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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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    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]

  • Payday 2 packs based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number coming

    Starbreeze has announced another collaboration with Dennaton Games which will see masks based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appear in Payday 2. The collaboration consists of two free updates when you acquire Hotline Miami 2 or its deluxe version on Steam from February 25. The two updates, called Hotline Miami Mask Pack and Jacket […]

  • Velocity 2X making its way onto Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One

    Velocity 2X will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One Futurlab has announced. The developer is in charge of the port, which will be published by Sierra. According to Futurlab, the deal with Sierra came about when self-publishing proved to be difficult due to spending “more time doing PR and marketing on Velocity […]

  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number finally has a release date

    A release date for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been announced, finally. The game will arrive on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita March 10. It is now available for pre-order on GOG, Humble and Steam for 10% off for $13.49/£10.99. There’s also a Digital Special Edition available which includes tracks from […]

  • Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena is a twin stick shooter MOBA for PC

    Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena has been announced as a twin stick shooter MOBA blend from Whitebox Interactive. Set for a 2016 release on PC, the game’s beta will be on show at PAX East next month. An Early Access release is slated for Q2 2015 and you can already purchase early access for a […]

  • More information, videos for cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun surface

    A trailer for the cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun title from Climax which was reportedly set for an E3 2012 reveal, has surfaced. Along with the above video is another which is described as a pre-boss battle cutscene. It’s below. According to a source of NeoGAF’s Mama Robotnik, the game was being developed under […]

  • Three additional games added to Square Enix Humble Bundle

    Kane & Lynch Collection, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Startopia have been added to the Square Enix Humble Bundle. All three are made available when paying the average price of $7.69. Those who have already purchased the bundle will automatically be granted the titles. All three are available for PC only. The […]

  • Forza Horizon 2 gets Fast & Furious with standalone expansion

    A Fast & Furious tie-in and standalone expansion to Forza Horizon 2 will arrive for Xbox consoles next month. Titled Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious, the downloadable title does not require the base game to play. “We’ve been talking with the folks at Turn 10 for a number of years and have always […]

  • The Evil Within: The Assignment has a release date, new trailer

    The Evil Within: The Assignment will be released on March 10 in North America and March 11 in Europe, it was announced today. Along with an exact release date was a trailer detailing more information about the first set of DLC. The Assignment is the first of two DLCs centering on Detective Castellanos’ mysterious partner, […]

  • Steam and GOG cross-platform multiplayer added to AvP Classic 2000

    Steam and GOG have announced Aliens vs Predator Classic 2000 owners will be able play multiplayer with each other across both platforms. With the recent online multiplayer update for for AVP Classic 2000, Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley has made good on his promise from June to offer cross-platform play between the Steam and GOG platforms. […]

  • OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood arrives on PS4, Vita next week

    Roll7 has announced it will release OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood next week. The developer announced the dates on Twitter this morning alongside the launch trailer. You will be able to download the game for PlayStation 4 and Vita March 3 in North America and March 4 in Europe.

  • Week 7: Play GTA Online with VG247 tonight at 8pm UK time!

    Heists got a date! Come play GTA Online with us to celebrate. We’re playing GTA Online on PS4 tonight with whoever else fancies it. That means you. This week’s playlist is Happy for Heists, because we kind of are. The six jobs involved will last about 45 minutes. Anyone can turn up. Here’s how. We’ll […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight – first look into the story

    Batman: Arkham Knight has a new trailer available that gives us a peek into Scarecrow’s plan to unite all villains against Batman. The trailer below has a different tone to the ones showing Arkham Knight. Instead, we get a look at Scarecrow’s team of super-villains including new footage of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. There […]

  • Vita knocks New 3DS LL out of top slot on Media Create charts

    Thanks to four new titles, one of which was God Eater 2: Rage Burst, PlayStation Vita has knocked New 3DS LL out of the top slot on the Media Create charts in Japan. The handheld, which came in thrid place last week, moved 35,203 units for the February 16-22 period, compared to 10,901 units the […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes coming west in 2015, PS4 only

