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Kenji

Pillars of Eternity and its potential

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Greetings everyone,

 

First of all, allow me to praise Pillars of Eternity and its developers. The game is a worthy successor to the Infinity Engine titles and caters to both Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale fans. While not the most original game out there (I doubt any game is truly original to the core), Pillars of Eternity not only revitalized the genre of cRPG; it elevated the genre with its mechanics, character creation, background lore, and many other qualities that I sadly do not have the time to mention.

 

I digress, praise is not the reason why I came out of my cave to type a wall of text. Pillars of Eternity has great potential to become an evolving game. And by an evolving game, we can make great examples of other video games and their qualities that I will only briefly mention in name:

  • Warcraft III
  • The Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim)
  • Mount & Blade
  • Neverwinter Nights

The aforementioned games have one thing in common:

 

Modding

 

Any game can be modded, don't get me wrong, but not all the games are friendly to mods and modders. Only a few games embrace modifications, and Pillars of Eternity has yet to become one of those, which prompted me to write this huge wall of text.

 

The ability to modify, expand, and create a base game is what made the games so successful. Some could even say the genre of Mobas was created because of Warcraft III and Dota. If we look at both Skyrim and M&B, these 2 games still have a respectable amount of loyal player base that continuously mods and improves the base game even after years of their release!

 

This was all made possible because the devs allowed the players to mod by giving them the tools, to begin with. We can also look at other games that quickly followed suit and came to relative success: XCOM 2, Legend of Grimrock, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, Starcraft II. Older titles such as Age of Empires 2 with its map editor are also worth mentioning.

 

If we look at all the mentioned games, it is hard not to notice that they came from vastly different genres of gaming: RTS, RPG, 1st/3rd Person Melee, Single-Player, Multiplayer, Turn-based Tactical, Sci-fi, Medieval Fantasy, and so on. The ability to mod a game is not just confined to a specific game or genre!

 

By giving the players the tool and interface to mod Pillars of Eternity, the game will be allowed to evolve and remain relevant for years to come.

 

I want a user-friendly modding tool for PoE that is friendly to both new players and experienced programmers alike. Call me delusional or make snide remarks to get likes, share whatever you want, just post your thoughts.

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*throws smoke bombs in the thread and vanishes into the dark corners of the forums*

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I am not familiar with modding but I heard POE is very hard to make mods. I read someone's post who wanted to create new class and it was a nightmare. I agree there is potential to be unlocked and game looses much without that. I guess POE2 will be better with modding.

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For one, I would like a mod to skip the damned tutorial level. It's like Chateau Irenicus all over again, except that there's no Dungeon Begone mod to let you skip the entire thing. I don't know why Obsidian loves these frustratingly long and mandatory early levels instead of opening up the game world sooner.

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Aron Times, on 08 Oct 2016 - 04:24 AM, said:

For one, I would like a mod to skip the damned tutorial level. It's like Chateau Irenicus all over again, except that there's no Dungeon Begone mod to let you skip the entire thing. I don't know why Obsidian loves these frustratingly long and mandatory early levels instead of opening up the game world sooner.

I was hoping they'd have an Fallout New Vegas approach where you can completely ignore the main quest and just run off to do whatever you want.

 

But with modding, the horizon expands beyond adding modules on top of exisiting game modes (Main game). I was hoping for future releases to have similar module system like Neverwinter Nights, where players can create whole new campaigns, dungeon crawls, or multiplayer pvp arenas. One can argue one of the most successful creation for Neverwinter Nights 2 is the persistent Baldur's Gate world (heavy RP and in-character required), The Sword Coast Chronicles, that allowed Baldur's Gate fan to tread the realm with their own characters.

 

If this were introduced in Pillars of Eternity 2, think of the limitless possibilities! I personally like Icewind Dale series better, and I play PoE just like it, with all 6 cusom made characters all the time on most of the playthroughs. The White March's homage to Icewind Dale was more than anything a IWD fanboy could ever ask for, but I do have to go through main quests and the like to get there.

