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Interview with Project Eternity’s Josh Sawyer

by on 10/10/2012

Obsidian Entertainment has had their hand in so many classic titles that I personally was surprised to learn that they helped make some that are near and dear to my heart. They’ve been a part of Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Knights II, and  many more.

For their latest venture though, they took to Kickstarter. Their mission is to create a classic-RPG experience that combines the best of their past titles and new/old ideas to help create an experience that nostalgic gamers have longed for.

Their goal was to reach $1.1 million to fund the creation of this title. Spoiler alert: They have eclipsed the goal. They are now nearing the $2.5 million mark and with 6 days left they are able to create the game they want and add more to it thanks to generous support from the community. With over-arching goals they allowed donors to increase the amount of things the game will feature.

For example $1.4 million added a new class, race, and a companion, at $2.0 million they added player houses, at $2.4 million they added crafting/enchanting, and with $2.6 million in sight donors can help add an adventurer’s hall into the game. As an added bonus for each additional 2,500 donors they will add another level in a dungeon called “The Endless Paths”.

I sat down with Josh Sawyer of Obsidian Entertainment to give us more information on Project Eternity and learn more about their vision for this game. Hell, maybe this will even convince you to throw a few dollars their way and see if they have any more tricks up their sleeves past $2.6 million?

1. I grew up on classic RPGs, Baldur’s Gate was actually my first ever. I loved creating my character more than anything and assembling a rag-tag party to join me in Lord of the Rings fashion to accompany me on my adventure. I know the game will feature those classic options like race, class, alignment, et cetera, but will there be any newer elements to customizing your character?

Yes, although I should start by saying we won’t have alignment in Project Eternity.  Instead of a morality meter, you will have reputations with various factions in the world that you interact with over time.

We want to allow players to select few more elements during character creation to define their background a bit.  One of those elements is the character’s Culture, which is where he or she was raised.  In our setting, race and culture are not intrinsically linked, so you can have people of various races growing up all over the place.  We can then use the character’s Culture to unlock different dialogue options with and reactions from NPCs as well as open up character options in a manner similar to 3E Forgotten Realms’ Regional Feats.

So, for example, you might make a boreal dwarf (like Sagani, the female ranger we’ve shown) and decide that he was raised in the remote southern island of Naasitaq, where many other boreal dwarves share the rocky tundra and snow-covered forests with far-roaming caravan elves who drift near the shoreline.  Alternately, your boreal dwarf may have been raised in the cramped, humid, towering cities of Aedyr, among the aggressive explorers who crossed an ocean to colonize the Dyrwood.  Ideally, we want your race and culture to help inform both how you role-play your character as well as how you mechanically play your character.

2. Obsidian Entertainment has had their hand in a lot of titles, for Project Eternity, how does it compare to your past work? Will the length of the game be similar? Is this your dream game as you have free reign over what you want to make?

It’s too early to say how long it will be, but we want to make a game that is a worthy successor to its Infinity Engine forebears.  With Project Eternity, we really want to make a “best of” in terms of exploration, tactical combat, and extremely reactive narrative.  It’s a blast to be making this sort of game again, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say we have “free reign” over what we’re making; we’ve promised people a certain type of experience that’s framed by the Infinity Engine games.  We always try to be cognizant of the elements people loved in those games and it’s our responsibility to deliver them something that lives up to both fond memories and high expectations.

3. This question is a bit strange – I know console development isn’t being considered, but what are your feelings on why games like this don’t get made for an Xbox or PS3? I understand controls are an issue but I feel like that is sort of a sad excuse, for me personally the thought of banding together with 5 friends and going on an adventure that spans several hours, is something that is long overdue.

Controls really are a big part of it, which is also why RTSs (other than Pikmin and a few other unorthodox ones) are also notably in short supply on consoles.  The co-operative experience has always been a bit of a mystery to me for this sort of game.  Many people request it, but it invariably winds up being underutilized or ignored by the majority of players once the game is released.

4. Your Kickstarter has crushed its goal and you are constantly adding more stretch goals that will let supporters fund the game some more and add new content like regions, enemy types, classes, et cetera. Right now you are offering “Crafting & Enchanting” as the highest goal if you reach 2.4 million. Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve if this is reached? Clan houses? PvP? Waved combat mode?

We do have more stretch goals out right now, notably two new classes (Barbarian and Cipher) at 2.5 million and the Adventurer’s Hall (allows you to build your own party) at 2.6 million.  Additional stretch goals will be announced soon since we’re approaching the end of the Kickstarter campaign.  We are likely to include some bigger stretch goals (larger monetary gap between goals) for big features since many Kickstarter campaigns see an upswing in pledges toward the very end.

6. The Kickstarter rewards for individual funders are also something for people to envy – a character portrait of you, naming an Inn, designing an epic weapon, creating an enemy type. I can only imagine the sadistic SOB who is reponsible for players screaming “I hate those ‘Rabbid Unicorns’ they always kill me!”. I’ve seen a few other projects that even offered the ability to create a Boss with your own finishing move, any chance of things like this? Perhaps a random drawing of supporters? 

The Endless Paths of Od Nua is our optional so-called “mega-dungeon” that starts with three sub-levels and gains an additional level for every 2,500 backers over 50,000.  Our fantastic supporters have already added one additional level and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another after this weekend.

We’re also very excited to see what our “Create an Enemy Adventuring Company” backers will create.  I’ve always thought of enemy adventuring companies as being the ultimate challenge in party-based games, often more tactically interesting than fighting a “boss”.  A few forum communities have already taken a couple of the top-tier slots to make this happen, so I expect them to come up with some cool ideas.

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