Site hosted by Sorcerer\'s Place

Terra Arcanum
the World of Troika Games
Arcanum ToEE VtMB Mystary!

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura
the Council the Library the Factory
Dungeons & Dragon: The Temple of Elemental Evil
the Temple the Athenaeum the Forge
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
the Family the Study the Workshop
Troika's next Project ~ Mystary!
the Speculation ??? ???
 
Pre-release information, FAQs and fan made content
UberFAQ - -
- -
- -
- -
In-game information, NPC stats and information, quest details and walkthroughs
- -
- -
- -
- -
Containing Modding Rersources, Downloads, Official and Unofficial patches
ToEE Patches - - Circle of Eight
- -
- -
- -
Reviews, interviews and screenshots
Bloodlines Review - -
Bloodlines Interview - Concept Art -
- Screenshots -
- -
Study
Containing Modding Rersources, Downloads, Official and Unofficial patches
VtMB Patches - - Unofficial Patch
- -
- -
- -
Here you'll find the scant information we know about this project.
 
Rumours, Speculation and Wild Guesses
There is currently no in-game information about this project.
There are currently no downloads or modding information for this project.

  NEWS | FORUMS | STAFF | IRC | LINKS | TROIKA GAMES
GALLERY | DOWNLOADS | TROIKAPEDIA | CONTACT US
 

Update #82: Creatures

Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:03 pm

Update by Rose Gomez, Associate Producer
 
Hello backers! In today's update, we'd like to show off a few of our creatures that you might have heard us talk about in previous updates. With the end of production getting closer every day, we have some news about our backer updates, and we’re also pleased to announce a date for the upcoming Backer Beta! In our next update, we’ll get into more detail about that.
First, let’s get to the creatures.
 
Blight

Image

Blights are lost souls or soul fragments that have bonded with elemental substances. They are often victims of natural disasters (floods, rock slides, forest fires, etc.). They are incoherent, confused, and full of rage, an amorphous cloud that swirls endlessly and with great violence. Within the vortex, dozens of humanoid shapes materialize and vanish from moment to moment. Faces scream in silent agony while hands desperately clutch and claw at their surroundings, as though still trying to escape their tragic fates.
 
Bîaŵacs, storms that can rip the soul out of a person’s body, often create blights. If souls are ripped free from their bodies and caught in the center of the storm, they may become stuck together and bonded with any other elemental substances in the maelstrom. They are pure chaos and confusion, and destroying them is considered by many to be a mercy to the souls trapped within them.
 
Blights have been the subject of controversial research carried out by the animancers of Eora. On the one hand, attempts at vivisection have led to promising strides in treating patients who, for one reason or another, contain within their bodies two or more complete souls fused together, which has been identified as the root cause of a variety of mental and physiological disorders. On the other, however, some groups lament that there is a lack of transparency on the methods being employed in these experiments, the general concerns being that these might be somehow inhumane or present some broader risk to the surrounding populace. There are also some who accuse animancers of deliberately trying to create blights for study, but the veracity of these claims is difficult to substantiate.
 
Xaurip
 
Image

This hairless humanoid is about the size of an orlan. It has an elongated snout and snake-like eyes, giving it a very reptilian appearance. Its legs end in three-toed feet, while its elongated arms end in three-fingered claws.
 
Xaurips adorn themselves with the bones of fallen enemies - mostly xaurips from rival tribes. They also have an affinity for large feathers, which they hang and pin to their attire. Skin tones can vary from light green, to a rustic brown. Their elongated snouts (which makes speech impossible) and overly-aggressive behavior have hindered them from communicating with the more civilized races of the world. They live in secluded, tribal territories and are known for ruthlessly attacking any foolish enough to cross their path.
 
Xaurips revere dragons as deities and build their communities around the lairs of these powerful creatures. It is not uncommon for a small tribe to wander until it has found a wurm to worship. Once a tribe dedicates itself to a dragon, they will defend it at all costs. Elaborate rituals, in which the dragon consumes xaurip sacrifices, are normal. As a dragon grows in age and size, these sacrifices become large religious events that cost the lives of hundreds of xaurips. The power and prestige of a xaurip tribe directly correlates with the age of its dragon. The most powerful tribes have existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Warriors and shamans of these large tribes typically paint their bodies to resemble their draconic overlord.
 
Vithrack
 
Image

Extremely rare, very dangerous creatures with natural cipher powers. They are mostly humanoid in shape, slightly taller and thinner than humans, but with horrific, fanged spider-like heads. Like spiders, they are capable of spinning silk, though they use it to make their own very intricate and fine robes. Males and females are indistinguishable from each other. They are primarily spellcasters and mental manipulators, like ciphers, though they will also attack with their fangs when forced into melee combat. Despite their extreme intelligence and power, vithrack are not a major force in the world due to their extremely low birth rates.
 
Given their arachnid appearance, it's no surprise that vithrack have traditionally used spiders as companions and minions. Though highly intelligent and socially organized, little is known about their culture as they are both hostile to outsiders and rare.
 
Their psionic powers allow them to communicate mentally with one another. Like many social insectoids, their society includes a variety of specific roles, including scouts and defenders. While their low birth rates are likely responsible for their hostility toward other races, they have also made the vithrack highly altruistic when it comes to their own kind. They will defend their nests to the death.
 
Update Schedule
 
Hey, everyone. Brandon here. With production moving into the finalization phase for Eternity, the team and I are hunkering down to finish up the game over the next few months. Going forward, we will be spacing out our backer updates a bit more from now until the project ships. They’ll come a bit less predictably, but you can still expect updates as we have big announcements or special news for you. This will really help us focus as much of our efforts into putting out the best game we possibly can for everyone.
 
In our next big update, we will discuss the upcoming Backer Beta in more detail as well as what it will entail and how to redeem your copy.
 
Speaking of the Backer Beta...
 
Backer Beta
 
We will be releasing our Backer Beta on August 18th. As we mentioned above, we will get into all of the specifics about the Backer Beta in our next update. Be on the lookout for it over the next month.
 
Documentary Reward
 
We also wanted to let all of our backers know about a decision we'd recently come to about our Documentary DVD/Bluray item. We were faced with a bit of a dilemma when it came to the full documentary footage. In order to provide a physical copy of the documentary when the game shipped, we would be unable to show the final leg of production in order to have time to print all of the discs and packaging. We want our backers to be able to share the entire experience of making this game with us - from the earliest beginnings to the very end. To do this, we've decided to forgo making a physical copy of the documentary, and will instead release a digital downloadable extended version. We recognize that some of you may be upset by this decision, but we hope that you'll understand our reasoning.
 
We will be replacing the DVD/Blu-ray with another reward though. Stay tuned for a future update to find out all of the particulars.
 
That's it for this update, head over to our forums and let us know what you think.

Posted by Dark Elf
4 comments.


