It's fair to call the last five years the 'RPG Rebirth Era'. Before that was a period of decadence and uncertainty: the question was either to revive good old principles of the genre, currently considered to be 'hardcore', now or to evolve and adapt to modern gamers. So, we've made kind of a 'Round Table' and invited leading RPG developers to speak on the subject, those who developed genre's current looks. Here's the first interview, and we have Brian Fargo here to speak with us. Reminder: he's a founder of Interplay and currently the owner of modest inXile Entertainment.
Greetings. Please introduce yourself to our readers. Tell us about your position and job responsibilities.
My name is Brian Fargo and I am a producer of computer and video games. My job is to assemble great teams or people and to convey a vision for a game.
What favorite places do you prefer to visit so as to have a rest and coin an interesting phrase or image or possible to have a cup of coffee and read?
My favorite places to relax usually involve the sun. Whether I head to the desert like Palm Springs or just sit in my backyard the main requirement is me being solar powered.
So, Kickstarter. Revolution in the game industry. What do you think about this project? Are planning to command his services in future?
I hope that all of my future projects involve Kickstarter. It offers all the freedoms that a developer hopes for. There is no pressure to make a game for an audience other than the one who wants the game, you have no pressure from a publisher to compromise the vision and I a have the ability to hire the people I want.
Could you please explain further developer’s actions after having received the money from Kickstarter? Is he becoming absolutely independent from the publisher? What about packaged versions of the game? Is the developer about digital distribution market only?
We are indeed becoming independent from a publisher and for me that is a good thing. There is a packaged good business still and I could decide to sell the packaged goods if I wished. Fortunately the world is going digital so there is no requirement for needing retail.
Is it safe to say that role-playing genre is having the second birth now? Which RPG do you consider to be the main ones in this console generation?
Indeed we are seeing an era of bringing back the classic RPG and that is just amazing to me. It was only 6 months ago that I was in China lamenting the death of the genre. The main RPGs of the console generation are certainly the ones from Bioware and Skyrim.
Е3 is coming soon. Are you and your team planning to present anything at Expo?
We will definitely not be showing anything at this E3.. it is way too soon. And frankly I'm not sure if we will spend money at the next show as we want to maximize the monies that go into the game itself.
If it’s not a secret, what is the main expenditure item while developing of the role-playing game?
The biggest costs in making any kind of game are the people costs. Take a simple 15 man team with a fully burdened (rent, hardware, software, insurance) overhead cost of $9,000. That team would be costing almost $150,000 a month. In addition we have a large amount of money spent on outside art, music and design services. We are very excited about the budget we have for this game but it is not on the high side of development. Not having to make the cinematics makes it possible to create a deep game without a much deeper budget.
We are very disappointed that the majority of the developers make us manage a no-name deaf-and-dump Chosen. Should the main character of the role-playing game be a «full-bodied» like Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Or it would be harm to identification of the player with the character?
Well that is a debate that many people have. We have made games using both sides of that approach. When we did our last Bard's Tale we had the main character have a lot of personality in his snarky approach to the world. This allowed a very distinctive writing style. However, many RPG people want a fully customizable party or lead character. When it is truly customizable the players might be playing a woman or boy or a Russian or someone who is Chinese. In fact we are going to allow you to import your own character portraits so you can fully identify with your group.
What biggest failure in RPG genre could you recollect?
I think the biggest failure in the recent past is this assumption that the audience is not smart. Too much effort is being spent making it dummy proof. The situations have become bland and all the clues are being held right in front of their nose. The exploration and journey is the reward.
What is the most complicated thing in a big company management? How do you motivate and inspire your stuff?
Motivating everyone is a big company is very hard to do and it is why I try to keep it small. We contract out as much as we can in order to keep things tight. The other key ingredient is making sure the whole team knows exactly what is being built. It is exciting go to be part of something you believe in.
What is your favorite games system of the all time, and why?
The PC is still my favorite game system. All of my fondest memories come from it.
How much time does take from the moment of the first idea till the story outline writing? When do the game-designers start their work, how is further cooperation of the group built with the material written? On which stage is the ready scenario with dialogues and scenes enriched?
It depends on your definition of story outline. I can move from basic concept to overall story in a month but to flesh out all the details of the story and the specific actions of the player can take 6 months or more. We will hand off the major sections to the designers with the specific things we need for them to accomplish in their area. It might be a simple set of variables like "make sure they get the proton axe, make sure they meet Mad Dog Fargo and they received a certain clue". After that we let the designer do what they wish.
Have you got congenial developers who have the same idea and point of view on game industry? If you had a possibility of joint game project who of your colleagues could become a perfect co-author?
I'm not certain I fully understand the question but Chris Avellone is a colleague of mine that I brought on because of our similar views on RPG design. I have a strong sense of vision and I believe there should only be one person strongly directing the game.
