Freedom And Fantasy: Pillars Of Eternity Interview

By Adam Smith on July 24th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

Pillars of Eternity was, briefly, gaming’s most successful Kickstarter, at least in terms of funds raised. Like many crowdfunded games, particularly in the early days, it’s a project driven partly by nostalgia. A party-based fantasy RPG in the style of Baldur’s Gate and the other Infinity Engine D&D games, it has a strong heritage to live up to. Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer is the director of the game and I spoke to him late last week about theology, flagellant monks, freedom from licensing and respecting player’s choices. We also talked about his desire to make a historical RPG and his previous work, particularly the design of Fallout: New Vegas.

RPS: You talk about the Infinity Engine games almost as if they were a genre in and of themselves. The fact that you went to Kickstarter may answer my question in part – but what do you think happened to that genre of games? Did publishers just turn away from them or was there more to it?

Sawyer: It was a publisher thing. Somehow it was decided that people didn’t want those kind of games anymore. I don’t think there was ever any sales data to prove that – people stopped making them, which kind of makes the argument prove itself. Make zero games of that type and there are zero sales!

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. That often happens with retailers and publishers though. Even at Black Isle after we stopped making Infinity Engine games, we were working on Van Burin, which would have been Fallout 3 for us, and those were 3d games but essentially still isometric. The publishers decided, even at Interplay, that people weren’t into that kind of game anymore. They wanted to go full 3d.

RPS: In terms of resources, the 2d artwork in a game like Pillars must be hugely time-consuming. Even the scripted conversation and decision sequences are illustrated. How much unique artwork have you created?

Sawyer: A lot (laughs)!

RPS: How does it compare in size to the Infinity Engine games? Have you been able to go as big as you wanted?

Sawyer: Yeah, we’re as big as we wanted. The smallest of the Infinity Engine games was Icewind Dale, which had around 80 maps, and the largest was Baldur’s Gate II, which had over 200 maps. We’re at about 150. But even Icewind Dale was a pretty big game. I feel like we have a nice amount of big city stuff, cool wildernesses and nice dungeons. It’s a good mix of those types of environment, with plenty to explore.

RPS: New Vegas in some ways felt like it landed on a sort of middle-ground between the Infinity Engine games and Fallout 3. The environments and NPCs seem more…reactive? You can probably summarise what you were aiming to do better than I can.

Sawyer: (laughs) It ws really important for me that in New Vegas players could side with lots of different factions or no factions at all. They had to be able to make choices that were meaningful throughout the game but that didn’t lock them onto specific paths. For example, you can go north of Goodsprings right at the start of the game – it is hard – but…

RPS: But you don’t want an artificial barrier?

Sawyer: Exactly. It’s a skill-based barrier rather than an invisible wall. A lot of the design was built around allowing players to find cool experiences, abilities and choices no matter what skills they choose. A lot of people were surprised by how powerful ‘Unarmed’ was but that’s intentional – if somebody wants to be an ‘Unarmed’ specialist we want them to have a good experience. That was a huge focus for me.

RPS: And that seems to be the case in Pillars as well – you created a barbarian with high intellect.

Sawyer: Exactly. Of course. People can also stick with the standard barbarian archetype if they want to, but there’s complete freedom of choice. Intellect affects the duration of abilities so a smart barbarian knows how to use his combat training effectively. A smart wizard has spells with long durations that affect large areas. A high might and constitution fighter does a lot of damage and is resistant to punishment, but his skills won’t be as effective as an intelligent fighter’s would be.

It works out that if you want to stick with the tried and true character builds, you’ll have a good idea of how to use them. But if you want to go with something more unusual or uncommon, you can do that as well.

RPS: In terms of making sure that the game is feasible for anyone to complete with so much freedom, how much work goes into balancing areas and party members? Also, when it comes to parties – I tend to pick people that I like rather than people who are useful. And in the game. Will I need to pick people with specific skillsets to progress in Pillars?

Sawyer: This actually came up in the last interview, talking about the Baldur’s Gate wizard battles. They necessitated that you have a certain class of character who can cast a certain spell. We try to not do that. Ever.

If you want to have people there because you like them, that’s cool. If you want to build a very utilitarian party, you can do that too. We never force you to have certain characters in your party. For example, the way that our health mechanic works – in combat, a priest may be useful in combat, helping to restore stamina during the fight. But if your character gets knocked out, the priest can’t bring health back. Only stamina. So they’re handy within a fight but not a necessary part of recovering after every fight.

RPS: Reminds me of playing Eye of the Beholder and realising that if I didn’t take a cleric I was fucked. Just having to restart.

