Obsidian's next-gen game "already looking great" says Feargus Urquhart
South Park: The Stick of Truth out this year.
There's definitely something big in the works at Obsidian beyond South Park and Project Eternity, and "it is already looking great", studio CEO Feargus Urquhart told me in an email overnight.
It's not surprising, really, that a studio numbering "around 100" people (115 if you count them all on LinkedIn) should be making something else. Only 15 people make Project Eternity and that team won't get too much bigger, and South Park: The Stick of Truth should be pretty much finished.
Before Ubisoft bought South Park from THQ, the game had a March 2013 release date. It slipped off the radar during the acquisition, which I suppose it would while Ubisoft took stock, and this morning the official line as supplied to me by a spokesperson was: "The game is in development and is scheduled for calendar year 2013."
According to Obsidian's job vacancies (noticed yesterday by OXM), that 'something big' in development is a "unique next-generation game" or an "unannounced next-gen console title", depending on which advert you read. But the revelation of Obsidian working on next-gen console games isn't particularly surprising either - I expect most developers of its kind now are.
The recent job adverts weren't particularly revealing, although one mentioned "role-playing" and "action" in the same sentence. But, again, the idea of a next-gen console RPG containing action bits is about as likely to raise an eyebrow as I am wearing a dress.
Obsidian's blurb on LinkedIn only notes that the studio "also has other unannounced projects in the works". Obsidian cancelled a next-gen project in March last year, incidentally, laying off 20-30 staff, but how that project relates to this new one I don't know.
What is interesting, though, is the question of whether Obsidian's working on new IP or not - but it's a question Feargus Urquhart dodged when I asked it.
"Unfortunately, we can't really talk about what we are working on, but it is already looking great," was what he wrote.
"As for the number of people at the studio, it's safe to say we are around 100. As for the split of people, we do have around 15 people working on Project Eternity and that will go up by a few in the few months.
"As for the other projects, it's a bit more complicated to explain exactly how many people we have on one project versus another."
What could Obsidian be up to, then? Well, there's been a bit of talk about Obsidian wanting to pitch a new Star Wars game to the new Star Wars owner, Disney, but such talk was coaxed out of Obsidian rather than offered without prompt, and it doesn't sound like that pitch has happened.
So if not Star Wars, then what - Alpha Protocol 2? Sega owns it, judging by what Obsidian's Chris Avellone told VG247 last autumn, and the game wasn't exactly a smash hit. Obsidian was once working on an Aliens RPG for Sega as well, but that bit the dust fairly late on in development. And now Sega has its Total War house Creative Assembly making an Alien game, I doubt Obsidian's RPG will ever resurface.
Alpha Protocol and Project Eternity are Obsidian's only original IP - every other game the studio has done belongs to a series or property somebody else established. Obsidian's worked with everyone: Square Enix (Dungeon Siege 3), Bethesda (Fallout: New Vegas), BioWare and LucasArts (Knights of the Old Republic 2), BioWare and Atari (Neverwinter Nights 2) and now Ubisoft (South Park). But I don't know whether that makes Obsidian any more or less likely to do the same kind of thing again. Presumably it's easier to find a publisher that way.
Obsidian was also adapting Robert Jordan's famous Wheel of Time fantasy books into games for licence holder Red Eagle Games. Who? Exactly. Urquhart told Kotaku in January this year that "we have a treatment, we have a presentation for it [Wheel of Time]", but that Obsidian was waiting for Red Eagle Games to raise the funds for it. Red Eagle's most recent activity on its website was announcing its co-development of a Wheel of Time mobile game in August 2012. Don't hold your breath.
Obsidian could be building original IP of course, because risky as it is, new consoles encourage new experiences and publishers willing to pay for them. But what would it be? Not fantasy, presumably, because Obsidian has Project Eternity. Not a modern day RPG, probably, because there's spy game Alpha Protocol (and Watch Dogs elsewhere). So what?
Obsidian's versatile and varied and the answer could be a number of things. But I know what the right answer is, and that's Knights of the Old Republic 3.