There are some players that have encountered RPG's that will attempt to fight fire with fire, in terms of numbers. If one player brings three friends along, the game will compensate by adding more monsters. Obsidian hopes to change this trend with the upcoming Project Eternity. During a panel at GDC Next, lead designer Josh Sawyer emphasized that scaling difficulty is more than just adding more monsters and scaling damage.
"We want to have a system that could scale well in terms of difficulty, but still be a challenge to people in a way that it's meant to be," said Sawyer. "For that, a lot of this is that difficulty is about more than numbers. If you have a super hard game and you just scaled it and pointed some things down, that doesn't necessarily make it easier in a way that makes players go, 'Yep, this is still the same fun game.' You just kind of made it easy in a way that's not necessarily any more interesting."
On this note, Sawyer explained that the key to scaling difficulty was taking ideas like tactics and enemy types into account. With that, he noted that Project Eternity would re-evaluate the very nature of encounters when adjusting difficulty.
"We have an encounter system that will add or remove characters from the scene in different locations, making natural positioning of those characters more of a difference," he added. "We'll replace creatures. Creatures that aren't actually presenting one kind of tactical threat are replaced with a creature that, combined with other creatures in the environment, help pose a more complex tactical threat. We can scale these things so the player feels like they're getting more of an engagement and not just shifting the numbers up and down."
Sawyer also noted that overall difficulty would also be noticed by players that employ different styles. For example, players will be able to set options that will either allow them to receive explicit instructions for quests or they'll be able to set an option that doesn't give any quest instructions at all, leaving players to their own devices to complete the quest through pure blind exploration.
Project Eternity is expected to launch on PC, Mac, and Linux in April 2014, following its successful crowdfunding efforts.