Bwah? – Interplay Boss Speaks Out On Black Isle Plans

By Nathan Grayson on August 24th, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

We're baaaaaack! Kind of? Maybe? Honestly, we don't even know.

Yesterday, golden age RPG powerhouse Black Isle Studios abruptly rose from the dead. Now death – according to the many dead people I’ve spoken to in the name of accurate, well-researched reporting – is frequently permanent, so people were a bit surprised when the fallen Fallout factory suddenly whirred back to life. Even the likes of Chris Avellone and Brian Fargo didn’t know what to make of it. But hey, Interplay’s finally chiming in, so it’s time for the world to make sense again, right? Errrrrr.

Eurogamer got in touch with Interplay boss Herve Caen, from whom they extracted a few precious details. First up, the new Black Isle will apparently be dedicated to developing “triple-A” RPGs based on Interplay IPs. Now let’s chew on that for a moment. Most obviously, what IPs? Bethesda has Fallout, Beamdog’s overhauling Baldur’s Gate, and the other D&D properties (Icewind and Planescape) have – to my knowledge – been reshuffled back into Wizards of the Coast’s deck. So what’s left? Lionheart?

And then there’s the bit about “triple-A.” Granted, in this day and age, that could mean a million different things, but does Interplay even have the sort of funding one would need to create something that could even be vaguely considered “triple-A”? It’s been in pretty dire financial straits for quite some time now, after all.

Next up, we have Caen himself voicing excitement about the new venture:

“It really feels like getting the band back together as we’re seeing opportunities not available to us before. Given our unique position, expanding online and mobile platforms, and renewed interest in our proven properties, I see an incredible success potential for Black Isle Studios.”

Again, however, Obsidian and inXile say “Hello.” I mean, is it really “the band” if you don’t have any of the old members, songs, instruments, or ill-advised remix albums? In this horrifically overwrought metaphor, all that seems to be left is the tour bus.

Who knows, though? Maybe Interplay has some crazy ace up its sleeve. Maybe it’s about to come out wielding an IP so cherished and legendary that all doubt will explode into a cloud of excessively trusting rainbows. But, given what we currently know, it’s hard not to be a little skeptical.

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116 Comments »

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    I’ll watch this with cautious optimism

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    I think it might be time to interview Interplay and find out What The Hell.

  3. AmateurScience says:

    I’ll watch this with reckless pessimism

  4. Lemming says:

    They are simply trading off the Blackisle Studios name. Personally I think the sensible thing to do would be to treat this news just as you would any new studio being formed. Ie. Ignore them until they send you preview code/press release/invite to their studio.

    • dontnormally says:

      It’s a move to suck in new investment dollars that will be used to cover boat payments and not actually make games.

  5. misterT0AST says:

    Well, if they say “getting the band back together”, it MUST mean they have at least one guy who was in black isle. Maybe a janitor.
    How could they say something so deceiving knowing that their target demographic (old pc gamers who remember the name “black isle”) are going to find out pretty much immediately what’s going on?
    Also, that “online and mobile platforms” worries me.

  6. Maxheadroom says:

    £10 says they slap the name of whatever IP they have up their sleeve on a generic FPS (with watered down RPS elements) a-la Syndicate

  7. Korvbil says:

    I’ll watch this with delicious pocorn-ism.

  8. x-jay says:

    How can he be successful with no money? I mean I can’t gauge that for sure, but this is a parent company rehashing re-releases of fallout 1 & 2 + tactics and HD remakes of MDK and Earthworm Jim.

    The money surely can’t be rolling in???

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slamming any of these titles, i’m just wondering where Caen is getting his money from. His monopoly set?

    • Grygus says:

      The fastest way to get money in business is to convince people who already have money that you’re about to make a lot of it.

      • x-jay says:

        What an excellent comment- and very true.

        Interplay’s only problem is their biggest franchise is fallout. It must hurt Caen to put this on his Legal page.

        “Fallout®, Fallout® 2, Fallout® Tactics and Fallout® Brotherhood of Steel are trademarks or registered trademarks of Bethesda Softworks LLC, a ZeniMax Media company, in the U.S, and/or other countries. Distributed under license from Bethesda Softworks LLC. All Rights Reserved. ”

        Can we assume they don’t even get full bang on sales of FO1, FO2 and FOT?

      • frightlever says:

        Exactly. Interplay were “making” a Fallout MMO with a heap of inward investment that paid a bunch of wages and delivered nothing.

  9. Flukie says:

    Mobile devices = Ports

  10. SooSiaal says:

    They should work on a new Freespace, that would get the money rolling again…

    • Apocalypse says:

      Have they even the rights on freespace? Or is this volition’s IP right now?

