Brian Fargo On InXile’s Darkest, Publisher-Driven Days

By Nathan Grayson on August 15th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

The future is looking very bright for Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera developer inXile. Very bright indeed. Two wildly successful Kickstarters and one nearly complete, maddeningly exciting game later, Brian Fargo and co have finally found their niche. Or rather, they’ve settled back into the comforting clockwork of an old wheelhouse, an old home. But the road to this point was hardly an easy one. The developer-publisher relationship has always been rather skewed, and inXile’s taken its fair share of licks. Some times have been good (see: The Bard’s Tale), and others, well, others have been Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. The latter, especially, is a sore spot for Fargo, but he’s been burned by various publishing arrangements far more than once. He and I discussed that subject, whether Kickstarter is inXile’s permanent solution to that problem, and tons more after I saw Wasteland 2. It’s all below.

RPS: Working with publishers has been kind of a bumpy ride for inXile. On one hand, you got to do Bard’s Tale, but then you also ended up doing things like porting Line Rider, having big projects canceled, and, er, developing a party game. That’s basically the opposite of a sprawling, sophisticated PC RPG.

We used to have 60 people. I had to mothball it down to about 15. Development is difficult. You never know what comes next.

Fargo: It’s like in all businesses, when you start them. The beginning is what you have to do. You work your way up to what you want to do. I always wanted to make role-playing games, but it was impossible until now. With Bard’s Tale, it had to be consoles. I could not get a deal unless it was console-oriented. And then, whether it was Line Rider or Fantastic Contraption, that was just me seeing talent or seeing products I thought would sell. We’ve done very well with them. But I was struggling to find a business model to allow us to make these kinds of games.

It’s easy to look back and say, “Brian, you should have just gone from Interplay and done role-playing games. What an obvious thing for you to do.” It wasn’t there. When I would talk to publishers, because there was no other way to get the money, I never got to the part where they said, “How much?” They had no interest at any price. There were no options. Once I saw Kickstarter, I said, “This is it. Here’s our chance.”

RPS: How long had you had the idea to do a Wasteland 2 before you finally could do it?

Fargo: 2002. Well, when did I get the mark? 2004. I take that back. 2004. But I’d wanted to do something with it. It was one of the first marks that I got. I thought it was going to be an easy pitch, especially because I had it, and then I was trying to get things going, but then Fallout 3 came out from Bethesda and sold like five million copies. Okay. This is fantastic. I executive produced Wasteland and Fallout. I got one of the designers from Fallout, Jason Anderson, working here. And I had Mike Stackpole, one of the original designers of Wasteland. I have the perfect pitch. I thought, based upon Bethesda’s success, that it would be easy. Nope. No way.

RPS: They’re very different sorts of games at this point.

Fargo: Yeah. They are different. But here’s the best part. As painful as it was [to be turned down so much], I’m glad it never happened any other way. The game we’re making now, that’s the game I wanted to make. I don’t know that, if it had been financed a different way, or with a partner along the way, that I’d be able to do it the way that I’m doing now. It was the best thing for the product.

There was a keynote at GDC Shanghai at the end of 2011. It was about the death of the narrative role-playing game. I would go to Singapore and China and they’d say, “What about Bard’s Tale? What about Wasteland?” I’d always get asked about it. It was all about free-to-play and where that market was going. It’s hard to do a narrative when I’m focusing every bit of my effort on how to get money out of your pocket. It’s a different kind of experience. So it was all about how it was kind of sad that I didn’t see how those games could be made anymore. It was not even six months later that we had the Kickstarter.

RPS: How has the unpredictability of publisher-driven development affected your company? How much has it grown and shrank? It sounds like things weren’t looking so great for you guys before Kickstarter.

Fargo: We used to have more than 60 people. I had to mothball it down to about 15. Again, it’s been trying to find a business model that works, something that’s repeatable. Being a developer is very difficult, because you don’t know what comes next, what you’re going to be working on. The all-or-nothing strategies.

RPS: When you had to cut it down to that size, did you think you were in danger of just having to call it quits on the whole thing?

