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Project 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.
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.

Bringing Creatures to Life: Animation on Pillars of Eternity


Update by Rose Gomez, Associate Producer

Hello backers! After a successful week at GDC everyone is back in the office energized and inspired. This week we'll be taking a look at what the life of an animator is like on Pillars of Eternity, from what an average day looks like to how an animation goes from concept to being in the game.

In our next update, look forward to an update all about the audio design on Pillars of Eternity, featuring Justin Bell, our Audio Director.

As a reminder, the survey deadline has passed. If you still need to fill out your surveys, we encourage you to do so by going to the backer portal and completing your order. We will attempt to accommodate as many late surveys as we can, but we can't promise that the content will make it in to Pillars of Eternity. Late survey entries may have to go into a future Eternity product instead.

The animators gathering reference for a wild Xaurip attack.

The animators gathering reference for a wild Xaurip attack.

Average Day

Each day, our animators gather together in the lead animator's office to give an update on what they're working on. Any road blocks or challenges that an animator is running into can be brought up and the entire animation team can help to figure out a way around it. Everyone on the team tends to work very closely together. It's very rare for an animator to be working alone for the entire day. Most animators will collaborate and look for critique and feedback as they work so that they can make sure their animations look as good as possible.

Once everyone has been brought up to date with what the team is doing, the animators head back to their offices and begin to work. Many of our animators like to take reference of themselves acting out certain attacks, and it's not unusual to walk by an animators office and see them growling, snarling, and stalking around while they try to work something out. You can usually recognize an animator's office by the mountains of toy swords, shields, staffs, and guns they have lying around for any impromptu reference sessions that may come up. Once they've figured out how they want the animation to feel and look, they can sit down and really start animating.

Animators acting out Xaurip animations.

Animators acting out Xaurip animations.

The amount of time spent animating is smaller than one might think when compared to the time spent in iterations, adjustments, and actually successfully implementing the animations into the engine. When an animator feels like they have something ready for the game, the animations go into the game engine and off to the lead for review.


For Pillars of Eternity, there have been a variety of challenges our animators have come across. To begin with, this is the first project at Obsidian to use the Unity engine. It's always a challenge to learn a new engine for a project and to adjust to a new set of tools. While animating is animating regardless of the project, the availability of different tools can really make a difference to an animator's process.

Since Pillars of Eternity is designed from an isometric view, the animators need to stay aware of the locked camera at all times when animating. Characters are also relatively smaller on the screen than they would be in another type of game. This means that animators need to focus on stronger poses and broader movements than they would use on a game with a first person or third person camera. The motions of the animations have to have a strong silhouette from as many angles as possible so that they can be read clearly at a distance.

From Concept to Completion

A lot of work has to go into a creature or NPC before the animating even begins. Using the Druid Cat Form as an example, the pipeline begins with taking a look at the design documents to see what the designers have come up with as to how the creature should look and feel. What kind of attacks should he have? What mood should his walk and run animations portray? Once those things are decided, it moves onto the concept stage. When it comes to creatures, it's usually Polina who will take a crack at fleshing out what they are going to look like. You may remember the Cat Druid Form concept from a few updates ago, shown here again:

Druid Cat Form Concept.

Druid Cat Form Concept.

Once the concept is finished, that's when animation team comes in. The animator will consult with the designer and the concept artist in order to break down what specific animations need to be made for every creature. An animation list gets written up and saved while the creature is sent off to the character team to get modeled and skinned.

The character artist will block out and hook up the model in the engine so that we can take a look and see if any new systems need to be implemented for this creature. Maybe we want him to have a special ability that hasn't been designed yet, like a transformation between one form to another. That's when a programmer would step in to help design a way to make those special systems work.

With the systems in place, the animators can finally begin to animate! Animating for a video game is a bit different than animating for a feature. Each action a character is going to use has to be broken into a separate animation so that the game engine can call on them when different criteria are met. Even simple things like a character's run and walk need to be planned out and separated into small individual animations. A typical full animation set can take up to a month (and for more difficult creatures, sometimes even two months) to implement. During the animation process, animators will work very closely with design to make sure that every creature looks and moves just like they envisioned.

Once all of the animations for the creature are blocked in, the animator can bring them into the engine and start seeing how they fit together in the actual game. There is a lot of back and forth between the animation package and the engine at this point in order to fine tune each animation. If the lead is happy with how an animation looks then the animator is done and can move on to the next creature on the list.

In-engine creature animations.

In-engine creature animations.


We have a bunch of new interviews and articles out on Newegg's new gaming site, GameCrate! GameCrate visited our offices in February for a behind the scenes tour of the studio and got to take a firsthand look at Pillars of Eternity. Take a look at their article, The Factory Level: Obsidian Entertainment to see what they experienced.

Check out what Josh had to say about the game in his interview here then take a look at an interview with Feargus here about the business side of Pillars of Eternity.

If you're in a hurry and want to get down to the quick details, check out their article 10 Pillars of Eternity Details We Picked Up During Our Tour of Obsidian Entertainment.