      • FionaSarah says:

        Nah, Interplay wholey own the IP and have been sitting on it while sulking in the corner this whole time.

        • Dave L. says:

          Actually, according to the USPTO, Freespace’s trademark has been dead since October of last year. And as far as I can tell, none of the other elements of the IP (Vasudans, Shivans, etc) are trademarked. ‘Descent: Freespace The Great War’ had its trademark cancelled September 3, 2010, as well.

          I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure this means anybody could make a Freespace game if they wanted to. At least until somebody re-registers the trademark.

          • LukeNukem says:

            I have precisely no ability in this sort of thing but I am going to make a Kickstarter anyway and make my millions.

          • MasterDex says:

            Trademark and copyright are two different things however. If the copyright is still active, I don’t believe you’d get away with making another Freespace game without permission, even if the trademark is up. I could be wrong though. Could patents be a problem?

          • HothMonster says:

            Right Dex, since the trademark is up all that really means is someone could make a different game and call it freespace but the IP is covered by copyright still so it could not reference the last game at all, it really couldn’t even be in the same universe. Patents wouldn’t matter, you can patent novel code or methods but not a game.

          • Dave L. says:

            Looks like Volition has the copyright on Freespace 2, near as I can tell. I can’t find anything for Descent: Freespace. (The copyright office website is a bit harder to parse than the USPTO. It says that Sierra On-line has the copyright for Homeworld, for example, but it is a fact that the Homeworld IP is definitely owned by THQ)

            I’m pretty sure it’s the trademark that controls the IP, and the copyright controls the actual works, so Volition owns the game ‘Freespace 2,’ but right now nobody owns ‘Freespace’ as a title for a video game.

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            Trademark = name, expires easily but is also usually relatively easy to reclaim if you filed originally and want to use it again.

            Copyright = story, characters, settings, sounds, etc. Probably won’t expire in our lifetime. In fact, even the very first video game hasn’t been around long enough for its copyright protection to expire.

          • meatshit says:

            Thanks to Disney’s bribes lobbying efforts, nothing created after 1928 will ever enter the public domain. Every time Mickey gets close to entering the public domain, they roll into Washington with a truckload of money and copyright magically gets extended a decade or two.

    • Claidheamh says:

      I dearly hope they won’t.

    • MasterDex says:

      Yes! I just replayed it last year with the GoG version. We need a new Freespace.

  11. Rumpel says:

    dont they still own alone in the dark?

  12. apocraphyn says:

    Ah, Lionheart. I liked it, despite it’s flaws. Anyone else actually play it?

    • Grygus says:

      I spent several hours with it, and had fun. Never completed it, though.

    • D3xter says:

      The first bit about Barcelona was somewhat acceptable, it turned to complete shit somewhere after that though… at some point I just couldn’t justify marching and grinding on anymore.

    • Bluerps says:

      I really liked it for the first few hours, until I left the city where it begins. Then I got incredibly bored very fast, and stopped playing.

    • PearlChoco says:

      I finished it some time ago.
      The first half of the game was very, very good. Better then Icewind Dale, and almost as good as BG. The second half not so much. It degenerated into a dungeon crawler, if I remember correctly.
      Anyway, I`d definitely be interested in a sequel.

    • diamondmx says:

      Played a bit of it, always meant to go back, but between the first play and now, have heard it gets really terrible after the first half.

      Can’t bring myself to dedicating the time for a game that’s guaranteed to disappoint.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I have it. Played it through Barcelona and ditched it when it became clear it was turning into just another dungeon runner. It’s a real shame since the universe was pretty cool.

  13. CrookedLittleVein says:

    I’ve always wanted to watch a horrible disaster unfold in slow motion before my very eyes.

    This should be mildly entertaining.

    • Shuck says:

      Weren’t you watching 38 Studios? This one has the advantage that not a lot of people will lose their jobs at the end of it, however.

  14. Thingumbob says:

    So, Stonekeep The Next Generation HD: This Time It’s For Keeps?

  15. povu says:

    They seem to be relying completely on the Black Isle name and history to promote whatever they’re coming up with, hoping that everyone will conveniently forget that anyone in Black Isle who mattered has already left.

    • CrookedLittleVein says:

      That’s exactly why none of this makes sense!

      Nearly all the people who would be interested in this news know what happened to Black Isle and hence, know exactly how much horse dung all these grand announcements are.

    • Anabasis says:

      My basically irrational hope is that since the Black Isle name is usually taken to stand for quality RPGs of a certain halcyon era, this reputation might positively affect whatever this rebooted studio produces by serving as a guiding design philosophy, even if the original team isn’t there. But yeah, I get the sense that some bigwigs at Interplay have seen all the hype surrounding Wasteland 2 and the Beamdog BG overhaul and have cynically decided to get a piece of that sweet nostalgia pie.

