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Interview with Josh Sawyer at GameWatcher

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Interview with Josh Sawyer at GameWatcher

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 25 February 2015, 17:55:12

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

A representative from a site called GameWatchers met up with Josh Sawyer recently to ask a few questions about the upcoming Pillars of Eternity. The resulting interview focuses on the game's story and setting, and also reveals something of the nature of its expansion pack. Here's an excerpt:

GameWatcher: How do you kick off a big new universe like this? It must be difficult to juggle the need to inform the player without swamping them in exposition.

Josh Sawyer: I think it’s important to establish what’s important in this part of the world. The region in the game is called the Eastern Reach, and it’s a colonial area. Your character is not from here. When you start the game, your character is as new to this world as you are. We don’t try to elaborate other than in lore books and things like that, we don’t explain everything to you in a big wall of text. We just say; here’s what these people are worried about, here’s what is going on right here at this moment in time, this is what they’re trying to do. So in terms of world-building we try to give you a picture of the state of this huge colonial area, and the direction in which it’s headed. We’re not writing some huge guidebook to the universe that covers every single bit of information, we’re trying to focus on what’s happening in one corner of the world. One set of stories, and the characters that are involved in them.

GameWatcher: In the Baldur’s Gate series we were dealing with these huge epochal events, Gods dying and rising again, all that good stuff. Are you taking a similarly high fantasy approach in Pillars, or are things a little more grounded?

Josh Sawyer: Well, we do try to keep things a little more realistic and grounded, but at the same time we know that people like it when the stakes get epically big. My kind of philosophy is to start with something small and personal, and slowly build it into something momentous. In Fallout: New Vegas for example, you start out with a fairly simple plot; someone’s shot you in the head, dropped you in a ditch, and you’re out to find the man who did it. Then, as you start to explore you find out there’s a lot of crazy shit going on in the world, and you start to become embroiled in it. In Pillars it’s a not too dissimilar situation, where you become embroiled in something that you weren’t really looking for, and as you start to deal with the fallout you get drawn into the larger story. As you start to grow in scale you realise that this is not a small conflict, it’s part of something a lot bigger. RPGs are about growth, not only of your character as they become more powerful, but of your place in the world. Gaining reputation, things like that. So even though our game is a little more grounded in focus, maybe a little more believable, I think it’s important that we have that escalation.

GameWatcher: You decided not add in multi-classing options for Pillars, which were a big part of previous Infinity Engine games. Was that a conscious decision to simplify things for the first game using this new rules system?

Josh Sawyer: Yeah. Well, a bit simple within the realm of having eleven classes and six races all in the game, but yes. Multi-classing is something that tabletop D&D still struggles with. Every edition has tried another way to do it, but… I understand why people want to do it, totally, it’s very cool but it’s also a very hard thing to do. For this first game we thought let’s stick with single classes, but have a tonne of options within those classes. If you want to make a speedy, offensive fighter or a tough tank fighter you can, if you want to change the focus of your character you can do that. We might do multi-classing in the future, but we had to do so much stuff for this game that at a certain point we had to say, OK, we’ve promised eleven classes in the Kickstarter, let’s just stick to those.

GameWatcher: In terms of additional content for the game, will you be heading down the DLC pack route, which is something Paradox as a publisher is known for, or will you be concentrating on larger expansions?

Josh Sawyer: No, we want to do a traditional expansion, and we’re in the early stages of planning for that right now. Part of the Kickstarter campaign was a full expansion, so we’re definitely doing a Tales of the Sword Coast style campaign. We’re still in the early stages of design for that right now, though. What I would say about additional content other than that, is that I would like to see any gameplay tweaks and changes we make in an expansion get rolled into a free patch. So if you don’t want to buy an expansion, you get all the same gameplay benefits without the extra story.

GameWatcher: Obviously I’m trying to stay well out of the spoiler minefield here, but does Pillars have a distinct, one-off story? The original Baldur’s Gate sort of set itself up directly for a sequel at the end – does this feel like a complete story in and of itself?

Josh Sawyer: Yes, I think it does. Obviously if we want to make a sequel we’ll follow up on things, but this is a complete story with a distinct ending. There’s no big twist that gets unresolved, and there’s a real sense of closure at the end. There’s lots of stuff to build on, obviously, but the main conflict is resolved at the end of the game.​

Fallout: New Vegas - Fantasy Edition, eh? They could certainly do worse.

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