Melding Story with Mechanics: The Secret of Amalur

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Melding Story with Mechanics: The Secret of Amalur

The brains behind Oblivion use a story written by R. A. Salvatore to craft a single-player prelude to 38 Studios' MMOG.

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Greg Tito:
But when I met with Curt Schilling, R. A. Salvatore and Mark Nelson from Big Huge Games at Comic Con, All three of these gentlemen are at the top of their game. How the hell does this collaboration work?

Not very well?

I hate being a Negative Nancy (I am named Shine you know, the happy kind), but this line-up is not awe inspiring to me.

Let's start with Curt Schilling. Great ball player? Sure. Video game maker? We have no idea. However, he did play Everquest for a bajillion years, and I am wary of how anyone who could play that uber-grindfest for so long and make a game that appeals to my tastes in games. And of course we all know everyone who loves games would like the chance to make a game, this doesn't mean that they have any talent or any idea of what they're doing in how to actually make said game.

Salvatore? His books for the past, about, 10 years now having been pretty lacking. Honestly, the stories themselves were never anything notable. His characters started off not too shabby, but he somehow manages to sap a sense of wonder and magic about a book set in a world filled to the brim in magical wonder. Not a great quality for a lead writer of anything, in my opinion. And lately his new characters tend towards the dull, flat, and easily predictable. I mean, the hunters blades trilogy? Transitions? Chock full of them.

Mark Nelson is responsible for "..one of the great CRPG's of this decade"? Well, in the sense that Oblivion is one of the best vehicles for community content since Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate, you could apply that title to the game without much fuss. Though in the interest of full disclosure I'd say the game falls flat on its face in every respect except for a very good looking 'world' to 'explore'. What part of the game did he do, exactly? Can't find any information on what position he filled at Bethesda. If it was anything other than world-designer, this is a cause of concern.

Having rained on this happy parade though, what they've said about the game sounds pretty good. However, EVERYTHING can be made to sound good in previews. Also I must give kudos to the three big-wigs coming out themselves to comic-con and mixing it up with the fans to generate some first hand buzz. So I guess, color me wary, but optimistic?

edit: Reworked this more to a "here's my opinion on this", as opposed to being confrontational. I reread it after I posted and I think I presented my thoughts poorly.

edit2: English r gud.

I have to agree with MisterShine. While a new, awesome fantasy epic would be a fantastic edition to the industry, I don't fall for hype and fancy teams of people. When I see solid evidence that this is a game I want to play, then I'll be excited.

I'm more interested in the back story than the game. I wander if we get to read these history books, or at least a watered down version for the public in or out of the game.

I agree with a point Yahtzee made in a recent Zero Punctuation, that no company is going to be able to out-World-of-Warcraft World of Warcraft. While this fictional fantasy world may very well be interesting, I don't see anything here to suggest it's anything other than standard extruded fantasy product.

If someone wants to come up with a new MMO that does something different, I think he has to create a game in which the world changes and grows over time in a realistic (or at least believable) way and in which the actions of the players have some actual consequence in the game world. We'll see if this one does that.

L.

It's all very well writing a 10,000 year history of a world, but if that world is just another generic high fantasy world then it's probably a waste of effort. And everything we've got so far suggests that that will be the case. And I ended up hating Oblivion, so the less anyone making games has to do with it the better. Can't say I'm enthused. Sorry.

So Im confused. Is this going to be an MMO or just a single player RPG. I really want this game but if its an MMO theres no way.

Edit: Ok nevermind.

Scobie:
It's all very well writing a 10,000 year history of a world, but if that world is just another generic high fantasy world then it's probably a waste of effort.

Ken Rolston was the champion of everything that was generic in Morrowind, the game that most successfully liberated fantasy from its generic prison, and we all know how original Oblivion was.

Edit: Oops, misread that bit.

Well, the escapist community sure loves pissing on the parade don't they?

Lighten the hell up people, we don't know anything about the game and it's a whole year from release. Just reign in the negativity and be at least tacitly optimistic, okay? Don't we at least owe them the benefit of the doubt? Wouldn't you want the same if you were taking a risky venture with a new in a new studio?

Why do all of these games that seem pretty awesome have to be stupid MMOs?

