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Posted by J.E. Sawyer on 14 September 2012 - 04:39 PM
Posted by BAdler on 03 September 2013 - 02:03 PM
- Resting bonuses. Some of the upgrades to your stronghold will grant temporary bonuses to your attributes or non-combat skills when you rest there. As examples, you can build Training Grounds to improve your Strength or a Library to improve your Lore skill. Some of these upgrades are expensive, but you’re worth it.
- Adventures for idle companions. You will eventually have more companions than will fit in your party, so you will have leave some of them behind. While they are idling away at the stronghold, they can take part in their own adventures, earning additional experience for themselves and extra money, items and reputation bonuses for you!
- Ingredients. Many of the stronghold upgrades will generate ingredients used by non-combat skills. For example, Botanical Gardens create Survival ingredients over time, and a Curio Shop produces ingredients for use by both Lore and Mechanics.
- Special offers. Sometimes visitors to your stronghold will have rare items for sale, or perhaps they will offer you items in return for something else. Pay attention to these visitors. Some of these items may be nearly impossible to find any other way!
- Wealth. Don’t forget that by owning a stronghold, you also own all of the surrounding lands and impose a tax on all of the inhabitants. It will feel nice for a change to have someone recognize your high standing and give you the money that you so richly deserve.
- Monte Carlo, Kevin Lynch, Gfted1 and 67 others like this
Posted by BAdler on 10 December 2013 - 01:35 PM
Update by Brandon Adler, Producer
After months of hard work we are happy to present to you with Project Eternity's BIG update. We have lots of stuff to go over, so let's get into it.
Through the hard work of the Project Eternity team we are proud to present our first in-game teaser trailer.
Click to view the gameplay teaser.
If you've finished the teaser (and you've finished it, haven't you?) then you know we have another big announcement. Project Eternity is now officially known as Pillars of Eternity. In addition to that, we have a nifty new logo courtesy of Kaz:
The new Pillars of Eternity logo.
Pillars of Eternity now has a new Backer Portal! You can visit it by going here.
First things first, let's get into how you manage your pledges.
To manage your pledge, click the link in the highlighted area.
In the image above you will notice a section outlined in a red box. Inside this box is a link to the pledge management page. There are actually a few different ways to get to the pledge management page (there is also a link on the top bar, for example), but this is the easiest from the home page. Click the link in the box and you will head to the pledge management page.
From this page you can manage all of your pledges or link new ones.
The pledge management page is your first stop in collecting rewards. On this page you can do the following:
- Review any pledges linked to your account’s email address.
- Under the Your Pledges section we will list all of the pledges that are linked to the email address you have listed in your account. You can review these pledges and make sure that everything is correct.
- Link an additional email address to your account.
- You may have multiple pledges from multiple email addresses that you would like to associate with your account. By clicking the link in the Your Pledges section you can enter in another email address to link to your account. You will then be sent a confirmation email to the address provided. Once confirmed, any pledges linked to that email address will be shown under the Your Pledges section.
- Confirm what pledges should be used for.
- If you have pledged an amount equal to your selected tier on Kickstarter or PayPal the Backer Portal will automatically figure out what your pledge should be used for. On the other hand if you pledged an amount different than your selected tier level you will need to specify what the additional money or pledges were intended for. This can be anything from an add-on, to shipping, to a donation. If you need help you can select the option for Obsidian to contact you. We will contact you as soon as possible and get everything squared away. Keep in mind that if you choose for an Obsidian employee to contact you, your account will be locked until a representative has helped you. This is to prevent any incorrect selections.
You can confirm and upgrade your tier on the reward management page.
Next, you will be taken to the reward selection page. On this page you will be able to confirm your reward selection by selecting the appropriate tier listed. If you are eligible for a tier upgrade, you can select one of those options instead of what you originally pledged. Don’t worry about the price differences, we will take care of that when you checkout.
If you missed any add-ons during the Kickstarter, you can add them here.
Did you forget to grab a Pillars of Eternity t-shirt during the Kickstarter? No need to fret, after selecting your rewards, you can choose any add-ons that you would like to add to your pledge. You will find everything from shirts, to mouse pads, to Chris Avellone’s novella.
You can review your order before finalizing it.
Once you are finished choosing your rewards and add-ons, you will have an opportunity to review your order before checking out.
Fill out your shipping info, if needed.
If you have any physical goods, you will need to enter your shipping information.
If you upgraded or added rewards, you will need to pay with a credit card or PayPal.
If your pledge covers all of your rewards and add-ons you have selected then you just need to confirm one last time. If you have selected a more expensive tier or additional add-ons, then you will be prompted to pay with a credit card or a PayPal account.
Fill out surveys for any in-game rewards.
For those of you that have in-game rewards that require your help (Credits, Memorial Stones, NPCs, Items, Inns, Portraits, Adventuring Parties, etc.) or add-ons that require more information (shirts), we have surveys for you to fill out. Just click on the link once you have checked out or go to your profile to find all of the surveys you are eligible for.
Filling out the surveys is as easy as choosing whatever you would like from the various selection boxes and filling out any text for in-game rewards. If you don’t have enough time to fill out the survey in one sitting, just press the save button at the bottom of the page. Your answers will be saved for the next time you enter the survey. Once you are happy with your answers, you can choose to submit your survey.
Congratulations! Your rewards are now confirmed and any surveys you have are filled out. All that’s left to do is check out the areas of the Backer Portal. You can find more information about the game, videos, screenshots, and wallpapers.
Stretch Goal Poll
We've always taken your pledges seriously and we remain committed to giving our backers every stretch goal you reached during the Kickstarter campaign. Budgeting a game of this size can be daunting, but we always remember the cornerstones of our pitch and the features you funded. Even so, there are two things we know a lot of you have asked for: more wilderness areas and more companions. Both of these are very time-consuming, but we understand why so many people want them. Because we've seen these requests more than a few times, we would like to ask the community if you would be interested in new stretch goals to fund additional development. If not, no worries: we're still going to deliver on everything you've backed. Please let us know your thoughts in this threadon our forums.
Interviews and Articles
That’s not all. We also have a plethora of new interviews with members of the Pillars of Eternity team. Check them out below.
That’s it for the update. The Pillars of Eternity team and the whole Obsidian crew would like to thank you for all of your support and help in creating the game over this past year. You can’t imagine how rewarding it is to get to work on this game with all of our Backers. Here’s to another great year!
- Pidesco, Amentep, Monte Carlo and 62 others like this
Posted by Staples on 11 November 2012 - 10:01 PM
I hope it's ok that I post this here, and I hope you all like it.
- Jaesun, Director, sesobebo and 56 others like this
Posted by BAdler on 12 November 2013 - 03:24 PM
Update by Brandon Adler, Literal Task Master
Welcome to my world...
As a producer, one of my jobs is creating and understanding the game's master schedule. It's a never-ending task that requires constant refinement and adjustment. Anything that is added or changed can cause a cascade of unintended consequences which is why as game developers we have a responsibility to vet everything that goes into the game.
Today I'd like to give you a glimpse into how we approach game development from a scheduling perspective and what our typical thought processes are when figuring this stuff out. You will be able to see how each part of our area creation fits into the schedule and why changes and modifications can lead to difficult decisions for the team. Hopefully, it will give a bit more insight into the tough decisions that we make each day when crafting Project Eternity.
One thing to remember is that when we are in the middle of production the schedule has already been created for just about everything in the game. What I mean by this is that we have identified all of the major tasks that will need to be accomplished and allotted time and resources in our budgets to match those tasks.
Depending on the team's familiarity with the type of game we are creating, this can mean anywhere from a tiny bit of guesswork to larger amounts of... estimation. With Eternity we are very familiar with what it takes to make an isometric, Western RPG with branching dialogues and reactivity. It's Obsidian's bread and butter. Because of this our initial estimates are good approximations.
Since most of our features and assets are budgeted at the start of the project, any changes to those items have to be accounted for in the schedule. This can mean a few different things - anything from reducing time spent on other tasks, to changing previously scheduled items, to outright cuts - and when changes need to happen project leads consult with each other to try and figure out the best option. Keep this in mind when I start talking about changes to features and assets later on in this update.
One Small Interior Dungeon
Alright, let's stop talking in generalities and get into the meat of what it takes to create a first pass area in Eternity. I'll discuss a generic small interior dungeon area.
This area will have the following characteristics and constraints:
- Uses an existing "tileset." We don't have tiles in Eternity, but we do have sets of areas that share similar assets.
- Will have one unique visual feature in the area. This visual feature is something that will make the area stand out a bit. It doesn't have to be incorporated into the design, but we may want to do that to get the most bang for the buck.
- An Average complexity quest uses this area. "Average" is a flavor of quest in Project Eternity. It refers to the overall complexity of the quest. Quest complexity is determined by the amount of dialogue, branching, and steps a quest has.
