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Project director J.E. Sawyer answers some minor questions on lore on Formspring:
Are wild orlans' hairstyles cultural or is that just how it grows?
That's just how it grows naturally on them. Similarly, the elven ethnic group commonly found around the Dyrwood can't grow facial hair, but the ethnicity from the southern polar region has no trouble doing so.
Are the elves of PE going to be throwing anything surprising our way, like a very alien culture or visual aesthetic? They seem to be that most vanilla of the PE races so far, including humans.
The main elven ethnicity is designed to be very traditional, with the "pale elves" (Glamfellen) from the polar region having a more unusual appearance and a very different culture.
Are Glamfellen a playable race?
We are planning for them to be playable, yes.
Are the relationships between the Emperor of the Dyrwood and the Elven Concubine arranged/political or lustful ?
It's the human Aedyr emperor (technically the ferscÃ¶nyng/first king) and the elven Kulkin queen (mecwyn, short for hÃ©amecwyn/illustrious queen). It's entirely political, but as with many political unions, that doesn't preclude affection, attraction, or anything that follows. Both the ferscÃ¶nyng and mecwyn have same-race spouses and offspring; their "union" represents the ongoing alliance between the nations.
Haemnegs in ordinary Aedyran society are "supposed" to be for purely practical/political/financial reasons as well but they are often driven by emotions and desire. Haemnegs cannot be performed unless both parties are already married. If someone who is in a haemneg becomes a widow or widower, they are often pressured to re-marry (a "real" marriage) unless they are past typical parenting ages.
Im constantly surprised by how well developed PE's lore, history and mythology is already. Have you worked out all of the stuff from scratch since the project started or does it go back further than the actual kickstarter?
I'm glad you like it. None of it is earlier than the Kickstarter campaign.
On the new world map revealed at Rezzed, is the area marked Vailian Republics the republics proper, or is it just their colony in the Glanfathan region? And do all the major areas of the map appear in the game?
The Vailian Republics were originally colonies of the now-defunct Grand Empire of Vailia, just as Dyrwood and Readceras were once colonies of the Aedyr Empire. When the Grand Empire of Vailia (now called Old Vailia) started to collapse, the Vailian colonies conspired to establish financial and military resources that were separate from the empire's. When it was impossible for the Grand Empire to do anything about it, the colonies declared their independence. Though there were limited loyalist uprisings within the republics, there was nothing widespread and there was no formal military campaign from the empire against them.
The map doesn't really focus on the playable areas of the game, which will be in the Dyrwood and EÃr Glanfath.
What kind of government does the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood have? Are they a monarchy, republic or something else, because it was mentioned that they weren't a duchy anymore.
It's an elective monarchy. The ruler of the area was a grÃ©f of the Aedyr Empire appointed by the fercÃ¶nyng (emperor). During the rebellion, the grÃ©f followed the example of the Vailian Republics and declared himself the duc of the "free" palatinate. After his ***** during the closing of the revolution, the remaining erls of the Dyrwood elected his son to be the next duc.
Not all ducs of the Dyrwood have been from the Hadret family (and not all have been male), but they are all elected by the seven erls. The erls themselves hold hereditary positions.
Can you describe the main societies in the Project Eternity setting, socio-politically? Are they feudal? Absolute monarchies? Etc. What do the commonfolk do for a living? Is there civic awareness and broad nationalism, or are most people tribal/clannish?
The Aedyr Empire is a hereditary monarchy. The Dyrwood is an elective monarchy. Readceras was a theocratic dictatorship and is now an ecclesiastic dictatorship. The Vailian Republics are a confederation of sovereign republics with ducs who are elected by powerful (usually wealthy) city councils called the consuagli asegia ("councils of the siege"). EÃr Glanfath is a confederation of tribes, each run by an anamfath ("soul prince") and advised by a council of raoithe ("wise ones").
Most common folk live in rural areas and survive through subsistence agriculture and related activities (e.g. wool production). Dyrwoodans have a strong sense of nationalism due to the revolution but highly value personal independence. Glanfathans have an extremely strong sense of community between their tribes and think of the entire forest of EÃr Glanfath as being their responsibility to protect.
What do you mean by "subsistence agriculture"? Yeomen? Tenant farmers? Serfs working on large feudal plantations?
It varies from territory to territory and erl to erl, but most people are tenant farmers. Erls still nominally hold most lands for the duc, but yeomen exist in significant numbers.
Since there are no half races are interracial children born to the mother's race? like in TES.
Sexual pairings by different races (in the PE sense, e.g. elves and humans, orlans and elves) never result in conception.
What's the deal with dwarves in the Dyrwood? Were the dwarves at Durgan's Battery immigrants from Aedyr/Vailia or are there native dwarves in the area?
The dwarves at Durgan's Battery (and several of the other ruined places around White March) were colonists from the Grand Empire of Vailia but were not founding colonies *for* the empire. Dwarves have a cultural predilection (some go so far as to say it's an instinct) to explore. They've actually been some of the earliest colonists in many parts of their world, though their colonies don't have a particularly good rate of survival.
So, in Project: Eternity, the Vailian Republics seem to be rather morally grey, what with the slave trade and impressment. But does the Aedyr Empire and its former colony, Dyrwood, have flaws as well? They seem pretty utopian from all the info so far.
