Shadow of the Eternals developer Precursor Games on its origins

Ex-Silicon Knights dev explains that the new studio isn't a front.

There's been a lot of confusion over Precursor Games' Eternal Darkness successor Shadow of the Eternals. Formed by ex-Silicon Knights staff, many believe that it's simply a company in multimillion dollar debt that's tried to rebrand itself to avoid having to pay Epic for its licensing fees. Suspicion wasn't helped when the fledgling company started a Kickstarter in addition to its own crowdfunding campaign with a later deadline, suggesting the project was in trouble. So we decided to catch up with Precursor to see how it addressed these accusations.

Speaking with Precursor CEO Paul Caporicci, he stated that the new studio is comprised of seven core staff, though he explained, "we have some additional people who are involved in our community as well. The people who are on our original team are from Silicon Knights and other places like EA and Ubisoft."

When asked if all of the staff came from Silicon Knights, Caporicci replied, "At some point in time, yes they were all there" and he later confirmed that they all came directly from Silicon Knights without working anywhere else in between.

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'We've been in constant communication with [Eternal Darkness IP-holder] Nintendo throughout this whole process and we wouldn't be able to do this project without their support.' -Caporicci.

"I saw an opportunity there with all the talented people that I had worked with, so I thought 'let's try something new and different and start from scratch.'"

Paul Caporicci, CEO, Precursor Games

It may sound fishy, even though Precursor claimed to have wiped all the hardware it purchased from its former employer, but Caporicci began his career at Silicon Knights a humble programmer and ended it an assistant director before he was laid off, suggesting he had little stake in Silicon Knights' financial future. Instead, he was just a poor bloke who lost his job last summer in a competitive industry.

"When I was laid off [from Silicon Knights], I ended up doing some soul searching thinking, 'what should I do next with my career?'" Caporicci lamented. "The video game industry is pretty tough and it goes through a lot of changes... But I saw an opportunity there with all the talented people that I had worked with, so I thought 'let's try something new and different and start from scratch.' And that's when I started reaching out to people."

Given that Silicon Knights appeared to be a sinking ship, it's no surprise that some of his compatriots joined him. That being said, Caporicci claimed to have no idea what his old employer was up to since he was let go. "They're a totally separate company from us," he told me in no uncertain terms.

Regarding the recently launched Kickstarter, Caporucci said, "We wanted to give people as many opportunities as the want to fund this game." But why the later deadline? Is Precursor sweating it and needed an extension with only about $200K of its $1.5 million goal funded?

That may be part of it, but another part of it is timing. "When we launched the Kickstarter the 30 days ended on E3, so we thought that wasn't the best day for our campaign to end," Caporicci explained. "So that's why it's a little bit later."

While Precursor won't shorten the Kickstarter it may extend the PayPal campaign so the two crowdfunding outlets coincide. "We opened up what we should do with our existing campaign in terms of the timeline to the community... There's a poll going on asking whether they'd like us to change the date or keep it open-ended, so we're going to take that advice from the community going forward with the existing PayPal campaign."

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Caporicci sites The Walking Dead as an inspiration on how to do episodic gaming right. Still, a dozen episodes is wildly ambitious.

"The first episode is much more expensive due to the upfront costs of licensing the engine and the core systems that we essentially won't have to do for the rest of the episodes."

Paul Caporicci, CEO, Precursor Games

Many have expressed skepticism over the series' future given how expensive the pilot will be to produce, but Caporicci explained, "The first episode is much more expensive due to the upfront costs of licensing the engine and the core systems that we essentially won't have to do for the rest of the episodes. After that we'll just have to do the new areas and the new characters and new levels... they'll be significantly cheaper going forward than the pilot episode."

When asked just how much cheaper they'd be he said, "They're a fraction of the cost," but he wouldn't give a basic quantifiable estimate on what that would mean just yet, though he said Precursor would like to announce these in the future, hopefully as stretch goals.

And if the campaign fails? "We will look into any option we can to make this game possible," he said. It's no wonder as Precursor has dedicated the last nine months to it.

Unfortunately, Caporicci was mum on the details as to how Shadow of the Eternals will actually play, though he mentioned that much of the gameplay will revolve around exploration, combat and magic while the plot has players revisiting two versions of the same story with two witnesses telling you vastly different accounts of what happened. "There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth," Caporicci said. When asked if players will have to choose which side they think is true (ala Myst), he replied, "We're still trying to figure out all the details, but we do want to give the player as much choice as possible."

"We're trying to take the psychological horror theme and the structure of playing multiple characters and incorporating that into Shadow of the Eternals but also taking it to the next level with the storytelling and exploring from multiple points of view and the perception of reality - what's real and what's not."

It's an intriguing premise, but it's hard to gauge how it will actually play out. Caporicci said more details will be revealed over time, so hopefully we'll get a better idea of what Precursor is planning before the Shadow of the Eternals crowdfunding campaign ends next month.

Precursor Games has its work cut out for it trying persevere through the yoke of Silicon Knights after delivering a clunker or two over the last decade, and perhaps the new studio was overly optimistic about how much goodwill Eternal Darkness' brand recognition would pull, but based on my chat with Caporicci I didn't get the impression that the studio was a front for Silicon Knights. Instead, it seemed like a bunch of laid off co-workers banding together to try to live out the glory days. Of course, it's impossible to say what's really happening as like Caporicci noted, "There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth."

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