Post-Post-Nuclear Roleplaying: Fargo Talks Wasteland 2

By Alec Meer on March 12th, 2012 at 2:27 pm.

Interplay founder Brian Fargo and his studio inXile Entertainment hope to be responsible for the next big Kickstarter-funded game, having recently announced plans for a sequel to Fargo’s 1988 roleplaying game Wasteland – perhaps best known as the predecessor to Fallout. Wasteland 2 will be a turn-based, party-based roleplaying game in a post-apocalyptic setting – in other words, in theory what veteran Fallout fans have been crying out for. The same might be said of anyone who feels that today’s RPGs have abandoned their roots in favour of big, glossy action. A few days ago, I chatted to the effusive Mr Fargo about how the project is going, why now, how far along the design is, who he’s making it for, why old-school RPGs seemed to die out, how long the Kickstarter bubble can last and the importance or lack thereof of audio and cinematics to a game that’s all about cause and effect.

RPS: How are things going since you announced your big news?

Brian Fargo: Everything’s good, all Wasteland all the time right now, it went from a bunch of documents that I thought were going to be in a drawer for the rest of their lives to all-consuming, every day.

RPS: (laughs) I was going to say actually, is it the main thing for InXile or this a bubble on the side of what you’re doing anyway?

Brian Fargo: It’s pretty much all guns on this I have to say, if it’s going to have a chance to be successful you’ve got to be really focused on it and I swear to you, I put the documents away like three weeks ago in a drawer, thinking ‘that’s the end of that’. It was just a little while ago that I was like ‘I give in.’ And then Schafer’s thing kicked in and I felt ‘oh that was interesting’, and then right away on Twitter some fans were going ‘ok, let’s do Wasteland’. So, if it ends up funding, it’ll be a great little story.

RPS: Yeah, and I think you’ve got a really good shot at it because you were kind of first out the gate after Schafer. We’re going to see a lot of Kickstarter projects but at least you’re in the first flush.

Brian Fargo: I think so, that and there’s been a pent up demand for not just that title but this whole genre. I think he scratched a nerve when he said ‘hey, there’s people that still like adventure games’, and same thing with real role-playing games, things that are more PC-centric kind of role-playing experiences. I love that kind of game. I did a keynote in Shanghai for GDC late last year and there was all this Q&A and I talked about the genre and said ‘unfortunately we probably won’t see those again’. I was on a phone call last night with somebody from Singapore, he says ‘I heard about your Wasteland deal’ because I’ve been doing some business with him, he says ‘You gotta get that thing funded, I’m dying to play it’. So even in Asia…

RPS: Do you think it is the herald of a whole new age of all this stuff?

Brian Fargo: Well, I think there’s an opportunity to change it up a bit for some mid-sized developers. In many ways we’ve been that developer in the middle, so I could scale down to a very small size and do smaller apps and make a nice living for myself, but I like making these kinds of games, so where do we have to turn? It wasn’t an obvious place. This has the opportunity to open it up for developers that are more mid-level because we have credibility. It’s harder for some unknowns in an unknown country to pop up and raise the kind of money they need to do something of this magnitude, people are suspect. But hey I’ve been here for thirty years, I’m not going anywhere, people know I’ll deliver. So that could open it up for a group of people that are able to carve out their niche audiences and go against it, but of course there’s always the concern that somebody abuses it, and all of a sudden things fall to the wayside and then there’s just a select few that can do this, and then every once in a while a new one will pop up that has the right credibility.

A lot of people when Schafer announced, they just threw a lot of junk on Kickstarter right away, and everybody keeps saying [to me] ‘what’s taking so long?’ Well, I want to think it through, I want to get the tiers put together, I want to get the team put together.’ I wanted to do a nice video, I think it’s pretty funny, I think you’ll get a kick out of it, and I wanted to do it right so that when we launched it was done in a professional manner, not just some knee-jerk reaction to him being successful.

RPS: Yeah, and you’ve got a responsibility to the fans, the people who really really want this, and if it comes across as a money-grab they’ll feel let down.

Brian Fargo: No, absolutely, the other things which has been really helpful is my communication with the fans through Twitter and the board we set up. I wouldn’t make a product any other way, because you’re flying in the dark otherwise and some of the things the fans have helped solidify where I thought we should be going, but other areas caught me off guard, and so it was good to hear that. Many of the fans have been lied to over the years so something which might sound like an innocuous statement they take very negatively, because they’ve been burned by marketing folks. It’s been fascinating for me to have that dialogue.

RPS: It’s fascinating as well that for instance you’ve been mailing me directly about this interview, as opposed to if I’d wanted to talk to you about Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, I’d have to go through various layers of Bethesda. Now you call all the shots yourself, you can say whatever you want – how liberating is that?

Brian Fargo: Yeah, I hated having to stay on point and all that kind of crap, you know (laughs). I’m a very blunt guy and so marketing and PR people, I rubbed all of them the wrong way up at Bethesda. I just said it the way it was and it didn’t always chime with how they wanted to position things or whatever. To me the facts are the facts and we let the truth fall where it may.

RPS: Is there any worry given in a way you might be standing on Fallout toes for this? You’ve worked with Bethesda before and they’re known for being litigious lately…

Brian Fargo: Well, I’m not, no. If anything Fallout is derivative of my product, so I’m not going to do anything that infringes copyright, but the fact of the matter is they don’t own the idea of doing post-nuclear role-playing games, right, so we’re going to do what our vision is.

RPS: That’s something that’s very different for Wasteland now compared to then, which is when it came out it was such a weird thing to have an RPG that wasn’t in a fantasy setting, but now there’s quite a lot of post-apocalyptic games. Does that change what you feel you have to do with this new one?

Brian Fargo: Well, I think the bar is set very high for expectations of what we need to do, so for that I feel an immense amount of pressure and responsibility, so yeah, but that said, there’s so much to be done in mood and texture and things that people haven’t really touched on in my opinion, so I’ve assembled this really super team of guys. I’m convinced that anyone who likes Wasteland and likes Fallout is definitely going to like what we’re doing.