- This is a 3x3 interior. A 3x3 interior is the equivalent of a 5760x3240 render. An easier way to think about it is that a 3x3 area is nine 1920x1080 screens worth of content. You can imagine that making an area even a tiny bit larger can actually lead to enormous amounts of work. As an example, a 3x3 is nine screens of work, where a 4x4 is 16 screens of work... almost double the number of screens.
To create our small interior dungeon area, the following has to occur:
- An area designer (Bobby Null, for example) puts together a paper design for the area. This is usually part of a larger paper design, but for this purpose we can say that it is a separate element. For a small area like this, a paper design wouldn't take more than a quarter of a day.
Material concepts for a high wealth interior.
- After the paper design is constructed, it is passed to the area design team for revisions and approval. For the most part, this goes fairly quickly and normally wouldn't take more than a quarter of a day for a small area.
- A concept artist (Hi, Polina and Kaz) creates a concept for the unique visual element of this area. Let's say for our purposes the unique element is a cool adra pillar that is holding up a portion of the ceiling. This takes half a day to a day, depending on prop complexity. This may seem like a luxury, but making sure that the areas feel cohesive can save lots of revision time down the road.
- After the concept work is completed, it is reviewed by the Art Director (Rob Nesler) and the Project Director (Josh Sawyer). Any necessary changes are then made before being approved. Overall, it probably takes about a quarter of a day for review and any revisions that need to be done.
An initial pass on a blockout before it has had a review.
- After the paper design and concepts, an area designer creates a 3D blockout of the area in Unity. This allows the designer to walk through the area and make sure it flows well. This also helps to give the environment artist assigned to the area an idea of where the various elements should be laid out. A full blockout of a 3x3 area normally wouldn't take more than half a day. This is an extremely important part of the process. Sometimes an area seems great on paper, but in practice it is clunky or frustrating.
- Once the blockout is finished it's passed along to the area strike team for review. The area strike team includes people from most disciplines. This is the point where revisions are performed and the layout becomes finalized. The changes can be as simple as moving some props around or as complicated as redesigning major portions of the layout. Again, for a small area of this size, we aren't looking at more than half a day for all of the feedback and revisions.
- With the blockout in place, the area can move to environment art (For example, Hector "Discoteca" Espinoza) for the art pass. This includes putting together existing pieces and creating new assets to make the area. A large portion of time allotted to an area is spent in environment art. A 3x3 area that uses mostly existing assets would typically get three days of environment art work, but, because we want to have a cool, unique piece in the area we will add about a day of environment art time. This gives a total of four days for the initial art pass.
- Like the blockout, the art pass is usually reviewed by the area strike team. Revisions can vary wildly depending on how everyone feels about the area, but it isn't uncommon for another quarter to half a day to be spent on review and revisions for this size of area.
The blockout above with revisions, 2D render, and initial design.
- Now with the 2D render in place, the area is ready for the real design work to be done. An area designer will typically get about three days to do the first pass on the area. This includes things like a loot pass, encounters, trigger setup, temp dialogs, etc.. Because this area has a quest that is running through it, though, it will get an extra day to work out all of those kinks. That puts us at four days for an initial design pass on the area.
- Remember the part about this area having a quest? Well, now is when a creative designer (Like Mr. Eric Fenstermaker, for example) comes through to write the dialogs. To be completely honest, this usually comes much later, but it works for our purposes. The narrative designer creates the NPC dialogs, quest dialogs, and companion interjections for the area. Usually an area designer will stub these conversations out and the narrative designer will come in and complete them. Depending on the amount of dialog this should take around a day or two for everything.
- Finally, a concept artist will take a pass at painting over the final 2D render. This pass is used for "dirtying up" an area and adding in the little details that might be difficult for an environment artist to create. As an example, we can cover up texture seems, add in variation on repeating textures, paint in lighting highlights, and even add things like patina or moss on objects. Due to Photoshop magic from Kaz, we can even propagate those changes into our diffuse maps so they show properly in any dynamic lights. This is a fairly low cost procedure and Kaz can cover a small area like this in about half a day.
- There are other considerations (Like animation, sound effects and visual effects, for example), but we will stop for now.
So, for those keeping count at home, to get a first pass area that is borderline Alpha (as in no bug fixing or polish work) it costs the project about 13 man days. This is little over one half of a man month of time for a small, simple area. Larger areas with more content take significantly longer to develop.
Our time estimations used for scheduling are determined in preproduction (prepro) phase. Our vertical slice (the end of prepro) is the culmination of the team identifying what it will take to make the game and then actually doing it. We get these numbers by seeing how long it takes the team to perform those tasks in our prepro, and then we can extrapolate those numbers over the course of the time we have budgeted to understand how much work can get done.
A milestone will have 15 to 20 areas of varying complexity going at a time. A minor change in an area can cause a domino effect that starts schedule slippage. Remember that on a small team like Project Eternity we have a limited number of people that can work on any one part of the game so taking someone off of their current task to work on changes can gum up our pipelines and prevent others from completing their tasks. We can get around that by switching up the tasking, but it can quickly get out of hand and lead to inefficiencies.
That being said it's the team's responsibility to give our backers what they have paid for. If we are playing though part of the game and something feels off from what we promised to our fans, we need to seriously consider making changes - even if it pushes us off schedule. There have been times where an update leads to some serious discussion on the forums and within the team about a direction change. Ultimately all of that gets added into the equation as well.
Taking that into consideration, the team has to make difficult choices every day. Do we go through and do another prop pass on a level? What does that cost us in the long run? Will we lose an entire area in the game? These are questions that the leads struggle with everyday. We are always weighing the cost of assets and features against everything that still needs to get done.
Luckily, like I mentioned above, we have a bunch of smart, talented, experienced people working on Eternity. The pitfalls we have experienced in previous games give us a leg up when we are trying to navigate this project's development. I wanted to send out this update to give the fans a little insight into our daily processes and demystify what probably seem like arcane decisions. If you enjoy these types of updates, let me know in the forums and I will try to write more of them for you.
- Pidesco, Monte Carlo, Kevin Lynch and 55 others like this
Posted by BAdler on 14 January 2014 - 01:44 PM
Update by Brandon Adler, Producer
Hello, everyone. Like everyone here at Obsidian, I hope you had a great holiday season and were able to gorge on lots of treats and good food. This week I am going to go over a bit about the new Backer Portal (please log in if you haven't already), give a general update about where we are in our production, and show off some of the cool things that are happening in the game. In our next update we will be taking a more detailed look at some of the classes in Eternity.
Just a reminder to all of our backers, if you have not done so already, please head to the Backer Portaland complete your order. All backers need to go through the process so they can receive their rewards - even those that only have digital goods.
To start the process, click on "Manage My Pledge Now" and click on the "Select Reward" button on the pledge management screen. From here, you may select the tier you backed (or upgrade to a new tier), select additional add-ons, fill out any shipping information, and file your surveys.
Also, please make sure you fill out your surveys as soon as you can. If you have an NPC, item, inn, or portrait the sooner you get the information to us, the sooner we can make sure it gets into the game.
If you are having any issues, e-mail us at email@example.com and we'll help you out quickly.
As most of you know, we finished up Od Nua (our mega-dungeon) in our last milestone. I have to say, I think it looks pretty amazing. Currently, the area team is working on our second big city, Twin Elms, and it is looking just as good. Here, take a look for yourself.
Without getting into too much detail, the Area Designers are fleshing out the end of the game right now and everything is really coming together. The area in the screenshot above looks like the perfect place for a big fight, huh?
Our character team has been cranking out new creatures and equipment.
We are almost completely through all of our A priority creatures. Soon we will be working on our B priority creatures and lots of equipment variations.
One of the creatures that was just finished to Alpha quality is the Cean Gŵla. These banshee-like undead are the spirits of women who died under particularly tragic or traumatic circumstances.
Take a look at the comparison images below.
Most of our UI has either been implemented or mocked up to an Alpha level. The interface that we would like to show you today is the character sheet, which shows character and party information. You can find lots of useful info on the sheet including various party statistics, your reputations with Eternity factions, and character stats.
Features have been going into the game pretty regularly.
We just recently moved to Unity 4.3 and, while this might not seem like a big deal, 4.3 has ushered in some long awaited features. Animation annotations, for example, were added to Unity. We can now call sound effects based on specific frames of animation. This makes things like footsteps possible.
A majority of our spells and abilities are in-game and usable. Josh has started auditing them and requesting changes for gameplay balance purposes. Tim has been quite busy with all of the small edits.
Strangely, one of our more minor features has gotten me the most excited. Just recently we have gotten the ability to set custom party formations and I am having a blast testing it out.
Have you been wondering what some of the Pillars of Eternity gods look like? Wonder no more.
Above you will see the representations of Galawain and Woedica, gods in the Eternity pantheon.
