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Obsidian Entertainment studio tour


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#21
Flouride

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That's a great article. It's still depressingly sad that Black Hound and Fallout 3 never got released. 



#22
Blodhemn

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Too much nervous laughter, but expected in gaming "journalism". Nothing new. Nice lounge area though, I guess.

#23
Infinitron

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“Do you shoot grandma or help her across the street?”: The anatomy of a good in-game choice, according to Obsidian
 
Obsidian Entertainment is one of the absolute masters of the role playing game, and it knows its way around a gut-wrenching story choice.
 
It’s no surprise that founding staff who worked on the likes of Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment and the original Fallout series ended up creating a development house that’d keep the most traditional types of Western RPG alive.
 
As well as stints on some big external properties like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth, Obsidian had break-out kickstarter success with Pillars of Eternity. That’s led to something of a revival of the isometric computer RPG, with the studio currently working on sequels to Pillars and putting out a port of the already successful first game on PC.
 
Ask players what Obsidian is good at and most fans will answer the same way: it’s all about those choices. Fallout: New Vegas was widely praised for having writing superior to Bethesda’s two entries in the series, and without a doubt what makes Obsidian’s commercial struggle but cult classic Alpha Protocol stand out compared to its Bioware-crafted peers is how the game handles choice and consequence and the high-pressure espionage situations it places you in.
 
But what makes for a good video game choice according to those masters of the craft? Obsidian co-founder and CEO Feargus Urquhart knows a thing or two about crafting a strong moment of difficult player choice – so we put the question to him.
 
“It can be often too easy to make it about good and evil, right? So player choice needs to be legitimate and it needs to be about the player and not the designer,” Urquhart told me during a lengthy phone interview about Obsidian’s work in general. “I think that’s the biggest important thing. We’re at our best when we’re thinking about – okay, where is the player in the game? What do we feel that they’re thinking, what are they enjoying, and what are the type of players that they’re trying to be?
 
“When we do that and give players choice based upon that… of course we can’t say you can be any type of player. You can’t be a serial killer and you can’t be a nun! We still have to start with some sort of ground rules as far as what choices we’re giving the player to do… but it’s important to make those choices really make sense contextually within the quest and within the area of the game – it can’t just be do you shoot grandma or do you help her across the street. Now, fifteen, twenty years ago we were doing a lot more of that, but I think as time has gone on we’re understanding that better.”
 
It was this sort of nuance that really made games like Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol sing in spite of bugs or gameplay systems that just failed to come together, and unburdened by worries about facial animation this is an area where the 2D isometric Obsidian games have really doubled down, with subtlety to choices that actually hasn’t been seen all too often in gaming at all. While choices might be a studio strength, Urquhart says balance and restraint in player choices is an equal part of the process.
 
“Hard choices are good, but they’re tiring,” added Urquhart. “I think this is the other thing – so if you give players a hard choice that’s hard for anybody unless you’re a complete nun or a complete psychopath… those are great to have but they have to be used sparingly. This is because the player comes out of it kind of emotionally drained and if you do that too much… it’s like playing Doom 3! It just ends up like, oh my god, stop, let me breathe. I think that’s an important part of it, and I think that’s what we focus on.
 
Once a player has made a choice for it to have meaning the game itself must react, and this too is something Obsidian has proved skillful at. Where Mass Effect was more simple and clear-cut with its pulpy good-or-evil, paragon-and-renegade player agency, Obsidian’s Alpha Protocol was often more subtle, reacting to your actions in the world as well as how you spoke to people in ways that other games didn’t. A focus on how consequence echoes through the game is an enormous part of why Alpha Protocol, which in many ways was unremarkable, became a fan-favourite on Steam.
 
“The other thing we used to do and I think what we try to do better and better now is… consequence has a negative connotation. There’s this idea of… so, well, a consequence must be bad. No. What we mean is a reaction to what you did based upon how you did it. The player should always be ‘rewarded’ – in quotation marks – it’s not just that if you help this person you get 10 gold because you’re a good person but if you slit their throat you get all 1000 gold pieces on them,” Urquhart says.
 
