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Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
73,986 backers pledged $3,986,929 to help bring this project to life.

Update #46: How (Proto-)Typical

Posted by Obsidian Entertainment (Creator)

Update by Darren Monahan, dinosaur fan

Yep, you've seen this before - but not animating!

In this week’s update, we’re back with me for one more! We’ll cover what the team’s up to currently.

To start, every one of Obsidian’s games goes through a series of phases. Those phases, chronologically, are: Prototype, Vertical Slice, Production, and Finalization. At the end of each phase, the team and owners do an analysis of the progress; we verify that we’ve hit key goals, and (hopefully) officially move the project into the next phase.


So where are we at on Project Eternity?

We’re coming to the end of the Prototype phase. While you might think of a prototype as something you would consider before making a game, in our case, we use the term to mean a demonstration of the game that, when successful, demonstrates the game’s vision (AKA “pillars”) and concept. For Eternity, one of our biggest pillars is to recreate the Infinity Engine experience. To that end, we need to have a number of key things in place to make sure our prototype is a success. Things like:

  • Character movement and combat. We want to make sure we have a party of up to six characters, each of whom can be moved independently and/or as a group, which does then imply rudimentary support for formations as well as NPC and basic creature AI. Basic AI meaning to ‘see’ the characters, face them, and then move to them and start attacking. This also means we need character models that have enough animations to demonstrate this convincingly, as well as at least one monster. For our prototype demo, we have one known only as “Chompy” for now. More on him (or her?!) in future updates!
  • Basic RPG mechanics. We need to prove that we’re making an RPG here obviously! We need basics like loot management; for instance, inventory and opening containers like chests. We need basic conversations and quest giving, including receiving a quest, tracking its progress, and then providing a reward for it being completed.
  • Environments. We want to have a working outdoor area as well as a tileset-based interior that the player can move between and throughout. This makes us prove out area transitions too (I can hear it now, “YOU MUST GATHER YOUR PARTY BEFORE VENTURING FORTH...”)

For our outdoor area (see screenshot above), we’re bringing life to it by not only building out the rest of the level, but getting our technological solutions in place. We have a working waterfall now, with moving water, replete with foam around the rocks(!) and more.

Eeeert (sound of a record scratching…)! Wait, tilesets, Darren? What?
Believe it or not, a lot of the areas in IE games were actually assembled through tile pieces (granted, outside the game in 3D art packages), and then were beautified by hand to give them a more organic look and feel. This tradition carries on with Eternity.

Work in Progress Concept of an Interior

Our next phase of the project is called the Vertical Slice. At Obsidian, this is the phase right before Production. In Vertical Slice, we try to do two things:

  • Get Ready for Production. During Vertical Slice and definitely up into Production is when the team size grows. Early on, we’re getting all of our tools and processes designed, programmed, and with luck, polished up for our designers and artists to hit the ground running. Unity has been a dream for our developers so far, and it’s been easy for us to bring over our latest tools from other games for things like text and conversation management.
  • Produce a Final “Slice” of Gameplay. We also try to develop a ‘final slice’ of gameplay. It’s generally a short, maybe 5-15 minute demo that demonstrates all of the core pillars of the game, as well as taken to what we’re aiming for at a final quality level in terms of visuals, audio, and presentation. During our Prototype we try to make stuff look great, but it’s secondary to form and feel.

So, how are we doing?

Well, we are absolutely trucking along. We’ve recently added several new concept artists to the team, two longtime Obsidian designers have also come on board (more on them later!), and we are hiring for other positions too. The team all has their heads down pushing forward for our prototype review.

Fear... of the Dark

Periodically throughout the rest of the project, we’ll have a number of weeks where we’ll ‘be dark’ (or rather more succinctly, "won't have an update" :)) due to a variety of reasons, and next week is one of those instances. Don’t worry though, we will most certainly be working on the game, but we want to always make sure we’ve got cool stuff lined up for you, and our Prototype final is something we all want to keep focused on.

When we’re back the following week (3/26), we’ll start a series of fresh new updates from Josh, Rob and the Art team, Adam, me, and more Let’s Play Arcanum with Chris Avellone. You might meet a few new team members, and maybe even hear from George again soon too.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

-Darren and the PE Team

Let us know what you think! Discuss this update on our forums


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    1. Porcupine on

      Seeing the lack of any official follow-up on this, as a form of service to those that are still wondering about the frozen waterfall - apparently all they meant was that the water you see was animating (as opposed to being statically painted into the picture) when that screenshot was taken, nothing more.

      Additionally, on the forums they promised a video update that would show off this sort of stuff, soon(ish).

    2. Jessica on

      By the way, is it still possible to add to my Kickstarter donation through paypal (I know the crowdfunding phase ended quite a while ago, but still)? Would it still count?

    3. Michael Stockwell on

      Confused, supposed to be a link to something animating?

    4. Nick J. on

      @Zan Lynx

      With the way they are doing Baldur's Gate style pre-rendered outdoor areas and a tileset based interior, there is no way they could do this without area transitions. It would all have to be built the same way to remove area transitions

    5. William Henry Grant Johnson on

      Do you guys think you can release some of your unity tools to the unity store? You know...maybe give back to the community a bit...that'd be super awesome...

