Project Eternity Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Paradox Interactive
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date:2015-03-26
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Buck: Hard-to-master puzzles, lethal traps, and even secret doors are almost non-existent in modern CRPGs. How much of a focus will you be putting on these elements?

Josh: We will have these elements when they make sense, but I don't want to force them in. Often, dealing with them feels less like gameplay and more like guessing until you get lucky.


Buck: How much of an emphasis are you putting on enemy AI? Will the enemies we face employ tough strategies of their own, such as using the environment to their advantage or even setting traps for the party?

Josh: We will probably develop encounters in a manner similar to the IE games, hand-placing groups of enemies in the environment for staged encounters and using patrolling or wandering enemies to add in a "wild card" element. To me, it's not as important to make enemies clever as it is to make enemies distinct in their behaviors and strengths. It's up to the designer to be shrewd about how the encounters are staged and scripted.


Buck: We understand that Ciphers are essentially the psionic class of Project Eternity, but how will you be handling their abilities? Will they have a similar number of combat and utility "spells" as the wizard and priest? Since they're not a pure spellcaster, will they be more formidable in melee?

Josh: Ciphers are going to have an odd assortment of powers, much like psionicists have in most editions of AD&D. They will likely have fewer total potential abilities than wizards or priests, but with more unique mechanical capabilities and effects. Some of their powers will be designed for close-quarters use so you can get your Psylocke on.


Buck: How about barbarians? You've stated that they're reckless and induced with rage, but how will this affect the way we play them as opposed to a fighter?

Josh: Most barbarians will not be able to take as much punishment as a standard fighter. While they are raging, their Stamina may become much more resistant to attacks, but their Health may not be protected, meaning they can endure a short period of extreme abuse without being knocked out, but may actually drop dead from wounds. In some ways, the play of a barbarian will likely be something that has more severe ups and downs in combat as the player has to choose the right time to rage and use the barbarian's other special abilities.


Buck: How integral will crafting and enchanting be to the game experience? Will we constantly be finding and acquiring mundane components that will allow us to forge new items when we return to a workshop of some kind?

Josh: Probably not constantly, but you will be finding ingredients frequently. These ingredients will be segregated into their own inventory space to prevent them from cluttering up your inventory UI. The use of forges, alchemical labs, or other interaction points will allow you to perform crafting. It will not be integral to the game experience but will give the player many more options for customizing their gear and consumable items.


Buck: Given the addition of crafting and enchantment, how will inventory management and encumbrance be handled in the game? Will be carrying around a set number of items per character, making use of a grid system, or working with another system entirely?

Josh: We haven't talked about inventory management in depth yet, but we want to make sure it's easy to manage and both allows the player both carry the gear he or she wants as well as requiring him or her to make strategically important decisions about what to carry into the field.


Buck: Will there be some sort of damage type system in play (bludgeoning, piercing, slashing), and what steps are you taking to ensure that all weapon types (two-handed, sword/shield, dual-wielding, and ranged) are balanced and, ultimately, viable pursuits?

Josh: I'm not sure if there will be or not. I don't want to introduce so many moving parts to the damage, weapons, and armor systems that we become unable to present player choices that are meaningful and coherent. That is, depending on how many factors the player is expected to analyze when selecting a weapon for any given task, we need to make sure that the range of choices the player can make feel like they have clear, solid benefits and drawbacks instead of coming across as a bunch of "mush".

The first step in ensuring that weapon types/combat styles are viable pursuits is saying, "All weapon types and combat styles must be viable pursuits." If that's your high-level goal, design decisions should always be framed in that context. If someone says, "Daggers are the bad weapons for characters who suck!" that clearly flies in the face of the stated goal.

I think some editions of AD&D have really struggled with this. The rules seem to want to structure weapons in a certain way that promotes trade-offs, but mechanics are in conflict and produce a bunch of choices that feel dead in the water outside of niche circumstances. If you ever look at a choice and say, "Obviously everyone should take this," or "I would never take this," there's probably something wrong with how they've been balanced.