Attack of the Fanboy

Backspace: A Futuristic Skyrim

by William Schwartz


Obsidian, the company behind games like Knights of the Old Republic 2, Alpha Protocol and Fallout: New Vegas, was once in the alpha development of a futuristic, semi-open world RPG known as Backspace, so reports Kotaku. According to an engineering document obtained by Kotaku,

BackSpace is a single-player action-RPG set in a scifi space environment with simple elements of time travel. The combat is paced similarly to Skyrim, but slightly faster since there is no concept of blocking. The easiest way to look at it is a mix of Mass Effect, Borderlands, and System Shock 2 for gameplay and setting.

The game was reported to be using the Creation Engine found in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and would have been published in conjunction with Bethesda Softworks, similar to Fallout: New Vegas.

According to the head of Obsidian, Feargus Urquhart, “Backspace was a project concept that we neither cancelled nor greenlit. We had some great people work on the idea for Backspace for a bit of time and then moved them off to other projects as opportunities came up. We’ve been around for ten years now and have had a bunch of great ideas that we still have sitting around that we may be able to return to in the future.”


The RPG Backspace was not an open world game in the vein of Skyrim, but rather allowed the players to travel to different planets along with one central hub, similar to how the original Mass Effect operated. The story involved the main character being a cyborg and having to travel back and forth through time to help save humanity from an alien invasion. The leveling system was a mixture of Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim, with the document reading

As the player completes quests, solves puzzles, and eliminates enemies, they gain experience points towards their next level (similar to Skyrim). When they gain a level, they are awarded stat points and ability points that they may use to increase their stats and abilities respectively. Every other level they can add a Perk (just like FO3/FNV).

Also similar to Mass Effect, you would choose choose a preset background for your character that would affect starting stats and determine how the NPCs would react to you. There were also things like deployable equipment (deployable turrets, decoy robots, and frag mines for example)  and companion AI described in this design document:

Since only the player can travel through time, companions in BackSpace take the form of AI’s that the player can equip in their “AI Slot”. An equipped AI can engage in dialog with the player, and provides a bonus to the player depending on the AI like an increase in damage or energy regeneration. AI’s can be found throughout the game and have a variety of personalities.

Once the player acquires an AI, they will always be visible on the UI and represented by their emoticon. When an AI talks to the player, their emoticon can change based on their feelings on what they’re discussing.

While this is indeed just an early prototype, and things continually change as development goes along, I still felt this was an interesting, if not ambitious, pre-development game, one that Obsidian hopefully revisits in the future. More information can be found at Kotaku.

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