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Default Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Iron Tower

May 15th, 2011, 08:33
Iron Tower's Vince D. Weller has interviewed Chris Avellone about his views on choices, consequences and linearity. A sample:
7. Let's talk about diplomatic solutions to problems. Since all conflicts can be resolved with violence, which is the legacy of the olden days when violence was the only way to solve anything in RPGs, how do you feel about the "talk your way through the game" path? Can it actually compete with the "kill 'em all" path in terms of excitement or is it, at best, a side dish, something to do between the killings? If yes, what are the challenges of getting it done right? If no, why not?
It caters to a small % of players, and those players find it meaningful if that's the power fantasy they want. To cite the best example, in Fallout 1, I think it's pretty ego-boosting to point out the flaws in your adversaries' master plan so much that he suicides after talking to you. I really can't be more of a talking badass than that. It is difficult to implement a speech/sneak path, and the main obstacles to it are many, so here's my opinion on how to approach it:
The speech path should present more than a skill check challenge - there needs to be some other obstacle associated with it. I usually veer toward exploring conversations (asking about back history, reading lore, discovering evidence to a criminal case), exploring the environment (discovering an enemy encampment, learning a secret path into a fortress, discovering a rival caravan is already sending an emissary to scout a new trade route), or being able to draw logical connections between two topics… as an example, without it being given as a quest objective, realizing that the local historian who's obsessed with the Montaine family tree would be interested to learn of an exiled Montaine living in a remote city, and then returning to tell the historian that is a simplistic example of paying enough attention to a conversation and its topics and remembering who might be interested in that information… but again, this involves the player remembering and knowing who to speak to next. We sometimes do this within a dialogue tree - if a player has enough presence of mind to return to a previously-asked dialogue node once they've obtained information learned from a later node is an example of a speech-based challenge.
We did something a little different with the Fallout 3 pen-and-paper game and also with Alpha Protocol - in the Fallout PNP game, we allowed players with a high Speech to gain a little mini-dossier psychology profile of the temperament and the psychology of the person they were speaking to either by purchasing them or speaking to them for X period of time - what the NPC's triggers were, what they were uneasy about, what they got angry about, etc, and then once the player had that information, then they would attempt to use those triggers (without the need for a speech check) to manipulate a situation. As an example, when we were playing Boulder in Fallout PNP, Josh Sawyer's character Arcade got a dossier on the leader of the Boulder Dome, enough to realize that the leader would almost always refuse any request or become unreasonably angry if a comment was phrased as a challenge to his authority or any hint that he was managing the situation improperly - but almost any other comment that built up the leader's skill as a manager or drew in a compliment about the progress he made would almost always generate a favorable response, and then Josh could choose how he wanted the target to respond by structuring his comments and debates accordingly. If he wanted to make the leader mad and lose face in front of his followers, he knew how to do it - if he wanted to make the leader agree to a course of action, he knew how to do that, too, but there wasn't a "speech check" to win the conversation, only hints on how to manipulate it. Alpha Protocol did this a bit without a speech skill - if you gathered enough info on an opponent (intel), it began to give you a picture as to what attitudes (aggressive, suave, professional) and mission approach (violent, stealth, diplomatic) they respected and what they didn't, and the player could use that to navigate the conversation to achieve a desired result, even if that result was something that might seem unfavorable at first, like making the person angry.
I always liked how the old Fallouts had the empathy perk that forecasted whether a topic would make someone mad or not, but you never knew if that might be a good thing or not unless you really paid attention to the NPC's outlook and philosophy. Was making X person mad a good thing or not?
More information.
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May 15th, 2011, 08:33
that's why I love them. the problem that can and did come up, is although the system was superb, the writing was under par. They should also focus on quality dialogue.
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May 15th, 2011, 13:21
Why do people think a story and a plot are the same thing?

Originally Posted by borcanu View Post
that's why I love them. the problem that can and did come up, is although the system was superb, the writing was under par. They should also focus on quality dialogue.
I'm sure they do, but like any art form it requires experience and feedback.
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May 15th, 2011, 15:29
What is - in your opinion - the difference between story and plot ?

