PCPP In­ter­view

Af­ter prov­ing that Kick­start­ing an old-school RPG is def­i­nitely doable, Obsidian En­ter­tain­ment re­turns to the source for a very dif­fer­ent, sea-far­ing se­quel. We talk to JOSH SAWYER, De­sign Di­rec­tor at Obsidian En­ter­tain­ment and Game Di­rec­tor of Pil­lars of

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents -

With Pil­lars of Eter­nity, a niche, crowd­funded ti­tle, Obsidian En­ter­tain­ment sought to re­cap­ture the glory days of the In­fin­ity En­gine games. If you’re not fa­mil­iar with the term, the In­fin­ity En­gine was the core of a num­ber of iso­met­ric PC RPGs, in­clud­ing Bal­dur’s Gate II, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Tor­ment, lauded as some of the best RPGs of all time. Ini­tially ask­ing for $1.1 mil­lion, the Kick­starter for Pil­lars of Eter­nity wound up rak­ing in around $3.9 mil­lion. The re­sul­tant game was crit­i­cally lauded and com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful, blend­ing the style of the In­fin­ity En­gine games with mod­ern sto­ry­telling and a cam­paign that was at once in­ti­mate and epic. A se­quel was all but in­evitable.

“We had made enough from Pil­lars that we could have made a se­quel that was rel­e­vantly mod­est”, says Josh Sawyer, De­sign Di­rec­tor at Obsidian En­ter­tain­ment and Game Di­rec­tor for Pil­lars of Eter­nity II: Dead­fire.

“It would have been a good game but it would have been smaller in scope in a lot of ways. It wouldn’t have had quite as much re­vi­sion to core fea­tures and things like that. With our crowd­fund­ing, it al­lowed us the po­ten­tial to raise more funds to add more fea­tures, make the game much larger in a lot of dif­fer­ent ways.

“There’s a ques­tion of whether to go with Kick­starter and Fig. Ul­ti­mately, Fig seemed like it was more likely to al­low us to raise more funds be­cause it al­lowed in­vest­ment in the ac­tual project. There was a lot of spec­u­la­tion among us, again, as with the first game, about where things would wind up in terms of fund­ing.

“We re­ally can’t take crowd­fund­ing for granted. We al­ways hope for the best but we can’t as­sume that that’s al­ways go­ing to go well, which is why we set a $1,100,000 goal. It all worked out very well.”

“Very well” is a bit of an un­der­state­ment. The Dead­fire crowd­fund­ing cam­paign was even more suc­cess­ful than that of the orig­i­nal game, with pledges to­talling around $4.4 mil­lion when the cam­paign closed. The story is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the orig­i­nal game but even though it starts right where the other left off, Dead­fire is a very dif­fer­ent beast. Pil­lars of Eter­nity was cen­tred around a keep – up­grad­ing it, pro­tect­ing it, dis­cov­er­ing its se­crets and ex­ca­vat­ing the ru­ins be­neath, One of the se­crets un­cov­ered (thanks in part to stretch goals in the first crowd­fund­ing cam­paign) was a gi­ant statue buried be­neath the keep, Caed Nua. Act­ing as both some­thing of a home base and a way of keep­ing the story grounded, Caed Nua was a place of refuge and safety – at least un­til the be­gin­ning of Pil­lars of Eter­nity 2. Eothas, a god long thought dead pos­sesses the statue ti­tanic statue un­der the keep, break­ing free and ab­sorb­ing the souls of all nearby. It’s up to the player to fol­low the awak­ened god, dis­cover his plans and de­cide whether to help him or lay him to rest once and for all.

As a re­sult, from the first mo­ment, Dead­fire feels larger and more epic than Pil­lars 1. “We wanted to start with some­thing that felt a lit­tle smaller, a lit­tle per­sonal, and then raise the stakes and the scope and the scale so that it felt like from Pil­lars I to Pil­lars

the boat is home, trans­port and pro­tec­tor, and can be up­graded to sail more dan­ger­ous wa­ters

II, you re­ally were mov­ing up in terms of im­por­tance in the world and scope of im­pact. Even the scale of the an­tag­o­nist that you’re fol­low­ing has be­come much larger,” says Sawyer. Even though the plan was al­ways to raise the stakes and scale of the sec­ond sea­son, the cat­a­lyst for that change of scale was some­thing that grew out of some art­work from the orig­i­nal Kick­starter.

“Rob Nesler is the art di­rec­tor of Obsidian. He was do­ing a lot of early con­cept­ing and Kick­starter art­work. He was draw­ing and doo­dling the lay­ers of the End­less Paths,” ex­plains Sawyer. “He started putting this crazy statue in it, and I was like, ‘Rob, what is this?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, just some guy, and as we add more lev­els we’ll show other parts of his body, and I’m like, ‘Okay, that looks pretty cool.’ It’s cer­tainly a way where we can gen­er­ate vis­ual in­ter­est as we con­tinue to add lev­els to the Kick­starter cam­paign.

” When it came time to think about Dead­fire I don’t know where I got the idea but I did say half-jok­ing but half-se­ri­ous, ‘ What if Eothas came back and he just oc­cu­pied that statue and just de­stroyed ev­ery­thing that you built in the first game and just stomped off into the ocean?’ Some peo­ple were like ‘Awe­some!’ while oth­ers were like ‘That sounds lame as hell’ and so I’m like ‘ We’re do­ing it!” What could have been a copout proves to be a fas­ci­nat­ing start to the game. Thanks to the pro­tag­o­nist’s abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with the dead and see souls, they aren’t killed out­right, but are in­stead left with only a small sliver of their soul re­main­ing. Another god gives the pro­tag­o­nist the op­tion to ei­ther pass on to the next life or go back to stop Eothas, and af­ter the sec­ond op­tion is cho­sen they awaken on a boat fol­low­ing the statue as it strides through the sea. The boat is home, trans­port and pro­tec­tor, and through­out the ad­ven­ture play­ers will be able to up­grade the ship to sail more dan­ger­ous wa­ters, hire new crew and even wage ship-to-ship bat­tles against pi­rates and other nau­ti­cal nas­ties.

Even though we haven’t been able to play too much of Dead­fire as yet, the change of pace and the em­pha­sis placed on travel and ex­plo­ration make Dead­fire feel like a grander, more per­ilous ad­ven­ture than the first Pil­lars of Eter­nity. We don’t have long to wait un­til we can track down Eothas and re­claim our souls, as Dead­fire is due to launch in the first week of April.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.