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Top Ten @ Obsidian

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As many of you know - and have also kindly contributed to - we are starting a new feature. The idea is to develop a Top Ten set of questions that are posed by the community. This current incarnation was developed in the following two threads: 1 and 2.

 

With the mod squad working diligently away at your suggestions, the following are the Top Ten for Feargus. The thread will initially remain closed while Feargus adds his reflections and responses. At that time, the thread will be opened for general discussion that will likely last approximately a week.

 

I am grateful for the suggestion that this concept be opened to the rest of the devs and I hope in a few days to start a new brainstrorm/input thread for the next dev to play the Top Ten game. And so I know I have shared the Big Green's constructive posting schpiel, this discussion will be monitored closely for spam/flaming/and general trolling mayhem. Do feel free to enjoy yourself, but remember that respectful and constructive posting is hoped for from the Obsidian community.

 

And now, here we go:

 

1:

The Infinity Engine, notably, integrated the strategic nature of D&D into RPG combat, especially through full party control - while others strived to bring out the more 'personal' side of combat (TES). What parts, if any, of the former direction do you believe are appealing and desirable in future CRPGs?

2:
Personally, what I would be interested in asking is whether Feargus believes that OE will be focused solely on making RPGs, or will they eventually branch out and experiment with other genres?  I know that many of the developers at OE have diverse tastes in games, and I think that it would be interesting to see what they could add to games other than RPGs.  Of course, I would still desire for OE to remain RPG-centric, but I think there's merit to the idea of trying other types of games (both from a creativity and financial standpoint).

3:
What do you think of Obsidian's forum community?

4:
Any Post Apocalyptic or S-F titles developed by Obsidian in the future?

5:
Will Obsidian continue to make "safe" games (i.e. those of established properties) or will it branch out and take the risk of creating its own settings?

6:
What does Feargus think of the many Diablo2 clones like Dungeon Siege and Titanquest and will OE actually tries to do one sometimes too or do we primarily get story-focused RPG's? And what about an sandbox type of RPG like Oblivion, or a first-personone like Bloodlines or Deus Ex?

7:
Are you planning at sticking with traditional RPGS? Or are you planning on doing a hybrid of some type?

8:
How do you (and your fellow Obsidianites for that matter) feel about merchandising ?

 

Will we see g-strings with Obsidian logos, t-shirts with your resident artists concept art on them, coffee cup with your portrait on it etc.

 

I for one would buy at least 5 cups, one with each company founder on it, if it would support one of those less profitable isometric party based crpgs being self published and developed...  :thumbsup:

9:
Feargus, how's the family doing?

10:
If Obsidian is managed by 5(?) main owners... How efficiently does it run with so many bosses involved? Or does each have his or her own sphere of influence within the company?


The universe is change;
your life is what our thoughts make it
- Marcus Aurelius (161)

:dragon:

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Who will be at E3?

 

Will we learn more about PNJ or PG at E3?

 

Hi everyone, well I'm at E3 now and I feel bad for not responding to my own top 10 until now but my son gave me some wonderful flu that put me on ice chips and dry toast for a bit.

 

So, I'll answer this question first and then I'll be answering more questions over the coming days. First off the people that will be at E3 are going to be all the Owners of Obsidian except for Chris Jones, so Darren, Chris Parker, Chris Avellone and myself will all be at E3. Showing off NWN2 in the Atari booth are about 8 other Obsidianites - Scott Everts (long time BIS/OE level/tech designer), Patrick Mills (QA), Kristen Wong (Artist), Ryan Rucinski (Producer), John Morgan (Producer), Anthony Davis (Producer), Jesse Farrell (QA), Joe Bulock (QA), Nathan Chapman (Lead QA). Josh Sawyer is also going to be roaming around the Atari booth showing the game from time to time.

 

E3 for me is mostly going to be showing the game and doing interviews, which, and not to pull back the curtain too much, is to say the same exact thing slightly differently about 30 different times at the show. It's tough to "sell" a game as complex as NWN2 in 10 second sound bites. Now not all of the press I talk to need 10 second sound bites, which mean we get to talk in more detail. However, we try to say mostly the same thing so we don't forget to hit on the important things about the game. So, if you happen to see a number of interview with me from E3 - sorry that I'm probably saying the same thing over and over and over again.

 

What we do want to do when it comes to talking about the game more is releasing more and more info on-line as we get closer to ship. Maximus from NW Vault was nice enough to accept our invitation to come visit Obsidian yesterday and he spent about 5, maybe 6, hours at the studio and I got to have lunch with him. He got to talk to pretty much everyone on the team he wanted to and I think he'll be releasing a lot of pretty detailed info about the game soon.

 

As for the other projects we are working on right now being at E3, we won't be talking about them other than telling people we are working on them when they ask. I'm not sure when more details on the project we are doing for SEGA will be announced, but I would be suprised if it was before the end of the year.

 

Well that's a much longer answer to the question, but I know it's been a long while since I've been up here for which you all have my apologies.

 

I'll get to another question within the next day.


