Pathfinder: Kingmaker Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2018-09-25
  • Role-Playing
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GB: Why did you choose to go with a real-time with pause combat system for Kingmaker? Were you considering turn-based at any point during development?

OG: Short answer - turn-based combat brings too much attention to itself, while real-time with pause is blending nicely with other aspects of the game. A bit longer answer - we were considering turn-based system for several months into development. It was a long and hard discussion when we were finally decided which way we should be going. Turn-based combat brings a lot of tactical elements into every battle, but it comes at the cost of battles being long. In tactical turn based combat you want each battle to be challenging, a small puzzle to solve - otherwise it becomes boring. So you as developer will struggle with ordinary battles - make them easy and it is boring, make them hard and you exhaust the player. Even if you manage to solve this, turn-based combat will still require a lot of attention from the player and this attention will not be spent on anything else. In our opinion, every system in the game has to be properly balanced to each other in terms of time spent, player attention, complexity and a lot of other aspects and for this game we want players to enjoy the story and characters, participate in governing their kingdom. Real-time with pause still requires tactical thinking on the player’s part but only in the more challenging encounters. You can easily plow through weaker enemies, enjoying animations and visual effects by issuing only a couple of commands. We feel this fits much better into the overall game’s pattern of exploring the lands, meeting new people, and fighting adversaries.

GB: Some of the games you've worked on, like Silent Storm, Heroes of Might and Magic V, and Rage of Mages II, feature strategy elements of varying degrees, the former two being primarily strategy games with some RPG elements. In Kingmaker, we get to run an entire kingdom. With your strategy-focused experience, is there any chance you'll be making our reign over the Stolen Lands strategic in nature?

OG: Governing your kingdom will be strategic and you will have to make decisions on a big scale - even micromanage settlements if you choose to. But we want this part to have not only a strategy experience, but also a your personal narrative of you and your companions trying to govern those lands, making difficult decisions, maturing a bit. We want to provide more of a spotlight on your companions in these situations and tell a bit of story about your kingdom at the same time.

GB: Let's talk a bit about crafting. It seems that most modern RPGs possess a crafting system of some kind, but I'm in agreement with Richard Cobbett that heroes don't craft. I know Kingmaker won't have traditional tabletop crafting and will instead use Royal Artisans, but if I decide not to craft at all, how much will I miss out on?

OG: We do happen to agree that crafting is not something that should be usually done by heroes. Moreover in Pathfinder: Kingmaker you are not just hero, you are king, governing your lands, and crafting fits this profile even less. This is why we decided to introduce Royal Artisans. These do not strictly resemble a crafting mechanic. They are similar to all those guilds and manufactures in the 17th-18th century sending beautiful tea sets to the king’s court that we enjoy in the museums nowadays. They are helping themselves to make a name and a patron to compete with other guilds. In our game it will not be as competitive but close to that experience. Imagine yourself encountering a dwarven smith on your adventures in the region you are planning to add to your growing kingdom. His goods are really good, but he is in a bit of a quandary. You can help this dwarf and he agrees to work in your kingdom, occasionally sending gifts of elaborate dwarven armor to your court. Can you complete the game without any items from artisans? Absolutely! But you will be missing out on some of the unique items and a bit of a fresh experience.

GB: What are your thoughts on encounter design? Do you try to pack your locations with as many encounters as possible, go for several carefully crafted encounters per location with a fair degree of tactical challenge to them, or sit somewhere in-between?

OG: It is very convenient to answer "in-between", both because it is true and because it allows more freedom for the location design. Same goes for the balance of game elements. We want our players to experience a great story and challenging battles while exploring the unclaimed and wild Stolen Lands. You can't explore if you are besieged by encounters. It is difficult to remember the story if you have to fight monster after monster just to get to the next story point. Don’t get us wrong - there are a lot of enemies to fight, but you can skip at least half of them if you do not want to fight. Every location has several fights that will test your tactical skills, for some you may even consider (wisely) retreating and returning when your group will be more experienced. Every bossfight is specially crafted to provide a new experience and to challenge common strategies.

GB: A great, carefully designed dungeon can be the difference between a good and a great CRPG. Will Kingmaker feature any vast, optional dungeons with traps, puzzles, NPCs, side quests, or other challenges - perhaps something on par with Durlag's Tower from Baldur's Gate?

OG: Uh, that’s a good question - and not an easy one. To be honest, we had a reward among our unrevealed stretch goals but we didn't get to it. The problem is a "mega dungeon" is expensive content. Everybody on the team wants to make it. But to add it at the cost of cutting a whole chapter from the original story - that would have been the price - would have been unbearable and we think would have done the game a disservice. So right now this idea is lying on the "development shelf". We like to console ourselves that we will find some time to implement it but frankly speaking, it would be difficult to do.