Fargo: I always had revenue coming in from Bard’s Tale and Line Rider and Choplifter. I’m kind of a scrappy guy, for making things happen. I wanted to build a business. Ironically, I was going full circle. Interplay was a very similar thing, in that when I first started Interplay, it was, “How do I build a business?” Most of the guys who were making games back then were making money. Somebody who did a Dr. J and Larry Bird, well, it sold about a quarter million units, and if you’re just one guy who did it, he’s doing great. If I have a team of people and I sell a quarter million units, big deal. It was why Interplay became a publisher, ultimately.

When I was doing Bard’s Tale one, two, and three, Wasteland, I wasn’t making much money. I was making nothing. My guys were getting it all. I was making nothing. That was why we became a publisher and started doing Battle Chess and Castles and all those other things. It was changing the paradigm. Here, I could probably sit at home and, through my contacts and ideas, make a nice little living, but it’s not really building a business and doing all this, which is what I love. So it’s come full circle, me figuring out how to do that again.

RPS: It’s interesting that you went from something like Hunted: Demon’s Forge to this. That, to me, felt like an RPG that was all of the… “This needs to be on console, so we have to include elements from shooters and things like that” obligatory pandering.

Fargo: The original pitch for that was to be a dungeon crawl. That was what that game wanted to be. Then it got slowly changed to become more of a shooter. But that’s not my background, so… To me, that was a typical failing, where you have the arguments about what a product should be and everything that goes with it. People don’t know sometimes how little the developer can have input-wise into a product, even if it’s theirs. The opening cinematics weren’t done by us. The voice casting was not done by us. We didn’t get to direct the voices in the game. There are all these things that go on that are just pulled away from the developer, that we had no control over.

Ultimately, the people that control the purse strings are going to control the direction of the product. But yeah, how it came out was very different than what my pitch was.

RPS: When that happened, was it basically devastating?

Fargo: Extremely so. Frustrating. Very frustrating. Because ultimately… It’s like when Obsidian took a hit on their Metacritic and didn’t get their bonus. Mostly they got dinged because it was a buggy product. Obsidian, their reputation was taking a hit for shipping buggy products. They don’t control QA. The publisher controls it. The publisher always controls QA. They decide when it’s done. There’s no bug we can’t fix. There’s no bug they can’t fix. Somebody made a conscious decision – because there was a list. I guarantee you the QA department had a list of bugs. They said, “We don’t care. We gotta ship it anyway.” Why does the developer lose their bonus and get their reputation killed for that?

So yeah, you can imagine – even if it’s a different scenario – how it can be frustrating to be a developer doing work when you’re the one that’s taking it every which way. You’re usually not making money, either. I would run the numbers on games and say, “Look. You guys are up $20 million in profit. It’s my idea. I came to you. I did 100 percent of the work. And guess what? I don’t mind if you make more money than me. That doesn’t bother me, because you took the financial risk. However, when you’re up $20 million after paying your marketing and everything, don’t you think we deserve $1 million?” Nope. So yes, it’s frustrating.

RPS: So then you inevitably have to lay off a bunch of your friends and co-workers because there’s no longer enough to go around.

Fargo: Yeah. Every dollar they give you, typically… There’s always some deals that change. I’m sure the guys working on Titanfall have a different deal, so put that on the side. But most developers have a certain kind of deal. It’s all in advance. If a publisher says… Let’s say they slow you down and you have to spend another six months on the project and your team is burning half the money in a month. That’s $3 million of your money. You’re in the hole another $3 million, because everything is in advance.

It also hurts on the creativity, because let’s say you think, “God, I have a great idea. Let’s do it.” And it takes two more weeks to do it. Now you’re in the hole another $150,000 for doing it. It’s counter to coming up with clever ideas. It’s almost like you saying, “Oh, I have a great idea, but you know what? I have to add some more money on to my mortgage.” You’re not going to be as inclined to come up with creative ideas, because you’re never getting out of that hole. You’re digging it deeper. That’s why you have… Usually the owner of the company is spending very little of his time on the project, which you’d like him to spend. Instead he’s thinking, “What are we going to do next? We’re probably not going to recoup and I don’t want to let people with families lose their jobs.”

