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Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes

An Ask Me Anything session on Tumblr from Josh Sawyer from last week discusses the prospects of another Pillars of Eternity game in light of disappointing sales of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire (thanks IGN). He discusses possible reasons for the poor commercial reception for Obsidian's RPG sequel, and says that if there is a Pillars of Eternity III, it will involve some fundamental changes, but there's a problem in their uncertainty about what to change:
That is not something that I get to decide, but I do think that the relatively low sales of Deadfire mean that if we consider making another Pillars game in this style, weíre going to have to re-examine the entire format of the game.

It is difficult to know exactly why a sequel sells worse than its predecessor if both games review relatively well. Is it because the first game satisfied the existing need and the audience just wasnít interested in the second? Is it because awareness was lower for the sequel? Is it because despite the strong reviews and the strong sales for the first game, people didnít ďreallyĒ like it? Maybe itís a combination of all of these things.

The problem is that without really understanding the reason(s), itís hard to know how to move forward. It would be easier in some ways if Deadfire were also a colossal critical failure and we could point to the massive screw-ups that we needed to address. Players did criticize the low difficulty at launch and the main plot, which I think are fair and reasonable, but those problems alone donít really explain the difference in sales. And while player reviews were weaker for Deadfire than for Pillars 1, professional criticism tended to say that Deadfire was an improvement over the first game in most areas.

(Yes, Deadfire has an 88 Metacritic and Pillars 1 has an 89 Metacritic, but IMO Pillars 1′s review scores benefited from a nostalgia bump.)

Players who hate RTwP combat will say that itís because Deadfire continued using RTwP combat, in contrast to the phenomenally better-selling (and better-reviewed) turn-based Divinity: OS2. Even if thatís true, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, which generally had lower review scores than Deadfire, sold better than Deadfire and had RTwP combat.

Iím sure some of the people reading this think they know precisely why Deadfire sold worse than Pillars 1. I donít have that confidence, which is one of several reasons why I am leery about trying to direct a sequel. I couldnít give our (Obsidianís) audience the game that they wanted and without understanding where I went wrong, I would be guessing at what the problems are and how to remedy them.
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22. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 12, 2019, 18:25 MeanJim
 
Maybe instead of looking at what people are complaining about, they should look at what people liked and go on that. I backed both on KS, but I didn't even start PoE1 until recently. I played it a bit before, just going through character creation and up to arriving at the first town to try out different character builds. I wanted to finish other games in line before it, and some others cut in line along the way, so it took me longer than expected, which is fine because it gave them time to patch it and balance it.

I'm enjoying the first one. It's not perfect, but it's enjoyable, especially given the budget they had to work with. I've taken breaks along the way, as I do with any other long RPG, some planned, others unplanned. I planned to take a break during October because I like to play spooky games during that time. Then Disco Elysium happened. All through October I was kind of looking forward to getting back to Pillars, but I couldn't resist getting Disco Elysium after reading reviews for it.

When I get done with DE and finish PoE, I plan to start PoE2 right after. I'm definitely looking forward to its turn-based combat. I've never liked RTwP, and don't get why it is/was so popular for isometric RPGs. Unless you're playing on easy mode and let the combat play out on its own, it's such a pain to manage.

I think it would be a shame if they didn't do another game now that they've refined the engine to have both combat modes to please both crowds, and since they have MS's money to finance it (and as long as it still gets a GOG release). It would be nice if they went back and added it to the first game. Maybe if they make a 3rd, they could import the first two into it, touch them up a bit and release it as one big trilogy that you can play from start to finish with the same character, or pick which game to play.
 
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21. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 12, 2019, 15:14 Leper
 
There's simply more competition now. POE 1 was THE throw-back CRPG when it was announced. They did something special at the time but times have changed and there's several of these CRPGs out there now. Sadly, most of them have been underwhelming.

POE 2 is one of those games that has legs. I'm sure RPG gamers will be buying it for years, once they get around to it. I will eventually buy POE 2 but there's a bunch of games that I already own that need to be finished first. It doesn't help that they all take like 100 hours to finish.

But they definitely shouldn't make another POE if they don't have a vision for it being amazing and expanding the genre's audience like D:OS 1/2 did. I feel like what they're missing is that they're focused on remaking the CRPG of old. Honestly, there was a reason these games died out before. They can't just keep using the same mechanics - there needs to be more innovation. Although we don't know much about BG3, I think we can agree that it won't just be BG2 with a fresh coat of paint.
 
