Kingdoms of Amalur: Recknoning might be flying under the radar for most people, but those in the know have kept a keen eye on its development.
With a fantasy world developed by 22-time New York Times best selling author R.A. Salvatore, a game world brought to life by Spawn and Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane, and gameplay put together by the lead designer of Morrowind and Oblivion, Reckoning is on track to take the RPG world by storm.
We caught up with lead designer Ian Frazier and had a chat about what Reckoning has to offer role-playing fanatics...
Can you say a little about 38 Studios - am I right in thinking the founder is Curt Schilling, the old Red Sox pitcher?
It's kind of funny. I lived in Boston before I lived in Baltimore, and I'd occasionally go see Curt play. I worked for a studio up there that did Titan Quest. We worked in the same building as Curt when he started his game studio. It was called Green Monster Games at the time, but now it's 38 Studios. We were all wondering, why is this baseball player making a videogame? He was a big MMO player, and they were working on an MMO.
The studio I was in went under, I moved down to Baltimore to work at Big Huge Games, who were owned by THQ at the time. They were doing an action RPG called Crucible: open world, action RPG, that's the guts of what became Reckoning. THQ got into trouble, and then along comes Curt.
He was interested in what we were doing, loved the art style, and wondered if we could turn it into a singleplayer game in the same universe as his MMO. We were like, okay, we'd like to continue having jobs, that sounds like a really good plan. He bought Big Huge Games, and Curt actually shows up once a month or so. He's at the Providence office all the time, but he comes by our Baltimore office all the time.
Can you explain the relationship of the games?
It is a little bit complicated. 38 Studios is the overall company. There's also the Providence office, which is exclusively working on the MMO. They've been working on the MMO for a number of years, it's still in production. I can't give you a release date, but it is just happening.
What I can tell you is that it is an MMO, and it's in the world of Amalur, and it's set 2000 years after Reckoning. You'll be able to go to a lot of the same places and see what's happened to them over time, but it will be very different, because it's much later.
New IP is so risky, especially with fantasy dominated by Oblivion and Diablo. How do you give new IP the edge?
For us, the obvious answer is having big names associated. 'Wow, it's the guy that did Spawn and it's R.A. Salvatore'. We've pulled a lot of talent from a lot of different areas. [Spawn creator] Todd McFarlane is not a big game guy, not at all. That's not his bag at all. That has both ups and downs.
Sometimes he'll describe something and it will be like, 'that doesn't make sense in a videogame at all'. But sometimes it will be a really fresh idea because he's coming from a completely different place than the rest of us.
Can you give us some examples of that kind of thing? We once spoke to Jim Lee about DC Universe Online, and the thing he was most worked up about was that he couldn't control the frame in a videogame - he wanted big dramatic capes, and he just couldn't have them.
It's funny, a big thing for Todd was capes. He wanted big, huge, long-flowing capes. We had to say, 'we don't have cloth physics. It's a videogame, they're not powered by magic'.
He said, 'I don't care, I just want capes'. He was like, 'just animate it'. We said, 'but we've got tens of thousands of animations, we can't just hand key capes onto every one'. But now we've actually got capes - we found a way to do it, not as well as we'd like, but they're there. He wanted something, we all agreed it was cool, so we put it in.