Sawyer: Going all the way back to Bard’s Tale 1 – you literally need a bard to get through the cellars. I wanted to avoid that sort of stuff as much as possible. It’s about setting up the game to interact with what the player has chosen to be rather than making restrictive demands of them. We want to provide lots of tactical challenges for players but a single character type should not be the solution. There should always be a number of solutions.

RPS: Quite often there’s a square hole and I’ve only brought along round pegs.

Sawyer: Yeah.

RPS: A much broader question now. When you talk about the Infinity Engine games, is part of that the D&D style fantasy setting? Did you consider doing something more like Alpha Protocol or even Fallout within the isometric view and pauseable realtime ruleset, or was fantasy part of the appeal?

Sawyer: For the Kickstarter, we knew we’d take the high fantasy approach. We have changed certain things – we have dwarves and elves, but we don’t have orcs or halflings or gnomes. We have our own races in place of those. And you can see from the lady on the graphic there holding the gun that we’re set a little later.

Obviously it’s not Earth’s timeline but we’re a little later than is usual for fantasy, toward the Renaissance, age of exploration and colonisation. That gives the setting and the world a different feeling. But, yeah, we knew that it’d be mostly a Forgotten Realms kind of setting.

RPS: And what is the appeal of that to you personally?

Sawyer: I have to say, I don’t have a super-strong affinity for fantasy. I don’t mind playing fantasy and I don’t mind writing for fantasy. Personally, I like real historical settings.

But there’s plenty that I can do with a fantasy setting. I guess familiarity – some people would say it breeds contempt – but it allows me to think of ways to take new approaches to recognisable ideas and images. Not always intentional subversion either. People take some of this stuff for granted so we just think of new ways to approach it, and how to present these races and archetypes.

For example, monks in this world. They don’t come from an Eastern empire. They’re a domestically grown phenomenon and they’re like flagellants, disciples of pain. So as they absorb damage, they store up that pain as wounds which they can spend as a resource. What powers them is the infliction of damage on them.

RPS: I guess you can pull in a lot of the historical references as well. You said ‘age of exploration’ earlier – how much of the setting draws on actual history? Can you have fun drawing on different historical eras and making a sort of chronological cocktail?

Sawyer: Yeah, it is a lot of fun. For example, we play a lot in the game with the tensions between the people arriving at in this new area and the people who live there. In the intro, you see the caravan approaching some ruins and the guardians of those ruins think they want to loot them.

There was a civil war in this area and the people are still dealing with the aftermath of that. Also, yeah, some things are out of sync. So in this setting the printing press has not been invented, so information flow is a lot slower and more easily controlled. Writing is undertaken by monks working alone or in small monasteries.

The study of history is the study of how people have behaved in the past. When you see the ways that people have interacted, you can model those behaviours in different settings, and that’s a lot of fun.

RPS: When you come to create your own world rather than being tied to Forgotten Realms or other D&D settings, how much freedom do you have? I don’t know a huge amount about D&D outside the computer games I’ve played, so it all seems like a bit of a blank slate to me anyway, but are there things you can do now that you don’t have any license-holders looking over your shoulder? I think you’ve mentioned before having more ‘mature’ themes.

Sawyer: There are certain content boundaries in a D&D setting. It’s trickier. At different periods of time the license-holders have been more sensitive about how far they’ll allow you to transgress those boundaries. We’ve made a few big changes

One thing is that you don’t have alignment. You have reputation instead, which is a natural set of evolving qualities rather than a more rigid definition. If you behave a certain way, you gain a certain reputation. It’s a much more fitting way for NPCs to interpret who your character is. And we’re not asking people, ahead of time, to define themselves. You make choices and over time you establish a character.

As for ‘mature’, there are lots of ways to interpret that word (laughs). A lot of times mature is actually immature.

RPS: Stilettoes, severed heads and whips.

Sawyer: Yeah. We do have people running around blowing each other into gibs and all that bloody stuff but in terms of the story, we can deal with things that people might be sensitive to. For example, the Orlans, which are the small furry race, are regarded very poorly by a lot of the settlers and have a poor relationship with them. They were enslaved for a while in the Dyrwood, so there’s a lot of lingering resentment.

Also, souls are a big part of the setting and the use of animancy is important. That’s the field of study into the manipulation of souls. Reincarnation is taken for granted but there’s a lot of research happening into how souls work. They’re at the dawn of understanding the ‘physics’ of souls. Because of that, animancers are using a lot of the knowledge to do cool things but sometimes they’re also doing very bad things.

