The People Behind Fallout And Planescape Are Making An RPG That Sounds Fantastic

Video game publishers have not treated Obsidian Entertainment very well over the years.

The studio behind games like Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol has missed out on bonuses because of Metacritic scores, lost out on sequels because of Metacritic scores, and been forced to lay of staff because of sudden project cancellations (that would have probably been ruined because of Metacritic scores).

So now they're ditching the publisher model. They're going straight to the fans. They want $US1.2 million to make an original, brand new, fantasy role-playing game in the vein of old classics like Baldur's Gate II and Planescape Torment. It's a dream project. And they've got the talent to pull it off.

This afternoon, Obsidian is launching a Kickstarter for what they're calling Project: Eternity. It's an original fantasy role-playing game created by many of the company's top minds: Chris Avellone, creator of Planescape: Torment; Tim Cain, one of the brains behind the original Fallout; Josh Sawyer, a lead designer on Icewind Dale; and a number of other programmers, artists, and designers who have worked on all of those games.

Their goal: to make an RPG that blends the combat and exploration of Baldur's Gate, the dungeon spelunking of Icewind Dale, and the powerful narrative of Planescape: Torment.

In other words, this could be an RPG fan's dream game.

Avellone: "[I'm] tired of designing content and interactions that caters to consoles and console controllers."

"Project: Eternity is our opportunity to FINALLY develop our own fantasy RPG world and franchise," Obsidian's Avellone told me in an e-mail this week. "FINALLY. Did I say FINALLY enough? One more time: FINALLY.

"It's not like we've had any lack of ideas, only a lack of opportunity or anyone who wanted to finance it. Then Kickstarter came along and a door opened -- this was FINALLY our chance to sidestep the publisher model and get financing directly from the people who want to play an Obsidian RPG. I'd much rather have the players be my boss and hear their thoughts for what would be fun than people who might be more distant from the process and the genre and frankly, any long-term attachment to the title."

They're targeting a spring 2014 release. The game will cost you $US25 (or $US20 if you're an early supporter). And it'll be PC only, because Avellone is "tired of designing content and interactions that caters to consoles and console controllers."

"Those limitations affect RPG mechanics and content more than players may realise (especially for players who've never played a PC RPG and realise what's been lost over the years), and often doesn't add to the RPG experience," he told me.

Avellone also echoed something I've written quite a bit about: the value of having conversations with gamers. Kickstarter can free a company like Obsidian from the message-driven shackles of publishers and allow designers like Avellone to be as open as possible.

"It's nice to be able to TALK about our Kickstarter projects, not just with devs, but with fans directly," he said. "Want to share a vision doc? Sure! Want to show early screenshots and concept art? Sure! Normally that kind of sharing with the community is strictly monitored and shackled, and often, we can't share what we're working on until way, way, way down the line of the development process. That's always struck me as one of the worst business models in an industry where iteration is key."

So what's the game actually going to look like? The final product is still at least a year and a half away, but Avellone shared some thoughts on how Project: Eternity is shaping up:

Combat will be old-school. "It'll feel like Baldur's Gate 2. After discussions here, we decided to pursue a similar combat style to the [games on the Infinity Engine, like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale] -- real time with pause. It'll offer the same breadth and depth of combat choices as you'd expect from combats in Baldur's Gate, and our combat system has been one of the first systems we've delved into for the Kickstarter."

The world is totally original. "It's fantasy with its own voice. Josh Sawyer has been leading the charge with the world and race creation -- at first glance, players will recognise archetypes and seemingly-familiar landscapes, but often, we just use that as a means to draw you in and let you begin to see the subtleties and differences. Our first goal with the world creation was to make a world that's fun to explore first, and then construct the lore, factions, and conflicts around that."

This is a game with soul. "So there are a few things -- we want the player to be able to build their own character, and we want the player to be able to evolve and grow. And this growth wouldn't be limited to the first game, but would continue into subsequent titles as well. The story and world is built around the concept of magic and power tied to a character's soul, and the player's soul and the souls of his companions are... special."

You won't get to create your own party. That's not a bad thing. "Much like Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment, the player creates one character and gathers a party while exploring the world. We'll be giving the companions as much love and attention as we've done in our titles in the past, from Torment all the way up to [Neverwinter Nights 2:] Mask of the Betrayer and Fallout: New Vegas. We don't want them to outshine the player, but support him and act as a sounding board for his decisions and choices in the game. Our desire is the player character and the companions (if they survive) will go beyond simply one title into future installments."

It will look like the old classic isometric games. "While Project: Eternity heralds back to the Infinity Engine games our fans have played, we'll be using a different engine and it will be isometric. We feel isometric lends itself to more tactical party-based play."

If the Kickstarter fails, they'll just try again. "[We'll] refine the idea, figure out what didn't work, then try again. The nice thing about KS is that you know in 30 days (often, less) if your idea doesn't resonate with the public, rather than 2-3 years down the line or trying to pump so many marketing dollars at people they become brainwashed into liking an idea that never resonated with them in the first place. (That's my final rant.)"

