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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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    Square Enix is celebrating the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD by offering Xbox Live members in the UK a free rental of Battle Royale. Starting Saturday, March 28 and through Sunday, March 29, Xbox Live members in the UK will be able to rent Battle Royale through the Xbox Video Store, for free. The […]

  • Bloodborne journal, part 1: managing anxiety on the path to the Cleric Beast

    Bloodborne is both like and unlike the Souls games. Brenna descends into Yharnam with reluctance and trepidation. Need help succeeding in Bloodborne? You need our Bloodborne walkthrough and boss guide. Bloodborne isn’t Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. Let’s get that out of the way right off. I enjoyed both Dark Souls games, but it was […]

  • PS Store Easter sale discounts MGS: Ground Zeroes, Far Cry 4, more

    The Easter Sale is live on the EU PS Store, with Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes for less than £10, FIFA 15 Deluxe Edition for £30 and other savings. Some of the PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita discounts are valid through April 8, other through April 15. PlayStation Plus members can also take an […]

  • Bloodborne video: how to unlock the first shortcut in Old Yharnam

    Here’s a video for Bloodborne players showing a quick way to unlock the first shortcut in Old Yharnam. It also provides a look at things you may have missed in Central Yharnam and The Sewers, courtesy of VaatiVidya. Don’t forget, we have guides posted for the game with more updates coming soon. Bloodborne released in […]

  • Bloodborne issue prevents summons at Vicar Amelia fight

    A Bloodborne bug has prevented players calling on help to take on one of the nasty early bosses. Bloodborne bosses are significantly easier to take down in co-op. Unfortunately, at least one of them is proving difficult to find help for – and not just because not many players have obtained the Small Resonant Bell […]

  • Mass Effect 3 on sale on EU PSN, but not free

    Mass Effect 3 is discounted on the European PSN, but it’s not free. Update 2: The option to add to cart now lets you choose between the free trial or full version. The full version is on sale for £6.49 or £5.84 for PlayStation Plus members. The free trial is of course is still available, […]

  • Elite: Dangerous Race to Elite winners announced, one player makes £10,000

    The winners of Elite: Dangerous’ Race To Elite competition have been announced, with one player receiving the grand prize of £10,000. Back when Elite: Dangerous launched, developer Frontier announced a competition that would award players to first reach Elite rank in trading, exploration, or combat, a prize of £1,000 each. The grand prize – £10,000 […]

  • GTA 5 Online Heists guide: How to make the most money with Special Bonuses and Elite Challenges

    You’re not hitting heists for the good of your health. Here’s how to max cash rewards. Money. GTA Online players love it. Greenbacks are the core of the entire experience, allowing you to buy the best weapons, vehicles and stupid haircuts. Heists, as promised, gives more opportunities than ever to earn serious cash, but once […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 coming tomorrow

    PlayStation 4 firmware 2.50, codenamed Yukimura, is due for release tomorrow, March 26. Firmware update 2.50 for PlayStation 4 will be launching tomorrow, March 26, Sony has announced. Codenamed Yukimura, the system update is promised to bring suspend/resume feature, trophy sync improvements, accessibility options, and much more. 2.50 has been in beta testing a while […]

  • GTA 5 Online Heists guide: adversary modes, daily objectives, free roam challenges and more

    Heists aren’t the only addition in GTA Online’s latest DLC – there’s a lot of content that can earn you big RP and cash payouts. GTA 5 Online Heists guide: adversary modes, daily objectives, free roam challenges While heists are the talking point and big payoff after more than a year of waiting, there’s a […]

  • Battlefield Hardline: what’s the best Police sniper rifle?

