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Default The Bard's Tale - An Interview With An Archmage

December 29th, 2010, 03:03
Matt Barton - known for his CRPG history series - has a fascinating interview with Rebecca Heineman, co-founder of Interplay and developer on The Bard's Tale series at Gamasutra. Her history, old days at Interplay and the demise of The Bard's Tale are among the topics covered, with side references to John Carmack and all sorts of things. I'll quote the first question because, while not the most interesting answer, it sets the scene for the sort of discussion you'll experience:
I found this on your website: "Who am I? I'm a 46 year old woman, computer programmer, game designer, writer, engineer, pastry chef, markswoman, loving mother of 5 even though my kids have grown up and moved on." Do you feel that pretty much covers everything? Markswoman, really?
Rebecca Heineman: Yes. I used to have a Ferret 50 caliber, long time ago…Not anymore, I don't have any firearms. They've long since disappeared in the divorce, etc. But I used to go out with some friends shooting, and here's a little piece of trivia: in the game Wasteland, in the packaging there's a picture of Alan Pavlish, Michael A. Stackpole, and so forth all dressed as Mad Max road warriors — the guns they're holding are mine.
…and I can't resist a second grab:
I saw where someone had asked you if you could design any game, what would it be, and you said Wasteland II. I know a lot of gamers who would love to see that. Is there any possibility at all that you might do it?
RH: Ask Brian.
He's the one with the keys to the franchise?
RH: Talk to Brian Fargo. Leave it at that.
Speaking of him, what did you think of his Bard's Tale game?
RH: [Sticks finger down throat, makes gagging noises.] When he first described it to me — he wanted to do a parody role-playing game. In my opinion, the Bard's Tale that Brian released was The Princess Bride. It even had Cary Elwes as the bard; the humor and everything was The Princess Bride and was not Bard's Tale.
Bard's Tale is a game, a gritty role-playing game, with a party fighting monsters in a fantasy role-playing setting. It wasn't The Princess Bride or Shrek. Now, the game that was shipped was one Brian wanted to make, so that's fine. But to me that Bard's Tale game, I would disavow any connection.
If I were allowed to do Bard's Tale IV, I would do what I did in Dragon Wars but with the next technology. It would have 2011 technology. I would make something that would be pretty damn awesome. I just need someone to give me ten million dollars to do it. Unfortunately, my pockets — let me look in my purse. There's fifty bucks in there.
More information.
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December 29th, 2010, 03:03
A very nice read. I guess Interplay's slogan 'By gamers, for gamers' really did have some truth in it Anyhow… I love these articles, giving us a bit of an inside peek at what went on during the development of the classics we used to play.
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December 29th, 2010, 03:51
Brian Fargo is dead to me.
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December 29th, 2010, 04:14
My first instinct when a veteran designer like Heineman says If I could design any game at all, I would make… is yesyesyes, but then when she mentions 2011 technology that feeling evaporates like the bloody mist after capping someone at point blank range in JA2. What the frig does modern technology have to do with anything? What made games like Wasteland great isn't that they used cutting edge technology.

If her ideal project is to make Wasteland 2 with 2011 tech, then I'll take a pass thanks. We already have Fallout 3, FO:New Vegas, ad nauseum. Is there anyone anywhere in the world who gets that what we (or at least I) crave is gameplay and some sort of intellectual challenge?

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December 29th, 2010, 05:06
To be fair, she said 2011 technology, not first person perspective, cover system, dumbed down gameplay, etc.

EDIT: Reading the interview, I've found this:

One of my pet peeves right now is that a lot of video games these days; for example, Command & Conquer III. They have all these big name actors in the cut scenes they film at a sound stage. Does that really add to the game? Did that really make the game a better game? I thought I was buying a video game. I didn't think I was buying an interactive movie. I want to play a game.

So many games these days are supposedly a first-person shooter, but you walk around a couple corridors, kill a couple formula monsters, and the game freezes as it plays a cut scene with voice actors. Then you continue on. Why don't I just buy the DVD and watch the movie? It's less work on my part. In fact, many games like Bioshock or Dead Space — I didn't play the game. But I pretty much did; I went to YouTube and watched people do a run through. As far as I was concerned I just watched the movie.

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Last edited by Elhoim; December 29th, 2010 at 06:05.
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December 29th, 2010, 06:05
She was a good developer…did Bard's Tale III and Dragon Wars and one other good title I cannot remember. If I recall correctly she was working on Bard's Tale IV and they showed a demo to EA and they weren't interested…dang it sure loved that series.

I would love it if they let her design Bard's Tale IV. I dont think she means 2011 tech means the game would suck gameplay wise, i think it would still be deep roleplaying and gameplay but would be modern gui's and modern graphics….

I mean if given a choice would anyone choose to use 1987 graphics in making a game?
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December 29th, 2010, 07:19
I think you should take into account that she is primarily an engine/graphics programmer - of course she'd want modern technology. She talks about John Carmack as one of her peers, for example.

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December 29th, 2010, 10:32
Transcription error by Matt, I think —- it's supposed to be a Barrett 50 Cal (meaning the Barrett M82 sniper rifle, AKA "Light 50").

Huh? Hey, I played a lot of Twilight: 2000 back in the day, I know these things…
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December 29th, 2010, 10:39
Heh, the second sentence of the interview confused me at first… Great read, fascinating stuff.

Originally Posted by magerette
I'm so tired of marketing hype, marketing slang, marketing priorities and general marketing BS that it tends to have the opposite effect on me. (Jaded is the word I'm looking for here.) I can't even read through a whole press release from any AAA title company without wanting to turn off my computer and learn to cross-stitch.
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December 29th, 2010, 10:55
Yeah, I watched the original videos from his chat, and was enthralled. Real piece of gaming history there.
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December 29th, 2010, 11:43
Interesting read, thanks!