As a result of that, there’s a very mixed perception in the setting as to how animancy research should be carried out, or even if it should be carried out at all. Some people think that the gods will become very angry and that animancy might disrupt reincarnation and the process of how souls exist and are ‘made’. Others thing we need to understand how souls work so that we can improve them, by removing defects like personality defects or mental illness that can be treated.

We can explore those ideas in the setting and we can establish it in a way that it’s not self-defeated by the rules of the setting. Death is permanent in our world, other than through reincarnation itself. If you say death is a big deal in Forgotten Realms, it’s hard to take that seriously as a narrative or mechanical device because so much of that setting contradicts the permanence of death.

RPS: What is the actual status of gods in this world? As I say that out loud, it seems like a fairly hefty question.

Sawyer: It is! The gods are important to a lot of people. They’re fickle in how they interact with mortals.

RPS: But they do interact directly?

Sawyer: Yes. The last big time that happened – and this is one of the reasons people are very afraid of what animancy could mean – was something called The Saint’s War, which happened fifteen years ago in the setting. A god slowly seemed to take control of a farmer named Waidwen. He eventually became the spiritual leader of a country north of the Dyrwood and led a crusade into the Dyrwood.

He was only stopped because the followers of another religion built a contraption called the Godhammer Bomb. They basically blew Waidwen god up and they haven’t heard anything from the god that controlled him since. So they’re thinking…

RPS: Did we kill a god?

Sawyer: Yeah! And are the other gods mad at us? Will they become angrier if we carry on pursuing our research into souls? But people don’t fully understand the gods – in Forgotten Realms, the gods are well understood, as is cosmology and life and death. In this setting, people have beliefs but they don’t have a lot of proof for those beliefs.

RPS: In terms of telling a story within a new setting, how much work does the player’s personal narrative have to in order to function as an introduction to the world as well?

Sawyer: Part of the reason you pick your background is so that it’s clear you’re from a different place. Your character is a newcomer as well. So interacting with characters, you learn about the conflict within the area – which is the thread you follow – and the history of the region as well. We avoid exposition as much as possible.

I’m a big believer in having characters conveying expositional things in terms of their own personality and situation. It helps to draw players into their lives and also does the work in communicating the plot.

RPS: With so many familiar tropes – a word I hate – how do you ensure that players feel like strangers in a strange land?

Sawyer: We set up circumstances like the last scene you saw. You come across something that you can’t really make sense of. It’s like the end of a chapter where you go…whaaaat? And then you turn the page and the next chapter is following a completely different character!

We want players to see the robed figures chanting and make assumptions about what they’re doing. Not too uncommon in a fantasy game, right? And they’re waving their arms, which is the kind of thing these guys tend to do. But then there’s a huge machine and it’s drawing in the winds, which you saw pulling peoples’ souls out earlier. So that’s all connected but what does it all mean? And what is it your role?

RPS: A slightly more prosaic question after dealing with god-killing and theology – but can players switch party members at any time?

Sawyer: There are eight characters and you can have five, plus your own, at any one time. And, yes, once you’ve discovered them you can swap and change. You can also make replacement party members, in a more Icewind Dale style. They’re blank slates with no written character. You pay money in-game to create them. One of the things our Kickstarter backers backed was the stronghold, which all of your companions hang out at when you’re not using them.

RPS: Is there conflict between characters?

Sawyer: Yeah. Some have very strong beliefs and they don’t always see eye to eye. But unlike Baldur’s Gate they’re not based on alignment, they’re based entirely on personalities.

RPS: And how does the player character come to be the leader of the party – he or she is a newcomer but somehow takes charge?

Sawyer: The land isn’t your land but the conflict is yours. You are at the centre of your own conflict. That means you are the most interested party. It’s like…I’m going to use a Speed reference here – Keanu Reeves doesn’t know anything about buses but he has to make sure that this particular bus keeps going and doesn’t explode! You’re in a circumstance like that.

You don’t necessarily understand the entire situation and you’re not part of this conflict at first, but events bring your personal story into the wider picture. It becomes intertwined. The other characters in your party have an interest in that central conflict as well but it isn’t directly about them. They’re not driving the bus.

The conversation continues next week, with extensive thoughts on New Vegas, the Kickstarter process and working with Paradox.

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90 Comments »

  1. killias2 says:

    Great interview!

    Personally, while I contributed the most to Wasteland 2 and already have Divinity OS… this is the one I look forward to the most. I have a feel Obsidian is just going to knock this out of the park.