      • MasterDex says:

        Interplay have been around for so long and published some of my favourite games of the last 20 years so I’m definitely interested in what way this is going to go. Like yourself, I’m holding out a little shred of hope we’ll see those halcyon days, and long nights, return.

        We may be hoping too much.

        • Shuck says:

          Corporations don’t make games – teams of people do. They not only have no one from any of the original teams, they don’t even have a team – the only developers they seem to have are doing ports.
          At best this announcement means that they’ve seen the resurgence in popularity of the sorts of games that Black Isle used to do, want to make games like that again, but don’t have the ability to do so. (Any experienced developer is going to be suspicious of any jobs offers from this new studio given their history, so that doesn’t bode well for their future ability to make this happen either.)

  16. DangerousDan says:

    It is surprising Herve can still front the moolah to maintain a website. Maybe he’s moonlighting as a milkman or something.

    After the fake Fallout MMO saga and everything else that happened at Interplay, am highly surprised people are taking this man seriously at all.

  17. Zarunil says:

    I’m guessing freemium games for iOS/Android.

  18. Drake Sigar says:

    AA games are generally better than AAA games anyway.

  19. Ergates_Antius says:

    They’re going to make an RPG about Anti-Aircraft-Artillery? That’s certainly a brave departure from what has gone before.

  20. FhnuZoag says:

    Maybe they are making Freespace 3.

    As a facebook game.

    Under the Black Isle label.

  21. TomxJ says:

    Do they still have Torn? They used to advertise it on the inside covers of Games iirc.

    Tom j

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Torn might be the reason there was no longer a Black Isle

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I was really excited for Torn, more so than NWN which was roughly around the same timeframe…kinda bummed it never arrived, but NWN’s persistent servers certainly balanced out my disappointment.

  22. Nick says:

    I think Josh Sawyer said it best: “lol black isle lol”

  23. Shooop says:

    I think I now know what Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw feels like. Because I’m just filled to the brim with snarky contempt reading this.

  24. oophase says:

    Descent to the Undermountain 2!
    The Bard’s Tale 3D!

    Yess, lots of potential (for hilarious fails)

  25. squareking says:

    STARING EYES, surely?

  26. Hug_dealer says:

    more RPGs is good, but this isnt black isle.

  27. Hoaxfish says:

    On an entirely unrelated topic I guess: Eurogamer has a Planescape post-mortem podcast with the people who produced it

  28. Yosharian says:

    All I see is a corporate jockey trying to drum up interest in some shitty money-making venture.

    But then I’m just a cynical old git, what do I know. I’m sure Interplay is genuinely interested in making some great games, and not just making vast piles of cash out of a niche genre that, all of a sudden and probably due to recent successful kickstarters, is looking like a honey pot.

  29. ninjapirate says:

    I’m in love with your band allegory, Nathan!

  30. Strangerator says:

    We found a bunch of old junk laying around the garage, but GET THIS. We’re going to be cleaning it up, slapping fresh paint on it, and selling it as though it were new! We are going to make a bunch of money by peddling nostalgia. Aren’t you excited!!?

    Actually, no. It seems like the one thing studios won’t do is make games that are actually good enough to later be called “IPs”. That’s bad enough, but when a studio comes out and announces it is looking to establish low-risk revenue streams? Did I miss the part where you said something that makes me give a crap? Not only are they peddling recycled IP, they are attempting to sell a logo as if it meant anything.

    I guess I’m living in curmudgeon-ville, but these kids today…

  31. Eddy9000 says:

    Im calling it now, the new IP will be a resurrection of ‘Torn’.

  32. S Jay says:

    “Again, however, Obsidian and inXile say “Hello.” I mean, is it really “the band” if you don’t have any of the old members, songs, instruments, or ill-advised remix albums? In this horrifically overwrought metaphor, all that seems to be left is the tour bus.”

    Best paragraph ever written?

  33. wererogue says:

    So… you’re saying that Black Isle has risen from the dead, but is discovering that it’s lost its memory? I’m sure I’ve heard this story before…

    What can change the nature of a developer?

  34. kpi says:

    Oh nathan grayson, your word is so powerful, it tickles my braincell! I have to eat something naow.

  35. Prometeo138 says:

    Please Please make Bullfrog rise from the death and take avenge for what they have done to syndicate!

  36. Core says:

    I have a horrible premonition that Herve found the source code and assets to one of the cancelled black isle projects, and thought to himself that he might make a quick buck by slapping it together and releasing it. Like this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Isle's_Torn

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