Former Fortnite and Blizzard developers have formed new studio Lightforge Games to make a multiplayer RPG that applies the collaborative world-building and storytelling of original tabletop Dungeons & Dragons to the polished video game presentation of its successors in the likes of Baldur’s Gate 3.
Project ORCS, as the game is currently codenamed – with ORCS being an acronym for “Online Roleplaying with Collaborative Storytelling” – is effectively a few steps up from tools like Roll20 and Tabletop Simulator that allow pen-and-paper roleplayers to play online by providing a digital simulation of miniatures, dice and so on. The result is a mix of editor mode and traditional co-op RPG, as players can serve as something akin to a dungeon master as they make their own homebrew adventures from scratch or simply jump into a premade campaign – either by the game’s devs or other players – with pals.
That editor can be used by itself to craft characters, environments and encounters before the group plays, or edited in real-time – much like a DM riffing around the table and reacting to dice rolls – as up to five players explore led by their Guide. You’ll be able to carefully customise your character in a character creator, picking from a selection of classes and species, before you jump in, too.
As you’d expect from a D&D-like RPG, players can level up their characters across multiple quests, returning to a home base that they’ll also be able to upgrade and expand. Guilds are also planned, allowing players to form larger groups who share a world they’ve built together.
The whole thing looks very slick in its reveal trailer, with Lighthouse CEO Matt Schembari’s work as a lead engineer at Blizzard and UI director at Epic Games – including on Fortnite’s battle royale mode – easy to see in the clean interface and social interaction between players.
“We’ve set out to make a roleplaying experience that has never been attempted before in the games industry. We’re calling it a Collaborative Storytelling RPG or CSRPG,” Schembari said. “Project ORCS is a collaborative game that will give new and old RPG fans a way to create their own stories on an interactive canvas.”
Whether that ambitious aim pans out remains to be seen, but we’ll be able to see for ourselves soon enough. Project ORCS is due to launch into early access later in 2024.