Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Interview

While Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is now successfully funded and moving on toward more stretch goals following the Fig campaign, I was able to sit down with Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart earlier this month – before the past week’s events had transpired as this interview had to go through a transcription and review process – and talk to him about the business side of crowdfunding, the RPG sequel’s design goals, their forthcoming Pillars of Eternity tabletop RPG, and much more.

Beyond that, Feargus also answers a handful of questions about sales figures on their past games, the “super secret” project being worked on by Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, their latest game pitches, and a variety of other topics. Oh, and he essentially announces that Pillars of Eternity III will be a reality:

Buck: Hi Feargus, thanks for joining me today, it’s great to chat with you. We haven’t had a chance to talk face-to-face for quite some time – I think the last time was right before the launch of Dungeon Siege III. I want to start off by congratulating you on the successful release and positive reception toward Tyranny.

Feargus: Thanks! It is doing well and people seem to like it. And it feels different than Pillars and it looks like Paradox is going to want us to keep on supporting it, which is great.

Buck: Excellent, that’s great to hear. I’d love to hear more about your plans there, but I also want to jump over to the big news: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. You guys smashed your initial funding goal of $1.1 million in less than 24 hours.

Feargus: Yes.

Buck: And it’s approaching $2.8 million the last time I looked.

Feargus: Yeah, I think so. We’re at $2.74 million right now, and what I’m really happy about is what we’re doing. Obviously, the investment is awesome but it’s great to see the reward funding as well. Just because the whole crowdfunding world is very different than it was in 2012, and we didn’t know where we would land.

Buck: I was curious about the investment aspect of Fig, as that is where this new platform really differs from Kickstarter. Can you talk a bit about how the selling of $1000 shares works? How do these people get a return on their investment? Are these everyday people, friends, family, companies… maybe even publishers?

Feargus: I don’t know. So first off what we’ve been trying to do is, on that subject of knowing who is investing in things like that, we’ve actually been sort of very separate from Fig. We’ve been trying to run the reward funding part of it and not talking to Fig a lot about what’s been going on since the campaign started as it related to the investment because I wanted it to be their decision as to sort of how they the investment money, what’s the due diligence they’re doing and things like that. So I am sort of leaving it to them to decide how we do.

Now, how does it actually work? So what we did is we sort of picked a $14 million number which was to say at $14 million of revenue for Eternity, that’s where people will – whatever money they get – get their money back plus 13%. Then at that point in time in essence, the return drops by 50% and then they continue to get a return that’s sort of 50% lower at that point. How the numbers will work in essence, is it will be something like, it kind of says it on the page, let me just see if I’m saying it the right way. If we get the full two and a quarter million, in essence, what happens is 16% of the money that we’re getting in, up to $14 million goes to the investors and then after that 8% goes to them.

So that’s kind of how it works, they’ll get a return, they’ll get their money back plus the return at $14 million and then the speed of the return will go down by half.

Buck: Wow. Does that entitle them to any of the pledging rewards? Do they even get a copy of the game?

Feargus: No. It’s interesting; we originally wanted to do that but it kind of creates this weird – it’s sort of like, is that then part of their return? Now, there has to be tax documents that say this is the return they’re getting including the game. And it was just like, while it seems silly that we can’t give them a game for investing, there was tax reasons on why it was complicated.

Buck: I suppose. I can imagine the complications that might occur there. Do you have any insights at all into who these people are that are buying shares?

Feargus: No, I haven’t looked into it. I mean, what I’m going to do is that when it’s over I’m going to look at it and be interested in it. To be honest, I was kind of shocked that we were sort of getting the kind of response that we did because the return we’re giving people isn’t as good as for Wasteland or some of the other games. But the reason for that was we’re only keeping people’s money for about a year, like 12 to 15 months. And compared to three years of Wasteland. So Wasteland has to give a higher return, that kind of faster rate return. Forgive me, I forget, it’s 32% or 36% or something like that where we’re giving 13% because that was my idea. We’re keeping your money for about 13 months then I should pay you a 13% return, and then if the game does pretty successfully, after that then you give them the investor share in that as well.

