This past Thursday, the French media received the first official presentation of Cyanide Studio‘s Game Of Thrones: The Role-Playing Game (published by Atlus in the US and by Focus Home Interactive in Europe).
Some members from the French George R.R. Martin fan site called La Garde de Nuit were invited to attend, and have prepared the following report, which LGdN’s Evrach sent to us in translated form with permission to repost (many thanks to him, and LGdN!):
(The conference took place in a cave called “Cellier Saint Paul” in Paris with the help of a LARP team. The entire place were decorated with the colours of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga. It was the perfect setting in which to present the new game, among old stones and candle light.)
Game of Thrones: The Roleplaying Game is a role-playing/action game developed by Cyanide’s team, a team of 40 people based in Nanterre, near Paris; for those that wonder, it’s not the same team that worked on Genesis, and apparently the two teams have few contacts with one another. The game is being developed for PC, PS3 and XBOX 360 at the same time. Howeer, this isn’t a game which is developed on a console and which is then converted to the two others. The three versions have been developed simultaneously on the native systems, so the user interface and every other aspect of the game has been worked on to suit each platform from the very start. For example, the menus on the PC are very much mouse-driven, while a menu system has been developed for gamepads on the consoles.
The engine they used to develop it was the Unreal Engine 3 (used originally for Unreal Tournament 3, but it’s also been the engine behind such hit games as Mass Effect and Batman: Arkham City).
Game voices are recorded and subtitled in English and French, and subtitles also exist for other languages (Italian is definitely one of them).
Game of Thrones: The Roleplaying Game puts players in control of two original characters, Mors Westfold and Alester Sarwyck. They do not appear in the novels, although GRRM has indicated to the studio that he might choose to make mentions of them, their families, or details from the game’s story in later novels. The game does now have an open world like Skyrim or the old Baldur’s Gate game. Instead the story is divided into point of view-based “chapters”, with cliffhangers and twists ending each chapter, much like in the novels where one chapter from the perspective of one character is followed by a chapter from a completely different character. Both of them have special abiltiies and three fighting modes. Mors is a skinchanger and can slip into his dog to find secret paths or to listen in on conversations, and he can even follow a character’s tracks through scent. Alester is a red priest who can set fire on his sword using wildfire, he can look into the flames to find secrets, at higher levels, can use certain fire-based magic.
The characters are fixed in terms of background and appearances, but you can customize them greatly in terms of their abilities. First, you can choose different fighting styles. Mors can be set as a Magnar (allowing dual-wielding), Hedge Knight (one two-handed weapon) or Landed Knight (a weapon in the hand, a shield on the other). Alester, on the other hand, can be set up as a Water Dancer (light and agile, with a slender blade), a Sellsword (daggers and poisons), or Ranger (Bow and arrows).
For each class you’ll have an initial skill tree. When you level up, your character could go ahead in his tree, and that way he can have new abilities in combat. At level 7, characters will have a choice to make, selecting specializations that will open up new skill trees. For example, having started Mors as a Landed Knight, you’ll be able to select a new skill tree opening up more defensive capabilities, building the character into a true “tank”. The other option is to instead switch into one of the two initial skill trees that you did not select at the beginning. In the cast of Mors as a Landed Knight, this means you can select Magnar or Hedge Knight, essentially taking a “dual-class” approach with the character being more versatile but having less powerful options. Finally, there’s a third skill tree related to “magic”: R’hllorian magic for Alester, skinchanging for Mors.
In the course of the campaign, each character can bring with him one or several non-player characters who can’t be directly controlled but who can provide help in fights, and an additional companion who can be directly controlled. There are several potential companions in the game, but you can only have one of these at a time.
Regarding combat, Cyanide’s goal is something dynamic and strategic. The strategic side was something they wanted since the beginning of the development but they did not want a turn-based system as they felt that that would make combat too slow. Instead, there’s a menu wheel of actions which opens during the fight and the action moves in slow-motion behind this menu (like you can see in The Witcher or the Assassin’s Creed series). In concrete terms, you can push a key, time slows, and a menu opens providing you options while you’re engaging the enemy in slow-motion. In that wheel you can choose the next three actions of the characters you control. For example: hitting the key to slow the action down, the menu opens so that you can choose a normal hit followed by a block and finally a knock-out attack in you menu, hit the key again, and you’ll see your characters carry these actions out in real-time. On screen, this system seemed to work really well, neither hindering the action nor losing you among menus.
