Brandon Adler has been with Obsidian Entertainment since Neverwinter Nights 2, where he started as a Quality Assurance tester. Since then he has also worked in Design and Production. His newest role is as the Game Director of Beast of Winter, the first of the three announced expansion DLCs for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, which will soon be released on August 2nd.
We had the chance to talk to him, not just about the DLC, but also about the final act of Deadfire and how it all ties up, which includes a lot of spoilers. So if you still haven't played or finished Deadfire, and if you want to hold on to that, read no further.
TechRaptor: We know you've done everything in Obsidian from QA, Design, and Production. Is this your first experience as a Game Director?
Brandon Adler: Yeah, this is my first experience as a Game Director. In the past, I had worked in a semi-Game Director role unofficially on Pathfinder Adventures, which is a virtual card game that we created. When the Game Directors left on that, I stepped in and took charge of getting the game onto Steam and other PC platforms.
TR: Will you also direct the other two expansions, Seeker, Slayer, Survivor, and The Forgotten Sanctum?
Brandon Adler: Seeker, Slayer, Survivor is being directed by Matt MacLean, and he's been working on it for a while. While Matt is the main driver on that one, I'm jumping on there at various parts to help clean up and get it to shipping quality. In terms of The Forgotten Sanctum, I'll be working as the Game Director on that one, and I'm looking super forward to it. I think we'll do some cool stuff there.
TR: So how do you feel as the Director of two expansions to the game? What's the experience like compared to your previous roles exactly?
Brandon Adler: It's really interesting. Being a Game Director is probably not what a lot of people think it would be, which is more like a Creative Director where I go in there and give a list of things that I want, implement my will. It doesn't work like that at all. My role is more that I'm directing the entire scene towards my vision of what I think the game should be. I'm making sure that the game doesn't get off track and that it's constantly moving in the direction it should be.
A lot of it is quality control as well. Lots of reviews and reading stuff and making sure that everything is where it needs to be. It's funny because like you mentioned I worked in a lot of roles, this closely mirrors what I used to do as a producer in a lot of ways. It's just more of a creative focus, whereas doing production has more of a project management focus. But it actually has a lot of similarities.
TR: I actually spoke with George Ziets back in May, and he talked about how there was a lot of creative freedom when he was Creative Lead in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer. So did you pitch Beast of Winter yourself, or was it more of a collaborative effort?
Brandon Adler: When I first came on to the project, there were a few ideas kind of floating around. These ideas were more like, "hey, it'd be really cool if we had this type of creature in the game!" or "hey, here's a kernel of a story that I think we could do..." I liked some of those things but I kind of wanted to take it in a different direction. So I put together a pitch to the founders of the company but also to the team itself. I kind of said the direction I think we could go, and some of the things I wanted to explore.
To me, it was important to explore the Beyond. We kind of touched on it a little bit throughout the various games, but we'd never really had gone in there fully and just kind of really explored it. I kind of redirected the expansion towards that direction. I wanted it to take a little bit... more of a dark humor tone in a lot of ways. I thought that was kind of missing from Deadfire and I thought we could add that. What I really wanted to do was give players a kind of a new experience that they haven't had yet. I kind of repitched everything to the team and everyone was totally on board, and we're really, really proud and happy with what we came up with. I think everyone's gonna really enjoy it.
TR: I was reading some other interviews and I saw that, I wasn't sure about this, Beast of Winter takes place concurrently with the main campaign, right?
Brandon Adler: That's correct.
TR: So how does it tie in with chasing after Eothas? When I was playing Deadfire there was a bit of an inside joke that we should be chasing a rogue god and here we are doing side quests—I think Edér says something to that effect. So how does it tie in with the expansion itself? Eothas will be there in the background, and you'll be going into the Beyond. So how exactly is that handled?
Brandon Adler: So the Beast of Winter is a fairly self-contained DLC. All the DLCs are kind of meant to be that way as well. A lot of times we can kind of broach the subject of Eothas and what this content means to the things that are going on. Maybe getting some new answers to that. A lot of times we also try to give the players something they can do off the main critical path. Some of it still does touch on Eothas and what's happening, but a lot of is more focused on the greater problem of "this iceberg is growing and it looks like it's going to take over the world!" We have some stuff in there, and I don't want to get too spoilery, but some stuff where the iceberg over time, if you don't take care of that problem, it'll grow into a bigger and bigger problem for you over the course of the game.
TR: Can you tell me what's the reactivity of the DLC on the base game like?
Brandon Adler: We do have points of reactivity based on things that happen in the Beast of Winter. One thing that I don't think it would be too spoilery to point out is that you do meet Rymrgand in the base game as well. So we have things in there that reference the Beast of Winter in the base game and the other way around. There are different points throughout where we bring up things that happened and how you kind of resolved Beast of Winter. But it doesn't actually have a major impact on what happens with Eothas and the Wheel and how everything resolves.
TR: Alex Scokel, the narrative designer, said in a recent interview that there's a running theme in Beast of Winter, “All the Rymrgandian things - the inevitability of darkness and of endings. All things that decay end.” Does the Breaking of the Wheel play into this at all? If so, how exactly?
Brandon Adler: So, not really? The reason being that these events happen at the very end of the game. So it's hard for us to really kind of take that as a point of reactivity in Beast of Winter itself. Also, something that is really the core of the story of the base game that we didn't really want to modify too much. You know, you do bring up a good point though, which is that Rymrgand, in everything that he's about is the end of all things, the decay of all things. It's interesting that Eothas is kind of helping him along in some respects with the destroying of the Wheel. We do touch on Eothas and everything that's happening in Beast of Winter though. Again, not to get too spoilery, but he does make a guest appearance, and you actually get to learn quite a bit about his reasoning for why he even did anything in the first place in spite of really working with Waidwen and what happened there and the Godhammer Bomb. We really kind of explore a lot of that as well. So people are gonna get a lot of good information that's gonna help resolve, some information that they may not have gotten from that part in the base campaign.