Pillars of Eternity - Angry Review

Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:20 pm

Posted by Dark Elf
2 comments.


The Escapist on Pillars of Eternity

Fri Jun 27, 2014 7:56 pm

The Escapist has written an article on their E3 impressions of PoE.

Arcanum, Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale - the games we love and cherish all employed isometric view, and of course Pillars of Eternity does the same. It's just not the view that is similar to BG though, which the Escapist points out:

Quote:
The short demo was impressive, and immediately upon seeing the opening sequence, memories of Baldur's Gate came flooding back. While the isometric view was part of that, the art and Infinity-engine style - down to the movement cursor and colored circles around characters and enemies - was strikingly similar, and that's not a bad thing.


Image

The game apparently starts out with a classic whodunnit scenario, and I gather the big question at the beginning of the game is just who attacked your caravan, just like you're asking who caught you for what reason in BG2, and who stole the Waterdhavian creatures in Neverwinter Nights.

Quote:
The story, or as much as we got of it, begins with your character joining a caravan, which eventually stops for the night. When a runner sent out to get supplies fails to return, you and a companion are sent to find him. You find him dead, which gives you pause to check the safety of the caravan, but you return to find almost all of them dead as well. The caravan quartermaster still lives and he joins your party.


Image

One thing that never sat well with me was the artificial class restrictions on equipment imposed by some (usually older) games. I get that a wizard may not have equivable training with a longsword compared to a fighter, but lacking training shouldn't mean you're physically incapable of grasping the hilt.
Also, there is no charisma stat in this game. Whilst I was initially shocked, it seems that they are going for a more reputation/choice based system of dialogue and quite frankly I like the sound of that. Ask yourself; why should a fighter be less suave than a rogue in dialogue? What success in dialogue comes down to in the end is things like experience, maturity, the recipient's disposition towards you and the aura of respect you command; it's not like being able to skulk in the shadows gives you the upper hand here.


Quote:
That brief snippet of story showed off a bit of the new Pillars rule system for classes, which doesn't confine a class to specific weapons or armor types. We saw a mage in heavy armor still casting spells unencumbered. We also got a bit of insight into the character creation process, and how a character can evolve during gameplay.

"You will have an opportunity to use some of your skills in dialogue as well as combat," Brennecke said. "The answers you give can change your reputation with people and be save as part of your character's history."



I just have to reiterate how much I am looking forward to this game.

Read the full article here.

Posted by Dark Elf
0 comments.


Update #81: The Front Line: Fighters and Barbarians

Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:03 pm

Update by Josh Sawyer, Project Director

 
In this, our final class update, we will be discussing fighters and barbarians. Along with the wily, pain-powered monks (covered in Update 52), these three classes form the front line. The front line defines the heart of any battle, where two sides tangle face-to-face. The responsibility of the front line is more than simply dealing damage. It means holding the line no matter what tries to break through. If the party rogue needs a breather, the characters in the front line need to be able to cover her retreat. If a swarm of xaurips descends on the group after the wizard hurls his fireball, the front line needs to be able to neutralize them en masse or absorb their attacks before they overwhelm the entire party. Designed to take punishment and tackle hordes, the front line are the first in and, more often than not, the last standing in any battle. Next update will focus on some brand new creatures that we haven't shown yet, so be on the lookout.
 
Each class holds the line in its own way. As covered in Update 52, the monk absorbs damage to fuel special attacks through the use of accumulated Wounds. These attacks can stun, push, or weaken individuals or small groups around them. While monks have to be monitored to ensure their Wounds do not overwhelm them, they can absorb a large amount of punishment and hamper enemy movement on the battlefield. In contrast, the fighter holds the line the traditional way: by standing her ground, blocking opponents, and being infuriatingly difficult to knock out. Barbarians are designed to jump into the fray swinging wildly. Lacking the accuracy and strong Deflection of the fighter, the barbarian makes up for his lack of discipline through sheer speed, savagery, and abilities tailored for fighting groups of enemies. We've already covered the monk's Wounds and how they play into their use, but the other two front line classes differ in how they stem the enemy tide and how players monitor and use them over the course of combat. To show you how they differ, let's look at the details.
 
Image
 
If one of Pillars of Eternity's eleven classes is the rock (we'll skip the obvious "pillar" joke), it's the fighter. All across Eora, fighters are known for their discipline, skill, and durability. In the Eastern Reach, they are often employed as caravan guards, soldiers, and personal bodyguards. Accustomed as they are to long marches, strange places, and life on the road, all fighters gain a minor skill bonus to Athletics, Lore, and Survival.
 
In combat, fighters are steadfast and stalwart. Even novice fighters enjoy the highest base Deflection defense of any class and the ability to passively recover a small amount of Stamina every second. As the levels rise, fighters gain access to weapon specialization, modestly increasing their overall damage for all weapons in a specific category. These categories are broader than they were in the Infinity Engine games. E.g. the Knight category covers battle axes, swords, morning stars, crossbows, and war bows. The Peasant category includes hatchets, spears, quarterstaves, hunting bows, and blunderbusses. The selections are designed to cover a variety of damage types, to include one- and two-handed options, and to always feature at least one ranged weapon. At even higher levels, fighters gain abilities to recover Stamina immediately after being wounded, to protect nearby allies from incoming attacks, to knock down groups of enemies, and even to yank enemy passersby into the fray. Overall, fighters are designed to be low-maintenance, reliable, and long-lived even in marathon battles. Here are more detailed descriptions of some of the fighters' abilities:
 


  • Defender (Modal) - Allows the fighter to trigger Melee Engagement on up to three enemies and increases the fighter's Deflection. While active, the fighter's attack rate is reduced.

  • Vigorous Defense (Active) - Dramatically increases all defenses for the fighter for a short period of time. 1/encounter.

  • Unbending (Active) - For a moderate time, the fighter will recover 50% of lost Stamina from an attack over the 5 seconds following it. This has no effect on the amount of Health lost and does not prevent the fighter from being knocked unconscious from a temporary dip in Stamina from a strong attack. 3/rest.

  • Confident Aim - 20% of a fighter's Grazes are converted to Hits. Additionally, the minimum damage for any melee weapon they use is increased by 25% of the range between the minimum and maximum.

  • Critical Defense - 20% of all incoming Crits against a fighter are converted to Hits.

  • Crippling Guard - When a fighter Hits or Crits with a Disengagement Attack, the target is automatically Hobbled for a brief duration.

  • Unbroken (Active) - This ability can only be activated when the fighter is at 0 Stamina. When used, the fighter will stand back up with 50% of her Stamina. For a short while, her defenses and Damage Threshold are both increased. 1/rest.