The Aedyr Empire continues to allow slavery in most areas, practices serfdom, and believes in/enforces a divine right monarchy (through Woedica). They're also pretty closed-minded about animancy, ciphers, and a lot of the new breakthroughs in understanding mortal souls that have been discovered in the Dyrwood and Vailian Republics. Some Aedyre nobles also believe that they have a divine right to portions/all of EÃr Glanfath.
The Dyrwood allowed slavery (at least slave purchasing) until relatively recently and, despite currently having a treaty with the Glanfathans, did fight two wars with them previously over destruction/theft of Engwythan artifacts that the Glanfathans swore to protect. Though the palatinate was taking a lot of intrusive actions on behalf of the empire and arguably many of the people involved didn't want to participate (one of the major causes of rebellion), plenty of Dyrwoodans had no problem with it and, even generations later, still have racist attitudes towards Glanfathans (especially orlan Glanfathans). Dyrwoodans also applaud vigilantism and rebellion as a culture, often to their detriment.
And though slavery is no longer legal in the Dyrwood, many Glanfathan orlans and a few elves still work/serve in a state that is little better than slavery. Because Dyrwoodans sneer at appeals to authority, locals who dislike the state of affairs often feel that they have to take care of it themselves or do nothing at all (usually the latter).
Some more lore, from the official forums, also courtesy of J.E. Sawyer. This time, it's all about conlangs (constructed languages):
For PE, I am developing a number of constructed languages (conlangs) to a limited extent to help establish the flavor of the world and the distinct cultures within it. With each conlang, there is (or are) a number of real-world languages used as a starting point. Eld Aedyran is based on Old English with elements of Danish and Icelandic. Vailian is based on a mixture of Italian, French, and Occitan. The ancient Engwythan language (used by the previous residents of EÃr Glanfath) is based on Cornish. Glanfathan (used by the current Glanfathan tribes) is based on Old Irish and contemporary Irish.
The orthography of most of these languages is relatively straightforward. A moderately-informed reader will likely mentally read the words and names with 80% accuracy, pronunciation-wise. Players may read the Eld Aedyran name Durnisc as "DUR-nisk" instead of "DUR-nish", but most of the time, they're going to be in the ballpark. If players read about the Vailian consuagli asegia (siege councils), they may not get the stress "right" or hit every consonant cluster correctly in their heads, but they probably won't stumble over the words.
The exception to this is Glanfathan, based on Irish. The foundations of Irish orthography in the Latin alphabet go back over a millennium and had to adapt to using Latin orthography for sounds that probably didn't exist in Latin, like /v/. Irish orthography also uses a set of rules for consonant pronunciation that are based on the surrounding vowels (slender or broad). Irish cased grammar can also mutate words in a way that forces the insertion of additional vowels to maintain their "slender to slender, broad to broad" vowel rules, which means the consonants in between can wind up changing pronunciation as well.
The result is Irish's distinctive "boatload of letters" appearance and unintuitive (to most English-speakers) pronunciation. In contrast, Cornish (another Celtic, but not Goedelic, language) did not develop standard Latin orthography for many more centuries. Its pronunciation is much more intuitive to the uninitiated. Despite the fact that Cornish exists in a different branch of the Celtic language tree, it shares some etymological roots with Irish, but the pronunciation is almost always more intuitive. However, written Cornish is much less distinctive from written Irish.
When you see something written in Irish, there's little doubt what language you're looking at, but the pronunciation will quite often not be "right" in your head. As it applies to the languages, names, etc. in Project Eternity, how much do you care about the intuitive pronunciation of our conlangs?
E.g. in the various Icewind Dale/Dark Elf books, Drizzt's panther is named Guenhwyvar. Most people don't know that the Welsh pronunciation of that name is close to "Guinevere". Does that matter? If you see a name like Dair Bhriste, how important is it to you that the way you pronounce it in your head is the way it is "supposed" to be pronounced?
I have been trying to keep things in the realm of the comprehensible/not ridiculous, e.g. Cean GÃºla is inspired by the banshee or, in Irish, Bean SÃ (woman of the Sidhe). In Irish "woman of blood" would be Bean Fuil (the genitive of "fola", blood). No matter how we set up pronunciation expectations, 90% of readers will read "bean" as what they eat in a burrito, so I just shifted the initial letter for woman over to "Cean" and made the Glanfathan genitive "of blood" the creepier-looking "GÃºla" which isn't too wacky, all things considered.
fair enough, but on a larger scale, isn't that a battle that you can't really win? you make something sound right for english readers => now the french (or whoever else) start to read funny things because now it has some meaning in their language :D
of course, i'm aware you are making this game for english speakers primarly, so it's not a big deal i guess
True. Vailian probably runs the biggest risk of this, especially since it's a cased language (most contemporary Romance languages are not). I already had a native Italian speaker call me out on the Darcozzi Paladini (an ancient order of palace guards from the Grand Empire of Vailia). "Hey buddy, who named that, some backwater farmer?!"
Oh, and as in the Italian example, it certainly is a good idea to have a native speaker / reader of the base languages have a look at the outcome to avoid silly sounding words or such with unintended meaning ;)
In the case of the Darcozzi Paladini, that would never make sense in any of the source romance languages because it's exhibiting characteristics of a cased language. Vailian, unlike Italian, French, or Occitan, is cased. If we used prepositions and articles to represent those relationships (especially to the extent that Italian does), it actually comes across as too Earth-like, IMO. Consuagli asegia seems "Romance-y", but consiglio dell'assedio looks unmistakably Italian.
