Pillars of Eternity Devs on Development, Expansion and Soundtrack

While the developers at Obsidian are presumably busy supporting Pillars of Eternity with patches and working on the first expansion for the title, they have recently found some time for a couple of interviews.

Game director Josh Sawyer spoke about the game's development and the work that is currently being done on the expansion with Gamasutra:

When it came to building the world for Pillars of Eternity, the expectations shifted dramatically. On the one hand Sawyer and his team didn't want to stray too far from the established tone and settings of those games which had inspired Pillars, but on the other they were still making something original, that needed to feel like a new place, and a new world. I ask Sawyer whether they felt pressure to strike out in a starkly different direction, to set it apart from what came before.

"No, I don't think so. I do think we still need to account for player familiarity. We intentionally created a setting that felt '˜Realmsy.' It was very D&D, high fantasy. If you look at Torment: Tides of Numenera, they're definitely doing something that feels very very different, which is great and cool, and they were very successful. But for this project we wanted to do something that was very much in the line with Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, so that meant '˜Euro' fantasy.'

"We've developed a world where, in the future, we can explore all of these other cultures we've established, which are much more non-'˜Euro', for lack of a better term." The idea being that, now that the team has established the world of Pillars with the familiar part of it, they can now use it as a spring-board into new and more unfamiliar places, knowing that they have eased the players into their setting already.


But for now, Obsidian is focused on the expansion to Pillars of Eternity. "It is looking incredibly beautiful. Our artists had a whole game to get back into the groove of making 2D environments, and what they're creating, now that they're comfortable with it again, is astonishing, and I'm really excited for people to see it."

Meanwhile, audio director and composer Justin Bell talked about the game's soundtrack with gamemusic.pl. Unfortunately I never learned Polish, so I'm very thankful to discover that there is an English version of the interview:

gamemusic.pl: Recently, there's been a few games that I like to keep together. Wasteland 2, obviously the spiritual successor of the first Fallouts. Then there's the upcoming Tides of Numenera which basically equals to Planescape: Torment for many people. Finally, there's Pillars of Eternity and Baldur's Gate. Did you try to set yourself aside those games or rather acknowledge their legacy?

Justin Bell: We tried to do both, actually. When people speak fondly about their experiences playing Infinity Engine games, they often speak just as fondly about the music almost in the same sentence. You hear that main menu theme and it brings back all sorts of memories. Because we were building Pillars of Eternity to be a modern day successor to Infinity Engine games, we wanted to make sure people felt those old feelings that they had. I think the primary place where we did that is the combat music. Moving on, though, I think the main differences between Pillars of Eternity and Infinity Engine games are in the way the music is constructed. In the past, a lot of the music was constructed as very small, compact pieces of audio, maybe a minute, two minutes max. In that sense they were very dense in terms of musical content. And one thing that I tried to do this time was to write five or six minutes of music that explores lots of territory. And the main reason why is that when you're playing a game that's intended to be played even for a hundred hours or so, one of the weaknesses of having short pieces of music is that you start to hear them over and over again. You run the risk of them getting boring. My way of mitigating that risk was to extend the length of those pieces so that we could avoid having it become predictable.


gamemusic.pl: In Pillars of Eternity there are lots of areas and characters. How did you choose which of those deserved their own musical theme?

Justin Bell: The one character who got the most attention in terms of music was the main antagonist. His theme is sprinkled throughout the gameplay. From the very moment when you boot the game and you see the Obsidian logo, you can hear small portions of his theme. It's that slow cello theme that's sort of broken up into small phrases. We used that to tie into the greater conspiracy of the game. Every time you hear that theme, we're trying to tell the player (this particular moment is important and there's a greater mystery). But of course we're doing it in a subtle and subconscious way.