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Development Info Pillars of Eternity Retrospective Panel at PAX Prime 2015

Infinitron

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Tags: Adam Brennecke; Brandon Adler; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity: The White March

Josh Sawyer, Adam Brennecke and Brandon Adler were at PAX Prime yesterday, where they spoke about the development of Pillars of Eternity in a one hour panel discussion. In between sharing various anecdotes, they also answered questions from Twitter and the audience, and most interestingly, revealed some of their plans for future Pillars of Eternity games.



Here are the more interesting takeaways:
  • There are no plans to port Pillars of Eternity to consoles, though Obsidian may investigate other platforms for future projects.
  • Load times will be improved in the next patch, but according to Adam, it will take major refactoring to get them down to as low as he'd like, which can probably only happen in a sequel.
  • Josh wanted to make the game's first area after the prologue harder, but it had to be toned down due to playtester complaints. They did let him keep the bear cave.
  • Adam's original idea for pre-order items (or should I say "original") was a space hamster and a floating skull. The former was changed to a pig because Obsidian had a pig model handy, and the latter was nixed by Eric Fenstermaker for lore reasons, although it's apparently coming back for The White March Part 2.
  • There will be no more expansion packs after The White March Part 2. After that it's sequel time.
  • Brandon thinks releasing the game for Linux was not worthwhile, and in retrospect would have chosen not to support it. Only 1.5% of the player base uses Linux. Later on, it's explained that the problems with Linux support were more logistical than technical in nature. It's unclear if Obsidian will keep Linux compatibility for future projects now that they've already done the hard work, but you probably shouldn't bet on it.
  • At one point during the panel, some concept art for future Pillars of Eternity projects (including The White March Part 2) is shown. This includes an area featuring a huge skull reminiscent of Myrkul from Mask of the Betrayer, which we also get to see an initial level blockout of.
  • Plans for Pillars of Eternity 2 include:
    • Baldur's Gate 2-style strongholds. That is, multiple strongholds, with a focus on content rather than systems (Josh explicitly uses those terms).
    • Full multiclassing.
    • Support for "sub-areas", eg, the ability to enter a house in a town without having to load an entirely new area and without having to take your entire party.
    • Expanded AI systems and more customizable party AI.
    • Improved modding support for modifying systems, adding items, etc. Adam says that they've already got plans in place for how they're going to do this.
  • Josh says he's considering reducing the amount of abilities available for use at higher levels for the sequel, specifically mentioning classes such as the Priest which have all of their spells available at once.
  • The success of Pillars of Eternity has changed Obsidian's company culture, and they are now more open to producing smaller games. The Pathfinder tablet game is being developed by ten people.
  • When asked about cut quests, Josh mentions an entire cut area in Twin Elms that would have featured some sort of trial called the "Wield of Fates" (or something like that). However, Josh and Adam seem to consider most of the game's cut content to have been bad and worthy of cutting.
  • A Dark Souls-inspired "New Game Plus" mode is being considered for the sequel.
All in all, the panel seems to imply that a Pillars of Eternity sequel is pretty much a sure thing, with the original game described as "very successful". Which isn't quite the impression you might get from reading certain Josh Sawyer forum posts, where he seems more reserved. I guess we'll see.
 
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Baldur's Gate 2-style strongholds. That is, multiple strongholds, with a focus on content rather than systems (Josh explicitly uses those terms).

So he's made a fiull 180 degree turn on this issue within the last month?
 

Roguey

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So he's made a fiull 180 degree turn on this issue within the last month?
He always said he felt the strongholds were lacking in content, and going forward, they would add more now that the systems are in place.
 

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I think Bubbles is referring to the fact that he didn't seem interested in strongholds for the expansion. However, a sequel is something else.
 

Aenra

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The success .. has changed Obsidian's company culture, and they are now more open to producing smaller games

Could read this both ways... Either in terms of 'freedom' to pursue other avenues as they so now please (minus the income worries), or akin to similar statements from other companies claiming a 'hueg' success, only prior to reducing themselves to smaller and smaller projects. Because a true success it was not. And if the former, why would MCA leave just when they could pursue other, more qualitative alternatives?
Someone more savvy that can rephrase this in non-PR terminology?
 

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Well at least they're aware of (some) of the things that went wrong with PoE. But the base game itself was pretty solid, and a sequel that just expands upon that while also providing a better narrative would be a real treat.
 

