Update #73: Narrative Design: A Day in the Life, Undead
Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:03 pm
Update by Eric Fenstermaker, Lead Narrative Designer
Undead abound in Heritage Hill.
Hey everybody. I'm Eric Fenstermaker and I'm the lead narrative designer on Pillars of Eternity. Before this I held the same position on South Park: The Stick of Truth, so if the dialogue in Eternity ends up being a long string of obscenities and fart jokes, you know who to blame. You can direct all hate mail to my work email account, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know we suggested last week that I was going to give you a lore update, but I thought, this is a crowdfunded project. Why not completely fail to deliver on what was promised and instead give our backers something no one asked for?
I have three things for you today - the first is a look at what my daily experience is like, then I'm going to talk a bit about some high-level goals we have for writing our companion characters, and finally I might just have some lore about Eternity's undead.
On the next episode of Pillars of Eternity: Josh Sawyer writes a class update about wizards and druids, and Adam meets a wacky goblin neighbor only he can see!
But what to talk about first? Being a narcissist, the answer is obvious.
What It Is Like to Be Me
Today has been busy and varied. I thought it might be interesting to take you through a typical day as a narrative lead person. I will tell it in second person so it feels like virtual reality. Most of this is somewhat based on real events - at least as much as American Hustle.
You arrive at work. Take serpentine route to your desk to avoid being seen by anyone who would frown upon your five minutes' tardiness. End up accidentally passing all of them in the hallway anyway. Pass subordinate in hallway too. Shake your head at him to note disapproval of his tardiness.
10:10 AM - 10:25 AM
Watch internet video of intro to Japanese wrestling match featuring life-sized animatronic raptor. Dream of making it big as a game designer and having a raptor of your own. Someday...
Deny your subordinate's purchase request for an ergonomic keyboard to help with her carpal tunnel. That is what stem cells are for. Back to work, slave.
10:30 AM- 11:30 AM
Brainstorming meeting: What kind of monsters can we reasonably use in an urban docks district along the shoreline that somehow have not worked the surrounding populace into a panic? Proposals: invisible giant crabs, giants with poor height genes from both parents, low-key mummies.
Reminded for seventh time about backer update, which you knew about but have been deliberately putting off. Chastise producer for not reminding you enough.
11:50 AM - 12:00 AM
Called in to review cutscene animatic. Despite the storyboard being delivered exactly as asked for, you berate the storyboard artist to consolidate power. This is garbage, GARBAGE!
Lunch alone at office desk, like every day.
12:10 PM - 1:00 PM
Spend the rest of lunch on Facebook and Twitter making it look like you have the perfect life and everybody loves you.
1:00 PM - ??
Intermittent raptor daydreams.
1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Work with narrative designer on the design for a new companion centered exclusively on maximizing companion's potential to be spun off into a line of toys. Huge adorable eyes, soft plush fur, impressive physique, ability to transform into racecar, check, check, check and check.
2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Passing off subordinates' ideas as your own. Crushing their spirit.
4:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Brainstorm barbarian clan names.
The Large and in Charge Clan
The One-Man Clan
5:00 PM -7:00 PM
I may have taken a few liberties, but some of that is really a snapshot as to what my role is.
Day-to-day, I spend a fair amount of time coordinating the efforts of narrative designers with level designers, so for example I really did have a meeting this morning to figure out how on Earth we could have a quest with some monster combat in a populated, more-or-less oblivious urban district without the monsters there feeling absurdly out of place. The game needs to be fun, first and foremost, with or without a story. It's ultimately my responsibility to make sure that the fun things our designers come up with have a cohesive narrative wrapped around them. Sometimes it's an easy fit, sometimes it's a puzzle to be solved. Fortunately I am backed up by some very talented designers whose ideas I can steal liberally - that part was all true, too.
It's also on me to try and make sure the story is being told properly in-game, so there was in fact a meeting with a storyboard artist to look through one of our game's introductory cutscenes. Our concept artists' stick figures look better than the most realistic human portrait I could ever draw.
And I have to curate lore, though that's a responsibility I share with Josh Sawyer, our project lead. In general I prefer this to be a decentralized process where designers come up with things that make their quests and areas and subplots cool, and then we find ways together to work them into the overall scheme. But there was also a good amount of up-front central planning, dating back to before I was on the project. In this case, today I did have a long conversation with a couple of our level guys about the names and personalities of a set of barbarian-ish tribes.
What's missing from the above is that on some days, when I am fortunate, I get to do some writing for the project, which is really fun. If you are a narrative lead you get to claim all the choicest dialogues for yourself. It's a great privilege, which is one reason why so many narrative leads are murdered by the narrative designer who is next-in-line.
Companions may be my favorite things about RPGs. Long after you've finished the game, looking back, if they're done well, they feel like old friends. Lately we have been ramping up our companion writing. (We really did have a discussion about one of those designs today, and did some iteration on it.) As such, I've been giving a lot of thought of late as to what our goals should be in creating the companions for Pillars of Eternity, and I thought they'd be worth sharing with the people we're designing them for. These are a few of the benchmarks I want us to try to hit:
It's common in most types of fiction for major characters (or the protagonist at the very least) to follow an arc, in which their character begins a certain way and ends up being changed by the events of the story, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But for a video game, that's not really taking advantage of the medium. This is a story about the player's character, told by the player's actions. It stands to reason that the ways in which a companion would change should be dependent on what the player does.
So we have an arc for each of our companions, but each arc has multiple potential endpoints, in just the same way that the plot has multiple endings. Which endpoint the arc ends up at will be, in one way or another, determined by what the player does - whether it's something they say or an action they take or some other choice they make. This was an approach we last took in Fallout: New Vegas and I thought it was something to definitely keep.
Unique, Varied, Relatable Ambassadors
Chris Avellone touched on this in a previous update, and it remains a core goal for us. Pillars of Eternity takes place in a brand new setting. Most players won't know their boreal dwarf chanters from their hearth orlan ciphers. Getting to know companions that run the gamut of races, classes, and cultures will help the setting come alive and hopefully become a place players will find themselves wanting to stay awhile. Each companion, in a sense, becomes an ambassador for his or her race, culture, and class.
And we only have so many companions. So they can't all be snarky elves (or can they?) - they need different characterizations, different voices, different struggles. As a designer, you never know what's going to strike a nerve with a given player. Rarely for our games is there a universal favorite companion - almost always there seems to be an even distribution for how many players like each character. In some ways that's maddening, because how do you adjust for that, but it's also one of the best things about writing companions - as long as you write a character that is authentic in its humanity, somewhere, somebody is going to identify with it, and that will be the character they enjoyed spending time with the most. By varying widely the particulars of each companion's persona and struggles, the hope is that while not everybody will necessarily love every companion, most will find at least one that means something to them.
Lanterns to the Themes
"Why should the player care?" is a question we try to ask ourselves for all aspects of the narrative. When it comes to plot, the question is answered by its themes - they make the plot about something more than a physical struggle.
But again, our narrative is interactive. The themes shouldn't be predetermined morals. There should be many facets to them, and it should fall to the player, not the designer, to decide what his or her perspective winds up being on the theme. To take a well-worn example, if the theme is about the struggle of good vs. evil (don't worry, it's not), the ending shouldn't simply assert that good always triumphs over evil. It should ask the player what he or she believes, given everything they've learned on their journey. Maybe they even surprise themselves with their choice.
