Brian Fargo Interview
Brian Fargo is well known to all the RPG fans. He is a video game designer, producer, programmer and executive, who worked on Wasteland, Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, Arcanum, Planescape: Torment, The Bard’s Tale. Now his studio inXile Entertainment develops two RPGs: Wasteland 2 (funded through Kickstarter) and Torment. Recently Brian is buzy doing their first gameplay video, buy he has found time to answer our questions.
Your portfolio almost completely consists of cult games. Suppose you are told: "Brian, your tombstone has room for only one title". Can you pick this only title?
I am certainly proud that I have been able to help create and or be a part of games that have become such classics. I could not choose one game over another any more than I could pick one of my favorite kids. And I have too many more games in me before I start worrying about my tombstone… let’s save this subject. ;)
In 1992, you actually brought into the industry Ayman Adham and Mike Morhaime, who later took the name Blizzard Entertainment. Whom else of your "students" can you be proud of?
I knew Ayman when he was just a kid and I always knew those guys had the goods. I am also proud that we gave Ray and Greg their first contract with Shattered Steel and despite it not selling well we gave them another shot with Baldur’s Gate. I also gave Treyarch their first contract with Die By the Sword and Volition their first project with Descent. I have always tried to keep an eye out for talent. It’s nice to see the Indie scene emerging the way it is.
About home gaming and mobile platforms
I don’t think home gaming has lost its relevance at all, no more than theatrical movies have lost any ground to TV shows. If anything I expect the sophistication and maturity of home gaming to become more prevalent on mobile. You can only grind out levels with in-game up sale mechanics for so long before it gets dull. My focus is on RPGs and for now it is more PC based.
I have supported many a project over Kickstarter and will continue to do so. Though I donate towards projects that interest me, I have found myself funding games that in reality I probably would not have bought otherwise. There is a very personal nature to these things and it is fun to see people have their dreams come true. The whole movement is very exciting and I want the momentum to continue.
Wasteland released about two hundred years ago, since then we have a generation of gamers, for which the best post-apocalyptic RPG is Fallout: New Vegas. What can you tell them about the Wasteland 2, and what the person who is not particularly well versed in this genre should know about it?
Certainly anyone that enjoyed FNV will be comfortable with our subject matter as it relates to the harsh realities and dilemmas of living in a post-apocalyptic world. Fallout is based on Wasteland as you know so there is a certain vibe that still resonates. I think what both Fallout did well and we are doing with Wasteland 2 is to push the humanity aspects of gaming.
Fantasy games don’t tend to deal with issues that a player can identify with as much as a ruined future does. Being able to play the game the way you want and see the ramifications in a highly varied and material way is the hallmark of a great RPG. We are focused on creating that experience. If the player wants to shoot everyone in sight then so be it but there needs to me major consequences that could take the entire storyline in another direction. Having dense cause and effect is always what gamers look for.
Many young players recognize the dignity of old games such as Fallout, Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate, and they even tried to play... but could not. Painfully, these games look scary in contrast with modern blockbusters. Do you think that games have a shelf life? And in this context what can you tell, for example, about Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition as an attempt to improve the look of the old game?
Unfortunately many games do start to look very old, sound very bad or are just too hard to get running. I find the same thing with certain old movies that I quite enjoyed as a kid but when I show my kids they cannot get over the grainy look. The good news is that graphics are much better now than back in the day and I don’t expect the same leaps and bounds. I suspect a Crytek game will still look good in 10 years for example. And I have not played with BGEE but I know there is only so much you can do when trying to up-res graphics. It’s always tricky doing what they did as it’s hard to hold up to new games for a new player and the old players have already seen it.
About clones, copycats and adaptations
I love all the clones and copycats because that means that Fallout touched a lot ofpeople. Their attempts and re-creating the world is bringing them back to the emotion of the gameplay they had when enjoying the series. I’m always worried when I hear about TV or film as there are so few adaptions that made the world stay cool. Sensibilities are a hard thing to nail and it takes very little to throw it off.
You kept in mind the concept of Wasteland 2 for twenty years. Has it changed a lot during that time? And is Wasteland 2 still your game, Brian Fargo’s game?
Wasteland 2 is my game more than ever though it has evolved in the ways of UI and sound. However, the underpinnings of it being a tactical squad based game with meaningful writing remains the same. We didn’t have many options for sound, voice and music back in the day and I really want to explore the use of the radio in a way that other games have not. I want to give the world much more texture and personality through voice than would have been possible.
About Russian localization of Wasteland 2
It is too early for me to comment on who this might be as we are just not ready for this step. We do recognize that we have a large fan base in Russia and I know you love the bleak post apoc experience as I do. We have had offers of support from some very talented groups so I feel confident we will get it done right.
Certainly Torment won’t ship until long after Wasteland 2 but we will be talking about it more this year. The important thing for us is that we like to start pre-production on our RPGs long before the team wraps up the game they are working on. It takes a lot of effort to hammer out every piece of dialogue and nuance in a large RPG script and you want to do that before the production team is done. The longer we have to do that process the better the reactivity, the deeper the dialogue and the greater the variation of gameplay possibilities.
No doubt you know everything about a post-apocalyptic world. Our site has a selection of Survival Guides. Perhaps it is necessary to write there: "If something happens to a civilization, go and look for Brian Fargo, he will tell you what to do"?
Yes… find me... bring guns and food and us gamers can reshape the world.
Brian Fargo for Wasteland Chronicles.