Fantasy author R.A. Salvatore took the stage at GDC 2010 today and, while he made it clear that his talk about how to create believable fantasy worlds wasn't specifically about his work with 38 Studios' Copernicus project, he did talk a little bit about what he wants from an MMO game and gave the first mention of what the world of Curt Schilling's game is like. Salvatore talked for quite a while in his thick Massachusetts accent about his time in Everquest, which he said was "the best world in a game I've ever seen." He also lauded the idea of a death penalty in an MMO, and said that during his formative MMO experiences the threat of death (he once lost a hard-earned level when he was killed by an NPC that he accidentally clicked to attack) made living that much better. "If you take the pain out of the world," he said, "you lose the accomplishment of winning."
And while he admitted that the Copernicus designers were fighting with him on whether or not to include a death penalty in the game, the company would at least make sure that a return from death was explained. His team has written over 10,000 years of history for the game's world (all compiled on "a wiki with over hundreds of pages in it"), and one of the major features of the setting's lore is a "device that's perfected" called the "Well of Souls." The Well, "when you die, will bring you back -- if you meet the conditions." He didn't elaborate about what those conditions were, but he asked the audience what a worldwide death-prevention device would do to institutions like kings and religions. "What happens when you take power away from powerful people?" he asked rhetorically. "How would it play out?" And, he suggested, if there were people who "turned the Well on," what if they threatened the rest of the world with turning it off?
Vague, but intriguing. Copernicus still seems like it has a long way to go (Salvatore didn't show any slides or screenshots during his talk), but fans of the old EQ might find the game a return to the old ways if R.A. has his say.