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RPG Codex Wasteland 2 Interview - Part 3: Brian Fargo on Community Feedback

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RPG Codex Wasteland 2 Interview - Part 3: Brian Fargo on Community Feedback

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 22 March 2012, 11:43:53

Tags: Brian Fargo; Kickstarter; Wasteland 2

Since the official Wasteland 2 forums went up, a lot of people have been wondering just how seriously the good folks at InXile are going to take community feedback. So we've asked Brian Fargo about it, and here's what he says.

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A Wasteland forum and a Google Moderator site has sprung up since the last time we spoke. Has the sheer amount of feedback surprised you at all? Has it been a challenge to keep track of all the fan input?

Brian Fargo: I have not been entirely surprised by the amount of feedback as I know how passionate the RPG community is about this kind of game. But overall the impact this whole Kickstarter campaign had and the feedback on how much people loved the first game has been a very pleasant surprise. We have tried to keep up with all the messages as they come in and we keep track of topics that are repeated. The Google moderator site has been very helpful, and we agree with 90% of the popular topics. For us it will be a matter of which ones we incorporate as we cannot do everything.​

How do you strike a balance between a professional design vision and the desires of a diverse audience? Do you believe that the nature of this project will have a significant impact on the game's development process?

BF: Every project that I have managed has started with a vision document that calls out the important things we must deliver on. In conjunction with those call outs I make the team deliver examples of such things. If we say great characters with interesting dialogue then I want to see a sample. If we think gorgeous character portraits are important then I want an artist to show me one. It is one thing to promise a feature, but another to deliver. So instead of my relying on my instincts or team meetings I am able to solicit the feedback from the fans to make sure we nail what is important. The process now is very similar but actually better than ever since I don't have to be flying in the dark. We are not going to try and satisfy EVERY desire of EVERY fan, or it would be a mess. My instincts for this game have been pretty much in line with what I have seen, but there have been new ideas or priorities that were not intuitive to me and I was thankful for having the input that has been supplied. And there will be an extra step soon where I post the vision document based on all these things, but I have not had a second to type something up that communicates well. I don't think there will be any big surprises on it... we all know what we want to see here.​

In previous interviews you've mentioned some aspects of Wasteland that you'd like to preserve in Wasteland 2. One of which was turn-based combat and another was a party of multiple player created characters. Are there any other features that you see as being core to the franchise? Has recent fan input changed your perception of Wasteland's core appeal?

BF: In no particular order it seems that a large world map with random encounters gives a nice sense of scale, discovery and tension. Having NPCs not always behaving the way the player intends is something I have always loved. We had no real music or sound in the first game so we need to create a mood now. Keeping the game real and challenging is something we believe in. But honestly most of the feedback has been right in the wheelhouse.​

One of the many hot topics on the forum right now is that of quest compasses. Many games that adopt this practice neglect alternative methods of informing the player where to go. If you were to include navigational aids as an option, would you ensure that adequate directions are provided by other means to make it feasible to play without them?

BF: I guess my take on this is that we should design the game 100% in a way that no compass would be needed. It seems cheap to rely on a compass because we forgot to give enough clues. Now MAYBE at the end we throw out the concept of allowing it as an option for players who are a little lazy...MAYBE. This is the kind of broad stroke idea that I would want to throw out to the players I care most about to solicit feedback from.​

Another talking point seems to be about the ability to play through Wasteland 2 with just a single player created character. What do you feel about this issue? What development problems can you see arising from trying to support different core party sizes?

BF: Wasteland 1 required a party to survive, and I'm certain Wasteland 2 will be the same. Now perhaps some player may figure a clever way to make it through all alone from a combat perspective, but having the right skills is part of the dynamic. But that said, perhaps a solo character with all NPCs might be able to do it. This is a bit too detailed for me to have total visibility on.​

Wasteland enforced a distinction between the core group of player created characters and the companions that could tag along. The companions would largely control themselves and helped to integrate the player's party with the game's setting and quests. Is the autonomy and personality of these companions something you would like to expand upon in Wasteland 2? In what ways?

BF: I absolutely want to expand on the NPCs' self directed nature. I do want control to tell them to move, fire, evade, etc., and probably most the time they will obey. Some NPCs will waste ammo like in the first game, but I want to take it further. Some will steal from you, which will be funny to notice your canteen is missing. Maybe he will return it and maybe he won't. And you may have another powerful NPC in the group, but he just hates bikers. Walk into a biker bar and he starts attacking without regard for consequences. Those are fun moments for me.​

An overwhelming number of fans seem to want a more tactical combat system where the positioning of individual characters is paramount. This is in stark contrast to the Bard's Tale inspired combat in Wasteland. Sir-Tech's Jagged Alliance 2 seems to be a common reference point and is widely considered to have the best tactical combat system. What are your current thoughts on the combat and is there a fear that expectations may be too high considering the original Wasteland's broader scope?

BF: This is certainly a hot subject and a perfect example of where I want to put a little more research and get more feedback on. Jagged Alliance 2 has come up a lot... Fallout Tactics has also come up frequently. The question will be how hardcore we go and is there something in between these two worlds and the Wasteland 1 way. We know for sure you are going to see your group in combat, so immediately it lifts it up from Wasteland 1.​

Fallout is often cited as the spiritual successor to Wasteland, even though there are some fundamental differences between the two games. A lot of people want to see features closer to those in Fallout. Do you feel that it is important to preserve the differences between the two franchises? Even though it's understandable that many younger gamers missed out on Wasteland, can you assure us that Wasteland 2 will feel more like a Wasteland sequel than an alternative Fallout 2 successor?

BF: There will be zero need to have played Wasteland 1 in order to slide into the sequel. We will obviously take elements of both games into account on the sequel. There are so many similarities in the two worlds that it is difficult for me to say what is spiritual to what. But again I will share more specifics via our vision document soon.​

Most cRPGs today seem to feature voice acting in some capacity and it has been hinted at that Wasteland 2 will be no different. Many believe that the financial burden and inflexibility of voice acting will have an impact on the dialogue and quest design. Do you share this belief? To what extent would you like to use voice acting in Wasteland 2?

BF: I don't want to give away all my surprises, but people have made an assumption that voice acting is just talking heads or a narrator. There is some very interesting audio bits I have been wanting to try for years that will really up the drama but without the design or cost impacts. The classic RPGs like a Fallout or a Torment had a heavy literary vibe with all the great prose and descriptions, and that is a large element that people liked. I'm not talking about stepping on every square and getting a paragraph, but there is definitely a place for good writing. Also keep in mind that we will design the game as if there was no conversation audio, so we won't even consider that as a limitation.​

And finally, to conclude this interview, are there any additional comments you'd like to make?

BF: None other than I am genuinely anxious to get going on the project and I know that groups like yourselves have been beating the drums for a good RPG for years and I am taking my responsibility here VERY seriously.​

We are grateful to Brian Fargo for taking the time to answer our questions!

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