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Obsidian Entertainment - All News

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Monday - September 15, 2014
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Box Art

Monday - September 15, 2014

Feargus Urquhart - Interview #4 @ Matt Chat

by Couchpotato, 08:43

Matt Chat posted the fourth video interview with Feargus Urquhart the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, and he talks about KOTOR II, NWN II, FO:NV.


Feargus is back one final time (for now!) to chat about Obsidian. We talk about the behind-the-scenes drama with these titles before getting into Dwarves, a game based on Snow White that was cancelled after a year of production. We wrap up with a discussion of being a boss, and how to reject somebody's ideas without making an enemy.

Monday - September 08, 2014

Feargus Urquhart - Interview #3 @ Matt Chat

by Couchpotato, 05:53

Matt Chat is back with the third video interview with Feargus Urquhart the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, and talks about the fall of Black Isle in 2003.

Feargus returns in part 3 of my 4 part interview. In this segment, we talk about the collapse of Black Isle in the wake of some questionable decisions on the part of Fargo and other execs--Interplay Sports, Engage, losing the D&D license, and some bad bets on consoles (Sega Saturn, anyone?). Despite the passage of time, Feargus is still quite emotional, and you can't help but wonder what might have happened if the leadership had listened to him.

Monday - September 01, 2014

Feargus Urquhart - Interview #2 @ Matt Chat

by Couchpotato, 05:44

In the latest Matt Chat video he continues to interview Feargus Urquhart the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment about Baldur's Gate, Shattered Steel, and Fallout.

In this segment, Feargus talks about his early days, starting off as a Quality Assurance guy and flying up the ranks to full-fledged producer. We chat about the Shattered Steel game, Baldur's Gate (a name that Feargus came up with!), and a bit about Fallout.

Friday - August 29, 2014

Feargus Urquhart - Interview @ Matt Chat

by Couchpotato, 06:49

In the latest Matt Chat video he interviews Feargus Urquhart the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment about Southpark, Pillars of Eternity, and more.

Feargus Urquhart is the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment and one of the all-round coolest dudes in the videogame industry. In this first installment of our epic chat, Feargus and I talk about South Park, Pillars of Eternity, the planned sequel, and a zombie Western game that is possibly in the works...He also draws a line between the Skyrim fan and the potential audience of Pillars of Eternity. There's a line in the sand for console vs. PC CRPG fans.

Saturday - August 23, 2014

Josh Sawyer - How To Balance An RPG

by Couchpotato, 06:05

Obsidian Game Designer Josh Sawyer posted a new editorial article on kotaku where he talks about how to balance the development of an RPG game.

Why is game balance important in a single-player game? It's a question many players often ask rhetorically, but there are many important reasons why balance should be a strong focus, even in RPGs that focus on single-player experiences. Balance isn't necessarily about seeing what character builds are more powerful when put head to head, but about understanding the different types of challenges those characters will face when going through the game.

Ideally, each type of character build has its own strengths and weaknesses throughout the game's content, but ultimately ALL character builds should feel viable in different ways. No player wants to spend 40 hours working toward a dead-end build. Similarly, few players want to accidentally discover that their fundamental character concept is an unspoken "easy mode" through the game.

RPGs, especially the RPGs we make at Obsidian, are about choice and consequence. That doesn't just apply to the narrative elements, but also gameplay: character creation, character building, and tactical application of skills and abilities in the wild. If we do our jobs well, players will feel the sting of character weaknesses and the satisfaction of character strengths over the course of the game. Challenge is a tricky thing to balance for a wide range of players, but ideally it builds by giving players short periods of stress and mild frustration caused by a mental obstacle. Players examine the obstacle, consider their options, make choices, and eventually overcome it, transforming stress into a sense of exhilaration at their own ingenuity.

But where does this process all start? For me, it begins with a common question I have with anything involving player choice.

Thanks Joxer for the link.Wink

Friday - August 22, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - New MMO Game?

by Couchpotato, 05:43

It seems Obsidian Entertainment is looking for a Character Artist for a new Time Travel MMORPG. I hope this isn't the game that was shown last year on Kotaku.

Obsidian Entertainment is looking for talented, self motivated Character Artist to join us in creating content for a highly stylized MMORPG.

Using their expert knowledge of form, proportion, color and design principles the Character Artist will be responsible for creating aesthetically pleasing characters, class outfits, and weapons, for an in-game experience that includes a range of time periods.

Thursday - August 14, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - Pathfinder License

by Couchpotato, 03:25

Turns out the news from yesterday was right as Obsidian Entertainment has acquired the right to make Pathfinder Games. Unfortunately the first game is a card game.

Obsidian to partner with Paizo Inc. to release electronic Pathfinder games

INDIANAPOLIS -- August 13, 2014 -- Obsidian Entertainment, the developer of Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: the Stick of Truth and the Kickstarter phenomenon Pillars of Eternity, announced that they have entered into a long-term licensing partnership with Paizo Inc. to produce electronic games based on its popular Pathfinder Roleplaying Game intellectual property

Obsidian's first licensed product will be a tablet game based on the highly successful Pathfinder Adventure Card game, a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players. Players each have a unique character composed of a deck of cards and a set of stats. Characters have classes such as fighter, rogue, wizard and cleric, as well as numbers that define attributes such as strength, wisdom and charisma etc. Players will be able to customize their deck to better suit each individual’s vision of their character.

"At Obsidian we have a long history of working with the greatest RPG franchises, and we're thrilled to get to play in the Pathfinder universe now," said CEO Feargus Urquhart. "We're huge fans and can't wait to bring what we do in the electronic gaming world to Pathfinder fans everywhere".

In the world of Pathfinder, players take on the role of brave adventurers fighting to survive in a world beset by magic and evil. The Pathfinder RPG is currently translated into multiple languages, with hundreds of thousands of players worldwide. The Pathfinder brand has also been licensed for comic book series, graphic novels, miniatures, plush toys, apparel, and is being developed into a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

"Obsidian is a video game developer at the top of its game", said Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens. "Being able to bring that type of experience and passion to Pathfinder can only mean great things, both for our loyal Pathfinder community and for all fans of great CRPG's.

Don't worry as a CRPG game will be annouced at a later date.

There will be a CRPG. Just no details to announce right now. Our deal with Obsidian is a long term partnership. I expect there will be many games over the coming years. The card game app was easier for them to get up running fast. There will even be a demo at our booth at GenCon. But there are other plans that will be revealed in time.

Super excited that this is finally public! Looking forward to working with Obsidian on a bunch of awesome Pathfinder games!

Tuesday - August 12, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - New Pathfinder Game?

by Couchpotato, 21:19

Thanks to RPG Codex it seems Obsidian might be making a new Pathfinder RPG. Now I seriously hope for this to be true , and excuse me while go dry my fanboy tears.

The hot buzz.. word... the latest rumors on the web is that Obsidian Entertainment is working on a Pathfinder game.

My source is Codex member tuluse, whose source is the Obsidian forums, whose source is enworld.org, whose source is some podcast, whose source is a Pathfinder developer who posted the accompanying picture on Facebook and shortly after removed it.

This would be the accompanying picture.

Saturday - July 26, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - Josh Sawyer Interview

by Couchpotato, 15:21

PC Gamer has a new Video Podcast with Josh Sayer who talks about Fallout: New Vegas, and Pillars of Eternity where he shares a new video demo of the game.

This episode of the PC Gamer show is an RPGstravaganza!

(00:59) Cory, Wes and Tyler discuss the best RPGs of all time.
(09:26) Obsidian's Josh Sawyer reminisces about Fallout: New Vegas.
(17:11) Cory shows Wes the ropes in a Divinity: Original Sin co-op session.
(26:16) Josh Sawyer talks character classes, the Infinity Engine, and more in a demo of Pillars of Eternity.

Thursday - July 24, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview @ IGN

by Couchpotato, 20:29

Obsidian Entertainment did a new video interview with IGN, and in one segmnent talk about still being interested in making Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3.

Obsidian Still Thinks About Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3

Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords developer Obsidian has admitted the company still regularly discusses ideas for a third entry in the franchise, with plenty of staff members interested in creating a follow-up.

Speaking to IGN about the upcoming Pillars of Eternity, project director Josh Sawyer and lead producer Brandon Adler explained Obsidian remains full of Star Wars fans, many of whom often hash out ideas for KOTOR 3.

"I think there are a lot of the people at the studio that would like to do Knights of the Old Republic 3," Sawyer says. "I think at that time LucasArts was really focused on what they considered to be extreme, extreme blockbusters and even though the Knights of the Old Republic series was pretty successful, it just never seemed like something that was going to happen at that time. Having said that, a lot of time has passed. I know there are a lot of people at the studio who are really interested in doing a project like that."

"It’s something that comes up every three to six months," Adler added. "We bring it up and talk about it. Not anything terribly serious, but we just say ‘wouldn’t it be cool if?’ and just develop some ideas for what we’d do with that stuff."

Following this, we asked about whether there was anything new to report on the Star Wars RPG set between Episodes III and IV that we heard about last year. While both Sawyer and Adler stressed they hadn't heard anything and it wasn't unusual for CEO Feargus Urquhart to pursue deals on his own, they both reiterated there are a lot of Star Wars fans at Obsidian, so whether its KOTOR 3 or a new title, the Disney-owned sci-fi brand remains an intellectual property the vast majority of the studio would still love to work on.

Wednesday - July 16, 2014

Chris Avellone - New Audio Interview

by Couchpotato, 04:57

Chris Avellone did a new audio interview on a site called Memory Leak.

Few people understand the confluence of game systems and narrative like Chris Avellone. Since his start at Interplay in 1995 Chris has been instrumental in the development of many influential RPGs. In this interview Chris and I discuss his recent kickstarter projects, the design process at Obsidian, and the challenges of developing modern RPGs.

Sunday - June 08, 2014

Chris Avellone - Podcast @ Eight Bit Radio

by Couchpotato, 03:39

Chris Avellone did another thirty five minute podcast with a site called 8-Bit Radio.

Chris Avellone, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Obsidian Entertainment comes on the show.  We ask him about tabletop games, hate and his creative process, The cancelled Fallout 3 project “Van Buren”, Kickstarter games,  and we proceed to drool all over ourselves with hero worship.  After this we end with a not at all anticipated E3 PlayStation prediction segment.

Tuesday - May 13, 2014

Chris Avellone - Interview @ RPG Nuke

by Couchpotato, 01:18

A Russian site called RPG Nuke has a new interview with Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment, and yes the enitre interview is in english.

DLC Lonesome Road was inspired by Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley and Fallout universe as a whole was inspired by David Brin's The Postman and Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. What books influenced your other works?

So as part of the design process, I read and watch a lot of movies related to the era/situation. For WL2, for example, I had to bring myself back into the 80s mindset as well with Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which Brian Fargo recommended to us, and re-watching a bunch of movies from that era to get some lingo down. Other book and movie influences recently (for WL2) were Food of the Gods, the Road Warrior, Day of the Triffids (book and series)... to name a few. For other projects it’s been Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series (Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls), as well as Don Quixote, the Jack Vance Dying Earth series (just finished Cugel the Clever), almost every one of Iain Banks’ Culture series (which I highly recommend – if a game developer needs a place to start, start with Banks’ The Player of Games, which was amazing and it’s one which game devs and game aficionados can get into pretty easily).

Glen Cook’s Black Company has always been a big source of inspiration (I loved how the RTS Myth from Bungie made it feel like you were playing in the Black Company world), Stephenson’s Snow Crash (there’s game ideas on every page, if not every paragraph) and I loved Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s “Roadside Picnic” as well, which felt like the inspiration for the Stalker video games. :)

David Gerrold’s Chess with a Dragon was also used as inspiration for some sci-fi ideas we had in previous projects as well.

In any event, I could go on and on, but those are some that jump to mind.

Each Fallout: New Vegas DLC didn't just add new content but also told a standalone tale, explored different themes. If you could make another one, what would it be about?

Going east to explore more of Legion Territory (especially the united/divided tribes who were crushed under Legion rule), or Denver would be interesting. Denver was a significant location in the first Van Buren iteration, and to be able to flesh that out in more detail would be welcome. Failing that, a DLC that continued the game and allowed you to travel west to explore at least a segment of NCR would be interesting. It’s a little hard to speculate because the existing DLCs were intended to be wrapped narratively around each other, and tell a complete tale. I was tempted to consider DLC that dealt with what happened to Cassidy from Fallout 2, but I don’t think the audience knew or cared very much about his fate, so that was an easy call.

There’s a new Fallout mod coming out that explores Texas called Fallout: Lonestar that explores another chunk of the Fallout world – if you need more Fallout in the interim, that’s worth supporting and checking out. The concept pieces are amazing.

Year and six months after your studio got money for Pillars of Eternity, can you still say that working with the backers is simpler than with a publisher? The "collective mind" of backers seems pretty mettlesome and wayward.

While it has different challenges, it’s still easier. You spend much more time interfacing with fans up front and during the process, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all – even if there are conflicts, if you’re able to explain your points in an intelligent fashion, we’ve found that people understand. Being able to share how the pipeline process works (which normally we can’t do) also helps educate fans on what’s possible and what’s not with game development as well. Also, if fans don’t want something, it sure saves time from implementing it – and not discovering it was unnecessary feature 6 months before ship when it’s revealed to the public.

Saturday - April 26, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview @ CVG

by Couchpotato, 05:10

CVG interviews Feargus Urquhart of Obsidian Entertainment to talk about the developers future after the release of South Park: The Stick of Truth.

Does Obsidian still define itself as a role-playing games studio?

Yeah, I think so. I always feel a little weird saying that, because some people go, "how does that have anything to do with an armored vehicle game?" Like I said, there's probably more similarities than you would think. But ultimately, we're the guys that do characters, and story, and factions, and open world, and player choice.

Those are the things that have really intrigued me about making role-playing games. Even though something like Eternity is very different presentation-wise from Fallout: New Vegas, we're absolutely evolving our systems and our tools to move things forward: how do factions work, how do factions intermingle, and your reputation and your karma with different factions, and how do companions work, and making our companions even more realistic and complex compared to our previous versions. We're always moving that forward. I'll selfishly go back to me, that's the stuff that I find really intriguing.

Now that Stick of Truth is finally released and you have several other projects going, do you see Obsidian doing more traditional triple-A partnerships?

Yeah, I think so. I would love to say that I could go up on Kickstarter and raise $15, $20, $30 million dollars to do our own big triple-A console game. But the reality is - minus Star Citizen - that's probably a little bit of a pipe dream. When it comes to making bigger console RPGs, us working with publishers makes sense.

We hooked up with Paradox to do PR, marketing, and distribution for Pillars of Eternity. If we really had to do it ourselves we could have, but if we were to say, "okay, we're going to get funding to do a triple-A RPG and then we're going to be the people who publish it", we'd have to bring on all these people.

It's a big apparatus to try to ship these big console RPGs. I think we'll always continue to talk to publishers, not just because of funding - although obviously that's a big part of it - but also just because of the realities of publishing big console projects.

And he briefly talked about the next kickstarter project.

You mentioned in December that you might have another Kickstarter to reveal around now...

We are working on what that is. I think we've come up with what it's going to be. We have to still firm up some details, but my hope is that we'll get one going before the end of the year.

I think we've got a good idea. I'm not going to share anything, but a few times in my career I have these things where I say, "hey, that's a cool idea!" and I've generally been right. So I think this one's going to be a cool thing.

Tuesday - April 08, 2014

Feargus Urquhart - Interview @ Ausgamers

by Couchpotato, 07:10

Feargus Urquhart is interviewed on Ausgamers to talk about Pillars of Eternity, the F2P MMO Armored Warfare, and his studio’s involvement in  Skyforge.

AusGamers: The recently announced Armoured Warfare seems like quite a big departure for Obsidian. Is that still your core of largely RPG-experienced developers that are working on that project, or more of a new team?

Feargus: It’s a little bit of both. We have a lot of people that have worked here for many years, and like anywhere, there’s lots of fans of League of Legends and World of Tanks and DotA 2 and DotA and all that sort of stuff. So in particular: someone who has worked for us since we started the company, is a guy named Rich Taylor; this is the stuff he loves. He’s even been programming these style of games since I think before he could drink, or drive.

As an example, he has 8000 games of World of Tanks under his belt, and he has contributed to every single game that Obsidian has shipped. So when this opportunity came up, he seemed like a great guy to put on it. We kind of moved people over onto it who were interested in working on it, then we fleshed out the rest of the team with other people that were interested in coming to work at Obsidian on it.

So what’s been really good is that we’ve been able, over the course of about 18 months, 19 months, something like that… sorry 21 months [laughs], we’ve been able to really take our time at building a team of people who understand free-to-play, and understand making big maps for super-fast tanks to run around and shoot far at, and it’s worked out pretty well.

AusGamers: And that’s with the same Russian publisher [My.com] that you guys are involved with for the Skyforge MMO, is that correct?

Feargus: That is correct, yes.

AusGamers: Are you able to elaborate on Obsidian’s involvement on Skyforge at all?

Feargus: Yeah, the thing is since we were already working together as two companies, and they’re kind of starting to set up their presence in America, and what they just wanted help with is, they said: ‘well, you already have all of the development infrastructure setup and all that kind of stuff, could we work on having you have a small team there, that in essence does sort of the Westernisation, and some work on the actual game itself there?’

They very much work very directly with that team, because it’s a team [at Obsidian] that’s never going to grow more than like 10 or 12 people, and there’s more than 200 people [at developer Allods Team] working on the game in Russia, and they’re the lead on the game. So really, a lot of it is us sort of helping them out. Also, for me it’s great learning a little more about that world of games.

Wednesday - March 26, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview @ Eurogamer

by Couchpotato, 04:53

Obsidian Entertainment's Feargus Urquhart was interviewed on Eurogamer about the developers new F2P MMO Armored Warfare. Now your probably wondering why post it well he talks about the next kickstarter project.

What's the other smaller project? It's unclear. But it's not, it sounds like, anything Star Wars related, despite the pitch that was sent to Disney, despite Urquhart's invincible enthusiasm for the brand.

"It's in the same place," he said of the pitch. "It's the same answer: we'd love to make a Star Wars game - I love Star Wars."

But making games on that scale is "super scary" - hiring all those people, handling all that money and expectation. As an independent developer he questions taking on any project of that magnitude. But Star Wars? Star Wars he could bend the rules for.

"Star Wars is one of those games that makes me just throw the reasons, throw my right brain or left brain - I don't know which one it is - and say, 'Oh this is totally stupid to do, but, whatever!' It would be that game, and I hope some day we get to make another Star Wars game.

"I always thought - and everyone just looks at me strangely when I say this - it would be cool to do a Star Wars Pillars of Eternity-style game, where you had a little party, a droid and a... whatever. That would be super-cool. I'd buy it!

"But that's a hard [sell]... That's not SWTOR and that's not KOTOR and that's not Battlefront and that's not that. I don't know - I'm probably going to take a stab at that and see if anybody has any interest, but I don't know - we'll see."​

Monday - February 10, 2014

Chris Avellone - Interview @ Grimuar

by Couchpotato, 01:40

Chris Avellone is interviewed by a site called Grimuar to talk about game design, Planescape: Torment, and Numenera.

Lately you’ve been answering numerous questions about crowdfunding campaigns and their impact on the video game industry. However, Kickstarter is not just social financing – it is also an explosion of positive energy and crazy ideas. Which moments of all campaigns particularly stuck in your mind?

Off the top of my head – Torment: Tides of Numenera making its funding goal in 6 hours, Double Fine’s success in 24 hours that redefined how games could be financed and made (Tim Schafer and Double Fine changed things for everyone), being asked by Brian Fargo to not just support Wasteland with a quote but to have the childhood dream of being able to work on the sequel, the first realization of how Kickstarter could cut development time simply by discovering players didn’t want a feature (happened on WL2 and hours of programming time were set free!), and seeing KS’s not only continue, but thrive in terms of funding as time progresses. I’m really looking forward to seeing what KS holds for the future as people become more and more comfortable with it as a funding model.

Saturday - February 08, 2014

Chris Avellone - Youtube Interview

by Couchpotato, 00:48

I have another video interview with Chris Avellone. You can thank the RPG Codex for this news-bit. So sit back relax, and watch Chris talk for an hour.

 

Tuesday - January 28, 2014

Chris Avellone - Podcast @ Gamers Tavern

by Couchpotato, 02:22

Chris Avellone joins the Gamers Tavern to talk about villains in RPGs.

What makes a villain? What separates them from just another antagonists and pushes them into iconic if not mythic status? Chris Avelllone, designer of some of the greatest villains of gaming history whether digital or analog, joins us to discuss what makes a villain and how to use the Big Bad Evil Guy in your game.

Sunday - January 26, 2014

Chris Avellone - Interview @ CGMagazine

by Couchpotato, 02:12

CG Magazine interviews Chris Avellone about the Kickstarter games he’s involved in.

Comics Gaming Magazine: A lot of these games you’ve made with Kickstarter rely on nostalgia. How are the games going forward going to go beyond that nostalgic desire to recapture old games?

Chris Avellone: I think you’re correct. Nostalgia has been one of the big pillars of a successful Kickstarter. When people remember a certain type of game and a certain type of game experience, that contributes a lot to the funding level and the support you get from backers. In terms of how we’re evolving beyond that: I think that when doing a game like Baldur’s Gate in the Forgotten Realms, in the franchise owned by Hasbro and Wizards, there are certain bookends and limitations in how far you can push the world and push the characters. When you don’t have those limitations and there’s certain cultural elements you want to explore that might otherwise be taboo or “a touchy subject”, that is something we can now explore in game, and have things like “Hey, what would a drug-dealing commerce be like?” If you do have drug-addicted characters, what are the issues with that? Are there other elements like that that we might want to explore on a wider level that we couldn’t normally do with another franchise?

CGM: Do you have any plans for the future beyond this? Where do we go from here?

CA: The Kickstarter push with a lot of games has been really encouraging. I don’t know if Obsidian will do another Kickstarter. I do know that with all the success of the isometric role-playing games that have come out with Wasteland 2 and Eternity and Tides of Numenera, I think that’s caused some publishers to realize that there’s actually a good, solid market for more low-budget games like that that still have a great reactive feel, a lot like Infinity engine games. Seeing publishers suddenly wake up and take notice of that and being willing to talk about games like that in the future I think has been encouraging.

Tuesday - January 21, 2014

Chris Avellone - Interview @ RPGamer

by Couchpotato, 01:46

RPGamer interviews Chris Avellone with a few questions about his career as a game designer,  past projects, and what games he would love to make.

Johnathan Stringer: Why did Obsidian decide to use Kickstarter to fund Project Eternity?

Chris Avellone: Pitching an isometric, old-school RPG has two adjectives, no three adjectives associated with it when you add PC only, or Windows-focused, to the front of RPG that publishers don't want to hear. They don't see a lot of profit to be made in a game like that, nor is it worth investing the resources to create a game like that. So, we recognized there was probably an audience for a game like that out there, and Kickstarter just provided the means to contact that audience, and ask them directly for support. The backers came back with an insane level of support, which made us all very, very happy.

Johnathan Stringer: Would you say this is the future for these old-school style, PC RPGs, and the only way to get them developed?

Chris Avellone: I used to think yes, but, recently I think publishers have seen how well these games are attracting an audience on Kickstarter and how much financial support they are getting. Now, I think publishers in the future would be more willing on having a conversation about making these types of games.

Johnathan Stringer: In your opinion, why has the Western RPG been gaining in popularity while that of the Japanese RPG has seemingly been descending?

Chris Avellone: You know, I have thought about this, and have no idea. I have a bunch of guesses. I think maybe, there are some elements about western RPGs that offer more freedom, in terms of how you build your character, and in terms of how you experience the storyline, as that is true in a lot of Bethesda's games. But, then there are some other games that seem to be mimicking more of the Japanese RPG model, that are some ways more constrained than a Bethesda game, and those seem to be doing well. So, maybe just the super linear path, without much deviation, gamers are having a backlash against that. And ultimately, they just want to play their own hero that they have customized, they have developed, and they don't have to worry about seeing in a cutscene necessarily. They just want to be the fantasy character they imagined, and I just think Western RPGs allow for that a lot more than Japanese RPGs.

Read the full interview for more good questions as I can' list them all.Wink

Thursday - January 09, 2014

Obsidian Entertainment - Podcast Interview

by Couchpotato, 22:19

A site by the name of Jenesee.com took the time to interview Obsidian about the developers released games, and  a few RPG mechanics.

Chris Avellone, Co-Founder & Developer at Obsidian Entertainment talks about comics, SWTOR 2, Fallout NV, Pillars of Eternity, companions, and design principals.

Saturday - December 21, 2013

The Wertzone - Wheel of Time RPG?

by Couchpotato, 04:10

The Wertzone ponders on their site if the next kickstarter for Obsidian might be based on The wheel of Time. I for one would be happy if it turns out true.

About three years ago Obsidian signed a development deal with Red Eagle, the rights-holding company which controls the rights for Wheel of Time video games. This deal was to make a single-player RPG set in the Wheel of Time universe and world. Obsidian seemed excited by what they could do with the game, and fan response was positive, especially when it was revealed that Obsidian's best-known writer, Chris Avellone (the creative force behind Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Neverwinter Nights II: Mask of the Betrayer and Fallout: New Vegas - Old World Blues, several of the greatest RPGs ever made), would be working on the project.

