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Josh Sawyer Pillars of Eternity 2 Tease Thread

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Frankly removing the rose tinted glasses and haze of nostalgia, the old ie games are not fun. They have dated badly, story and writing is simplistic and gameplay makes them almost unplayable. I am glad that Obs realized this and made changes, but still managed to deliver what they promised. An updated successor...

I don't know that I would go all that far, but yes, people who claim today that Baldur's Gate 2 is the best RPG ever made are letting their nostalgia have a stronger say that it should.  At the time they came out they were great games.  By todays standards of gameplay, more nuanced story, and especially graphics.... they are pretty average. 

 

Eternity isn't perfect.  It has serious pacing problems, the setting does need work, many things in game for "backers" were not good features and would have been better off left out.  It has never been a vastly inferior, unplayble, game breaking bug mess that many of the die hards on RPG Codex and this forum say it is though.

 

 

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Frankly removing the rose tinted glasses and haze of nostalgia, the old ie games are not fun. They have dated badly, story and writing is simplistic and gameplay makes them almost unplayable. I am glad that Obs realized this and made changes, but still managed to deliver what they promised. An updated successor...

I don't know that I would go all that far, but yes, people who claim today that Baldur's Gate 2 is the best RPG ever made are letting their nostalgia have a stronger say that it should.  At the time they came out they were great games.  By todays standards of gameplay, more nuanced story, and especially graphics.... they are pretty average. 

 

Eternity isn't perfect.  It has serious pacing problems, the setting does need work, many things in game for "backers" were not good features and would have been better off left out.  It has never been a vastly inferior, unplayble, game breaking bug mess that many of the die hards on RPG Codex and this forum say it is though.

 

 

 

 

Objectively speaking, it is not my sense of nostalgia. PoE graphics is obviously better, but I cannot claim the same about the setting, or the story or the NPC's or NPC interactions. BG2 never stopped surprising you during the questlines, at least before Underdark. NPC's were definitely more interesting and they did not read like an encyclopedia, here you click on them ask them 200 questions about "themselves", not about the circumstances or the story(most of them). They might as well hand you their diary and be done with it.

 

PoE might have a more modern engine (Unity), but it does not create the same sense of absorption at all. When you head into Slums in BG2, it feels and acts like slums, people shouting, cats wandering, the accent and the manner of speech of the voice actors (NPC's), inns and taverns are al beautifully designed and drawn. PoE cities, NPC's and the environments are horribly static.

 

I am not upset because PoE is not a clone of BG2 or Planescape Torment. What makes me upset is the amount of effort shown, and all this Pseudo-Language stuff Sawyer seems to be obsessed with. They were given 4 Million Dollars, 4 Million is NO JOKE, if you also consider the investment potential. They did not even make their own engine. The engine is there, funds are available, and no one complained about the time it would take them to finish the game. Do what you do best Obsidian, we said, and nothing else.

 

After my initial complaint after finishing PoE, I had hopes for PoE 2. I thought, OK, it was their first try, just like how the initial BG was good but not great, they will show much more effort and make PoE 2 much better. It makes one snap though when you login after months and see Sawyer showcasing his fascination with scripts. I am not against creating a world (language included), but make the game better "first", give us interesting characters, interesting places and interesting plots, good stories. Then you can name your creatures gul's or fampyr's or locations Gwyrfyn Vyrwyn, whatever you like. 

 

But, as the other poster said, if this game does not satisfy me, I will simply move on. But that does not mean that I will not raise my opinion.

 

Long story short, what made me a fan of the old IE games, particularly BG2 and Planescape was how compelling they were. They managed to keep you curious about what is going to happen next, even in sidequests, and managed to surprise you at every turn. And that in my opinion is great storytelling in an RPG. Not calling Mondays, Montag's like Bethesda RPG's do, and this is basically what Sawyer does with his scripts. As I said, Tyranny, although it felt very experimental and incomplete, although it was buggy and the combat was hectic, it was definitely interesting and somewhat compelling.

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Objectively speaking, it is not my sense of nostalgia.

 

In my case at least, I played Baldur's Gate aged 14 and Shadows of Amn aged 16, and I was a lot more impressionable and less jaded at that age. They were also quite fresh new games and they left a lasting impression on me. So much so in fact that even now, when I fire them back up, I still have that feeling despite being able to see all the flaws in them (and there were a lot of flaws). I think it's essentially impossible to be objective about the effect of such nostalgia. Of course your own experience might differ a lot.

