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Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter Update #75: All About Animation + GameCrate Feature

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Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter Update #75: All About Animation + GameCrate Feature

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Wed 2 April 2014, 15:01:05

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Rose Gomez

The latest Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter update is one of those behind-the-scenes filler updates that they do occasionally. This one's about the game's animation pipeline. Normally I'd quote an excerpt from it now, but thankfully the update also links to something more interesting - a feature on Pillars of Eternity at GameCrate, a new gaming site owned by the well-known online computer hardware retailer Newegg. GameCrate's staff paid a visit to Obsidian, where they interviewed Feargus and Josh and were allowed to play an early version of the game. Here's an excerpt from their write-up:

To anyone who enjoyed Baldur’s Gate, the following description of what we saw in the demo should be enough to get you excited about Pillars of Eternity: the yellow circles indicating your party formation are back, but when the circles appear in water they ripple and shimmer as if glowing from beneath the surface of a pool! That’s really the best and simplest possible summary of the gameplay that was on display during our visit to Obsidian: exactly like you remember, only better. Pillars of Eternity looks like a game that comes from a world where Black Isle never stopped making these isometric RPGs, but instead concentrated on refining the genre to the highest possible level.

The visual effects accompanying environments and spells in Pillars are stunning – even a placeholder effect featuring a doge that includes the words “so temp” and “much replace” is impressive. Individual leaves fall from trees as you explore the forest and fire spells light up the darkness in ways that just weren’t possible in the days of Icewind Dale. We also had a chance to witness the dynamic day-night cycle present throughout the game – though we were told it’s mostly just a visual effect, rather than something that will have a big impact on gameplay.

Dialogue options in Pillars of Eternity are clearly labeled, so you know at once if a choice is reliant on your character’s intelligence or if it’s the “diplomatic” option. These labels can be turned off, though, and here’s where it’s clear that Pillars represents an evolution of the Baldur’s Gate model, rather than just a copy of the old format: dozens of different game settings can be modified or turned off entirely, to allow players to turn Pillarsinto the game experience they want. Additionally, Brandon and Adam stressed that Pillars has a complex morality system, and that the “diplomatic” dialogue choice wasn’t necessarily the “good” one. “Sometimes making the diplomatic choice could mean something horrible will happen,” Brandon said, which sounds like exactly the sort of complex, shades-of-grey storytelling fans were hoping for when they supported this title on Kickstarter.

Obsidian told us that most of the quests and content in the game could be regarded as “optional,” with the caveat that completing a certain amount of quests in a region will be necessary to build up alliances, gain information, and make progress. Understandably, no one wanted to quote a specific number of gameplay hours, since the game is still at a stage where small changes in animation speed could dramatically increase or decrease the length of the game overall. Regardless, everyone was keen to stress that Pillars will be a “huge” game with “a lot of content.”

The party of adventurers we saw in our demo consisted of six heroes, which we were told is the standard size. Players will have the option of filling their party with either fully-realized, “official” party members or constructing their own at the “Adventurer’s Hall.” These customized party members won’t have the same depth of characterization and writing as the official ones, but the option exists to prevent players from being stuck with party members they don’t enjoy and to allow players to experiment with unusual party configurations (such as a party composed entirely of warriors or healers, which Obsidian stated is something they want to support as much as possible).

As the demo unfolded, I was struck by how many of the design and gameplay decisions were clearly made by people who had been playing RPGs both on the computer and on paper for decades. The people at Obsidian know what is fun and what isn’t, and they are interested in making a fun game. That philosophy is seen in their new take on combat damage, which has players paying more attention to rapidly-regenerating stamina rather than harder-to-heal health. Obsidian said they wanted to avoid forcing players to reload the game whenever a character died in combat, and in their new system most of the time your party members will just be knocked out, rather than permanently killed.

Another sign of Obsidian’s fun-first philosophy can be seen in how player choices in Pillars of Eternity affect gameplay. The developers want to make sure players don’t get punished too much too early for making “bad choices” (there shouldn’t be a certain class/race combo that makes the game much more difficult, for example) but they’re also interested in making sure that choices made in the game have real results. “Your choices matter” is something of a mantra for Obsidian, and we heard it repeated several times in response to our questions about how race, gender, and dialogue choices would play out in the game. This will be a game where your decisions have meaningful consequences.

After the demo came to an end, Brandon and Adam walked us through some of the other plans for the game they weren’t able to show off just yet. The Stronghold system in particular sounds like a lot of fun, as it has grown from a small minigame into a fully-fledged sub-game experience, complete with resource management and interactions with party members in between quests.

I left the demo more excited than ever to get my hands on Pillars of Eternity. Though there’s still a lot of work to be done before the game is complete, so far Obsidian is hitting all the right notes in their effort to produce a modern evolution of the classic Black Isle RPGs. We didn’t have a chance to see much in terms of combat in the demo, which will obviously be crucial to determining how enjoyable the game is to play, but if Obsidian is able to deliver on their stated goals in terms of strategic depth and meaningful choices then it should be a solid experience with tons of replay value.
If that's too tl;dr for you, you might prefer to check out this succinct list of 10 details that the GameCrate staff picked up during their tour. I'd also recommend watching the interviews. The interview with Feargus is actually the more interesting of the two in my opinion. He admits that Obsidian were not sufficiently prepared for their Kickstarter, and also that they messed up by not announcing the game's delay earlier. The interview with Josh, in the meantime, confirms that the game will be "really long" and "very big", although he wisely refuses to commit to an exact playtime.

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