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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May 15th, 2011, 15:44
according to the the free dictionnary online…

plot (plt)
n.
1.
a. A small piece of ground, generally used for a specific purpose: a garden plot.
b. A measured area of land; a lot.
2. A ground plan, as for a building; a diagram.
3. See graph1.
4. The pattern of events or main story in a narrative or drama.
5. A secret plan to accomplish a hostile or illegal purpose; a scheme.

sto·ry 1
n. pl. sto·ries
1. An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious, as:
a. An account or report regarding the facts of an event or group of events: The witness changed her story under questioning.
b. An anecdote: came back from the trip with some good stories.
c. A lie: told us a story about the dog eating the cookies.
2.
a. A usually fictional prose or verse narrative intended to interest or amuse the hearer or reader; a tale.
b. A short story.
3. The plot of a narrative or dramatic work.
4. A news article or broadcast.
5. Something viewed as or providing material for a literary or journalistic treatment: "He was colorful, he was charismatic, he was controversial, he was a good story" (Terry Ann Knopf).
6. The background information regarding something: What's the story on these unpaid bills?
7. Romantic legend or tradition: a hero known to us in story.
tr.v. sto·ried, sto·ry·ing, sto·ries
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May 15th, 2011, 15:53
Originally Posted by A Stormy Night View Post
according to the the free dictionnary online…

plot (plt)
n.
1.
a. A small piece of ground, generally used for a specific purpose: a garden plot.
b. A measured area of land; a lot.
2. A ground plan, as for a building; a diagram.
3. See graph1.
4. The pattern of events or main story in a narrative or drama.
5. A secret plan to accomplish a hostile or illegal purpose; a scheme.

sto·ry 1
n. pl. sto·ries
1. An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious, as:
a. An account or report regarding the facts of an event or group of events: The witness changed her story under questioning.
b. An anecdote: came back from the trip with some good stories.
c. A lie: told us a story about the dog eating the cookies.
2.
a. A usually fictional prose or verse narrative intended to interest or amuse the hearer or reader; a tale.
b. A short story.
3. The plot of a narrative or dramatic work.
4. A news article or broadcast.
5. Something viewed as or providing material for a literary or journalistic treatment: "He was colorful, he was charismatic, he was controversial, he was a good story" (Terry Ann Knopf).
6. The background information regarding something: What's the story on these unpaid bills?
7. Romantic legend or tradition: a hero known to us in story.
tr.v. sto·ried, sto·ry·ing, sto·ries
May I ask whats your point the two are necessary and tied together to make a good game. If one is weak the other suffers.

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May 15th, 2011, 16:08
He should tell Bethesda about choice and consequence. They could use the lesson.
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May 15th, 2011, 16:09
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
May I ask whats your point the two are necessary and tied together to make a good game. If one is weak the other suffers.
I actually have no points… someone said that plot and story were not the same thing… since english is not my first language I wondered what was the definition of each term and since Alric asked the question I thought I would post what I found…. maybe I should have not posted it…
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May 15th, 2011, 16:28
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
He should tell Bethesda about choice and consequence. They could use the lesson.
I'm playing the beginning of Fallout 3, Bethesda, and played first parts of FNV, Obsidion. I didn't like much the mood in the Vault in Fallout 3, but just the mood, I couldn't deny it's well done. And after the vault, I just don't understand why people claim FNV is hugely better.

Architecture point of view, Fallout 3 is a lot better and more imaginative. Skills use, I quote quite more in F3 for a similar game duration and after the Vault. Choices and consequences I quoted at least as many in F3, dialogs and little quests, well what say when in F3 first part you get a quest for participating to the building of the survival guide and in another how lead a sheriff to his death (not your wish) result in an orphan and and it's pictured. Not only comparison of the first little town of both games is rude for FNV but also is the surrounding and the little things to do.