That's where companions come in. If we're designing them well, their struggles should tie into the themes on some level. And the resolution they come to, which, because of the interactive dynamism discussed above, is influenced by the player, gives them a distinct perspective on the theme. The goal is that in the process of helping the companions resolve their conflicts, we give the player something to think about for what that might mean in the context of his or her own character, and in the long run, that gives the themes personal meaning when it comes time to resolve them for the player character.
I'd be interested to hear, what do all of you think? Not so much specific characterizations, but more, what are the abstract qualities that make you enjoy and remember a companion? (e.g. They made you laugh, they seemed like a real person, their quest was engrossing, etc.)
Here, Have Some Lore
Compensation for being subjected to the rest of this update.
All my best ideas are stolen. This one I ripped off from our lead level designer, Bobby Null. It is about the undead.
Male and female darguls.
One of the strengths of the Eternity setting, in my opinion, is its ability to put a new spin on the familiar. Let's be honest, you've seen undead before in a video game or two. I bet you've had a virtual conflict with a skeleton or perhaps even a zombie. But no matter how many times we see them, they're fantasy RPG staples - it'd be weird not to have them, and many people would really miss them were they omitted.
So we did some thinking as to how we could have undead but have them be our own special brand of undead that makes sense in this world.
This is How Undead Work
Let's say you are a wealthy noble who would like to cheat death. There are a variety of options at your disposal, but this offer from a shady animancer sounds the most painless. All he is going to do is bind your soul to your body, so that way when you die, your soul stays put and you still retain all your motor control.
Sign me up, you say. Suck on this, death! The animancer sets up some bizarre tools and machines, has you hold onto some copper wires, and before you know it the whole thing is over. He leaves and takes his fee. A few years later you die in a horrific skiing accident. Not to worry! Your soul isn't going anywhere. You are living large, my friend. But here's the thing. Your soul isn't going anywhere, but your body is. It starts to decompose. Slowly at first. A maggot here, a maggot there. And you are starting to get weird cravings, kind of like a pregnant woman, but instead of peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, you could really go for some human flesh.
So you eat some guys. And lo and behold, the decomposition stops! You're cured! Except that after a while, you start to rot again. Over time, you find that eating folks and absorbing the essence from their flesh is the only way to stop decomposition. But after a while you run out of neighbor kids and it gets harder and harder to track down a meal. Flesh is dropping off in chunks. And it feels like your IQ has fallen a few points, like that time you used to live next to that industrial solvent factory. In time, your mind goes as well as your body. You become feral, then near-vegetative, then purely mechanical - your body nothing more than a fleshless marionette.
Revenant bestiary concepts.
What you have just done is experienced the full continuum of undeath. Corporeal undead in this world all suffer from the same malady, and are merely in different stages of decomposition. How do you get this condition? It's usually something that you would get by commissioning an unscrupulous animancer to help you live forever, or by volunteering for a "harmless clinical trial." These ladies and gentlemen have been studying a certain banned piece of literature known as the Theorems of Padgram and are trying to develop a true path to immortality. But there are supposedly other ways - certain alchemical tinctures, ancient architecturally-embedded machinery, self-pleasure (according to some disapproving Dyrwoodan moms), etc.
You start as a fampyr. (And these names are not different-for-the-sake-of-different - they're just following location-appropriate linguistic rules.) By appearances, you're basically a normal person who is going through a bit of a cannibal phase.
Allow yourself to decompose for a while, and you start to lose control of your urges, and your memory begins to slip away. Your self-consciousness is flimsy. You are now what's called a dargul.
Much more decomposition, and you become bestial. Your hair is gone (if it wasn't already), the flesh sags on your bones, and you live only to feed your hunger. You are a gul, but you don't give it much thought at this point. You just think you are hungry.
Then your mind gets really pretty thoroughly rotted, like what happens if you play a lot of FPSes, and you're only running at the basest level of instinct. You have no memory. You, my friend, are a revenant, and you are not very fun at parties.
After the last bit of flesh falls away, and the last mildly complicated neural synaptic path fires for the final time, you're running on pure reflex. You're not even hungry anymore (no stomach!). Your body is a murderous automaton. You are a skeleton, and your next step is dust.
It's a fun time for the project. Amazing new level art and some of what I think are our best quests yet are being added every day, and I'm very excited for what's ahead. I personally want to express my appreciation for the thing all of you made happen by backing us, and I want to do everything I can to make sure you guys are suitably rewarded for your efforts.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to fill out your backer surveys. Those of you who have surveys will find them on your account page on the backer portal under the Surveys tab. You have until March 31st before they become as worthless as that Myspace page I had in college with all the animated gifs on it, so get those suckers in. Huge thanks to those who've filled theirs out - the team is already putting that content into the game and it's coming out pretty slick.
Last Lastly... reddit /r/Games AMA
Hey, everyone. This is Brandon. One last note, the Eternity team will be taking part in a reddit AMA in /r/Games. This is scheduled for today at 5:30 PM PST, so be on the lookout.
Project Update #72: Death Godlike and Expected Ship Date
Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:38 pm
Update by Rose Gomez, Jr. Producer
Hello everyone! My name is Rose Gomez - I'm the newest Producer on Pillars of Eternity. I'll be handling a lot of the Kickstarter related duties for the game from here on out. I've been working at Obsidian Entertainment for a little over three years now. My previous titles include South Park: The Stick of Truth and the Fallout: New Vegas DLCs. I'm thrilled to be able to work on Pillars of Eternity and can't wait to interact more with all of you in the coming months.
For this update, we've got some awesome new character, area, and concept art that we're excited to show. However, before we get to the art, we wanted to officially update everyone that we are looking good to release Eternity by Winter 2014. So, look forward to getting your hands on Pillars of Eternity later this year.
Our next update will be all about Pillars of Eternity lore by Eric Fenstermaker.
After much discussion and consideration of the poll on our forums we have decided not to pursue any additional stretch goals. Rest assured that the team is working hard on completing the game and including our current stretch goals.
Our designers are working hard to implement the designs that our higher tiered backers have come up with. If you have a survey that needs to be filled out, please do so by March 31st. It's important that you get your surveys completed by the deadline because we are closing in on Alpha quickly. The team needs ample time to get your content into the game. We can't guarantee your in-game contribution will make it into the game if you are late. This includes inn/tavern designs, adventurer party designs, portraits, NPCs, and items/weapons, so make sure you get your idea in before the deadline! You can fill out your surveys on our Backer Portal after you've finished managing your pledge. They can be found on your account pageunder the Surveys tab.
Worried that your design won't fit into Pillars of Eternity lore? Not sure if you want that innkeeper to be an Orlan or an Aumaua? Take a peek at the Pillars of Eternity Wikito get some inspiration or clarification on the world.
With all that news out of the way, let's get to the art. To kick things off this week, we'd like to show you all some of the awesome new Godlike variants Dimitri has finished up - the Death Godlike. As we've mentioned before in previous updates, the Godlike are people that were "blessed" before birth by one or more of the deities of the world. Godlike manifest their divine heritage in a variety of ways, and in the case of the Death Godlike that heritage can be seen through their wicked looking horns and the misting darkness that shrouds their visage.
Another type, the Earth Godlike, can be seen below in some new portrait variants that Polina whipped up. These are just a few of the combinations that will be available to use for your character during the game.
