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Thread: Project Eternity Interview with Tim Cain

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    Project Eternity Interview with Tim Cain

    Obsidian's Tim Cain took some time away from watching the money tick in on Kickstarter to talk a little more about Project Eternity and the freedom of creating an original IP without publisher oversight.

    Interview
    "The universe is already mad. Anything else would be redundant."
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  2. #2
    Tactic's Ogre I choose u! scorpio_7's Avatar
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    Thank you for this interview! Excellent questions, and the answers were what I like to hear.

    This has totally re-enforced my interest in this title

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    A Serious Man Drav's Avatar
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    Cool interview. It sounds like they're going to try incorporating some design elements of Fallout rather than being a straight-up party-based tactical crawler like the IE games, so the 1-6 party member option makes more sense now.

    One thing I've never really understood is why Icewind Dale has such a bad reputation when it's basically Baldur's Gate I, except a lot better. I mean, I guess it's missing the exploration and the pre-set party members (who all sucked in BG1 anyway), but in terms of level design, encounter design, spell-balance, customization, graphics, music, voice acting and practically everything else that matters, it's the superior game. A couple of dungeons drag on to long, but that's about it.
    Last edited by Drav; 09-27-2012 at 06:41 AM.

  4. #4
    Hm, this particular project still rubs me the wrong way, which is why I'm not supporting it (doesn't really matter though at this point) but I really hope this turns out to be a great game for those who support this bad-boy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Last Paladin View Post
    Hm, this particular project still rubs me the wrong way, which is why I'm not supporting it (doesn't really matter though at this point) but I really hope this turns out to be a great game for those who support this bad-boy.
    I don't think there's any way they could make this game without getting funding from somewhere, and from the sound of it, publishers were completely uninterested in considerably more mainstream game ideas from Obsidian. If they wanted to make this game, they needed crowd-funding, so I don't see the problem. Crowd-funding for some of these bigger developers like Doublefine and Obsidian seems to be more of a way to break the publisher-developer model rather than a way to rake in extra money.

  6. #6
    A Serious Man Drav's Avatar
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    Obsidian seems to be pretty much ****ed anyway. This might be the last RPG they make of any variety.

  7. #7
    I understand the argument, believe me I do, still doesn't feel right to me. See, part of my problem is that they are really just "flushing" out the idea of the game, so to say that they were offering this game to other publishers who said no, isn't quite telling the truth, they didn't even have a plan in place. Granted, I'm sure the publishers would have turned down the ideal anyways for as you and I both know games like this aren't mainstream, but I highly doubt they put in as much effort as they said they did. Anyways, this game will be the chance to prove what they're really capable of when they don't have any hand-holding per say, let see what they can do...

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Last Paladin View Post
    I understand the argument, believe me I do, still doesn't feel right to me. See, part of my problem is that they are really just "flushing" out the idea of the game, so to say that they were offering this game to other publishers who said no, isn't quite telling the truth, they didn't even have a plan in place. Granted, I'm sure the publishers would have turned down the ideal anyways for as you and I both know games like this aren't mainstream, but I highly doubt they put in as much effort as they said they did. Anyways, this game will be the chance to prove what they're really capable of when they don't have any hand-holding per say, let see what they can do...
    I don't think they ever even implied that they had offered this specific project to publishers. They claim (and I believe them) that they have pitched considerably more mainstream games to publishers and been turned down. People (including me) backed this project on the promise of an old-school infinity engine -like game. It was clear from the start that they were only in the pre-pre-production phase of the project, still sketching out ideas . . . hence the projected 2014 release.

    Did you also have a problem with the Double Fine kickstarter?

  9. #9
    No, I really didn't have that much issue with Double-fine, mainly because I never consider them as mainstream as Obsidian. I know a lot more about the games Obsidian has been involved in compared to Double-Fine, and really I didn't even know about the whole kickstarter thing until the whole ordeal with Double-Fine (Now I can't get enough of kickstarter projects).

    Maybe I'm being hypocritical, I won't deny that "could" be the case, but I just have a hard time buying Obsidian as a true indy company compared to someone like Double-Fine, what with the so-called AAA games they have been involved in in the very recent past. I just don't feel the same vibe of independence as I do from other companies, and quite honestly, I feel they're being a bit misleading about their intention with this project also. Maybe I'm wrong, and I won't feel bad if I am, I would rather be, but like I said, this project, more so than any other kind of rubs me the wrong way.