    Dragon Quest Heroes will be making its way to west this year. Square Enix has announced that it’s bringing Dragon Quest Heroes to the west this year. The press release mentioned only PAL territories (Europe & Australia). Though it’s unlikely it will miss the US. The game will release on PlayStation 4, both digitally and […]

  • Destiny: how to make sure Crota stays down for longer

    If you’re familiar with the final encounter of the Crota’s End raid, then you know every second Crota is immobilised counts. Arekkz Gaming has a handy tip for anyone who’s played Crota’s End or anyone attempting it. The trick is simple to execute and will ensure Crota stays on his knees for longer, making for […]

  • NBA Live 15 added to EA Access just four months after release

    EA has added NBA Live 15 to the list of games available instantly to anyone with an EA Access subscription. NBA Live 15 has been added to EA Access’ Vault, EA has announced. As of today, anyone with an EA Access subscription on Xbox One can play it alongside other available games. NBA Live 15 […]

  • Deal: get Advanced Warfare Limited Edition Xbox One bundle + extra game for £299

    UK retailer GAME is offering a good deal on the Advanced Warfare Limited Edition 1TB Xbox One bundle and is throwing in an extra game. The retailer has reduced the price of the bundle to £299, which is the usual price for the standalone console. The bundle is of course Advanced Warfare-themed. The console and […]

  • That Metal Gear Rising 2 logo was for the second anniversary of the original

    Metal Gear Rising developer Platinum Games has confirmed, once and for all, that the “2″ logo we saw during Sony’s presentation at Taipei Game Show was definitely not for a sequel. Platinum posted this on Twitter earlier. デザイナーの趙&ニシイから、『MGR』2周年記念イラスト! ディレクターの齋藤( @PG_saito )が、開発スタッフブログでご紹介しています↓↓ http://t.co/IW1aOxAZQR #mgr pic.twitter.com/ZbNF3Jk1tF — PlatinumGames Inc. (@platinumgames) February 25, 2015 The illustrations were made by artist Yong-Hee […]

  • Resident Evil Revelations 2 is formulaic and I’m okay with that

    There’s something comforting about the lack of ambition and plain old gameplay in Resident Evil Revelations 2, says Matt Martin. “It’s locked from the other side.” Of course it is. What did I expect? I’ve been here before. So many times. Not just in Resident Evil but a million other games. It’s so familiar as […]

  • Battlefield 4: double XP event live now through Sunday

    EA is holding a double XP event in Battlefield 4 on all platforms. The publisher is celebrating Battlefield Hardline going gold by offering all Battlefield 4 players double XP in multiplayer matches. The double XP event is now live and through 23:59 UTC on Sunday, March 1.

  • BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Rayman Legends free with March Games with Gold

    The list of free games coming in March as part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold programme has leaked. The leaked list of games include Rayman Legends and #IDARB for Xbox One along with Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite for Xbox 360. In addition, Microsoft will be offering double the amount of games in April. The […]

  • Telltale’s new IP will be a “super show”, bridges the gap between TV and game

    Telltale’s upcoming mysterious new IP will be produced in collaboration with Lionsgate and will be a hybrid game and TV show. Entertainment Weekly spoke to Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner to understand what’s a super show. “A “Super Show” episode combines one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content,” said […]

  • Next Mortal Kombat X stream to show Brutalities, new character

    Brutalities will be making a return in Mortal Kombat X and we’re getting a look at them very soon. The next Mortal Kombat X live-stream has been dated and we know it will show Brutalities for the first time. Developer NetherRealm Studios posted this on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/ZJYN1FNRZ9 — NetherRealm Studios (@NetherRealm) February 23, 2015 Notice […]

  • PC version of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 does not support offline co-op [Update]

    Players who bought the PC version of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 have realised that the game doesn’t support offline co-op. Unlike the console versions, the PC version of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 can only be played in single player, with no offline co-op option. Capcom has not revealed this prior to launch. Instead, users on […]