Obsidian On Dungeoniest Dungeon Ever, Eternity’s Length

By Nathan Grayson on December 11th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Do you want to know almost everything ever about Obsidian’s newly renamed Kickstarter opus, Pillars of Eternity? Then click that link for impressions and more new information than you can shake a stick of truth at. But still, somehow, thousands of words later, there is more. What follows is an interview snippet concerning Eternity’s development progress, what’s been left on the cutting room floor, the game’s size/scope, party members, and of course, the Dungeoniest Dungeon To Ever Done Dungeon A Dungeon.

RPS: How is the development process going? You’ve been on it for about a year now, and Kickstarter backer expectations are riding high. Has there been anything where you put it in the game and said, “Wait, actually, that makes the game less fun. We should change direction even though we promised backers this thing”?

Sawyer: I wouldn’t say it’s all gone according to plan.

Brennecke: There have been a few instances where we basically presented ideas to our backers, and the backers didn’t really like it, so we went back and…

Adler: The crafting stuff. Durability.

Brennecke: The durability was a big one, where we presented that idea to the public and they weren’t thrilled with it. We just discussed it internally and said, “You know what, let’s not do it.”

Sawyer: It’s not like durability was a promised feature. Crafting was a promised feature. We’ll still do crafting. But we altered the system so it was something that we thought people would find more enjoyable.

Brennecke: Overall I think development is going really well. We’ve been working on it for a year. The game is… We have tons of playable areas. Lots of playable content. Tons of quests already. Lots of maps to explore. Combat, we’re still in the process of tuning it, since there are so many abilities and so many different classes. That’s an ongoing process. A lot of that gets more fine-tuning later on in development. But I think it’s going really well. To have a… I think you could probably play the game now for hours and hours and not see the same thing twice.

Sawyer: You absolutely can. Bobby recently sat down and spent an entire day playing through three quests, maybe four quests? He by no means had exhausted even a very small part of what we’d actually made.

Adler: The funny thing is, you would think that with all the constraints with the Kickstarter, it would cause a lot of issues and problems. But it’s almost the opposite, to some extent. Because we have certain constraints, budgetary concerns and whatnot, we’re actually more lean and mean and efficient in what we do. We just make sure that… We end up getting a lot more done, I think, because we’re taking special care every single time we do something. Does this fit in the game? What’s the best way to do this? Let’s make sure we get it right the first time. We’ve been pretty good about that.

Sawyer: We’re very cognizant of what the backers backed. Everything is framed around that. They want two big cities, they’re getting two big cities. They want a 15-level mega-dungeon, they’re getting it. They want crafting, they’re going to have that.

Brennecke: I don’t think people realize how big a 15-level dungeon is.

Sawyer: It’s really big. [laughs] It’s three dragon-sized, basically.

Brennecke: It’s huge. There’s so much content in there. It’s pretty amazing to see it come together. We’re actually doing it right now, designing it and walking it out. It’s pretty frickin’ amazing to see it come together. This is going to be huge.

RPS: How long do you think a run-through of the mega-dungeon will take?

Brennecke: I don’t want to say, but it’s probably going to be hours and hours?

Adler: It’ll be pretty beefy.

Sawyer: My direction for designing it has been that the ramp in difficulty goes up faster than you can level while in it. [laughs] So I kind of want the player to hit… You go through, you go down a couple levels, then you go to the next level and you’re like, “WHOA! Okay!” Either it forces them to get really serious about tactics, or they’re like, “You know what? I’m gonna go out to do some more quests, come back, and go deeper down.”

RPS: So it’s something you work through gradually.

Sawyer: Yeah. And we’ve come up with some ideas for mechanics that encourage continuing to return to the dungeon, so that it becomes kind of like a cyclical thing. You go down for a while, you back off, you deal with some things, and then you find a reason to go back down.

RPS: Is there a story surrounding the dungeon? Something huge and labyrinthine like the dungeon itself?

Sawyer: Yeah, yeah. You’ll start to learn [that there's a lot more to it than you first suspect]. Initially it just seems like a cursed, abandoned place. The Glanfathans warn people away from it. But they kind of say, “If you wanna go buck wild in here, it’s your funeral. Go down in there if you want.” As you go deeper you start learning more about what it was and what it is now and what’s going on in it. There’s a mystery. It’ll be a fun mystery to solve and get to the bottom of it.