 

Long story short, what made me a fan of the old IE games, particularly BG2 and Planescape was how compelling they were. They managed to keep you curious about what is going to happen next, even in sidequests, and managed to surprise you at every turn. And that in my opinion is great storytelling in an RPG. Not calling Mondays, Montag's like Bethesda RPG's do, and this is basically what Sawyer does with his scripts. As I said, Tyranny, although it felt very experimental and incomplete, although it was buggy and the combat was hectic, it was definitely interesting and somewhat compelling.

 

 

I get what you're saying, and I do think that PoE doesn't hit the mark as well as BG2 most the time. Companions in particular feel a lot less interesting than those in BG2. That said, having played through it a few times now I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as some people do, and there are some real quest gems in the game (particularly in acts I and II and in the White March). Personally I think if PoE2 is to PoE as BG2 was to BG then it could surpass BG2 in quality.

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I think it is fair and reasonable to critique the work that I have done/continue to do, but I do want to clarify the work I (and others) have done and have not done.

 

I did not have anything to do with the development of the story in NWN2.  I came to Obsidian in July of 2005, long after the story had been established.  In the capacity of a senior area designer, my only story contribution was to suggest and work through ideas about the background of the King of Shadows with George Ziets.

 

John Gonzalez developed the story for F:NV.  Eric Fenstermaker developed the story for PoE.  George Ziets developed the story for Mask of the Betrayer.  I was the director of F:NV and PoE.  Kevin Saunders was the lead designer (we didn't have directors then) on Mask of the Betrayer.

 

Writing on projects is split between multiple designers.  E.g. on F:NV, over ten designers wrote quest and companion dialogue.  I designed all of the main F:NV companions, but the actual writing was split up across many designers.  Eric Fenstermaker wrote Boone, Travis Stout wrote Raul, John Gonzalez wrote Lily, Chris Avellone wrote Cass, Akil Hooper wrote ED-E's bleeps, Jesse wrote Rex, and I wrote Arcade.  Writing was similarly split on Mask and PoE, but to clarify, I wrote no dialogue on Mask and only Pallegina and a few (~3) minor characters in PoE.

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What makes me upset is the amount of effort shown, and all this Pseudo-Language stuff Sawyer seems to be obsessed with. They were given 4 Million Dollars, 4 Million is NO JOKE, if you also consider the investment potential.

That's not a lot of money, actually. To my knowledge, the original Fallout cost about 3 million, and the original Baldur's Gate somewhere between 4-5 million. Considering inflation, 4 million might easily end up being even smaller budget than what Fallout was operating on - and creating your own engine, now that's no joke. I'm pretty sure budget and length that usual RPG player expects out of an RPG is the reason why do many locations feel somewhat sparse in content in PoE.
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Don't get me wrong, I'm about as nostalgic as can be on the old ie games. I just realize that the writing and stories are a tad childish... They are very like Tolkien's stories, simplistic to a fault - good vs evil, where evil is a black uruk hai. Again I used to love Tolkein - when I was a child. I still have fond memories of his books, like the games. I'm just aware of their faults now. Pillars story is a bit more sophisticated and attempts to ask some questions.

 

Regarding the 4 million budget, that really is tiny - not sure how many people Obs actually employ, but to pay salaries and other bills for a couple of years - it must be really tight.


"Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, 'He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destruction. She is Love.' So, to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, though, everyone who beholds them."
"So they play that on their fascist banjos, eh?"
"You choose the wrong adjective."
"You've already used up all the others.”

 

Lord of Light

 

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Regarding the 4 million budget, that really is tiny - not sure how many people Obs actually employ, but to pay salaries and other bills for a couple of years - it must be really tight.

 

Suppose they have only 20 employees with an average salary of $50,000 (I can pretty much guarantee both those numbers are lower than reality): that's a million a year on salaries alone. Four million very quickly starts to look pretty small in comparison.

Edited by JerekKruger
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Well, I googled how many employees Obs have: didn't have much luck, the only article I found claimed they have 200 people, have no idea if that's correct. Also have no idea how many of those would have worked on Pillars, but 20 people is very conservative, it could be potentially double or more than that. So yeah, that's my point I guess. Obs did a fantastic job considering they built a gaming system from scratch, created a new world and a unique story on a rather small budget. It's pretty impressive. I don't think people are at all realistic when it comes to expectations  - that's the problem.

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"Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, 'He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destruction. She is Love.' So, to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, though, everyone who beholds them."
"So they play that on their fascist banjos, eh?"
"You choose the wrong adjective."
"You've already used up all the others.”

 

Lord of Light

 

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PoE might have a more modern engine (Unity), but it does not create the same sense of absorption at all. When you head into Slums in BG2, it feels and acts like slums, people shouting, cats wandering, the accent and the manner of speech of the voice actors (NPC's), inns and taverns are al beautifully designed and drawn. PoE cities, NPC's and the environments are horribly static.