RPS: Have you got references for post-apocalyptic settings in your mind for this, ‘cos at the time Mad Max was a really big one, but we’re twenty years hence, more stuff has come out now. Are there different sorts of inspirations for the world you make this time around?

Brian Fargo: I think it’s important that we bridge a little bit between what was happening then and now. The first game happened in the south west, Arizona, California, Las Vegas, this part of the world, where you’re desert rangers and you’re trying to restore law and order to a society that’s been devastated by nuclear war. So I don’t want to lose that, I want to stay with that.
I think being desert rangers in this part of the wild west kind of scratches a nerve so I don’t want to lose that, but that said, we also need to take you in some completely different directions that you haven’t seen before, because with all of these games if you feel like you’ve been there, done that, you automatically don’t want to play it, so we’re very cognisant of that.

One of the things that we never really had a chance to do with Wasteland was audio, and I think with audio there’s a tremendous amount you can do to set the mood and the tone, and create trepidation. So we’re really focused on that, and I think Fallout did a great job with that, so we want to take that to the next level where I feel like there hasn’t been a lot done there. So we want to satisfy the old but we’re not going to take it into outer space or anything crazy, we want to stay with some of what was there but show them some things they’ve never seen before.

RPS: To what extent have you got the design already, you said you had these documents you almost shelved three weeks ago, how complete were they, or are you still making it up as you go along?

Brian Fargo: We worked on it at InXile for nearly a year, and so we worked through the storyline, what the life of the ranger is, dialogue structure, social skills, party influence, character stats. We worked through quite a lot of things so we’re not starting at ground zero. We pretty much know the templates, the next step after that was to bring all the writers in, and bring the artists in, and really fill out the meat of the world. That’s the costly part and where we didn’t get anywhere.

RPS: So potentially it could happen a bit sooner than people expect I guess if you do have the nuts and bolts of the design already nailed down?

Brian Fargo: It’s still going to take a while, we’re going to spend a good five months…it’s not that it’s no money, a million dollars is a lot of money. And by the way we’re lowering it to $900, 000, and I’m going to kick in the last $100, 000 just to make sure this thing happens. That said, in order to do this and be super efficient you have to design everything up front. We’ll have a pile [of paper] a phone book high, we’ll sit around in a conference room and we’ll step through the game over, over and over again.

It kind of works like, sometimes science fiction authors all collaborate on a book, and say ‘look in my book or in your scene, make sure a plane crashes, I don’t care what else you do after that’ and so there’s a little bit of that where we will have these constant threads and let some creativity happen within the areas that we assign off to the designers. But we’ll bring that all together and step it through, and then it becomes a matter of getting it all in a.s.a.p and we’ll repeat the same monster picture a hundred times but at least we’re now playing the game, and we’ll start to fill in the assets, and that way we’re polishing, or balancing, as we go.

It’s the cause and effect that makes a true role playing game so there’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ and then we want to keep ‘hey, what happens if you walk up to this encounter and this NPC’s with you, ‘oh that’s a good one, let’s deviate that way’, or ‘how about if they’re all wearing guard costumes?’ So coming up with all these ‘what-if’s’, that’s what makes these things shine.

RPS: How prepared are you for the fans and community to offer oh so many of those what-if’s potentially, the weird little things they did in the original Wasteland and or Fallout and want to see back in there or they always wished they could do and perhaps this time around you’re more beholden to make good on what they request?

Brian Fargo: We have a bit of an advantage in that we’re not trying to do cinematics. This is a top-down game, and the cinematics are usually the most expensive parts of these products, and in addition they tend to also hamper your ability, so if I say ‘hey, what happens if this particular NPC’s a thief, is in my party and this guy hates him when we want to branch?’ Well if I did the cinematics we’d need a movie for that, we’d need to record lines for that, and all of a sudden you start stopping yourself from being able to deviate and we’re not beholden to those sort of things, so not having to do the cinematics is a double, triple bonus for us.

RPS: It’s crazy how much is spent on them considering 50% of players will be hammering escape trying to get back to the action anyway.

Brian Fargo: You know what’s interesting, and this was why I absolutely loved the forums that we have set up because we’ve been asking people what they like at certain tiers, and things we can do, and we talked about audio, and people said ‘don’t do any audio because we know you’re going to have to cut down on the gameplay if you start having to blow your budget’…. they’re telling us not to waste our money with recording actors’ voices. Forget cinematics, they were just worried about the audio of the voices. But they’re telling us loud and clear their priorities, so we need to hear that stuff. We’re going to have some audio, but I get their point that they don’t want to have us be hamstrung by having every encounter be audio so therefore they can’t get all those little quirky things like we were just talking about.

RPS: Yeah, you just want some of the barks and things spoken really but no monologues, that could get in the way potentially.

Brian Fargo: They want a deep product that they play through. It’s like the original Wasteland, people still play it today and they still discover things, we put a lot of little things in there, and that’s what makes a great world-sense, it cannot feel linear at all.

RPS: Why do you think that stuff went away? It pretty much tailed out with Baldur’s Gate 2 and Planescape and then largely stopped. Was it a commercial necessity or just random?

Brian Fargo: A couple of things. One is the demand for graphic fidelity. People wanted to see more graphics and that’s expensive and it limits the choices like we just said. Also it went to console, and then there was another kind of ‘we have to make this more mainstream’, and so their argument there is that those big visual images are what’s going to make it sell the millions of copies, and so anything that’s kind of what I’m describing might be too hardcore and not mass market enough. But sometimes I think the world is really going towards lots of niches at this point, so I’d be very happy being a big player in this niche, even though that niche could be a nice big niche.

RPS: Is there any sense that you’ve got to make up for lost time because there wasn’t a solid continuum of isometric turn based stuff being made, so there’s like ten years of development that didn’t happen, and now you’ve almost got to compensate for the work that wasn’t done to make sure you make a suitably modern game?

