Obsidian Entertainment design director Josh Sawyer has said that he’d be well up for making a new Pillars of Eternity RPG, given a budget on par with Baldur’s Gate 3. Specifically, he’d like to build on Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire’s combat system, and use a “scripted 3D camera” that avoids some of the fuss of exploring the world and navigating the interface of Larian’s game.
All that’s from an extensive and good interview with TouchArcade (as noticed by VGC), in which Sawyer waxed lyrical about the creation of monkish murder mystery Pentiment and his many years in the roleplaying business, working on everything from Planescape Torment to Fallout: New Vegas. Crikey, that man has a CV and a half.
“I don’t think I would make Pentiment 2,” Sawyer told the site, when invited to pitch his dream project. “I really do feel very satisfied with that game. It’s not like I don’t wanna return to it ever, but I just did it, so I’d probably wait a little bit. I think if it truly was an unlimited budget, I think I would try Pillars 3 because I know what the budget was for Deadfire, which was not a whole lot and I have heard from multiple people what the budget was for Baldur’s Gate 3, and I’m not gonna talk about numbers, but if I got that budget, sure, I’ll make Pillars 3.
“I think that would be a lot of fun to do, to do like a high production value party based fantasy RPG,” he went on. “I’m pretty happy with Pillars and Deadfire, but I do think that if it were not crowdfunded, I would probably make it turn based. I’m not saying to not have a real time with pause system, but I do think that the Deadfire turn based system which I can’t take credit for, that Nick Carver and Brian MacIntosh, was really cool.
“But, the game wasn’t designed for it, so actually designing the game for turn based, fewer encounters, smaller encounters, but much more tactical, I think that would be a lot of fun, and having awesome cinematics and all that stuff. That would be great.”
Prompted by the site to share more on the evergreen question of turn-based versus real-time combat, Sawyer pointed out that complex RPGs are easier to read when they’re broken into turns.
“I just think it’s easier to design more intricate combats,” he said. “I like games with a lot of stats, obviously. But the problem with real time with pause is that it’s honestly very difficult for people to to actually parse all of that information and one of the things I’ve heard a lot from people who’ve played Deadfire in turn based, is that there were things about the game like the affliction and inspiration system that they didn’t really understand very clearly until they played it in turn based.
“Other mechanics like penetration, they didn’t fully understand until they played it in turn based. So I’m not saying that all those systems are perfect, but I do think like I like doing more crunchy stuff with systems, and that is it’s just easier to make that stuff clear and work in a turn based setting.”
Speaking of making stuff clear, Sawyer also wouldn’t use a fully manual camera, like that of Baldur’s Gate 3, as he feels it creates too many headaches. “I’ve said before the camera in BG3 which is essentially the Divinity Original Sin 2 camera. I don’t prefer that because I like designing for a specific perspective.
“I think you could do that with a scripted camera in 3D,” he went on. “I think that would be super cool. You can do that and it can work and be a lot of fun and. I think that’s that’s the thing. For me, most of the problems I have with BG3 have to do with the interface. It has to do with the camera or the interface and how you manage abilities and click on things and some of that stuff is kind of a headache to me to be honest.
“I really, at least for Pillars and Deadfire, I tried to keep the interface, given that it’s a very complicated game, I tried to make it as simple to interact with as possible, and I think we did a pretty good job on it, so that would continue to be my focus.
“Any time I’m gonna make a game where I know that there’s a lot of complexity in it, I want the complexity to be not in interacting with the interface, but in the mental part of it, not the physical part of it,” Sawyer concluded.
It’s definitely worth reading the full thing. Obsidian’s current projects include don’t-call-it-a-Skyrim-clone Avowed, which began life as a co-op RPG but soon pivoted to single player.