Dev Diary #1 – The Vision for Tyranny

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Hello everyone!
This is the first of several developer diaries for our new RPG Tyranny! We’ll be releasing information frequently until the game ships. We’re going to try to keep these updates packed with information and give you details on Tyranny’s game systems, lore, and art in future updates. For this first dev diary, I wanted to talk a bit about the vision for Tyranny.

When we started working on Tyranny, there were several things we wanted to accomplish: make a game that builds on the technology being created for Pillars of Eternity, make the player feel important to the world from the beginning of the game, and focus on choice and reactivity in our quests and systems.

We knew going in that we had a solid foundation to build on from the Pillars team. This meant we didn’t have to worry about things like ‘how will we create areas?’ or ‘how does inventory work?’ Instead, we were able to focus our efforts on building the world and updating the RPG rules for the changes we wanted to make. This allowed us to do a lot with a small team early in development.

A lot of RPGs start you out as the weak or inexperienced character who becomes more important and influential over time. This parallels how your character grows in strength and power as they gain levels, so it’s a structure that works well for RPGs. For Tyranny, we wanted to play with that concept. Does the player need to start off weak in order to feel more powerful later in the game? We decided to make the player important from the very beginning of the game, from the very first interaction with an NPC.

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We didn’t want you to be the ‘errand girl of Evil’. If you were just a grunt or a lackey, your ability to influence or change the world would be limited, and your responsibility for the fact that evil won would be reduced.

This required us to design our quests and content to reinforce this at every turn. We didn’t want you being approached by random NPCs asking you to rescue their cat from a tree. Your choices shape nations, and the quests had to reflect that.

Many RPGs are great at letting you be the hero, the beacon of strength and hope for a world facing imminent destruction. They’re not always great at the opposite side of that coin. I am disappointed when I play games where the “evil” choice requires me to act like a psychopath, murdering everyone in front of me. Sometimes that’s fun, but it’s very limiting when it’s the only option. Especially when the game punishes me for making those decisions.

With Tyranny we wanted to create a more nuanced evil. One where the choices players make aren’t so obviously black and white. We wanted to make a game where players were free to take the evil path as far as they want to go, and feel powerful and rewarded for it. Ultimately, RPGs are about the choices players make. With Tyranny we wanted to focus our efforts on making the world react to player choices – both in game systems and in dialogue. By now you’ve probably seen interviews where we talked about your ability to shape the world during character creation, and the alliances you can form during gameplay. These all come out of that goal – making Tyranny a highly reactive game that you can play multiple times. Each time seeing how the world changes as you make different choices.

So that’s the vision for Tyranny: a highly reactive world that you helped the evil Overlord conquer. That’s the setup, it’s up to you to decide how the story plays out.

In our next update, I’ll provide some details about some of the basic game systems.

-Brian Heins, Game Director