So did it occur to you to change these propositions and articles to fictional ones?
It did, but most Romance articles and prepositions tend to be short (and often abbreviated/contracted as in consiglio dell'assedio), so don't know if they would wind up actually feeling that much different if I switched a few consonants and vowels around. Vailian is the only language we have that's based on widespread Earth languages, so I thought it was more important to more significantly shift it away from their Earth counterparts.
Changing the articles and prepositions to fictional ones doesn't really solve the "problem" of fictional grammar because neither approach is attempting to actually be correct Italian/French/Occitan, just to have the flavor of those languages. Consiglio frezz'assedio is arguably as "wrong" as Darcozzi Paladini.
I'd just like to say that it would be very interesting if there were established variations in pronunciation between cultures. You know, like the English "MISS-eyel" versus the American "MISS-uhl."
There is a bit of this already. The "Bael" in Bael River is pronounced differently by Dyrwoodans and Glanfathans -- "bÃ¦l" vs. "BAY-ul". It's most common when one culture appropriates the term of another (in this case, "Bael" is the Glanfathan name).
Okay, here's my problem with this: How much sense does it make for each conlang within the world of Eternity to have its own orthography conventions? Different real-world languages use different spellings for the same phonemes because of sound change and having adopted the latin alphabet at different points in their development. I assume that, in-world, the latin alphabet doesn't actually exist and the latin orthographies we see are a transcription of the native writing systems for the benefit of the reader. But a good transcription system is as historically-agnostic as possible to reflect current pronunciations.
It doesn't make sense, but we're viewing everything with Latin orthography and we're going to hear very little of it actually pronounced, so the "cultural feels" of it (IMO) have to come through orthography rather than pronunciation. If I were to write everything with English orthography (still problematic in many ways due to huge inconsistencies), there would likely be little apparent inspiration for the language/culture. In the original example I gave, Cornish is much more intuitive to read and pronounce than Irish, but is much less obviously Celtic in origin/flavor.
In something like the Game of Thrones TV show, the pronounced sound of Dothraki and High Valyrian are much more important than the orthography because we're hearing everything rather than reading it.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, ideally I could write everything in IPA and every player (also well-versed in IPA) would read the words perfectly without the need for anachronistic orthographies. Since our game will be primarily read instead of listened to, I'm currently leaning toward using anachronistic orthographies to convey the feeling of the inspirational source languages. That's not necessarily "the right" way to do things, which is why I started this thread.
1. How much are you focusing on making the history of the languages apparent in their design? e.g. semantic shift from cognates and re-borrowings? Will the ancient sources of languages we come across (say in ruins) be obviously different (yet related) to their modern counterparts?
2. Are there going to be any conlangs based on languages outside of the indo-european family? (I'd particularly expect this for the Orlans and the Dwarves, given their fluff thus far.)
1. Not tremendously, but a little. Due to the number of cultures and languages, I'm not going to delve deep into each language. Engwythan and Glanfathan are from the same part of the world and are loosely related (as Cornish and Irish are). Eld Aedyran and Hylspeak (similar to Scots) are essentially older versions of the "common" contemporary Aedyran which is, for all practical purposes, English. Vailian doesn't have any branched or ancestral languages represented in the game, but Dyrwoodans have appropriated some of their words (e.g. "duc").
2. The languages spoken in Ixamitl, Naasitaq (boreal dwarf-dominated), and Rauatai (northern aumaua-dominated) are all non-Indo-Euro in inspiration. They will be developed with less depth because they aren't as commonly spoken in this part of the world and frankly, I'm much more familiar with Indo-Euro languages.
To be clear, our conlangs won't dramatically veer away from their inspiration languages, but sometimes deviating from the source can actually avoid some stumbling blocks/issues (e.g. "bean" as the Irish word for woman).
I like the attention to detail. I trust, since this will be read, that spelling among the different areas inhabitants will be the same? For example, I cant say I would have noticed that "bÃ¦l" vs. "BAY-ul" are both describing Bael River.
Yeah. You probably wouldn't notice that unless you heard a Dyrwoodan (or Aedyran) pronounce it and then a Glanfathan pronounce it. Individual personal names may be spelled differently, especially among Dyrwoodans, who may borrow the sound of Glanfathan names transcribed into their own orthography -- or vice-versa. This is very common in Earth languages.
Durnisc used for a Glanfathan name may be spelled DÃºirnis, with the "i' after "Ãº" being a silent glide vowel added to satisfy the "slender to slender, broad to broad" vowel rule and to maintain the "r" and "sh" sounds from the source name.
Some additional lore snippets, also from the forums, also from J.E. Sawyer:
Paladins and monks are not tied to the foundation orders.
The dominant human ethnicity among Vailians is Calbandra (Ocean Folk). They are originally from the "warm ring" (equator) but migrated thousands of years ago. Old Vailia is actually even farther south than the Vailian Republics. The Dyrwood is warm compared to Old Valia and cool compared to Aedyr.
Enchantments take a number of different forms, but steel is by far the most common metal used for making armor and weapons. Skein steel doesn't actually bind the soul to the metal, but uses copper as a temporary element of the forging process to slowly draw a burning soul over the weapon. By the time the process is complete, there's very little copper left in the weapon, but there are trace amounts that can reveal the macabre process used to create it.
