Yesterday, Josh Speer, who wrote this amazing article on Shadow of the Eternals, and Jonathan Higgins sat down with the folks at Precursor Games. Their interview will be featured on next week’s episode of The Downpour Podcast, coming to iTunes and our website on Monday, June 3rd. Here are some of the highlights, hand-picked by our editing team.
One of the goals emphasized by Precursor throughout the interview was community involvement with their backers, and Denis Dyack, Chief Creative Officer of Precursor games, talks about how that impacts the mythology of Shadow of the Eternals:
We’ve got stories, and I don’t know if you’ve heard we have recently started talking about the Magick system. We started talking about the cosmology, and the Eternals in our cosmology, and how the different elder gods relate to each other. We’re opening that up to the community, to help create these too, and it’s been fervent excitement, and the amount of activity significantly went up on our website because of that. What that says to me is that what we’re doing here with the community is a good thing, because people and gamers seem to really like it.
He also talks about how they create characters with depth as opposed to “super heroes”:
What you’re talking about with the characters where not everyone was a super hero; that was actually very, very different back in the day. We had Alex [Roivas in Eternal Darkness], who was studying for a PHD and was NOT like Tomb Raider [and Lara Croft] at the time, which was very runway model and out of proportion. [Alex] was a character that was going to use her mind. We’re going to continue with that.
With gameplay, Denis explains what they’re trying to achieve with the combat system:
It’s not going to be a super-fast action game, we don’t want to go there. But what we do want to maintain is that tactical element, where you can combine Magick and swordplay and shields, and build that towards a tactical level. The pace was what I would call a medium pace, it’s all very fluid, but it’s medium paced combat where it’s very reminiscent, and it continues in the spirit of the original Eternal Darkness.
Eternal Darkness was well known for the innovation of insanity effects, where the game would play tricks on you as your character’s sanity depleted. Denis talks about the process behind the infamous “Save game bug” insanity effect, when the game would briefly attempt to trick you into believing your game file was being deleted after trying to save:
The story behind that is when we were working on it and talking with Nintendo about that, they said, ‘this could really get our consumers upset with us, because they might think something is broken with their system.’ So we were really unsure if we could even do that kind of thing. And it was a legitimate question of what if someone literally gets angry and throws their GameCube across the room because of this insanity effect? Should the machine legitimately be replaced, because we’re doing that? Nintendo had the courage to move forward with all these things, which was amazing in my eyes for the time, because Nintendo really cares about their hardware.
Precursor Games hopes to allow for more freedom and experimentation in gameplay that wasn’t available in Eternal Darkness:
That’s one of the things we never really had a chance to explore in the first one. What would happen if you combine Runes in a really bad way? Could there be some really bad effects? And we don’t want to make it too punishing, but we do want to have some fun.
Denis talks about the impact working with Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo had on him and their development team:
I think that Mr. Miyamoto really helped school me on these types of things, and Nintendo in general. When we were working with them, they really taught us that the game should be a sandbox, and you should give people toys in the sandbox to play with. You should let them go in as many ways as they want to go, and they may figure out some things that you never thought of.
Part of Precursor’s explanation for releasing the game in episodes is to maximize the potential for user-feedback:
By releasing it episodically, the community can look at it and go ‘that really worked,’ ‘this really didn’t,’ and [we] learn from that and put what they want in the next episode. It’s a further iteration loop. We’re introducing a lot of new things here, quite frankly.
Shawn Jackson, Chief Operating Officer at Precursor Games, talks about why community involvement is so important to the way they want to make games:
One thing is that there are a lot of companies making great games, but I want to give people an idea why we’re doing this and why we stand out: embracing our community. Not only for the people who are building us up and saying good things, but the people who bring up the real issues too. That keeps us humble and will only make us better. When we can perform as a better company and include this community, we can truly create great games that we and you will want to play.
Check back on Monday for the full interview as a part of the Downpour Podcast.