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Troika veteran Chad Moore talks Arcanum, Bloodlines and more at GameBanshee
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 10 November 2020, 02:07:57Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Chad Moore; inXile Entertainment; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Chad Moore is a Black Isle and Troika veteran who got his start in the industry as an artist and is currently the co-director of inXile's unannounced next RPG alongside Troika founder Jason Anderson. He's also the author of a little-remembered short story entitled "An Unfortunate Affair" that was available on the official Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura website back in the day. After encountering said story, ValH from Gamebanshee decided to have a chat with the man. The resulting interview is mostly about Arcanum, but also includes a few questions about Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines and Carbine's ill-fated MMO Wildstar, which he worked on alongside Tim Cain. Here's an excerpt:
GB: You were heavily involved in the production of Troika Games’ Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. In fact, your alter ego, Sir Chadwick Moore, was immortalized in one of the loading screens as the author of “An Unfortunate Affair,” a very much real short story that served as a piece of foundational fiction for the game. Can you tell me something about how that story, and the game’s unique world that combines magic and steampunk technology, came to be?
CM: That was a really fun and interesting project that I took on soon after joining the team at Troika. We had already done a lot of early world-building, but we needed something to bring all of those great ideas into a more compelling picture of what the world was like. And so “An Unfortunate Affair” was born. It ended up being a lot longer than I’d originally planned – but I think it was really successful in communicating what was unique about the game world. It was really useful for the team as a creative target, and I remember the community really enjoying it when we released it later on.
GB: Where does this story of yours fit into the bigger picture? It mentions Tarant, the game’s biggest hub, features some prominent NPCs, describes a good number of spells and technological gadgets, and even sneaks in a mention of the infamous gnome conspiracy quest. Did you have some reference document when writing about all those things or did you invent them for the story? What's the chicken and the egg situation here like?
CM: It was a little bit of both. Things like Tarant, Tulla and the gnome conspiracy were already an established part of the lore – and I wanted to weave them into the narrative. But I created the characters from whole cloth to tell this particular story, and made up a few gadgets and spells along the way. The best part about the whole experience was going back and weaving those characters back into the game itself – so you could meet Perriman Smythe in Tarant, or Sebastian in the Boil, and recruit them as followers. Even Willoughsby and Lorham made cameos. My inner lore nerd still gets a little giddy just thinking about it.
GB: Beyond that story, which parts of the game you personally worked on? Which were your favorite?
CM: Outside of the character models that I modeled and implemented into the game, one of my main responsibilities was writing and scripting many of the followers. Each of them had different stories and personalities, and many of them would react differently (and sometimes violently) depending on who else was in the group. It was a very complex exercise, but very cool in those situations where their reactivity was on display. There were some really great personalities in there as well – from Magnus Shale Fist the secret descendant of the legendary Iron Clan to Franklin Payne the world-renowned explorer.
GB: An individual by the name of Edward R. G. Mortimer is credited as the game’s main writer. From what I can tell, he was an editor and contributor to Judges Guild, a pen and paper RPG publisher from way back in the day, but very little is known about him. Can you shed some light on who Mr. Mortimer really was and what he did for Arcanum?
CM: My memory on this was pretty fuzzy, so I had to go straight to the source: Tim Cain. Tim told me that Edward G. Mortimer was a designer from the Judges Guild - a company that made modules for D&D and AD&D back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Mortimer wrote some really good modules for them, so Tim contracted him to do some additional writing for Arcanum. Back then it was much more difficult to coordinate with employees remotely, so most of what he wrote was additional material for our generated dialog system. Although he didn’t end up being a major contributor over the long term, Tim was happy to have worked with (and hired, in fact!) one of his favorite JG designers.
For my part, the one thing I remember about Edward R. G. Mortimer was that he had the snazziest pair of rainbow suspenders I have ever seen.
GB: Now, let’s move on to some of your other projects. While you were still at Troika, you had a hand in making Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines happen. And once again, it looks like you were involved in pretty much everything from character art to the game’s main story. What are some of your favorite memories about that project?
CM: Bloodlines was such a great project. I remember meeting with the guys from White Wolf to talk about the WoD, and then getting a huge box full of all the source material to dive into. I remember meeting Gabe Newell up at Valve and talking about how could we use the source engine to create our world. Lots of late nights with Leonard and Jason talking about the best ways to translate the VtM systems into the game. About what city the game should take place in. About the kinds of music that best represented the game’s vibe. Creating the first prototype with Jeanette, an alleyway, and a creepy basement (parts of which showed up in Gimble’s Prosthetics years later). Writing the game’s main story arc. Creating the Malkavian’s language. Modeling characters like the Nosferatu, the Tzmisce, and the Werewolf. Directing voice over and hearing our characters come to life through talented folks like John DiMaggio, Courtenay Taylor and Gray DeLisle. Watching a coven of dominatrix vampires spank fans with a leather horsewhip on the show floor at E3. Those were just a few of the highlights. But the best part was that we had a great group of devs who really cared about making a cool game. Many of us still keep in touch to this day.
GB: Between Arcanum and Bloodlines, you worked on both isometric and 3D action-RPGs. Which way of doing things do you prefer? Why?
CM: 3D ARPGs are definitely my favorite of the two genres. Personally, I like the more immersive experience that a first-person game provides, coupled with skill-based action-mechanics that you can enhance and progress through role-playing systems. There’s an immediacy to that kind of experience that I really enjoy. I’ve always felt that Bloodlines was ahead of its time in this respect – a truly deep and immersive story-driven RPG blended with a fun and engaging action game. In many ways it’s become the template for what many consider the modern RPG.