Buck: That’s a great return on any investment, right? 13% for 13 months – I think most people would be happy with that.

Feargus: Most people will take that, yeah. But like an institutional investor, like a venture capitalist or angel or something like that, they have no interest in something like that. They want to know that if I’m going to have their money for a year that I’m going to be giving them 25%.

Actually 25% is the wrong number. Giving them like 30% to 40%.

Buck: You raised right around $4 million on the first Pillars of Eternity and you brought in funding after that campaign ended, correct?

Feargus: Yeah. We put our backup portal together and we kept on getting funding. I don’t know the exact number, it’s somewhere between $1.3 and $1.5 [million]. So in essence, the total amount we brought in – and this was after Kickstarter fees – was about $5.2 million, but that’s removing the Kickstarter fees which is the 5% plus the 3% in credit card.

So $4 million on Kickstarter, I think what we ended up getting on Kickstarter was about $3.6-$3.7 million or something like that because we had to pay about $200,000 to Kickstarter and then about another $120,000 in credit card fees.

Buck: Do you intend to do the same thing with Pillars of Eternity II and have a post-Fig funding option as well?

Feargus: Yes. And because we already have our Backer Portal, we should have that up actually by next Wednesday [the 22nd] so people will be able to give us money through PayPal which they haven’t been able to until this point. That also means that once the campaign is done, we’ll import everybody’s emails as soon as we can. And then for anything that, in essence, we already have, there’s a tier where you get Pillars of Eternity I, we’ll be able to get people their codes within like a week or two of the campaign being over.

Buck: Sure. I find the business side of this fascinating, and while I don’t want to focus too much on that, I’m curious what your post-funding sales have been for Pillars of Eternity? That initial funding amount would have included a lot of people like me who absolutely wanted a copy on day one and to be part of the pledging process, but how have your sales been since that point?

Feargus: So the latest information we have is from our last royalty report that we got from Paradox. And the last number was like – I think we’re under just 900,000 units. So about 900,000 units was what we sold of the core product after the game came out.

Buck: So with the Kickstarter pledges, does that put you well over a million units sold?

Feargus: Yes, yes. If you include all the Kickstarter pledges, we would be at about a million.

Buck: Out of curiosity, how do those numbers compare to some of your previous titles, such as Neverwinter Nights 2 or The Stick of Truth?

Feargus: So Neverwinter Nights 2, I don’t actually have good numbers on that. I think we’re in this sort of, maybe, 1.5 million to 2 million range for Neverwinter 2, that’s not counting the expansions. The South Park numbers – it sounds so silly, but we can’t share because they’re a part of the reports we get from Ubisoft and so those are confidential. And I’d forgotten what kind of unit counts Ubisoft has said. So in essence, about a million units on Eternity is probably lower than most of our other games. But it’s a game that didn’t cost $10 million or $15 million to make. And on top of it, because it’s ours, we get most of the revenue. Paradox has their publishing portion that they take which is much smaller than what a publisher would normally take if they also funded the game.

Buck: Looking at Metacritic and Gamerankings, I think Pillars of Eternity is your top-rated game overall?

Feargus: Yes, an 89, I think… Yes, Eternity is our top-rated game. I never thought of it that way, but yeah, you’re right.

Buck: That’s a huge achievement. Going from when you and I had a conversation at E3 2010 that these types of games were virtually non-existent at the time and people were ready to consume another Baldur’s Gate / Infinity Engine-style game again to having a Metacritic score of 89, I think that’s a huge achievement.

