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Feargus Urquhart talks about Tyranny, Bloodlines 2 and Obsidian's Future at Gamepressure
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 19 May 2016, 14:57:24Tags: Defiance; Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Stormlands; Tyranny; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Gamepressure.com have posted a full transcript of their interview with Feargus Urquhart at the Digital Dragons conference. They already revealed its major highlights earlier this week, but there are also some revealing details about Obsidian's future plans and general strategy here. Feargus confirms in no uncertain terms my long-standing theory that the company's objective is to eventually develop their own New Vegas-style game - in fact, he announces that they will never make another AAA RPG if they can't retain ownership of the IP. In addition, the interview has some information about Tyranny and its history, and a question about making a Bloodlines 2, the answer to which makes it sound like it's probably not what Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky are working on. Here's an excerpt:
You had some tough times with publishers – Sega and Aliens: Crucible, Microsoft and Stormlands. What was the most difficult thing about this? Why did you get so dismissive of publishers, at least for some time?
I’m not dismissive of publishers, but it’s a good way to look at it. It has to do more with the way I think – that doing big games with publishers as an independent developer is really challenging. We want to make the games that we want to make, and you have to acknowledge that. And if I’m to work with a publisher, it’s all about figuring out how to have that relationship in a way that allows us to make our game, but allows them to be involved, because they’re going to be paying, right? So how do you do that? And with the BIG games, when they have a budget of 20–30–40–50–60 million dollar, it’s hard, because the money is so big that people get worried.
So what I haven’t figured out necessarily is how do we deal with that worry of a publisher. Because the minute something goes wrong, they get very worried – which I can understand – but things going wrong… well, they go wrong all the time, you know? And how do we solve that problem? If there’s one thing I have a problem with when it comes to publishers is that we’ve been making games for a really long time and we want to own our IP. When we make something, we want to own it.
I totally understand the risk – publishers give me a lot of money, and they want to make a lot of money back. But I can put a team together that in total has like 500 years of game development experience – how do you value that? It has to be valued more than just by a small royalty stream when the game is super successful. Not just successful, but super successful. So that’s my other thing. And I do think that publishers are getting into a place where they are okay with that now. They’re getting into a place where there can be more conversations about us continuing to own the IP, which is great.
How do you think, what makes the publishers change their attitude? Is it because independent studios have much more to say these days?
Well, there’s not a lot of us. There’s like 10 of us, those bigger independent studios of 200–300 people. I actually don’t know how many exactly, but let’s say there’s 10. And if we’re all saying “no” and they need games, then it’s just market. If you want to make a big role-playing game right now, there’s not many people to go to. What we say nowadays is: “We’re going to make a game with this IP”. We would love to make a Fallout: New Vegas-style game or something like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, or The Witcher; we’d love to make a game like that. But if we can’t own the IP, we will make it Eternity-style, because we can usually find the money for that. And we’re not mean about it, we’re not discrespectful. If we’re going to go through the pain of making a huge game, then there has to be a reward for it.
I’ve read that Tyranny came out of the idea of Stormlands. What’s the actual origin story ofTyranny?
It goes WAY back. So we had a game idea that was pitched, it was called Defiance and it was around 2008, maybe 2007. It started with that idea: “What if evil won?”. So we were pitching Defiance about the same time we were doing Dungeon Siege III. There was this idea for it and it morphed into Stormlands. So it was not Stormlands itself, but ideas taken from it. And there’s also an idea from Defiance that was not in Stormlands. When Josh Sawyer took over Stormlands, he said something like: “Now, let’s really flesh it out”, and lots of things changed about it. Then Tyranny came about, and it was really about ideas from Stormlands and ideas from Defiance, all mushed together under the umbrella of that concept of what it would feel like to have adventures in a world where evil had already won. That, I guess, is the origin story – lots of things getting mushed together. But there are ideas of characters that are in Tyranny that are from Defiance and that were not in Stormlands.
White Wolf Publishing registered Vampire Bloodlines. Would you like to work on that?
I think Vampire would be really cool, but that’s the tough bit – there are so many cool things, there are so many awesome things out there. I know Tim and Leonard both loved working on it. We flirted with White Wolf long ago, right before CCP actually bought White Wolf. Mike Tinney was the president of White Wolf, and we got to know each other. What we were trying to figure out back then was whether we could take the Neverwinter 2 engine and do a Vampire or a World of Darkness game. It would be cool, not only as just a game, but also from the standpoint of people who love World of Darkness, who would then be able to go and make more World of Darkness modules and things like that. It would be cool, I’ve always loved Vampire, I read the books, read the novels, all kinds of that stuff.
What I’ve noticed is that contrary to other developers, you talk quite openly about any issues you have. How come that happens?
I don’t know, I think it’s our style. I’m all about acknowledging mistakes and moving on from them. I think that sometimes we maybe share too much. Some people have come to me and said: “Well, you’re making a lot of excuses for everything” and I’m like: “What do you mean? I don’t make excuses. I screwed this up, I screwed that up, we screwed up a lot of stuff”. But they say that it sounds like we’re excusing it all, like we did all of these mistakes but we don’t care. No, that’s not our intention, that’s not what we mean. So sometimes I wonder if maybe we share a little too much. I see other studios making a really good job of just not sharing anything, and sometimes I think that helps them… so I don’t know. But I prefer it that we acknowledge these things and move on from them. And if there are things I can share that will prevent people from making the same mistake, then it’s cool too.