Buck: What can you tell us about the entirely new fantasy world you're building, and would you categorize it as high/low magic or high/low/heroic fantasy? Why did you decide to go with fantasy instead of a lesser used theme, and what are some unique elements that set your world apart from the many others already out there?
Feargus: We talked a lot about the genre and to be honest we kept on coming back to fantasy. With all the experience we have had with a lot of varied fantasy settings, we are really looking for to taking our unique approach with factions, characters and mature themes to the setting. Ultimately, we really feel that what an RPG is about is the characters and the story – not the setting. Hit points are hit points whether you are killing past, present or future zombies. What engages and what keeps you going in an RPG are characters that you love and hate and story lines that tug at your emotions.
Buck: You stated that you're shooting for a mature game with themes that treat players as adults. Does this mean that there will be difficult choices with harsh consequences, realistic scenarios of repression, racism, and survival, bloody and ever-present war, shocking dialogue, or all of the above?
Feargus: Chris Avellone said it best when he talked about how we want tackle Mature subject matter. We are already getting to make South Park which gets all of the “dick and fart jokes” out of our system. In Project Eternity, we want to tell a story that treats players like adults. Does that mean sensationalistic topics – potentially. It means more that if a story is going in a direction our designers don’t need to shy away from how it concludes.
Buck: Speaking of dialogue, are you also using the Infinity Engine games as a source of inspiration for how to handle dialogue trees and voiceovers? Will there be voiceovers for major cutscenes and for flavor at the start of a conversation, but vast branches of dialogue that are text-only? Will our attributes, abilities, or previous actions affect our dialogue choices?
Feargus: Our goal is to use voice over as flavor and not as something that exists for every written word in the game. We don’t want to cut down on the depth of dialogs or the number of choices that players have because we are counting voice over dollars. That means, like practically every Obsidian project to date, we are going to push the boundaries of reactivity in our dialogs. And, the more we get funded the more we can do that.
Buck: Let's talk mechanics. While the game is certainly far from completion, what are your goals for the character creation and advancement system? Will progression be a standard affair with attributes and skills/perks/feats, or will you be treading into unknown territory? Finally, will there be a major focus on the non-combat abilities that are often overlooked in modern RPGs?
Feargus: Yes, yes and yes – we are still rolling up the system, but our goals are very much along the lines of creating a robust and multi-faceted RPG system. That means having a huge focus on support abilities and not just combat ones. Josh has been whiteboarding up a system for a number of months now for the support ability system and it’s looking very, very cool.
Buck: As you're going with a fantasy world, one would assume that there will be a magic system of some kind. What are your goals for the game's magic system, and will the spells that we gain access to be reminiscient of the D&D-based arsenal we had in the IE games?
Feargus: We will be talking about the magic system more in the coming week and months, but we are tying magic and overall potential of all characters to the power of a character’s soul. Player characters and companions are among the people in the world with great potential, those with "unbroken" or "strong" souls. As for the spell types, we’ll definitely see spells that give that us that D&D feeling. But, we want to use the connection between power and the soul as an added factor into every part of the character development system – including magic.
Buck: Will you be going with a similar "real-time with pause" combat system that was present in the IE titles? What do you feel are the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges of implementing such a combat system?
Feargus: Personally, I have always loved the real-time pause system other than when we first had to have the conversation with TSR / Wizards of the Coast about how every person or creature was on their own individual round in combat. That all eventually turned out fine and the D&D team was always extremely supportive particularly when we moved Icewind Dale 2 over from 2nd Edition to 3rd Edition. There were a ton of conversations about how to make sure the way that the Infinity Engine did magic could stay true enough to the rules.
I probably digressed a bit there, didn’t I? The system itself (real-time with pause) works great for robust RPG systems that have a lot of moving parts and encourage the player to not just throw their characters at the enemy, but to think tactically. I always love the big battles in Baldur’s Gate 2 – the felt like puzzles that I had to crack in order to win with a minimum of casualties on my side.
As for disadvantages – that’s a tough one to answer. I think there is some feeling that taking some RPG systems that are designed as turn based and putting them into a real-time with pause system losses something in the translation. A lot of that has to do with timing and the fact that things don’t happen simultaneously in those systems. Pure turn based does let combat play out in a more like chess like way – which can definitely be fun. However, since we are designing Project Eternity from the start to use a real-time with pause system, we can avoid some of the translation issues that can happen when taking a table top game into that arena.