RPS: And I’m guessing the rewards are pretty incredible? Like, some of the best in the game?

Sawyer: Yep.

Brennecke: Of course.

Sawyer: I mean, we want our dungeons to feel like dungeons, but this should be the dungeoniest dungeon that we have [laughs]. Lots of monsters, lots of loot, lots of cool exploration and stuff.

RPS: Would you say that it’s the dungeoniest dungeon you’ve ever designed, period?

Sawyer: Uh… Yeah. I’d say a close second would be Dragon’s Eye, which is pretty dungeony.

Brennecke: The direction is like, it’s a dungeon crawl. That’s what it is.

Sawyer: There can be quests in it, but they’re not like, “Let’s talk to a lot of people.” [laughter]

Adler: It’s more like, let’s murder them.

Sawyer: Let’s murder a bunch of people, maybe talk to a few people along the way.

RPS: That does, in fact, sound quite dungeony. What about the rest of the game, though? What kind of scope are you aiming for there?

Saywer: It’s going to be big. I’m not going to give any hour range. It’s going to feel like a worth Infinity engine game. It’s going to be in that ballpark.

I’ve never had a good experience estimating hours before a game’s release. When we made Icewind Dale II, we were afraid it would not even be a 30-hour game. That is a fucking 85-plus-hour game. Easily.

Adler: When you look at Neverwinter II, originally… [laughs]. That was supposed to be a 25-hour game. We couldn’t speedrun it in 40 hours.

Sawyer: It’s going to be big. Scope is quality in this game. In this game, we believe that scope is a part of the perceived quality of the game that we are making. The trend has been generally, for many, many games… It’s like, tighter, more focused, more unique. We still want places to feel unique and have cool unique content in them, but we must have a big game. Just by virtue of the fact that we have two big cities and a megadungeon, that’s a lot of levels. We can’t do that without being.

It’s like Brandon said. We know we have to do this stuff. Let’s go. Let’s make these guys and make them look really cool, but make them clean and make them in intelligent ways. It’s going to be big. That’s the best way I can say it. It’s going to be a big game.

RPS: Obviously, classic RPGs are known for their endearing characters, and Obsidian’s previous games have, in many ways, sought to follow that legacy. What sorts of party members will we be meeting in Eternity? And, more to the point, how will you avoid simply remixing old fantasy archetypes?

Sawyer: What we try to avoid is just simple inversions. We don’t say, “Here’s the thing everyone does. Let’s turn it upside down.” It’s different, but it’s not necessarily any more interesting. That can get old really quickly. What we try to do is find ways to make characters that feel slightly non-traditional, instead of being just completely wacky and out of their element. I’m trying to think if there’s any one I want to talk about in specifics…

Adler: You can’t tell Edér’s personality by his snark? [laughs]

Sawyer: Yeah. Edér is… I guess Edér is… We can talk a little bit about Edér? I think we can talk about Edér. If you looked at Edér, what would you guess his class is? The snarky blond guy.

RPS: Probably the rogue?

Sawyer: He is actually the rogue. Most people assume that he’s the fighter. He is kind of a big dude. He is more of the fighter archetype, but in actuality, the way he fights in combat and his experiences, they’re more along the lines of the rogue class. The way you use him is more along the rogue’s lines.

But in personality, he’s a soldier. He’s a guy who fought in the Saints War. His personality reflects that. Instead of him being a rogue who’s like, “Oh, now I’d like to steal the gold!” he actually has none of that at all. He is not a criminal. He doesn’t have any of that in his background. He’s a skirmisher, like a guerrilla fighter, who fought in the Saints War. That’s why he’s a rogue, because he’s kind of like this really wily fighter. A fighter in the sense of a melee combatant – a really vicious, brutal combatant – but he’s not a Gray Mouser type of character. But he is the rogue. He’s just this big 6’2” blond bearded guy in scale armor with a big sword.

RPS: Thank you for your time. I will return on the morrow for more of it.

