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Interview with Brian Fargo at MemoryLeak

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Interview with Brian Fargo at MemoryLeak

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 1 April 2015, 23:02:58

Tags: Brian Fargo; Interplay; inXile Entertainment

Rob Carter of the MemoryLeak podcast, who interviewed Chris Avellone last year, sent word to inform us of a new interview he recently did with Brian Fargo. This one comes with a helpful point-by-point summary for those not eager to listen to the full one hour podcast.

Brian Fargo has done it all. He’s created his own games, designed classic titles, and run a publishing company – Interplay Productions. Now Brian is in a unique place. As the CEO of inXile Entertainment Brian has launched two very successful crowd-funding campaigns and is looking to divorce the company from publishing deals which he feels are often restrictive. Brian and I talk extensively about game publishing, his time as the CEO of Interplay, and the current state of inXile Entertainment.
  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 1:49 – Brian talks about the positive energy at inXile today, how crowd-funding made it possible, and the long road the company took to get where it is now.
  • 4:56 – The benefits of crowd-funding vs. working with a publisher. Why Brian thinks trust is the missing element.
  • 7:17 – How to maximize creativity and minimize risk. How, as a financier, you can ask for certain business-critical features but still fundamentally trust the developer.
  • 9:50 – When it is and isn’t beneficial for a publisher to dictate creative choices in a game.
  • 12:00 – How developers can sometimes have little creative control over their own product. Why developers bear the reputation hit when the publisher fails them.
  • 14:52 – An example: How Obsidian takes a reputation hit when a shipped game has bugs. How little leverage developers have when negotiating development deals.
  • 16:45 – Brian describes the specifics of negotiating a deal with a publisher and just how difficult it can be for a studio to see returns from one of these contracts.
  • 18:51 – I ask Brian if, supposing he were running a publisher today, how the current industry climate might make him change his approach from the Interplay days.
  • 20:06 – How a developer’s creative freedom is crucial to fostering good ideas which ultimately results in a better game.
  • 22:55 – Brian and I discuss the dearth of independent AAA studios.
  • 24:43 – The publisher strategy of backing a studio into a corner to buy them at a low price.
  • 26:44 – Brian’s adjustment from game developer to business executive in charge of Interplay Productions.
  • 29:04 – Brian recounts the end of Interplay (its acquisition by Titus Software) in detail. How incredibly close it came to surviving to make more games, and the insane maneuvering he went through in an attempt to keep it together.
  • 36:36 – While it was stressful, Brian says being an executive was still fascinating and exciting. He shares more anecdotes about negotiating deals and explains just how strange and heated things can get.
  • 42:37 – How the technical process of development can be difficult to explain to publishers, and whether this lack of understanding creates friction.
  • 44:29 – Why publishers are not inherently bad. Brian believes the publishing process often has problems, but they can be addressed with changes in attitude.
  • 47:05 – The Wasteland 2 Kickstarter and what it meant to Brian on a personal level.
  • 49:12 – I ask Brian to reflect on what he may have done differently in his career and what he loves about the industry.
  • 51:04 – inXile’s plan for the future.
  • 53:25 – More publisher stories – The true stories that inspired the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter video.
  • 54:35 – “Fun is just a theory.” The importance of iteration and finding the fun.
  • 57:02 – Thank you and goodbye!

As you can see, the first half of the interview treads familiar ground, with yet another Fargo anti-publisher tirade. But the second half is really good, recounting the events that led to Brian's departure from Interplay and the fall of the company at a level of detail I've never seen before. His boardroom negotiation stories are also quite amusing. Definitely worth a listen.

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