I wanted to put some ideas into words to help express what it means to build a world at Obsidian. It takes a lot of time and effort from a boatload (dirigible-load) of people, but there are some guiding principles that keep us focused on building worlds we love that we hope players will love, too.
No matter what the flavor of the setting may be -- fantasy, sci-fi, modern day espionage... a town in Colorado -- worlds are places we want to explore filled with characters we feel passionate about. Curiosity makes us want to explore. An interest in the unknown. Fascination and wonder at what we'll see if we go left instead of right. Visuals are part of it, but it's about the atmosphere and the feeling we get from stepping into a place we've never been part of before. When we see the way the world and the folks in it work, what drives it and them, no matter how mundane or fantastic, we believe in it.
To feel for characters at all, we need to make a connection with them. To make a connection with them, we need to believe that if we were put in their shoes, maybe we'd follow the same path they're on. When we talk about mature themes, we're not describing arterial spray. We're talking about character motivations that we sympathize with in the setting. When we get to our nemeses after hunting them down for 50 hours and they say, "Man, do you see what I have to deal with?" we nod and say, "Yeah, I guess I do..." even as we're reluctantly beating their faces in with a morningstar.
But it's not a one-way street. Those characters need to be with you. They need to pay attention to who you choose to be and how you choose to conduct yourself. It's why we love writing conversations as dialogues, exchanges with give and take. If we've built a world you believe in, your choices won't feel like random button clicks. They'll be decisions that make you think, maybe trouble you, possibly annoy you from time to time. And when your companions, friends, enemies, lovers, haters, et al. react with jeers, whooping, or the RPG equivalent of a sustained Citizen Kane clap, you won't feel the invisible hand of the market designer at work. You'll feel like you're at home in the world we, and your choices, have shaped.
When you get down to it, we want to make places and lives you want to be a part of as much as we do. It seems a lot simpler than it is when it's written down like that, but through all of the complications and doubts, knowing what we're shooting for helps us move foward day after day and year after year. Hopefully you'll want to be part of where we're going next. It should be a hoot.