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Default Pillars of Eternity - Interview @ Ausgamers

March 22nd, 2014, 06:55
Obsidian Entertainment's Josh Sawyer was interviewed by Ausgamers to answer a few questions about the recent Paradox deal, and other topics about Pillars of Eternity.

AusGamers: Now I dont know how specific you can get on this but, how many separate projects are in the works at Obsidian now? Even with South Park wrapped, it seems like there must be a few? Has the team expanded significantly in recent years?

Josh: Recently it did expand, because South Park was winding down, so weve wrapped up on that, and of course weve just had our announcement about Armored Warfare, which theres a lot of folks at Obsidian working on that. Then we always have other projects that are in progress — things that weve started up and are working on in the background. So we always try to be a two or three project studio, and that will probably continue for the near future.

AusGamers: Has the creative freedom afforded by the crowdfunded Pillars of Eternity noticeably altered studio culture at all? Has there been a measurable envy from the devs working away on the big publisher licensed stuff, or do you even have strictly defined teams for each project in that sort of way?

Josh: Well I wouldnt say its strictly defined, but people dont just kind of float around. People will move over to our project sometimes then work on something else for a while and maybe come back later. Obviously its nice to be able to work with your own IP, but there are other certain nice advantages of working with someone elses IP, but you know, the grass is always greener.

Its very hard to build an IP from scratch. Were not really making any bones of the fact that were trying to make a game that feels very much like Forgotten Realms; were trying to capture the feel of those old Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale games. So there is a certain framework to what were doing, that weve already pre-established, but even so, we do have a lot of freedom to make up things: we dont have to run them by a publisher; we dont have to run them by an IP holder; were the IP holder, were the ones making it.

Really were just beholden to the fans. So for example, early on when we were developing the races during the Kickstarter, something I talked about internally with people was: Im pretty sure there are plenty of people that want to play elves and dwarves [laughs]; Ive got a feeling a lot of people want to play those two races. I dont necessarily know if anyone wants to play gnomes or halflings, so well just kick those guys right out and make up some new races. But elves and dwarves Im pretty sure people want to play those guys.

So its not about whether I personally like elves or dwarves, its about, if you played Baldurs Gate, you probably have some sort of an expectation of elves and dwarves. So we do still have sort of boundaries and restrictions about how to develop things, but it is nice to be able to take those in directions that we want to.
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March 22nd, 2014, 06:55
I didn't know Obsidian is doing some crap mmo tank game. Are they really doing so bad that they would resort to doing crap to stay alive or do they truly want to do that kind of game. If they are doing it for any other reason then because to keep from going bankrupt they have lost my respect.
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March 22nd, 2014, 07:21
Yeah, not particularly thrilled with this development as I am sure most of us are…

I guess if it keeps them afloat and allows for some influx of funds that will help them expand their RPG offerings (and does not affect the quality of said offerings) then I could reluctantly swallow it (sorta)…

But what are the chances this could actually pan out? and it is apparently drawing resources away from other stuff for a very modestly sized company so I can only guess that money is still tight and this is done to pad the bank account a bit. Odd considering how bizarrely well South Park is doing….
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March 22nd, 2014, 07:29
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I guess if it keeps them afloat and allows for some influx of funds that will help them expand their RPG offerings (and does not affect the quality of said offerings) then I could reluctantly swallow it (sorta)…
I don't mind if the game helps out with funding, and keeps some of the staff employed.

I'm worried the F2P game will be to successful, and might shift how the company looks at future projects. I dont want another developer going the F2P MMO route.

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March 22nd, 2014, 07:43
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
I don't mind if the game helps out with funding, and keeps some of the staff employed.

I'm worried the F2P game will be to successful, and might shift how the company looks at future projects. I dont want another company going the F2P MMO route.
That would surprise me (the success part) even more than them actually taking this project. (*)

I mean they do well on RPG mechanics but as we often say its the Story/writing/characters and quest design that makes their games standout and those are completely useless in a tank game (as I believe Maylander was saying in the other thread).

But going from respected (by the niche crowd) developer of RPGs to F2P tanks at the drop of a hat is worrying me a bit too. Let us hope indeed that, if it isn't a once off kind of thing, those kind of projects remain just as occasional cash grabs that only serve to fuel the main RPG fare…

(* Then again I didn't expect South Park to be that successful either so maybe I should stop doing predictions )
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March 22nd, 2014, 07:54
It happened with Blizzard JonNik. They were once the proud developers of single-player games with optional Multiplayer. Then along came World of Warcraft.

Now it's all about online play, and social features.

As for South Park I'm curious how much of a cut they get after the game went through two publishers, and multiple revisions.

They learned one lesson never agree to Metacritic bonuses, as Bethesda screwed them royally with that clause. Well fingers crossed about Obsidian's future.

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Last edited by Couchpotato; March 22nd, 2014 at 08:08.
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March 22nd, 2014, 08:14
Yeah, I agree. Blizzard is a good (I mean bad ) and sad example.

