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RPGs, Old School and the Inquisition

You know, sometimes you have to wonder if it’s a coincidence or if marketing departments between different companies work really hard to make certain things happen. You might be wondering what I’m talking about, well, GOG did D&D sales not long ago (aka Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment, NWN, etc). Right as it was starting, Obsidian Entertainment announced a Kickstarter for a new “old school” RPG in the same vein as the games on sale on GOG. Also, the BioDocs (BioWare Doctors) announced their retirement and some other dude at BioWare announced the name of the last Dragon Age game: Dragon Age: Inquisition. Strangely, there was an indie game released about two weeks ago on GOG called Inquisitor.

Lets start with the small things first: the Inquisitions.

Not much to say about the next Dragon Age game, beside the fact it’s going to use the engine EA is trying to shoehorn into all their games: Frostbite 2. Expect pretty graphix and better performance. I’m not really expecting much else from this, really. The recent  departure of the BioDocs tells me that BioWare is really dead now. RIP BioWare, you’ll be missed. I also wonder if they can do better than the indie game Inquisitor. That game is quite old school (aka hard, unforgiving and no tutorial), but it pinned down the feeling of fear and despair at the “end of the world” really well. It also has wall-o-text. Lots of it. I said it was old school. Anyhow, I suspect Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s main problem is going to be a change of gameplay/artstyle once more. Not a good way to keep a franchise going; you want a solid base, not something you feel like changing every game because X or Y don’t like it.

Paladin in a Library
Inquisitors: Paladin in a library

Now that I’m done with that, lets talk about Project Eternity

A few days ago, Obsidian Entertainment (they made KoTOR2, Fallout: New Vegas, NWN2, and Mask of the Betrayer, among others) started a countdown on their website. This ended in the announcement of a Kickstarter for a game called Project Eternity (codename). A game that wants to be an homage to the Infinity Engine games made 15 years ago: an isometric party based RPG that uses real-time with pause combat and a ton of text. Oh, and 2-D backgrounds (Icewind Dale 2 still has awesome wallpaper-worthy 2-D backgrounds) and lots of text with choices and consequences.

I must admit I shed some tears at the video pitch. Baldur’s Gate 2 was the first Windows game I ever owned. Both Baldur’s Gates are at the top of my “most loved and must play” list of video games. I re-install them once in a while to play them and most of the time I finish them. They are actually my “most played” video games beside Deux Ex (the first one). Then come the Icewind Dale games, that still have, to this day, the best dungeons and encounters of all RPGs I’ve played, and I’ve played of lot. I still play these once in a while as well. Finally, there is Planescape Torment, who some people still consider to be the best story ever done in a game, although others think that Mask of the Betrayer gets that honor, and I guess that with all the prizes New Vegas won, it is probably not far behind. All these games also have some of the best RPG companions I’ve met (besides Kreia in KoTOR 2, no companion can beat Kreia in awesomeness).

So you might be wondering what Obsidian has to do with video games made by Bioware and Black Isles Studio, and why somebody would feel compelled to give them money on nostalgia alone. The answer is simple. Obsidian is Black Isle. Feargus Urquhart, former leader of Black Isle, and a group of veterans from the studio funded Obsidian when Interplay started to have difficulties and dismantled Black Isle. Some went to form Troika though, the studio that made Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil and Vampire Bloodlines, but died after running out of money. Some of Troika employees moved to Obsidian afterward, like Tim Cain.

When they named the people on the project, it was all the big names at Obsidian: Josh Sawyer (Icewind Dale games), Chris Avellone (PlaneScape Torment and the creator of Kreia in KoTOR2), Tim Cain (Fallout games and all the Troika games). The whole thing feels a bit like a geek project with some of the biggest names in the gaming industries. Hell, their Kickstarter updates are geeky to me. They lack all the stuff a marketing department would try to add to make them pretty.

Their original goal was a small 1.1 million. Small! It’s the largest goal ever put on Kickstarter. They fulfilled it in less than 27 hours, becoming the second Kicksarter to make 1 million in 24 hours.  Of course, after the initial burst, the whole thing slowed down, but it is still going on, making their stretch goals along the way.

Project Eternity Darwen Ranger carrying bow and arrows
Project Eternity Darwen Ranger

As you can see, I can’t wait for this to be released. April 2014 looks really far away. I just love isometric party based games and we are seeing less and less of those now.

7 replies on “RPGs, Old School and the Inquisition”

Literally one week ago I started playing the first Dragon Age and since then I have been hooked. After years and years of playing Fabled Lands (6 books of RPGs with maps and dice and ermahgerd so much fun) first with the books and then with the text based game someone thoughtfully created for PC, Dragon Age is blowing my mind. I cannot wait to play the sequel and now I find out there is a third one?! So much awsesomesauce.

Obsidian and “debugging”. They have been screwed by publishers mostly with this, QA is mostly done by the publisher not the game developer (KoTOR 2 was released 3 months early than 1st announced too). Also, they mostly used other studio’s engines. The only game they made with their own engines was Dungeon Siege 3 and it is bug free.

As for Black Isle Studios “coming back”, that is just the zombie Interplay trying to stay alive.

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