You can also check out their twitter account, @GameCrate, for updated news and articles about gaming.

Kickin' It Forward

Dwarven Forge Caverns

We love tabletop games at Obsidian, and what better way to bring your campaigns to life than with some awesome modular cavern sets? The guys over at Dwarven Forge are releasing a brand new set of modular cavern tiles crafted from their new unbreakable Dwarvenite material. They've got some really cool stretch goals to add even cooler pieces, including a Lava Cavern Add-On Pack. Check out their Kickstarter campaign here!

ARMing the Masses

Hey, guys. Brandon here.

Here at Obsidian, we know that DRM can be a touchy subject so we got together with our friends at Paradox to think of a better solution, because you know, rights need to be managed. What came out of those discussions is... the Pillars of Eternity A.R.M.


Pillars of Eternity A.R.M. (Analog Rights Management)

Much like the code wheels of old, players will be greeted with a large, glowing question rune on the title screen. In addition to the question rune, ten smaller runes will also be displayed. Players will then have to use the Pillars of Eternity A.R.M. code wheel to decode the question rune and select the properly revealed rune. It's fast and (somewhat) easy.

Be careful, though, because two incorrect selections in a row and your copy of Pillars of Eternity will become locked down for 72 hours while our customer service department investigates possible fraud.
April Fools'! As we said from the very beginning, Pillars of Eternity is, and always will be, DRM, and ARM, free.

That's it for now. Head over to our forums and let us know what you think of the update.

James Herbert, Jeff Szudzik, and 82 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Nicolas on April 15, 2014

      If there are no ARMs how will I hold my weapons? :-/ lol

    2. Missing avatar

      Scottish Dragon on April 8, 2014

      Aww... I would kind of want the ARM type thing.
      Maybe a device in game like others have mentioned?
      Perhaps a coded lock on a vault or something.

    3. Silver on April 4, 2014

      Night of the Cat Druids inc.

    4. BIG bad Bull on April 4, 2014

      Damn aprils fools;
      this was the first time I've wanted to have a ARM :(

    5. Dirk Schlobinski on April 4, 2014

      Interesting update. Thanks!
      That A.R.M. would have been a great incitement for me to get a physical copy ^^

    6. Lastan, The Penultimate Castoff on April 3, 2014

      I expect we'll see the ARM in the game, along with another artifact, called the LEG. And then we'll have to trade them both for something else.

    7. Theobeau:OOoE\Mad man with a box/Exiled on April 3, 2014

      As usual, a very informative update.

      However like many, many other backers, where is my code wheel?!

    8. Olna Jenn Smith
      on April 3, 2014

      ...but now I want a code wheel. Dammit.

    9. Missing avatar

      someone on April 2, 2014

      I miss code wheels.

    10. Jeremy The Jinx on April 2, 2014

      They should hide the ARM wheel in the game, give it some odd ability

    11. Missing avatar

      Fry on April 2, 2014

      @Bryce Haha... geez. It's sad that so many people, even for a minute, thought they were serious about the code wheel. Zero trust in this industry. Not surprising, I guess, but come on people. Obsidian has said over and over that there will be no DRM - with the exception of Steam for those who choose it.

    12. Missing avatar

      Greenfr0G on April 2, 2014

      Nice update, I always wait for updates from you, guys.
      Animations looks really nice and you scared me with that ARM thingy, until I realized it was an April joke! Phew!

    13. Missing avatar

      Chaos49 on April 2, 2014

      please make the code weel do some magic, its uber cool

    14. Missing avatar

      Bryce on April 2, 2014

      DRM free is great, but let us know about the box copies for backers. I want something like the BG2 box (not a dvd case) please. The $40 extra I dropped won't be worth it for a dvd case. :/

    15. Mark on April 2, 2014

      April fools? NOOOOO You have to do this, it's awesome!

    16. Arvid Granat on April 2, 2014

      Yeah, that ARM thing sure fooled me. Now I also want it to be some kind of in-game item! Liking the animations! Can we have some more of Polinas concept art, too? That's some good stuff right there!

    17. Jeremie Lariviere
      on April 2, 2014

      Lots of details there, and a scary april fools...

    18. Willem on April 2, 2014

      Animations look very good on the video. I especially approve of the zombie model, very detailed and well animated. Keep up the great work guys!

    19. T.J. Brumfield on April 2, 2014

      I was having flashbacks to my Starflight code wheel.

      BTW, there are only 6 days left to get Founder rewards with Shroud of the Avatar. You need an existing founder (like myself) to gift you a Founder pledge. You'll save money and get bonus rewards. If you're interested, send me an email at enderandrew (at) gmail (dot) com.

    20. Missing avatar

      Jon Austenaa on April 2, 2014

      I wonder how the keyframing is, or what it is called. Do you lock animations at 30 or 60 keframes a second to mach fps, or does unity interpolate the movements?