Check back tomorrow for a chat with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart about the developer’s enticingly ambitious plans for another Kickstarter. And no, it’s not Pillars of Eternity 2. 

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75 Comments »

  1. bar10dr says:

    I know it doesn’t look like the most modern game in the world, but damn, I’m really looking forward to getting myself lost in this one.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I genuinely think game graphics took a massive step backwards when the IE style (and 2D in general for a while) wasn’t continued. The games look so much like paintings that people are always surprised to find that they weren’t. So I’m glad this style is being brought back. It’s pretty freaking stunning to look at.

      • Volcanu says:

        I agree. Compare BG2 with the technologically superior NWN nowadays and most would agree that BG2 has aged much better.

      • MercurialAlchemist says:

        That’s what drew me to the first Baldur’s Gate. The story and world were so-so, but the graphics for the time were stunning, especially compared with its contemporary Fallout (which did not suffer from the same linearity, moral simplicity and lack of choice, but had much more primitive graphics)

    • Caiman says:

      What does that even mean? I don’t think there’s any such thing as a look for a “modern game”. It’s just a different artistic style.

  2. Baltech says:

    “Adler: You can’t tell Edér’s personality by his snark? [laughs]

    Sawyer: Yeah. Edér is… I guess Edér is… We can talk a little bit about Edér? I think we can talk about Edér. If you looked at Edér, what would you guess his class is? The snarky blond guy.”

    You know, the fact that you use a little accent doesn’t disguise the fact that YOU STOLE MY NAME! ;)

  3. Anthile says:

    That teaser yesterday actually made me raise my pledge even further. This interview just confirmed this to be a wise decision.

  4. int says:

    Edér will play chess with Death. I guarantee it.

  5. Billards says:

    The Endless Paths always was a cool name for the mega dungeon. I can only hope that the final version reflects the concept art; a stone giant imprisoned over 15 levels is pretty metal.

  6. Knurek says:

    Check back tomorrow for a chat with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart about the developer’s enticingly ambitious plans for another Kickstarter. And no, it’s not Pillars of Eternity 2.

    Oh boy, Alpha Protocol 2 confirmed?

    • Anthile says:

      Rimebreeze Vale.

    • The Random One says:

      Now I’m wondering if they could do this. Do they have Alpha Protocol’s IP rights?

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      A man can only hope for Alpha Protocol 2. I doubt they hold the rights, though, even if they wanted to revisit it given its mixed reception. That said, it’s got quite the cult following.

    • Keyrock says:

      Unfortunately, SEGA owns the rights to the Alpha Protocol IP so Alpha Protocol 2 can only happen if SEGA wills it so. On the other hand, there’s nothing to stop Obsidian Entertainment from making a completely different, not at all related, not even in the slightest bit, modern espionage RPG called Omega Pact starring Rikel Morton.

    • lautalocos says:

      neverwinter nights 3?
      YEEEEAAAAH!!

      ROLL THAT DICE BABE!

      • Lars Westergren says:

        Unlikely. Being digital sharecroppers on other companies’ intellectual property is what they are trying to get away from. When they did Mask of the Betrayer for NWN2, they had to throw away several of the cool possible endings they had written because Atari worried they “diverged from the canon” of the world too much. Which is why you get the unsatisfactory “The gods say no.” answer for some choices towards the end.

        Or look at Beamdog. For a while it looked like all their work on BG2:EE was for nothing, and that they would lose the right to sell BG1, because the big media compinies were squabbling over the rights. Why would Obsidian submit themselves to that situation again?

  7. N'Al says:

    Oh my, so dungeony.

  8. Vinraith says:

    I’m something of an Obsidian skeptic, but this is looking really promising. I dearly hope it’s more Baldur’s Gate than Planescape:Torment though.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Dungeony dungeons say yes!

      Nice to have all the bases covered with those two games.

      • Vinraith says:

        Yup, I feel like the weight of Torment expectations are mostly on Tides of Manamahna, which is for the best. Personally, I vastly preferred BG and BG2, so a proper spiritual sequel would be wonderful to see.

        • Niko says:

          Damnit, people, stop misspelling the name! It’s Tides of Numanuma.