RPS: With that looming specter of joblessness, too, I think you end up risking not letting the team establish a rapport. If someone comes into a company with the knowledge that after the project’s done, they’ll probably be out, then they can’t get comfortable. They never end up feeling like part of something bigger.

Fargo: And they’re looking for jobs as a result. What you’re going to have is, towards the end of the project you’ll have people leave. You’ll have people leave with two months to go. They’re saying, “Brian, do I have a job afterward? What’s the deal?” I’m not gonna lie. I’m gonna say, “I don’t know. My publisher wants to see how well the product does.” That’s not very much reassurance for a guy who has a wife and kids. You have that even further on top of it.

That’s why this is wonderful here. Everybody knows that we’ve been pre-funded. Any units we ship will be profit. Also, I have Torment. I don’t assume that… We may sell 10,000 units or a million units. I don’t know. I don’t count on that. We don’t know where the production is going to roll. So most of these people you see – Matt and Chris and them – they’ve all been here for 10 years.

RPS: How big is inXile now?

Fargo: A little more than 20 now.

RPS: How big had it blown up to during Hunted and things like that?

Fargo: More than 60.

RPS: So that’s when it hit more than 60. Then you just had to let most of those people go.

Fargo: Yeah. We had to reinvent ourselves. If you’re not doing a big triple-A game, you can’t have 60 people. You just can’t do it. It’s so hard to make money doing the triple-A business. So hard.

RPS: Yeah. You see it more and more right now. People who have been triple-A for decades, even, going indie. I know that there’s been… Not an exodus, but a number of people leaving 2K Marin now that The Bureau is wrapping up. They’re all going off and just doing little indie projects, because it’s finally viable.

Fargo: Right. It’s more satisfying. You feel closer to the sales part of it, too. You think, “If I can make this do 50,000 units…”

RPS: Then you’re golden.

Fargo: Yeah, you’re golden. These times, they are a-changin’.

RPS: Do you think that, as a company, for whatever the next thing is once you’re done with Wasteland and you’re on Torment, will Kickstarter crowdfunding be where you go for that too? No more publishers?

Fargo: I don’t see why we wouldn’t stay with it. You can look at it from a persepective of… Obviously it would only be predicated on us delivering a Wasteland that everybody loves. Now we’ve delivered a game, and they did it. To go back again, you could look at it from one perspective of, “Hey, that way we can get the game cheaper than if we bought it at the final price.” But there’s this whole dialogue and this whole vetting of the idea. If I want to go do something, well, maybe it’s a good idea and maybe it’s not. To me, it ferrets out all these different issues. It opens up a dialogue that we love. I think it’s a great way of doing business. I couldn’t see stopping it.

RPS: What about your history, though? Do you think you’ll keep revisiting aspects of it? What about Bard’s Tale, for instance?

Fargo: I hate to comment on what we’re going to do next, because we have a lot of different ideas, but I’d be more likely to do something more for my core audience than I would to do something off-kilter. We have our niche. It’s role-playing games. One guy’s going to have a niche for train simulators. I think we’re all going to have our different niches. I feel like I know what this audience loves. I’m good at delivering it. So I’m more likely to stay in that wheelhouse.

Comedy [ala the most recent Bard's Tale] is tough, though. I just find that with humor, everybody has an opinion on it. We were going to do a Bard’s Tale 2 Disney, actually. Kind of a funny story. They loved Bard’s Tale, right? So we had this letter of intent in place. We delivered a script. And then somebody on their team, who was an accountant, said, “This isn’t funny.” It was only a first draft. We were going to make a thousand iterations over the next year and a half. It was just to get going. “Well, it’s not funny.” So I was talking to one of the executives there and I said, “Okay. We think it’s funny. She didn’t think it’s funny. We have just shipped a game that we wrote, Bard’s Tale, that people said is the funniest game of all time. So being that we’re like this, wouldn’t you give us the nod? Wouldn’t you think that maybe we had it? You know, the accountant, she hasn’t done this before.” Nope. Killed us. For that and for some other reasons. But it wasn’t funny [laughs].

