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Development Info Details about Obsidian's cancelled Stormlands project revealed at Eurogamer

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Sep 10, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    Tags: Chris Parker; Feargus Urquhart; Microsoft; Obsidian Entertainment; Stormlands

    Stormlands, also known as Project North Carolina, was a Microsft-published Obsidian RPG that was meant to be a launch title for the XBox One console. Its cancellation in early 2012 resulted in mass layoffs and nearly killed the company, setting them on the path to Kickstarter and their revival as the "nu-Obsidian" we know and love today. The name Stormlands was first revealed at Kotaku back in 2015, but very little was known about the game, other than that it later (kinda sorta) turned into what would become Tyranny. Today, in what is surely the most interesting reveal in the ongoing Obsidian media campaign, Eurogamer have published a special weekend feature about Stormlands, revealing what this unintentionally pivotal title was about for the first time. The article includes several screenshots from the game's pitch demo, which I'll include along with an excerpt:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The demo, running on the Dungeon Siege 3 engine, is visually impressive, even now, several years and a new console later. There's a bruised peach tone to the otherworldly sky, which rumbles and crackles with storms while a haunting kind of Arabian music moans in the background. It reminds me immediately of Assassin's Creed or a Prince of Persia, with the main character, a man, wrapped in similar-styled clothes, a cloak slung over one shoulder. There's a brooding atmosphere, helped no end by the bodies a storm has entombed in the rocky mountainside around us.

    We eventually come across a female character who was to be one of your companions. She takes her facial armour off before talking to us, which is a nice touch - it bugs me in other RPGs when characters waffle away like noisy, bobbing helmets. A classic dialogue screen of choices appears and the characters interact, fully voiced. On the horizon is a kind of castle we're aiming for and from which, by the demo's culmination, a huge enemy erupts. "That was the pitch that got us the project," says Urquhart as it ends.

    He loads a Stormlands development milestone video on his screen afterwards, which revolves around combat and is narrated by one of the Stormlands team. This appears in grey-box form so there are no textures only a smooth grey skin coating everything - characters, enemies and terrain. In this video I see the character rolling to evade attacks, as in The Witcher, and teleporting short distances, as Ciri does in The Witcher 3. I also see a variety of acrobatic attacks used against a variety of enemies, from beast men to wraiths. Crucially I see companion moves too, special attacks you can trigger allies to perform - it would always be you and one other on a level. These companions and these special partner moves were to be a fundamental cornerstone of the Stormlands experience.

    Clearly a lot of work had been done. What, then, went wrong? There was a disconnect, a juxtaposition between a dreaming Microsoft on one hand and an Obsidian who had to realise the ideas on the other. One moment Obsidian was talking to a Microsoft executive producer about doing co-op, the next minute a new executive producer was pitching million-man raids. "We look at something like that and it's like, 'Holy Jesus!'" says Urquhart.

    But it's important to point out Obsidian never took the million-man raid idea literally, and never believed Microsoft, as ambitious as it was, meant it that way. "This happens with everything," he says. "We do this when we're talking to our people, we give them crazy ideas. The goal was to inspire us to come up with not that, but inspire us to think about how to incorporate all of these elements." It's like the story of the Sony boss running downstairs to the inventors' lair with a pack of playing cards and declaring, "I want a tape player I can stick headphones into that's this big!" and in doing so triggering the creation of the iconic Walkman.

    Nevertheless the demands from Microsoft to reinvent the wheel were high. Kotaku writer Jason Schreier talks about Kinect-powered verbal haggling in Stormlands, in his new book Blood, Sweat and Pixels, which I heartily recommend. Chris Parker and Feargus Urquhart don't recall that exact feature when I talk to them but concede there were so many ideas it may well have been one. Ideas piled upon ideas and all the time the immovable deadline to be ready for Xbox One launch loomed closer.

    Microsoft's answer? Throw more resources at it. "At some point Microsoft was saying 'maybe this needs to be an even bigger game'," Urquhart says. "'Maybe we just need to add a bunch more people onto it - maybe we don't have enough people to prototype all these crazy ideas we have.' Well no, actually that sounds terrifying, that sounds like a really bad idea for us to do."

    "Sometimes adding people to something doesn't mean it's going to get done any faster," adds Chris Parker. "It's actually just going to be more complicated, more people running down the wrong path."

    "I just wish I had flown out to Seattle and got a meeting with Don Mattrick and everybody else," says Urquhart, "and said, 'OK we all agree it would be good to have an RPG at or very close to the launch of Xbox One. We can make RPGs, it's been shown. These are the challenges we have on the table:

    "Unreal 4 doesn't exist for the Xbox One yet. We can use Unreal 3 but Unreal's transitioning so that's not good, so we're using our own engine and it's doing great in certain ways but we still have to build it up in other ways. The second challenge is we've not done a lot of multiplayer stuff before. The next challenge is this is a launch title so that date, it's not a 'well if it ships here you're late but that's fine'. We're all doing this, and you guys are on board doing this, because you want it to be a launch title. How do we now make a game that is realistic within all those challenges?

