able to help more than the makers of the other engines they’ve previously had “bug issues” with.

      • Bhazor says:

        You mean the games plagued with the same issues previous games made with the same engine had?

        Bethesda’s absolute mess of broken ai and twunted physics for example or the horrendous texture pop-in that comes with the Unreal engine.

        • WedgeJAntilles says:

          Avellone also didn’t mention that a lot of the games known for being buggy (KotOR2, New Vegas) were rushed out the door early due to publisher pressure. It’s kindof hard to do good QA when you’re given 12 months to do 24 months worth of work, regardless of how good your tools are.

          Also, all those games are complex 3d behemoths. 2d games are much, much simpler from a technical perspective, and so are much easier to QA.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            I wouldn’t be quite so quick to side with the developers in these developer publisher spats. It is very easy to do, but lots of times the developer commits to those unrealistic time-frames to secure funding, or doesn’t make good use of its time, or makes mistakes, or is badly managed.

            Certainly the publishers can be big short sighted jerks, but the developers even very skilled developers with great ideas, can be badly managed, or too ambitious, or deceitful to themselves and the publishers about what are realistic goals.

          • D3xter says:

            In KOTOR2’s case at least LucasArts cut their PLANNED development schedule by several months, I don’t remember how many but somewhere between 3-6, because they wanted to have the game ready for holiday release. Avellone stated in interviews around then that he wished “there had been more time”.

            Also, in a lot of cases publishers are responsible for QA, I believe this was the case for Bethesda and Fallout: New Vegas. Big publishers have the money to pay for big QA departments, most small or mid-sized developers do not. As a direct result, if they don’t get proper feedback or the developer decides that it’s “good enough” they can obviously mainly fix what the developers themselves find buggy in the game.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Sadly, they can’t use the Onyx engine because the middleware costs too much. At least they can probably get some assets from it. I do think that Unity will have a better chance since InXile is also using it, and they talk to each other.

      Also, DS3 was by far their least ambitious game, which probably made QA easier.

  3. Bhazor says:

    The thing that really annoys me about Walker’s piece?
    The fact it’s listed as “Our finest words” as if its gospel despite the overwhelming negative response in the comments.

    This article just shows that damning a game as a rehash based purely on its genre is like damning System Shock as a Doom clone.

    • Malfernion says:

      John didn’t damn any games as anything..

      I think it’s completely valid to consider whether people famed for innovation should be pledging to copy old games that are (in many cases) outdated in a lot of ways is a good thing, and the vast amount of interest in said article clearly shows that it’s a good question.

      • Thirith says:

        Thing is, many of these games weren’t innovative in any big ways – it’s more that they did what others were doing to a much larger extent and more successfully. Is Planescape innovative? If so, in what way? Does it do anything that Baldur’s Gate 2 on the one hand and Fallout on the other hadn’t done already? It does take the successes of these earlier games much further, but I fail to see what it does as innovative. Building on what’s come before, yes. Doing it better, absolutely. Doing it much more consistently, definitely. But innovating?

        Don’t get me wrong, Planescape is one of my favourite games ever – but saying that it’s the masterpiece it is because of innovation is imprecise at best.

        And I think that’s what I found most disappointing about John’s earlier post: it used innovation in such a vague way that it ended up meaning very little. It became one of those terms like “immersion” that are placeholders for more precise, meaningful concepts that the author can’t or won’t specify.

        • Rise / Run says:

          Innovation is just a buzzword. The Matrix (yes, the movie) was innovative in that they bought a crapton of cameras and digitally stitched together the images to cool effect. Amazing the first time you see it. But the concept isn’t really complicated (or difficult, frankly).

          I’d say Planescape was “innovative” in that the devs spent the time to write immense depth for most dialogs, especially the side quests. PS:T is the closest cRPG I’ve ever played to sitting with a real DM playing pen/paper. It was the only cRPG I’ve played where alignment meant anything (other than who attacks you at a given location, e.g. Karma in FO, which is a weak system, imho).

          How did you get my sword back? asks the guy who doesn’t want you to kill anybody
          1) I killed them (Truth)
          2) I killed them (Lie)
          3) I stole it (Truth)
          4) I stole it (Lie)

          How often have you been given the option to lie on or tell the truth on any dialog option and then have that ACTUALLY be what your character did? And have that effect the world, sometimes in no small way.

          Simple, true. Helluva lot of work, true. But that’s why other games with “choices” seem daft to me. Choosing between left and right is not a choice. Especially if the fork rejoins two miles down.

          Planescape (and Fallout, to a lesser extent) are rare games where the player can role play, not just roll play.

          • Emeraude says:

            The Matrix (yes, the movie) was innovative in that they bought a crapton of cameras and digitally stitched together the images to cool effect. Amazing the first time you see it. But the concept isn’t really complicated (or difficult, frankly).

            That wasn’t even innovative, in the way some people have been defining innovation in those threads. That technique had been in use for at least a dozen years. All the Wachowskis did was import it.

          • Thirith says:

            I agree with you on all of these – and since they’re still pretty rare, I don’t care whether they’re supposedly innovative or not. The qualities that Planescape had aren’t a dime a dozen, so I think there’s definitely a place for games that aim for the same (just better).

            Apart from that, I have a general problem with the notion of innovation, mainly because I think we’re at a point where newness mainly comes from combining existing elements that haven’t been combined before. Remixing, basically. IMO the same is true for all the media/art forms. Yes, there is innovation every now and then, but it’s amazingly rare and can barely be designed for.

    • Hanban says:

      Is it just me or are you reading a bit too much into “Our finest words”?

      I mean, if we’re being picky some of those words are from interviews. And then there are other people’s words there too!

    • Naum says:

      Words that many people disagree with can be much more valuable than words that make everyone happy. I, for one, felt much like our dear John before reading his article, and the comments have made me rethink my opinion on the matter, hopefully making it a bit more nuanced and objective. I can see nothing wrong with that.

    • The Random One says:

      I don’t understand your complaint. His words are excellent. People just didn’t like the ideas they expressed when arranged into sentences, but that’s hardly the words’ fault!

      In seriousness though, if you honestly think “people disagree with it” = “it’s not very good” I am legitimately sorry for you.

  4. Lars Westergren says:

    Nice interview Nathan. New and interesting questions compared to most other interviews I’ve read, plus new artwork revealed.

  5. deadcatt says:

    Man, I miss BG style of games. Pools of Radiance, etc. Kickstarter was one of the best things to happen to old school gamers.

  6. Bhazor says:

    Holy shit! Three female RPG characters and no cleavage? What is even happening!?!

    • frightlever says:

      Fantasy worlds don’t pump their meat full of hormones.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      They did actually skip over something… the original concept art for Cadegund (the armored lady in the image above) had “boobplate

      Not the most grievous offense compared to chainmail bikinis, but perhaps not as “conscious” as they might be trying to portray themselves.