Feargus Urquhart

CEO

Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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1:

The Infinity Engine, notably, integrated the strategic nature of D&D into RPG combat, especially through full party control - while others strived to bring out the more 'personal' side of combat (TES). What parts, if any, of the former direction do you believe are appealing and desirable in future CRPGs?

 

In my mind it really comes down to the type of CRPG that you are trying to make and what the focus of it is going to be. If you are making a combat focused RPG then you have think of who are you making it for and how do you want it to feel. Do you want it to be something that someone can pick up and play for 10 minutes and get through a bunch of combats - then you need to have a fairly fast action combat system that lets you cut through enemies quickly. If you want to make it for players that like strategy then you have to slow it down, make it more stat based and focused more heavily on having a heavy rules implementation of something like D&D.

 

If you aren't making an RPG that focuses on combat then picking the right combat mechanic is much less important. For example, BG and Torment both used the same combat engine, however Torment could probably have had a different combat engine (not FPS though) and it would have had less of an impact on the feeling of the game then if the combat system was changed in BG.

 

As for what I like - that's a tough one. I do miss the Infinity Engine combats, but I worry they are either on a long hiatus or a permanent one. It seems like a lot of games are becoming much more personal and action based, which seems to imply the latter. However, combat in WoW is not pure action and there are certainly a lot of people who like that. Ultimately what I like about combat in RPGs is the ability to feel like I chose a good strategy and that I was able to use the abilities of my character(s) to the fullest. Doing those things is probably the goal we should all have when designing combat systems for RPGs no matter whether they are Oblivion, Diablo, KotOR, BG or Fallout style.


Feargus Urquhart

CEO

Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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First of all, sorry for taking so long to get to the next question. I've been sick (which seems to be a trend lately) and coming back from E3 meant some long days.

 

2:

Personally, what I would be interested in asking is whether Feargus believes that OE will be focused solely on making RPGs, or will they eventually branch out and experiment with other genres?  I know that many of the developers at OE have diverse tastes in games, and I think that it would be interesting to see what they could add to games other than RPGs.  Of course, I would still desire for OE to remain RPG-centric, but I think there's merit to the idea of trying other types of games (both from a creativity and financial standpoint).

 

That's a good question and it's one that we wrestle with every time the owners of the company get together to talk about what we want to do as a company. Every Monday we have a lunch meeting of the owners, and one of the topics yesterday was what are the right sort of projects for us and what are not the right projects. How RPG-centric should we stay and is it bad staying too RPG-centric. It's a hard call a lot of the time and we often don't agree.

 

What we do know is that we have certain talents when it comes to making RPGs - story, characters, world building and character development systems. Whatever types of games we do make should use the things that we are good at. In other words if we were to go off and make an RTS (we aren't right now), we would probably make one that was more like Warcraft 3 than Age of Empires 3. However, we also know you shouldn't try to turn another genre into something else all of the time. Adding a lot of Dialog and Story to Battlefield 2 would just be stupid. BF2 is all about multiplayer team combat in games that last 10 to 20 minutes.

 

While we will probably try our hand at other genres when we can utilize our talents in those games, I do want to have a "hardcore" RPG in production at all times whenever possible. It's a hard goal right now, since selling a hardcore PC RPG to a major publisher is pretty difficult, but I think we just need to figure out how to do what we want to do in terms that work for a publisher.


Feargus Urquhart

CEO

Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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3:

What do you think of Obsidian's forum community?

 

It's a love, hate relationship? :woot: Actually, I think my actions, unfortunately, speak louder than words in that it's been almost a year and I never answered all of these questions. I could say it's time, my family, getting NWN2 done or any of 100 other excuses. But, the reason is that I never scheduled my time or prioritized it high enough to make sure that I got up here and answered these questions. While fairly lame of me, I'm going to try to put more of my time aside for the community here and on the NWN2 boards.

 

I think that one of the difficulties for us over the past year, and a little bit more, has been that our community has been split between here and the NWN2 boards. That's made it hard for us to talk about NWN2 or talk about Obsidian based upon where we happen to be spending our time online. I think it's also made it hard for us to really explain to everyone about what we are doing with NWN2 and what we are doing and what we want to do with it. I'm hoping we can come up with better ways to do this, but I can say that Rob McGinnis has been awesome in helping things go more smoothly on the NWN2 side of things.

 

As for our forums in general, what I like about them is that they keep us honest. They can almost be like a referendum on us when we've done something stupid. Now that's not to say that I don't want to put my hands through my screen sometimes and throttle the person on the other side - I do. But, I think reading even the flamiest of flames makes us think - once we see through the burst blood vessels in our eyes. I look at even these posts as having something in them that must be grounded in either a misunderstanding or something that is wrong that we should look at fixing. It's not always the thing that the person is talking about in the post itself, but something else that is deeper. It's how I look at reports from our testers sometimes. Often they get as angry at us as the community does and sometimes what the are angry about is not actually what we should fix. The analogy I often use is the difference between a symptom and a disease. What people are angry about is the symptom - the thing that made them angry. However, the real problem, the disease could be something entirely different. That's where we try to dissect what people are talking about so we can figure out what we should really focus on and fix, or at least explain that we can't do anything about it.

