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Feargus Urquhart and Fredrik Wester on the Pillars of Eternity distribution deal

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Feargus Urquhart and Fredrik Wester on the Pillars of Eternity distribution deal

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 19 March 2014, 16:10:01

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Fredrik Wester; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Pillars of Eternity

Yesterday's Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter update announced that Obsidian had partnered with the maverick Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive to distribute their game. The deal was actually announced by Feargus Urquhart and Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester at GDC shortly before the update went out. The folks at Eurogamer had a chance to speak with them there and learn some more details. Wester revealed the following about Paradox's role in the partnership:

"If we don't think Pillars of Eternity is up to standard, we're going to tell these guys. And we're opinionated people, we're going to come back with tons of opinions. We have a QA team of eighteen people who're going to play the game for weeks and weeks and give their feedback."

Paradox's role in marketing, distributing, testing and supporting the game - as well as fulfilling backer rewards - will allow Obsidian, and the budget, to concentrate on the game.

That's not to say Paradox is doing all of this out of the kindness of its heart.

"There's always a financial upside in a partnership like this," Wester said. "You should never lie about that. You take a risk by investing your money, your time and your QA resources, but we think this game deserves to be played by a lot of people.

"[Obsidian] is probably the most prestigious developer we've ever worked with. It shows that we can do games not just with smaller developers, but we can work with larger developers too. Experienced developers who really know what they're doing."

The partnership raises the possibility of boxed versions and special editions of the game, although "nothing is set in stone yet", Wester said.
Rock Paper Shotgun's Nathan Grayson also had a chance to interview the two. Sadly, his interview is full of passive aggressive sniping and more attempts to manufacture a false controversy over South Park's "bugginess", but here are some of the less annoying bits:

RPS: During your press conference you went into this, but just to absolutely clarify, this has functionally no effect on backers, right?

Urquhart: It has no effect from the standpoint of, yeah, every dollar they put in goes to the game. The person they’re going to communicate with about the game is us. They’ll continue to get updates from us. They can still yell at Josh on the forums and he will communicate as much or as little as Josh normally communicates. It has no effect on [stuff like that].

We’re still deciding everything. It’s not to say that Fred just gets to stand there. These guys play games and they’re going to have thoughts. But ultimately it’s our game. To be blunt, it’s what Fred said as well. Who’s going to be sending out all these physical goods? That comes from them. There will be a change. It won’t change what they’re going to get, but it won’t say From Obsidian.

Wester: Which gives Obsidian more time to work on the game, hopefully. You don’t have to spend a lot of time making sure that those promises are fulfilled.

RPS: There is another way to look at it, though, in that I could see marketing affecting a game tangentially. “We need to show this by this point, so you need to have the game ready in this state so we can have a trailer made up.” Little things like that. Are there any ways that could seep into and affect the development?

Wester: We don’t really work that way. We decided early that we don’t develop games from a marketing perspective. If we have to do something marketing-wise, we use what we already have. We create trailers and marketing materials that fit with what we already have. It’s very inconvenient to start doing things like extra demos just for E3 and stuff like that. We’ve never done that. We only go for what is best for the game. Then we adjust the marketing scheme from there.

Urquhart: The other thing is, this is a different world from doing something like Stick of Truth. Stick of Truth is going to ship out to everywhere, physically. When that’s the case, again it goes back to this: Stick of Truth has to go sell X millions of units just to make money. There has to be this machine behind it. That machine has to know this nine months before, that six months before. This is different. 90 percent of the people, our backers, are digital-only. And so a lot of it is just that, with that world, we don’t need marketing dates that are nine months in advance.

RPS: At this point, you said that you’re “absolutely” going to have Eternity out this year, but how far along is it? Is it content complete? What’s left for you to do?

Urquhart: Where exactly are we? Area art is finishing up. We’re still going to do polish phases and things like that. Companions are being written. That’s one of the last things we do, even though it’s a lot of work, because we want to get other of the design and story and have that kind of settle before we write all the companions. So the companions are being written right now. We’re in B priority animations.

At the end of this month, the whole critical path will be in. We’re pretty far along. What we’re looking at is we’re going to have a good amount of time to play and play and polish and polish. Obviously what we want to come out is something that’s going to be super solid and fun for everyone.​

This talk about "financial upsides" and Paradox having "a lot to game (sic)" from the game selling well, combined with the fact that they're doing QA and that boxed versions aren't a sure thing yet, leads me to believe that this distribution deal is a bit more involved than what inXile has with Deep Silver. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Paradox is getting a cut of the profits not just from physical sales but also from Steam. It does seem like Obsidian is reluctant to release their game to the public in a rough state and rely on "fan-provided QA", so I guess they need this.

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