“It’s not that – it’s more what we really, properly started doing in Alpha Protocol. So there’s an arms dealer, right – if you’re nice to him and you work with him then it means these kind of things will unfold across the rest of the game. Punch him in the face and slam his face into the bar and then another type of consequences and reactivity will happen. It’s not black or white, though. In a lot of ways it can all be rewards – it’s just different types of rewards, with the key reward being that what you get is tuned to how you as a player chose to go through that.
 
“That goes back to that immersion – it makes you feel like you’re in that game. If you slam his head in and he’s like ‘Alright dude!’ and then he reacts to that throughout the rest of the game and now he’s scared of you, the rewards in the game down the road, right through the game, are based on him being scared of you. I think that’s how we’ve tried to make choice as relevant and as impactful as possible.
 
“It’s tough. There is this modern… in our world today, not to make this about politics or anything like that, but there’s this idea of making everything so broad and so inclusive and all this and all that. That’s awesome, but I think that sometimes if we try to do that in a game it can risk flattening everything. In some ways we need to embrace the fact that ultimately we’re telling a story, and it’s fiction, and we’re trying to tell things that have themes, and we’re exploring those themes and those themes will require choices… and some of those choices in modern life you would never do. Some you’d go to jail for doing!
 
“That’s the difference between games and real life – it’s not meant to mimic real life, it’s meant for us to put players in these worlds and have them experience things that will be broader than real life.”

Edited by Infinitron, 31 August 2017 - 11:40 AM.


#24
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Too much nervous laughter, but expected in gaming "journalism". Nothing new. Nice lounge area though, I guess.

 

It used to be that games journalism was done by former programmers or even game developers. Now it's mostly done by journalist and media graduates.



#25
HoonDing

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Did Avellone's old office really get turned into a lavatory?



#26
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In a display of excellent taste, Obsidian’s CEO still wants to make Alpha Protocol 2
 
This underrated gem gets a little more love once again. Praise be!
 
Obsidian Entertainment has an incredible development history filled with lots of really significant properties from both inside and outside the world of games – but if their CEO had his way, the one they’d return to would be a creation of their own – cult classic espionage RPG Alpha Protocol.
 
“I think it’s Alpha Protocol,” Obsidian boss Feargus Urquhart told VG247 in a recent interview. “I would want to go back from everything that we learned and do that because I think there’s a lot that can be done. We had some really cool ideas for Alpha Protocol 2.”
 
We’d asked Urquhart which game from Obsidian’s past he’d particularly like to return to, and this was his final answer. That means, yes, Alpha Protocol beats out the likes of Fallout, Star Wars, South Park, Neverwinter Nights and others as the one game their boss-man would most like to make given the chance. I’m a bit of an Alpha Protocol devotee, as even though in many ways it is a deeply flawed and often average game, bubbling beneath the surface is something truly, brilliantly special.
 
alphaprotocol.jpg
 
“I think I’d want to do Alpha Protocol 2, particularly now that it’s almost like the game has sort of… I don’t want to say aged, because I mean it in a positive sense. It’s found what people love about it and what we love about it, and now I think we could express it differently fixing a lot of the things that weren’t maybe what they should’ve been,” Urquhart added – well aware of the original release’s flaws.
 
In answering this question Urquhart mused a few other projects Obsidian had worked on too, noting that he’d love to do another Fallout title and that he’s a particularly huge fan of Star Wars being a child of the seventies. One major contender was Planescape: Torment – a project Obsidian toyed with taking up before InExile Entertainment put out their crowdfunded 2017 spiritual successor to the game.
 
“We talked a lot before InExile did Torment about if we wanted to do another Torment. Another Torment is interesting to me because I love the ending of Torment. It’s almost like the character walking away from the vault in the original Fallout. If we wanted to return to Planescape and Torment at some point, I don’t know what you’d do, I don’t have a good answer for that. We never did.
 
“No, yeah. It’d be Alpha Protocol,” Urquhart settles.
 
