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Interview Interview with Josh Sawyer at Cybergamer

Crooked Bee

(no longer) a wide-wandering bee
Jan 27, 2010
In quarantine
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Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Project Eternity

Cybergamer offers an interview with Josh Sawyer that has to do with the mechanics, lore and other things related to Project Eternity. Note that the interview spans 2 pages. Some tidbits:

Project Eternity now contains 11 playable classes. What is your high-level design perspective from a class point of view? Are you thinking of using a completely homogeneous system (a la D&D 4E) or a system that is more fractal (like 2E or 3E)? Do you think it will be challenging to make all of the classes feel completely different?

With 11 classes, we have a lot of challenges. The ones I'm focused on are ensuring each class feels distinct, has genuine value to the player, can be built in myriad distinct ways, and does not rely on obtuse UI elements to function. 4E's classes are more homogenized than we will shoot for. I think our classes and level progression options will fall somewhere between 3.5E and 4E.

I saw Feargus mention that the idea in Project Eternity is have the party be able to make it to around level 12 in D&D Power level, which is absolutely perfect in my opinion. What are your thoughts on the leveling rate, power curve and Experience Table in Project Eternity? Will the level curve be slower like Baldur's Gate 1? Do you plan on making lower level play more exciting like D&D 4E? Will experience gain be static or scaled? My favourite gain rate was 2nd edition with the Fighter Experience table personally.

I think leveling will be a bit quicker than in the original BG and Pool of Radiance, but not as brisk as Icewind Dale, so somewhere in the 10th-12th level range (A/D&D equivalent) seems likely. I would also want the low-level play to be more enjoyable than it was in earlier A/D&D incarnations. What 4E did was essentially take Dark Sun's idea of functionally starting all characters at the equivalent of 3rd level. The most relevant aspect of this was that hit points tended to be double-digit right away, which minimized the possibility of random monstrous crits outright murdering a character in one shot.

To make the game feel like an Infinity Engine game but also encompass a balance of combat and non-combat options, you will need a lot of systems that use checks (to hit rolls, skill checks). Are you planning on implementing a homogeneous system for all checks? Now that you are not limited by a 20-sided die, what are some of the design possibilities regarding checks?

Personally, I've never felt that the d20 was a limitation to resolving challenges. I did like the 3E switch to a unified mechanical system because it made it easier to understand the relative difficulties of tasks. Instead of using d100 for some checks, d20 low for other checks, and d20 high for other other checks, the resolution mechanics focused on rolling high on a d20 for almost everything. People seem to respond well to a 100-point/percentile scale because it's a common scale of measurement, but I'm not sure what we'll do to quantify our checks.

I do know that we want to allow the player to account for a marginal shortfall in skill requirement with resource consumption. E.g. if you need a 75 to pick a lock but you have a 65 Lockpicking skill, you can still open the lock for a cost of 10 lockpicks. This wouldn't apply if the skill is too far from the requirement (e.g. a 45 Lockpicking skill would be too low), but it does allow for a little more flexibility.

What is your favourite feature or rule from each edition of D&D (2E/3E/4E specifically)?

In 2nd Edition, I loved the sheer number of spells available. I'm looking at a stack of 2nd Ed. reference books right now, fondly remembering my 9th level cleric's list of ~300 spells she could select from. In 3E, I loved how much flexibility I had to build a variety of characters, including gimmick characters like a fighter/rogue specialized in sneak-attack shooting people with quick-drawn pistols at the start of every encounter. In 4E, I like how important tactical considerations like positioning and movement are. I also like that each class feels like it has clear value.​

Go here for the full interview.


Apr 10, 2006
Gotta love Sawyer. Whether you like his games or not, you have to admit that he is passionate and knowledgeable about game design. Beats most developers out there.

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