    What’s the best bolt-action, Police sniper rifle for the Professional class in Battlefield Hardline? Let us help you answer that question. As you’re probably aware, Battlefield Hardline weapons are class specific and faction specific. This makes deciding on a good weapon and loadout much harder than it was in Battlefield 4. Which is where Westie […]

  • Evolve 1.3 patch nerfs Wraith, adjusts Kraken

    Evolve is receiving a new patch that aims to put an end to the Wraith’s dominance. Evolve developer Turtle Rock outlined a few of the changes coming in patch 1.3. The patch brings balance changes to the monsters – mainly the Wraith – as well as other various changes to Hunters’ tools based on player […]

  • Bloodborne: watch the opening 40 minutes

    The opening minutes of Bloodborne really do set the stage for what’s to come. They’ll also help you decide if this game is for you. Arekkz Gaming has captured the first 40 minutes of Bloodborne. Complete with the opening cutscene, and the first few obstacles you’ll face. The video is commentary free, so wear headphones […]

  • YouTube will relaunch livestreaming service with focus on eSports and gaming – report

    According to industry sources, Google is preparing to relaunch YouTube’s livestreaming service with a focus on eSports and gaming. According to anonymous sources speaking to TheDailyDot, Google is planning to bring back YouTube’s livestreaming service. The company is said to have started recruiting around 50 engineers with experience in the field, “a pretty big statement […]

  • I think I’m too old for Final Fantasy 15

    Final Fantasy 15 was nine years in the making – and counting. Are we the same people we were in 2006? Final Fantasy 15: Episode Duscae A demo available for PS4 and Xbox One. Offers a couple of hours of gameplay. More if you jump over the borders. Bundled with Final Fantasy 15 Type-0 and […]

  • New multiplayer mode for Splatoon announced

    Nintendo has sent over three screenshots for Splatoon along with information on the Wii U another of the title’s multiplayer modes. Called Ranked Battle, it keeps track of each player’s online ranking. Splat Zones is one of the additional ways to play online in this mode. It differs from Turf War, which is the main […]

  • 2015 WoW Arena World Championship has a $250,000 prize pool

    Blizzard has announced the WoW Arena World Championship will culminate at BlizzCon 2015. World of Warcraft 3v3 Arena teams from around the globe will compete for spot at the 2015 WoW Arena World Championship and for a share in the $250,000 prize pool. Online qualifiers will be held for North America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New […]

  • The Crew two-hour demo now available in US, tomorrow in the UK

    Ubisoft has announced a free trial of its driving MMO The Crew will be available tomorrow, March 25 in the UK. It’s live today in North America. For current players, the Vintage Car Pack and Vintage Live Update, including a new PvP mode, are now available. The Vintage Car Pack included the Chevrolet Corvette C2 […]

  • Minecraft Mass Effect Mash-Up and Pattern Texture Pack out from today

    A Mass Effect Mash-up pack and the Pattern Texture Pack will release on PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita today in North America and tomorrow in Europe. The Pattern Texture Pack is also available for Xbox consoles today. The Mass Effect Mash-Up pack contains the Mars Facility from Mass Effect 3 plus textures and craftable items […]

  • The Talos Principle expansion pack Road to Gehenna announced

    An expansion for The Talos Principle has been announced titled Road to Gehenna. The expansion follows the narrative of Uriel, Elohim’s messenger, as he explores a “strange, hidden part of the simulation” on a mission of “mercy and redemption.” Uriel is attempting to free the souls of the damned “at all costs.” Road to Gehenna […]

  • Twitch Plays Pokemon finally catches ‘em all – even the rare Mewtwo

    Twitch Plays Pokemon players have captured all 151 original Pokemon which were included in a modified version of Pokemon Red, and this includes the rare Mewtwo. It took 39 days for Twitch players to catch ‘em all. Have a look at the impressive feat for yourself below. Thanks, Polygon.

  • GameStop will have limited units of Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL back in stock

    Those who missed out on the Limited Edition Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL will have another opportunity to purchase it outside of eBay. Tomorrow only, GameStop stores in the United States will have four units in stock, according to and internal memo sent to Kotaku. This is every store in the country, and again, only […]

  • Second phase of Fortnite closed Alpha launches today

    Fortnite’s second closed Alpha test will go live this afternoon, according to the official website. Those currently participating will have until April 14 to test the online aspects for 12 hours per day (noon -12am EDT). All progress from the previous Alpha test will be wiped, and other changes are listed in the patch notes. […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Jaws of Hakkon out now on PC, Xbox One

