I guess, as I said I am not saying their aren't issues with this story and I get having problems with the way it's presented too. I just find issues in so many games it sometimes seems like Pillars is singled out a little. Like the point about urgency (it makes no sense fot you to be doing side quests while *insert plot* is happening). That can be applied to so many rpgs I honestly roll my eyes when it comes up. I get that it's a problem but it exists in so many games as people expect side quests in rpgs and ,many rpgs have some level of urgency to their main quest so it can be all epic and save the worldy.
I'm clearly not the only one who did find the writing a bit too "heavy" in the first Pillars of Eternity and Yosharian has illustrated this point perfectly.
Still, I don't believe the story is limited to the quality of the writing as it is important to take into account pacing and the way the main plot and side quests work together (something that has been brought up in this thread already).
To make a great story we need a few basic things, mostly an antagonist and a reason that drives the protagonist to progress through a series of events.
Some of these things are up to the player.
It's entirely possible to embrace the story of the first Pillars of Eternity in different ways simply by considering the way you choose to react to the visions of the Watcher's past. Sure, you're still looking to thwart the villain's plans but your choices do inform the relationship with Thaos (and Iovara for that matter).
I've played only 12 hours of Deadfire but so far I didn't feel like my guy wasn't properly motivated to look for his antagonist. Nor did I feel that it was out of character for him to look around for opportunities to make some dough on the side. Sure it may be easier because I am playing an antihero (or a very reluctant hero at best) and becoming the pawn of supernatural powers is not high on his list (nor is he very respectful of these powers).
A pally or a more religious type may feel obligated to focus on the main quest and ignore the rest but even then the sense of urgency is entirely up to the player (sure getting his/her soul back is probably a priority for the Watcher but all things considered it is a tall order to confront a god whether you're prepared or not and in the meantime a Watcher still has to eat and pay his crew).
What I'm trying to say is that the most important part is the actual roleplaying.
In the BG series you had a few elements that were predetermined and you could build around them. The game gave you enough leeway to allow you to expand upon these elements and make them yours. Going through the events in the game allowed you to flesh out your character by creating a past for what had been a blank slate.
Pillars is like that. We do have certain elements that won't change but we also have some room to maneuver (which is why I like trying different things and why I enjoyed my last playthrough of PoE1 in which I played a self centred mercenary type who enjoyed being blunt when he could and devious when he had to). By the way, my guy never really considered Thaos to be the antagonist. It was less about defeating Thaos and more about moving on and getting closure for his Awakening. In some ways my character was an unwilling participant in the events that lead him to end up on a boat in the Deadfire Archipelago (after all he does hate boats).
Sure, some may argue that all that doesn't make a difference and that whatever story you may choose to spin you still end up going through (roughly) the same events and (mostly) doing the same thing. They may even say that all we have is the illusion of choice. The pretence that our decisions matter and have a direct consequence on the story as a whole.
The truth is that when it comes to roleplaying the only thing that matters is for the player(s) to believe in this illusion that is carefully woven by the game master. Things may take unexpected turns but most of the time the game master will adhere to a script and even if very good game masters can make it look effortless and give the impression that things are entirely up to the player it's never really the case.
When it comes to videogames things are even more restrictive but in the end as long as the player is willing to suspend his disbelief then it's possible for the player to invest in the story and make it more personal and thus more relevant.
If the player doesn't embrace that opportunity to fuel his or her imagination then all that is left is a by-the-numbers approach that will only be about facts and mechanics with decisions motivated by game logic instead of actual roleplaying in which case the fun will probably come from crunching numbers rather than getting immersed in a story.
That's why a slow start is a boon for the roleplayer because it gives him or her time to fill in the blanks leisurely without having to worry about the action whereas a more down to earth approach will probably want to be entertained with more action and less introspection. Of course things may not be so clear cut and I don't mean to say that roleplayers don't want any action in their games but It seems to me that both ways of playing the game are at odds and I think Pillars of Eternity is more skewed towards roleplayers. If anything in the first game the whole series of events leading to Caed Nua could be viewed as a long tutorial. We could also say that both need different things from the game. The ones who focus on roleplaying need enough space to build their stories within the story whereas the more practical gamers probably want to be shown and take an active part in the action on the screen. It's only logical because what happens on the screen is the most important thing to them whereas the roleplayers use what is happening on the screen to cater to their own stories (and for them it's these stories that make what's happening on the screen interesting, not the other way around).
In any case I've been going long enough with this post so I think it's a good time to stop. I just want to stress the fact that I don't think things are so clear cut in reality (I believe there is a bit of the roleplayer and of the number cruncher in all of us) but it may offer a clue as to the reasons why people seem to react so differently when it comes to the story in a CRPG. I know full well not everyone has an experience in pen and paper roleplaying but this is definitely something that you should consider getting into if you ever find yourself writing stories about your character in a video game.
Edited by gloomseeker, 11 May 2018 - 06:13 AM.