Earth Godlike portrait variants. Areas
The environment artists are flying through their various scenes and churning out awesome looking pieces week by week. Below you can see a cool new interior from a Blacksmith's shop by Holly Prado.
Up next we have a really awesome piece by April Giron from an area called Ondra's Gift. This area is still a work in progress but we thought you all would enjoy taking a look at what we've got so far.
Ondra's Gift interior.
Both of these areas have a lot of cool detail in them so make sure you view them at full resolution. Creatures
In Pillars of Eternity, Druid characters will be able to shift into a few different spirit forms. Druids start with specific spirit forms and can find additional spirit forms in the world. One of these forms is the Cat, shown here in a concept drawing by Polina.
Druid Cat Form concept.
Below you can see what the Cat form looks like when modeled and textured, rendered out of our engine.
Druid Cat form in engine.
That's all for this week. Don't forget! If you need to fill out a survey for any Pillars of Eternity pledges please do so on our Backer Portalby the March 31st deadline. In the meantime, keep managing those pledgesand commenting on our forums.
Welcome! First things first: if you have backed Pillars of Eternity but not yet completed your order on our website, please do so as soon as possible. Even if you have an all-digital order, we need information from you to make sure you get everything you are supposed to. If your backer tier includes an NPC, item, portrait, or other custom piece of content, an early response will make it easier for us to work with you on your designs and preferences. As always, we appreciate that our backers have made Pillars of Eternity possible and we want to ensure that you get your money's worth.
As most of you know, our friends at Double Fine have their new adventure game, Broken Age, coming out today. Double Fine and their Kickstarter adventure game paved the way for all of the games that came after - including Pillars of Eternity.
If you are fans of the adventure game genre (or just fans of good games from indie studios), show them some love.
You can find more about it on their website.
Engwithan ruins sitting atop some cliffs.
Things are going well at Obsidian on the Pillars of Eternity team. The artists are putting the finishing touches on the second of our two big cities, Twin Elms, and the environments look fantastic. Our designers are busy implementing narrative and quest content, in some cases returning to earlier areas to fill in cracks and flesh elements out more. The character artists are almost done taking all of our highest-priority creatures to alpha level and are starting to look at the second string of creatures and variants. Animation is right behind them, creating rigs and alpha animations as new creatures come online, and we're finally returning to our main character animations for a second pass. Programming continues to chug away at user interfaces, AI, and zany spells and many other items on our long list of features. In short, we're well past "the hump" and the game is looking and feeling better every day.
In most RPG parties, there's a character type that focuses on dealing death to VIPs in the enemy roster. They are the heavy hitters, the characters who cut enemies down one-by-one with precise, overpowering attacks. We've previously talked about one of our heavy hitters, the cipher. Ciphers alternate between powerful mental attacks and the physical strikes used to power them. They are the only "caster" class that focuses heavily on individual enemies, in large part because their abilities all require an external concentration of soul energy to serve as a power source.
In contrast to the cipher, the rogue and the ranger are more traditional, but just as deadly. Rogues rely on the vulnerability of their enemies to inflict devastating attacks in close quarters. Rangers coordinate their strikes with the help of animal companions, creatures with whom rangers form lifelong bonds. Outside of direct combat, rogues and rangers share a skill emphasis in Stealth and are commonly the sneakiest party members. But while rogues also have a specialization in Mechanics (most often to lay traps and deal with ones placed by their enemies), rangers focus on Survival, which improves the duration of many consumable items. Though the three "heavy hitter" classes have different styles of play with different strengths, they all excel at taking enemies down in the shortest amount of time possible.
In Pillars of Eternity, the designation of a character as a "rogue" signifies their vicious, brutal style of fighting, not a propensity for theft or deception. More than any other class, rogues exemplify the adage that the best defense is a good offense. If fighters are the disciplined, reliable, well-trained units that hold the line, rogues are the shock troops that attempt to break through that line to take out vulnerable units before they can effectively retaliate. When pinned down, rogues can suffer from their weak defenses, but ideally they carry their momentum from one target to the next in short order.
All rogues start with three abilities that allow them to immediately dive into heavy-hitting: Finishing Blow, Reckless Assault, and Dirty Fighting.
Finishing Blow (Active) - Full Attack. This ability gains power the more damaged the target is. When the rogue uses a Finishing Blow, he or she makes a full attack at the enemy with his or her current weapons. The attack is made with an Accuracy bonus and does +50% damage if it hits. For every 1% under 50% Max Stamina the target has, the attack does an additional +3% damage. 3/rest.
Reckless Assault (Modal) - In this mode, a rogue's Deflection is lowered but he or she gains a bonus to Accuracy and damage with all weapons.
Dirty Fighting - 10% of the rogue's Hits with any melee or ranged weapon are turned into Crits. This occurs after the initial attack roll is resolved. The resulting shift is displayed in the combat log.
As rogues advance, they gain access to abilities that allow them to maximize the damage and afflictions they can dish out to their targets. They can also learn a variety of tricks to help them get out of trouble when the going gets tough.
Sneak Attack - Sneak Attack applies bonus damage to the rogue's ranged and melee weapon attacks when the target has any of the following statuses: Blinded, Flanked, Hobbled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Prone, Stuck, Stunned, or Weakened. It also applies to any target the rogue strikes with a weapon within the first 2 seconds of combat starting.
Escape (Active) - Escape allows the rogue to break Engagement and safely move away from their current location. The ability must be targeted on open ground to which the rogue has a clear path. When activated, the rogue immediately breaks Engagement and swiftly moves to that location. 1/encounter.
Crippling Strike (Active) - Full Attack. Inflicts extra damage and the Hobbled condition. 2/encounter.
Coordinated Positioning (Active) - You are able to instantly switch positions with one target within 1m. If this is an ally, the switch is automatic. If it is an enemy, the maneuver is an attack against its Reflexes (only succeeds on a Hit or Crit). The switch is immediate and cancels Engagement (if any) on the rogue. 2/encounter.
Adept Evasion - 50% of all Grazes against a rogue's Reflexes are converted to Misses.
Blinding Strike (Active) - Full Attack. Inflicts extra damage and the Blinded condition. 2/rest.
Deathblows - Against any target that is afflicted by two or more of the conditions that can allow Sneak Attack, rogues do additional Sneak Attack damage.
Resident heavy-hitting rogue, Edér.
Rangers are expert sharpshooters with any ranged weapon. Though they traditionally rely on bows and crossbows, some use firearms or even magical implements. Regardless of their choice of armament, even novice rangers can strike swiftly and leave severe wounds that quickly wear down an enemy's stamina and movement. They are assisted in their efforts by their animal companions, incredibly tough and loyal creatures who share their lives (literally) with their masters. All rangers start with the following three abilities:
Animal Companion - The ranger begins the game with (and can name) an animal companion that fights at his or her direction. This companion shares Health and Stamina with the ranger, i.e. if either one is damaged, the same pool is reduced. Both the ranger and the animal companion die if their Health is reduced to zero. Animal companions have high inherent Damage Thresholds that allow them to run interference for their masters.
Wounding Shot (Active) - Only usable when ranged weapons are equipped. The ranger's shot inflicts a continuous damage effect and Hobbles the target. 3/rest.