I like the look of the animats. Is it me, or is Eternity going to play around with the FORGOTTEN ADVANCED CIVILIZATION trope as well? The inclusion of copper armour and designs that look and feel dated is a pretty awesome turn away from the usual LOOK AT HOW ADVANCED THESE ELVES WERE approach most fantasy games have.
Yeah, the Engwythans were good at three things: soul manipulation, mathematics, and growing big crazy structures. Their metallurgy was generally garbage and they weren't particularly advanced in any other fields. Glanfathans have surpassed them in mathematical discoveries and astronomy. The other "big" cultures have also discovered an enormous amount of knowledge about souls that the Engwythans never did -- though there are still aspects of Engwythan technology that contemporary animancers don't fully understand.
As a side note, while Glanfathans are dominantly elves and orlans, Engwythans apparently had a strong representation of every race in their society.
Do the Glanfathan elves not have the same prejudices against wild orlans as the other main civilizations? Also, are aumaua a majority or sizable minority of any main civilization, and if so how advanced is it?
Glanfathan elves have none of the biases against orlans that other cultures do. Orlans are well-regarded in Glanfathan tribes. Aumaua are a minority in all of the "core" nations/cultures around the Dyrwood. The aumaua-dominated cultures to the (far) north and (slightly closer) south are about as technologically-advanced as the Aedyr Empire. I.e., generally pretty advanced but exceeded in some ways by the Vailians (generally the tech "leaders").
Some talk about attributes, courtesy of Formspring (with a side discussion on Project Eternity's ruleset inspirations):
The main issue I have with the attribute system in P:E (I admit we don't know much about it) is that it limits a player's ability to "role-play" a certain type of character (i.e the dumb brute). Any plans on expanding RP opportunities outside of LARPing
It doesn't at all -- conceptually or the specific example you gave. You can very easily make a dumb brute fighter character in PE and role-play him or her as such. You can also make a brilliant weakling fighter character and role-play him or her as such. The difference between doing this in PE and, for example, D&D, is that in PE this is a fully viable character concept who emphasizes different elements in combat.
I have to say I think it's an odd complaint considering that to even arguably have ability score-based role-playing opportunities against type with A/D&D, you are required to build a character that is bad at his or her class. It's better in later editions of D&D because they put more effort into providing some universal values for ability scores, but there are still fundamentally horrible builds. A decent number of feats allow for viable Int-based fighters (for example), but a Cha-based fighter is flat-out bad at being a fighter.
You can find ways to work around it, but they're almost all splat book-based prestige classes and feats that try to put a band-aid over the fundamental problem, which is an imbalance of class-specific and universal benefits provided by the ability score array.
Thank for your response. I'm actually not concerned about the combat implications of your attribute system (no dump stats? Great!), but rather what the proposed implementation implies for PE as an RPG: attributes are nothing more than modifiers for combat. It takes away what little cRPGs COULD have in terms of mechanically interesting chars to RP, e.g. low int chars in Arcanum had worthwhile dumb convo options (yes, it was gimmicky, but it has potential). Do P:E's stats also help "define" our chars?
Yes, of course they do. All attributes are used in both scripted interactions and standard conversations to unlock options -- as in PS:T, but with a heavier emphasis on equal use of the attributes.
One of the reasons we don't have a dialogue/speech skill is so a character's attributes can be used as dialogue prerequisites with greater frequency.
Separate from the actual mechanics of the PE attribute system, will you make sure that the advantages of the system are communicated in the final game and dressed up in enough "fluff" justification? IE don't make the messaging mistakes of D&D 4th ed.
Yes. It's always been hard for me to determine what in A/D&D is intentional obfuscation vs. unintentional oversight. I am a firm believer that players should be able to easily deduce the intended, practical effects of a design through simple observation.
Talking about attributes, what in your opinion is obfuscated and/or incoherent about D&D's dexterity or strength, for instance, compared to an attribute that increases your damage from all sources (both magical and physical) and improves healing?
Strength in A/D&D is consistently treated differently than other ability scores. Even in 3E/3.5, it's given double weighting when calculating racial bonuses. E.g., half-orcs gain +2 Str for -2 Int and -2 Cha because the latter two are both easy dumps.
This same weighting is not consistent when you look at ability score bonuses provided by a) leveling b) spells (e.g. bull's strength isn't 3rd or 4th level) c) items. So, is Strength twice as powerful as other stats or equal value to other stats?
And why does Str affect physical damage but (with rare exceptions) no other stats have any direct effect on magical damage? Even Int has avenues to affect WEAPON damage (e.g. the swashbuckler). So A/D&D's abilities come off as quasi-simulationist, but not consistently, and the internal rules don't paint a clear picture if even they consider the ability scores to be balanced or imbalanced with each other.
Do you think that the point of using different mechanics for physical and magical combat in the older editions was to make magic 'feel special' or something like that? even if the implementation wasn't perfect I always liked the distinction
Which is why my heart sort of slumped when I saw bonus damage came from one stat only in the current P:E attribute design
I'd say it's almost impossible to ascertain intent from the first edition of AD&D since it was one of the first of its kind. The ones that followed have largely just carried on what the original did.
How do you respond to this: "A few playtesters built a party that couldn't survive BG2 13 years ago? Everything was wrong with that game. People more or less universally detest 4th Edition? Well, I don't care about people's opinions when they're wrong."
