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Feargus Urquhart on the development of South Park: The Stick of Truth

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Feargus Urquhart on the development of South Park: The Stick of Truth

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 13 March 2014, 02:08:32

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment; South Park: The Stick of Truth; THQ; Ubisoft

Despite the efforts of certain parties to tar it with the "Bugsidian" brush, South Park: The Stick of Truth has turned out to be Obsidian's most critically successful title yet. The game was only released just over a week ago, but apparently it's not too early for a retrospective, which is what Feargus Urquhart gave to Eurogamer in an interview posted there today. It's actually an excellent piece that goes over the story of the game's origins back in 2009, Obsidian's work with Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the latter of whom is practically a Codexer, it seems) and the whole European censorship fiasco. The most interesting part, however, is when the interviewer tries to get Feargus to talk about what happened to the game after THQ went bankrupt and Ubisoft took over. I quote:

Ubisoft took over, took stock and in September 2013 delayed the game to December. Then, a month before it was due out, another delay, this time to South Park's eventual release date in March 2014. Ubisoft North America's president Laurent Detoc said the game had required a "major overhaul" after it picked it up. "Within three weeks after acquiring the game, we sadly realised we had to turn this thing upside down if we hoped to deliver the experience everybody wanted,” Detoc said at the time. "It's been such a major overhaul to get to the point where we are that we couldn't let it go, even if that meant missing December."

I remember being concerned that something was very wrong. But what was really going on behind the scenes?

"I..." there's a pause, and Urquhart reluctantly clams shut, telling me he can't talk about it. He tells me nothing he'd say would conflict with "stuff that was coming out about those things, it's just hard to go into any detail".

I press: Did the game change considerably when Ubisoft took over?

"I can't answer that one either. Sorry."
Yipe. I wonder if we'll ever know. Here's another good part:

South Park: The Stick of Truth was a strange project for the studio in many ways. It was 2D, and it had to offer something other than "you're talking or you're killing", which is what, he titters, Obsidian's work tends to boil down to.

Having outsiders scrutinise Obsidian's methods was new and at times challenging as well. But as as Urquhart the wise man reflects, "We only get better as game developers when we open ourselves up more to criticism.

"We had to step back and really think about how we made games, because this game couldn't be made the same way as a lot of our other games, and it taught us a lot and the game turned out great."

According to Metacritic, cringe, South Park: The Stick of Truth (on PS3) is one of Obsidian's best games, scoring a review average of 86 per cent (the same as KOTOR2 on Xbox).

Metacritic is relevant here because an 85-plus score was exactly what Obsidian needed Fallout: New Vegas to achieve in order to receive a bonus payment from publisher Bethesda. But it didn't; Fallout: New Vegas averaged an agonisingly close 84 per cent, and Obsidian lost out, despite the game being a big success for Bethesda. There was quite a fall out.

There's nothing like that in place for South Park: The Stick of Truth, thankfully, and Obsidian never intends taking that road again.

"We have a general policy whenever we're talking to different publishers now: we don't do anything that has to do with Metacritic. It's an unfair way of... in a lot of ways it can only be used as a way to take advantage of a developer.

"Ultimately if a game is financially successful, if a developer has back-end royalties on that, then they should make those back-end royalties if they made money for the publisher."

Amen indeed.

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