Project Eternity Q&A with Obsidian’s Adam Brennecke

18 Nov 2013  by   Peter Parrish
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You’ve probably seen this waterfall image before if you follow the game, and here it is with a UI mock-up.

IG: Likewise,‭ ‬the Kickstarter showed that people implicitly trusted Obsidian to deliver that type of RPG,‭ ‬and in part I think‭’‬s due to the reputation the studio has for great writing.‭ ‬What has been the process for writing characters,‭ ‬lore and quests for‭ ‬Eternity‭? ‬Has it differed much from previous Obsidian games‭?

AB: Whew,‭ ‬this is a big question to tackle in a simple answer because there’s a lot involved with‭ ‬the‭ ‬narrative‭ ‬process‭ ‬for this game.‭ ‬Narrative design‭ ‬is‭ ‬a big deal for us at Obsidian.‭ ‬The‭ ‬narrative‭ ‬process is‭ ‬a large‭ ‬collaboration between our narrative and level designer teams‭ (‬a boat-load of people‭)‬ with no single‭ ‬person writing the entire game.‭ ‬It’s nice having so much‭ ‬design‭ ‬experience and talent on the team.

If you want to learn more about the‭ ‬narrative process,‭ ‬our great designers,‭ ‬Chris Avellone,‭ ‬Josh Sawyer,‭ ‬and George Ziets have written‭ ‬Kickstarter and blog posts about‭ ‬world building and writing.‭

IG: Obsidian titles are also pretty well known for offering proper systems of‭ ‬‘choice and consequence.‭’‬ Will there be quests in‭ ‬Eternity with as many options and outcomes as‭ (‬say‭) “‬Beyond the Beef‭”‬ from‭ ‬Fallout:‭ ‬New Vegas‭?

AB: Yup,‭ ‬complex quest design is‭ ‬an Obsidian staple and we are going to continue to make quests‭ ‬like the ones you enjoyed‭ ‬in our previous games.‭ ‬All‭ ‬of our quests contain reactive choices,‭ ‬and we take care to make sure that‭ ‬the‭ ‬quests have‭ ‬many solutions with great role playing opportunities‭ ‬for the player.‭ ‬Many quests‭ ‬lines are deeper than how they initially appear on the surface and some may‭ ‬have a turn or two that‭ ‬could take you on unexpected adventures.‭ ‬And this will make you happy:‭ ‬Eric Fenstermaker,‭ ‬the designer of‭ ‬”Beyond the Beef‭”‬,‭ ‬is the Creative Lead on PE,‭ ‬which should instill‭ ‬confidence in our quest direction.

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An eggsistential choice.

IG: With Kickstarter-funded titles there‭’‬s always a sense that the game will benefit from backer feedback.‭ ‬What parts of‭ ‬Eternity have substantially‭ (‬or partially‭) ‬been altered or re-shaped due to player input‭?

AB: We’ve removed item durability from the game,‭ ‬and we’ve made changes to user interface design and game mechanics‭ (‬like spell casting‭) ‬after getting feedback from the community.

IG: Whenever an update relating to the RPG mechanics of the game is posted it seems to get pretty heavily debated in the forums.‭ ‬What process do Obsidian use to filter‭ ‬that huge amount of feedback into something helpful‭? ‬Is it simply a case of late nights combing the forum threads‭?

AB: Josh Sawyer‭ (‬PE’s Project Director‭) ‬and I read almost every post on our forums.‭ ‬We discuss general reaction to our updates on the next day,‭ ‬and we will respond to the thread to lead the discussion into a direction that will help us understand people’s ideas,‭ ‬concerns,‭ ‬or issues.‭

IG: You‭’‬ve been designing your game lore and the RPG systems‭ ‬Eternity will use pretty much from scratch.‭ ‬What difficulties and challenges did this decision bring with it‭?

