It’s safe to assume many developers would jump at the chance to work within George R.R. Martin’s rich and popular universe: A Song of Ice and Fire (known simply as Game of Thrones by many thanks to the popular HBO television series). But not UK developer Obsidian Entertainment, in fact, it turned down the series back in 2005.
For those that don’t know: Obsidian Entertainment — developer of games like Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Tyranny, Pillars of Eternity, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, and more — was offered up the opportunity to make a game based on the now iconic series via EA back in 2005. But it said no.
It’s worth noting that it was six years before Game of Thrones aired on television and propelled the series to new astronomical heights. Aka turning down Game of Thrones in 2005 is nowhere near the equivalent of turning down in the present 2017. But still, even in 2005 the series was well-liked and obviously a gold-mine waiting to be tapped into.
And Obsidian co-founder CEO Feargus Urquhart knew this — as he followed the series since its commencement in 1996. But the CEO had his reasons for passing — reasons he shared with Eurogamer recently:
“My feeling was, understanding the IP at the time, it’s about this political intrigue, and people’s connection to the IP is to all these characters – that’s how the books are written, each chapter is a person and what’s happening to them. Other than what weird stuff is going on beyond The Wall, and the dragons, and some hint [of fantasy/magic], there are no magic users, there are no clerics, no thieves. Basically there’s dudes with swords and armour and a little bit of mysticism, but within the main land [the Seven Kingdoms] there’s no goblins, no kobolds…”
Urquhart does have a point, beyond a soldier who may players play as in a more traditional RPG since? At that point not much was known about what was beyond The Wall, and it was the character relationships and political intrigue that were key to the series. The CEO continues:
“And you can’t give the player a character they can play that is important in this world. All of the important characters are all clearly spelled out and you can’t even really go have a conversation with them.”
“Looking back at it, the only thing we could have done is what BioWare did with Knights of the Old Republic. They basically said Episodes 1-6, you can’t touch it, so we’re just going to go way back. But even then some stuff had already been written about it in the [Star Wars] Expanded Universe. With George R. R. Martin there was no other… they talked about some history… we could have done that.”
“So maybe there could have been something we could have done,” said Urquhart, getting back to Game of Thrones, “but we were starting to think more about open-world RPGs, and we wanted our players to have agency, to be important in the world.
“Back then [real-time strategy games] were more relevant and I said, ‘I just don’t know how we could make… It just feels more like an RTS game.’ You have different factions and you put more political intrigue in there.”
Since 2005, we haven’t got much out of the iconic fantasy series. French developer Cyanide released an RTS set centuries before the first book in 2011, but sadly it was well off the mark. Telltale also brought it’s classic episodic storytelling pick-your-own-adventure Telltale take to the series, which provided a decent foray into the fantasy universe, but not on the scale many fans wanted and still yearn for. Whether we will ever get an epic AAA game set within A Song of Ice and Fire, well, only time will tell.
Meanwhile, as for Obsidian Entertainment, in addition to Pillars of Eternity 2, Feargus Urquhart also recently revealed to Eurogamer that the aforementioned title is not the biggest game it has in development, rather it has an unannounced game in the works that is much bigger. Whatever this could be — is anyone’s best guess. Perhaps another Fallout title?
Whatever it is, one thing is clear, Obsidian is making some moves.