Obsidian Entertainment - MCA Interview @ GameBanshee
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.”