Games Interview: Katrina Garsten talks Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire‘s release and sailing the seas of Eora

With Obsidian Entertainment‘s the upcoming sequel Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire approaching its May 8th release, we got to chat with Katrina Garsten on all the big changes that have been made since their original Pillars of Eternity title going into the second, the huge open world that we are able to sail into and the fans that truly helped bring this highly anticipated game into fruition, that and Sharkboys!

Katrina Garsten Producer @ Obsidian Entertainment

David: With April creeping a lot closer now, how nervous is everyone at Obsidian, so close to Pillars of Eternity 2’s release? **Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to Pillars of Eternity II‘s release delay. The game is now launching in May.**

Katrina: Oh, you know. It happens. We’re closing down a lot of bugs right now, and making sure the game is ready for everybody to experience. So, you know, we’re not nervous. We’re just running around like chickens with our heads cut off, so …

David: I saw some of the new gameplay, the menus, the lighting system, all the other gorgeous-looking mechanics that have gone into Pillars II. Out of everything that’s been improved and added to the sequel, what stands out the most for you, especially as a fellow gamer?

Katrina: So, I really enjoy visual improvements. In addition to crowdfunding, I’m also our art producer, so I handle all of our art assets. I think one of the things that stands out the most to me for visual improvements is that our environments look way better than the first game, and additionally, we’ve added tech that allows 3D objects to cast shadows onto our 2D environments, so our shadow casting system is way more realistic, and it adds a lot into the areas.

Additionally, with our new feature of the world map, and sailing around on your ship, I think it looks incredible. We’ve added a lot of little things that add a lot to the experience. Like, we’ve just added storms onto the world map, if you sail into one your ship can get damaged and additionally, all the islands that you can explore have really cool stuff on them, you can find unique items if you stray off the path of the main quest. So, I mean, you can go anywhere on the world map.

It does get difficult if you go too far and you encounter an area that’s a way higher level than you though, but it’s really up to you where you want to go. We have a ton of islands that aren’t part of the main quest, and they have all sorts of awesome little secrets hidden in them.

David: That’s good. It’s great to go off the beaten track and be rewarded for it.

It seems like every few years, pirates come back around again, and it’s this upsurge all of a sudden, you’ve got the Sea of Thieves game that Microsoft are releasing soon as well, Assassins Creed Rogue being remastered and so I think it’s just really good timing to be honest!

Taking to the high seas is such a huge difference from the first game. Was there some sort of influence that made you all move towards pirates and open waters?

Katrina: The Deadfire Archipelago was always something that has been written about (within the Pillars world) and we felt like it would just be a really, really cool difference from the first game. You know, with three of the returning companions, you still get some of the familiar faces, but it’s an entirely new region and as far as why we decided to do ship combat and sailing around, it just fit the best with the Deadfire, because you know, there’s no real other way to get to those islands. So, from that, we decided to, instead of having your main stronghold, you now have a ship as your stronghold, that can be customized and upgraded. You can get different types of ships, and that’ll increase your chances of winning in battle. So, we felt like that just kind of added even more to the customization experience, and also made you really excited to sail around on the world map and run into possible pirate parties.

David: Sounds kick-ass. What made you all choose the Kickstarter-style backer campaign to fund your game, over other standard business approaches?

Katrina: So, for the second game, we really, really appreciated all of the fan feedback from the first one and it’s important for us to also get that feedback from fans for the second game as well and, you know, of course money helps! But our community and our fans are the most important things to us, so we always really appreciate getting as much feedback as possible, and they’ve contributed a lot to improving Deadfire, by playing the backer beta. So, we’re always looking to improve our ship combat and all of our new systems that weren’t in the first game. They help us out a ton, and we really love that.

For the first game, we did that because we did need the money and the fans kind of saved Obsidian, so we told ourselves for the second game, we could just make it If we didn’t have a crowdfunding campaign, we could make the game, but it was just a matter of having that fan input as well.

David: I think most of these backer campaigns, now, they produce almost better quality than most of the big leagues out there, you know? Working from a big studio, with god knows how many people and staff, some of them just feel very factory-style formulaic (Call of Duty, FIFA, Battlefront 2) when it comes out these days, But, from my experience it always seems to come out better when there are fans behind it and fans helping fund it!

Katrina: Yeah, for sure and we also have a ton of fan content in the second game now too as well. Like, some fans have backed pirate parties that you can run into and some fans have backed islands and inns and taverns. A lot of fans have even backed pets, so you will run into backer content constantly, but our fans are so understanding of our lore and everything. Almost everything that they’ve proposed fits in perfectly with the world of Eora, so we never really have any concerns with fans proposing content and if it is something that doesn’t quite fit with our lore, we’re always happy to get on a phone call with them, or email them and work with them to make sure that they’re happy with the content, but we’re changing it so it fits in with our world.

David: Well, all of us over here at the AU review absolutely love our consoles and PCs, I know the PC version launches in just over a few weeks, which is exciting, but when can we look forward to seeing this bad boy on console, or more so my Nintendo Switch? Because I can then take it to work, I mean, for my lunch break (cough).

Katrina: That’ll be the holiday season this year! Yeah. All of us at Obsidian, we’re just focusing on a solid PC release, but we have another company who’s helping us with the port of the game, so we’re really excited to see how it turns out. We’re very involved with the feedback process for the first Pillars, because that one just came out on console somewhat recently.

David: November 2017.

Katrina: Yes. We went back and forth constantly with feedback, to make sure that it felt good when people were playing it on console, because a game like this, it’s difficult to imagine what it would be like on consoles, but they’ve pulled it off, and it was really well received, and we were really happy with it, so we’re super excited for the console versions, and especially Switch, to see how that turns out.

Check out the Trailer for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Below!


David: Can’t wait! Well, you got such a huge variety of games Obsidian have worked on in the past. Is there any of the back catalogue of those games that are your favourite? Like Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: Stick of Truth are some of mine. What about yourself?

Katrina: So, I absolutely loved South Park. Of course, there’s Fallout: New Vegas as well. I think, right when I started at Obsidian, the team on South Park was getting ready to ship, and so I played that obsessively and it was so much fun and hilarious. It was one of the funniest games I’ve ever played.

Dave: Fun question, if you were a Watcher yourself, and you could travel to Eora, what’s the first thing you would do?

Katrina: Oh man. Oh, that’s an amazing question!

Dave: You’re all right. Take your time, I have coffee.

Katrina: Yeah, I’m waiting for my coffee to kick in! So, one of the first things I would do is get a ship crew together and go exploring, because that has always seemed very appealing to me. Additionally, I would attempt to find our shark boy and add him to my party, because he’s my favourite companion by far. Yeah, I think that’s what I would do.

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Releases May 8, 2018 on Windows, Mac and Linux, and in Q4 2018 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One.

An earlier version of this article listed Pillars of Eternity II‘s release date as April 3, 2018 which is no longer accurate. The game was delayed hours prior to publication and will now launch on May 8, 2018. We have updated to the piece to reflect this.