During the weekend that was New York City Comic Con, one of the few moments I had to kick back and relax at the show was during a panel for the upcoming 38 Studios and Big Huge Games venture, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. On stage for the discussion was none other than 22-time best selling author R.A. Salvatore, who was joined by Creative Director Steve Danuser, Narrative Designer Andrew Auseon, and Lead Designer Ian Frazier.
At this point we all know most of the story of how this series came to be… and for those who don’t here’s the abridged version. Professional baseball player loves MMO’s. Decides to create one after retirement. Hires the best in the biz to pull it off. He then creates a game studio and just like that we have Kingdoms of Amalur. Simple enough, but you have no idea just how big of a world we’re talking about here. Read on for my full preview.
So how does one create a world, mythos, and universe worth giving a damn about? If you ask R.A. Salvatore his answer would be to “create 10,000 years worth of history for said world” because that’s exactly what he’s done here. “A World Worth Saving” was the name of the panel, and judging from everything that was discussed it sounds just about right.
Salvatore goes on to say that he treated the project “the same as a book.. filled with philosophies… filled with meta-stories of the world”. The story that we will play in Reckoning takes place during the age of “Archana” which will also be known as the time of the Crystal War . And while the narrative does hold some significance, it’s only a small sliver of the timeline in the long deep threaded history of the world of Amalur and the fate of its people.
Originally, this title was slated as an MMO; don’t worry because that project is still very much alive as both 38 Studios and Big Huge Games have been working in conjunction with one another, not just to talk things like art and mechanics but to make sure things make sense in the world that they have created. The MMO is alive and well; it just happens that Reckoning will be the first to hit store shelves and with good reason.
38 Studios and Big Huge Games want players “to make that natural connection.” If a player who enjoyed Reckoning remembers where a particular battle took place and what happened there (we’ll use a tower collapse as an example), later on when that same player is now in the MMO and revisiting the tower ruins, they’ll make that connection, and (if you ask the developers) hopefully use that as means to be even more immersed. Salvatore jokingly said that he “dares someone to find something wrong, or something that doesn’t match up”, and while his tone was light, I can’t help but think he meant every word of it.
Reckoning‘s story will surround something called “the well of souls”, which as Salvatore puts it is essentially a “resurrection machine.” The well brings back to life those that perish throughout the world. But as cool as it sounds its existence is what creates conflict and unrest to the inhabitants of this world. What happens to those that perished before it? How about a mom or dad who lost a child right before the well of souls, and who believes that an afterlife would reunite them with their loved one, but because the well exists, that is no longer an option?
Salvatore used examples of real-life modern religion and brought over that same belief of an afterlife and then twists into how it would affect people whose entry into the afterlife was essentially denied whether it’s against their will or not. These are just some of the conflicts going on. And the main protagonist you play as in Reckoning just happens to be the first mortal to come out of the well.
Why him? How will the world react to him? These are the questions that will be asked and hopefully answered.
One thing that I have to point out that I felt was being said over and over was an emphasis on the word “products”. Not just Reckoning. Not just “the MMO”. With such a robust world in the works, I have no doubt in my mind that if this title pans out and lives up to its expectations you can expect “Amalur” goodies that run the gamut, probably from comics to collectibles and everything in between. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
I don’t want to say that I was a skeptic, because with such an all-star cast of creative people, how could you be? I will admit that I was concerned when I heard that the project had shifted focus from an MMO to a single player RPG. However, after learning that not only is the MMO full steam ahead but that they have such an incredible foundation (on paper at least), there’s little to no doubt in my mind that come time for Reckoning, it may be the beginning of something really big. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on this one and suggest that you do the same. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is slated to hit shelves on February 7th, 2012.