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Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone Interview Roundup

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Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone Interview Roundup

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 26 January 2015, 17:33:26

Tags: Chris Avellone; J.E. Sawyer; Jonas Wæver; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

Yesterday, on the last day of PAX South, Josh Sawyer was interviewed about Pillars of Eternity by a representative of a site called The Know. The interview is around ten minutes long and doesn't really contain any new information, but the interviewer is knowledgeable enough about the game to zero in on some of the more controversial topics surrounding its development, which makes it a useful recap. Here's the video:


More interesting perhaps is this interview at XP4T with Chris Avellone. Not least because the interviewer is none other than Jonas Waever from Logic Artists, of Nameless Mod and Expeditions: Conquistador fame. Hot developer on developer action! It's a very fanboyish interview, but also very informative, with Chris describing his work regimen at a level of detail I haven't seen before. It's a must-read for aspiring games writers, but I'll just quote this bit where he talks about Pillars of Eternity, repeating what he told us last week in further detail:

JONAS: Any particular design ideas or concepts that you’re obsessed with right now? Anything you’re particularly excited about in one of your current projects, or particularly determined to find a way to use in a future project? (I promise I won’t steal it, we probably don’t have the budget for it anyway.)

CHRIS: A few, I suppose. At a high level, this may be shooting myself in the foot, but I’ve become increasingly interested in narratives without words, especially after New Vegas (where prop placement told better stories, imo).

At a specific level, in Eternity, the original premise of the companions I wrote (Durance and the Grieving Mother) was unpeeling the layers and discovering what they were at the core – unpeeling these layers involved slipping stealthily into their unconscious, a dungeon made out of their memories. There, the player could go through an adventure game-like series of interactions, exploring their memories using psychological items important to both your character and to them as emotional keys to thread your way through the memories – but carefully, without revealing your presence. The memory dungeon was to uncover their shared history, how it impacted you, and the core of who they were as people.

And their core was pretty unpleasant. Both of them were very bad, very weak people, committing not only violations on each other, but on the player as well. When faced with the discovery that your allies, even if they fiercely support you and fight for a larger cause, have some pretty horrid faults, what do you do? Do you pass sentence? Do you forgive? Do you assist them to reach an understanding? And what I found more interesting with the spiritual physics in the Eternity world is that a death sentence isn’t a sentence – killing someone actually sets a soul free to move on to the next generation. So if you intend to punish someone in a world like that, either out of revenge or to correct their behavior, how do you do it when execution is not an answer?

The elements above got stripped out of the companions in the end, so I’m happy to share it here (and I may re-examine it in the future). Overall, I thought they raised interesting questions for the player to chew on, and it was interesting to explore those themes, as most game narratives and franchises wouldn’t allow for such examinations – still, Eternity was intended to be a more personal project for Obsidian where we can stretch our narrative legs more, both in structure and themes.​

Their core was pretty unpleasant? I wonder if that means their personalities have been changed too.

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