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Interview RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Leonard Boyarsky on Fallout, Interplay and Troika

Crooked Bee

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Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Blizzard Entertainment; Diablo III; Fallout; Fallout 2; Interplay; Leonard Boyarsky; Retrospective Interview; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Leonard Boyarsky is a name that everyone at the RPG Codex knows and loves. The games he worked on, first at Interplay and then at Troika as the company's co-founder and CEO, are among the cRPG industry's most oustanding achievements, and two of them – Fallout 1 and Arcanum – have, along with non-Boyarsky-designed Planescape: Torment, been firmly holding their place in the RPG Codex Holy Trinity™ of computer RPGs for many years already.

Therefore you can imagine how excited we were when Leonard Boyarsky agreed to do a retrospective interview with us, which you can find here. In the interview, Leonard talks Interplay, Troika, and some of the inspirations and design (and business) particulars behind the titles he helped create. Have a snippet -- but be sure to read the full interview as well, it's really interesting!

What was the atmosphere and company culture like at Interplay when you worked there, and how did it develop into the situation that prompted you to leave the company?

The atmosphere and culture at Interplay were phenomenal. It was a very creative and inspiring place to work – I mean, they let us do basically whatever we wanted with Fallout. We had almost complete creative freedom on that game. After it shipped, however, it felt like the ‘being left alone in a corner to do whatever we wanted’ era had come to an end. They liked what we had done with Fallout too much to let us run wild anymore, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong – the atmosphere at Interplay was still great, but it felt like we had to move on. Another major factor in our leaving was that we felt that Interplay was going to be facing hard times soon, due to certain choices that were being made. We didn’t want to wait around for it to implode, so we left.

Was founding your own video game developer company something you had long wanted to do, or was it a spontaneous decision? How difficult was it for you as Troika's CEO to balance creative and business challenges?

I never wanted to start my own company, I wanted to stay at Interplay forever. But then Fallout ended and our situation at Interplay changed. It was only then that we seriously started considering starting our own thing. As far as being CEO, that just meant that I was the poor soul who had to negotiate contracts, deal with publishers, write our reports, etc. I spent as little time doing that stuff as possible, which is probably one of the main reasons we didn’t succeed as a company. None of us wanted to do the business stuff, we just wanted to make games. Vampire was really where the management/lead stuff began to crowd out the ‘in the trenches’ day to day work on the games for me.

As you put it in a past interview, "being original is risky." Do you believe originality, and the fact it did not sell, was the chief reason Troika was not able to survive?

Pinning our demise on ‘being too original’ is a bit self-serving for my tastes. For one thing, we were never able to spread our appeal beyond the hardcore RPG market and our sales suffered for it. Not to mention our reputation for releasing ‘unpolished’ games…

Given the recent Kickstarter success stories of Tim Schafer and Brian Fargo, what do you think of crowdfunding as an alternative way of video game publishing? Do you believe it can significantly change the landscape of the industry, and would you consider turning to crowdfunding yourself in the future? (For a Troika reunion maybe?)

I think it’s great. It’s wonderful that old school games are being funded this way. I don’t know that it will have much of an effect on the publishing industry, though, unless one of the games is a huge hit.

And I’m happy working at Blizzard, so I don’t see crowdfunding in my future—especially since I have no desire to run my own company again.​

I repeat, be sure to read the interview in full: RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Leonard Boyarsky

We are grateful to Leonard Boyarsky for taking time out of his demanding schedule to do this interview for us, and Che'von Slaughter of Blizzard Entertainment for kindly allowing it to take place. We also thank everyone who suggested their questions for this interview; unfortunately, it was impossible for Leonard to answer all your questions, but I hope you're satisfied with the result!
 

likaq

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Great interview!

And I’m happy working at Blizzard, so I don’t see crowdfunding in my future—especially since I have no desire to run my own company again.

:cry:

I will cry. :cry:
 

Zed

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A great interview indeed!
He's honest with his answers :)
 

hiver

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Great stuff, even in snippets.
Great work Bee and hi to Leonard. Great to see you doing well guy!
Thanks for this.

Im going to leave the full interview for a bit later. I just like having something great to look forward too.
:)

Going for a walk and stuff right now.
:rubs palms together:
:grins:
 

DwarvenFood

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great interview, reads real good and is interesting - good job at picking and formatting the questions and of course for getting it in the first place. Guys at Blizzard must of been a bit perplexed that the lead world designer of Diablo3 is asked about stuff not related to D3.

Too bad there was not more info on not being to sell enough Vtm.B, like the timing of the release. And that World of Darkness werewolf game... brings almost BG3 levels of "what could have been" to me.
 

Arpad

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Fine interview indeed. Nice for getting it. Pity, if quite understandable, about the crowdfunding thing.

Hope you have some interesting interviews planned for the future.
 