Feargus: It’s amazing. We were actually at a rating of 90 for three months and then a small site came in and gave us a 7 out of 10. So we’re probably at like 89.9. But it’s been great to see the response. And since the Fig campaign has gone up I’ve been talking to people a lot in the comments. People just have great things to say about the game and that they love it. I mean, that in of itself, whether it’s an 89 or a 79 or whatever it is. But when people tell you that they really enjoyed it that’s what’s cool.

Buck: Right. I think that goes for many of your games. There are people who find a commonality that they love in your games, myself included, right? And even if they score a 59 or a 69 or a 79, we’ll still be buying them and pointing out their virtues.

That’s the great thing about the type of games you guys make and the depth they bring. People like me and many GameBanshee readers will consume them and love their focus regardless of what the general population might think.

But on the flip side, it’s great to have that reinforcement from the broader audience and from the broader media industry that you can achieve an 89 score. Because I think 89 is right around the same spot that Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment and other classics are at, too. I feel like you can’t possibly ask for much more than being right in the same echelon as some of the highest, most respected RPGs of all time, right?

Feargus: It’s great. I mean, we were surprised, we felt really good about the game, we felt it was great. And I have to admit, we were very pleasantly surprised that we got reviewed well. And also, though, I think there are going to be higher expectations for Deadfire. And so I know that we have to sort out how the game plays and how it feels and how well put-together it is. There’s just going to be higher expectations and we just have to know that going in for what we hand off to people when we finish it.

Buck: Sure. So on that note, how are you building upon the original Pillars of Eternity and what would you say your primary goals are in terms of design for the sequel?

Feargus: The first Eternity is not linear because you can still adventure around, but it’s maybe a little bit more linear than we wanted it to be. So really with Deadfire you can kind of go where you want to go. It’s not like an open-world RPG because it’s not structured that way, but it’s going to feel more like you have more paths you can go on. I think the other thing that’s important is – I think we noticed also we were trying to get so much content into the first Eternity that we didn’t do enough reactivity to the choices the player was making, that people were making.

Now, I think as we did the expansions of White March Part One and Part Two, particularly Part Two, I think we did a better job of making sure that people’s actions were being responded to by the game. So we’re definitely doing that, we’re spending more time and more design writing time and designer time on that.

The party size has gone down to five which has been sort of controversial for people. People really wanted to see the six and they were really surprised. Josh had a lot of good reasons – not throwing Josh under the bus but that was his decision. And we had talked about it and it was a good decision from the standpoint of – these games are complicated and with a larger party it means more enemies and it means more chaos and then you have pets in there, animal companions and stuff like that and maybe even in certain situations where you sort of have allies that are fighting on your side. It starts to get crazy.

And so what Josh did was, “Hey, why don’t we try going down to five?” We’re going to space things out a little bit more, play a little bit with the timing of combat making sure people are more aware of kind of what’s going on in combat and then on top of that make people feel that they can kind of create multifaceted characters by adding multiclassing and sub-classing which people have responded pretty positively to.

So yeah, the five-player party there is – we’re kind of changing how kind of the world map works and that will be kind of the new thing we’re taking about next week and then the reactivity and more of the freedom of trying to go a little bit more of where you want to go. Those, I would say, are the big things we wanted to focus on.

Buck: And with those goals, I have to assume that the development costs for the sequel will be higher than the original Pillars to have that additional reactivity and choice & consequence?

Feargus: Probably the game is going to cost 40% to 50% more than the first Eternity did. And a lot of that is going into spending more time on the areas. You know, there were lot of areas that looked really good in Pillars I but there were some that were not maybe where they needed to be. But with Deadfire I think that you’ll see that it may be that the worst-looking area in Pillars II is going to be similar to one of your better-looking areas in Pillars I. That was a big focus again to show people that we’re not resting on our laurels.
We’re going to make a real sequel, we’re not going to just swap the story out. A lot of people actually would have been fine with using a lot of the content from the original game and then just kind of refining. We really wanted to move forward. We were already moving the engine going from Unity 4 to Unity 5, changing some things. And we hired a couple of really great graphics programmers and they had a lot of cool ideas on how we could push, sort of the 3D/2D aspect of the world even more.

