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On Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, and the JRPGs and other games I hope it draws inspiration from.

Storytelling Narrative Game design JRPG Nonlinear Maps

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#1
Arsene Lupin

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This is weird. I feel like I'm violating some unspoken taboo here, so seldom do we see anyone--in the community, in the media, in the industry--talk about western RPGs and their Japanese cousins in the same breath. Anyway, I'm excited for Deadfire, and I'd like to discuss some very special JRPGs that I think could provide interesting and valuable examples for the overall design of Obsidian's impending epic. I hope you'll indulge me on this journey.

 

First, a quick refresher on Deadfire's premise:

 

In Deadfire, we'll be captaining a ship and exploring the Deadfire archipelago. There will be an active world map (similar to that of Fallout 1/2, or more recently Wasteland 2)  for us to explore, discovering and visiting the islands we find in whichever order we want. Presumably this will allow for some nonlinear storytelling, as the narrative beats we encounter will depend on the order we visit each island. To use Lord of the Rings as an example, something like saving Theoden from Saruman's curse might be accomplished *before* meeting Elrond in Rivendell. That kind of thing.

 

So, on to the JRPGs.

 

Dragon Quest VII follows a similar premise--the story begins with you discovering a sailing ship and exploring a world that consists of many islands of varying sizes that have been isolated from one another for centuries. The over-arching story is pretty simple: long ago, the Almighty fought a pitched battle with the Demon King and was defeated. Your task is to travel to each island and save them from the Demon King's minions (there's also a big time travel element, where you go between past and future states of the world, but it's not relevant here) and eventually find and defeat the Demon King himself. But that's just at the macro level--each individual island has its own story that is very self-contained. These stories are never about the demon king, but rather the specific demons plaguing each islands, and the often tragic fates of the people living there. This makes the game feel more like a collection of loosely-related short stories than a novel. Each island offers a new, self-contained story with a new cast of characters. When you land on an island, you get a *new* story, and when you leave the island, that story is *resolved.*

 

And this is an approach I hope Deadfire takes as well. I'm not saying we should *never* end up having quests that send us from island to island, but rather that I hope those quests are not the norm. Baldur's Gate II took a similar approach, making each region feel like a self-contained D&D module. 

 

Romancing SaGa is the other game I want to look at. To date, it remains the *best* example I have ever seen of non-linear storytelling (multiple protagonists, multiple story routes for each protagonist, and a persistent world where big events will happen even if the player isn't there to affect them). There's a whole heckuva lot I could say about it, but for now I'd like to focus on just one aspect: location. in Romancing Saga, there is a "world story" that plays out--various events happen in each of the major cities and nations at various times. If the player is present--at the right place, at the right time--he or she can participate. For example, City A could be attacked by pirates. If the player arrives in time, he or she could fight off the pirate attack, save the city, and be rewarded by the king; but if the player arrives too late, he or she could arrive to find the king missing and the city destroyed by fire.

 

No, I'm not suggesting Deadfire try to make a persistent world narrative to the same degree--that's be waaaaaay too much work--but wouldn't it be interesting if the player's starting position were--at least to a degree--randomized? So that, for example, the first two or three islands the player discovers once he or she starts exploring the world aren't always the same two or three islands?

 

Like, there could be a starting island to serve as the tutorial area to introduce to players to the setting, and have the initial narrative beats (where you acquire your own ship) and then once you leave, you could encounter a "storm" that deposits you to a random or semi-random part of the world-map (depending on how combat leveling/scaling works, I suppose). This starting island doesn't even have to be in the Deadfire--it could be a port city in the Dyrwood, as you make your hasty escape.

 

Alright, one last game I want to point at: Total War Shogun 2. Also known as the last great Total War game (sigh). Don't worry, I'm almost done here. Specifically, I want to point out Shogun 2's world map:

 

https://steamuserima...0F1185EF660F9A/

 

That's the "fog of war." Rather than a simple black background indicating the "unexplored" regions of the map, they have a hand-drawn map. It's a really cool effect, no?

 

And I'd love to see Deadfire go in a similar direction. Medieval and Renaissance maps are, well, really cool looking. Especially sea maps! It would be really cool to see something similar in Deadfire--an imaginative, hand-drawn map of the "world" that fades away to the "real" world map as you explore it.

 

And, well, yeah. That's it. Those are three games I hope Obsidian takes some inspiration from. What about you? Have any games (aside from other, similar CRPGs) that you think could be valuable to look at going into a game like Deadfire?

 

Before I leave, though, have some awesome old sea maps:

 

http://public.media....-Olaus-38.3.jpg

http://images.faena....-interior-2.jpg

http://www.cvltnatio...vanDuzer017.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot... Duzer) 016.jpg

https://img.purch.co...y1zaGlwLmpwZw==


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#2
injurai

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I like the idea of having sort of "episode" based quests that are self-contained. I think PoE had that. It's always nice when you reach a new town and you tackle some local problems which acquaints you to the local populace. Maybe the occasional connective quest.