      • Cerius says:

        Actually, Sawyer said on formspring that they had the non boobplate version ready already. They just wanted to see people’s reactions.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          that sounds, er, unnecessary I guess.

        • Bhazor says:

          There was a lot of boob plate in the original project video but also a lot of the more realistic designs. Often they were shown side by side. So testing the waters may be close to the truth. That said Josh Sawyer also had an… usual desktop wallpaper in that video.
          There was a very popular thread discussing which is better on the forums so maybe that was the deciding factor.
          link to forums.obsidian.net

          Speaking of Josh Sawyer
          link to farmareon.blog.fc2.com

          This is exactly how I imagine Tim Schafer being the day after he announced Adventure.

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        I shall be preemptively declaring Cadegund to be my waifu.

    • D3xter says:

      Yes, it is very disappointing that they gave in to a loud minority pushing for feminist agenda on that e.g. they caved and changed the concept of one of their characters and another one I can’t even tell it’s gender. I’m not sure if “Aloth” is supposed to be male or female from the picture above, but I guess you counted it as female.
      I guess I have to concede, that for some things at least publisher input is preferable (comparison Dungeon Siege III or Planescape which had about 4-5 dedicated articles on RPS praising it and a lot of people seem to do in this very comments section: link to abload.de ), since they do seem to recognize what a large part of the market wants and don’t bother as much with noise from fringe groups.

      • TCM says:

        I am not sure that wearing actual sensible armor as opposed to a chainmail bikini is ‘caving to a feminist agenda’ so much as it is ‘using some frigging common sense’.

        As for your second statement, don’t get me wrong, I am a red blooded heterosexual male, and I appreciate the aesthetic value of the female form (much as I am sure anyone feels about the sex that attracts them), but caving into ‘what the market wants’ gets you Dead or Alive 5.

        “The fans said the girls didn’t have big enough boobs in our fighting game, so we gave them all bigger boobs and skimpier tops. It doesn’t really matter, we’re not sexist, we’re not objectifying women, we’re just listening to what the market wants!”

        (paraphrase of actual stance taken by the game’s director)

        • D3xter says:

          I haven’t ever actually bought Dead or Alive since I’m not into consoles, only played it a few times over at friends houses like almost a decade ago. But the series has existed in its current form since 1996, that’s 16 years and just now amongst all this “moral outrage” and angst streak that seems to be going on people seem to have decided that it’s deeply wrong for anyone to play such a thing despite being fine for it for over a decade.
          For that matter Tomb Raider also debuted in 1996 to much (even critical) appeal. I don’t see any reason to jump on the bandwagon just because John Walker and a few others have made it their “pet peeve” issue. There’s nothing I see wrong with a game like Dead or Alive 5 existing and I find the whole notion of certain people demanding the developers “explain” themselves preposterous.

          DoA4 apparently sold over 1.2 million copies worldwide and they were expecting around 1 million sales with the newest title, I also don’t think that appealing to the people screaming from the mountain about feminism in video-games would have been the target market for it or that they would have bought copies of the game instead if they caved in and alienated their loyal demographic.

          Also, just look around what some of the most downloaded Oblivion or Skyrim Mods are, take a look at some of the Steam “Game Hubs” or take a gander at other gaming sites outside from RPS and you’ll see pieces like these still around:
          link to pcgames.de
          link to gamona.de
          Sorry for the german sites, but I just remembered those from browsing, saw that 2nd link while reading an Avellone interview and it has over 550 comments over all the pictures, it’s probably better that you can’t read some of them too, but it is very much a main gaming demographic, especially if you move further East.

          Spending time only in a few closed-off echo-chambers reaffirming ones opinion will skew reality sometimes.

  7. frightlever says:

    “Given the history of certain other games that named themselves after infinite expanses of time”

    Been trying to figure out which game you mean forever, but must accept I don’t understand/know everything.

    (less a pun, more a crossword clue.)

  8. Bootsy81 says:

    I couldn’t be more excited for this game, I’ve probably already donated more than I should have and I’ll probably find myself upping the pledge one last time before its finished to be honest. It sound better and better with every update. Can’t wait for 2014…. Does anyone know if locking yourself in a freezer and instructing a friend to defrost you when the game’s released will work? Or will I end up dead and unable to play this?

    • frightlever says:

      I bet the Age of Decadence guys are super happy too.

      • InternetBatman says:

        What happened with Age of Decadence? If I were them, I’d be happy that Dead State, which was made in their engine, received such a positive kickstarter.

        • Andy_Panthro says:

          Age of Decadence actually has a rather good demo (public beta), which I played and wrote about a while back.

          Shows off the combat (still very tough), and the options to avoid combat (stealth and speech variations). The world seems interesting, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

          Get the demo here: link to irontowerstudio.com

          Hopefully it’ll get more RPS coverage when it’s closer to release (not sure what the estimate for that is).

        • Lars Westergren says:

          Vince quit his day job recently to work full time on Age of Decadence.

          link to irontowerstudio.com

        • InternetBatman says:

          I just meant why was it worth mentioning right now?

          • frightlever says:

            I was being sarcastic. They set out to make an isometric old school RPG because no-one was making them, now you can’t swing a cat but you’re hitting one.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Three is hardly cat swinging thickness, but they still could get the game out before any of them hit. Conversely, they could just wait until a year after all of the games are released, it’s not like their development is time sensitive.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            If AoD is ever finished and lives up to it’s potential it could be better than any of these games from old farts trying to rekindle the spark they had when they were in their 20’s.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Maybe. AoD has some great ideas, but in the demo it has a bad case of everyone sounding like the same angry nerd.

    • Sunjumper says:

      I do glance longingly at my freezer yes.
      But then I would miss the launch of things like Wasteland 2 or Dishonored for a non kickstarted game.

      The up-side I see here is that as the investment money is long gone when the game is done one of these days you will receive what will feel like a free game.

    • Grey Ganado says:

      The worst thing that could happen would be that you wake up in a dystopian future where two factions fight over the name the new world government should get.

      • Bootsy81 says:

        Knowing my luck it would probably be the Pro-Romance-in-cRPGs-Republic versus the No-Romanceable-Companions-Empire…. Or something equally absurd and pointless. :(

        I think I’ll not bother climbing into my freezer and just keep it full of pies and oven chips. Hopefully when the revolution spills off of the BSN and into real life I can just be a conscientious objector and try and just quietly enjoy games without getting rabid about them.

  9. Stellar Duck says:

    Speaking of engines and bugs, I’m somewhat baffled that they chose to go with Unity instead of their own engine, possible called Onyx or some other silly name.

    I’ve been unable to find any reasons why so I wonder if I’m phrasing my search wrong. Anyone who knows their reasoning?

    • atticus says:

      Cross-OS-compatibility, wasn’t it?

    • someone else says:

      Onyx has too much expensive middleware attached to it.