 
A QA (Quality Assurance) favorite at Obsidian, barbarians are the wild, unconventional counterparts to fighters. Barbarians need not be from the "hinterlands" of Eora, though the vast majority are. In the Eastern Reach, barbarians most often come from Eir Glanfath, though some can be found in rural Dyrwoodan communities or drifting in from abroad through port cities like Defiance Bay and New Heomar. Barbarians are often used as shock troops for dealing with mobs or simply to intimidate the easily-cowed with their ferocity. As the Dyrwood has settled down over time, the regular employment of foreign barbarians has slowed significantly, but they still make up the majority of Glanfathan front-line forces. Barbarians all have a strong skill focus in Athletics and lesser focus in Survival.
 
Image
 
While fighters rely on disciplined adherence to proven combat techniques to weather difficult battles, barbarians charge furiously into melee and wreak enormous damage to everyone around them. Barbarians are relatively inaccurate, but every melee attack they make gives them an opportunity to strike out at bystanders. Barbarians have the highest Health and Stamina of all classes, which they need given their low Deflection -- a defense that suffers additional penalties when the barbarian frenzies. A barbarian's Frenzy is one of his most valuable tools, allowing him to dramatically increase his damage output and Stamina for a short period of time. However, in addition to suffering penalties to Deflection, the barbarian's Stamina and Health meters are obscured for the duration. It's not uncommon for barbarians to suddenly drop unconscious -- or dead -- when their frenzies come to an end. Many of the barbarians' higher-level powers shine when they are surrounded by a throng of enemies, outnumbered and often badly-wounded. Even so, they are designed to burn brightly and expire brilliantly in the unfortunate event that a battle drags on. Due to the nature of their abilities, barbarians are a higher-maintenance class than fighters.
 

  • Carnage - When barbarians hit with melee attacks, they automatically make reduced-damage attacks at all additional enemies within a short distance of the target.

  • Wild Sprint (Active) - The barbarian gains a large movement bonus that lasts a few seconds. While active, it allows the barbarian to ignore the stop effect from Engagement as well as the hit reaction from an Engagement Hit. Additionally, his Deflection is reduced during the sprint. 3/rest.

  • Blooded - When a barbarian falls below 50% Stamina, he gains a bonus to damage for as long as his Stamina is below 50%.

  • Thick-Skinned - Allows the barbarian to take only 1 Health damage per 8 Stamina damage received, instead of the normal 1 per 4 ratio.

  • Brute Force - When finesse fails, barbarians rely on brute force. On any attack that normally targets Deflection, the barbarian will automatically target the enemy's Fortitude if it is the lower defense.

  • One Stands Alone - When barbarians are Engaged by two or more enemies, they gains a bonus to melee damage. They cannot be Flanked unless they are Engaged by more than three enemies.

  • Vengeful Defeat - When barbarians are reduced to 0 Stamina and have melee weapons equipped, they immediately make instant Carnage attacks at every enemy around them. 1/encounter.

  • Heart of Fury (Active) - In a blur of movement, the barbarian performs a melee attack with each equipped weapon at every enemy within 2m. Each attack does increased damage and Carnage applies. 1/rest.


 
Our take on the traditional front line classes attempts to capture the spirit of their Infinity Engine predecessors while introducing some interesting and fun differences for players to experiment with. We hope that you've enjoyed this and all of our other class updates. More importantly, we hope that you enjoy making all the parties you can imagine when the game comes out. As always, let us know what you think in our forums. Thanks for reading.
 

 
 
Eternity at E3
 
Hey, everyone. This is Brandon Adler. I just wanted to give you a quick update about our E3 presentation.
 
Everything went really well and the game was well received by the gaming press. We gave short ten to fifteen minute demos in which we showed off the first few areas and explained the basic concepts of the game. After the demo we had a quick question and answer session and gave any interviews that we could fit in before the next batch of journalists. All in all, it was a grueling, yet rewarding, experience.
 
Image

There have been some questions about why we chose to do a closed door demo for the press and have not released footage from the demo. While the demo looked great, there are still parts of the game that need more polish before we release videos to the public. In addition, a lot of the demo footage was filled with spoilers and we would like to show off portions that are less critical to the story. Look for a video that shows some non-spoiler, polished gameplay sometime in the next couple of months.
 
If you would like to learn more about the demo and what was shown, take a read through some of these great articles:
 

 
 
Kicking it Forward: Harbour
 
Image

Our friends at Tasty Minstrel Games have a new Kickstarter that needs your support. Harbour is a light-hearted fantasy board game where you and your friends play as ambitious entrepreneurs in a bustling port city. Play as one of the many colorful characters as you buy property, sell goods, manipulate market prices - and at times break the rules.

Posted by Dark Elf
0 comments.


PC World writes about E3 and Pillars of Eternity

Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:56 pm

Image

PC World wrote:
Pillars of Eternity
I can’t talk about what I saw of Pillars of Eternity at the show just yet, but I can say Obsidian’s spiritual successor to the old Infinity Engine games (Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment) is right near the top of my most-anticipated list. --Hayden

Seconded. Look for more details on PCWorld soon. --Brad


http://www.pcworld.com/article/2362964/ ... -2014.html

Posted by Dark Elf
2 comments.


Update 80: State of the Project - From Alpha to Beta

Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:34 pm

Update by Brandon Adler, Lead Producer
 
Image
 
Hey, everyone. Due to E3 crunch we are going to push off Josh's next class update for a couple of weeks. Instead, I will give an update about the general state of affairs for each department on the project now that we are getting ready to head into our Beta period. The next update will feature Josh's final class update along with info from the Eternity E3 presentation. Let's get into it.
 
Status
 
Area Design
 
All of the areas have been in the game for about a month now, and the area designers have been revisiting each area to make sure everything is in order. They're using specially crafted Alpha checklists to make sure that none of the major items are missed. For example, designers are checking that the area has a proper navigation mesh, ambient sound effects are placed, and scene transitions are working as intended.
 
Josh (Project Director) and Bobby (Area Design Lead) are heading up meetings to review all of the quests in the game. Each quest is played through by the team and analyzed. We ask basic questions like "Why is this quest fun?", "Does the player care about this quest?", and "What hooks the player into starting the quest?" If anything is lacking, the design team spruces the quest up to make it a memorable one.
 
Over the Beta period the designers will continue fixing bugs and polishing content.
 
Environment Art
 
Much like our area designers, our environment artists have been revisiting all of the areas of the game and performing their Alpha checklists to make sure all of the areas pass art Alpha. In addition to the checklists, they are performing polish work that had been identified previously by Bobby and Rob (Art Director) on areas.
 
Currently, the environment artists have done a pass on all of our critical path areas and they will be moving onto our side content once we enter Beta.
Take a look at one of the areas that has gone through Alpha polish without a paint-over pass:
 
Image
 
Systems Design
 
Now that our systems are all in place, Josh has been focused on balance and polish bugs that have piled up over the course of the project. For me, this is one of the more exciting times in the project because the game really starts to take shape and become fun.
 