And we decided to invest in that particularly because – I think we’ve now invested a lot into the engine such that that making a Pillars of Eternity III will be easier, where if we had not invested much in the engine then we would have had to make a lot of changes between Pillars II and Pillars III.

Buck: Wait, did you just announce Pillars of Eternity III right here, right now?

Feargus: [LAUGHTER] Well, obviously, yes. If Eternity II is a sales success, we will be selling that and doing an Eternity III.

Buck: Great to hear. It has to be challenging – on one hand, you don’t want to mess with the formula that earned you that 89 Metacritic rating or muddy the waters in any way. But on the other, you don’t want it to be perceived as not pushing the envelope. So that’s a balancing act that’s has to be challenging.

Feargus: Yeah. I think the thing where we’ll be okay is, I think we’re pretty good of now understanding the core of what people want. People want great companions, they want cool areas and quests that respond to how they do them. They want to have a story that they could feel invested in and that’s complex and interests them all the way through. They want to have interesting locations, they want cool monsters, fun fights, and feel like their character grows from a stand point of, like [power is well done.]

I feel as long as we focus on that stuff and we don’t screw up with having the game run slow or not run on certain people’s computers, which [is something] we’ve been working out already. And then we’re good. And then of course, the big focus really then is since we have changed a fair amount about some of the underlying systems, we need to get into test early and then just test the hell out of it so that we can make sure that it all just feels right. Which is why we wanted to do another public beta like we did with Pillars I because we learned a ton from that. And not so much on the bug side. People could see the systems, they could comment on them. A lot of what the original ideas that Josh had, he saw the reaction of people when we did the beta and then we reflected that with changes in the game.

Buck: When you look back at Pillars of Eternity… for those people that it didn’t resonate with or maybe they just didn’t have a chance to even pick it up, what hooks are you looking at putting into the sequel to encourage those people to buy it this time around? How are you going to capture their attention?

Feargus: It was a focus, but it’s not a focus that has taken away from the RPG content that we put in. But I think some of it is graphics. Our characters were okay in the first game, but not compared to what they look like now. Characters really resonate with people – your character, when you open the inventory and you see a good-looking picture of your character or the companions, I think that people will connect more there.

I think that we can do a better job early on in the game of drawing people in. I talk a lot to people and they really enjoyed the game up to when they got to Defiance Bay and then they were a little confused about what they were supposed to do and in particular if they missed Raedric’s Hold which was an awesome dungeon keep thing. But if they missed that and they made it to Defiance Bay – we will freely admit that the content of both Defiance Bay and Twin Elms was probably not our best content. And so we just need to make sure that it’s consistent throughout and, in particular, the early part of the game.

Make sure everybody understands and is clear on what you’re doing, it’s clear what you’re trying to adventure on, even if you’re going to go to a different place and things like that. The story is clear. It was clear as it was supposed to be at a certain point. Not like, “Go find this, now go find this.” It can be too clear and then it feels kind of trite.

But I think that’s what it is. I think we can do a bit better on the tutorial, I think we can help people understand combat better. But yeah, I think that’s it. It’s just making sure [that during] the first hour or two, people feel successful and feel good about how they’re playing the game.

Buck: Your pledge rewards have been pretty ambitious. Multiclassing is a big one. I know a lot of Pillars fans that are happy to hear that’s coming to the sequel.

On the $3 million pledge reward, you mentioned that you’re going to have inter-party relationships. Would you describe those as being similar to what we saw in the Infinity Engine game in terms of depth or are you taking it beyond that?