That's a lot of different stuff to respond to. The main thing I would say is that PE's Attribute system isn't based off of 4E. A lot of stuff in PE is not based off of 4E because I don't think it would work well for the game. As an example, PE fighters are WAY lower-maintenance than 4E fighters (though a little higher than they are in 3E and certainly more than they are in 2nd Ed.). PE wizards are much closer to 3.5 sorcerer/wizards than they are to 4E wizards (though their power curve doesn't match 3.5's).
I *generally* like the mechanics of 4E (e.g. the unified defense system), but I think the classes lost a lot of their unique feel between 3E/3.5 and 4E and it still has a lot of flaws that are shared by other RPGs and editions of A/D&D.
I played 4E for about 2.5 years and I'm still playing 3.5 (and DMing a Pathfinder game). None of the rules in any edition of A/D&D are perfect and I'm not using a specific edition as a "goal". I want to use A/D&D-like mechanics when I can because I believe that's the sort of experience that our backers are going to enjoy.
No blend of rules is going to make everyone happy, but I do try to keep this idea in mind: a player saying, "I want to make this type of character and play through the game with it." I know that's not important to all players, but I do think it's important to many of them -- and it is important to me.
"I think the classes lost a lot of their unique feel between 3E/3.5 and 4E". So I take it you've changed your mind? http://www.formspring.me/JESawyer/q/362774131134983616
"I also don't think the classes feel that similar -- outside of each class possessing the same number of abilities/powers/etc. Even at low levels, my warden and my bard felt very different from each other and very different from the other PCs."
The classes definitely *play* differently from each other, but in terms of the number of powers and how they are acquired, they are almost identical. A 4E wizard has (barring rituals) about as many powers/abilities as any other class.
Tactically, the feel very different. When you look at them on paper, they advance in a very similar fashion.
And a 4E wizard (and fighter) certainly do not feel like they did in any previous editions of A/D&D, regardless of how differently they play from each other within the context of 4E.
What's more important: a system being intuitive, or a system being balanced?
Ideally, both, but I prioritize balance between a player's options -- whatever they may be.
Intuition varies a lot from person to person, especially when it comes to RPG mechanics. If you've played enough RPGs, you find commonality between systems, but also a huge amount of divergence. Pendragon is not like D&D, GURPS is not like FUDGE, and Burning Wheel is not like Cyberpunk. Someone coming to one of these systems from another may find the rules unintuitive simply based off of their past RPG experiences rather than from any sense of verisimilitude.
If a mechanic sacrifices intuitiveness for balance, even if the player makes a choice from the basis of an incorrect assumption, their "wrong" choice may very well wind up being a viable one. If a mechanic sacrifices balance for intuitiveness, it may point the player toward the viable solutions, but it's implicit in the sacrifice that we're knowingly including sub-par (or worse, trash) options in the game's content.
I don't think the player gains much from the inclusion of options that are designed to be bad. It means the designer is including things that take resources to make and display in the game, but really aren't ever made to be taken.
In the long run (and most RPGs have a fairly long run), the internal logic of the game's rules become the lens through which the player looks at choices. You can fit your playstyle to rules as you learn them. And on subsequent playthroughs, if the player's options are well-balanced, you can genuinely play with a completely different character. If the options are intuitive but not balanced, your long-term potential for different playthroughs is diminished because only a subset of options are viable -- or rather, many options inherently come with a difficulty penalty that you may or may not want to experience.
I have a friend who is concerned that all you do is make remarks about how the Infinity Engine games were flawed, and that you don't seem to even like them. Can what describe what you liked about the IE games and how they will inspire PE, to reassure him?
Most of what I dislike in the IE games has to do with specific elements of content or rules, not the games overall. This probably won't be surprising to anyone, but I even think my three favorite RPGs of all time (Fallout, Darklands, Pool of Radiance) have a ton of problems and I would want to significantly revise aspects of their mechanics or interface if I were handling a game made in their respective spirits.
What I like about the IE games (not content-specific):
* Allow for a lot of large, beautiful areas that promote and reward exploration. There's plenty of 3D art that I like, but I love using 2D art when we can because we can make some amazing environments. Laying those areas out and thinking about how the player will move through the environment to uncover rooms, encounters, etc. is a lot of fun as a designer. As a player, it's always fun. The feeling is not the same in first-person or close first-person game, and it's also not quite the same in 3D. We didn't always use this well (e.g. some areas in IWD and HoW were very linear) and I think those areas suffered because of it.
* Responsiveness. I've always felt that the IE was very responsive to player input and AI state changes. Selection, movement, and execution of commands were all very "crisp" in the IE games, probably owing to its roots as Battleground Infinity (an RTS). Other than pathfinding, controlling characters felt good in the IE (IMO, anyway) -- better than it does in a lot of other RPGs.
* Tactical combat. I disliked some of the specific rules or rule implementations, but I always enjoyed the tactical combat in the BG and IWD games. I loved designing it and I loved playing it. In particular, "symmetrical" battles with parties or other class/level characters were a lot of fun. I like the more scripted feeling of those fights even if I didn't like the rock/paper/scissors nature of some of the hard counters. I enjoy turn-based combat a lot, but I had already been introduced to RTwP 6 years before BG, so I also enjoyed/had no problem with BG's fundamental style of RPG combat.
* General party control. You can access and arrange (almost) everything about your characters, shift them around relative to each other, use formations (though I like ToEE's better), advance and equip everyone individually, etc. Even when I didn't always like all of the companions' personalities, I liked that they *had* personalities and would interact with you/each other. And in the IWD games, we liked that we could make all of our own characters.