    • Skhalt says:

      It was too costly to port Onyx on Mac/Linux, basically (they could have done it with their budget, but it would have meant less work on other parts of the game).

      They wrote more fully on that topic in Update #6, bottom of the page: link to kickstarter.com

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Cheers! That update went completely past me for some reason.

        Makes sense for the reasons they stated I suppose. Can’t claim to know a lot about it.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      somehow related interesting thing:
      Madden 2013 has a new engine that is called the Infinity Engine.

  10. Lambchops says:

    Side point from this:

    RPS: How about morality and choice? Will it involve a point system/meter of some sort? I attended a talk at GDC where Project Eternity’s own Josh Sawyer deemed them essential in showing the player the results of their actions.

    Avellone: I don’t believe in a morality bar for the player. It was excluded from Alpha Protocol on purpose. Something like the reputations – personal and faction and community – that were in Alpha Protocol and New Vegas feel more true to me.

    No morality bar got a thumbs up from me but in my mind Alpha Protocol didn’t go far enough, though this a personal opinion and clearly one that Josh Sawyer and other would disagree with. As Avellone says the personal relationships were more important and it was great that you could be horrible to someone and lovely to someone else without having a discrete morality bar change because of it. However, I didn’t like that these relationships were spelled out with “reputation +/- 1” and explicitly stating what the character thought of you. In my mind it was perfectly obvious that if Madison knocked you out she absolutely detested you, or if Marburg said he was impressed with your quite entrance to Rome that he had some respect for you. I think they should have been brave enough to go the whole way and ditch the explicit statement of reputation and left it for the player to make their own mind up where they stood (and wonder if there was a risk the person was faking and may not be on their side).

    • someone else says:

      Now that Expert mode is in, you’ll actually be able to toggle the influence/reputation numbers off and on, no bravery required.

    • coffeetable says:

      2.3 million goal was to give options to remove such hints ^^

    • NathanH says:

      Just see it as a representation for the character’s ability to sense the subtleties of other people’s opinions. The character is presumably going to be good at doing that. The player is not going to be, on the grounds that the player is just some random person playing a game, and also the game is not able to give them all the hints that they’d be able to pick up on in reality. The opinion numbers are just representing the character’s ability that the player does not possess—normal practice in an RPG.

      Making reputation and opinion obvious from the dialogue is just another form of “immersion-breaking”, when you think about it. It’s frequently not particularly obvious to the average person how much other people like you until you’ve spent quite a lot of time with them. In general people don’t make such things so obvious. I’d say it’s better to try to keep the dialogue more natural and to use game mechanics to abstract the subtle stuff you can’t simulate.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think Fallout New Vegas did this pretty well, where you had an internal reputation with various groups, but they only showed you what level you were at with them.

    • Lambchops says:

      I always like seeing other people’s views on this subject because they always make me wonder whether something like I laid out in the first post is something I’d like to see in principal but would actually get irked with in practice. My instinct say I’d like to be as clueless as in real life but maybe either I’m wrong entirely or my years of training in what to expect from games would make the system horrible. I guess the only way I’d find out is if presented with it,

      I think Nathan’s comment in particular is interesting, particularly as it pushes at the difference between what the “character” knows and expects and what “you as a player “know and expect. Reconciling these may not always be possible. Still I’d like to think that a game could teach you enough about how things work in the early stages that you could feel like you have a legitimate chance at guessing what’s going on from the same perspective as the character, though I can certainly see how this would require a tightening of the storyline that might not be desirable in a more branching RPG.

      As Someone Else has said though, the easy way around this conundrum is an option, then people can figure out what works for them,

      • D3xter says:

        As he said, you could probably look at it as an abstraction of the real world. In reality you don’t have a “HP” bar, but can tell pretty well when you’re hurt or wounded yourself. Your map always tells you where North or South is. In reality you could ascertain such by positions of star constellations or where the sun comes up and sets etc.
        Same thing with mimicking peoples “feelings” or “reactions” in a world where you can’t even see faces but look down from above like some mighty being controlling the action, the only game that actually tried to do this on a conceptual stage where the player would make the decision was L.A. Noire I believe.

  11. NathanH says:

    I hope they don’t bother with low intelligence dialogue, at least not anything like the Fallout approach. That implementation is the sort of thing that is a “cool” feature that you appreciate existing until you stop and think about it and realize it is a lot of effort for no real purpose. Particularly bad about the Fallout approach was that the three states they had were “perfectly articulate”, “Me Grimlock”, and “disabled”. We all meet plenty of low intelligence people in our lives, and none of them talk in “Me Grimlock” fashion.

    If they want to do low intelligence dialogue then they need to write it particularly well, which probably isn’t worth the effort. A more sensible alternative would be to simulate low intelligence through stupidity of choice rather than stupidity of grammar.

    Another reason to avoid completely writing all dialogue in low-intelligence format is that nobody actually wants to play that way except specifically to play that way. By this I mean that, should a player want to play a low-intelligence character for gameplay purposes rather than dialogue purposes, they will not do this if full low-intelligence dialogue is present. It changes the experience far too much to tolerate for character-build purposes. I think that sort of effect is worth avoiding.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think low intelligence dialog is useful for verisimilitude. When you have low intelligence dialog it reinforces the idea that the stat system is a representation of the world and that the game and dialog are not separate options. It encourages the opposite, high intelligence dialog options, which are even more valuable at fleshing a game out. I think my favorite system is where the smarter you are, the more dialog options appear giving you more choice, which you also seem to favor. However, I feel that low intelligence dialog options, options that completely remove your choice, are the logical extension of that.

      • NathanH says:

        Yes, I have nothing at all against intelligence determing whether or not you get to make a particular choice. It’s having intelligence determine the quality of grammar in my dialogue options that I don’t have much time for.

      • Wizardry says:

        Low intelligence dialogue sucks because there’s often some silly borderline that determines whether you are dumb or not. An important part of statistics is to make every single point in them matter in every aspect of gameplay that they affect. This means that dialogue needs to change for every single point in intelligence. So instead of having 2 different types of dialogue, dumb and not dumb, you’d need 10 in a 10 point attribute system. This isn’t feasible at all, so you have to go for another method instead.

        One method would be to have charisma, intelligence and wisdom requirements attached to every single dialogue option in the game. This needs to happen so that all dialogue uses uniform rules that are easy to explain to the player before the game starts, rather than having arbitrary/contextual skill checks that most Obsidian-type CRPGs have. This would mean that the dialogue choices you get throughout the game will be a reflection of your charisma, intelligence and wisdom scores. If you have high intelligence and low charisma you’ll easily make conversation with scientists and engineers but not the ladies (or men) at night in a bar. If you have high charisma and low intelligence then vice versa.

        This can’t be the whole dialogue system, but if you want certain attributes to affect dialogue then this is the easiest way to go without going all contextual and making the player wonder just what 5 intelligence points will do for their character during conversations throughout the game.