Woedica is known by many names including "The Exiled Queen," "The Burned Queen," "Oathbinder," and "The Strangler." Her domains include law, justice, oaths and promises, (rightful) rulership, hierarchies, memory, and vengeance.
Priestesses of the Exiled Queen serve as lawyers and judges in towns and urban centers, and the most prominent among them are advisers to kings and lords. They are of particular importance in the Empire of Aedyr, where by tradition, business contracts always require their endorsement. Her devotees are typically found in the upper classes, but any conservative person who longs for a vanished past will find a place in her faith. “When Woedica takes back her throne” is a common saying amongst her followers, signifying a utopian future when society will be properly ordered once again, and she will take her rightful place as ruler of the gods.
Galawain is patron of the hunt in all its forms, and he is honored by those whose occupations are concerned with pursuit and discovery. His faithful include frontiersmen, constables, treasure-seekers, explorers, and even scholars, many of whom wear his carved symbol – a dog’s head – around their wrist or neck. He is also protector of wild places and untamed wilderness, where the hunt manifests in its purest form as a daily struggle for survival.
That's it for this update. Make sure you head over to our forumsto let us know what you think of anything you see here.
- kirottu, Bendu, nikolokolus and 54 others like this
Posted by Karranthain on 16 September 2012 - 03:32 PM
Do I need to say more?
- Jaesun, aVENGER, nikolokolus and 54 others like this
Posted by BAdler on 25 February 2014 - 02:46 PM
Update by Eric Fenstermaker, Lead Narrative Designer
Undead abound in Heritage Hill.
Hey everybody. I'm Eric Fenstermaker and I'm the lead narrative designer on Pillars of Eternity. Before this I held the same position on South Park: The Stick of Truth, so if the dialogue in Eternity ends up being a long string of obscenities and fart jokes, you know who to blame. You can direct all hate mail to my work email account, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know we suggested last week that I was going to give you a lore update, but I thought, this is a crowdfunded project. Why not completely fail to deliver on what was promised and instead give our backers something no one asked for?
I have three things for you today - the first is a look at what my daily experience is like, then I'm going to talk a bit about some high-level goals we have for writing our companion characters, and finally I might just have some lore about Eternity's undead.
On the next episode of Pillars of Eternity: Josh Sawyer writes a class update about wizards and druids, and Adam meets a wacky goblin neighbor only he can see!
But what to talk about first? Being a narcissist, the answer is obvious.
What It Is Like to Be Me
Today has been busy and varied. I thought it might be interesting to take you through a typical day as a narrative lead person. I will tell it in second person so it feels like virtual reality. Most of this is somewhat based on real events - at least as much as American Hustle.
You arrive at work. Take serpentine route to your desk to avoid being seen by anyone who would frown upon your five minutes' tardiness. End up accidentally passing all of them in the hallway anyway. Pass subordinate in hallway too. Shake your head at him to note disapproval of his tardiness.
10:10 AM - 10:25 AM
Watch internet video of intro to Japanese wrestling match featuring life-sized animatronic raptor. Dream of making it big as a game designer and having a raptor of your own. Someday...
Deny your subordinate's purchase request for an ergonomic keyboard to help with her carpal tunnel. That is what stem cells are for. Back to work, slave.
10:30 AM- 11:30 AM
Brainstorming meeting: What kind of monsters can we reasonably use in an urban docks district along the shoreline that somehow have not worked the surrounding populace into a panic? Proposals: invisible giant crabs, giants with poor height genes from both parents, low-key mummies.
Reminded for seventh time about backer update, which you knew about but have been deliberately putting off. Chastise producer for not reminding you enough.
11:50 AM - 12:00 AM
Called in to review cutscene animatic. Despite the storyboard being delivered exactly as asked for, you berate the storyboard artist to consolidate power. This is garbage, GARBAGE!
Lunch alone at office desk, like every day.
12:10 PM - 1:00 PM
Spend the rest of lunch on Facebook and Twitter making it look like you have the perfect life and everybody loves you.
1:00 PM - ??
Intermittent raptor daydreams.
1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Work with narrative designer on the design for a new companion centered exclusively on maximizing companion's potential to be spun off into a line of toys. Huge adorable eyes, soft plush fur, impressive physique, ability to transform into racecar, check, check, check and check.
2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Passing off subordinates' ideas as your own. Crushing their spirit.
4:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Brainstorm barbarian clan names.
- The Large and in Charge Clan
- Clan Pizzaface
- The One-Man Clan
- The Passive-Aggressors
- The Doughmen
5:00 PM -7:00 PM
I may have taken a few liberties, but some of that is really a snapshot as to what my role is.
Day-to-day, I spend a fair amount of time coordinating the efforts of narrative designers with level designers, so for example I really did have a meeting this morning to figure out how on Earth we could have a quest with some monster combat in a populated, more-or-less oblivious urban district without the monsters there feeling absurdly out of place. The game needs to be fun, first and foremost, with or without a story. It's ultimately my responsibility to make sure that the fun things our designers come up with have a cohesive narrative wrapped around them. Sometimes it's an easy fit, sometimes it's a puzzle to be solved. Fortunately I am backed up by some very talented designers whose ideas I can steal liberally - that part was all true, too.
It's also on me to try and make sure the story is being told properly in-game, so there was in fact a meeting with a storyboard artist to look through one of our game's introductory cutscenes. Our concept artists' stick figures look better than the most realistic human portrait I could ever draw.
And I have to curate lore, though that's a responsibility I share with Josh Sawyer, our project lead. In general I prefer this to be a decentralized process where designers come up with things that make their quests and areas and subplots cool, and then we find ways together to work them into the overall scheme. But there was also a good amount of up-front central planning, dating back to before I was on the project. In this case, today I did have a long conversation with a couple of our level guys about the names and personalities of a set of barbarian-ish tribes.
What's missing from the above is that on some days, when I am fortunate, I get to do some writing for the project, which is really fun. If you are a narrative lead you get to claim all the choicest dialogues for yourself. It's a great privilege, which is one reason why so many narrative leads are murdered by the narrative designer who is next-in-line.
Companions may be my favorite things about RPGs. Long after you've finished the game, looking back, if they're done well, they feel like old friends. Lately we have been ramping up our companion writing. (We really did have a discussion about one of those designs today, and did some iteration on it.) As such, I've been giving a lot of thought of late as to what our goals should be in creating the companions for Pillars of Eternity, and I thought they'd be worth sharing with the people we're designing them for. These are a few of the benchmarks I want us to try to hit:
It's common in most types of fiction for major characters (or the protagonist at the very least) to follow an arc, in which their character begins a certain way and ends up being changed by the events of the story, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But for a video game, that's not really taking advantage of the medium. This is a story about the player's character, told by the player's actions. It stands to reason that the ways in which a companion would change should be dependent on what the player does.
So we have an arc for each of our companions, but each arc has multiple potential endpoints, in just the same way that the plot has multiple endings. Which endpoint the arc ends up at will be, in one way or another, determined by what the player does - whether it's something they say or an action they take or some other choice they make. This was an approach we last took in Fallout: New Vegas and I thought it was something to definitely keep.
Unique, Varied, Relatable Ambassadors
Chris Avellone touched on this in a previous update, and it remains a core goal for us. Pillars of Eternity takes place in a brand new setting. Most players won't know their boreal dwarf chanters from their hearth orlan ciphers. Getting to know companions that run the gamut of races, classes, and cultures will help the setting come alive and hopefully become a place players will find themselves wanting to stay awhile. Each companion, in a sense, becomes an ambassador for his or her race, culture, and class.
And we only have so many companions. So they can't all be snarky elves (or can they?) - they need different characterizations, different voices, different struggles. As a designer, you never know what's going to strike a nerve with a given player. Rarely for our games is there a universal favorite companion - almost always there seems to be an even distribution for how many players like each character. In some ways that's maddening, because how do you adjust for that, but it's also one of the best things about writing companions - as long as you write a character that is authentic in its humanity, somewhere, somebody is going to identify with it, and that will be the character they enjoyed spending time with the most. By varying widely the particulars of each companion's persona and struggles, the hope is that while not everybody will necessarily love every companion, most will find at least one that means something to them.
Lanterns to the Themes
"Why should the player care?" is a question we try to ask ourselves for all aspects of the narrative. When it comes to plot, the question is answered by its themes - they make the plot about something more than a physical struggle.
But again, our narrative is interactive. The themes shouldn't be predetermined morals. There should be many facets to them, and it should fall to the player, not the designer, to decide what his or her perspective winds up being on the theme. To take a well-worn example, if the theme is about the struggle of good vs. evil (don't worry, it's not), the ending shouldn't simply assert that good always triumphs over evil. It should ask the player what he or she believes, given everything they've learned on their journey. Maybe they even surprise themselves with their choice.
