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Chris Avellone Interview at The Critical Bit

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Chris Avellone Interview at The Critical Bit

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 18 April 2012, 19:29:12

Tags: Chris Avellone; Kickstarter; Wasteland 2

In the wake of the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter's amazing success, The Critical Bit have interviewed Obsidian's Chris Avellone, now on board for the post-apocalyptic cRPG. Chris talks Wasteland 2, publishers, and RPG design, and the resulting interview is pretty great:

You’ve mentioned that you are often inspired by RPG conventions that bother you. What about RPGs has been irking you lately?

Let’s see. The concept of High Fantasy bugs me. I’d love to take a high fantasy game, fuck it up and then dump the wreckage in a player’s lap to experience. This probably also explains my desire to knock cupcakes and ice cream cones out of kid’s hands.

Conversation mechanics also bore me and frustrate me. I feel like dialogues have been devolving as time goes on, and the idea of being placed in a paralyzing face-to-face conversation with limited interactivity doesn’t seem to be the way to move ahead with this system. I keep looking at shows like Sherlock for inspiration, or even mull over ways to implement interactions if you had to do it for Half-Life and keep the feel of the game, and I feel there’s a better way to do it without going the full-on cinematics route… no slam on that presentation, but that’s BioWare’s territory, they’re masters at it, let them do it best, and the rest of us should find other ways to approach it that might yield an equally cool system with less resources. I felt we had a good system going on with Aliens that didn’t take you out of environment, and I did like the time pressure that Alpha Protocol provided because it fit the spy/24 genre (not my idea, that’s all Spitzley on programming and Mitsoda on design).

Next – dialogue morality bars tied to your character’s power with no middle ground that gives you equal empowerment. It removes any interest or awareness of the conversation beyond trying to hit the button that says “choose Good side or Bad side.” When that happens, I feel like you’re in danger of losing the RPG experience because you’re not reacting like you would naturally based on the context of the situation, you’re “gaming” the system instead of role-playing it.

What else: Handholding. Quest markers that point you right to the solution, especially. At least try to make the quest markers and objectives a game (Ghostbusters did it by having you literally “hunt” and play hot and cold with your objectives, Far Cry 2 did it in a similar method with triangulation for diamonds). I realize that you are in danger of frustrating players with mechanics like those, but I feel like the level we’ve stripped out challenge for the player is perplexing sometimes.

What piece of content that you contributed to was hardest to see cut from a project?

Ulysses in Fallout: New Vegas, seeing all of Van Buren canceled after 3+ yrs of design work, and losing the EPA in Fallout 2. Who knows, maybe I can use the EPA in Wasteland 2. [Note: "EPA" refers to the Environmental Protection Agency, an area that was planned for Fallout 2.]

Seeing some pitches get flushed is also a sad experience, since you invest a bit of your soul into each one.

Over the course of your career, you’ve gone from a designer at Interplay to the Creative Director and Co-Owner of Obsidian. Is it difficult to balance being a creative and also handling the business development challenges of your current position?

Being an owner requires that you grow some extra eyeballs to keep track of other projects at the studio. On any given day, you may be asked to speak about the status of your project to the whole company, attend and critique a checkpoint on combat design progress on another project, be in charge of hiring someone and escorting them through the interview process, finish a written interview, give advice to fans who want to get into game development, followed by a call with a potential publisher, then sit down and iterate on 20+ pages of world design that’s due at the end of the day…

…then, hypothetically, you may have to head to inXile to have a meeting with Brian Fargo and the crew for design elements for Wasteland 2. It all makes for a busy day, but considering that “work” is basically my hobby, I’m not complaining.

You’ve had the chance to work with some big IPs. Star Wars, D&D, and Alien spring to mind. What are some other IP’s you would love to work with?

Wasteland’s already happened. :) The Wire, Archer, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and an IP of our own. Deus Ex or Ultima would be rad. Doing an X-Com RPG or a high school RPG would also be cool.​

Deus Ex or Ultima would be rad indeed. Oh, and be sure to take a look at the full interview!

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