        • ffordesoon says:

          Holy packets of ketchup, I agree with Wizardry.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I agree with that in principle, but that seems like a tremendous amount of work to put in practice. It seems like contextual commands give an adequate illusion in the extreme cases (the bar or scientists’ convention), while minimizing the amount of implementation time.

          I’m just thinking of my own D&D campaign, and how much work conversations with a bunch of skill checks are over conversations without.

          • Wizardry says:

            Well it’s a hell of a lot less work that rewriting all the dialogue in grunts and sneers. You just have to go through each dialogue option and assign an intelligence, wisdom and charisma score to them. The only issue then is having them not “break” the game. In other words, you’d need to provide alternative ways for the player to gather information, such as by hacking computers or finding documents stashed away in filing cabinets. Basically, you need to provide multiple ways for players to get the information needed to win the game, because with low intelligence you might fail to get some key information from a bunch of scientists needed to advance the plot.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Wouldn’t that lead to a lot of arbitrary decisions about what level of intelligence or whatever could get various dialog options, causing a similar amount of overhead? I never did an idiot run, but I thought Fallout 2 got around having to do massive rewrites by having most characters just not talk to a retarded character. In effect doing the same thing by limiting the amount of available options.

            Anyways, all of this is largely academic since I’m pretty sure the Infinity Engine games didn’t even have idiot runs, and they’re mirroring them pretty heavily.

            As a completely different topic, I’m not sure that a bunch of stats should even exist since in real life they’re clearly linked. An intelligent person is more likely to be notice things (perception) and think of the right thing to say (charisma), and a fit person (strength) is more likely to be healthy (constitution) and have a good physical appearance (charisma). I tend to think that some of the traditional stats’ functions could be better handled by skills.

          • Wizardry says:

            I don’t think it would be much work. You don’t need to dwell on every single dialogue option before assigning the requirements. Just write out all the dialogue you want and then go through assigning rough values to them. Play testing will reveal any major flaws in requirement assignments, and changing a number attached to a dialogue option is a piece of cake, even for modders.

            Regarding linked attributes, that’s another topic entirely. I guess it could make for an interesting character system, but if anything it’d just make characters more generalist and stop people from having dump stats (18, 18, 18, 3, 3, 3).

    • atticus says:

      Low-intelligence dialogue options has to make sense within the context of the game I think. In a open-world type of game with little or no larger story to drive it, having the option to talk like you’re mentally challenged might not be as jarring as in, say, a game like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale or Neverwinter Nights.

      “You are the champion of our people with divine blood in your veins! Will you save us from destruction?”
      “Duuhh….. mehm…. gah?”

      I agree that blocking out certain options in conversations would be more fitting, showing that your character has problems understanding the more complex aspects of the game world.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Super low int shouldn’t have choices like “er duh” but instead you can only mimic things you have heard other people say in dialogue.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I’m pretty sure that retardation doesn’t automatically mean echolalia and vice versa.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      Keep in mind that, under some systems, a “low as possible” INT score would translate into severe mental disability. D&D notably (because they’ve established rough conversions in the past) would have an INT of 3 be the equivalent of an IQ of 30, which could definitely impact the speech and vocabulary ability of the character, leading to “Me Grimlock” or even “*grunts*”.

      A bit more granularity than a simple good/bad would be nice, but I think some grammar and vocabulary differences are a good RP touch to have going up and down the intelligence scale. If you go with the lowest INT possible, your character should behave like someone who can barely string two words together.

      Edit: Though, I suppose, with their own stats system there’s nothing to stop them from setting the lowest possible stat as translating to an IQ high enough that wouldn’t have problems with basic speech.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Generally in the D&D based systems they keep the really low Intelligences so they can use them on animals, the undead, and the like. But yes, some people are non-verbal, and if you allow people to minmax like that, the game probably should reflect it.

        • Dark Nexus says:

          Very true, but they also can be used on player characters.

          The simple solution is to just not let people min-max to that extent, though, and make the dialogue wording changes a bit more subtle than Fallout did.

    • The Random One says:

      I agree with you, Nathan, almost completely. I yield to InternetBatman’s point that it helps avoid gameplay and story segregation; you really shouldn’t be able to play a certain character for gameplay rather than dialogue because dialogue is part of gameplay. That said, while I appreciate what they were trying to do mechanically, I find the implementation to be very clumsy. Significant chunks of game text were rewritten for what amounts to a joke at the expense of people with real mental handicaps that, were it funny to begin with, would stop being so 1/10 of the way in. My character doesn’t have muscular atrophy and is unable to open doors if I set her strenght to 1, or becomes blind if that’s her perception; why should intelligence be so different?

      I do enjoy choices in a game that allow me to change the way approach it, so I offer a replacement to the “stupid run”. You can pick up a (Fallout style) trait that sufficiently increases your combat abilities to the point you are overpowered. But as a downside, your dialogue options are severely limited. You can never give up nor allow an opponent to gain any advantage, even if it would be to your advantage to do so. If a situation can be solved through violence you cannot solve it in any other way. You can never express any emotion other than rage, lust and barely concealed rage. In short, you are the main character of a testosterone-filled hyper-violent juvenile game trapped in a game which requires more subtlety to excel at.

      The trait is called Good at War.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I thought it was just called Bloody Mess.

        Personally, I’d love to see character traits based on real world learning disabilities. An ADHD run (perhaps simulated by timed dialogues) vs. an Autism Run (perhaps simulated by extraneous and missing dialogues). Dyslexia would be incredibly easy to mechanically simulate, and these mechanisms might encourage the same type of behaviors. It could go as far as a testerone imbalance leading to overly aggressive options, schizophrenia, etc.

      • ffordesoon says:

        Ha! I like that idea!

  12. bill says:

    I think the old-school vs innovation thing is an interesting point, and it’s something we were discussing in the forums. I do agree that you can innovate on old-school mechanics as much as on new-school ones – and perhaps it’ll even feel more innovative due to it’s relative rareness.

    But it seems like what they are planning isn’t really anything that innovative, it’s just taking the best bits of BG2, Planescape etc and putting them in a generic RPG setting. (could that header image be any more generic?)
    I guess story and de-construction will be the main way they innovate on the setting, but it’d be nice if they weren’t limited by the requirement to make it an old-school dungeon crawling game.

    There must be some much more innovative ways to approach an RPG than a hack and slash combat game. It’d be really nice to see what they could come up with for that. But I guess they’ll be locked in by people’s BG2 expectations.

    I just hope they find a way to make non-magic combat interesting… i’m not sure any RPG has managed to do that yet.

    • NathanH says:

      It has to be said that this isn’t particularly “exciting” in terms of being a genre-changer or genre-creator, or even a genre-reviver. Effectively this looks like it’s going to be similar to the sorts of games they’ve already made. I think the main selling point of this project is that it’s a fairly safe bet. They’re experienced people, have been working on good games recently, they’ll make something that’s at least pretty good.

