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Obsidian Devs On Self-Publishing: “I love that I don’t have to put together a “dog and pony show”

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Renowned RPG developer Obsidian is deep in development on its first self-published title, Pillars of Eternity – a runaway Kickstarter success that raised over $3.9million (USD). Speaking in a recent Reddit AMA, the Obsidian team revealed just how much they’re enjoying self-publishing, a tidbit on PoE’s ‘different’ morality system, and that romance is just too damn expensive to shoe-horn into a game.

Established developers taking the self-publishing route is still a relatively new craze; a movement that crowd-funding site Kickstarter is largely responsible for after Tim Schafers runaway success with Broken Age.

When questioned on how they’re finding development without the time constraints of a major publisher, Obsidian dev Steve Weatherly wrote, “For me, as a programmer, I love that I don’t have to put together a “dog and pony show” for anyone with fake code that’s going to get ripped out. If I’m writing code, it’s something we will potentially ship with and that’s a really refreshing difference.”

Obsidian producer Brian Adler then followed up with, “Steve’s reply is a good one. Sometimes, the team’s time can be spent polishing systems or areas that are going to have to be redone just because it needs to look nice for a demo. That can really set the team back.

“That said, we are trying to move at a brisk pace and be smart about what goes into the game. We want to make sure everything that goes into development will get a good level of polish before we release it.”

It’s interesting to hear that developers are often asked to create extra code for demos, despite its obvious impact on the overall development cycle. Demos for shows like E3 and GamesCom are huge for creating a buzz around titles, but its widely assumed the footage we’re seeing is actual game code and not necessarily something specially created for a live demo.

The Obsidian team had a lot of questions to field in the AMA, so most of the threads were vague or left open to more discussion. On the recent reveal that they won’t be shoe-horning any romance into Pillars of Eternity, Adler stated that money was a major factor in the decision:

“[Pillars of Eternity director] Josh’s response was that he didn’t feel we could do them well with the time and resources that we have available to make the game. Take it from the guy who makes the schedules, he isn’t wrong. Romances are very expensive to do well and we would have to cut things from the game to make them properly.”

We imagine romances are a frequent request of RPG publishers to widen audience appeal, much like you frequently see in Hollywood. It’ll be interesting to see how Pillars of Eternity’s story benefits from not having the distraction of romantic relationships weighing on the characters.

Pillars of Eternity will allow players to make ‘good and evil’ decisions, but it won’t be as simple as as the point-based morality systems that appear in other games. Asked whether being evil will mean less in-game rewards, Adler wrote:

“I would like to think that we are creating everything in a way that will be fun and balanced for all types of players – evil included.”

PoE’s lead area designer, Bobby Null, elaborated, “Reputation works much differently in PoE. People will react to how you handle things, but there is not an over-riding system to penalize you for being an a-hole. And there are some really “bad” things you can do in this game if that is your thing.”

There are some more interesting tidbits from the Obsidian devs in the full AMA, which can be read here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1yy4v7/we_are_obsidian_eternity_team_ask_us_anything/