  10. #10
    Member Jitawa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Last Paladin View Post
    No, I really didn't have that much issue with Double-fine, mainly because I never consider them as mainstream as Obsidian. I know a lot more about the games Obsidian has been involved in compared to Double-Fine, and really I didn't even know about the whole kickstarter thing until the whole ordeal with Double-Fine (Now I can't get enough of kickstarter projects).

    Maybe I'm being hypocritical, I won't deny that "could" be the case, but I just have a hard time buying Obsidian as a true indy company compared to someone like Double-Fine, what with the so-called AAA games they have been involved in in the very recent past. I just don't feel the same vibe of independence as I do from other companies, and quite honestly, I feel they're being a bit misleading about their intention with this project also. Maybe I'm wrong, and I won't feel bad if I am, I would rather be, but like I said, this project, more so than any other kind of rubs me the wrong way.
    I'm not sure what you're getting at. A company needs to be "truly" independent to use Kickstarter? Obsidian isn't attached to any publisher. What other sort of independence are you referring to? Misleading about their intention with the project? Like... they're not planning on making a game?

    They've pitched an old-school RPG in the vein of the same sort that their employees have formerly made. It all seems pretty above board to me. They don't have the wacky designs of Double-Fine, but that's not really what people like Chris Avellone are known for either.

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    I get what The Last Paladin is saying as it's close to my first impression for this project. Kickstarter is for new start-ups and individuals, usually with a slant toward art, that need the money to finish something. Obsidian is a large, established company that has been around for almost a decade. It feels close to THQ -- who is financially screwed -- tossing out a Kickstarter for Saint's Row 4. Do they need the cash? Yup. Is the company on a path where they might not exist in a few years? Sure. But that's not in the spirit of what Kickstarter is for, and mostly the same as Project Eternity in my eyes. That did rub me the wrong way a little.

    Project Eternity is also an odd duck because it sounds like absolutely no work has been done on it. At least FTL, Double Fine, and InXile said "Here is what we have worked on so far. Here is what we want to end up with. We need more money and can't get it. Give me all your money!" Obsidian was vague and pretentious, and initially the Kickstarter was just "Did you like Fallout, Torment, Baldur's Gate, Arcanum, or Icedale Dale? Give me all your money!" without seeming to know what exactly they were going to make. It isn't building on a coherent idea they've pitched and been rejected. It feels like they're latching onto a fad to get lots of free cash with little to no upfront investment or effort on their part. That's also not really what Kickstarter is about. Certainly not at this scale.

    Those were my initial impressions and it seems like The Last Paladin's feelings are around there, but stronger. If this project was $100 under the goal with 2 seconds left and only I could give the last donation to fund it -- I'd do it. With it fully funded now and then some, I'll let it play out and buy the game when it comes out in 2014. I wish Obsidian all the best and hope the game satisfies all the funders who were given high, vague expectations, but this really isn't what Kickstarter is for.
    Last edited by 7thCircle; 10-01-2012 at 09:41 AM.
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    これはメタです RPGamer Staff Quin's Avatar
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    The thing about building games as a developer without publisher oversight is the publisher often acts as the preventative measure for feature creep. I'm not suggesting that developers are always completely incapable of creating games without publishers, but someone in the developer team has to reign in the expectations to avoid what happened to 3D Realms/Duke Nukem Forever.

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    Member Jitawa's Avatar
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    Hmm... ok. I think of it as similar to Double-fine, in that they're also a very established developer that used kickstarter to fund a game that wouldn't find support from today's publishers. I don't think it's completely bereft of ideas and planning either. Avellone seems to have been taking input and kicking around ideas since the whole Double-fine thing blew up. The updates on kickstarter have seen the developers posting both thoughtful bits on design and responding to fan input in a way you don't really see in most games.

    I don't know. I think the Wasteland sequel is a great use of kickstarter, but having a relatively established (but independent developer) pitch like this is great. You get the feeling that many kickstarters will never really come together. With Obsidian or Double-fine, I think there actually will be a product. I find myself moaning and groaning all the time at new RPG releases from companies like Bioware/etc. because since Baldur's Gate 2 or so, the paths seemed to go more linear, the parties got smaller, and so on. I like to think of this as an opportunity to support a game that will be what so many games now are not.

  14. #14
    Thank you very much 7thCircle. I had a very hard time eloquently stating my issue with this project but you hit the nail right in the coffin with your explanation. I really hope this project turns out well and all, I just hope that a company this size is an exception to future kickstarters and don't become the norm for all other known developers out there.

