Josh Sawyer: Chapter III

I see, so I assume that there will be an auto-scaling of the enemy levels in place, right?

That is something you can opt in to. You can choose to do no scaling, you can choose to do critical path-only scaling, or you can choose to do everything in scales. Then there is a checkbox—because people requested it—to only scale things up, never scale things down. So if you are a higher level than something, it will raise it up, but if you are too low-level it won’t scale it down.

I believe in the ability of our players to overcome any level of difficulty that we make for them

Since we are talking about the difficulty, is Deadfire also going to have Ironman Mode?

Yeah, like in Pillars 1. There is a Trial of Iron, Expert and Path of the Damned mode.

That is something I cannot imagine in a game like Divinity. The player would have to have an incredible amount of luck and some super skills in order to survive the game with just one life.

In Pillars 1, we kept adding additional achievements with later patches and the last one we added was called The Ultimate. And to get The Ultimate, you have to play the game solo, on Trial of Iron, Expert and Path of the Damned difficulties. You have to beat the White March and the main story, you have to beat all the dragons in the game, you have to beat all the bounties in the game, and you have to beat both of the archmages that you can fight. And there are people who have done it with at least six out of eleven classes. It’s incredibly difficult. But I believe in the ability of our players [laughing] to overcome any level of difficulty that we make for them. Now, I don’t recommend people to do that, but it is there for people who want to try to do it.

For such settings, there is one thing I really don’t like: systems that depend too much on the die-roll. One bad roll—I am looking at you X-COM—and not even the best skill or tactics will help you, thus you have to reload or, in the worst case, restart.

Well, I think part of it—and some people hate this about Pillars— is what we did with the mechanics to normalize the outcome of a single attack, so that combat is less about one lucky roll. I mean, those individual rolls are still important, but it is not like a saving throw vs. disintegrate, where if you make it, you are fine, if not, you are gone. Something like X-COM really is very swinging. Like the newer X-COMs, if someone bursts on one of your guys at close range, either nothing happens at all or they get a critical hit and die. Your sniper can either miss completely or one-shot someone. I think that is something, especially in turn-based [gaming], where your sense of that gets exaggerated and it feels very frustrating—not just because of the randomness, but because the consequences of the die-roll are so huge.

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire (2018)

It is also a lot swingier in Pillars 2, because most attacks no longer have the graze range. We have put in something under hit, we had hit and we had graze. And graze was sort of a consolation prize, where if you didn’t quite hit, you did a little bit of damage, but people tend to find it a little more annoying than helpful. So we actually moved to just hit or miss. Certain attacks will graze, but they are the exception to the rule. Thus it would feel a little bit more swingy than Pillars, but I think that the feeling of randomness really being extremely consequential is due to the fact that the consequence of the die-roll can be like in Fallout 1 and 2. That’s actually a game where, late in the game, if you score a critical hit, you do literally hundreds of points of damage, and if you score a regular hit, you’ll do five or six. So games like that, where the consequences of the die-roll are so dramatic, it’s especially emphasized in turn-based games. It’s like, ‘Oh that die-roll really screwed me,’ or ‘wow that die-roll really saved me.’

We try to avoid giving the player quests that are in direct conflict with other factions unless that’s the point of the quest

When thinking about the experience of a ship cruising through archipelagos, there is a logical question at hand: Has Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag inspired Deadfire in any way?

Yeah. I mean, it’s a very different type of game, but there are so many things about Black Flag that are really cool and interesting to look at. The gameplay style was so different, but the feeling of getting to know people through your crew [is similar], although our crew works differently. The crew in Black Flag is kind of anonymous; they are just generic NPCs, [whereas] ours are a little bit more developed. And things like going out of territorial water; as you sail around, you can fly different flags on your ships. When you go into a territory, the world map would say, “Okay, you are now in Principi territory,” which is Pirate territory, “You are in Valiant Trading Company territory,” “You are in Uncontrolled territory.” And based on that, you can fly under flags to either invite conflict or try to avoid it.

How bad can I become in Deadfire?

You can certainly go wild. I mean, the Principi is a little bit more nuanced than just being like, ‘let’s murder everyone [laughing],’ although there are some among them that are really like that. But you can spend a lot of time just going around and attacking ships if you want to piss off everybody [laughing]. You can earn a really bad reputation going around blasting.

There are way too many games out there that either don’t consider this path at all or penalize players for such behavior. A nice exemption from this was Tyranny, which was more about being on the opposite of morality by default. Still, you made few games before that that allowed some moral flexibility. Therefore, I am interested, how much freedom will players have in Deadfire in that regard?

We try to avoid giving the player quests that are in direct conflict with other factions unless that’s the point of the quest. So, for example, when the Valiant Trading Company wants you to screw over The Royal Deadfire Company, they pretty much tell you that is exactly what are you doing [laughing]. And then there are cases when you can accidentally end up getting into conflict with someone.

Could I become a double agent in Deadfire?

Much like New Vegas, you can work for different factions, but there is a point [to it]. One big complaint people had about Pillars 1 was that the factions were cool factions, but they developed in a weird way in terms of gameplay, so that you could quickly lock yourself off from different factions. So we are trying to make it much clearer to the player in Deadfire. When you are doing something with one faction that is making another faction angry, it’s very clear when you are choosing to ally with someone at the expense of other factions. Because, in Pillars 1, that happens very quickly and lot of players did not realize it and got pretty annoyed. Our factions are involved for larger portion of the game.

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