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Chris Avellone on being a Creative Director at Obsidian

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Chris Avellone on being a Creative Director at Obsidian

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 1 May 2013, 21:11:42

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment

In an interview for GamesIndustry, Chris Avellone describes his work at Obsidian Entertainment. It's pretty interesting stuff, giving us a glimpse into a day in the life of MCA, and also showing how Obsidian differs from other game developers in key ways. Check it out:

When most people think of a creative director, they picture the singular auteur behind a game's overall vision. Creative directors can frequently have their names become synonymous with the projects they work on. Examples include Ken Levine's BioShock Infinite, Warren Spector's Deus Ex, and American McGee's Alice, the latter of which actually included the creative director's name in the official title. Avellone holds the title of creative director, but he said that at Obsidian his title means something slightly different.​

"I suspect that what Levine and Spector do is more akin to what a project director at Obsidian does; they're the visionary responsible for the guiding of a project and everyone else on the team looks to them to set the tone and the goals of the project. Since we have multiple projects going on at once, having someone dedicated to each rather than overseeing both is ideal," he explained. "In my role as a creative director at Obsidian, my goal is to help project directors, designers, and other studio owners design and make 'fun' better at the company. I give advice and critiques when I can to help the process."​

[...] Avellone has three tools that he finds indispensable to his work. The first is the combination of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook, a tool Avellone said is one of "boring necessity." Together, he uses the Office products to correspond with others within Obsidian, critique design tests and documents, and write pitch documents. The second tool is his sketchbook, which goes everywhere he goes.​

"I love my sketchbook," said Avellone. "If things are quiet and I don't feel like reading, then I'll just sit down and start drawing, usually stick figures. If beer is present, then stick figures are more likely to result. I did most of the RPG Codex stick figures for the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter while sitting in a dive bar on the beach a block away from inXile, and I was able to do a whole bunch beyond the requested number due to the... helpful power of alcohol."​

[...] Avellone believes the most important part of being a creative director is "taking in the big picture." He prefers to shepherd his team towards finding great execution in their own ideas, instead of driving his own vision forward by doing everything himself.​

"I don't like being the 'no' guy, I'd prefer to be the 'yes, and...' guy. I believe a lot of good game ideas are in the execution, not the original premise," he said. "Being aware of execution and trusting your designers to execute properly, and if not, trying to guide them towards reaching their ideas. Reminding them of priorities and what's important versus trying to do everything all at once, or worse, trying to do everything yourself. It only took one project 14 years ago to cure me of both. Planescape: Torment was my first lead designer role where it sunk in that trying to do everything yourself will drive you insane and likely do permanent damage to your health."​

Alcohol is indeed helpful for all matters related to the Codex.

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