RPS: Hah. But also awwww. Thank you for your time. It was, um, a lot. Extremely kind of you.

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65 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Tom De Roeck says:

    If that’s true about obsidian not getting the QA they deserve, then there is still hope yet!

    Note: I love obsidian. Seriously.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      But QA on NV then would have been done by Bethesda, and where would we end if we criticise them for having bugs? Really now. Do you want to summon such chaos?

      • PegasusOrgans says:

        Yeah I think I’m willing to “summon such chaos” when idiot gamers blame Obsidian for releasing buggy products that the PUBLISHER is responsible for doing QA for, well that is total bullshit. And these same idiot gamers then laud how much better Bethesda’s Fallout 3 was, despite the fact it was Bethesda that left the bugs in New Vegas! THEY witheld a bonus because New Vegas failed to get high enough scores, mainly due to bad QA on Bethesda’s part! Doesn’t that affect you at all? Are you that souless?

        I think it’s high time we pointed out how the gleaming beacon, that no one can ever criticize is a pile of shit. Seriously, younger gamers have put them on a pedestal that the company does not deserve.

        • Supahewok says:

          *Woosh*

          Someone’s sarcasm detector needs some calibrations…

    • taryuken says:

      Judging about what Brian said with, “because there was a list. I guarantee you the QA department had a list of bugs.” I wouldn’t put it in the hands of the QA here. It always comes back to the publisher who puts their stamp of approval on the game before sending it off to certification or going gold.

      When publishers get an idea of a release in their head (Skyrim 11-11-11), they’re very hesitant to delay it or deviate it from it. Especially when they figure they can just patch it day 1/have the problem solved by then. The problem with this is, in Obsidian’s case, the reviewers get the “broken” copy of the game without the patches. The other problem is who the hell uses metacritic in a clause of a contract and not the sales figures?

      • PegasusOrgans says:

        Who? The glorious, shining beacon of all that is great in RPGs Bethesda! All hail Bethesda, do not worry, Bethesda, we know Obsidian forced you to not do QA on New Vegas! We still love you Bethesda! Give us more Skyrims in the butt!

      • someone else says:

        “The other problem is who the hell uses metacritic in a clause of a contract and not the sales figures?”

        Every publisher does this. Most developers don’t have the leverage to insist otherwise.

        • Cyphran says:

          I work in a business that also has semi-powerful critics and to think those assholes would be able to directly affect my salary is terribly scary. Extra points should solely be based on the gross. That’s how it’s done in TV, film and theatre. What a racket…

          • dolgion1 says:

            Problem with games (especially AAA) is that a game can be a significant investment for the consumer (I HATE that word), so the average gamer will at least read up on one review before shelling out the money (unless they are serious fanboys of the dev or franchise).

            And because almost all gaming reviews do numerical scores on the end, and with our current “tl;dr” culture, a loooot of people will make their buying decisions based on a number on the bottom of a webpage. It makes logical sense (though it’s fucked up) that a site like metacritic will then aggregate all these numbers to give you an average that conveniently will almost directly correlate with your sales numbers, and all the more so the more your product costs.

            So even more than sales numbers, the metacritic score will have more weight, because it almost directly informs your sales in the above stated fucked up way. I’m glad that RPS doesn’t do scores

    • Don Reba says:

      To be fair, Obsidian made those bugs in the first place. You can’t just throw your hands up and say you are not responsible for the quality of the thing you make, that QA is the publisher’s job.

      • chargen says:

        They made the bugs in the first place so it’s still their fault? So they should never have had any bugs while developing this large and reasonably complex piece of software?

        I would still agree that it’s not ‘all on the publisher’. The publisher is handling QA, yes, but they are sending the bug reports back to the developers. And if the dev’s patches are creating bugs faster than they are fixing them… the thing has to ship at some point. It’s a shared responsibility.

