Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Paradox Interactive
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date:2018-05-08
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Buck: Sure. So on that note, how are you building upon the original Pillars of Eternity and what would you say your primary goals are in terms of design for the sequel?

Feargus: The first Eternity is not linear because you can still adventure around, but it's maybe a little bit more linear than we wanted it to be. So really with Deadfire you can kind of go where you want to go. It's not like an open-world RPG because it's not structured that way, but it's going to feel more like you have more paths you can go on. I think the other thing that's important is – I think we noticed also we were trying to get so much content into the first Eternity that we didn't do enough reactivity to the choices the player was making, that people were making.

Now, I think as we did the expansions of White March Part One and Part Two, particularly Part Two, I think we did a better job of making sure that people's actions were being responded to by the game. So we're definitely doing that, we're spending more time and more design writing time and designer time on that.

The party size has gone down to five which has been sort of controversial for people. People really wanted to see the six and they were really surprised. Josh had a lot of good reasons – not throwing Josh under the bus but that was his decision. And we had talked about it and it was a good decision from the standpoint of – these games are complicated and with a larger party it means more enemies and it means more chaos and then you have pets in there, animal companions and stuff like that and maybe even in certain situations where you sort of have allies that are fighting on your side. It starts to get crazy.

And so what Josh did was, "Hey, why don't we try going down to five?" We're going to space things out a little bit more, play a little bit with the timing of combat making sure people are more aware of kind of what's going on in combat and then on top of that make people feel that they can kind of create multifaceted characters by adding multiclassing and sub-classing which people have responded pretty positively to.

So yeah, the five-player party there is – we're kind of changing how kind of the world map works and that will be kind of the new thing we're taking about next week and then the reactivity and more of the freedom of trying to go a little bit more of where you want to go. Those, I would say, are the big things we wanted to focus on.

Buck: And with those goals, I have to assume that the development costs for the sequel will be higher than the original Pillars to have that additional reactivity and choice & consequence?

Feargus: Probably the game is going to cost 40% to 50% more than the first Eternity did. And a lot of that is going into spending more time on the areas. You know, there were lot of areas that looked really good in Pillars I but there were some that were not maybe where they needed to be. But with Deadfire I think that you'll see that it may be that the worst-looking area in Pillars II is going to be similar to one of your better-looking areas in Pillars I. That was a big focus again to show people that we're not resting on our laurels. We're going to make a real sequel, we're not going to just swap the story out. A lot of people actually would have been fine with using a lot of the content from the original game and then just kind of refining. We really wanted to move forward. We were already moving the engine going from Unity 4 to Unity 5, changing some things. And we hired a couple of really great graphics programmers and they had a lot of cool ideas on how we could push, sort of the 3D/2D aspect of the world even more.

And we decided to invest in that particularly because - I think we've now invested a lot into the engine such that that making a Pillars of Eternity III will be easier, where if we had not invested much in the engine then we would have had to make a lot of changes between Pillars II and Pillars III.

Buck: Wait, did you just announce Pillars of Eternity III right here, right now?

Feargus: [LAUGHTER] Well, obviously, yes. If Eternity II is a sales success, we will be selling that and doing an Eternity III.

Buck: Great to hear. It has to be challenging - on one hand, you don’t want to mess with the formula that earned you that 89 Metacritic rating or muddy the waters in any way. But on the other, you don’t want it to be perceived as not pushing the envelope. So that's a balancing act that's has to be challenging.

Feargus: Yeah. I think the thing where we'll be okay is, I think we're pretty good of now understanding the core of what people want. People want great companions, they want cool areas and quests that respond to how they do them. They want to have a story that they could feel invested in and that's complex and interests them all the way through. They want to have interesting locations, they want cool monsters, fun fights, and feel like their character grows from a stand point of, like [power is well done.]

I feel as long as we focus on that stuff and we don't screw up with having the game run slow or not run on certain people's computers, which [is something] we've been working out already. And then we're good. And then of course, the big focus really then is since we have changed a fair amount about some of the underlying systems, we need to get into test early and then just test the hell out of it so that we can make sure that it all just feels right. Which is why we wanted to do another public beta like we did with Pillars I because we learned a ton from that. And not so much on the bug side. People could see the systems, they could comment on them. A lot of what the original ideas that Josh had, he saw the reaction of people when we did the beta and then we reflected that with changes in the game.

Buck: When you look back at Pillars of Eternity... for those people that it didn't resonate with or maybe they just didn't have a chance to even pick it up, what hooks are you looking at putting into the sequel to encourage those people to buy it this time around? How are you going to capture their attention?

Feargus: It was a focus, but it's not a focus that has taken away from the RPG content that we put in. But I think some of it is graphics. Our characters were okay in the first game, but not compared to what they look like now. Characters really resonate with people - your character, when you open the inventory and you see a good-looking picture of your character or the companions, I think that people will connect more there.

I think that we can do a better job early on in the game of drawing people in. I talk a lot to people and they really enjoyed the game up to when they got to Defiance Bay and then they were a little confused about what they were supposed to do and in particular if they missed Raedric's Hold which was an awesome dungeon keep thing. But if they missed that and they made it to Defiance Bay – we will freely admit that the content of both Defiance Bay and Twin Elms was probably not our best content. And so we just need to make sure that it's consistent throughout and, in particular, the early part of the game.

Make sure everybody understands and is clear on what you're doing, it's clear what you're trying to adventure on, even if you're going to go to a different place and things like that. The story is clear. It was clear as it was supposed to be at a certain point. Not like, "Go find this, now go find this.” It can be too clear and then it feels kind of trite.

But I think that's what it is. I think we can do a bit better on the tutorial, I think we can help people understand combat better. But yeah, I think that's it. It's just making sure [that during] the first hour or two, people feel successful and feel good about how they're playing the game.