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Interview Leonard Boyarsky Mega-Interview at PCGamesN

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Dec 15, 2017.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
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    Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Blizzard Entertainment; Diablo III; Diablo III: Reaper of Souls; Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; Temple of Elemental Evil; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

    Following on the heels of the semi-reveal of Obsidian's new project with Take-Two Interactive, PCGamesN have published a very extensive interview with co-game director Leonard Boyarsky. The interview covers three eras of Leonard's career - the Troika years, his decade at Blizzard working on Diablo III and its expansion, and his return to RPG development at Obsidian. He's not allowed to talk about the new game yet, but there are some interesting anecdotes here, a few of which might tell you something about his current frame of mind. Here's an excerpt:

    And, of course, you were making nice and simple games, nothing too big, nothing too ambitious...

    Yeah, we didn't do things where you could do anything you could ever possibly imagine, that was probably not in the timeframe of any realistic budget or anything [laughs]. Even though I feel like we could have got a lot more QA for all three of our games, especially Arcanum. I think [that] was a game where I'm not sure any reasonable person would have put in the amount of money and time needed to successfully test that game with all the permutations we put in there.

    We virtually let you do anything. If you're a Dwarf, you immediately get penalised if you try to use magic, vice versa with Elves and technology. Which made [it possible to make] non-viable characters, but we were like 'oh it's so cool, people will love playing this!'. If we went back and did it now, we [could] say it was a racial thing [where] Dwarves are not able to use magic [and] cut out some of those things that were not viable builds, save ourselves a lot of headaches and still pretty much have the same game. Just things you realise in hindsight.

    You think you could have found a spot along the curve where you weren't sacrificing too much, but you have a game that's a lot easier to make and test?


    I think in a lot of ways it would still seem like the same game. I don't think you'd know we made that [other] version if you didn't know it existed. I don't think people would think it was any less reactive than it ended up being. You can present it in such a way that, of course, they can't do this, y'know? For both Arcanum and Temple we were just the victims of our own ambition, optimism, and enthusiasm. Tim has talked about it at length. I wasn't really involved beyond the contract phase of Temple, but 3.5 came out halfway through development, and Atari's like 'well why don't you put 3.5 in?'. We're like, 'well, can we have extra time?', and they're like 'no’.

    Why don't you just... change everything?

    Yeah, I think we ended up getting another month or two but it definitely wasn't as much time as we needed or asked for. Instead of us going 'welp, then you can't have it', we're like 'we can do it!'. Which was our failing every time, we want to do something extremely difficult that's gonna take extra time, we'll do it, we can do it, we'll stay extra. I mean I spent most of Troika's existence at work. Night time, weekends, I was there pretty much all the time. There were times we weren't but especially when we got into Vampire it was just crazy. It was crunch for something like two-and-a-half years, some insane amount of time.

    There have been some rumblings of a game after Vampire being developed at Troika, is there anything you can talk about on that? Is it even true?


    We did a bunch of pitch documents. We did a demo for what was a post-apocalyptic game, but all we had was some concept art and the engine demo. We had not really put a lot of design into it, we were just hoping that we could shop that around and people could see the promise there. We were fairly early in the development, that eventually leaked, but still no-one was interested in it. We weren't too upset it was out there.

    We did actually make, I forget how far we got, we made I believe a workable prototype of one small little area that was like a Werewolf version [of Vampire]. We made a game where you could turn into a Werewolf or you could be a Werewolf, but it was only one small area using a lot of the assets if not all the assets from Vampire.

    A lot of conversations with publishers, a lot of pitch documents. The one people ask about mostly is the post-apocalyptic one - what you see in those videos out there is what it was. There was no grand... I did a concept piece and I think we had a very, very basic pitch that's in a box somewhere at my house. I believe me and Tim and Jason all have copies of it, I could dig it up but I do not remember virtually anything about it. It was almost Thundarr the Barbarian-esque. Magic came into the world after the apocalypse - it was one of those things. It was like Conan with dark magic as you're running around giant ruined freeways and buildings.

    Every game I've worked on in my entire career you start with a design and the game changes a lot from your original vision as you're making it. That happened even with Fallout, Arcanum had a bit of that [too]. So even though we had an original pitch for that post-apocalyptic game, I feel like it was barely the kernel of an idea. We would have taken a very specific direction, we liked to have a very tangible vibe and direction for the game, and I feel like that was very very early - we hadn't really solidified what that was going to be.

    You're at Obsidian but you're also back with the people you worked with before - but there was a ten year gap in there. Was it like going back to the way things used to be or is there stuff that has changed for the better?


    Yeah. Obsidian has this fantastic dialogue writing tool that is just great. We were writing dialogues in Excel, literally, on Arcanum and Vampire. They have processes that have been in place for years and years and years that we never got a chance to do at Troika. It's not to say that I didn't learn a lot of valuable stuff at Blizzard. Working with a whole different set of people.

