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Chris Avellone

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Everything posted by Chris Avellone

  1. Someone wrote me a letter this weekend, asking if I had any suggestions for breaking into computer game writing, and it occured to me I didn't. I had suggestions for breaking into computer game design, but... Anyway, here's the gist of the response in case anyone else has a similar question about how it all works. Writing for video games is something of a different beast compared to game design. My experience is that someone will contract a writer (and usually late in the process) once an idea and game direction has already been determined and then it becomes the game writer's job to flesh out the idea for the game. Sometimes you're employed basically as a script doctor for a title, brushing up the dialogue before it's taken into the studio. If you wanted to propose your own world and characters for a game, though, one could do it through the mod community on the internet and then showcase those
  2. BTW, that's it for the questions for now. I wanted to thank Fionavar for setting this up, and thanks to all of you guys for the great questions... especially the T vs. M rating for character arcs one, which made me give a lot of thought to whether M is really necessary, or whether I just can't stand parameters and am a big fussy pants. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and thanks for participating on the forums - we should be releasing more and more NWN2 news as the September ship date approaches as well as other annoucements. - Chris
  3. 10) I guess it depends what you define as the old skool RPGer, but I'll take a guess - isometric, turn-based, long dialogue trees, make your own journals and maps of areas, PC-centric control scheme, and a slower paced game in general. I'd say the answer is "yes, it is possible" though unless it's an established franchise (Neverwinter Nights 2), it can be a tough sell to publishers, but that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point. To address each point above: - Camera Angle: I think people should be given freedom with this no matter what, so I would never rule out an isometric angle, but I would allow people to pick and choose (like in NWN2). - Turn-Based: While I keep hoping for a 700 million seller on the PSP to change folks' minds, turn-based is a hard sell with publishers, and there's times where I don't think it's even appropriate or fun for the genre (for example, in Knights of the Old Republic, I think the semi-turn-based or even a full-turn-based implementation of the fighting system actually hurts the game and worse, hurts the genre you're working in). In all honesty, there's been a bigger push from the market for games with more instant gratification and more freedom in combat and camera movements over tactical, turn-based combat approaches. I will say that even if I don't always have the reflexes for it, I usually find fights in those games to get the adrenaline pumping a lot more. - Long Dialogue Trees: If the game isn't voice acted, again, this is a hard sell. Also, if the conversation is forced upon you or paralyzes you from exploring the world or even looking around while people are talking to your character, it's an obstacle to fun. I do think there's other ways to do conversations other than the old node/4 response option we've done in the past, and I think it's worthwhile to experiment with those (especially with greater animation power and more detailed facial reactons) to see if something better can be done. - Journal and Map Tracking: Most folks consider anything that makes you record things outside of the game (maps, quest tracking, journals) to be more of an obstacle to fun than fun in itself. Granted, I made about 300+ lovingly handdrawn maps for Bard's Tale, but I don't know if I would have the time to do that today. - PC-centric: There's been a bigger push from publishers for console games, and it's been tough to find publishers that simply want to do a PC game. That said, going for consoles usually involves limiting or scaling down the number of options you can input through the controller, which can reduce the complexity of the interface somewhat. I will say that this often prevents some of the laziness that comes from some PC schemes since you do have so many buttons, but it does limit your options. Anyway, to make a long answer even longer, it's possible, but there a number of forces that are an impediment to making such a game, and such forces are not developer driven. I don't think anyone here would mind making a Fallout-style game, but frankly, unless it IS Fallout, it's a tough sell, and even if it was Fallout, there would be a lot of arguments from the outside as to why certain old skool properties of Fallout would have to change.
  4. 9) I will say that, higher social profiles aside, the larger budgets will make landing projects with publishers more difficult, and make them prone to wanting to bank on the safe project as opposed to the risky ones, since the cost of making a mistake and bringing a potentially low-selling title to market is now HUGE. I think social profiles for developers are expanding right now, actually - the future is now and has been for a few years. When I hear Fatal1ty being interviewed on NPR and promoting his own line of video cards, or see Cliffy B getting his picture snapped with Paris Hilton, see Stevie Case posing on the cover of PC Accelerator and getting shots of herself for Rolling Stone, Rob Pardo making Time magazine, or John Romero doing... well... anything, you see some game development folks touching the spotlight more and more. I also think Will Wright is on his way to becoming the Steven Hawking of the game industry as well. I feel that designers either fade away, take a permanent hiatus, lose their cutting edge skillset, abstract out (and when I mean this, I mean they start giving in to philosophy or abstract concepts and begin to distance themselves from real game design and focus more on design theory), or if lucky, keep the energy going all the way to the end and they die from a coffee overdose. While I think my skillset isn't always useful when dealing with the interactions of the combat mechanics of a three hit combo with a dynamic light source or setting up the most efficient scripting arrays to track the number of droids killed (which one of our programmers will be quick to point out when checking over my scripts), I think certain skills in creating a role-playing game never go out of style, no matter what the game - creating moments for exploration, cool items, combats, puzzles, creating an ambiance and theme, cool quests, pacing - all of those things are still valued. And I will say that I do find I can keep tabs on most of my developer friends through MySpace, so maybe that's a form of rising social consciousness. Or a devolution. Or something.