* The huge variety of characters/parties you could make. Overall, just lots of options that created great variability in strategic and tactical options -- and different role-playing opportunities.
For content-specific things:
* I loved the scope and variety of areas in all of the IE games, but especially BG1 and BG2. As a former BIS guy, I'm always going to prefer the *style* of areas we developed for IWD (and, just before my time, for PST), but the BG games had a ton of huge areas to explore and an enormous amount of content. I still think BG2's early-game content could have been paced better. Even though BG had a lot of dead space, I still loved exploring the Sword Coast.
* The tactical combat in BG2, IWD, and IWD2. My main complaint with BG2 combat is the hard-counter wizard fights. I don't think hard-counters belong in a game where you can easily, unintentionally, build a party that lacks the hard-counter. I also don't think save or die effects belong in a game with save/reload, but that's a larger issue with 2nd and some elements of 3rd Edition A/D&D. Notably, it's mostly absent from 4E and I think that aspect of the game is better for it.
* How PST handled dialogue from the perspective of making it more than literally just saying words to another character. PST's dialogue allowed you to do much more in conversations and helped the player feel like they were *doing* things. Of course, PST's level of player agency in the story and with companions is fantastic.
* The overall volume and varied responses/plotlines of companions in BG2 and PST.
* The music of all of the games. They were all great.
* The style of interfaces. They' were weighty and solid and the sound effects that accompanied them made them feel even weightier. Do I prefer the "across the bottom" UIs of IWD2 and PST to the wrap-arounds of BG and BG2? Yep. There you go.
I think that covers most of it. I worked on four of the IE titles (IWD, HoW, TotL, IWD2). I hope people understand that I didn't come out of that experience thinking that either the engine or games were anything close to flawless. I watched dozens and eventually hundreds of designers and players interact with these games for years. When I'm critical of them, it's because I think they can be even better, not because I don't think they were good in the first place.
Some minor mechanics talk on Formspring and the official forums:
Are there any thoughts to have subclasses like in BG2, or it isn't needed and would complicate matters too much?
No subclasses. 11 classes with more than 10 levels each are a lot of work, especially compared to the relative simplicity of many 2nd Edition AD&D classes in the early IE games. We'd rather use Talents as a way for players to mechanically differentiate their characters within a class.
A friend asks about the recently leaked screenshots with PE characters: "Those weapons on characters backs, they're actual representatives of the quick slot/secondary weapon your character have?"
We would like to represent the characters weapon sets on the character even when they aren't being wielded. In those shots, the weapons are attached to the character models for testing purposes. We still need to do more experiments to see if it works with all weapon combinations. We also need to make sure that if we have cloaks (and we very much would like to) that we can minimize interference between cloaks and the weapons.
I've always felt that that Ranger classes get no love in a lot of CRPGS. They always feel like a cross between fighters and rogues, with none of the advantages of each. What's the PE design philosophy for Rangers? How will they "work"? Thanks!
Rangers have the second highest single-target damage output capability (behind rogues) but have the advantage of range. While many rogue abilities allow the use of ranged attacks, the rogue needs to be relatively close to the target to use them. Rangers do not have this restriction. Rangers also all have animal companions. They are an integral part of the class and animal companions gain additional abilities as the ranger advances. Because rangers and their animal companions are soul-bonded, they share a common pool of Stamina and Health. Mechanically, this means that rangers cannot use their animal companion as a "meat shield", but they can gain good synergistic benefits from working together.
You've mentioned that fighters in Project Eternity auto-regenerate stamina. Is this a limited active ability, or a passive/modal ability?
It's a passive Ability. They also have a limited-use active Ability called Surge that restores a large chunk of Stamina.
How fast does it regenerate?
The passive ability is not fast enough to save them from a really brutal assault, but it's enough to make a difference in a longer engagement.
Are barbarians still the class with the highest stamina/health pool ?
Barbarians don't necessarily have the highest Stamina pool, but they have the highest *effective* Health because they convert Stamina to Health damage at a different ratio from other classes.
Is fighter the only class that has in-combat automatic regeneration as a class ability? Are there talents that offer the same?
Currently, the fighter is the only class that has passive regeneration. There are not currently any Talents that offer similar functionality.
You have said that barbarians have a different formula for converting Stamina damage into Health damage. Will they take more or less health damage?
They take significantly less Health damage. We'll be tweaking the exact ratio as time goes on, but it's a lot less than other classes.
Wouldn't it make more sense for them to take MORE health damage compared to other classes? "A powerful barbarian, very effective in a single battle, but after it's over fatigue sets in." You know, like traditional Barbarian Rage.
You'd think the "screaming berzerker" archetype would be less durable over time than the "disciplined soldier" archetype that is the Fighter. Are you sure you're not confused?
No, I'm not confused.
OK, so what's your rationale for making the barbarian the more "strategic" class? Seems like the Fighter's stamina regen and the Barbarian's health/stamina damage ratio could have been swapped, for instance.
Both the fighter and barbarian have good long-term Health potential. The fighter's comes from high Deflection and his/her Defender mode. The barbarian has poor Deflection but Thick-Skinned (better Health conversion) and his/her Frenzy can bump Stamina.
The barbarian is designed, more or less, to burst/freak out in a single combat and potentially collapse without ruining his/her long-term viability. Fighters are designed to be slow and steady/low-maintenance.