Brian Fargo: I don’t think we want to go too far forward from what was last done, because I want people who played those RPGs in the 90s to be able to step seamlessly into this game and get it. I don’t want to try to figure out ‘well, if there had been ten years of iteration, where would we be.’ I think I’d be asking for trouble on that, people need to feel really comfortable getting into this, and we have some things that we can do to take them in some different directions. But if we really nail from a production perspective, visually, and we know so much more that we knew back then, in terms of a good dialogue and again use of audio to create drama and things like that.

If we set the mood, if we really do a great job of setting the mood and tone, that’ll go a long way along with the extremely diverse cause and effect because that is what people want. Our users are on our boards, they are telling us what they want, and we’re going to give them what they want.

RPS: Yeah, it’s common complaint I read about stuff like Skyrim and Mass Effect – ‘I can’t do this, and then this happens, it’s so set and rigid’ which is quite an upsetting factor for people.

Brian Fargo: Yeah, they want cause and effect. To go at a higher philosophical level, you think about something like Minecraft, which also makes me think of the original Sim City. Here are two of the biggest games ever, and there was no goal to them, it was just a matter of creation and cause and effect, that’s all they are. In many ways Grand Theft Auto was that in the beginning, you could run around and do stuff and had no plot but you could see the cause and effect of your actions. It’s what makes physics games work, because they cause and effect in a realistic way. So the minute you take away people’s cause and effect they start to look down on it. We need to make sure that people feel it in an RPG.

RPS: Is there stuff that you personally feel is outdated beyond interface and graphics and the sound as you say that does need to be changed even if there are people arguing for a purist take on following up the original Wasteland?

Brian Fargo: Hmm. Something that’s outdated from the original… I think that… people loved in Wasteland, when you really killed something you exploded him like a blood sausage, that was sucha famous line. Well, that doesn’t really come across by having a graphic. Everybody’s seen a graphic blow up a thousand times, so, but do I want scrolling text? Some people would probably like that, or is there some audio where the guys are commenting ‘We exploded him like a blood sausage.’ So there’s some trickiness there that we want to bring across what people loved, but I don’t know that I want scrolling text, but who knows, the purists may be all saying ‘no, we like that.’ So I think there’ll be some interesting dialogues on things of that nature.

RPS: Presumably you could set options to try and please both camps anyway, potentially turn the dialogue off in favour of text only?

Brian Fargo: Absolutely, I don’t want to sound like I’m too far fixed on any particular approach here, because it’s still up in the air in some ways. We want the users on the broad strokes right now, the users aren’t going to be writing the storylines and doing all the minutiae of it, that’s what we do, but on the broad strokes, that’s where their input comes in.

RPS: In terms of new people, is there any risk that it could be a hard sell for those for instance who have only played the newer Fallouts and expect something very different?

Brian Fargo: I’m trying to make this game to appeal to people who like the old school roleplaying games from the 90s, not just Wasteland, so it goes beyond that, it’s Wasteland, it’s Fallout, it’s Baldur’s Gate, it’s Icewind Dale, it’s that whole genre of product. Having just party based games, good old party based games with tactical combat, I love that stuff, love that stuff. Icewind Dale was a very simple game but I had such fun with that.

RPS: It had the mechanics right, even if it wasn’t such a grand narrative.

Brian Fargo: The best storytelling, let’s say, comes from the mechanics, not from the written word, so to go way back you could say when you didn’t used to be able to save game, and you’d go back in the dungeon and then you could turn around and go back and be safe or you could kick through one more door. And you kick open the door, you get overwhelmed, and then you wish you hadn’t kicked open the door, then you’re running to the surface with them nipping at your heels, hitting you the entire way, and you get out, and you’re able to save the game with one hit point left. There’s no amount of dialogue in the world that can replace the excitement of that moment I just described.

So to me the mechanics, and there were a lot of interesting mechanics with NPCs in Wasteland, were I guess you’re talking about areas I really want to expand upon, it was simple things. Ammo’s very scarce in the wasteland, and you only start with four characters, then you bring on three NPCs, to really survive you need all seven. Well, these NPCs, they don’t always do what you tell them to do, so when the girl empties an entire Uzi clip into a rat you’re pissed (laughs), because she blew the ammo, and that’s a great mechanical moment to me where you’re getting a reaction from the player that isn’t with dialogue.

RPS: Would you personally have been continuing to make this stuff all along if it had been possible, if the market had seemed to allow it?

Brian Fargo: Absolutely. You’ve got to remember, towards the end, with Interplay you got sort of like, between ‘stay with what you know’ and then ‘who moved my cheese…and changed the marketplace , which way is it?’ And so my competitors at the time were all taking off into the stratosphere, we were all bumping along, we were a top five PC company, EA was in a class unto themselves, with their sports and all that stuff, but here comes Activision with Tony Hawk, and here comes Take Two with Grand Theft Auto, THQ had wrestling, we didn’t have a console hit so there we were with a pretty strong PC line-up, top five.

But we weren’t making money, so production costs were going up and Blizzard was sucking up all the air in the room for PC, so we got in this funky place of ‘ok, well let’s try to do console’, we bought Shiny in to help shore that up, and they go and make a PC game. Well that didn’t help, and so it was like one thing after another.

I wish I could have just kept doing that, and had I to do it over again I would have scaled the company way back to just a handful of people and just focused on that, but you know, hindsight’s 50/50. So yes, I would have rather just stayed doing that with those kinds of titles.

RPS: But hey, now it’s kind of working. It must be pretty odd to suddenly be seeing your name in the headlines in the way that they probably wouldn’t have been for stuff like Hunted. What you wanted back then is now happening.

Brian Fargo: Yeah, it’s ironic that we’re coming full circle doing Wasteland and Bard’s Tale (laughs).

RPS: I saw on Twitter you’re struggling to get the rights to the original Wasteland out of EA, but if they let you have Bard’s Tale do you think they might eventually relent and let you make that a part of what you’re doing with the new one?

Brian Fargo: They might, and I’ve got to give credit, they’ve been very reasonable in working with me, and I got a lot of love for them.