 

I do hope there is one grand island hopping quest line.



#3
daven

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I hoped the Stronghold in the first game was more like Suikoden. But it pretty much would have had to be the main part of the game.

 

I'm not too bothered about non linearity, having a more focused story is usually more interesting to me. Baldur's Gate 2 was probably too open at the start, could have done with gating some stuff off I reckon.



#4
Messier-31

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SERIOUSLY, WHAT THESE GUYS ARE UP TO?

 

 

*****************************************************************************************

 

 

I am not a fan of JRPG's per se, but I see you point. Many of us look for similarities in other media, games most notably. Here is the list I insolently copy-paste from a different thread about inspirations:

 

https://forums.obsid...-why/?p=1908441

 

One more thing!

The world is very unique but I also like the familiarities with other work (NOTE: some are quite obvious, some are pretty subjective and entirely mine)

 

  • Iovara is Deionarra (Planescape Torment) redesigned, not only in name but a bit of her story as well
  • Fulvano is Volo (Forgotten Realms) redesigned (and a hack)
  • Godlikes are Planetouched (Dungeons and Dragons) redesigned, while aumaua and orlans cover for halforcs and halflings
  • Teir Nowneth - aka Heritage Hill tower - is the Severed Hand (Icewind Dale) redesigned, even dev commentary says it so
  • Durgan's Battery is your beloved abandoned dwarven fortress in fashion of Mithral Hall (Forgotten Realms)
  • The Black Hound inn is a nod to the cancelled 3rd part of the Baldur's Gate saga
  • Svef is Fisstech (The Witcher) redesigned
  • St. Waidwen, the divine king of Readceras, is based on legends of Hans Böhm, the Drummer of Niklashausen
  • Aedyr Empire is our world Roman Empire with some pieces of The Empire from Warhammer Fantasy (sidenote: the union of men and elves is quite new and interesting)
  • Eír Glanfath has some Loren Forest vibes (Warhammer Fantasy)
  • Sanitarium in Defiance Bay is Spellhold (Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn) redesigned
  • Vailians from Old Vailia and the Republics are so much like Tilea and Estalia (Warhammer Fantasy)
  • Dunnage in the Deadfire is Sartosa (Warhammer Fantasy), the seat of power of local pirate princes ("Príncipi sen Patrena" means "Princes without Fatherland" imo) and Captain Furrante is boss
  • And last but not least: the Eastern Reach is the Dalelands (Forgotten Realms) flipped over

There is a notable absence of a good super wizard w/ pointy hat in likes of Gandalf, Elmister, Zandalor... archmages you meet are kinda dix, but that would be just another cliche on my list. And yet I like these things!


Edited by Messier-31, 03 October 2017 - 05:09 AM.

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#5
injurai

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Civ VI also does that archaic map fog of war thing.

 

http://i.imgur.com/H4IGdMF.jpg



#6
FlintlockJazz

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Talking of self-contained adventure questlines, I always liked the Trademeet and that Umar Hills village with the old sun god temple near it for those reasons, and I think I enjoyed those more than the main questline itself.  They felt like detailed adventures that had good stories that were about local troubles not god kings or anything and resolved in a satisfying way.  They gave you the genuine experience of being an adventurer, as your party turns up in town, meets up with the locals, deal with various issues, get praised, and then move on to their next great adventure.  Having more than one adventure in those locations helped, especially when they included adventures from other locations too (the serial killer tanner from Amn turning up in Tradesmeet).


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#7
FlintlockJazz

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There is a notable absence of a good super wizard w/ pointy hat in likes of Gandalf, Elmister, Zandalor... archmages you meet are kinda dix, but that would be just another cliche on my list. And yet I like these things!

 

 

The lack of pointy hats is criminal!  There must be pointy hats!

 

Gandalf.jpg?ssl=1


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#8
Varana

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http://www.cvltnatio...vanDuzer017.jpg

 
SERIOUSLY, WHAT THESE GUYS ARE UP TO?


That's a mildly famous episode from the voyage of St Brendan (as far as anything from 9th century texts is "famous" :D) who supposedly landed on some island but quickly found out (when lighting a fire) that the island actually was a giant fish. Later, they returned and even celebrated Mass on the whale (this time, without fire).

Edited by Varana, 03 October 2017 - 01:45 PM.

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#9
darkling.lithely

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Episodes would be cool. The survey I took today should have mentioned episodes for DLC. I guess it did mention smaller content, but I wasn't thinking episodes at the time.

 

A few years ago when I was enthralled the with NWN module "A Dance with Rogues," I started designing my own campaign of 25-30 stand alone modules that would have told a bigger story when taken together. I'd still love to play something like that.



#10
HippoJ

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Don't expect to see something like this in Pillars necessarily, but this thread reminded me of the structure of Dragon Warrior IV way back. It had 4 sort of 'episodes' playing as companions in smaller storylines that foreshadowed the main quest and gave context for the world.  I always thought that was an interesting structure and dug it.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Storytelling, Narrative, Game design, JRPG, Nonlinear, Maps

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