Game balance will continue throughout our Beta period, right up to our release.
 
UI
 
Kaz (Concept and UI Artist) has been finishing up the last remaining UI screens. He is now working on Scripted Interaction images, icons, area paint-overs, and portraits and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.
 
Animation
 
The animation team has been wrapping up the last B priority items and will moving into full-time polish until the end of the project. B priority animations are things like special creature attacks, class-specific spell casts, or animations for minor creatures (animal critters, for example).
 
Once the animation team has finished up creating the animations, they will be focused on animation polish.
 
Character Art
 
Our character artists have completed all of the creatures and creature variants we planned for the game (and even a few that we hadn't planned on). They have also created all of the base weapon and armor variants, and now character art is focused on finishing up all of the unique armors and weapons.
 
Once they complete the last bit of gear, they will move onto creating a few additional head and hair variants for each race. Like the rest of the team, they will also be polishing content for the remainder of the project.
Have a peek at one of our unique armors:
 
Image
 
Narrative
 
The narrative team finished up the critical path a few weeks ago and now they have their focus on completing side content in our various regions. Eric (Lead Narrative Designer) has been tweaking and polishing the E3 demo areas, while Carrie (Narrative Designer) has been hard at work finishing up some of our companions. Narrative is also polishing up the areas that will be used in for our Backer Beta.
 
Over the next few months narrative will finish our companions, and we are going to start finalizing and locking down on the writing to prepare for localization and voice over.
 
Programming
 
At this point, the project is completely feature locked. The programmers are fully focused on fixing the mountain of bugs that have built up over the course of the project. There are still some items that need to be finished (installers, for example), but the majority of the work will be put towards fixing and polishing existing systems. This is where the build (that may have been unstable throughout development) really starts to come together.
 
VFX
 
The team is continuing to crank away at VFX. It is one of the areas of the game (along with narrative and audio) that are not at an Alpha level, which is intentional. The later on the project that you can bring the VFX team on, the lower the amount of rework that they will have to do on assets that may get changed.
 
We have added VFX on a little less than half of the spells and abilities, on all of our VFX creatures (creatures that are VFX driven instead of our normal creature pipeline), and on all of the critical path areas. We are scheduled to be finished with VFX in a couple of months.
 

 
Audio
 
Much like VFX, audio usually comes onto our projects a bit later than other departments. Many of our areas have had an ambience pass and are sounding really good. Same goes for our creatures - more and more of their SFX are being hooked up every day. We have also completed our initial pass on things like UI sounds, and very shortly, our audio team will create sounds for our spells and abilities.
 
Justin (Audio Director) has been working on finishing all of the music tracks for the game. In fact, he just finished composing our main theme.
 
Much like VFX, this audio team is scheduled to finish in a couple of months.
 
Overall
 
Overall, the project is coming together nicely. We have a ton of work that still needs to be done, but the team is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are no major roadblocks ahead of us at this point and now it's a focus on getting as much polish done as we can before our final release candidate.
 
That's it for this update. Let us know what you think in our forums.
 
Kickin' It Forward - Witchmarsh
 
Image

From time to time we like to spread the word about interesting Kickstarter Projects that catch our eye. This time around, it's a project called Witchmarsh - a story-driven action RPG set in 1920s Massachusetts with a supernatural flair. Here is a quick summary taken from their Kickstarter page:
 
"It's the Roaring Twenties! Join an unlikely team of detectives as they charge headlong into the darkest corners of rural America. Their mission: find and return twelve missing townsfolk who vanished under mysterious circumstances. A handsome reward is in store should they succeed, but with the supernatural lurking around every corner, will any of them live long enough to collect it?"
 
Take a look and if you like what you see, show them your support! There's only a short time left before their campaign ends.

Posted by Dark Elf
0 comments.


Update #79: Graphics and Rendering

Wed May 28, 2014 8:15 pm

Update by Adam Brennecke, Lead Programmer and Executive Producer
 
Over a year ago, in Update #49, we showed you the first movie of Pillars of Eternity. The movie showcased a beautiful scene in the Dyrwood complete with dynamic lighting, per-pixel occlusion, dynamic water and waterfall, and a day-night cycle. In this update I would like to give you an inside look on how these images are put together and rendered in the game, and I will cover new rendering features that we've added over the past year to address feedback from our backers about how our characters look in the scene. Warning: things might get technical!
 
E3
We are going to be going on update hiatus for the next three weeks as we prepare for E3 in Los Angeles. After E3, the next update will feature the final classes covering The Front Line (fighters and barbarians).
 
Image
 
At E3, the team will be showing Pillars of Eternity at the Paradox booth behind closed doors. To avoid spoiling what we will be showing, we will be saving these moments until you get to play it. Because we want to include you in the experience, we will be taking photos at the booth, and in a future update we will be sharing more screenshots from the demo. To give you a small taste, here's a sneak peek at a scene that will be shown at E3:
 
Image
 
Rendering Time
Backgrounds
 
Image

As we mentioned previously, our beautiful backgrounds are rendered out of Maya as a 2D image. They are very large images, sometimes over several gigabytes of raw data, and before the images get into the game we run a program that compresses the data. Maya renders out the backgrounds in four layers or "passes": final, depth, normal, and albedo. These passes are combined together in Unity for per-pixel occlusion of 3D objects, and for real-time dynamic lighting. When we bring the backgrounds into the game, they look like a flat 2D plane, and when viewed in Unity's editor the whole world has an awkward skewed look to it. The illusion comes together only when an orthographic camera is placed at the perfect angle.
 
Image
 
Characters
 
Next we overlay the 3D world on top of the 2D rendered image. The characters are dynamic 3D skinned meshes that are animated and then rendered into the scene with a variety of shaders and materials. Our default material that we use on most characters includes a normal map (adds tiny variations in surface detail), specular map (adds shininess), and an albedo map (adds the base color). The default material also supports a tint map, which allows our designers and you to customize the colors of armor, hair, and skin.
 
We have other shaders that can change the look and feel of characters. For example, we have a metal shader for armor that adds an extra level of shininess and can reflect the environment via an environment map. A Cloth shader removes the shininess, and allows the character artists to make outfits made up of cotton, wool, and satin. We have special materials, like an emissive shader that isn't affected by light, used for the fire-godlike, ghosts, spectres, and the windows seen in the screenshots and video.
 
Because the characters are 3D, they need to be lit differently than the background image. We use a system with two directional lights. The first directional light is the key light and typically matches the sun color and intensity in outdoor scenes, and this light can be modified by the day-night cycle to cast moonlight at night. The second directional light is used as a fill light to make sure the "back side" of a character isn't in total darkness. The two lights are adjusted per scene depending on the pre-rendered light settings to match the sun direction, mood, and desired atmosphere.
 