 

I would like people to discuss the possibilities of having modding tools in either the current existing PoE game or later developed PoE 2 before I move onto another discussion:

 

Procedural Generated Contents

Edited by Kenji

*throws smoke bombs in the thread and vanishes into the dark corners of the forums*

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I am not familiar with modding but I heard POE is very hard to make mods. I read someone's post who wanted to create new class and it was a nightmare. I agree there is potential to be unlocked and game looses much without that. I guess POE2 will be better with modding.

 

Yes it is. I can only imagine what you need to do in order to make a new class: Unity works by linking smaller assets to bigger assets and ultimately everything in one big library / asset. So in order to create a new class, you'd need to:

 

-> Create a new asset

-> Create new sub-assets for its abilities, effects, gfx, sfx etc.

-> Link it properly to everything

 

This is only a blueprint for that(I most likely forgot some things). Doing it...oh goodie me! I tried changing a simple value and it hasn't worked, I can't even imagine how this endeavor must be difficult.

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I've heard that the newer version of unity is easier to Mod. This will be a good thing, since modders could have done great things with the AI and adding NPCs. Tyranny is being made in that version of unity, so it's safe to bet PE2 is too. Can anyone tell me why the newer unity is easier to Mod?

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NWN seems an interesting comparison.  It was designed from the beginning to be user-extended, which has its benefits and its drawbacks.  For NWN, I didn't actually enjoy the out-of-the-box (OOTB) game very much, but the community later delivered some outstandingly good modules for it, and that's what made the game work, for me.  The top community stuff made the OOTB NWN module look amateurish.  I believe there's still a highly active community around that engine, 14 years on.

​In contrast (this is just my opinion, of course), PoE was a far superior OOTB game in almost every way.  Better story, more sophisticated and beautiful art and an (apparently) more complex and presumably less novice-friendly art pipeline driving it.  But it's not mod-friendly, so I find myself torn.  On one hand, I appreciate PoE for what it is.  First time through felt like exploring a painting!  I'm glad they put effort into making a fantastic and relatively polished OOTB game.  On the other, I'm on my third play now, and I find myself wishing I could be playing a top-tier community module based on the PoE engine.  Of course there are tradeoffs: every developer hour spent on NWN-style expandability doesn't get spent on something else.

​I certainly would not mind seeing PoE move in that direction, and I'd be more than willing to pay for new "module" style games on the engine from the same team that made PoE.  From Obsidian's perspective, they also have to consider commercial tradeoffs.  You might sell more units if there's a vibrant community for user-made content, but on the other, your own games have to compete with the same community content.  Not sure how that one plays out, in the balance.

Edited by demeisen
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Its hard to argue against mod support. Most of the games I've enjoyed that had real staying power included some kind massive mod at one point or another, which gave the game a new lease on life. I think the challenge with a game like this is trying to figure out what that mod support looks like. NWN had a toolset and the whole back catalogue of D&D material to work with.. It had a DM client and was totally geared up for user customization and the multiplayer experience.  What it lacked was full party control tactical combat built for the Iso view.

 

The decision to go with henchmen and the driving camera in the original build, put certain limits on what you could do in terms of designing dungeon crawls, trying to work with a combat system like that.

 

It was kind of stuck in this weird space between a small scale MMO with groups (replicating the table top experience), and a single player solo slog like the crpgs that came immediately before it, but it had an amazing toolset! Glorious customization when it came to the aesthetic dimension of the game, but invariably hit a wall in the crawl, because you couldn't really design IE style combat situations that scaled for the full party of 6.

 

 

I've always enjoyed the single player experience hack and slash for this medium. A heavy emphasis of Role Play can be fun, but I don't want to join a theater group, I want to play an engaging sp game that sucks me in and allows me to avoid other people for a few hours haha. When playing with others, it usually devolves into metagaming anyway, rather than RP, so I prefer when its just built from the ground up with the focus on the single player primarily combat/puzzle driven. But what I like most is the God mode aspect, single player but controlling the whole group. There is something a little different there, than what you have in traditional table top D&D with actual other people in the room.  The first crpgs that I can remember playing before Baldur's Gate crashed onto the scene and murdered all its predecessors, were games like Might and Magic III or Xeen, Pools of Radiance and the like on the B drive (when I was like 10), where you almost always had a full party (or at least that was the eventual goal.) Other games like Ultima Online or Everquest broke with that and made it more about soloing, but I never dug that as much. I think why I liked the infinity engine games so much is because they took that idea of turn based combat and puzzle play, with a collection of 6 or more characters that you're trying to develop, and just perfected it. Neverwinter, despite being brilliantly received and well modded, (a totally unique type of thing in its way), still played more to that solo character style of combat, than it did to the Infinity style of full party combat.