Just some old fashioned CRPG, that is all I want. I don't want 12 year olds cursing at me, I do not want to raid. I just want to play oblivion, with different graphics and story

hendersonl:
If someone wants to come up with a new MMO that does something different, I think he has to create a game in which the world changes and grows over time in a realistic (or at least believable) way and in which the actions of the players have some actual consequence in the game world. We'll see if this one does that.

Ok, this concept has almost never been pulled off well in single player games, how do you expect this to work in an mmo?

Anyway, they can add whatever story elements they want, and they can even make constantly returning to life make sense, but in the end you aren't going to "rival" WoW anymore than any other mmo has been able to. No, the real trick it getting off the beaten track is to stop making WoW clones. Trying something besides the typical fantasy rpg would be nice.

vivaldiscool:
Well, the escapist community sure loves pissing on the parade don't they?

Don't get me wrong, I wish this new studio the best, and like I said above, the description of things do sound pretty interesting. Though, again, everything can sound interesting said the right way in the preview phase. My main point was the article had a "Wow, these 3 super talented people are teaming up to make something awesome!", and I had to respond to that with a "..wha'?"

carpathic:
Why do all of these games that seem pretty awesome have to be stupid MMOs?

The game they're talking about here is the single player precursor to the MMO they're making, set in the same world. So we're getting our cake and eating it too, I guess? Assuming it will be good :)

From the article:

I asked him whether there is ever the worry that this style of game can get too open world. "That's one of the things that we talked about a lot when we started working on Reckoning. A lot of people have that same reaction to open world games, they don't feel like they have enough direction on where they are supposed to go," Mark says.

"That's just an open world game for the sake of it being open world," Schilling says. "That's not what we want to do."

Mark continues, "We want to point you towards the fun. We don't want that to take more than a few seconds." One of the ways that Reckoning will do that is through more visual cues. "There's a path that leads somewhere. Every time that I see a path, I want to know that that leads to content. It needs to be obvious to the player

While overall it sounds promising I hope he doesn't get too carried away here. This "content" really plays to the Oblivion crowd over the Morrowind, as from a different perspective you can say the content goes from being spread out and interesting to oversaturated and repetitive.

This sounds like what Fable -should- have been, but instead turned into a linear montage with a whole lot of beautiful, yet irrelevant addons.

carpathic:
I just want to play oblivion, with different graphics and story

Or different graphics and a story.

You know, I popped onto this thread expecting to jump to the defense of R.A. Salvatore's writing ability, but instead everyone's just got these generally down outlook on the whole project. Hrm.

I, for one, am kinda looking forward to the single-player RPG (even if it is open world, meaning I'll need to be smart and wait six months for the community to mod it into something fun), but another MMO? Really? I can only get excited about so many MMOs at a time, guys. Cataclysm, The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, DC Universe...I have my limits.

And Bob, if you really wanted to explore the consequences behind your Well of Souls thing, just write a book. You do that. That's your thing. And you're generally pretty good at it, especially when a certain dark elf isn't involved.

Hell, write another Highwayman/Zorro Meets a Thinly Veiled Pastiche Of Another Pulp Action Hero story about it. It'll be fun, I swear.

(Seriously, The Highwayman is the greatest thing ever and you should read it.)

(The Ancient...not so much. You'd think you couldn't screw up Zorro Meets Conan. You can.)

The whole "soul well" thing is pretty good.

Because I'm REALLY pissed off at a lot of fantasy and science fiction writers who just add completely life-changing objects or abilities to the their book/game's world without it at all affecting, well, everything - the culture, the religion, the language, the moral values, the artistic taste, and that's not even half of all the things.

Practically having no death is one of such big gamechangers, and I really appreciate Salvatore (who I do not really like because of that "Drizzt" character because I find his name retarded and his fanbase even worse) trying to address that.

No comment about the actual game, can't say that I care.

Kavonde:

I, for one, am kinda looking forward to the single-player RPG (even if it is open world, meaning I'll need to be smart and wait six months for the community to mod it into something fun), but another MMO? Really? I can only get excited about so many MMOs at a time, guys. Cataclysm, The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, DC Universe...I have my limits.

