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Interview Troika veteran Chad Moore talks Arcanum, Bloodlines and more at GameBanshee

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Infinitron, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy 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 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Chad Moore; inXile Entertainment; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

    Chad Moore is a Black Isle and Troika veteran who got his start in the industry as an artist and is currently the co-director of inXile's unannounced next RPG alongside Troika founder Jason Anderson. He's also the author of a little-remembered short story entitled "An Unfortunate Affair" that was available on the official Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura website back in the day. After encountering said story, ValH from Gamebanshee decided to have a chat with the man. The resulting interview is mostly about Arcanum, but also includes a few questions about Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines and Carbine's ill-fated MMO Wildstar, which he worked on alongside Tim Cain. Here's an excerpt:

    GB: You were heavily involved in the production of Troika Games’ Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. In fact, your alter ego, Sir Chadwick Moore, was immortalized in one of the loading screens as the author of “An Unfortunate Affair,” a very much real short story that served as a piece of foundational fiction for the game. Can you tell me something about how that story, and the game’s unique world that combines magic and steampunk technology, came to be?

    CM: That was a really fun and interesting project that I took on soon after joining the team at Troika. We had already done a lot of early world-building, but we needed something to bring all of those great ideas into a more compelling picture of what the world was like. And so “An Unfortunate Affair” was born. It ended up being a lot longer than I’d originally planned – but I think it was really successful in communicating what was unique about the game world. It was really useful for the team as a creative target, and I remember the community really enjoying it when we released it later on.

    GB: Where does this story of yours fit into the bigger picture? It mentions Tarant, the game’s biggest hub, features some prominent NPCs, describes a good number of spells and technological gadgets, and even sneaks in a mention of the infamous gnome conspiracy quest. Did you have some reference document when writing about all those things or did you invent them for the story? What's the chicken and the egg situation here like?

    CM: It was a little bit of both. Things like Tarant, Tulla and the gnome conspiracy were already an established part of the lore – and I wanted to weave them into the narrative. But I created the characters from whole cloth to tell this particular story, and made up a few gadgets and spells along the way. The best part about the whole experience was going back and weaving those characters back into the game itself – so you could meet Perriman Smythe in Tarant, or Sebastian in the Boil, and recruit them as followers. Even Willoughsby and Lorham made cameos. My inner lore nerd still gets a little giddy just thinking about it.

    GB: Beyond that story, which parts of the game you personally worked on? Which were your favorite?

    CM: Outside of the character models that I modeled and implemented into the game, one of my main responsibilities was writing and scripting many of the followers. Each of them had different stories and personalities, and many of them would react differently (and sometimes violently) depending on who else was in the group. It was a very complex exercise, but very cool in those situations where their reactivity was on display. There were some really great personalities in there as well – from Magnus Shale Fist the secret descendant of the legendary Iron Clan to Franklin Payne the world-renowned explorer.

    GB: An individual by the name of Edward R. G. Mortimer is credited as the game’s main writer. From what I can tell, he was an editor and contributor to Judges Guild, a pen and paper RPG publisher from way back in the day, but very little is known about him. Can you shed some light on who Mr. Mortimer really was and what he did for Arcanum?

    CM: My memory on this was pretty fuzzy, so I had to go straight to the source: Tim Cain. Tim told me that Edward G. Mortimer was a designer from the Judges Guild - a company that made modules for D&D and AD&D back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Mortimer wrote some really good modules for them, so Tim contracted him to do some additional writing for Arcanum. Back then it was much more difficult to coordinate with employees remotely, so most of what he wrote was additional material for our generated dialog system. Although he didn’t end up being a major contributor over the long term, Tim was happy to have worked with (and hired, in fact!) one of his favorite JG designers.

    For my part, the one thing I remember about Edward R. G. Mortimer was that he had the snazziest pair of rainbow suspenders I have ever seen.

    GB: Now, let’s move on to some of your other projects. While you were still at Troika, you had a hand in making Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines happen. And once again, it looks like you were involved in pretty much everything from character art to the game’s main story. What are some of your favorite memories about that project?