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    Did the Double Fine kickstarter really start off with any more of a concrete plan than Obsidian's? Based on the text from their kickstarter page, it doesn't look like it, though I'll confess that I haven't followed their project very closely. Unless their initial video pitch included a lot more information about what work they'd done, it doesn't seem as if they did much more than ask their fans to fund a 2d point-and-click adventure. I don't see any other information about the story, characters, or gameplay. Double Fine has actually been around for longer than Obsidian and even if they're not as big, they have made a few pretty big games . . . Psychonauts and Brutal Legend.

    I would feel differently if Obsidian partnered with Bioware to get kickstarter funding for Knights of the Old Republic 3 or Neverwinter Nights 3. That's not even remotely close to what they pitched, though.

    And really, while I don't think it will be good for indie developers if kickstarter is completely flooded with big developers (and I doubt that will happen, even with the success of Double Fine and Obsidian), a few of them doing niche projects like these can only be a good thing IMO. For one thing, I'd never even heard of kickstarter before Double Fine, and I'd guess I'm not the only one.
    Last edited by Azilis; 10-01-2012 at 04:39 PM.

  16. #16
    Yep you're right, Double-Fine really didn't have much of a concept other than they wanted to make a point a click adventure game. The reason why I personally take exception with Double-Fine is because they are the people that really brought the whole kickstarter campaign to the forefront for me and many people (such as yourself) to begin with. Not only that, but Tim Schafer was treading on unknown waters when he initially attempted this project. For all he knew, this kickstarter thing wasn't going to even pan out. So for his group to not really have an idea other than they want to make old-school point and click game, it was more to see if anyone would even be interested in this genre again. Of course, it was proven that people still were and they ended up getting funding for the game in one of the biggest kickstarter campaigns in history, and in doing so bringing Kickstarter a bit more to the mainstream. I don't fault them for not having an idea at first, because they were the first to tackle something like this.

    Since then, many other big name game designers have used kickstarters and just about each and every one of them had an idea and concept already running for the project (i.e. Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, Space Quest, etc). At this point it is pretty well established that if you're a relatively well-known game designer, at the very least you should have some kind of working idea or a very detailed concept for what you're going for. If Obsidian came out in the beginning with a concept for their game, then it wouldn't bother me as much, instead, they come to Kickstarter bragging about some of the big games they were involved in and as such we should just throw money at them while they think of an idea for an old school rpg to make for us. Double-Fine was more humble with their offer like, "Well we would like to make an old-school point-and-click game but we're not sure if you guys are really into those kind of games anymore. If you give us the money to make this game, we promise to make the very best game we can." (If you actually watch some of Double Fine's older kickstarter videos, it is very similar to the way I'm explaining it to you).

    That's the biggest difference between the two for me, one was pioneering something that hasn't been done before and the other is just tossing random accomplishments and expecting you to just trust them to make a decent game (and I'm ignoring a lot of their buggy games in this instance too with Obsidian). I guess ultimately what I'm saying, if you're a decent-size game developer the least you can do is be a bit humble that you have to even ask for money in the first place, first of all, and then at least have a project idea already in place before asking people for said money.
    Last edited by The Last Paladin; 10-01-2012 at 05:49 PM.

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azilis View Post
    Did the Double Fine kickstarter really start off with any more of a concrete plan than Obsidian's? Based on the text from their kickstarter page, it doesn't look like it, though I'll confess that I haven't followed their project very closely.
    You're treading into "two wrongs make a right" territory and arguing something that's not the point. I didn't pay close attention to Double Fine's Kickstarter either and don't play adventure games, but its initial slant was definitely humble and emphasized that Schafer had been trying to make another adventure game for several years, but publishers kept shooting him down. They wanted $300,000 for the game and aimed low initially.

    Obsidian's Kickstarter was filled with hubris, giving details about the legacy of every person involved with Project Eternity. They promised a dream RPG that publishers wouldn't approve of had it been pitched to them, which it hadn't. All the people involved have been making WRPGs in the years since 2D isometrics died, unlike Double Fine which was kept from making adventure games. Obsidian wanted over $1,000,000 to make a game that will visually look like a 1998 game. It's a lifeline for free financial support for a company that's struggled at negotiating with publishers, not funding for a specific type of game a healthy company wants to make, but can't get funding for through the traditional route.

