[Interview] Brian Fargo on Wasteland 2, CRPGs, and the Video Game Industry
Brian Fargo is one of the most well-known and renowned names in the video game industry today. The founder of the legendary Interplay Entertainment and inXile Entertainment worked as a designer, writer, programmer, director, producer, and executive producer on dozens of projects in the last three decades, and is in part responsible for the creation of cult classics like the seminal Wasteland, Fallout, and the first Bard’s Tale, as well as the original The Lord of the Rings video game series/trilogy. In the last year and a half, Fargo and inXile managed to collect over $7.1 million in pledges on Kickstarter for the development of Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, with the later one being the highest funded Kickstarter video game of all time, which perfectly illustrates how much trust gamers have in them and their work. Recently we’ve got in touch with him and arranged a small interview to see what he has to say about the final stages of development of Wasteland 2, its potential Android/iPad ports, inXile’s plans for the future, CRPGs, and the video game industry in general. Here’s how that turned out:
PGR: How’s the development of Wasteland 2 coming along? Do you already have a more precise launch window for the game’s beta that should start in October?
Brian Fargo: I’m super pleased with the detail that the team is building into the game. A really great RPG can be over and over for many years if there is enough nuance and this is the time the magic happens. We’re aiming for an open beta in October and then I’ll worry about the exact date. Between me and the fans I want to make sure we get this right.
It’s hard to forget Matt Findley’s statement that “about half the game, most people will never see”, illustrating how much different each playthrough of Wasteland 2 will be. How many hours do you estimate the most persistent gamers will be able to get out of the game?
Matt said that? He’s in big trouble! I’m kidding, if you want an RPG that is truly reactive and one in which the world state changes based on your actions then you must be committed to creating a ton of content that a player simply cannot see in their first pass through. Having unseen content is a natural by product of a deep game.
A year and a half ago, you stated that the team will consider porting Wasteland 2 to tablet devices; any news on that front, and if so – which platforms are we talking about?
We still remain wholly focused on the computer formats of the game and will think about other formats as we start to final. Until then we are spending every moment thinking of ways to make things more fun and reacting to user feedback.
On a semi-related note – and I know it’s still early but I can’t miss the opportunity to ask – Torment: Tides of Numenera is also made with the versatile Unity Engine and would presumably work well on tablets. With that in mind, are you willing to consider a mobile port once the game is finished?
Same answer as above… focus.. focus…
Chris Keenan recently revealed that the original Wasteland will be (re)released prior to the launch of Wasteland 2 on GOG and Steam. What kind of price tag can we expect and are we talking days or weeks before the Wasteland 2’s release?
We haven’t fully worked through the issues but I’m guessing about $6. I’m trying to get the guys to up-res the graphics to some degree but that’s never easy without source code. Of course all the Wasteland 2 backers get a copy for free.
Since late 2011, inXile ported its 2004 ARPG The Bard’s Tale to iOS, Android, and BlackBerry Playbook, and just recently the game also ended up on Ouya, not to mention your 5 other iOS games that were released in 2008 and 2009. Are you planning another mobile project in the near future?
I’m really enjoying getting back to my roots of PC RPGs so it is hard for me to contemplate something else. I love creating worlds that players can lose themselves in and I hope Wasteland 2 is a reminder of why some of those classic RPGs from the 90’s are remembered so fondly.
In retrospect, was developing and selling video games harder in the 90s than it is today?
Well that is a complex question as I suspect you would get a different answer depending on who you asked. At least in the 90’s I ran my own publisher and would green light anything I wanted and there were not so many games that discoverability was an issue. The actual development of games today is easier thanks to the many tools but getting advances from publishers to finance your game is too rare. The selling aspect is easier in that no buyer or retailer is standing in the way of you and your audience but we get back to discoverability being the biggest mountain to climb. I am very fortunate with Kickstarter and my game resume to have awareness for the games we are doing.
Where do you see the video game industry going in the next decade and what kind of role do you think smartphones and tablets will play in what’s ahead, especially with regards to core gaming experiences?
Well clearly the graphic fidelity of tablets and phone will continue to close the gap from a visual perspective compared to consoles for example. What’s not clear is how people’s play patterns will evolve on these new formats. Speaking only for myself I find that I am in a different mood to play certain deeper games on a PC than the games I find myself playing on a tablet or phone. Perhaps it is the mouse and keyboard along with the lack of distraction that promotes the mood to play a kind of product. But one thing is for certain, and that is that gaming just keeps getting bigger and bigger and I hope the future riches get divided more evenly amongst all the talented people out there.