However, nothing has happened with the idea since. Red Eagle was in charge of securing the funding for the game, and failed to do so. Electronic Arts signed a speculative distribution agreement for the game, but chose not to fund and formally publish it. With Triple-A RPG budgets heading towards $100 million (Skyrim, for example, cost $80 million and the Mass Effect trilogy not far off that per game), Red Eagle proved unable to come up with the cash themselves.

Last year, both Red Eagle and Obsidian launched Kickstarters. Red Eagle launched one to make a Wheel of Time casual strategy game for tablets and smartphones, Banner of the Rising Sun. They asked for $450,000 and raised $3,000, a hugely disappointing failure. Obsidian launched one to make an isometric, 'old-skool' RPG with impressive graphics but a much tighter focus on story and character. They asked for $1.1 million and instead raised over $4.1 million, an absolutely massive success.

With both Red Eagle and Obsidian willing to use Kickstarter to achieve their goals, it makes sense that they might consider joining forces to do the same for a Wheel of Time game. The viability of this depends on the deal with EA. If this has expired, there's nothing stopping them doing this. However, if EA retain the distribution rights the project will likely not be viable: Kickstarter is for games that otherwise wouldn't get off the ground, and the involvement of a massive company like EA would be toxic for any such campaign. Provided there are no obstacles, the combination of Obsidian's Kickstarter and game-making experience and Red Eagle's Wheel of Time licence could be highly appealing.

Obsidian will announce what their next project is in the spring, so we have a few months to find out if this is the direction they are going to go in.

Sunday - December 15, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview @ RPS

by Couchpotato, 05:18

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a new interview with Feargus Urquhart about ideas for a second kickstarter. Seems Obsidian might be following inxile's example.

At this point, I think it would be fair to say that Obsidian would be kind of silly to not do another Kickstarter. I know it, you know it, and – heck – Obsidian definitely knows it. Pillars of Eternity isn’t the sort of thing you just toss out of the nest and abandon to the ravenous fangs of time. Not if you can avoid it. Kickstarter let Obsidian don its old Black Isle duds and relive its heyday. That was never supposed to happen. Old-school PC RPGs were dead. Dead like punk rock, dead like face-to-face communication, dead like, well, PC gaming.

But some things don’t actually die. They just go dormant, and then they evolve. And once you’ve kicked off an evolutionary growth spurt, the next big question is obvious: how do you keep it going? That’s where Obsidian’s at these days. It can make games like it used to again, but with the aid of shiny new tech, lower costs, and viewers like you. In some ways, it’s uncharted territory, but in others, the blueprint’s been around for ages – devoured by dust after years of disuse. Step one, then, is figuring out how to get rid of all that dust. Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart isn’t positive about anything yet, but he’s definitely got a few ideas kicking around.

“What I’m trying to figure out is, how could we make something that is more like a Skyrim for PC – forget console for now – with the engine we made in Unity for Eternity? Where we are with our conversation, quest, data editors, and all of that. If we were careful about scope and let Chris Avellone go wild with creating a new world, more of an open world, what could we do?”

“How much would it cost? Would it make sense for it to be episodic? Because going out there and saying, ‘We’re gonna make 100 hours of gameplay,’ everyone goes, ‘Oh my god, how could it not cost millions?’ But could we create ten hours and have people pay ten bucks? And generally when we say ten hours, it’s usually 15. But if we go with five episodes, then people get between 50 and 75 hours.”

Sunday - November 17, 2013

Chris Avellone - Interview @ GamerQC

by Couchpotato, 02:50

GamerQC posted a new video interview with Chris Avellone from MIGS 2013.

 

Saturday - November 16, 2013

Chris Avellone - MIGS Panel Video

by Couchpotato, 03:24

Well if anyone wants to watch Chris Avellone talk about the game industry, and even shares some new Project Eterinty images here is your chance. I present to you a video of his panel from MIGS 2013.

 

Thursday - October 31, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview

by Couchpotato, 19:17

Chris Avellone is interviewed in this new video by The Jerusalem Indie community.

The Jerusalem Indie community #GameDevJLM hosting Chris Avellone - The legendary creator of some of the best RPGs out there and the founder of Obsidian Entertainment - in a hangout\beer event.

Thursday - September 26, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Video Interviews

by Couchpotato, 00:58

Thanks to RPG Codex I have a few more video interviews with Chris Avellone, and Josh Sawyer.

PVC Interviews Josh Sawyer at a event called the Transvergence Summit.

At the 2013 TransVergence Summit, we were able to visit a bit with Josh Sawyer, project director at Obsidian Entertainment. If you're not familiar with Josh or with Obsidian, you're probably familiar with Obsidian's "Baldur's Gate" or  "Star Wars: Knight's of the Old Republic".   Sawyer has been in the industry since 1999 when he started his career as a designer on the Icewind Dale series at Black Isle Studios. Since 2005, he has been working at Obsidian Entertainment and has contributed to Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol and was the project director and lead designer on Fallout: New Vegas.

Next Chris Avellone has three short interviews covering three different topics. The topics include crowdfunding, evolution of games, and time limits.

Sunday - September 08, 2013

Chris Avellone - Video Interview @ SuperBunnyHop

by Couchpotato, 00:48

SuperBunnyHop has a new video interview with Chris Avellone at Dragon Con 2013.

Chris Avellone’s name has been stamped on pretty much all of my favorite games for the last 15 years, so it was pretty hard for me to act like a normal human during this interview. I still tried to not preen.

After the cameras turned off, we had a brief talk about Tie Fighter. It turns out that Chris is a big fan of the game, and he took it upon himself to apologize for the lack of another game like it. As an industry figurehead who can humbly apologize for his own industry’s shortcoming, and as one who supports modding, lower budgets and increased depth and complexity, Avellone is the kind of developer we need to see more of.

Friday - September 06, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Video Interview

by Couchpotato, 00:56

Mog Nation interviews Chris Avellone in this new video from DragonCon 2013.

Friday - July 12, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - A Sci-fi Game Called Backspace

by Couchpotato, 01:05

Kotaku has news about a new Obsidian game called Backspace. It was a time traveling sci-fi ARPG that a small team at Obsidian worked on for a while before getting shelved.

Imagine, if you will, a massive role-playing game featuring guns, time travel, and a nasty alien invasion, all built on Skyrim's engine, with Skyrim's "Radiant AI" system.

That's Backspace, a project that was once under development at the studio Obsidian, I've learned from sources. A small team was designing and prototyping the game in early 2011, and although progress never got very far, concept art and design documents reveal an ambitious project that could interest a lot of people, if it's ever made.

Obsidian, of course, is the Irvine-based game studio responsible for Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, and the upcoming RPGs Project Eternity and South Park: The Stick of Truth.

I reached out to the studio yesterday to ask for comment, and Obsidian boss Feargus Urquhart told me that Backspace is still on the shelf somewhere.

"Backspace was a project concept that we neither cancelled nor greenlit," Urquhart told me. "We had some great people work on the idea for Backspace for a bit of time and then moved them off to other projects as opportunities came up. We've been around for ten years now and have had a bunch of great ideas that we still have sitting around that we may be able to return to in the future."

Tuesday - July 09, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview with Chris Avellone @ Gameranx

by Couchpotato, 00:26

There's a new interview with Obsidian's Chris Avellone at GameRanx. Topics include his opinions on narrative mechanics and RPG design.

[Geraldo]10 years of Obsidian Entertainment, I noticed the anniversary. So what were your expectations when you founded it, what were you guys looking for?

[Chris] Our expectations were to carry on the type of roleplaying games that were done at Black Isle and sort of break away from the larger studio that was having difficulties at that time.  I think Obsidian did a good job with that in terms of being able to do a wide range of RPGs including doing Dungeons & Dragons' games which we'd been doing at Black Isle at any event.

I think, however, with Eternity and Kickstarter, that's allowed us to return to our absolutely purest roots so I feel that things have come full circle in an absolutely wonderful way.

[Geraldo] For the future, it's Eternity, what do you see beyond Eternity?

[Chris] We'd like to do more games in the Eternity universe. We have the expansion plan, we'd also like to be able to do sequels to the franchise if the initial one sells well enough.

Also we'd like to branch the Eternity world to books and comics and other forms of media as well. That's worked really well for BioWare and a lot of other companies including inXile.

We'd like to, we still talk to publishers, we still do games for publishers, we wouldn't want to necessarily be exclusive to Kickstarter but if we can make our own funding and finance ourselves that's kinda the route we'd like to go down.

[Geraldo] You already touched on this on some of the sessions but how have been the experiences contributing to three different games, more or less at the same time, so Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera and Project Eternity?

[Chris] The way it was structured was Wasteland 2 came first and I actually finished the design work for that late last year, so I was able to roll on to Eternity full time for that. And then with Torment the workload is much lighter than it is on either Eternity or Wasteland 2, and I've been able to do that at night and during weekends on my off time.

Monday - July 01, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview

by Couchpotato, 03:43

"Anon" from Anonymous of Holland has a new interview with Chris Avellone. The interview is a wall of text, and I wish I could share all of it here.

AoH: One of the things at the top of fan’s lists of things they’d like to hear about would no doubt be Project: Eternity. So far we’ve been seeing a lot of tech and lore updates on the Kickstarter page and the forums, and although I’m sure I wasn’t the only one blown away by that amazing tech demo, it feels like the world design has been put on the back burner a bit, at least as far as the updates go. I understand Obsidian might not want to go into this as of yet in order to save information for future updates, but I was wondering if you could tell us a little about how well the world has been fleshed out so far, which direction it’s going in to make it different from all those cliché fantasy settings out there and what the plans are for the world as shown in the map? Will we be visiting locations all over the map or will you be focusing on a certain area, maybe leaving the other areas for another game?

MCA: It will be locations all over the map (to clarify, it’s the one below).

TrentonMap1920 [Project: Eternity's Map - Graciously provided by Mr. Avellone in beautiful high resolution]

The world map [above] is the game space: the game takes place largely in the Dyrwood and the Ruins of Eír Glanfath – while the exact locations are still to be revealed, you will be going to a variety of communities and cities in those areas all over the map, as well as a number of adventure locations. As far as variety goes, it’s much like Icewind Dale in terms of location ambiance and scope (it may seem like an odd example, but while set in the North, there was a lot of freedom in Icewind Dale in terms of looks and feel of each location). As locations and dungeons unlock, you’ll be able to jump to them and begin exploring.

You will not be going beyond the world map indicated in this first installment of the series. Right now, we’re focused on bringing this section to life. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the rest of the world (and in fact, the cultures and empires surrounding the Dyrwood are extremely important to current events) – we’re developing the world and the surrounding nations in tandem with religion, culture, and language.

There’s directives we try and operate from in terms of design of the game which hopefully should shed some light on the process. In terms of development of the narrative, we have a first draft of a story that we’re iterating on after feedback from the team – the draft we chose as the spine was a collaboration of two stories, one from George Ziets and the other from Eric Fenstermaker. There were elements from every story pitch that we liked a lot, and other elements that we felt could be developed more, or made more impactful for the player.

We haven’t revealed a ton on story yet, and it’s because the narrative is important to us, and we want to avoid spoilers. A significant amount of lore, maps, character naming, deities, language, notable antagonists and protagonists has been developed, but it is under the story umbrella, and we’re not prepared to reveal it at this time until we’re comfortable with it. Story’s not something we like to rush at the studio, and for this project, we don’t have to, which is a huge relief. So far it’s allowed a far more collaborative and iterative process – Eternity has been one of the few opportunities we’ve had at the studio where almost all the designers had a chance to do a pass of a story draft and then critique each other’s elements. It felt like a creative writing workshop, which was awesome.

So what makes it different from fantasy settings – there’s a few things, and I’ll try to point to some specific examples: so – we have dwarves. Our dwarves aren’t typical dwarves, however, and allow for variation that may be unusual at a glance – for example, when we showcased Sagani, it might have been unusual to see a bow-using dwarf from an Inuit-inspired culture, but that’s something that Eternity aspires to branch into and explore concepts of fantasy races that haven’t been touched on yet. In our latest update, we describe paladins, but in the context of Eternity, which means they are cause-focused, not necessarily morality-focused, and it gives additional insight on how that difference manifests itself through their abilities, which I feel is pretty damn cool. Also, I’d like to think that the decision to veer away from the 14th century style of fantasy vs. the 16th was a good one as well, and can make its presence felt from weapons the characters wield, the clothes they wear, to the everyday architecture of cities and towns.

Lastly, in terms of defying clichés, the magic system of a world changes everything about its culture. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Pat Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind, David Farland’s Runelords… each change in a magic or metaphysic system sends out a ripple effect across cultures and characters and conflicts, which is a good thing. So when we agree upon the principle of souls as governing magic and the cycle of the world, that opened itself up to interesting character, culture, and technology opportunities that may not exist in other settings.

Also, we have invested a lot of energy in systems, and I feel it’s the right call. All the mechanisms for how the player communicates and interacts with the environment should be established first, including how the player talks with characters, how they move, how they fight… this may seem common sense, but launching into production without a finalized design on how the character’s movement set works and the interface components can be problematic, so we want to make sure we do this right.

Saturday - June 29, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Role in Skyforge Development

by Couchpotato, 03:23

Chris Avellone has clarified the studio's role in the development of the Russian MMO Skyforge with Eurogamer. Obsidian isn't actually working on the project just helping Allods on a "Westernised" translated version.

"We're helping the developers in Russia assemble an American team to do the Westernised version of it," he told me at scrumptious UK game show Rezzed 2013 last weekend.

"It's not Obsidian's staff that's actually working on the game, but what we're doing is we know developers in the area that are familiar with this type of game; we can help you assemble a team, give you office space to work on that, provide the IT support, give design advice if necessary.

"But, overall, we know people that can help you guys out, so we'll assemble a small group at Obsidian to do it, and then we'll just go from there."

Thursday - May 23, 2013

Feargus Urquhart - Future Of The Industry and Obsidian at KRI 2013

by Couchpotato, 00:08

Feargus Urquhart gave an interesting perspective at a Russian game developer conference called KRI 2013. The topics covered the future of the mid-sized developers, and also on Obsidian's specific strategy for the future.

Thanks go to Gamebanshee for translating and posting the story.

Given that the talk is rather long and there's quite a lot of Russian in there, a language a sizable portion of our reader is likely unfamiliar with, I'll try to summarize the salient points of Feargus' speech:

AAA is growing bigger in terms of budgets and team sizes, making this a much less relevant prospect for developers of Obsidian's size, and also making big-budget titles less innovative (because publishers want to be assured their significant investments will wield some profit)

In the future mid-sized developers will have to look at alternatives, and he points out a few of these:

 -  making parts of games (again, linking back to the swelling team sizes, that make it more difficult to handle everything in-house)

 -  making free-to-play titles (which he compares to TV, while AAA is akin to      movies) and smartphone/tablet titles

- funding game projects with Kickstarter

Feargus also explains that games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas are actually exceptions to the trend of bloated budgets and teams he explained earlier, and are actually relatively cheap to develop, certainly cheaper than what people believe

Feargus then goes on to point out the strategy Obsidian is adopting to tackle future challenges:

First of all, the company won't devote any further resources in developing their own engine, Onyx (which powered Dungeon Siege III and the upcoming South Park: The Stick of Truth, and which was also used as the tech backbone for the ill-fated Aliens: Crucible), and will instead license third-party tech like CryEngine 3 and Unity.

However the tools that have been developed for Onyx, like Obsidian's proprietary dialogue tool, will continue to be used and integrated with the third-party technology Obsidian will employIterating on tools and having them be as efficient as possible is something he stresses Obsidian is putting a lot of focus on, echoing the thoughts of Todd Howard from whom he's borrowed the expression "ninjas and tools"
  
Obsidian is going to make an effort to get games in a playable state earlier in the development cycle for the future, something he acknowledges has been difficult for the company in the past due to the sprawling nature of their games.

In general, the company is going back to their roots and look more into PC and tablets in the future. Feargus acknowledges that there's not exactly a wealth of deep RPGs on tablets, but sees it as an opportunity, as they can take the genre in that space.

Feargus was also gracious enough to elaborate further on his thoughts on the AAA marketplace for us, and whether Obsidian will stop looking into it altogether:

Saturday - May 18, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - MMORPG Skyforge

by Couchpotato, 00:12

According to gamesindustry.biz Obsidian Entertainment will be working with the Allods Team to develop a PC MMORPG called Skyforge.

Obsidian's CEO Feargus Urquhart had this to say about the project.

“Skyforge is very interesting and promising project and I am glad that Obsidian Entertainment is involved in working on this game. I am confident that the cooperation with the Allods Team will be a great experience for all of us.”

 

 

Thursday - May 09, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Hoping To Work With EA/BioWare On Star Wars

by Couchpotato, 00:13

RockPaperShotgun has a new article on Obsidian, and how they still want to work on another StarWars RPG. 

We now live in a world where The Sims: Star Wars or Need for Speed: Tosche Station could become things. I’m not saying it’s likely (though the former would not shock me in the slightest), but Star Wars is under new management, so who knows? For now, all we can say for sure is that BioWare, DICE, and Visceral are actively adding their own chapters to the space opera, but we won’t see results from those initial efforts until at least mid-2014 – and much later, in all likelihood.

You’ll remember, however, that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II developer Obsidian also has a rather ambitious idea floating around, and – last we heard – it was about to lay it before the greatest Sith Lord of them all: Mickey Mouse. So then, what happened there? And where does Obsidian’s new Star Wars RPG end up now that EA’s pulling the strings? I got in touch with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart to find out.

First up, Disney. Turns out, the developer never actually ventured into the hallowed halls of the House of Mouse. The reason? Things were simply too unstable at the time.

“As for Disney, we didn’t end up talking with them directly, since we were waiting to see what might happen with the license as a whole,” Urquhart explained to RPS.

Now, however, all the pieces have fallen into place, and Urquhart’s ready to see if there’s room for Obsidian in EA’s master plan.

“We are certainly going to try,” he said. “We would love to work on another Star Wars game, and if it was possible for us to hook up with BioWare and EA to do so, that would be pretty amazing.”

Saturday - May 04, 2013

Feargus Urquhart - Next-Gen Game "Already Looking Great"

by Couchpotato, 00:13

Following the news posted yesterday about Obsidian's new game Eurogamer has a brief interview with Feargus Urquhart.

According to Obsidian's job vacancies (noticed yesterday by OXM), that 'something big' in development is a "unique next-generation game" or an "unannounced next-gen console title", depending on which advert you read. But the revelation of Obsidian working on next-gen console games isn't particularly surprising either - I expect most developers of its kind now are.

The recent job adverts weren't particularly revealing, although one mentioned "role-playing" and "action" in the same sentence. But, again, the idea of a next-gen console RPG containing action bits is about as likely to raise an eyebrow as I am wearing a dress.

Obsidian's blurb on LinkedIn only notes that the studio "also has other unannounced projects in the works". Obsidian cancelled a next-gen project in March last year, incidentally, laying off 20-30 staff, but how that project relates to this new one I don't know.

What is interesting, though, is the question of whether Obsidian's working on new IP or not - but it's a question Feargus Urquhart dodged when I asked it.

"Unfortunately, we can't really talk about what we are working on, but it is already looking great," was what he wrote.

"As for the number of people at the studio, it's safe to say we are around 100. As for the split of people, we do have around 15 people working on Project Eternity and that will go up by a few in the few months.

"As for the other projects, it's a bit more complicated to explain exactly how many people we have on one project versus another."

 

Friday - May 03, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Working on a Unique Next Generation Game

by Couchpotato, 00:16

Obsidian is working on a new "Unique Next Generation Game". That is according to a job listing for a level design position. Speculate away in the comment section. According to the job listing these are the requirements.

Requirements:

  • Level/Area design experience on at least one AAA title.
  • Exceptional attention to detail.
  • The ability to evaluate and understand the mechanics of a game and create 3D layouts that complement the experience.
  • Proficient with a modern game editor such as Unreal 3, CryEngine3, Source or equivalent.
  • Love of computer and console role-playing and action games.
  • Excellent communication skills - you must be able to get up out of your chair and talk to your coworkers!
  • Able to adhere to tight schedules and possess the ability to assist others in meeting deadlines.
  • Skilled with Microsoft Office, level layout programs (SketchUp, Visio, etc.), bug tracking software, and source control software.

Plusses:

  • Experience working on games with role playing elements.
  • Proficient with 3ds max, Maya or XSI.
  • Programming or scripting experience.
  • A playable portfolio level built in a commercial 3D game engine.

Responsibilities:

  • Communicate area design requirements with art and programming teams.
  • Design 3D layouts and work with art and programming to create a unique and fun experience.
  • Design game content - quests, NPCs, items, puzzles, et al.
  • Maintain game design documentation.

Friday - March 29, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Pen and Paper RPG as Inspiration for Writing CRPGs

by Aries100, 15:49

According to Shacknewas, Chris Avellone spoke at a writers' workshop at GDC.  He talked about how writing and playing pen and paper rpgs can help develop writing skills for crpgs. A quote:

At a writer's workshop at GDC, Avellone said he was a game master long before he got into writing for video games, and even had a module for Dungeons & Dragons published by TSR (which was later purchased by Wizards of the Coast). He explained that being a game master in a pen & paper setting with people sitting around a table "allows you to get immediate feedback as to whether you are actually entertaining them or not." He added that direct feedback like that is invaluable for determining how engaging the world and characters are that they have created.

 

Source: GameBanshee

Sunday - February 17, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview part 2 @ RPS

by Woges, 00:04

The second part of the Feargus Urquhart's interview is up on Rock, Papaer, Shotgun.

RPS: So where does that leave crowdfunding for Obsidian as a company? Is it ultimately more of a sidestep – after which you’ll go back to publishing more traditionally for your projects? Or has it been a transformative experience for all of you?

Feargus Urquhart: These are enjoyable games to make. I think it would be great to keep on making them. It helps us build a brand. So that’s where it’s transformative. It’s going to change our business, absolutely. Is it going to change the entirety of our business? No. I would still love to make Fallout: New Vegas 2, or whatever. Or even take Eternity at some point and have Eternity the [Infinity Engine] games and then Eternity the big open-world CRPG. I think that would be really cool.

Nothing stops us from being able to do those two different things. It’s going to make us look at Eternity as a brand. What else can we do with it? I want to hook up with the Pathfinder guys and see about doing a Pathfinder Eternity world book thing. It sounds a little weird, but… A card game. A board game. I’ve already been chatting with Cryptozoic Entertainment. We have nothing going on specifically, but they have a lot of experience in board games and card games. That’s what’s going to be transformative.

But overall, we still love making those big games. I don’t think we have to say we have to do one or the other.

Friday - February 15, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview @ RPS

by Woges, 19:30

RPS have an interview with Feargus Urguhart on the future of RPGs, concluding...

RPS: Conversely, going back to your redefinition of RPGs, I think a lot of people are defining them as “big.” They’re almost pushing that as a selling point. That’s what The Witcher is doing now, and Dragon Age III. Obviously Skyrim. Skyrim is what I think made both of those want to do that. For Obsidian, will that be one of your future tenets? Going huge and making this really big world that people walk around in and live in?

Feargus Urquhart: I would say that’s maybe one of the types of RPGs that we would make. I think there’s still a place for the KOTOR, Mass Effect style – I really do – in which there’s this universe for players to play around in and they’re going from planet to planet to planet. But it’s a different experience from this big open world. It’s a little bit more story-driven. It’s a little bit more linear and things like that. But it’s not like that’s a bad thing. All RPGs don’t need to become more focused on scope as their feature. It doesn’t just need to be that way.

Check back tomorrow for Urquhart’s perspective on Kickstarter, Project Eternity’s progress, and whether or not crowdfunding is The Next Big Thing for Obsidian. Also, in case your excitement glands already somehow returned to normal size, here’s a friendly reminder that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic III and Fallout: New Vegas 2 have a pretty good chance at becoming actual things that exist.

Source: GameBanshee

Tuesday - February 12, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart on Fallout New Vegas 2 - Interview @ RPS

by Aries100, 20:31

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has another teaser for their full interview with Feargus Urquhart, CEO of Obsidian Entertainment.  In this little tidbit from interview, conducted at DICE, RPS talked with Urquhart about how Obsidian would make FN:NV 2. Here's what he said:

"....So I think if we were to do Fallout: New Vegas 2 - or just a new Fallout - we would probably separate it from what the internal team at Bethesda's doing. We'd keep it on the West Coast, because we're West Coast people. They're East Coast, so it makes sense."...."And we need an interesting confined area. So I mean, it could be LA. Fallout LA. That could be interesting. It'd probably be The Boneyard, which is from Fallout 1. It could be very different. It could be almost a Walking Dead meets Fallout-like thing because of all the radiation."

Friday - February 08, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Pitches New Star Wars Game - Interview @ RPS

by Aries100, 21:13

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has an preview for an interview with Feargus Urquhart, the CEO for Obsidian Entertainment. In it tells RPS that:

“We pitched a between-Episode III and Episode IV game [to LucasArts]. Because we think that timeframe is super interesting. It’s the fall of the Republic, the extermination of the Jedi, it’s Obi-Wan going off and making sure Luke is OK. You have the Sith, but you have the extermination of all Force users except for very, very few. So it was an interesting time to set a game, and you know, Chris Avellone came up with a really cool story.”......“We also latched onto it because it has elements people remember, but not the stories. It can just completely not involve [the movies]. It can tease them, but nothing else.”

