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Interview Brian Fargo Interview and Career Retrospective at Polygon

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, May 2, 2014.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Tags: Brian Fargo; Feargus Urquhart; Interplay; InXile Entertainment

    There's a feature over at Polygon today on inXile and former Interplay CEO Brian Fargo. It's both an interview and a kind of retrospective of the man's career, with commentary from Feargus Urquhart, Blizzard's Rob Pardo and former EA executive Bing Gordon. Much of the article is dedicated to the anti-publisher angst that we know and love (although Polygon's interviewer does manage to elicit more nuance from Fargo on this topic) but there's also lots of fun historical detail. I quote:

    As head of Interplay, Fargo became one of the most powerful individuals in gaming. He was also very good at spotting talent. "I gave Treyarch their first start in the business. I gave Blizzard their start. I gave BioWare their start. That's what I would do," Fargo says. "I would see talent and say, 'let's do it, make it happen.'"

    Some of the people he hired in those early days are now leaders in their own right. Blizzard Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo began his career as an Interplay tester. "He was one of the titans of the industry," says Pardo. "He was somebody that everyone at Interplay looked up to. We always aspired to be in his good graces."

    Pardo recalls being invited out to Fargo's house to play World of Warcraft 2 [sic]. "He had this whole LAN setup at his house," he says. "He played video games and really cared about them. He wasn't just some business guy. He played games all the time. You could always talk to Brian about games."

    Fergus Urquhart is CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, which recently made South Park: The Stick of Truth for Ubisoft, and is working on its own Kickstarter-backed RPG, Pillars of Eternity. Like Pardo, he began his career in Interplay's QA department, rising quickly to run the company's RPG studio, Black Isle.

    "[Fargo] was very in tune with the games that we were making," Urquhart says. "Particularly I remember a project review meeting on Fallout 2. We get into the meeting and I'm presenting." The presentation was not playing well to the gathered marketing execs. They made some suggestions about changing the game's art style. "We'd have to redo all the art," Urquhart says. "I wasn't as good at dealing with executives. I didn't want to just say, 'That's stupid.' Brian, he's like, 'No, it doesn't make any sense to change the art. People love the art in Fallout.' That ended it. I don't know a lot of other CEOs that would have been as understanding of the situation and the product and able to head off something like that. It could have really hurt us."

    But by the end of the 1990s, Interplay was in trouble. Fargo identifies his own mistakes in the company's decline: He failed to make the jump from PC to the newly dominant consoles.

    "Other publishers had that one product that blasted them through to the other side," he says. "With Take-Two it was GTA. With THQ it was wrestling — it got them through the other side for a while. With Activision it was Tony Hawk. You could pin it to one thing. We didn't have that one thing. The only one thing we had was Baldur's Gate, but the problem with Baldur's Gate [was] it was PC. You couldn't sell five million copies."

    Interplay was a manifestation of Fargo's skill for serial hit-making. He saw an opportunity and chased it. This was also its downfall.

    "He was very willing to take big bets," says Urquhart. "Probably bigger bets than I would have taken. He could only do so much and work so many hours. That's how it got ahead of him. There were more products and more products and more products."

    "One of the things I saw happen at Interplay was that we were just stretched too thin," says Pardo. "There were too many games in development. Before you have success you have to be really lean and mean and focused on the one or two things that are going to make you successful. Once you become successful, now every door is open, and you have to have a different sort of discipline."

    "I should have stayed more focused," Fargo says. "That's the only thing I regret the most." Interplay dabbled in sports games. It bought Shiny Entertainment. It opened an office in Japan. It worked on multimedia projects. There was a public stock flotation. "It was just too much. I should have just stayed with our core audience."

    Interplay was bought by a French outfit called Titus, which had a patchy creative reputation (including the widely panned Nintendo 64 Superman game). Fargo did not work well with the new owners and left soon after.

    "These other guys took over," says Urquhart. "They're not bad guys, but they just did not have the vision." Today, Interplay is still owned by Herve Caen, then owner of the now defunct Titus. It mostly sells ports of games from the company's heyday.

    In the post-Interplay years, Fargo launched InXile and became a supplicant, going to publishers, looking to get projects like Wasteland 2 funded. Mostly, he found frustration. He was unable to make the games he really wanted to make.
    You might also find the article's sidebar to be interesting. It tells the little-known tale of how Brian Fargo indirectly caused the sale of the Fallout IP to Bethesda when he sued Herve in the early 2000s. Oops!
     
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  2. FeelTheRads Arcane Patron

    FeelTheRads
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    Well, that's not something to be proud of.
     
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  3. Xeon Liturgist

    Xeon
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    Oh man, I kinda thought that meant if he had delayed or didn't sue Harve, then the Fallout IP would have been bought by Troika but it was just what caused them to sell in the first place I guess.
     