Feargus: When we did our update for that, Josh put a whole video together. And the goal with it is – there’s been these arguments going on our forums and also on the big page about romances. And so we’re trying to be very clear that these are companion relationships and not companion romances. Maybe there could be a situation where there could be a romance but it’s not just this generic system where you do enough things and you get a romance scene as a reward. But it’s not meant to be romancing characters and turn into a sexual relationship with them. It’s about these relationships that you have with them and the relationships that they have with each other that develops them as characters.

This is the first time we’ve done it. Like, we’ve sort of shied away from having this is our previous games. I can understand the interest in those, but I have to admit in a lot of other RPGs, they felt very much like a Japanese dating sim. Like, if I give you the flowers and I press the button and then I do the quest and now I win. And I think we’ve always wanted to have it be more subtle than that. Sort of have more about what you’re generally doing in the world and you’re treating other people in the world. And so that’s probably why we’ve never tackled it before and I think we have just been comfortable with the, again, the Japanese dating [sim].

Buck: I think there’s a balance to it. I think back to Baldur’s Gate II and you had potential romances but they were something of a puzzle that needed to be figured out. You practically needed a spoiler site like GameBanshee to figure out how to kick off a romance with one of the companions properly and foster it. Because you could literally have one set of dialog with a companion and choose the wrong option and it was over.

Feargus: That was it. Yes.

Buck: I like that aspect of being able to get into the point of no return with some of those characters, even though some people might see that as being too harsh and it might require the loading of a saved game from 10 hours ago. Do you think it’s important to have it layered like that, where if you do say the wrong things or do certain things, your relationships will be affected for the rest of the game?

Feargus: That shows that your choices matter. If it’s allowed to always be recoverable, then your choices don’t matter.

Buck: Exactly.

Feargus: I think what’s important about it in particular is that how the relationships works with each of your companions is different. It doesn’t just follow a ROCE formula because some games have done that before where this is the companion template and this is how you’re successful at it. And it feels good with the first one but then as you start doing more with other companions, you start seeing the structure, you start seeing that’s it’s just, “I do A and I do B and I do C and then I win.” And so I think the way we’re doing it depends upon the personality of the companion themselves, it doesn’t have a set number of steps, there’s a system behind it so it’s tracking a lot of different things. It feels natural, it flows naturally. But again, it’s sort of our first fall into it, so we’ll see how it ends up.

Buck: You had relationships in Alpha Protocol, too. Obviously, they weren’t inter-party relationships and had a different scope than what we’re talking about here maybe, but they were there.

Feargus: Yeah, yeah. You’re actually right. It’s funny we think of that differently. We think of that as a part very specifically of his personal story in Alpha Protocol versus these longer term party-based romances that go on for however long.

Buck: Yeah, a hundred hours or even longer.

Feargus: Yeah. A hundred hours, exactly.

Buck: In one of the updates, you mentioned that you’re going to release a Pillars of Eternity tabletop RPG. What can you tell us about that and will you be collaborating with any tabletop publishers on that?

Feargus: The thing that were doing right now is – it’s going to be about a 30 page sort of rulebook. Not high level, but very, “Here’s the rules.” I don’t want to say it in a dense fashion but like, “Here are rules that we feel will let you play a Pillars of Eternity tabletop RPG but you will need to go create your own setting material and all that kind of stuff.” Look at that as a start.

I feel bummed out because a couple of years ago we were starting to talk a lot about getting to release a full book and things like that. We talked to Josh a lot and Josh was thinking, well, we could release it with multiple rulesets so people could use the rulesets that they want to use. So it’d be like the 5th edition ruleset but also 3.5 edition ruleset so people can play how they wanted to play. And we just didn’t get it off the ground. Part of it was it looked like it was going to be a $200,000 or $300,000 investment. And it’s not our industry but we started to talk about it more, as to who could we partner with? Could we do a crowd-funding campaign for it? Things like that.

So this is us dipping our toe in and putting it out there and seeing what people think. If we like it and if people are positive to it, then maybe leapfrog that into doing a full 400-page book with all the art and all that kind of stuff.