In addition to the directional lights, we use dynamic deferred lights that can affect the background and characters. For example, if a torch is placed in a scene, the torch can illuminate both the 2D environment and a 3D character standing nearby. In addition, deferred lights are used for spell effects; a fireball explosion emits a burst of light, brightening up a dark dungeon room.
 
Bringing it all together
 
We noticed, and so did many of you, after releasing our first few screenshots, the 3D characters were not matching the 2D rendered scene as much as we would have hoped. So we put our thinking caps on, and we came up with new features since our first batch of screenshots, including dynamic ambient and a shadow control system.
 
To really make sure the characters fit in the scene, we came up with an ambient system that samples color from the 2D background, simulating a quick and dirty global illumination model. Characters pick up subtle color variations depending on where they are standing and what type of environment they are in. If a character is standing in a lush green jungle, it will pick up a subtle green hue from the light reflected off the environment. Game programmers love fast and cheap methods, and the ambient system gives us great results with little impact on rendering performance.
 
Ambient before and after:
 
Image
Image

Another feature that we've added recently to solve the issue of grounding characters into the scene is a system to shadow 3D characters when traversing into dark shadowy areas in the 2D image. The new system samples a low resolution image map which controls the contribution of the directional sunlight on the character, and to avoid double shadows, the same image controls the value of the dynamic shadow map. Lastly, to better match the 2D and 3D shadows, we color the dynamic shadow to match the 2D rendered shadow color (which often has a blue hue to it).
 
Shadow Blending before and after:
 
Image
Image

To tie everything together, we can optionally add post process effects. In this scene, we've added a very subtle bloom effect that effects both the environment and characters.
 
I hope you didn't get lost in all the technical talk! The important thing is that we hope you like the end result. We are satisfied with where we are at, but we always have a few ideas on how to improve the look and quality of the graphics. Improving the look of the game will be an ongoing process until we ship... and beyond. If you have any questions, please ask in our forums! Thanks for reading.

Posted by Dark Elf
0 comments.


Update #78: The Leaders of the Band: Chanters and Priests

Fri May 16, 2014 6:47 pm

Update by Josh Sawyer, Project Director
 
For our third class update, we will be covering chanters and priests. Along with paladins (covered in Update 56), these classes provide parties with their core support bonuses and healing effects. Different games refer to these types of characters using different terms -- usually "leader" or "support" -- but at their core, they excel when they are providing assistance to their teammates. The benefits they provide to the group often outstrip the contributions of individual party members in the final tally, but their abilities must be used carefully to maximize their impact.
 
Our next update will be from Adam Brennecke. He has some great graphical enhancements to share that we hope you'll enjoy. After that, our final class update will be on The Front Line: fighters and barbarians.
 
All three of the leader classes have a balanced suite of offensive abilities and though there is overlap in the effects of their various support abilities, they differ significantly in how they are used. Paladins utilize persistent auras to provide strong bonuses to allies in their immediate vicinity and limited-use single-target commands to grant powerful buffs to individual teammates. Chanters' phrases create a rotating cycle of bonuses that shift over the course of combat, building up energy until they can utter powerful invocations. Priests are traditional casters, relying on large area of effect bonuses mixed with small area offensive spells to direct combat from afar.
 
Image
Kana Rua, a chanter.
 
Chanters are storytellers and repositories of ancient lore from myriad cultural traditions. They use these stories and legends to stir the memories of the dreaming lost souls and soul fragments that surround them. The spirits respond by creating magical effects, essentially playing their part in the recreation of the legends. In this way, chanters act as directors of supernatural actors playing out momentary plays for the chanter's benefit. Due to their heavy focus on folktales and storytelling, they have an inherent bonus to Lore. As explorers of many lost and forgotten vaults dating back to Eora's antiquity, chanters also have a bonus to Mechanics, helping them bypass tricky locks and traps.
 
To use their special kind of magic, chanters link together individual short phrases from different legends to create longer chants. The phrases have distinctive, thematically-appropriate effects that are of low power but can be applied while the chanter is engaged in other combat activities. As one phrase ends and another begins, the effects of the first phrase will linger, allowing multiple phrases to overlap with each other. Through the clever overlapping of phrases, chanters can grant their allies a sizable stack of minor bonuses.
 
But chanters aren't entirely about their passive phrases and chants. With each phrase that passes, chanters gain greater control over the spirits assisting them. When enough control is gained, chanters can direct them to perform a single powerful spell called an invocation. Invocations are often support-oriented, but some contain powerful offensive effects. Invocations are so powerful that they disrupt a chanter's chants, disabling their effects for several seconds until the chanter can recover.
 
While Eora's wizards are known for their "colorful" spell names, chanters' phrases are far more loquacious, often incorporating the entire spoken text of the phrase.
 
Sample chants:
 


  • Blessed Was Wengridh, Quickest of His Tribe - Movement rate and Reflexes increased for allies in the area of effect.

  • Thick Grew Their Tongues, Stumbling O'er Words - Enemy Concentration is reduced. (Will)

  • The Fox from the Farmer Did Run and Leap - Enemy Disengagement Attacks have reduced Accuracy.

  • The Silver Knights' Shields Broke Both Arrow and Blade - Increases the Deflection of allies in the area of effect.

  • At the Sight of their Comrades, their Hearts Grew Bold - Increases the Fortitude and Will of allies in the area of effect.


 
Sample invocations:
 

  • Not Felled by Axe, Nor Broken by Storm - Increases allied Slash and Shock Damage Threshold.

  • If their Bones Sleep Still Under that Hill, None Can Say - Summons three skeletons.

  • The Thunder Rolled like Waves on Black Seas - Stuns and pushes enemies in the area of effect. (Fortitude)

  • The Lover Cried out to the Beloved, "I am Yours!" - Charm effect on all enemies in the area of effect. (Will)

  • Rise Again, Rise Again, Scions of Adon! - Revives unconscious allies and heals a small amount of Stamina in a large area. This has no effect on characters who have already been Maimed or Killed in combat.

  • The Brideman Slew Thirty 'Fore they Crossed Half the Hall - Increases the Might, Constitution, and Resolve of allies in the area of effect.


 
In addition to their chants and invocations, chanters' close association with the Lost gives them one final, passive power: Ancient Memory. This ability activates whenever the chanter is in combat and grants low-level Stamina regeneration to all nearby allies. It is not as strong as a fighter's Constant Recovery or a priest's Holy Radiance, but can affect even faraway allies at all times.
 
Image
Cadegund, a priest.
 
Priests are devoted followers of one or more deities, though almost all have a primary dedication to a single god above all others. They are well-versed in philosophy, myths, and legends, giving them an inherent bonus to the Lore skill. Additionally, the requirements of their faith often involve traveling long distances in difficult circumstances, giving them an inherent bonus to Athletics.
 