I do believe there are a couple of pertinent differences. As i.e blizzard was from the start focused in broader appeal games (Diablos and WCs/SCs) and not in Deep stories and mechanics.

They seemed more focused in providing super polished gameplay experiences keep them playable and engaging for impressively big amounts of time (to keep the clients close) and invest in superficial but appealing elements like ultra cool CGI videos (not a bad thing necessarily but showing some predilection for hype building versus actual substance).

They also had the design and technical chops to pull it off. Also important…

Maybe I am bit biased here (probably ) although I did play lots of WC and SC in my youth… Or I just can't see the talents of Avelone, Cain and Sawyer doing good in the F2P braindead game arena… It just does not compute…

Anyways I'll definitely join you in:
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March 22nd, 2014, 10:03
Obsidian is quite a large outfit with around 200 employees. At an average cost of employment of $50k that gives them a salary bill around $10m a year. Since POE only got around $4m via crowd funding that leaves a big gap in the funding. So obviously they have to take on other projects, even if they would prefer to concentrate on more up market games. Hopefully in the long run crowd funding will make things a bit less hand to mouth and increase their ability to discriminate. And maybe if projects like POE and WL2 are successful, publishers will get in on the act too.

(World of) Armored Warfare does sound pretty grim though…
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March 22nd, 2014, 10:11
Originally Posted by Roq View Post
Obsidian is quite a large outfit with around 200 employees.
Wow, bigger than my impression of their size indeed!

Yeah, makes a bit more sense now I guess. If I was in the shoes of their higher ups I'd have preferred to put a bit of water in my wine than start laying off people (not a whole damn lake though but seriously I hate offhand judging people until I get a better impression of the sort of dire straits they may be in, so that is about all the griping I am going to do at this point )
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March 22nd, 2014, 11:01
I can imagine that Obsidian want to try doing something different now and then and don't see why that's a problem. Noone wants to get rabbitholed. That said, everyone knows they make good RPGs, so I don't think they'll move completely away from that, as it would both be a poor decision business wise, and because I think a lot of the members of the studio are RPG fans.
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March 22nd, 2014, 16:12
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
Wow, bigger than my impression of their size indeed!

Yeah, makes a bit more sense now I guess. If I was in the shoes of their higher ups I'd have preferred to put a bit of water in my wine than start laying off people (not a whole damn lake though but seriously I hate offhand judging people until I get a better impression of the sort of dire straits they may be in, so that is about all the griping I am going to do at this point )
As someone who runs a (non-gaming) dev shop I'll do anything possible to avoid laying people off. When that happens, other people leave the company as well, looking for greener pastures since they see the future as bleak - and the company culture tanks. Usually it's the top performers that leave, since they're more ambitious and more marketable. Far better to carry it for a bit and look aggressively for other projects to do, even if it's not always the ones you "want" to do.

When people leave, it's the knowledge of your company culture/products that hurts, not the loss of programming talent. Frankly, talented devs are easy to find (at least in Toronto). The hard part is finding talented devs that will work well in your team, aren't prima donnas and can understand your business.
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March 22nd, 2014, 16:42
As a software engineer I appreciate your point of view and stance on the matter
(Not all places swarm with highly talented people looking for a job though, indeed)

And yeah, losing people that are deeply familiar with your products/customers or breaking up well performing teams and having to constantly reintroduce/retrain new people is counterproductive and morale breaking (I've been through some of that alas, twice)…
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March 22nd, 2014, 18:18
"I don’t necessarily know if anyone wants to play gnomes or halflings, so we’ll just kick those guys right out and make up some new races."

I always play gnomes when given the chance.

Discouraging news from my perspective, but I hope they make lots of money with their crappy littke tank game.
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March 22nd, 2014, 21:23
To me the tank game project is kind of along the same lines as CDProjekt Red doing the mobile game. They've got to pay the bills and find a way to keep people done with their current tasks gainfully employed and it woud be ridiculous to think that could necessarily always be accomplished with putting them on projects I'd personally be interested in.

Also I imagine a lot of the people being absorbed into that project will be the people who worked on Stick of Truth whose skills don't translate to work that needs to be done on Project Eternity. I'd rather have them working on something they can contribute to than being shoehorned into doing busy work on a game they don't really have anything to add to.
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March 23rd, 2014, 02:46
I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people that want to play elves and dwarves [laughs]; I’ve got a feeling a lot of people want to play those two races.

Elves have no reason to exist in any game, period. Dwarves are only acceptable when their beards hang down to their toes and they dress funny, and have an appropriate Scottish accent. But even then, there doesn't need to be more than one in the whole game. He's right about Hobbits, though. Everybody hates them. However, chaotic evil Gnome assassins can be interesting.
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March 23rd, 2014, 08:49
Variety is the spice of life and all that then eh? I don't mind the fact that Obsidian is diversifying their projects if it means in the long run, greater success for them and a stronger likelihood that we'll get deeper role-playing experiences into the future.

@Craig. Speak for yourself sir, I loved my stealthy Bobbits. Plus Quayle and Tiax are underrated and good value humour wise.

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