      Wasteland 2 and this Old School RPG are much more exciting to me in potential, but I wouldn’t for a moment state with confidence that they’ll be at least pretty good.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Don’t forget about Shadowrun. I’m in a similar boat about game quality. We have New Vegas vs. Choplifter HD vs. a well-reviewed iOS game.

  13. Crosmando says:

    The thing is, what the RPS article(s) misses (in my opinion quite arrogantly) is that RPG’s have become dumbed down and had featured REMOVED in order to make them work equally on gamepads as well as with mouse/keyboard. So Kickstarter projects like PE or Wasteland 2 are merely about getting RPG development back to 2004-ish level, before it degenerated into mindless action games masquerading as “RPG’s”, ie Mass Effect series, post-Morrowind Elder Scrolls games, etc.

    “Innovation” sure, but you need to repair the damage done first. The problem with this article and the other is that it arrogantly ignores that RPG’s have degenerated.

    • Wizardry says:

      I don’t think this is entirely fair. I mean, Knights of the Old Republic, as awful as it was, had far more RPG mechanics in than something like Planescape: Torment, which was PC exclusive. Generally yes, RPGs have been “dumbed down” in the move to console/multi-platform releases that happened with the original Xbox, but even the era before that (with the Infinity Engine) was dumbed down in many ways already as they had very little non-combat RPG mechanics and real-time combat.

      So what I’m trying to say is that the Infinity Engine games are very much “new school” in design. It was THE major shift to real time combat, the beginning of the era in which graphics took centre stage, and the games that actually popularised companion recruitment and romances.

      And this seems to be the what this Obsidian game is going for.

      • Thirith says:

        Knights of the Old Republic… had far more RPG mechanics in than something like Planescape: Torment

        I might regret asking this, but could you explain what you mean here, Wizardry? What mechanisms do you mean?

        • Wizardry says:

          The skills, mainly. The game had things like demolition, repair, security and computer skills. There was even an awareness skill if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me. And then there were feats that gave you different types of non-spell attacks. It wasn’t a particularly good system, but it was way more involving than Planescape: Torment.

          • Rise / Run says:

            Wizardry, I agree that the skills were less developed in PS than in other games, but I’ve always thought that’s somewhat of a red herring. Those are the “RPG elements” that often have nothing to do with the “R” (and are used to call, e.g., Bioshock an RPG). Superficial character customization (kill people with a sword or a fireball) doesn’t, imho, have as much to do with playing a role as does the interaction with the world.

            That said, the skills you mention, especially awareness, should really be better incorporated (if you know dick about electronics in FO2, how would you know that this is a computer terminal and not an AC unit?). I’d really love it if an RPG described locations and NPCs based on your skills and previous actions — have your demonstrated prejudices be the first thing you see about someone you run into. Bitch and a half to do right, but hey.

      • Infinitron says:

        Come on, “Wizardry”, that has more to do with the IE games being 2nd Edition D&D and KOTOR being quasi-3rd Edition than anything else.

        • Wizardry says:

          That doesn’t make it untrue though does it? You can’t really excuse a less involved system just because it’s less involved. But it’s not just a case of how detailed the system is. What matters is how much the different “builds” affect gameplay, and this is where both games fail, especially Planescape: Torment. Compare these to pure combat game like Wizardry 8 where character builds affect just about every single thing you do in the game, though this game has the bonus of allowing you to create your whole party. In fact, thinking along these lines, creating your own party allows you to get away with much simpler rules just because you can specialise characters to different extremes. Something like Curse of the Azure Bonds allows for a far greater variety in gameplay compared to Knights of the Old Republic even though it has far simpler rules, because playing with a party of fighters instead of a party of mages brings about an almost completely different game.

          Yeah, I’m just talking to myself now. What’s up with putting my name in inverted commas? I’m not exactly pretending to be a talking video game franchise.

          • Infinitron says:

            “But it’s not just a case of how detailed the system is. What matters is how much the different “builds” affect gameplay, and this is where both games fail blah blah blah blah”

            Indeed. Doesn’t have anything to do with what I said though

          • Wizardry says:

            And what you said had nothing to do with the point I made. All you did was come up with some excuse as to why Planescape: Torment has less RPG mechanics than Knights of the Old Republic.

    • ffordesoon says:

      If I may engage in some good old-fashioned country lawyerin’ for the Prince Of Lies, while I agree that features have been removed from RPGs over the years, have the games really gotten substantially dumber?

      More combat-focused, certainly, but that’s closer in spirit to pre-90s RPGs like Wizardry and Bard’s Tale than most fans of those games would let on. They have narrowed their focus to a single protagonist in a lot of cases, but there are plenty of well-respected games throughout the history of the genre that did the same. There are fewer nuanced role-playing options, but it could be argued that the ones that are still there are more meaningful. And so on.

      I dunno, maybe it’s just an instinctive reaction to the phrase “dumbing down” that I have, but it seems to me that doing things like making the interface more intuitive to people who hadn’t already played a lot of cRPGs were net positives for the genre. It could be argued that the games have gotten less intellectual, and there’s no arguing that they’ve gotten less tactically interesting in a whole bunch of ways, but I don’t know that the genre should have continued as it was before the EEE-VIL consoles got ahold of it.

      There are three things to blame for the so-called “decline” of cRPGs (which is not a narrative I subscribe to), in my opinion, and only one of those is inarguably the fault of the console boxes:

      1) Console memory limitations. PC-only RPGs have always been distinguished by their vast, nearly seamless landscapes, whereas I still vividly remember starting up KOTOR on my Xbox and expecting Baldur’s Gate through a Star Wars lens, and being horrified at how tiny so many of the environments were. I didn’t understand what the eff memory was; I just knew the whole game felt hideously small.

      On the orher hand, not only did I love the game, but I completed it. i never managed to get very far in Baldur’s Gate, because the size and scope of the game intimidated me. It wouldn’t now, so much, but my point is that the memory limitation led to tighter, more focused level design on Bioware’s part, which ultimately made it easier on me and people like me, who had always admired the IE games for their depth, but been frightened to play them because of that depth. Which leads me to my point: console memory limitations made RPGs feel much smaller, yes, but they also forced developers like Obsidian to hone their level design skills and make it easier for players to move around, which I don’t think is a bad thing at all for Project Eternity or the rest of the Kickstalgia bunch.

      2) A lot of people would say gamepads here, and certainly, what allegedly feels best on a gamepad was the motivating factor behind a lot of these changes, but the real problem was the disdain for and ultimate elimination of menu-based interaction with the world, which can be done perfectly well on a gamepad. A lot of console players grew up playing the PS1 Final Fantasies, and I don’t know a single one who says that the well-designed menus of those games feel worse than real-time combat. In point of fact, a lot of them still feel that it’s superior to banging away at some mook in a game like Skyrim, and think the moment when FF went wrong was its introduction of true real-time elements to the combat. So there’s absolutely a big contingent of console players who are willing to play a menu-based game if it’s presented well.