That's where companions come in. If we're designing them well, their struggles should tie into the themes on some level. And the resolution they come to, which, because of the interactive dynamism discussed above, is influenced by the player, gives them a distinct perspective on the theme. The goal is that in the process of helping the companions resolve their conflicts, we give the player something to think about for what that might mean in the context of his or her own character, and in the long run, that gives the themes personal meaning when it comes time to resolve them for the player character.
I'd be interested to hear, what do all of you think? Not so much specific characterizations, but more, what are the abstract qualities that make you enjoy and remember a companion? (e.g. They made you laugh, they seemed like a real person, their quest was engrossing, etc.)
Here, Have Some Lore
Compensation for being subjected to the rest of this update.
All my best ideas are stolen. This one I ripped off from our lead level designer, Bobby Null. It is about the undead.
Male and female darguls.
One of the strengths of the Eternity setting, in my opinion, is its ability to put a new spin on the familiar. Let's be honest, you've seen undead before in a video game or two. I bet you've had a virtual conflict with a skeleton or perhaps even a zombie. But no matter how many times we see them, they're fantasy RPG staples - it'd be weird not to have them, and many people would really miss them were they omitted.
So we did some thinking as to how we could have undead but have them be our own special brand of undead that makes sense in this world.
This is How Undead Work
Let's say you are a wealthy noble who would like to cheat death. There are a variety of options at your disposal, but this offer from a shady animancer sounds the most painless. All he is going to do is bind your soul to your body, so that way when you die, your soul stays put and you still retain all your motor control.
Sign me up, you say. Suck on this, death! The animancer sets up some bizarre tools and machines, has you hold onto some copper wires, and before you know it the whole thing is over. He leaves and takes his fee. A few years later you die in a horrific skiing accident. Not to worry! Your soul isn't going anywhere. You are living large, my friend. But here's the thing. Your soul isn't going anywhere, but your body is. It starts to decompose. Slowly at first. A maggot here, a maggot there. And you are starting to get weird cravings, kind of like a pregnant woman, but instead of peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, you could really go for some human flesh.
So you eat some guys. And lo and behold, the decomposition stops! You're cured! Except that after a while, you start to rot again. Over time, you find that eating folks and absorbing the essence from their flesh is the only way to stop decomposition. But after a while you run out of neighbor kids and it gets harder and harder to track down a meal. Flesh is dropping off in chunks. And it feels like your IQ has fallen a few points, like that time you used to live next to that industrial solvent factory. In time, your mind goes as well as your body. You become feral, then near-vegetative, then purely mechanical - your body nothing more than a fleshless marionette.
Revenant bestiary concepts.
What you have just done is experienced the full continuum of undeath. Corporeal undead in this world all suffer from the same malady, and are merely in different stages of decomposition. How do you get this condition? It's usually something that you would get by commissioning an unscrupulous animancer to help you live forever, or by volunteering for a "harmless clinical trial." These ladies and gentlemen have been studying a certain banned piece of literature known as the Theorems of Padgram and are trying to develop a true path to immortality. But there are supposedly other ways - certain alchemical tinctures, ancient architecturally-embedded machinery, self-pleasure (according to some disapproving Dyrwoodan moms), etc.
- You start as a fampyr. (And these names are not different-for-the-sake-of-different - they're just following location-appropriate linguistic rules.) By appearances, you're basically a normal person who is going through a bit of a cannibal phase.
- Allow yourself to decompose for a while, and you start to lose control of your urges, and your memory begins to slip away. Your self-consciousness is flimsy. You are now what's called a dargul.
- Much more decomposition, and you become bestial. Your hair is gone (if it wasn't already), the flesh sags on your bones, and you live only to feed your hunger. You are a gul, but you don't give it much thought at this point. You just think you are hungry.
- Then your mind gets really pretty thoroughly rotted, like what happens if you play a lot of FPSes, and you're only running at the basest level of instinct. You have no memory. You, my friend, are a revenant, and you are not very fun at parties.
- After the last bit of flesh falls away, and the last mildly complicated neural synaptic path fires for the final time, you're running on pure reflex. You're not even hungry anymore (no stomach!). Your body is a murderous automaton. You are a skeleton, and your next step is dust.
It's a fun time for the project. Amazing new level art and some of what I think are our best quests yet are being added every day, and I'm very excited for what's ahead. I personally want to express my appreciation for the thing all of you made happen by backing us, and I want to do everything I can to make sure you guys are suitably rewarded for your efforts.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to fill out your backer surveys. Those of you who have surveys will find them on your account page on the backer portal under the Surveys tab. You have until March 31st before they become as worthless as that Myspace page I had in college with all the animated gifs on it, so get those suckers in. Huge thanks to those who've filled theirs out - the team is already putting that content into the game and it's coming out pretty slick.
Last Lastly... reddit /r/Games AMA
Hey, everyone. This is Brandon. One last note, the Eternity team will be taking part in a reddit AMA in /r/Games. This is scheduled for today at 5:30 PM PST, so be on the lookout.
- Pidesco, Atreides, kirottu and 43 others like this
Posted by BAdler on 28 January 2014 - 02:15 PM
Update by Josh Sawyer, Project Director
Welcome! First things first: if you have backed Pillars of Eternity but not yet completed your order on our website, please do so as soon as possible. Even if you have an all-digital order, we need information from you to make sure you get everything you are supposed to. If your backer tier includes an NPC, item, portrait, or other custom piece of content, an early response will make it easier for us to work with you on your designs and preferences. As always, we appreciate that our backers have made Pillars of Eternity possible and we want to ensure that you get your money's worth.
As most of you know, our friends at Double Fine have their new adventure game, Broken Age, coming out today. Double Fine and their Kickstarter adventure game paved the way for all of the games that came after - including Pillars of Eternity.
If you are fans of the adventure game genre (or just fans of good games from indie studios), show them some love.
You can find more about it on their website.
Engwithan ruins sitting atop some cliffs.
Things are going well at Obsidian on the Pillars of Eternity team. The artists are putting the finishing touches on the second of our two big cities, Twin Elms, and the environments look fantastic. Our designers are busy implementing narrative and quest content, in some cases returning to earlier areas to fill in cracks and flesh elements out more. The character artists are almost done taking all of our highest-priority creatures to alpha level and are starting to look at the second string of creatures and variants. Animation is right behind them, creating rigs and alpha animations as new creatures come online, and we're finally returning to our main character animations for a second pass. Programming continues to chug away at user interfaces, AI, and zany spells and many other items on our long list of features. In short, we're well past "the hump" and the game is looking and feeling better every day.
In most RPG parties, there's a character type that focuses on dealing death to VIPs in the enemy roster. They are the heavy hitters, the characters who cut enemies down one-by-one with precise, overpowering attacks. We've previously talked about one of our heavy hitters, the cipher. Ciphers alternate between powerful mental attacks and the physical strikes used to power them. They are the only "caster" class that focuses heavily on individual enemies, in large part because their abilities all require an external concentration of soul energy to serve as a power source.
In contrast to the cipher, the rogue and the ranger are more traditional, but just as deadly. Rogues rely on the vulnerability of their enemies to inflict devastating attacks in close quarters. Rangers coordinate their strikes with the help of animal companions, creatures with whom rangers form lifelong bonds. Outside of direct combat, rogues and rangers share a skill emphasis in Stealth and are commonly the sneakiest party members. But while rogues also have a specialization in Mechanics (most often to lay traps and deal with ones placed by their enemies), rangers focus on Survival, which improves the duration of many consumable items. Though the three "heavy hitter" classes have different styles of play with different strengths, they all excel at taking enemies down in the shortest amount of time possible.
In Pillars of Eternity, the designation of a character as a "rogue" signifies their vicious, brutal style of fighting, not a propensity for theft or deception. More than any other class, rogues exemplify the adage that the best defense is a good offense. If fighters are the disciplined, reliable, well-trained units that hold the line, rogues are the shock troops that attempt to break through that line to take out vulnerable units before they can effectively retaliate. When pinned down, rogues can suffer from their weak defenses, but ideally they carry their momentum from one target to the next in short order.
All rogues start with three abilities that allow them to immediately dive into heavy-hitting: Finishing Blow, Reckless Assault, and Dirty Fighting.
- Finishing Blow (Active) - Full Attack. This ability gains power the more damaged the target is. When the rogue uses a Finishing Blow, he or she makes a full attack at the enemy with his or her current weapons. The attack is made with an Accuracy bonus and does +50% damage if it hits. For every 1% under 50% Max Stamina the target has, the attack does an additional +3% damage. 3/rest.
- Reckless Assault (Modal) - In this mode, a rogue's Deflection is lowered but he or she gains a bonus to Accuracy and damage with all weapons.
- Dirty Fighting - 10% of the rogue's Hits with any melee or ranged weapon are turned into Crits. This occurs after the initial attack roll is resolved. The resulting shift is displayed in the combat log.
