Obsidian Entertainment - Chris Avellone Interview @ GamesTM
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.