In the world of Eora, priests do not gain power directly from their deity, but from their belief in the deity and the tenets of their religion. Paladins share a similar source of power, but differ from priests in the intensity and nuance of their beliefs. Paladins' faith is single-minded, extremely passionate, and held above all other concerns. The faith of priests is more philosophical, open to criticism (both their own and from others), and malleable from individual to individual. While paladins are ever-burning wellsprings of spiritual energy, priests gather energy into their own souls and release it through the use of specific prayers. These prayers form the common spells priests use in battle, ranging from healing magic and divine attacks to a variety of blessings and curses.
 
Compared to wizards, priests have access to a smaller number of spells overall but do not need to prepare those spells in a grimoire. And while priests do have offensive spells, they are smaller in area and generally weaker in power than similar effects available to wizards and druids. Here are a few:
 

  • Restore Minor Stamina - Part of a series of progressively powerful Stamina-healing spells. Restores Stamina to all allies in the area.

  • Armor of Faith - All allies in the area gain bonus Damage Threshold.

  • Withdraw - Caster or ally is momentarily phased out (cannot act, cannot be targeted) and regenerates Stamina.

  • Divine Terror - All enemies in the area are Frightened for the duration (Will).

  • Consecrated Ground - Creates a long-lasting circle of Stamina regeneration on the ground for allies.

  • Divine Mark - Blasts the target with Burn damage and reduces their Deflection for a short duration (Will).

  • Holy Power - Allies' Might and Resolve are increased.

  • Pillar of Faith - Does Crush damage to the target (Reflex) and knocks enemies Prone (Fortitude) in a small area (Foe Only).



Image


  • Prayer Against Restraint - Part of a series of spells that ward against afflictions. Grants a bonus to resist any attack containing the Hobbled or Stuck afflictions. If those afflictions are already on the target, their durations are reduced by 10 seconds (Hobbled) or 5 seconds (Stuck) respectively.

  • Watchful Presence - All affected allies gain an effect on them that will last until the end of combat or until triggered. When any affected character drops below 20% Stamina, Watchful Presence will heal a significant amount of Stamina on the character.

  • Triumph of the Crusaders - Allies gain a bonus that restores Stamina every time they defeat an opponent. The ally must strike the "finishing" blow to gain the benefit.

  • Revive the Fallen - Revives and restores a modest amount of Stamina to unconscious allies in a small area. This has no effect on characters who have already been Maimed or Killed in combat.

  • Salvation of Time - Extends the duration of all beneficial effects on allies.

  • Crowns for the Faithful - Increases the Perception, Intellect, and Resolve of all allies in the area.

  • Cleansing Flame - Hurls a ball of holy fire at an enemy. It does continuous Burn damage to the target and reduces the duration of beneficial effects (Reflex). After a few seconds, the Cleansing Flame leaps to another enemy within 3m and repeats the process again, ultimately affecting up to three targets. If no valid targets are in range when a leap occurs, the spell expires.


 
In addition to their spells, all priests have two inherent abilities: Interdiction and Holy Radiance. Interdiction is a fast-acting Dazed effect that the priest can apply to a group of enemies. It does not have a long duration, but can be valuable in gaining a quick advantage.
 
Holy Radiance regenerates Stamina for all allies in close proximity to the priest. Additionally, any vessels (spirits bound into unliving matter like dead flesh, copper, or bronze) hit by the effect take Burn damage and are Frightened if the radiance overcomes their Will.
 
The power of both Holy Radiance and the paladin's Faith and Conviction abilities can be modified by their behavior and the reputations they develop from the choices they make. When players make a paladin or priest character, they select an order or deity, respectively. Each choice highlights two types of behavior that are celebrated and two types of behavior that are condemned. For priests and paladins played as the main character, their Holy Radiance and Faith and Conviction power will shift based on their behavior. Reinforcing their deity's or order's preferred behavior will gradually increase their power, while playing against type will cause a small diminishment in their power. These changes are not dramatic, but reflect a measure of dissonance between the character's stated faith and how they choose to conduct themselves.
 
Image
 
A few paladin orders:
 

  • The Shieldbearers of St. Elcga - An order of Aedyran holy warriors who emphasize kindness and diplomacy over cruelty and aggression. The Shieldbearers were founded in honor of an elven noble who helped unite the Aedyr and Kulklin kingdoms after a long war.

  • Kind Wayfarers - Knights-errant who assist troubled travelers and celebrate love, condemning deception and malice even when dealing with their enemies. The Kind Wayfarers are a diverse group of people and can be found all over the known world.

  • Bleak Walkers - Soldiers dedicated to conducting warfare mercilessly and with extreme brutality in order to bring a swift end to conflicts. Known for their unyielding, terrible nature, most nobles will only call on them as a last resort.


 
Some of the deities priests can select:
 

  • Eothas - Presumed dead by many, Eothas is (or was) the god of renewal and light. His followers exemplify honesty and benevolence in their interactions with others. In the Dyrwood, Eothasians are often victims of prejudice due to the aftermath of The Saint's War, in which the Eothasian peasant known as St. Waidwen led a holy war into Norwaech.

  • Magran - A goddess of fire and warfare, Magran is celebrated by many Dyrwoodans for her priests' assistance in The Saint's War. Already known for their use of firearms, the priests collaborated to develop the "Godhammer" bomb that destroyed St. Waidwen at Evon Dewr Bridge. Statues of Magran can be found all over the Dyrwood and Magranites are popularly known for their boldness and quick wits.

  • Berath - The god (or goddess) of the dead takes many forms in different cultures, but their names are widely invoked by most people at one time or another. Theologians see Berath as the guardian of all gateways, including the gates of life, death, and rebirth that all mortals must pass through. Common folk fear the priesthood of Berath but respect them for their level-headedness and unflinching resolve in the face of endless death and suffering.


 
The Leaders of the Band are a powerful trio of classes for players who choose to focus on bolstering their allies. Each class has its own style of providing benefits and we hope you enjoy experimenting with their varied mechanics.
 
That's all for this week. Let us know what you think of the chanter and priest in the forum. As always, thanks for reading.

Posted by Dark Elf
6 comments.


Update #77: Art in Alpha

Thu May 01, 2014 7:57 pm

Update by Rose Gomez, Associate Producer
 
Greetings backers! In today's update, we've got some great new character, and area art for you to check out. Our artists have been hard at work creating beautiful new areas and lots of new armor for the game. Our next update will be the next chapter in the class series, all about chanters and priests, by Josh Sawyer.
 
Characters
 
Recently our character artists have been hard at work crafting as many armor types as possible. All of our armor types have a variety of quality levels: normal, fine, and exquisite. JD Cerince recently finished up the plate armor designs for the game, which you can see here.
 
Image
Plate Armor.
 
James Chea worked on the scale armor for the game. Below you can see a few varieties for female player characters. Cloth pieces for our armor sets can be tinted as in Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale.
 
