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In exile no more: Brian Fargo on Wasteland 2

Wednesday, 11 April 2012 07:43 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Legendary RPG designer Brian Fargo is back in the game he loves – old school RPGs – thanks to the power of crowdfunding. Nathan Grayson tracks the inXile boss to his lair and casts Tell All.

Wasteland 2 – inXile

The sequel to inXile’s founder Brian fargo’s 1980′s classic, Wasteland.

Requested $900,000 in crowdfunding; with six days remaining, has amassed over $2 million.

Obsidian’s Chris Avellone has been brought on board, reuniting two heroes of the CRPG scene.

If, this time last year, you’d crashed through my kitchen window in your Time DeLorean and told me I’d soon see a new point-and-click adventure from Double Fine, the oft-clamored-for Shadowrun RPG, a brand new Leisure Suit Larry, and a bonafide Black Isle revival under Wasteland’s banner all in a matter of weeks, I would’ve spit scalding coffee in your face – both out of disbelief and as a self-defense mechanism. And yet, thanks to the sudden crowdsourced gold rush that is Kickstarter, here we are. The future is now, and – just as our most forward-thinking films and TV shows predicted – it looks just like the ’90s.

The tides have turned, and InXile boss Brian Fargo – once forced to dance to a more action-oriented tune in games like The Bard’s Tale and Hunted: Demon’s Forge – is headed back to his roots, publishers be damned. Wasteland 2 used to be a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream. Now it’s a poster child. That said, with the post-apocalyptic role-player’s Kickstarter nearly in the history books, the balloons and bits of irradiated confetti are starting to settle.

So, where to now? Especially with Obsidian now officially in the fold, how exactly will all of this work? I got in touch with Brian Fargo to find out. Read on to hear his thoughts about what sort of game Wasteland will be, how much control fans should have in the development process, traditional publishers, Kickstarter’s chances of long-term success, and much more.

VG247: How did the Obsidian deal come about? Did it start with that whole kerfuffle over the “nothing would make me happier” than rebuilding Black Isle comment, or were the wheels in motion beforehand?

Brian Fargo: The wheels for that deal were in motion before Ripten. I was amused reading the speculation because they were right for the wrong reasons but certainly they were zeroing in on it even though my comments were vague. I think it all points to what a good idea it was for us to pull Chris in for his designers touch.

What do you hope Chris Avellone and Obsidian will bring to Wasteland? Where do they fit in?

The first Wasteland game was created by a half dozen designers that were all given an area of the game for them to flex their creative muscle. We would often assign things to that designer to make sure they gave away some item or a plot element was introduced but what they did with that level was up to them. This is the exact same process for which we have many of the original designers plus Chris.

In addition Chris will weigh in with his opinions on conversations systems, UI and the like. Obsidian also has several tools that assist in getting assets in quickly, and the faster we get assets in, the quicker we can test and re-iterate. InXile will control the overall process of integration and continuity.

What sort of game are you hoping to create? It’ll be reminiscent of ’90s “golden age” RPGs, obviously, but how so? What sort of battle system are you hoping to implement? What sort of stat progression are you looking at? Is it linear or can players choose how they want to evolve their characters? Is the game party-based? Where will it be set?

We don’t want the tactics SO deep that you feel disconnected from the world by being in long battles all the time. The last thing we want is someone groaning every time combat pops up.”

There are so many elements of Wasteland that worked quite well and we plan to build upon that foundation rather than start over from scratch. Those elements are the sandbox type world, dark humor, party based combat, tactics in battle and a skill based system. However, combat isn’t going to consist of scrolling text so clearly we need to up the tactics part of the game.

And we don’t want the tactics SO deep that you feel disconnected from the world by being in long battles all the time. The last thing we want is someone groaning every time combat pops up. The game is going to take place shortly after Wasteland 1 ends. And by the way for everyone who remembers little Bobby – he is pissed off having been shot by Rangers and left for dead.

You’ve mentioned that you want this to be a resurrection of old-school Black Isle RPGs in general. So how do you cater to Wasteland fans and Fallout fans while also touching on games like Planescape: Torment, Baldur’s Gate, etc? There’s so much expectation in terms of what people want this game to be. How do you deal with all of that?