  2. Snow Mandalorian says:

    I’m really excited for this, but after spending so many hours playing Divinity: Original Sin and becoming used to that high level of environmental interactivity and open world feel, I’m just hoping this particular game isn’t a step back in that direction.

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      Thirith says:

      Divinity is great in terms of interactivity, but while I’ve been playing it for a couple of hours it hasn’t sucked me in yet, and that’s mainly due to the writing, which I’m decidedly not a fan of. It doesn’t feel like anything is really at stake, none of the characters feel much like characters, and the humour is decidedly hit-and-miss. I’m enjoying Divinity for what it is, but what I want out of a spiritual Baldur’s Gate 2 successor isn’t necessarily world interactivity.

      • Turkey says:

        Yeah, I usually play as a good guy in rpgs, but I’ve just been choosing the douchiest dialogue options cause I don’t like anybody in the game.

      • Lemming says:

        I agree with this. I mentioned on the D:OS forums that it’d be great if I could create characters with voices that sounded a bit more working-class (I wanted a big silent type psychotic warrior dude, and a cocky female rogue), but all the voices on offer sounds posh and whip-crack witty.

        I got cussed out as apparently ‘people like that couldn’t be source hunters’, which shows a startling lack of imagination, tbh – From players that is, not the devs who didn’t response.

        I’m pretty sure any source hunters that could get the job done would be employable. They are basically mercenaries. Plus the whole freedom to thieve everything in sight doesn’t lend the argument that they are above it all much credence.

        In D&D, and Obsidian/InExile-driven RPGS – that’s not an issue I need to worry about.

        • Enkinan says:

          Potential Spoiler:

          They are not just Mercenaries. The heroes themselves are part of the story and have to be slightly held to certain personalities.

    • C2B says:

      It will be a step back. But thats ok, it never wanted to be a step forward. Divinity’s main design goal was interactivity after all (In spirit of Ultima). It would be hard to top that.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, the writing in Divinity OS is nothing special, but then I think of stories in games like this as icing on the cake. As long as the game mechanics are fun and the story isn’t too horrible, that’s all I need.

      And the mechanics in DivintyOS are fun, with all that elemental stuff. But because the elemental stuff is such a factor, it really tilts the game towards magic users. It’s not a friendly game for traditional non-magic fighter types, or else I’m just not that good at it. So one thing I’d be looking for with Pillars is using more fighters in a party, supported by magic users and not dominated by magic users.

      It will also be nice to have a party of six instead of four. Four seems a little limiting, especially in the harder battles, because you can’t afford to have one or two go down in the middle of the battle. With a party size of six, one loss or insta-lock stun doesn’t mean a party wipe.

      • Slazer says:

        You complain that you are in trouble if 2 of your people are going down?

        If I remeber correctly there was no way to revive anyone in BG1, and in BG2 there was a lvl6 resurrection spell for priests and still a chance of permadeath. You rad to change your approach once somebody got heavily wounded and get himout of the fight.

        There is nothing worse than downed characters getting up instantly after the battle, because it takes away so much tension. Divinity at least requires the resurrection scrolls.

        Looking forward to bigger parties though

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      Stellar Duck says:

      I really like Original Sin but where are you guys finding all that interactivity?

      • bstard says:

        I guess thats in how the elements and stuff like barrels works: put down rain, electocute mobs, stunned, or let a mob do his fire skill and there’ll be mist blocking the sight. I never was a great fan of this genre, and this might have been normal in other games, but to me DOS is really fun to play. Looking forward to this Pillars game now as well.

  3. C2B says:

    To ALL the people complaining that the game isn’t like Divinity: OS

    This game has a completly different focus as an rpg than that game had.

    RPG’s don’t all have to be like Divinty just as much as they didn’t have to all be like Ultima back in the day.

    Edit: Edited a bit because I was saying the same thing three times in a row. ^^

    • XhomeB says:

      Good point, people need to understand that Fallout wasn’t like Ultima, Baldur’s Gate wasn’t like Realms of Arkania, Eye of the Beholder didn’t have all that much in common with Wizardry.
      D:OS, Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity all try to do different things and put their priorities elsewhere. And that’s perfectly OK in my book.

    • RationalLogic says:

      This. Original Sin is more driven by experimentation in combat and sandbox gameplay. Pillars seems to be more story-driven, and focused on world-building, as well as how your character interacts with that world.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Indeed. It’s great to see everyone so into Divinity though. Pleased as punch the game turned out well.

    • squareking says:

      Comparing Pillars to Divinity is getting really tired, y’all. You might as well compare The Sims to Sim City. Please stop.

      • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

        Yeah, it’s like all the people who continually compare Elite: Dangerous to Star Citizen and go on and on about how one will necessarily be “better” than the other, and such rot.

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    Lars Westergren says:

    Great interview Adam, thanks. There is also a GiantBomb video out today showing character creation and the first 10 minutes or so of the game. Some early plot spoilers.

    So happy about backing this, exactly what I wanted. And my portrait is in the game!

    http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/quick-look-ex-pillars-of-eternity/2300-9224/

  5. wodin says:

    For me it will take alot to beat Divinity OS.

    • Lemming says:

      For my personal tastes, this has already beaten it.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      Why must we always have to talk about games in terms of how they’ll “beat” another game? Can’t a game be good or bad on its own merits without having to be held up to some arbitrary standard set by another, rather differently designed game?

  6. Cloudiest Nights says:

    This sounds really promising! These types of games were before my time, and now I’m really wishing I backed this!

    • cpmartins says:

      You can still back it on their site and get the digital copy if you want.

  7. Casimir's Blake says:

    There have been so many of these overhead / isometric esque RPGs… none of them feel immersive to me, not even Baldur’s Gate which was hard on the eyesight and didn’t have a particularly interesting story. If this was in FIRST PERSON I might be interested, but no, no-one seems to make those any more except Bethesda. :(

    • karthink says:

      Hard to tell if you’re trolling.

      But either way, what do you mean “no-one seems to make those any more“?

      Except for Bethesda, hardly anyone has made first person RPGs since 1996. Ultima Underworld is now ancient (1992), and Arx Fatalis is the only first person fully featured RPG I can remember from the 2000s. Every other (c)RPG franchise–the Black Isle games, Gothic/Risen, the Divinities, NVN, KOTOR and Dragon Age–has been third person or isometric.

      • Shooop says:

        You do realize that’s exactly what he’s saying – that there is a lack of first-person RPGs.

        Or are you the one trolling?

        • karthink says:

          Blake implied that no one makes first person cRPGs anymore. But no one except Bethesda has made them in the past 15 years.

          • XhomeB says:

            Bethesda don’t make cRPGs. Every title they made since Oblivion was an action game/walking sim with pretty much useless stats. The worlds they build are vast, but stupidly boring and static (Ultima and Gothic did that aspect so much better), the exploration doesn’t work as a game mechanic, because you’ll never find anything useful or interesting apart from vistas, there are no choices to make, nothing you do has consequences, it doesn’t matter if you’re a thief, a mage, whatever, no new paths will open up for you, in fact, EVERYTHING you do is 100% MEANINGLESS, you merely follow an arrow and do what the game tells you.
            The fact their games get 10/10s and win GOTY award show you how ludicrously bad and ass-kissing (give a low score and ZeniMax won’t invite you to their next event or presentation) game journalism tends to be.

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            ffordesoon says:

            @XHomeB:

            So, how long have you been a Codex member?

          • XhomeB says:

            @ffordesoon
            I came to these conclusions before I even heard of the Codex. And no, I don’t post there – barely even visit the place.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            I’m 100% with you, XHome. The lack of critical analysis in the two latest Elder Scrolls games is, in my view, tantamout to little more than shilling. By no means unique, but there seems to be no appetite to critically engage with the alarming reductions in agency that each successive game seems to champion as “streamlining”.

            Full disclosure: I DO post on the Codex. And what’s more, there are lots of modern-TES apologists there.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            TES – apologist??? Do you mean someone with a different opinion to you?

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            I mean someone who likes modern TES games. This is a different opinion to mine, yes, but that is permitted on this fine internet.

            What I was objecting to was the lack of mainstream media attention given to the removal of mechanics from every TES game since Daggerfall, I wasn’t implying people didn’t have a right to like Skyrim.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            So, someone who likes might and magic is a “might and magic apologist”, someone who likes Civ IV is a “Civ IV apologist”, someone who likes Sir, you are being hunted is a “Sir, You are being hunted apologist”?

            Am I doing it right?

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Yes. Would the word fanboy have offended you less?

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            welverin says:

            Every game Bethesda has made since Oblivion? All two of them (Fallout3 and Skyrim)?

            THat’s some real damning evidence right there, even if your accusations were true.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            No-one talks about the removal of mechanics from TES? That’s all anyone ever talks about, since about 2001, where I remember on the announcement of Morrowind, there was plenty of lively discussion on how the game was no longer an RPG, but a mere action game, betraying it’s roots, dumbed down for the masses, terrible AI, horrible graphics blahdiblahdiblah, sound familiar?