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20. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 12, 2019, 11:30 eRe4s3r
 
That is very true, if a game can spawn a 20 post topic of people listing nearly as many reasons why they did or did not like 1 or 2 then we can pretty much assume that it's a mystery to the devs. I couldn't even tell you why I like Deadfire less exactly  
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19. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 12, 2019, 09:31 Droniac
 
All of these comments merely serve to point out that Sawyer is right to be hesitant. So many conflicting views and opinions with no means to verify which ones may be meaningful and which ones are irrelevant to sales numbers. The same goes for the negative or critical user reviews too. They all point in multiple different directions, contradicting one another or even themselves.

It's important to realize that the game has had a positive reception. Critics were more favorable about Deadfire than about PoE 1. Meanwhile user reviews are about equal between the two. So it seems rather unlikely that Deadfire's reception is why it would perform worse. Instead, external factors seem more likely. Some that I think might be relevant:

Perhaps the first game wasn't as well liked as Obsidian expected or the Steam user reviews indicated. Deadfire's crowdfunding campaign already had fewer backers than the first game did. And there were clearly plenty of reasons to be critical of the first game, even if overall you enjoyed the experience. In my opinion it always came across as less than the sum of its parts. I liked a lot of the components individually, but the game never grabbed me. Largely due to the unfocused and glacially paced narrative. As well as the emphasis on quantity over quality of content. The DLC did the opposite in those regards and were the best parts of the game for me.

The change in publishers may also have been a factor. The first game received a lot of attention at release, was shown at PDXcon, and got plenty of coverage from influential streamers and youtubers. Deadfire did not. It's hard to make a purchasing decision if you don't know the game exists.

Technical issues may have prevented people from playing it too, particularly after the first game changed and improved so much after all the patching. I still haven't played Deadfire through once, because I postponed my on-release playthrough due to major technical issues (and then DLC releases). Technical issues like imported save game states not being handled correctly or encounters not firing properly were all the talk of both Steam and Obsidian forums. Most of this has been fixed by now, but some other issues still haven't been. The game still has performance problems on high thread count CPUs that can only be circumvented by means of hooking into the game with modded DirectX libraries.

Yet these are again just possible factors. There's no way to know if they actually contributed meaningfully to poor sales or are just valid-sounding ideas but weren't actually meaningful in reality. They can't really base a sequel on any of this, or anyone else's comments here, without very extensive additional market research. Particularly since it's very likely that none of us commenting here are the average RPG consumer. So if you have this idea that it's "simple": you're wrong.

As for RTwP: almost certainly not a meaningful factor. The average RPG consumer doesn't care. Never forget that Dragon Age 2, an abomination of a RPG with the single worst RTwP implementation in the history of RPGs, sold amazingly well. And then Inquisition after it still sold well regardless! Moreover, Deadfire does have a turn-based mode now and even its positive reception clearly hasn't improved sales figures meaningfully.
 
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18. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 12, 2019, 06:54 Jonjonz
 
I love party based RPGs. Loved Dungeon Siege I and II. Love Dragonage series, and now lusting after Original Sin 2 but waiting for the price to come down.

So I tried Pillars I in the meantime. Ugh, what a repetitive mess. Other than choke points and range, positioning has little utility. Combat is a clunky, pause every 2 micro seconds to micro every single party member.
The story/writing is about what you would expect from amateurs role playing at your local Renaissance Faire.

I rank it way below any of the titles in the first paragraph. Easy to understand why no one wanted POE II.
 
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17. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 20:45 peteham
 
I enjoyed the first game with expansions. The second game not so much. The first had the advantage of being the first serious new entry of its kind in a very, very long time, I guess.

Can't really put my finger on any specific thing that made me not like the sequel. With either game, I never really cared much about the story and never found the drive to explore or discover stuff about the world. Page upon page of text and I didn't really give a crap about any of it. Care about party members? Not really. Give a damn about factions? Nope. The ship? Bleh.

Replayed PS:T a few months back, and what a difference. Story, setting and writing that just instantly grabs you, from the second you wake up in the mortuary. Almost every location manages to be memorable. I can hardly remember a single location from PoE2. Just an endless assortment of islands.

Also never been a fan of RtwP. Hated it in Baldur's Gate too. Turn based is so, so much better when done properly.
 
