The vision behind 'Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning'

The makers of "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" tried to create a role-playing game with an action game inside.

Story highlights

  • New "Reckoning" game has more than 10 novels in back story from writer R.A. Salvatore
  • Artistic team wanted a creation that appealed to a gamer's sense of exploration
  • "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" is available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC
"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" hopes to be the next big, addictive role-playing video game, and its creators are putting an emphasis on "big" with a wide-ranging environment and a deep story line.
But did they take on more than they were prepared to do?
Big Huge Games studio general manager Sean Dunn was working in Los Angeles and content with his lifestyle there when he got a call about working on "Reckoning." After seeing what the project and the people were all about, he decided to head east to Baltimore and join the team there.
"This is a passionate and competitive group who want to take on Beth Soft (Bethesda Softworks)," Dunn said. "This team stayed together despite being bought and sold by Microsoft and THQ before being bought by 38 Studios. These people believe in what they are doing."
Dunn said the new "Reckoning" game contains more than 10 novels' worth of back story from best-selling fantasy author R.A. Salvatore, 45,000 to 50,000 lines of dialogue, the artistic vision of Todd McFarlane and the gaming vision of Ken Rolston. But his team of 110 people was tasked with bringing all that creative energy to life.
Lead combat designer Joe Quadara, who worked on games for Crystal Dynamics and Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), said he was skeptical at first about whether the Big Huge Games team could make a game as big as it envisioned.
"It started hitting its stride about the sixth month, in where it was 'We are making a huge game, and it's going to be great,' " Quadara told CNN. "Once we all convinced ourselves that we were actually doing it, we stopped looking at if we could do things or not and just started building everything."
The goal, Quadara said, was to make a fantastic role-playing game (RPG) that had a great action game built inside. He explained there were constant battles internally on balancing those two types of gaming while still presenting a cohesive story.
"There's this weird conglomerate of taking the best minds of the RPG group and taking the best minds of the action group and seeing how we could put those together," he said. "The engine itself is a full-on action game, fighting game engine, but it's also a full-on RPG game engine and puts all those hooks into each other."
If trying to design hundreds of weapons with different hit effects and back stories for combat was a challenge, trying to express 10,000 years of history in the game seemed nearly overwhelming for art director Tim Coman. He likened it to riding a bike down a hill.
"You stop worrying about pedaling and just keep moving," Coman said. "You just take each individual step as it's coming and focus on 'We're going to get this done, going to get this done.' "
"There's a depth there that you know walking in, you're going to be building lots and lots of stuff," he added. "Ken Whitman is our lead effects artist, and he's fantastic. He and I would have conversations daily. How do we push this, yet try to find something that is familiar enough to people so they get it?"
Coman's artistic team had debates about what was going to be represented, how it would appear visually and whether it was even needed. Eventually, the decisions came down to creating a huge, open world to appeal to gamers' sense of exploration.
"R.A. (Salvatore) came up with a line that we've repeated around here: 'If you want people to save the world, you have to give them a world worth saving.' For us, we wanted to put all that in there so that the players that really are RPG fanatics can see this is a real-deal RPG. And [for] the people that are action-game players, it is a real-deal action game."
Both Coman and Quadara admit they don't know how deep the rabbit hole goes when talking about the depth of "Reckoning."
"Take the blue pill," Coman said while laughing.
"Don't even get me started on the quests, because there is so much lore, over 10 novels' worth of writing, just in the game itself," Quadara added. "The dialogue is so huge. Each person has so much that they've contributed to this game that there is no way one person could fit it all in their head."
However, they were able to fit it all on one disk.
"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. It is rated M for Mature because of blood and gore, intense violence and suggestive themes.