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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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    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]

  • Microsoft offers up more details on Spencer’s GDC 2015 talk

    Microsoft has provided more details on Cross-Buy functionality between Windows 10 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox Live SKU and other announcements made during Phil Spencer’s talk today. During the session, the head of Xbox shared “the next step” in the company’s plans for a unified platform across all Windows 10 devices which […]

  • Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer

    Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 as a Game of the Year Edition. inXile Entertainment announced the news on the PS Blog, noting the edition contains enhancements and improvements. The game has been ported to Unity 5, which was announced over the weekend, providing upgraded visual effects, “improved character models, upgraded environments, and Unity […]

  • Cross-Buy detailed for Windows 10 and Xbox One; Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One

    During Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s session at GDC 2015 today, it was announced Elite: Dangerous would release on Xbox One. Spencer also outlined cross-buy functionality across Windows 10 and Xbox One. Spencer’s talk started off with Frontier Developments announcing Elite: Dangerous for release this summer as a console debut on Xbox One, suggesting the Elite: […]

  • Longbeards Culture Pack available now for Total War: Attila

    The Longbeards Culture Pack is now available for Total War: Attila and it comes with three new playable factions. The Langobards, the Burgundians and the Alamans can be played in both single and multiplayer campaign modes as well as custom and multiplayer battles. A new feature called The Lay of Ybor is also included. It […]

  • Nvidia unveils Titan X as world’s “most advanced GPU” – video

    Nvidia revealed Titan X as “the world’s most advanced GPU” during Epic founder Tim Sweeney’s State of Unreal session a t GDC 2015 today. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage during the panel stating it contains “8 billion transistors,” and has 12GB of RAM. Pricing wasn’t announced, but it was rumored back in January […]

  • Steam sale discounts titles announced for SteamOS

    With many of the year’s most popular games heading to SteamOS, Valve has decided to host sale in celebration. Here’s a short list of titles on sale. The full list of PC, Linux, Mac and SteamOS discounts can be found through the link. The Banner Saga Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Batman: Arkham […]

  • PayDay 2 announced for SteamOS, celebrating with franchise sale

    PayDay 2 is coming to SteamOS, Overkill has announced. Still under development, a release date will be announced at a later date. “Making sure PAYDAY 2 is available on SteamOS felt like a no-brainer,” said Bo Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze in the press release. “With PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition coming to the next generation […]

  • Magicka 2 has a release date and a crazy new trailer

    Magicka 2 has a release date for PC and the PlayStation 4, and Paradox Interactive has released a trailer featuring “Vlad’s latest lyrical triumph,” which is his rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. Magicka arrived on PC and PS4 May 26 and the game can be pre-ordered on PC beginning today, with PS4 pre-orders […]

  • Nintendo eShop schedule: Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone, others

    Nintendo has sent over a list of titles heading to the eShop in 2015. The schedule contains titles such as Affordable Space Adventures, Runbow, Swords & Soldiers 2, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. Below a preliminary list of games scheduled to launch in the Nintendo eShop on […]

  • Week 8: Can you win the weekly VG247 GTA Online playlist? Play tonight at 8pm UK time!

    We’re hotdogging tonight. I don’t even know what that means. Eight weeks of ridiculous death. Such a brave, true milestone. We’re going to celebrate two entire months of playing weekly GTA Online playlists with VG247 readers with Hotdogging, a set of six jobs I named completely at random. This one ends with a straight-up border […]

  • Puzzle platformer Four Sided Fantasy coming to PC, consoles in early 2016

    Curve Digital and developer Logan Fieth’s studio Ludo Land are bringing puzzle platformer, Four Sided Fantasy, to PC all major consoles in early 2016. Ludo Land are developing the PC version, with Curve Digital handling the console and Vita versions. Four Sided Fantasy tasks players with venturing across “dreamlike levels” by controlling and manipulating the […]

  • Tropico 5 arrives on PS4 in April – video

    A release date for Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4 has been announced. This is the franchise’s first foray onto PlayStation consoles. It arrived in Europe on April 24 and in North America on April 28. A Limited Edition has also been announced, and it includes The Big Cheese DLC and the Bayo Del Olfato sandbox […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Limited Edition PS4 releasing in Asia

    A limited edition Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain PlayStation 4 system will be released in Asia. The system and its DualShock controller were designed in collaboration with Konami Digital Entertainment and targeted for the Asia region, per Gematsu. It will be released as part of PS4 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain […]

  • This video shows Sid Meier’s Starships being played on iPad

    Sid Meier’s Starships will be released on iPad alongside Mac and PC, and to give you an idea on how it plays on the tablet, a new video has been released. Watch below as Pete Murray and lead producer Stuart Zissu show off the iPad version. The 4X space-strategy releases on March 12.

