We caught up with Obsidian, smack in the middle of their already-successful kickstarter, to chat about one of the bigger new features coming to Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire. Namely, there's doing to be some insane weather in Deadfire. Read on to find out how this new feature will effect your journey in POE2.
MMORPG: In building a more dynamic world for Pillars of Eternity 2 you have set about creating NPC behavior across the game. Why is this so important?
Bobby Null, Lead Designer answers: One of the key elements in good world building and roleplaying is immersing the player in a fantastic world. NPC schedules are one of the tools that make environments feel like they are populated with real people, as opposed to stationary exposition objects the player can click on. It also builds on existing animation libraries from the first title and that is always a good thing. These animations can be used in cutscenes, both large and small, to enhance story-telling and overall visual fidelity.
MMORPG: How do the NPCs work across the game, are they set in their own timelines and break from them when they interact with the players?
BN: That’s the basic idea, yes. Most NPCs have other things to do when the player isn’t interacting with them. Their schedule may change based on various things like, the time of day, the weather or something more specific.
MMORPG: How does this system tie into questing for the player?
BN: In various, if sometimes secret ways. We don’t want to force the player to follow someone home after dark as the correct, or only way, to finish a quest. As much as possible, we want the player to think about a logical way to approach a quest and not have the game tell them “No, you can’t do that”. The more we allow players to push the boundaries of how they want to accomplish quests, the more rewarded we believe they will feel.
Here are a few hypothetical examples of things designers can choose to implement for a single NPC. You might follow someone to the local bathhouse and steal a vital object from their unattended attire as they bath. Conversely, the bathing NPC might have a sensitive dialogue with a city official you can listen to if you sneak up on them undetected. Since this NPC is not home, you might find you can access a part of their home they previously would not allow you to, unless you feel killing them in their home is warranted. Killing them in their home may have consequences you were not expecting. Killing the NPC, or being caught picking their pocket, as they travel to the bathhouse will certainly alert the guards, or other onlookers. Waiting to rob/shank them in an alley can be done undetected.
MMORPG: For any RPG it is critical to build out as much of the world as you can, what other elements in Pillars help to create that effect?
BN: Our new overland map will go a long way in making the world bigger and more realistic, without destroying the budget or forcing us to cut corners on previous features. The map is larger than the first title and includes interesting content between locations. These take the form of special encounters, story moments, difficult decisions, and unique art. It is important to us that this content is not of the “kill generic encounter x”, type of content. Our goal is to make this interstitial content more memorable by applying the handcrafted feel Pillars of Eternity is known for.
MMORPG: You also are working on dynamic weather systems in the game. Tell us a little about what goes into this system.
Adam Brennecke, Lead Programmer answers: The weather system has been designed from the ground up for Deadfire. In Pillars 1, we had a few areas with rain, but that was fairly limited to only a few outdoor areas because it was scripted. Our goal for the sequel is to make the world grounded and a real place by adding moving and dynamic elements with wind, rain, clouds, and storms that can change at any time. When you first get to an area, it might start out as a sunny day, but as time progresses clouds will form, the sky will become overcast, and rain will start to fall. Wind will pick up - weathervanes, capes, torches, trees will move and react to the wind condition and direction. When it rains harder, townspeople can react. They may comment that it's raining, cover their head, and go indoors.
MMORPG: The game takes place among a lot of islands, will the weather impact any travel on boats?
AB: Travel can be impacted through scripted events or story sequences. If you are speaking about a system or a mechanic, we don't have plans for that.
MMORPG: Are there any other elements to the weather system which can impact the player?
AB: Right now we have the ability to add status effects to characters during different weather conditions, and we've been experimenting with what we want to do with it. It will allow the system designers to vary up combat encounters with an additional challenge or twist.
MMORPG: Do these two systems connect in game? Will farmers change their behavior based on rains?
AB: Yes, NPCs can change their daily behaviors during different weather conditions. For example, if it starts to pour, a farmer might consider going to the bar for an early drink instead of getting wet in the rain. It's not a long term impact on the NPCs - meaning that if it doesn't rain for days, the farmers are not going to change their harvest schedule or anything like that.