There are common threads that work their way across all those games that we are keeping a keen eye on. Having true cause and effect is a big one. A deep and interesting world is also key and there need to be surprises coming at you throughout. And yes Wasteland is party based game and that is one of the big differences from Fallout. Also there is a strong literary vibe to those games that is especially highlighted with Torment that we will continue on. We are reading every comment on our forums and setting up polls to make sure we have the broad strokes covered. Once we finalize those things we will go off and do what we do best.

On that note, how much of a role do you think fans should have in the decision-making process on games they’ve funded? How much do you think they have a right to know about development – if any? Are you worried that this could compromise artistic integrity? Or do traditional standards of artistic integrity as defined by books, film, etc not apply to games?

People seem to be quite concerned that fan input will get out of control but to me that is like being concerned about open beta testing. Plus with fan funding we owe them a voice to be heard and we agree with most of what the consensus likes anyway. It is important to keep in mind that it is broad strokes that we incorporate and that would range from weighing the importance of features like audio vs. game depth, Linux vs. iPad or turn- based vs. real-time combat.

Normally we would need to make these exact same decisions, except it would have been done in a vacuum. Now we have specific information on what is important. Once we agree on the vision for the game then we will implement our ideas within that framework. We aren’t going to get into writing style, music composition, etc. However they will get to experience even those features once we hit beta so their voices will be heard again. As a whole, the community is quite rational and publishers would probably do better if they listened to them a little more.

Do you think this level of Kickstarter success – millions of dollars – is sustainable, or is it just a flash in the pan? Do you think Kick It Forward will help keep things at that level?

I don’t see an end in sight for companies raising money with Kickstarter, but most will not be in the million dollar range. Shadowrun passed their goal of $400K and Leisure Suit Larry is well towards its minimum amount of $500K. Even the smaller projects with new developers will be tomorrow’s one million dollar projects. Trust me, there will be some new group that comes along one day and blows me and Tim [Schafer] out of the water with their success. And I do believe that if we get enough companies to pledge putting a small percentage of their profits back into the community, it will keep the ecosystem alive. Kickstarter is such a wonderful way to get financed that it just makes sense to give back.

And where does nostalgia fit into all this? I mean, Double Fine Adventure may as well be the Nostalgia Justice League between Schafer and Gilbert, and now you and Chris Avellone are, I don’t know, The Avengers or something. Do you think rampant fan demand for blasts from the past could keep RPGs or even the industry from progressing? Also, between you and Avellone, who’s going to be played by Chris Hemsworth in the eventual film adaption?

No way is this going to push the genre back in any way. It is all good. There are some elements to those “golden age” games that are timeless but have gotten lost due to a number of factors. It became impossible to sit in a room with an executive to discuss the finer points of RPGs and why there was a demand and what things could be added to make it more exciting.

The vantage point of most publishers is from a console perspective so that sort of kills the conversation pretty quick. Just the simple need of a keyboard and mouse changes the dynamic of an RPG. Those meetings I made fun of in my video are pretty accurate. Getting dragged into conversations about the color and size of a boot as a top priority was pure insanity and would suck all the creative juices out of the room.

I guess my attitude on this is more philosophical in that if the game doesn’t achieve fan funding, then it probably should not have been made. These fans just did you a favor by not voting with their wallets and saving you the time and money making something no one wanted.

“Gamers are not trying to risk money for a profit like a publisher is. They just want a certain game and they are willing to pay for it ahead of time. Ironically the fans have far more trust in developers than the publishers do, and it will be interesting to compare the track records of success. Trust vs. heavy handed management.”

Gamers are not trying to risk money for a profit like a publisher is. They just want a certain game and they are willing to pay for it ahead of time. A publisher is analyzing the market to determine what people want, determining if the upside is high enough, analyzing the opportunity cost and making sure the team is capable of delivering. Ironically the fans have far more trust in developers than the publishers do, and it will be interesting to compare the track records of success. Trust vs. heavy handed management.

You’re making Wasteland 2 with old-school RPG fans in mind, so what do you, personally, miss the most about those games? Do you think they went away out of necessity, or because misinformed investors willed it so?

I think I have articulated above many of the elements that I miss as a player. There is just a certain charm that comes from a game where the developers get to tinker and riff with new ideas during the process. The games just felt so connected in their humanity. Slick and polish only goes so far… it is always the human moments we remember. There is just no way the publishers can maintain their infrastructures selling just 500K or even a million copies of a game so they moved into categories or formats that could. If we sell a million copies of Wasteland 2 we will be bringing you RPGs for another decade!