    The only thing the Double Fine and Obsidian Kickstarters had in common was that they didn't give details about the game's concept, but "Tim Schafer Adventure Game" is much, much more specific than "2D Isometric WRPG." Torment and Icewind Dale's gameplay had almost nothing in common aside from being 2D WRPGs. Will Project Eternity be more of a long dungeon crawl, or a mature talk-a-thon? It can't be both. Obsidian has cleared this up over the last couple of weeks, and I love the interviews they've done including this one. Their initial plan had no ideas or details about the game, only emphasizing that a bunch of people who have been making WRPGs for decades will make another -- this time with free money. That prickled me.
    Last edited by 7thCircle; 10-01-2012 at 06:00 PM.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7thCircle View Post
    You're treading into "two wrongs make a right" territory and arguing something that's not the point. I didn't pay close attention to Double Fine's Kickstarter either and don't play adventure games, but its initial slant was definitely humble and emphasized that Schafer had been trying to make another adventure game for several years, but publishers kept shooting him down. They wanted $300,000 for the game and aimed low initially.

    Obsidian's Kickstarter was filled with hubris, giving details about the legacy of every person involved with Project Eternity. They promised a dream RPG that publishers wouldn't approve of had it been pitched to them, which it hadn't. All the people involved have been making WRPGs in the years since 2D isometrics died, unlike Double Fine which was kept from making adventure games. Obsidian wanted over $1,000,000 to make a game that will visually look like a 1998 game. It's a lifeline for free financial support for a company that's struggled at negotiating with publishers, not funding for a specific type of game a healthy company wants to make, but can't get funding for through the traditional route.

    The only thing the Double Fine and Obsidian Kickstarters had in common was that they didn't give details about the game's concept, but "Tim Schafer Adventure Game" is much, much more specific than "2D Isometric WRPG." Torment and Icewind Dale's gameplay had almost nothing in common aside from being 2D WRPGs. Will Project Eternity be more of a long dungeon crawl, or a mature talk-a-thon? It can't be both. Obsidian has cleared this up over the last couple of weeks, and I love the interviews they've done including this one. Their initial plan had no ideas or details about the game, only emphasizing that a bunch of people who have been making WRPGs for decades will make another -- this time with free money. That prickled me.
    Not so much "two wrongs make a right" . . . it's just that I've heard people compare this kickstarter unfavorably with Double Fine's, and I just don't see much validity in those arguments. The major difference is the amount that they're asking for, and I assume that comes both from them knowing what other similar kickstarters have raised (specifically Wasteland 2) and the scale of the project they want to do (which will cost a bit more to produce than the Double Fine adventure).

    While I'd have liked to see a specific pitch from the beginning, I don't see it as necessary . . . especially because whatever the pitch ends up being, it would not have been funded by a publisher. It looks to me that they wanted to know what kind of budget they'd have before doing much planning. They promised an isometric party-based RPG set in a fantasy universe . . . I have a pretty good feeling for what that game will end up looking like. I thought Obsidian was pretty clear from the beginning that the project would be a mix of dungeon-crawling (Icewind Dale) and storytelling/world-building (Planescape Torment) to make something more like Baldur's Gate. You're right that there's more variety in 2D isometric RPGs than in point-and-click adventures, but I feel like I know what I'm getting into I with an isometric party-based RPG from Obsidian.

    The one aspect of the Obsidian kickstarter I feel uncomfortable with is some of the stretch goals. "We'll add player housing at X.X million" and things like that, when it's really unclear why they're budgeting seemingly arbitrary amounts for things that seem should be fit into the game down the road at some point if development is going well enough to allow for them. "A bigger story" was another one I didn't like, because it's meaningless to us without actually knowing the amount of content that would have been in the game originally.

    I guess what it comes down to for me, though, is that I trust Obsidian to produce a game I'll want to play.

  19. #19
    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azilis View Post
    I guess what it comes down to for me, though, is that I trust Obsidian to produce a game I'll want to play.
    Me too. Project Eternity the Kickstarter rubs me the wrong way; Project Eternity the game I'm looking forward to as I do all Obsidian's games. I'm most excited that Josh Sawyer is the lead designer for it. He doesn't quite have the name power of other Obsidian employees, but I loved the design ideas in New Vegas. I just hope the team doesn't let its ambitions get to big for the project.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

  20. #20
    A Serious Man Drav's Avatar
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    I think Josh Sawyer must be Obsidian's most experienced project lead by this point. Unfortunately his games never actually get released.

    Josh Sawyer's favourite RPG is Darklands. He's a cool guy.

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