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            @Welverin I know that you’re talking to XHome, but I would have personally thought that Oblivion can be fairly safely included in that list, making three games spanning 2006 to the present, 8 years. How long does the probationary period last? One could even arguably include Morrowind if one was that way inclined.

            @Sleep Will
            I have yet to see the big sites talk about it, or indeed talk about that for *any* major RPG release. I wasn’t criticising RPS, actually, as I thought Alec’s review was pretty comprehensive.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Why can’t you just be respectful of people who like things you don’t – I expect you like some games I find truly awful, but you know what I’m not going to do? Refer to you as an “apologist” or a “fanboy” or whatever other internet age lololololololo meme name you’ve got up your sleeve.

            And as for no major sites talking about the removal of mechanics – even the wikipedia page devotes a large paragraph to the subject, pointing out many mainstream sites who mentioned it. I’m assuming you’re ignoring them because they praised it, and that doesn’t match your opinion, therefore, doesn’t count?

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            “Why can’t you just be respectful”

            1.) I find that rich coming from a commenter with a tone as wilfully abrasive as yours
            2.) I am respectful enough to the fans, it is the review sites that I am railing against for failing to provide in-depth coverage of games alleging to be role playing games. My point about apologists was intended to convey to the poster to whom I was replying that not everyone on the RPG codex is a lover of old-skool RPGs such as myself.

            Honestly, this is not some major conspiracy against new-wave RPG lovers. I wish they didn’t have such a stranglehold (until recently) on the style of games being made, but I don’t begrudge them their right to exist.

            As to the latter part of your post, frankly I did not and do not find the nature of discourse on the subject propagated by the mainstream review sites sufficiently literate on pre-2000 RPG design to give a competent opinion. To put it bluntly, it all sounds like a Bethesda press release to me. By all means a reasoned and critical praising of Skyrim’s mechanics would be fine, as I have seen from numerous posters (not including yourself, incidentally). Uncritically bleating the party line as if it were sacrosanct is what I see here from reviewers, however. See also: Bioshock Infinite.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            I would say so, yes. Not necessarily in the case of Skyrim per se, to make it clear I don’t think no-one would have liked the game were it not for bribes, but in general I think we’ve heard enough testimony of corruption and ad-revenue-driven scoring to suggest that review sites have become little more than hype generation machines. Why do you think I’m here on a relatively obscure PC gaming blog?

            EDIT: For some reason I can no longer see Sleep Will’s post to which I was replying. For the record, it read “so all major review sites are corrupt, then?”

            EDIT 2: Look Sleep Will, I am tired and plan to go to bed. Please don’t think if you write some long and well-reasoned reply that I am deliberately ignoring you, or being rude. Can we call a truce and say that I am never going to convince you that most of the modern industry is essentially corrupt, and you are never going to convince me that it is essentially free from corruption? If we leave fans out of it altogether, that seems a fair middle ground.

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            ffordesoon says:

            Heh. I knew someone would come to defend the Codex if I posted that, even if it wasn’t you, XhomeB. Bit of a troll, I suppose, but it’s just a bit of harmless fun. I mock out of love, I promise. :)

            @XhomeB:

            Figured I might be wrong, but, you know, educated guess. I loved Skyrim, for the record. Million things wrong with it, of course, but I had a blast with it.

          • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

            WhatAShamefulDisplay

            If he’s being “willfully abrasive,” it’s because you are perhaps being “unknowningly abrasive.” While you may not even realize it or intend it, you are still indeed being abrasive.

          • Phasma Felis says:

            “Apologist: a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial. Synonyms: defender, supporter, upholder, advocate, proponent, exponent, propagandist, champion, campaigner”

            It’s not an insult.

      • Werthead says:

        There’s the Might & Magic games, Legends of Grimrock, the Gothic series, even V:TM Bloodlines (sort of), the three Deus Ex games, System Shock 2 and Dark Messiah of Might & Magic (although the RPG stuff is fairly shallow). It’s not huge, but there’s a fair few around if you go looking for them.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          I don’t want to become heir-apparent to the unfairly-maligned Wizardry, but can we really call SS2, Deus Ex and VTMB “RPGs”?

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Role playing is not a genre, it’s a way of playing a game. I’m watching itmejp play original sin as an action loot grab game, I’ve seen people roleplay their way through GTA games.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            I agree that one can role-play any game, but surely I’m not being controversial in saying that an RPG is a genre? If not, what is the genre called?