      • Sakkura says:

        Actually Bethesda made most of the bugs; NV is based heavily on Fallout 3 code, which was buggy in the same way NV was. Much of the buggy crap carried over from Bethesda.

      • dolgion1 says:

        Such an ignorant comment. I work in software development and bugs are inevitable. Seriously, when ever you write a new piece of code that implements some new function, it will be broken. It’s like a law of nature. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your programming skills either. There’s a ton of reasons why code can break, be it from skills to unpredictable technical issues to problems with the management of the
        project (last minute feature implementations for example).

        Only through constant testing will it ever reach a point of being stable. But because these developers are put under time pressure to deliver on a deadline, games can hardly ever be perfectly stable on release. There’s always something that can go wrong. So that’s why Q&A is so important.

        Now I bet you that Bethesda didn’t give Obsidian the same kind of Q&A support as they do for their own inhouse project (Fallout 3, Skyrim etc). Even then, they are more familiar with the engine than Obsidian. Also, Obsidian’s games are usually more ambitious and creative than the games they iterate on (KotoR 2, Fallout New Vegas). Here you can blame them for being too ambitious for their own good. I like them for that. And it’s not like Obsidian refuse to back down on the ambitions when face with the reality. They had cut enormous amount of content on both KotoR 2 and Fallout New Vegas.

        So I’m very happy that they now get to do their own thing with Project Eternity. When that comes out, we’ll all have a truer picture of the quality of Obsidian.

        • Don Reba says:

          I work in software development and bugs are inevitable.

          Then I am sure you know that, given any two teams, one will always make more bugs than the other; sometimes, a lot more. Publisher’s testing is the most expensive way to find and fix bugs. There is lots the developer can and should do to avoid it: code review, code verification, automated testing, etc.

          Of course, Obsidian’s life was made more difficult by using another team’s engine, but this does not excuse them from internal quality control. It was a responsibility they signed up for willingly.

          Anyway, I backed both of their Kickstarter projects and am as hopeful as anyone that they will have high production values.

          • MadTinkerer says:

            “Then I am sure you know that, given any two teams, one will always make more bugs than the other; sometimes, a lot more.”

            Oh man, I laughed until I cried a little. Oh, the wonderful innocence of those who have never taken a programming course and yet they think they are qualified to speak on such matters!

            But let me calm down and explain reality a little bit: given any arbitrary number of teams, there will ALWAYS be a FUCKTON OF BUGS EVERYWHERE. Because the truth is that programming is half making buggy code and half fixing the bugs. Actually in terms of time spent it’s more usually 10% making buggy code and 90% fixing it. The quality of the team is not reflected in how many bugs crop up. Ever.

            As John Carmack tweeted the other day: “Beginning gfx programmers take heart–even an expert can sometimes spend two hours trying to figure out WTF no triangles are being drawn”.

    • Osmedirez says:

      “Obsidian, their reputation was taking a hit for shipping buggy products. They don’t control QA. The publisher controls it. The publisher always controls QA. They decide when it’s done. There’s no bug we can’t fix. There’s no bug they can’t fix. Somebody made a conscious decision – because there was a list. I guarantee you the QA department had a list of bugs. They said, “We don’t care. We gotta ship it anyway.” Why does the developer lose their bonus and get their reputation killed for that?”

      So.. read the comment below about the cost of QA, I get that. But I’m still thinking: Publisher can be absolutely certain that they won’t have to pay a ‘bonus’ by setting a release date that most likely will not give the devs time to fix enough bugs to get the metacritic score they’re tied to, but still give them plenty of day one sales with a well known franchise produced by a well known dev team? There’s zero incentive there for the publisher to even WANT the game to be relatively high quality. That’s pretty messed up.