 

 

You know I don't think this has anything to do with Josh Sawyer's interest in conlangs

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Frankly removing the rose tinted glasses and haze of nostalgia, the old ie games are not fun. They have dated badly, story and writing is simplistic and gameplay makes them almost unplayable. I am glad that Obs realized this and made changes, but still managed to deliver what they promised. An updated successor...

 

Oh, c'mon...

 

I am relatively to new to RPGs, so I played both the oldies and the modern titles in the same period of my life. I still find the oldies much better in general. To cut a long story short, older games targeted different audiences to what they do today. Once you realize this, the reasons become clear.

 

Btw, I liked PoE. But it is no BG2 by any means, especially in terms of combat (or Athkatla). It is of course a bit unfair to compare poe-1 to bg-2, so I am waiting to see what will come out of poe2. No pressure, Josh ;)

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. Sensuki was fine with gameplay,

 

Eh? If there's one thing Sensuki is known for, it's epic butthurt over the engagement mechanic. That seems like a gameplay issue to me.

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my only story contribution was to suggest and work through ideas about the background of the King of Shadows with George Ziets.

Though oft criticised I personally did not find the KoS particularly offensive, I just think that he should have been nailed to the plot in some way. Perhaps requiring a host to inhabit the material world, which would be a perfect opportunity to rob the player of a favourite or hated companion, or making his Shadow Reavers from the Kalach Chas childhood friends and neighbours in West Harbour. Attacking maniacally and crying out for salvation at the same time, at one moment aiding the protagonist and then hindering him, as they lost more and more of themselves.

 

Obviously too ambitious for a late development though.


Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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We know Pillar of Eternity 2 is in development, but it hasn't been formally announced yet. That hasn't stopped Josh Sawyer from posting various images over the past few months, however.

 

https://twitter.com/jesawyer/status/734073381872504832

 

Ci_z14KVAAA-hk8.jpg

 

(older stuff here: http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/83320-project-louisiana-not-fallout-related/)

 

 

Josh Sawyer, playing Tolkien...

 

This is the very reason Pillars of Eternity (PoE) was such a disappointment. And here we go again. I was extremely disappointed with PoE solely due to this reason. Rather than an RPG, which was supposed to be a spiritual successor to IE games, we were given a semi-Welsh, semi-English history of lamelands to read. Everything including the combat, areas, NPC's (bar Durance, Mother and maybe Eder) was incredibly dull, comparing those lifeless cities to the cities in BG2 is just painful.

 

I was expecting Avellone to step in and clean up this mess, exactly like he did with Neverwinter Nights 2. Remember the kalach-cha, vanilla NWN2, that is Sawyer right there with Avellone saving the merchandise in MotB. Now that he left Obsidian, it seems like we are stuck with this.

 

I will not be so cruel, PoE was OK, but only that. Thousands of people did not donate money so that Josh Sawyer could play Tolkien. Instead of coming up with better story writing, fixing issues with the combat and talent system, and focusing on ambience, someone is working on his runes. Amazing!

 

I am not impressed. At least learn something from Tyranny! Tyranny felt quite experimental and incomplete, yet I would take it over PoE any day. 

 

Yeah sure, you're completely right! Except JES worked on NWN2 only in its later stage of production and therefore had very little to do with it, and MCA only wrote two companions in MotB while the story was made by Ziets.

You're one of the many people who think MCA did all the good things that worked on Obsidian game and Sawyer is responsible for everything that went wrong, which is not only wrong but also disrespectful to the plenty other designers that worked on their games and helped shaped them. 

Avellone had a key role in Torment, KotOR II, Alpha Protocol and the New Vegas dlcs (except Honest Hearts), of which P:T was terrific and KotOR II could've been a masterpiece if it was finished, but other people like Gonzalez, Ziets, Saunders, Fenstermaker, Stout and others had bigger roles on the other Obsidian games.

 

Beyond that, I do think that the focus on balancing everything for more than 1.5 years was probably too much (3.0 is better than the base game, but after that patching the game to change a 0.x % damage of some skill and other stuff was excessive) and some of the language stuff was weird. Then again many of the things you're criticizing in PoE were developed by other designers, not Sawyer (he's mainly responsible for the systems and the setting, iirc). 

PoE was good imho, although BG2 is obviously the better game, and the sequel team should definetely try to improve on the reactivity, the companions (I liked most of their personalities/backgrounds but they were not developed enough, extremely unreactive to your actions and had little interaction with each other, the player and the NPCs), the encounter design, since PoE had too many trash mobs.

