This wasnít a happy-go-lucky Disney game. Disney's Buena Vista Games wanted dark and I gave them dark. In the opening sequence, for example, you, as a teenage prince, awake in your bed to haunting sounds. Exploring the dark castle, you come across a terrifying shadowy creature that you kill in a desperate struggle Ė its cries shifting from a supernatural shriek to that of a human woman's bloodcurdling cry of death. The illusion is then dispelled, and your mother, the Queen, lays dead before you, the bloody knife that killed her in your hand. This wasnít a cinematic Ė it was all a gameplay sequence that youíd actually play out.
For the creative lead, I hired Brian Mitsoda, of Vampire: The Masquerade Ė Bloodlines fame. (Heís now working on his creation Dead State, which looks very promising!) He took the skeletal story I had written and was developing it into a true masterpiece. Thatís also when Obsidian hired Josh Sawyer and he was the systems/combat lead for the project Ė heís an awesome designer and project lead and you can only imagine what he comes up with when focused on a specific component. His combat system combined action gameplay with RPG depth in some very innovative ways.
Great question, as it not only leads to some interesting decisions about Storm of Zehir (SoZ), but also raises topics about game development in general. Two main factors led us toward the casual romp you mention: the budget and the team.
To explain the budget part, I should go back in time a bit and talk about Mask of the Betrayer (MotB) and the nature of expansions. While thereís some variability, sales for an expansion are fairly predictable. I donít think Iím at liberty to discuss any real data Iíve seen, so Iíll make up some numbers for illustrationís sake. Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) sold for $50, while MotB sold for $30. Letís say that for a big RPG, about 1 in 4 players can be assumed to purchase the expansion. To simplify the math, letís pretend that everyoneís percent share of the sales is constant. (Though not directly applicable to a PC RPG, for a great breakdown of some of the costs for a console game, check out Emily Rogerís article ďThe Rise of Costs, the Fall of Gaming,Ē here: http://www.notenoughshaders.com/2012…fall-of-gaming/). So letís say that Obsidian had $1,000 to make NWN2. The math would suggest that MotB gets a budget of $1000*(1/4)*($30/$50) = $150. […]