Image
Scale Armor.
Areas
It's not all dungeons and darkness in Pillars of Eternity. Sean Dunny finished up the beautiful beachy area of Anslog's Compass. Wave effects and details are courtesy of John Lewis. Named for a rocky stretch of land which theoretically resembles a sundial, this lagoon provides decent fishing for both brave Dyrwoodans and a local contingent of xaurips. More than one ship has met its end upon the nearby reef, and debris occasionally washes ashore from the wreckage.
 
Image
Anslog's Compass.
 
Here you can see the Hall of Warriors done by April Giron. This large wooden structure is used as a meeting place for visiting warriors within Twin Elms. It is here that the Glanfathan hunters gather and tell stories of past deeds, discuss upcoming events and hunts, and conduct friendly contests of physical prowess (arm wrestling, tests of endurance, etc.). Sometimes, a visiting anamfath will take residence in the hall when visiting the city.
 
Image
Hall of Warriors.
 
Here we have a section of a much larger dungeon by Sean Dunny. This is from Clîaban Rilag, an Engwithan ruin.
 
Image
Clîaban Rilag Entrance.

That's it for this week. We hope you enjoyed this quick art update! Come back next week for a thorough update on chanters and priests by Josh Sawyer.

Posted by Dark Elf
0 comments.


Update #76: Music in Pillars of Eternity

Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:57 am

Public Service Announcement by Darren Monahan, web guy
 
Before we get started on this week’s update, we wanted to make all of you aware of a very serious website vulnerability called “Heartbleed” that was discovered since our last update. This bug affected a huge number of sites and services across the internet, potentially exposing passwords and other sensitive information to hackers that understood how to exploit it.
 
Image
 
Unfortunately, the Eternity website was running an affected version of this software, and as soon as we became aware of it, we took the appropriate steps to close the vulnerability. While we have no evidence or other reasons to believe any passwords or personal information was stolen, we do recommend you change your password if you have an account, especially if you reuse this same password on other sites.
 
To change your password, visit your Account Profile, click on the E-mail & Password tab, enter your current password, and your new password twice and click Save Changes. Please leave the e-mail address boxes empty.
 
Learn more about Heartbleed.
 
xkcd comic: How the Heartbleed bug works.
 
Update by Justin Bell, Audio Director
 
Hello awesome backers. My name is Justin Bell and I’m the Audio Director at Obsidian, and the Audio Lead/Composer for Pillars of Eternity. I know a lot of you have been waiting patiently to hear some news about the game’s music. Thanks for waiting, I’m happy to say this update will focus entirely on music! In it we’ll cover the high level creative guidelines we’re using to write the score. I’ll also provide you with an in depth look into my music writing process. For those of you who are chomping at the bit for more info about the sound design for PoE, don’t worry... We’re going to do another update in the future that focuses on that as well. But for now, let’s talk about music!
 
Our next update will be a look at the most recent art our talented team has put together for the game.
 
Image
Justin's every day workspace.
 
Style
 
Making Pillars of Eternity feel like a modern day Infinity Engine game is important to us, and music plays a big role in achieving that goal. But what does that actually mean in practice? Well if you were to loosely analyze the music from Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 and Icewind Dale 1 & 2 for example, you would find a number of stylistic similarities between them. Without getting too technical, their music combines tropes found in European folk and pre-Renaissance modal music, and mashes that together with modern day orchestration techniques and film music aesthetics.
 
You’re probably thinking... “Where’s the human side of all this? Where’s the emotion? The music for the IE games is so much more than simply a mash-up of musical elements!”
 
Putting it in such cold and analytical terms doesn’t really give those soundtracks the justice they deserve, does it? Still it’s important for me as the composer to understand things in that way, and here’s why. An incredible teacher of mine used to say, “When in doubt, use a model”. Another incredible teacher would likewise say, “Never proceed without a plan”. What they were both saying is that if you’re going to take a journey, you need to understand the path and know your destination to the best of your ability. Even if the plan needs to change at some point down the path, always think it through first.
Luckily for me both are pretty clear. In that sense the soundtracks for the IE games are both my model and my plan, at least to a point. I’ve made a couple minor structural modifications to the formula, which I’ll describe in greater depth further on. But first I’d like to give you an inside peek into the creative process I use to write music.
 
The Commute
 
Here’s some news that’ll undoubtedly shock each and every one of you...
 
I commute to work. Every. Day.
 
Exciting right?! Right... Don’t let the mundaneness of that description fool you, as this is actually one of the most important parts of my day. It’s one of the few times that I get to listen to music without interruption, and I use this time to get inspired to write. Things I’ve been putting on lately are the soundtracks for The Elder Scrolls (III, IV, and V), The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, anything by Basil Poledouris, and of course the IE soundtracks, just to name a few.
 
As I’m driving and listening I stay on the lookout for small moments that inspire me in some way. When I come across something that attracts my attention, like an interesting harmony or nice orchestral combination, I document the track number, time range, and any observations I have using a little handheld recorder. By the time I get to work I usually have roughly 10 small voice memos recorded for myself. When I get in front of my computer at work I pull the tracks I noticed into my audio program, edit out the sections in question, and categorize them with my notes for future use. It’s a way of systematizing inspiration, which I’ll admit may sound counter intuitive to some. When working on a project with deadlines while simultaneously trying to keep things the creative juices flowing, being organized is critical to successfully balancing those two often competing requirements.
 
Image
The audio booth with noise making props.
 
Daily Bach
 
After I’m through categorizing the nuggets of inspiration, I sit in front of my keyboard and sight read a single chorale from J.S. Bach’s beautiful collection of 371 four part chorales. Each day I read a new one in sequence, and I do this for a couple reasons. I’m a musician, sight reading is fun, and this is an excuse to keep my chops up. But more importantly, I do it to get motivated by the master of modern tonal harmony himself. When I’m actually writing music and get stuck at a tricky voice leading spot, the fact that I have Bach in my ear and at my fingertips is often a lifesaver.
 
Sketches
 
I like to keep the actual writing process as simple as possible. To do that, I open up my writing program (Nuendo 6 + NEK for those who are interested) and compose with one piano patch and one full string patch only. This is pretty standard practice for some, and I do it too. It allows me to focus on just the melody, rhythm, and harmony alone (i.e. the Music, with a capital “M”) without concerning myself too much with instrumentation or the mix. Both of those things aren’t important now and I know I’ll get to them later. For now it’s all about the music. By keeping the writing process simple, I free up my ability to stay creative.
 
Here I’ll write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s entire pieces of music, other times it’s a small fragment. I don’t really try to do anything specific or limit myself in any way; I just let the ideas flow as freely as possible. The idea here is to write as much music as possible without concern for the end result. Again, it’s important to keep things loose. At the end of each day I may write up to an hour of sketches, about 90% of which will never see the light of day. It’s the remaining 10% that I’m really after.
 