Swift Aim (Modal) - This mode increases the ranger's rate of fire and reload with ranged weapons at the cost of an Accuracy penalty.
At higher levels, rangers gain abilities that increase the effectiveness of their attacks and the coordinated use of their companions. By tactically applying the synergistic benefits of the ranger and his or her companion, players can lock down and quickly overwhelm powerful enemies.
Defensive Bond - When both the ranger and his or her animal companion are subjected to an area effect attack, they gain +15 to the targeted defenses.
Marked Prey (Active) - The ranger can designate a single target as his or her marked prey. He or she and his or her animal companion have a damage bonus against that target until combat ends. Once designated, the target cannot be switched. 1/encounter.
Predator's Sense - The ranger's animal companion gains a damage bonus on any creature suffering from a continuous damage effect, including those caused by Wounding Shots.
Stalkers' Link - When a ranger's animal companion Engages a target, the target is automatically Flanked if the ranger has a ranged weapon equipped and is opposite the target.
Takedown (Active) - The ranger's animal companion will knock the target Prone with a Fortitude attack. 2/encounter.
Defensive Shooting - When using ranged weapons against any target that is Engaging the ranger, the ranger's Accuracy is increased by 20 and his or her Interrupt rating is improved by one category.
Master's Call (Active) - When the ranger issues Master's Call, his or her animal companion will immediately move back to him or her at increased speed, gaining a +20 bonus to Concentration and defenses against Disengagement Attacks. Any enemy it comes within 1m of is automatically attacked (Fortitude) and knocked Prone if the attack succeeds. 2/rest.
In addition to the abilities listed here, ciphers, rogues, and rangers can gain access to additional class-specific abilities as well as Talents. Some Talents can be taken by any character, but many are class-oriented and can be used to distinguish or emphasize one character from another. One cipher's Talents may emphasize his or her physical attacks while another's makes his or her Focus use more efficient. One rogue may maximize his or her advantage against a specific type of affliction; another may improve the frequency with which his or her offensive abilities can be used. And while rangers can always benefit from improving their marksmanship and special attacks, investing in the durability and abilities of their animal companions can safeguard the ranger against disaster.
Pillars of Eternity's heavy hitters all differ in how they bring the pain to enemies, but we hope you enjoy the concepts and mechanics we've presented here. As always, these are our current designs and implementations, but will be adjusting them in the months to come. We will be doing three more class pair updates in the future: The Leaders of the Band (chanters and priests), The Front Line (fighters and barbarians), and The Mob Rulers (wizards and druids). Let us know what you think of today's update and please vote on which of the three class pairs you'd like to see covered next. As always, thanks for reading and for your continued support.
Hello, everyone. Like everyone here at Obsidian, I hope you had a great holiday season and were able to gorge on lots of treats and good food. This week I am going to go over a bit about the new Backer Portal (please log in if you haven't already), give a general update about where we are in our production, and show off some of the cool things that are happening in the game. In our next update we will be taking a more detailed look at some of the classes in Eternity.
Just a reminder to all of our backers, if you have not done so already, please head to the Backer Portaland complete your order. All backers need to go through the process so they can receive their rewards - even those that only have digital goods.
To start the process, click on "Manage My Pledge Now" and click on the "Select Reward" button on the pledge management screen. From here, you may select the tier you backed (or upgrade to a new tier), select additional add-ons, fill out any shipping information, and file your surveys.
Also, please make sure you fill out your surveys as soon as you can. If you have an NPC, item, inn, or portrait the sooner you get the information to us, the sooner we can make sure it gets into the game.
If you are having any issues, e-mail us at [url=mailto:email@example.com]firstname.lastname@example.org[/url] and we'll help you out quickly.
As most of you know, we finished up Od Nua (our mega-dungeon) in our last milestone. I have to say, I think it looks pretty amazing. Currently, the area team is working on our second big city, Twin Elms, and it is looking just as good. Here, take a look for yourself.
Ancient Engwithan ruins near Twin Elms.
Without getting into too much detail, the Area Designers are fleshing out the end of the game right now and everything is really coming together. The area in the screenshot above looks like the perfect place for a big fight, huh?
Our character team has been cranking out new creatures and equipment.
We are almost completely through all of our A priority creatures. Soon we will be working on our B priority creatures and lots of equipment variations.
One of the creatures that was just finished to Alpha quality is the Cean Gŵla. These banshee-like undead are the spirits of women who died under particularly tragic or traumatic circumstances.
Take a look at the comparison images below.
In-engine and concept comparison of the Cean Gŵla.
Most of our UI has either been implemented or mocked up to an Alpha level. The interface that we would like to show you today is the character sheet, which shows character and party information. You can find lots of useful info on the sheet including various party statistics, your reputations with Eternity factions, and character stats.
The character sheet has many useful player and party statistics.
Features have been going into the game pretty regularly.
We just recently moved to Unity 4.3 and, while this might not seem like a big deal, 4.3 has ushered in some long awaited features. Animation annotations, for example, were added to Unity. We can now call sound effects based on specific frames of animation. This makes things like footsteps possible.
A majority of our spells and abilities are in-game and usable. Josh has started auditing them and requesting changes for gameplay balance purposes. Tim has been quite busy with all of the small edits.
Strangely, one of our more minor features has gotten me the most excited. Just recently we have gotten the ability to set custom party formations and I am having a blast testing it out.
Have you been wondering what some of the Pillars of Eternity gods look like? Wonder no more.
Representations of the gods Galawain and Woedica.
Above you will see the representations of Galawain and Woedica, gods in the Eternity pantheon.
Woedica is known by many names including "The Exiled Queen," "The Burned Queen," "Oathbinder," and "The Strangler." Her domains include law, justice, oaths and promises, (rightful) rulership, hierarchies, memory, and vengeance.
Priestesses of the Exiled Queen serve as lawyers and judges in towns and urban centers, and the most prominent among them are advisers to kings and lords. They are of particular importance in the Empire of Aedyr, where by tradition, business contracts always require their endorsement. Her devotees are typically found in the upper classes, but any conservative person who longs for a vanished past will find a place in her faith. “When Woedica takes back her throne” is a common saying amongst her followers, signifying a utopian future when society will be properly ordered once again, and she will take her rightful place as ruler of the gods.
Galawain is patron of the hunt in all its forms, and he is honored by those whose occupations are concerned with pursuit and discovery. His faithful include frontiersmen, constables, treasure-seekers, explorers, and even scholars, many of whom wear his carved symbol – a dog’s head – around their wrist or neck. He is also protector of wild places and untamed wilderness, where the hunt manifests in its purest form as a daily struggle for survival.
That's it for this update. Make sure you head over to our forumsto let us know what you think of anything you see here.
After months of hard work we are happy to present to you with Project Eternity's BIG update. We have lots of stuff to go over, so let's get into it. Teaser Trailer
Through the hard work of the Project Eternity team we are proud to present our first in-game teaser trailer.
Click to view the gameplay teaser. New Name
If you've finished the teaser (and you've finished it, haven't you?) then you know we have another big announcement. Project Eternity is now officially known as Pillars of Eternity. In addition to that, we have a nifty new logo courtesy of Kaz:
The new Pillars of Eternity logo. Backer Portal
Pillars of Eternity now has a new Backer Portal! You can visit it by going here.
First things first, let's get into how you manage your pledges.