I totally agree with the multitude of mmos coming out being a little overwhelming. I'll HAVE to get Cata, prolly get SWTOR on(or at least close to) release day, and Guild Wars 2 seems really promising. I doubt there's even enough hours in the day to actually play all three of those games. Don't know if this new game can carve out a place for itself... especially between WoW and GW, both successful fantasy games.

To me this article said 1 thing.

Makers of Oblivion + R.A. Salvatore = EPIC WIN!

But then again Salvatore IS my favorite Fantasy writer.

I cannot wait for this game.

vivaldiscool:
Well, the escapist community sure loves pissing on the parade don't they?

Lighten the hell up people, we don't know anything about the game and it's a whole year from release. Just reign in the negativity and be at least tacitly optimistic, okay? Don't we at least owe them the benefit of the doubt? Wouldn't you want the same if you were taking a risky venture with a new in a new studio?

Some call it pessimism, others call it realism ;)

Giant gay anime'ish manga'ish weapons? No thanks, this game will suck, estheticly that is. Bleh.

If Robert Salvatore is working on this game, then it' already been sold for me. I've been reading books written by him since I was 10, and the pure immersion I've felt when reading his works is second to VERY few.

Let's hope this game goes well

I just love the art style they've shown in concept art and acreenshots, it strikes me as colorful and deep, very fitting for a fantasy world. My mind is filling in the blanks, i hope i don't end up disappointed.

Well the rpg will have to be the most epic rpg in the history of rpgs to grab enough attention to interest people in the mmo. and then the question becomes is will it interest people enough to rip the fantasy players from wow and guild wars 2 and the next everquest we are hearing rumblings about, and then we got age of conan, warhammer, lotr. i mean christ isnt the fantasy mmo already over farmed for ips anymore?

ANd we will not even count the more space mmos like eve, the old republic, jumpgate evolution, star trek online.

where the hell are they going to generate a player base huge enough to make their mmo development worthwhile? the player pool is rather thin, tor and gw2 when they come out will soak up more of that pool.

i get some of these guys know fantasy, and hey i think it is great a baseball player is such a gamer than he wants to make games himself, and toddy has been a renegade and is pretty savy about the whole marketing and brand id stuff. and they somehow got EA on board, may they burn in hell, but they seem to like their model for success i would assume that they wanted to publish this stuff.

but really in a gaming world where it is hard to throw a rock without hitting a fantasy d&d rip off mmo, do you think someone would have sat down in this group of brainiacs and said "well hey fantasy is great and all, but its been done over and over and over since the mmo began. it has been done great and it has been done bad, but if we make another fantasy mmo we have to make the ultimate game, with the ultimate mechanics and the ultimate story, and if we fail in any way we are done period."

there are tons of areas that are either seldom explored in mmo land, like steampunk, western, horror, vampire, supernatural in general, or are explored badly if they are any game out there for any of them. would it have not been smarter instead of treading on wows playground and tors etc to say hey lets pick something that has not really been explored. you open up a new base of players, have your own field to do whatever you want to do, and if you can do it better than other games, even better.

I've never quite been able to understand why Salvatore has the following he does. His first few books were pretty bad, followed by others that have at best been not terrible.

The rest of these people I've never heard of, though I'm quite familiar with Oblivion. Sounds like yet another sure-fire thing that they're going to dump money into that can't possibly fail. Maybe it'll actually work out this time.

MisterShine:
Mark Nelson is responsible for "..one of the great CRPG's of this decade"? Well, in the sense that Oblivion is one of the best vehicles for community content since Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate, you could apply that title to the game without much fuss. Though in the interest of full disclosure I'd say the game falls flat on its face in every respect except for a very good looking 'world' to 'explore'. What part of the game did he do, exactly? Can't find any information on what position he filled at Bethesda. If it was anything other than world-designer, this is a cause of concern.

Mark Nelson was a designer on Morrowind and Oblivion and Ken Rolston was the lead designer on both games. Both are quite talented and I was really looking to this game until I heard Salvatore was involved.

MisterShine:
Salvatore? His books for the past, about, 10 years now having been pretty lacking. Honestly, the stories themselves were never anything notable. His characters started off not too shabby, but he somehow manages to sap a sense of wonder and magic about a book set in a world filled to the brim in magical wonder. Not a great quality for a lead writer of anything, in my opinion. And lately his new characters tend towards the dull, flat, and easily predictable. I mean, the hunters blades trilogy? Transitions? Chock full of them.