The White March was a step in the right direction: area and encounter design was better, the dungeon (Durgan's Battery) was superior to the boring Od Nua's endless levels (15 levels, wtf where they thinking?) and the writing was good, so I'm hopeful for the sequel.

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The White March was a step in the right direction: area and encounter design was better, the dungeon (Durgan's Battery) was superior to the boring Od Nua's endless levels (15 levels, wtf where they thinking?) and the writing was good, so I'm hopeful for the sequel.

I guess still excited and full of regret?

From the kickstarter:

 

56e39a6d5431085dbe6f6d194db0acba_origina

 

People REALLY wished to see the feet of the statue.


I've come to burn your kingdom down

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The White March was a step in the right direction: area and encounter design was better, the dungeon (Durgan's Battery) was superior to the boring Od Nua's endless levels (15 levels, wtf where they thinking?) and the writing was good, so I'm hopeful for the sequel.

I guess still excited and full of regret?

From the kickstarter:

 

56e39a6d5431085dbe6f6d194db0acba_origina

 

People REALLY wished to see the feet of the statue.

 

Yeah, they probably regretted adding so many levels themselves, but they should've realised during the KS campaign that it was too much and commit to do something less enourmous. The dungeon would've been much better if it had 5 well-designed levels instead of what we got.

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Is there actually a giant statue built into the levels of the Endless Paths that you can see parts of while exploring?

Yup. It's pretty much like in the concept art piece posted by Suen.

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It's pretty awesome, the whole story you slowly unravel throughout Endless Paths revolves around it in some manner.

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Is there actually a giant statue built into the levels of the Endless Paths that you can see parts of while exploring?

 

ymms2NU.jpg

 

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I've come to burn your kingdom down

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I think it is fair and reasonable to critique the work that I have done/continue to do, but I do want to clarify the work I (and others) have done and have not done.

 

I did not have anything to do with the development of the story in NWN2.  I came to Obsidian in July of 2005, long after the story had been established.  In the capacity of a senior area designer, my only story contribution was to suggest and work through ideas about the background of the King of Shadows with George Ziets.

 

John Gonzalez developed the story for F:NV.  Eric Fenstermaker developed the story for PoE.  George Ziets developed the story for Mask of the Betrayer.  I was the director of F:NV and PoE.  Kevin Saunders was the lead designer (we didn't have directors then) on Mask of the Betrayer.

 

Writing on projects is split between multiple designers.  E.g. on F:NV, over ten designers wrote quest and companion dialogue.  I designed all of the main F:NV companions, but the actual writing was split up across many designers.  Eric Fenstermaker wrote Boone, Travis Stout wrote Raul, John Gonzalez wrote Lily, Chris Avellone wrote Cass, Akil Hooper wrote ED-E's bleeps, Jesse wrote Rex, and I wrote Arcade.  Writing was similarly split on Mask and PoE, but to clarify, I wrote no dialogue on Mask and only Pallegina and a few (~3) minor characters in PoE.

 

There are too many posts to quote since I replied last, so I am quoting Sawyer here, as his input is quite relevant. 

 

First and foremost, thank you for clarifying these points, simply chiming in to clarify these points is a show of care and makes me appreciative. Not being in the business myself, it is hard to tell who did what, even from the "credits" roll. But I assumed Lead Designers (Project Directors) had a lot to say regarding the overall quality of the final product and held,although unfairly, much of the responsibility. My original comment is now edited to reflect this information. 

 

My assumptions regarding JE Sawyer and MC Avellone stem from the idea mentioned above. I might be misguided, but that does not change my opinion regarding PoE itself.

 

Regarding the 4 Million issue,  if you think that a company puts 4 million dollars in a safe and keeps paying everything from that until a project is finished, than it is not much. That is not, and should not be, how companies work though. One can squeeze a lot from million dollar sums by proper handling of that money. Also I have to mention Larian's Divinity Original Sin 2 here. 1 Million Budget, using their own engine (by the way the only reason I am bringing the engine Issue up here is not because I want the developers to come up with their engine, definitely not, unity is fine, and certainly saves a lot of resources (funds, work etc). Using unity would allow them to allocate those resources where it is needed). Let us not get into comparing Original Sin to PoE, though. Original Sin is not a great RPG in terms of story writing etc. and had way too many cheap jokes for my liking. 

