38 Studios Talks Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning


Posted July 23, 2010 - By Kevin Kelly

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38 Studios Talks Kingdom of Alamur: Reckoning

Earlier this week, Adam Sessler told me "Next year, let's declare a boycott on all colons. No more colons in game titles!" I'm starting to agree with him. Although I'm sure that as soon as that grassroots moment gets going, : the Game will be released. Then you'll have to prepare yourself for : : the Uprising sequel and so on. 

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning is right in the middle of colontown, and this is just their first foray into the realm. 38 Studios is going to follow the Torchlight model, and introduce this game as their single-player console and PC version before the MMO comes out sometime later. We have to imagine that's a cost-saving measure as well, so they can see how much interest there is in this title before spending a bundle on a massive multiplayer experience.

The draw of the 38 Studios / Kingdom of Amalur panel at Comic-Con was that they were going to be showing a trailer for the very first time, and show it they did. Twice, in fact. But, it was just an extended cutscene. It didn't contain any gameplay, and that makes me very skeptical for this title. The trailer consisted of a bald man hanging in chains being revived, and then battling skeletal warriors on a battlefield. He whacks away at the boneheads with a sword, then inexplicable makes two blue, ethereal blades appear from his arms, as he dispatches the last of the undead.

But wait, that's not quite it. As our hero stands exhausted, a gigantic foe appears behind him looking like the Cloverfield monster mated with a bat. Hero pulls a huge hammer off of his back, and rushes to attack the beast. Then it ends. People seemed impressed, but I was like ... what? I wanted to see some real gameplay here. This game has been in development for awhile, so I need something more to go on than non-gameplay visuals. A title treatment and a cutscene does not make a game.


Comic-Con 2010: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Teaser Trailer »


Although, if you could bottle sheer enthusiasm, this game would be a billion-seller. Curt Schilling, the pitcher turned game developer, was extremely jazzed to talk about his game. "This is kind of opening day of an entirely new career for me. About 10 years ago I was playing for the Phillies, and I was hardcore Everquest. I remember once I had a game scheduled--how things worked out perfectly. I played a game, then logged in on Sunday at 5:30 PM. Then I logged out Tuesday afternoon at 3 PM. Besides room service and shower breaks, I was playing the game. I was in heaven."

It sort of boggles the mind to think that a professional athlete can barricade himself in a room for almost 48 hours to play video games, and still be a productive member of a baseball team. I know if I stay up all night playing games, the next day I'm completely shot. Ever have those all night game sessions where you're suddenly shocked that the sun is coming up? That's the moment I know I'll be useless the next day. Apparently being a professional athlete gives you magical powers of gaming as well.

Curt was joined by writer R.A. Salvatore, who talked about the huge amount of creation that has gone into this game. Bob (as everyone calls him) said that Curt would ring him up at 1:30 AM, not thinking about the time difference of the west coast vs. the east coast and say "Bob! It's Curt! I've got this idea!" and he'd be calling from the clubhouse at the stadium. So they sat down and decided to create a meta-history for the game by writing a 10,000 year history of the world. There are races for all of the classes in the game, and each one of them has their own backstory.

Salvatore said his first realization of how much everyone was committed to this project came when he wrote Curt a short story about a centaur as a birthday present, and he shared it with everyone else in the studio. When Salvatore came in for his next meeting, everyone was talking about the story and the world and spouting ideas. Sheer enthusiasm. Although that paled in comparison to Todd McFarlane, who actually jumped up on the table in his excitement. "Goddamit, if I'm gonna kill something, i'm gonna rear back, and lunge! We will kill some people in this game better than anybody kills people!"

Yes, the creator of Spawn actually took to the table and shouted to the heavens about this title. It definitely fires people up. Todd went on to explain that one of the things he wanted to convey in this game is that large things have weight. "You know how when you see an elephant set its foot down and things displace and the ground moves? That's because it's heavy!" He wants you to believe that the huge characters in this game are actually 55 tons.

38 Studios Talks Kingdom of Alamur: Reckoning

Without revealing much specific information about the game, Curt said it would have an incredibly deep quest narrative, and Ken Rolston (of Oblivion fame) talked about the open world that the game will take place in. Salvatore went on to explain the death system in the game, which actually sounds very intriguing. Gamers die in games, and then get resurrected. It happens in every game, but they wanted to make that experience more immersive. So they've come up with their own concept. "We've created something called The Well of Souls (hello, Raiders of the Lost Ark?) which is an explanation for resurrection.  We're definitely trying to immerse people here. What's the consequence of dying? What's the consequence of coming? One life, one death. There's an eternal pact and bargain there."

They did show a few images from the game, including their Sprites, which are winged little demon creatures. But other than that, the panel was extremely slim on details. Although Curt was asked if there are any other baseballers into RPGs, and he said "There are a lot more in the closet." Apparently it's not good for your professional sports image to admit that you're hardcore into geeky games. The rest of the panel admitted that they were somewhat athletic, although Rolston broke in and said "Not me. Deep thinker!"
We hope so, because Rolston told us that his goals are to make the game less clunky than others. "We have to find the nails and beat them down. We've stolen a lot things from the action genre that make sense, and we're incorporating those where it makes sense." So, sadly, we didn't get many hard details. We'll have to wait to hear more about this title in the coming months.
38 Studios Talks Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning


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