As rogues advance, they gain access to abilities that allow them to maximize the damage and afflictions they can dish out to their targets. They can also learn a variety of tricks to help them get out of trouble when the going gets tough.
- Sneak Attack - Sneak Attack applies bonus damage to the rogue's ranged and melee weapon attacks when the target has any of the following statuses: Blinded, Flanked, Hobbled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Prone, Stuck, Stunned, or Weakened. It also applies to any target the rogue strikes with a weapon within the first 2 seconds of combat starting.
- Escape (Active) - Escape allows the rogue to break Engagement and safely move away from their current location. The ability must be targeted on open ground to which the rogue has a clear path. When activated, the rogue immediately breaks Engagement and swiftly moves to that location. 1/encounter.
- Crippling Strike (Active) - Full Attack. Inflicts extra damage and the Hobbled condition. 2/encounter.
- Coordinated Positioning (Active) - You are able to instantly switch positions with one target within 1m. If this is an ally, the switch is automatic. If it is an enemy, the maneuver is an attack against its Reflexes (only succeeds on a Hit or Crit). The switch is immediate and cancels Engagement (if any) on the rogue. 2/encounter.
- Adept Evasion - 50% of all Grazes against a rogue's Reflexes are converted to Misses.
- Blinding Strike (Active) - Full Attack. Inflicts extra damage and the Blinded condition. 2/rest.
- Deathblows - Against any target that is afflicted by two or more of the conditions that can allow Sneak Attack, rogues do additional Sneak Attack damage.
Resident heavy-hitting rogue, Edér.
Rangers are expert sharpshooters with any ranged weapon. Though they traditionally rely on bows and crossbows, some use firearms or even magical implements. Regardless of their choice of armament, even novice rangers can strike swiftly and leave severe wounds that quickly wear down an enemy's stamina and movement. They are assisted in their efforts by their animal companions, incredibly tough and loyal creatures who share their lives (literally) with their masters. All rangers start with the following three abilities:
- Animal Companion - The ranger begins the game with (and can name) an animal companion that fights at his or her direction. This companion shares Health and Stamina with the ranger, i.e. if either one is damaged, the same pool is reduced. Both the ranger and the animal companion die if their Health is reduced to zero. Animal companions have high inherent Damage Thresholds that allow them to run interference for their masters.
- Wounding Shot (Active) - Only usable when ranged weapons are equipped. The ranger's shot inflicts a continuous damage effect and Hobbles the target. 3/rest.
- Swift Aim (Modal) - This mode increases the ranger's rate of fire and reload with ranged weapons at the cost of an Accuracy penalty.
At higher levels, rangers gain abilities that increase the effectiveness of their attacks and the coordinated use of their companions. By tactically applying the synergistic benefits of the ranger and his or her companion, players can lock down and quickly overwhelm powerful enemies.
- Defensive Bond - When both the ranger and his or her animal companion are subjected to an area effect attack, they gain +15 to the targeted defenses.
- Marked Prey (Active) - The ranger can designate a single target as his or her marked prey. He or she and his or her animal companion have a damage bonus against that target until combat ends. Once designated, the target cannot be switched. 1/encounter.
- Predator's Sense - The ranger's animal companion gains a damage bonus on any creature suffering from a continuous damage effect, including those caused by Wounding Shots.
- Stalkers' Link - When a ranger's animal companion Engages a target, the target is automatically Flanked if the ranger has a ranged weapon equipped and is opposite the target.
- Takedown (Active) - The ranger's animal companion will knock the target Prone with a Fortitude attack. 2/encounter.
- Defensive Shooting - When using ranged weapons against any target that is Engaging the ranger, the ranger's Accuracy is increased by 20 and his or her Interrupt rating is improved by one category.
- Master's Call (Active) - When the ranger issues Master's Call, his or her animal companion will immediately move back to him or her at increased speed, gaining a +20 bonus to Concentration and defenses against Disengagement Attacks. Any enemy it comes within 1m of is automatically attacked (Fortitude) and knocked Prone if the attack succeeds. 2/rest.
In addition to the abilities listed here, ciphers, rogues, and rangers can gain access to additional class-specific abilities as well as Talents. Some Talents can be taken by any character, but many are class-oriented and can be used to distinguish or emphasize one character from another. One cipher's Talents may emphasize his or her physical attacks while another's makes his or her Focus use more efficient. One rogue may maximize his or her advantage against a specific type of affliction; another may improve the frequency with which his or her offensive abilities can be used. And while rangers can always benefit from improving their marksmanship and special attacks, investing in the durability and abilities of their animal companions can safeguard the ranger against disaster.
Pillars of Eternity's heavy hitters all differ in how they bring the pain to enemies, but we hope you enjoy the concepts and mechanics we've presented here. As always, these are our current designs and implementations, but will be adjusting them in the months to come. We will be doing three more class pair updates in the future: The Leaders of the Band (chanters and priests), The Front Line (fighters and barbarians), and The Mob Rulers (wizards and druids). Let us know what you think of today's update and please vote on which of the three class pairs you'd like to see covered next. As always, thanks for reading and for your continued support.
- wanderon, kgambit, Wombat and 41 others like this
Posted by norolim on 25 September 2012 - 03:41 AM
Because translation is free, right?
Again. You are being ignorant and selfish. The game is not just for you. You didn't buy the rights to it, when you pledged. Translations cost money, but they also widen the reach of the game and consequently produce more income. Simple math. So, please stop being selfish and ignorant.
- Lars Westergren, max8472, Bonecrusher and 40 others like this
Posted by Karranthain on 16 September 2012 - 02:19 PM
Certainly looks better than this :
Second example :
In the examples, I've juxtaposed somewhat ornamental and a bit fantasy looking pieces of equipment with ones that look more like toys (which I consider to be a general tendency in fantasy cRPGS). Is the continuing urge for so called "epicness" really worth it? I think there's plenty of historical (and not so historical) arms and armour to draw inspiration from. Non-practical equipment is a real eye sore most of the time, IMHO.
And yes, I realize that the game is isometric, and we won't see arms and armour in great detail - but that'll only make the task that much easier.
While we're at it, please consider using something similar for item descriptions :
- ^Rayne^, Solivagant, Goran and 40 others like this
Posted by Shadenuat on 17 September 2012 - 08:15 AM
- Pidesco, Creslyn, szioul and 39 others like this
Posted by Darren Monahan on 09 April 2013 - 08:34 PM
Update by Josh Sawyer, Project Director
Welcome. Today's update is a big one, though not by volume of text. Today we’re showing you our game in action. Specifically, we're showing what we've been doing for our exterior environments. The Infinity Engine games were known for their art, and we wanted to hit the high standard of visual quality established by games like the Icewind Dale series. We also wanted to introduce dynamic elements into the environment that were mostly absent from the classic games, like dynamic water, movement in foliage, and dynamic lighting of the scene.
In a 2D game, this required our programmers and artists to come up with some creative solutions. What they came up with surprised us initially and it continues to amaze us. While we are still working on refining some of the dynamic elements, we're very happy with the progress we've been able to make and hope you feel the same way. Special thanks to Hector Espinoza, our lead environment artist, and Michael Edwards, our rendering programmer, who did a lot of amazing work to bring this environment to life.
Thanks for reading, thanks for your feedback, and we'll see you next week.
- Amentep, samm, alanschu and 38 others like this
Posted by The Guildmaster on 29 January 2013 - 05:49 PM
Click for full size image
As some of the keen-eyed among you noted from last week's update, there was an unfamiliar portrait in our work-in-progress tileset screenshot. We read the debates and viewed the Blade Runner-esque enhanced images that followed with interest. Good work, sleuths, the character pictured is, in fact, an orlan. This orlan is engaged in some important work in one of the Dyrwood's busiest cities. Here's the full-sized portrait for your continued speculation!
Ziets on Pantheon Design
Hello all. This week, I will be writing the update, and we’ll be starting to talk a bit about world development. For a designer, this is the fun part, and it’s a surprisingly rare opportunity.
On all my previous Obsidian projects, the team has worked with an established IP (intellectual property) like the Forgotten Realms or Fallout. We’ve always had a wealth of existing lore to draw upon – cities, towns, characters, history, gods, etc. Sometimes we’ve worked in an area of the world that hadn’t been seen in a CRPG before (as in NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer), which gave us the opportunity to extrapolate beyond what was already established... but otherwise, we were working with established material and trying to be true to existing lore.
In contrast, Project Eternity is an entirely new setting that we’re creating from scratch. And at the start of development (around the end of the Kickstarter campaign), we didn’t have much more than what KS supporters have already seen: a map, a few high-level ideas about races, nations, and technology level, and the idea that souls play a major role in this world.
So where do we go from there?