 

I guess what I'm driving at is they should make like a hybrid of Icewind Dale and NWN, but set in this new Pillars of Eternity universe they're creating.

 

Go heavy focus on character creation with lots more options to define the look of the avatar, custom portraits etc, and then a toolset for generating new modules under this kind of combat system. A map generator for the world map, an expansive tileset (for dungeons), a monstrous manual for the beasts and catalogs for the npcs, an ever growing spellbook that gets updated, an infinite bag of holding's worth of weapons, armor, artifacts and other curiosities to populate those levels. Doing all the same sort of things they've done here. With the arena/stronghold mode in there too (for good measure), so you could basically play it forever.

 

I'm pretty sure all I want is the eternal promise of more Pillars of Eternity, which is probably easiest to imagine as a sequal that opens up major mod support. I don't know if they would go that route, but I'd be down. 

 

The only thing left to deliver on would probably be like mounts (from horses to drakes), and the ability to seamlessly zoom out from the isometric ground view to the wizard's eye level map view, and still be able to control movement on both, just by rolling out the mouse wheel to the map. That **** would be pretty cool, if they pulled it off.

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I could dissect the arguments I've seen above, but I don't want to diminish those arguments. Nonetheless, since the point of these forums is to allow the players to state their desires, let me be crystal in what I want. I want a great single player experience provided by designers unfettered by the constraints of a 'moddable' engine. I don't begrudge people who find mods necessary to make up for deficiencies in the original design. However, my experience, through years of playing (and I experienced Might and Magic 3 at considerably older than 10 years) is that developers following their own vision and staying true to that concept will produce a superior product. Ones that rely on mods will fail before they even begin.

 

Make a great game. If there's room to provide modding opportunity for casual designers, fair enough. Just don't concentrate on the modding aspect at the expense of the core game because your core fans, the people who really bought into the Project Eternity idea in the first place, trusted the developers to come up with a great game they could play and enjoy without fan 'designers' to make up for developer deficiencies.

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I could dissect the arguments I've seen above, but I don't want to diminish those arguments. Nonetheless, since the point of these forums is to allow the players to state their desires, let me be crystal in what I want. I want a great single player experience provided by designers unfettered by the constraints of a 'moddable' engine. I don't begrudge people who find mods necessary to make up for deficiencies in the original design. However, my experience, through years of playing (and I experienced Might and Magic 3 at considerably older than 10 years) is that developers following their own vision and staying true to that concept will produce a superior product. Ones that rely on mods will fail before they even begin.

What on Earth are "constraints of moddable engine" supposed to be? I'd love to explain what's wrong with your argument, but I can't even begin, so just... You do realize that every single game out there has to be moddable to some extent, since... Well, developers also need ways to add new content, right? And the only thing you have to do to make a game moddable is to open it up, without giving it all that much thought during development? Sure, you'll get bonus points for releasing modding tools, but that actually is some additional effort since you need to polish your internal tools for general public.

 

Sure, it's another matter when you're constructing your entire game around modding - but that's not what majority here is asking for, majority seems to be asking for a game which is quite simply not locked from modding for the most part.

Edited by Fenixp
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I figured I'd get some blowback for that post, and I'm okay with that. However, I'm not sure there aren't people who would gladly have the game developed around the idea of catering to modders. I don't mind modding and, while it's relatively difficult, there have been some mods that people have done for Pillars. Nonetheless, my experience is that when a game is developed to cater to modding, the single player campaign suffers. If, as you say, the goal is to polish up the internal tools that the devs use and granting greater access to the public, fair enough. If the point is to move modding forward on the design philosophy, I'm going argue against it because I disagree with it.

 

They've got a modding forum here for PoE. Seems quiet there, but it's still a place to discuss various mods. I'm glad it's there for people who want it. I hope, as long as it's just a matter of opening up the engine for people to tinker, you guys get what you want. I'm going to be leery of it until I'm sure it's not going to end up dumbing down the single player campaign, but assuming you're right and I'm just confused, which is entirely possible, I'll find that reassurance and be happy.