Could go bad later for FO3 and better for FNV but for FNV I pushed further and didn't quote something that good, a world filling only fair, a failure to setup well distances, and tendency to let feel it's sort of flat area.

That would have been terrible for FO3 team to check both games beginning and then wonder why many players shout loud FNV is much better.
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May 15th, 2011, 16:37
Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
I'm playing the beginning of Fallout 3, Bethesda, and played first parts of FNV, Obsidion. I didn't like much the mood in the Vault in Fallout 3, but just the mood, I couldn't deny it's well done. And after the vault, I just don't understand why people claim FNV is hugely better.
Choice and consequence and much better writing, mostly. More quests. Harder enemies, better scaling and hardcore mode. Directly continues FO1 and FO2.

Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
Architecture point of view, Fallout 3 is a lot better and more imaginative. Skills use, I quote quite more in F3 for a similar game duration and after the Vault. Choices and consequences I quoted at least as many in F3, dialogs and little quests, well what say when in F3 first part you get a quest for participating to the building of the survival guide and in another how lead a sheriff to his death (not your wish) result in an orphan and and it's pictured. Not only comparison of the first little town of both games is rude for FNV but also is the surrounding and the little things to do.
Fallout 3 has a better world, yes. It's hard to deny that and exploration/world design is Bethesda's best ability. When it comes to choice you are way off though. Fallout 3 offers you binary good vs. evil decisions here and there but nothing deep and complex and nothing that really impacts the world other than blowing up Megaton. New Vegas has a deep faction system, tons of choices to make and most of them more subtle and grey and you're actions have very real and very permanent consequences in the world.

Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
Could go bad later for FO3 and better for FNV but for FNV I pushed further and didn't quote something that good, a world filling only fair, a failure to setup well distances, and tendency to let feel it's sort of flat area.

That would have been terrible for FO3 team to check both games beginning and then wonder why many players shout loud FNV is much better.
I'm not sure how far you have played, so I can't really say if New Vegas will "get better" for you. The much, much better writing should be apparent right from the start of New Vegas though. The choices come into play over the course of the game, naturally.

As for the world New Vegas will always feel flat and somewhat bland, but that is the way the Southwestern deserts of America look. It looks very similar to the original Fallout games and matches them in style and design. New Vegas is really a true sequel to Fallout and Fallout 2, designed in similar ways with similar priorities only in 3D with real-time combat.
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May 15th, 2011, 17:05
First I don't take in consideration the Vault, there's an auto save that is kept and it is allowing rebuild fully your character at exit of the vault. I didn't like much this part but appreciate details like kill or not the father and the consequence on dialogs with the girl.

I have read FO3 dialogs was bland, but which one after the vault? Also what that good in FNV beginning in term of dialog? In both the core situation are difficult to beleive, bandits not attacking a close to empty town, and bandits not triggering a bomb. But that's common lack of realism in RPG, nothing extraordinary. In FNV have a bit of army afraid to assault a prison when you kill everything in some minutes, that one was badly done and made me stop the game, that with the very wrong feeling about distances, and the fights not good for me (not that those of FO3 are better).

About realism in comparison of a real region, woo that's an awful point, make realistic building and town and you'll get awful boring layout. It's a weakness to not know take some distance with reality to allow build something more imaginative and something more interesting from the architecture point of view but also from the layout gameplay point of view. Good job in FO3 and particularely for RPG quite close to RPG top in that matter, bad and bellow the average job in FNV.

About the good vs evil choices, the problem is during a large beginning FNV doesn't offer better, not once. So yes players want now grey choices like in TW1 or few time in MoTB, but for now I haven't seen that in FNV (nor in FO3).

For the comparison with FO1 (never played much FO2, never succeed enjoy its beginning), I haven't played enough of FO3 or FNV, what's sure is that FO1 use a different approach with separate area that change a lot the point of view. It makes feel distances much better, it lower a lot constraints related to obstacle in designing an area, in part thanks to borders of an area. Also well the technology wasn't adapted for complicated 3D layout so yes it can't shine on this point of view. But at least it was managing well obstacles design and area layout design. On this last point of view, FNV is very bad in comparison and FO3 not at same level than FO1 but not as bad than FNV. That obstacles use and design is an old Bethesda problem, FO3 is the first giving me some hope about that and for this team.