The preview blurb for the interview with Feargus Urquhart signs off on this note:

Keep an eye out for the full interview – about the future of RPGs, the PC, and a certain post-apocalyptic series that I guess a few people like – very soon.

Source: RPG Codex

Sunday - January 20, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA ready to play Arcanum

by Dhruin, 07:35

It's a curious thing that Chris Avellone has never played Arcanum - but he's getting ready. If you're interested in following his adventures, you can vote on the format on the Obsidian forums:

Chris Avellone is playing Arcanum to raise funds for the $4.0 million dollar stretch goal you helped us reach for Project Eternity. It's installed and he’s ready to start playing – we here at Obsidian wanted to know how you’d like it played!

  • Let's Play Document/Blog
  • 10 minute Let's Play Youtube video bites
  • Streamed on Twitch
  • Format doesn’t matter to me, just enjoy it.

The poll will close on Wednesday (1/23/13) at 6:00PM Pacific Time. Thanks for you feedback!

Tuesday - January 15, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview @ PC Authority

by Aries100, 21:19

Cris Avellone has been interviewed by PC Authority, an Australian site. They talk about the Australian Development Scene, what is in a game that make it a - game and Kickstarter as well. He also talks how to tell stories in games - a quote on this:

"I far prefer how Journey handled the storytelling," Avellone confesses. "I think that games don't need a lot of words, or face-to-face interaction, to communicate a story at all, which is kind of strange for a dialogue writer to say," he adds with a laugh. "But like, if someone's standing on a ridge in Journey, and they're almost in a panic pounding their sound-bubble button - you know what that person wants. They want you to follow them. If there's some sort of much more visual or iconic representation of how characters can interact, that can tell an equally great story without a crapload of words." Where New Vegas differs, of course, is that its players' companions aren't real people online; you'll never see the hard-drinking, dirtymouthed Cass leaping for joy and singing sweetly to you in the harshness of the desert. This is where masses of dialogue comes in handy, says Avellone; it's funnelled into creating a highly believable backstory for the entire New Vegas world."

Source: GameBanshee

Obsidian Entertainment - George Ziets Interview about how he'd make BG3

by Aries100, 00:03

George Ziets, Creative Lead on Obsidian's Mask of the Betrayer, has been asked on
Formspring about his ideas for a BG3 game.  Here's his take on how the game could have begun, hypothetically speaking that is:

Initially the player may just be staving off imminent disaster as Cyric and his friends move quickly against the player - several strong deities against a relatively weak one. I could imagine the player being forced to abandon the Throne of Bhaal and going on the run across the planes. The player's goal would be to gain followers (faith=power), usurp the divine portfolio of another god, and carve out a base of power in the wider multiverse.

In the comments he clarifies that they were planning a reboot of the series:

.......It had been about 10 years since the BG games, which may have been too long for a direct sequel. I know we were planning a reboot of the series that could appeal to gamers unfamiliar with the franchise.

Source: GameBanshee

Thursday - January 03, 2013

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Video Interview

by Dhruin, 12:07

Chris Avellone has been interviewed in a video at Player Attack. I haven't watched the 8 minutes yet but here's their blurb:

We caught up with him at Game Connect Asia Pacific earlier this year and asked him about Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, and why the formerly triple-A developer has reverted to this crowd-funded business model.

Wednesday - December 26, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Kevin Saunders on Seven Dwarfs and More

by Dhruin, 04:31

I've filed this under 'Obsidian' because most of the posts are about his work there, though Kevin Saunders is now a Project Director at inXile. His Formspring has some comments on the recently revealed (cancelled) Seven Dwarfs, his work at inXile (presumably on the Torment spiritual sequel) and great insight into making Storm of Zehir. On Seven Dwarfs:

This wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Disney game. Disney's Buena Vista Games wanted dark and I gave them dark. In the opening sequence, for example, you, as a teenage prince, awake in your bed to haunting sounds. Exploring the dark castle, you come across a terrifying shadowy creature that you kill in a desperate struggle – its cries shifting from a supernatural shriek to that of a human woman's bloodcurdling cry of death. The illusion is then dispelled, and your mother, the Queen, lays dead before you, the bloody knife that killed her in your hand. This wasn’t a cinematic – it was all a gameplay sequence that you’d actually play out.

For the creative lead, I hired Brian Mitsoda, of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines fame. (He’s now working on his creation Dead State, which looks very promising!) He took the skeletal story I had written and was developing it into a true masterpiece. That’s also when Obsidian hired Josh Sawyer and he was the systems/combat lead for the project – he’s an awesome designer and project lead and you can only imagine what he comes up with when focused on a specific component. His combat system combined action gameplay with RPG depth in some very innovative ways.

...and part of why they didn't attempt an "epic stpryline" with SoZ:

Great question, as it not only leads to some interesting decisions about Storm of Zehir (SoZ), but also raises topics about game development in general. Two main factors led us toward the casual romp you mention: the budget and the team.

To explain the budget part, I should go back in time a bit and talk about Mask of the Betrayer (MotB) and the nature of expansions. While there’s some variability, sales for an expansion are fairly predictable. I don’t think I’m at liberty to discuss any real data I’ve seen, so I’ll make up some numbers for illustration’s sake. Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) sold for $50, while MotB sold for $30. Let’s say that for a big RPG, about 1 in 4 players can be assumed to purchase the expansion. To simplify the math, let’s pretend that everyone’s percent share of the sales is constant. (Though not directly applicable to a PC RPG, for a great breakdown of some of the costs for a console game, check out Emily Roger’s article “The Rise of Costs, the Fall of Gaming,” here: http://www.notenoughshaders.com/2012/07/02/the-rise-of-costs-the-fall-of-gaming/). So let’s say that Obsidian had $1,000 to make NWN2. The math would suggest that MotB gets a budget of $1000*(1/4)*($30/$50) = $150. [...]

I bookmarked this from twitter a few days ago but hat tip to GameBanshee, if I recall.

Tuesday - December 18, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Development Overview @ Kotaku

by Myrthos, 13:12

Kotaku has written a lengthy article abour Obsidian Entertainment, the games they worked on, their buggyness, the ones that were cancelled and the games they are working on now.

This part is about South Park: the Stick of Truth and how they started with the game without any funding:

Obsidian wasn't getting paid at this point, but the prospect of a South Park RPG was hard to resist, so Urquhart agreed to keep plugging away at it. They built a prototype set in a house from the show. You played as a generic kid, and you could change your race or clothes by hitting the trigger buttons. If you walked into the living room, you could find Randy Marsh in his underwear, playing Guitar Hero. If you went to the kitchen, you could pick up a spatula, which would then transform into an axe that you could use to smash things.

It wasn't much, but it was the start of a game.

"We took it in to Matt and Trey," Urquhart said. "And Trey just grabs the controller and he's like, ‘This feels awesome!' And Matt runs up to the screen and he goes ‘That's the construction paper!' And they were like, ‘Let's do this." And that was that."

So they put together a contract and started working on the RPG. For a while, Obsidian worked directly for the South Park team with funding from their parent company, Viacom. But in late 2011, they decided to get a more experienced game publisher involved. A few companies showed interest. They ultimately went with THQ.

Friday - December 14, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Baldur's Gate 3 Almost Made in 2008

by Dhruin, 23:52

Kotaku has an excerpt from an interview with Feargus Urquhart of Obsidian, revealing they almost signed a contract to make Baldur's Gate 3 in 2008:

"We were talking to Atari, and we started talking, and oh my god this was like the Cherokee Trail of Tears pitch," he said. "They asked in 2007 if we wanted to do Baldur's Gate 3, and I'm like 'Yes, if you guys are serious about it.' They were like, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'If you'll put a real budget behind it: it can't be $10 million, it needs to be $20 million, $25 million. If you really want to do this, then you need to put a real budget behind it. You need to give a budget that BioWare would have to do a Mass Effect or whatever. It has to be a real budget.'"

Atari was hesitant, but they said they'd think about it. A few months later, in early 2008, they came back to Urquhart and gave him the okay, saying they really wanted to get the game done. "They were like 'OK, we really wanna do this, we feel we can get funding, we feel this we feel that, so let's start talking about it,'" Urquhart told me.

So in April, Obsidian started putting together a pitch for Baldur's Gate 3.

"That pitch, over the course of six months probably went through thirty revisions," Urquhart said. "I personally had probably spent 80, 100 hours—just me—on that one pitch, answering every question and asking everything and working on the budget."

Then Atari and Obsidian started working on a contract, which they had negotiated in full by the end of 2008. It was all set. Ready to be signed.

Obsidian Entertainment - Top 10 Developers @ Gamasutra

by Dhruin, 23:38

Gamasutra has kicked up their Top 10 developers for 2012, based on the criteria "these are the developers and studios that left their mark on 2012 -- the ones that the industry will be watching in the years ahead", rather than shipped games or sales volume. Obsidian made the cut:

If Double Fine paved the dusty road between game players and game developers, it was Obsidian that turned it into a two-way street.

Double Fine proved that crowdfunding game development is viable, but it was Obsidian that made its fans feel like they were part of the team. Through constant updates, fan forums, and a constant back and forth feedback loop, the team's "Project Eternity" feels like a crowd-developed game.

More importantly, Obsidian represents a developer quickly adapting and thriving in what is a rapidly changing game development world. The studio had been struggling with bad deals and draining triple-A work, but thanks to crowdfunding, it may have reinvented itself while playing to its core strengths.

If the studio is able to sustain with Project Eternity, and even have a follow-up developed in a similar way, it will have proven that a decently-sized studio can survive and thrive by independently making the games it wants to make, for fans that want to play them.

Sunday - December 02, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - From Torment to Eternity: Chris Avellone

by Dhruin, 09:13

Chris Avellone has been interviewed at Gamasutra in a feature titled From Torment to Eternity

For Project Eternity, you've gone with a more traditional fantasy setting than in Torment. Was that always your intention?

CA: The way we approached it was we got Josh Sawyer, who was the project lead on Fallout: New Vegas, and we got Tim Cain, me, Feargus [Urquhart] and our other project director Adam Brennecke in a room, and we listed out all the points that we enjoyed about Infinity Engine, and notably dungeon delving, and a lot of the discussion came back to a lot of the strengths that the Forgotten Realms setting had. What they would do is they would create a lot of interesting spaces and sort of build cultures around these cool dungeons, and it was resonating with just about everybody, that they wanted a more traditional fantasy setting.

I do think that the ways that we're approaching the fantasy setting... It's not [entirely] "traditional fantasy." You'll see some similar races, but the takes on the races are going to be a bit different than people expect, so I think that'll be enough to set it apart.

There's also an audio interview with Chris at a site called Koobismo (thanks, NMA).

Tuesday - November 06, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - The Queen Needs No Advocate

by Dhruin, 20:46

The intriguing title The Queen Needs No Advocate is a piece on J.E. Sawyer's personal blog about high-level systemic design, using chess as an illustration:

Gameplay consists of players making (more-or-less) informed decisions about what they need to do to overcome an obstacle.  It is not enough for the obstacle to be clearly defined and communicated to players.  They also need to have a clear understanding of what tools are at their disposal to solve the problem.  In chess, the player's primary tools are his or her pieces.  Though circumstances determine the value of pieces on any given move, no one needs to advocate the fundamental value of the queen in chess.

As an extreme analogue in video games, it's unlikely that many players need to be told what the value of the HECU RPG is the first time they find one in Half-Life.  After being pursued by a relentless Apache helicopter over numerous maps, the player winds up in a cave with the RPG on the ground and the Apache hovering outside.  Players typically snatch up the RPG and blast the Apache in moments.  Though the HECU is not the "queen" of Half-Life's weapons, it has obvious applicability in the circumstance where it appears.

When designers develop tools, we should strive for clarity of primary purpose in a player's tools.  The more obvious we make the value of the tools at a player's disposal, the more quickly the player will spend time fully engaged with the obstacles at hand instead of trying to figure out what they aren't "getting".

Monday - October 29, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Behind the Scenes with Brian Menze @ PA

by Dhruin, 20:43

The Penny Arcade Report talks with Obsidian artist Brian Menze, picking several pieces of art from his portfolio and discussing the origin and thought behind them. On Visas Marr:

Visas Marr was created for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. This was one of the most exciting titles I’ve ever worked on. Obsidian opened its doors with this title and I’m very proud to have been a part of that. Plus, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of having helped create a small part of the Star Wars universe. Development for this game was so fast-paced though, I didn’t really get to enjoy the moment as much as I would have liked to. I didn’t really take a moment to realize what I’d just been a part of until it was over! Visas here was painted rather quickly. I had just started to paint my concepts instead of approaching them way I had in the past which was just a line drawing with simple color.

I was new to digital painting here and had to figure it out on my own. Every piece I did during KOTOR2 was a challenge.  For Visas Marr’s look I remember trying to mix the Baroness from G.I. Joe, ninjas and previous Sith Lords together. Also, because so much of her body is covered I tried to really make what little of her we see as sexy as possible, which ended up being only the bottom half of her face. Those lips had to be exactly right! Also, based on her written description, I thought I could soften her a bit by adding color to her as opposed to the customary black worn by the Sith in the Star Wars films. One thing to point out is that this concept doesn’t reflect how she eventually ended up in the game. 

Source: No Mutants Allowed

Thursday - September 13, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Building Better Worlds Blog

by Dhruin, 22:55

As the Project X countdown reaches one last day, J.E. Sawyer has posted a blog entry about creating new worlds, obviously paving the way for their upcoming reveal. 

To feel for characters at all, we need to make a connection with them.  To make a connection with them, we need to believe that if we were put in their shoes, maybe we'd follow the same path they're on. When we talk about mature themes, we're not describing arterial spray.  We're talking about character motivations that we sympathize with in the setting.  When we get to our nemeses after hunting them down for 50 hours and they say, "Man, do you see what I have to deal with?" we nod and say, "Yeah, I guess I do..." even as we're reluctantly beating their faces in with a morningstar.

But it's not a one-way street.  Those characters need to be with you.  They need to pay attention to who you choose to be and how you choose to conduct yourself.  It's why we love writing conversations as dialogues, exchanges with give and take.  If we've built a world you believe in, your choices won't feel like random button clicks.  They'll be decisions that make you think, maybe trouble you, possibly annoy you from time to time.  And when your companions, friends, enemies, lovers, haters, et al. react with jeers, whooping, or the RPG equivalent of a sustained Citizen Kane clap, you won't feel the invisible hand of the market designer at work.  You'll feel like you're at home in the world we, and your choices, have shaped.

I wonder if their Kickstarter profile will come in handy? Josh Sawyer has also been thinking about The Black Hound, writing about how and why it broke convention on his personal blog:

Some people have suggested that I hate high fantasy or want to subvert high fantasy. Neither of these are really true. I just don't like how most stories handle high fantasy: both too seriously and not seriously enough. Too seriously in the sense that a lot of fantasy conventions are considered so sacred that you can't touch them (or even question them). Not seriously enough in the sense that the scenarios and the characters don't feel like they tackle the obvious questions raised by the settings they're placed in.

Tuesday - September 11, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Project X Countdown

by Dhruin, 22:56

In case you haven't noticed, the "4" in Obsidian's Project X teaser has become a "3", so this is a countdown.

Hopefully we'll get real answers in a few days, as Chris Avellone promises in this brief blog post:

Still, it’s nice to be home and back into the thick of things here. Speaking of which, for those of you who’ve come to visit the page, you may have noticed our countdown. Our countdown to what? It should become clear in 4 days or so – stay vigilant.

Obsidian Entertainment - Project X Teased

by Dhruin, 13:03

Obsidian is teasing "Project X", with the main web page replaced with a snake insignia and the number "4", along with an uncredited quote.

Clicking through takes you to the Obsidian forums - specifically for "Project X Speculation & Discussion" It goes on to say "This is a forum for Obsidian's next RPG endeavor. So secret not even its project codename is yet being revealed. Speculate here...".

So, speculate away!

Source: Blues News

Wednesday - July 25, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Return to the Wasteland

by Dhruin, 14:21

Return to the Wasteland is an interview at Games Industry with Obsidian's Chris Avellone, talking mostly about Kickstarter then South Park and more:

Q: One last thing. Tempted by a Planescape Kickstarter?

Chris Avellone: Yes! Very tempted.

Q: It seems like a prime target...

Chris Avellone: Yeah - I think the challenges we've spoken about would all have to be considered and to be honest I don't know if I'd want to do it as a Planescape game - I think a better approach would be to ignore the D&D mechanics and respect what Planescape was trying to do and what the game did and see if you can do what Fallout did when it became the spiritual successor to Wasteland.

I think if you made a game using some of the concepts of Planescape, the metaphysical ideas and the plane travel, without using the D&D mechanics, you could actually come up with a much better game. With Torment, I'd argue that the D&D base actually, in places, got in the way of the experience. It was a lot harder to make a game with those ideas in it with D&D mechanics. So much that we had to break a lot of them. We had to ignore certain spells, change up the class mechanic so that you can switch at any time you like by remembering abilities.

That was stuff that D&D didn't allow for, it was to restraining in some respects. If we did do a spiritual successor, then I don't know if we'd use the Planescape licence or attach the mechanics, perhaps something that has a different feel to Torment. 

Sunday - July 22, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Jason Fader AMAA @ Reddit

by Dhruin, 09:57

I've filed this under "Obsidian" because the overwhelming number of questions relate to Fallout: New Vegas where Jason Fader was the lead producer, even though he has since left to be an indie. As is often the case with these Ask Me Almost Anything Q&As, picking a quote is hard:

Why'd you leave Obsidian?

Some of them got jobs at other studios since they needed to support themselves. For the rest, they're on my team and we're having a blast working together. You can find out more about our project here :-)
I was laid off in March with a bunch of the guys I worked on FNV with. I have no hard feelings about it. These things happen and Obsidian is a great studio. The following day most of us went out for drinks and that's when I was being asked by everyone when I would start my own studio. I wasn't planning on it at the time, but I wanted to keep this family together.

Monday - July 09, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Tim Cain Interview @ GameStar.ru

by Dhruin, 22:49

GameStar.ru continues their series of recent interviews, catching up with Tim Cain. I actually expected a different answer to this question:

What biggest failure in RPG genre could you recollect?

Failure could mean so many different things in this context, but I think the biggest failure in the genre is a lack of innovation. Most modern RPG's are simply refinements of systems that have come before them, and in many cases, they are simply repackaged versions with better graphics and new settings but no real innovation. I am hoping that the new wave of Kickstarter projects will breathe new life into the genre.

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Video Interview

by Dhruin, 22:46

Gamereactor.eu offers a video interview with Chris Avellone that runs to a little over eight minutes:

David Caballero caught up with Obsidian's Chris Avellone at this years Gamelab in Barcelona and peppered him with questions regarding Wasteland 2, Kickstarter and all of Obsidian's current and possible future RPG projects.

Spotted on the Obsidian forums.

Monday - June 25, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview @ Emergency Broadcast System

by Aries100, 17:05

A blog called Emergency Broadcast System talked to Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment.
The link: http://ebspodcast.blogspot.it/2012/06/emergency-broadcast-system-17-interview.html

Avellone talks during the 48 minute interview about this: Obsidian's writers input on South Park: The Stick of Truth, the publisher-developer relationship, whether he would like to work on a Doctor Who RPG, the reception of Alpha Protoco the possibiity of Obsidian doing a Kickstarter project,  the conflict between storytelling and freedom - and much much more.

The interview is in English, but the transcript is in Italian, so lay back in your comfy chair and enjoy the interview.

Source: GameBanshee

Sunday - June 24, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Josh Sawyer Interview @ GameStar.ru

by Dhruin, 02:38

J.E. Sawyer joins GameStar.ru for an interview primarily about RPG development. From memory, the questions are the same as given to Chris Avellone recently from the same site:

What in your opinion are the key moments in RPG genre that defined the direction all the games made after?

 Without a doubt, the existence of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons defined the paradigm for what RPGs were in the early days.  For me, Bard's Tale, Wizardry, and Ultima were the "big ones" that shaped my experiences.  The "Gold Box" games (Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, et al.) were the next wave.  In the years that followed, the new real-time games like Darklands, Eye of the Beholder, Ultima Underworld, and TES: Arena really expanded what RPGs could be.

After that, I think Fallout and Baldur's Gate marked the renaissance of RPGs in the late 90s.  I feel that Fallout and Planescape: Torment established a great standard for player reactivity. That's the environment I came into when I started at Black Isle.

Sunday - June 03, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Gather Your Party

by Dhruin, 14:02

The latest site to interview Chris Avellone is Gather Your Party. The conversation covers Wasteland 2, F:NV and games development:

Mark: Just for fun, if you had the means to make any kind of game you wanted, what kind would it be and what features would you implement?

Chris: There are a few things: Giving the player their own theme music they could customize from their own local computer soundtracks or grabbing them from the game’s music list – they could summon their theme music like a spell effect and gain bonuses while the theme music was playing (we did this in our Fallout pen and paper game at Interplay).

Also, I’d love to see more games that do design and gameplay with audio – one thing I’ve always wanted to try is have “audiomancers” who can collect SFX as audio weapons from the environment. As an example, they could attack or eavesdrop on a wolf, listen to its idle bark or dying snarl, record it, and use that SFX as pieces to create “audio spells” to attack other opponents. It would add to the exploration and sneaking in an RPG where you pay more attention to the wind rushing through the trees, the coughing/snoring of an unsuspecting guard, the crashing of the waves, or even the crunch of your feet in snow.

I’d also love the chance to do “true war” in a fantasy setting a la Black Company and the Malazan Book of the Fallen – both of those series showcase what “war” could be like in a fantasy setting in fascinating ways. The Deadhouse Gates in particular, still haunts me with some of the battles in that book.

Lastly, one of our systems designers, Matt MacLean proposed a “honeycomb mission structure” for Alpha Protocol a long time ago, and I’d love to do a game that used that structure for missions. The idea with a Honeycomb Mission Structure is that you’re presented with one central goal, and a number of satellite missions that you can optionally choose to take on that have impacts on each other and the goal mission as well, kind of like a hub of missions surrounding a central mission. You can pick and choose the missions that cater to your playstyle and then use those to achieve your objective.

Monday - May 28, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ GameStar.ru

by Dhruin, 23:14

Russian site GameStar.ru has an English interview with Chris Avellone, discussing the industry and genre. Looks like they'll be at E3 in some capacity or another:

Is it safe to say that role-playing genre is having the second birth now? Which RPG do you consider to be the main ones in this console generation?

I think old-school RPGs are having a rebirth, thanks to Kickstarter, which I'm thankful for - between Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun, I'm pretty excited to see what these next series of games will end up as. I'm also glad that Legend of Grimrock was well-received, as I enjoy playing that style of game as well.

Е3 is coming soon. Are you and your team planning to present anything at Expo?

Will have to wait for the news releases, so prepare to watch the E3 feeds and be entertained. :)

Friday - May 18, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Quest Time Limits

by Dhruin, 23:19

Chris Avellone has kicked up a short blog at Obsidian, following up on a promise to respond to a Reddit reader about quest time limits in games - such as with Fallout 1:

From a gamemaster/game designer perspective, the idea of time limits is appealing. It creates pressure, and it creates an urgency for the player that’s hard to beat.

In Fallout 1, the skill system and the plot was built around the design that you only had a certain number of days to find the water chip for your vault and then defeat the mutant army or game over. If you don’t recall that, then chances are you played it with the patch that removed that design element, as the mutant-hunting-your-Vault-down-time-limit was patched out of the game in 1.1 because of the outcry.

So I love time limits. In Fallout 1, it was appropriate because:

- It reinforced the urgency and pressure of saving your Vault.
- It reinforced the brutal nature of the world you were in.
- It made time-usage skills more risky for players to use. Sure, Doctor was helpful, but you had to be careful because it could consume a lot of time if used repeatedly.

Players reacted negatively because:

- The time limit was unforgiving.
- It prevented them from exploring areas at their leisure, which undermined the non-linearity of the game – suddenly you didn’t want to go everywhere and explore everything, because the clock was ticking.
- It couldn’t be reset/extended beyond the time limit except in a few places in the game, and only a finite number of times.

So the question becomes – if I, as a game designer, want to introduce the same level of time pressure and instill the player with a sense of urgency, what can I do?

Monday - May 07, 2012

Wasteland 1 and that Old-School Skill Set Symphony

by Dhruin, 22:07

Chris Avellone writes on his Obsidian blog about replaying the original Wasteland and enjoying how deep character creation can enhance roleplaying:

So skills contributing to role-playing: As an example, when building my Wasteland party of four Rangers again, all I knew to start is I wanted a Brainiac, a Thief, a Jack of All Trades/Gunslinger as party leader, and a Melee Specialist because I like bashing the **** out of things with clubs, axes, and chainsaws. With those basics in mind, I went ahead and went through the Wasteland stat and skill set and built personalities formed by the random roll (although biased toward accepting characters with a high IQ, since IQ is a big “win” in Wasteland – and this should remind me to do a blog on how prevalence of usefulness of skills and abilities can ruin role-playing and a lack of balance can do the same) and also based on the skills that were provided to me and what points I put into them.

