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Obsidian Media Blitz: Pillars of Eternity II and Tyranny: Bastard's Wound Interviews

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Obsidian Media Blitz: Pillars of Eternity II and Tyranny: Bastard's Wound Interviews

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 2 September 2017, 01:51:55

Tags: Josh Sawyer; Matt MacLean; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Tyranny; Tyranny: Bastard's Wound

The video of Eurogamer's visit to Obsidian published earlier this week turned out to be only the first shot in a highly orchestrated ongoing media campaign, whose ultimate purpose is still unclear. It was followed up with a fan contest and an interview with Feargus about Obsidian's rejection of the opportunity to make a Game of Thrones RPG back in 2005, also at Eurogamer, a history of Black Isle Studios at USgamer, and interviews with Feargus about choice & consequence and Alpha Protocol 2 at VG247. None of them were particularly newsworthy, with the Black Isle article coming closest if you're not familiar with the old stories.

Today though we've gotten something more meaty. USgamer have a 40 minute interview with Josh Sawyer about Pillars of Eternity II, recorded by their interviewer Kat Bailey during her visit to Obsidian in early August. The interview starts with some honest talk from Josh about the first game's flaws and a description of the sequel's premise and themes, before going in-depth on some of its new features - multiclassing, companion relationships, character import, and more. There's lots of new information about the mechanics of the game's ship system. Coolest of all, there's the reveal that Obsidian have contracted none other than the Codex's own sser to help with the writing, on account of his work on Battle Brothers. Oh, and Tony Evans too. Here's the interview audio (starts at 18:40):

And that's not all. Rock Paper Shotgun have published an interview of their own with Matt MacLean about the upcoming Bastard's Wound expansion for Tyranny. Much of the interview is actually dedicated to recapping the development of the base game, but there is some new information as well.

Another problem that Obsidian needed to solve was – in a society where evil has already won, how do you then give the player something to do? The solution here was to turn the knives inwards, to have the fighting shift into infighting as thoughts began to turn away from final victory, and more toward who would reap the most spoils. But this led to another issue; the need to contextualise the maelstrom of inter-factional politics that the player was about to be thrown into.

The result of this was the Conquest mode, a text adventure that takes place before the game begins proper, which provides an overview of how the war played out, and let’s the player make a few choices that influence how various factions perceive them as the game begins. Interestingly, Conquest mode was one area of Tyranny that proved difficult to build, and one that MacLean worried, “for the length of development”, would go down badly with players.

“An earlier version of the conquest paired attribute and skill gains to the conquest, and a part of me really enjoyed how the past-defines-your-training vibe meshed with the game’s learn-by-doing system. But it was a level of complexity too far. Players would find themselves not wanting to select things because the story was good but the systemic gains weren’t,” he says.

Although MacLean feels Conquest mode was ultimately successful. One issue that the team didn’t fully solve was blending the focus on evil with the epic fantasy story that is generally expected of an isometric RPG. MacLean states the team “wanted the players’ choices to matter”. But this meant creating a huge amount of content that could only be explored fully with multiple play-throughs, and MacLean admits that “not many gamers have the time for that much gaming.”

“While I love making choice-driven games with branching dialogue, ‘Next time, a linear game’ was a frequent mantra uttered when we found ourselves having to make short conversations many thousands of words long just to accommodate prior choice and conditions,” he adds.

Nevertheless, Obsidian has decided to further explore the world of Tyranny with an expansion – colourfully named Bastard’s Wound. For the DLC, Obsidian wanted to create something that would be of interest to Tyranny players both old and new. “The parameters for the DLC’s design were something that players not yet finished with the game could play, so that gave us the opportunity to add something we just never got around to making – an area accessible in Act 2 that you travel to on your own schedule and not based on exactly where the main story is pointing you next,” MacLean says.

The developers are tight-lipped on details of Bastard’s Wound story, although MacLean does say that the expansion is “less about the immediate conflict of the Disfavored versus the Scarlet Chorus and more about the ripples and consequences of the larger war.” But the expansion will add character-specific quests for three members of the player’s party, namely Barik, Lantry and Verse.

This is an aspect that the vanilla game was lacking, that more personal connection between your character and your party. However, these quests will be unrelated to the game’s core reputation system: “if we had placed something like loyalty or fear requirement for one of these quests, and you fire up a save game where you’ve already opted for the other thing and there’s no more conversation/game left to steer your way into the quests, you’d be rightly annoyed.”

Bastard’s Wound will also address some of the more general complaints about the vanilla game, one of which was an overemphasis on combat. “While adding a strictly pacifistic route through things wasn’t quite in keeping with the general vibe of Tyranny, Bastard’s Wound features quests with more optional violence,” In addition, Obsidian wanted to ensure that, when violence does happen in Bastard’s Wound, it’s better contextualised than it sometimes was in Tyranny. “We also wanted to have less situations where someone already hated you from prior events, bridges seemed pre-burned, and combat was inevitable,” he says.

It’s also worth noting that, alongside Bastard’s Wound, Obsidian will be making some tweaks to the vanilla game that will be available to everyone. “We’re doing a free update to the base game that adds and modifies a few things here and there,” MacLean says. This includes new voice-overs to parts of the game that were previously text-only, and the fixing of certain story “bugs” by adding new dialogues and conversations. “In short, we’ve been working on a lot of cool improvements that all players will be getting, not just those who get the DLC.”
Speaking of Tyranny, there was another livestream of the Bastard's Wound expansion on Paradox's Twitch channel today, this time with Obsidian developers in attendance. Watch me try in vain to get them to speak up about this media campaign about 16 minutes in. What more will we learn in the coming weeks? This seems way too big to be about a mere DLC.

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