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Matt Chat 256: Feargus Urquhart on the Life and Death of Black Isle Studios

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Matt Chat 256: Feargus Urquhart on the Life and Death of Black Isle Studios

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 8 September 2014, 00:59:21

Tags: Baldur's Gate 3: The Black Hound; Black Isle Studios; Fallout 3 (Van Buren); Feargus Urquhart; Icewind Dale; Icewind Dale 2; Interplay; Matt Barton; Obsidian Entertainment; Planescape: Torment; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords; Stonekeep 2

Matt Barton has uploaded the third part of his interview with Feargus Urquhart. This segment of the interview is absolutely packed with information, as Feargus describes in rapid fire almost every single title developed by Black Isle after the first two Fallouts. He talks about Planescape: Torment, and about his role in redesigning its leveling mechanics and combat, which Feargus claims was even worse before he fixed it. He talks about the first iteration of the original Fallout 3, and how it failed to get off the ground due to engine development issues (though in an interesting coincidence, they eventually settled on using the NetImmerse engine, a precursor of Gamebryo).

He talks about how Icewind Dale was conceived as a "slam dunk" project to make some quick money for the company in the wake of Fallout 3's failure. He talks about the little-known cancelled Stonekeep 2 project, which apparently had some good technology behind it but failed due to design creep. He talks about Icewind Dale 2, about how Josh Sawyer convinced him to convert the Infinity Engine to 3rd Edition D&D for it, and about how he implemented all the spells in the game, all of which turned out to be a lot easier than he thought it would be. And finally, he talks about Baldur's Gate 3: The Black Hound, about all the hard work done by Chris Jones to develop its engine, and how it was abruptly cancelled due to Interplay's loss of the D&D license. This event was what convinced him to finally leave the collapsing Black Isle, which went on to make a second attempt at Fallout 3 using the Black Hound engine, which of course was cancelled too.

In the second half of the video, Feargus talks a bit about the reasons for Interplay's decline. The two main reasons, according to him, were a failed investment in sports games development, with their expensive licenses, and another failed investment in an Internet multiplayer gaming service called Engage, which he says was made redundant by IPX emulation software like the once-famous Kali.

Black Isle was always profitable, and one of the last things Feargus did before he left was to try to convince Interplay's management to sell the division in its entirety to another publisher, along with its intellectual property, to pay off the company's debts. This move was blocked, not by Brian Fargo, but by "the president of Interplay" - Herve Caen, who Feargus refrains from addressing by name. The interview ends with Feargus' story of how the newly formed Obsidian Entertainment inadvertently received their first project, Knights of the Old Republic 2, while trying to pitch a Star Wars action-RPG that would have used the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance engine. I guess we'll hear more about Obsidian in the final part of the interview.

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