May 2, 2007 - IGN has learned that Southern California-based publisher THQ will announce a new venture tomorrow morning that will take the company into the world of RPGs. Teaming up with famed real-time strategy developer Big Huge Games (Rise of Nations), THQ's will utilize the wisdom of renowned designer Ken Rolston for its upcoming project. For the unfamiliar, Rolston played an important part in the production of Morrowind, Oblivion, and the pen and paper line of RuneQuest and Paranoia RPGs.
Rolston had retired following the completion of The Elder Scrolls IV but came out of it in early 2007 to join the Big Huge family. Now we know why.
Unfortunately, THQ has remained pretty tight lipped about the specific details surrounding its next endeavor (other than to say that it will be coming out in 2009), but we did corner THQ Executive Vice-President Kelly Flock to learn what we could. BHG President Tim Train joined Flock for our brief Q&A.
- Ken Rolston
IGN: Big Huge Games has classically been a strategy game developer, why move into the RPG realm and what can you bring to the table that we haven't seen before? Would its concept have worked as an RTS?
Tim Train: We've been excited about doing an RPG for a long time, and had even worked up a small technical prototype a few years ago just to dip our toes in the water. Big Huge certainly loves RTS, but when we go home at night with carpal tunnel from designing games like Rise of Legends, much of our team plays RPGs and MMOs to relax. When we thought about what we wanted to create after Rise of Legends, we took all the great ideas for an RPG that had germinated for the past few years and got Ken excited about trying something new after his success with Oblivion.
The world we're creating for this game would have been extremely compelling for an RTS. It shares the same depth and epic scope of a great strategy game. Having said that, we hadn't thought yet about what a fun RTS this would make. Hmm...
IGN: Did Ken Rolston join Big Huge Games because of this project, or did his jump happen open the doors for new ideas, which resulted in this game?
Train: Ken had actually retired after Oblivion- -- he claimed he was done with the industry after 25 years. However, I knew if we were going to do an RPG, we should get as much background information on the nuts-and-bolts of creating something that massive. I initially contacted Ken with fond dreams that he would act as a consultant on the game, but after hearing our ideas for the next generation of RPGs and interviewing with the team, he completely surprised me by agreeing to be the Lead Designer!
Ken was very familiar with Big Huge, as he has worked with Senior BHG Designer Doug Kaufman in several capacities through the years. In fact, Ken and Doug design live-action role-playing games together as a hobby. As a piece of trivia, Brian Reynolds (BHG CEO and Creative Director) met his wife through one of Ken and Doug's LARP weekends.
IGN: How much input and design influence does Ken have?
Rise of Legends was quite the impressive RTS.
Train: Ken is the Lead Designer and resident Mad Genius, and he sets the tone for the game and the project team across the board. It's hard to overstate how well Ken fits in to Big Huge's collaborative approach to game design. In particular, he is exceptionally skilled at world creation and at helping us solve issues that we've all found annoying in RPGs for years. I think he's most energized by the opportunity to work on a completely new IP, unfettered by the constraints of working in a world on its third or fourth incarnation.
IGN: We understand that while Big Huge Games is developing the title, THQ owns the intellectual property. Can you tell us about the day-to-day or week-to-week interaction between the companies?
Kelly Flock: The relationship is similar to the way THQ has worked with other top independent studios on new, original intellectual properties. We pair senior creative and production managers from THQ's in-house team with the appropriate leads at Big Huge Games meaning our development involvement includes creative and play balance input, in addition to the traditional milestone schedule management.
We will also work closely with the leads at the studio on formalizing positioning with our global brand management team, working with the various local marketing and PR teams on key demonstrations and code deliverables across our key markets, play-testing, etc. The dialogue with Big Huge Games is continuous across our production and publishing organizations from before the first milestone review to selling the game in at our key retail accounts.
IGN: Though you're not prepared to talk specific game details right now, how about broader questions? What's the theme? Sci-fi or fantasy? Are you aiming for a single-player title or a larger multiplayer-type of thing?
Train: It's always so difficult at this point in a project to say, "No, we can't talk yet about all the amazing things we have planned even though we're really excited about them," but we wouldn't want to promise anything we can't deliver. Hence, we must say, "Stay tuned..."
IGN: So when can we expect to hear more concrete details about the project?
Flock: You can expect more info from us later this year.
IGN: told that Big Huge Games claims that the game is only possible on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Does that mean that there won't be a PC version?
Flock: From a console perspective, the horsepower behind the PS3 and Xbox 360 help us create a huge world with that sweeping scope we're aiming for. Happily, the PC has kept pace with the times, and we're excited to be developing the game for simultaneous release across all three systems.