What, in your opinion, is the emotional component of the plot in? Is a not easy choice made by the player, leading to unexpected consequences, the death of the key character that was so loved by the gamer or unexpected turns of the history?
I think the people that get people the most "emotional" is losing hours of time in gameplay. The tension can come from the player taking too much risk and dying thus losing all the items that were hard fought. The inverse is also true that you too much risk and narrowly escaped death huts allowing you to keep your loot. Those are moments that will get you out of your chair.
To what extent does the final result correspond to the one you planned to receive in the beginning?
The overall vision should be similar since we try quite hard to nail down the sensibilities up front. But making games in also a tinkering process for which we watch how we or the players REALLY react and change accordingly. Again this is a great part of the process in that we have no one stopping us from making changes that we know the players want.
Questions: Anton Zhuk
Other Knights of The Roleplaying Table:
What horrors do horror developers play, how is personal nightmare born, what are the inspiration sources and how to scare the hell out of veteran gamers — Jared Gerritzen, сreative director at Zombie Studios, kindly agreed to answer these and other our questions.
Will the new team be able to carry over the unique atmosphere of one of the most intelligent stealth-series out there to their new title? Why is there other actor replacing fans-favoured Stephen Russel? Will the new game be able not to stain the reputation of one of the most difficult stealth series? The answers to all of these questions you will find in this interview.
Kai Fiebig on working with TDE universe, dark and mature stories, battle maps with a twist and roleplaying system in Blackguards.
Polish Techland has been already keeping step with us for a long time, always giving us something new. They’ve had futuristic shooters, westerns, actions about zombies. The next game of the company is Hellraid — uncommon fantasy action inspired by Quake.Pawel Kopinski
What’s going to change with Witcher 3 storywise? What open world is going to be like? Were difficulty issues fixed and how did combat system evolve? All of those questions and a lot more are answered by Maciej Sosnowski.
After the success of XCOM: Enemy Unknown tactical turn-based strategy back to life again. The audience for the genre definitely exists, and it indirectly confirms Kickstarter-campaign of the Battle Worlds: Kronos, in which developers raised more than $260.000. We spoke with the creative director of the KING Art Games about the game, and how crowdfunding assists in implementation of studio’s ideas.
The content of this interview is very difficult to fit in a few sentences. Here we are talking about the FPS genre, an indie development and even about how it is difficult to scare the player.
Steel Wool Games is one of those small studios that could easily sneak out of our attention if not for the fact that it was founded by people from Pixar.
There is no dust on the CD’s, and every game can be found in my disk drive once a year. It’s impossible to examine the adaptation of Sapkowski‘s «The Witcher» without noticing a point of view of the creator of the universe. We are talking to Andrzej Sapkowski about fantasy genre, literary cycle of «The Witcher» and the author’s attitude to the game adaptation of his famous work.
It's likely that only a few of you, fellow readers, have heard of a small Chicago company called Spiral Studios. This studio, meanwhile, already released a game, and built plans of Napoleonic scale regarding its future — up to 2015.
13 questions about anything: the game development, abandoned houses, Dagon, Lovecraft ... Well, we got good fiction to pass the time before the men in white coats will come.
Finnish Bugbear Entertainment is warmly loved for its only creation, that successfully compensates all its past and present failures — wonderful FlatOut dilogy, a killer arcade racing game, where cars would get smashed by each other until only a chassis is left, and, as the bonus, you could play bowling with your driver!
At the moment Mike, alongside with the famous Polish studio CD Projekt RED, is working on the Cyberpunk series extension, an ambitious RPG named Cyberpunk 2077; in addition, the world waits for the new redaction of the Cyberpunk board game.
The Night of the Rabbit — new Daedalic’s adventure game – will release very soon. We decided to contact the developers and ask them about the development of TNotR, future of adventure games and difference between making a game alone and in a team.
Editorial board is discussing quantum and game mechanics of BioShock Infinite, String theory, the failure of capitalism, and a game as a writer's manifest of maestro Ken Levine.
We spoke with the creator of the famous Ultima series about his new project, evolution of role-playing games, modern MMO’s and how historical reconstruction helps to develop video games.
Once there was programmer Joe. He worked a bit in Midway, in BioWare, then worked on Dishonored with Arkane Studios… And then he just got tired of this: Joe opened his own studio and began to develop nerd strategy about nomads and tundra.
Tengami — first project of a young studio Nyam Yam, headed by Jennifer Jennifer Schneidereit and Phil Tossel. With them we were talking about investing soul into the work, the plight of indie projects and the future of the industry.
Jane Jensen speaks about historical patterns, different views on accidents, the way she treats story, and Moebius.
«In the run-up to the Thunder». Interview with Ion Hazzikostas: lead encounter designer of World of Warcraft talks about patch 5.2 — «The Thunder King».