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            ffordesoon says:

            Something something play a role, something something choice and consequence, something something The Sims, something something bag of stats, something something character skill rather than player skill, something something Call Of Duty, something something experience points, something something leveling up, something something branching narrative, something something The Sims, angry angry linear CoDalike, angry angry Mass Effect 2, shouting shouting Biodrones, shouting shouting romance, shouting shouting awesome button, shouting shouting Todd Howard, shouting shouting betrayal of the genre, shouting shouting walking simulator, awkward silence, heavy breathing, something something Fallout 3, something something snarky comment about the intelligence of “the casuals,” hail-mary attempt to return to the original topic, GIF.

            There, I just had this argument for everybody, so now we can all walk away and do useful things, yes? :)

          • Zekiel says:

            I think RPG in videogames tends to be used as a description of story-based games where player skill is less important than in-game stats. So in pure action games, what defines your success is generally your reactions. In pure RPGs, what defines your success is your character’s stats.

            Of course games like Deus Ex and Fallout New Vegas blur this by having your reactions affected by your character’s skill.

          • nzmccorm says:

            They’re RPGs. They have progression mechanics, character creation, SSMA, and IIRC pretty much all of them have the quest/sidequest structure going on.

            They’re RPGs.

          • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

            “can we really call SS2, Deus Ex and VTMB ‘RPGs’?”

            Yes. Yes we can.

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        Lacero says:

        gog has a list.
        http://www.gog.com/mix/old_school_first_person_rpgs

        But I’m posting to bring up Legends of Valour, an ancient game I played on the amiga and get very lost in.
        I seem to remember I never did get to the top of any of the guilds. The city was bad enough but once you went underground you were screwed, then once I got out in a dead end part of the city and I had no hope of finding the rest of the map. I think I got teleport spells eventually which helped.

      • Koozer says:

        Right internet, could we stop calling everyone with a different opinion a troll now? Are we decided? Good.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          Double-bluff troll, disregard this man. You can’t fool me, Koozer. That’s an anagram of Zoorek, which is probably an illuminati codeword.

    • XhomeB says:

      Play Might & Magic X: Legacy, it’s a GEM. Seriously. Buy it. Now.

      • Enkinan says:

        I had a pretty good time with it and completed it. I liked Divinity OS quite a bit more after completing it last night.

        They both have sweet sweet turn-based combat that I love. Divinity felt a bit more polished and dynamic to me as far as world/quest interaction.

    • TheTingler says:

      Don’t know about the “there’s so many of them” comment, but I do agree with the sentiment. Despite being a distinctly old-school gamer I never got in RPGs until the likes of System Shock 2, Knights of the Old Republic and The Witcher, even though they should’ve been the perfect genre for me (and now are). I just couldn’t stand the high-up isometric viewpoint which made me feel godlike in a world where I want to be a normal character. Also combine that with the dull yet difficult combat, and the characters breaking the fourth wall with every mouse click making me feel like I’m moving chess pieces rather than characters.

      Divinity Original Sin though is the perfect antidote, and gets nearly everything right (combat, 3D view, ease of use) so even a guy like me can love it too. However, it’s missing the great story and well-written characters I love most.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      “There have been so many of these overhead / isometric esque RPGs”

      Um, I thought the entire point of Pillars of Eternity and, subsequently, the very reason the Kickstarter for it was so successful was because there have not been “so many” of these types of games.

  8. Halk says:

    It is unfortunate that they are not adding Coop like in the old Infinity Engine games. That instantly makes the game a thousand times less interesting to me.

    • derbefrier says:

      Awww really? Balls….

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      To me it was something that seemed like a good idea but never really worked out in reality. I think that the previous infinity engine games – with the exception of the Icewind Dale series, ToEE and maybe the last expansion of NWN2 – put you on too personal a quest/storyline for that to really work. Since Pillars is more of a BG followup than an ID followup it stands to reason that time is better spent fleshing out the world and tightening the story than making concessions for the possibility of multiple PCs at every juncture. I think a really good multiplayer Infinity Engine style game would be possible but would have to be designed to be one from the offset.

      • Halk says:

        I understand that this is their reasoning, but honestly, I don’t think a lot of concessions for coop are needed.

        Really, the only thing that would be needed is that there are two PCs right from the start (or very shortly after the start), so that two players both have someone to control. The rest could be more or less identical to the singleplayer. As it was in Icewind Dale.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Coop would involve one of two far larger concessions: either Obsidian has to program netcode (which takes a substantial amount of resources for a relativey small team) or they have to design the game to be played with controllers (which is a terrible, unthinkable compromise).

