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Wasteland 2 RPG Codex Interview with Brian Fargo - Part 1

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Wasteland 2 RPG Codex Interview with Brian Fargo - Part 1

Interview - posted by Monolith on Sun 26 February 2012, 00:55:15

Tags: Brian Fargo; Kickstarter; Wasteland; Wasteland 2

InXile CEO Brian Fargo started getting a team together and is back where for a lot of us RPG gaming started - the Wasteland franchise. We were curious about how he feels making a proper game again, his plans, the reactions he got and how crowdfunding might change the game development landscape. Luckily he was kind enough to provide us with answers.

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- You have held the Wasteland licence for almost a decade now. It must feel good to finally put it to use. But why do you think this hasn't happened earlier?

It certainly feels good to be on precipice of potentially making a sequel but ultimately it will be up to the fans of RPG's to decide if this project happens. I've been wanting to get back to this franchise for longer than 10 years and the entire reason Fallout exists today is because I was unable to make a sequel back in the day. I had trademark issues in the 90's and then in the first decade of 2000 we had a lot of transition going on. We pitched Wasteland but our vision had a deeper PC feel to the game and publishers were not going to have it. Or we ran into the publisher's fear of competing with Bioware and they didn't want to spend the money to do so. I was always amazed to see products released that had such lower concepts than that of bringing back the granddaddy of post apocalyptic RPG's. And when Fallout 3 went big that really seemed like it would have made pushed our pitch over the edge but again there was too much fear for daring to take on Fallout and or Bioware at that point. The son of Wasteland was stopping the dad.

- You revisited another classic with the 2004 reimagining of The Bard's Tale games, albeit with licensing restrictions. Many fans of the original games were left disappointed with the result due to the number of changes to the formula. If crowd funding had been viable back then and you had decided to pursue it, do you feel that the game would have turned out differently? In what ways?

We took a fair amount of grief from the RPG crowd on Bard's Tale 2004 and I understand why they were disappointed. Maybe I was just in a strange mood but I wanted to make light of the RPG genre to question the cookie cutter nature of things. In our efforts to parody I think we did what we set out to do and we satisfied a group of people who didn't have the affinity for the original series. It is nearly a 5 star rated game in the IOS store and considered one of the funniest games of all time. It's now quite ironic that we have a group of people asking us to make a sequel to that version.

But that said we probably would have been better off doing a more straight up sequel but I really don't think the opportunity would have been available back then. It was near impossible to get a PC deal funded and there was no tablet or phone market. Had the dynamics been what they were today we might well have done something a little more straight up. In general I think I need to get back to my hardcore roots anyway. The bottom line is that I GET IT that fans (and myself) want a real RPG and they want to see me prove my ability to do so again. I will put together a great team and make sure we accomplish all the elements I have been promoting.

- The prospect of a Wasteland 2 has sparked a lot of talk amongst gamers and I'm sure you've received an overwhelming amount of feedback. What do you feel are the most common features people want to see in a Wasteland 2 and do they match up with the features you and your team envisage for the game?

Based on what I have been reading it seems we are in sync with what the players want to see. The beauty of fan funding and the internet is that we can be communicating with the fan base along the way to solicit input for the broad strokes of things. Should the art style be bleak, muted and desolate or does a Borderlands 2 look appeal to the fans. We are going to get on the same page up front. I've responded to some interviews on my sensibility thoughts and so far the fans seem to like what they are hearing. There is a definite appetite to play this more classic style of game and I certainly want to make it! To be a little more specific this is going to be a top down, party and turn based game which has always been a great formula. It will also be a larger party most likely following the same vibe of the first Wasteland with 4 player characters and 3 NPC's in your group. I always thought having just 3 players in a group didn't feel like a real party based game.

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"[T]his is going to be a top down, party and turn based game which has always been a great formula."

- In a 2003 GameSpy interview you said "Creatively, you can still capture a lot of the elements, the things that you like for the purists without doing it exactly the way they [the old games] did it". The point of reference was Wizardry 8, but let us change it to Wasteland. What are the old elements that you feel should be reworked? Would you stick to a turn-based and party-based game considering the industry's move to single character, real-time gameplay in the last decade?

