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Blizzard Historian David Craddock's Interview with Brian Fargo

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Blizzard Historian David Craddock's Interview with Brian Fargo

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 3 November 2013, 23:33:13

Tags: Brian Fargo; Interplay; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale; The Bard's Tale (2004)

If you've read about Brian Fargo's career, you probably know that he was involved with Blizzard Entertainment during that company's early years. Blizzard's first titles, including The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne, were all published by Interplay. Interplay was even responsible for the distribution of the first Warcraft game in Europe. It's no surprise then that as part of the research for his book about the history of the company, Blizzard superfan David Craddock interviewed Brian extensively.

Well, it turns out that large segments of said interview had nothing to do with Blizzard at all, and as such they didn't appear in the book. A few days ago, David made those segments of the interview available at Gamasutra. It's truly fascinating stuff, going into a level of detail about Brian's early career that I'm not sure has ever been seen anywhere else. Here's an excerpt, describing the genesis of the Bard's Tale series:

David Craddock: Arguably Interplay's most popular game during the early 1980s was The Bard's Tale [Tales of the Unknown: Volume I]. The game also marked a transition from adventure games to proper role-playing games for Interplay. How did Bard's Tale come together?

Brian Fargo: I had a lot of diverse friends. I was big into track and field, I played football, so I had those friends, then I had friends from the chess club, the programming club, and a Dungeons & Dragons club. Michael [Cranford] was from that side. I always thought he was a pretty bright guy and one of the better dungeon masters.

We played a lot of D&D. We always tried to focus on setting up dungeons that would test people's character as opposed to just making them fight bigger and [tougher] monsters. We'd do things like separate the party and have one half just getting slaughtered by a bunch of vampires and see who would jump in to help them. But it wasn't really happening. It was all an illusion, but we'd test them.

I always got a kick out of the more mental side of things, and Michael was a pretty decent artist, a pretty good writer. He was my D&D buddy, but then he went off to Berkeley, and I started [Interplay]. He did a product for Human Engineering Software, but then I said, "Hey, let's do a Dungeons & Dragons-style title together. Wouldn't that be great?"

That's really how the game came about. He moved back down to Southern California, and I think we actually started when he was still up north. But then we worked on Bard's Tale together, kind of bringing back the D&D experiences we both enjoyed in high school.

I found the original design document for Bard's Tale, and it wasn't even called Bard's Tale. It was called Shadow Snare. The direction wasn't different, but maybe the bard ended up getting tuned up a bit. One of the people there who has gone on to great success, Bing Gordon, was our marketing guy on that. He very much jumped on the bard [character] aspect of it.

David Craddock: Putting a bard in a starring role was the most interesting aspect of Bard's Tale for me, plot-wise. That protagonist slot is usually reserved for meatheads and wizards.

Brian Fargo: At the time, the gold standard was Wizardry for that type of game. There was Ultima, but that was a different experience, a top-down view, and not really as party based. Sir-Tech was kind of saying, "Who needs color? Who needs music? Who needs sound effects?" But my attitude was, "We want to find a way to use all those things. What better than to have a main character who uses music as part of who he is?"
Read the entire thing for more details about Brian's early career, including the adventure games he made before he founded Interplay, his corporate relationships with Activision and EA, and the naughty tricks he pulled to get his games distributed. This is one of the coolest interviews ever.

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