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Hey, everyone! This week we are doubling up on the Project Eternity backer update action. Darren Monahan will be giving a brief glimpse into the Backer Portal and Hector Espinoza will share his work (and some screenshots!) in a developer Q&A. Enjoy. -Brandon It’s Finally Time… Soon Update by Darren Monahan, Chief Intelligence Overlord A year already... Unbelievably, a year has passed by since we launched Project Eternity on Kickstarter, and a lot has happened. We’re almost to seventy project updates; we’ve made lots of levels, characters, classes, monsters, loot, and a whole lot more over the past year with more being made almost every day. November’s right around the corner, and here in the States, we have an upcoming holiday called Thanksgiving near the end of the month. It’s supposed to be a time where we give thanks for the harvest and reflect on the past year. It seemed rather appropriate to have a bigger than normal update coming before this holiday and we’re cooking a big one for you! This turkey dinner is going to be large and in charge... It’ll show a bunch of new stuff we haven’t shown anyone outside the studio yet and one of the side dishes coming with it is the new site. Backer Website: Main and Media Pages All of our previous updates are now easily available in one place, easy to browse through and include futuristic RSS technology! We’ve also got a one-stop shop for all of the screenshots, wallpapers, artwork, and videos that we’ve released and will release. Backer Website: Pledge and Rewards Pages On the left here, you can make sure all of the pledges you made are connected to your account. If you backed the game on Kickstarter and then later added money via PayPal, you can make sure that’s all been confirmed. If it doesn’t show up, you can link it in by providing the e-mail addresses you used if they don’t match. …and then, confirm that your reward is correct, or maybe even upgrade if you like! Did you give maybe give us more money thinking you chose one reward tier but accidentally chose a lower one? No problem, you can fix that up. Oh, and slacker backers… you might have some upgrade opportunities… Onward is the addon screen where you can browse through the available addons and confirm those choices as well. Backer Website: Add-on and Game Info Pages Then finalize everything! Don’t worry, even though you’ll be confirming your pledge selections, if you picked up physical rewards, you’ll be able to change your shipping address up to the point where we need to lock them. You’ve got plenty of time, and we’ll keep that open as long as we possibly can in case you move or want to have your stuff shipped elsewhere. On the right there is our “Game” section of the site, where over the coming months more information and art about the various races, classes, characters, critters, and locations of interest in the game can be found. OK, we’ll be back in a few short weeks… For those of you who have designs as part of your rewards, get your thinking caps on! Developer Q&A with Hector Espinoza Update by Hector Espinoza, Lead Environment Artist Hector in his natural habitat. Hello, Hector. What is your job on the Project Eternity team? I am the Lead Environment Artist on Project Eternity. Along with building assets and doing layouts of some the larger levels of the game, I help my team of artists create a visually exciting world for the players to explore. What are you working on this week? This week I'm working on polishing one of the states of the Stronghold and building a Keep that is contained within. What is your typical work day like on Project Eternity? I come in to work and read a little email. Sometimes I'll have a "breakfast snack" in the form of cheese and peanut butter crackers. This holds me over until lunch time. Upon my return from lunch, I'll continue to work on my current tasks. At times I help critique some of the work that is being created around me or from outsourcing. In the late afternoon I'll head out for a short walk to get my daily coffee, I'm really good about keeping this to one cup a day. Then in the evening as the sun sets I'll hook up the speakers and turn my office into a "discoteca" and work while listening to some of the baddest jams on the planet. One of Hector's work in progress areas, the player's stronghold, in a ruined and restored state. What are you most looking forward to on Project Eternity? I'm looking forward to the day when people get to enjoy our finished product. We are putting in a lot of hard work and effort to deliver something special to our fans and backers, thank you all so much for making this possible! I also want to play it! Our playtests have been really fun. What other projects have you worked on? While at Obsidian I have worked on Dungeon Siege III and after that I have helped out on a number of "unannounced" titles. Before Obsidian the list is pretty big. At Black Isle I worked on Icewind Dale (as QA), Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (as an Artist, yay!) and Icewind Dale II. The short lived "Van Buren", it was going to be awesome! Oh, and BG III: The Black Hound. The last title I worked on while at Interplay was Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2. Outside of Interplay and Black Isle I worked on Vampire: Bloodlines, Full Spectrum Warrior 2, and Lord of the Rings: Conquest. Of course in between a lot of these titles there are more projects that unfortunately never got to see a release. Hector after 7:00 PM. Which environment that you have done has been your favorite? By far this has to be the first one, which is the original Kickstarter image. I learned a lot when creating that scene and the feeling