Another very important thing in this game is narration. You’ll speak many times during the game, and to many people. You’ll choose your answers during conversations (as in Dragon Age or Mass Effect). A part of your answers will influence only the end of the dialog, but many choices you’ll make with your partners or with Westerosi people will have an effect, sometimes very serious ones, on your next adventures. The example the developers showed to the media involved the reunion between Alester and his cousin. He insults Alester and you have to choose how you want to answer (insults in return, putting him in his place, or being quiet). This will affect how he’ll respond to your commands when he’s your companion, potentially choosing not to obey them. Conversing with other characters and investigating things through dialog will be another way of gaining experience and advantages in the course of play.
The game will cover the period of the first book of the saga (or the first season of HBO show). It begins before Jon Arryn’s death and ends with the first book end. The script was reviewed by George R R Martin, and it went through multiple drafts before he and everyone else on the team was happy with it. It was necessary in part because the developers wanted it to have as much fidelity as possible to Martin’s universe and wanted to avoid inconsistencies not just with the currently published books, but with future books in the series.One of the essential points that Martin and the developers wanted for this game was not simply to be a game where the book itself was the script. They didn’t want you to play Eddard Stark, they wanted to show you something exclusive, original, but fitting in within the gaps that exist in the story.
One of the other areas the creators wanted to avoid is the clichés of traditional fantasy role-playing games. For example, instead of having your characters be inexperienced novices choosing to save the world, the two main characters are already experienced men, with strongly defined personalities and who have their rough spots, rather than being “Care Bears”.
As press, we don’t want to spoil too much of the information that was revealed, but we can provide short descriptions of the two main characters.
Mors Westford is an old lord from the Westerlands. Fifteen years ago, during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, Mors refused to carry out one of Lord Tywin Lannister’s commands to his bannermen, and was given the choice of a traitor’s death or the Wall. He took the black and became a member of the Night’s Watch. He’s now an officer and a ranger. He’s called “The Butcher” and his chief task is finding and executing deserters from the Night’s Watch. To help him, he has a big dog which helps him to track recent runaways. Because he is a skinchanger, and because of his particular duties, it’s said on the Wall that the dog is his only friend.
Alester Sarwyck is the elder son of Lord Sarwyck from a place in the Westerland. For some unknown reason, Alester get away and went to Essos after Robert’s rebellion. He became a R’hllor follower and a red priest. He comes back when he heard of his father dying. There he finds a devastated land where some people tell of a peasant revolt. His sister try to manage the territory (the bad way), his brother is missing and he’s accused to poison his father, and at last, his bastard half-brother is ready to do everything to inherit.
The fate of this two characters will cross and they will interact with some characters from the books like Lord Varys, Queen Cersei, or the Old Bear, all of whom are voiced by and are designed to look like the actors from the TV series. The design of the Iron Throne is also influenced by the design on the show, but otherwise most locations and character designs are original to the game, dating from before the time Cynaide and HBO came to an agreement on licensing.
The game’s central story revolves around royal bastards (readers of the series will know there are many of these), and there are several possible endings to the game.. The principal storyline is estimated to offer 30-35 hours of gameplay, and there will be a number of side-missions which are bundled up with the principal story. These will all be immersive, richly detailed stories —nothing of the “Find my lost child in the forest and I’ll give you this artifact” grinding mission variety—that attempt to emulate the way the story of the novels branches out and contains many interwoven plot threads. These side-missions will become options in the course of playing the “chapters” of the game, and if you choose not to take one, it won’t crop up later in some slightly-changed form.
The game looks promising, a great journey into the world of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”, rich, dark, and original, without question.
And that ends the report. Some of the details are quite interesting, especially the possibility that GRRM may incorporate references to the events of the game into the later novels in the series, to bind it into the continuity. Which makes sense, given that he had the opportunity to oversee and approve the plot.