    "And I didn't do that," he says, "and that probably contributed to the game getting cancelled."
    This ride isn't over yet. At the end of the article, the author lists Obsidian's current projects - Tyranny DLC, Pillars of Eternity II, Pathfinder Adventures, a new project that's just starting (ooh), and a "considerable something else". Which of course we know is a reference to Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky's mysterious secret project. Apparently there'll be more information about that next week, although I'd caution against expecting a full-blown reveal.
     
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  2. TheSentinelgender: ⚧ Liturgist

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    that is the faggiest haircut I've seen in a while
     
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  3. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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  4. IHaveHugeNickgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    This was in related videos.

     
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  5. huskarlsgender: ⚧ Novice

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    Ah the mystery of why chris left has finally been solved
     
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  6. Make America Great Again Owlishgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Why would they cancel this one? It looks far more commercially viable than an "old school" RPG like PoE. It looks like some BioWare trash, which sells like hotcakes.
     
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  7. Make America Great Again torogender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    Codex 2012 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    It's hard to believe this.

    Next week then.
     
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  8. duanth123gender: ⚧ Arcane

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    [​IMG]

    And nothing of value was lost.
     
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  9. huskarlsgender: ⚧ Novice

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    They couldn't deliver at the hard deadline and microsoft was spending all that money to have a console exclusive exactly at launch to help sell units. More specifically they couldn't just down scale and lie like good developers, they easily could have made a 16 hour movie with some meme kinetic features
     
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  10. aratukgender: ⚧ Savant

    aratuk
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    Just imagine, this time, without seeing it: Kissyboo Feargus & the Urquharts
     
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  11. Urthorgender: ⚧ Learned

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    So this media blitz is a big publicity drive before they announce the Tim and Leon game then?
     
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  12. TheSentinelgender: ⚧ Liturgist

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    Writer of the article said this
    yeah idk
    they're invited to apparently promote Tyranny, majority of the articles are about Alpha Protocol/Cainsrky/New Vegas
     
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  13. Dicksmokergender: ⚧ Arcane

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    So what about this game made its way into Tyranny?
     
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  14. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    Here's what Josh Sawyer says about the Stormlands->Tyranny connection: http://www.rpgcodex.net/article.php?id=10744

     
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  15. Paul_czgender: ⚧ Savant

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    The screens are from x360 DS3-era onyx engine, so of course it looks similar to that game.

    But I would love to play this if it was fully developed on PC (or multiplatform with newer consoles), and without the idiotic multiplayer nonsense that MS wanted to inflict on it.

    Oh well. I hope at least that Tim and Leon game will be something 3D.
     
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  16. Make America Great Again CyberWhalegender: ⚧ Arcane

    CyberWhale
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    What was your vision for Stormwinds?

    :prosper:
     
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  17. Bestergender: ⚧ Arcane Vatnik

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    Makes sense that they cancelled it. Can't trust Obshitian with their own Engine, can't trust them to ship within perfect deadlines to make it a launch title. Just makes perfect sense to me.
     
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  18. Tigranesgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Serpent in the Staglands Torment: Tides of Numenera
    You'd wonder why MS would go to Obsidian for a console-launch big-budget action-RPG, to begin with. But I guess between that and the sega games that was when Obs was pitching itself as making those kind of games and people were into it (until they weren't).
     
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  19. Make America Great Again Kem0sabegender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Nothing was lost.
     
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    [​IMG]
     
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  21. Bohraingender: ⚧ Learned

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    Looks like a Bioware title, even down to the goddamn dialogue wheel.
    Good riddance.
     
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  22. Prettygender: ⚧ Savant

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    STOP CANCELLING OBSIDIAN PROJECTS !!!!
    :argh::argh::argh::argh::argh::argh::argh::argh:
     
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    Let's be honest:

    Microsoft actually was ahead of the curve, and they picked the wrong company in going to Obsidian. Obsidian doesn't have the skills for MMRPGs, and they should have just turned down the project. In fact, Obsidian goes on in that article arguing why they couldn't do it. Why didn't they tell Microsoft that?

    Think that the success of Destiny kind of proves that Microsoft was right about where some of the market was going. Why didn't Microsoft go to Bungie, since Halo is so big for Xbox?
     
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  24. Anthony Davisgender: ⚧ Obsidian Entertainment Developer

    Anthony Davis
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    Let's straighten some stuff out.

    Tyranny was Defiance re-purposed.
    Stormlands was it's own thing.

    The article says that Feargus can't find his copy of the pitch, I've still got mine! I guess I'll bring it in and give it to him.
     
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  25. Paul_czgender: ⚧ Savant

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    The first game that used Onyx engine was Dungeon Siege 3. It looked beautiful, ran perfectly fine and had no noticeable bugs or issues. As much as I dislike hack and slash games these days, DS3 was pretty good and technically great.
     
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