Building a Pantheon
One of our first steps was to think about gods. Deities can be a good starting point when developing a world. They reflect the views and beliefs of the world’s inhabitants, and they can inspire ideas for characters, organizations, and conflicts.
You’ve already heard a few of our gods mentioned in passing: Magran, goddess of fire and war; Berath, god of cycles, doors, and death; Eothas, god of light and redemption. Josh invented these gods when he was first developing the world, and they play important roles in the region where the game will be set. But we’ll need a lot more gods to fill out the pantheon.
Here are a few of the elements we consider for each new deity:
- What is the god's name, and what are his/her "aliases" (e.g., "The Twinned God" for Berath).
- What is the god's portfolio? That is, what aspects of life or the world do they represent (e.g., mortality, greed, summer, commerce)?
- What allies and foes do they have amongst the other gods?
- What are their symbols?
- How do they manifest in the mortal world?
One other thing to bear in mind: for the most part, our deities aren’t good or evil. They’re somewhere in between – closer to the multi-dimensional gods of the ancient world. Every deity has his or her own agenda, which isn’t bound by notions of alignment. Sometimes they can be helpful and benevolent. Other times – not so much.
Woedica – "The Exiled Queen"
All the preceding info is important, but I wouldn’t want to leave you without revealing an actual example...
A lot of my design ideas start with a visual image. That applies to characters, locations, even narrative. I’m not sure where most of them come from, but examining them more closely will usually lead me to develop stories to explain who they are and where they came from.
One of the first images that sprang to mind was an old woman – a dethroned queen – wandering along an empty road in tattered finery. Despite whatever horrors she had suffered, she maintained a certain stubborn dignity, and she carried a heavy book of law.
I felt like this goddess could cover a range of portfolios, and I liked the idea that the deity who was the "rightful ruler" of the gods (in her mind, at least), had lost her throne. That may have some interesting implications for the way in which mortals view the world.
So what was her story? According to her followers, she had once claimed rulership over all the other gods. But if that was true, she was cast down in the far distant past. Among the other gods, she has no real allies, believing that all the gods owe her fealty. She claims the portfolios of law, rightful rulership, memory, and vengeance. And she manifests in the world as the Strangler, a leathery-skinned old woman, always clad in tattered finery, who appears on an empty road or abandoned alleyway to murder those who break a solemn oath.
Her Aedyran name is Woedica, which evokes the “Old English” feel of the Aedyran language. (Maintaining a distinct sense of national/ethnic language and culture is important to us – more about that in a later update.)
There’s a lot more to tell about the Exiled Queen and the other gods (some of which aren’t even “human”). But that should give you a taste of our creative process. We’ll have plenty more to say about world-building in future updates.
- Jaesun, Apatia, Archon and 38 others like this
Posted by salty on 17 October 2012 - 03:00 PM
Hopefully the majority of your backers
- Shevek, casa, AGX-17 and 38 others like this
Posted by BAdler on 15 April 2014 - 01:31 PM
Public Service Announcement by Darren Monahan, web guy
Before we get started on this week’s update, we wanted to make all of you aware of a very serious website vulnerability called “Heartbleed” that was discovered since our last update. This bug affected a huge number of sites and services across the internet, potentially exposing passwords and other sensitive information to hackers that understood how to exploit it.
Unfortunately, the Eternity website was running an affected version of this software, and as soon as we became aware of it, we took the appropriate steps to close the vulnerability. While we have no evidence or other reasons to believe any passwords or personal information was stolen, we do recommend you change your password if you have an account, especially if you reuse this same password on other sites.
To change your password, visit your Account Profile, click on the E-mail & Password tab, enter your current password, and your new password twice and click Save Changes. Please leave the e-mail address boxes empty.
xkcd comic: How the Heartbleed bug works.
Update by Justin Bell, Audio Director
Hello awesome backers. My name is Justin Bell and I’m the Audio Director at Obsidian, and the Audio Lead/Composer for Pillars of Eternity. I know a lot of you have been waiting patiently to hear some news about the game’s music. Thanks for waiting, I’m happy to say this update will focus entirely on music! In it we’ll cover the high level creative guidelines we’re using to write the score. I’ll also provide you with an in depth look into my music writing process. For those of you who are chomping at the bit for more info about the sound design for PoE, don’t worry... We’re going to do another update in the future that focuses on that as well. But for now, let’s talk about music!
Our next update will be a look at the most recent art our talented team has put together for the game.
Justin's every day workspace.
Making Pillars of Eternity feel like a modern day Infinity Engine game is important to us, and music plays a big role in achieving that goal. But what does that actually mean in practice? Well if you were to loosely analyze the music from Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 and Icewind Dale 1 & 2 for example, you would find a number of stylistic similarities between them. Without getting too technical, their music combines tropes found in European folk and pre-Renaissance modal music, and mashes that together with modern day orchestration techniques and film music aesthetics.
You’re probably thinking... “Where’s the human side of all this? Where’s the emotion? The music for the IE games is so much more than simply a mash-up of musical elements!”
Putting it in such cold and analytical terms doesn’t really give those soundtracks the justice they deserve, does it? Still it’s important for me as the composer to understand things in that way, and here’s why. An incredible teacher of mine used to say, “When in doubt, use a model”. Another incredible teacher would likewise say, “Never proceed without a plan”. What they were both saying is that if you’re going to take a journey, you need to understand the path and know your destination to the best of your ability. Even if the plan needs to change at some point down the path, always think it through first.
Luckily for me both are pretty clear. In that sense the soundtracks for the IE games are both my model and my plan, at least to a point. I’ve made a couple minor structural modifications to the formula, which I’ll describe in greater depth further on. But first I’d like to give you an inside peek into the creative process I use to write music.
Here’s some news that’ll undoubtedly shock each and every one of you...
I commute to work. Every. Day.
Exciting right?! Right... Don’t let the mundaneness of that description fool you, as this is actually one of the most important parts of my day. It’s one of the few times that I get to listen to music without interruption, and I use this time to get inspired to write. Things I’ve been putting on lately are the soundtracks for The Elder Scrolls (III, IV, and V), The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, anything by Basil Poledouris, and of course the IE soundtracks, just to name a few.
As I’m driving and listening I stay on the lookout for small moments that inspire me in some way. When I come across something that attracts my attention, like an interesting harmony or nice orchestral combination, I document the track number, time range, and any observations I have using a little handheld recorder. By the time I get to work I usually have roughly 10 small voice memos recorded for myself. When I get in front of my computer at work I pull the tracks I noticed into my audio program, edit out the sections in question, and categorize them with my notes for future use. It’s a way of systematizing inspiration, which I’ll admit may sound counter intuitive to some. When working on a project with deadlines while simultaneously trying to keep things the creative juices flowing, being organized is critical to successfully balancing those two often competing requirements.
The audio booth with noise making props.
After I’m through categorizing the nuggets of inspiration, I sit in front of my keyboard and sight read a single chorale from J.S. Bach’s beautiful collection of 371 four part chorales. Each day I read a new one in sequence, and I do this for a couple reasons. I’m a musician, sight reading is fun, and this is an excuse to keep my chops up. But more importantly, I do it to get motivated by the master of modern tonal harmony himself. When I’m actually writing music and get stuck at a tricky voice leading spot, the fact that I have Bach in my ear and at my fingertips is often a lifesaver.
I like to keep the actual writing process as simple as possible. To do that, I open up my writing program (Nuendo 6 + NEK for those who are interested) and compose with one piano patch and one full string patch only. This is pretty standard practice for some, and I do it too. It allows me to focus on just the melody, rhythm, and harmony alone (i.e. the Music, with a capital “M”) without concerning myself too much with instrumentation or the mix. Both of those things aren’t important now and I know I’ll get to them later. For now it’s all about the music. By keeping the writing process simple, I free up my ability to stay creative.
Here I’ll write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s entire pieces of music, other times it’s a small fragment. I don’t really try to do anything specific or limit myself in any way; I just let the ideas flow as freely as possible. The idea here is to write as much music as possible without concern for the end result. Again, it’s important to keep things loose. At the end of each day I may write up to an hour of sketches, about 90% of which will never see the light of day. It’s the remaining 10% that I’m really after.
I liken this process to panning for gold. The way I look at it is that in order to succeed, you need to know how to fail. It doesn’t matter to me if I’ve deliberately crafted a piece of music through the sheer force of my will and divine creativity or whatever. Happy accidents can and do often yield the best creative results, and allowing them to happen is essential to remaining creative while working under tight deadlines. Now you may be wondering, “Where’s the artistry in that?!? Anyone can do that!” The artistry lies in the ability to recognize a great idea when it comes to you, regardless of where it comes from or how deliberate the process to create it was. Simple as that!
