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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Chris Avellone on Pillars Cut Content, Game Development Hierarchies and More

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Otterz Literate

    Otterz
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    You bought the whole team FNV shirts?
    That's actually pretty nice.
     
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  2. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    Dwarves was Disney’s part. Kevin or Brian Mitsoda could speak to it more – if they were allowed to speak.

    Hidden was a pitch that never got optioned (it was urban fantasy). Which was good it didn’t get optioned, because the idea was taken from another developer at Capcom that Feargus stole and then slightly modified the idea from (a developer who I’ve since apologized to and explained what happened). Feargus felt strongly if we took the idea and made some tweaks to it, it was all right and Obsidian could make it work. I didn’t feel good about it, but to my shame, I went along with it. Yes, I suck and I should have fought harder, but at the time, I was overlooking things and trying to be supportive of someone who had seemingly been supportive to me.

    Overall, with Hidden, you weren’t missing anything – Fables comics and the Dresden Files books were better than what was put together (and it wasn't even as good as the Capcom pitch), and because of how it got put into being, I’m glad it never went anywhere.

    There were a lot of prototypes and small projects that failed for various reasons, some run by Parker, some run by Feargus - all governing a small team.

    On top of this, Feargus would often request pitches and proposals from Obsidianites, then never do anything with any of them (the other owners were also culpable for this). After the second time he did this, I told him while I would help him set up a structure for accepting proposals, I would no longer be responsible for asking for them. He got mad at this, and pushed me to send out the request to be the "face" of the asking, and I told him I wouldn’t because he never reviewed or accepted any of them – he was just asking for people’s cool ideas and ignoring all of them. It was cruel, and a waste of people’s time at the studio – why do you give false hope to people? I will say, we got a LOT of kick-ass ideas (Tony Evans and Frank Kowalkowski – both gone – had some great pitches, and so did Dennis Presnell, if I recall correctly). The cruel bit was once they submitted them, even though Obsidian would do nothing with them, that meant they were all owned by the company and would gather dust. It was a garbage practice that I no longer subscribed to (and yes, I feel bad for the first two times I advocated it, but at the time, I thought the owners were making genuine requests that would be actually evaluated).

    Something similar happened with a global request to Obsidian artists to make a logo for the studio – which was done, all were rejected, despite the fact Feargus said he would choose a winner and reward them (cash prize, which arguably all the artists would have been happy to have). While you can argue that was upper management’s right to reject them all if they weren't happy with one, they didn’t exactly say they hadn’t chosen one, and because they also had promised a cash prize for the winner, this caused a lot of questions… because it was never delivered on and never paid to anyone. While this is their right, I think they could have altered the rules of the request to account for them being dissatisfied with all the results and making a contingency plan for that that still thanked people for their work, or asked for new options - or something.) I will say that because Feargus, Darren, and Parker didn't choose any of them, they were indirectly insulting the art skills of our artists by doing so, which made a bad situation even worse.

    Backspace failed because Stormlands got them fired because they were in the middle of a prototype and thus, were all considered expendable despite their skills and how much they'd done for the company (again, Feargus's sister was retained, however). I do believe Jason Fader would love to get it back, though, but… nope. Even if Obsidian has no plans to do anything with it, they’re keeping it (I had much the same experience of having a pitch taken from me when it was clear we weren’t going to do Defiance b/c Parker hated it and swore he’d “check out”* if we kept discussing it and pushing ahead with it [Note that if I had said the same thing, you can bet I’d have been suspended or fired, but it was Parker saying he'd check out, Feargus listened to him]. After it was clear it couldn't go anywhere, I asked Feargus if I could at least do something with it outside the company, he refused - which is his right, but I had spent a lot of time on it, and it was disheartening to see it shelved with no intention of ever being used for anything. If you don't support it, why are you keeping it?).

    Lastly, there were project pitches that were mismanaged in new and exciting ways. One got weighed down by being initially being (correctly) confined to a small team (Mikey Dowling, me, and a few others, but Mikey's passion for the material was the important heart of the project), but then, new people and owners were added to the email chains and they would interrupt the communication with the potential publisher. This happened in increasing amounts (almost doubling the email thread) until the publisher had no idea who they should be talking to anymore. It would have been a huge win for the studio had we got it, but again, it was not meant to be, and it was definitely our process that clouded the pitch.