    At Troika, and when we were working on Fallout at Interplay, and probably at the beginning of Obsidian, they would have said the same thing, we were maybe a bit myopically focused on hardcore RPGs. Over the course of the past ten years or so, working with other people and talking with people who are passionate about games but maybe not the same games that I'm passionate about, really gives you a different insight into things and you learn different ways of looking at games, and different ways to accomplish the same goals.

    Some things you look at you're like 'yeah, I wouldn't do it that way' and some things you're like 'I never would have thought of that, that's a really good idea’. So, in a way, when I say it's like coming home it's not like nothing has changed, but the big thing is working on another game that's really, really focused on the story and the way you play the story. [That's] the thing I love and the thing that felt like coming home more than anything.​

    Read the whole thing, it's good stuff. Apparently Matt Barton is going to publish an interview with Leonard in the near future as well. Now that the news about Project Indiana is officially out there, hopefully information about it will start to trickle out.
     
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  2. Clockwork Knight Arcane

    Clockwork Knight
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    But first we have to define-

    :imperialscum:
     
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  3. Major_Blackhart Codexia Lord Sodom Patron

    Major_Blackhart
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    Very cool. Still reading the interview but Leon always gives great insight about stuff without doing that MCA harping on bad shit type of crap.
    He focuses on his own failings and how he learned from things. Nothing passive aggressive. And he even defends Activision.

    Class act all around. Mucho respect.
     
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  4. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    :balance:

    Leonard saying they shouldn't have updated the ruleset to 3.5 is interesting because Tom Decker had the exact opposite opinion
    It's like Sawyer vs Avellone in IWD2. :) Lenny here also leaves out that Troika let the scope scope creep without any publisher prompting e.g.
     
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  5. Kyl Von Kull Magister

    Kyl Von Kull
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    I doubt they would’ve needed that extra time if they hadn’t needed to change the whole rule set. Besides, come on, it’s a great work related horror story.
     
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  6. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    They absolutely needed the time (with the additional two months, ToEE took about 19 months), and the change from 3.0 to 3.5 really isn't that significant.
     
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  7. imweasel Arcane

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    :hmmm:

    EDIT: Infinitron edited the article. It now says "[Leonard's] return to RPG development at Obsidian" [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
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  8. Jedi Exile Arcane Patron

    Jedi Exile
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    So true.
     
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  9. Rinslin Merwind Educated

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    And there my attention reached over9000 level

    Oh, yeah I really loved to do walkthrough with my dwarf mage, it was harder than "Meta" elf mage, but it was fun to play.

    And it would be another game which was too bound by boring restrictions and cliché "dwarfs can't in magic" even though dwarfs are humans - which was mutated during evolution, so even if they have predisposition to technology - they still should be able learn magic (maybe their magicians would be weaker, but they can exist). If they decided to remove ability to learn spells for dwarfs - they were about to remove/redone big questline and rewrite lore. I don't think such decision can make less work to devs, more like another way around. Not to mention that after 22+ walkthroughs (after some time I lost count) of Arcanum I seen more bugs with NPC and damage for some tech weapons than problems with magic, even on dwarf character. But it's just my opinion. This just a one of reasons why I love Arcanum - high amount ways to replay with freedom in character development.

    Hold up, I not saying their games was casual, but in some aspects they had more forgiveness than other games and not required insane grind for unlocking top tier weapon or level up. But it's again just for me.
    I hope it not solving balance issues, because Blizzard can many things, but they can't in balance.

    In general, it's very interesting interview, thanks for posting it, Infinitron. Sad ironical situation - kids of people, who dropped Arcanum, because bugs and lack of test, now playing in completely unfinished games without even a chance on hope that their game would be finished (ARK, PUBG and other unfinished projects) and nobody complain about lack of test. He not really should regret path of Arcanum development, because people just didn't understand that such massive game should be tested by big amount of players before they can have polished game. I hope his new game would be good.
     
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  10. Paul_cz Erudite

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    Everytime I read Leon interview I lament his lost decade at blizzard all over again

    And then I remember he is finally reunited with Tim and making an actual RPG, thus inclining my mood. Hopefully it won't tank in the market like their Troika masterpieces, ffs.
     
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  11. Mastermind Arcane Bethestard

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    Spell implementation takes almost no time. I've made nothing but abandonware and of all the projects I abandoned I never abandoned one because I spent too much time on spells and other active abilities. The cool shit is easy to do once you have a few templates (just look at all the junk skills and spells in the average rpg), it's adding too many core features that tends to cascade into too much work.
     
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  12. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    I don't believe this is necessarily applicable to D&D-type spells. After all, Sawyer said that the lack of amazing mind-blowing spells in PoE is because they would have taken too much time to implement/test/fix.
     
