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Video: How Pillars of Eternity's stat system ensures every build is viable

If you're an RPG designer wondering how to make sure all the possible builds in your game are viable for all players, this analysis shows why you should look at Pillars of Eternity.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

September 14, 2016

2 Min Read

If you’re an RPG designer, you’ve probably studied the RPG design of games like Dungeons and Dragons, Bioware RPGs, and maybe even the old Infinity Engine RPGs of the mid-'90s. And if you’ve worked on games based around these systems, you’re probably familiar with the concept of min-maxing. 

It’s the idea that due to the comparative advantages in selecting different stats, there will be times when players focus on only investing points in certain skills, while minimizing point investment in other abilities, in order to create “perfect” character builds for playing an RPG. It’s considered a standard convention of the genre, even if it means sometimes it produces non-viable builds for certain characters. 

But what if you’re designing an RPG, and want to make sure players’ builds will be viable no matter what skills they select? As YouTuber Mason Miller points out in a recent video, you might want to take a look at Obsidian’s Kickstarter hit Pillars of Eternity. 

Miller’s video (seen above) breaks down the difference between Pillars of Eternity’s stat system and those that are influenced by Dungeons and Dragons' stat system. It’s worth a watch if you’re looking for a quick overview on a different method of approaching RPG design that rewards players with gameplay choices no matter what path they took, as opposed to encouraging players to shape their characters to fit a specific mold. 

In particular, he points out the fact that the gains from investing in various stats remain even no matter where in a character tree a player is, and the fact that character abilities aren’t directly linked to player stats. While Pillars of Eternity has been available for some time, Miller’s analysis may be particularly useful for RPG designers looking for new inspiration. 

And if you’re looking for insight from the Pillars of Eternity designers who created this system, be sure to watch Josh Sawyer’s talk from GDC this year over on the GDC YouTube channel. 

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About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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