To manage your pledge, click the link in the highlighted area.
In the image above you will notice a section outlined in a red box. Inside this box is a link to the pledge management page. There are actually a few different ways to get to the pledge management page (there is also a link on the top bar, for example), but this is the easiest from the home page. Click the link in the box and you will head to the pledge management page.
From this page you can manage all of your pledges or link new ones.
The pledge management page is your first stop in collecting rewards. On this page you can do the following:
Review any pledges linked to your account’s email address.
Under the Your Pledges section we will list all of the pledges that are linked to the email address you have listed in your account. You can review these pledges and make sure that everything is correct.
Link an additional email address to your account.
You may have multiple pledges from multiple email addresses that you would like to associate with your account. By clicking the link in the Your Pledges section you can enter in another email address to link to your account. You will then be sent a confirmation email to the address provided. Once confirmed, any pledges linked to that email address will be shown under the Your Pledges section.
Confirm what pledges should be used for.
If you have pledged an amount equal to your selected tier on Kickstarter or PayPal the Backer Portal will automatically figure out what your pledge should be used for. On the other hand if you pledged an amount different than your selected tier level you will need to specify what the additional money or pledges were intended for. This can be anything from an add-on, to shipping, to a donation. If you need help you can select the option for Obsidian to contact you. We will contact you as soon as possible and get everything squared away. Keep in mind that if you choose for an Obsidian employee to contact you, your account will be locked until a representative has helped you. This is to prevent any incorrect selections.
You can confirm and upgrade your tier on the reward management page.
Next, you will be taken to the reward selection page. On this page you will be able to confirm your reward selection by selecting the appropriate tier listed. If you are eligible for a tier upgrade, you can select one of those options instead of what you originally pledged. Don’t worry about the price differences, we will take care of that when you checkout.
If you missed any add-ons during the Kickstarter, you can add them here.
Did you forget to grab a Pillars of Eternity t-shirt during the Kickstarter? No need to fret, after selecting your rewards, you can choose any add-ons that you would like to add to your pledge. You will find everything from shirts, to mouse pads, to Chris Avellone’s novella.
You can review your order before finalizing it.
Once you are finished choosing your rewards and add-ons, you will have an opportunity to review your order before checking out.
Fill out your shipping info, if needed.
If you have any physical goods, you will need to enter your shipping information.
If you upgraded or added rewards, you will need to pay with a credit card or PayPal.
If your pledge covers all of your rewards and add-ons you have selected then you just need to confirm one last time. If you have selected a more expensive tier or additional add-ons, then you will be prompted to pay with a credit card or a PayPal account.
Fill out surveys for any in-game rewards.
For those of you that have in-game rewards that require your help (Credits, Memorial Stones, NPCs, Items, Inns, Portraits, Adventuring Parties, etc.) or add-ons that require more information (shirts), we have surveys for you to fill out. Just click on the link once you have checked out or go to your profile to find all of the surveys you are eligible for.
Filling out the surveys is as easy as choosing whatever you would like from the various selection boxes and filling out any text for in-game rewards. If you don’t have enough time to fill out the survey in one sitting, just press the save button at the bottom of the page. Your answers will be saved for the next time you enter the survey. Once you are happy with your answers, you can choose to submit your survey.
Congratulations! Your rewards are now confirmed and any surveys you have are filled out. All that’s left to do is check out the areas of the Backer Portal. You can find more information about the game, videos, screenshots, and wallpapers. Stretch Goal Poll
We've always taken your pledges seriously and we remain committed to giving our backers every stretch goal you reached during the Kickstarter campaign. Budgeting a game of this size can be daunting, but we always remember the cornerstones of our pitch and the features you funded. Even so, there are two things we know a lot of you have asked for: more wilderness areas and more companions. Both of these are very time-consuming, but we understand why so many people want them. Because we've seen these requests more than a few times, we would like to ask the community if you would be interested in new stretch goals to fund additional development. If not, no worries: we're still going to deliver on everything you've backed. Please let us know your thoughts in this threadon our forums. Interviews and Articles
That’s not all. We also have a plethora of new interviews with members of the Pillars of Eternity team. Check them out below. GameBanshee Interview Eurogamer Article Kotaku Article PC World Summary Article PC World Interview Rock, Paper, Shotgun Interview VGS - AM 640 Interview (YouTube version here)
That’s it for the update. The Pillars of Eternity team and the whole Obsidian crew would like to thank you for all of your support and help in creating the game over this past year. You can’t imagine how rewarding it is to get to work on this game with all of our Backers. Here’s to another great year!
Hey, everyone. We decided against releasing the Backer Portal right before the holiday break. We wanted to make sure that we had a full staff on board to solve any technical issues that might arise on the site during its launch. We are just as excited as you are for the Backer Portal and we want to make sure it has a smooth release.
To keep you sated in Project Eternity goodness we decided to show off some of the artwork we have been putting together this milestone. We are pretty proud of it. Hope you enjoy.
Last week on the forums Sensuki, Tagomika, and coffeetable brought up questions about areas we were outsourcing. I figured it would be better to show you the areas instead of talking about them. Take a look.
A shrine to the god of the hunt.
A drake skeleton amid thick overgrowth.
Both of these images come from the same wilderness area. While this area appears thick with foliage now, it was previously the site to horrific fires caused by drakes. Large swaths of ground were burned and only now has the land started to recover.
Kaz and Polina have been hard at work getting concepts prepared for our current milestone and the next.
Polina has been focusing on creating the look and feel for our next big city - Twin Elms. Twin Elms is a unique mixture of ruined architecture from an ancient civilization with a layer of Viking-inspired Glanfathan buildings built into it.
Glanfathan buildings built into ancient ruins.
Line work for environments in Twin Elms.
While Polina has been helping to plan the future, Kaz is firmly entrenched in our mega dungeon, The Endless Paths of Od Nua. Take a look at some of the prop work that Kaz is doing for one of the Engwithan-inspired areas.
Engwithan props for use in Od Nua.
One of the creatures that has gone in recently is the troll. You can see a few of them in the area below.
A group of trolls in-game.
That's it for this week, folks. Have a great Thanksgiving.
As a producer, one of my jobs is creating and understanding the game's master schedule. It's a never-ending task that requires constant refinement and adjustment. Anything that is added or changed can cause a cascade of unintended consequences which is why as game developers we have a responsibility to vet everything that goes into the game.
Today I'd like to give you a glimpse into how we approach game development from a scheduling perspective and what our typical thought processes are when figuring this stuff out. You will be able to see how each part of our area creation fits into the schedule and why changes and modifications can lead to difficult decisions for the team. Hopefully, it will give a bit more insight into the tough decisions that we make each day when crafting Project Eternity.
One thing to remember is that when we are in the middle of production the schedule has already been created for just about everything in the game. What I mean by this is that we have identified all of the major tasks that will need to be accomplished and allotted time and resources in our budgets to match those tasks.
Depending on the team's familiarity with the type of game we are creating, this can mean anywhere from a tiny bit of guesswork to larger amounts of... estimation. With Eternity we are very familiar with what it takes to make an isometric, Western RPG with branching dialogues and reactivity. It's Obsidian's bread and butter. Because of this our initial estimates are good approximations.