Buck: Sure, and then you have apps to consider – you have Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, for example. You have digital and other avenues where perhaps even if you did have a small handbook for it, anybody who picks that up can evolve that into a larger campaign or use supplemental accessories from other tabletop RPGs.

Feargus: Yeah. We did our guide book volume 1 for the first one. And so we’re doing another guide book. So hopefully that’s going to amount to – I can’t think of the page count, but that could amount to 300-400 pages of material about the world that people could use to create their own adventures.

Buck: Excellent, I’m looking forward to seeing that. You hinted a little bit about some upcoming stretch goals but can you talk a little bit more about what you’re planning over the next week or more? Can you give us any hints on what’s to come?

Feargus: So one of the things is we’re going to be releasing a big thing about a major city and that’s tomorrow. So that’s on the 17th. And then next week, which is our final week of the campaign, we’re going to finally get to talking about what our stronghold is and how does it work and what does it all mean and how that’s connected into our world map and a whole bunch of other stuff. So I’m sorry, I would go into more detail but I’m going to get yelled at. Because Adam Brennecke has put an incredible amount of time into a whole video about it. I mean, it won’t be as funny as Josh’s last video about character relationships but it’s going to show one of the last big, big features that we have which most people have guessed what it is but it’s pretty cool.

I know we’re going to release some more gameplay videos, we’re going to cover some more of the monsters we’ve already done. We already did a graphical update that shows off the new kind of graphics that are cool. I’m trying to think what else we have planned. Actually, I could cheat and see if there’s something that I could look at. We use Dropbox to organize all of our updates. That’s pretty much it. We have the big city that’s tomorrow, which does look pretty cool. Actually we’re doing the whole – basically the city map, how that works is pretty nifty, it’s kind of actually how – when we started to do it in the Fallout where when you’ve got to a city you got them like a city and you choose which region you went to. And the one you’ve done for the big city is really cool.

We have the big, big thing we’re releasing next week. I’ll get yelled at for saying that.

Buck: We talked a little bit about how much additional development time you expect on the sequel earlier, but how does the development team compare to the first game in terms of sheer size?

Feargus: With the development team that worked on Eternity, we had up to about the same size, I think it’s about 45 people. But it ramped up slowly. As we were doing the Kickstarter campaign in 2012, there was only six or seven people working on it, then we slowly ramped it up. Some of it was challenges because South Park went longer than expected and so people that were supposed to come off there couldn’t. And so there were some challenges trying to ramp up Eternity. But because we already had the team, and we were already working on the White March Part 1 and 2, some people started to do some high level on Eternity II in late 2015.

Pretty much since early 2016, it’s been the full team of about 45 people. So that’s the difference. We ramped up on Eternity I, but Eternity II has been consistently that way. So that’s kind of what we’ve done. What’s cool is we actually had a lot of animation resources. In early 2016, they had just finished with some other projects. So we probably had four or five animators for a little while, which is way more than we would normally put on an Eternity game. And what was nice is they were able to do a lot of little ambient animations of picking up cups and sitting down and reading spell books and running from the rain which I think when particular people are walking around in cities, it’s going to feel more life-like.

Buck: Sure, and you’re targeting a Q1 2018 release, right?

Feargus: Yes, so March 2018.

Buck: Do you anticipate any issues hitting that schedule?

Feargus: I don’t think so. It’s part of those things that, if there’s some issue I would be surprised that we slipped more than a month. And that’s not what anybody is feeling right now. I’m just saying sometimes in development there is some crazy curveball that happens because what we do is creative and sometimes something weird happens. We kind of understand our pipelines and what it takes to get things done and so we’re not anticipating a slip. I would be surprised if we slipped. But if for some reason we did, it’s not going to be a very long slide.

Buck: Good to hear. One of the things I was wondering about, too, is since the release of Pillars of Eternity and the White March expansions, we haven’t seen a compilation or bundle released. Do you plan on having a bundle of the core game plus expansions, possibly even with something a little extra? Maybe even an enhanced edition of some sort?