Man, found his books in the 90s to be pretty bland and predictable, it's good that I got out when I did!

Kavonde:
And Bob, if you really wanted to explore the consequences behind your Well of Souls thing, just write a book. You do that. That's your thing. And you're generally pretty good at it, especially when a certain dark elf isn't involved.

Yeah, his non-Drizzt stuff was certainly his strongest. However when I started reading The Demon Spirit I couldn't shake the fact that I'd read the book before. The Demon Awakens had shown some promise and the setting seemed interested but by the second book it just felt like a series of Salvatore tropes. Rangers? Check (there will always be rangers). Manic-depressive characters? Check. Sword practice in the nude at dawn? Check (it also sounds dirty and is entirely impractical).

I get the feeling this game won't revolve around rangers and hopefully the ESRB will prevent any nake sword practice (really Salvatore you liked this enough to include it with multiple characters?). However I'm still at best extremely skeptical of any game he's involved with.

When is a team like this going to collaborate and put out a Sci-Fi game? Honestly, the fantasy genre is getting over used. Where as space, or even near-future earth (Shadow Run anyone?) is left more or less untapped recently.

Sure you could argue that there are a bunch of games, but really the only decent offering by the Sci-Fi-RPG genre recently is Mass Effect. I'm a big fan of Cyber/Steam punk but developers seem to not realize how much video game geeks/nerds love that stuff (I'm looking forward to the Deus Ex game obviously). Alright my rant is over.

Like someone else quoted earlier - you won't be able to out-World-of-Warcraft-World-of-Warcraft. Not even an IP like Lord of the Rings could do it (given the game wasn't as good). We'll see though.

i been waiting for a shadowrun game for years and in the last few years i think pcs could pull off a great sr mmo game if it was ever made.

but even with a game like that that has a decent following i would start with a rpg game or few to build a base period. because while shadowrun has a core of followers, it is not near mainstream enough i do not think anyone outside pnp game knows wth shadowrun is really.

smith and tinker took the rights back from microsoft on shadowrun and mechwarrior. mw game is in the works, i imagine that at some point we will hear rumors of a shadowrun rpg or even a real effort at a mmo.

make a few games get a comic, tv show, or movie, build up the name then hit the world with a mmo based on an ip. tho all that said if a good steampunk game was made period it would open up a new area for mmos and draw a certain amount of players.

I'm intrigued. Can has console version pli0x?

I think they need to watch some "Extra Credits"..

Oblivion was junk, never followed Schilling or his career, but Salvatore is something I can get behind. Ive been collecting his books for as long as I can remember so if hes writing the story for this game I'm deffinatley going to give it some of my time.

First of all, I don't understand all the people saying "it won't be a threat to WoW". I don't remember reading anything in the article that said it was their plan to compete with WoW. And there are plenty of MMOs out there that are successful without trying to go toe to toe with WoW. There is no rule that says if you are creating a new MMO you are automatically wanting to make a "WoW killer".

As for it not being able to compete with Cataclysm, TOR, et al...well it won't be. The game that they are projecting for Fall '11 is the RPG, not the MMO. The MMO will be coming out significantly later than that. And I sincerely doubt we'll have another lineup next year anything like the Cat / TOR double-header :)

MisterShine:
...

Pretty much my opinion. Previews are easy, especially with big names.

Messing up potential games is also pretty easy though...

not a fan of R. A. Salvatore, but if he's being allowed to be involed in a game I can only hope Steven Erikson or Robert Rankin is gonna get a game or at least get involed in the production of one

Steven Erikson = best dark fantasy author around, his books are some of the only books I've read which meet the dictionary definition of epic

Robert Rankin = writes supreme and far fetched steampunk fiction

I'm not interested in the MMOG, but this single player game looks interesting, as far as a vague interview and some screens can make me interested.

Now give me some gameplay footage.

The "soul well" concept reminds me of Demon's Souls, and that's rarely a bad thing.

I'm fascinated by the societal consequences of immortality, and I hope Salvatore's ruminations on the subject find their way into the actual content of this game.

I'm also huge on single player RPGs that mimic the scale and freedom of MMOs, so I'll be hungrily snatching up the initial offering - assuming the reviews aren't uniformly terrible.

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