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Lore-focused Project Eternity interview with Chris Avellone at Anon of Holland

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Lore-focused Project Eternity interview with Chris Avellone at Anon of Holland

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 1 July 2013, 00:21:44

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

Dutch blogger Anon of Holland has a nice interview with Chris Avellone, focused mainly (but not exclusively) on Project Eternity. It's probably the most lore-focused Project Eternity piece we've seen until now, considering most of the game's official updates have been very systems-centric. Chris even provided a high resolution version of the game's world map - the first that we've seen, if I'm not mistaken. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

AoH: One of the things at the top of fan’s lists of things they’d like to hear about would no doubt be Project: Eternity. So far we’ve been seeing a lot of tech and lore updates on the Kickstarter page and the forums, and although I’m sure I wasn’t the only one blown away by that amazing tech demo, it feels like the world design has been put on the back burner a bit, at least as far as the updates go. I understand Obsidian might not want to go into this as of yet in order to save information for future updates, but I was wondering if you could tell us a little about how well the world has been fleshed out so far, which direction it’s going in to make it different from all those cliché fantasy settings out there and what the plans are for the world as shown in the map? Will we be visiting locations all over the map or will you be focusing on a certain area, maybe leaving the other areas for another game?

MCA: It will be locations all over the map (to clarify, it’s the one below).​

[Project: Eternity's Map - Graciously provided by Mr. Avellone in beautiful high resolution]​

The world map [above] is the game space: the game takes place largely in the Dyrwood and the Ruins of Eír Glanfath – while the exact locations are still to be revealed, you will be going to a variety of communities and cities in those areas all over the map, as well as a number of adventure locations. As far as variety goes, it’s much like Icewind Dale in terms of location ambiance and scope (it may seem like an odd example, but while set in the North, there was a lot of freedom in Icewind Dale in terms of looks and feel of each location). As locations and dungeons unlock, you’ll be able to jump to them and begin exploring.​

You will not be going beyond the world map indicated in this first installment of the series. Right now, we’re focused on bringing this section to life. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the rest of the world (and in fact, the cultures and empires surrounding the Dyrwood are extremely important to current events) – we’re developing the world and the surrounding nations in tandem with religion, culture, and language.​

There’s directives we try and operate from in terms of design of the game which hopefully should shed some light on the process. In terms of development of the narrative, we have a first draft of a story that we’re iterating on after feedback from the team – the draft we chose as the spine was a collaboration of two stories, one from George Ziets and the other from Eric Fenstermaker. There were elements from every story pitch that we liked a lot, and other elements that we felt could be developed more, or made more impactful for the player.​

AoH: Another Project: Eternity related topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind is the Mega Dungeon. During the Kickstarter campaign we collectively brought the number of levels to a massive 15, which has me slightly worried it could end up turning into a Shin Megami Tensei-level chore to get through. So far this has also been the subject of very few updates, which I suppose is because Obsidian is still working out the details. Are you personally working on the dungeon as well, and if so, in what capacity? Should we expect the dungeon to be mainly a ‘hack and slash’ experience or will there be more to it like in the case of the Castoff’s Labyrinth in Torment: Tides of Numenera?

MCA: I am not personally working on the dungeon (we haven’t entered the design stage for it yet), and I couldn’t give you an exact breakdown of talking vs. fighting. That said, combat and combat resolution is a big part of Eternity, and while conversations and stealth can help set you up in a favorable position when hostilities erupt, talk-intensive encounters are likely to be left for communities, towns, and other areas where it makes more sense; it may be that Od Nua becomes one such location. In the current iteration of the story, the mega dungeon serves a key role and has a lot of interesting mechanics being kicked around for it that I think will be compelling.​

But to make this question personal, I love level design. The last time I did area design for Wasteland 2, I enjoyed it, although we have level designers here that are more capable than I could aspire to be (Bobby Null and Jorge Salgado are currently tackling the Vertical Slice levels). Personally, I look at a level design such as Od Nua and see possibilities, not as a chore, and so do our level designers. If I asked someone to design 15 levels of archaic soul-lore-focused insanity and have fun with it… the results I imagine would be great, and it’s worked with our other projects where we’ve given the LDs such freedom ([Fallout: New Vegas DLC] Old World Blues).​

AoH: Speaking of the mega dungeon; the idea behind it and a statement you made in an interview with gamesindustry.biz “Numenera is much more free flowing, much more story focused, and Eternity is stuff like dungeon exploration, party team, how do you approach a problem, how do you approach an encounter.”might lead some to believe that Project: Eternity might end up becoming the Icewind Dale to Torment: Tides of Numenera’s Planescape: Torment; more focused on combat and exploration than actual deep role playing. Is this what you are specifically aiming for, or are you trying to strike a balance between the two?

MCA: Numenera is planned to have much more story than Eternity at this stage because it has many more writers on it, and that’s one of the major pillars for any Torment game. That doesn’t imply that the Eternity story will be weak or that the Numenera levels and locations will suffer, it just means they are two different experiences. Eternity will still have a compelling, reactive plot, and while it features dungeon exploration and party tactics, the story is still an important part of the whole… just as dungeons and the party tactics will be important in Numenera as well.​

In short, based on what I’ve seen and read, neither one will sacrifice what it means to be a role-playing game, which means having player agency and clear choices that matter. Player agency is important to all aspects of design in our studio, from the character development systems, to the level design, to the narrative branching.​

For a specific writing example, our goal with companions, for example, is Planescape Torment-style companions (for both Numenera and Eternity) because we feel that the people that travel with you create the best opportunities for RPG sounding board and reactivity feedback.​

Read the full interview to learn more about MCA, including the fact that Fallout 3 is one of his favorite modern RPGs. Ahem.

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