So, what you're saying is that the Barbarian's "Thick-Skinned" trait is actually meant to *compensate* for his other strategic weaknesses?
Sort of. They're probably going to wind up taking and dishing out a boatload of damage. But they may be among the first party members to drop over, unconscious in a fight. That's a fine trade-off, but I don't want the party to rest 2x as much for it.
Can you tell us more about PE's combat skills? Will they be auxiliary like NWN's Tumble or Discipline? Minor bonuses like AD&D's proficiencies? Will they determine your combat performance entirely, like Fallout's weapon skills? Something in between?
PE's skills grant auxiliary combat bonuses. I'm designing them to have a minor but not insignificant effect on how individual battles and series of battles unfold. Combat capability is dominantly determined by your class (and class abilities), attributes, talents, and gear.
So, are you still planning to have two pools of skills, combat and non-combat, each upgraded by a separate pool of points, as suggested by Kickstarter Update #7? It was not clear from that update whether the game's "combat skills" ARE actually "skills".
There's only one set of skills. Skills can be used out of combat for a variety of purposes and they grant auxiliary combat bonuses.
Do you have a set target in mind for combat speed? I don't mean animation speed, but the speed in which high level events occur. The advantage of turn-based combat is that "events per time period" is predictable, while in real-time it can vary wildly.
Yeah, we're trying to target the mid-levels of the BG and IWD games for most full-party combat. It can sometimes get frantic, but with pause, auto-pause, and slow mode, I think it will feel good.
In Project Eternity, what happens to a character that runs out of health, when permadeath is disabled? I know he's supposed to be "wounded" in some manner, but what does that mean? Does he continue walking around with one health point that can't be lost?
If permadeath is disabled, a character who hits 0 Health becomes Maimed. They immediately fall unconscious and can't get back up until the end of combat. When combat ends, they stand up with 1 Health and will regain all of their Stamina as normal.
Until they next rest, they suffer very bad penalties to their accuracy and all defenses. If they get hit again and are reduced to 0 Health, they will be immediately knocked unconscious again.
Maimed characters can walk around like normal and can participate in combat, but they are weak and vulnerable combatants who are likely to drop in a single hit.
All Zealous auras apply to paladins as well as the people around them. That said, scattering the party is playing against the benefits of the paladin just as having a barbarian solo a singular powerful enemy is playing against the barbarian's benefits (specifically, Carnage AoE melee damage) and having a wizard try to dump low-damage AoEs on one or two targets is playing against the wizard's benefits.
Positioning is often an important element of IE combat and we believe it should be in PE as well. Fighters works well as islands. You can plant them in the middle of a hallway (even a wide one) and they can lock down melee combatants running through the area. They work less well (or rather, provide less benefit) in immediate proximity to their allies because they can't force anyone to engage them over someone else. They also have trouble when enemies are primarily ranged-based and spread out.
Paladins do not work well as islands. They work well with one or more allies around them. They don't have to be holding hands, but they can't be on opposite sites of a battlefield. Yes, a wizard, ranger, and rogue in the party could spread far out from the paladin (I don't really think most of them need to), but in many cases, a full party will likely have two more melee-oriented characters in the party (most IE parties have 2 or 3). A paladin standing 10' in front of a ranger and wizard can provide the same Zealous Barrage benefits to shooters and casters that he or she would if he or she ran up alongside a monk and a barbarian. Even if a ranger or wizard are on the other side of the battlefield, if they are the closest ally attacking the paladin's current target, they'll gain the benefit of Coordinated Attacks.
Paladin Talents will unlock more offensive capabilities for them, but the bog-standard paladins won't hit like wet noodles just because they don't have Abilities specifically dedicated to smashing in faces. It makes sense that in a tabletop game like D&D, a "buff beacon" character should be avoided because the player experience can be boring. That's why 4E buff abilities are often minor actions or they are side effects of attacks (e.g. Healing Strike). In a party-based CRPG where the player is controlling up to six characters, every class doesn't need to be a self-contained murder machine with the same number of active use (or even offensive) abilities.
Something just occurred to me: does Inspiring Triumph count assists, or does the paladin have to be the one actually delivering the killing blow? I'm not sure that last-hitting has a place outside of esports. If the paladin is engaging that particular enemy when they are killed, it should count IMHO or else things might get too fiddly and meta-gamey.
Last-hitting is also used in 4E for some abilities. Inspiring Triumph provides a passive bonus and is unlikely to be something you hang your hat on. There's no need to micro just for that benefit.
Could you make a ranged paladin that stands back a bit, generating auras and buffs, while plinking away with a crossbow?
You could. Their targeted commands have decent range, so it should be possible to "lead from behind" if you want to.
In "dungeon" (or equivalent) environments, stealth can be used to circumvent encounters or it can be used to set up good positions from which to start a fight. The specifics will depend heavily on the individual dungeons, encounters, and characters doing the sneaking. Conversations are less common in dungeon environments than in cities, but you will still have deep dialogues in dungeons when it makes sense.
Not all creatures drop good loot. Some creatures don't drop any loot. That can be a determining factor in what encounters you choose to engage or circumvent.
