If you are a fan, you already know it, but for those that do not follow the “hardcore” roleplaying games’ news: the Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign started by Obsidian Entertainment on Friday has reached its initial goal of $1.1 milion in 27 hours. After a brief period of festivities, the developers are back in business. In addition to outlining stretch goals, the turn has come for giving more information on the project.
In the latest Kickstarter update the developers (most importantly J.E. Sawyer) provide us with some details on what’s planned for Project Eternity. First of all, in the vein of classic RPGs, the player will be able to control a party of six characters: their character and five permanent companions, plus any temporary followers. Companions are tied to the world and the story, reacting to player choices and storyline events. Apart from comments and combat support, they can open additional plot branches and generate conflicts for the player to resolve. Formations will be included for the party, like in the old Infinity Engine games. Last, if the player so wishes, he can ignore them and complete the game solo.
The player will have full freedom in creating their character. At minimum, this will mean specifying their main character’s name, sex, class, race (including subrace), culture, traits, ability scores, portrait, and the fundamental starting options of his or her class (gear, skills, and talents). Portrait customization details are not yet worked out by Obsidian. However, the most important news here is that the game will not force the player’s character into any particular role, be it the child of a self-professed savior or the last, best hope of x-kind. The premise is that they are a victim of circumstance, rather than choice: they witness an extraordinary and horrific supernatural event that thrusts them into a unique and difficult circumstance and have to learn what happened to them, in order to free themselves from the forces that haunt them. Similar in nature to Arcanum‘s premise, this approach gives near-total freedom of role playing to the player, making choices and weathering their consequences.
This update also provides some answers to the problem of races in Project Eternity, a topic hotly debated on the official forums. The developers aim to create a range of different ranges, from the recognizable races (staples of the genre, like humans, elves and dwarves), through the extraordinary, “godlike” ones, to the truly odd (tentatively described as ?!). Races differ from each other not only culturally, but also physiologically, and include distinct subtypes, ethnic and national. An example is provided in the form of a dwarf ranger (yes, you read that right) from the southern boreal regions of the world, who is quite different from the dwarves occupying the temperate lands in the north. Combined with transoceanic exploration, cultural cohabitation and general mixing of the people, this result in a volatile melting pot of cultures, races and nationalities that is not always bubbling peacefully. Sometimes, it runs over and results in deeply seated prejudices and, of course, genocide.
In a recent Eurogamer interview, Tim Cain has confirmed that Project Eternity will feature firearms, but refused to share more information. He also divulged that J.E. Sawyer is the game’s project director, while Chris Avellone does the writing (on top of his duties as Obsidian’s creative director) and he, Tim Cain, takes care of the system mechanics and programming. Praise is also given to Kickstarter as a tool of creative liberation: Cain mentions being forced to make alterations to The Temple of Elemental Evil on publisher orders, such as cutting quests and characters, as well as altering ones, despite them being faithful to Greyhawk, the Dungeons & Dragons module the game was based on.
Cain also explains the soul system in the game. The idea is simple: people who have whole, unbroken souls are more powerful than those people who just have fragments of souls. The exact nature of souls and ways in which they might be broken will be explored in the game. This ambiguous approach carries over to other systems as well: instead of the black-and-white alignment system with good on one end and evil on another, Project Eternity will feature a reputation system not unlike the one in Fallout: New Vegas, tracking the opinion different organizations have of the player’s character.
Finally, as Chris Avellone stated on his Twitter, Project Eternity is not going to use the Onyx engine (known from Dungeon Siege III), as the middleware costs are too high. At any rate, it’s estimated release date puts it in early 2014.
It will be a time to say goodbye to your family. You won’t be seeing them for a long time.
P.S.: Those interested in J.E. Sawyer’s work on Baldur’s Gate 3: The Black Hound and his stance on design will be interested in the latest entry on his personal blog, detailing the aims of the team while working on The Black Hound and his personal design and writing philosophy, using the evolution of Red Wizards of Thay between the 2nd and 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons as an example.