AB: Making a game‭ ‬completely‭ ‬from scratch isn’t an easy task,‭ ‬but we have a good idea of what our backers expect in our system and world design.‭ ‬All of our rules are brand new,‭ ‬so some of the difficulty comes from‭ ‬how much‭ ‬different we should make PE from the IE games.‭ ‬We do want to do some things differently,‭ ‬but we don’t want to alienate our backers.‭ ‬It’s a‭ ‬balancing act,‭ ‬but I believe we are doing a good job of it based on feedback on our updates.‭ ‬There’s also extra world building that we had to do in pre-production,‭ ‬but‭ ‬we have a clean slate where anything is possible.‭ ‬It’s a nice change of pace from working with an existing IP.

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Turns out Project Eternity was just a cover for Gardening Simulator 2014.

IG: Some of the Kickstarter reward tiers allowed backers to design their‭ ‬own NPC,‭ ‬or even mercenary company.‭ ‬Have you started collecting those player-created aspects yet,‭ ‬and what happens if you receive something that really doesn‭’‬t fit into the game you‭’‬re creating‭? ‬Will it spark a diplomatic incident‭?

AB: We’ve‭ ‬contacted our backers for the‭ ‬Inn/Taverns already,‭ ‬and soon‭ ‬via the backer portal‭ ‬we will be collecting data for all of the other tiers including portraits,‭ ‬NPCs,‭ ‬items,‭ ‬and‭ ‬adventuring parties.‭ ‬Keep an eye out in the next few weeks if you did back Project‭ ‬Eternity at the higher tiers because you will need to fill out your survey soon.

The team is going to work‭ ‬closely‭ ‬with‭ ‬the backers because they are the people who are making this game‭ ‬a reality.‭ ‬Our backers aren’t game developers,‭ ‬so there might be a few cases where an idea doesn’t fit with the world,‭ ‬or the idea is larger than what is possible.‭ ‬In cases like these‭ ‬we would like‭ ‬to work with the backer to make sure‭ ‬the spirit of‭ ‬their idea‭ ‬makes‭ ‬it into the game.

IG: You worked on‭ ‬Alpha Protocol,‭ ‬so it‭’‬d‭ ‬be remiss of me not to ask whether there is any chance whatsoever of those characters‭ (‬perhaps under a copyright-dodging new title‭) ‬being revisited‭? ‬If not,‭ ‬would Obsidian ever revisit that type of game structure‭? ‬Telltale co-opted your timed dialogue wheel for‭ ‬The Walking Dead,‭ ‬so the spirit lives on there at least.

AB: I think everyone at Obsidian would love to‭ ‬do another Spy-oriented RPG,‭ ‬or another game set in modern day,‭ ‬or even a game with the same type of conversation system.‭ ‬All three of those are pretty rad.

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This background interface art is also pretty rad.

IG: Obsidian‭’‬s financial situation seems to have been a bit dicey at various points over the last few years‭ (‬probably not unusual for this industry.‭) ‬Is a Kickstarter success like‭ ‬Eternity enough to offer longer-term stability‭?

AB: It’s a start.‭ ‬Thanks to our backers,‭ ‬Obsidian‭ ‬has its own IP‭ ‬which is very important for future stability and growth.‭ ‬Our goal right now is to just make the best game possible for our backers,‭ ‬and hopefully that will lead to future success down the road.‭

IG: Bonus fashion question -‭ ‬I swear I‭’‬ve seen someone‭ (‬maybe you‭!) ‬wearing some sort of custom Obsidian football‭ (‬soccer‭) ‬shirt in some of the update videos.‭ ‬Do you have an in-house team? ‬Or did I imagine this whole thing like a big weirdo‭?

AB: Hah,‭ ‬you aren’t a weirdo.‭ ‬We did have a soccer team many years ago,‭ ‬and had custom Adidas Squadra II Obsidian jerseys made for the team.‭ ‬Unfortunately we had only one run made.

You can follow the progress of Project Eternity at the game’s official site, especially on the forums.

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