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

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Tags: Baldur's Gate III: 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 2: 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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  2. Grotesque ±¼ Patron

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    Divinity: Original Sin Divinity: Original Sin 2


    "the best damn RPG... this year"
     
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  3. darkpatriot Arcane

    darkpatriot
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    TORN wasn't discussed. That is a game that I am curious to get more details about. I know the gist is technical difficulties in making the game(Pathfinding is mentioned specifically if I remember correctly) combined with the shaky financials of interplay but I would be interested in knowing more of the details.
     
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  4. Perkel Arcane

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    that Kotor thing was unexpected.
     
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  5. Athelas Arcane

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    So the first game they pitched was a Star Wars hack-and-slash? Good thing Bioware steered them on the right path towards making real RPG's. :troll:
     
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  6. Perkel Arcane

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    I guess for a new studio any kind of work would be good.
     
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  7. 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
    Perhaps Feargus thought it wise to establish the company's reputation with something simpler, first.

    This isn't the first time we've heard of the Star Wars ARPG, btw: http://www.rpgcodex.net/article.php?id=8684

     
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  8. kain30 Savant

    kain30
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    i wish fallout 3 had been developed by black isle way back in 2004... and not that piece of crap that bethesda did. i used the design documents of the original fallout 3 to play an pen & paper campaign with my friends filling the gaps with what i think was apropiate
     
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  9. t Arcane Patron

    t
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    I remember downloading this video on a 56k modem. The whole 15 MBs of it. It took ages.
     
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  10. Semper Arbiter

    Semper
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    ain't feargus mixing up some engine wizardry here? bethesda's f3 uses the gamebryo engine, which was netimmerse back in the day, developed by ndl. black isle's f3 used the "jefferson engine" which i thought to believe was created in-house. does this mean that the jefferson engine was in fact licensed middleware?

    hmkay, this was solved later in the video. interesting that f3 was prototyped in netimmerse and later switched to "jefferson engine". presumably to save some money.

    also why is matt blending in a screen of josh's black hound module for nwn2 while feargus is talking about old screens of bg3? quick image search? :P
     
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  11. Azalin Arcane Patron

    Azalin
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    Yeah,me too,I was looking forward to TORN back in the day
     
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  12. Semper Arbiter

    Semper
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    there's still part 4 left to shed some light on torn, hopefully!
     
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  13. Volourn Pretty Princess Pretty Princess

    Volourn
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    Torn was gonna suck. That's why it was canceled. That's all the light shedding you need.
     
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  14. FeelTheRads Arcane Patron

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    That's why all sucky games are cancelled and only good games exist.
     
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  15. MicoSelva Prestigious Gentleman Don't call Abigail Patron

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    Codex 2012 Codex 2013 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 Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Imagine if they actually listened to Faergus and sold Black Isle to Electronic Arts another publisher. This could have completely changed the CRPG history as we know it. Not sure if for the better or worse.
     
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  16. Semper Arbiter

    Semper
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    no need to be edgy.

    :d1p: ...because of dwarves.
     
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  17. MurkyShadow Glittering gem of hatred Patron

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    Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel shines as an example for this.
    I'm glad to live in a time where no shitty things are allowed to exist anymore.:obviously:
     
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  18. tuluse Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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  19. Volourn Pretty Princess Pretty Princess

    Volourn
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    "only good games exist."

    Who claimed this? I certainly didn't.
     
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  20. Shadenuat Arcane

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    I wanna see design documents for other 2 Planescape games
     
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  21. Infinitron I post news Patron

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  22. Rean Codex Grammar Police Patron

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    I don't think Matt Barton knows about TORN. He's pretty open and honest about how his favourite RPGs are combat-heavy ones like Icewind Dale (although he also has a lot of love for Planescape Torment).

    Was TORN after Feargus left Interplay? I knew a few of the other founders of Obsidian, like Chris Avellone, stuck around until they really couldn't take it any more and I think it was those guys who worked on TORN.

    Also, the overall message I got from these videos was, by that point, Feargus was basically a project manager and took very little part in development.
     
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  23. Drakron Arcane

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    Nope, announced and cancelled in 2001, Feargus left in 2003.
     
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  24. Duraframe300 Arcane

    Duraframe300
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    No TORN was already cancelled in 2001. Dave Maldonado was its Lead (and the team was ex-planescape guys iirc). He's now working at Blizzard on WOW content. Brian Mitsoda worked also on it.

    The team that stuck around was the Van Buren team and some other guys.
     
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  25. NotAGolfer Arcane Patron

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    [​IMG]

    I remember downloading Daggerfall with a 56k modem. Yes, the whole 120 MB or so. Took about a whole day non stop downloading if I remember correctly.
    Those were the days, huh?

    [​IMG]
     
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