  5. Computer Games as a medium - I think it will absolutely enter into the world of art, and I think it already has, whether people realize it or not. I think the primary role of comic books, for example, were to be solely commercial entertainment, but I think a number of them have easily transcended into an art form. Artist or craftsman - it depends on the stage of the product cycle. At the beginning, definitely more an artist, then when the hardcore implementation begins, it's time to craft away (although there's also an argument for artistically crafting something, but that gets more complicated and makes my tiny monkey brain hurt).
  6. I guess it's much the same question you would put on characters and character exploration in a PG-13 movie vs. an R-rated movie. Sometimes to explore some characters in a certain genre ("true crime," survival horror, or otherwise) requires you have access to a toolbox of taboo subjects to reinforce the ambiance you're trying to create. Game mechanics are generally more impeded than most character development (mostly combat mechanics, for obvious reasons), but numerous topics in today's culture with character development also get the hamstring with the ESRB. This includes mature sexual content and commentary, strong profanity as a character's ego signature, intense drug addiction themes, and even more potentially taboo topics (religion, abortion, interrogation/torture). I guess I mostly chafe under these restrictions because some characters and locations in a game have a certain "voice" when you create them, and to hamstring that diminishes the creative edge to those areas. I'm not saying that there should be blood and gore covering the walls followed by a parade of orgies, but sometimes elements of a character or location arc take on a certain strength when you are allowed to use these elements.
  7. I'll do companion NPC characters because I understand them the best: They need understandable motivations (or hidden, but understandable motivations), unpredictability, some element of mystery, effective in the game, and a good voice actor. (Note that I have generated this list in five minutes, so it's possibly I have forgotten something. Anyway.) Motivations: People like characters they can understand or sympathize with. Part of my love of Hellboy and Robot Man in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol is that when they are confronted with a weird situation, they go "hunh?" and then they punch it repeatedly. This is an understandable, sympathetic motivation. Unpredictable: Cliches being what they are, familiarity breeds contempt. If you come across a character archetype you immediately recognize and know exactly what his personality and character arc is going to be, he immediately becomes less compelling. Mystery: Characters become more interesting when there is an element of mystery about their personality or motivations - then they become a mini-game that you want to unlock and find out why they are doing the things they do. The more these mysterious agendas revolve or focus around your player character, the better. Effective in the Game: Any character that does not perform an effective support role in the game is pretty much doomed by any non-roleplayer, which you should assume is everyone. Myron from Fallout 2 - ineffective. Cassidy and Bonenose from Fallout 2 - effective. I sometimes call this the "Final Fantasy III Test" - every character in Final Fantasy III had a different, yet very effective combat ability, which made them all worthwhile to use in the game. Voice Actor: Poor voice acting can breed hatred faster than anything, especially if their combat lines or selection lines are annoying or shrill. One last thing - any NPC who disparages your character or doesn't acknowledge that the main player is super cool on some level, even if it's grudgingly, is generally not as well liked as other companion characters. Sorry for the delay on this, we were in Dallas showing Neverwinter Nights 2 at A-Kon. Expect pix soon. If you want to see informal pix, go to: Informal A-Kon pix.
  8. Rebelling against the ESRB - Yeah, I feel that way much of the time, and the rest of the time I am sleeping. It's hard to make a game that's meaningful when there's certain modern-day subjects (and age-old dawn-of-time subjects) that you can't bring up without getting the ratings slash. I do want freedom to create with as few restrictions as possible, and sometimes having to fight for a mature-rated game (and not for the sake of simply being immature and painting blood and sex everywhere, but for other topics) is a pain in the ****ing ass. Not to be totally one-sided about it, though - I do think there should be some information on the package that lets the buyer know what they're in for, since I think folks deserve to be informed, but the restrictions are chafing at times. (BTW, I just previewed this and noticed ****ing gotting censored. See? They're everywhere).