EDIT: Another point where FO3 impress me, not because it's at top, but because of the improvement in comparison of past games from the team and for games that I know. Even Morrowind for world filling isn't that good, much better than Oblivion, but FO3 has just a good filling, and impressive for the little town. But even close surrounding is well done.

but to be clear it's just feeling from first part of FO3 after the vault, and what i have seen of the fights is just poor quality, like in FNV.
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May 15th, 2011, 17:11
Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
About the good vs evil choices, the problem is during a large beginning FNV doesn't offer better, not once. So yes players want now grey choices like in TW1 or few time in MoTB, but for now I haven't seen that in FNV (nor in FO3).
Well right at the start of the game you have to decide what to do with the Powder Gangers coming to town, the man they want, and their base at the prison. So I'm not sure what you're talking about really.

As for what writing is better… all of it. Every single line. If you want a good example early on I would say Victor the robot is one of the best written characters in the game.

In any case, your opinions are of course your own.
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May 15th, 2011, 17:28
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
Well right at the start of the game you have to decide what to do with the Powder Gangers coming to town, the man they want, and their base at the prison. So I'm not sure what you're talking about really.

As for what writing is better… all of it. Every single line. If you want a good example early on I would say Victor the robot is one of the best written characters in the game.

In any case, your opinions are of course your own.
For me there's a clear evil bandit choice, so I don't see what you mean, that is for me a typical black vs white choice, nothing grey here.

For the general writing point of view, I don't know, perhaps the translation is failed for FNV and successful in FO3. But ok I'll check your dialog. For the best written character, don't you let your fan attitude lead you too far?

Yes different feeling and opinions, for sure, but well FO3 first part isn't so bad, nor first part that good for FNV.

Also I can't remove to Bethesda the attention of RPG details in FO3 and just reused in FNV. I don't remember Obsidian game doing even close for details care but yes both games are sort of the same on that point, with probably a bit more polishing for FNV due to the reuse.
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May 15th, 2011, 17:51
Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
For me there's a clear evil bandit choice, so I don't see what you mean, that is for me a typical black vs white choice, nothing grey here.
The opening with choosing who to fight for is pretty simple but it gets more complex later at the prison. In any case you need to play more of the game, you can't say the decisions and choices are the same in both games just from playing the beginning.

Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
For the general writing point of view, I don't know, perhaps the translation is failed for FNV and successful in FO3. But ok I'll check your dialog. For the best written character, don't you let your fan attitude lead you too far?
What language are you playing it in?

And don't call me a fanboy for saying Victor is one of the best written characters in the game. How is that even logical?
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May 15th, 2011, 18:01
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
The opening with choosing who to fight for is pretty simple but it gets more complex later at the prison. In any case you need to play more of the game, you can't say the decisions and choices are the same in both games just from playing the beginning.
As I wrote in previous part I played up to Prison part, and get disgusted by the lack of realism because I could clean all and wanderer freely in prison, when a squad of army couldn't do anything.

I didn't saw any choice, killed anything out of buildings and didn't saw any other opportunity. It's probably starting right after but at this point, absurdity of the situation and fights discourage me. Well I keep my saves so a day will try come back. Up to that part, I don't consider it well done, apart from the general framework point of view coming from FO3.

Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
And don't call me a fanboy for saying Victor is one of the best written characters in the game. How is that even logical?
I didn't used the word fanboy, but admit it's a little big, seems like you push it far. How not see it like a fan that let him drag by his passion?
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May 15th, 2011, 18:55
I wouldn't say New Vegas has grey morality (it does in a few places), but it does have choices.

In defending Goodsprings, you've cut yourself off from a questline. That particular questline also has two different outcomes depending on what you choose (and could've seen the assault on the prison by NCR). In defending Goodsprings you have also affected the ending slides.

