Pillars of Eternity Attribute Design GDC Presentation Reports

Last week, Pillars of Eternity game director J.E. Sawyer gave a talk about the game's attribute design, a facet of the game's design that received a large amount of attention (and criticism) before release. No recording of the talk is available as of the time of this posting, but Sawyer put the slides online and PCGamesN published a brief report:

(People complain about the stats of our companions a bunch,) he said, (but the companion attributes reflect who they are as characters. they are designed to be more middle of the road. Let's say you have a Paladin and they're super min-maxed for damage. Our companion Paladin, Pallegina, is more evenly balanced so you can use them in different ways.)

He stated, however, that while the team (didn't care) about people adjusting the companion stats, it was still (a bit weird) due to the way that Obsidian views the character stats to emphasise the narrative. Taking Pallegina as an example, he explained that she was (willful and tough,) but had (described failing her physical examination more than once, and was an avian godlike so her eyes are described often in reaction text.)

He then showed a (better characters) mod which massively increased her might and lowered her perception to just three. (This player wanted her to be able to cast lay on hands and tank. And to only be able to do that.)

Game designer Soren Johnson also livetweeted the event. I cut a few of the tweets where I felt they were less relevant, but you can read his full Twitter-based report starting from here:

Sawyer: Viable: your character can survive the game; Optimal: how far a min/maxer will push a character. #GDC16

We wanted to reduce the gap between viable and optimal for Pillars of Eternity. #GDC16

Sawyer: In basic - 2nd edition of D&D, you rolled for stats and THEN chose your character class. #GDC16

Sawyer: Pillars' six attributes would be of importance to ALL classes. #GDC16

Sawyer: Wanted no bad builds on Pillars, everything should be viable. #GDC16


Sawyer: If something is required for viable play, WHY make it an option. #GDC16


Sawyer: Attributes affect the actions of all classes. For example, Might affects ALL damage, for weapons or spells. #GDC16


Sawyer: Fixing dump stats was reality check on our system. Are AoE skills really important if people are dumping that stat? #GDC16

Sawyer: For some builds, accuracy is more important, for others, damage is more important. THAT determines what attributes to choose #GDC16

Sawyer: We didn't care about realism. (Why does Might affect gun damage?) Better for the gameplay but does cost us thematically. #GDC16

Sawyer: Our attributes were not as impactful as in D&D (1d10+24% vs 1d10+6) to keep extremes more balanced. #GDC16


Sawyer: We designed our companions to be middle-of-the-road to pair well with player's min/max characters of the same class. #GDC16

Sawyer: Ideological purity in game design doesn't necessarily mean happier players. #GDC16

Sawyer: If it were up to me, we wouldn't even have classes, but we were making Pillars for our audience. #GDC16

Sawyer: For Path of the Damned, we were making the game for the best min/maxers, so it was ok for viable builds to not be viable. #GDC16

Sawyer: For Wizards, we put a star on the UI next to Might to make sure people didn't dump it just from experience/reflex. #GDC16