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Alex Sherman

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Posts posted by Alex Sherman

  1. Really enjoyed the first post.

    Really annoyed by the reaction to it.


    Let's be clear: this thread is NOT about whether or not Dragon Age 2 is a good game. This thread is about worldbuilding, and how to make it work, using DA2 as an example of flawed worldbuilding. This argument is COMPLETELY DISTINCT from whether or not you manchildren have a soft spot for the game.


    All good points in the first post, but I'd like to respond to the simulation aspect. Dream already brought up the QA and design problems posed by it, but I think there's more to the problem than that. I think simulation design has its own uncanny valley effect, where the harder a game tries to make a world feel alive by simulating realistic behavior, the more difficult it becomes to make that behavior really convincing. Fable, Skyrim, and Stalker all tried to do it with budgets many times larger than Project Eternity's, and while they all were successful in many ways, when bugs or inconsistencies occur then they stand out more because they break the intended illusion so starkly. And, let's face it, the illusion is never really THAT good.

    Dwarf Fortress is a really interesting example, but the genius of its ASCII graphics is that it allows your imagination to fill in so many gaps. And, let's be clear, it's REALLY REALLY unlikely that PE is going to have any simulation aspects that are remotely that complex.


    Project Eternity is going to be a heavily narrative game. The strength of its storytelling and its worldbuilding, as described in the OP, will be MUCH more effective for crafting an immersive experience than simulated systems that are inevitably buggy and disruptive to immersion.

    • Like 2
  2. You cited an example of an institution in the city of Herculaneum in the ancient Roman Empire, not some unique culture of super literates where everyone was given a free education.


    Sorry, I didn't mean it as an example of a widely literate society, more as one that had a different idea of the value of the written word, as compared to medieval Europe. My understanding is that texts were not often appreciated as anything but religious objects in much of Europe during the dark ages, and that in a culture like that the written word has little inherent worth. This is as opposed to Ancient Rome, or Renaissance Europe, when words and the enlightening information contained therein were more highly prized and more in demand. Not book store demand, certainly, but upper-class library demand is a step up from locking texts away in monasteries. I now feel like I have no idea what I'm talking about, however, so please feel free to correct my false impressions.


    How this applies to PE, in any case, is that I don't think we know for sure exactly what kind of culture this fictional early renaissance is beginning to move away from, and without that we can't say for sure where it's going. I could be wrong, of course, and they could be grounding their worldbuilding in a strict historical context, or they could just as easily be moving in a very different direction. I see this as a good opportunity to speculate.

  3. Oh! Actually the book that I read about the Villa of the Papyri is especially relevant here: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. It mostly follows a 15th century papal scribe, one of a few early Renaissance scholars who scoured the monasteries of Europe looking for lost manuscripts by Greek and Roman authors, the pages of which were often being used as scrap paper. It argues that finding these texts affected Western history and thought significantly. It's possible that texts in PE could be rare and obscure but vitally important in a similar way. A quest chain about tracking down lost, ancient scrolls that aren't magical, but could still have profound cultural significance, seems pretty cool to me, at least.

  4. Remember that PE does not have to fit exactly into a medieval European historical context. This is a work of fiction. The value and availability of texts would depend entirely on the type of culture that they're creating, within the established constraint of "no printing press." The Villa of the Papyri is an interesting example of a culture that revered texts, knowledge, and past cultures.

  5. I'd also love to see a making-of DVD, or any kind of well produced, in-depth developer commentary, but unfortunately this violates my belief that Obsidian should focus entirely on things that will improve the quality of the game experience. It's a great idea, but it's probably best to think gameplay-first.

    PDF's of the game design doc's. A "Making of" DVD is one thing. Seeing copies of all the scraps of paper used in the development process is entirely different and would certainly interest me!

    This is also a fantastic idea, but we'll probably get more or less the same thing through all the updates and community dialog.


    On the other hand, would this make me up my pledge? I think . . . yes.

  6. Oh man, this is a great page. Lots of cool ideas.


    Well most "ism's" are based on differences being unacceptable to the societal norm, with the introduction of such a strong focus on the players soul perhaps we could have soulism, for want of a better word. Imagine a race of Eternity who have learned to master their souls, just as an olympian learns to master their body, with this awakening and joining with the immortal half of themsleves they would obviously judge themsleves to be superior. What would they think of the normal human, that he was nothing more than a barely sentient beast perhaps, or perhaps that they are pitiable and need to be protected and taught, enslaved?


    There's so much that can be explored with this. Do souls have gender, or race, or memory, or do those things end with the death of the body? Is there a society that raises children based on their soul's gender and not their biological one? Or one that classifies people based on the kind and quality of their inherited soul? What happens in these societies if someone possesses multiple, shattered souls?


    In that sense, if a dev supports an ideology or a stance over another, I don't think they should be afraid to show it in game, as long as they can admit merits of the other side of the argument aswell. As long as the game can simply spark debate amongst users with it's events being points of citation, then it does it's job, imo.