Now one of the great things about Wasteland is that there are 27 skills to start. You can even learn brand-new ones over the course of the game, and the first time I discovered that, I was floored and ended up jacking up my IQ as high it could go to see what new skills became available (the higher tier skills are IQ-dependent).

Friday - April 20, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Bringing Kickstarts and Students Together

by Dhruin, 01:14

Chris Avellone is obviously looking to give back a little, offering to hook up Kickstarter projects that might benefit from the services of interns, students and juniors with the pool of applicants that Obsidian receives:

Obsidian gets applicants for internships all the time from schools across the States, and it may be that if you're forming a Kickstarter, you may need a lot of technical, production, and development help for tasks that students and juniors would love to do to contribute to their careers and education.

If you're running a Kickstarter and would like to consider a pool of applicants to help you hit your game's mark, let us know - there may be interns/juniors in your area or could assist remotely with your tasks and help your game shine. If this is something you're interested in exploring, drop me a line at CAvellone@obsidian.net.

If you're a junior or intern, this isn't a call to send a resume - only await more information. Hopefully, this "kickstarts" some job opportunities and gets folks started up the career ladder. Overall, the hope is Kickstarter may be able to provide more job opportunities to junior and intern students that may be problematic at larger studios.

Chris

Wednesday - April 18, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview @ The Critical Bit

by Dhruin, 22:58

Chris Avellone has an interview at The Critical Bit, discussing Obsidian's approach and their expererience with publishers, cancelled projects, Wasteland 2 and more. Here's a great question:

You’ve mentioned that you are often inspired by RPG conventions that bother you. What about RPGs has been irking you lately?

Let’s see. The concept of High Fantasy bugs me. I’d love to take a high fantasy game, fuck it up and then dump the wreckage in a player’s lap to experience. This probably also explains my desire to knock cupcakes and ice cream cones out of kid’s hands.

Conversation mechanics also bore me and frustrate me. I feel like dialogues have been devolving as time goes on, and the idea of being placed in a paralyzing face-to-face conversation with limited interactivity doesn’t seem to be the way to move ahead with this system. I keep looking at shows like Sherlock for inspiration, or even mull over ways to implement interactions if you had to do it for Half-Life and keep the feel of the game, and I feel there’s a better way to do it without going the full-on cinematics route… no slam on that presentation, but that’s BioWare’s territory, they’re masters at it, let them do it best, and the rest of us should find other ways to approach it that might yield an equally cool system with less resources. I felt we had a good system going on with Aliens that didn’t take you out of environment, and I did like the time pressure that Alpha Protocol provided because it fit the spy/24 genre (not my idea, that’s all Spitzley on programming and Mitsoda on design).

Next – dialogue morality bars tied to your character’s power with no middle ground that gives you equal empowerment. It removes any interest or awareness of the conversation beyond trying to hit the button that says “choose Good side or Bad side.” When that happens, I feel like you’re in danger of losing the RPG experience because you’re not reacting like you would naturally based on the context of the situation, you’re “gaming” the system instead of role-playing it.

Friday - March 16, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - XBLA Title "On Hold"

by Dhruin, 23:41

Via Joystiq:

Obsidian Entertainment announced last year that it was working on "an original IP XBLA game," but times have changed. Targeting a launch for the first quarter of 2012, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart said at the time it would be an "action RPG that's focused on fun."

Checking in with Urguhart about the project, we were told, "That project is currently on hold; we are looking at where we might want to take it."

Wednesday - March 14, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Cancelled: Project North Carolina - Layoffs

by Aries100, 20:24

Gamebanshee received a tip yesterday evening that Obsidian had to lay off a number of people due to Project North Carolina being cancelled. The lay-offs also affected some people working on the South Park RPG. Credible evidence can be seen in these comments below:

Tweet from Andre Nguyen, animator:

Fellow Obsidianites who were laid off today...I was lucky, but I've been on the other end of that. Your talents will take you far!

A tweet  from Jason Fader, producer Project North Carolina:

So long, Obsidian. It was a great 3.5 years. I'll miss everyone :-(

A Google+ post from Michael Bosley, programmer:

Obsidian laid off a bunch of folks today. I'm still there, but it's sad (and part of the biz) to see so many good folks let go. :( 

BuckGB from Gamebanshee writes this at the end of the announcement on GB:

.....it was indeed Project North Carolina that was cancelled, and that the devastating news comes after "the owners weren't paid for 6-7 months" and "401k matching was halted" for employees. Hopefully Obsidian lets us throw our money at a Kickstarter project soon, or I'm going to really start to worry.

So, do you think Obsidian is going to make it through this?

Source: GameBanshee

Friday - March 02, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Upcoming Convention Talks

by Dhruin, 22:58

Chris Avellone will be presenting at Wonder-Con and PAX East - head to his Obsidian blog for more details. I was more interested in this tiny tidbit that, while not telling us anything, indicates they are still playing with a Kickstarter project:

No new Kickstarter news yet, unfortunately, more as I have it.

Tuesday - February 21, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Tim Cain Stays On

by Dhruin, 12:30

I didn't actually know Tim Cain's time at Obsidian had been potentially temporary but Chris Avellone tweeted today that Tim has now signed on as a permanent staff member:

My heart grew three sizes today when Tim Cain said yep, it was official - he was going to stay and work with us full-time.

Thursday - February 16, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Initial Kickstarter Responses

by Dhruin, 23:11

Chris Avellone has posted an update about a possible Kickstarter project, having combed through the fan response on a variety of websites, including ours. Here's the entire post:

I’ve gone through all the blog responses, comments, and Twitter responses - I wanted to say thanks to you all for the idea suggestions and the support.

And just as importantly, feel free to keep them coming. I routinely check Twitter (@ChrisAvellone), Facebook, my inbox, and a number of gaming sites with similar questions (Penny Arcade, Rock/Paper/Shotgun, NMA, RPGCodex, GameBanshee, RPG Watch, Giant Bomb) in addition to this blog so while it helps if you put your comments here or in the blog below, chances are if you frequent those other sites, I’ll have a way of getting that feedback.

If you see a thread that I may have missed, feel free to suggest it (that’s where I found many of the links above).

I’ve tabulated all the current responses as of last night, and it went off to the Obsidian owners for evaluation. I can’t promise anything will come from it, but considering the outpouring of feedback here, I appreciate everyone that took the time to respond (and the detail as well).

An additional thanks to those who had enough faith in us to be supportive no matter what the project was... that was encouraging to read.

To answer some common questions:

- Pursuing Kickstarter was a question of personal interest on my part. It doesn’t guarantee that Obsidian would do a Kickstarter project. All I know I’d love to do one, and while I have games I’d love to do, I was more curious as to what you’d want to see.

- Some people asked why we would seek funding at all. In short, our cash largely stems from publisher financing. If a publisher doesn’t believe a title is worth the investment (adventure games, old school RPGs), they will not support the endeavor.

- What excited me about Double Fine is that it skirted asking the publishers and pitching to publishers in the first place and changed the pitch focus to the folks who want to play the game. They had a means of going directly to the public and asking if they’d support a project, which they did. And as a developer, getting such a reaction from fans for a seemingly "dead” genre is welcome.

- If interested in the results, the most responses concerned in order of preference (note that there’s likely bias here considering the author of the Twitter and the blog post below):

  • Planescape 2/Planescape Spiritual Successor.

  • An Isometric turn-based/pause RPGs in general.

  • The “other” category – this fell into game suggestions and mechanics and genres that were only suggested by 1 or 2 folks. I read all of these.

  • Make whatever you want, we’ll support you.

Again, thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it. And even if my Excel-burned-eyes are dry from tabulating responses, it’s good that there was such a strong amount of feedback in the first place.        

Friday - February 10, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Crowd-funding Fever

by Dhruin, 21:33

First, some quick background. As you probably know, the biggest news on the 'net is Double Fine / Tim Schaefer raising $1.4M in a bit over a day on Kickstarter for a proposed old-school point-and-click adventure (seriously, the number just keeps going up in realtime). While some people have erroneously called the phenomenon "the death of publishers", it's an exciting prospect - at least if you've got some celebrity power to drive the demand.

Chris Avellone answered a question on twitter about Obsidian trying a similar thing:

Hmmmm. I admit, I’ve got Kickstarter fever now. I feel like a bunch of doors suddenly appeared in game development.

On his Formspring, J.E. Sawyer also had this to say:

What do you think of DoubleFine's success on Kickstarter? Do you think that you could replicate it at Obsidian with a budget isometric title?

I'm not sure. I know we've discussed it internally in the past.

Then Chris Avellone tests the water further, posting on his blog on the Obsidian forums:

If Obsidian + Kickstarter = ?

All of Double Fine’s success from Kickstarter has been inspiring.

I GUESS PEOPLE LOVE THOSE CLASSIC ADVENTURE GAMES AFTER ALL.*

The idea of player-supported funding is... well, it’s proof certain genres aren’t dead and sequels may have more legs than they seem. And the idea of not having to argue that with a publisher is appealing.

Out of curiosity, if Obsidian did Kickstart a project, what would you want to see funded? (You can respond in comments or to @ChrisAvellone on Twitter, whichever you prefer.)

* I only use all caps for sarcasm and shouting. And for the Think Tank in Old World Blues for comedy value.        

Hmmm...

Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Sunday - February 05, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - Narrative Designer Advice

by Dhruin, 06:39

Chris Avellone has penned a blog entry at Obsidian, returning to the topic of advice for breaking into the industry:

- In general, most narrative-focused companies have specific tests they send to test applicants, so as a result, your portfolio may not matter to them. Don’t feel that you have to have samples to show first, the proof of your skills will come in how you demonstrate your skills in the test they send. And as no surprise, it’ll likely be focused on one of their franchises, so be sure you’ve played them, know the lore, know the scripting conventions, characters, and more.

- I also believe that the IGDA has a special writer's group that’s worth joining up with (and they have gatherings at GDC, I believe).

- Lastly, the best way to break in is to actually write for games, even if it's for free and as a hobby. There are plenty of mods and game editors out there that you should be able to work on or contribute to, and finished mods are something that game companies either look at in terms of resumes or while they're looking to see what cool things have been done for their games (for example, in Fallout New Vegas, we checked out the cool mods that people had done as inspiration for our DLCs, and they'd made some great stuff).

Thursday - January 26, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Profile @ CelebritySC

by Dhruin, 21:11

Is Chris Avellone the most profiled developer ever? Anyway, A site called CelebritySC has an interview/profile, mostly focused on his background and work:

How do you resolve creative disputes during the game development process? Please provide an example scenario.

We simply discuss it. When a conflict arises between two people of the same level, then their superior breaks the tie. It rarely comes to this as long as the hierarchy is well-established and everyone is aware of who has the final say. For example, if a conflict arises with a mission in a game, and the Systems Designer, Level Designer, and Narrative Designer disagree, the systems designer is the one who can make the call over the others because they are in charge of moment-to-moment gameplay. After that, the level designer is the next highest because they take the systems and put them in the context of a level – last on the totem pole is the narrative designer, whose job it is to give context to the level in the larger world.

Friday - January 13, 2012

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Lecture

by Dhruin, 21:23

I don't usually cover many geographically limited newsbits but if you're in LA, you might want to check out a lecture from Chris Avellone:

Obsidian's Cheif Creative Officer, Chris Avellone will be speaking at UC San Diego Monday 1/16 at 6 pm at the Comp Sci & Eng Building (EBU-3B) Room 1202. “Everything I can think of that I’ve learned in 20+ years of game design, as fast as I can say it,” he says will be his topic. Bring your questions!

Wednesday - December 21, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - The Art of Brian Menze

by Dhruin, 23:34

There's an art feature at Kotaku that looks at Brian Menze, the Interplay / Obsidian artist responsible for everything from the Vault Boy in Fallout 2 and F:NV to characters in NWN2, KotOR 2 and Alpha Protocol.

Tuesday - December 20, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Video Interview

by Dhruin, 21:02

IndustryGamers continues their interview series with Chris Avellone, this time offering a video interview with Chris. The 20 minute conversation sees Chris talking about the deal to make Fallout: New Vegas and the development process, his own background and getting into the industry.

Monday - December 19, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Office Tour @ IG

by Dhruin, 23:16

Industry Gamers has a short tour of Obsidian's offices with a few photos:

Obsidian is located in a tall building with a prominent logo on the top: Smile Brands. It's an interesting label for a building that houses some often dark RPG visions. “The building has lots of lawyers on other floors. I think they're jealous we don't have to come to work in suits,” notes Jim Rivers, hiring manager at Obsidian. The offices take up some 40,000 square feet, allowing plenty of room for conference areas and a lounge for each development team. Across the street from their location is a huge mall that features a Ferris wheel and a movie screen complex that is the site of regular company excursions to see the latest hit movies.

Tuesday - December 13, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ IG

by Dhruin, 22:37

Chris Avellone has been interviewed at IndustryGamers, discussing his role, the RPG genre and the market. There are a couple of headline quotes, such as Chris hoping digital sales will undermine the used-game market and that Obsidian has a dream to release their own "smaller" games digitally. Here's a quote on changes to the genre:

IG: What's the most important advances in RPG design in the last few years?

CA: That's tough. I'll say the "advances" have been more for player convenience, sometimes good, sometimes bad, in my opinion. Journals, quest compasses that point directly to the goal and show you the route, auto-maps, etc. are helpful; at the same time, I think it undermines the thrill of victory and discovery and a lot of what makes an RPG an RPG (exploration, notably). In terms of non-interface elements, I feel the idea of morally gray choices and more focus on actions and consequences has been great for RPGs across the board. Lastly, fully voice-acted characters has been something to adapt to since Knights of the Old Republic 1, and the amount of localization, recording and audio work that requires is substantial, but I feel it's a net positive for the player.

Tuesday - December 06, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview @ GameInformer

by Skavenhorde, 17:10

Gameinformer has a video interview with Feargus Urquhart. Urquhart talks about how South Park Studios directly approached Obsidian instead of going through their publisher.

Next he goes into how he wanted to give the game the 'South Park' look and feel while finding out what Matt and Trey's vision for the game would be. He came to the conclusion that he needed to make the game feel like the player is stepping into South Park. The art will be just like in the show which frees Obsidian up to create more content.

Overall the interview talks about the vision for the game and how Obsidian got handed the job.

Saturday - December 03, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - South Park RPG Details

by Skavenhorde, 15:32

A Neogaff forum member has recieved his copy of GameInformer and posted some details for South Park RPG. Here are a few snippets:

Basics

-The first game Parker and Stone have directly participated in, writing the script and the dialogue.

-Parker has always preferred silent protagonists in RPG's, so the player’s character will be silent.

-The player’s character will be fully customizable.

-Your character has a smartphone that acts as the primary game menu and has a facebook-like app show your number of friends you have and your current standing with the various kid factions.

-There are five classes, which are wizard, paladin, adventurer, rogue, and a fifth unannounced class.

-Obsidian is using the Dungeon Siege III engine.

-Obsidian developed a dynamic lip-syncing tool to accommodate changes to the script.

-Parker and Stone gave Obsidian 15 years of assets used during the show and a detailed list of approved textures and colors.

-Critical hits, cash rewards, experience, and consumables are in the game.

-Parker hates unskippable cutscenes.

-The humor will be more focus on the games they have played in the past but Parker mentions that games have lampooned other games before so they don't want to do exactly that instead they are focusing more on RPG's on how big and bombastic they can get sometimes.

Story

-The player will play as the new kid in town, the main theme of the game is fitting in and being accepted.

Combat

-Many elements of the combat system are like Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi games.

-If player initiates combat they will attack first and vice versa.

-X button is for melee attacks, pressing it in well-timed succession will result in multiple hits.

-Timed inputs occur for defense as well for reduced damage.

-Obsidian doesn't want the player to have to sit and watch animations play out; they're incorporating dynamic camera angels at certain times, such as a Ro Sham Bo attack that stuns an enemy.

RPG

-Enemy encounters are visible on the map.

-Soda are health potions and Tweak's coffee is a haste item.

-There are melee and ranged weapons, as well as a lightning powered Okama Gameshpere that is a magic item.

-There is a Final Fantasy Materia like system in the game to augment weapons with various abilities like fire, poison, and electricity.

-There is a Summon System but they are not able to talk about it.

Other

-When Obsidian were first coming up with ideas they show Parker and Stone a quest where you go into a cave and fight a giant bat boss that Ike is riding on, Parker and Stone said that the quest wasn't Southpark, that it was a generic video-game. Parker and Stone then mention a quest to get Kung Pao Chicken from City Wok, to readjust Obsidian focus.

-When they start making the town hub Parker and Stone realized that they did not have a true layout for the town, so they had fun figuring out where everything went.

-There will not be any platforming, they tried jumping early on but it didn't seem right.

-They talk about how they have had to scrap level because the perspective wasn't right because everything is hand illustrated and hand animated.

-They talk about the challenges of making a comedy driven game, Portal 2 is mention, they say if Portal 2 dialogue was on top of a shitty game it wouldn't be as good, so they want to make a game that is as good as the dialogue.

Source: GameBanshee

Thursday - December 01, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - South Park RPG

by Skavenhorde, 19:39

According to Gameinformer The "leading animation franchise" that Obsidian is working on is South Park. There is not that much info on the game itself other than it's South Park. Here's about all the info on the game:

Thanks to a collaboration with THQ and Obsidian, Parker and Stone are writing the script, performing the dialogue, and overseeing the development of South Park: The Game. Unlike the cash-in Acclaim titles from over a decade ago, this ambitious project is a full-scale RPG for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. As the new kid in South Park, it'll be up to you to make friends and defend the town from a wide range of threats. Be sure to check out our January issue for all the details, as well as an interview with Parker and Stone themselves.

Thanks, Jaesun for the heads-up.

Friday - November 04, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview @ GameSpot

by Dhruin, 21:08

Feargus Urquhart was interviewed at International Game Developers Association Leadership Forum last week by GameSpot. The coversation centres on business issues for independent studios and issues like selling second-hand games. A snip on their current burn rate:

GameSpot: Do you think it's getting easier or harder to make it as an independent studio these days?

Feargus Urquhart: I think it depends on your perspective. I think originally you could be an indie developer and not really have to be a business man. And I wouldn't say that I'm a business man, but I have some of the traits that go along with that. And I have had to learn a lot of things about accounting, and taxes, and other things to a point. I think in the past, it was possible to be effective without being really focused on business because the teams were much smaller. If you were eight guys and you made a bunch of money on your previous product, you can go six months without signing a deal. Our burn rate is $1 million a month, so we have to have games all the time. I am not independently wealthy, so I think a lot of it is harder now if you don't understand that you really have to focus on the business side. 

Tuesday - November 01, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Working on a "leading animation franchise"

by Dhruin, 22:08

We've actually known Obsidian is working with a "leading animation franchise" for a while but business and talent agency DDM, who represent Obsidian, recently put out a .pdf on their business, which has ignited coverage on a pile of sites such as this one at GameSpot sent in by Frozen Fireball.

The original document is here (spotted by Joystiq), if you want to go straight to the source, but there isn't any other detail.

Wednesday - October 26, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Tim Cain Interview @ GamaSutra

by Aries100, 17:55

RPG Codex brings news of an interview with newly joined Obsidian employee Tim Cain. Will Ooi from GamaSutra has made the interview which you can read here. They talk baout his time at Troika Studios, what he will be doing at Obsidian, what he like to do in his spare time, what he thinks defines an RPG, what he thinks of Fallout: New Vegas and much much more.

A few excerpts, starting with what he will be doing at Obsidian:

Will Ooi: Could you give us some more information about what your title of Senior Programmer will involve, and how you'll fit in to the company's hierarchy?

Tim Cain: As a senior programmer, I have been assigned to work for Dan Spitzley on their New York project. I am working on various coding tasks concerning combat and general gameplay. The group is very open to design suggestions from all of its members, and they hold weekly meetings where the game is played and anyone can suggest changes to gameplay, anything from new abilities to UI to voice over. Everyone at Obsidian is very passionate about their games, and it shows in their development process.

Here's his opinion on what an rpg is:

WO: For you, what are the essential criteria in what really makes an RPG an RPG? What are your thoughts on the real time, action-RPG titles that are becoming more and more popular these days?

TC: I think an RPG should be about creating and playing a "role". First, an RPG should always include some kind of character creation system, to let the player choose what kind of character to play, and I prefer that the game let me name my character, although I can see why some games don't allow that so that they can include voice overs that talk about the character.

Here's how he sees Fallout:New Vegas.

WO: With New Vegas examining humanity in a post-post-apocalyptic world, what are your opinions of what the series should strive for in the long run? And is there perhaps a risk that, the further into the future that it takes place, the less Fallout-like it will be?

TC: I think there are lots of areas in the Fallout IP that are ripe for exploring. And I don't think that people should be afraid that such exploration will make for a lesser Fallout. Expanding the IP is always a good thing, as long as its nature stays true to the original. That nature consists of exploration (both of the exterior world and one's inner self), of examining gray areas (because what important ideas are truly black and white), and of finding humor in the darkest situations.

Source: RPG Codex

Wednesday - October 12, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Tim Cain Joins?

by Dhruin, 13:19

Drithius points out in this thread on our forums that it seems Tim Cain has joined Obsidian Entertainment as a Senior Programmer, based on Facebook updates.

Interesting.

Tuesday - October 04, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - More Onyx Engine RPGs

by Dhruin, 08:42

Chris Avellone's twitter reveals Obsidian is working on more projects using their own Onyx engine - here's the tweet:

Obsidian's future = more RPGs with our own engine... finally.

Thanks, Jaesun!

Monday - September 26, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Nathaniel Chapman and J.E. Sawyer Interviews

by Dhruin, 22:56

Obsidian has kicked up the 4th part of their community interview with Dungeon Siege III lead designer Nathaniel Chapman. This time, the questions are more general:

WorstUsernameEver asked:
But anyway: What does “immersive” mean, in your opinion? It’s one of the most popular industry’s buzzwords today, yet I have never seen anyone explaining what they think it means. And on that matter, do you think it’s important for an AAA RPG today to be “immersive”?

Immersion means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, I think. To me, immersion is the extent to which a game world feels believable – note that I use believable and not realistic. Because a world feels believable, players tend to get “lost” in it – they stop consciously considering the gaminess of what they’re playing and instead accept the game world on its own terms.

As to why I think this happens, I think people generally act as if the world operates in predictable ways. If you repeat the same action multiple times, you expect the same results. You then combine your knowledge of different predictable operations in the world to form creative ideas. You can imagine an ancient human combining their knowledge that wood can float on water with the knowledge that holding a billowing cloth in the wind causes them to feel like they are being pushed, and developing the first sailboat from the combination of those two ideas. The core thought here being that people become creative when they combine knowledge based on consistent feedback within the world.

Games work in the same way – when you take an action in a game, and it responds in a given way, you’re encouraged to repeat it and combine it with other knowledge you have about the game. As you begin to experiment and get creative in your approach to the game, the “gaminess” of it fades – at least until the game world stops being believable, say when you hit a bug or something stops working the way you expect.

If you recall Will Ooi's recent interview series with Chris Avellone at Gamasutra, the spotlight has now moved to J.E. Sawyer. A sample from their conversation:

WO: The information available about you on the net tells us that, having completed a history major and participating in theatre, you then became a game designer. How did this happen and how did you make the decision to pursue this career path? Who and what has influenced you?

JS: The transition from college to game development was stroke of luck. I was a bad student in college. I don't mean that in the "zany Val Kilmer Real Genius" way, but in the way that a lazy wastrel who plays video games and tabletop RPGs all day is a bad student. A friend of mine noticed that Interplay was hiring a web designer for an unannounced RPG. I had taught myself a bunch of web design (including Flash) and was a freelance web developer, so I fired over a resume. Apparently my absurdly long cover letter and knowledge of Flash were the keys to success. I was the second choice of about sixty applicants. The first pick decided to follow his girlfriend to Seattle.

As for how I became interested in game design, it probably started with my first introduction to CRPGs. At a public library, I saw an older kid playing the original Bard's Tale on a C=64. I was mesmerized. The older kid, Tony Unate, introduced me to a wide array of CRPGs as well as AD&D. I had already played Basic and Expert D&D, but AD&D is when the obsession truly took flight. Tony and I and our mutual friends debated a lot of the finer points of game design, both in CRPGs and in tabletop games. We sector edited games, modified board games, and altered RPG rules to suit our tastes and sensibilities.

When I got to college, I started playing a wider range of tabletop games with a diverse group of gamers of varying backgrounds. We did a lot of customization and system development along the way. That process of critical analysis and revision made me interested in game development, though I always envisioned myself getting into tabletop design.

Monday - September 19, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview Pt. 3 @ Gamasutra

by Dhruin, 23:57

Gamasutra has the third part of their Chris Avellone interview online:

WO: Fallout 1 and 2 featured low intelligence dialogue – how much extra work does that take? And how fun is it to write; are you able to ‘let loose’ seeing as the more 'serious' playthrough was essentially made redundant when players took this option?