Process of Elimination and Categorization
Once I’ve run out of time sketching things out, it’s time to start identifying the material that actually has potential to be made into a larger piece of music. I do this by color coding each region (i.e. sketch) based on how good I think it is. By default all of my regions are blue because it’s soothing for me to look at. All segments that are halfway decent get turned purple, which means I may or may not have a use for it. Everything that sounds amazing and I’m confident in gets coded red. Once that’s done, I version off my session and delete all the remaining blue regions for them to go to unwanted sketch heaven.
In Eternity we break music into four basic “types”: town, dungeon, wilderness, and combat. Each major area of the game will have its own unique set of these. The next step for me is to assign each sketch to one of those categories.
A sketch in progress.
So I have all these little segments of music and cool little snippets, but I don’t exactly have what you’d consider to be a piece of music. Time to change that! The next step involves stitching all of those little fragments, expanding them where necessary, into a full-fledged piece of music. A lot of mixing and matching goes into this and the process takes me about a half day per 3-5 minute piece of music. I focus a lot on form, pacing, and musical trajectory. Once the form has taken a shape I’m happy with, I separate each voice out into individual track lanes so I can begin the process of digital orchestration.
A Word About Templates
Prior to working on Eternity I spent a couple of weeks creating what’s known in the digital composing world as template. A template is essentially a collection of sample based instruments that are preloaded into a massive audio project. In my template I have all of the most common instruments found in the orchestra (i.e. winds, brass, percussion, and strings), as well as some less common ones, all set up and mixed in advance. This is done to help minimize the steps I have to take between the spark of inspiration and manifesting that inspiration into music. All in all I have about 150 unique tracks for all the instruments and articulations that I’ll need to write the music for Eternity, though I’ll rarely use all 150 at one time.
There are a couple of reasons why using a template is important and they all have to do with speed and convenience. When writing, the last thing you want is to get bogged down with technical issues. Doing so will often destroy the spark of inspiration, which can be a fickle thing. By creating a template in advance you separate the technical from the creative which allows you to focus purely on writing the music. Templates are also critical because modern day multi sample libraries eat up a lot of RAM and take a long time to load. Your average sampled instrument can require anywhere from a couple hundred to a few gigs of memory. (Fun fact: My computer at Obsidian has 32 gigs or RAM installed, and my template uses every last gig!) Needless to say, loading all those samples takes up precious time, and it’s a waste to have to do that over and over.
Using all the RAM.
Back to the music writing... Right now the form of the music has been fleshed out, but it’s still just using piano or string orchestra. This is where orchestration comes in. We often refer to the different ranges and combinations of instruments as having a certain “color”, which is really just a fancy way of saying sonic timbre. You can think of orchestration as being similar to taking a pencil sketch and filling it in with color. The way I like describe this stage of the writing process is that here I have the “bones” of the music all assembled like an archeologist assembles dinosaur bones; it just needs to be “skinned”.
At this point I already have a good idea for what the general moment to moment feeling of the music will be, and ideas for orchestration are already beginning to take shape. This is where those references I mentioned earlier on come in handy. What I do is comb through my reference library looking for snippets that will inspire and inform me on how to approach the instrumentation. When I find something suitable I line appropriate reference(s) up against the sketch.
A piece in the middle of development.
Even though the actual harmonic and rhythmic content of music that I’ve written is quite different than the references I have, I can still use them to extract the orchestral colors the original composer used and apply them to what I’m doing. This helps me to produce the most realistic result possible (remember I’m using samples most of the time) and allows me to get through the orchestration process in the fastest way without spending too much time on R&D.
At this stage in the project it’s less important for me to spend a bunch of time trying to come up with the most unique orchestration known to man, than it is for me to get 70% of the way there using a combination that I know will work. I don’t always need to do this for each musical phrase, but it sure comes in handy when I’m stuck. Once the references are all lined up, I start assigning the different layers of music to the instruments that are loaded in my template.
In its current state, the music sounds really static and pretty bad. Not ready for prime time. Even though I just assigned the music to different instruments, it’s not quite done yet. For example, phrases lack shape, the mix between instruments is unbalanced, and articulations are all wrong. To fix that, I hand sculpt each individual note and phrase to make it sound more convincing, trying my best to make it sound as if a real live musician were performing the piece (which is actually impossible to do, but that’s the subject for another conversation).
This, my friends, is where the music really comes to life. It’s a painstakingly slow and highly detailed process but by the end of it, we’re left with something that actually sounds pretty good! Now I bet you’re wondering how that sounds? Well wonder no more because I’m about to show you!
Drum Roll Please...
The first region I focused on was Dyrford, and I’d like to share the music that I wrote for the town of Dyrford with you. I hope you enjoy it!
Dyrford Village ambient music.
Modifications to the Formula
While we are following in the footsteps of the Infinity Engine soundtracks in terms of style and implementation, we have decided to tweak that formula a bit. Most of the in-game tracks for the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games are between 1-2 minutes in length, and in some cases those tracks loop immediately. There are some inherent risks and benefits to looping a short piece of music immediately.
One of the risks is that the music could eventually become annoying to the player if heard too many times in a row. We call this “listener fatigue”, and from a usability perspective, it can negatively affect the way a gamer will feel about a game. It’s a psychological effect; the fact that the music is short and repetitious can make long playthroughs tedious. On the flip side, a benefit to having short loops is that we can write more unique pieces of music, which will by nature increase variety throughout the game. Approaching it this way would allow us to make specific areas feel “special” because they will have unique music.
We’re going to balance those two considerations for Pillars of Eternity. Music will always loop, but it will be longer in areas where the player spends a lot of time (like quest hubs) and shorter in areas where the player doesn’t (like some dungeons).
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Posted by J.E. Sawyer on 17 September 2012 - 02:47 PM
The maximum party size is the player's main character (PC) and up to five companions for a total of six characters. This does not preclude the addition of temporary characters in special circumstances. Companions are never forced on the player. Players can explore the entire world and its story on their own if they so choose. We feel companions are excellent sounding boards for the player's (and other companions') actions, but the story is ultimately about the player's personal conflict among the larger social and political complexities of the world.
A key element of the classic party-based tactical combat that we are developing is the use of party formations. As in the good ol' games, you can arrange your party in a large number of set formations. You can also construct your own formations if you want to get fancy. When moving companions, you have the ability to rotate formations for more precise positioning.
At a minimum, players will be able to specify their main character's name, sex, class, race (including subrace), culture, traits, ability scores, portrait, and the fundamental starting options of his or her class (gear, skills, and talents). We have not worked out customization details of character avatars, but we believe those are important and will be updating on these specifics in the future.
In Project Eternity, companions exist for both narrative and mechanical purposes. Companions are designed to have a driving interest in the player's central conflict. Their personalities and motivations open plot branches and generate conflicts for players to resolve over the course of the story. They are highly reactive to the player's actions and to the world around them. Additionally, companions exist to give players strategic management options in party composition that expand the party's capabilities in exploration, combat, and quest resolution. It is no coincidence that there are at least as many companions as there are classes. As stated above, companions are not required to play through Project Eternity's story, but we feel that they can add greatly to the experience.
The player witnesses an extraordinary and horrific supernatural event that thrusts them into a unique and difficult circumstance. Burdened with the consequences of this event, the player has to investigate what has happened in order to free themselves from the restless forces that follow and haunt them wherever they go.
The Nature of You
Your character is not required to be of any particular race, cultural background, sex, class, moral outlook, personality, organization, etc. The premise is that you are a victim of circumstance. How you choose to deal with your situation is up to you. You can bear it with stoicism and restraint or fly off in a rage at anyone who gets in your way. The world will react to your choices, but the game is designed to give you the freedom to play your character the way you want to.
We are still developing the races of Project Eternity, but we are creating a range that encompasses the recognizable (e.g. humans, elves, dwarves), the out-of-the-ordinary (e.g. the so-called "godlike"), and the truly odd (?!). Races and subraces differ from each other culturally, but the races also have different physiological factors that can contribute to friction and confusion between them.
Within even the recognizable races (including humans), we are creating a variety of ethnic subtypes and nationalities. This world's races did not all spring forth from the same place, and millennia of independent development have resulted in distinctive and unconnected groups. For example, the dwarf ranger below is originally from a southern boreal region that is quite different from the temperate homes of her distant kin to the north.
Additionally, Project Eternity's world contains some isolated races and ethnicities, but transoceanic exploration and cultural cohabitation have heavily mixed many racial and ethnic groups over time. This mixing is not always... peaceful. At times it has degenerated into genocide and long-standing prejudices are ingrained in many cultures.
That's all for today's update. We'll have more information on the world and systems in the near future. Please give us your feedback and thank you for all of the ideas and support you've given so far!
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Posted by J.E. Sawyer on 05 July 2013 - 10:57 AM
A few points of clarification:
* "Crafting" is one skill, but the crafting system uses multiple skills. I.e., the crafting system does not rely on the existence of the Crafting skill.