Also, I was really confused by the second sentence at first too. The matter becomes clear a bit further down.

Originally Posted by RampantCoyote View Post
Transcription error by Matt, I think —- it's supposed to be a Barrett 50 Cal (meaning the Barrett M82 sniper rifle, AKA "Light 50").

Huh? Hey, I played a lot of Twilight: 2000 back in the day, I know these things…
I played Twilight:2000 too (among other things) and know enough Gun-Fu that I am absolutely stunned that a Barrett .50 cal is sold as a sporting/hunting rifle (or better yet, for "home defense") to the average Joe! It's a monster calibre sniper rifle designed for extreme range and/or anti-materiel sniping for heavens sake! What possible civillian use could there be for it? Shooting rhinos at 2 km? Ye gods!

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December 29th, 2010, 12:16
I disagree with her about C&C. The cutscenes with the actors have been a major part of the series since day one - The removal of 'em counted against C&C4, I believe, and the seriousness of C&C3 wasn't that well received. They're hammy, they're silly, but they engage you in the game. I'd rather have C&C cutscenes than a novel's worth of text telling me, basically, to blow shit up.
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December 29th, 2010, 13:56
screeg: Just to let you know most of the games from the 80's and 90's that we enjoy here did use cutting edge technology for the time. Some of the most popular rpgs could only run on a few systems because of the system requirements. (like Ultima 7 for example)
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December 29th, 2010, 15:28
If I were allowed to do Bard's Tale IV, I would do what I did in Dragon Wars but with the next technology. It would have 2011 technology. I would make something that would be pretty damn awesome. I just need someone to give me ten million dollars to do it
If someone gives ME 10 million bucks I'll program Bard's Tale IV and Wizardry 9 by myself.

PS: Need a gfx designer for 1 million, then.

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December 29th, 2010, 16:47
Darn, if you had added Might and Magic 10, I might have gone for it, HiddenX Well, I guess I can stay married after all….

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December 29th, 2010, 17:33
What a gal! It`s Betty Davis of videogaming :)

I do not recall when was the last time I read someone speaking so frankly (and with what flair! :) about the industry…(ok Mr Schafer sometimes)

And this, for all the righteous un`s:
RH:" I had a friend named Tom Whicker. He and I would play video games all the time. I didn't have much money, so I had a 2600 and an Apple II, and I was copying the cartridges — I designed my own "dev kit," shall we say — because I was just too flat broke. But he had every single cartridge made. So I would grab it and copy it from him"
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December 29th, 2010, 17:49
Originally Posted by zadokAllen View Post
What a gal! It`s Betty Davis of videogaming

I do not recall when was the last time I read someone speaking so frankly (and with what flair! about the industry…(ok Mr Schafer sometimes)

And this, for all the righteous un`s:
RH:" I had a friend named Tom Whicker. He and I would play video games all the time. I didn't have much money, so I had a 2600 and an Apple II, and I was copying the cartridges — I designed my own "dev kit," shall we say — because I was just too flat broke. But he had every single cartridge made. So I would grab it and copy it from him"
I'm not a fan of podcasts and video interviews but this one is an exception. You should watch the vids of Matts interviews with Becky, much better than to read it. Shes a great taleteller and it's hard to believe that she once was a shy, introverted boy.

You can find the vids here:
http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/taxonomy/term/1972

Originally Posted by magerette
I'm so tired of marketing hype, marketing slang, marketing priorities and general marketing BS that it tends to have the opposite effect on me. (Jaded is the word I'm looking for here.) I can't even read through a whole press release from any AAA title company without wanting to turn off my computer and learn to cross-stitch.
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December 29th, 2010, 17:58
Originally Posted by guenthar View Post
screeg: Just to let you know most of the games from the 80's and 90's that we enjoy here did use cutting edge technology for the time. Some of the most popular rpgs could only run on a few systems because of the system requirements. (like Ultima 7 for example)
Yes, I know that. I just don't think Wasteland, or more modern games, have been improved by the technological advances of the last ten years. If anything the opposite, because graphics improvements have overshadowed (or replaced) absolutely everything else.

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December 29th, 2010, 18:10
Originally Posted by screeg View Post
My first instinct when a veteran designer like Heineman says If I could design any game at all, I would make… is yesyesyes, but then when she mentions 2011 technology that feeling evaporates like the bloody mist after capping someone at point blank range in JA2. What the frig does modern technology have to do with anything? What made games like Wasteland great isn't that they used cutting edge technology.
Some people into classic games seem to forget that said games mostly DID represent the pinnacle of "cutting edge technology" when they were released.

Edit: guenthar was faster.
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December 29th, 2010, 18:22
Originally Posted by Amasius View Post
I'm not a fan of podcasts and video interviews but this one is an exception. You should watch the vids of Matts interviews with Becky, much better than to read it. Shes a great taleteller and it's hard to believe that she once was a shy, introverted boy.

You can find the vids here:
http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/taxonomy/term/1972
I`m not a fan either…but, boy, this one`s a cracker! Thanks dude! Downloaded/compulsory viewing for my future offspring ;)
Also - yes "it`s hard to believe" thanks to all the stereotypes. Commands even bigger respect…

@screeg
It`s not graphics` fault that games are dumbed down but companies execs` It`s possible to have looks & brains as proven by Fallout 3. Ah, wait, was that crap too? Well, I rest my case…
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