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RPG Codex Interview: Leonard Boyarsky on joining Obsidian, Fallout & Bloodlines cut content and more
Codex Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 30 September 2016, 20:43:07Tags: Fallout; Fallout 2; Journey to the Center of Arcanum; Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
[by Jedi Master Radek]
After my interview with Feargus Urquhart at Krakow's Digital Dragons conference, I asked him if I could get an interview with a famous new Obsidian employee: Leonard Boyarsky. Feargus kindly agreed, but noted that there was probably not much he could talk about now because he had just started working on a new project. I decided to go through with it anyway, gathering a list of questions from the Codex community and sending it out. A few weeks later, I received Leonard's replies. The whole thing was handled by Mikey Dowling, Obsidian's excellent social media manager. I am very thankful to Leonard, Feargus and Mikey for enabling this to happen.
So here you have it, the first interview with Leonard Boyarsky after his move to Obsidian.
Why did you leave Blizzard?
What do you think are the largest differences between working with a small company (relatively speaking) like Black Isle or Troika and a leviathan like Blizzard?
Since you and Tim are back together now, has there been any contact with Jason Anderson? Are you still friends? Any pipe dreams of getting back together?
So, of course, I would love to work with him again someday, but it wouldn’t be as simple as us just picking up where we left off. When we worked on Fallout and started Troika, Jason, Tim and I all had our own specific skills which complemented each other's well. But it's been over ten years, we've all had vastly different experiences, and our areas of expertise have shifted and grown (hopefully), so it wouldn't just be a matter of us getting back together and sliding into our old roles, we'd have to figure out the balance again.
What's your dream game that you'd like to make? And when are we getting Bloodlines 2 or Arcanum 2? What Troika game would you like to make a sequel to the most?
If you, Tim and Jason were to make Fallout from scratch now (pretending it never happened), with all the experience you've accumulated since the 90s, how different do you suppose it would be from what it was?
Do you think there's too much focus on balancing everything to perfection in modern games?
Has your time at Blizzard broadened your horizons on what a modern video game can achieve? If so, can we expect to see a different approach in your current and future projects compared to your time at Troika?
Back in 2002, right after the RPG Codex was founded, you wrote an editorial on how the biggest challenge in RPG development was 'making an in-depth RPG that sells'. Allow me to quote from it:
Now, after years working at Blizzard and seeing the market change radically (Steam, indies, Kickstarter, etc), do you believe that's still the case?
Since the collapse of Troika, have there been any games with an art style that appealed to you as an artist? If so, what are they?
· Dishonored - great job of stylization over photorealism, making their characters and world realistic and painterly at the same time (something we tried and failed to do with our characters in Vampire), plus an interestingly different take on a steampunk type world.
· Wolfenstein New Order - Hmmm... I'm sensing a trend here... loved the feel of their world.
These are all beautiful games in their own right, but they're also all very original and different, which is usually a huge part of whether a game's art appeals to me or not.
That new Cuphead game looks awesome, as well, even though I'm not much into side scrollers.
Being both an artist and a narrative designer, how difficult is it for you to combine meaningful gameplay mechanics with an artistic vision? In which of your games do you believe you achieved both in the most successful way?
Was one ending slot reserved for a Sabbat expansion or something similar?
Was the Cabbie intended to be Caine before White Wolf changed it in the Gehenna book?
Did you include the cut assets because you planned to do expansions later on?
Was Jack inside the container on the Dane or did he enter the ship near LA?
Who was writing the emails "from a friend" to the Bloodlines player?
What maps were cut from the game besides the library one?
Did you ever think about making the game playable after becoming a Mutant or it was always supposed to be the end after the Vault 13 assault cutscene?
There was a cut location called The Irvine Utopia. It was supposed to be a city run by robots who controlled the human inhabitants with an iron fist. They upheld strict rules, but the city was in a pristine pre-war state. It also had Brian Fargo's car and the skeletons of Black Isle employees. What questlines and interactions were going to be implemented there? Was it cut due to time constraints or was the tone too silly?
Fallout was planned to be the first of a series of GURPS games. While you were developing it, what other games in this series were you thinking of making?
In the promotional poster for Fallout included above, the Mutants are hairy, have different faces and look more agile. Why was this design changed? Were there any other big changes to the design during the game's development process?
How did the early drafts of the intro and outro movies look like? How did they change and why?
Early drafts of Fallout 2 included the Master's Army mobile fortress as a location. Could you tell us more about it and its impact on the game's plot and lore? Do you know why it was cut?
It came from the first draft of the FO2 story: The BoS and Vault 13's overseer's descendant (and a small group of elite leaders) had made a secret alliance to exchange tech for weapons, safety, etc, and you had to expose or stop them. It was decided that it wasn't strong enough, so we scrapped it and came up with the version that actually was made.
I was really happy that there were lobotomites in Old World Blues, incidentally.
What's your opinion on how the Vaults were changed from safe havens for humanity in Fallout to sites for wacky experiments in Fallout 2?
How did the early draft for Fallout 2's story and locations look like before you left Black Isle? How was it changed for the final game? What direction were you planning to steer the story and the world?
An idea which may or may not have ever actually made it in (and may have been their genesis) was that you could find a death claw egg and hatch it, and the death claw would become a follower. The joke was that, in order to not have everyone freak out when you walked into town, you could put a cloak on him - which would have effectively made him look like a slightly larger version of a normal NPC in a cloak (with a hidden face). When combat started, he would throw off the cloak and inexplicably grow to his correct size. This was suggested as a way we could do it without adding animations for him (we could just use NPC anims), and as a way to not add reactions for walking into town with him. However, you need to keep in mind that a lot of ideas started out silly, just to make us laugh, and we would evolve them into their darker versions as we went. I have no idea how the death claw follower would have played out had we stayed. But he wouldn't have spoken.
It was supposed to be very haunting and mysterious when you showed up to Vault 13 - the legends of your tribe told of many who tried to get in and failed, and you show up and the door is open and the whole vault is empty.
What can you tell us about your plans for gameplay mechanics and story in Troika's cancelled post-apocalyptic cRPG? Do you still have the tech demo? If so, could you share it?
A year ago, a design pitch for Journey to the Centre of Arcanum was discovered. What was your vision for the game? Tim said there were many concepts for it at the time.
I thought the magic/tech metal could have been an interesting evolution to the world of Arcanum, as long as it was rare and became something that could, in the right hands, give one faction or the other immense power. As long as it was more of a macguffin, and didn’t upend the whole world, I think it could have worked well. One version of that idea that prompted Tim's extreme dislike had an ending with a whole bunch of the metal being found (or taken) by the player at the end of the game, giving them the power to decide who ruled Arcanum (which totally contradicts everything I just said about it being a macguffin, of course). So I would have had to convince Tim it was a good idea in whatever form it took, or we would have gone with something else, or evolved the idea somehow. That's generally how these things go, you start throwing out basic, general ideas and revise, edit, discard as necessary until you get something you're happy with.
Do you have any unpublished concept art, drafts or design documents for Fallout or any of the Troika games in your vault? Even if they're not as good as the ones that were released, it would be beyond amazing to see them!
Thank you for your time.