RPS: It would certainly be nice to see the original doing the rounds again. How comfortable you are being the figurehead of this when it’s actually a team effort – are you comfortable with it being ‘Brian Fargo’s Wasteland 2’ or would you rather it was ‘InXile’s Wasteland 2’?

Brian Fargo: Well, I don’t know, I guess on one level if I hadn’t been created as a figurehead before would I even be sitting here having this conversation with this opportunity. People gravitate towards people, so I understand that. I guess I’m comfortable from that level, my job as the producer is I’m very focused on the sensibilities of products. I think people sometimes don’t always understand what a good producer does, so I’m very focused on why should this product exist, and I’ll help create the vision document, y’know, what are the sensibilities. So the team will say ‘we’re going to make it funny’ and I’ll say ‘give me an example of your humour’, right, and if they tell me something that’s stupid I’ll say ‘You guys can’t do humour…’ If you think that’s funny, or if you think we’re going to do something graphically fantastic and you show me some poor art, I’m going to say ‘that’s not going to work’.

So what I do, and I’ve done this from the very beginning, from Wasteland, through Fallout, to Baldur’s Gate, is to keep honing in until the team clicks on the most important things. Once they’re hitting on all cylinders, it starts to become bigger than me. To me a good producer doesn’t inflict his ego into it but lets it become bigger than what he would have ever done himself. He makes it stay on point all along, and it might be that they go and they get someone to be the lead actor for the voice, and I say ‘that sounds terrible, that doesn’t work’, so I’m there all the time focusing on the sensibilities of it . I think that’s the most important thing a producer can do. The worst thing producers can do is get in there, try to talk to them about their code, and just be hovering over their shoulders day in and day out, I just think that’s a mistake.

RPS: I reckon you should do some of the voice acting yourself, when you did the blood sausage line that sounded pretty good…

Brian Fargo: Listen, I’m going to make my acting debut on this video that you’re going to see next week. I was a little nervous about that.

RPS: So you’re launching the Kickstarter [this week], that’s still the plan?

Brian Fargo: Yeah, we think we’re still on track to submit today, and there’s an approval process which takes a couple of days. It’s not like I’ve done this before with them right so we need to find out how long that takes. I would say early [this] week; Monday, Tuesday, something like that. It’s imminent, that’s for sure.

RPS: Let’s just hope they don’t go for some reason ‘No, we don’t fancy it’ (laughs). That would be a sad end to this tale.

Brian Fargo: Well, we do a couple of comedy bits that are pretty funny, that are poking fun at me going out and pitching the product to people. And sadly, there’s more truth to the comedy than you’d believe. Oh my gosh, the meetings I could tell you about…

RPS: You’re going to get people speculating now when they read this, trying to work out who such and such in the video is supposed to represent.

Brian Fargo: (laughs) I know, I even have a few of the emails of the rejections for it, for later on, it’s pretty funny, if it’s a big success we’ll have some fun with those.

RPS: Will you be tempted to do a sort of ‘told you so’ email to any of these guys if the Kickstarter works out as planned?

Brian Fargo: I think they’ll come to that conclusion themselves without me calling them.

RPS: Be interesting to see the first time a publisher tries a Kickstarter – because I bet they will having witnessed it…

Brian Fargo: (laughs) I think that would be a disaster for them from every perspective.

RPS: Right, I’d better let you go, thanks very much for that. I can’t wait to see what you guys pull out the hat here, it’s incredible that this can happen.

Brian Fargo: It’s really cliché, but this honestly isn’t going to happen if it isn’t for people like yourself and just the fans and the press, not me with my 1400 Twitter followers. It’s really going to be up to people getting the word out there, but I tell you what, this I can say, this is the most excitement that I’ve had around anything I’ve talked about in the last decade, by orders of magnitude. We had a thousand likes to our Facebook page in just a couple of days, and 500 posts on our forum, and EGM’s doing a two-page spread on this, Joystiq, IGN…everyone’s sort of jumped on this, they really want this game. Everybody wants it. And we want to do it.

I think we have some really clever [Kickstater] tiers too. One thing that the people love on the tiers is the box for 50 bucks. They get an old school box with a nice manual, and a map inside, an actual disc, that kind of stuff, to bring that old school back, because I love having that stuff on my shelf and I miss not having it anymore.

RPS: Yeah, it’s definitely the downside of digital, there’s much to be said for it but there isn’t that excitement of unwrapping something, there is something very special about that.

Brian Fargo: Yeah exactly, so that’ll be fun to do.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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94 Comments »

  1. loktar says:

    Amazing! I never thought there would be a second one. I have fond memories playing this on my c64.

    • rawrty says:

      I’ve got to say I’m with you on that. I spent many hours playing this in the basement of my parents house on our C64. I was quite young and forget the details, but one specific memory I recall is getting blasted to pieces time and time again trying to infiltrate some sort of citadel/church/something with a checkerboard floor.

  2. Khemm says:

    I admit, I like what he says. STFU and let me support you and all that.
    Let’s hope the project gets funded and delivers, we need real RPGs instead of CoDs with stats.

    • loktar says:

      In fairness I don’t think CoD tries to be an RPG…

      • Khemm says:

        Just look at what Bethesda or Bioware make these days and tell me their games aren’t shooters/action games with stats which don’t matter aimed at the ADD crowd addicted to CoDs, Halos or Gears.

        • Elltot says:

          I take it you’re referring to Skyrim, Fallout 3, Mass Effect 3 and the like?

          If so have you played any of them?

        • Brun says:

          Mass Effect 2/3 yes.

          Skyrim/Fallout 3 no.

          The stats and perks in Skyrim are important and can fundamentally change your playstyle. They aren’t meaningless.

          • Khemm says:

            Like the game cares if you’re a thief or a warrior or a mage… It’s meaningless.

          • Brun says:

            I’m not sure what you mean. The playstyle for each archetype (I won’t call them classes) is very different. Those differences mean that you approach obstacles and problems in a variety of different ways depending on how you like to play.