MCA: It takes some work, it's not easy if you're doing the extent it was done in F2 - you have to carefully make sure that all locations are accessible in stupid ways (for example, stupid characters can gain access to Vault City most easily by being enslaved and made a servant, which is another quest path to write and test). This is balanced out by the fact that these quest options and stupid dialogue in general is fun (Torr's subtitles in F2 where you can only "fully" communicate with him as a dumb character). When writing low intelligence dialogue, it's a blast to just sit down, chug a beer or two, and write it. We even wrote all stupid options for every single topic in Dead Money, for example, and that didn't take much time. The problem is, you're still looking at a localization budget, so that's not always feasible, so that needs to be cut even if it may not add to the voice recording time, it'll add to the word count translators need to account for.

Friday - August 19, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview at Spanish Website El Pixel Illustre

by Aries100, 18:49

Spanish website El Pixel Illustre interviewed Chris Avellone about his career in general ranging from Planescape: Torment over Alpha Protocol to the dlc for Fallout: New Vegas and much much more. The interview is in English so that anyone that doesn't understands Spanish can enjoy the answers as well.

A quote about the games, MCA is most proud of: 

-You’ve worked in quite a few games now. What project are you most proud of?

Planescape and the Fallout DLCs (Dead Money, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road) are the titles I’m most proud of – on all four, I was effectively Project Director and had the most freedom, so the fact that you own your mistakes as well as the praise generates a certain amount of pride.

And a Q&A about Alpha Protocol:

-Alpha Protocol is a clear example of a game that you can enjoy even more the second and third time you play because of all the different possibilities offered to the player. Strangely enough, not a lot of people seemed to appreciate that. Do you think the game has been treated fairly in general terms?

For the most part it was fair. Some of the press went for shock reviews, sure. Others I felt had appropriate scores and criticisms, and I don’t have any ill will about that – and I know a number of people played the game and enjoyed it for as many people disliked it. In fact, if I didn’t have Twitter and been able to follow the mentions of the game, I would have thought everybody hated it. In the end, we were trying some new design concepts as a studio, and I’m proud of what we did, some of which we’re carrying into future titles.

And a Q&A about Killap's Fallout 2 Restoration Project:

-Have you checked out the “Fallout 2 Restoration Project” patch? Are you happy with all the cut content finally seeing the light of day, or maybe you would have preferred it to remain unseen?

I have not, unfortunately, and if Killap was brave enough to try and resurrect any of that content, more power to him – we certainly couldn’t get to all of it, but I don’t think the game suffered from it (and we were still able to put parts of the Fallout 2 stuff in FNV and the DLCs, although it’s mutated quite a bit since when we first imagined it). I am glad that someone was able to make use of the editor we worked hard to get released a long time ago – I was worried no one would do anything with it.

Wednesday - August 17, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview Pt. 2 @ Gamasutra

by Dhruin, 23:46

The second part of Will Ooi's interview (you may remember the first from back in June) is up at Gamasutra. A big part of this article focuses on Alpha Protocol with some fascinating comments:

Lastly, in terms of what we would have done differently, one thing that definitely impacted the reception was out of our control (release date) - first off, people expected more from the delay when there was never any plans to do anything more with the title during the delay. In addition, being released after Mass Effect 2 with clearly superior cinematic sequences nor after Splinter Cell which specializes in some of the best stealth mechanics to date didn't help, either. To explain the publisher reasoning, however, I do know that there was a drive to push the "buzz" of the project so players were aware of it, and it was felt that eight months would give that lead time enough for people to be aware that Alpha Protocol existed. That said, even with this lead time, the PR efforts still came on late, so I don't know how much that helped in the end, except pushing the game at least eight months out from a more favorable release time, at least in terms of features. If it had been released much earlier (and it's rare to say this), I think the reviews would have come from a different perspective... as it stood, it defeated expectations on a number of levels in the marketplace.

Thursday - July 14, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Memory is Fiction

by Dhruin, 00:14

Obsidian is pointing out an interview with Chris Avellone at Memory is Fiction, with an emphasis on storytelling and KotOR 2:

4. What do you think players gain when developers provide narrative explanations for game mechanics, such as how you explain the concept of “leveling” through killing in KOTOR II as an ultimately negative facet of the main character’s spiritual sickness?

I regret that particular decision (it still doesn’t fully click with me), although I’m always in favor of narrative supporting the game mechanics (Planescape: Torment – immortality as a device to remember skills vs. leveling, and also to skip the death-and-loading screen). I do prefer when narrative designers take the time to reinforce cool game mechanics through narrative elements (the reputation system in Fallout New Vegas has dramatic impacts on your narrative experience in the game, and that’s a good thing). I do feel it’s part of a narrative designer’s responsibility to clarify, support, and heighten the game’s mechanics whenever possible.

Thursday - July 07, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview MCA @ NightMare Mode

by Aries100, 22:45

Nightmare Mode has an interview up with MCA, or Chris Avellone. It is an interesting read covering how he got into the business, what his favourite games are, his take on the dialogue wheel, and more. As always, questions about Fallout, Van Buren and Planescape: Torment are also asked. Apparently an action rpg in the Planescape setting were planned:

Recently there has been a lot of commotion over Matt Findley’s (Hunted: The Demon’s Forge–and also hailing from Interplay) comments regarding older fantasy games–typically RPGs–”always wanted to be action games at their heart.” Do you agree with that statement? Would you, as someone who also worked at Interplay, say that some of the games you’ve worked on in the past actually wanted to be action games at heart? 

I think Stonekeep definitely wanted to be an action RPG (Ultima Underworld was out around that time). I don’t think Baldur’s Gate could have been and still been Baldur’s Gate (or at least had as many party members), same with Torment and Icewind Dale. That said, however, at points in development at Interplay there were action RPG versions of Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape (not Torment, but an action title like King’s Field in the same universe) all in the works, although only the ARPG BG title came out (Dark Alliance).

Here's view on choices in games:

Do you think choices work when they are put into games that are not fundamentally about choosing the outcome of the story?

As long as the choice is still meaningful in some fashion, either in a game mechanic context or if it causes a change in the immediate area you’re in. Also, can depend on the genre — some genres of games have seen so little of it (what, I can tackle the objectives in any order?), that even a single choice like that can cause a huge reaction, even if it’s giving the player a minor option. This was the basis of a Splinter Cell lecture at GDC many years past – I can’t dig up the exact lecture from GDC, otherwise I’d cite case and context, but a choice presented in the game, while it technically led to the same result, was such a new element for that game genre, that people really latched on to it.

Source: GameBanshee

Friday - June 24, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Gamasutra

by Dhruin, 23:55

 There's an interview with Chris Avellone at one of the Gamasutra blogs, covering his recent work through to his background:

WillOoi: Hi Chris, thanks very much for taking time out to participate in this interview. You're quite the hero to many RPG fans out there and your willingness to answer questions is well documented and much appreciated. So what are you up to at the moment?

Chris Avellone: Still working hard here at Obsidian, wrapping up the last bits of Fallout New Vegas DLC, Lonesome Road. We had the last narrative tasks and voice-acting session last week (Ed: end of May), it went well, and now it's a matter of doing more run-throughs of DLC4 to get a feel for the pacing and polish what we can. It's been a long road from New Vegas to the end of the DLCs, and now when I go home, I'm not sure what to do with myself - on NV and the DLCs, it was easy, I just didn't go home.

As for what's next, we still have a number of titles in development, so I've been playing those builds, going to design meetings, making and reviewing critiques and working on pitches for additional products. One thing I'll say - being an independent developer gives you access to franchises I never thought possible a few years back.

Monday - May 23, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - PS:T, Alpha Protocol 2 Comments

by Dhruin, 14:30

For some reason sites are chasing non-existent games from Obsidian. GameBanshee sends word they followed up Chris Avellone for his thoughts on a return to the Plansescape universe (assuming such a thing would ever happen):

The Planescape universe provides a lot of opportunities for great narratives and adventures. As such, Torment shouldn't be a constraint for further adventures in the universe - the story in Torment I felt ended as it should, and I wouldn't want to do a narrative follow-up to that title. The Planescape universe is a little too rich to start imposing a sequel framework on it like that.

Again, this is exactly what he said in 2007.

For the other item, Zohaib writes about a newsbit at Nowgamer that quotes Feargus Urquhart as saying they'd be up for Alpha Protocol 2, if the opportunity presented (which it won't):

When asked if he’d ever go back and revisit old IP, Urquhart admits that he would happily make a sequel to the spy game. “Of course. We’re not making Alpha Protocol 2 but I would make Alpha Protocol 2. To do a job like this, sometimes you have to be optimistic, you have to look to the future and say ‘We can do better.’ And I always believe that.”

Sunday - May 15, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Iron Tower

by Dhruin, 01:56

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?

Monday - May 09, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - "We Wish New Vegas Wasn't Glitchy"

by Dhruin, 22:31

NowGamer is running an interview excerpt from Play Magazine, with Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart commenting on their reputation for buggy games:

"I think it's fair and unfair at the same time, because in the same conversation that I hear how buggy KOTOR and Alpha Protocol were, I also hear how great they were," Urquhart explains when asked about Obsidian's reputation.

"Now in the case of Fallout: New Vegas, we made a gigantic game, and I'm proud with what we were able to do but I wish it wasn't as glitchy when it came out. The criticisms people had are fair but it's difficult to get a game the size of New Vegas bug free. But that's an excuse and it doesn't matter when someone's paid $60 for a game. It's something we need to work on."

Tuesday - April 26, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Layoff Reports

by Dhruin, 22:31

Gamasutra reports a number of tweets from now ex-Obsidian employees as a round of layoffs appears to have hit. A post at the Obsidian forums lists half a dozen or so that appear to have been let go, including Fallout: New Vegas art director Joe Sanabria. This may well be part of the (unfortunately) common post-completion staff reduction, so it's difficult to tell what it means for Obsidian at this point.

Tuesday - March 01, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - XBLA Title "first quarter next year"

by Dhruin, 22:22

In one of the interviews from the recent Obsidian press event, Feargus Urquhart reveals they have a new IP they will be releasing on XBL early next year. From the interview at Game Revolution:

GR: Do you see another sequel, licensed game, or an original title coming out of Obsidian after DS3?

FU: There's nothing that's been moved forward, but we'd love to develop Dungeon Siege 4. On the flip side I think as a studio we have some original ideas and stories to tell. We have a great idea for a new world we've just started pitching to publishers and we have an older pitch that we really like called "Defiance" which is about a fantasy world where, basically, Sauron won. Everything isn't happy in The Shire, they didn't get the ring in the fire and the hobbits are all dead. We think that's a cool pitch and we hope to have a publisher pick that up at some point.

We're also working on an original IP XBLA game. so that hopefully will be out first quarter next year.

Saturday - February 26, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview - on IWD3 and More

by Dhruin, 22:27

Feargus Urquhart has been interviewed at Joystiq, discussing their past games but also the future, including a new game they are working on with a small team, a new IP for the future, the possibility of doing Icewind Dale 3 and more. A sample:

Before Obsidian begins on its own work, Urquhart says there are a few other projects in the pipeline, and one is an unannounced title we'll be hearing about soon. "There is a property that we are working on, that we can't talk about yet," he teases. "It's something we've been working on since the middle of last year, just with a small team, it's only been five or ten people. It's a license that you would go, well you gotta do it. It's not a license where it's, 'Ok, we'll take that and we can do something with it.' It's more like, well that's once in a lifetime." (Presumably, this is the Wheel of Time game, but Urquhart didn't say more on the subject.)

Obsidian is also pushing on updating a former Black Isle property: Icewind Dale 3. "I was talking to Atari last week," he confides, "and said why don't we do this?" The old series, he says, didn't end because of low sales. "They stopped being made because of licensing issues, and Interplay going out of business, and BioWare moving on to console, and a whole lot of things. So a part of it is, why not go make Icewind Dale 3? You can't spend $20 million on it, but why not go make it?"

And if Obsidian had their pick of any property to update and make their own? "I'd like to do Ultima," says Urquhart. " I think doing an Ultima would be awesome. I think it's been long enough since Ultima 9. Those Ultima games that Garriot did were cool, and I think doing an Ultima would be awesome."

Friday - February 18, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Art Show Moved

by Dhruin, 21:09

For those in California thinking of visiting Obsidian's art show, the details have changed:

Obsidian's upcoming art show at the Promenade Gallery has moved up to the month of May.  The opening reception will now take place May 14th as part of Anaheim's Art Crawl Experience. Come see a collection of personal artwork alongside concept art from Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege III.  Then stay and enjoy a festive night of art, music and food.

Monday - January 31, 2011

Obsidian Entertainment - Art Show

by Dhruin, 21:19

For those readers in California, you might want to check out an upcoming Obsidian art show:

Obsidian Entertainment will be holding an art exhibition at the Promenade Gallery in Anaheim during the month of June. The gallery will feature a collection of personal artwork from the minds behind the studio. As well as concept art from select Obsidian games including Fallout: New Vegas.

Opening Reception will be the night of June 11th.  More information will be available in the upcoming months.  This is an open event and everyone is welcome to attend!

Wednesday - November 03, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Lightspeed

by Dhruin, 20:30

Lightspeed Magazine has a profile interview with Chris Avellone.  On writing Planescape: Torment-

Planescape: Torment shows up on several best-game-of-all-time lists. Many standard mechanics of video game RPGs (like repeatedly dying and leveling up) are incorporated into the narrative of the game so that each death and level up is part of the protagonist’s story. Take us through the development of Planescape. How did you set out to make this game different from other D&D games?

I had a long list of things I wanted to do with an RPG and a long list of things I hated about RPGs when Planescape rolled around, so that all added fuel to the fire. I started with all the elements I hated, cut those out (no halflings, dwarves, elves, evil wizards, no saving the kingdom, no swords, no attempt to make the undead scary, re-loading after death, regimented class system, and pre-determined alignment) and added stuff I’d always wanted to do (puritan succubus, making the dead more sympathetic, dungeons-in-a-pocket, selfish main quest, fragmented personality of main character, pregnant alleys).

The fact that it was set in the Planescape universe was a plus, because Planescape consciously disregarded D&D conventions in favor of the setting, and that allowed a lot more breathing room for adventure and character ideas than a normal D&D campaign.

Monday - October 25, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - On to the next project

by Dhruin, 21:33

According to Chris Avellone in an interview snip at CVG, the Fallout: New Vegas team is already on to the next project.  Of course, it could be anything, including - perhaps - DLC for F:NV.

"Almost everyone who was on New Vegas was slated to move over to another project within a week or two after it went out, so they're all getting ramped up on other projects now," he said. "We're keeping them pretty busy."

"We've been filling vacation requests from everyone so it's been building up for a while," he added. "We actually ended up doing a lot of that earlier this month and last month so everyone's coming back now and getting into the swing of things."

Tuesday - August 31, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Blog Entry

by Dhruin, 20:49

Chris Avellone has posted a short update to his Obsidian blog, returning to the theme of advice for game writing.  It's only two paragraphs, so here's the entire post:

How do you choose who writes each (major) character in a game, also who's allowed to do any writing?

Depends, sometimes it's just necessity (you have the most bandwidth, so you do X person, or you're already doing the main city where the character resides, so it's best if you write Y antagonist), other times we're able to purposely assign folks with skill sets to characters (which Josh did on Fallout New Vegas). For Fallout New Vegas, Josh broke down the companion personalities and assigned them to designer he felt showed strengths in those character backgrounds - for example, understanding of certain psychological conditions, or (in my case) because I'd written the father of one of the companions, or because the person has a fluid storytelling style (Travis Stout, which is only one of his strengths), which makes him great for characters with campfire stories to share.

What if a programmer/artists/whatever suddenly really wanted to do some writing, would he/she have a chance, even if minor?

If there was room in the schedule, sure. We'd probably ask they do a minor character first to get a feel for their writing, since it's more than just writing - it's the scripting and editor knowledge as well. In my experience, however, it is very difficult to break out of a role, and even designers that are jack of all trades usually take on one specific role per project because that's all there's time for. That's true across all departments. I have found developers that knock their own writing are actually much better than they realize, however, and all they need is to be told that to make them more confident about stepping up.

Friday - August 27, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Realism vs What Designers Care About

by Dhruin, 20:49

Nathaniel Chapman uses his Obsidian blog for a rare entry, writing about Realism vs. What Designers Care About, Verisimilitude, and the Responsibility of Expectations.  I'll have to bookmark this one for those forum arguments because this does come up quite a bit; here's the intro:

Something that seems to frequently come up when discussing the design of a game system is whether or not some aspect of that system adheres to reality. Or, more precisely, whether the outcomes of that system accurately simulate the results that the person making the argument expects, based on their particular interpretation of reality.

Generally, these arguments come from players, or from non-designers, or less experienced designers, and will take the form of, "But XXXX isn't realistic!" or "Realistically, YYYY should happen instead". And, frequently, experienced game designers will turn around and say "Who cares?" and merrily go on their way designing an "unrealistic" system.

I wanted to give a quick explanation of why this is, explain what role I see realism as having in game design, and then provide a bit of a defense of "realism" as it relates to something I call the "responsibility of expectations" that is placed on any game design.

Thursday - July 22, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Brian Menze Profile @ Bethblog

by Dhruin, 22:58

Inside the Vault at the Bethblog talks to Brian Menze about his work and background.  Of course, Brian is well-known for his Vault Boy drawings:

What’s your job at Obsidian?

I’m a senior conceptual artist. I also provide other 2D in-game assets as well. For example, in Fallout: New Vegas, I painted many of the billboards and posters and designed some logos found throughout the game.

What games have you worked on?

I’ve worked on 18 shipped titles in my career which include Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, The Icewind Dale series, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Alpha Protocol and of course Fallout: New Vegas. I’ve worked on 3 scrapped titles as well.

Wednesday - July 21, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ GameStar.ru

by Dhruin, 22:36

Obsidian is pointing out a bit of a scattershot interview with Chris Avellone at GameStar.ru:

How much time do you spend playing games for relax, for your pleasure, not for work? What of recent games do you like most? Please, enumerate your favorite games and platforms.

The last game I played for fun was The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, I usually play games for research purposes, not for pleasure, but I still enjoy them anyway. The games I've recently played are Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, and Fallout 3, Fallout 3, and more Fallout 3. I also play the Fallout New Vegas build as much as I can.

Wednesday - July 07, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - and Chrono Trigger

by Dhruin, 22:32

With Obsidian working with Square Enix on Dungeon Siege 3, Siliconera asked Feargus Urquhart which other Square franchise he'd like to do.  Various sites (and forum posters) have responded as if Obsidian is actively pursuing this but the idea clearly originates with the journalist:

Since Obsidian and Square Enix have been conversing for some time, I asked Urquhart if there was any franchise other than Dungeon Siege 3 they would like to work on.

Urquhart snickered and sarcastically said, “Chocobo Racing.” He followed up with a more serious response, “If I could come across everything that I played I would have to go with Chrono Trigger. I think Chrono Trigger was one I really enjoyed.”

Thanks, Omega!

Friday - July 02, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Interview @ GameBanshee

by Dhruin, 21:33

The next E3 article at GameBanshee is a fantastic conversation with Feargus Urquhart, chief of Obsidian.  The conversation covers the response to Alpha Protocol, a little on Alien: Crucible and Dungeon Siege III, the current status of Wheel of Time, those Icewind Dale assets they bought all those years ago and a little about the general market:

GB: Why does nobody want to go for the zoomed-out perspective anymore, or even chase the original Ultima Online format in the MMO space? To me, that’s what the industry needs. Going after the EverQuest/World of Warcraft format costs $150 million or whatever, but if it's something like Ultima Online with a modernized graphical engine, I'm betting that asset creation would be a lot cheaper.

Feargus: Absolutely. It’s interesting, because even if you look at Dungeon Siege III, the reason we have a close-up camera, not the super close-up camera, but the more close-up camera is because people want a closer up view. And, when we started working on Dungeon Siege III it was a *huge* fight. Everyone wanted it far away, and were saying, "Why are we doing that?" And I'd say we’re doing it because when we show the game it’s going to look really cool in that mode And along with it looking good, it will play really well as well. Now it did take a while to have that actually happen, but it has and the game plays great with a closer view.

My main issue with that direction was that if we show a little character on the screen, it’s going to look too much like a PC game – and I’m not saying I hate PC games - but it’s going to look too much like a last-gen game. And that means we’re screwed. We’re just screwed. With modern games, you have to have people say how pretty the game is and it is one a real expectation. That probably sounds bad to say, but it's what even most of us expect.



GB: See, as a PC gamer myself, a zoomed-out viewpoint is my first choice. The Infinity Engine had about the perfect perspective for me.

Feargus: Infinity Engine games, I love them. I didn’t play as many hours as Ray did, but I put like 150 hours into Baldur’s Gate II. I loved it. The games were awesome, and it's strange because it’s not like the sales on them went like this [makes a downward slope with his hand]. We just stopped making them. It wasn’t like, "Oh, no one’s buying them anymore, let’s stop making them." It wasn’t that consumers weren’t interested, it was the publishers that weren’t interested.

Thursday - July 01, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ GameBanshee

by Dhruin, 23:34

GameBanshee has an interview with Chris Avellone taken between engagements at E3.  The conversation covers Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol.  I found this answer fascinating - though some will see it as a deflection of responsibility - with some insight into possible pressure from Sega to take the game in certain directions:

GB: Based on the reception the game has received, is there anything you would have done differently if you could go back?

Chris: If I could go back and start on the project from the outset? Sure, absolutely - and don't take anything I say as this would somehow magically be a better game, it would just be different, and most likely have other things people hated about it. Anyway, I'd make a spy version of Kill Bill (if it had to be a spy game at all and not just a real world RPG title, which would be great), change the main character to not be a set character, screw the realism and focus on the fantastic, add more mission reactivity between missions and between cities, change the mission structure to the honeycomb mission structure our Systems Designer proposed 2 years in (and what our Exec Producer originally wanted), remove cinematic conversations, screw trying to compete with other stealth or shooter games that have already mastered those areas and look for ways to make the player feel like spies in other ways - again, assuming a spy game is what you'd want to do with a real-world RPG at all.

But that's all fantasy and wishful thinking, and again, it's easy to say that, and it would have most likely resulted in something else that people liked and disliked for different reasons. If I could go back to when I started mid-way through the project and was in the same situation? No, for logistical reasons. I'm sure the other leads felt the same way and so did our Project Director (who became Project Director at this time), and our Project Director who took on the role at this time saved this game from cancellation - or worse. We had a team that was low on morale, that felt like they didn't own the work they were doing (if you keep trading areas and design elements every other month, you can't focus on carrying something to completion), who were on the tides of iteration, and being able to go in there, give people ownership of interface, systems, an area, a Hub, make decisions, add more RPG elements, add more reactivity, restore focus and get rid of the blockages that were keeping people from moving ahead with work was satisfying. It took a while, and it was tough, and some of the decisions weren't ideal, but you can't always be in a perfect situation with development, so you do what you can. We had little to no time to redo anims, redo character models, redo locations from previous iterations, so we did what we could with what he had, and it made sense to us for the time frame (even when the time frame kept changing, we had no clue the release date would be what it became, and we didn't work toward that release date).

I'm proud of what we did during that time to help get the project going, organize the design staff, kill a lot of problems, and try to use what assets, locations, and story elements we had to work with to make a game that worked and took RPG elements in a new direction.

On the subject of MCA, GamesTM has a detailed profile / history:

At that time, Interplay was based in Irvine, California, and had recently acquired the Dungeons & Dragons licence from TSR – a risky bet, as fantasy-themed RPGs were in commercial decline at the time. However, Avellone jumped at the opportunity, and was set to work on a Dungeons & Dragons RPG. “It was set in the Forgotten Realms, like Baldur’s Gate was. My first job was to design cities for that game, submit them to the design staff, and then see about incorporating them into the larger product. The project didn’t bear out, though, so they transferred me over to the role of a level designer on Descent To Undermountain.”

Wednesday - June 30, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview @ GamesTM

by Aries100, 20:02

GamesTM has penned a lengthy and good article-style interview with Chris Avellone.  In the interview, Chris talks about how he entered the gaming business, why he left Black Isle, the many RPGs he helped created during the years, from Descent to Undermountain over Fallout and Planescape to Alpha Protocol, and much much more. A good read that is highly recommended, especially since it tells much about the development of Planescape: Torment.

Since it is Icewind Dale's 10 years birthday today, here's a lengthy quote that tells a bit about how this game was designed:

Noticing his colleague’s exhaustion – “I’d put on so much weight; the doctor had told me not to continue down this road, and I really needed to get my life in order” – Urquhart gave Avellone space to recover. After a few months, he slowly moved Avellone into a design role on the hack-and-slash-oriented Icewind Dale – unofficially, Interplay’s response to Blizzard’s frighteningly successful action-RPG, Diablo.

“Competing with Diablo was one of the goals handed to us from up high,” Avellone says. “I loved the adrenaline rush I got in Diablo, but I’d hesitate to call Icewind a full action-RPG. It still had dialogue trees, and it was pretty tactical. But I really enjoyed working on it. I wrote all the major NPCs, and also did a number of quests in the opening area. And I also designed a lot of the special inventory items. It was a lot of fun.”

