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Chris Avellone Sugarbombed Interview, Part Two

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Chris Avellone Sugarbombed Interview, Part Two

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 21 November 2016, 17:08:22

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Chris Avellone; Fallout 2; Fallout: New Vegas; Obsidian Entertainment; South Park: The Stick of Truth

The proprietors of Fallout-centric forum community Sugarbombed have posted the second part of their epic interview with Chris Avellone. This part is less obviously trying to bait Chris into saying something bad about Bethesda, but that doesn't stop him from raining a bit more fire on Obsidian for good measure. I quote:

SB: Now onto New Vegas. Since you designed New Reno in Fallout 2, how did you and the other developers go about differentiating New Vegas from it? And what influence did you take from it (New Reno)?

CA: I don't know if there were any conversations on differentiating New Vegas from New Reno, the level designers for the city might know (I don't know if they played Fallout 2). BTW, New Reno wasn't solely mine, I inherited the design from the Troika guys before they left Black Isle, so I had that template to build on (the crime families, the Enclave, jet production, etc.) The worst parts of New Reno you can blame me for, don't blame the Troika guys. ;)

Looking back the only thing I regret in New Reno is that I should have cut out one of the crime families (four was too many with everything else that was going on) and made Myron more systemically valuable to the party (his combat build and crafting abilities weren't helpful). Cassidy ended up being a better companion for systemic considerations, even with his heart condition. I did a post about companion design based on this learning experience a while back on the Obsidian forums, but I don't know if it's still up there (Obsidian locked me out of my profile after my departure, and they've refused to delete my account). The companion system design principles are not being used in recent Obsidian titles, so it may have been removed.

SB: Something that most people can agree on is that Bethesda and Godfather Pete Hines are experts at marketing. By using the hype of Fallout 4 and announcing it 6 months before release, they were able to make it one of the most profitable games in history. What were your personal experiences with Bethesda's PR/marketing department like, and how does this compare to other companies you’ve worked with in the past?

CA: Ah, a Bethesda question, I was waiting for it (Part 1 was filled with them, Monte, almost as if they were LEADING QUESTIONS HMMMM Editor's Note: Lol). I've been wrapped up with Prey for a while now, and I didn't have much interaction with marketing, but I doubt it's changed much - overall, I think Bethesda is one of the few companies that do marketing right. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - I have a lot of respect for Pete Hines - if you see him on the trenches at E3, he takes his job seriously and isn't fucking away on his mobile phone while journalists ask the developers shitty questions that PR should be listening to and monitoring (sorry for the tirade, am channeling past experiences).

In addition (and I've said this before, too), but he knows how to demo games he's working on, and he was always willing to take over showcasing the game and gameplay for one of the other demo folks if a developer or demo-er needed to be pulled away for an interview, and he did it without a hitch, something a lot of other PR folks I've worked with in the past wouldn't dare do or want to (and most may not even like the games, and feel that demoing is what "the developers are for").

Another thing which may be hard for non-developers to understand the full importance of, but Bethesda plans their marketing. This is rare in my experience. Bethesda is clear about messaging, they time and focus information releases, schedule demo dates properly (ask any developer, but demo deliveries should never be sprung as a surprise to any development team because demos can derail development by months), and more. Also, if there's any doubts as to how well marketing does their jobs, I'll just say this - you can buy Fallout T-shirts in Target. Target. I still can't believe it. That never would have happened at Black Isle, but Bethesda made Fallout visible to the public, which is no small feat. Even my parents recognize the Fallout logo (and the Vault Boy) when they see it - hell, I wasn't able to do that and I'm their son, and this is my livelihood.

So, yeah, I think they do a good job with marketing. Other folks I've worked with in the past have the exact opposite opinion, however, but that's up to them to outline their grievances. I don't agree with their opinion, and their opinions were so vague/hyperbolic it was hard to argue them - and I hate hyperbole in any event, it's the equivalent of lying to make your ill-founded point.

(Oh, and to say it, LucasArts was pretty good to work with, too, they also had their shit together.)
Beyond the bridge-burning, this part of the interview also has some pretty interesting responses from Chris about his quest design methodology, so be sure to read the whole thing. According to the interviewer, there are still two parts left to go, which will focus primarily on Chris' current work on Prey and the System Shock remake, but will also include a follow-up to his comments about Obsidian in the first part. Looks like the fun isn't over yet.

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