  9. No, but it's not the team's fault, since they were in an unusual situation all around. That was actually the second project I was drafted on to, and then I asked Ferg if I could leave and work full time on Planescape (I think this was a year before DTU finally shipped). He agreed, since at the time, I didn't ask for much. Not long before that, I actually was asked to leave DTU to work on Fallout by Tim Cain, but I felt bad, so I didn't. Huge mistake. Torment's the game I'm most proud of. I feel like it said a lot of what I wanted to say about how role-playing games could be - and the setting just encouraged it. We also had a great team, TSR was pretty happy with what we were doing, and even if the hours sucked, everyone really pushed hard to make the game what it was. I still thank Eric Campanella daily for actually reading our design documentation and actually coming back to us with suggestions for how to improve the ambiance, character look, etc, based on the personality of a character he read (all of the character designs he took from 2-3 paragraphs of description and then he fleshed them out). I do see a lot of the flaws with it as well which comes from having worked on it so closely (pacing problems, combat issues, and balance issues), and I was pretty terrified it would crash and burn once people got their hands on it, but it was encouraging to hear the feedback on it.
  10. Modern engines do provide some limitations - I would disagree that modern engines couldn't pull off the Planescape universe, though (and I think they could do it better with a 3D engine), a claim of which was basically the fault of my seven year old designer brain back in '99 being incapable of wrapping itself where modern technology would go. In terms of character interaction, that's a little of a thornier issue, since getting that facial and animation complexity in some of our current games has been tough, resource wise (it can require a lot of animators and modelers to get it right) - it is much easier to describe it than show it, but our goal should ultimately be to always show it rather than tell the player what's happening. So basically, I think as far as environments go - no, as far as complex character interactions - yes, you can't really have as many with that depth of character movement and facial expression as we did in Planescape, but the fewer that you can pull off with the tools provided (Half-Life 2) I think are more than worthwhile. With these limitations, however, come other advantages. When you have a fully or mostly voice acted game, the information the NPCs (and CNPCs) are conveying comes off stronger and it's easier for people to be immersed in what's going on. Also, there's things voice actors can do with lines that will add far more emotion and drama than anything you could write. Anyway, hope that answers the question.
  11. Probably about half of PST, and roughly the same as K2. That's more of a gut instinct answer, since I don't have the word counts in front of me. I will say it's much harder in today's development cycle to write a lot for games whether dialogue or otherwise, just because of the localization and audio costs of having to do voice acting. Bonus Answer from Original Thread: (Fenghuang) Do I still have a passion for blonde European women? Sure, if they're cool and won't steal my car or cyberstalk me. I'm cool with physical stalkers, though.
  12. Just wanted to warn you guys that my answers may trickle in slowly, since there's been a marketing flood this week in addition to the Neverwinter Nights 2 standard work load. Influence System - I realize that happened in K2. Still, if at least one of those people stopped for a moment to consider the role-playing opportunity as well (so that's why Kreia's such a cranky witch), then perhaps it was a good thing in the end. I don't know if there's anything wrong with it either - if that's how folks want to play, that's totally fine with me, we just provide the option to roleplay if they want. I guess I consider the XP and Jedifying a bribe, saying "hey, there's tangible benefits to role-playing with these CNPCs." Also, being a roleplayer I enjoy getting tangible benefits for interacting more with my companions - and because I have no real friends of my own. In NWN2, however, it does work differently - we don't award experience points or stat bonuses, although it may affect class switching in rare cases and who stays/who leaves at certain key moments in the game. The results are more role-playing based as a result than in K2, but ideally we like to do both when we can (both tangible gameplay benefits and more role-playing opportunities). BTW, to answer Baley's question from the original thread, yeah, I liked Amelie a lot. I didn't want to go see it when it came out, but I was dragged there because I was dating one of our super cute Titus French interns, but I was pretty fascinated five minutes in. It's one of the few DVDs I own because I've liked Jean-Pierre Jeunet ever since City of Lost Children (I didn't realize Amelie had the same director) - and I liked a Very Long Engagement, too.
  13. If we gave our prizes, you would get one. Ran across that in one of the Jedi Quest children's books, and for some reason, it stuck. Chris
  14. Please examine the K1 Republic battle fleet and see if what you say truly violates K1 and Kotor-era continuity, or whether it is a convention.
