Back when we started seeing screenshots and hearing talk of Cyanide’s RTS Game of Thrones: Genesis, there was a fair amount of skepticism about the game. Each time we posted about it, folks would express doubt that this game was accurately channeling George RR Martin’s fiction, or the HBO series that it has inspired.
Part of the issue was that it was an RTS, a type of game that doesn’t lend itself to the sort of political machinations and storytelling that make George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books so much fun. I even wrote a post titled What a Better Game of Thrones Game Might Look Like, where I opined that the closest thing we’d gotten to a Game of Thrones game was BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins.
I just got off the phone with Cyanide’s studio director Yves Bordeleau, and he confirmed that in addition to Genesis, Cyanide has been developing a Mass Effect-style RPG for consoles and PC that tells a twisting narrative set alongside the events of the novel Game of Thrones.
Bordeleau told me that development for both games has been going on for roughly the same amount of time. When Cyanide started several years ago, they had no idea about the HBO series — they were fans of the books, and had been asking author George R.R. Martin for rights to his series for some time. One day, he surprised them by saying “Yes”.
So while Genesis traces the history of Westeros from the landing of Nymeria through to more or less the start of the first book, the upcoming RPG will pick up from there and move concurrently with the first season of the TV show (and the first book). True to the style of Martin’s books, it will tell the story of two different characters, switching back and forth between them as their tales move alongside the events of the first book (and occasionally intersect with one another). None of the characters from the book will be playable, though the game’s protagonists will cross paths with plenty of familiar faces over the course of the game.
Late in production, Cyanide worked out a deal with HBO to use some assets and character designs from the locations and characters from the TV series, and some of the actors from the show will be performing dialogue for the game, as well. “We entered the agreement late in the game, unfortunately,” Bordeleau told me, “but we managed to have a lot of characters and locations modelled [after the series.] “
The combat uses what he called an “active pause system”, which he compared to the battle system from BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic. “You pause the game to give orders, but it doesn’t really pause, it slows the time down. You can see something coming and react to it.”
As for the story and general design, Bordeleau told me that it would be “Less action than Mass Effect 2, it’s closer to Knights of the Old Republic and the first Mass Effect. It’s all about the storyline.” He was cagey about how much choice would be involved in the game, but he did share in a follow-up email that “some of your actions and choices will have consequences in the game story.”
In a very promising sign, Bordeleau mentioned that the developers are big fans of the storytelling in Planescape: Torment, and that fans of the art design and storytelling in that game will find a lot to like in the Game of Thrones RPG.
We’ll have more information on the game once its publisher is announced and the official press releases go out, but for now, I’m heartened to hear that Cyanide is working on something that feels closer to the spirit of both Martin’s books and the excellent HBO series.
It sounds as though Cyanide has been working very closely with Martin and his staff to be sure that their work fits with his fiction, and beyond that, it’s clear that they have genuine enthusiasm for A Song of Ice and Fire and its characters and stories. Plus, the RPG has been in development long enough that it doesn’t sound like a rushed tie-in.
Bordeleau promised more detailed information on the project “very soon”, and said that the targeted release date is early 2012. We’ll post more as we hear it.