    • belgand says:

      The problem with all of this is that certain teams/publishers/studios have always had a bad reputation for bugs: Black Isle, Troika, Obsidian, Bethesda. This has been going on since the 90s for most of these groups and when it happens at a number of different publishers it seems odd to blame them exclusively. True, the Troika staff did an amazing amount of unpaid, post-release work to fix Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines when the publisher forced them to release it early and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that. At the same time Fallout 1 and 2 were notoriously buggy and Interplay published those so before blaming the publisher all the time Fargo ought to take some of the responsibility for when he was the publisher and a buggy game was released. What will he say was the fault if Wasteland 2 comes out and has a large number of bugs? Blame the backers for wanting the game sooner? Not enough money to do proper QA? When you can’t cite the publisher forcing the game out early who takes the blame?

      Bethesda… wow… anyone remember how buggy Daggerfall was? Releasing buggy games isn’t new for them either.

      Ultimately though the problem is that you’re dealing with very complex RPGs with a lot of reactivity and options and all of those moving parts makes it more and more likely that there will be bugs.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    I’m a Wasteland 2 backer and I really, really hope it’s good. I suspect that the game will have great mechanics.

    I have two questions: “If he did a Wasteland 3 would he use the same assets / etc. or do it in the PE style, like Torment?”

    Second, is there any way you can change the color of the text box to black at least? I’ve been skipping interviews with them rather than complain at the bottom of each one, but I’m really interested in this one. It’s hard to read with bright red text and giant letters.

    • Keyrock says:

      I would hope they would reuse many of the assets from Wasteland 2 for a potential Wasteland 3, that would allow for a faster turnaround time and for being able to focus even more on story, characters, reactivity, etc.

      • scardb says:

        In that case they could just do a decent expansion so certain people don’t get all up in arms about lack of ‘new content’. (I’m fully with you that story and choice and all that good stuff is plenty)

  3. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    Accountants. Funniest people on earth.

    • chargen says:

      CFO at my work is actually pretty damn funny, especially when she’s been drinking after work, or expressing her desire to do so.

    • dolgion1 says:

      In my experience, accountants are pretty out there and fucked up (in a fun way) people. All day fretting over money numbers and shit like that must have some adverse effect

  4. RvLeshrac says:

    The developer isn’t responsible for QA? Really? The developer has literally no way to hire any internal QA staff to test the product before it goes out to the Publisher’s QA?

    Is it illegal for them to test it in-house? Because that’s the only reason I can think of for not hiring at least a few testers internally.

    • Hyomoto says:

      I suppose you’d like them to take out a second mortgage for that? Yeah, screw those guys! How dare they be overworked and underpaid! What do you mean they had to do forty hours of overtime a week and don’t see a dime? Those pussies! They should just hire more people! That cuts into the meager budget they already have you say? What, they never heard of ramen?

      On a serious note, I do get annoyed when they say, “I don’t want to lay off these guys with families!” Why don’t they just say, “I don’t want to lay off these guys!” The other one implies they are fine with it as long as they don’t have women and children on their conscience!

      • caddyB says:

        Like, obviously? I’m not saying it’s ok for people who do good work to lose their jobs or even looking at it from the “think of the women and children” perspective.

        But I think you’ll agree it’s easier for one guy to relocate to another city ( or maybe another country or even continent ) than it is for a whole family, who probably have jobs and school. It’s many more lives affected.

        I guess passion is what drives people to work in this industry. With their skillset they could have found better paying jobs in a much stabler environments.

        But yeah, should have said “I don’t want to fire anyone”.

      • Reapy says:

        Because it is worse when a guy or girl supporting a family loses a job? The financial drain of children + a partner who is staying home is HUGE. When you are single you can easily buy packs of ramen, not drive the car anywhere to save on gas, not go to the doctor, and generally slink your budget down to nil and survive on unemployment until you find new work.

        It is much harder with a family and small children especially have a much harder time understanding why everything is changing and they can’t do the things they did before.

        I guess I was like you a bit before I had kids, but now that I have them, i “Get It”. It is a shame for your parent’s honestly you aren’t willing to see the sacrifices and extra toll you cost them for your existence.