          • Vinraith says:

            Eh, I prefer my Muppet Show reference, but to each their own. :)

          • Snargelfargen says:

            We should start collecting these names. Spomebody else mentioned Numenarnia which made me laugh,

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            I like Tides of Númenor, but that Rings to much of another fantasy franchise I guess.

          • Emeraude says:

            I quite liked Tides of Macarena.

    • Sakkura says:

      It seems like Obsidian and inXile have split those roles well.

  9. Lanfranc says:

    Yo Dawngeon, I heard you like dungeons, so I put some dungeons in your dungeon so you can dungeon while you dungeon.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      There was one of those ultra-hard multi-level completely optional dungeons in the BG2 Expansion. It’s where they put all their hard shit that was deemed too much for the regular story because people might get stuck.

      I’m hoping that’s what they’re doing with the Endless Paths – crazy puzzles, overpowered enemies, huge rewards.

  10. Turkey says:

    I’m glad this project is happening and is still going strong, but I still find it incredibly sad that there isn’t a single publisher out there who’d be willing to fund a game like this.

    • karthink says:

      Avellone hinted that there are now.

      • Talahar says:

        Yeah no doubt. They’ve smelled there’s green to be had again with this sort of thing, so now they want a piece of the pie… again.

        • Turkey says:

          Well, I’d happily welcome back mid-tier budget titles aimed at a specialized audience. They way most publishers have treated RPG’s for the last decade has been pretty abysmal imo.

        • karthink says:

          This is a good thing.

  11. Low Life says:

    He fought in the Saints War? These cossovers are getting more and more ridiculous every day!

  12. Volcanu says:

    “Sawyer: Yeah. Edér is… I guess Edér is… We can talk a little bit about Edér? I think we can talk about Edér. If you looked at Edér, what would you guess his class is? The snarky blond guy.

    RPS: Probably the rogue?

    Sawyer: He is actually the rogue…”

    This made me laugh.

  13. DrScuttles says:

    All the updates for backers are great but I just never get around to reading them all and tend to just read up on the latest here. My Kickstarter stance has always been to throw money at a developer and let them go off to do their thing; I’m not really interested in engaging with ‘the community’ to shape the game according to the flittering whims of my non-game-designer brain. And really, it’s looking pretty damn good so far.
    But then, if you can’t trust a designer with those arm tattoos, who exactly can you trust?

    • InternetBatman says:

      Most of the time the stuff they post on the forums is more them working through their thought-processes in the comments section, or snippets of extra information. One area that they’ve gotten a lot of valuable feedback and responses is the UI design, and it looks much, much better than their original mockup. Another is crafting, I thought durability was a good idea, but now they changed it to suit its more superfluous role, which I can appreciate.

  14. frightlever says:

    “but he’s not a Gray Mouser type of character. But he is the rogue. He’s just this big 6’2” blond bearded guy in scale armor with a big sword.”

    So basically he’s Fafhrd.

    • Niko says:

      How do you even pronounce Fafhrd?

      • James W says:

        You don’t. It’s an onomatopoeic word to describe someone surreptitiously squeezing out a cheeky fart.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yeah, people who’ve never read Fritz Leiber tend to forget that Fafhrd was a thief/rogue as well.

      Also it’s pronounced as it’s spelt. I assume.

      • SillyWizard says:

        The Mouser insisted on spelling it phonetically – “Faferd.”

        They had a big fight about it.

  15. gwathdring says:

    Not a knock on the game itself, but that is one of the most generic sounding names they could have gone with.

    At least it’s not “Pillars of Eternity: Origins.”

    • Ragnar says:

      I can’t say that the name matters that much, but I’ll gladly take Pillars of Eternity over Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning or Tides of Numenarnia

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I’ll reserve judgment until I see if they do anything with the name. If it turns out the gameworld hinges on souls as the “Pillars of Eternity,” the foundation upon which reality itself rests, and they actually do something with such an idea, then it’ll be great. It’s kind of like how “Mask of the Betrayer” isn’t really anything special on the surface (so a betrayer who wears a mask? who gives a shit?) but turns out to be really meaningful in context.

      We shall see what they do.

