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Chris Avellone Interview at Aggrogamer

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Chris Avellone Interview at Aggrogamer

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 21 March 2013, 08:48:28

Tags: Black Isle Studios; Chris Avellone; Fallout; Fallout 3 (Van Buren); Fallout: New Vegas; Obsidian Entertainment; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords

There is a new interview with Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone over at Aggrogamer, which is mostly retrospective in nature. Have a snippet:

AG: After the formation of Obsidian and the dissolution of your former studio and team, what troubles did you have starting Obsidian out? For a new studio did you guys just pick up where you left off, or was it kind of rough transitioning over?

As far as Fallout 3 (Van Buren) goes is there any chance the files will ever see the light of day like KOTOR2 or HL2 on Dreamcast; or even a legit release from Bethesda down the line someday?

CA: There was a rough patch. We had a lot of the core guys as owners and our new leads for KOTOR2. Our philosophy stayed the same, although we needed to learn much more about the Xbox, and quickly, but that wasn't too difficult. Still aside from the Black Isle crew that left (and continued to depart over the following months), having a number of other people come on board from other companies helped change us from being Black Isle focused and more of a melting pot, where we could pick and choose from positive learning experiences people had had at other companies.

The entire Interplay support network we had at Black Isle was gone, though — no IT, no QA, no audio department, no ability to draft help from other projects if we needed programming and art help, and we were also in the position of being solely a developer instead of a developing a title with an internal team at a publisher, which is a much different beast. The schedules were tighter and more unforgiving (as well as mutable, usually in an unfavorable direction or at the cost of previously agreed contract benefits), and we often had very little leverage with contracts and amendments. One plus was that BioWare was in our court, and they gave us support with LucasArts and Atari and helped us secure projects like Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and Neverwinter Nights 2. Note that we had some fun hurdles with that (being unable to play Knights of the Old Republic until its release and having to develop our game in a vacuum for 2-3 months before even being exposed to Knights 1 — it made sense from a contract standpoint, but from a development standpoint, not so much).

Also, even having workspace was challenging. Our first office was Feargus's attic, and his wife Margo were more than patient with our bullshit — and when I say "patient," it's more like "Samaritan," I mean — she would even bring up snack plates. The attic was hot, smelled like developer (I don't know how she got the smell out), and with 8-10 computers burning at the highest point in the house, it could become a sweat lodge at times. After being there for several months, we moved into an office park not too far away, contended with rats, a stinky duck pond with unusually aggressive ducks that would sneak up on you while having lunch, and the sketchy next door neighbors that would raid our kitchen and soda stacks (were they part of a bookie den or were they on-the-call financial investors… who knows?). We persevered and slowly expanded to fill the whole building, both floors. We got an IT department (also from Black Isle), audio, and our own QA (courtesy of Atari and Neverwinter Nights 2 and they stayed on with us). Eventually, we moved into our present digs, which are really nice, no complaints. Except that I kind of miss the rats. And the Rat King. That guy could party.

On the plus side, coming up from that was a good team-building experience. We can still laugh about how we made it through those days, it was fun seeing everyone come on board and rise through the ranks (a number of QA folks are now part of the art, animation, design, audio, and production teams), and we have a whole bunch of conference rooms dedicated to the titles we've put out, so it's not unusual to hear that "the meeting's at 1pm in the Fallout Lounge" or "we can always run the test level in the Alpha Protocol room."

With regards to Van Buren, I don't believe those files will ever see the light of day, but I don't know. And it's not up to me anyway. Fallout belongs to Bethesda, I doubt they'd dig through those archives or if they even have all the files in order to share them with the public, and I doubt they'd even want to (I don't see what benefit it would be for them). I do know that a lot of Van Buren docs have ended up on the internet and from what I've seen; they're accurate from what I remember.

I do not believe that we'd ever see the Van Buren game made, which is fine. After all, a lot of the Van Buren stuff ended up mutating and finding a home in New Vegas in any event, so it did gain new life, even if it wasn't exactly the same as it was portrayed in Van Buren (things that showed up include: Hoover Dam, the brain-damaged Nightkin, which originated in one of our pen and paper campaigns at Interplay, Caesar's Legion, the Big Empty in Old World Blues). Also, there's nothing to say that some of the concepts (rival party, Prisoner's Dilemma) couldn't end up in some other game down the line. KOTOR 2 was different because the legacy info was still in the actual game and could be unearthed (we didn't strip those out, and while it wasn't the feeling of everyone at the studio, I'm glad we didn't strip them out).​

The interview also touches on Fallout's development and the things MCA learned from it, the Kickstarter renaissance, Black Isle, and Fallout: New Vegas. Read it in full here.

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