  15. Uh... huh? All right, it's a poor fighter - where did that come from? But are we talking about the (now-christened) stealth basilisk in K2 or the Viraga/Virago? What? Oh, are we still talking about this? So you support this particular stealth revision mentioned in the article - excellent. Then it all comes down to aesthetics, and again, this thread has been a colossal waste of time. To re-iterate, if you are seeking psychological security in sci fi continuinity, then you are bound to be sorely disappointed. We proposed it, they agreed on the first pass, it's done, nothing will ever change it... oh, except a revision later on, which will, of course, again invalidate continuity - but that's only comforting or not depending on how you personally stand on the decision, as you've just proved. So if you want to argue LucasArts aesthetics vs. the old LucasArts aesthetics, go ahead. Call them about K1. Call them about K2. Do not hesitate. Tell them of the horrible, bloody crimes being committed in their backyard, which they have seen, yet somehow must be mistaken in their decisions. Tell them what fools they are for making that decision and how Star Wars historical accuracy has been ruined for you, sullied, dragged through the dirt. Tell them how it has crippled their reputation in your eyes for centuries, and how it has left a wound in the Force - a wound that echoes still. I think that only then will they see that what they have done is wrong... and that the balance in the Force must be rectified.
  16. Wait, so you (and the article) are admitting that the one in K2 isn't the same as TOJ? That there ARE multiple versions? Then why are we even talking about this? You're right, "enough of Basilisk." What a colossal waste of time. Also, if the insider article came out in 2005, then any changes they placed there will most likely overwrite anything that was already established in K1 or K2 (which was finished in 2004) - which I guess was your problem with K1 and K2 in the first place and means it may happen again in the future. But if you support that revision this time, hey, more power to you. Chris
  17. Really? Well, okay, if you say so. I really wouldn't feel comfortable making that kind of assumption myself. Yeah, I think the Basilisk (10+ years before K2, if I recall correctly, I may be wrong) didn't look very good, along with certain other elements and design elements that were presented during that time period (mystical power amulets, the pace and reasons for Ulic's fall, huge insect ships, etc, etc). Warb Null, in particular, was a huge favorite around the office, and I can show you the cartoons at some point if you'd like. In any event, there's probably hundreds of variations of the basilisk over the centuries. And if you have a problem with the Valley of the Sith Lords, well, I don't know what to tell you. I noticed the discrepancy, and didn't really care - it would have been nice if they could have somehow crammed the TOJ version into the X-Box (because I thought the TOJ was a good depiction, actually), but it was still beautiful to go down that valley in K1, see the sunset, and see the statues off in the distance. So just relax. Enjoy the view. Let Korriban seep into your veins and calm you. My opinion is this: If you need the security a strong continuity provides, you may not want to seek psychological security in Star Wars, Star Trek, or any other science fiction series (or computer game continuity). There's holes, gaps, and other problems - my suggestion to you would be to just try to relax a little and enjoy the escapism. When escapism becomes work, an obssession, or is just stressing you out in general, then it's not doing its job and you need to take a step back and take a breather.
  18. The patch is on the way, but still being tested. We won't have a list of all the fixes until it's ready to be downloaded. I don't have an ETA on it yet, but it shouldn't be too much longer.
  19. LA's agrees to everything when it comes to continuity. Proven because they in the Mandalorian Article in issue 80 of insider, sets in stone that the Basilisk is a beast. The Mandalorians Basilisk in TOTJ might look stupid, but regardless it is a Basilisk War Droid. That Virago,which I think looks stupid, isn't a Basilisk. That thing would be destroyed in seconds by the stupid kind. Even from Canderous discription in KOTOR he speaks of the Beast. I don't like that just because YOU THINK something looks stupid, you feel the right to change it. Of course in the end you didnt' change anything, the Basilisk is still the beast as it should. I would hope that IF you are making KOTOR 3, you put the ACTUAL Basilisk into the game. "Regardless, I am certain there are other mistakes. It's a big universe and a big game, you'll find them. I did try to read, play, and watch every piece of Star Wars source material I could find, but I freely admit I make mistakes. " And the Basilisk was one of them, intentional or not. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> Hmmm. Okay, I think you're making a mistake here, but no harm done. Basically, I think you missed what I said in the previous post - the right to change something never rests with me, it rests with LucasArts and Lucasfilm. I suppose you could blame LucasArts if you want, but I think that would be unfair and frankly, another mistake - as I said in the previous post, please keep in mind that everything goes to Lucasfilm for approval. Everything. I would strongly suggest that if you have a problem with the basilisk war droid, you don't have to stand for it - contact Lucasfilm, they run the show. Maybe they chose unwisely during the approval process when they saw the concepts. I seriously doubt it, but who knows? <{POST_SNAPBACK}> And I'm saying that they agree to everything. KOTOR 2 made the Basilisk the wrong way. Approved or not, LFL went back and approved the Beast in the Mandalorian Article. Definded,pictured, and everthing. Yet you say LFL changed it, but it was you people who made the concept of the WRONG Basilisk. Either way there are TWO basilisk now. The Stupid mighty version, and the Virago Star fighter. I'm sorry you don't like something, but I don't think that gives you the right to remake anything. I hope whoever Makes KOTOR 3, will put the Stupid mighty version back in. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> No actually what you said is LA agrees to everything, but if you meant to include Lucasfilm, that's fine - no problem with retrocontinuity in posts. Oh, and well, not to point out another mistake - we actually, strangely enough, DON'T have the right to remake everything (as I said before). And I never said Lucasfilm changed it, they approved it on the first pass - again, I hate to refer back to previous posts, but it's difficult to argue a point with you when you keep making mistakes in something I've said, it casts doubt on everything you're arguing. If your argument is "both you and Lucasfilm were wrong to change something mentioned in TOJ and have a different-looking basilisk," well, you're mistaken. It worked for K1 - they redesigned much of the look of the Republic fighters and ships from TOJ, and in my opinion, they were right to do so.