 

So, overall, I'm glad we have people who talk about things here and over on the NWN2 boards. However, I don't think we've done a great job in the last year of doing our part. Or rather, I should say, I don't think I've done a great job in the last year.


Feargus Urquhart

CEO

Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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4:

Any Post Apocalyptic or S-F titles developed by Obsidian in the future?

 

Two answers in a month, hey at least I'm getting a little better at this. It is funny as you get older that time does seem to just speed on by. Well enough on that tangent.

 

So, as it turns out, between when this question was asked and today many of you have probably already seen Sega's announcement that we are going to be making an Aliens RPG for them. I can't really go into anymore details about it other than to say it is an RPG and there are Aliens in it. :thumbsup: Well I can say a little more in that we are focusing a great deal on the RPG aspects of the game, so no one needs to run into the hills with worry that we are going to make DOOM with Aliens in it and one extra stat slapped on it.

 

As for future titles, I would like us to continue making both Fantasy games and games placed in other genres - like Post Apocalyptic and SciFi. A number of us have been toying around with the idea of a Post Apocalyptic Fantasy world. There are a number of campaign worlds out there that explore this idea and I think a really cool video/computer game could be made within a world like that. While we couldn't go with the campy 50's feel of Fallout (campy as in the Pip Boy look, not campy as in culture references), I think the tension created by having all the different fantasy societies trying to scrape by and rebuild would make for an interesting world to explore. As for a straight SciFi game, I don't have an real specific ideas about what we might do just yet. I know a lot of people around here love 40K, so I was thinking of talking to THQ at some point about whether they would like to a 40K game that is more RPG than RTS.

 

Finally, I should probably talk about the twin gorillas in the closet. I'm sure there's a correct analogy in there somewhere, but that's what came to mind. Anyway, I'm speaking of the the KotOR3 and Fallout gorillas. Both of those are games that I and everyone else here at Obsidian would love to make. I don't know if we will ever get the chance, but I do continue to talk with LucasArts about what might be going on with KotOR3. As for Fallout, like I said, I'm not sure if we'll ever get the chance, but I know that I'd love to make another Fallout - plus, I think Avellone's already designed the next 12 of them.


Feargus Urquhart

CEO

Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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5:

Will Obsidian continue to make "safe" games (i.e. those of established properties) or will it branch out and take the risk of creating its own settings?

 

Well that's a loaded question. :) So I'll go with a safe answer - both. This is pretty much because I like working on both licensed properties and original settings. I really believe that they both have their place in the industry and in running a healthy independent development studio. While I do think that licensed games can be less risky, it's not particularly the reason why I don't have a specific preference between them and original ideas. I guess I look at it as a game maker and not just a business guy. That may seem odd, because normally the business guy would say that making licensed product is the smart way to go because lower risk is always better. However, if you run an independent studio one of the things you always think about is the "end game" - what are we really trying to do here. Are we just going to be independent forever or are we looking to get purchased by a publisher. Creating original ideas (also called new IP - "Intellectual Property"), when successful, makes a studio more attractive to a publisher since they are getting more than just people and technology when they buy you. That's why you see a lot of studios really pushing to get their own IP published.

 

But, I often look at making licensed products differently and as I've said before if you can't make a good game with a license then that's not the fault of the license but the fact that you're a poor game maker or the development environment (time, money and resources) wasn't right. What I think you can get from licensed products is your excitement in the license and the defintion of the game world by the license. Personally, I was ecstatic when I was offered the position to work on AD&D games (now just D&D) and then just as excited again about working on a Star Wars game when I got that opportunity. You see that to a greater or lesser degree with everyone on a team that is working with a cool license. Plus, you get to use the license to help focus the game. I've seen a to of games with incredibly orginal settings flounder because the team could never really define what they were trying to do. You see that a lot less with licensed products, because the "box" of the game is already there. Now there are a lot of people that see that as un-creative or boring, but I believe that's just a mindset.

 

Having said all that, it may sound like I think making licensed games is the end all be all. I don't. As an industry we can't just make licensed products because we will then only ever be a secondary outlet for ideas. If new ideas never come from us then I think that makes us less. Plus, without new worlds and ideas, I would never have gotten to play a lot of the games that I've loved. I do think it's more of a gamble to create an entirely new game though, because you are starting at zero with the player. When you have a license, like let's say 24, the player most likely knows who Jack Bauer is - which means you don't have to put much explanation into that aspect of the game. You can get the player into the story or action faster without needing as much of an introduction. It's why most fantasy games have elves. We all know what an elf is - they like nature, live a long time, are more magical and have pointy ears. The player will invest their feelings of elves into the game without you having to do much. If they love or hate elves then you already have those emotions to work with when weaving the story or action of the game.

 

So what does that all mean for Obsidian? Well, as I said at the beginning. I want to do both. Two of the products that we are making right now use licenses and one is an original IP that we are creating. By next year, that ratio might be more like one licensed products and two original IP games. But, it wouldn't surprise me if that didn't bounce back the other way a year or two from after that.


Feargus Urquhart

CEO

Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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