    6. Jonny Hurtig

      @Corey Try typing "Specan Heafod Abraxas", served me well in the past to animate inanimate objects :)
      I guess they forgot to post the animated version of it, would have been nice to see it in all its glory

    7. Zan Lynx on

      For area transisions I hope that you consider not having them. They aren't horrible in a game but Dungeon Siege showed us they aren't needed at all.

      And with multicore CPUs and 8 GB of RAM being almost standard these days surely a core or two and a couple of GB of RAM can be loading the next area before you get to it and have it ready to go transparently.

    8. Corey on

      @Paul Marzagalli, I'm with you. I want to explore what's across the river. Or better yet, have my horse sprint-n-jump over the broken bridge to see what's behind door number 2. There are mounts, right? :D

      BTW, whats the magic word to make it animate?

    9. Paul Marzagalli on

      This is going to sound strange, but every time I see that one screenshot, I'm less interested in going in the beckoning cave and more interested in crossing the stream and going up the path and off-screen stage right to see what's further in the forest!

    10. Porcupine on

      Is there an invisible dragon frolicking in that animated water too by any chance...? Just so we know what else to imagine onto it, of course...

    11. Silver on

      Nice update - thanks for giving an advance notice about the "dark" weeks as well.

    12. Raufgar on

      Nice Update, hope to see more soon. No worries guys, we're still going to be here, so carry on making magic!

    13. Missing avatar

      Lywald on

      Good stuff. It's perfect, informative and exactly what I want.
      I like the "pillars" you're using. Obsidian is really the best for RPGs.
      You have passion and care about what you create, not just money.
      Like true artists.

    14. gandalf.nho

      Nice update, but I want also to see the animated scene

    15. Jhonrock on

      @Karchen, yeah man, Obsidian rlz! Their constant updates are the best. I really like how they communicate with us, and how often. Never saw a KS project with this level of interactivity.

    16. Guerric Haché

      Chompy is my cat's name! How awesome.

    17. Missing avatar

      Faark on

      So where is that flowing water!?

    18. karlchen on

      while I think your game (and this KS-Project) is very important and I'm looking excited forward to the release, my "home genre" is Space(Action)Sim. Due to this my favorite KS-Projects (where I'm in) are Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous.

      But I want you to know that your Update-Behaviour and the Communication itself is by far the best! Even Chris Roberts with it's huge Homepage, Fan-Area, Forum etc. etc. can't beat it.

      You are my most positive example how to do a kickstarter project!

      Keep up the good work! It's always a pleasure to read your updates!!!

    19. Robcat on

      @ Daniel - Hahaha oh that's gold, ahh the memories :-)

    20. Adrià Amor on

      Excelent info, please post the waterfall animation :3!!

    21. Tomimt on

      Sooo... should there be animated version of that waterfall in this post?

    22. Missing avatar

      Endyo on

      And I still haven't seen it animating...

    23. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on

      ze picture... zere is no animation in ze picture...

    24. Theobeau:OOoE\Mad man with a box/Exiled on

      Thanks for the reg. updates and fascinating insights into the design of a great game.

      Can't wait to see chompy....sounds dino?!

    25. ryukenden on

      The screenshot not animating! :(((((((((((( <-- sad face.

    26. Zombra on

      Yeah, "YOU MUST GATHER YOUR PARTY" is part of the Infinity experience I can live without ... for Eternity.

    27. Missing avatar

      gi_ty on

      Thanks for the update love seeing the progress on this.

    28. Don Reba on

      > Yep, you've seen this before - but not animating!

      As true today as it was when it was written.

    29. Riggo on

      Pretty picture! ;-)

    30. joedpa82 on

      When this game comes out i will weep tears of joy. And probably sacrifice a goat or two.

    31. Christopher Wolfe on

      I must not have played the games enough times, but I have a special place in my heart for hearing Kevin Richardson saying that line. Kinda like how Uber got John Patrick Lowrie to narrate their kickstarter for Planetary Annihilation, I think Project Eternity should have Kevin Richardson in some role or other.

    32. Wojciech on

      Nice little update, please teach Chris how to use world map.

    33. Missing avatar

      Daniel Beecham on

      Obviously the animation on that picture WAS WAYLAID BY ENEMIES AND MUST DEFEND ITSELF.

    34. Chad Smith

      @Derek - exactly... Also +1 Frank.

      Weekly updates are not a must - but continued updates (as in, "Don't go dark for too long") would be appreciated.

    35. light487 - Kickstarter Junkie on

      Yeh.. uhm.. where is the animation?? I assume you meant to link an animated GIF there but instead we got a JPG....

    36. Jessica Williams on

      If I hear You must gather your party before venturing forth one more time... e_e

    37. Chris Shannon on

      I love "YOU MUST GATHER YOUR PARTY BEFORE ADVENTURING FORTH." Project Infinity should totally have a similar voice clip.

    38. LordCrash on

      Come on, let us actually see the animating scene(s)..... ;)

    39. Missing avatar

      Taziar on

      "Yep, you've seen this before - but not animating!"

      And .... I still haven't.

    40. Frank on

      I like that "be dark" is actually the more succinct phrase. :)