Since most of our features and assets are budgeted at the start of the project, any changes to those items have to be accounted for in the schedule. This can mean a few different things - anything from reducing time spent on other tasks, to changing previously scheduled items, to outright cuts - and when changes need to happen project leads consult with each other to try and figure out the best option. Keep this in mind when I start talking about changes to features and assets later on in this update.
One Small Interior Dungeon
Alright, let's stop talking in generalities and get into the meat of what it takes to create a first pass area in Eternity. I'll discuss a generic small interior dungeon area.
This area will have the following characteristics and constraints:
Uses an existing "tileset." We don't have tiles in Eternity, but we do have sets of areas that share similar assets.
Will have one unique visual feature in the area. This visual feature is something that will make the area stand out a bit. It doesn't have to be incorporated into the design, but we may want to do that to get the most bang for the buck.
An Average complexity quest uses this area. "Average" is a flavor of quest in Project Eternity. It refers to the overall complexity of the quest. Quest complexity is determined by the amount of dialogue, branching, and steps a quest has.
This is a 3x3 interior. A 3x3 interior is the equivalent of a 5760x3240 render. An easier way to think about it is that a 3x3 area is nine 1920x1080 screens worth of content. You can imagine that making an area even a tiny bit larger can actually lead to enormous amounts of work. As an example, a 3x3 is nine screens of work, where a 4x4 is 16 screens of work... almost double the number of screens.
To create our small interior dungeon area, the following has to occur:
An area designer (Bobby Null, for example) puts together a paper design for the area. This is usually part of a larger paper design, but for this purpose we can say that it is a separate element. For a small area like this, a paper design wouldn't take more than a quarter of a day.
Material concepts for a high wealth interior.
After the paper design is constructed, it is passed to the area design team for revisions and approval. For the most part, this goes fairly quickly and normally wouldn't take more than a quarter of a day for a small area.
A concept artist (Hi, Polina and Kaz) creates a concept for the unique visual element of this area. Let's say for our purposes the unique element is a cool adra pillar that is holding up a portion of the ceiling. This takes half a day to a day, depending on prop complexity. This may seem like a luxury, but making sure that the areas feel cohesive can save lots of revision time down the road.
After the concept work is completed, it is reviewed by the Art Director (Rob Nesler) and the Project Director (Josh Sawyer). Any necessary changes are then made before being approved. Overall, it probably takes about a quarter of a day for review and any revisions that need to be done.
An initial pass on a blockout before it has had a review.
After the paper design and concepts, an area designer creates a 3D blockout of the area in Unity. This allows the designer to walk through the area and make sure it flows well. This also helps to give the environment artist assigned to the area an idea of where the various elements should be laid out. A full blockout of a 3x3 area normally wouldn't take more than half a day. This is an extremely important part of the process. Sometimes an area seems great on paper, but in practice it is clunky or frustrating.
Once the blockout is finished it's passed along to the area strike team for review. The area strike team includes people from most disciplines. This is the point where revisions are performed and the layout becomes finalized. The changes can be as simple as moving some props around or as complicated as redesigning major portions of the layout. Again, for a small area of this size, we aren't looking at more than half a day for all of the feedback and revisions.
With the blockout in place, the area can move to environment art (For example, Hector "Discoteca" Espinoza) for the art pass. This includes putting together existing pieces and creating new assets to make the area. A large portion of time allotted to an area is spent in environment art. A 3x3 area that uses mostly existing assets would typically get three days of environment art work, but, because we want to have a cool, unique piece in the area we will add about a day of environment art time. This gives a total of four days for the initial art pass.
Like the blockout, the art pass is usually reviewed by the area strike team. Revisions can vary wildly depending on how everyone feels about the area, but it isn't uncommon for another quarter to half a day to be spent on review and revisions for this size of area.
The blockout above with revisions, 2D render, and initial design.
Now with the 2D render in place, the area is ready for the real design work to be done. An area designer will typically get about three days to do the first pass on the area. This includes things like a loot pass, encounters, trigger setup, temp dialogs, etc.. Because this area has a quest that is running through it, though, it will get an extra day to work out all of those kinks. That puts us at four days for an initial design pass on the area.
Remember the part about this area having a quest? Well, now is when a creative designer (Like Mr. Eric Fenstermaker, for example) comes through to write the dialogs. To be completely honest, this usually comes much later, but it works for our purposes. The narrative designer creates the NPC dialogs, quest dialogs, and companion interjections for the area. Usually an area designer will stub these conversations out and the narrative designer will come in and complete them. Depending on the amount of dialog this should take around a day or two for everything.
Finally, a concept artist will take a pass at painting over the final 2D render. This pass is used for "dirtying up" an area and adding in the little details that might be difficult for an environment artist to create. As an example, we can cover up texture seems, add in variation on repeating textures, paint in lighting highlights, and even add things like patina or moss on objects. Due to Photoshop magic from Kaz, we can even propagate those changes into our diffuse maps so they show properly in any dynamic lights. This is a fairly low cost procedure and Kaz can cover a small area like this in about half a day.
There are other considerations (Like animation, sound effects and visual effects, for example), but we will stop for now.
So, for those keeping count at home, to get a first pass area that is borderline Alpha (as in no bug fixing or polish work) it costs the project about 13 man days. This is little over one half of a man month of time for a small, simple area. Larger areas with more content take significantly longer to develop.
Our time estimations used for scheduling are determined in preproduction (prepro) phase. Our vertical slice (the end of prepro) is the culmination of the team identifying what it will take to make the game and then actually doing it. We get these numbers by seeing how long it takes the team to perform those tasks in our prepro, and then we can extrapolate those numbers over the course of the time we have budgeted to understand how much work can get done.
A milestone will have 15 to 20 areas of varying complexity going at a time. A minor change in an area can cause a domino effect that starts schedule slippage. Remember that on a small team like Project Eternity we have a limited number of people that can work on any one part of the game so taking someone off of their current task to work on changes can gum up our pipelines and prevent others from completing their tasks. We can get around that by switching up the tasking, but it can quickly get out of hand and lead to inefficiencies.
That being said it's the team's responsibility to give our backers what they have paid for. If we are playing though part of the game and something feels off from what we promised to our fans, we need to seriously consider making changes - even if it pushes us off schedule. There have been times where an update leads to some serious discussion on the forums and within the team about a direction change. Ultimately all of that gets added into the equation as well.
Taking that into consideration, the team has to make difficult choices every day. Do we go through and do another prop pass on a level? What does that cost us in the long run? Will we lose an entire area in the game? These are questions that the leads struggle with everyday. We are always weighing the cost of assets and features against everything that still needs to get done.
Luckily, like I mentioned above, we have a bunch of smart, talented, experienced people working on Eternity. The pitfalls we have experienced in previous games give us a leg up when we are trying to navigate this project's development. I wanted to send out this update to give the fans a little insight into our daily processes and demystify what probably seem like arcane decisions. If you enjoy these types of updates, let me know in the forums and I will try to write more of them for you.
So, I pre-ordered Age of Decadence. Those of us who pre-ordered were promised a 60% demo to try out, and I got the announcement for the demo in my inbox this morning.
For those of who you not in the know, Age of Decadence (henceforth referred to as AoD) is an indie RPG developed by Vault Dweller and the other fellows at Irontower Studio. A spiritual successor to the original Fallout, AoD brings back all the things we've grown to love and cherish, such as proper turn based combat, a classless character system, a post-apocalyptic world, dark humour and political intrigue.
