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Brian Fargo on inXile's Darkest, Publisher-Driven Days

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Brian Fargo on inXile's Darkest, Publisher-Driven Days

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 15 August 2013, 16:31:12

Tags: Brian Fargo; Hunted: The Demon's Forge; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale (2004)

Rock Paper Shotgun's Nathan Grayson still isn't done telling the story of his visit to inXile Entertainment. The latest entry in his tale is an interview with Brian Fargo about inXile's pre-Kickstarter days. Here's an excerpt:

RPS: It's interesting that you went from something like Hunted: Demon’s Forge to this. That, to me, felt like an RPG that was all of the… “This needs to be on console, so we have to include elements from shooters and things like that” obligatory pandering.

Fargo: The original pitch for that was to be a dungeon crawl. That was what that game wanted to be. Then it got slowly changed to become more of a shooter. But that's not my background, so… To me, that was a typical failing, where you have the arguments about what a product should be and everything that goes with it. People don’t know sometimes how little the developer can have input-wise into a product, even if it's theirs. The opening cinematics weren't done by us. The voice casting was not done by us. We didn't get to direct the voices in the game. There are all these things that go on that are just pulled away from the developer, that we had no control over.

Ultimately, the people that control the purse strings are going to control the direction of the product. But yeah, how it came out was very different than what my pitch was.

RPS: When that happened, was it basically devastating?

Fargo: Extremely so. Frustrating. Very frustrating. Because ultimately… It's like when Obsidian took a hit on their Metacritic and didn't get their bonus. Mostly they got dinged because it was a buggy product. Obsidian, their reputation was taking a hit for shipping buggy products. They don't control QA. The publisher controls it. The publisher always controls QA. They decide when it's done. There’s no bug we can't fix. There’s no bug they can't fix. Somebody made a conscious decision – because there was a list. I guarantee you the QA department had a list of bugs. They said, “We don't care. We gotta ship it anyway.” Why does the developer lose their bonus and get their reputation killed for that?

So yeah, you can imagine – even if it's a different scenario – how it can be frustrating to be a developer doing work when you're the one that's taking it every which way. You’re usually not making money, either. I would run the numbers on games and say, “Look. You guys are up $20 million in profit. It’s my idea. I came to you. I did 100 percent of the work. And guess what? I don’t mind if you make more money than me. That doesn't bother me, because you took the financial risk. However, when you’re up $20 million after paying your marketing and everything, don’t you think we deserve $1 million?” Nope. So yes, it's frustrating.

RPS: What about your history, though? Do you think you’ll keep revisiting aspects of it? What about Bard’s Tale, for instance?

Fargo: I hate to comment on what we're going to do next, because we have a lot of different ideas, but I’d be more likely to do something more for my core audience than I would to do something off-kilter. We have our niche. It’s role-playing games. One guy’s going to have a niche for train simulators. I think we’re all going to have our different niches. I feel like I know what this audience loves. I’m good at delivering it. So I’m more likely to stay in that wheelhouse.

Comedy [ala the most recent Bard's Tale] is tough, though. I just find that with humor, everybody has an opinion on it. We were going to do a Bard’s Tale 2 Disney, actually. Kind of a funny story. They loved Bard’s Tale, right? So we had this letter of intent in place. We delivered a script. And then somebody on their team, who was an accountant, said, “This isn't funny.” It was only a first draft. We were going to make a thousand iterations over the next year and a half. It was just to get going. “Well, it's not funny.” So I was talking to one of the executives there and I said, “Okay. We think it’s funny. She didn't think it’s funny. We have just shipped a game that we wrote, Bard’s Tale, that people said is the funniest game of all time. So being that we’re like this, wouldn't you give us the nod? Wouldn't you think that maybe we had it? You know, the accountant, she hasn't done this before.” Nope. Killed us. For that and for some other reasons. But it wasn't funny [laughs].​

Hmmm, I hope we get to see the design documents of the dungeon crawler Hunted someday.

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