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Interview with Chris Avellone at PCGamesN

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Interview with Chris Avellone at PCGamesN

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 14 January 2015, 01:58:36

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

There's a new interview with Chris Avellone over at PCGamesN. Described as "The Big Interview", it's actually only two pages long, but it manages to offer some newish information about MCA's current doings alongside his usual mix of RPG design wisdom and slice-of-life anecdotes. Here's a fun bit with his thoughts on dialogue:

Avellone’s occasional irritation with RPG convention has bubbled to the surface more than once in his career. In Icewind Dale II, he designed a boss battle that required in-game research if players were going to stand a chance of success (“For once, make the lore useful!”).

For Planescape: Torment - his most celebrated game and the root of that unwanted auteur status - Avellone was given a setting in which any reality went. He poured all of his frustrations about fantasy RPGs into his design, beginning with the abolishment of player death.

Since then, he’s spent another decade working on more traditional genre fare. We wonder: if he were to channel his grievances into another game now, which conventions would he be sticking with the pointy end?

“I’m really exhausted of talking head conversations,” mused Avellone, after a pause. “I think ultimately that’s a dead end as far as dialogue is concerned. There’ll always be a market for it, but there might be a better way.”

In their doomed Aliens RPG, Crucible, Obsidian had figured out a way to balance conversation with a permanently hostile environment. It’s an idea that’s stuck with Avellone, who doesn’t think a line of text should make the player feel safe.

“It should be able to be interrupted at any time,” he said. “So maybe you shouldn’t fuck around examining someone’s backstory when you should be watching out for aliens.”

Most of what Avellone plays are builds of Obsidian games - but he tries a “spectrum of stuff” in his spare time. He admired the “narratively brave” Walking Dead: Season One for the way it overturned the expectations of Lawful Good RPG veterans - and played BioShock Infinite in a bid for self-education.

“I think there are ways that shooters communicate a story that’s actually superior to how most RPGs do it,” he said. “it’s not as intrusive and I think there’s important lessons going on in there.”

In fact, Avellone’s “a little tired” of menu-driven dialogue systems in general. Perhaps, he suggests, not all games necessarily need two people speaking at all. If you’re wondering what might take their place, think Ghost in the Shell RPG.

“I noticed in a lot of parts [of the seminal Japanese sci-fi film] that, because of the way the team does radio communications, you actually never see their lips move - they’re just thinking at each other,” said Avellone. “And the idea that you could have an RPG based around that would be kind of entertaining in terms of what thoughts are being broadcast as well.”

Even in a reverie of “hate-generated” ideas, however, Avellone couldn’t help but note that thought-dialogue would “also be less resources”. You can take the creative director out of the production cycle...
The interview also reveals that Chris has recently been designing "lore and background material for a new fantasy world". I assume that's for the project he's currently the creative lead on, which is mentioned in the same paragraph...although the interviewer carefully avoids explicitly connecting between the two. Hrmmm.

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