Do not expect to carve through a band of raiders like a hot knife through butter – compared to the resistance faced in most other games, your enemies in AoD certainly know how to fight and will slaughter you like a pig if you do not play your cards right and utilise every strategic advantage at your disposal. The acute danger of entering combat feels refreshing, and makes exploring other venues an interesting possibility, if not a matter of necessity.
Indeed, a peaceful playthrough without any bloodshed seems perfectly possible and given the quality of dialogue and narrative in this game is a very exciting experience. I have played through the 60% demo as a charismatic loremaster, and I have not had to fight once, except for this one fight in the end which I am fairly sure I could have avoided had I picked different options or dedicated more character points to certain skills.
You start the game in a city called Teron, your exact circumstances decided by the background you choose during character creation. Today I decided to play as a loremaster, but you could be an assassin, a thief, a praetor (knights/nobility) a merchant, a grifter etc all dependent on your preferences.
If you love a game with challenging combat, intelligently written dialogue, an excellent story and all that Falloutesque goodness, look no further. This game holds up to all its promises.
Head on over to http://www.irontowerstudio.com and fetch the public beta, try out your skills in the old combat demo or support the developers by pre-ordering the game!
Hey, everyone! This week we are doubling up on the Project Eternity backer update action. Darren Monahan will be giving a brief glimpse into the Backer Portal and Hector Espinoza will share his work (and some screenshots!) in a developer Q&A. Enjoy.
It’s Finally Time… Soon
Update by Darren Monahan, Chief Intelligence Overlord
A year already...
Unbelievably, a year has passed by since we launched Project Eternity on Kickstarter, and a lot has happened. We’re almost to seventy project updates; we’ve made lots of levels, characters, classes, monsters, loot, and a whole lot more over the past year with more being made almost every day.
November’s right around the corner, and here in the States, we have an upcoming holiday called Thanksgiving near the end of the month. It’s supposed to be a time where we give thanks for the harvest and reflect on the past year.
It seemed rather appropriate to have a bigger than normal update coming before this holiday and we’re cooking a big one for you! This turkey dinner is going to be large and in charge... It’ll show a bunch of new stuff we haven’t shown anyone outside the studio yet and one of the side dishes coming with it is the new site.
Backer Website: Main and Media Pages
All of our previous updates are now easily available in one place, easy to browse through and include futuristic RSS technology! We’ve also got a one-stop shop for all of the screenshots, wallpapers, artwork, and videos that we’ve released and will release.
Backer Website: Pledge and Rewards Pages
On the left here, you can make sure all of the pledges you made are connected to your account. If you backed the game on Kickstarter and then later added money via PayPal, you can make sure that’s all been confirmed. If it doesn’t show up, you can link it in by providing the e-mail addresses you used if they don’t match.
…and then, confirm that your reward is correct, or maybe even upgrade if you like! Did you give maybe give us more money thinking you chose one reward tier but accidentally chose a lower one? No problem, you can fix that up. Oh, and slacker backers… you might have some upgrade opportunities… Onward is the addon screen where you can browse through the available addons and confirm those choices as well.
Backer Website: Add-on and Game Info Pages
Then finalize everything! Don’t worry, even though you’ll be confirming your pledge selections, if you picked up physical rewards, you’ll be able to change your shipping address up to the point where we need to lock them. You’ve got plenty of time, and we’ll keep that open as long as we possibly can in case you move or want to have your stuff shipped elsewhere.
On the right there is our “Game” section of the site, where over the coming months more information and art about the various races, classes, characters, critters, and locations of interest in the game can be found.
OK, we’ll be back in a few short weeks… For those of you who have designs as part of your rewards, get your thinking caps on!
Developer Q&A with Hector Espinoza Update by Hector Espinoza, Lead Environment Artist
Hector in his natural habitat.
Hello, Hector. What is your job on the Project Eternity team?
I am the Lead Environment Artist on Project Eternity. Along with building assets and doing layouts of some the larger levels of the game, I help my team of artists create a visually exciting world for the players to explore.
What are you working on this week?
This week I'm working on polishing one of the states of the Stronghold and building a Keep that is contained within.
What is your typical work day like on Project Eternity?
I come in to work and read a little email. Sometimes I'll have a "breakfast snack" in the form of cheese and peanut butter crackers. This holds me over until lunch time. Upon my return from lunch, I'll continue to work on my current tasks. At times I help critique some of the work that is being created around me or from outsourcing. In the late afternoon I'll head out for a short walk to get my daily coffee, I'm really good about keeping this to one cup a day. Then in the evening as the sun sets I'll hook up the speakers and turn my office into a "discoteca" and work while listening to some of the baddest jams on the planet.
One of Hector's work in progress areas, the player's stronghold, in a ruined and restored state.
What are you most looking forward to on Project Eternity?
I'm looking forward to the day when people get to enjoy our finished product. We are putting in a lot of hard work and effort to deliver something special to our fans and backers, thank you all so much for making this possible! I also want to play it! Our playtests have been really fun.
What other projects have you worked on?
While at Obsidian I have worked on Dungeon Siege III and after that I have helped out on a number of "unannounced" titles.
Before Obsidian the list is pretty big. At Black Isle I worked on Icewind Dale (as QA), Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (as an Artist, yay!) and Icewind Dale II. The short lived "Van Buren", it was going to be awesome! Oh, and BG III: The Black Hound. The last title I worked on while at Interplay was Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2. Outside of Interplay and Black Isle I worked on Vampire: Bloodlines, Full Spectrum Warrior 2, and Lord of the Rings: Conquest. Of course in between a lot of these titles there are more projects that unfortunately never got to see a release.
Hector after 7:00 PM.
Which environment that you have done has been your favorite?
By far this has to be the first one, which is the original Kickstarter image. I learned a lot when creating that scene and the feeling of nostalgia was awesome.
What do you like to do when you aren't leading the environment art crew?
Outside of work I choose photography as another creative outlet. I like to go out hiking and shoot landscapes or if I'm lucky some wildlife. Animals can be tough to find and sometimes I don't have the patience. I also enjoy macro photography, this takes patience too but it's a much more controlled environment. I like that.
Do you have a favorite artist or game developer?
This is a super tough question. I'll start with outside the industry. Favorite artists are Mark Ryden, Audrey Kawasaki, James Jean, and Ashley Wood. Inside the industry it has to be Akihiko Yoshida, Yoji Shinkawa, Robh Ruppel, and Sparth.
And where do you draw your inspiration from?
I mainly draw inspiration from the places I visit when I go out hiking. There is so much to discover when you can capture nature at a grand scale and at the macro level. The music I discover on the weekend when I visit some of my favorite online music sites. And from the people that work around me every day.
What's your favorite Infinity Engine game? Why?
This has to be Icewind Dale. I feel so fortunate to have worked on that game. It helped me discover the world of D&D. It also gave me the chance to work with and meet some of the best people in the industry. I'm truly grateful for that. A super close second is Planescape: Torment, I mean, come on. HA!
In a Quake deathmatch between you and Adam Brennecke, what would be the final score?
I think the first round would be pretty close it could go either way really, haha, but once Adam finds his groove, oh man, this would be a no contest, he's a beast. Final score would be to embarrassing for me to write. HA!
Is there anything else we should know?
I got that purple, grape, I can bake a cake.