 

About BG2 being childish, along with the writing, I have to disagree. Your choices along the questlines mostly sidequests were "I will go where I want when I want", and "I will give you a cupcake if you let me go", yes I agree. But regarding the overall story Irenicus, Bodhi, Shadow Guild, Firkraag, The Drow, Solaufein, the elves, Edwin, Harpers. One cannot really pinpoint one as absolute evil for evil's sake, or a patron saint of saints. I honestly wished there would be an option to gift Irenicus another Bhaalspawn's soul. Anyway...

 

Regarding the MegaDungeon, I agree with Revan91 there, it would have been more interesting with less levels but better design. 

 

But, you know what, I am mostly impressed with the constructive criticism coming from the community, most often one gets the typical "go away if you do not like it, duh, lol" kind of attitude. I am glad that the issues I raised, although hastily done and messy at first, were tested by either constructive criticism or support.

 

If the developers are listening to the community, and the community is mostly like this in this thread, who knows, maybe there is really hope for PoE 2, and future RPGs from Obsidian.

Edited by guguma
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Regarding the 4 Million issue,  if you think that a company puts 4 million dollars in a safe and keeps paying everything from that until a project is finished, than it is not much. That is not, and should not be, how companies work though. One can squeeze a lot from million dollar sums by proper handling of that money.

 

Yeah no. I can pretty much guarantee that that $4 million pretty much did sit in Obsidian's bank and get used to pay salaries, rent and the other costs of making Pillars. Obsidian is too small to weather the short term risks than doing anything else with that money would entail. Things go even slightly bad with your investments and suddenly you can't pay your staff, so they start looking for other work and your projects start falling behind schedule and before you know it you're in a death spiral What you are describing in the behaviour or much larger companies.

 

Now, I dare say Obsidian had other sources of money beyond the $4 million. They may have had non-Kickstarter backers, profits from previous games and, towards the end of development, it's possible Paradox's publishing deal included money. But I can pretty much guarantee that the $4 million from Kickstarter did basically live in the bank until spent.

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Regarding the 4 Million issue,  if you think that a company puts 4 million dollars in a safe and keeps paying everything from that until a project is finished, than it is not much.

I don't really understand business much so can't comment on that in particularly informed capacity, but remember that big part of that the 4 million were KickStarter money - in other words, money other people gave them to invest into development of the game, into paying their employees etc etc, not to invest them into any other projects. I'm pretty sure there's even license agreement of some sort that developers agree to when creating KS campaigns which, among other things, prohibit them from using money for anything but what it was raised for.

 

One cannot really pinpoint one as absolute evil for evil's sake, or a patron saint of saints.

You just... You just cast detect evil. And you know.

 

That's really one of my biggest issues with settings based on DnD.

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You just... You just cast detect evil. And you know.

That's really one of my biggest issues with settings based on DnD.

 

 

To be fair, the alignments in BG2 were all over the place. There was a mod which fixed as many as possible.

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Regarding the 4 Million issue,  if you think that a company puts 4 million dollars in a safe and keeps paying everything from that until a project is finished, than it is not much. That is not, and should not be, how companies work though. One can squeeze a lot from million dollar sums by proper handling of that money. Also I have to mention Larian's Divinity Original Sin 2 here. 1 Million Budget, using their own engine (by the way the only reason I am bringing the engine Issue up here is not because I want the developers to come up with their engine, definitely not, unity is fine, and certainly saves a lot of resources (funds, work etc). Using unity would allow them to allocate those resources where it is needed). Let us not get into comparing Original Sin to PoE, though. Original Sin is not a great RPG in terms of story writing etc. and had way too many cheap jokes for my liking. 

 

Divinity Original Sin's budget was over 4 million euros (which was at that time over 5 million dollars). Majority of their budget didn't come from KS as they only collected 1 million dollars to finish the game. Before they started their kickstarter Larian was already build their engine and engine tools in most parts and most of the game itself. Larian also did in their KS for D:OS mistake to promise too much and they had to take back some of those promises during developing the game.

 

Divinity Original Sin 2 also had KS for it, that produced over 2 million dollars and Larian puts in their own money also in that game so it budget is about same as the budget of the first game.

 

There are benefits and draw back in both making own engine and using general purpose engine like unity. And those benefits and draw back vary from project to project and there which is why companies make assessments of their needs and select tool according to them. One thing is certain that Obsidian didn't have their own engine ready when they started their KS and making one from the scratch would have meant additional developing time, as it takes time to build engine. 

 

And there is also one thing that needs to be taking in consideration when you compare D:OS to PoE, which is difference in typical salaries in Belgium and California.

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According to Larian's CEO, Divinity: Original Sin 2 may be the most high budget isometric RPG ever made that doesn't have the word "Diablo" in its title. They've got like a hundred people working on it now. Those guys are operating on an entirely different level.

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