Pillars of Eternity Previews and Interviews

We have rounded up a number of recent interviews and previews for Pillars of Eternity, in case you're interested in reading more about the RTwP fantasy RPG ahead of its release next week.

The sub-Reddit for the title has a very good Q&A with the developers, with questions coming from the community. A couple of snippets I found particularly interesting:


So... bit of a more general question here...

What's your favourite part of the game? Both what you've worked on and are most proud of, and what you've played with for the most enjoyment? What're the bits of the game that just came out better than you guys expected and you look at and think, 'Yeah. We did that right.'

Eric Fenstermaker:

For what I got to work on, I'm excited for the reactivity in the game. I was sitting in our narrator's voiceover recording session a few months ago, and almost all of it was lines of epilogue, because of all the various permutations of player choices that can be made in the game. We got to the end of the session and he was only like halfway through the script. On the one hand, I'm thinking, I'm gonna get yelled at because we had (at the time) only scheduled and budgeted for one session for him. But on the other hand, I'm thinking, damn straight we need two recording sessions for this ending. That's an RPG, son.

And we went kind of overboard with player backgrounds and development, too. One of the big goals for the narrative was to make sure the player was able to really roleplay the character they envisioned. So we started with 17 backgrounds, but then we added several additional layers of nuance to better define that background. You're a drifter, sure, but are you more of a swindler who gets chased from town to town or are you more of a roving psychopath? You make those choices early on in a conversation with an NPC, and then they show up in a procedurally generated biography. Then you play the game and the bio keeps getting longer with every major choice you make. By the end of the game you've got this entire memoir that you wrote by playing the game - a chronicle of the character you've been defining the whole time. And the odds are that because of all the different possible choices throughout the game, no two biographies will turn out the same.

In terms of my favorite part to play... difficult without spoilers, and I'm biased toward the first half of the game, which I've played more, but there's an area where you're sneaking around a place you're not supposed to be, and you can either go in guns blazing or you can be more clever about it and sneak through incognito. In the latter case, you're prompted for a password when you're right in the belly of the beast, and when they ask it there's a wisecrack you can give instead of the real answer, and I usually can't resist and it leads to a really challenging and fun fight.



Sawyer and others have stated that there was an effort to give the game touchstones of a sort for long-term RPG players so there'd be familiarity. That is, classic fantasy races, archetypes, spells, and weapons are present in a way that would allow genre players an easier time sinking into the new setting.

At the same time Avellone stated in an interview that he had gone a bit too outre with a couple of the characters in the game writing-wise and the plotlines were reined in (something like this was also alluded to in the PAX South session I attended).

I think most backers basically trust the writing and setting creation skills of Obsidian Entertainment, or we wouldn't have thrown money at them. So, I was a bit confused by what seems like a move towards "safer" choices in an endeavor which has no real checks on it from a publisher (et al.) standpoint.

Some of the staff's largest accolades in the past have been from breaking the mold and doing things differently(see: Torment's approach to weaponry or the handling of the force in KoTOR2). It seems like a self-styled RPG with no pre-existing barriers from IP-holders or a publisher would've been the opportunity to be no-holds-barred with content. How do you reconcile the grounding of the setting with what would presumably be the fans' desire to see you really be unrestricted in your crafting of a setting?

Eric Fenstermaker:

I can't think of much if anything about the setting that's held us back. There hasn't been a time on this project where someone had an earth-shattering idea, and then someone says, "Yeah, but the setting..." and then we all hang our heads and cut the idea. There's almost always a way to make it work. Like the Forgotten Realms, a strength of the Pillars setting is its flexibility. Those touchstones are places to start from, but it's more our way here to try and twist and corrupt them, or otherwise find ways to make them fresher or more interesting. For the writing, there has never been a directive to stick to conventional ideas about what's accessible.

Another reason not to worry too much about us making "safer" choices is that many members of the Pillars team, myself included, came straight off of working on South Park: The Stick of Truth, so whatever taboos or sacred cows any of us had going into that project were long gone by the time it was finished. We've had to make a number of cuts across all aspects of the game's design, throughout the project. Usually it's because we don't have the resources to make something shine, because it's just not working for one reason or another, or because its subtraction actually leads to greater clarity and elegance of design. It's seldom if ever because of setting constraints, and (in hindsight, anyway) it's typically led to a better overall product when we've made a significant cut. We've had the freedom to make the characters we want to make and tell the stories we want to tell, and I think you'll see that reflected all over the place in the game.