            Another point to consider – for games like Skyrim, immersion is critical to the experience, and highly abstracted skills and statistics are jarring and generally take away from immersive experiences. They do have their place since it is an RPG, but it’s understandable that they aren’t using something like AD&D v2 for their combat system because that would really take away from what the game is supposed to be about.

          • killias2 says:

            Apparently, if a game doesn’t feature turn-based strategy based on a D&D rule-set, it’s practically a CoD clone!

            **rollseyes**

          • Wizardry says:

            What does D&D have to do with anything? Wasteland was based on Michael Stackpole’s MSPE, not D&D.

          • greenbananas says:

            @Brun

            Could you please enlighten me on how “The playstyle for each archetype (I won’t call them classes) is very different.” in Skyrim? Because from what little I played of it, they’re exactly the same.

          • Brun says:

            I take a completely different approach to clearing a dungeon, for example, on my Spellsword than my Archer/Thief. My spellsword charges in and tries to knock everything down as quickly as possible before he’s overwhelmed. The Archer/Thief was slower and more methodical. Both of those strategies were driven by differing combat mechanics (primarily the fact that stealth doesn’t provide much benefit on a Spellsword).

            It’s a simple example but it illustrates my point. I don’t get what’s so difficult to understand about that. It’s like people say this because they want the game to force you to click a “Select Class” button that says “Thief”, “Mage”, or “Fighter” and clicking that button bars you from putting perks or wearing gear suited for any of the other classes.

          • greenbananas says:

            I think it’s telling that your answer starts with both “*I* take a completely different approach” and “clearing a dungeon”.
            First, you take a completely different approach because you want to, not because that’s how the game’s laid out to be. In fact, you’re actually playing *worse* (for instance, ignoring the upsides of sneaking when playing a fighter) because that’s how *you* envision these imaginary characters to behave, not because the game takes this into account. That’s *your* characteristic, not the game’s.

            Secondly, you mention clearing a dungeon because the only actual difference, in practice, takes place during combat. And even then, the only thing to vary is what weapon/spell you chose to have equipped while you’re backpedalling.

            This is, I reckon, the point of what Khemm meant, or at least what I mean when I say these aren’t RPGs. “Classes” should be different during play in all areas. They should differ, because of the way you design your starting character forces you to compromise (for instance, dropping your CHA to 4 so you get the 8 INT that you’ll need to use better spells as a wizard) and that’d effectively block you off from certain areas of play, opening others up. And not just in combat. Combat itself, the example you gave, should not be the only way of solving a problem/quest. And, far as I’m concerned, it shouldn’t even be the way by which your character grows, either.

            That’s what I look for in a RPG and those are some of the points that I find are relevant to them, Fallouts 1 & 2 being amongst the better examples. If those points are amiss, then what is it that makes it a RPG and why should it be called one, rather than what it is? (an action game)

            Your example, in essence, is like telling me Doom is a RPG because if you clear every level using only the handgun, you’re effectively role-playing a cowboy.

          • killias2 says:

            So.. let me get this straight. A game isn’t an RPG unless it has well-defined classes. Additionally, these classes don’t count as differentiated unless said differentiation goes beyond combat.

            You know.. despite you using them as an example, neither Fallout 1 nor 2 have classes. At all. There is stat-based differentiation, which can open up different options both within and outside of combat. However, as much as you may hate them, the same options exist in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, as well as many other recent RPGs.

            Hell, most of the games played by the CRPG Addict wouldn’t qualify under your incredibly narrow definition.

            Here is what an RPG means to the vast, vast majority of the world: 1. Progression elements, typically including “Experience Points,” “Experience Levels,” and new weapons/armor/etc.
            2. An emphasis on ‘playing a role.’ This typically takes the form of making both moral and practical decisions, often with real consequences for the world of the game or the characters involved.
            3. An emphasis on adapting player characters to your own play style or creating your own characters entirely from scratch.

            Now, keep in mind, that not all RPGs do a -good job- at each of the above sub-elements. However, they need to contain and place emphasis on these central elements. And there are dozens of games released in the last decade that do just that: Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim, Witcher/Witcher 2, Drakensang, Gothic, Risen, Divine Divinity, Divinity II, Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2, Dragon Age Origins, hell.. even Dragon Age 2, despite its flaws.

            Take a game like Skyrim. It is obviously an RPG by the popular definition. It certainly has 1. It certainly has 2 (keep in mind that you may personally not -like- the implementation of 2, but it’s certainly -the- central component to the entire game), and it certainly has 3 (again, even if you think that there is an optimum way to play the game, the game gives lots of options and alternatives in terms of customizing who your character is and how they deal with threats). You don’t like the game. That’s fine. There are lots of games I don’t like. However, that doesn’t change its genre.

            You’re trying to redefine a word away from its popular usage because you have a preference for a certain sub-set of RPGs: hardcore RPGs and/or turn-based RPGs. Why can’t you just ask for the games you want rather than trying this ridiculous linguistic exercise? The vast majority of the people posting here are -also- clamoring for more hardcore RPGs.

          • InternetBatman says:

            @greenbananas There are many RPGs that only let you get through of certain situations with combat, and if you go back to PnP games, many DMs encourage this type of thinking. I’d hesitate before calling a combat heavy D&D campaign not an RPG.

            Similarly, many of these games let you attempt to do the same things with all characters, only incredibly poorly if you haven’t put the points in. A big clanging fighter can attempt to sneak, and even occasionally get lucky and actually do it. Bethesda games work in a similar fashion, they’re just way more free with the XP and Loot.

            @Killias You’re mistaking the definition of role-playing there. Role-playing means your character(s) mechanically plays a role, usually in the context of a party. Narrative choice & consequence are hallmarks of good games, but they’re not defining characteristics of rpgs as a genre. That’s why VtMR is an RPG, and Starcraft II, which lets you make several narrative choices, is not.

          • greenbananas says:

            “A game isn’t an RPG unless it has well-defined classes”

            No, which is why classes is in quotation marks. I could have brought up the SPECIAL system or others into the discussion, but the post was getting long enough and I thought the point (characters with different stats should play differently) would be clear without them.