of nostalgia was awesome. What do you like to do when you aren't leading the environment art crew? Outside of work I choose photography as another creative outlet. I like to go out hiking and shoot landscapes or if I'm lucky some wildlife. Animals can be tough to find and sometimes I don't have the patience. I also enjoy macro photography, this takes patience too but it's a much more controlled environment. I like that. Do you have a favorite artist or game developer? This is a super tough question. I'll start with outside the industry. Favorite artists are Mark Ryden, Audrey Kawasaki, James Jean, and Ashley Wood. Inside the industry it has to be Akihiko Yoshida, Yoji Shinkawa, Robh Ruppel, and Sparth. And where do you draw your inspiration from? I mainly draw inspiration from the places I visit when I go out hiking. There is so much to discover when you can capture nature at a grand scale and at the macro level. The music I discover on the weekend when I visit some of my favorite online music sites. And from the people that work around me every day. What's your favorite Infinity Engine game? Why? This has to be Icewind Dale. I feel so fortunate to have worked on that game. It helped me discover the world of D&D. It also gave me the chance to work with and meet some of the best people in the industry. I'm truly grateful for that. A super close second is Planescape: Torment, I mean, come on. HA! In a Quake deathmatch between you and Adam Brennecke, what would be the final score? I think the first round would be pretty close it could go either way really, haha, but once Adam finds his groove, oh man, this would be a no contest, he's a beast. Final score would be to embarrassing for me to write. HA! Is there anything else we should know? I got that purple, grape, I can bake a cake.
Update by Darren Monahan, dinosaur fan Yep, you've seen this before - but not animating! In this week’s update, we’re back with me for one more! We’ll cover what the team’s up to currently. To start, every one of Obsidian’s games goes through a series of phases. Those phases, chronologically, are: Prototype, Vertical Slice, Production, and Finalization. At the end of each phase, the team and owners do an analysis of the progress; we verify that we’ve hit key goals, and (hopefully) officially move the project into the next phase. Prototype! So where are we at on Project Eternity? We’re coming to the end of the Prototype phase. While you might think of a prototype as something you would consider before making a game, in our case, we use the term to mean a demonstration of the game that, when successful, demonstrates the game’s vision (AKA “pillars”) and concept. For Eternity, one of our biggest pillars is to recreate the Infinity Engine experience. To that end, we need to have a number of key things in place to make sure our prototype is a success. Things like: Character movement and combat. We want to make sure we have a party of up to six characters, each of whom can be moved independently and/or as a group, which does then imply rudimentary support for formations as well as NPC and basic creature AI. Basic AI meaning to ‘see’ the characters, face them, and then move to them and start attacking. This also means we need character models that have enough animations to demonstrate this convincingly, as well as at least one monster. For our prototype demo, we have one known only as “Chompy” for now. More on him (or her?!) in future updates! Basic RPG mechanics. We need to prove that we’re making an RPG here obviously! We need basics like loot management; for instance, inventory and opening containers like chests. We need basic conversations and quest giving, including receiving a quest, tracking its progress, and then providing a reward for it being completed. Environments. We want to have a working outdoor area as well as a tileset-based interior that the player can move between and throughout. This makes us prove out area transitions too (I can hear it now, “YOU MUST GATHER YOUR PARTY BEFORE VENTURING FORTH...”) For our outdoor area (see screenshot above), we’re bringing life to it by not only building out the rest of the level, but getting our technological solutions in place. We have a working waterfall now, with moving water, replete with foam around the rocks(!) and more. Eeeert (sound of a record scratching…)! Wait, tilesets, Darren? What? Believe it or not, a lot of the areas in IE games were actually assembled through tile pieces (granted, outside the game in 3D art packages), and then were beautified by hand to give them a more organic look and feel. This tradition carries on with Eternity. Work in Progress Concept of an Interior Our next phase of the project is called the Vertical Slice. At Obsidian, this is the phase right before Production. In Vertical Slice, we try to do two things: Get Ready for Production. During Vertical Slice and definitely up into Production is when the team size grows. Early on, we’re getting all of our tools and processes designed, programmed, and with luck, polished up for our designers and artists to hit the ground running. Unity has been a dream for our developers so far, and it’s been easy for us to bring over our latest tools from other games for things like text and conversation management. Produce a Final “Slice” of Gameplay. We also try to develop a ‘final slice’ of gameplay. It’s generally a short, maybe 5-15 minute demo that demonstrates all of the core pillars of the game, as well as taken to what we’re aiming for at a final quality level in terms of visuals, audio, and presentation. During our Prototype we try to make stuff look great, but it’s secondary to form and feel. So, how are we doing? Well, we are absolutely trucking