Feargus: Yes, so we’ve been talking to Paradox about that a lot and we’re going to have something up soon. I don’t know if it’s in 30 days or 60 days or something like that. But we’re going to have something pretty soon.

A lot of it is interesting because we’ve been talking a lot like how to come up with what is the price point? And I don’t know if anybody really cares about this, but Steam is a really interesting ecology – don’t know if that’s the right word – of where you put your prices and how do you do this and how do you take your pricing to a point based upon discounts you’re going to do. So where do you put your price based upon – are you going to put out a sale at the start or not put out a sale at the start? And when it wasn’t a bundle, what was your max sales on each part of the bundle? Because you don’t want to make your first sale on the bundle if it’s very close to when you did the last sale on the parts is much less because people will be pissed off that they just bought something and now it’s cheaper.

So it’s interesting. It seemed to us like it’s a simple proposition to figure this all out, and then as we started to think about it more and more, it was complicated.

Buck: I think you could remove some of that complication, though, if you add an additional incentive, right? It doesn’t have to be much, maybe add a few extra quests, an area or two, or have some sort of unique item set or other bonus for purchasing the bundle and make that a $5 DLC for everybody else.

Feargus: Yeah. And the other thing is, luckily we have three versions; we have the Hero and the Champion and the Royal Edition and I forgot if we’re taking the Champion or the Royal edition. But we take the Champion or the Royal edition, that becomes the core version and then the White March is a part of that. So people feel there’s a lot more stuff in there for them when they get it.

Buck: So to confirm, this is coming and you’re actively working on it?

Feargus: Yes, absolutely.

Buck: That’s great news. Another thing I was hoping we could talk about – and this is going to deviate from Pillars of Eternity – but let’s change course for a bit to reflect upon the super-secret project that Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky are working on.

Feargus: They’re working on a super-secret project, absolutely.

Buck: Leo has tossed out a few hints here and there, suggesting that it’ll be a single-player RPG and that it’s his “dream game”. I’m pretty sure we know that it’s not Bloodlines 2 and it’s not Arcanum 2 at this point, but are there any other nuggets of information you can give us?

Feargus: Not really. I think the thing is, obviously, for us, we want to make the games that we love to make and those are the games that people want to have from us. So I think that’s a good hint as to kind of what you would expect. I can say that it’s not Fallout, that is not what it is. So Leonard and Tim are not working on the next Fallout game or anything like that. But again, this is our opportunity to go off and do our digging, which I think is awesome. And we can’t announce who our partner is and all that. I think people are going to be really excited about it.

Buck: Given the fact that there’s a partner involved, can you tell us whether it’s a new IP or an existing IP?

Feargus: [LAUGHTER] It’s not Fallout.

Buck: How about setting or theme?

Feargus: I’m going to be really shocking. It’s an RPG.

Buck: [LAUGHTER] I guess that’s something. As far as I know, that’s about the only thing that has been confirmed up to this point.

Feargus: We’ve said nothing about it yet. Just because it’s the early days and we need to closely manage these things through completion and managing – you know when it’s bigger, we start to think of managing staff and how does the whole PR marketing stuff work and things like that. And so yes, so I know it’s just going to irritate people like probably for like a year that we’re just going to be being coy. And it’s not to be coy, it’s just because it’s not time to – even a lot of the ideas that we’re coming about right now is we also don’t want to do this thing where we release a whole lot of stuff that gets people excited. But for us it’s still stuff that’s not – it’s not the stuff we know is going to be final. Because I’ve seen a lot games do that; they’ll release stuff that’s really early and get people excited and then when the real game is promoted it’s like, “Wait a minute, what happened to the big robot with the thingies and the samurai sword and the dwarf?”

See what I did there?