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  4. Decado Prestigious Gentleman Old time handsome face wrecker Patron

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    This is arguable. Interplay was never going to do with anything it.
     
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  5. Humanity has risen! Arcane Patron Repressed Homosexual

    Humanity has risen!
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    Another interview with Brian Fargo. At this point it's worse than beating a dead horse. I'm going to cringe if I see just one more story about how he is a brave David vs the evil Goliath publishers.
     
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  6. Decado Prestigious Gentleman Old time handsome face wrecker Patron

    Decado
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    I don't care. He's had an interesting life.
     
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  7. Zed Codex Staff Patron

    Zed
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    Brian FarGone, eh? Eh? You can have it if you want.

    I think he's a cool bro who played an important role in the making of games I like. But, since the kickstarters ended, I have yet to be impressed by anything coming out of Camp Fargo and InXile. I have high hopes for Torment tho.
     
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  8. Rean Codex Grammar Police Patron

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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    Without Bethesda I don't think Obsidian would have had the chance to develop a Fallout game.
     
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  9. tuluse Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Read the whole sidebar. It's more like Fargo managed one last time to shortchange Herve.

    I think we can all appreciate a good bit of spite around here.
     
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  10. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    Agreed, I also hate his "Interplay could have survived if I had sold millions more with a console hit!" Shows what direction inXile's going to go in should Wasteland 2 and Torment prove hits. Can't survive with just modest PC sales, right?

    You're forgetting
    [​IMG]
    Though I've decided New Vegas is better than any turn-based Fallout Troika would have given us so it was worth it.
     
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  11. Morality Games Arcane Patron

    Morality Games
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    Haha, didn't know that. That's clever. Wonder if it will be anything like the Shadowrun commercial.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GPGQoR6f6w
     
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  12. FeelTheRads Arcane Patron

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    Without Bethesda, maybe Troika would have had the chance to do that.
     
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  13. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I wonder if Bing Gordon is the man responsible for giving inXile carte blanche with the Wasteland IP. It is a very unusual situation.
     
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  14. Davaris Arcane

    Davaris
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    He's burned his bridges with publishers, so he's not going anywhere! :troll:

    Besides, money isn't everything if you enjoy the work.
     
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  15. Monty Arcane

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    Depends on the size of the company though, right?
     
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  16. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    That's some nice selective quoting there, Roguey. And doing it by replying to an HHR post, really? Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria

    Anyway, as somebody whose job is to follow these things, I can say that Fargo hasn't really been interviewing that much lately. That was more of a thing a year ago.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2014
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  17. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    Black Isle was profitable to the very end. JES said Interplay owed individual developers hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of royalties and bonuses when they were shut down. It was those attempts at a console hit that lost money.
     
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  18. Curious_Tongue Larpfest Patron

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    Socialist scum.
     
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  19. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    I highly doubt that. The publishers care about money and if WL2 is a hit, they will be lining up to do business with him regardless of what he says in the interviews.
     
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  20. Xeon Liturgist

    Xeon
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    Doesn't Obsidian try and not to bad mouth Bethesda and I think I read that MCA deleted the tweet about the royalty and metacritic percentage so not to upset Bethesda or something. Even tho Fallout New Vegas was a hit
     
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  21. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    It's different. Obsidian is in a weaker position as they are mostly working with licensed properties (SW, DnD, SP, DS, Fallout) and thus depends on publishers a lot more. Fargo who has a WL2 license and managed to create a Torment license without paying for it (nicely done) is in a much stronger position. Plus, he is really good at selling and hyping whereas Obsidian is more like a shy geek in comparison. So, it's very likely that WL2 will vastly outsell PE even if PE is a better game.
     
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  22. FeelTheRads Arcane Patron

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  23. Duraframe300 Arcane

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    Doubt it. The Obsidian brandname is much stronger than InXile's and while Fargo hypes a lot more he has to rely on successes 15+ years in the past and attacking pubs.

    But, you're in the gaming industry and I'm not (yet). So, I'll wait and expect to be proven wrong.
     
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  24. Athelas Arcane

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    When Obsidian co-developing was announced as a stetchgoal for Wasteland 2, so many people threatened to withdraw their pledge that Fargo had to make a statement clarifying that they wouldn't do any coding/programming work. :M

    Besides, both of them relied more on their Black Isle heritage than on their current company's track record for their Kickstarters.
     
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  25. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    The brandname is strong but so far nobody's eager to sponsor Obsidian's own IP (and AP certainly didn't set the world on fire). It's true, of course, that Obsidian's a trusted and experienced developer with top talent, but which is why they aren't a moneymaker. Fargo's done nothing worth mentioning in the last 15 years but I'm sure that he can hype WL2 to high heaven and make sure it sells a lot.

    I wouldn't call tinkering with a game for a decade being in the industry, so I know as much as you do, maybe less.
     
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