  20. LA's agrees to everything when it comes to continuity. Proven because they in the Mandalorian Article in issue 80 of insider, sets in stone that the Basilisk is a beast. The Mandalorians Basilisk in TOTJ might look stupid, but regardless it is a Basilisk War Droid. That Virago,which I think looks stupid, isn't a Basilisk. That thing would be destroyed in seconds by the stupid kind. Even from Canderous discription in KOTOR he speaks of the Beast. I don't like that just because YOU THINK something looks stupid, you feel the right to change it. Of course in the end you didnt' change anything, the Basilisk is still the beast as it should. I would hope that IF you are making KOTOR 3, you put the ACTUAL Basilisk into the game. "Regardless, I am certain there are other mistakes. It's a big universe and a big game, you'll find them. I did try to read, play, and watch every piece of Star Wars source material I could find, but I freely admit I make mistakes. " And the Basilisk was one of them, intentional or not. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> Hmmm. Okay, I think you're making a mistake here, but no harm done. Basically, I think you missed what I said in the previous post - the right to change something never rests with me, it rests with LucasArts and Lucasfilm. I suppose you could blame LucasArts if you want, but I think that would be unfair and frankly, another mistake - as I said in the previous post, please keep in mind that everything goes to Lucasfilm for approval. Everything. I would strongly suggest that if you have a problem with the basilisk war droid, you don't have to stand for it - contact Lucasfilm, they run the show. Maybe they chose unwisely during the approval process when they saw the concepts. I seriously doubt it, but who knows?
  21. Vima was supposed to be Bastila in K1 (seriously), but there are legal issues with using the name "sunrider" so we were not allowed to use it in K2. You'll notice Jolee mentions it in K1, however, but that was an oversight.
  22. We kept the valley the way it was in K1. Considering memory constraints, I completely understand why it was modeled the way it was. The purpose of the ritual and Freedon Nadd was already explained by another poster (thanks, Ulicis). As to whether he was "wiped off the Force map," I have no idea, and no argument you could present to me from Tales of the Jedi would ever make me think that the evil that took place in that location couldn't still be harnessed for further acts of destruction. The basilisk war droid version presented in K2 was an intentional departure from the ones presented in Tales of the Jedi, and we are happy, because frankly, those look really stupid. This is much the same reason that many of the designs in K1 are a departure from the ship designs in TOJ, and with good reason. So yes, the basilisk droid version was an intentional depature from the older models, and we take full responsibility. It is noteworthy that LucasArts and LucasFilm agreed with our decision on the first pass, much as they agreed with the decisions made with K1's look. Oh, and someone mentioned Sith holocrons (Radnor?) - Exar Kun did not destroy the last holocron. Sith Holocrons show up repeatedly in the Expanded Universe after the events of the Sith War, and they are Sith holocrons that contain knowledge of Sith - Quinlan Vos retrieves one for Dooku in Star Wars: Republic, they show up repeatedly in the Jedi Quest series, etc, etc. Regardless, I am certain there are other mistakes. It's a big universe and a big game, you'll find them. I did try to read, play, and watch every piece of Star Wars source material I could find, but I freely admit I make mistakes.
  23. Not only was the Sith War was already taken by the Expanded Universe (Exar Kun, Ulic Qel-Droma), the Jedi Civil War made sense to us and in our opinion, the Republic as a whole. Many Jedi defected to Malak and Revan's side during the war (text crawl), and it doesn't feel like much of a stretch to see why the galaxy would call it that - Atton pretty much sums up the everyman view, despite his bias, but people in K2 aren't really happy about Jedi as a whole. Plus, when you hear "Jedi Civil War," it makes you stop and think about WHY people would call it that, and I think that's equally important in the context of the game. It's worth noting that both LucasArts and Lucas Film didn't have a problem with the name, they approved it on the first pass.
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