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Josh Sawyer Interview Roundup: On grognards, illiterates, and murdering dudes

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Josh Sawyer Interview Roundup: On grognards, illiterates, and murdering dudes

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 29 March 2014, 15:45:39

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

Obsidian's Josh Sawyer was at GDC last week, where he gave some interviews about Pillars of Eternity. Two of them have been posted in the past couple of days, and oh boy, are they Sawyery. The first one, at VG247, is entitled "Pillars of Eternity: exploration, story, and murdering dudes". Here's an excerpt:

Still, Sawyer did insist that fans of the more modern style of console RPGs – like Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth – who are receptive and open should be able to have a good time with it. You won’t, he said, boot up the game only to be greeted with blocks of text explaining its systems in the most alienating fashion, something that’s made it difficult even for me to revisit old classic CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate.

“We’re fairly tutorial-lite. We tried to keep the mechanics so that you can learn up as you go along, where all the complexity just emerges from the scenarios you get put in,” Sawyer elaborated. “We don’t want to dumb it down, but we also don’t want things to be hard to learn or intentionally obtuse. You do have to do a little bit of system learning, but once you’ve learned it, it’s a very consistent system.”

I know there are going to be some folks – I’m talking about you, old-school CRPG diehards – reading those assurances and getting a little worried that it won’t be complicated enough for your tastes, but Sawyer did also promise that it’s not “fucking dumb baby crap.” So there’s that.

[...] “We really tried to focus on three things – they don’t necessarily have to be equally balanced, but we want it to feel like a balanced experience – which are exploration, talking and story shit, and murdering dudes,” Sawyer said, before emphasizing that those elements will of course intertwine with each other, with, for example, long dungeons featuring scripted portions and key conversations to keep those crawls from turning into “slogs” that turn off the anti-grind crowd.

“We don’t want players to feel like we’re settling into this endless depth of murder.”

That’s not to de-emphasize the murdering aspect of Pillars of Eternity at all, though, as according to Sawyer’s own design philosophy, murdering is paramount.

“I said, for every quest, I don’t have to complete it by murdering, but I want the ability to complete it by murdering. Always give me the option to murder something as part of completing this quest.”​

The second interview, at games.on.net, is entitled "'If you don’t like to read, don’t play this game': Pillars of Eternity’s Josh Sawyer on dealing with grognards". This one is especially fun:

Obisidian’s Pillars of Eternity, the artist formerly known as Project Eternity, is being eagerly anticipated by hundreds of thousands of RPG lovers around the world. But how many of those backers only latched onto the project because it seemed like an old-school RPG lovers dream come true?

We caught up with Josh Sawyer, project lead on Pillars of Eternity, in a brief moment of calm at this year’s GDC. He explained that Obsidian were undertaking a careful balancing act when it came to just how much weight to give the opinions of old-school RPG grognards.

“There are certain aspects of that that we think are okay,” said Sawyer. “For example we don’t have quest markers in Pillars of Eternity. At all. In our journals we try to be very descriptive and clear in our updates so that you can read them and figure out where you need to go but we don’t use quest markers. And we’re okay with that, because it’s a different style of exploring and feeling and figuring things out on your own.”

Sawyer warned however that other elements, what he described as “GM-sucker-punch kind of stuff”, were being carefully filtered by the team because “the vast majority” of Pillars of Eternity’s backers simply won’t enjoy them.

“Combat encounters that can only be completed a certain way or (situations where) you have to have one of these characters, or you have to have these two characters,” said Sawyer, “those ‘gotcha!’ moments that some gamers love, well… God bless you I guess, but we’re not gonna do that.”

Sawyer laughs as he explains that even the most hardcore grognards will be the first to acknowledge that some of the things they’re asking for are just completely unacceptable.

“I don’t even think those memories (they have) are necessarily rose-tinted,” he says. “They’ll straight up admit that they like stuff that’s really grognard-ey, and they don’t care. That’s fair enough.”

[...] Sawyer explains that the one thing he thinks modern games have done well is to “make their RPG system rulesets clear and consistent”. “The old D&D systems were not very consistent,” he says. “They were full of trap builds and ‘gotcha’ moments and stuff like that. I don’t think that’s good, I think it restricts player enjoyment a lot, for not a lot of gain.”

“Maybe the grognards like it, but for everyone else it’s kind of frustrating and so we try to get away from that as much as possible.”

“There are people that’ll say to me ‘oh man, it’s fun to do that’, but no. No, it’s not.”
Roguey Brofisted this! Do read the full interviews though because I've only quoted the most inflammatory bits. :smug:

There are 178 comments on Josh Sawyer Interview Roundup: On grognards, illiterates, and murdering dudes

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