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Pillars of Eternity Interview at Red Bull Games

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Pillars of Eternity Interview at Red Bull Games

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 12 June 2014, 15:00:46

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

I assume most of you have heard of Red Bull, the famous energy drink that "gives you wings". Well, it turns out that Red Bull has its own gaming news site(!), whose representatives had the opportunity to meet up with the Pillars of Eternity developers recently. The result was an interview/editorial that focuses on the game's premise and setting. Here's an excerpt:

"When fantasy feels generic, it's often because you've got these tropes that people hew to," Carrie Patel, Pillars of Eternity's narrative designer tells Red Bull. "Dwarves are all surly axe-wielders and elves are majestic tree-huggers with perfect hair. We wanted to start from scratch and say, 'If you had groups of people living in these circumstances, how might they really develop?'"

Obsidian hasn't revealed much about the competing factions in Pillars of Eternity. We have a map, which shows its cities, islands, swamps and castles (that must also be included in fantasy games by writ), but the developers are much happier talking about how they're going about making Pillars' society come alive than specifics of what it might look like.

"Most of our fantasy races are much more integrated than in many traditional, fantasy settings," says Bobby Null, the game's lead level designer. "Cultures in Pillars of Eternity are generally defined by the region of origin, and less by race. For example, dwarves aren't always stubborn, ale-gulping fighters that dislike elves. A dwarf's outlook on life greatly depends on where he hangs his hat and he is more likely to adopt the cultural traits of his neighbors, regardless of what race they happen belong to."

"We ultimately wanted to create something that feels real. Players can see how this world and the people in it have changed with the times and what kind of trajectory that's put them on," chimes Patel.

"The various cultures in the game are unique but not outlandish, and they're based around coherent principles and traditions. It may not always be clear to the player what the 'right' and 'wrong' sides of a given conflict are, which isn't always clear in real life, either."

What Obsidian will tell us is that the clash over this societal melding of science and religion is fought primarily between two factions: the Dyrwoodan of Defiance Bay, and the Glanfathan of Twin Elms.

"One of our main areas of focus has been to show a world where its inhabitants and locations make sense, where there's an organic relationship between a culture's foundations and the structure that they support," says Jorge Salgado, another of Pillars' level designers. "Dyrwoodan and Glanfathan cultures showcase major differences in predominant races, dialects, clothing styles, architecture, businesses, social classes, and politics, while at the same time coming together as single, coherent totalities."

The Dyrwoodans fill the fantasy role of the trampling colonial empire. Like Skyrim's Imperials, they're a centralized power with an unshakeable faith in their mission to civilize, forever hatching secret plots and schemes to further exert their political influence in the region. The Glanfathans, meanwhile, are a mish-mash of indigenous tribes with a long, murky history, and are, as you might expect, none too happy about the prospect of being colonized. The Glanfathans are also a more conservatively religious group, and are consequently displeased with the Dyrwoodan's ungodly research into souls and the tinkering therewith.

Enter your hero (or anti-hero) and their group of noble (or ignoble) followers. Cribbing reverently from the golden age of PC RPGs (while Obsidian founded in 2003, many of its staff were hoovered up after the closure of Black Isle Studios, the Interplay subsidiary responsible for classic 90s RPGs like Fallout, Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale), your merry band will travel from town to town, picking up quests and getting tangled up in the shady dealings of the game's warring factions – to the benefit or detriment of the world around you.

"Your party consists of your protagonist and up to five others," says narrative designer Matt MacLean. "These five other spots in your gang can be filled out with the companion characters that you meet in your travels, or by building your own custom hired companions from scratch. The companions that you meet in the course of the story come from a broad mix of race and class combinations, and each have character arcs that react to the choices you've made in dialogues and in quests.

"The companions you make from scratch will be the strong, silent types – but the companions you meet in the critical path will have insights and opinions on your actions. As you travel with the characters and get to know them, your choice of word and deed might change their political outlook, help them understand a problem in their past, or give them a spiritual change of heart.

"Companions will support or protest your decisions, but they won't readily abandon you without a serious difference of opinion – a companion that leaves you in the first act because you said one wrong line isn't the epitome of fun. While it might be possible to be such an onerous ponce that a companion leaves you late in the game, we generally wanted to avoid having companions ditch you because you wandered into someone's house and stole a copper coin."
What's not clear is whether these interviews took place at E3, or beforehand. I hope nobody's breaking any NDAs!

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