            I can’t say I really care what the vast majority thinks, at least in this sort of situation. The number of people that think 1+1=3 is irrelevant on whether or not that equation is correct. The issue here is that term is being redefined, not by me, as you imply, but by a corporate decision to market action games as RPGs and a “vast majority” (the vast majority that played too little RPGs that the games were ignored in the favor of million dollar selling console games, as Fargo mentions) who plays these that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to know about a particular niche of gaming I care about, effectively censoring it.

            Whether Skyrim conforms to whatever the vast majority thinks are the staples of a definition they’re using in error (or whether I like it or not), is quite frankly, completely pointless. I’m not claiming to be an authority on the matter, surely you might even know more about this than me, all I’m saying (by way of trying to identify what are the features that I think are representative of the style and those that aren’t, however succesful or not) is that I’m not going to call a video cassette a CD just because that’s what on the box, even if they have similarities and despite the number of people that choose to do so. If by doing so I manage to get someone (who might otherwise ignore them) to play the games that I liked, and that person becomes a fan, I’m ultimately doing myself a favor, which is one reason I think this “ridiculous linguistic exercise” is worthwhile.

          • InternetBatman says:

            @bananas
            Several RPGs, including the PnP ones, let all the characters try all actions. The stats determine how successful a character can be, but if they get lucky enough, they can usually succeed anyways much like they can in Bethesda games. Also, several games widely considered RPGs have inescapable combat at many points. I’d hesitate to call a D&D campaign with a single character and an extremely combat focused DM not an RPG. In that campaign it would make sense for a human paladin to sneak everywhere in a dungeon, but he probably wouldn’t be successful anyways, so why bother.

            @Killias
            You’re mistaking role-playing with narrative choice. Narrative choice makes a game better, but it isn’t a defining characteristic of RPGs. Role-playing refers to mechanically playing a role within the game. Starcraft II offers narrative choice in the single player, but doesn’t really qualify as an RPG. VtmR rarely offers narrative choice but is more of an RPG.

          • greenbananas says:

            @InternetBatman

            “Several RPGs, … Bethesda games.”

            My beef is not with letting everyone try everything. It’s that the compromises you made to get that high luck that gets you a succesful roll should lower your other abilities. For instance, to be able to make a low % action successful through luck, you had to knock, say, your agility down a peg so that you’re only able to attack twice in a turn instead of 3 times.

            “inescapable combat”

            The example I provided attempts to avoid it (although it fails, IMO, in rewarding you for winning fights), but true enough, probably even most games do it. I think it’s unfortunate, mind you, and given a chance, I’d think most fans would argue in favor of less combat centric experiences. Whether that, in turn, would change the definition, is up for debate.

          • Wizardry says:

            And there are dozens of games released in the last decade that do just that: Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim, Witcher/Witcher 2, Drakensang, Gothic, Risen, Divine Divinity, Divinity II, Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2, Dragon Age Origins, hell.. even Dragon Age 2, despite its flaws.

            Notice something about them? None of those are turn-based. Some of them are decently real-time with pause such as Dragon Age: Origins and Drakensang though, but the trend is still there.

            @greenbananas: Name me a cRPG with even a single interesting non-combat system (stealth, dialogue, alchemy, trade). You’ll notice that cRPGs have really shitty mechanics outside of combat. If you look at how many times your various statistics are used in a single D&D combat encounter you’ll notice that it’s 100x more than non-combat encounters. One intelligence check in a piece dialogue is binary. You either make the check or not. In combat you can win through backstabbing an enemy, casting a variety of spells, placing a trap, using a potion, intimidating the enemy to run away in fear, bludgeoning them in melee, picking them off at range etc. And each of those have various degrees of success (though only applicable in decent games where you don’t regenerate everything outside of combat). Doing a tactic that isn’t suitable for your character may still get you through a fight but you may suffer more in terms of HP lost, long term injuries acquired, equipment damaged, potions used, spells expended, scrolls used etc.

            It’s the lock-picking problem all over again (if you read the comments to the recent Skyrim mod article). Skills like “hacking”, “science” and “lock-picking” are great, but they are relegated to “utility” skills because they tend to work on their own under binary circumstances. You try to hack a computer and you succeed or fail. You try to pick a lock and you either succeed or fail. None of them are mechanically interesting as none of them have any mechanical depth. Removing combat from an RPG, or making combat “secondary” to the rest of the gameplay results in a pretty poor game.

            A cRPG without combat ends up being a “game” with absolutely no challenge at all, and character statistics end up doing nothing but opening/closing “content” to consume. If you put 5 in lock picking and 0 in speech you end up playing a “game” where you get access to notes, books and quest items scattered throughout locked chests. If you put 5 in speech and 0 in lock picking you end up playing a “game” where you get access to more conversation options.

            Opening and closing doors. Have “this experience” or “that experience”. Where’s the combat? Where’s the challenge? Where’s the game?

          • games are defined by their gameplay says:

            the purest mechanical definition of an rpg involves two identities and a world

            the player creates a character that is defined prior to the action starting. defining a character is giving it a number of statistics that are abstractions of traits, skills, abilities, personality etc. that character then has to interact with a world that responds to those statistics in a rich, systemic, granular fashion. the role of the player is to play to make the tactical and strategic decisions for your character and to continue to define that character in the world by the choices the player is given and the consequences in how the world and the character respond to those choices.

            this is a definition of an rpg that includes trpgs like JA2 and the largely text adventure rpg Torment. in JA2 the rpg experience is defining your mercenaries and using them to control a world, mechanically turn based RPGs are most capable of abstracting skill and ability into statistics to allow a richer game response. the trouble with a real time rpg is that movement and action are no longer tied to statistics and abstraction, instead of the player performing a tactical and strategic role in using those abstractions they control the action and movement directly and the game begins to depends on physical skills. the trouble is once you make the shift from tactical/strategical to action you change how the gameplay fundamentally works. an ideal goal of gaming is to never take control away from the player. defining an rpg character means that you will NOT have certain skills and abilities, effectively real time is forcing you to define a character that is as adept as the player is at movement and action, the important distinction between player and character is lessened and the game is mechanically less an rpg.

            games like football manager etc can be called rpg’s under this definition and that’s ok, because mechanically football manager is closer to fallout than skyrim is.

