Character building for games isnít easy, and it requires a lot of effort, especially when it comes to companions. Iíve had the good fortune to work on a variety of titles with strong support characters over the years, and I enjoy writing them a great deal. I still canít believe I get paid to do this (donít cut me off, Feargus).
There are a few guidelines I try to follow when designing companions (some of these are dependent on the engine and franchise).
- Combat/Challenge-viable. Any companion that canít hold their weight and help support the home team in some fashion isnít going to last long in the hearts of players (well, maybe a very forgiving few). This is something I learned way back in Fallout 2 when it became clear that Cassidy was far preferred over Myron, for example (and not just because Myron was an ****, which factors into another point below). Itís also a lesson I picked up while playing Final Fantasy III Ė every character needs to contribute to the mechanics and challenge mechanics in some fashion (whether combat or stealth or whatever the gameís challenge is).
- Companions should be optional. Whenever possible, the player should never be forced to take them or in the case of true psychopaths, even let them live. The golden rule is the companion should be a support character or a walking/breathing slab of target practice if the players donít like or want anything to do with the companion.
Can you give us an insight into what stage of that process youíre at now?
Weíre in pre-production, although most of our efforts at the moment are focused on the Kickstarter. Adam Brennecke is heading up our production and tasking efforts Ė heís where weíve gotten most of our Kickstarter metrics and planning.
Josh Sawyer is our project lead and heís laying out world elements, races, and systems, Iím working on narrative approaches and character concepting Ė which should be up this week -Rob Nesler is setting up the visual look and feel of the game, and Tim Cain is working on a number of design elements of the game, including basic stats and armor mechanics, as well as ideas for non-combat ability design.
In addition to the folks above, we have a number of other Obsidianites are working on gameplay and graphics, which youíll see samples of in the days to come.
…and some comments from J.E. Sawyer at Ars Technica:
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."