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16. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 20:03 Verno
 
The second game was pretty good overall but suffered from pacing issues more than anything else. It also had a really weird split narrative where you're chasing after Eothas but they also want you to explore the various shitty factions and do their stories. They really needed to just focus on one of those things for the core story. They wasted a ridiculous amount of time and resources on the sailing minigame which was puddle deep and frankly annoying. Finally the Unity engine just made everything feel a bit bolted together and unoptimized.

The first game was a bit of a letdown in many respects so I think that automatically turned a lot of people off the sequel.
 
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15. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 17:18 jdreyer
 
Acleacius wrote on Nov 11, 2019, 17:02:
I don't really know if it's JS but since he took over development in NWN2 MOB there's been a death of humor at Obsidian. At least until The Outer Worlds led by Boyarsky and Cain showed up.
They were saving all of their best jokes for The Outer Worlds.
 
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14. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 17:02 Acleacius
 
I don't really know if it's JS but since he took over development in NWN2 MOB there's been a death of humor at Obsidian. At least until The Outer Worlds led by Boyarsky and Cain showed up.  
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13. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 16:54 jdreyer
 
Muscular Beaver wrote on Nov 11, 2019, 16:48:
I dont see an issue finding out what went wrong.
Go to Metacritic or Steam > bad user reviews

Several things come up again and again. Pretty straight forward.
This, although you run the risk of getting a vocal minority.
 
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12. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 16:50 Watter
 
I only recently tried PoE1. I really tried to get into it, and I can't put a pin into why, but I finally dropped it about 15 hours in. I just didn't look forward to coming back to it in the limited time I have for gaming. Now compare that to DOS2 which I just started and wow! I have to tear myself away from the game (despite really struggling to be successful in combat). It's just so clean and polished and, well, fun.

One thing I noticed right off after having tried PoE so recently was the simplicity of the character development models. Whenever I leveled up in PoE, I had no idea where to put points to actually make any difference; completely the opposite of DOS2 where it's blindingly obvious what a point in each of the different areas will help with.
 
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11. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 16:48 Muscular Beaver
 
I dont see an issue finding out what went wrong.
Go to Metacritic or Steam > bad user reviews

Several things come up again and again. Pretty straight forward.
 
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About to give up on waiting for BIS to come back to their senses and do a real ArmA 2 successor.
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10. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 16:20 CJ_Parker
 
I thoroughly enjoyed both games fully patched and with the expansions installed (I wouldn't play an incomplete Obsidian game). Finished them both with all add-ons and it was fucking epic.

For Deadfire I went with a turn-based playthrough for a change of scenery. It's not perfect and the game had some lengths (especially the combat-heavy DLC) but it was still a great experience.
I'm more a fan of the exploration, story, characters, character progression, quests than the combat though. The game really delivered in that regard. It was lots of fun to just sail around and explore the Deadfire Archipelago.
The main plot itself wasn't too great but the peripheral quests involving the factions were interesting enough. The story DLCs were awesome, too (Forgotten Sanctum and Beast of Winter).

To me, Deadfire was superior to the first game in almost all categories. It is certainly a shame that it did not sell at least equally well as part one. I would love to see a conclusion of the story of The Watcher. It would be another great reason to hate Microsoft's fucking guts if they do not fucking greenlight a third game pronto. Those fuckers!
 
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9. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 15:17 eRe4s3r
 
mirthy wrote on Nov 11, 2019, 15:10:
eRe4s3r wrote on Nov 11, 2019, 12:12:
And speaking of Pathfinder, that game is a total shit-show in combat unless you install the turn based mod, and what a HUGE difference and improvement that is.. my goodness.

Holy cow! There's a turn based mod? I'm playing through PF now. I'm enjoying it but it begs for turn based.

As for Outer Worlds. Despite ESG and the Windows store (that you can get it for $1 with the first month promo), rumors are that their sales are great!

As for Pillars II... Pillars 1 was so big that Pillars2 just seemed daunting to do over again (still on my list but probably after PF, and DoS 2, etc). It's a shame the title didn't do well. I think there's an abundance of good giant RPGs now. I think they just had too big of a play field to fight on.

Yeah, the PF turn based combat mod is what turned this from a negative to a positive review for me.

https://www.nexusmods.com/pathfinderkingmaker/mods/109

I can't even properly formulate what a massive improvement that mod is.
 
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8. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 15:10 mirthy
 
eRe4s3r wrote on Nov 11, 2019, 12:12:
And speaking of Pathfinder, that game is a total shit-show in combat unless you install the turn based mod, and what a HUGE difference and improvement that is.. my goodness.

