In an age where many game developers are looking to go simpler and more portable for the mobile market, there will always hopefully be room in this world for larger, more complicated strategy RPGs. With Project Eternity, a group of all-star minds hope to bump up a slowly fading style of RPG along the lines of Baldur’s Gate or Planescape.
Between them, Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer, and Tim Cain have played major roles in developing franchises including Fallout, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Arcanum, and Temple of Elemental Evil. So this isn’t exactly a group of unknowns trying to get attention for some indie game startup.
That wide range of experience gives the team an intimate knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work in a classically inspired PC RPG like Project Eternity, which is aiming to “pay homage to the great Infinity Engine games of years past” according to its Kickstarter page. Sawyer tells Ars Technica that means things like “tactical combat, exploration, [and] text-based story development” will feature heavily in Project Eternity, while eliminating some of the “translating rulesets, degenerate/annoying game mechanics, [and] clunky user interface” that plagued some of the older titles.
Still, even with the big-name talent and old-school sensibility driving the project, it was a bit shocking when the Kickstarter effort reached its funding goal of $1.1 million in just over 24 hours after its launch late last week (as of this writing the game has brought in $1.8 million with 25 days left to go). Even the developers themselves were a bit taken aback by the outpouring of support.
“I think the reason a lot of fantasy storylines feel hollow is because we don’t treat the worlds like real places nor the characters in them like real people. I believe the existence of fantastic elements is an opportunity to ask, ‘How would this change things?’ When we see how the fantastic changes our reality, and how it does not, I think it can help us consider why we are the way we are.”
In the great RPG debate between real-time action and turn-based battles, Obsidian has decided to split the baby for Eternity, going with a real-time system that allows for the option to pause the action to set party positioning and coordinate attacks. Sawyer said that a purely real-time system was out if the team wanted to keep the feeling of classic “Infinity Engine” games like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment. But going with a purely turn-based system would have also felt off, he said.
“Because we also wanted to emphasize more open map exploration, with combat taking place in the same space as that exploration, pacing-wise it felt better to use real-time with pause than turn-based. In talking with Tim Cain (who’s doing a lot of the system design), most of the problems we’ve faced with previous systems came from adapting turn-based tabletop systems in real-time with pause. We believe we can eliminate a lot of those problems by designing the system for real-time with pause from the start.”
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