    And while I kept wishing Obsidian would let Rich Taylor make a game, that’s a rug that’s been ripped out twice already for two projects (Rich was the PD who kept Armored Warfare running and supported most of the studio – he’s also an avid gamer, and one of the developers I have a lot of respect for). I don’t know what he’s doing now, but I’m hoping his talents aren’t being wasted because he should be making games, and making good ones.

    EDIT: *I was reminded that the phrase Chris Parker used for Defiance was "tapping out." As in, "if we proceed with this pitch, I'm tapping out."
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2018
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  3. Ainamacar Novice

    Ainamacar
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    After 14 years of lurking on the Codex, finally reaching posts on this thread with timestamps of "xx minutes ago" is my greatest moment here.

    Making sure lore and other writing is harmonious with mechanics seems challenging when the latter may be subject to significant changes during development, quite possibly for reasons not involving the writing team directly. For something like Into the Breach, where writing/mechanic harmony seems to be a clear goal, I could see issues arise as, for example, pilot special abilities were iterated upon. (Although the fairly limited scope of those characters and small dev team might greatly mitigate things.) In a traditional RPG with a more sprawling corpus, I imagine the risk of creating pain for yourself down the road is more extensive, especially as text changes for many other reasons.

    So, when you're writing mindful of the game mechanics, are you also trying to be mindful how that lore or text works should the mechanics change? Do you limit yourself to those mechanics which are almost certainly stable? Some other method? And do you have any stories where mechanics/design changes caused prominent writing headaches later on?

    Thanks for the epic thread, Chris.
     
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  4. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    'Love' is making a shot to the knees of a target 120 kilometers away using an Aratech sniper rifle with a tri-light scope... Love is knowing your target, putting them in your targeting reticule, and together, achieving a singular purpose against statistically long odds.
     
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  5. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    One of my key points with lack of hierarchies is that I feel lack of hierarchy and not giving people the right titles, wastes the team's time. And as I've said, Obsidian was a constant case of "never enough time, never enough money." I have worked on projects where that is not the case, but I'm not sure I would advise doing anything different.
     
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  6. dragonul09 Arcane Edgy

    dragonul09
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    Is this Feargus the kind of nerd that goes on a power trip whenever he doesnt like something? If he is, then there's nothing worse than a dork on a power trip, insecure little asshats that try to make everyone as miserable as them. At least people are bailing on that trainwreck of a company.
     
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  7. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    I completely agree, and with Into the Breach, I left the pilots whose abilities were being iterated on for last as long as possible, because I knew their abilities should affect their text. Prospero was the only one who didn't get changed in time (he was intended as a "recycling robot" then gained flight, but few of his text comments reflected that). I'm still happy with his text, though, I just wish I could have done more.

    Also, welcome to posting if you've been lurking so long! Glad this motivated you to join the discussions.
     
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  8. Blaine Cis-Het Oppressor Patron

    Blaine
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    Let me see if I've got this straight: A call went out to all Obsidian artists to submit entries for a new logo, cash prize to the winner, and apparently none made the cut.

    If the company's artists are so bad that none of them, not a single one, are skilled or creative enough to create a logo that passes muster, that is a problem.

    If the owners are such self-involved, selfish twats that they announce a contest just because the idea popped into their heads and then refuse to choose an entry and pay out, wasting people's time and energy, that's a problem.

    We must therefore choose to believe either that all of the artists are terrible, or that Obsidian has a bunch of stupid, selfish cunts for leadership. It's either one or the other, can't be both or neither.
     
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  9. Robert Jarzeback Educated

    Robert Jarzeback
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    Chris Avellone what do you think about making controversial games such as Hatred as a way of standing out in oversaturated marked?
     
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  10. Wunderbar Learned

    Wunderbar
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    Chris Avellone, have you played any of Piranha Bytes games (Gothic series, Risen series, recent Elex)?
    If yes, what do you think about them?
     