How does all of this Kickstarter business actually work? Where does all the money end up? What’s to keep somebody from scamming hundreds of backers? If a project falls through, is there any easy way to refund people’s money?

There is a minimum pledge amount that the company establishes up front that has to be met or no money passes hands. In our case it was $900,000 dollars and that money is currently in an escrow of sorts where it will remain until our campaign ends. Once it is over then Kickstarter takes their piece as does Amazon for handling the monies and the rest comes to us. This is a huge benefit for us in that we can focus on development and not chase publishers to pay us.

There is risk as you point out from some unethical developer but that is why the larger amounts of money go towards the more established developers. I’ve been here for 30 years and I’m not going anywhere. On a positive sign you can look at a site like Lendingclub.com which offers crowd funded loans of up to $35k to people. They claim over 500 million dollars in loans to people with interest rates paid to the contributors of capital from 5.8 to 9.3% along with 18 straight quarters of positive returns. I sound like a commercial for them but I just think this whole new world is fascinating. This would seem like just a risky a business for putting funds up and yet it appears to be working quite well for all involved.

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3 Comments

  1. Sini

    I’m more excited about these kickstarter projects and indie games(legend of grimrock etc) than typical publisher stuff.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. The_Red

    Awesome interview though Fargo is being to evasive. Still, a temporary Black Isle is more than I could ever ask for.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Epyx

    I don’t think he is being evasive at all…cautious maybe. You have to remember his focus right now is going to be 100% on delivering on his promises those are areas he kept to in the article…areas that fell outside those were touched on with cautious optimism.

    #3 3 years ago

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  • Star Wars: Battlefront website notes November 17 release, teaser video and first image hit

    The first Star Wars: Battlefront image has been posted, and apparently it appeared on the official website at some point this morning. The game will also be released on November 17, according to the official website’s source code. The release date is noted in the code located in the image below. Props to Gematsu for […]

  • Mortal Kombat X is the fastest selling entry in the series to date

    Mortal Kombat X has sold faster than any other game in the series to date, making it the “biggest launch” in Mortal Kombat history, according to creator Ed Boon. Speaking in a series of tweets, Boon said both the mobile and console versions have “literally millions of players getting online” resulting in the servers being […]

  • Shadow of the Beast reboot resurfaces with some new screenshots

    The Shadow of the Beast reboot, which was announced in 2013, has show its face once more with early screenshots. Screenshots of the Amiga classic remake show off the Karamoon’s desert and the main character, Aarbron. According Matt Birch, CEO and founder of Heavy Spectrum, the team is currently hard at work on the “core […]

  • Halo: Spartan Strike arrives on Windows 8, iOS and Steam today

    Halo: Spartan Strike is now available on Windows 8, Steam, iOS devices and Windows 8 phones. The mobile top-down shooter will run you $5.99. Halo: Spartan Strike tells a new story in the Halo universe set during the events of Halo 2 on New Mombasa in 2552. Those playing on Windows 8 devices can compete […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video shows highlights from the Episdoe Duscae demo

    Square Enix has released a Final Fantasy 15 video which shows highlights from the Episode Duscae demo included with launch editions of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. FFT0 has shipped over one million copies worldwide, and a player feedback survey is available for the Duscae demo until May 19. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is available on PlayStation […]

  • Bloodborne has sold over 155,000 digital units since release – SuperData

    PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne has sold over 155,000 digital units since it was released on March 24, according to SuperData’s latest report. The figure produced by SuperData is worldwide and comes on the heels of the one million units sold announcement earlier this week. “After the release of the beautiful but terribly short game The […]

  • Nintendo US eShop update: Mega May returns, Super Smash Bros. update, Mii Fighter costumes

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with a Super Smash Bros. update and the StreetPass Mii Plaza games Battleground Z and Ultimate Angler. The update is rather detailed, and a bit larger than normal, and you may wish to pay special attention to the activities listed. Here’s the full update: StreetPass […]

  • Here’s your first look at Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida in Super Time Force Ultra

    Sony Worldwide boss Shuhei Yoshida is a playable character in Super Time Force Ultra, and today, Capy Games has provided a couple images of the man himself in the game. Yoshida was announced as a playable character in the game during Sony’s PlayStation Experience event back in December 2014. The PS4 and Vita version will […]

  • The wait is almost over – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has gone gold