My vision of this game is far closer to the original and will feel a lot more comfortable to the typical RPG player so what changes there are should fit comfortably with the gameplay conventions. I want anyone who played Fallout or Wasteland to feel comfortable stepping right into the shoes of this Wasteland. I have wanted to play and make a party based RPG for some time and my hopes are that the fans will also. Besides graphics the biggest element that needs to be focused on is the audio. We have some clever ideas on the use of radio communication and we are going to spend considerable time creating a mood with the use of an atmospheric sound track and sound effects. We want to build on what was done before rather than "rework" it.

- Being pessimistic for a moment; if the crowd funding approach fails to take off, but you instead attract the attention of a publisher and hammer out a deal, do you feel that the resulting version of Wasteland 2 would differ in terms of style? How do you think crowd funding will affect the type of game produced?

RPG Codex being pessimistic.. cmon.. never. I guess one has to ask the question if the game would have been a sales success if there wasn't enough fan support to fund it. Many RPG players love and respect Wasteland yet many Fallout players don't realize its roots. If the Fallout community truly knew then it would probably will be a successful funding. However, if we took your pessimistic scenario I think it would be a mistake to take this game in another direction other than what we have been discussing with the fans. The fans have made it clear that they want a certain kind of game and if publisher X popped up and said "Good news we are going Wasteland and its going to be an FPS", they would be incurring quite a wrath. Keeping it closer to the original game just seems right.

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"I think it would be a mistake to take this game in another direction other than what we have been discussing with the fans."

- Reading your tweets and social media correspondence, it sounds like you will be creatively involved in the project. To what extent will this be? Will we see you as creative director?

I am almost always involved in the creative aspects of the projects. My role in games is often very strong in the front and back end of production. At the start I make sure we have the right team and stay true to the tenets of why the game should exist. Once everyone starts clicking on the sensibilities then the game takes a life of its own and I give it the room to fly. A good example of this was when we were making the first Fallout and Steve Jackson objected HEAVILY to the opening scene of the guy being shot in the back of the head with the soft music playing. I called him up and said "if you don't like that then you haven't seen anything yet" so we parted ways to use GURPS and I told the guys to use a different game system. A good producer will step up in the key moments and make sure the vision stays true. I will be heavily involved in this project from every step of the way to art design, writing, audio, story arc, etc. But my favorite moments in production are when the team come up with brilliant ideas that I had nothing to do with because that means the game has achieved that magical tipping point of gameplay production.

- In 1991 Interplay released The Bard's Tale Construction Set. Since then, many developers such as Bethesda and BioWare have supported user made content through the release of modding tools. Could we see such tools released to the public for Wasteland 2? What are your thoughts on the benefits of mods on the longevity of a game's life?

I think it is just too early for me to comment on this as we have not concluded which engine we are going to use nor do we know what the final budget is. But I do agree that mods will increase the longevity of a games life.

- Double Fine have now shown that crowd funding is a viable way of generating income for a game. If the likes of yourselves and Obsidian are also successful, how do you think this will change the industry? Do you see the games industry as a whole taking a step back and re-evaluating their approach to game development?

Crowd funding or Fan Funding has the potential to have a major impact on getting games made that might not have had a chance. There is a lot of talk about "middle" developers and how it is going to be hard for them to survive and there is truth to it. You have the big AAA retail market in which development costs are tens of millions of dollars on top of the tens of millions of marketing and manufacturing. This business is controlled by just a few and much development is done internally. On the other side of the spectrum you have the indie developer who have very small teams and crank out a product every 10 minutes. This leaves the developer wanting to make a medium sized production in a difficult place with very few options. Fan funding gives opportunity for developers who prove they can finish a game of this magnitude and that is a good thing. People are quite willing to put their money down at Gamestop in advance of a game hitting the shelf so it doesn't seem farfetched they would do the same for a game they want to see from a company they know can deliver a game. This could be a wonderful revolution of putting the power of games back into the hands of consumers and developers.

We would like to thank Brian Fargo for the interview. Stay tuned for the second part!

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