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  13. Mastermind Arcane Bethestard

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    Sawyer is wrong (and almost certainly bullshitting).

    edit: to elaborate, they should have an easier time than I did because they already had a system in place. In my case I would often think of a spell that wouldn't affect any of the existing stats and have to invent and then retroactively apply to every actor so that the spell would work (IE: slow).
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
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  14. Cross Scholar

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    Yet the inexperienced Bioware who had never made an RPG before and was working with much more primitive tools was able to implement hundreds of such spells in the Baldur's Gate games? Either Sawyer is incredibly incompetent or more likely, those 'mind-blowing' spells were left on the cutting room floor in the name of balance.
     
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  15. FreshCorpse Novice

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    Weren't most of the Baldur's Gate spells horrendusly buggy on release though?
     
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  16. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    Bioware had 3.5 years and different priorities.

    By the way, "hundreds" is wrong. Baldur's Gate had 96 spells. Pillars of Eternity has over 170.
     
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  17. Cross Scholar

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    Impossible. Bioware was founded in early 1995 and Baldur's Gate came out in late 1998, so your theory would have required a bunch of inexperienced doctors to have somehow secured a D&D license before or immediately after they started their company. We know Bioware developed Shattered Steel first, which came out a little more than two years before Baldur's Gate and was published by Interplay, who at some point gave the greenlight for a D&D-based RPG. Baldur's Gate must have taken anywhere from 2.5-3 years to develop, which is close or even identical to PoE's 2.5 years of development time.

    Where are you getting these numbers from? If those 170 spells include the ones added by expansions, that's hardly a fair comparison.

    Those numbers don't tell the entire story. PoE may have more spells, but in terms of actual spell variety, it's lacking even compared to the first Baldur's Gate. For instance, there are no uttility spells and even genre staples like invisibility are absent. Furthermore, because spells in PoE don't scale with your level like they do in D&D, this means a lot of its spells are slightly stronger, superficial variations on other spells (this is also the case in D&D to some extent, but not as much).

    And the reason I said 'hundreds' is because I was talking about the Baldur's Gate games, plural. Baldur's Gate 2 tripled the amount of spells there were in the first game. Somehow I doubt we'll see the same in Deadfire, in spite of it having a longer development time than Baldur's Gate 2.
     
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  18. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Roguey is correct. Shattered Steel was a side project, they worked on Baldur's Gate starting from 1995.

    BioWare had some excellent developers on board but they did get the time and budget they needed.
     
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  19. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

    Roguey
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    It's true that these were "left on the cutting room floor in the name of balance."

    D&D also has spells that are just straight upgrades (haste, improved haste, invisibility, improved invisibility etc.) and it requires more dedication than I have to go through them all to cut out redundant spells.

    Different priorities. :)
     
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  20. Cross Scholar

    Cross
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    Nope:
    http://www.ign.com/articles/1999/11/24/developer-journal-baldurs-gate-ii-pt-1

     
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  21. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Interesting, I'd somehow missed that and assumed they started earlier, although the development did still overlap with Shattered Steel and it's still quite a bit more than what PoE initially got (which is actually more like two years + an additional four months emergency overtime when they realized the game wasn't ready).

    Anyway, regarding spells, there are some that we specifically know weren't in the first game due to lack of development time, like polymorph spells which are being added in PoE2. Important to remember that devtime also includes QA time, which is a bigger deal to Obsidian than it was to developers back in the 1990s. Moreso than he worries about balance, I think Sawyer is scared of making anything that seems like it could break a game. For example, polymorphing - not actually hard to implement, probably, but how does the AI handle it, etc? It's the kind of thing that sets off a project director's alarm bells.
     
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  22. Trashos Magister

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    In BG2, I must have been using regularly a couple of dozen spells. In PoE (base game), I must have used less than 10. Availability does not mean much sometimes.
     
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  23. Mastermind Arcane Bethestard

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    I dunno about haste but invisibility and improved invisibility didn't really compete with each other for me. II took up a higher spell slot so if i just wanted to ambush groups (which I did, constantly) regular invisibility was good enough and it saved me a higher slot for something more useful.
     
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  24. Axie Educated

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    For both Arcanum and Temple we were just the victims of our own ambition, optimism, and enthusiasm.

    And this is how you make greatness.
    Then you grow older, rich and comfortable life kicks in, different ways of looking at games, cock is not rising as it used to, until all is left is automation and the 'we haz passion' press talk.

    Nice interview, btw. Great guy.
     
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  25. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

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    I agree. This bit is especially disturbing and a total decline:
    Non-viable characters are a must in a good RPG and often, with enough intelligence and creativity these non-viable builds are viable and very fun to play. Having more options is always a plus, the fact that only 1% of gamers will appreciate it is another matter. The reason why games such as Fallout, Arcanum or Age of Decadence have cult status is because they have so many hidden paths/options that make them very replayable and with each playthrough you discover something new. If they're going to change that (and judging by what Tim and Leo say they surely will) I doubt their new game will be anything interesting.

    BTW, has anyone else heard a rumor that this new game will be about Mars colonists?
     
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