I've heard plenty of players (and DMs) deride other players for "abusing" clear rule loopholes. I don't think this is helpful for anyone and, unless you're in a tournament environment, I don't know why any DM/GM wouldn't simply talk to the players about adjusting the rules for the long-term health of the game. With PE, the rules we give to you are ours to write. If a player "abuses" any rule we put in, we are the people to blame, not the players. I.e, we, the designers, create degenerate gameplay opportunities. Players simply recognize the opportunity and take advantage of it to win the game, which is usually one of their major goals. But because those opportunities often become the de facto tactic or strategy for overcoming an obstacle, what could have been a dynamic element of gameplay becomes static -- generally undesirable.
Once you've detected a hidden object, the highlighting shortcut will reveal it like other objects.
On a related note, finding hidden objects can happen due to sheer proximity (very close), but will trigger at much greater range if you enter scouting mode, which is our combined stealth/search state.
BTW, another reason why we would like to retain a highlighting key in PE is because with an isometric perspective and occluded geometry, it's very easy for bodies/items to fall "behind" something relative to the camera.
Initially spotting a hidden object highlights it automatically for several seconds. The highlight key is only required to highlight it after that initial duration.
We have a 3rd level Haste-ish spell. It will not be as gnarly as it is in 3E/3.5.
I really like the concept of -- I'll just call them "modal abilities," as I think that's what they were called in one of the P:E updates. Like the P:E Fighter's "Defender" ability. I think in its case, the cost is a constant, passive tradeoff (decreased offensive output for increased engage-a-bility, if I'm not mistaken?). And in DA:O's case, it was a reduction in mana/stamina regeneration (both total and rate of regen).
Yeah, we call them modal abilities internally. The idea is that you're turning modes on and off rather than gaining a passive benefit or activating a single-use ability. If a class has more modal abilities, we're designing them to be more low-maintenance. Fighters fall into this category. That said, you can buy Talents that make fighters more active if you want to, but their core design leans more heavily toward passive and modal abilities.
Do you anticipate allowing several different types of modals?
Often modals are exclusive with some other type of modal, but not necessarily all of them. EG: You can't have "berserker stance" and "Defender stance" active at the same time, but while in one of those stances you could still have a different, unrelated modal active. Just curious what your plans are with this. It sounds like this, but I may be reading too much into it.
Yes. Modes all have an assigned "channel" and you can only have one mode active in a given channel at a time. E.g., the paladin's Zealous auras are all on one channel. In the UI, we would like to visually group all same-channel modal abilities together so it's very clear to the player.
I hope obsidian will avoid the trap of, "Oh, I have one modal ability and since I can't stack them all there's no reason to invest in the rest of them available to this class." I think it's fine if classes are designed around active abiltiies -------- BUT. BUT. These active abiltiies should not be something you SPAM like in WoW. are not your substitute for an autoattack. They don't exist to make you feel more engaged in the game. They exist as STRATEGIC ELEMENTS. Your choice to use ability X is a choice. Sometimes, it's better not to use them. I think this needs to be emphasized as a design goal.
A wizard can't cast more than one spell at a time and a monk can't perform more than one special attack at a time. The use of modal abilities, like active abilities, is typically a tactical decision based on the current circumstances of combat. Whether or not you want to buy multiple same-channel modal Abilities/Talents depends on your strategy for how that character will work in the long run.
Many/most of our abilities are already designed around limited use and a specific tactical application. The rogue's Finishing Blow does much, much more damage if the target is under 50% Stamina (and, in fact, increases proportionally the lower the target's Stamina is). The paladin's Reviving Exhortation can bring a single target out of a 0-Stamina state with a big Stamina bump, but if it's done too early in combat, the revived party member will have a Stamina crash before the end of combat. The ranger's Marked Prey ability grants a bonus against a single target once per combat, but it can't be switched once it's assigned.
I don't feel that the dilemma (if you want to call it that) is solved this way. It sounds like maintenance-heavy mode swapping. What made you decide against having only one mode active at any one time?
It's only maintenance-heavy if the circumstances require you to switch modes often. Unless you think circumstances will shift so rapidly that characters will change modes as frequently as a wizard casts spells (unlikely), it's at least going to be lower maintenance than triggering a sequence of active abilities.
We have different mode channels because not all modes have logical overlap. D&D's Rapid Shot and Power Attack don't really have any overlap because the former is for ranged attacks and the latter is for melee attacks. Shutting off one when the other is active isn't necessary.
Finally, a little bit on armor design:
A lot of soldiers wore lighter armor for a variety of reasons, some having to do with practical matters like cost or maintenance, but sometimes arguably due to the circumstances of battle. Linen padded jacks were actually surprisingly effective against arrows (more than mail, in some cases).
We have most of our base armor types in the game now (still working on leather and brigandine). We may revise things a bit in the future, but I think most of you will really like where we're going with the designs. They are pretty firmly based in historical references (though they aren't derived from historical suits 1:1), they're distinctive from each other, they allow for the use of player-customized colors, and they are well-grounded. This last point is important to me because it allows us to "grow" the style of armor more over time. If armor starts out crazy or elaborate, things can get super-sized really quickly. Ours are practical but cool-looking (IMO) and it's very easy to tell the male and female characters from each other. Hopefully we can show you some more of it soon.
The character artists have also been developing the weapons more. Like weapons in the IE games and older AD&D artwork, the weapons are relatively realistic in their size and proportion (with slight exaggeration for things like warhammer heads that might not read well at the small character size). We just got in a pollaxe and two-handed morning star, both of which look like bad news (in a good way). As with the armor, I think you'll like the base options and where we can "escalate" into fancier weapons over the course of the game.