          • games are defined by their gameplay says:

            Skyrim is an RPG, it’s just a very poor one. the choices you make to define your character (that influence gameplay) are race, sign, and whether or not you want to level thief/mage/fighter fastest. none of these choices matter though, unless you’re into LARPing your character is the Omega. you are ultimately flawless and perfect and can go forth and be a mage with no magical ability or a fighter with no strength. the world is entirely static until the player commits to a quest, the quests themselves do not take into account player build because they don’t need to, your character is God and can intrinsically do everything.

            only outside of the linear quests you can’t do anything

            you could go collect coins i guess

            or LARP

            i think most people just LARP

          • games are defined by their gameplay says:

            outside of how you decide to kill things the choices that you make and the consequences you receive have no relation at all to the “character”. if the character means nothing then it’s just the player interacting with the world.

            if it’s just the player interacting with the world then it’s a fucken action game.

          • Brun says:

            I think the flexibility in the Elder Scrolls formula – such that there are no clearly defined classes and your “class” is based solely on how you choose to play the game – is one of its greatest strengths and something that differentiates it clearly from all of the other RPGs out there.

            In AD&D, I can’t play a Mage that wears heavy armor. But why not? If I were somehow transported into a fantasy setting, and had aptitude for casting spells, you’d better believe I’d be wearing the heaviest armor I could carry before heading into battle.

            The fact that you aren’t restricted by selecting a pre-defined class opens up a lot of strange and unusual combinations that a more rigid system would exclude. Remember, The Elder Scrolls is built on two major facets: Immersion and Freedom. The combat, skill, and perk systems are all designed around the latter. To say that the game “doesn’t care if you’re a mage, thief, or fighter” because there isn’t a label under your name that says “Class: Mage” is an incredibly shallow way of thinking.

            It’s that the compromises you made to get that high luck that gets you a succesful roll should lower your other abilities.

            Why though? That’s like saying that if I go work out in the gym, I get dumber (less intelligent). Which is clearly not the case. I may not get more intelligent than if I had spent that time reading instead, but I certainly won’t get less intelligent.

          • games are defined by their gameplay says:

            What “fundamentally changes” though? You have some granularity in how to kill enemies but there is no way that you can define your character to not be capable of every single thing that world is offering, and that’s a little boring.

            Keep in mind that for a large portion of the game it’s going to be mostly identical for each person that plays it. Nearly all of the quests are completely linear and offer only a single sign posted solution or a second other equally obvious sign-posted solution. Those quests don’t change if you’re a fighter or a thief or a mage, except that you’ll get to experience the highly acclaimed Elder Scrolls combat from closer, further, or invisible away.

      • sebmojo says:

        Comments by Khemm blocked by you

        Each time I see this I get a little jolt of joyous serenity.

        I wonder whether this will be the game that the No Mutants Allowed people finally permit themselves to love? Or will he find some way of disappointing them too?

        In any case, I really hope it goes off like a goddam rocket.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          It’s pretty typical that instead of listening to someone who has a clue, you stick your fingers in your ears.

    • caddyB says:

      Oh Khemm. You’re such a hater.

      • Elltot says:

        Haven’t you heard, it’s cool to hate any RPG made in the past decade.

        • caddyB says:

          Also Steam, if I remember my Khemm right.

        • Wizardry says:

          Probably because there haven’t really been any RPGs in the last decade outside of indies.

          • Khemm says:

            Wizardry hit the nail on the head and is officially one of the best posters on RPS.

          • greenbananas says:

            Oh Wizardy, you’re such a joker, just look at… huh…. er…

            Oh god damn it.

            EDIT- VtM:B!!! I knew there had to be at least one!

          • killias2 says:

            There has never been a RPG released ever for any platform. Even tabletop RPGs are arguable. D&D 4th edition should be renamed C&D (Call and Duty) because it’s basically just more mass market, action trash.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Hyperbole doesn’t help anything. Even you disagree with that last statement. ToEE came out 9 years ago.

          • Arglebargle says:

            ‘Probably because (according to my incredibly pedantic self definition of everything relating to RPGs) there haven’t really been any RPGs in the last decade outside of indies.’

            Fixed for you.

            This is like a Marsalis whine that nothing is Jazz if it doesn’t fit his narrow proscriptions of BeBop purity. Always trying to force the larger field into your procustean bed of ancient wisdom. It’s actually loose, amorphous, and quite large.

            Don’t disagree that some games don’t do a good job at it though.

          • Wizardry says:

            Pen and paper RPGs aren’t action games, therefore cRPGs aren’t action games. My definition is very fair and flexible.

          • Grygus says:

            Wizardry, I will never understand your determination to not be entertained.

      • Khemm says:

        I’m not a hater. I’m a LOVER.
        I love good games, disliking shitty games doesn’t make me a hater, that just means I have standards.

        • Nameless1 says:

          The real problem is that they don’t have any idea of what “role playing” means.
          For A LOT of people a game where you have to kill people with a variety of weapon/sskills/stats means they’re playing RPGs.
          They need to play Vampire Bloodlines for at least three times to understand what I mean.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Are you the Carnage to Wizardry’s Venom?

    • ffordesoon says:

      A game isn’t an RPG unless you die in real life if your character dies!

  3. RedViv says:

    I don’t think there is anything between the possibilities of this being a disaster, or being the most glorious thing to happen to RPGs since the last secret agent disaster.

  4. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    What game is that with the peasants (?) drinking? Just their general design makes me curious.

  5. StingingVelvet says:

    Man, I finally gave up on getting boxes and now there’s all this “retro box!” stuff happening.

  6. killias2 says:

    I’m not entirely sold that this game will end up working. inXile hasn’t really proved they have the chops to make an excellent game, and most of the major hires are people who worked on WL 25 years ago and have done very little since. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t make sense to give money for this product ahead of time, as there is a high probability of disappointment.

