GB Feature: Pillars of Eternity Interview

It's been nearly 14 months since Project Eternity was successfully funded through Kickstarter and nearly 15 since we kicked off our Immortalization campaign, and today officially marks the largest unveiling of the game since then. In addition to Obsidian's revealing of the game's official title as Pillars of Eternity, the debut of a new backer portal, the release of a new gameplay teaser trailer, and the availability of some new screenshots, we have a hefty five-page interview with Josh Sawyer for you to take in:

Buck: Why did you make the decision to remove item durability and degradation, despite these being planned for implementation in the beginning? Do you feel that having any type of item wear detracts from the game in a measurable way?

Josh: It wasn't actually planned for from the beginning, but when we developed the Crafting skill, there didn't seem to be much applicability for it from the perspective of an individual character. In a game where you're most likely to gain additional companions over the course of the game, it's very easy for you to find that you and a companion have redundant skills.

Redundancy is only a problem if the skill operates solely as a key for a variety of systemic locks. Traditional "Lockpicking" skills are the literal example of this. Only one person needs to open the door; everyone else can walk on through. If someone in the party is King Lockpick, another party member with 75% or 50% of the King's score may as well have 0% of the score. The bench-warming lockpicker gains nothing for their investment in the skill. We're trying to avoid this as much as possible.

For us, tying personal item degradation rate to the Crafting skill of the user solved two problems. First, it made Crafting valuable to any character who took it. Second, it provided a money sink in a style of game that typically does not have many.

I decided to remove the Crafting skill (not the system, just the skill itself) along with durability because many players didn't like the idea of durability in this game and/or didn't care about the economic implications (most of which would appear in the late game). Without the individual character benefit, the Crafting skill didn't meet the criteria for inclusion, so it was removed.

Does not having item degradation detract from the game in any measurable way? It's one fewer skill, but it was a skill that was tied to a system that still exists without it. It does mean player wealth will accumulate faster because that sink doesn't exist. But as I wrote above, mechanical additions that the player doesn't value over the course of the game should either be modified or removed.

And really, the bottom line is player enjoyment. Challenge is part of enjoyment and even routine activities like item repair can be part of enjoyment. In series like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Fallout, it can be part of what's enjoyable because it fits the setting. Systemic item degradation and repair mechanics have never been part of the IE games (and are only rarely used in any edition of A/D&D) so they feel less appropriate.