Buck: [LAUGHTER] Yes, I see that… you alluded to the fact that it will be a year before we’ll know anything. Do you have an announcement timeframe in mind?

Feargus: We don’t. I would be surprised if we did announce anything in 2017. My guess is – it’s literally just a guess right now – there won’t be a public announcement as to what it is until 2018.

Buck: Okay. What more can you tell us about the other games you have in development outside of this title and Pillars of Eternity II, such as Pathfinder Adventures?

Feargus: We’re still working on Pathfinder, and it’s going to come to Steam pretty soon. We’re looking at how much more we’ll support it. We’re looking at potentially doing another one of the whole box sets. There’s three or four box sets. We’ve done one and all its modules. We’d do another one. We’re continuing to support Tyranny and we’re talking a lot to Paradox about what other kind of support we could give Tyranny. And that’s the stuff we’re working on right now. We are actively proposing other games and we have enough proposals out right now and hopefully we’re going to know in the next, sort of 30 to 60 days. the kind of what proposals are there.

I’m also looking at, is there other kind of financing I can go get from different kinds of investors? It would be cool to do a turn-based game. A lot of people ask all the time about doing a turn-based game. It’s not like we could put a switch in the Eternity engine and now it’s turn-based but the engine is pretty mature right now. And so what would take to put in a rule system in or stick with the rule system up there and then make a turn-based game. And maybe that game is in the Eternity universe and maybe it’s not. One of Josh’s favorite games of all time is Darklands. So he really would like to make sort of a non-fantastic medieval game.

So yeah, me and Josh are going to talk this year about how to do that. I also talk about how we could take the Eternity engine and make a film noir RPG you know, black and white. I don’t know. It sounds totally silly but with that kind of, like, how people talk and just that vibe. But we’re talking about a lot of stuff and we’re going to be pitching people. And also, I’m looking at other ways to get funding for games so we can maybe try some of this stuff and not spend Pillars of Eternity level money. We can try unusual things and we can make money even if 200,000 or 300,000 people buy it, and if they enjoy it, that’s awesome. And that can get maybe some funkier games out there in the market.

Buck: Yeah, absolutely. I think there are a lot of themes that go untouched and it’s really unfortunate. I could see a AAA western-themed RPG being totally viable, and we really don’t have enough gritty, seedy, horror-themed RPGs. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has had a very long shelf life and it’s still considered an iconic RPG to this day, yet no other horror-themed RPGs in a similar style have emerged since then.

I know White Wolf is starting to get back into that market with Werewolf officially announced and a few rumors about Bloodlines 2, but I’d love to see some of those lesser known themes explored more often, and it’s unfortunate that they aren’t. With Kickstarter and Fig and some of these other crowdfunding options, I’m hoping we will see more titles with these uncommon themes.

Feargus: Yeah.

Buck: And it’d be great if Obsidian was behind one of them.

Feargus: Yes, yes. I think Urban Fantasy is interesting. Urban Fantasy being like Vampire. The Urban Fantasy in the last two years is a little too – I’m not against romance and all that kind of stuff but some of it has gotten a little too romance-y for me. And I’ve probably talked to you about this before but the flavor that I think is interesting is Neil Gaiman’s Other World. I think it’s a novel called Other World or something like that. There was even like a BBC miniseries on it and it’s about guy who falls into this other world of weapons.

And then there’s a series of books by Simon Green about the Nightside which again is this kind of world where demons and angels and goblins just hang out in a city. So it’s interesting. We actually have a pitch called “Hidden” which is about this darker city and it’s about, sort of the real elements. We probably wrote the pitch nine years ago and it’s maybe a darker, less Disney version of “Once” was kind of the concept even though there was no “Once” at the time.

I don’t know. I think it would be cool to play in that kind of world, as well.

Buck: Alright, I know it’s getting late there, so I don’t want to take any more of your time.

Thanks again, Feargus. It was great talking to you, as always. Have a good night.

Feargus: You too.

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