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood announced as standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a standalone prequel to The New Order, will release May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game takes pace in 1946, and and players take on the role of B.J. Blazkowicz as he embarks on a two-part mission in Bavaria. Part one, Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves, […]

  • Observer Mode coming soon to Evolve as a free update

    Observer Mode will be released for Evolve as a free update for all platforms, 2K and Turtle Rock have announced. The community feature was designed to give Evolve players the ability to observe and add commentary as well as livestream, allowing a sixth user to “passively enter a custom game” with the ability to switch […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes and PS4 top Media Create charts in Japan

    The PlayStation 3 and PS4 skus for Dragon Quest Heroes were the top sellers on the Media Create charts in Japan, moving a combined 594,749 units. Elsewhere on the chart, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was in third place with 39,751 units moved, and last week’s top seller, God Eater 2: Rage Burst, […]

  • Watch Hideo Kojima answer lots of your burning Phantom Pain questions

    What’s better than learning the official release date of MGS5: The Phantom pain? Hideo Kojima talking more about it, of course! Hideo Kojima has decided to answer a few fan questions about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, to help boost everyone’s hype to insane levels. He talks about the game’s story, his relief […]

  • MGS5: The Phantom Pain Day 1 and Collector’s Edition revealed

    Konami has officially revealed the release date of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain alongside the game’s Day 1 and Collector’s Edition. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will release September 1, worldwide, as previously leaked. It will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The PC Steam […]

  • EU Club Nintendo: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack back in stock

    Club Nintendo members in Europe can once again pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack. For 3000 Stars, members of the program will receive the double-CD soundtrack which features 89 tracks with liner notes from Ryo Nagamatsu and 12 sheet music excerpts. It also comes with 16 Milk Bar Musician pieces. […]

  • HTC apologises over “confusing” Half-Life VR comments

    HTC has misspoke when it talked about Half-Life coming to VR headset Vive. HTC chairwoman Cher Wang has apologised over the comments she made yesterday about the possibility of Half-Life coming to Vive, the VR headset it’s manufacturing with the help of Valve. Sources close to Valve, have indicated to the BBC that the developer […]

  • What do Heists and Daily Objectives tell us about the future of GTA Online?

    Daily Objectives could be more important to GTA Online than Heists. These theories and more, from a giddy Matt Martin. Yesterday Rockstar dropped a bombshell. Not only is it releasing Heists next week – the mythical 4-player missions for GTA Online – but it’s also going to be introducing daily challenges and more modes to […]

  • Breaking down Hardline Premium, is it worth it?

    Having been announced just a few days ago, the Premium service for Battlefield Hardline has been a topic of constant debate among the Battlefield community. Many look at Hardline as a Battlefield off-shoot that will just tide everyone over until Battlefront comes out in the fall. EA has other plans however, announcing a $50 Premium […]

  • Watch Dogs sold more than GTA 5 and FIFA 15 in Australia in 2014

    Watch Dogs outsold GTA 5, and FIFA 15, at retail in Australia last year. According to data obtained by the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) from the NPD Group Australia, last year’s year retail sales charts look a bit different in Australia. The top-selling game was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, followed by Watch […]

  • Watch PC footage of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from GDC 2015

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a new gameplay video available that shows a bit of action from the PC version. The video below was captured from Nvidia’s GDC conference live-stream. Developer CD Projekt RED was on hand to show off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s graphical prowess running on a PC. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • Dying Light: Hard Mode and Ultimate Survivor Bundle out March 10

    Dying Light’s second DLC drop, the Ultimate Survivor Bundle, and the free Hard Mode, have been given a solid release date alongside a new trailer. Dying Light developer Techland has confirmed that the Ultimate Survivor Bundle, the game’s second DLC drop, will release March 10. The DLC is part of the season pass, but will […]

  • Exploration puzzler Ether One is coming to PlayStation 4

    Ether One, the first-person exploration game that puts you in the minds of other people to help change events of their past is coming to PlayStation 4 this year. Ether One is coming to PlayStation 4 this year, developer White Paper Games announced at GDC 2015. A retail version will also be available alongside the […]

  • Larian “murdered” Divinity: Dragon Commander to focus on Original Sin

    Divinity: Original Sin developer Larian talked very candidly about the business side of development and the many unfortunate events that took place for the game to come out as it did. Larian Studios founder Swen Vincke gave a post-mortem on the troubled development of Divinity: Original Sin, and how it managed to overcome all of […]