    CD Projekt RED has announced the news we’ve all been waiting to hear: The Witcher 3 has gone gold. This means Geralt’s latest, and possibly last, adventure has been sent to the factory to be pressed into lovely gaming discs. “We worked so damn hard over the past three years to bring you this game,” […]

  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a “couple weeks out from beta,” new trailer

    Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is just a “couple of weeks out from beta,” according to development studio The Chinese Room, and a release date will be announced “shortly.” To give you an idea of how development has been coming along since it was announced at gamescom 2013, the team has released a new trailer […]

  • GTA 5 on PC looks incredible, but I can’t recommend it to console players

    As much as Matt Martin loves GTA 5, he can’t recommend upgrading from console to PC just for a slick editing suite and even prettier graphics. “This is the third time in as many years that I’ve bought GTA 5.” I have a Grand Theft Auto 5 obsession, as I’m sure you know if you’ve […]

  • The Forest engine updated to Unity 5, major graphical and gameplay improvements made

    The Forest’s latest patch added substantial improvements to the game. The Forest version 0.16 is now live on Steam with plenty of new additions. The game has been ported over to Unity engine version 5. The plant and skin shaders have been replaced or rewritten. Many other visual tweaks have been made, such as model […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront banner leaks from Star Wars Convention

    EA has been setting up the Battlefront booth at Star Wars Celebration, and one leaked picture shows what could be the game’s main art. Someone on Reddit posted a picture of the game banner at EA’s booth. Here it is: Lots of things happening here. There’s a Star Destroyer in the distance, TIE Fighters and […]

  • Get GTA 5 working with Oculus Rift using this tool

    There’s a way you can play GTA 5 in VR if you own an Oculus Rift Dev Kit and have a bit of cash to spare. VorpX, the go-to program for adding VR support to games has received an update recently to support GTA 5. This is far from perfect, as it only translates the […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 15 team revealed

    This week’s Team of the Week is now available for anyone to challenge in FIFA Ultimate Team. The team members get selected each week based on their performance during the weekend matches. You can fire up FIFA Ultimate Team on any platform and challenge this squad. You’ll also find some Team of the Week items […]

  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will let you stealth all encounters, including bosses

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will bring back one of the original game’s major features. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is considered by many to be a great game and worthy of bearing the franchise name. One of its grating issues though was its boss fights. You only had one way to fight them: be confrontational. The […]

  • Project Cars PC specs and supported wheels announced

    The release date of Project Cars is inching ever closer and more details have been revealed to answer all your burning questions. Project Cars developer Slightly Mad Studios has revealed the full list of supported steering wheels on all platforms, as well as the minimum and recommended PC specs. Minimum specs CPU – 2.66 GHz […]

  • GTA 5 gets custom FOV mod on PC

    Those not satisfied with GTA 5′s built-in field of view slider can use a new mod to push the number even further. The PC versions of GTA 5 – just like its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts – lets you switch between third and first-person view in shooting and driving. The game has an FOV […]

  • Win! GTA 5 on PC!

    Want to win a Steam key for Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC? Just enter here. GTA 5 released on PC this week and is going down a storm. We like it a lot, which is why we’re giving away a Steam code for Rockstar’s latest. All you need to do is enter your email […]

  • GTA 5 topples Skyrim’s record for highest concurrent players on Steam

    Not factoring in Valve games, GTA 5 is the new king of concurrent player numbers on Steam. GTA 5 is very popular on PC, even more popular than games like Skyrim in its heyday. The number of concurrent players for GTA 5 has peaked today at 301,246. This makes it the only non-Valve game to […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: what does a modern fighting game look like?

    Mortal Kombat continues to evolve as NetherRealm adds RPG systems and daily challenges to a solid fighting game, says Sherif Saed. “Mortal Kombat X takes many cues from games like Destiny, Call of Duty, and GTA Online with hourly, daily and weekly events.” For as many of its familiar facets, Mortal Kombat X has enough […]

  • J-Stars Victory VS+ coming west in June – new trailer

    J-Stars Victory VS+ will make the jump (see what I did there) to the west after all. J-Stars Victory VS+ is the western title for the fighting game which stars characters from a variety of Shonen Jump-published manga. Bandai Namco has announced the fighter will release in Europe on June 26 and in the Americas […]

  • Codemasters F1 license good through 2016

    Codemasters has at least one more F1 game in it. F1 2015 isn’t out yet, so Codemasters is naturally not talking about what it might get up to in the future. We do know what it can get up to, though; Codemasters’ Steven Embling told Videogamer has the option to continue the series. “We have […]