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I think Bubbles is referring to the fact that he didn't seem interested in strongholds for the expansion. However, a sequel is something else.
Well he did change his mind about that, part 2 will feature more stronghold content. :P
 
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  • There was originally a pet duck in the game, which was cut because it looked really bad. This ended up causing some trouble because people had already designed content featuring ducks, including a high level spell designed by Josh himself that would have turned enemies into ducks.


:nocountryforshitposters:
 

Fairfax

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I liked the panel, but as expected, they didn't really acknowledge any major flaws in the game besides the absurd loading times and the lack of stronghold content. I guess it'll take years before Sawyer disowns some of PoE's design.
Also, I thought it was a dick move to ignore the Durance/Grieving Mother stuff that was cut and then say most of the cut content they didn't mention was just bad (yeah, he said "most", not all, but they still ignored it). According to MCA, that was 3/4 of what he made for the game and he worked on them "16/7", so that was pretty disrespectful, and I don't believe for a second they just forgot about it.
 

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Maybe they only meant cut content that actually reached implementation stage before being cut, or something like that.

I liked the panel, but as expected, they didn't really acknowledge any major flaws in the game besides the absurd loading times and the lack of stronghold content. I guess it'll take years before Sawyer disowns some of PoE's design.

Which "major flaws" are left that they haven't already implicitly acknowledged by addressing them in the expansion?
 

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The success of Pillars of Eternity has changed Obsidian's company culture, and they are now more open to producing smaller games.

Damn it. These guys were successful with PoE because people wanted more classic RPGs, NOT FUCKING TABLET GAMES.
 
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Maybe they only meant cut content that actually reached implementation stage before being cut, or something like that.



Which "major flaws" are left that they haven't already implicitly acknowledged by addressing them in the expansion?
There's no consensus on these major flaws, and I have my own opinion just like everyone else, but every CRPG in history has more than just one technical flaw (loading times) and lack of content in only one aspect (stronghold). If that was the case, PoE would be the best CRPG of all time.
Knowing what Sawyer had to say about every game he's worked so far, I'm pretty sure he's well aware that these are not the game's only problems and will probably discuss them at some point.
 

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There's no consensus on these major flaws, and I have my own opinion just like everyone else, but every CRPG in history has more than just one technical flaw (loading times) and lack of content in only one aspect (stronghold). If that was the case, PoE would be the best CRPG of all time.
Knowing what Sawyer had to say about every game he's worked so far, I'm pretty sure he's well aware that these are not the game's only problems and will probably discuss them at some point.
True enough, but you still haven't mentioned what major flaws you were referring to. And as Infinitron mentioned they have acknowledged quite a few things that went wrong.
 

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Maybe they only meant cut content that actually reached implementation stage before being cut, or something like that.



Which "major flaws" are left that they haven't already implicitly acknowledged by addressing them in the expansion?
Status effects giving immunies. Bat shit boring encounters making up 75% of the game, boring cities with not half the sounds and population that Bg1 and BG2 had. Wizards being crappy and most spell effects being crappy and only being minor number changers. Bad pathfinding, crappy railroading (as showed at end of act 2). Bad itemization, small outdoor maps filled only with crappy boring copy pasta combat encounters.
There are more.
 

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Ah yes, I didn't mention that during the panel Josh talks about the problems of managing expectations when developing a game inspired by several editions of D&D, with different parts of the fanbase obsessing over different editions. He mentions AD&D's "quadratic wizards" in particular as a trait that some fans expected from such a game.

Always fun to see just how aware Josh is of the things people are saying about the game. In this case, though, I think you're out of luck.
 

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Kind of a weird way of putting it since all the infinity engine games sans IWD2 use the same edition of D&D and "quadratic wizards" in particular existed in all of them.
 

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Kind of a weird way of putting it since all the infinity engine games sans IWD2 use the same edition of D&D and "quadratic wizards" in particular existed in all of them.

That's true, and he actually mentions that ("The players who played the Infinity Engine games will be most familiar with AD&D"). Apparently Neverwinter Nights 1/2 players are also considered part of the game's target audience (he mentions those games too).

(The idea that Pillars of Eternity essentially betrayed 2E fans in favor of 3E fans isn't an angle I've seen explored. Maybe it should be!)
 

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That's true, and he actually mentions that ("The players who played the Infinity Engine games will be most familiar with AD&D"). Apparently Neverwinter Nights 1/2 players are also considered part of the game's target audience (he mentions those games too).

