Here's your weekly news roundup, in conjunction with Nukapedia: The Fallout Wiki.
Brian Fargo speaks to IndieRPGs
Brian's been talking again... This time to IndeRPGs. Most of the news isn't new, but this bit was interesting....
- ...Obviously some skills are going to be used more than others and I think those are quite obvious. No doubt the Medic skill will be used more often than say Toaster Repair or Rocket Science. However it is a party based game so there will be a natural balancing that comes about unless you give all 4 characters the exact same skills. But that said we also reward people who pick some obscure skills to reward them for the tradeoff. But the reward may not come easy… you may have to discover it.
I talk with Chris Keenan
Thanks to George/Lizzunchbox at Wikia for setting up the Community Interview with Chris Keenan, a Producer at Inxile. Here's what I asked him, and his responses. There seem to be a few new tidbits here, so enjoy!
AC: Thanks for being a part of this Chris. I understand you're a producer at InXile Entertainment, for those of us who can only watch the industry from afar, what is the role of a producer in making a game like Wasteland 2?
CK: Sure thing! The role of a producer changes at different companies. Generally the producer is in charge of budgeting, scheduling, team managment, making sure the vision is held and doing anything that will help to make the team more productive. Some larger companies have multiple producers for each disciplines (like design, audio, art...). I've had the privelege of being at inXile for the past 10 years and since we are a smaller company, I'm allowed to get my hands into design a lot more as well.
AC: I've done a quick search for you online, and spotted that you started with Interplay in the 90s, are there any particular games prior to getting your break that you can point at and say "that's why I become a game developer?"
CK: I was pretty lucky as a kid. My first job ever was working in QA at Interplay testing games at 15 years old. I even had to have my mom and dad drop me off at work every day since I didn’t have my license yet. My parents were intrigued with gaming technology as much as I was, and would always buy me the latest games or systems. I played a ton of 8 bit Nintendo since I was around 9 at the time and the first game I absolutely fell in love with was The Legend of Zelda.
AC: What is your favorite games to date that you've enjoyed playing the most, and what game that you've worked on have you enjoyed being a part of the creation process the most?
CK: This has always been a tough question for me. I hate to be noncommittal but I have favorite games for different reasons. Zelda of course has a special place in my heart, but I’ve also spent hundreds of hours playing games like Chrono Trigger, Civilization, Warcraft 3, Secret of Mana, and the X-COMS (which I am really looking forward to the new release). As for games I’ve worked on, I loved working on The Bard’s Tale. It received mixed reception when it came out but I think we accomplished what we set out for. Many people were expecting it to be a sequel to the original series but we wanted to spin it and make a comedy. I still play through it every once in a while just to hear the next line. Who doesn’t love an undead dance number? Right???
AC: Moving to the main reason why we're here - Wasteland 2. I imagine its a very fine line the team needs to walk, on one hand you need to cater for the fans of the original, whilst making the game accessible for people who have either stumbled across the title through the Fallout connection or have come at the series completely fresh. How do you address this balance, and how do you plan to ensure that newer gamers are not "left behind" in the story?
CK: With Wasteland 2, we are making an old school RPG, no doubt about it. We’ve gone back and played the original and are going to keep the elements that made it so highly regarded. Our goal is not to cater to a mass market with this project but nail many of the hard core elements of older RPGs that have been lost over the years. It’s all about customization, choices, and strategy of the situations. While the overall story is important, we want to make sure that every step of the way is a tough moral decision for players. Wasteland 2 takes place 15 years after the original. You will start in Arizona just like the original and much of the scene will feel familiar to fans of the first game. There will, of course, be kickbacks the original but the world has also changed and you’re now required to go out to California.
AC: Reading through the Vision Document, it looks like Wasteland 2 is going to be played over familiar territory - South West USA with a mention of LA in the document. Is there any particular location that you're looking forward to seeing (or making) a new spin on?
CK: We have a pretty interesting vision of how L.A. has been morphed after the nuclear debacle. I can’t go into any particular locations at this time but there are some major shifts to the environment in Southern California. When we got started with design, we noticed how spot on the map scale was for Arizona in the original. That was a cool element that we wanted to keep in L.A., but an irradiated tidal wave can certainly change the landscape.