In assaulting the Powder Ganger prison, you've also altered the ending slide (provided you killed the head honcho there).

Now, if this had been Fallout 3 there would've been a few things different. Most likely, the Powder Gangers would've always been set-up as the enemy. Furthermore, certain characters in Goodsprings would've been plot-immortal. Even if you don't support the Powder Gangers at the start, you can still wipe out the town of Goodsprings if you wish. This would've never been allowed in Fallout 3.

So you've already made several choices that impacts things in various ways. I'll agree though that many human enemies in the game are much too weak.

As far as writing goes, it varies a lot in New Vegas. But where it really shines and stands high above Fallout 3 is the entire backstory. Locations and factions in the Mojave are connected to each other, they have histories and relationships with each other. There are forms of production and farming, there are sources of clean water being taken advantage of and pumped around through pipelines. People and factions have moved across the Mojave and will reference other places. It's "tied together" whereas the Capital Wasteland was mostly a series of random locations "dumped" into a world space.
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May 15th, 2011, 20:32
Avellone need's to clone himself so we can have more games.

Trust me, most of the names I have been called you can't translate in any language…they're not even real words as much as a succession of violent images.
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May 15th, 2011, 23:35
Bethesda does not want to be bothered with diverging consequences of player choice. They have proven this with the Warp of the West and Vivec's mysterious disappearance (which may or may not have been due to the Neravarine).

Personally, I don't understand why it's so difficult for them. At its simplest, all you'd have to do is check the savegame to a prior game for plot flags like 'VivecKilledByPlayer'=0 or 1 and then put little references to it in the new game. Even Dragon Age II manages to do at least this much and that is not exactly a game that a lot of time and effort was spent on.

Perhaps its the very long intervals between their games that makes it seem not worth it to them, but as a player it makes me feel far more involved if the decisions I made count or at very minimum are referred to and not completely sidestepped.
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May 16th, 2011, 00:42
Originally Posted by Motoki View Post
Bethesda does not want to be bothered with diverging consequences of player choice. They have proven this with the Warp of the West and Vivec's mysterious disappearance (which may or may not have been due to the Neravarine).

Personally, I don't understand why it's so difficult for them. At its simplest, all you'd have to do is check the savegame to a prior game for plot flags like 'VivecKilledByPlayer'=0 or 1 and then put little references to it in the new game. Even Dragon Age II manages to do at least this much and that is not exactly a game that a lot of time and effort was spent on.

Perhaps its the very long intervals between their games that makes it seem not worth it to them, but as a player it makes me feel far more involved if the decisions I made count or at very minimum are referred to and not completely sidestepped.
Honestly I am fine with them just making a canonical choice and sticking with it, much like the Fallout series does, or some other series do. For example no matter what you did to the Followers of the Apocalypse in Fallout they are still there in New Vegas.
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May 16th, 2011, 01:32
Originally Posted by A Stormy Night View Post
I actually have no points… someone said that plot and story were not the same thing… since english is not my first language I wondered what was the definition of each term and since Alric asked the question I thought I would post what I found…. maybe I should have not posted it…
A plot as in plot points, as in plotting a line. Basically a plot implies serial storytelling, which is the simplest and most obvious form. Plot points are places where something happens that's supposed to have meaning that moves the story forward to its conclusion. When someone says a show is a serial, it means that there's important plot points and often if you don't watch it all in order none of it makes sense. If it's episodic then each episode stands on its own, either as its own story or a series of unrelated skits.

But obviously you can have a story even if you are not a serial, right? A gameshow has no story or plot. Lost is a traditional serial, which according to this thinking would be a show with a story. Mulholland drive is not a serial but does tell a story, though through some seemingly unrelated events.

So for example many or even most people will say darklands has no story. Well no one would say finnegan's wake has no story, would they? Well, I'm sure people do but if you did so in an lit class you'd get an F on that paper. But when it comes to games, a serial format pretty much sucks because it goes completely against interactivity, but games without any story kind of suck, too. However there's plenty of storytelling in darklands, much more than in any game bioware is making.
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