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Josh Sawyer on Pillars of Eternity at PC Gamer

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Josh Sawyer on Pillars of Eternity at PC Gamer

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 18 April 2014, 15:44:24

Tags: Josh Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

Obsidian's Josh Sawyer recently gave a nice big interview to PC Gamer on the topic of Pillars of Eternity. Besides the usual discussion of game mechanics, this particular interview also has some newish information about the game world itself. Here's an excerpt:

PC Gamer: There are two large cities in the game. What can you tell me about them?

Josh Sawyer: The first big city that we made is called Defiance Bay, and that’s the bigger of the two cities. It could be compared to a city like Baldur’s Gate or Athkatla. It wouldn’t be thought of as modern, but it’s a more contemporary type of city. It has renaissance-style architecture, it’s very cosmopolitan, it has a lot of regular trade and traffic, it’s a port city. It has a number of big districts full of quests and characters you can interact with.

In contrast to that, Twin Elms is the second big city. It’s somewhat smaller, but still pretty big. It has a very different look and feel to it. The people who live there have built on top of ancient ruins, and their architecture looks more Anglo-Saxon, from the 9th or 10th Century, with a lot of wood used. Very different shapes and a different feeling to the environment. The culture is different too. It’s a much more religious community overall. Religion and temples pretty much dominate the lives of the people who live there. The artists and the designers did a really good job of creating two communities that are very big and have a lot of content in them.

PC Gamer: How will players be able to traverse it besides walking?

Josh Sawyer: It’s pretty much just walking, but we do have a world map much like the Infinity Engine games. We wanted to make a world where if you want just explore from the edge of the map to another map, you can do that. There are a lot of opportunities in the wilderness where you can go from map to map by going to the border and seeing what’s in the next zone. But as time goes by and you want to rapidly travel, we do have the classic type of Infinity Engine map where you’ll click on an icon on the map, and it’ll tell you how long it’ll take to get there, and time will elapse. You might get fatigued, or it might be night or morning when you arrive.

PC Gamer: Will you be able to combine spells and abilities in any interesting ways?

Josh Sawyer: Those aren’t explicitly built in like hard combinations. In most cases it’s situational. A big one is that rogues get sneak attacks and backstabs, but they get it from a wide variety of conditions. If the target is blinded, stunned or prone, all those things allow a rogue to immediately sneak attack on them. A lot of different characters can inflict those status effects, including the rogue. Fighters can knock down targets, druids have spells that can paralyse. So instead of being combinations of effects, it’s mostly about looking at how each of the classes can be maximally effective, and then using the general abilities in classes to bring out the best in those characters. A rogue can do a lot on his or her own, but other classes can also coordinate with them to create neat effects.

In other cases, it’s mostly about using the different characters’ abilities to manage battle spaces better. The fighter has an ability called Defender which allows them to kind of act like flypaper. Something that was a big hassle in the Infinity Engine games was that characters couldn’t really be sticky. It was very hard to get an enemy to stop moving. Often that was a big deal, because if a fighter made a beeline for one of your squishier characters, especially casters, you were in trouble. But now you have to think about where to position them, to maximise their benefit for casters, rogues, and other characters that might not be able to take a beating.

PC Gamer: What kind of fantasy RPG standards or cliches are you trying to avoid or subvert?

Josh Sawyer: I just try to avoid doing things that I don’t personally like. For example, the class balance stuff was done because I’ve made a bunch of these games, and I’ve been playing D&D for most of my life, and I keep seeing very strong trends towards behaviour that I don’t think makes players happier. It doesn’t give them as much choice as the systems claim to give them, and I think we can do a better job. If someone wants to make a brilliant, weakling fighter, that is a build that is viable in our game, and it’s rewarded within the conversations and the fiction of the world. That’s not something that’s really true of playing Dungeons & Dragons.

If you want to make a muscle wizard, who is mighty and powerful and a stupid idiot, you can do that. Mechanically what happens is that you’ll do a lot of damage, but their durations and areas of effects will be very small. Then in conversation they’re total idiots. [laughs] You can bully people and you can pick them up off the ground and slap them around. It’s not like I’m setting out to subvert stuff. I play tabletop games with a lot of people who have really great ideas for characters, but mechanically they’re shitty characters. So when I try to fix that stuff, it’s not because I think it’s inherently better, but that it gives more opportunities to players to create more diverse characters, and feel rewarded for doing so.
The full interview has more information on lore, classes, combat, companions, difficulty options, and more. Check it out, it's a pretty good overview of the game in its current state.

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