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RPG Codex Interview: Eric Fenstermaker on Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of Eternity
Сообщество по игре "Pillars of Eternity"
Chris Avellone created the initial versions of Durance and the Grieving Mother, but then they were cut and passed on to you and Carrie Patel, under circumstances which remain unclear. Since they're such distinctive characters, the widespread assumption among fans is that most of their writing is still his (you seem to agree), although he's reluctant to take credit for them. Can you tell us your side of this story? What was changed about these two companions and why?

I don't know about "my side of the story." I can tell you the extent of my work on Durance. I wrote (if I'm remembering right) some of his environmental reactivity (like, for example, what does he say when he sees a dragon or the Grieving Mother drowning in a pool of blood), and then all of his banter with other companions, and his interjections into other conversations. I also gave the player an opportunity to call him out on his self-deception and hypocrisy, because it seemed to me that some players would want to, and that they might be more inclined to keep him in their party if they could, despite him being not the nicest guy. I had to make some minor edits to get everything to line up and make sense when his dialogue was pared down for length, but not a whole lot. Chris chose what to cut, and it was fairly clean - there was a layer that could be removed without losing the base of the character. Carrie's work on the Grieving Mother would've been similar, though I'm not sure the specifics.

The cuts came for length. The three limiting factors were time to implement, art resources for the dream sequences, and VO budget. There was a target length we had set upfront for all companions, and we had to stick to it. Otherwise we'd be, for example, voicing maybe one out of every six lines for Durance and the Grieving Mother, and it'd be conspicuously incongruent with the other companions, who had maybe 2/3 of their lines voiced. Unfortunately in this case it meant cutting down characters that had had a lot of research and creative energy invested in them, and there were some good ideas there that it would've been interesting to explore. It was a shitty thing to have to do, but we'd never have been able to implement the original versions in time to ship.

More interesting than cut content perhaps is content that never even made it off the drawing board because you didn't think there was a chance that it wouldn't eventually get cut. Is there anything you wanted to add to Pillars of Eternity at an early stage but backed away from due to it being too ambitious?

I mentioned this at our ComicCon panel, but I was hoping we might do low-INT dialogue, and I had a pet idea that we would also have low-INT journal entries, since our journal is written in first person. That's obviously very expensive, because depending on how far you take the joke, you're potentially doubling up your word count. But I can still dream.

Early on, I wanted to lapse time during the middle of the game. We thought about showing the player the world in multiple ages, which would've been awesome, although probably also disorienting for players who are still trying to get a handle on the setting. I'll get it into a game eventually.

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It's becoming increasingly obvious that Pillars of Eternity is going to get a sequel. The most recent press release for The White March Part 2 has all but spelled it out. Now, we don't expect you to confirm that or offer any specifics, but...what sort of things would you be looking forward to doing in a hypothetical Pillars of Eternity 2?

Hypothetically, I have a few things I would want to play with. I don't want to tip my hand, so pardon the vagueness. One would be having fewer, but far deeper and more interconnected companions - interconnected both with respect to one another and with respect to the overall plot. "FEWER?! FUCK THAT," you say. But everything is zero-sum in this business, and every companion we add takes a ton of time to write and implement. So yes, fewer. But better. More memorable. More like a real group of people. Less likely to be collecting dust in your stronghold.

The other big thing is I would want to do a plot that is more dynamic and player-driven. Pillars is no more linear than Baldur's Gate or Planescape: Torment, but the structure was still A to B to C to D to E. Next time, if there is a next time, I would want the player to have some agency in picking where the plot goes next, and I would want the world to respond to it in big, meaningful ways during the game. Big talk, I know. But I do have an idea for this that pushes dynamism and puts my degree to use (for once) that I would be excited to experiment with.

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