    CM: Bloodlines was such a great project. I remember meeting with the guys from White Wolf to talk about the WoD, and then getting a huge box full of all the source material to dive into. I remember meeting Gabe Newell up at Valve and talking about how could we use the source engine to create our world. Lots of late nights with Leonard and Jason talking about the best ways to translate the VtM systems into the game. About what city the game should take place in. About the kinds of music that best represented the game’s vibe. Creating the first prototype with Jeanette, an alleyway, and a creepy basement (parts of which showed up in Gimble’s Prosthetics years later). Writing the game’s main story arc. Creating the Malkavian’s language. Modeling characters like the Nosferatu, the Tzmisce, and the Werewolf. Directing voice over and hearing our characters come to life through talented folks like John DiMaggio, Courtenay Taylor and Gray DeLisle. Watching a coven of dominatrix vampires spank fans with a leather horsewhip on the show floor at E3. Those were just a few of the highlights. But the best part was that we had a great group of devs who really cared about making a cool game. Many of us still keep in touch to this day.

    GB: Between Arcanum and Bloodlines, you worked on both isometric and 3D action-RPGs. Which way of doing things do you prefer? Why?

    CM: 3D ARPGs are definitely my favorite of the two genres. Personally, I like the more immersive experience that a first-person game provides, coupled with skill-based action-mechanics that you can enhance and progress through role-playing systems. There’s an immediacy to that kind of experience that I really enjoy. I’ve always felt that Bloodlines was ahead of its time in this respect – a truly deep and immersive story-driven RPG blended with a fun and engaging action game. In many ways it’s become the template for what many consider the modern RPG.
    I guess that last question probably tells you what inXile's unannounced RPG is going to be like. In fact, we recently noticed that Chad and Jason Anderson have been maintaining several collections of steampunk-themed images on Pinterest, so maybe this entire interview is an early clue.
     
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  2. oldmanpaco Master of Siestas

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    Didn't GameBanshee shut down?
     
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  3. Flying Dutchman Educated

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    I didn't even know GameBanshee was still a site.
     
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  4. MurkyShadow Glittering gem of hatred Patron

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    That is not dead which can eternal lie.
     
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  5. Duraframe300 Arcane

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    :what::prosper::deathclaw::timetoburn:
     
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  6. Nano Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    Nano
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    Bloodlines's combat is fine, stop being drama queens.
     
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  7. Fenix Prophet Vatnik

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    Didn't play it. It was that awful?
     
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  8. Alex betthurt

    Alex
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    It was rather bad. But it became frustratingly bad if you didn't build your character for combat.

    Now, you might say this is just how the game was made, it is not its responsibility to cater to any kind of build the players want. Well, to a point, I suppose, but the issue is that the game is really happy in letting you get ahead early on without focusing much in combat. Many of the early quests have easy workarounds for people who focused in other abilities; and with a tiny bit of sneaking, it is easy and even sometimes fun to avoid enemies. About half-way in, this design philosophy changes completely.
     
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  9. Duraframe300 Arcane

    Duraframe300
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    Its fine.

    Its not in any way, shape or form a *fun and engaging action game*.
     
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  10. Wunderbar Arcane

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    [​IMG]
     
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  11. AwesomeButton Personally falsified the US election results Patron

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    I knew the day would come when either Obsidian or InXile would get to the Arcanum IP, if not as continuation, then in the form of yet another "spiritual successor". Take the most prominent feature or aestethic, turn it into a gimmick, and spend the rest of development making it safe, woke, and consoles-ready.
     
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  12. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

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    Let's see if Chad and Jason still have what Tim and Leon lost.
     
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  13. Donut Touch Learned Edgy

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    That's just how all badly managed RPGs turn out, plenty of branching and C&C at the start, the game letting you pursue a wide variety of builds and then towards the end the devs don't have the time and money to maintain that so they just throw enemies at you since that is the cheapest way to pad out the game at that point. Bloodlines still did the branching thing at the end, but it couldn't keep all builds equally valid. That renaissance Fallout clone, Lionheart, is a much more extreme example of this. The budget ran out completely in the middle of the project and so after a certain point the game turns into pure slaughter.

    Consistency is the best thing here, if you can't offer a wide variety of playstyles for an entire RPG you should either scrap some of them or just cut the game down until you can. If Bloodlines had been more combat focused from the start it wouldn't have been so annoying when the change happens and the devs could have focused on polishing the combat rather than wasting their time on all that juicy good stuff at the start.

    It's not even purely a money issue, I've played some Neverwinter Nights modules that did similar things, going for a combat grind towards the end. So I think there is some design issues involved too, that you have to write the game scenarios to fit with that gameplay variety too. Alpha Protocol did this with the bosses too, that suddenly weren't stealth-able, or in the Deus Ex reboot where the bosses also suddenly broke a stealth run for no good reason because there needed to be an epic fight scene all of a sudden. That couldn't have been due to budget reasons.

