Deep dive with Pillars of Eternity project lead Josh Sawyer: The full interview

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Are you changing the endings of the game based on disposition?

JS: No, you’re changing your story, the way that you go through it. We’re not trying to make this big Faberge egg where, “Oh, I did this thing and boom, the ending completely changes.” It’s more about the individual responses you get along the way. And maybe some of those things will change the way the end turns out, but it’s mostly about your moment-to-moment, hour-to-hour play and making that feel more reactive to the things you do.

I assume in Obsidian tradition there are multiple endings to this game.

JS: Yes.

Are you allowed to say how many?

JS: No. [Laughs] I decide that I am not allowed. I don’t want to.

Brandon Adler (BA): Anywhere from 2-5,000.

Are you doing cutscenes or is this artwork with some words over it to show what happened?

JS: We’ll have to see exactly how we want to do that, but overall we’re going with a more illustrative style overall in the game for our storytelling. So we’re not going to have a more cinematic ending or anything like that. We haven’t talked a whole lot about what style it’s going to take, but it’s going to be more in the storytelling style of the rest of our stuff where it’s more illustrative.

Project Eternity

A sample scripted event from Pillars of Eternity (not final artwork or UI).

Are you going to convey lore through in-game books and stuff?

JS: There will be some of those, yeah. We don’t want to pour a dumptruck of those on players, but we know that a lot of people like that stuff and it’s fun to write them. And the same thing with unique armor and weapons and stuff, which is a tradition of the Infinity Engine games.

In Planescape, for me, the fun way to play is to not kill anybody or to kill as few people as possible. Is that something that’s supported by this game or will you eventually going to have to kill swathes of people?

JS: We’re not specifically making it to be ghosted, but there are ways you can mitigate the number of people you have to fight and things you have to kill.

AB: We have stealth. It’s a different type of stealth system than the Infinity Engine. It behaves a bit different. I think it’s more clear what’s going on, so I think stealth will be a little more fun for the player to stealth through areas. But yeah, you’re going to have to kill things.

JS: You can talk your way through stuff.

How much stuff is in the wild, and how much is in town doing quests?

JS: It’s hard to say right now because we’re still developing our wilderness stuff. There’s a lot of stuff in the cities. They’re big and, more than being big, they’re very dense. There’s a lot of quests in the cities. A lot of stuff to do. We are making wilderness areas right now. We want those to feel like they’re fun to explore and have good density.

Like BG1, pretty low on density. BG2, very very high. In this case the answer is actually in the middle. A little more density in the wildernesses but still making them feel like open like you’re exploring and finding things rather than just constantly tripping over encounters and stuff like that.

Is the whole map unlocked from the beginning? Is there a path directing you through?

JS: It’s a branching path, and you can kind of branch off and veer around. Again, that’ll likely depend ultimately on the total number of wilderness areas we have because those wilderness areas can be used as routes between and through stuff. But yeah, it expands and branches out and allows you to go in different ways, but it’s not Skyrim.

AB: It’s not completely open-ended. We do have some content that’s locked off. You can’t go to the end-game immediately.

Pillars Map

How are you handling companions and having people want companions? Baldur’s Gate 1 was the biggest problem where if you had companions you were cheating yourself out of leveling faster and that would screw you later on, which my 8-year-old mind could never wrap itself around. I was always like, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to get six people,” and it wasn’t until I was late-teens and went back to play the game I realized I was screwing myself the entire time.

JS: [Laughs] Most people we’ve found that are interested in these sorts of games, they want companions mostly for their story and conversation stuff, which we’re going to give them a whole bunch. Also, they give you a lot more tactical options in combat. So you can level up one dude but that dude is going to be focused on whatever you choose to focus on for that character. They’re not going to be able to do everything, so having companions with you will generally be better if you want to do more tactical stuff.

But you don’t have to have six characters. You could have four characters if you want, you could have five or whatever. And you’re not required to have any of the companions. We introduce them all within the first half of the game, about. And then you can also, if you don’t like those guys you can use the—it’s not literally an Adventurer’s Hall but there are various places where you can recruit characters that you make that are not your main character but they’re called adventurers, not companions. That’s more like Icewind Dale where you’re creating those guys and they’re like your buddy party members.

So if you find the fighter and you’re like, “I foxing cannot stand this fighter character, I hate this character so much,” that’s okay. If you still want a fighter, you can go make a fighter in the Adventurer’s Hall. If you want to make three fighters? You just love them? Then you can do that, that’s fine. Or wizards or whatever.

Do you have pre-gen story stuff that will slide in for those characters?

JS: Not for adventurers, no. They’re blank slates. As I said, it’s more like Icewind Dale where they’re just kind of like cool dudes who are with you.

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