Obsidian Entertainment - Kevin Saunders on Seven Dwarfs and More
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.