    That said, as a hardcore RPG fan, I am philosophically aligned with this project. I WANT it to succeed. Even if the game sucks, I still want the Kickstarter to succeed. I want people to stand up and notice that hardcore RPG fans exist, and that we are willing to do what we can to re-establish our own market.

    I sort of wish Obsidian made the jump first, as I feel like they might be a better torchbearer. Despite some disappointing games, all in all, I think Obsidian -certainly- has the raw talent to make an excellent hardcore RPG. I also hope they follow through on their own Kickstarter project, although I haven’t heard anything about that in a little while. Maybe they’re waiting to see how WL2 goes?

    However, even without Obsidian, I’m still more than willing to throw my money down on this. Despite my misgivings, I’m strongly considering the 50 and 100 dollar tiers. I want this to succeed, and the boxed CE would be a fantastic memento if it does succeed.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

  8. Jimbo says:

    Hmmmm.

    “Pledge $150 (unlimited)
    Previous rewards +a limited edition numbered collectible coin. ”

    Hmmmm….

    • killias2 says:

      Yeah, that definitely seems like a weak tier. TBH, there’s not much incentive to move up from 100 until you hit 250.

      However, to be fair, it seems like there will be more tiers and options with WL2 than with Doublefine’s adventure game.

  9. Dys Does Dakka says:

    I desire this. Badly.

    -I’ll pledge for the 100$ edition if they’ll take non-US donations. Otherwise, I’ll be waiting for the Steam release I guess.

    • a passing bee says:

      Well, Kickstarter took my non-US donation for Double Fine’s project, so I believe it’s safe to assume non-US donations will be accepted for Wasteland 2 as well.

    • krisanto says:

      Non-US donations should be alright. But you’d probably have to pay extra (an additional $20 in Doublefine’s case) for shipment of physical rewards.

  10. thesisko says:

    This needs to work if deep, PC-centric RPG’s are going to have a viable future – therefore I’m gladly giving Brian $100.

  11. Paul says:

    I am in for 50, but I really hope it will be 50 no matter where the person lives…and not 80 incl. shipping.

    Very much hope this suceeds.

  12. Optimaximal says:

    I take it the giant 2 that falls on the huge enemy mobs will be day-one DLC?

  13. Drake Sigar says:

    I don’t think the audience for top-down turn-based RPGs or point & click adventures ever went away, they were just drowned out by a massive influx of new players who had no interest in those genres.

    • malkav11 says:

      And developers getting it into their heads that turn-based gameplay and point and click adventuring and whatnot are “outdated” somehow.

      • thesisko says:

        That’s just marketing – they’re always going to say everything except what they’re doing right now is outdated and you should best forget about it.

      • Hatman says:

        It’s hardly just developers, given that even here people have a habit of getting apoplectic with rage any time someone hints at liking games that aren’t differently-flavoured cover shooters. Surprised to see the comments on this article are as positive as they are instead of endless rage about someone daring to make a turn-based RPG in this day and age.

  14. wccrawford says:

    Wow, I can see I’m going to end up sponsoring for a lot more than I initially intended to. Maybe as much as 10x as much. But the rewards are worth it, I think.

  15. deadly.by.design says:

    Every time RPS mentions “Fargo,” I keep thinking they mean the guy who used to write for Gamespy.

  16. squareking says:

    I think the only thing better than a box is a comprehensive manual. I miss those.

  17. Tom OBedlam says:

    I wish I had $1000 to give to this. This is the game I’ve wanted since Wasteland 2 was released, and I’d love to be an NPC.

  18. immerc says:

    Strangely enough, the behemoth game gives them some hope.

    World of Warcraft has thousands of quests but they’re all text-based and have no cut scenes or voice-acted dialogue, and it has been a pretty successful game.

    That gives a lot of evidence that even modern gamers don’t particularly care about cinematics and cutscenes as long as there’s a compelling story.

    • thesisko says:

      Not a particularly compelling example as most WoW gamers don’t care about that text.

    • Brun says:

      Agreed with thesisko. Most WoW players were not playing that game for the compelling story, despite the fact that it existed if you were willing to put in the effort to read quest text and actually pay attention to story-related events.

    • Arglebargle says:

      On the other hand, in my week onboard WoW, I found the story to be weak and unimpressive, the background as well. Not sure if that is really the best alternative comparison.

    • Grygus says:

      What you are seeing with WoW is that games, even games that include role-playing flavor, do not need to have a story at all. What’s the story in Tetris or Angry Birds? If the gameplay is compelling by itself, that is sufficient. The majority of players approach WoW more like a puzzle game than any sort of RPG; who this dragon is and why we are fighting it carries MUCH less import than which build and rotation are best for defeating it for the vast majority of that player base. Whether that is something Blizzard did on purpose is up for debate but that’s the game as she is played.

      But this isn’t new, and it’s not indicative of some flaw in “modern gamers.” The same thing was true for a lot of people playing, e.g., Earl Weaver Baseball, Sim City, Bard’s Tale, and Might & Magic. You have always had purists, min/maxers, and people in between. Even in the “good old days.”

  19. Raziel_Alex says:

    This is nice and all, but where’s Chris Avellone and Tim Cain and everyone at Troika and Obsidian? Where’s Planescape and Vampire? HUH?
    People need to start throwing some money at them because I need those games bad, man.

  20. mckertis says:

    This is all well and good, but why wasnt there a post about Tim Cain’s Fallout post mortem speech at GDC ? I depend on you for stuff like that, RPS, so why was i getting that from some third-handed random source instead ?

  21. JackDandy says:

    Let’s get this show on the road!

  22. squareking says:

    I kinda need that last bit of artwork as my desktop background.

  23. phenom_x8 says:

    what about another interview with Christian Allen (those Crowdsourced Hardcore Tactical Shooter guys), RPS? I think he also needs more attention for his kickstarter project.

  24. RegisteredUser says:

    This is officially a “consoles killed good, deep gaming” article to me.

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