* Other than reaching the edge of a map to access the world map, there is no fast-travel in PE. That said, we will likely avoid the IWD-style 5-level dungeons without semi-regular shortcuts back to the surface (N.B.: this does not mean Skyrim-style loops).
* Most items do take up space in personal inventories! The party Stash is unlimited, but the Pack (made of personal inventories) is not. Crafting items (and quest items) always go into (and come out of) the Stash. We are doing this specifically to address common complaints about crafting items cluttering the inventory. Since crafting is typically done at camps or other non-combat locations, allowing the items to come out of the Stash doesn't seem to create any problems.
As I posted on SA, Crafting (the skill) and its associated subsystems (like durability) were the elements I felt least confident about in our skill system. I strongly believe that choices within an array should give the player reasonably balanced benefits. Because certain fundamental skills (like Stealth) can clearly benefit from multiple party members taking them and can contribute to party effectiveness in combat, I believe that other skills should do the same in their own way -- enough to make all of them appealing choices on multiple party members. This also has the benefit of making the uses of skills much higher-frequency than the individual uses that depend on designer content (e.g. unlocking doors or gaining a dialogue/quest option).
As an example, Medicine in its various Fallout forms contributes to the efficacy of stimpaks. There are many other places were Medicine can be used in quests and dialogue, but it has high-frequency use with stimpaks (in or between combats). It's a benefit that can apply to any character who has the skill, even if a character with a higher rating in a party may be "the guy" to perform the high-difficulty actions.
With all of the skills other than Crafting (specifically), those high-frequency benefits/uses were easy to come by. Crafting presented some difficulties and, as I wrote previously, I was concerned about the lack of systemic drains in the economy. Many people have mentioned a lot of potential uses for wealth. Most of them are great ideas and ones that we plan to use, but the vast majority of them are not systemic, rather content-dependent or scripted instances (e.g. bribes). However, it is clear from discussions here and elsewhere that the long-term balance of the economy is not a concern for most players who voiced their opinions -- and almost certainly not in the endgame.
Based on discussions on the forums and conversations I had with people on the team, we will be doing the following:
* Removing durability as a mechanic on items.
* Removing the Crafting skill (specifically). The crafting system and its associated mechanics will remain, as-is.
Ultimately, solving skill imbalance and endgame wealth abundance problems is not worth what players perceive as uninteresting and unenjoyable gameplay. I can still solve the skill imbalance problems by removing the problem skill. As for endgame wealth abundance, we will continue to create places for you to use wealth in the economy: unique items, the stronghold, optional quest/dialogue gates, etc. Ultimately, if those options go unused, I'll have to trust that the majority of players won't be significantly troubled by an excess of wealth in the late game.
Thanks for all of your feedback.
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Posted by Death Machine Miyagi on 03 November 2012 - 07:06 PM
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Posted by Adam Brennecke on 04 December 2012 - 05:51 PM
Right now, my intent is to bring you up to speed on what we’ve been doing for the last several weeks. It’s called: laying the groundwork; building the foundation, or doing the nitty-gritty.
Often, when starting a project, the artists and I just want to start drawing sh-ssstuff. Especially with contracted 3D games, we have a basic idea of the world we’re making, an initial list of some of the things in it, the basic parameters for making assets, and so we just get started. With Project Eternity, we are starting the development of a rich storied RPG from scratch, zilch, nada. Oh, and we rendered that really cool image for you all at update #20, and so we felt we could take a step back--Waayyy back.
We are stepping back some years in visual “perspective”: to a fixed isometric view--so, NO “perspective”--of an essentially two-dimensional world. The traversable environment is pre-rendered to a high degree of realism, but we’re using a modern 3D game engine: Unity, for 3D characters, creatures, effects and animated props to be rendered in real-time and to assemble it all together, seamlessly. With this decision we’ve opened up a whole kit and caboodle of possibilities in terms of visual fidelity, occlusion, lighting, effects, and physics. At the same time, we’ve created some immediate technical problems that needed to be solved, before we could all go out and start making sh...‘er...stuff.
If you’ve been reading/watching Josh’s updates, you must understand that we are creating a brand new yet substantially familiar RPG experience essentially out of thin air, complete with a fully realized fantasy world, including new rules, new races, new places, new nations, new lore, new creatures, new story, new characters, a whole new combat system, with specific armor and weapon types, new this, new that, and a whole bunch of other new stuff--really we’re creating everything from nothing but what spews forth from Josh’s blazing fingers and angelic vocal cords. “How does that work?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you: what happens is we all sit around a fire, in a far off and desolate wilderness, as he chants: what things were, and are, and what will be and sometimes why. We listen, we ask questions, and we discuss. We in turn, propose thoughts and ideas that are considered, further discussed, sometimes dismissed, but also sometimes gathered up and swirled into the glowing embers of this primordial glowing emergent world that is floating--NO!...LEAPING!!--out of the creative fuel, breath of air, and heat of our collaborative works. As well, we’ve decided to abandon the application we would normally use to create everything, for a supposedly-more-popular-more-capable app, and nobody really knows how to use it...
...BOOM! Yep, I just wrote and you just read THAT!...
...So, with our new software: Maya (the old software was Softimage) we’ve been making test worlds--we call them gray boxes. We’ve been making test characters--we call them gray characters. We’ve been giving them gray animation, we’ve been giving them gray (actually sometimes white, we’ll make some black ones too, we’re not racist) weapons, and we’ve been inserting them into our prototype worlds to prove to ourselves and you, that we know what we’re doing, and to lay the groundwork for expanding these vacant golems into player and non-player characters, that can interact with the world and other characters in a more meaningful and varied way--you know: picking up stuff, and hitting others with it, and taking their stuff and putting it on, or selling it--oh yes, and with color! Just kidding! Haven’t you been reading what I’m writing: this game is going to be DEEEEP!
So what the hell have art people been doing??
We have a very talented lead character artist, named Dimitri, and yep, he’s Russian, but he doesn’t speak it so well anymore--his mother is not happy about it, more on that later. In addition to a tremendous amount of early help getting basic traversable geometry, with a rendered scene that occludes 3D characters when they walk behind things (in essentially a 2D world--remember!) he’s been establishing the basis for weapon, armor and equipment attachment on our player characters, with Adam. As part of that he has to write documents. Booo!!! Documents Buh-LOWW!
Our other Character Artist; James is from China, but says he's from Fresno. He is essentially Dimitri's slave and willingly does whatever he’s told to do, because he doesn’t have to write documents. I sometimes give James direction, but I’m pretty certain that Dimitri tells him to ignore me immediately after I’ve left their office. Remember Dimitri is Russian, so he’s a little controlling, very direct and has high expectations. This isn’t a problem, however, because a) it’s his job and b) it just so happens that James is pretty good and making characters. He made our first character Edair, who can be seen running around with a morning star flail the size of a medicine ball--not his fault. He seems to know Maya better than Dimitri, but let’s his boss learn the hard way--keeping his ear buds in, pumping up the volume, and modeling and texturing his cares away. He’s making gray weapons now. For some reason Dimitri speaks Russian expletives perfectly.
Mark is our Lead Animator, and he knows his sh-tuff, but he made the Medicine ball. Needless to say, he will not be asked to make any more weapons. No no, it just so happens, that he was making it so he could test physics on weapons. So, it’s all good--we don’t care what things look like right now, we care about making things that matter, and making them right. Lately Mark has been testing cloth physics on our characters, as well as physics on weapons, and attachments. Prior to that he was building a basic set of traversal animations and getting them into the game. Crucial.
Antonio is our Technical Animator. He makes rigs, writes scripts that make rigs, and rigs the rigs. It’s all very technical. You wouldn’t understand. He’s a professional.
Polina is our concept artist, and is the only one really making pretty pictures, and you've seen a lot of her work, already.
Kien is currently on loan to Project New York, aka. The Stick of Truth. Don't worry, they are paying for him. We use code names for our projects, because we’re professionals. Project Eternity (also a code name) is Project Trenton. BOOM! Yep, you got it! And nope! I’m not gonna tell you any more about that.Environment Artists:Sean is making a dungeon! He’s been working with our programmers to come up with the correct way to build a massive and awesome level so that we can do all we need to do, as big as we need to do it, and in as little time as we can do it in. Again, crucial. Minecraft is his best friend.
Hector, our Lead Environment Artist is on a sabbatical. Yes! we get those here, again, because we’re professionals and only sometimes. Nobody knows why or how, but we're certain it's painful. And boy! is he in for a surprise when he gets back; he loves Softimage. People on sabbatical don't get images of their work posted.
Okay, so that’s it.
Oh, what about me? What the hell have I been doing all this time? That’s a really good question. Aside from running around and keeping everybody busy and doing meetings and stuff, and writing this update, I've been developing a style guide which involves a bunch of meetings and discussions, and I've been drawing a few things, which I will show, if I'm allowed, in the next art update.
Update by Rob Nesler
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