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  11. mildTea Learned

    mildTea
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    Could you Chris Avellone share with us your thoughts on what are the odds that Project Indiana gets finished if Deadfire flops or if IRS/prosecutors start investiagting Obsidian? From your posts it seems like fund transfers between projects in Obsidian are a bit too common. Could Take2 take the Indiana team over in case of troubles? Could it all fall apart based on the IP being owned by Dark Rock Industries (or whatever the name is)?
     
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  12. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    I wouldn't classify Feargus as a nerd, he's more "business development."

    And yes, when he made the owner rounds after yelling at a publisher or an employee, I did feel like he doing a power trip... that unfortunately, made all the owners look bad. To his (minor) credit, at least he was indirectly letting us know he had savaged someone vs. Parker, who you had to find out much later - and worse, the person getting savaged usually assumed all the owners knew about what had happened, because the idea of owners not communicating as a hive mind (that's an exaggeration, but yet, the perception - all owners knew the same thing) wasn't something that was in the developer's minds.

    I will say when developers told me about the yelling (usually because they felt shitty that they had done something wrong), I did apologize for how it happened. However, my apology is worth far less than Feargus's, who had complete control over raises and titles at the studio, so if he got mad and started yelling, the first reaction from the person being yelled at was that they were fucked (not surprisingly - and Feargus should have realized that).
     
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  13. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    I don't know, but my pragmatic guess is that maybe Take2 wouldn't mind Feargus and his cost padding out of the picture (Feargus, at the height of stupidity, forgot to remove it in his budget he sent to them - when asked, I told them I wasn't surprised, and they should expect him to inflate costs like that, but that's why you have to watch him very, very carefully when he submits a budget - he tried to fuck over Paradox, too, because he felt entitled to).

    My vote to Take2? Support Tim and Leonard and the team and maybe not so much the owner parasites around them. Do you really need class acts like Feargus who will make up numbers and drain needed resources with deception? It's disgusting, and casts shade over the entire studio through the actions of one jackass.

    I also don't know if the Project Indiana IP is under Dark Rock Industries or not, but you can ask Feargus (he likely won't answer).
     
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  14. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    I played a little of Gothic 3 and liked it. I want to play Elex based on discussions I've seen on this site.
     
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  15. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire 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
     
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  16. mildTea Learned

    mildTea
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    That's crazy. This is such a hypocrisy when he goes and tells media stuff like this:
    https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/09/06/obsidian-publisher-interview/
     
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  17. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I wonder if this is some shady ass scheme of idea hoarding, like if the employee who makes a pitch leaves and then implements the pitch into a game elsewhere, you could potentially say it's an idea you pitched at Obsidian and hence the idea is property of Obsidian. But then again he'd have to read those ideas so what do I know.
     
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  18. Blaine Cis-Het Oppressor Patron

    Blaine
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    This is our hobby, and as such, fucking people over creates entertainment. Obsidian leadership fucking over its employees worsens our entertainment by making our "revival" RPGs shittier.

    Keep this thread alive until launch, Chris. The streams must be crossed.
     
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  19. Latro Arcane

    Latro
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    ah yes...we call these people "suits".
     
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  20. Grauken Arcane Patron

    Grauken
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    The Fearg is more Slimer than Goozer
     
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  21. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire 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
    Re: Project Indiana and Dark Rock Industries

    I don't know about the copyright, but The Outer Worlds trademark that was discovered is registered to Obsidian, not to Dark Rock. It could be that Dark Rock is only for Eternity and perhaps similar future projects.
     
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  22. Prime Junta Arcane

    Prime Junta
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    That’s not lack of hierarchy. It’s lack of organisation. Not the same thing.

    Throw in a capricious top manager who rules through fear, and any kind of order becomes preferable.
     
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  23. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    Strangely, this would even be better than what was done - they were all ignored and shelved. If an owner tried to exploit the idea at the studio, at least SOMETHING was being done with it, as much as the whole situation sucked.
     
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  24. Chris Avellone Arcane Developer

    Chris Avellone
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    Thanks for the facts! (Sincerely.) Now we know.
     
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  25. dragonul09 Arcane Edgy

    dragonul09
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    At least on codex the owner is not a pimple ridden plumpy little freak that goes on a power trip whenever he sees something he doesn't like, otherwise the only one left here would be your shill ass, kissing Obsidians butt on a daily basis.
     
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