(The idea that Pillars of Eternity essentially betrayed 2E fans in favor of 3E fans isn't an angle I've seen explored. Maybe it should be!)
But then again the specific matter of "linear warriors, quadratic wizards" was even stronger in 3E. If any edition was favored in PoE it was 4E, what with the abundance of per encounter abilities. Point was that Sawyer is alluding to a problem that has more to do with the game's content. PS:T, BG and IWD are all very different games and they all created very different expectations in regards' to the game's content and plot. But if anything, the one thing that is in common with all these fanbases is an appreciation for the rules system from before.
 

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But then again the specific matter of "linear warriors, quadratic wizards" was even stronger in 3E. If any edition was favored in PoE it was 4E, what with the abundance of per encounter abilities. Point was that Sawyer is alluding to a problem that has more to do with the game's content. PS:T, BG and IWD are all very different games and they all created very different expectations in regards' to the game's content and plot. But if anything, the one thing that is in common with all these fanbases is an appreciation for the rules system from before.

IIRC 3E is more about quadratic priests. :P And yeah he did mention 4E as well ("some people like it").

You know, we should make a brainstorming thread about what a purely AD&D-influenced modern RPG would look like. Think "Itemization: The RPG", with extremely stripped down archetypal classes, each with one core ability defining it. Gameplay would be heavily based on finding powerful items in the world and using them tactically (wizards would have to find scrolls). Use the item you found here to defeat the enemy party there, then take their items. Use those to defeat the dragon. Etc, etc.
 

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IIRC 3E is more about quadratic priests. :P And yeah he did mention 4E as well ("some people like it").

You know, we should make a brainstorming thread about what a purely-AD&D influenced modern RPG would look like. Think "Itemization: The RPG", with extremely stripped down archetypal classes, each with one core ability defining it. Gameplay would be heavily based on finding powerful items in the world and using them tactically (wizards would have to find scrolls). Use the item you found here to defeat the enemy party there, then take their items. Use those to defeat the dragon. Etc, etc.
Would that really reflect the tactical variety in the AD&D IE games?
 

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Would that really reflect the tactical variety in the AD&D IE games?

I'm oversimplifying, but that core gameplay loop is clearly one people find appealing. Items as a proxy for character development and developing your character by finding things in the world as opposed to getting improvements "out of thin air" on level up.

The existence of "feats", "talents", "active abilities" and all these built-in goodies all inevitably inhibit what people on this forum consider "good itemization". A shield with a special ability to knock somebody prone is fucking cool in Baldur's Gate, but in a post-3Eish game like PoE, that's something almost every fighter does 2 times every encounter (or infinite times in actual 3E, heh).
 
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The existence of "feats", "talents", "active abilities" and all these core class goodies all inevitably inhibit what people on this forum consider "good itemization". A shield with a special ability to knock somebody prone is fucking cool in Baldur's Gate, but in a post-3Eish game like PoE, that's something almost every fighter does 2 times every encounter (or infinite times in actual 3E, heh).
It's not like you couldn't do that before, you just were expected to use your brian instead of needing every combat maneuver written in the book. Well basic stuff like charging and knockdown is even in the rules
 

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I'm oversimplifying, but that core gameplay loop is clearly one people find appealing. Items as a proxy for character development and developing your character by finding things in the world as opposed to getting improvements "out of thin air" on level up.

The existence of "feats", "talents", "active abilities" and all these core class goodies all inevitably inhibit what people on this forum consider "good itemization". A shield with a special ability to knock somebody prone is fucking cool in Baldur's Gate, but in a post-3Eish game like PoE, that's something almost every fighter does 2 times every encounter (or infinite times in actual 3E, heh).

I can agree in part. By creating game about the constant use of per encounter abilities and spells, PoE does indeed cheapen abilities and magic as a whole. Its like what DraQ says about turning spellcasters into magic archers. Magic suddenly isn't as magical when you substitute rarer and perhaps even stronger effects for magical projectiles. Yet, AD&D characters did in fact gain powers on level up. Considering that the majority of 'builds' were at least in part spellcasters you don't even have to bring up things like the Monk, or the class kits.
 

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I wouldn't say "lots" compared to post-3E systems, but sure.

Clerics are the ones who don't fit the mold; in the Itemization RPG, it might be interesting to make clerics have to work harder to get their spells. Like, you have do stuff in the world and actually please your god to get spells. Like the NWN2 module felipepepe posted about on Gamasutra recently.
 
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Would be nice to see material spell components and limited spell availability in a CRPG.
 
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