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Chris Avellone Interview at GamesIndustry

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Chris Avellone Interview at GamesIndustry

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 10 April 2013, 18:36:15

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; South Park: The Stick of Truth; Torment: Tides of Numenera; Wasteland 2

In a new interview for GamesIndustry, Chris Avellone drops some tidbits about the holy triad of Kickstarter games he's involved with.

Q: So you've been keeping yourself pretty busy, between Eternity, Wasteland, South Park and now Planescape...

Chris Avellone: I finished up with Wasteland last year. It was mostly doing all the design pre-production work like laying out the maps, designing what creatures might be in the area, any dialogues or descriptive text and also hashing out the final storyline, the overall flow for the players over the course of the game. But once that was done they were like 'you know what? We're good' and all the designers were like... I think they have one full time writer still on Wasteland 2, Nathan long, and he's the one that does any adjustments they need for the story or the text, and any other writers they're going to move on to Torment.​

I think Brian and the crew are really comfortable with Patrick and Nathan and everybody else so now that they've all been working together for a while and Brian really likes the tone of that guys writing and they're good writers. I think it's just a matter of like 'we'll just keep these guys working in the studio and they'll be good for Torment' - so I think it's going to work out pretty well.​

Q: Is it difficult to make sure there's no bleed between projects when you're working across so many?

Chris Avellone: Yeah, I think that's a good question to ask. I think it's because the settings in Wasteland and Eternity and Numenera are all so different...I think that kind of makes it safe. Because ideas that fit really well into the new Torment game, like it's crazy how similar the locations can be, they wouldn't fit quite as well into Eternity. Eternity has more elements that, while not being like D&D, Forgotten Realms definitely has hallmark D&D bits about it. Numenera is much more free flowing, much more story focused, and Eternity is stuff like dungeon exploration, party team, how do you approach a problem, how do you approach an encounter. And then the games just feel a lot different in terms of aesthetics. I think prevents a lot of design bleed between the two.​

One of the designers was talking about one of the areas for Torment and it's basically this big living dungeon that communities live in, and also monsters, and depending on what you feed the dungeon it opens up new portals to other dimensions and it moves around. If anyone attempts to ever quantify the dungeon, and say 'I'm going to try and measure how big it is' or what intelligence level it is they're mysteriously destroyed. And I'm like: this is the craziest and most awesome fucking dungeon ever, but that's not something we would do for Eternity. Eternity would be much more like: here's the architecture for a dungeon that was exploring soul mechanics. So I think the two aesthetics between them sort of help.​

It's also good from the writer's block standpoint where I can go: this idea will work really well in Torment so I can really roll with that, but when I get writer's block there then I can switch over to Eternity and do something else. It actually works out pretty well.​

Q: Nearly all of the really successful Kickstarters we've seen so far have been personality led. Does the industry need figureheads like that to make it more mainstream? Is it fair to have those rockstars for team efforts? Is it a good thing?

Chris Avellone: I think I'd probably take a step back from the answer and just see how AAA titles treat that. because I even feel like even when you're dealing with games like Ultima or if you're dealing with Gears Of War. I don't necessarily feel that common public knows who Richard Garriott is, nor would they know who Cliffy B is. People in the industry obviously will but I don't know if that cult of personality status ever goes beyond the people who actually are more inside the gaming arena. My feeling is that is doesn't.​

In terms of alienating their... so therefore my question with Kickstarter is I don't think most people outside the gaming arena actually get as involved with Kickstarter as a result, it's more like a subset of really dedicated gamers that already know who those personalities are or know what that type of game is or know why that game concept is interesting or they know why those people left that studio or what their personal story is. And I think that all factors in.​

But in terms of whether figures like that can alienate or sort of upset the rest of the team...I suppose that's always a danger. I think that the thing to do is, I think personalities like that have a responsibility to call out specific people who have done great work on those titles. Just because obviously those personalities certainly have not come up with all of the systems, or even a good percentage of the systems for those games even though they might be the mouthpiece for the game. So I think that's a real danger and I think that in their role they have a responsibility of making sure that the people that contributed the work that is making everybody successful is being called out specifically and I guess that's my thought.​

The interviewer also asks Chris what he thinks about the recent "narrative" trend all the cool kids in the gaming industry are talking about these days (including obligatory references to The Walking Dead and Bioshock Infinite, of course). Knowing what MCA believes about the importance of mechanics for effective storytelling in games, I do wonder if his description of Bioshock Infinite is "damning with faint praise".

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