If you don’t know what Alpha Protocol is, think a Mass Effect style mix of action combat and RPG progression alongside similar dialog choices and branching story shenanigans – all set in an espionage plot that pulls inspiration from all the greatest spy stories you’d imagine, from Bond to Bourne and beyond. It’s buggy as hell, but it genuinely is a gem – especially in how reactive its branching story is to your reactions. It feels like the kind of thing that could definitely make a return in a world where less grounded spy stories such as Kingsman seem to be making a return.
 
Many of the key staff behind the game are still at the studio, but SEGA are the owners of the Alpha Protocol series. Hopefully one day they’ll pick up the phone to Obsidian – messy as it was, Alpha Protocol is a cult classic for a reason – it’s secretly brilliant.

Edited by Infinitron, 01 September 2017 - 01:58 AM.


#27
injurai

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What if that's the Cainarsky game... :o

 

Probably not.



#28
Flouride

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Indiana is a new IP, so it can't be Alpha Protocol 2.


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#29
Hurlshot

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It could be a spiritual successor, however.


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#30
Flow

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This recent media blitz from Obsidian is very odd.

 

What's going on? Did the PR team just decide to go all out in support of PoE on console and the Tyranny DLC, or are they gearing up for some really big announcement?



#31
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Maybe they're trying to net a publisher.



#32
Ethics Gradient

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This recent media blitz from Obsidian is very odd.

 

What's going on? Did the PR team just decide to go all out in support of PoE on console and the Tyranny DLC, or are they gearing up for some really big announcement?

 

I don't think it was all that odd.  

Two releases less than two weeks apart?  Why not fill the gap with a media campaign to keep the hype train rolling at full speed?

 

Things are relatively quiet on the Pathfinder and Deadfire fronts.  Might as well drop some PR now when it can be of the greatest impact.



#33
Infinitron

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Maybe they're trying to net a publisher.

 

The blitz was funded by a publisher - Paradox Interactive. It's all about Obsidian, but it's not their doing. That's what makes this extra-weird.


Edited by Infinitron, 01 September 2017 - 04:02 PM.


#34
Ethics Gradient

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The blitz was funded by a publisher - Paradox Interactive. It's all about Obsidian, but it's not their doing. That's what makes this extra-weird.

 

 

I'm not entirely sure what's weird about that at all.  In a traditional Developer-Publisher arrangement, it wouldn't be unreasonable for the publisher to take the lead on advertising and building hype in whatever the identified target markets may be.

 

Sure, a bit more effort than usual may be going to hype the developer instead of their product, but so far as I can see, the marketing strategy is along the lines of: Focus on Obsidian's RPG successes and old-school Black Isle heritage, then slip in a blurb about Tyranny and PoE.



#35
Infinitron

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it wouldn't be unreasonable for the publisher to take the lead on advertising and building hype in whatever the identified target markets may be.

 

 

Not when you're talking about a low budget publisher like Paradox who could barely be bothered to market Tyranny.

 

Not when you're talking about Pillars of Eternity, an IP they don't even own.

 

Not when you're talking about Bastard's Wound, a mere DLC.

 

There may be something more to this.


Edited by Infinitron, 02 September 2017 - 01:07 AM.


#36
Flouride

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Not when you're talking about a low budget publisher like Paradox who could barely be bothered to market Tyranny.

 

Not when you're talking about Pillars of Eternity, an IP they don't even own.

 

Not when you're talking about Bastard's Wound, a mere DLC.

 

There may be something more to this.

 

 

 

It's not a massive marketing push for Tyranny+DLCs and Pillars of Eternity. They fly out few journalists to Irvine and pay few hotel rooms. That's relatively cheap marketing if you ask me. Add few of Paradox's streams that don't really work for a plot driven game and you've got part of their marketing campaign right there. 

 

I would be surprised if it turned out that Paradox is publishing Project Indiana. I'm not sure they are big enough to publish a multiplatform AAA game. 


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#37
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I doubt it will be AAA, more like AA.



#38
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AA is where Obsidian shines anyways.


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#39
Leferd

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Do most of us here actually prefer "AA" Obsidian products? I do.
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#40
injurai

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As compared to "AAA" Obsidian projects or do you mean compared to AAA Non-Obsidian products?






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