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Brian Fargo and Chris Keenan on Wasteland 2 GOTY, Torment, Bard's Tale 4 at Eurogamer

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Brian Fargo and Chris Keenan on Wasteland 2 GOTY, Torment, Bard's Tale 4 at Eurogamer

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 27 March 2015, 13:26:38

Tags: Brian Fargo; Chris Keenan; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep; Torment: Tides of Numenera; Wasteland 2

Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole recently had a Skype chat with Brian Fargo and Wasteland 2 lead designer Chris Keenan. In the resulting interview article, Brian and Chris speak mainly of the upcoming Wasteland 2 Game of the Year Edition, and also a little bit about Torment: Tides of Numenera and inXile's next project, Bard's Tale 4. There's a lot of good stuff here, but I'll try to quote the most interesting bits. On Wasteland 2 GOTY's graphical and gameplay improvements:

Unity 5 introduced a physically-based rendering system that simulates the way the light bounces off of materials in a more realistic way. We're getting a little technical here, but, basically, Unity 5 spreads out specular maps so glass, for example, feels different because light bounces off of it in a different way to, say, stone or brick.

InXile is going through all of its Wasteland 2 assets and modifying them to make use of this new system. "Being a top-down game you see a lot of the terrain," Keenan says. "So we're focusing on making the terrain and the ground plane and the tops of buildings and all that stuff as great as it can be.

"Every single scene is getting basically a complete treatment," Keenan says. "We're not starting from scratch, certainly, because we have a pretty good foundation to everything. But we're just going through and putting a little extra love into every scene."

InXile is also creating brand new character models, which is welcome because, well, let's just say it: they were pretty crude. The new models include new clothing options, some of which you'll see in character creation, where you can now tweak your characters' hat, face and face accessories. You might want your character to wear a gas mask, or a beard. Beards are on trend, so best get those growing.

InXile sent over a few images that show the old character models compared to the new ones, the level art upgrade, and new art for the Quirks, Attributes and Skills. You can see them throughout this article.

I found Wasteland 2's combat functional at best. For all the pre-release talk of tactics, cover and planning ahead, you never had to think too hard about those things. Enemies tended to either charge at you and thus get caught up in your fire, or stay behind cover, in which case they were easily flanked. The whole thing lacked depth and nuance.

So, InXile is having a go at making combat more interesting, but it sounds like this won't be a dramatic change, more a bonus benefit of populating areas with more stuff.

"Combat is more deadly, but it's more deadly if you play the way you played before," Keenan says.

"It was a little bit easier to stand out away from cover. Some areas didn't have a huge amount of cover. We have been adding more. Even with melee enemies, the more we added cover and made them move around and have some choke points, the more interesting the combat was. It's much more about trying to get your way in, find good tactical spots around enemies. If you just do straight bum rush now, you'll get pretty beat up.

"It was something we weren't super happy with. It was a little bit easy in some areas to just stand out in cover. When it worked, it worked well. When we had the tough enemies, the ranged guys who used cover, and pushed the melee guys in between that, it felt pretty good. We've been taking that approach and amplifying it."
And on Bard's Tale 4:

"It's going to be a proper sequel to the original," Fargo says, without giving much away.

"We felt a little cheeky and we did that comedy version in 2004, and we cracked ourselves up with it. But we recognise people wanted a true sequel. And they wanted that classic dungeon crawl. I think Bard's Tale is probably as close to my heart as any game as I've ever done before. And I love this style of game."

Then some good old-fashioned Fargo hype: "I think where people will hopefully be pleasantly surprised, is just how ambitious it is. From a graphical perspective, from a musical perspective, it's going to be bigger and bolder than what people are thinking it will be."

Chris Keenan is similarly enthusiastic, but a tad more reserved.

"There's a lot of room for improvement in that genre," he says. "They aren't going to be the huge, five million sellers, so they've kind of been a little bit lost in time. There's not a big swathe of them that come out. You've had your Might & Magic 10s and your Grimrocks, but there's certainly a lot of creative freedom we can take on it."

InXile, having enjoyed success on Kickstarter with Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, is hoping for a crowdfunded hattrick with a Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale 4, due to go live this summer.

I'm a little concerned. Kickstarter is in a very different place now than it was when inXile and Double Fine and all the others were raising millions a day back in 2012. At least, that's the perception. But Fargo reckons Kickstarter is still great for developers who deliver, who gamers trust.

"When I announced The Bard's Tale 4 I had more interest and people tweeting me, shut up and take my money, than I ever did on the other two," he says.

"Ultimately, on Kickstarter, going out and begging for money is not the way. Are they excited about product, and do they think you can deliver it? If you have those two things, you can continue to have success."

Fargo won't tell me anything substantial about his plans for The Bard's Tale 4, but I do know he'll dip into its development, as he did with Wasteland 2 and as he's doing with Torment. "On The Bard's Tale 4 I'm hand-picking the musicians," he says. "I've already had one of the songs written and I'm having it translated.

"I'm always involved in every level, but I'm more of a producer than a designer. My job is to get everybody thinking right and hitting the right sensibilities and making a product no one person could ever do."
Wesley also asked Brian about Wasteland 2's sales. He sounds a tad defensive about the topic, but confirms that the game has sold "in the hundreds of thousands of units". But then, we already knew that.

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