Icewind Dale 2 was just as enjoyable, but his workload was steadily increasing again. Development for the first, ill-fated attempt at Fallout 3 (codenamed ‘Van Buren’) had begun in earnest, and Avellone was happily drafted into the project. “I started setting up Van Buren’s story and locations,” he says, “and so I was running regular Van Buren-derived pen-and-paper games with the design team, so as to introduce them to the various locations and ideas in the game, and see how quests might play out. I was getting feedback from them for ways to make the areas better. The nice thing was that because all the developers had different skill-sets for their characters, it forced me to think of ways those skills could shine in each of the areas in Van Buren.

 According to Avellone, Van Buren was nearing completion when a beleaguered Interplay unceremoniously pulled the plug on the project – it cancelled Baldur’s Gate 3 at the same time, on which he was also working. The loss of so much work crushed Avellone in a way that Descent to Undermountain’s poor response never could. When Feargus Urquhart left the company, he knew it was time to go.

Source: GameBanshee

Monday - June 21, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Lost its Luster?

by Aries100, 14:12

An editorial at Koku Gamer asks this very question. It seems to be dealing with the lusterlack of the old BIS, not Obsidian, though. Here's an excerpt:

If I remember correctly, Obsidian’s current release, Alpha Protocol, had been in development for a few years. I remember still being married at the time of me sitting on a bed and reading an article on the game that featured screenshots and an incredibly descriptive article that painted the picture of a game that was well on its way to being released. The concept was solid, and I was nearly sold on it. However, the finished product was underwhelming. Though the dialog system was fantastic, the rest of the game was disappointing, to say the least.

Source: GameBanshee

Thursday - June 17, 2010

Dungeon Siege 3 - Preview @ Joystiq

by Dhruin, 20:13

Joystiq has a brief preview of Dungeon Siege from E3, though the author is quick to point out he doesn't know much about the series:

As someone who's predominately a console gamer, I wasn't particularly familiar with the Dungeon Siege franchise before I sat down for a peek at the third iteration deep within the recesses of Square-Enix's E3 booth. I knew it owed a lot to Diablo, but little else. Within the first seconds of seeing Dungeon Siege III, however, I knew that Obsidian's new take on the series had been designed with someone like me in mind.

The most obvious cue? The perspective, which has gone from the zoomed out view the series is most associated with, to a more traditional third-person action perspective right over the shoulder. The classic view is still available with just a button press, but most of the demo I saw zooms in tight on the lead character.

Wednesday - June 16, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Square Owns Dungeon Siege IP

by Dhruin, 21:52

Feargus Urquhart has told Gamasutra that Square Enix purchased the Dungeon Siege IP from Gas Powered Games:

"Square actually purchased the IP from Gas Powered, and it's a Square brand now," Urquhart explained. He said Chris Taylor, Gas Powered founder and original Dungeon Siege designer, reviews every major new build of the game, although Gas Powered is not formally involved in development.

"Chris gives us a lot of feedback, and we take all that criticism seriously, particularly when he says, 'This doesn't feel like Dungeon Siege,'" Urquhart said. "What we get from Square is a huge amount of support -- a lot of good ideas about how they approach things in their games."

Thursday - June 10, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Making Dungeon Siege 3 - a discussion @ 1UP's RPG Blog

by Aries100, 18:28

As we recently posted, Obsidian Entertainment is making Dungeon Siege III for Square Enix. This has inspired an article on 1UP's RPG Blog, the Grind, called The Odd Couple. 
It deals with how they think they game might be, especially since George Ziets of Mask of the Betrayer fame apparently is the creative lead for this game:

In Square Enix, it seems like Obsidian is getting a dependable partner that will give them the support they need to see their ambitious ideas through to the end. This is all conjecture of course, but Square Enix's recent third-party projects have all turned out pretty well. So between Fallout New Vegas and Dungeon Siege III, it's now up to Obsidian to prove that they have what it takes to make good on the promise of their ideas.

At the moment, much of Obsidian's "A" team seems to be tied up with New Vegas, including top designers Chris Avellone and Josh Sawyer. But with George Ziets serving as the creative lead, Dungeon Siege III shouldn't be lacking for interesting ideas.

Source: GameBanshee

Monday - June 07, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Dungeon Siege 3

by Woges, 19:25

Eurogamer, and probably many others by now, have confirmed that Square Enix has announced the development of Dungeon Siege 3 "under the watchful eye of original creator Gas Powered Games and its boss Chris Taylor" by Obsidian Entertainment. More details promised at E3.

Update:

Here's the full press release that we subsequently received:

Square Enix Announces Partnership With Obsidian Entertainment for DUNGEON SIEGE 3

 
 

The Torch is Passed for a New Incarnation of the Classic Action-RPG

LOS ANGELES, June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of SQUARE ENIX® interactive entertainment products in North America, announced today that it is partnering with Obsidian Entertainment™, Inc. on DUNGEON SIEGE® 3. With input from the original developer, Gas Powered Games®, Obsidian Entertainment will develop the next incarnation of the DUNGEON SIEGE franchise with Square Enix as the game's publisher. Coming for the first time to high-def home video game consoles, DUNGEON SIEGE 3 will be available for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC.

DUNGEON SIEGE 3 is representative of Square Enix's ongoing strategic partnerships with Western game developers and its commitment to increasing its presence in the North American market. The game will bring together the beloved aspects of the DUNGEON SIEGE franchise with Obsidian Entertainment's expertise, to create an evolved action-RPG experience. In addition to its arrival on high-def consoles for the first time, the game will also feature an all-new co-op multiplayer mode.

Originally created by Chris Taylor and his critically-acclaimed studio Gas Powered Games, Taylor will serve as an advisor during the development of the game. DUNGEON SIEGE 3 will seamlessly blend intuitive action gameplay and a robust RPG system in an immersive world where every decision the player makes will result in consequences.  

On his involvement, Taylor comments, "It's a great pleasure to collaborate with Obsidian. They are a very talented developer who really knows what it takes to build a deep and engaging RPG experience, and I can't think of a better group to continue the DUNGEON SIEGE series."

"It's a distinct privilege and thrill to become a part of the DUNGEON SIEGE legacy," said Feargus Urquhart, CEO and Co-Founder of Obsidian Entertainment, Inc. "This partnership with Square Enix is a milestone for both Obsidian and the franchise, and the two companies' strengths for compelling characters and storytelling will shine throughout DUNGEON SIEGE 3."

"With their proven track record of developing some of the most exciting and engaging games in recent memory, we are honored to be working with such a talented developer as Obsidian Entertainment," said John Yamamoto, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix, Inc. "Square Enix is committed to expanding our portfolio of games across a wide variety of genres and we are confident we will deliver the ultimate DUNGEON SIEGE experience that fans are looking for."

About DUNGEON SIEGE 3

Story

Torn asunder, the delicate balance of power between the kingdom of Ehb's powerful factions has fallen apart. As one of the few remaining members of the disgraced protectors of the land, the 10th Legion, it is up to you to rebuild the once great Legion and stop Ehb from falling into darkness. Joined by a group of unique companions, you will travel through the striking land of Ehb defeating all manner of villains and beasts through a combination of heroic abilities, screen shaking magic and pure cunning.

DUNGEON SIEGE 3 seamlessly blends intuitive action gameplay, a robust RPG system featuring a large selection of abilities, an extensive multiplayer component and the depth of story Square Enix and Obsidian Entertainment are known for creating.

Features

  • For the first time, play DUNGEON SIEGE on high-def consoles.
  • Players will be able to adventure by themselves or with friends in co-op multiplayer.
  • Uncover a deep story that only Square Enix and Obsidian Entertainment can deliver.
  • Pick from unique and highly customizable character classes with a wide range of abilities to choose from.
  • Recruit companions with unique personalities, abilities and views on the world around them.
  • Players will have weighty decisions to make that will impact their alliances, enemies and the culmination of the story.

 

DUNGEON SIEGE 3 is not yet rated. Please visit the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) website at www.esrb.org for more information about ratings.

Thanks to several readers who also sent this news in.

Saturday - May 29, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Josh Sawyer Answers # 2

by Aries100, 12:21

Josh Sawyer has answered more questions from the public at his formspring account. They range from how he sees the mixed reception Alpha Protocol has gotten to how one enters video game development. Here's some of the Q and A's:

Regarding your criticism of subtext in games, what is your opinion on Bioshock's thematic delivery?

 I think most of it went over gamers' heads because a large portion was conveyed through subtext: Marxist imagery in Atlas posters, Bible smuggling, etc.
I think Bioshock did a fantastic job, personally. While I think Bioshock's game play/choice mechanics weren't super compelling (this criticism is directly mostly at the late game), I think their environments and theme were executed very well. And while I do think there is a lot of subtext in Bioshock, there's also a lot of overt discussion of theme. It doesn't get much more overt than locking you in a bathysphere and playing a video that's a direct critique of modern American, Soviet, and Christian societies. I think that was the right way to do it: immediately introduce the player to the central philosophical idea behind Rapture and convey many of its various strengths and shortcomings through subtext over the course of the game.

 

Is it even desirable for a game to have good writing or to consistently establish and reinforce themes? Isn't that straying too far into games-as-art as opposed to games-as-good-games?


I think of it as "content-as-something-that-isn't-worthless-garbage". If you're going to bother putting something into your game, put a little effort into conceiving it.The best concept artists I have worked with have a *concept* behind their concept. It's goofy that I have to call this out, but a lot of artist don't. If you bother thinking about why you're making content choices -- the marks on a drawing, the words in a conversation, the choices in an advancement system -- it tends to help create the feeling of cohesion. Elements are rooted in the fictitious place and time you have created. If it matters for visuals (and I believe it does), it matters for dialogue.

Source: GameBanshee

Wednesday - May 19, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Blog Update

by Dhruin, 22:44

Chris Avellone kicked up a short blog update earlier in the week, answering a question on emergent gameplay.  Here's a partial snip:

[b]1) What do you think about the concept of emergent narrative?

1. I think the concept of emergent narrative is stronger than any enforced narrative. I think a blend can work well (and it's what I prefer whenever possible), but I think the stories players create on their own from interesting system mechanics and AI behavior has more weight and meaning than anything a designer tries to do. My favorite example is that no enforced narrative can really trump the story of planting dynamite on victims in Fallout, superstimming people to death, or how a character's 3rd level dwarven fighter with 5 hit points trained 20 orcs into a narrow, funneled corridor and killed them all one by one with a ball-peen hammer, Oldboy-style. The player makes stories like that happen, and those are the stories I hear players talk about most in relation to games, computer game or pen-and-paper games, not necessarily their reaction to specific cued story events or anything the designer or GM tried to force on them.

Note that realization came pretty quickly on in my GMing days, and it's another lesson I learned from pen-and-paper games which still holds true in computer games. The amount of glee the Fallout PNP players had when they did a critical hit against one of the major NPC adversaries early on in the campaign was another reminder - and a reminder to myself to let the gaming session chips fall where they may. Generally, I don't like to make major characters in games sacred and invulnerable unless I absolutely have to.

Tuesday - May 04, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Polygamer

by Aries100, 18:44

Polygamer talked to Chris Avellone, posting the result of the interview in French. For those os us who can't remember much French (such as the likes of me) from their high schools or college days, MCA has posted an English translation of the interview at his blog at Obsidian. Here's a rather nice question; the anwer is not bad, too:

7] Was making video games better before than now ?

It's better in some ways and worse in others - a more detailed answer relates to voice acting.

In some respects, having a fully voice acted game is great. On the development side, however, the cost, resources, and the inflexibility of iterating on recorded VO (as well as arranging the studio sessions) makes it a challenge for developing an RPG. So... for every aspect of game development, there's tradeoffs. The industry definitely has changed over time, resulting in more and more specialization in art, design, and programming, and resulting in larger team sizes, which makes delivering a vision more difficult, but not impossible.

The solution to this, however, is just to go make your own games for fun, and in many respects, I thank the iPod and mobile phone community for the opportunity to release tinier, more manageable games that are fun to play.

Source: RPG Codex

Monday - April 12, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Chapman on Difficulty

by Dhruin, 20:47

Obsidian's Nathaniel Chapman opens his blog account with an article on game difficulty settings:

Anyways, in my opinion games tend to offer the most interesting difficulty options when they rely on tweaking or even adding new core challenges without invalidating the core gameplay. A great example of this is Thief. Thief's difficulty options added new challenges to their already existing stealth gameplay. They didn't choose to increase enemy health (at least, as far as I remember) because that runs at cross purposes to their core stealth gameplay. Instead, they force you to not kill anyone. This makes the game's environment navigation and perception/awareness challenges much more complex, but doesn't really alter the core balance of the weapons and tools.

The reason why more blunt instruments, like just increasing health and damage, tend to fail IMO is that they don't actually make the game more challenging, they just mess up the pacing. I played an ARPG recently that scaled damage and enemy HP and rather than really being more challenging at higher difficulty levels, it just turned into a massive slog. That's something you really want to avoid at all costs... pacing is key to the game being fun, and hard doesn't mean frustrating or boring, it should mean challenging.

Wednesday - April 07, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - J.E. Sawyer Answers

by Dhruin, 21:25

NMA noticed Josh Sawyer on some web 2.0 site called formspring.me that I'm not up on. It seems you can submit questions and Sawyer has already answered a bunch.  Here's an example from the dozen or so:

You mentioned part of your job is number crunching on spreadsheets. I'm curious what kind of math and methodology is involved. Is there any relative bibliography you'd recommend?

The math is usually pretty simple. I use Excel and Excel formulae to see how RPG statistics scale over a given spectrum of levels, difficulty, etc. For example, if I'm creating an armor system, I might input different damage values against different armor values to see how high level damage vs. low level armor fares. I use the Excel formulae so I can change one number (variable) in one cell and see every other cell update based off of the variable.

In general, I don't believe that RPG mathematics should be overly "fiddly" or complex. I believe that the mathematics should be exposed or, if not exposed, the user should be able to deconstruct their basic operation through observation.

Source: No Mutants Allowed

Monday - April 05, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Blog Update

by Dhruin, 20:34

Chris Avellone continues his blog updates at Obsidian, responding to questions about getting into the industry, getting game ideas into production and making pitches.  I think this is the core of the issue:

Having an idea for a game is worth far less than the strength to implement it. No game company is at a loss for game ideas, they're usually more interested in people who can make it happen.

Tuesday - March 23, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Video Game Writing # 3

by Aries100, 12:08

Obsidian's Chris Avellone blogs for a third time about you write for videogames, writes GameBanshee.  He answers questions that has been sent in the community again. This time about what classes to take and the usefullness of pen and paper gaming. Here's some of his answer:

I will say it's much more relevant to actually have done design in a computer game mod or module for NWN1 or NWN2, however (whenever possible, you want to make a submission that someone can load up and play), so if you have time and the choice, do it from the computer game development angle, not the pen and paper game angle.

Note that if I got someone in an interview and they said they did gamemastering, it's not the kiss of death, far from it. I would have a number of questions, however - first off would be the system they use, what house rules they made and why, how do they incorporate PC backgrounds and traits into the campaign, how long they've been running the campaign (and if it fragmented, how often and why), and finally, what the player turnover rate is in the campaign (there are GMs who run a lot of campaigns, but the best sign of being a good entertainer is how long people stuck with the campaign because they were enjoying themselves).

Source: RPG Codex

Wednesday - March 17, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Eurogamer

by Aries100, 17:36

Eurogamer has an extensive 4-page interview with Chris Avellone. Topics include Alpha Protocol, Planescape Torment, why he can't say anything about Fallout: New Vegas and much much more.

Here's MCA's take on what makes a good rpg:

Eurogamer: Right. Well, anyway, so here's a big one: what defines an RPG these days? It seems to change a lot.

Chris Avellone: Well, I have a personal definition. Of the RPGs I've played recently, I'll be honest: I've been pretty much immersed in Fallout 3. But it seems to me that the most important parts of an RPG are that, in terms of all the character-building you can do in the opening screens, all those skill choices and background choices need to matter in the gameworld.

That may sound kind of self-evident, but there's a lot of game balance that needs to go into making sure that each skill, trait, and attribute score is valuable, and an RPG has to deliver on that. If you're going to give the player a chance to specialise in or improve a certain aspect of their character, there needs to be value for that in the gameworld.

The other thing that's important is that there has to be a lot of reactivity to the player's actions within the environment, either in terms of quests, faction allegiance, even physical changes in the environment. The player making an impact is incredibly important.

Do you agree with his statement?

Source: GameBanshee

Friday - March 12, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview

by Dhruin, 20:19

AVC has an interview with Chris Avellone from GDC on his background and work.  I enjoyed this snip:

AVC: How did you break into the gaming industry?

CA: I actually wasn’t sure I’d be able to. I spent a year after college just writing pen and paper games. Midway through college, I got my break with Champions. Because they needed to fill a character book for the Dark Champions line—which was sort of like their Batman line—and they’re like, “Hey, you know what, you’ve been applying for about the last five years. We have to do a book; why don’t you go ahead and give it a shot?” 

So I wrote a book for that called Underworld Enemies. And then I got more work, just writing more modules and more adventures. Some of them I had already used in campaigns that I had run. The pay was terrible. It was $50 every two months. And you can’t live on that. (Laughs) So finally I talked to my editor and said, “If you ever hear of a real job in the game industry, or even in the computer game industry, I’d be curious to hear it.”

At that time as luck would have it, Interplay was forming their D & D division. It was called Dragonplay, and they were looking for junior designers.

I [interviewed with] Mark O’Green, who was the division director at that time. He said, “Hey, if you wanted to do a Planescape game, how would you start it?” They had the Planescape license, and they actually hadn’t done anything with it yet. And I’m like, “Oh, I’d have it start with a character who wakes up from the dead, maybe right after the death screen he gets right back up and suddenly he finds himself in the mortuary, and he has to figure out what’s going on.” And he said, “All right. That could work.” (Laughs)

And then I went back, and he offered me a job for like $22,000 or something. I was like, “Oh man, this is fantastic!”

Monday - March 08, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Writing Principles

by Dhruin, 20:03

J.E. Sawyer has written a blog on the Obsidian forums titled High Level Writing Principles and helpfully filed under the category "dachsund grooming tips".  Here's the intro:

At work, we have a lot of rules for how to write. These range from punctuation (single-spacing after terminal punctuation) to spelling ("all right" vs. "alright") to structural (where a "goodbye" response should be relative to a "start combat" response and where that should be relative to a "friendly" response). Every project has a document (or documents) on the specific guidelines for that project. In spite of all the details, there are certain high-level principles that tend to be common. Okay, maybe it's just in my mind, but here are principles that I believe are important for writing player-driven dialogue in choice-heavy RPGs.

Sunday - February 21, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Fallout 3

by Dhruin, 07:25

Chris Avellone's latest blog post at Obsidian responds to a fan question about his likes and dislikes for Fallout 3:

It's a testament to the game that for every thing that initially bothered me, there was a solution or a tool to counterbalance it. For example, I was exploring Hubris Comics, dropped my Power Fist so I could haul some extra loot, then came back and couldn't find it on the floor. Pissed. And then I remembered Dogmeat has the dialogue option to go "fetch" existing weapons in the environment and bring them back - so I asked him to go hunt down the Power Fist for me, and he found it in 5 seconds. Awesome. The game had enough options and tools at my disposal to insure I was having fun no matter what the challenges, so I can't ask for much more.

Friday - February 12, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - Partners with Red Eagle on new Wheel of Time series

by Magerette, 16:14

Red Eagle Games, who have the rights to produce games and films from Robert Jordan's fantasy novel series The Wheel of Time, have selected Obsidian Entertainment to partner with them on the first games for PC, XBox 360 and PS3. Here's an excerpt from the press announcement, via Blues News:

RED EAGLE GAMES SELECTS OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT AS GAME DEVELOPMENT PARTNER

Noted RPG Developer to Assist Red Eagle Games in Building Video Games Based on Robert Jordan's Fantasy Series "The Wheel of Time"
Malibu and Irvine Calif. - February 12, 2010 - Red Eagle Games and Obsidian Entertainment today announced they have entered into a services agreement which provides a comprehensive framework for Obsidian Entertainment to work closely with Red Eagle Games' in-house development team to create new video games for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 based on Robert Jordan's best-selling fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.

"The development team at Obsidian Entertainment has demonstrated time and again that they can successfully blend storytelling with technology to craft a superior RPG game experience," said Rick Selvage, Chief Executive Officer of Red Eagle Games. "Obsidian Entertainment is the ideal development partner to help Red Eagle Games take Jordan's beloved characters from the printed page to exciting new forms of interactive media."

"Obsidian Entertainment is thrilled with this opportunity to work with Red Eagle Games in developing games based upon The Wheel of Time series," said Feargus Urquhart, Chief Executive Officer of Obsidian Entertainment. "The Wheel of Time is a rich universe that lends itself to incredible gaming possibilities."
Red Eagle Games was formed in 2006, and the Company plans to publish a line of video games on all major platforms, including consoles, personal computers, handheld systems and wireless devices. The Company's Wheel of Time games will be available through retail channels around the world by the Company's distribution partner, Electronic Arts. Red Eagle Games' principals Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon are also producing a live-action motion picture based upon The Wheel of Time for Universal Pictures through their production company, Red Eagle Entertainment.

"Although Red Eagle Games is both a game producer and publisher, as a new company, we quickly recognized that we could benefit from supplementing small in-house technical and creative teams with a proven third party developer," said Larry Mondragon, Chief Operating Officer of Red Eagle Games. "Our alliance with Obsidian Entertainment is a perfect fit and will greatly improve the quality, cost and time-to-market for the first-generation of our Wheel of Time games."
"The Wheel of Time is one of the greatest and well-received fantasy series of all time," said Chris Avellone, Chief Creative Officer of Obsidian Entertainment. "Games set in Robert Jordan's universe have the chance to deliver on the epic storylines and the complex characters that the series is known for - and this is one of Obsidian's strengths. It's a natural fit."...

Thanks, Maylander, for bringing this to our attention in the forums.

Monday - January 25, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Video Game Writing #2

by Dhruin, 21:09

Chris Avellone blogs on writing for video games again, this time answering a question on how much background material is written for NPCs.  As an example, Chris has supplied the info on Kreia from KotOR2 from the design docs - a treat for anyone who is a fan:

Answer: Attached is the amount of background material we wrote for Kreia on Knights of the Old Republic II, if this gives you an indicator.

My advice: A lot of what you imagine a character to be is simply not going to make it when the rubber hits the road and you start scripting that character in the game engine and in conversations - it's only then they truly find their voice and their theme, so I try not to get bogged down with too much backstory. Anything more than a page or two I find is probably enough to get started and go from there. For example, some of the events in the first draft of what we intended for Kreia ended up not surviving once we were designing full force and discovered there were other more interesting things we could do with the character rather than what we initially thought. But hey, that's part of the design process.

Note that a lot of the "backstory" for Kreia also involves concrete details for what a voice actor needs to know - since it's becoming a staple in the industry that every character is voice-acted, a lot of that stuff we need to write out for the studio (and for our own reference).

Wednesday - January 13, 2010

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on Video Game Writing

by Dhruin, 20:11

Chris Avellone will be updating his blog at Obsidian on Video Game Writing vs Writing, particularly answering the questions of fans who have written in.  Here's a partial snip of the first entry in this series:

Do you feel that video game writing, and video game story creation differ from other forms of creative writing? If so, how?

Yes, especially for RPGs, because reactivity usually requires you to tell the "story" out of sequence - and usually you have to tell several stories at once depending on how many branches you provide.

In general, though, it's better to approach it from the game mechanics standpoint and let what the player can do in the game tell a story. Fallout's good about this - some of the best "stories" I got from Fallout 1 and 2, for example, were ones where Stealth and Combat options spoke for themselves in reactivity and quest solutions. And a lot of child pickpockets got blown up from ticking dynamite that somehow got planted on them - or through accidental repeated injections of Super Stimpaks.

In short, the game "story" can end up being less important than the player's experience in the game, whether they are actual story events are not. It's hard to compete with a story about how a player's 3rd level dwarven fighter survived a bum-rush of 20 orcs in a narrow corridor armed only with a ball-peen hammer and smashed through them Oldboy-style with only 2 hit points to spare... and it's guaranteed to generate more passion from the player than perhaps your most tragic character with his heart-rending story to tell. It's something you just have to accept, and even better, provide opportunities for. Give the player room to breathe.

Wednesday - December 23, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA and Josh Sawyer Interview

by Dhruin, 06:58

Polish Fallout and post-apoc site Trzynasty Schron celebrates their 10th anniversary with an interview with Chris Avellone and J.E. Sawyer, with subjects roaming across the three Fallouts, Van Buren and quick mentions of New Vegas.  Here's a sample:

Jim Cojones: History of Fallout started fifteen years ago, the game hit the shelves three years later. It is a lot of time for a computer game but it is still popular, it even still is being bought. When You had first seen the game, did You expect it could become such a classic?

Josh Sawyer: I first played Fallout when I was in college. From the first few minutes in, I knew I was going to love it. It's such a unique setting and the game had so many new ideas in it that it immediately became one of my all-time favorites. When I first got into the game industry, I wanted nothing more than to work on a Fallout game.

Chris Avellone: I don't think Interplay realized what it had, and I still kick myself to this day I didn't say "yes" when Tim Cain asked if I had time to work on it. Actually, I don't just kick myself, I also cry a little inside.