    But you're right about abortion, I agree entirely. Certain themes in this thread just simply don't fall into "mature" the way they mean the word. Abortion is one of them.


    You're absolutely right, and certainly we can trust Obsidian to do these ideas justice in whatever way they see fit. I guess that I find it offputting when a controversial topic is proposed as if it should be dealt with for its own sake, and I like contributions that suggest a conflict inherent in the theme, like BasaltineBadger's post above, rather than the theme itself. My bias is unfair, though, since the game will deal with the inherent conflicts beautifully and I really have nothing to worry about. But I still think that the discussion here could be more productive, since the idea of a game treating us like adults is a rare and thrilling one.


    I just wish I had more to contribute. Hmm. Something that I've been thinking about since Josh's Update #5 is how interesting the time period is relative to the setting. An "early modern" or "culturally renaissance" society is going to be very different from our own if souls, magic and deities are provable science. Where the Renaissance in Europe moved toward a more open and secular society when scientific methods challenged church doctrine, an enlightenment society in this world may become more religious and more fanatical if use of the scientific method actually confirms and reinforces existing religious dogma. I find this idea fascinating since it scares the hell out of me, as in a brutal religious inquisition that can justify its actions, no matter how horrible, with provable, empirical facts.

  8. Gotta say that I don't like the "isms" checklist at all.


    There's a quote by William Gibson that I really like, something about the how the last thing that he wants is to be a didactic writer. That is, he doesn't want to lecture his reader, or limit himself by trying to convey a specific message. Ever since I heard that, I've been terribly afraid of being creatively didactic in any way. Dealing with contemporary issues (abortion?) could easily fall into that trap. Even if the message is "it's complicated," there's still the hand of the developer behind it trying to tell you how they think the world works.


    As for themes, my desperate hope is there will be as many opportunities as possible to resolve conflicts without violence. Or at least that the world will be one in which violence has real consequences, that NPCs will have a convincing sense of self-preservation, and that the use of violence will never be an option of first resort.

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  9. wanting to bulldoze an elf town to have more space just makes sense.


    . . . Does it?


    Of course!


    The human population needs to build more buildings and there is a forest in the way. Get rid of it and anything in the way. That's the way the world works. Look at what humans do to other humans. Now remove the closeness of being the same species and just imagine what will happen.


    It only makes more sense to get rid of competiting species if they were sentient. A world is a finite place with finite resources.


    Nope, don't buy it. At least not the idea that exterminating a nonhuman sentient is somehow more practical than exterminating a human. Many human tribes have been exterminated by neighboring human tribes that were stronger and needed the space, like you said. People are also entirely capable of seeing a group of people as subhuman or worthless, literally dehumanized. So "closeness" is entirely relative.

    And yet, many indigenous cultures survived the worst atrocities of warlike conquests, exploitative colonialism, ethnic cleansing and all the other side effects of innate xenophobia. Nothing at all to do with them all being homo erectus, more to do with any number of other issues of practicality. Like, say, a territory sometimes not being worth the cost of holding it. Doesn't matter if the desert wasteland is full of people or talking lizards. If the desert isn't worth it, then what's the point?

  10. snip

    And why would that stop Obsidian from making a dark skinned character.


    You have argued against something that no one was saying in the first place.


    I think his point is fair. The question is whether a player's choice of character should be limited by the constraints of the game world. The reflex response is to the say that player choice shouldn't be limited at all, but is that ever really the case? In your average western RPG you are given a limited selection of races and classes and the option to choose your gender. Regardless of the choices you make, every character starts in the same place. Then somehow the game has to explain how every possible character that you could create has found their way to that same point, and it tends to be, to quote D3xter, "a very bad plot device." You're an orphan or you're a prisoner or you have amnesia (ugh), or you're . . . hmm . . . well, usually you're an orphan or a prisoner. Or it isn't dealt with at all. THEN, if the game designers are ambitious the world can "respond" to the type of character that you are with a limited set of scripted reactions, usually in the first five minutes and a handful of side-quests along the way. The more variety there is in character creation, the more limited the responses are.



    A way that Project Eternity can avoid this, and tell a better story, is by establishing constraints that make sense within the context of the game world. Not only does this make the world richer and more consistent, but your character, too. Your character is here for this reason. D3xter's post supposes an interesting set of constraints, but Obsidian, by limiting the number of races and player choices, can work within those constraints to better craft the player's experience.

  11. I don't know what more needs to be said here. Black Isle/Obsidian's track record for rich and compelling female characters is very good, and it is very likely that the women in Project Eternity will wear clothes.


    Actually, given the state of the games industry right now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if feminism was one of the topics that they intend to tackle in, brace yourselves, a mature and intelligent way.


    Isn't that awesome?

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  12. There is a lost soundtrack for PS:T by the revered dark ambient composer Lustmord that was scrapped by the publisher and has never seen the light of day.

    I'm sure the folks at Obsidian haven't forgotten this, and they may be eager to do something as uncompromising with this project. As much as I respect all of the composers mentioned, my hope is that we'll all be very surprised by the style that Obsidian and Co. choose.

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