An agent of Dunryd Row attempts to perceive a "housed" soul within a piece of evidence.
Hello and welcome to today's class update! We'll be discussing some newcomers to the Dyrwood's "magic" scene, the enigmatic and deadly soul-manipulators known as ciphers. Read on to learn how ciphers went from being an animancer's theoretical possibility, to the feared foes of Dyrwoodan settlers, to an integral part of Defiance Bay's secret police, Dunryd Row.
Contemporary ciphers are fighting casters, like the Glanfathan "mind hunters" who invented the discipline. When engaged in physical combat, they use an Ability called Soul Whip to contact and drain the psyches of their targets. Recognizable by the purple flames that engulf a cipher's weapons, Soul Whip generates a Focus resource that ciphers can use to power their abilities. Though ciphers begin combat with a modest amount of Focus, their more advanced techniques demand large expenditures of Focus. Additionally, repeated uses of even minor powers will quickly drain a cipher's Focus, requiring them to dive into physical combat to generate more.
Cipher powers are not limited to mental manipulation. They have abilities that allow them to use a target's soul energy to "leak" and burst into flame, to generate a physical shockwave of that knocks down everyone behind the target, or even to bend back toward the cipher, creating a field of protective energy around him or her.
With the exception of Soul Whip, all cipher powers require Focus and a nearby target other than themselves, one with a "housed" soul. In practical terms, this means that ciphers must always target a nearby ally or an enemy with their powers. It is impossible for them to target themselves, a distant target, or open ground.
Here is a sampling of some of the cipher's abilities:
Soul Whip (Modal) - At close range, the cipher's weapons generate fields of parasitic energy that lash out at a target's soul. The Soul Whip mode reduces the amount of damage caused, but each successful hit briefly lowers the target's Psyche defense and generates Focus for the cipher (attacks Psyche).
Mind Wave - The cipher violently intrudes into an enemy's mind, Stunning the target (attacks Psyche) and generating a cone of concussive force behind him or her that can knock down anyone in its path (attacks Fortitude).
Soul Shock - The cipher causes an ally's soul to "crack" and violently release energy into the physical world. The resulting explosion of electrical (Shock) energy damages everyone nearby except the target (attacks Reflexes).
Psychovampiric Shield - The cipher drains Intellect from enemies and uses it to temporarily increase his or her Deflection. The increase in the cipher's Deflection is dependent on how much Intellect he or she successfully drains from victims (attacks Psyche).
Mind Blades - The cipher uses the souls of nearby enemies to generate attacks against the subjects themselves. Each target is attacked once by a slashing "mind blade" which then moves on to the next nearest enemy up to a maximum of five targets (attacks Deflection).
Recall Agony - The cipher causes the target to re-experience the pain of a wound moments after the target originally suffered it. The damage is a percentage of the original value, but it ignores the armor of the target (attacks Psyche).
Ectopsychic Echo - The cipher and an ally generate a bolt of psychic energy that periodically rebounds between them, causing Crush damage to anyone caught in the area (attacks Reflexes).
Many classes have abilities that allow the user to channel the power of their own soul or ambient soul fragments to produce incredible effects. Paladins ignite their souls to produce auras, wizards draw soul fragments into grimoires to shape and cast spells, and monks use personal suffering to focus energy through their bodies. While these classes often develop abilities that allow them to affect the minds and souls of others, the power is always generated by the user.
Feared for their mental powers and extreme hostility, the vithrack were once eagerly pursued by animancers for research purposes.
In the field of animancy, which focuses on the study of souls, researchers wondered for centuries if they could develop a discipline or technology that would allow people to connect with the soul of another living thing -- not just reach or strike out toward it. Wizards and priests had developed abilities to overwhelm or inspire the mind, but not to connect with it. Animancers theorized that it could be possible for one soul to reach out and connect to another, but they had no proof. Animancers studied folk legends about figures called Watchers who reportedly were able to see lost souls and perceive an individual's ancestral lives, but claimants to that title were typically charlatans at best or mentally unstable and violent at worst. A few intrepid animancers attempted to communicate with the reclusive spider-like race known as the vithrack. The creatures, obviously of advanced intelligence and extraordinary capabilities, seemed to possess the ability to connect to an individual's soul -- albeit with horrifying consequences. The dangerous nature and rarity of the vithrack combined with their inhuman physiology have still proven to be insurmountable obstacles in understanding how their powers work. Still, the animancers had a few other leads to follow.
Over a century ago, during the Broken Stone War, soldiers in the Dyrwood reported wild tales of having their minds invaded, of seeing comrades lose control of themselves, of orlan and elven Glanfathan warriors wielding knives engulfed in purple flames that "cut away" the souls of their victims. The war was a new experience for everyone involved, so many Dyrwoodans dismissed many of the more outlandish tales over time. But over the decades that followed, more settlers reported similar violent encounters with Glanfathan guerilla fighters. In the War of Black Trees, Dyrwoodan animancers confirmed many of these experiences across a wide number of soldiers and settlers. However, with Dyrwoodan settlers in a state of war with the population of Eir Glanfath, the researchers couldn't find many Glanfathans who were willing to talk about it.
After the Dyrwoodan revolution for independence, the Dyrwood officially stopped the Aedyr Empire's practice of exploring and plundering Eir Glanfath's sacred ruins -- the practice that had ignited the earlier wars between Dyrwoodan settlers and Glanfathans. In the years that followed, the tribal princes of Eir Glanfath allowed Dyrwoodan animancers to speak with some of their brîshalgwin ("mind hunters"), the elite warriors that had terrorized Aedyrans and Dyrwoodans in past wars. From the brîshalgwin, the animancers learned that Glanfathans had developed mental abilities that allowed them to perceive and contact what animancers categorized as "housed" souls, i.e., souls held within a physical vessel. They initially developed these talents in an attempt to communicate with souls held in the Engwithan ruins they were sworn to protect. When the tribal princes outlawed this practice as disrespectful and dangerous, their councilors advised the princes to turn the efforts of the brîshalgwin towards protecting the ruins and developing new methods of warfare.
Standing stones of adra like these were carelessly knocked down by early Dyrwoodan colonists, starting a conflict with the local Glanfathans that erupted into what became known as the Broken Stone War.
Excited by these revelations, animancers in Defiance Bay began working with the brîshalgwin, whom the animancers had previously described as "ciphers" due to their mysterious nature. Given Dyrwoodans' general discomfort with the Glanfathan language, the cipher name stuck and continues to be used in everyday conversation. For decades now, the ciphers and animancers have worked together, each generating new ideas and expanding their collective understanding of soul manipulation. Today, Dyrwoodans and foreign visitors from Aedyr, the Vailian Republics -- even distant Rauatai -- have learned and expanded the ciphers' growing field of techniques. Recently, encouraged by the potential the ciphers have shown and dismissive of the superstitious concerns of locals, Lady Webb, a prominent noble and advisor to the duc, petitioned the Dyrwood's erls to create a spy service in Defiance Bay consisting primarily of ciphers. The erls approved, creating what would become known as Dunryd Row, a respected, if somewhat feared and mistrusted, organization that operates out of an old, vine-covered house in the city's Brackenbury District.
Though ciphers' powers are still being explored, unlocked, and debated across the civilized world, most people recognize that their abilities hold great potential -- for good or ill -- in the cultures that develop them.
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