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Interview with Josh Sawyer at Hardbloxx

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Interview with Josh Sawyer at Hardbloxx

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 13 June 2015, 18:23:59

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

Obsidian's Josh Sawyer has been a busy man since Pillars of Eternity was released, splitting his time between tidying up the game's bugs & balance issues and working on its first expansion pack. This short interview at German site Hardbloxx is, to my knowledge, only the second interview he's done in that time. It does have some tidbits of information about the expansion pack, as well as some reflection by Josh on the game's reception. Here's an excerpt:

Thomas: Are you happy with the feedback? What surprised you the most and what were the most frequent complains?

Josh: We’re all very happy with how it has been received. I did not think it would review as well as it did (it’s the highest-rated game I’ve worked on), but I’m glad people are enjoying it. The most frequent complaints focused on bugs, the lack of party AI, the shallow depth of the stronghold content, reduced combat challenge in the late game, and the pacing of the first act of the story. I think those were all reasonable criticisms.

Thomas: Which aspect of the game are you most proud of? Which was the biggest challenge to overcome during the production?

Josh: I’m happiest with the overall feeling of the game, not with any particular aspect. Our goal was to make something that captured the spirit of the Infinity Engine games, regardless of the individual changes and adjustments we made along the way. I believe we have both captured that and created a system and setting that we can continue to build on in the future.

Thomas: The next question is about the headquarter-system. Mid-game, the fortress will become less important. The keeper, the errand quests and even the attacks on the fortress will lose there scope. Two years ago, it was mentioned, that the headquarter would work like a quest hub and would play a vital part for many of the games quests. In your opinion, did this original vision come true?

Josh: It is a quest hub (for bounties), but even in our original design, it was supposed to be an optional system, not required outside of the first part of the critical path. I do think that the content in the stronghold fell short of what we wanted in terms of depth, which is the most common complaint I’ve seen from players. If we have a stronghold (or strongholds) in a future game, it’s something we are going to focus on improving.

Thomas: Could you spare a few details about the expansion to our readers? Will the expansion be integrated into the game like “Durlag’s Tower“ during the original “Baldur’s Gate”? Will players visit new, maybe exotic, locations? Are we going to see Fleetbreaker Castle? How far is the development of the expansion?

Josh: You’ll certainly be visiting new locations. Part of the appeal in an expansion like this is to travel somewhere outside of the base game. We’ll also be raising the level cap and adding new items, abilities, and talents. The development is going well. The environments, in particular, are really beautiful.

Thomas: Concluding this interview, here´s a question about your experience with the crowdfunding-campaign. Would you do it again and which significance do you see for the future of crowdfunding in the videogame industry?

Josh: I think we’d definitely do it again for the right project. Not all projects require crowdfunding and our fans simply may not be interested in some of the ideas we come up with. I think crowdfunding does have a future in the videogame industry. I’d like to believe, at the very least, that Pillars of Eternity was successful enough to show that crowdfunding can deliver a good game long after the initial excitement of a Kickstarter campaign has died down.

I also hope that successful smaller games (in terms of budget) can help motivate some publishers to be interested in this type of project again. The argument is usually that no one is interested in an older style of game. Clearly that isn’t the case. Smaller projects may not appeal to the biggest publishers, but I think there are publishers out there who can be good partners for this type of game.
We'll learn more about the Pillars expansion pack in a few days at E3. In other news, a recent hotfix has revealed that Obsidian are planning to make significant changes to the game's primary attributes and possibly implement party AI scripts for the game's next major update. I wonder if that update will coincide with the release of the expansion pack, or if there's still time.

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