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        cpt_freakout says:

        After BG 1 what I started to do with Black Isle games other than IWD and NWN was to play with friends after I had finished the main campaign or was well in advance of what I knew we would be able to achieve in a few hours of play. Sure, making it a fleshed-out part of the game would be amazing, but if many others think like I do, which seems to be the case at least with Halk, we coop people don’t really need a fully fledged coop campaign and are content to play the same thing because what makes coop fun is the bare fact of playing with another human. So I also think that adding a second PC would be wonderful, since we’re already going to have IWD-style character slots anyway. I understand this also means building a coop infrastructure, but then, for me at least, that would be a good reason why they wouldn’t want to do it, instead of the reason you already gave, which to me is not very good.

  9. mvar says:

    The graphics are what holds me back from trying out Divinity, they’re too WoWish for my taste at least from what i’ve seen in gameplay videos & screenshots. On the other hand Pillars looks much closer to the BG series. If they do not screw up with the dialog & storyline, it’ll be an interesting game

    • Zenicetus says:

      Having played it a bit, I’d call the DivinityOS graphics closer to Ultima IX, with a sort of hyped medieval look instead of WoW’s cartoon style.

      Where it does get WoW-ish is with some of the monster designs. Like the bomb-carrying skeleton. That surprised me when I first saw it… looks like something out of a kid’s cartoon. But maybe the sorcerers who create those things have a sense of humor. I just decided to roll with it. DivinityOS is something you play for the game mechanics more than the “D&D realism” and immersion in the game world, I think.

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        They’ve already gone on record saying that they’re going to keep the artwork relatively grounded. No FF7 Buster swords, no boob armor. If there’s any WoW aesthetics in Pillars, like the bomb skeletons, they’re probably in the minority.

        • WrenBoy says:

          Oops. Reply fail.

        • Fry says:

          They’re putting their art effort into different areas. If you like pretty backgrounds, Pillars is impressive.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Everything about POE looks great to me, not just the backgrounds. They really nailed the modern, polished Infinity Engine look they were aiming for. Hope the gameplay matches.

            Im slightly more concerned with Wasteland but am cautiously optimistic both will turn out as well as DOS.

        • cpmartins says:

          They won’t have any of that. It’s going to be quite serious in the graphical design area. Not meaning it will be humourless, just like real life isn’t.

      • WrenBoy says:

        D:OS graphics seem like a mixture of Torchlight and Silent Storm to me.

        They have the same light hearted but polished look as Torchlights and the same satisfyingly physical animations and environments as Silent Storms.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      I suggest you take another look, Divinity is a feast for the eyes.

  10. WiggumEsquilax says:

    RPS: With so many familiar tropes – a word I hate – how do you ensure that players feel like strangers in a strange land?

    You heard it here, first. RPS hates tv tropes.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      I forgive them because a few phrases before they totally trashed Quinns’ New Vegas review.

      • Tom OBedlam says:

        I’m not clear, where were they rubbishing the New Vegas review?

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      SuddenSight says:

      I do legitimately want to know what their beef is with the word tropes, though. Is this like people who hate the word meme?

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        Well I don’t know what Adam or RPS hates about the word trope, but for me personally the words carries an uncomfortable implicit negativity. If you wrote a novel with not a single “trope” in it, no-one would know what the heck you were talking about. Or to put it in the Mr Plinkett way, “you may not have noticed, but your brain did”.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          The term has also been seriously inflated. Pretty much anything that’s been done more than once is now a trope.

      • MichaelGC says:

        No idea if this was where Adam is coming from, but personally I dislike the word just as a word – I have no problem with what it means, or whatnot. I just don’t like the shape or the sound, or the flavour, if you will (it’s hard to describe!). Similarly, I very much dislike the word ‘potter,’ but I do like the word ‘lucid.’ (And these are very small things – I don’t e.g. fly into a foaming rage when someone mentions that student wizard guy…)

  11. Premium User Badge

    J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    Adam, if the next part of the interview doesn’t start with, “Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus…” and so on, I’ll probably still read it because this one was great. :-)

  12. imhotep says:

    At level 1 I want the player to be killed constantly by wolves, at level 2 by rats. I wonder: will I finally like playing a game again, or will I continue to wonder what ever got me playing games?

    • Zekiel says:

      No no, level 1 was rats, level 2 was wolves!

      What was level 3? I can’t remember. Bandits I think. “So I kicked him in the head til he was dead!”

      All the way up to having the embarrassment of seeing my awesome endgame character from BG1 get killed by goblins and mephits at the start of BG2.

  13. teije says:

    This is sounding really good. Glad I backed this. Having a blast with DoS right now, and when I’m done, hopefully this one will be good to go. Then Torment next year. Good times for RPG players.