I liken this process to panning for gold. The way I look at it is that in order to succeed, you need to know how to fail. It doesn’t matter to me if I’ve deliberately crafted a piece of music through the sheer force of my will and divine creativity or whatever. Happy accidents can and do often yield the best creative results, and allowing them to happen is essential to remaining creative while working under tight deadlines. Now you may be wondering, “Where’s the artistry in that?!? Anyone can do that!” The artistry lies in the ability to recognize a great idea when it comes to you, regardless of where it comes from or how deliberate the process to create it was. Simple as that!
 
Process of Elimination and Categorization
 
Once I’ve run out of time sketching things out, it’s time to start identifying the material that actually has potential to be made into a larger piece of music. I do this by color coding each region (i.e. sketch) based on how good I think it is. By default all of my regions are blue because it’s soothing for me to look at. All segments that are halfway decent get turned purple, which means I may or may not have a use for it. Everything that sounds amazing and I’m confident in gets coded red. Once that’s done, I version off my session and delete all the remaining blue regions for them to go to unwanted sketch heaven.
 
In Eternity we break music into four basic “types”: town, dungeon, wilderness, and combat. Each major area of the game will have its own unique set of these. The next step for me is to assign each sketch to one of those categories.
 
Image
A sketch in progress.
 
Musical Quilt
 
So I have all these little segments of music and cool little snippets, but I don’t exactly have what you’d consider to be a piece of music. Time to change that! The next step involves stitching all of those little fragments, expanding them where necessary, into a full-fledged piece of music. A lot of mixing and matching goes into this and the process takes me about a half day per 3-5 minute piece of music. I focus a lot on form, pacing, and musical trajectory. Once the form has taken a shape I’m happy with, I separate each voice out into individual track lanes so I can begin the process of digital orchestration.
 
A Word About Templates
 
Prior to working on Eternity I spent a couple of weeks creating what’s known in the digital composing world as template. A template is essentially a collection of sample based instruments that are preloaded into a massive audio project. In my template I have all of the most common instruments found in the orchestra (i.e. winds, brass, percussion, and strings), as well as some less common ones, all set up and mixed in advance. This is done to help minimize the steps I have to take between the spark of inspiration and manifesting that inspiration into music. All in all I have about 150 unique tracks for all the instruments and articulations that I’ll need to write the music for Eternity, though I’ll rarely use all 150 at one time.
 
There are a couple of reasons why using a template is important and they all have to do with speed and convenience. When writing, the last thing you want is to get bogged down with technical issues. Doing so will often destroy the spark of inspiration, which can be a fickle thing. By creating a template in advance you separate the technical from the creative which allows you to focus purely on writing the music. Templates are also critical because modern day multi sample libraries eat up a lot of RAM and take a long time to load. Your average sampled instrument can require anywhere from a couple hundred to a few gigs of memory. (Fun fact: My computer at Obsidian has 32 gigs or RAM installed, and my template uses every last gig!) Needless to say, loading all those samples takes up precious time, and it’s a waste to have to do that over and over.
 
Image
Using all the RAM.
 
Orchestral Colors
 
Back to the music writing... Right now the form of the music has been fleshed out, but it’s still just using piano or string orchestra. This is where orchestration comes in. We often refer to the different ranges and combinations of instruments as having a certain “color”, which is really just a fancy way of saying sonic timbre. You can think of orchestration as being similar to taking a pencil sketch and filling it in with color. The way I like describe this stage of the writing process is that here I have the “bones” of the music all assembled like an archeologist assembles dinosaur bones; it just needs to be “skinned”.
 
At this point I already have a good idea for what the general moment to moment feeling of the music will be, and ideas for orchestration are already beginning to take shape. This is where those references I mentioned earlier on come in handy. What I do is comb through my reference library looking for snippets that will inspire and inform me on how to approach the instrumentation. When I find something suitable I line appropriate reference(s) up against the sketch.
 
Image
A piece in the middle of development.
 
Even though the actual harmonic and rhythmic content of music that I’ve written is quite different than the references I have, I can still use them to extract the orchestral colors the original composer used and apply them to what I’m doing. This helps me to produce the most realistic result possible (remember I’m using samples most of the time) and allows me to get through the orchestration process in the fastest way without spending too much time on R&D.
 
At this stage in the project it’s less important for me to spend a bunch of time trying to come up with the most unique orchestration known to man, than it is for me to get 70% of the way there using a combination that I know will work. I don’t always need to do this for each musical phrase, but it sure comes in handy when I’m stuck. Once the references are all lined up, I start assigning the different layers of music to the instruments that are loaded in my template.
 
Polish
 
In its current state, the music sounds really static and pretty bad. Not ready for prime time. Even though I just assigned the music to different instruments, it’s not quite done yet. For example, phrases lack shape, the mix between instruments is unbalanced, and articulations are all wrong. To fix that, I hand sculpt each individual note and phrase to make it sound more convincing, trying my best to make it sound as if a real live musician were performing the piece (which is actually impossible to do, but that’s the subject for another conversation).
 
This, my friends, is where the music really comes to life. It’s a painstakingly slow and highly detailed process but by the end of it, we’re left with something that actually sounds pretty good! Now I bet you’re wondering how that sounds? Well wonder no more because I’m about to show you!
 
Drum Roll Please...
 
The first region I focused on was Dyrford, and I’d like to share the music that I wrote for the town of Dyrford with you. I hope you enjoy it!
 

Dyrford Village ambient music.
 
Modifications to the Formula
 
While we are following in the footsteps of the Infinity Engine soundtracks in terms of style and implementation, we have decided to tweak that formula a bit. Most of the in-game tracks for the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games are between 1-2 minutes in length, and in some cases those tracks loop immediately. There are some inherent risks and benefits to looping a short piece of music immediately.
 
One of the risks is that the music could eventually become annoying to the player if heard too many times in a row. We call this “listener fatigue”, and from a usability perspective, it can negatively affect the way a gamer will feel about a game. It’s a psychological effect; the fact that the music is short and repetitious can make long playthroughs tedious. On the flip side, a benefit to having short loops is that we can write more unique pieces of music, which will by nature increase variety throughout the game. Approaching it this way would allow us to make specific areas feel “special” because they will have unique music.
 
We’re going to balance those two considerations for Pillars of Eternity. Music will always loop, but it will be longer in areas where the player spends a lot of time (like quest hubs) and shorter in areas where the player doesn’t (like some dungeons).

Posted by Dark Elf
2 comments.


Test your strategy with InterCasino blackjack games at an award winning online casino.
 

Copyright notice: Unless stated otherwise, all original content on this site is (c) the Terra Arcanum staff, 2000-2013, all rights reserved. Many of the materials of this site are based on materials copyrighted by Troika Games, Sierra Studios, Atari, Activision and other companies. If this site inadvertly infringes on any of your copyrights, please get in touch with us.