      The upside of the elimination of menu-based interaction to the genre as a whole is twofold: it forced developers to sweep away a lot of the crusty old bullshit that nobody actually liked about the old cRPGs and focus on intuitive design, and it forced them to think about the power of quality combat animation and proper visual feedback for the player.

      Let’s face it: cRPGs have a history of crap visual feedback. Originally the feedback was text-based, which mitigated the issue a whole hell of a lot, but once the games started cutting back on or entirely eliminating the classic “all of your stats, equipment, etc. are visible, and the actual game is being played in a teeny-tiny box in the middle of the screen” GUI and text readout to focus on more immersive design (which was itself a net positive, I think), the visuals just weren’t enough to deliver the needed feedback adequately. You can see this in games as recent as Morrowind, where the player could appear to stab a monster, but actually miss completely, with nary a “You Missed!” in sight to contextualize it as a dice-roll game.

      The intuitive design thing is an obvious benefit. It’s been taken too far in many cases in order to make the game idiot-proof, but Western RPG interfaces were hideously shonky, ultra-intimidating things until very recently, and that created a barrier to entry that needed to be lowered. The awful stay-outta-my-treehouse mentality those interfaces encouraged is still an issue, of course, but at least the interfaces themselves aren’t absolute shit now.

      Obsidian’s experience in dealing with both of these factors on consoles will help Project Eternity immeasurably from an accessibility standpoint, which is important whether or not you want it to be.

      3) The rise of MMOs, and of WOW specifically. I’m not even knocking WOW, because it’s foolish to knock a successful thing for inspiring imitators. It is a spectacularly well-crafted game; that’s something even I can see, and I pretty much hate it. But what it did was create a mentality among developers and/or publishers and/or players (don’t wanna blame anyone unfairly here) that all RPGs were about loot. Some people like to blame Diablo or Diablo II for that, but that’s bullshit. While both games were undoubtedly magnets for loot fiends, and while both games were popular, it wasn’t until WOW achieved global domination that we started seeing every single-player RPG developer going, “The loot in our game is epic!” and “Our fans always complain because the party member who leaves had some awesome gear!” and blah-de-blah.

      I don’t care about loot. If it’s really visually impressive or has a neat story behind it, I might look at it for a few seconds, but the only thing I actually care about is what it does for me.

      i will say, however, that the popularization of different types of crafting systems was probably a good thing for the genre as a whole. Oblivion had as much to do with that as WOW, but WOW is primarily to blame/thank for it. I think crafting and enchanting are nifty, but more importantly, they open up alternate avenues of evolution for cRPGs and give the player a path of meaningful advancement that doesn’t involve killing things.

      Of course, most games completely balls it up, but I still think the idea is a good one, and Project Eternity’s implementation of it sounds aces.

      Also, WOW has grown the size of the audience for cRPGs a hundredfold, which is great for everybody.

      Okay, let’s see here, what was my original point…?

      Ah, yes! Basically, I’m saying that the alleged “dumbing down” of cRPGs has, at the end of the day, been extremely beneficial to the genre in a lot of ways, and will be helpful to the Kickstalgia games when they’re released. The games themselves may not have always been to our taste, but the experience gained from making those games will result in better neoclassical cRPGs, which is good for everybody.

      • Infinitron says:

        An…interesting defense. I think I’ll post it on a certain forum and see what people have to say.

        • ffordesoon says:

          Go ahead. I eat Codex rage for breakfast. ;)

          • Infinitron says:

            link to rpgcodex.net

            They aren’t taking you very seriously I’m afraid

          • ffordesoon says:

            Well, it’s also not a defense. It’s an analysis, and a heavily flawed one. Josh Sawyer said much the same thing, albeit in far less words, in the recent Gamasutra piece on Project Eternity.

            Not that I expect Codexian views to align with my own, since they’re – and I say this with sincere affection – complete fucking lunatics who love RPGs so much that they hate them.

            EDIT: Oh, and tell “Cosmo” that he makes a pretty good point.

            EDIT 2: About wargame rules vs. FPS rules. He’s completely wrong, of course; the cRPG isn’t a wargame or an RPG, and treating it as such ignores everything that makes it a cRPG and not an RPG.

            EDIT 3 (siiiiiiigh): And by RPG, I very specifically mean pen and paper RPG in that instance. That’s not clear from the context clues in the previous statement.

          • Infinitron says:

            You can register an account you know.

          • ffordesoon says:

            I’ve considered it, but the barrier to entry (not having an account, but being grudgingly accepted) is too steep for me. Plus I already have a little bit of a reputation there.

            Basically, I’ve got better things to do than get yelled at because I haven’t played Burgletrons Of Biblevania for the Commodore 64 like every good cRPG player ought to. It was exhausting enough getting a foothold on the Wasteland 2 boards.

      • Wizardry says:

        More combat-focused, certainly, but that’s closer in spirit to pre-90s RPGs like Wizardry and Bard’s Tale than most fans of those games would let on.

        Well this is true, but you’re forgetting the difference in the nature of the combat in new and old RPGs. Combat in old RPGs were attempts at simulating the combat in existing pen and paper systems, most notably D&D (but there were other systems too). Combat in newer RPGs are systems borrowed from other video game genres like first person shooters, real-time strategy games, cover shooters, console-style hack and slash games and most recently MMOs. Look at something like The Temple of Elemental Evil. That game was all about combat, and even though it was heavily flawed it’s often said to have one of the best combat systems in any RPG by the most “hardcore” and “old school” of fans. This is because, even though its scope is limited (it focuses almost entirely on combat), it executes its scope in a way that is extremely close to tabletop traditions. If you reduced the conversations in Mass Effect 1 so that it was mainly a combat game, you couldn’t say the same about that.

        They have narrowed their focus to a single protagonist in a lot of cases, but there are plenty of well-respected games throughout the history of the genre that did the same.

        Right. But which ones did this? At least, which ones were the most prominent? You’ll find that they were mostly the Ultima games and the Ultima “clones” before the big change to the genre around the time of Baldur’s Gate and Fallout. Is this representative of the genre back then? Definitely not. There were roughly as many Gold Box D&D games alone as there were Ultima games, and then you had other massive series like Might and Magic and Wizardry that meant that full party creation was the most prominent method of establishing a group of adventurers. Now it isn’t. Now it’s about recruiting interesting personalities, talking to them while you’re in camp to get them to open up more, and then taking them to one side for a good old session of classic intercourse. And backing up a bit, the Ultima games were simplistic RPGs even then, and hardly representative of the norm, let alone the hardcore. This is also what made them extremely popular.