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right here brah
What is your favorite location in the game?
My favorite location in the game definitely has to be the haunted house
OH. MY. GOD. You did it, you actually asked my question! AND THE ANSWER IS THE OCEAN HOUSE!
None of us wanted to do the business stuff, we just wanted to make games.
Oh mang, someone should've back up their business side... but i guess to understand that they had to be businessmen... and they only wanted to make vidiya games...
When i read about lack of interest from publishers, i hear Hollywood theme song...
Crooked Bee, since today i found out that i can brofist again, i would like to gift you my first brofist and :salute: for this short but so valuable to me interview!
And mister Leonard, if you are reading this...








:bro:
 

Pope Amole II

Nerd Commando Game Studios
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For Fallout 2, Jason, Tim and I designed the main story arc and a few side quests before leaving Interplay. They kept a lot of what we had designed, but changed some significant parts of it as well.

Damn, somebody really should've asked him about exactly what had they changed, especially if it's the significant parts we're talking about. Well, maybe next time...
 

Roguey

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One scenario I really enjoyed designing was in Adytum – Zimmerman’s situation with the regulators, his son and the Blades.
4uw9w7.png

:hmmm:
Best stick with art and world building, Lenny.
 

grotsnik

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In the book Gamers At Work, Tim Cain mentions that Troika might have kept itself afloat by taking on various non-RPG projects, but that he was unwilling to sign on to games he "had no interest in playing." How do you feel about this kind of decision today? Is there – was there ever – a place for this kind of idealism in the industry, or should pragmatism have ruled the day?
I don’t think it was idealism. If we had no interest in playing a certain style of game, we would have no passion for making it. Making games is not easy – you definitely need to have passion for what you’re doing to be successful. Without the passion, you’re sunk.​

I suggested that question because Tim said that Leonard, specifically, had been the one arguing in favour of Troika taking the other projects, so I wanted to hear his take on the issue...but he softballed it. Anyway, very nice interview!
 

nihil

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That was a nice read. And while I'd rather see Boyarsky work on other types of games:

:bro:
 

deus101

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Yeah! Do serious literature ...AND add TONS of cinematics so you can spoonfeed people how deep and meaningful the story is!

Why Bioware never won a nobel prize is a mystery.
 

Azalin

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Leonard Boyarsky said:
If we had no interest in playing a certain style of game, we would have no passion for making it.


:bro:

Comparing these kind of quotes to the crap Hamburger Helper and other next-gen game makes say about no wanting to actually play any games makes me really sad sometimes:(.

Oh well TOR lost 400k subscribers so there is always hope that these people will end up writing slashfiction comics or whatever they were doing before they got into game developement
 

Major_Blackhart

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Interesting read. Overall not bad.
Glad to hear he's happy at Blizzard too. Really am.
Wondering what he's up to next over there now that Diablo III is about done.
 

Surf Solar

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One scenario I really enjoyed designing was in Adytum – Zimmerman’s situation with the regulators, his son and the Blades.
4uw9w7.png

:hmmm:
Best stick with art and world building, Lenny.


Yep, because this is the only dialogue you are presented during this quest, right?
 

hiver

Guest
Read it all.

Good stuff in there.
Although, personally i wish the interview generally kept the more personal and in detail touch of suggested questions here.
This looks much more like a regular interview. Still good, still, very nice to hear from the guy.

All they needed was VD as PR CEO and felipeppe to make them some trailers.... :(

Nice job Bee.


Ser... :bro:
 

Mrowak

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^ I somehow prefer more impersonal touch in interviews. Gives them more 'professional' vibe as I see it - which ceratinly was the case here.Very informative and up to the point. Great article.

Another day saved by Bee. :salute:
 

MaroonSkein

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Leonard Boyarsky said:
My favorite location in the game definitely has to be the haunted house – several people took turns trying to make that work, but it wasn’t until Jason took it over that it really began to shine.
One day, I'd like to learn what the early takes on the location were like. Great interview, Bee!
 

FeelTheRads

Arcane
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Messages
13,716
Yep, because this is the only dialogue you are presented during this quest, right?

For some reason Roguey is extremely butthurt about all the developers that are liked on the Codex and places any mistake they may have made as a defining characteristic.
I suspect a relation to Gaydar.
 

ghostdog

Arcane
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Another excellent interview, Bee.

:thumbsup:

And Boyarsky sure knows what he doesn't want to be... a CEO :lol:
 

ghostdog

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BTW let's not forget that Boyarsky is also an artist (maybe more an artist than a game designer)



Is that fallout wallpaper by Boyarsky ? I'm almost certain it is, but the signature doesn't look like Boyarsky's :



I really love that heavy-strokes style.
 

zioburosky13

Educated
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Jan 10, 2007
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:thumbsup:
Good one.
Although I am not sure if he is responsible for the 'my little pony' colors of Diablo 3...:smug:
 

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