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Interview with Chris Avellone at RPGNuke

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Interview with Chris Avellone at RPGNuke

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 12 May 2014, 22:58:37

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment

In a rather fanboyish interview over at Russian RPG site RPGNuke, Mr. Chris Avellone speaks of games, comics, stick figures and other inspirations. Have a snippet:

DLC Lonesome Road was inspired by Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley and Fallout universe as a whole was inspired by David Brin's The Postman and Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. What books influenced your other works?

So as part of the design process, I read and watch a lot of movies related to the era/situation. For WL2, for example, I had to bring myself back into the 80s mindset as well with Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which Brian Fargo recommended to us, and re-watching a bunch of movies from that era to get some lingo down. Other book and movie influences recently (for WL2) were Food of the Gods, the Road Warrior, Day of the Triffids (book and series)... to name a few. For other projects it’s been Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series (Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls), as well as Don Quixote, the Jack Vance Dying Earth series (just finished Cugel the Clever), almost every one of Iain Banks’ Culture series (which I highly recommend – if a game developer needs a place to start, start with Banks’ The Player of Games, which was amazing and it’s one which game devs and game aficionados can get into pretty easily).

Glen Cook’s Black Company has always been a big source of inspiration (I loved how the RTS Myth from Bungie made it feel like you were playing in the Black Company world), Stephenson’s Snow Crash (there’s game ideas on every page, if not every paragraph) and I loved Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s “Roadside Picnic” as well, which felt like the inspiration for the Stalker video games. :)

David Gerrold’s Chess with a Dragon was also used as inspiration for some sci-fi ideas we had in previous projects as well.

In any event, I could go on and on, but those are some that jump to mind.

Each Fallout: New Vegas DLC didn't just add new content but also told a standalone tale, explored different themes. If you could make another one, what would it be about?

Going east to explore more of Legion Territory (especially the united/divided tribes who were crushed under Legion rule), or Denver would be interesting. Denver was a significant location in the first Van Buren iteration, and to be able to flesh that out in more detail would be welcome. Failing that, a DLC that continued the game and allowed you to travel west to explore at least a segment of NCR would be interesting. It’s a little hard to speculate because the existing DLCs were intended to be wrapped narratively around each other, and tell a complete tale. I was tempted to consider DLC that dealt with what happened to Cassidy from Fallout 2, but I don’t think the audience knew or cared very much about his fate, so that was an easy call.

There’s a new Fallout mod coming out that explores Texas called Fallout: Lonestar that explores another chunk of the Fallout world – if you need more Fallout in the interim, that’s worth supporting and checking out. The concept pieces are amazing.

Did you play games that in some way affected your world outlook?

There have been games that have showed me new ways to develop RPG mechanics for certain as well as bold narrative decisions that were like being dashed with a bucket of cold water: Walking Dead, System Shock 2, Wasteland, and Fallout.

In terms of games that have challenged or changed my world outlook, almost none of my favorite games have. I usually use games to explore world outlook and possibilities (some of the moral dilemmas in KOTOR2 about Dark Side/Light Side and the moral set-ups for those situations are part of that, and some comments on religion in Mask of the Betrayer were the same).

Often it’s movies (Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, Up in the Air) or books (Screwtape Letters, 1984, Heart of Darkness, Iain Banks’ Culture novels) or even comics that have changed my views in many respects, and especially in showing me there’s new ways to tell life stories visually even in a seemingly-confined medium like superhero comics. Stainless Steel Rat and Dune both showed me how to do effective thief-style characters and diplomacy “fights” in the proper context, and my first exposure to the idea that belief-creates-gods/reality occurred in a book called Godstalk, which I re-read recently and still enjoyed.

Do you have an "idee fixe", a dream of creating a RPG an idea of which has been in your head for quite a while? Project of a lifetime stuff.

It’s more systems-related now. I’ve already gotten the chance to work on most of my dream RPGs (Torment: Tides of Numenera, Wasteland 2), and while I have TV and video game licenses I enjoy, I don’t know if they’re dream RPGs per se. I did have a different take for Torment 2 for a spiritual successor which I wouldn’t mind exploring, and a lot of the Wasteland 2 novel writing feels like a good set-up for Wasteland Zero, so who knows? The future’s bright.

Doing an RPG in the FTL universe would also be a lot of fun, too, I really enjoyed volunteering to write for it.​

Come on, MCA - Myth RPG. Make it happen.

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