 

Also, as I understand it, a lot of this depends on whatever Obsidian should choose for the engine. If it's a later version of Unity, aren't they becoming somewhat more open for casual tinkering?

 

See here, I'll just read your response and give it a good thought. Probably the best deal you'll get on the internet. ;)

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See here, I'll just read your response and give it a good thought. Probably the best deal you'll get on the internet. ;)

I was mostly just extremely confused about what exactly is it that you were arguing against. I'd also really like to know what kind of precedent are you basing your entire argument on, I don't think I know of a single game which would sacrifice artistic integrity for modding - outside of games which were created with the sole purpose of modding, which Pillars of Eternity certainly won't be (and even there, the modding was their goal, so they were hardly compromised in any respect.)

 

And really, opening up the engine is all Obsidian needs to do. After all, neither Doom nor Infinity Engine games were ever designed for modding specifically, yet their modding communities are still alive and very active.

 

At any rate, yes, newer version of Unity should help. Obsidian following proper programming practices and not hard coding everything would help even more (and make the game less buggy by extension) as there actually are highly moddable games that make use of Unity. And... That's actually a bit of a general rule - when it's easy for general public to change big chunks of your game, it's then probably easier even for the development team itself. Creating a patch then shouldn't take three months...

Edited by Fenixp
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See here, I'll just read your response and give it a good thought. Probably the best deal you'll get on the internet. ;)

I was mostly just extremely confused about what exactly is it that you were arguing against. I'd also really like to know what kind of precedent are you basing your entire argument on, I don't think I know of a single game which would sacrifice artistic integrity for modding.

 

I think the degeneration of Bethesda's games over time since Morrowind can be somewhat laid at the feet of the mod community.  

 

They hardly bother with a real narrative any more, and the gameplay systems are getting progressively more and more basic over time because hey modders will make it good so why should they try hard.  (And let's not beat around the bush, a lot of the capabilities of TES mods rely on the porno modders.  They were the ones that cracked the skeleton and mesh systems allowing for custom models not just texture replacement, they were the ones that extended the scripting to allow custom animations, those guys and gals are dedicated to their craft beyond the scope of normal modding...)

 

Building the game knowing that this is going to be what you get and nobody's going to cover for you is quite different from assuming that you can just throw up some scaffolding and let the modders have at it and people will think your game did all the work.

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Obsidian following proper programming practices and not hard coding everything would help even more (and make the game less buggy by extension) as there actually are highly moddable games that make use of Unity. And... That's actually a bit of a general rule - when it's easy for general public to change big chunks of your game, it's then probably easier even for the development team itself. Creating a patch then shouldn't take three months...

^Sooo this!

 

- me, software architect - 

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Deadfire Community Patch: Nexus Mods

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I think the degeneration of Bethesda's games over time since Morrowind can be somewhat laid at the feet of the mod community.

That's a popular example, but no. For one, there's absolutely no evidence of Bethesda changing anything for modding. In fact, there's overwhelming evidence against it, given the fact majority of Bethesda's income comes from sales on consoles which, until very recently, didn't allow for modifications of any of Bethesda's titles. Secondly, each Elder Scrolls (or Fallout) title by Bethesda has been more popular than the last, so they're clearly doing something right - even if it's not to your liking.

 

There are, of course, examples of titles which were made more primitive to allow for modding, and developers who spent a lot more time developing modding tools - to my knowledge, Neverwinter Nights was one of these games, developing a platform for creation of user modules before creating a good game.

Edited by Fenixp
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I think I'm almost alone in not really caring for mods at all, I like to play the developers' creative vision rather than some random guy's. There are some exceptions, like when a RTS is modded to such an extent you're pretty much playing a different game entirely (mods for the Total War franchise are a good example of this) or mods that restore cut content (Arcanum, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines), but otherwise I keep well away even when it comes to simple things like weather mods.

 

However, as most people like mods, I can appreciate that providing easy to use modding tools will likely prolong a game's lifespan and drum up more interest for future entries - so it seems like a good idea in principle.

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