        1) Console memory limitations. PC-only RPGs have always been distinguished by their vast, nearly seamless landscapes, whereas I still vividly remember starting up KOTOR on my Xbox and expecting Baldur’s Gate through a Star Wars lens, and being horrified at how tiny so many of the environments were. I didn’t understand what the eff memory was; I just knew the whole game felt hideously small.

        I don’t really think this matters much to be honest with you. Games like Oblivion, Fallout 3, New Vegas and Skyrim have much bigger worlds than even Ultima VII, and these games came out for consoles too. I also don’t think that the size of the world matters too much, not in an absolute sense anyway. It’s important for a game to be open and to not railroad you too much, but this is more to do with walling in the player than actual memory constraints. In other words, I don’t you’ve got anything valid with this point.

  14. Shiloh says:

    OK I’m going to commit heresy here.

    Planescape: Torment – the dialogue really grated on me all the time I was playing it. All that sub-Dickensian thieves’ cant… I couldn’t read it without thinking about Dyke van Dick and Mary bloomin’ Poppins, strike a light guv’nor, totally ruined the blinkin’ immersion for me and no mistake, chief, and I’ll rattle me old china’s panhandle if he addles me one more time cully.

    I still have the game on a shelf at home, started replaying it recently, got out of the Mortuary and then just gave up. Partly because I remembered how it played out, but also because of Morte.

    That being said, I liked the setting.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The Dickensian dialogue is part of the slums. It changes as you go to different areas, but you’re in the slums for a while.

  15. Emeraude says:

    Good interview.

    Damn, is it me or did their Kickstarter had a negative progression today ?

    • Dark Nexus says:

      According to KickTraq, they’re on pace for their worst day to date (though given they won’t get pledges spread out evenly throughout 24 hours, that will likely change) but they’re still going up.

      • Emeraude says:

        don’t know, I’m pretty sure leaving for work with 52500 users being a done thing, and it wasn’t by a decent margin when I came back. Maybe I misread.

        Thanks for taking the time to check.

  16. MistyMike says:

    I really like this idea of dialogue options being reflective of your charachters stats and items. It always seemed grating to me when my charachter approaches somebody in full power armour and turboplasma rifle in hand and that does not ellicti any kind of response. They couldn’t even see my face there, dammit! Imagine if such a person apprached you in real life you would be at least a little alarmed, right?

  17. Infinitron says:


  18. Crosmando says:

    Speaking of low intelligence dialogue options, I think poor Chris Avellone himself might have suffered a -5 stat loss to his INT points from that interview. Get some better staff RPS you’re slipping.

    It has nothing to do with nostalgia, I personally am too young to have played many of these old games on DOS or Amiga when they actually came out, and I didn’t. I play them on Windows using DOSBox. I can compare these games, without nostalgia, right now in 2012, even taking into account the graphical limitations of the time, and those games are still superior to every game made these days, ON MECHANICS ALONE.

    Has nothing to do with nostalgia and certainly nothing to do with innovation, it’s about preventing roleplaying computer games from dying as a genre as they are absorbed into the towering pile of Triceratops shit that is multi-platform action gaming.

    We can talk “innovation once we have at least created an equilibrium in RPG’s so they are at least at the level of complexity they were in Arcanum or Temple of Elemental Evil.

    Computer RPG
    Level 5 Fighter, 12 HP

    Oblivion hit you for 2 points of damage!

    Fallout 3 hit you for 3 points of damage!

    Dragon Age hit you for 1 point of damage!

    Skyrim hit you for 2 points of damage!

    Computer RPG says:
    “Dammit help me or they are gonna kill me!”

    Derpy NPC Companion called “Nathan Grayson” interjects:
    “If I may interject , I think the wisest course of action here is for you to “innovate” and train to become a better Fighter”

    • MistyMike says:

      Funny how you people hype up games like Arcanum or ToEE as if they were some kind of high-minded intellectual entertainment. The levels of analytical skill required! The depth of tactical thought! While in fact I succesfully played these games when I was fifteen and sixteen respectively. A lot of my friends too. That indicates without much doube that they were not in fact all that complicated. Some people too easily believe that a lot of numbers equals complex gameplay.

      • Crosmando says:

        Exactly, they were NOT complicated, they were complex, and complexity is merely simplicity multiplied. Funny how when ToEE actually did come out, the “mainstream” gaming press attacked it as “overly complex”, a game that only a “Dungeons & Dragons veteran” could possibly understand. I wonder if any of the RPS in their former years before this site were engaged in those despicable acts of cowardice that ultimately led to Troika Games shutting down.

        But of course when you put a game like Arcanum or ToEE up against Oblivion or Dragon Age, they are great intellectual achievements of divine proportion.

        In fact, that was my point. Before sprouting this “innovation” garbage, focus on getting RPG’s back to where they were before the console shit started dementing them into crappy action games.

        • MistyMike says:

          Yahtzee Croshaw said that streamlining is important to get to the essential fun of things. I agree with him there.

          And the mainstream press was right about Temple: only a D&D fanatic could see the fun in fighting through 100 turn-based battles set in 100 identical rooms.

          • Crosmando says:

            Yahtzee who?

            And streamlining has never been necessary. If you do not have the patience and willingness to learn, you shouldn’t be playing computer RPG’s anyway. Go back to twitchy shooters or something.

          • ffordesoon says:

            Ah, I see. I like treehouses too.

          • MistyMike says:

            Yeah yeah, what a cheap shot, I actually have no problem learning rpg systems as I indicated above and have little interest in shooters. But it only actually makes sense in case of rpg that, yes, innovate and move the genre forward.

        • ffordesoon says:

          I seem to remember critics saying that it was a hideously buggy mess with a boring story. Which I don’t think anyone would really dispute.

      • ffordesoon says:

        Oh, please.

        Even allowing for your point, which is a dumb straw man argument anyway, there’s a way to say that Temple Of Elemental Evil was simpler than people give it credit for without insinuating that we’re just too stupid to understand that.

        • MistyMike says:

          My argument was not a straw man in any way shape or form. And I did not insinuate anybody was stupid… but rather overly dogmatic.

          • ffordesoon says:

            You’re right, actually. I misread your comment. My bad.

        • Crosmando says:

          Not stupidity, I think everyone is capable of understanding basic concepts. I think it’s laziness, also many people have a latent form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, so naturally they want developers to “streamline” games to accommodate their disorder.

          • Kaira- says:

            >many people have a latent form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, so naturally they want developers to “streamline” games to accommodate their disorder

            There isn’t enough facepalm in the world to respond to this. I award you no points and so forth.

          • TCM says:

            A) Your comment is stupid at worst, horrifically uninformed and poorly thought out at best.

            B) Streamlining is not an inherent evil.

            C) A high crunch value does not make a game intellectually superior in any way, shape, or form.

