Ever since the shutdown of Boyarsky-Cain-Anderson game studio, a little has been known about Tim. He has joined Carbine Studios and spent several years working on some MMO-titles that only few can probably remember by now. But as of this time his name has became household once again. Upon joining Obsidian Entertainment, Cain made his way on a front page and gave his fans a hope that with him in the Urkhart-Avellone team, they will finally be able to create a Black Isle scale masterpiece.
Greetings, please introduce yourself to our readers. Tell us about your position and job responsibilities.
I'm Tim Cain, and I am senior programmer at Obsidian Entertainment. I am currently responsible for combat and AI development in their South Park RPG.
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?
RPG's seem to suffer a decline every 5-10 years or so, followed by a resurgence of popularity. Matt Barton covers this well in his book “Dungeons and Desktops”, which considers our current modern age to the be the sixth phase of RPG popularity. Although considering the book is a few years old now, perhaps we are in the seventh age, and I'd say Skyrim is dominating the field, both in popularity and market penetration.
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?
I'll admit that I do not like receiving a ready-made character to play, so I would rather make my own character and have him talk without voice over than play an already made character with a name and a history. For me, part of role-playing is inventing the role you will play. Having a role handed to you ignores a lot of what is fun about this genre.
What biggest failure in RPG genre could you recollect?
Failure could mean so many different things in this context, but I think the biggest failure in the genre is a lack of innovation. Most modern RPG's are simply refinements of systems that have come before them, and in many cases, they are simply repackaged versions with better graphics and new settings but no real innovation. I am hoping that the new wave of Kickstarter projects will breathe new life into the genre.
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 takes months to go from idea to story, as elements of the setting, system and characters get worked out. Then over the course of several years, the artists make assets and programmers code features, and finally the levels get made and populated with creatures and NPC's.
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?
The folks at Obsidian are very easy to work with, and development there is quite congenial. I could imagine a joint game project with any of them.
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 would tie the emotional component of a game to attachment the player forms to his own character or to the NPC's that he interacts with a lot. The game should allow those character to evolve and develop personalities, so that later, when those characters are threatened or hurt, the player will feel an emotional impact.
To what extent does the final result correspond to the one you planned to receive in the beginning?
I like open-ended games, where the designer lays down a lot of potential paths for the player to follow, but does not force him down any one of them. I love seeing what players bring into the game as expectations and how they react to situations with multiple outcomes.
What in your opinion are the key moments in RPG genre that defined the direction all the games made after?
For better or worse, I think several features have been introduced into the genre that have forced many subsequent RPG's to include them. These features are not found in every RPG, but they are quite noticeable when absent:
There is also a trend towards strong storylines as opposed to strong character development. The former leads to linear world settings, either for the whole game or to major portions of it, to support the story telling effort.
First RPG's made used board games as a prototype, where numbers and a talented storyteller mattered the most. Nowadays, have the story and action-packed gameplay become keystones in making a successful game, or do people still want hardcore games, only maybe changed a little? If they do, what are the changes needed?
Sales figures seem to support the theory that the majority of people want strong story-based action RPG's. Hardcore games require hardcore gamers, who are in the minority.
Most games use classic scheme of Campbell Joseph - you escape, you find allies, you return in all the glory, but are there any other ways to introduce the story? What would be the craziest synopsis for a role-paying game?
I would like to explore alternatives to the standard “lowly peasant becomes a powerful hero” scheme. Why can't the player become a villain? Why can't the player become the quest-giver, making scenarios for other players or NPC's to explore? For that matter, I would like to make exploration a key component of an RPG, by making a setting that is not what it appears to be, and letting the player peel back the layers of that onion, trying to reach a core of truth.
What is your favorite game system of the all time, and why?
I will always have a special place in my heart for Star Control 2, one of the best RPG's ever, where your character is a ship and the galaxy is yours to explore.
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?
I like to take walks, either by myself to think or with someone else to talk ideas with. I have had some of my best ideas while walking my dog, but he listened to a lot of bad ideas too.
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