  • Project Cars has pretty deep graphics options on consoles

    Project Cars offers players a wide variety of ways to customise their graphic settings on PS4 and Xbox One. Project Cars is a graphics showcase and all early indications suggest it’s going to be one of the best-looking games out there. Slightly Mad’s commitment to graphics seems to go deeper than making things pretty, though: […]

  • Super Smash Bros. patch nerfs Diddy Kong – report

    Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U is great but Diddy Kong is a beast and must be stopped. The latest Super Smash Bros. 3Ds and Wii U patch seems to have nerfed Diddy Kong, a character so over-powered that serious tournament players generate controversy by choosing to use him. Nintendo doesn’t publish patch notes, […]

  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer shuttered

    Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer 2K Australia has been closed down. Kotaku broke the news, and also had word from an anonymous source, who said that all staff have been let go. 2K responded to our request for comment with the following statement: We can confirm we have taken steps to begin the studio closure process […]

  • Samorost 3 trailer shows Amanita still in fine form

    Samorost 3 looks as delicately beautiful as its siblings. Samarost 3 developer Amanita Design has a reputation for gorgeous, slightly surreal world building. This new trailer for its latest adventure looks just as if not more lovely than the previous Samarost games and Botanicula. Samarost 3 is coming to Mac and PC later this year, […]

  • Amnesia dev’s new project SOMA now in beta

    SOMA is nearly here and I am torn between excitement and horrified dread. SOMA is the latest horror project from Frictional, the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We’re pretty excited to see what Frictional comes up with next, and we won’t have too long to wait, apparently; the developer has announced that SOMA is […]

  • Steam Guard mobile authenticator now in beta testing

    Steam is now testing its latest security measure. Steam helps you protect your account by offering two-factor authentication, a solution so beautifully elegant and effective that it’s astounding every gaming network doesn’t do the same (looking at you, Sony). Valve’s version is called Steam Guard, and it works via email. This isn’t always super convenient, […]

  • Godzilla battles Mothra in new trailer

    Godzilla lets you stomp around cities and battle classic kaiju. I’m in. Godzilla is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 in early July, but we haven’t seen a great deal of it since its December reveal. The new trailer below gives you an idea of just what Natsume has done with one of the biggest […]

  • Tales of Zestiria to launch this year – new trailer

    Tales of Zestiria continues Bandai Namco’s delightful new habit of bringing the popular JRPG series to the west before the shine wears off. Tales of Zestiria is coming west in northern autumn, the publisher has announced. That’s not a bad turnaround, given it first hit Japan in January, and localisation of text-heavy titles is expensive […]

  • Project Cars release date locked down, new trailer released

    Project Cars finally has a release date. Project Cars will release on May 8, Bandai Namco UK has announced. We haven’t yet had an update from Namco Bandai’s other regional offices, but its probably safe to bet the racer will release around the same time in the Americas, Europe and ANZ region. We can now […]

  • Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains trailer shows combat, online multiplayer

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains has plenty to offer fans of the anime. Previously known as Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, the Spike Chunsoft action game is coming west thanks to Atlus. Gematsu reports it’s due in both Europe and North America in May, via the 3DS eShop. The trailer below […]

  • Bloodborne stamina recovery rate affected by equip weight

    Bloodborne players have unearthed an important gameplay detail not mentioned in the game’s menus or manual. In Bloodborne, players need to manage their stamina carefully for best results. A far more aggressively-tuned affair than past Souls games, Bloodborne does away with equip weight limits, and items have no listed weight details. As far as players […]

  • Street Fighter’s Ryu, Fire Emblem’s Roy spotted in Super Smash Bros. patch – rumour

    Street Fighter’s Ryu is rumoured for future Super Smash bros DLC following datamining of the latest patch. Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U were updated recently, and hacker shinyquagsire23 claims to have found some interesting files while poking around in the 3DS patch data. As detailed on Reddit, the audio files included a new […]

  • Suikoden 3 PEGI rating suggests PS2 Classic re-release

    Suikoden. Suikoden 2. And now: Suikoden 3. Suikoden 3 has been rated by PEGI for PlayStation 3, presumably ahead of an upcoming re-release. Gematsu turned up the rating, and although we have no further information at this time, it’s not much a leap to assume the RPG will turn up as a PS2 Classic on […]