along. We’ve recently added several new concept artists to the team, two longtime Obsidian designers have also come on board (more on them later!), and we are hiring for other positions too. The team all has their heads down pushing forward for our prototype review. Fear... of the Dark Periodically throughout the rest of the project, we’ll have a number of weeks where we’ll ‘be dark’ (or rather more succinctly, "won't have an update" ) due to a variety of reasons, and next week is one of those instances. Don’t worry though, we will most certainly be working on the game, but we want to always make sure we’ve got cool stuff lined up for you, and our Prototype final is something we all want to keep focused on. When we’re back the following week (3/26), we’ll start a series of fresh new updates from Josh, Rob and the Art team, Adam, me, and more Let’s Play Arcanum with Chris Avellone. You might meet a few new team members, and maybe even hear from George again soon too. Happy St. Paddy’s Day! -Darren and the PE Team In case you're not sure who those folks are above: - Josh Sawyer: Project director and lead designer - Rob Nesler: Art director - Adam Brennecke: Exec producer and lead programmer - Me (Darren Monahan): Operations dude and co-founder - Chris Avellone: Obsidian's creative director - George Zeits: Narrative writer/designer
Armor Design Design update from Josh Sawyer Let's talk about armor design. Taken on its own, armor design isn't of eminent importance. It's just one of many subsystems that make up Project Eternity. However, looking at it in detail can expose problems that can be found across our various subsystems: by making something work well in a new system and setting, we can often put it at odds with the nostalgia of the old games (and "realism"). Back in the days of 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, we had all sorts of quasi- or non-historical armor types like banded mail, ring mail, and studded leather. You wore the heaviest armor you could because it typically had the best Armor Class. If plate mail was available, there weren't many reasons to wear splint mail or (horror of horrors) chain.The default rules limited the viability of certain character concepts because most characters of a given class were funneled down a specific equipment path. 3E sort of solved this problem by implementing Maximum Dexterity Bonus, which meant that characters with high Dexterity scores would generally equip whatever armor gave them the maximum bonus to Armor Class without capping the Armor Class bonus they received from Dexterity. There were a few problems with this. First, while it did help make previously "bad" character concepts (e.g., the lightly armored fighter) more viable, generally there were one or two choices per character build. If you had a high dexterity, you were not going to wear heavy armor. If you had a low Dexterity, you might wear light armor, but only for the higher movement rate it allowed. Second, there was an equipment dead zone in medium armor -- the Maximum Dexterity Bonus caps and movement penalties of heavy armor without the nice Armor Class bonus. Also, if you were a ranger or barbarian, technically you could wear medium armor, but in practice you would never wear it because it disabled several class abilities. The third issue is a common one with armor design: the ability to wear heavy armor has value (classes receive it as a benefit and it costs feats to purchase in 3E), but it's presented as something with trade-offs. This in itself is not bad, but as previously mentioned, typically the decision of what type of armor to wear can more-or-less be made at the end of character creation. If your character wears a chain shirt at 1st level, there's a good chance he or she will be wearing a +5 version toward the end of the campaign. This is sort of nice because it means that you can have a consistently viable character concept, but there's not a ton of decision making about armor types after your adventuring career starts. Finally, there's a way of naming and progressing things in A/D&D. Once you get your "base" armors introduced (for our purposes, we will include plate armor and its 2nd Edition kin, field plate and full plate), upgrades are expressed as +1 versions. It becomes pretty easy to understand once the hierarchical relationship and spread of armor types are established. What does this mean for Project Eternity? It means designing a new armor system that rectifies deficiencies of older systems while maintaining a familiar feel is tricky. Additionally, the more dissimilar the armor relationships are to those found in A/D&D, the more they will be re-evaluated for verisimilitude (i.e. "realism"). We would like our armor system to accomplish the following goals: Make wearing different types of armor a real choice for the player based on both character build and circumstance. E.g. a swashbuckling lightly-armored fighter will tend to wear one of a variety of light armor types (maybe a gambeson or leather cuirass), but in a circumstance where protection is of utmost importance, the player may still choose to wear heavy armor with a loss in build optimization. Disassociate armor value from class type in favor of different build types. E.g. a wizard can wear heavy armor and be a different type of wizard instead of just "a wizard who is bad". Allow a character to maintain a character concept throughout the game without suffering extreme mechanical penalties. E.g. a character who starts the game in some form of light armor can complete the game in some form of light armor with appropriate gameplay trade-offs compared to wearing heavy armor. Introduce new or upgraded armor types throughout the game instead of