AC: The first Fallout of course contained a subtle nod to its spiritual ancestor in Tycho the Desert ranger, who reminisced about Wasteland's "boss" of Las Vegas "Fat Freddy" with the vault dweller. Will there be any subtle nods back?
CK: Any fans of the original will see some subtle and not-so-subtle nods. There were so many great characters and locations in Wasteland that we’d be crazy not to weave them in.
AC: A common request in the Bethesda Fallout games is for the addition of vehicles. Given the wider map scope that Wasteland seems to be aiming for, can we expect to see any other forms of transport?
CK: Vehicles don’t play a big role in the game. We want to focus our time on the strategy of the specific situations and moral decisions.
AC: One thing that many of the Fallout games have done well is rewarding players who explore the game world with unique arms, armour and other items - sometimes as a pop reference joke. I appreciate that its early days, but are there any items of note that you can share with us at the moment that we should be looking out for?
CK: It’s still a bit early to go into specific items. As well, many of those items come from iteration. A great item can sometimes be awesome due to the moment you get it in the game and how useful it is. Right now, it’s too early to have balance discussions. We are putting a good deal of effort into our gun and weapons systems that will allow for some pretty unique firearms. There will be pop culture references from that time period and a dark sense of humor, similar to the original.
AC: Both Fallout and Wasteland have stood out from other Role Playing Game series by avoiding the "Light vs Dark" clique and instead presenting grey moral dilemmas - shooting the rabid pet dog "Rex" in Highpool perhaps the most famous (in Wasteland). Can we expect more of these, and what challenges do you face in writing these encounters?
CK: Absolutely. Many current RPGs are about your overall standing in the world. Are you good or evil? That isn’t granular enough for the play experience we want to get out of this. Every area you visit is about presenting moral dilemmas for the player to figure out on their own. It’s not a black and white decision. Sometimes, you’ll feel like you’re making the right move and it will turn out completely different than you thought. Every NPC has their own personality, including your companions and they don’t always listen to you. One companion NPC is a bit of a kleptomaniac. When shit hits the fan during combat, he might “accidentally” take an item from your inventory. If you notice it, you can ask for it back, kill him or even politely ask him to leave. He might not want to give it back. What do you do if he is an assassin in combat? Deal with it for the advantage or kill him?
AC: Moving under the hood, Unity have been talking up the Unity 4 Engine this week, particularly trumpeting features like Linux support. Are we right in thinking from the feature list and Brian Fargo's previous announcements Unity have provided that it is Unity 4 that Wateland will use, and is there any particular stand out feature in Unity that you're looking forward to experimenting with?
CK: We are using Unity for Wasteland 2. After evaluating all of our options, it was the perfect choice for our team. So far, my favorite feature has been the Unity Store. We’ve been able to save a ton of time on the front end by purchasing items and scripts for prototyping. While this can take months to get to a point where you have the base assets to even start creating test levels, we are there already. Brian has always said the focus of this game is the gameplay and it will allow us to get more iterations on that aspect than we could have with any other engine.
AC: Again, I appreciate that its still relatively early, but does everything look on track for the the October 2013 date? Do you have any plans for what to do with your time after ship date?
CK: So far so good. We are at full speed on pre-production and design. All of our designers are working on areas and moral dilemmas and we’re honing in on our style and feel. As soon as we get something that we feel is right, we’ll release some screen shots and leave it up to the community to tell us if we’re hitting the correct beats in terms of visual style. We will continue to leverage our communities feedback every step of the way and make adjustments based on it. We have the opportunity to create this game with a constant close relationship with our fans and we aren’t going to pass that up.
AC: Lastly, "DarkTwinkie" - is there a story behind your unusual forum username?
CK: It is a pretty ridiculous name. It actually came from an alt I had while playing WoW battlegrounds. I decided to make a twink shadow priest and wasn’t interested in coming up with a clever name so I tried DarkTwink, which was taken at the time. Naturally, the next thing I thought of was “well, how about DarkTwinkie? That has to be available”. After playing with the name for a while, it just kind of stuck.
AC: Thanks again for answering our questions, on behalf of the Wasteland Wiki and Nukapedia communities.
CK: Thank you! It was fun…take care.
See, we do sometimes make the news here at Nukapedia, not just report other people doing it. Thanks to those who left me question ideas