    • Werthead says:

      It could have been Hairyder’s Egress: Shades of Ham.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Name’s pretty generic, yeah, but so are all the IE names. It’s not like “Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows Of Amn” tells you much beyond “This is a fantasy game.” What’s more important for this game in particular is that it sounds like a cool new tabletop campaign setting.

      The logo’s pretty wicked awesome, though. Are my eyes decieving me, or are the pillars arranged as a deliberate callback to Black Isle?

  16. InternetBatman says:

    Argh! These split interviews always throw me off with the disjunction at the end.

  17. Emeraude says:

    How much longer ?

    HOW MUCH LONGER* ?

    I need this in my life.

    (*:yeah, yeah, as long as it takes….)

  18. Lars Westergren says:

    > Check back tomorrow for a chat with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart about the developer’s enticingly ambitious plans for another Kickstarter. And no, it’s not Pillars of Eternity 2.

    “Oh crap, my wallet”, etc. But seriously, this is like a Steam sale for me. I will pledge. Hoping they are doing something even more out there in world design this time. Like Clive Barker, China Mieville out there.

    Either that, or the other direction: realistic, like a spy, high-school or political RPG. Ooh-ooh – or a World of Darkness style RPG with werewolves and occult conspiracies. Or HP Lovecraft, like Arkham Horror the boardgame.

    My hype levels are getting out of control. I better lie down.

    • Iceman346 says:

      Oh, don’t get my hopes up. If Obsidian would put up a Kickstarter for an RPG in a more contemporary setting preferably with some World of Darkness influences I would probably throw all my monies at them.

      I’m fine with fantasy settings but I still think Vampire: Bloodlines was one of the best RPGs I ever played and that was in good part because of the more modern setting in tandem with the excellent writing. And I desperately want more RPGs in modern settings.

  19. Didden says:

    In the new trailer, those awful shaking bushes were still present. In the early preview stuff I know those bushes came up (they sort of shake in the middle but are stationary in front and behind). If that isn’t in the final game I will be happy.

    Yes I judge games based on their Bush animations. Deal with it :)

    • Grargh says:

      I like my games like I like my sexual partners, with awful shaking bushes.

  20. Kadayi says:

    In my veins now already damn it.

  21. imhotep says:

    It’d be interesting some time to read an interview with their secret writing-entity, Eric Fenstermaker. I suppose they have made him from parts of other writers and don’t want to reveal him to the world.

  22. Awesumo says:

    Wait… it abbreviates to PoE? That’s some pretty heavy search optimisation fail right there.

  23. SillyWizard says:

    So what’s the deal with tainting all the games I want to play with crafting, anyway? I’ve never understood how busywork on top of having to slog through trash mobs is supposed to add value.

    Give me loot when I kill things pls. End of story. All the artificial (or should I say artificing?) padding in otherwise action-oriented games rubs me the wrong way. It dilutes the experience and distracts from the focus of the game.

    :/

    (Don’t mind me. I hate most everything.)

    • JFS says:

      I shan’t hope this game will exactly be action-oriented…

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I like the option, but I hate for it to be mandatory (unless the game itself is little more than a crafting simulator, a la Monster Hunter). I’d be less concerned if I knew the particulars and if Obsidian’s track record with it was better. Crafting in Storm of Zehir was pretty robust but also simple and tied logically into the campaign. Mask of the Betrayer was a little convoluted in getting materials but straightforward in performing. New Vegas was tedious and largely pointless, even in Hardcore mode. Neverwinter Nights 2 was an infuriating nightmare that demanded you have Gamefaqs on hand to accomplish anything.

      They really shouldn’t be surprised that people weren’t pleased about it.

  24. beauwyselaskie says:

    Abby. although Denise`s story is flabbergasting… on wednesday I got themselves a Land Rover Defender from bringing in $9333 this last month an would you believe ten-grand this past month. it’s by-far the most-comfortable job I’ve ever had. I started this 9-months ago and pretty much straight away startad earning over $87… p/h.
    try here……. http://goo.gl/iITlPP

  25. Lars Westergren says:

    > Check back tomorrow for a chat with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart about the developer’s enticingly ambitious plans for another Kickstarter. And no, it’s not Pillars of Eternity 2.

    I’m still eagerly awaiting this!