TR: Oh, that's interesting. I was actually hoping to have some of that. That's really interesting.
Brandon Adler: To add to that as well, we get like some additional insight into what [Eothas] is thinking and why he's thinking those things.
TR: That's fascinating. Many players were disappointed that you couldn't fight Eothas. The line spoken by Rymrgand in the teaser, "My realm is the gaping maw of entropy" seems like a challenge. Some fans might be hoping that the Watcher will have to face Rymrgand in the Beyond, to have a long, tough battle, similar to the battle against Thaos in Pillars I. Is there any chance at all of that happening?
Brandon Adler: (Laughs) Well, there's always a chance of anything happening! Here's what I will kind of leave you with on that. The fact that the players could not fight Eothas directly was not lost on the team. It was something that was important for us to remedy. It's kind of a roadblock though, because the gods, as we represent them in our lore, are all-powerful in a lot of ways. At least in terms of what they could do to mortals. So calling out a god and saying "hey, I'm gonna fight you!" would be a pretty quick end in a lot of ways. That being said, I think there was some way to kind of get that in there.
TR: I was actually very satisfied with the ending myself, I thought it was very fitting. And you also had a very tough battle against the Guardian of Ukaizo. But myself, I was very satisfied with the ending, I thought it was very fitting, but some players weren't, so I'm just wondering, really... (laughs)
Brandon Adler: Yeah, no, we're really interested in the point of view of those players. You know, I worked on Mask of the Betrayer with George Ziets who you mentioned earlier. One of the things we talked about was fighting Kelemvor, who was the god of the dead. Should we even allow that? Are we allowed to allow that? There's always a lot of problems when it comes to like, fighting a god, especially in their own realm. So there's a lot of ways you can kind of get around that. I think players feel like they're being called out in a certain way, that they should be allowed to fight something, even if it's an impossible battle. We kind of want to do that. We want to try to give players that option if we can. And so again, it was important in Beast of Winter that we give people that type of opportunity.
TR: The White March was essentially a single large expansion pack split into two parts. Just from what I've read so far, the Deadfire expansions seem more like self-contained standalone packs. Is there a reason for this? Will there be an overarching storyline running through the expansions?
Brandon Adler: There were a few different reasons for it. One of the reasons for breaking up the DLCs like this was that we can explore a bunch of different things. The White March obviously was like almost one big expansion pack broken up those two points, so it was one story. In this way, we're actually able to explore three different types of stories. We can also get different types of gameplay with what we're doing. Obviously, people will have to see this, but all three DLCs that we're making are gonna have a very different kind of feel to them in a lot of ways. You know, there's something for everybody. Certain DLCs will be heavier on dungeon crawling. Certain ones, like Beast of Winter, might be heavier on puzzle-solving and narrative and exploration. And other ones might be heavier on combat. We wanted to give a bit of everything to people. That's kind of the main reason why we're doing this.
It also helps because we're able to get the product out sooner to people. So you know, doing a very large expansion the size of The White March means that the product can't come out for many more months. This way we're able to get more content done faster and be more reactive to what they want. If there's anything they want to see after Beast of Winter we can actually get that stuff going in the upcoming DLC.
TR: All the companions will be available to tag along with the Watcher in the expansions, right?
Brandon Adler: Absolutely! There are certain companions and sidekicks that are actually, I wouldn't say better for the story, but they definitely have more tie-ins. As an example, I think I said this in other interviews, I think Ydwin has a lot of additional content in Beast of Winter as well, because she has a lot to say as a pale elf animancer, there are a lot of things that are relevant to her story inside of Beast of Winter, so we wanted to make sure that if there were topics or subjects and things that come up that are relevant to certain companions they would be kind of able to speak up. I kind of mentioned that we got a little bit into Eothas' way, the Godhammer, so obviously Edér has a lot to say during those sections of the game. So all of the companions are gonna have a lot to say, but certain ones will definitely have more to say if they broach something close to them.
TR: I think I saw an interview that there would be a temporary companion in Beast of Winter?
Brandon Adler: So it's not necessarily a temporary companion. We're adding a new follower to your party, Vatnir. He's a priest of Rymrgand, he's the leader of the dude that you're kind of visiting at the beginning of the DLC, and you have an opportunity to bring him along. Obviously, he has a lot to say about Rymrgand and the White Void and the Beyond. Bringing him in there is really cool. There's a lot of content with him.
TR: What would you say will be the average playtime for each expansion?
Brandon Adler: Well, we don't like to give average playtime because everybody experiences everything a little bit differently. What I will say is that it's probably a bit less than The White March Part I or II. But it's definitely more than our previous expansions for Tyranny for example. I think it's gonna be a good amount of content for people and they will be pretty happy with what they get to do there.
TR: I don't have any more questions, so if you have any closing thoughts or statements?
Brandon Adler: Sure! Like I mentioned previously, over the course of the development of Beast of Winter I've been exceptionally happy with what we've been able to do. I think fans are really gonna enjoy it. It's one of the cool places that they're gonna explore that they'd never gotten to explore before. Maybe they heard about in lore or seen in the game briefly. We're really gonna kind of dig into that. And yeah, overall I think players are gonna have a cool time with Beast of Winter. I can't wait to get more stuff for them.
We would like to thank Brandon for taking the time to speak with us.
What are you looking forward to in Beast of Winter? Let us know in the comments below!