If the Kickstarter succeeds, this will be a franchise. "It means we FINALLY have a world of our own that we can build upon, not just for this title but for future releases down the line. We've wanted to do our own RPG world for a long, long time, and it's been hard to pursue outside of existing franchises. Project: Eternity is our chance to take all the RPG knowledge, mechanics, lore, and characterization we've learned over the years and turn it into the game our fans have been hungering for."


    If they succeed. This will be the rebirth of PC RPG. Can't wait.

      Yeah i was sold at "So now they’re ditching the publisher model. They’re going straight to the fans."

    I spent more hours in Sigil and Athkatla than I care to count; however, this doesn't really seem like a planned all. And considering their enormous target, I feel they'd benefit from having a more coherent idea rather than grand sweeping rhetoric. IMO.

      It's not really an enormous target for the names involved. They're going to exceed that target in less than 48 hours. As for coherent ideas, all I need to know is the game will be in the style of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment. That's enough for me.

        Ok not enormous, but sizable. But those are all DnD realms...all of which are radically different to each other. Sigil and the Sword Coast are pretty freaken different ideas. Is this just a "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY" thing...?

        PS. I mean they've announced that this is going to be a "unique" universe; whilst all the cited examples are established forgotten realm universes. Dont get me wrong, I see the potential behind the idea, I just wish the information was a more tangible concept as opposed to citing best sellers and saying "yeah, essentially that"

          There is some of the cliched "shut and take my money" in my response. Fair call. :)

          On the subject of concrete information: Analysis of successful vs unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns have shown that campaigns with less information are more likely to succeed. There are obviously exceptions to this, such as David Crane's recent failure to acquire backing, but the general rule is that if you give away too much information, or show an unfinished game prototype, then potential backers are less likely to dive in. The key reason for this that most gamers are not familiar with how unfinished software looks, sounds, and plays. They are overly critical of work in progress because they don't fully understand the project life cycle.The best answer we have so far is to sell a "feeling" on Kickstarter rather than a concept, if you get my drift. :) You will see more video game Kickstarter campaigns using this strategy and succeeding than not.

          Paradoxically, non-game campaigns are a different subject matter and some kind of prototype is almost always required for success. Weird, huh?

    Unfortunately the only baldur gate games I played were the dark alliance ones, which were ok. just wondering, is this new one set in baldurs gate world others planescape world?


        dammit. without the question mark.

          It is a new world

            Thanks a lot. Now I've got that Aladdin song stuck in my head.

      It sounds like a new IP that they're designing from scratch.

    Sounds awesome. I'm a backer now.

    Would it have killed the author to include a link to the Kickstarter page?! No matter, it was easy enough to look up.

    Also, the "conversations with gamers" link is incorrect. Author forgot to put in the "http://" in front of "".

    Saw this on RPS, All I saw was Obsidian and Kickstarter before I was hitting the give money now button.

    It's a shame they lost those Fallout: New Vegas bonuses thanks to Metacritic. It wasn't by much and I think if the game had been reviewed after the first couple of patches were out (or they had more development time to fix bugs before release) they would have fared better.

    Shut up and take my money

    PC only.. >_>
    Looks awesome, can't wait but would like it on console also.
    Just as i'd like a HD re-release of Fallout 1 and 2 on console =P
    If they can do it with Machinarium, they can do it with this

      Avellone is “tired of designing content and interactions that caters to consoles and console controllers.”

      Like a boss

        I suspect the truth is more to do with the fact that Obsidian produce some of the most bug ridden games you'll ever see. Releasing all those patches on consoles costs a fortune. Patching on PC is much cheaper.

    Haha it has not even been up a day and it is already up to $780,000.

    Backed it straight away, I am so so soo excited for this, rebirth of the PC RPG here we come :D

    This might not have anything to do with anything but... I have legitimately never encountered a bug in an Obsidian game. I'm probably in the minority but out of curiosity has anyone else had a glitch-free experience with Obsidian?

      Ah... The calming sound of crickets :)

    The limited $20 Tier is pure brilliance, and adds some urgency to the decision, even at the lowest level (to receive the game).
    It was the first game that I actually funded :P

    Just hook it to my veins!!!!!!

    Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudddddeee... Chris Avellone, Tim Cain .. that other guy... Planescape and BG heavily influenced.. oh god, where's my credit card? I think I need to sit down. Wait I am sitting down. Ok I need to stand up. Cya.

    Jon: I loved Illusions. It was the first Richard Bach book I read, and I breezed tuorhgh it in one night because I couldn't put it down. There's something warm and familiar about his books that makes you want to keep reading, even if the plot is predictable. Like watching Medium.Ryan: Very excited about the daily strips. Merry Christmas to me.

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