RPG Codex has an interview as part of a longer PAX East report:

mindx2: So what were you expected out of the backer beta and what did you actually get out of it?

Josh: I was expected pretty close to what we got. Just a ton of feedback all over the place. On everything people cared about. It was mostly to look at what a mid-game feels like to have a big party which is why we started with 4 plus your main character. Diving in to see how the interface feels, how the classes feel, how the UI feels. Obviously, we got a lot of feedback and all that stuff. So we tried to iterate over time and hopefully improve that stuff.

mindx2: .and that leads into my next question- why did the mechanics change so wildly in the betas?

Josh: Ah. because some of them fucking sucked.


Josh: I mean that's iteration. It's the middle of development so sometimes I design something and it's just not a good mechanic and people play it and they're like (I don't like this.) Or even before people see it and we put it in and we realize that this isn't even fun. Like we had the Cipher that had to maintain this focus thing and you had this and you would hold it on someone. You would start using a power and it would just sort of stick on the character but to make it more powerful you would have your Cipher not do anything [else] and that's not fun. It sounds obvious now when I say it but at the time we were like that kind of sounds like a psionist is fucking shit up over time but it just wasn't fun. So we just tried to adjust things so that people [have fun], and there's a wide range of taste so.

mindx2: Why did you never land on a world identifying name such as Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk? I mean, is everything after just going to be Pillars of Eternity 2, 3, etc.?

Tim Cain: I think it's more evocative. I just remember when it was floating around and that came up. I remember there was a list of names that came out and it was (what do you like?) and I remember seeing Pillars and going this is very evocative. As opposed to well. Forgotten Realms isn't really the name of an area.

GameWatcher has a short preview:

Despite the solid and intriguing combat system, this isn't an Icewind Dale-style dungeon crawling hack-.m-up. While wholesale murder is an option, there's room for both stealthy and talkative parties. For example, in the fort assault mentioned above, our band of heroes managed to enter the main floor of the tower. Slipping into a barracks, they discovered a full set of robes worn by the paladin order that held the fort. Throwing them on, though for some reason declining to remove either the rogue's swashbuckling feathered hat or the chanter's mighty stag helm, they marched out into the corridor and bumped into a patrolling guard. A quick chat, a few well-chosen words, and the paladin shrugs and moves on his way. Again, it's a neat nod to the kind of clever approaches you see in tabletop roleplay. Murdering everything in sight isn't always the smart option. Well, until you mess up and say the wrong thing in front of a suspicious priest and his cadre of full-plate armoured warriors, anyway.

PC Games N's piece is slightly longer:

Even with spells going off in all directions - many of which should be familiar to D&D or Baldur's Gate players - Pillars of Eternity's combat isn't much fun to watch. It's all a bit messy and chaotic if you don't know what's going on, if you're not there, giving the orders to the party yourself. But once you understand the rules and character's abilities, things start to become a lot easier to read.

Knowing that all types of plate armour are weak against electricity, for example, makes it easy to understand why your knight is having so much trouble now that a mage has bathed the battlefield in a spiderweb of electricity.

After fighting priests, paladins and undead, it was time to fight a dragon. Well, not a full grown dragon, but a drake. Drake, dragon, it doesn't mean much when you're running away from one as it breathes fire down on your head. I wondered if this type of challenge could just be wandered into at any level. Sawyer explained that it's in an area that players won't have access to right away, but there are lots of places for a party to explore off the beaten track.

(You can explore, and we try to allow players to do that as much as possible. Obviously we don't want the player to feel shitty for looking around. We always try to place things in the environment that makes them feel like they're rewarded for taking on that challenge. I will say that a lot of the side content is specifically made to be more challenging than the critical path. Play the critical path, and it'll be kind of challenging, but if you go off the beaten path, that's where you find the really nasty challenges.)

Finally, there's a couple of video interviews, courtesy of GameReactor (available at the link) and MMORPG.com (embedded below):