    As promised yesterday, the single-player DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, Jaws of Hakkon, is now available on PC and Xbox One. It will run you or £11.99 or your regional equivalent. The new content expands the land of Thedas with mountainous regions and forests, and it is full of “vicious enemies.” Players will also be […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare trailer shows Ascendance gameplay

    Activision has released a new gamepay trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to support the Ascendance DLC which releases next week. Ascendance, will release first on Xbox consoles March 31 and includes the next chapter of the Exo Zombies Saga, Infected, along with four new multiplayer maps: Perplex, Site 244, Climate and Chop Shop. […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight will be a digital only release on PC – report

    It appears Batman: Arkham Knight will not see a physical release on PC, according to ShopTo. The retailer was told by its buyer the Rocksteady game will only be released on PC in digital form. ShopTo is currently double checking the information. If accurate, it is unknown if this will be case in North America […]

  • Bloodborne patch focusing on load times, performance optimizations in the works

    A patch for Bloodborne which will address load times is in the works, Sony has said The load times were one of the issues noted in Digital Foundry’s report on the From Software title. Sony told Eurogamer the patch would also explore other issues as well. “The development team is currently exploring another patch for […]

  • Gearbox would “love” to have entire Borderlands collection on current-gen

    An Xbox One and PlayStation 4 version of the original Borderlands game is something Gearbox Software is interested in, according to studio boss Randy Pitchford. Speaking in the latest Major Nelson podcast, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said should Borderlands: The Handsome Collection prove successful, 2K Games might consider a current-gen version. “The fact that The […]

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood artwork shows the catacombs, dock, more

    Over the weekend we posted Wolfenstein: The Old Blood artwork along with news of a retail release in Europe. Today, we have better quality images of said artwork to share with you. Enjoy. The standalone prequel will be released digitally on May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in North America, and digitally on […]

  • Slender: The Arrival terrorizes PS4 and Xbox One this week

    In case you forgot, what with Bloodborne out today and other high profile releases of late, Slender: The Arrival is out today on PlayStation 4 in North America. The scary game will arrive on Xbox One tomorrow, March 25, and in Europe on PS4. Slender: The Arrival is an expansion on the original Slender game […]

  • World of Warcraft’s WoW Token rollout slated after launch of patch 6.1.2

    Blizzard has announced it will start rollout its WoW Token option in the weeks following the launch of patch 6.1.2 on March 24. WoW Token allows players to exchange in-game gold for game time and vice versa. Blizzard will release WoW Token first in realms serving North America, Oceania, and Latin America and will expand […]

  • The Evil Within: The Consequence dated for April, teaser video released

    Part 2 of Juli Kidman’s adventure in The Evil Within will arrive next month with the release of The Consequence. Above is a brief teaser showing some of the “madness” Kidman will encounter. The Consequence will arrive on Tuesday, April 21 on PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. European PlayStation players will […]

  • Bloodborne sometimes “struggles to run at a smooth frame-rate” per performance analysis

    Bloodborne has been analyzed by Digital Foundry and according to the report, even with a 30fps cap the game sometimes “struggles to run at a smooth frame-rate.” The game’s day-one 2.69GB update 1.01 is “essential” as it contains improvements to game performance and stability and the frame-rate tests run by Digital Foundry were in single-player […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection reviews round-up

    Borderlands: The Handsome Collection reviews are out in the wild so we decided to catch a few of them for you. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is out today on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The collection packages Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel along with each game’s DLC content on one disc. Better graphics and […]

  • Evolve, Forza Horizon 2, WWE 2K15 are this week’s Deals with Gold

    Evolve, Forza 2 Horizon and WWE 2K15 are just some of the games which are part of this week’s Xbox Deals with Gold. You can also pick up the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Pro Edition for 20% off as well as the standard edition for 33% off. For the Xbox 360 crowd, there’s also […]

  • Xbox 360 2015 Spring Value bundles now available starting at $250

    Microsoft is offering a discount on three Xbox 360 bundles with prices starting at $250. The Xbox 360 2015 Spring Value bundles feature various content such as a Kinect, 500GB console bundle and one month of Xbox Live Gold. Xbox 360 500GB Spring Value Bundle: comes with Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare download and Fable […]