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Obsidian Entertainment seems to be in a far better financial position these days, thanks in no small part to the success of Pillars of Eternity, their crowdfunded isometric RPG, which they released with the help of Paradox Interactive. The next step of the collaboration between the Californian studio and the Swedish publisher is Tyranny, another isometric CRPG based on the same foundations as PoE but with quite a few changes to the formula, starting from a bronze age setting where "evil won."
We've been keen to hear more information on the title ever since its announcent in March and got in touch with game director Brian Heins to ask him a bevy of questions about it. We're confident you'll be interested in the answers you'll be able to read just below:
GB: Before we dive into specifics, can you give us a quick update on where the development of Tyranny currently stands and any further information regarding the release window you’re targeting for the game outside of "this year"?
Brian: Right now Tyranny is in its Beta stage, meaning that we have all of the content in the game and we’re focusing on fixing bugs, balancing gameplay, and trying to refine systems and presentation wherever we can. We’re playing through the various areas and quests as often as possible, looking for progression breaks and presentation issues, and working on fixing as many of them as possible.
"This year" is the best answer I can give on our release window at this point, until Paradox decides when they want to release a more specific date.
GB: For those fans who have spent a considerable amount of time with Pillars of Eternity and its expansions, can you compare and contrast the games across both their design tenets and technological foundations? Additionally, can you elaborate on any development efforts you’ve made to address the performance and loading time concerns that fans have raised regarding PoE?
Brian: Tyranny is built on the foundation created by the Pillars of Eternity team, so fans of Pillars will find many similarities between the two games. Both games are party-based isometric CRPGs that use real-time with pause combat systems. On the technical side, for Tyranny we were able to update the engine to Unity 5 which gave us some performance improvements over Unity 4, which Pillars shipped on.
On the design side, there are several differences between the two games. One of Pillars of Eternity’s goals was to create an experience that was true to the old Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. That goal shaped a lot of the game’s direction, from the questing experience to the interface.
For Tyranny, we wanted to play with that formula a bit. By not trying to hold as true to that same experience, it allowed us to make changes like reducing the party size, creating an RPG system based on character skill rather than class, and focusing on a smaller game with a higher level of reactivity to player choices.
It would take a lot more space and time to compare every element of the two games, but those are some of the higher-level differences.
GB: The "evil has won" tagline that Tyranny carries means that Kyros the Overlord has conquered much of the known world and imposed his own brand of law and justice, some of which we've experienced in one of your developer diaries. But what exactly characterizes Kyros as "evil" compared to the moral and ethics standards of the setting? What kind of social order did Kyros upset?
Brian: By conquering the known world, Kyros’ Empire has imposed a single, very rigid, view of how society should operate on a large number of nations and cultures. Individuality is suppressed in favor of conforming to the Empire’s laws and traditions. Is that evil?
In Kyros’ view, it’s an absolute good. The various nations and peoples of Terratus were constantly at war with each other. Fighting over food, water, and resources would escalate into fights over pride and honor. Entire generations grew up without ever knowing what ‘peace’ was. By imposing a single law over the entire world, Kyros tries to eliminate the differences between people that lead to conflict and war. If everyone just does what they’re told, when they’re told, everyone will get along just fine.
It’s a perfect utopia, as long as you’re the one who gets to decide what everyone else should do, or are someone who agrees with what they’re being told. If you don’t – or can’t – agree, then you are brutally punished or forced to comply with the Overlord’s laws.