            D) Complexity is not, and never has been, a good trait in any form of design. Do not confuse needless complexity for designing for a ‘smarter audience’. Want to know a complex roleplaying system? FATAL.

            I think my thought train jumped the rails at some point in that list and it became a general response to anyone who claims that games are so much more intelligent when they are unintelligible.

      • Strangerator says:

        “I succesfully played these games when I was fifteen and sixteen respectively. A lot of my friends too. That indicates without much doube that they were not in fact all that complicated. Some people too easily believe that a lot of numbers equals complex gameplay.”

        Just as logically you could conclude that even games considered “complex”, can still be understood and enjoyed by a younger audience. I played X-com at the age of 12 and had a blast, though I didn’t wind up beating it until later in life. It might have to do with intelligence levels as well. Smarter kids might enjoy complex games, because using their brains isn’t a scary thing for them. Children struggling in school, on the other hand, might avoid games with numbers because they evoke the visceral horror of math class. Also, a complex game doesn’t necessarily have complex gameplay. Some games involve simplified inputs from the player, but there are lots of numbers going on in the background.

    • Strangerator says:

      “Has nothing to do with nostalgia and certainly nothing to do with innovation, it’s about preventing roleplaying computer games from dying as a genre as they are absorbed into the towering pile of Triceratops shit that is multi-platform action gaming.”

      100 times this! Also interesting to hear that you delved into the classics of cRPG gaming, despite their dated graphics.

      Every time a AAA RPG talks about “streamlining” I throw up a little in my mouth, because usually it means homogenization, removal of choices, and reduction of complexity.

      Oh, and Nathan…

      “1.Make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”

      I don’t see anything in there where it says, “all innovation is inherently good, so the product least like its predessors is almost certainly best.” Innovations must be evaluated as to whether they are positive or negative, and not everyone will have the same opinion.

      • MistyMike says:

        Thing is a lot of people have this misguided idea that there was some ‘golden age’ of crpg which people place somewhere between 1987 and 2003 that needs returning to. There was never a golden age and people who think that seem unable to afford any degree of critical thought. Rpgs as a genre need to move forward and progress in some way and people like Avellone seem to be very aware of .

        • Wizardry says:

          It’s interesting that you say that because Chris Avellone is one of the people responsible for taking a great genre, stripping away everything that makes it great and leaving adventure game dialogue with some skill checks. Comparing Planescape: Torment, which is basically the standard template these days, with Star Trail absolutely blows my mind to this day. Yes, variety is good, but the variety we have now is the Chris Avellone style and the Todd Howard style, both of which suck.

          • MistyMike says:

            Really? It’s been years I played the Realms of Arkania games so my memories might be hazy but as far as I remember they were full of text screens telling the player what happens without possible interaction. Also, the dialogue was mostly about selecting the conversation topics, so also very much adventure game style. The turned-based combat system was pretty rad, but otherwise where are the signs of this much sought-after complexity?

          • Jason Moyer says:

            Which adventure games would you recommend for the level of interactivity and choice/consequence that Avellone uses in his games?

            If you’re trying to give him credit for cRPG’s trying to be books, that particular niche was already filled with things like Wasteland, Dragon Wars, and Star Saga One. In the 80’s.

          • Wizardry says:

            @MistyMike: Name me a more complex RPG then. It has positive attributes, negative attributes, over 50 different skills (though a number are sadly unused), a large variety of spells, the most detailed and involving overland travel in the genre, decently complex turn-based combat, a huge logistical focus and a ton of events that can spring up wherever you go. I’ve played literally all there is to play in the genre outside of really obscure shareware titles, some hybrids and a few Dungeon Master clones and there isn’t really anything that comes close. You’ve got some games that do certain things even better, like combat in D&D RPGs, but on the whole it’s probably the most hardcore of them all.

            And Planescape: Torment in comparison? It’s not even a contest. You just distribute some attributes and click on conversation options with some of the worst and most annoying combat scattered throughout.

            @Jason Moyer: Dragon Wars was a good dungeon crawler and Wasteland was even less of a book than Fallout. I’m not sure where you’re getting all this information from. Star Saga isn’t even an RPG. It’s a computer aided choose your own adventure. There aren’t even any statistics other than what cargo you’ve currently got on your ship! So it’s even less of an RPG than a space trading game.

          • TCM says:

            As long as you argue that crunch is the meat of roleplaying, you will never understand what roleplaying is.

            I have long thought you’d be a much happier person if you focused entirely on wargaming on a tactical level, Wizardry, it suits you better.

            [What follows is editted in]

            The origin of roleplaying basically lies in assigning a metric to resolving conflict for collaborative storytelling — at some point, players decided to focus more on the numbers than the story, and the absolute worst people in any tabletop group are the Munchkins and Min/Maxers, the guys who say “My character bluffs” instead of saying HOW their character utilizes their bluff skill. The school of thought that says that CRPGs should be based entirely on statistics, with no value towards the player character(s) as CHARACTER(s), has its origins in that school.

          • Wizardry says:

            I think you’ll find that role-playing and role-playing games are two very different concepts. One has little to do with games at all, while the other has its roots in wargaming. Explaining to me what role-playing means is silly, because I don’t play role-playing games to role-play, I play role-playing games to play role-playing games. I mean, surely if role-playing is all you’re after in a role-playing game it would be better to dump the game part entirely (with all its rules) and just sit around a table role-playing. The resultant activity is not something Gygax “accidentally” invented, nor is it the “ultimate role-playing game”.

        • Terasen says:

          Yeah everyone who grew up on RPGs between 1987 and 2003, and wonder why they aren’t made any more, every one of those people are incapable of critical thought. You’ve figured it out.

  19. Ateius says:

    “RPS: Obsidian’s always been a cut above, well, pretty much everyone in terms of writing. And yet, it’s arguable that you haven’t had the success you deserve. Why do you think gamers don’t value great writing in the same way, say, movie viewers do? Or do they? Does modern culture in general discount great writing?”

    With respect, Mr. Grayson, perhaps you would like to consider additional factors such as Obsidian’s reputation for producing extremely buggy games (whether or not you think it is a reputation they deserve, it is one they have) or the gameplay being a bit naff as possibly contributing to their lack of sales success before accusing all gamers – nay, all of modern culture – of being philistines who cannot appreciate the majesty of Avellone’s writing.

    • Nick says:

      With respect, their games aren’t any buggier than Bethesdas.

      • Ateius says:

        But that’s not Bethesda’s reputation, is it? Go to just about anywhere on the internet and say “Obsidian Entertainment”, you’ll get two replies – “Great writing” and “buggy as all hell.” Again, regardless of what you personally feel, that is the reputation Obsidian has, and I can’t imagine it’s not having an effect on their sales.

      • TCM says:

        Bethesda has a heckuva lot better mod support than Obsidian’s ever had.

        Yeah, I said it.