      I ask since I find movements and action in some games not as smooth as they can be on 120 and 144hz monitors. Proper interpolated movementsare easier to follow and enjoy on a 120hz display :-)

    21. Daniel M
      on April 2, 2014

      Daily meetings, roadblocks... Sounds like you guys are using Agile.

    22. Nicholas Russell on April 2, 2014

      Nice update. I know how versatile Unity is when it comes to importing from other programs so I was wondering which animation software you guys are using.

    23. ET3D on April 2, 2014

      The ARM looks awesome!

    24. gandalf.nho
      on April 2, 2014

      Nice joke, will love to see the ARM as an in-game easter-egg

    25. LuckyLuigi on April 2, 2014

      That code wheel :)

    26. Vince Vazquez
      on April 2, 2014

      Ha! Love it! I do animation too, and one of the best parts is getting to act out stuff and just act like a goon sometimes :P

      I love how you guys have that perfect view from your second story(?) window to record this kind of stuff. Must really come in handy when it comes to capturing what things should look like for an isometric RPG like this. I also envy your daily animation meetings, because as a freelancer currently, it sucks having to figure stuff out by myself or through email or chat correspondence.

      Looking great guys! Glad to her Obsidian just keeps rolling along and aren't resting one bit after shipping South Park - you're best game yet!

    27. Missing avatar

      ralf wagenleitner on April 2, 2014

      LooooooooooooooooL! Great guys!

    28. Fragga - Judicator of the Obsidian Order on April 2, 2014

      I want one too ... reminds me of the good old Times like the Rest of the Game :)

    29. tarasis on April 2, 2014

      I want an A.R.M. Now too

    30. Missing avatar

      elfkerben on April 2, 2014

      Merci for the update.

    31. Jo-Herman Haugholt
      on April 2, 2014

      Now I want that ARM. It hit right in the nostalgia, and looks pretty dang cool. Sure, it would be tiresome to actually use each time you launch the game, but would be a nifty easter egg.

    32. Peter Kocurek on April 2, 2014

      But... what if I want that cool code wheel prototype? :) Nice collector item.

    33. Sordel on April 2, 2014

      lol ... 'got me'. I was thinking 'that sounds kind of cool, but what a p. in the a. every time I start up a game!'

    34. Jarrah on April 2, 2014

      I forgot it was still 1 April over there in the US. It's a lot easier to be fooled when the jokes come out on the 2nd.

      Love the code wheel, but glad I won't need to jump through hoops to get the game to run.

    35. Missing avatar

      Morten Aasestrand on April 2, 2014

      Makes me think of Curse of the Azure Bonds. (Best RPG ever btw)
      They had a wheel like that.
      Copyright Protection -89 style!

    36. Missing avatar

      trueplayer on April 2, 2014

      Code wheel? YES PLEASE!

    37. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on April 2, 2014

      @Obsidian - when will the funcionality be implemented on the backer-site so i can upgrade my pledge?

    38. Missing avatar

      majutsushi on April 2, 2014

      A farewell to ARMs, I guess.

    39. Gavin Reading Rainbow KS backer! on April 2, 2014

      I'LL PAY YOU $10,000 FOR THAT CODE WHEEL!!!!!!1!!!

      Seriously, that is F'ing DRIPPING with F'ing awesomeness! You realize that you must now include an ARM encounter in the game somewhere with a variety of moral choices should the player decide to intervene! And that code wheel needs to be a drop from that encounter!

      Also, the animation is EPIC. And that video of the in-game animation is pretty good, too. ;) I will have to tape my jaw in place when I play this game, won't I?


    40. dungeoncrawl on April 1, 2014

      I had forgotten all about the crazy code wheels of old. You just brought back all kinds of memories.

    41. Anders Öhman on April 1, 2014

      Awwww, I wanted that A.R.M. wheel. :(

    42. Missing avatar

      Steven Nelson on April 1, 2014

      Totally cool with ARM. Except for the 72 hour lockout, of course. But the codewheel? Looks awesome.

    43. Missing avatar

      Jon Oden on April 1, 2014

      Must...have..code..wheel... muuuuuuustt

    44. Mark Sherman on April 1, 2014

      echoing some of the sentiment here, I would pay real money for that code wheel. I mean, I don't want it locking me out of the game, but that knick-knack is gloriously nostalgic.

    45. Missing avatar

      on April 1, 2014

      Nice update, guys, thanks for sharing all the stuff about how games are made!
      And thanks for the warning, I'm going to have to dig up my rune keyboard before this comes out (what was I thinking sticking it in a box?).

    46. alcaray on April 1, 2014

      An ARM wheel would make a cool add-on.

    47. fredgiblet on April 1, 2014

      Too bad it's too late to add the code wheels in as purchasable. Reminds me of having a sheet of paper next to the computer with the passwords for Wordtris (I think).

    48. Aaron on April 1, 2014

      getting all SSI Curse of the Azure bonds with the dethek code wheels and ish... lol ;)

    49. Daniel Sobral on April 1, 2014

      I'm old school... I *had* code wheels, and a code wheel like that, in plastic, 3d with vivid colors... man, it would almost be worth having DRM to get it! :)