Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview
"Anon" from Anonymous of Holland has a new interview with Chris Avellone. The interview is a wall of text, and I wish I could share all of it here.
AoH: One of the things at the top of fan’s lists of things they’d like to hear about would no doubt be Project: Eternity. So far we’ve been seeing a lot of tech and lore updates on the Kickstarter page and the forums, and although I’m sure I wasn’t the only one blown away by that amazing tech demo, it feels like the world design has been put on the back burner a bit, at least as far as the updates go. I understand Obsidian might not want to go into this as of yet in order to save information for future updates, but I was wondering if you could tell us a little about how well the world has been fleshed out so far, which direction it’s going in to make it different from all those cliché fantasy settings out there and what the plans are for the world as shown in the map? Will we be visiting locations all over the map or will you be focusing on a certain area, maybe leaving the other areas for another game?
MCA: It will be locations all over the map (to clarify, it’s the one below).
[Project: Eternity's Map - Graciously provided by Mr. Avellone in beautiful high resolution]
The world map [above] is the game space: the game takes place largely in the Dyrwood and the Ruins of Eír Glanfath – while the exact locations are still to be revealed, you will be going to a variety of communities and cities in those areas all over the map, as well as a number of adventure locations. As far as variety goes, it’s much like Icewind Dale in terms of location ambiance and scope (it may seem like an odd example, but while set in the North, there was a lot of freedom in Icewind Dale in terms of looks and feel of each location). As locations and dungeons unlock, you’ll be able to jump to them and begin exploring.
You will not be going beyond the world map indicated in this first installment of the series. Right now, we’re focused on bringing this section to life. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the rest of the world (and in fact, the cultures and empires surrounding the Dyrwood are extremely important to current events) – we’re developing the world and the surrounding nations in tandem with religion, culture, and language.
There’s directives we try and operate from in terms of design of the game which hopefully should shed some light on the process. In terms of development of the narrative, we have a first draft of a story that we’re iterating on after feedback from the team – the draft we chose as the spine was a collaboration of two stories, one from George Ziets and the other from Eric Fenstermaker. There were elements from every story pitch that we liked a lot, and other elements that we felt could be developed more, or made more impactful for the player.
We haven’t revealed a ton on story yet, and it’s because the narrative is important to us, and we want to avoid spoilers. A significant amount of lore, maps, character naming, deities, language, notable antagonists and protagonists has been developed, but it is under the story umbrella, and we’re not prepared to reveal it at this time until we’re comfortable with it. Story’s not something we like to rush at the studio, and for this project, we don’t have to, which is a huge relief. So far it’s allowed a far more collaborative and iterative process – Eternity has been one of the few opportunities we’ve had at the studio where almost all the designers had a chance to do a pass of a story draft and then critique each other’s elements. It felt like a creative writing workshop, which was awesome.
So what makes it different from fantasy settings – there’s a few things, and I’ll try to point to some specific examples: so – we have dwarves. Our dwarves aren’t typical dwarves, however, and allow for variation that may be unusual at a glance – for example, when we showcased Sagani, it might have been unusual to see a bow-using dwarf from an Inuit-inspired culture, but that’s something that Eternity aspires to branch into and explore concepts of fantasy races that haven’t been touched on yet. In our latest update, we describe paladins, but in the context of Eternity, which means they are cause-focused, not necessarily morality-focused, and it gives additional insight on how that difference manifests itself through their abilities, which I feel is pretty damn cool. Also, I’d like to think that the decision to veer away from the 14th century style of fantasy vs. the 16th was a good one as well, and can make its presence felt from weapons the characters wield, the clothes they wear, to the everyday architecture of cities and towns.
Lastly, in terms of defying clichés, the magic system of a world changes everything about its culture. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Pat Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind, David Farland’s Runelords… each change in a magic or metaphysic system sends out a ripple effect across cultures and characters and conflicts, which is a good thing. So when we agree upon the principle of souls as governing magic and the cycle of the world, that opened itself up to interesting character, culture, and technology opportunities that may not exist in other settings.
Also, we have invested a lot of energy in systems, and I feel it’s the right call. All the mechanisms for how the player communicates and interacts with the environment should be established first, including how the player talks with characters, how they move, how they fight… this may seem common sense, but launching into production without a finalized design on how the character’s movement set works and the interface components can be problematic, so we want to make sure we do this right.