When Fallout hit shelves and it took off like an Apollo rocket (Apollo 11, not 13), it took a bunch of people at Interplay by surprise. All the hard work those guys put into the title paid off - to clarify, when you work on a title, or are aware of a project's history (and Fallout went through some rough times with the GURPS transition and had a lot of struggles from demo to completion, which I'm sure the team would agree with) sometimes you have no idea what a player will think while playing it, all you can think of is the road the project took to its release.

As for me, I knew it was different as soon as I discovered my Intelligence statistic affected my dialogue options, and that was only one of what I think were the "true RPG" moments I hit in that game. A lot of the game mechanic and plotline/character presentations that were done in Fallout I consider to be almost a game-based design document for how RPGs should be designed. We definitely leveraged a lot of those concepts for Torment and future titles.

Chris comments that he is "all done with Alpha Protocol now, it's in good shape" and has moved completely on to New Vegas.

Wednesday - November 11, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - J.E. Sawyer Blog

by Dhruin, 21:33

I can't remember the last time Josh Sawyer updated his Obsidian blog - but there's a new post, now. As someone who enjoys system design, Josh jots down some "basic rules" on tuning:

Avoid allowing a base value to be modified by more than three inputs. That is, if you have a base damage value for something, you should ideally allow it to be affected by no more than three things. The fewer inputs you allow to modify a value, the more significant the effects of those inputs are. Additionally, the range is generally more constrained and predictable for a player. In turn, this makes tuning content easier. E.g. how long you can hold your breath underwater. It's affected by your Constitution score, your Swim skill, and your Breathing Bonuses (a catch-all of non-stacking bonuses specifically for holding breath). As long as you know the max Constitution score, max Swim skill, and the highest Breathing Bonus, you know exactly how long a character can hold his or her breath underwater at any given point in the game. Because you only have three inputs to worry about, it's easy to track everything that goes into this system. Player attempts to min-max the system are limited to those three categories, which means that non-min-maxers can still be "competitive".

Friday - October 09, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Blog Inteview

by Dhruin, 22:35

After a long period of inactivity, Chris Avellone has updated his Obsidian blog with an interview from one of the forum members.  Here's a sample:

3. You have told many times that you're sick of certain stuff in certain genres... What do you think is missing from most of the games that makes them boring in the long run - or in the industry in general?

Lack of ambition in game premises. I don't think enough developers ask "what's the one thing that's going to set this game apart?" and then stick to it. I've seen pitches and proposals that don't even bother ask this question and are content to embrace being a lesser clone of a more popular game in the same genre, which makes me sad. At least choose *some* new mechanic you're bringing to the table to try and push the genre forward.

4. a) Who has been your favorite character (of all the characters you have worked on) to develop and why?

Morte and Fall-From-Grace in Torment, Myron in Fallout 2 (he was the first full companion I'd ever done) followed by Cassidy (the second), then Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic II.

Just about every character I've worked on, though, has "moments" that I've really enjoyed scripting for them (writing HK-47's definition of love, or the Handemaiden's Echani philosophy of combat, how Atton obsesses over Pazaak to prevent his thoughts from being picked up by Jedi, or Visas Marr's feelings for your character).

Tuesday - August 04, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA: Story not as important as game systems

by Dhruin, 23:49

Chris Avellone speaks to Destructoid, saying story is important - but not as important as some other things:

"It's important. I don't think it's as important as systems design (which is moment-to-moment entertainment), or level design (which gives the systems a context), but the story is an important piece that gives systems and level a reason to exist, and helps to compel the player to move forward," explains Avellone. "Don't get me wrong, I love narrative and character design, but I prefer to create story and character mechanics that are game systems rather than divorced from the systems or levels -- when the story is a mechanic, in terms of reactivity, perks, mission changes, and open/closing of hubs and endgame choices, I think that's the purpose of a game story.

"In terms of improving stories for games, I feel that narrative designers should study writing conventions outside of games, both in scriptwriting and in other media, such as novels and graphic novels. In addition, a story should not be divorced from the actual gameplay, it should reinforce it, give it purpose, and when possible, work in tandem with a game's systems and themes.

I don't think too many people would argue.

In related news, Chris will join a panel debating story vs gameplay at this year's GDC.  From Gamasutra:

In the panel 'Clash Of The Titans: Debating Gameplay vs. Story', major game writing notables including Chris Avellone (Fallout 2, Alpha Protocol), Rhianna Pratchett (Overlord series, Heavenly Sword), Christian Allen (Ghost Recon), and Andrew Walsh (Prince of Persia, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) discuss conflicts between gameplay and storytelling, and how to resolve them.

Thursday - July 02, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Rob McGinnis Leaves

by Dhruin, 00:46

Lucky Day sends word that Obsidian Assistant Producer and community wrangler Rob McGinnis is leaving the company.  Here's his post:

Well, it's been a fun ride. This Thursday, July 2nd, will be my last day at Obsidian Entertainment.

I have truly enjoyed my last three years working with the NWN2 community. Thanks to everyone that have made this such an enjoyable experience.

I will continue to lurk here, as a NWN2 player, so I won't be far away.

Matt Rorie, and others will be popping in here to keep an eye on things after I am gone.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Friday - June 12, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview

by Dhruin, 23:21

Feargus chats to GameBanshee about his life and times.  On the challenges of making NWN2:

GB: The second title you released under Obsidian Entertainment was Neverwinter Nights 2. Can you give us a brief overview of how you secured the rights to work on the game, and what challenges you faced during its development?

Feargus: Securing the rights to create it is probably more than what we really did. Atari was looking to have NWN2 made and Bioware wasn't in the position to make it at the time. So, we talked to Atari about doing it and due to our relationship with Bioware, knowledge of their technology ,tools and our familiarity with D&D and Neverwinter itself (I worked on the cored game idea with Ray, Greg and Trent when we were first thinking of the title) it just made sense for Atari to go with us.

The challenges that we had while working on the game were a number of things and many of them come down to next-gen games and us growing our studio. The first of those - "next-gen games", caused a lot of issues. When we started working on it 2004, there were already amazing screen shots of what every next-gen game was going to look like. Originally, NWN2 was going to be on both the PC and Xbox360. So, we moved forward on creating a next-gen game, however the budget was higher than what our publisher was used to at the time and so we were both making mistakes. To reduce risk, they asked us to put a prototype together very quickly so, we hacked something together. Unfortunately, it was so much of a hack that it really didn't help us get ready for production. We were still trying to put our tools together and un-hack everything while we were supposed to be making final levels. The responsibility for that all happening really lies on both Obsidian and Atari. Atari shouldn’t have pushed us to create a prototype so quickly and we shouldn't have agreed to do it. I put it that way, because I think it's important that developers take responsibility for things that happen in our industry and that it's not just the "big bad" publishers that have done everything wrong. What is also important is to look at this as mistakes that were made not that people were dumb or evil. Both Atari and Obsidian were figuring out, like everyone else in the industry, how to make big next-gen games and mistakes were inevitable.

Monday - June 08, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview

by Dhruin, 23:24

How does Feargus Urquhart see the Western RPG industry in 2009?  That's the background question to a new interview at Gamasutra.  It waffles around to me without really saying much - here's a sample:

So, that's kind of an interesting question then. If you look at the sort of pretty mainstream success of Fallout 3, do you think that they found a way to make a hardcore RPG much more mainstream than has been done in the past? Or when you look at how Fallout 3 is suceeding compared to what you've done on Fallout 2 or other RPGs that you've done...

FU: I think Bethesda did two things, and I'll start with that sort of thing. Any great game, it's beyond how exactly you play it. It's how you play it, and a specific "Are there numbers? and "Are there not numbers?" and all that kind of stuff. It's more of a feeling.

What really was great about the original Fallout, Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, was the feeling of being in this world. And that was attractive. Well, attractive is maybe the wrong word. It was compelling. (laughs) That's a better word.

I think what Bethesda did an incredible job at is making you feel like you are in this Fallout world. And that's what we did back at Black Isle, to make you really feel like you were in this Fallout world. The whole thing -- from the loading screens to the main menu to the Pip-Boy to all that kind of stuff -- it really felt like it was a whole cohesive unit of feeling like you're in this world. And they did that.

When you do that, it is instantly more compelling to any kind of gamer. As long as they feel like they're not being hindered by something or that something is annoying in the game, then they're probably going to enjoy it. And I guess part of that is also taking it, obviously, from a turn-based PC game to using the Oblivion engine and learning how to use their Oblivion engine and make it Fallout. And that's not to say that it's just Oblivion: Fallout.

I think the second thing that Bethesda did an incredible job at -- and this is what they do really well -- is they are just behind their games. I think a lot of the success of Fallout 3 in particular -- because there are people probably at Bethesda that Fallout 3 is not the kind of game that they play -- but they jumped in with both feet, like, "This is the game. We believe in this game." And I think that is why you see a success, too. It's almost catching.

In other words, you have a publisher who's like, "Well, we have these seven games. What do you think?" Bethesda is, "No, you're buying this damn game." So, I think that the success was from both ways. They were able to get the feeling of Fallout, and they really believed in their game. And that belief in the game came through in how they were talking to everybody and pimping it and all that kind of stuff.

Thursday - June 04, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ Kotaku AU

by Dhruin, 00:37

A week or so back Kotaku AU invited readers to submit questions for Chris Avellone.  The results are now up and they're pretty good for a community Q&A.  Here's a sample:

Chris, you’ve worked on a bunch of games that have been cancelled (Van Buren, Torn) or had lots of content cut out (KOTOR2). How do you handle it when something you’ve worked on for months or years ends up being released in an imcomplete state or not released at all?

You drink, sigh, and move on. I actually got numb to it early on in my career (Monte Cook, an editor at Hero Games, would routinely reject my submissions I’d spent months or years on, and he was right to do so because they sucked – I also had ten module proposals to Dungeon all rejected one after the other), so it wasn’t too bad when it started happening at work. The only time it really hurt was Fallout 3, because that game felt like it had the potential to be better than Torment, and when I was working on it, I could feel the inner creativity “sing” because it felt like everything was clicking into place.

Also, as a consolation prize, you find you can usually transfer design elements from one game to the other in terms of systems or new uses for characters that you did for the “flushed” design that you can use later on.

Wednesday - May 06, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA on RPGs

by Dhruin, 01:49

This piece at Kotaku AU about Chris Avellone's presentation at a Melbourne gaming conference has the provocative title RPG Designer Hates RPGs but the hate is actually for the genre conventions as far as I can tell:

While at Black Isle Studios, Avellone worked on Fallout 3 on-and-off for about six years, before it was cancelled and Bethesda purchased the rights. His vision of Fallout was also built on this idea of hate, specifically that he was sick of tracking down and killing the big, evil, bad guy.

Avellone realised that in all RPGs, the most powerful bad-ass in the world wasn’t the “big bad”, but the player-character’s adventuring party. So Fallout 3 was designed around there being another party of adventurers out there in the world at the same time as you. Over the course of the game you will encounter this other party and experience how their actions have influenced the world. Along the way you’d have to decide whether to cooperate or work against them.

Wednesday - April 22, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Dark Knight, Part 2

by Dhruin, 01:05

Edge Online continues their tour through Chris Avellone's career:

Avellone continued his work in the action-RPG genre with design roles on Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and the EverQuest-themed Champions Of Norrath. He also briefly worked as a senior designer on Baldur’s Gate 3 (cancelled in 2003) before taking his final role at Black Isle as lead designer on Fallout 3 (the early Van Buren version). “Before I left,” he explains, “we wanted to do two things with Fallout: reinvigorate the franchise and introduce a new RPG spin into RPG adversaries – capitalising on the prisoner’s dilemma theme, where you’re competing against a rival PC party. And we wanted to do a new type of game – something with our own tech and systems for once, rather than the Infinity Engine. When I left, it was only two-to-three months into pre-production. I was the only designer on it for a long time before Baldur’s Gate 3 was cancelled, and that team moved in en masse. I think there were some great RPG moments waiting to be born in that game, and I felt really passionate about it.

Monday - April 20, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone, Dark Knight

by Dhruin, 22:38

Dark Knight is the title of an Edge Online profile/interview on Chris Avellone.  The piece covers his life and works in article format with input from MCA himself:

Around the same time Avellone was building New Reno, Interplay was given the mandate from Tactical Studies Rules to produce an RPG based on the D&D Planescape setting. With its multiple universes, geometrically impossible landscapes and shady rules on the nature of life and death, Planescape was incomprehensible unless you were well-versed in D&D lore. It was also, in Avellone’s words, “fucking amazing”.

“We had the licence and very few developers to work on it,” he recalls. “Feargus [Urquhart, Black Isle CEO] asked if I wanted to be the first to work on the PC version; I said: ‘Hell, yes.’” Avellone’s central conceit with Torment was that death, in storybased games, was a punitive waste of time, and served only to slow players down. From this, the story emerged: players were cast as The Nameless One, a hideously scarred immortal amnesiac who would remember (rather than learn) new skills by coming into contact with relics from his forgotten past. 

Part 2 will be released tomorrow.

Obsidian Entertainment - Fallout: New Vegas Announced

by Magerette, 18:03

In a surprise announcement, Bethesda Softworks has revealed that Obsidian will be developing an independent Fallout title for PC and consoles to be known as Fallout:New Vegas:

Bethesda Softworks announced that Obsidian Entertainment is developing a brand-new Fallout game titled Fallout: New Vegas, to release next year on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Gamasutra was at Bethesda's event in London to hear the game announced by marketing and PR VP Pete Hines, who provided few specifics on the game's engine, gameplay or perspective -- but did note the game is neither a Fallout 3 sequel nor a spin-off.

"It's not Fallout Tactics -- it's not Brotherhood Of Steel. It's another Fallout game," said Hines. "It has no impact on what [Bethesda Game Studios game director] Todd Howard and his guys are planning."

A number of Obsidian staff are veterans of Black Isle's original Fallout games. The company's CEO, Feargus Urquhart, was instrumental in founding Black Isle, and served as its director.

There's more reporting of the announcement here at MCV, CVG, 1UP and numerous other sites around the net, but not much additional information as yet.

Source: Gamasutra

Thursday - April 02, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ gamedev.net

by Dhruin, 22:30

Chris Avellone has been interviewed at gamedev.net, with the short conversation obviously centering on game design and development:

Tiffany: What do you consider the most important elements as far as bringing together a solid game design?

Chris Avellone: First off, prototype early, try to get the main fun factor for what your game is trying to do in and working in the engine as quickly as possible. And you usually find out once it’s in there that it’s flawed. But keep revising and revising until it actually feels fun, but the important thing is to get it in there and get it working as quickly as possible. Also, don't try to do a lot of finished assets, like high quality artwork or like the final version interface screen until you actually have that prototype at a level that's actually fun for the player. Once you have all the grunt work out of the way and the timing and various skills and abilities, then you start polishing the visuals and effects until it shines.

Thursday - March 26, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - The Escapist Studio Visit

by Dhruin, 22:28

Episode 21 of The Escapist Show visits Obsidian's studio (among a couple of others).  You get some brief views of their offices, brief comments on their games and a brief commentary from MCA (head to the 3:30 mark for Obsidian).  Did I mention brief?  Don't expect anything new.

Thursday - March 19, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Forum Tidbits

by Dhruin, 21:09

Lucky Day sends in these comments from Obsidian's Rob McGinnis on what a theoretical new moddable/GM-run game (like, say, NWN3 if they ever did it) might look like:

We have "blue sky" discussions pretty often about how we would do a Moddable/GM-run game very differently from how we approached NWN2. With everything we have learned from NWN2, I think anything else we would make along those lines would turn out pretty sweet.

We still feel that height-mapped terrain is the way to go, which means a walkmesh would have to be distributed in Multiplayer... But we would change the way PWC files are handled, if needed at all.

We would also probably allow for streaming areas (one continuous world).

We would definitely make the game more data-driven so that modders would have much more freedom to create what they want.

Less dependence on animation/modeling middleware would also be a goal - though we would probably still stick with something like 3dsMax or XSI internally, we would work to make the engine accept other formats as well.

Now remember: I'm not saying there is anything in the works at the moment. These are just some of the things we talk about. But yeah, we get excited about the possibilities.

Tuesday - March 03, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ StarWarsKnights.com

by Dhruin, 11:18

We missed this earlier...StarWarsKnights has a three part interview with Chris Avellone on his thoughts as a designer for Torment and The Sith Lords.  Here's an early sample:

When you look at the (critical if not financial) success of Torment and then – to a lesser extent – KotOR II what do you suppose it is about your narrative style or technique that made the two so enjoyable and well-received?

After probably getting sick to death of my hangdog expression, mounting depression, and the packs of razor blades I would go through lightly dragging each razor across my wrist, Feargus Urquhart decided to break me out of my funk and let me know Torment made a profit, just not nearly as much as Baldur's Gate (the first part was a surprise, the second part wasn’t – Baldur’s Gate sold a lot of units, it’d be hard to top).

If I were to attribute Torment’s positive reception to anything (at least from the folks that did receive it positively), it'd probably be due to the 10-12 years of gamemastering where you slowly learn what players like and don't like when they play – usually through negative reinforcement and thinly-veiled threats delivering by phone calls and emails in the late hours of the evening by people who want to argue how many character points they got per session and why. Ultimately, you learn that players really want an adventure that's not about something they got involved in, but something that completely reacts to them, involves them, and preferably is all about something they did... and Torment is a very, very selfish adventure. Everything's about you.

Torment was also the accumulation of many years of unresolved fantasy adventures, quest ideas, cool NPCs and more that I hadn’t really had a chance to give much of a voice to in previous titles, or even in gamemastering sessions - Torment was set up from a campaign standpoint to allow just about anything you could imagine, so it was a perfect fantasy world to do an "idea dump" in. If I thought it would be cool if the player could wear their own intestines as armor, or regenerate from any wound, the Planescape universe (multiverse) was 100% accommodating.

Lastly, I read a lot. And a lot of the stuff that may seem deep in Torment is pretty immature compared to a lot of fantasy and fiction out there - it's just that game development had rarely explored that deeply up to that point. Again, the Planescape universe was a perfect field trip for that.

Links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Source: GameBanshee

Monday - February 23, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - 24hr Party People

by Woges, 21:17

GameSetWatch article on Obsidian's (and a bit of Bioware's) party based games; asking if Alpha Protocol will be the future direction for the company.

With every game they've made in the last six years, BioWare have moved closer towards a cinematic style of storytelling, an more immediate combat model and away from traditional CRPG artifice. Except they're still encouraging players to accumulate characters as extra abilities and then leave them in the engine room, forgotten.

Obsidian writer/designer Chris Avellone addressed this point ten years ago when he worked at Black Isle Studios. In Planescape: Torment, a disparate cast of characters, in the usual fashion, abandon their everyday routine to support a stern, violent and naked man with more tattoos than memory.

For once, this is remarked upon as odd. In a denouement equivalent to a detective gathering all the murder suspects in the parlour room, the Torment party members' motivations and histories are all revealed to be deeper than originally apparent. Given their specific, tragic circumstances, they had no choice but to follow him when he asked.

Source: RPG Codex

Friday - February 13, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus: We Are Doing Fine

by Dhruin, 23:52

Feargus Urquhart has told Big Download they are doing fine, with multiple projects under way:

On Thursday rumors started up that developer Obsidian Entertainment had to lay off some team members as a result of Sega canceling their long-in-development Aliens RPG project. Neither Sega nor Obsidian have commented officially on these reports. However Obsidian's CEO Feargus Urquhart has commented to Big Download on reports from our sister site Joystiq that Obsidian is "apparently on the ropes."

According to what Urquhart told us, "We are doing fine and do not have to shut down operations. We are still actively developing Alpha Protocol and are working on another couple of properties." Alpha Protocol is Obsidian's other game for Sega, a first person action-RPG in the super-spy genre that is expected to be released sometime in 2009. Urquhart would not comment on the rumors of the Aliens RPG cancelation nor on the reports of layoffs at the company. One of their other games they might be working on is a rumored third expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights 2.

Wednesday - January 14, 2009

Obsidian Entertainment - George Ziets Returns

by Dhruin, 22:20

J.E. Sawyer posts on the Obsidian boards that George Ziets is returning to Obsidian after a stint at Bethesda.   George was the creative lead on Mask of the Betrayer and was responsible for the awesome story.

In other developer shuffling, audio director Alex Brandon is leaving Obsidian to return to Texas.

Source: GameBanshee

Wednesday - November 26, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - Annie Carlson Profile @ GamerVixens

by Dhruin, 21:58

This one is from two weeks back but everyone missed it at the time.  Former Obsidian designer Annie Carlson (I hadn't realised she had left) is profiled at girl gamer site GamerVixens:

What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Tricky. I think probably working on Storm of Zehir - I'd been working on Alpha Protocol for a year previous, and was unfamiliar with the scripting and area design elements of the Neverwinter Nights 2 toolset. Coming onto the project not only entailed learning that as quickly as I could, but formatting the story and writing a majority of the script at the same time. On top of that, there was a design feature that I was willing to fight to have included, which entailed taking extra time to make sure it went in. Thankfully I was able to put in the hours necessary to see it finished - and I'm proud my labor of love is going to be available for everyone to see shortish (Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir comes out on November 18, kids! Tell all your friends! /shameless plug)

Source: GameBanshee

Wednesday - September 03, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - PAX Industry Panel @ Mod DB

by Dhruin, 00:42

Mod site Mod DB has coverage of a panel at PAX called Beginning and Ending in Game Design.  The panel consisted of Annie Carlson, Fryda Wolff, Dan Rubalcaba, Chris Avellone and Joe Bulock - all from Obsidian - and discussed breaking into the industry.

Thursday - July 24, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - Working on an RTS?

by Dhruin, 22:41

CVG has discovered a job ad for a lead artist on an RTS title for Obsidian, leading to the obvious speculation that the RPG house is moving into strategy territory.  With Storm of Zehir, Alpha Protocol and Aliens under development, this seems unlikely to me - but who knows?

An advertisement recently appeared on Creative Heads recruitment website, calling for a lead artist on an undisclosed upcoming RTS title.

No other information was listed, but we can't even imagine what a studio known for characterisation and role-playing would do with an RTS.

Thursday - July 10, 2008

New Interview with Chris Avellone @ BGamer

by Corwin, 18:44

There's a new (at least in English) interview with Obsidian's Chris Avellone over at BGamer. Here's a teaser:

You have worked in some of the best RPG ever made. What, in your opinion, are the crucial elements for a good game of this genre?

Aside from the ability to advance your character, player choice (whether in character development or quest resolution) and world and character reactivity to these player’s choices is key.

Players want to build the character they envision, and then they want to push buttons in the world and see the world give them positive (or negative) feedback that is unique to their character - it makes them feel that they are having a direct impact on their environment based on their specific choices. In addition, the more specific you can make the reactivity to the player’s character creation choices (Fallout 1 and 2 did a fantastic job of this, in my opinion), the better. The more a stealth character is given consistent rewards and feedback on their chosen skills and using those skills to solve quests, for example, the more they feel their character choices and their character’s skills truly matter.

 

Thanks Briosafreak.

Sunday - June 15, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - Morality in Games, Part 2

by Dhruin, 22:19

You may recall Chris Avellone wrote a blog post on morality in games some time back.  Part 2 is now up on his blog at Obsidian's site - here's a sample from the opening:

What do you personally consider to be a typically good character?
A good character is one who places others before himself, and is willing to let his character suffer physically, financially, and materially in order to help someone else. They sacrifice, in the recognition that the act of sacrifice is the reward in itself. Sometimes I fear that games undermine the power of these acts by always consistently rewarding good players and punishing evil ones, which ends up making the choice a false one.

What do you personally consider to be a typically evil character?
An evil character puts their self before all others, and lets others die or suffer if there is something to gain by it. They are the ones who kill anyone who blocks their progress, steal from others, lie to gain trust, and do anything to get ahead.

Monday - June 02, 2008

Chris Avellone - on Morality in Games

by Magerette, 16:50

Gamebanshee posts a link to Chris Avellone's blog over on the Obsidian forums, where he discusses his take on morality in games as postulated in a Q & A he did for a student's master thesis. As a bonus, it comes with one of Avellone's trademark stick figure illustrations.

Do you consider moral choices in games to be an important aspect of game design? If so, why?
At the risk of being quoted out of context, I don't think it's important. I think that the player should have difficult choices to make and moral choices are one of the best ways to present it, but the most important thing from a role-playing game standpoint is that there be reactivity and consequence to your actions, whether they are moral choices are[sic] not.

In what game design phase do you think one should begin to think about moral issues in the game world, and why?
Generally, I think it should be considered as early as possible in the game design, preferably at the time that you decide upon the game's "theme." For our Aliens project, for example, the moral theme that we're trying to communicate was considered an important establishing point in our early pre-production phase (as it was for Mask of the Betrayer).

What do you consider to be successful use of morals in a game?
Fallout 1 and Mass Effect come to mind. In Fallout 1, part of the dilemma in retrieving the water chip for your home has the potential to cause another community to be extinguished. This ultimately doesn't have the impact it could because you have the ability to save both, but it's a choice that makes you pause for a moment, since your choice can condemn one civilization or another to death.

There's several moments in Mass Effect where I had to pause before making a choice because the game had done an excellent job of painting what the consequences of each action could be as I was making the choice. I don't want to give any spoilers unless you've played the game, but I had to struggle with some of the choices while making them, which makes them successful in my book.

