Pathfinder: Kingmaker Interview

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2018-09-25
  • Role-Playing
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Pathfinder: Kingmaker will be the first major role-playing title based on the Pathfinder RPG ruleset to grace our PCs, and given the game's successful Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly double the targeted pledge dollars, its close partnership with ruleset creator Paizo, and the contributions that the one-and-only Chris Avellone will be bringing to the table, we're confident that Owlcat Games will be delivering something special when they release the game in the second half of next year.

And while we've learned a lot about the game in the several months that we've been covering it, there are a number of development intricacies and design decisions that we wanted to learn more about, so we took those questions straight to Owlcat to get the most relevant, up-to-date answers. Our questions and their answers follow below.

GameBanshee: To kick this off, Pathfinder seems to be the tabletop RPG of choice for Owlcat Games. Can you tell us a bit about why you prefer Pathfinder to the many other role-playing systems available?

Owlcat Games: We have both sensible and sensitive reasons. First, we love Pathfinder and can’t resist the temptation to make a big story-driven RPG for our beloved tabletop system. Let alone - strange fact, really - no one has ever done done a single-player Pathfinder CRPG before. A more pragmatic reason is the fact there are a lot of people who also love Pathfinder. (Luckily, we had a chance to prove this during our Kickstarter campaign). It’s a beloved universe for a reason - few other settings have the same level of content and details as the Pathfinder universe.

GB: Reading up on Pathfinder, I found that "Rasputin Must Die!" is not only a thing that exists, but that it's an official adventure published by Paizo. That adventure takes the player characters to Russia and pits them against the eponymous Russian mystic. How often do you come across something like this in Pathfinder? Without spoiling much, should we brace ourselves for an adventure that goes off the rails fast, or is this more of an Easter Egg kind of thing?

OG: It was a lot of fun to read "Rasputin Must Die!" :) Though this "off the rail" adventure is not quite typical for Paizo as they admitted.

Many aspects of the Pathfinder universe have their roots in our reality: races have traits from modern or historical nations, some places resemble famous sightseeings spots, etc. All these things are brilliantly incorporated into Golarion and make a cognitive clue between this fantasy world and our everyday experience to add more believability to Pathfinder’s world. We strive to support the same approach in our game. History buffs will be able to find recognizable traces both in the nations and locations involved. Pathfinder: Kingmaker takes place in the northeast lands which feel so familiar to Russian developers. So we hope to bake a good pie of original Adventure moved to a digital format with some proper Easter Eggs mixed in for good measure.

GB: The pursuit of a more grim, dark, and realistic fantasy world seems to be more prevalent in recent years. Game of Thrones and The Witcher come to mind immediately, but there are countless other pieces of media. Does Kingmaker follow the trend, or is it, perhaps, more light-hearted in tone?

OG: First of all, we try to catch the true spirit of Pathfinder’s art style, which is renowned for its attention to detail. Let’s take character art as an example. Every piece of equipment, including backpacks full of camping gear and potions, are visibly displayed on the character and make us believe that these are true adventurers rather than generic fantasy ones.

We would call this approach "realistic high fantasy." The art style is still "high" - compared to what you would call grimdark fantasy - but the unprecedented level of detail and the way they are functionally portrayed make us trust what we see in the art.

The story will do its best to keep this ‘realistic high fantasy’ vibe throughout the whole game. There would be an epic adventure, a story filled with heroes and villains, honor and betrayal, allowing the player to pick a side. At the same time, the characters are never flat, the shades of grey are always thrown into the mix. Even the vilest of villains has a story for a player to at least understand their motives, if not sympathize. Prepare yourselves for making tough decisions!

GB: You're using the Unity engine, which unfortunately has a reputation for lengthy loading times and other surface issues. How have you addressed any perceived shortcomings with Unity and how well should we expect Kingmaker to run in comparison to other Unity-powered titles, if that's even possible to tell at the current stage of development?

OG: Every engine has its pros and cons. We took the time to thoroughly examine our options - Unity, Unreal, Cryengine, and our own engine which we share with Skyforge. Then we debated the benefits of each approach in terms of quality, pipelines, and more. Sometimes these discussions were more like battle scenes from Highlander :) And much like Highlander, there could be only one - Unity, which we felt was the best match for the CRPG we were creating.

Well, we are more than a year in production now and we still feel Unity was the right choice. It has worked well for our small-scale team highly experienced in scripting.