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Feargus Urquhart babbles about ideas for future Kickstarters at Rock Paper Shotgun

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Feargus Urquhart babbles about ideas for future Kickstarters at Rock Paper Shotgun

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 14 December 2013, 17:59:21

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

The guys at Rock Paper Shotgun have finally published their interview with Feargus Urquhart, in which he was supposed to reveal "Obsidian's next Kickstarter". As some of you may have guessed, it turns out to be a bit less dramatic than that. Feargus spends most of the interview hinting at various ideas that have been floating around at Obsidian, but never actually reveals anything substantial - although the interview does confirm that we can expect some new Obsidian Kickstarter next year with a high degree of probability.

On to the quotes. Feargus' first idea is described as some kind of "Skyrim in the Eternity engine". But it's not clear from his words whether such a game would even be a traditional 2D isometric RPG, so I'm not sure what the meaning of "Eternity engine" is in that context. Also, it would be episodic(?!).

“What’s cool about Eternity and then, well, I’d be really surprised if we didn’t make an Eternity II, is having something else we can then use that tech for,” he explains. “I mean, not exactly, because then it would just be a reskinned Eternity. But I always look at the example of what we did back at Black Isle with Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. And then Torment on top of that. Those games used the exact same engine, but they all felt very distinct. That’s what we want to do now too, and I think that’s just gonna help us make each of those games better and better.”

“What I’m trying to figure out is, how could we make something that is more like a Skyrim for PC – forget console for now – with the engine we made in Unity for Eternity? Where we are with our conversation, quest, data editors, and all of that. If we were careful about scope and let Chris Avellone go wild with creating a new world, more of an open world, what could we do?”

“How much would it cost? Would it make sense for it to be episodic? Because going out there and saying, ‘We’re gonna make 100 hours of gameplay,’ everyone goes, ‘Oh my god, how could it not cost millions?’ But could we create ten hours and have people pay ten bucks? And generally when we say ten hours, it’s usually 15. But if we go with five episodes, then people get between 50 and 75 hours.”

It’s certainly an intriguing thought, practically a missing link in the RPG food chain. What would’ve happened if CRPGs stayed in the Infinity Engine mold, but pumped resources into size, scope, ambition, and sandboxy-ness instead of graphical fidelity and cinematics? What would the genre have become? Now, finally, we might be able to find out.

But it’s not just about playing to nostalgia. This is actually a very practical consideration on Urquhart’s (urqu)part, as he doesn’t really see any other way to do a game this huge while maintaining full creative control.

“What could we do that would be interesting enough and at the right quality level?” he ponders aloud. “Because the one worry we have about moving away from pre-rendered stuff, is that as soon as we get into first-person or third-person or something like that, the expectation of triple-A-level console graphics comes in. So what can we do for a lower budget but let people still say, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy’?”

“We have other ideas too,” he enthuses. “Like Eternity has a big party size, but what happens if we render in close and have a smaller party? Make it more about the characters and less about the tactics? There’s a lot of ideas, and we want to see what [game engine] Unity can do as well.”
Uh, okay. Fortunately, it appears that those ideas are more "pie in the sky", and they might not ever get made, at least not on Kickstarter. Feargus does have some more concrete plans for a Kickstarter as well, but he's reluctant to discuss them.

In fact, it sounds like Obsidian’s already narrowed down its direction for a second Kickstarter quite a lot. During our chat, Urquhart only offers sly hints, just as one might expect from a man who once oversaw the most silver-tongued of espionage RPGs and yeah, no, it’s not going to be Alpha Protocol. Damn it.​

“There’s something we’re talking about that I think would be really cool, but it’s not an original property,” he says. “It’s a licensed property. But it’s not Alpha Protocol! It’s something we can still do a ton of creative stuff with, though. And then the other thing is an original property. Also, there’s a third thing that somebody approached us with, but I really don’t think that’s going to work out.”

Regardless, a second Kickstarter is pretty much a lock. That’s really not much of a surprise after Eternity vacuumed up dollars like a vending machine on the verge of starvation. Still though, it’s a bit surprising to hear out loud, given that Pillars of Eternity is still fairly early. That, according to Urquhart is why you’re only hearing at this point, and not seeing, touching, or, er, tasting (which, to be fair, isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility). You paid for a game, not the opportunity to fund another game. Obsidian is well aware of that.

“We’re very grateful for what people have given us, and I don’t want to go back to the well before we’ve proven anything,” Urquhart confesses. “That would be really lame of us. But I think we have a good idea and we’ve kind of proven things with Eternity to a point. Obviously we have a larger studio, so we actually have people to work on stuff [beforehand]. But I don’t want people to feel like we’re taking advantage of them.”

“I’m happy to make Eternity, and the hope is to come up with another Kickstarter that people would be interested in. My hope is that by March or April of next year, we’ll have something we can kind of start talking to people about.”

Ideally, he adds, he’d like to employ a setup not unlike inXile’s with Wasteland 2 and Torment. In other words, run a second Kickstarter when the first game is nearly finished so that the Eternity team can seamlessly transition over. For now, though, it’s all Pillars of Eternity, er, most of the time. Urquhart’s simply laying the tracks for his company’s next excursion into not-entirely-uncharted (but also kinda uncharted) territory, preparing for the future. And for the first time in a long time, he’s getting to do it his way.

“What’s interesting is, right now, between Steam and Kickstarter, developers are creating the brands,” he observes. “Not publishers. It hasn’t been this way since the ’90s. I’m not sure what it means yet, but it’s exciting.”

History, they say, is doomed to repeat itself. But if you ask Obsidian, they’ll probably tell you that’s a-okay.
Well, that was a whole lot of nothing. I guess we'll have to wait and see what comes up next year.

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