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Default RPG Codex - Michael Cranford Interview

September 28th, 2013, 08:05
RPG Codex sent me a link to a new article were they interview Michael Cranford on Bard's Tale, Interplay, and Centauri Alliance.

In 1985, Interplay released Tales of the Unknown: Vol. I: The Bard’s Tale, their own “Wizardry killer” designed and programmed by Brian Fargo’s high school friend Michael Cranford. The game was a smashing success for the company. As Fargo said in his 2011 Matt Chat interview, The Bard’s Tale I “was the product that put us on the map, it was the thing that made us earn significant royalties so we could bring the company to the next level.” In an important way, it was Michael Cranford who kick-started Interplay’s future as RPG developer and publisher. At the same time, Cranford was unhappy about the contract Interplay offered him and left the company after The Bard’s Tale II release. In 1990, he designed his last game, Centauri Alliance, a unique sci-fi CRPG published by Brøderbund for the Apple II and Commodore 64. The choice of platforms coupled with the game’s delayed release turned out to be really unfortunate for its publicity and sales, and no further titles in the Centauri Alliance universe were made. Currently Michael Cranford is CEO at Ninth Degree.

In this interview, Michael talks about the Bard’s Tale series, Interplay, his falling out with Brian Fargo, as well as Centauri Alliance and Brøderbund
Visit the link here for the full interview.



More information.

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September 28th, 2013, 08:06
Bard's Tale 2 was the game that finally made me cRPG player and fan. I had Father Kringle and Ybarra the Mage in my party.
I used BAYLOR'S SPELL BIND to catch them … great times.

Good interview, but even Michael Cranford would make popamole games nowadays to be successful. Getting the kids interested in challenging and interesting games again could be the better strategy IMHO.

On the other hand, high difficulty definitely remains an important part of the Bard’s Tale legacy and some people like the series for that. What is your stance on having RPGs that only appeal to really “hardcore” players? And what was your own style of play when it came to P&P sessions – how “hardcore” were the pen and paper adventures you DMed?

I think all my dungeons were pretty challenging (but fun, because I could illustrate key characters, rooms, passageways, traps, etc., and use the illustrations to hide clues that people had to look for). Back in those days (in high school and at Berkeley) I really only played with people who were hardcore. Nowadays, it’s a different proposition, because the market for gaming is massive, and most of those people are not hardcore. If I were a consultant to Blizzard, for example, I’d recommend making the vast majority of the game accessible to housewives and 12 year olds. Then provide some rabbit holes for people who want something tougher, but I wouldn’t use those people as a starting point. I would start with something beautiful, otherworldly and engaging for the masses. I’d avoid the zombies, go action-adventure as a priority. I myself have been hardcore at points, but in the final equation, bringing joy to the greatest number of people is more rewarding than providing a virtual life for the few. More rewarding personally and spiritually, as well as financially.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
Last edited by HiddenX; September 28th, 2013 at 09:12.
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September 28th, 2013, 08:28
I've never understood why bringing joy to the masses is more rewarding than bringing ecstacy to the few - as well as fulfilling your own artistic ambition, possibly inspiring other artists in the process.

Then again, maybe it's because I don't think of a massive financial return and public adulation as the most interesting rewards out there.
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September 28th, 2013, 12:13
bringing joy to the greatest number of people is more rewarding than providing a virtual life for the few
Why thanks, that doesn't sound demeaning at all

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September 28th, 2013, 14:30
But The Bard's Tale is a classic and it brought great joy to me so I will cut him some slack

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September 28th, 2013, 15:24
Ah… too bad I only ever got my hands on that octagonal Centauri Alliance box when my C64 was long gone… but, indeed, it was the Bard's Tale that had opened the world of CRPGs and more to me, too! Thanks, Michael!
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September 28th, 2013, 17:23
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I've never understood why bringing joy to the masses is more rewarding than bringing ecstacy to the few - as well as fulfilling your own artistic ambition, possibly inspiring other artists in the process.

Then again, maybe it's because I don't think of a massive financial return and public adulation as the most interesting rewards out there.
Totally agree. Most of these early games were labors of love where devs made games they were passionate about so this comment by Michael seems odd. I think for me it would be the opposite and making a labor of love instead of watered down game for the masses would be much more satisfying. That being said everyone like money.

Nice interview though I enjoyed it very much. Ioved the bards tale games…big part of my youth. The parts about him and fargo were interested. Fargo seems to have the opposite opinion on games so glad he is making them.
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September 28th, 2013, 19:06
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I've never understood why bringing joy to the masses is more rewarding than bringing ecstacy to the few - as well as fulfilling your own artistic ambition, possibly inspiring other artists in the process.

Then again, maybe it's because I don't think of a massive financial return and public adulation as the most interesting rewards out there.
The answer is very simple, the story isn't about game design breaking advancement nor about art, it's about taking the leader place or one of leader place to be noticed and get the fame.

This is because it's about an unavoidable competition and not being noticed, so the requirement is to be among the tops, and now it means to target some relative masses that are the video game players. They always had such approach and not any art approach, and innovation approach was a tool to achieve this leader position, not a final goal.

The problem now is it's a lot about pure sales and you can sale games on dreams more than on what they are really. It's not that simple but that's the idea.
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September 28th, 2013, 19:41
Originally Posted by Saxon1974 View Post
I think for me it would be the opposite and making a labor of love instead of watered down game for the masses would be much more satisfying. That being said everyone like money.
Very true. It's safe to say that if someone thinks that being a corporate drone at Blizzard beats making deep and complex games with detailed rules at ~40-60 hours for a normal playthrough (which he calls providing "a virtual life"!) from an artistic POV, that person just sounds desperate for money.

Maybe he's fallen on hard times.

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