In our latest title, Alpha Protocol, we're presenting some of the moral choices within the context of the CIA operation itself - and the choices you make to achieve your mission or your goal can depend on how much you're willing to place others at risk.

It's an interesting interview, and there are also links to some of Avellone's other blog topics, including this one on his character Ravel in PS:T, for those who want to read further.

Source: GameBanshee

Saturday - April 26, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - Hiring Again

by Dhruin, 01:38

Obsidian seems to be rapidly expanding these days, with the latest job offering a level designer position for Alpha Protocol.  Head over if you have 2+ years experience with at least one shipped game worked through the entire dev cycle. 

Tuesday - March 11, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - Alpha Protocol Revealed

by Dhruin, 10:10

It seems the April edition of GameInformer reveals one of Obsidian's new projects - an espionage/spy action/RPG titled Alpha Protocol. This comes via a poster at NeoGAF, so we'll have to wait until GameInformer hits the streets to check the details but the description sounds plausible. So, courtesy of the NeoGAF poster:

Alpha Protocol

(1 player action/RPG)

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Platform: PS3/360/PC
Publisher: Sega
Release: Spring 2009

"A modern day espionage focused action/RPG that takes you on a suspenseful ride in the vein of James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne. Take a wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn agent up through the ranks to become a bona-fide super spy."

-Main character is Michael Thorton, a fully trained but inexperienced young operative who has the world turned upside down when a mission goes wrong.

-Title "Alpha Protocol" is a phrase that is used when operatives go underground to work off the grid. Usually reserved for senior agents.

-Battle system is similar to Mass Effect but have more in common with Uncharted. It revolves around real time combat with an emphasis on gun play and high tech gadgets.

-Third person perspective, action orientated gameplay

-Close quarters combat can be a last resort or primary method of fighting depending on how you spend skill points you have earned.

-Skill system is based most closely on Fallout. It's classless, you have 10 skills and 10 ranks in each skill. Skills don't simply improve things like accuracy, they improve the way your character will perceive situations.

-The game will suit all play styles from the run and gunner to the stealth assassin.

-Extremely in depth dialog system that is a mix of Mass Effect and Indigo Prophecy. Once conversations happen, that's it, no revisiting the NPC to try to talk again and again. System is named the Dialog Stance System. You dictate your characters tone in a conversation by pressing a corresponding face button. Options can be cool and suave others can be brash/impatient.

-You can have multiple active missions in different countries and travel freely between them.

-Lots of girls and romance subplots. You'll meet tons of different girls on missions and yes you can bag them all.

-Current control scheme for selecting powers and weapons is similar to Bioshock.

Thanks to dowon on our forums for the heads-up.

Saturday - January 05, 2008

Obsidian Entertainment - Now Hiring

by Dhruin, 22:04

I'ved lost track of the specifics of Obsidian's upcoming titles but they are now advertising for a Senior Designer for an upcoming console RPG.  Pluses for the application include experience with Unreal technology and previous work on action games, so pulling all this together we get a console-only action/RPG.

Wednesday - December 12, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Blog Update

by Dhruin, 21:38

It's so quiet out there you can almost see the tumbleweeds blowing through the html.  Fortunately, Chris Avellone comes to the rescue with one of his amusing stick figure pieces, talking about what his Obsidian teammates do for a creative outlet.  This one is vaguely not safe for work.

Thursday - September 13, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Bog Update

by Dhruin, 00:36

Looks like a day for dev profiles with Chris Avellone kicking up a blog update aimed at wannabe game designers on what the job actually entails:

1. What is a typical day for you as far as working on a project or projects?

I get into work at 9:30, and try to work for an hour without checking email. This work can be writing design documentation, designing a system, doing mock-ups for an editor or toolset, or formatting an Excel sheet. After that, I check email, respond to pending requests, then hit lunch. After lunch, I resume work for and attend design meetings (interface, level reviews) for the rest of the afternoon. I usually hit dinner around 6, come back to work at 7, and work until 9 or 10 on raw design material while the office is quiet and most folks have gone home. Then I go to the gym and then go home and either play videogames or watch DVDs (usually in the genre related to the games I'm designing) until I fall asleep, and repeat the cycle the next day. It’s a lot more fun that it sounds. original.gif

Wednesday - July 25, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Blogs on Romances

by Dhruin, 01:04

Chris Avellone writes on their ideas for developing romances on his blog at Obsidian.  Here is the intro:

So, I generally despise writing companion romances (I think unrequited and/or doomed ones are ultimately more dramatic), but there are some techniques I've accumulated over the years that I try to incorporate into writing and designing romances in RPGs.

A lot of these things came out while writing Gannayev-of-Dreams in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, and I suppose it could hold true for other inter-party romances in games. What follows is a summary of some points we kicked around for how to foster romances with the PC.

Tuesday - July 24, 2007

Chris Avellone Dialogue Monologue @ RPG Codex

by Dhruin, 13:03

You may recall an article RPG Codex did on dialogue a little while ago with input from Chris Avellone amongs others.  Apparently some additional questions were sent over to MCA but, having lost them, he decided to do a visual piece using his amusing stick figures.  It's a little hard to quote and still get the effect, so head over for his dialogue monologue.

Wednesday - July 11, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Urquhart Interview @ WarCry

by Dhruin, 11:59

NWN2 WarCry has a profile interview with Feargus Urquhart, talking about his background and work life:

WarCry: Everyone is pretty acquainted with your development background at Black Isle and in the classic RPGs of the past. But what is your gaming background? Have you always had an interest in gaming?

Feargus Urquhart: Pretty much, although I think I was an electronic gamer, before I was a Pen and Paper gamer. Odd for my generation, but probably less odd now. Other than the normal board games everyone plays as a kid, my friends and I started playing the games that showed up on watches when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I then got an Atari 2600 when they came out and played Intelivision for hours and hours at one of my friend's houses. I then got a Commodore 64 and actually paid for a couple of games that came out. I played Bard's Tale 1 through 3, Ultima 2 through 4, Wasteland, Wizard's Crown, the Phantasy series and a bunch of things on the 64. I also ran a BBS here in Orange County from around 1984 until 1988 that was called Dargaard Keep (most of the time) under my alias of the time Lord Soth.

Friday - June 08, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Sawyer Blog Update

by Dhruin, 00:12

J.E. Sawyer has updated his blog at Obsidian with a piece called Clarity of purpose in system design:

There's this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Thinking but that doesn't necessarily give anyone a good idea of how that is applied to game development. One thing we often ask applicants at Obsidian is what their favorite or least favorite games are and why. The "and why" is the most important part of the answer. Anyone can spit out a list of titles to show a wide range of tastes, but that doesn't give us any idea of what he or she found of value in those games. Understanding why -- really why -- you enjoy or dislike games helps you understand what other people may find appealing or distasteful in games.

Lately, I have been trying to take this further. I believe that it is a sign of truly elegant design when you are able to observe a game and determine the goals of the designer of any given system -- and all systems together. Often, you are able to recognize these elements because the game's design leads the player how to figure out when the use of any given tool is appropriate.

Friday - June 01, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Keven Saunders Profile @ WarCry

by Dhruin, 00:12

WarCry's NWN2 subsite has  a profile interview with Obsidian's Kevin Saunders, Lead Designer on NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer.  As you'd expect, most of the questions are personal:

WarCry: Do you have time for or interest in any gaming at all during a development cycle? If so, what games do you play?

Kevin Saunders: I find that my work satisfies a lot of my computer gaming desires. Why play someone else's game when I can invest that energy into making the game I'm working on better? Though I really need to play games more so that I can better keep up with our rapidly evolving industry. I very recently started Titan Quest for the first time.

Wednesday - May 30, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Beware the MMORPG

by Dhruin, 22:16

In a promo preview of an upcoming Obsidian interview, Feagus Urquhart has warned that RPG developers need to be aware of the space that MMORPGs operate in and ensure their (single-player) RPGs use the advantages of the genre.  Presumably, the comments are aimed at action/RPGs with their MMORPG-like grinds but it's a welcome comment for the entire genre:

"For instance," Urquhart explained in an interview to be published on CVG shortly, "it used to be fine to make an RPG that was just wandering around and hacking things up with the player having very little effect on the world around them. Why play that game now if you could just play a MMO?" [...]

 Looking at the future of the RPG genre, he added that he'd "like to see RPG focus more on the world that they take place in with particular focus on making the player a real part of that world."

"Many RPGs, including some that I've made, allow the player to just stomp around and not really have to worry about the world that they are playing in. I think that really limits the feeling of you being in that world, which is what I certainly want when I'm playing a great RPG."

"I want that escape from reality and the more we can do to give that to players the better", Urquhart explained.

Thursday - May 03, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview @ The Guardian

by Dhruin, 22:18

The online site for The Guardian has an interview with Obsidian's Chris Avellone covering a variety of general topics.  I'm thinking this is a part tongue-in-cheek answer about NWN2 but you can decide for yourself:

TG Any specific feature of which you're particularly proud?

CA I think the water. It's great, because while our coder was working on the water, he made sure that all the variables about the water can be tweaked by the designer. For example, if you remove the choppiness, slow its rate down to a crawl, make it very viscous, and put on a molten-red texture, then you've got lava.

Saturday - April 14, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - More Feargus

by Dhruin, 02:21

Feargus Urquhart has answered another question from the "Top 10" questions thread on the Obsidian forums.  This one is a lengthy response, so here's the first paragraph:

Will Obsidian continue to make "safe" games (i.e. those of established properties) or will it branch out and take the risk of creating its own settings?

Well that's a loaded question. original.gif So I'll go with a safe answer - both. This is pretty much because I like working on both licensed properties and original settings. I really believe that they both have their place in the industry and in running a healthy independent development studio. While I do think that licensed games can be less risky, it's not particularly the reason why I don't have a specific preference between them and original ideas. I guess I look at it as a game maker and not just a business guy. That may seem odd, because normally the business guy would say that making licensed product is the smart way to go because lower risk is always better. However, if you run an independent studio one of the things you always think about is the "end game" - what are we really trying to do here. Are we just going to be independent forever or are we looking to get purchased by a publisher. Creating original ideas (also called new IP - "Intellectual Property"), when successful, makes a studio more attractive to a publisher since they are getting more than just people and technology when they buy you. That's why you see a lot of studios really pushing to get their own IP published.

Friday - April 06, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Feargus Speaks

by Dhruin, 01:39

Somehow we overlooked this previously...the Obsidian forums have a feature that started a couple of weeks ago where 10 questions have been gathered from the community for Feargus, who is answering them bit by bit. Here's the latest response:

Any Post Apocalyptic or S-F titles developed by Obsidian in the future?

Two answers in a month, hey at least I'm getting a little better at this. It is funny as you get older that time does seem to just speed on by. Well enough on that tangent.

So, as it turns out, between when this question was asked and today many of you have probably already seen Sega's announcement that we are going to be making an Aliens RPG for them. I can't really go into anymore details about it other than to say it is an RPG and there are Aliens in it. original.gif Well I can say a little more in that we are focusing a great deal on the RPG aspects of the game, so no one needs to run into the hills with worry that we are going to make DOOM with Aliens in it and one extra stat slapped on it.

As for future titles, I would like us to continue making both Fantasy games and games placed in other genres - like Post Apocalyptic and SciFi. A number of us have been toying around with the idea of a Post Apocalyptic Fantasy world. There are a number of campaign worlds out there that explore this idea and I think a really cool video/computer game could be made within a world like that. While we couldn't go with the campy 50's feel of Fallout (campy as in the Pip Boy look, not campy as in culture references), I think the tension created by having all the different fantasy societies trying to scrape by and rebuild would make for an interesting world to explore. As for a straight SciFi game, I don't have an real specific ideas about what we might do just yet. I know a lot of people around here love 40K, so I was thinking of talking to THQ at some point about whether they would like to a 40K game that is more RPG than RTS.

Finally, I should probably talk about the twin gorillas in the closet. I'm sure there's a correct analogy in there somewhere, but that's what came to mind. Anyway, I'm speaking of the the KotOR3 and Fallout gorillas. Both of those are games that I and everyone else here at Obsidian would love to make. I don't know if we will ever get the chance, but I do continue to talk with LucasArts about what might be going on with KotOR3. As for Fallout, like I said, I'm not sure if we'll ever get the chance, but I know that I'd love to make another Fallout - plus, I think Avellone's already designed the next 12 of them.

Source: No Mutants Allowed

Monday - March 26, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview with Feargus Urquhart at the Codex

by Corwin, 12:23

One of our regular forum posters Role Player has scored an interview with Obsidian head honcho Feargus Urquhart which has been posted over at the Codex. Here's a snip:

 4) The Sith Lords had a considerable amount of cut content, which caused much discussion in the community and the creation of fan projects with the intent of restoring the game. While the publisher had its share of blame, do you feel part of the issue may have been a lack of management focus?

I'm pretty good and taking the responsibility for things that happen on our games and I could, of course, say that there were things that we could have done to get more content in the game. But, that's always the case. Every game I have ever made has had content cut during its production. This happens for a ton of reasons. Often it is because we just planned for too much up front, which is partly what happened with KotOR2 and we had to ship before we were able to really polish the end of the game. I am still very proud of what we did with KotOR2 and I feel the excitement over the end of the game being "castrated", as I've heard people say, is a little harsh and melodramatic. Particularly when that is followed with comments about the second and third time that person played through the game. Having said that, I'm not excusing anything or sweeping anything under the rug. I want more for every game we make, and I feel we can always do better job at it.

You can read the entire interview here

Source: RPG Codex

Sunday - March 11, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Blog Updates @ Official Site

by Dhruin, 20:36

Chris Avellone has a handful of new blog entries since we last checked, covering subjects such as internal communication in Obsidian and a couple of GDC reports:

What affect does culture have on your game? Do you try to add or remove any content because X culture/gender/religion won't or will like it?

Plenty, especially with regards to "localization," the process of translating games into other languages. There are a list of requirements for each nation's localization procedure for what parts of game are acceptable and what is not – for example, Germans can't have too much violence or blood in the game and will not sell titles that are excessively violent, so that has to be taken into account with game design, even if it's something as simple as a setting in the code that switches out red blood for green blood (which is acceptable). Publishers and franchise holders also have a say in what content they find acceptable as well, but that varies according to the publisher.

Friday - March 02, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Blog Updates @ Official Site

by Dhruin, 22:46

On the Obsidian blogs, Rob McGinnis continues to pump out the toolset info and Josh Sawyer writes his second piece, this time discussing writing and mature themes in games:

A lot of game developers are really concerned about games not being taken "seriously". It's always been my opinion that if you have to ask for someone to take you seriously, you are not worthy of serious attention. If people find your content to be meritous, merit will be given. My concern about the lack of mature themes in games is personal. I think most games have uninteresting stories that explore irrelevant or trite subjects and they are really boring as a result. I don't care about pitting technology against nature; it's a trite theme. If it hadn't been explored in dozens of games already, it might be interesting. I don't care about focusing on high-level concepts like the "nature" of good and evil; it's far removed from anything I deal with on a daily basis and it is usually discussed in an explicit, heavily didactic manner.

Wednesday - February 28, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Blog Updates @ Official Site

by Dhruin, 23:07

The Obsidian boys have added a couple of updates to the official blog with Chris Avellone writing he will be attending GDC to speak on the future of PC gaming and also about an interesting blog on writing.  Meanwhile, Rob McGinnis has fired off some details about the v1.06 update.

Wednesday - February 21, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Blog Updates @ Official Site

by Dhruin, 21:31

Checking in on Obsidian's official blogs we find Chris Avellone has posted several humorous cartoons (look for the hilarious Aliens - Deleted Scenes) although there's no "serious" material from Chris, while Rob McGinnis has been furiously adding a large amount of material about the toolset and upcoming improvements.

Thursday - February 15, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - J.E. Sawyer's Blog

by Dhruin, 20:24

Titled Joshing Around, J.E. Sawyer has opened his Obsidian blog account and penned a piece called rpg mechanics 'n stuff - an interesting read:

I have written before about the strange position occupied by RPGs in modern computer gaming (PC or otherwise). In summary: tabletop RPGs and most of their CRPG kin were born out of mechanics necessitated by the realities of playing a game with dice, paper, and pencils. Everything was either uncontested expression on behalf of the player or a simulated contest governed by probability. Modern PCs and consoles can now, with a fair amount of accuracy, simulate movement, lighting, perception, and virtually any type of physical activity in the world or through mini-games. It leaves "probability simulation" RPGs, or perhaps all RPGs, in an odd place.

Tuesday - February 13, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Blogs @ Official Forums

by Dhruin, 23:44

Obsidian has created an official blogs section on their forums so staff can reveal their innermost feelings.  To date, Chris Avellone has made some short entries and Rob McGinnis has posted quite a bit about the NWN2 1.05 patch and the toolset.

Tuesday - February 06, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Now Hiring

by Dhruin, 23:02

Obsidian is hiring across a variety of disciplines for their Aliens RPG - head over if you have the goods as an artist, programmer, level designer or Senior Producer.

Thursday - January 25, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Dev Chat @ The Rogues Roost

by Dhruin, 08:47

We were sent the following details announcing a developer chat with the fine folks from Obsidian:

Ladies and gentlemen, you are cordially invited to a major chat event. The staff at Thieves-Guild.Net are proud to present:

The Rogues Roost Chat Hour with special guests, members from Obsidian’s DEV team.

We invite you join to join us, for what should be a very informative talk. There will be 6 - 8 members from the Obsidian DEV team on hand to answer your questions. This will be an open forum. You ask your questions and the guys will do their best to answer them. There will be no staged questions!

All we ask is that proper etiquette and behavior is followed. There will be no flaming, or insults allowed. Please keep your questions and remarks civil. All other forum rules apply.

When?
The Rogues Roost.
Feb. 5th, at 7:00PM (GMT-"Greenwich Mean Time") -05.00 US Eastern Standard Time.
Where?
In our IRC Chat room

- Read more in the forum
- Timezone map
- Forum rules

The Staff at Thieves-Guild.Net

Monday - January 22, 2007

Obsidian Entertainment - Game Design Research, ala Avellone

by Dhruin, 20:56

Obsidian's Chris Avellone has written a humourous (as always) blog on the topic of research before starting a game design for Game Tycoon.  Here's the opening:

Obsidian Entertainment recently got the chance to do a role-playing game set in the Aliens universe.

This is due with many thanks to our fine publisher, SEGA, who used their oodles of cash and resources to woo Fox. Wine and song may also have been involved. And lawyers. And contract negotiators. But let’s set that aside for a second.

When we got the Aliens license, it hit me that there is one resoundingly positive aspect of being in game development: Doing research for games is the best thing, ever.

The article is peppered with Chris' cartoons and is an entertaining read.

Friday - December 22, 2006

Obsidian Entertainment - Senior Producer Position Open

by Dhruin, 22:48

Obsidian is looking for a Senior Producer for their recently-revealed Alien RPG:

Obsidian Entertainment is currently looking for a Senior Producer (Project Lead) for an upcoming role-playing game based on the Aliens license for the PC and next generation video game consoles. A producer for this project must be capable of managing all aspects of multi-platform development with a large in-house development team.

Sunday - December 17, 2006

Obsidian Entertainment - Now Hiring

by Dhruin, 21:04

Obsidian is advertising several new positions on their Jobs page, covering art, programming and design.  The position for Lead Level Designer is for "a console action role-playing game" as an example.

Tuesday - December 12, 2006

Obsidian Entertainment - Working on an Alien RPG for Sega?

by Dhruin, 05:45

GamingTarget has noticed an Obsidian Entertainment logo on a Sega teaser page for an upcoming Alien (movie franchise) RPG.  The logo has since been removed but since we know Obsidian's next project has been signed with Sega...

Sega today announced they will be creating new games based on the Alien series of movies and that the first one will be released in 2009.

Two games (a Role Playing Game and a First Person Shooter) are in the pipeline for unnamed "next-generation systems." While we don't know which systems the titles will appear on, we do know who's going to be doing the development work.

In a slight goof, the copyright information at the bottom of Sega's Alien teaser page features the names Obsidian Entertainment and Gearbox Software. From here we can make a few educated guesses. Obsidian will no doubt be working on the RPG because of their experience with Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II and Neverwinter Nights 2. Meanwhile, Gearbox is best known for the Brothers in Arms series, but they've shown their Sci-Fi FPS metal before with the PC port of Halo and the PS2 port of Half-Life.

Sunday - December 03, 2006

Obsidian Entertainment - Interview @ Clan Dlan

by Dhruin, 01:06

Spanish site Clan Dlan has interviewed Obsidian staffers including CEO Feargus Urquhart about the formation of the company, NWN2 and other projects:

P and I - Obsidian has so far developed two games, both made with BioWare engines or modifications to the engines. Also, the two games you made are sequels to BioWare games. Why did you decide to go for sequels to this games instead of creating "your very own"?

Feargus -
Doing sequels is a great way to start a company since the question of what the game is going to be has already been answered. That makes sequels less risky and means that publishers are less worried about working with a new studio. However, given the option of make something entirely new or getting to make a game like Neverwinter Nights 2, I would still have a hard time choosing between the two. I suppose that I just don't think that sequels are necessarily less creative than creating something entirely new. In the end, whether the game is a sequel or not, a game ends up being good solely based upon how you make it and what you put in it.

Friday - October 27, 2006

Veteran's Day: Eight Hours With Obsidian

by Dhruin, 00:30

Moxie had the opportunity to visit Obsidian's offices, checking out NWN2's development and adding +4 to his geek credentials in the process.  The article has been in the works for some time but even with the imminent release of NWN2, should be an entertaining read for anyone following Obsidian:

An all-night drive that started at 4:00 AM in Phoenix ends at 9:00 AM in Obsidian's parking lot in Anaheim, California. Kalia shows up and we brief for the day. She knows this game inside and out. The questions that I've written down about storytelling and worldcrafting seem even more esoteric in comparison to her list covering everything from prestige classes to weapon specializations. If she gets answers to everything here, I think we'll be able to build the game ourselves.

Read on...

Tuesday - August 22, 2006

Jobs @ Obsidian

by Dhruin, 02:14
Obsidian has added a new job to their site calling for a "Systems Designer":
That's right aspiring Obsidian employees! We are seeking an experienced Systems Designer (PS3, XBOX 360, and PC) for a console action role-playing game using the Unreal Engine. Game industry experience and previous systems and/or interface design is required. Head on over to the jobs page to read all the details and perhaps even apply!

Sunday - July 23, 2006

The Challenges Faced by Game Writers @ Gamasutra

by Dhruin, 00:00
As reported, a number of Obsidian staff are at Comic Con and Gamasutra has covered the panel titled The Challenges Faced by Game Writers, which features Chris Avellone among others. It's not particularly revelatory and only has a handful of quotes but fans might like to read it:
Avellone suggests that the best way to understand the limits of your game is to involve yourself in the development process. "Try to build a level or a cutscene," he said. "That, more than anything, will tell you about your limitations. There are about a hundred different paramaters that it's good for a writer to know about, and if you've actually gone into the engine, you'll usually find them yourself.

Wednesday - July 19, 2006

Obsidian heads to Comic Con

by Dhruin, 02:42
If you plan to head to <a href="http://www.comic-con.org/cci/cci06_prog_thu.php" target="_blank">Comic Con</a> in San Diego later this week, you'll be able to encounter several folks from Obsidian (and others):<blockquote><em>12:00-1:00 Writing for the Computer Gaming Industrya  Gaming industry veterans Neal Hallford (Dungeon Siege), Chris Avellone (Neverwinter Nights II), Chris Klug (Stargate Worlds MMO), Anne Toole (Stargate Worlds MMO), Jeremy Barlow (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), and Paul Robinson (Dirty Harry) discuss the ins and outs of writing for this challenging and unique medium. Join moderator Jana Hallford (Swords & Circuitry Studios) and this stellar panel for a lively discussion of one the fastest-growing yet least understood professions in digital entertainment. Room 24A<br><br>Sunday July 23rd: <br><br>2:30-4:00 Neverwinter Nights 2a  Obsidian Entertainment, the well-known development studio working on Atari's highly-anticipated Neverwinter Nights 2, will provide Comic Con attendees with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming sequel to one of the best-selling role-playing games of all time. Obsidian founders Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, Darren Monahan and lead designer Josh Sawyer will walk fans through every aspect of the game's progress from single-player design to multiplayer capabilities to demonstrations of the powerful editor and toolset included with Neverwinter Nights 2. Room 6CDEF</em></blockquote>We'll keep an eye out for coverage of these events.

Thursday - July 06, 2006

Chris Avellone Post @ Penny Arcade

by Dhruin, 13:05
Obsidian's Chris Avellone has written a guest post for Penny Arcade on getting into the industry:
First - since I have no manners and commonly forget introductions - I'm Chris Avellone, I'm a creative director at Obsidian Entertainment, and we do role-playing games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2, and the upcoming I Wish the RPG Market Was Like It Was When Fallout 1 Came Out 2.

I was going to spit out some words of wisdom about getting into the game industry, or what it's like doing role-playing games, or cuss a lot, but basically, I really only have the following words of wisdom to impart if you want to get into games.

Source: RPG Codex

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