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Thoughts on Obsidian’s Next Kickstarter Project

Though it’s pure conjecture at this point, Obsidian seems to be thinking about their next Kickstarter-funded RPG and what type of game they’d like it to be. According to Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart, the idea is to make an isometric RPG in the same vein as their previous games (including the soon-to-be-released Eternity), only to have it contain the same size and scope of Skyrim.

Essentially, their plan would be to create an “old-school” style CRPG that borrows the open-world mechanics of modern CRPGs—in other words, a Baldur’s Gate- or Icewind Dale-style game that has the same world size and possibility for exploration that you’d find in a Skyrim or Gothic.

Sounds like a claim they made last year.

I once wrote in an article elsewhere how the Infinity Engine should have never been retired and that it should instead have been made open-source so that other developers could use it as a platform to make new games of the same type. I often wondered, as others do, what it would be like to have never had that style of gameplay go out of existence.

Imagine an eternal 1999, in which isometric team-based CRPGs with strategic combat and prolific micromanagement never fall out of vogue and instead provide balance to a genre that most of the previous decade had become mired in first-person shooter hybridization.

Thankfully, Kickstarter has given that classic style of CRPG new life, and Obsidian is one of the developers leading that charge. Not to parrot the writer whose article I linked, but the power that Kickstarter gives developers is helping to take us back to the pre-boom days of PC gaming when the hobby was more about being creative and making something for the genre’s older fans than it was trying to make money by pleasing a wider audience. While I run the risk of seeming jaded or elitist, it’s not a feeling that is uncommon.

There are so many classic CRPGs being made at this point that listing them all would look downright silly. With all of these games being privately funded, it’s hard to look back and take seriously the claims of several publishers that these types of games don’t sell.

For instance, Troika claimed Atari didn’t support Temple of Elemental Evil due to the developers’ insistence on it being turn-based, and that the game’s glitched nature was a consequence of it gaining no support from their publisher’s Q&A department. As a matter of fact, sequels were planned using that same isometric engine but Atari shot down the idea before Troika could even act on it.

I’m getting a bit off topic, but you see where I’m going with this. This recent resurgence of classic style CRPGs on Kickstarter isn’t some passing fad, but rather a long-wished-for and presumably long-term trend that is here to stay.

Granted, none of these games will be million-selling mainstream hits like Mass Effect or Borderlands were, but they will fill a longstanding void, one created by big money publishers that put profits and inclusion over fan service and adherence to established genre standards.

In short, the 1990s have returned … and if you loved the RPGs of that era, you have a lot to look forward to.

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Carl Batchelor

About

Carl is both a JRPG fan and a CRPG'er who especially loves European PC games. Even with more than three decades of gaming under his belt, he feels the best of the hobby is yet to come.