    Arcanum is actually completely consistent from start to end, throwing some combat at you, but letting talky players survive those thanks to more followers and even letting you persuade the final boss. Minor playstyle alterations like taking up gambling or haggling is useful at points, but is never established as something that you will be able to depend on entirely and since you get XP from killing things that is explicitly a goal.
     
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  14. Shadenuat Arcane

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    Man that Mortimer guy is a mystary. I once tried to figure out who made writing in Arcanum and also only learned that its some dude who worked on D&D magazines. And I always wanted to know who was mastermind behind Arcanum narrative: a mix of parody of chosen one, detective story, fun lolz fallout references, and high level speech laydowns like loghair, or loghair/bates, or zan alurin/aronax, or virgil/nasruddin, or magnus/loghair etc. Not to mention the masterpiece which is Arcanum manual.
     
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  15. Major_Blackhart Codexia Lord Sodom Patron

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    Honestly, Arcanum was such a greatly written game. It shows you what a dev team is capable of via dialogue, but this is also around the time that game dev teams weren't filled to the brim with idiots and SJWs.
     
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  16. Poseidon00 Savant

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    Arcanum was great. The whole technology/magic dichotomy was surprisingly well done, and I dig the early industrial revolution vibe. A sequel would probably be ruined by some insufferable faggot writer trying to shoehorn in 2020 woke culture into it.

    Traveling back and forth farming random encounters until I quickly hit level 20 straight out of the crash site. Good times.
     
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  17. Donut Touch Learned Edgy

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    Getting rid of the neon colored airheads and other morons wouldn't change much, most games are badly written and it is a skill, not something that you just get born with if you are intelligent enough. Edward R. G. Mortimer did a fine job, he was obviously invested in what he wrote and interested in the subjects, as well as having a knack for writing itself. It's not high brow literature, but it is excellent for what it is meant to be. As far as I know this is the only game he worked on and that is a huge shame. What was true about him was true about most of Troika, they were devs running on passion and not only smart but talented. Shame that talent didn't stretch into the business side of things.
     
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  18. Goral Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

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    :what:

    Anyway, really interesting interview. I can't wait for their next project.
     
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  19. Kalin Arcane Zionist Agent

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    Anal virginity?
     
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  20. Alex betthurt

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    I dunno, I actually disagree with you there. I mean, maybe Bloodlines would have been more fun if they had cut some non combat interactions and focused in making combat fun instead; but I still prefer the mangled game we got than just another action RPG.
     
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  21. Dr Schultz Savant

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    As someone else has already pointed out, they probably ran-out of money/time after downtown. It's not too difficult to imagine that the design philosophy behind Bloodlines was to support different playstyles throughout all the game, a goal that unfortunately wasn't achieved.

    Probably I'm biased because Vampire: The Masquerade is my favorite P&P system, but - despite all the shortcomings in its core systems and in its moment to moment gameplay - I count the fist half of Bloodlines among the best CRPGs I've played. The second half among the worst.
     
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  22. CappenVarra phase-based phantasmist Patron

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    But for every precious source document which had been recorded on a sturdy clay tablet, a sheaf of hammered gold, or a roll of soft vellum, there were a hundred papyri which were a s dry and fragile as old leaves, and a hundred more which had half-crumbled into illegible fragments. The millennia of knowledge contained therein were in imminent danger of being lost forever— and in some cases, they were lost before I ever arrived.
     
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  23. Diggfinger Cipher

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    Interesting guy for sure!

    Tried to get him on Matt Chat. Alas, to no avail...
     
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  24. Donut Touch Learned Edgy

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    I'm not suggesting that what we got wasn't better than nothing, or that it would have been a better game if it had been more focused on the action. Rather that the project ought to have been better managed by the publisher and planned out in such a way that it could deliver on the promise the early game showed. That wasn't the only problem the game had, it was noticeably rushed in many more ways. So many bugs for example.
     
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  25. Gordian Nutt Novice

    Gordian Nutt
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    It was doomed to be inXile, because of Numenera - even if inXile did not learn their lesson by doing so and missed the point

    Although Obsidian did the same to Baldurs Gate but Baldurs Gate was not really theirs
     
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