Holy cow! There's a turn based mod? I'm playing through PF now. I'm enjoying it but it begs for turn based.

As for Outer Worlds. Despite ESG and the Windows store (that you can get it for $1 with the first month promo), rumors are that their sales are great!

As for Pillars II... Pillars 1 was so big that Pillars2 just seemed daunting to do over again (still on my list but probably after PF, and DoS 2, etc). It's a shame the title didn't do well. I think there's an abundance of good giant RPGs now. I think they just had too big of a play field to fight on.
 
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7. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 15:10 MoreLuckThanSkill
 
As much as I loved PoEt 1 and 2, I completely understand them being squeamish about making a third game in the series.

I'm guessing we have a pretty good cross section of issues that led to poor sales in this thread; the setting, the patching that took at least a year, some people still hate RTwP, and for me personally for 2: the smaller party size!

Ideal Pillars 3 game for me: back on dry land, combat built around 8 player party size, for complex battles, stop following the Watcher if at all possible.

Really though, all my hopes are on BG3 for the next awesome party based RPG. Hopefully Obsidian has got some mental rest from isometric RPGs with Outer Worlds, and can take their time and maybe even do a new IP for their next party based rpg, or hell I'll even take a Tyranny universe game, just with 6+ party members.
 
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6. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 14:45 WaltC
 
I bought both games, but the problem with Pillars 2 was likely Pillars 1, in certain respects. Not only did it take ~6-9 months to finish Pillars 1 after the first installment shipped, but there was a lengthy period of patches that followed the completed game. Still, Pillars 1 seemed rough around the edges to me even after the final patch. Parts of the game played like a mod--and a not very good mod, either, imo. The various episodes/locales in the game did not flow--they were discordant and jarring, imo. On top of that, check the history of Pillars 2--which was also episodic, just like the first one, and also required substantial patching for a year. Finally, turn-based was put into the P2 game which imo greatly improved it--but it took a long time to get there!

Pillars 2 is the better game by far, imo. But it took so long to get there, and it was episodic in development, just like Pillars 1. I personally don't like episodic development, and so I waited until all three chapters in both games had been released before buying the complete games. And in Pillars 2, as I mentioned, the far-superior turn-based mode didn't make it until way late. The other problems with Pillars 2 were that early on the first episode of the game was horribly written--it was verbose in the extreme--there were basic mistakes made even in the game's introduction! Things like showing a graphical image of a little unimportant gnome in the introduction and then having the narrator read a flowery description of that same face--were very poorly done. Eventually they fixed 90% of what was wrong in the original P2 introduction--but they didn't fix it all, I guess is the point.

Look at Outer Worlds...nice game--but restricted to EGS and the Microsoft store, exclusively--a turn-off to me--taking the EGS deal says to me that the publisher has no confidence in the game. Again, another false/bad start, although I think OW looks like a polished gem in comparison to how the P1 and P2 games initially shipped--especially P2. I think that Obsidian has really great game concepts--some of the best in the industry--but their distribution schemes are poor, as they are tied to the episodic nature of the Pillars releases--just a poor way to do it. First impressions are of critical importance for a game--and Pillars 2 massacred the first impressions of the game--and P2 could never overcome it.

Last, Obsidian is being short-sighted as well. Today, the really successful game devs keep on working for years on their IP because they know they can sell it far into the future--but not with a bunch of flaws and bugs, etc. Obsidian only actually got Pillars 2 shipshape after it had been shipping for more than year--and yet they seem ready to conclude it's a poor seller. Very short-sighted, self-limiting views, imo. You won't see CDPR or Larian with such views. Quite the contrary.

 
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5. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 13:40 aka_STEVE
 
I just didn't dig the pirates / ship setting of #2 , they should have stuck with the continuity from the 1st game. ...and it's not because I don't like Pirates or ships - I do - it just felt /looked too different .

 
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4. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 13:19 HorrorScope
 
I'm tired of the iso mechanics of RtwP and tiring of the iso rpg mechanics in general, but DOS does it so well that I still enjoy that one. The mechanics are getting to me.  
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3. Re: Obsidian: Pillars of Eternity III Uncertain, Would Require Changes Nov 11, 2019, 12:24 Frijoles
 
I enjoyed #1 well enough to get a good number of hours in it. Couldn't get in to #2, though. I've tried on three different occasions to play it, but could never last more than an hour or two. Just didn't care for the story or setting.

Looking forward to BG3 though.
 
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