using ++ versions (which in itself would pose problems unless we directly duplicated A/D&D's d20-based attack mechanics). Even with these three goals, there are a number of problems to solve. One of the biggest questions is how to break up and "advance" armor by type. In AD&D, you had something that looked like this: Padded Leather Studded Leather Hide Scale Chain Splint Plate (Tier 2) Field Plate (Tier 3) Full Plate (Tier 4) Players typically couldn't afford plate, field plate, or full plate at character creation, but everything else was often within reach. It's not uncommon to see a hierarchy of armor types like this in many fantasy games, despite some of the questionable elements (did studded leather exist? Is raw hide armor actually better than cuirbolli leather?). You can get plate/field plate/full plate later in the game, but otherwise, you're getting +x versions of the base types at higher "tiers" of character advancement. We could (as an example) structure some of Project Eternity's armor advancement like this. Tier 1 Doublet Hide Armor Scale Vest Tier 2 Gambeson (from Doublet) Leather Cuirass (from Hide Armor) Scale Armor (from Scale Vest) Mail Shirt Tier 3 Armored Jack (from Gambeson) Leather Armor (from Leather Cuirass) Lamellar Armor (from Scale Armor) Mail Armor (from Mail Shirt) Half-Plate This could probably accomplish our stated goals (we can assign them whatever stats we'd like, after all), but it does raise some questions for us: Should something like hide armor be supplanted/made obsolete by leather as an "improved version" or does that effectively kill the visual concept of the rough-hewn rawhide-wearing ranger or barbarian? If armor types like hide (or scale, or mail) should remain viable on their own, how should that "upgrade" be expressed to the player? Functional descriptors like "fine scale", "superior hide", etc.? Cultural or material descriptors like "Vailian doublet", "iron feather scale"? Olde tyme numerical descriptors like "scale armor +1", "half-plate +2"? Is it okay for an upgrade from a visual type of armor to maintain its relative position to other armor types even if "realistically" that upgraded armor is now probably superior in protection to other armor types? E.g. an armored jack or brigandine armor is probably more protective than even nice suit of leather armor... but mechanically, we're presenting it as an upgrade of a padded (doublet) armor type. These are the sort of things we have been discussing and I have been thinking about. And while it is just one subsystem in Project Eternity, we will likely face many similar considerations as we approach the design of weapons, classes, spells, and other aspects of gameplay. I'm sure a lot of you have opinions on what you'd like to see, so please let us know on our forums! Our next design update will be in two weeks and will focus on lore and story elements. Thanks for reading! Fulfillment System Fulfillment update from Darren Monahan We’ve received a number of questions via our Support e-mail address and social networks about fulfillment, and I wanted to talk a little bit about what we’re currently working on! First off, I wanted to announce that we’re developing a fulfillment site, which we’re hoping to have online in the next month or two (I was hoping to have it up sooner, but my first baby is coming into the world in the next few days, eeep!). Everyone who backed the project on Kickstarter and/or PayPal will be e-mailed details that will give you credit on that site. After logging in, you will be able to: Confirm the tier of choice that you wanted. A few of you donated on Kickstarter, and then topped up via PayPal, so you’ll be able to select the exact tier you wanted. Confirm any add-ons you wanted that weren’t easy to specify on Kickstarter or via PayPal. Upgrade your pledge to another tier, or add on for, ummm, add-ons. Update your e-mail address at any time. Update your shipping address at any time. (Shipping address only needed for physical goods – we don’t need that info for digital orders.) Indicate any specific details associated with your tier (T-shirt sizes, name in the credits, etc.) If you live outside of the USA, it will also verify that you’ve added enough shipping. We’ll keep you guys updated in future, ummm, updates, on how progress is coming along! Here’s an update to our FAQ on some of the questions we’ve been receiving recently: Q: I donated on PayPal and besides a receipt from PayPal I haven’t gotten confirmation from Obsidian directly. A: Not a problem. When the fulfillment site goes live, we’ll be merging the Kickstarter and PayPal data together into our own system, and from there we’ll be sending out project updates. For now, as long as you received a PayPal receipt, we’ll have you on file. Q: I need to change my e-mail address before you send out details on the Fulfillment site. What do I do? A: Send us an e-mail at email@example.com with your old and new addresses (please e-mail from your old address if you can) and we’ll update our records before the fulfillment site e-mails go out. Q: How do I add shipping? I missed being able to during the Kickstarter phase! A: You can handle that in one of several ways: You can hang tight for now and wait until our fulfillment system is online, or, If you’d prefer to get it out of the way, you can visit our Shipping page and add it now (Amazon Payments and PayPal supported.) Q: When will I get my backer badge on the forums? A: That’ll come online with the fulfillment system. If you have any other questions, feel free to visit our forums or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! For more news about Project Eternity and Obsidian, follow us on: Twitter, Facebook, and our YouTube channel