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Josh Sawyer interviewed at Ragequit.gr and Darkstation

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Josh Sawyer interviewed at Ragequit.gr and Darkstation

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 November 2015, 20:43:45

Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

Balancer-in-chief Josh Sawyer has been making the rounds on the interview circuit recently. Here's a recent interview with him at Greek gaming site Ragequit.gr, where he talks about Pillars of Eternity, the state of isometric RPGs in general, and more. There's some honest talk here, and also a mention of the possibility of Obsidian releasing a turn-based tactical game, something Josh has been doing repeatedly in recent weeks. Who knows, maybe it'll actually happen. Here's the relevant snippet from the interview:

RQ: Now that Pillars has been out for a respectable amount of time, do you have any "regrets" about it, design or content-wise? Is there anything you now wish you could have added/removed or changed in it before its release?

JS: The stronghold never really got the content it needed to make it feel worthwhile or important. During development we realized that if we had someone focusing on stronghold content, it would jeopardize other quests that we felt were more valuable. That's why the stronghold wound up being system-heavy and content-light. It's something we're trying to address with our 3.0 patch, which will be available when The White March, Part II, goes live.

Not all of the companions were tightly connected to the storyline. The companion I wrote, Pallegina, is one of the most disconnected. I think their connection to the central plot could have been stronger and there could have been better reactivity among them to both your choices and each other's' actions.

In the early game, it was very difficult to communicate all of the ideas that form the hook for your character's motivation. I think trying to communicate more cleanly or focusing more on the difficult concepts (in particular, the negative aspects of being a Watcher) would have drawn people in more easily.

RQ: At the end of the elaborate Numenera corebook, Monte Cook provides a brief list of book titles from which he drew inspiration when he was creating the game (and as good resources for further reading). Could you name a few of yours, while making Pillars?

JS: Sure. They're mostly history books. The rise of Saint Waidwen was inspired by "Peasant Fires: The Drummer of Niklashausen" by Richard Wunderli. The Vailian Republics were inspired by various accounts of the early Renaissance Italian republics, e.g. "The Prince", but also Christopher Hibbert's "The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall". The general panic and malaise of Waidwen's Legacy were inspired by the real pre-19th century infant mortality rates of most of the world (often around 50%) and the Black Death in Europe. Infant mortality caused so much grief that it was sometimes used as the basis for accusations of witchcraft, either against the unfortunate mother or a midwife who had helped with a series of ill-fated births. Of course, people who tried to apply various folk remedies for problems with childbirth also often failed and they could be accused of witchcraft. You can get a good general overview of European witch-hunting hysteria from Kors and Peters' terrific "Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History".

The machinations of the Hand Occult and the Leaden Key are the only parts that are really inspired by fiction -- though admittedly works of historical fiction by Umberto Eco. "The Name of the Rose" deals with murders in a monastic order that revolve around the preservation (and containment) of knowledge. Baudolino's titular character conspires with his friends at the University of Paris to write various false histories to legitimize Frederick I's rule. Their false histories and the false histories written by other parties wind up becoming part of the historical canon, i.e. "real" history as far as anyone knows.

RQ: Other than the White March two-part expansion, the card game and the e-books, what else is there in the Pillars of Eternity "master plan"? Do you aim to release any more expansions or other forms of extra content for the first game before starting to work more actively on a sequel?

JS: The expansion, card game, and e-books are keeping us pretty busy, but we're talking about ideas for a sequel. Yesterday the lead team had a meeting to talk about high-level goals that we'd like to accomplish and it went well, but we're still in the early phases of planning. Bobby Null and I have also talked to Feargus about the possibility of making a separate game in the Pillars of Eternity setting focused on turn-based combat. Pillars of Eternity's area sizes and input systems don't translate well to non-PC formats, but I think a turn-based game could be very cool.

RQ: Taking for granted that there will be a "Pillars 2" eventually in the future, and using the company's experience so far as a guide and general compass, do you think you would return to crowdfunding in order to fund the possible sequel (fully, or at least partially)?

JS: I think it will depend on what we're looking at for our overall scope. Crowdfunding was a huge success for Pillars of Eternity and I know a lot of people have expressed an eagerness to support crowdfunding for a future sequel, but I believe we have to be careful about how we approach it. There's always a danger of asking too much of people or giving a bad impression by how a crowdfunding campaign is structured.
Earlier this month there was also a great audio interview with Josh at Darkstation. You can check out my summary of that here.

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