        So yeah, culturally, when a sole income provider loses their job for a family, it is worse than when a single person does. Both are bad, but one is worse.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lim-Dul says:

      I actually worked at a QA outsourcing company at various levels of management and the question is much more difficult than you think. You don’t realize how many people it takes to properly test a game. Sure, the devs have their own small internal QA teams but they are not able to test the games as thoroughly as a bigger company would – and they cannot keep the testers employed between projects when there’s nothing to QA.

      The contracts for testing triple A titles over the course of several months go into hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. The devs cannot pay for this. And the publishers are not willing to do it, which is understandable as well – QA starts towards the end of the project and any delays mean keeping the whole studio running while QA finds relatively small issues – this costs money and the publishers have already invested a ton into a project with no return during its development.

      Almost all projects I’ve dealt with had cut-off dates where no new bugs would be accepted except for major game crashes and stuff that would make the given title fail certification (which is also very expensive, especially if you have to resubmit).

      Now, there are some publishers that actually did allow the testing of their games to be extremely thorough because they had very important franchises and internal studios and they were not concerned about the budget. It all depends on the complicated interrelationships within a given project.

      But anyways, whenever you see bugs in a game, please remember that once you release a title you have a “QA Team” of like several million customers. They have weird setups, weird settings, do weird things with games that nobody could foresee – there is no such thing as a bug-free product.

    • killias2 says:

      1. The publisher finances the game, and QA is expensive. Simply put, the developer would have to put up its own money to do its “own” QA, and that wouldn’t be a minor little issue.

      2. In the case of NV.. this was also Bethesda’s engine and a lot of their assets. This would’ve further complicated QA. I mean, think about most Bethesda games. Not exactly bug-free, eh? Imagine trying to solve these kinds of bugs.. without having access to the engine or anything. Also, see point 1.

      • Shuck says:

        Yeah, exactly. Of course a developer could hire their own QA, but whatever the cost, that’s money that’s being taken from the development budget. So that’s always going to mean fewer programmers and artists being hired, features getting cut and game scope being diminished.

    • Dave L. says:

      There is dev side QA, but it works very differently than Publisher QA. For one: it’s a much, much smaller team. Secondly: while Publisher QA will usually get two or three builds for week, up to possibly a build a day during heavy crunch, Dev QA will be going through multiple changelists a day. Dev QA’s primary focus comes down to testing individual game systems to make sure they work, period, and integration testing to make sure that when all the systems are running alongside each other that the game doesn’t instantly crash or otherwise become unplayable.

      Publisher QA is more focussed on testing for end-user scenarios. So issues like using a certain item in a certain way at a certain time causing a script not to fire three hours of gameplay later resulting in a progression block are on Publisher QA to find, not Dev QA. And it would most likely be a producer or a project manager at the publisher making the call that the visibility of said issue is not high enough to warrant delaying submitting the game.

      • dolgion1 says:

        Devs can’t do all the Q&A. When you’re the one making a product, it becomes harder to test the games in ways you wouldn’t expect the user to.

  5. Lemming says:

    Always good to hear from Brian. Although, I should point he is not the messiah, as some gamers would believe…he’s just a very naughty boy.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      All right, all right. He is the Messiah. Now FUCK OFF.

  6. Premium User Badge

    egg says:

    Just fixed a huge mistake on my part: bought Wasteland 2. Whew.

    • Premium User Badge

      deadfolk says:

      THANK YOU!

      I had no idea it was still possible to pledge/preorder. Missing this and Torment was bugging the hell out of me. Going to correct that this evening.

      • Premium User Badge

        egg says:

        :)

        Cool beans.

        I kinda feel bad for not having pledged back when the KS campaign was on, but I figure that any support is better than no support. Right?

        • cpmartins says:

          Indeed. Any money given to them at any point in the development is going towards the game, as he said. Don’t rightly remember where, but trust me: It will be a better game in the end thanks to you.

  7. Jamesworkshop says:

    Was I the only one because I quite enjoyed H:tdf

    then again I liked clive barkers jericho simply because i could control the sniper bullet

    • Premium User Badge

      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      You, sir, are worse than Hitler.

    • Svant says:

      Me and the gf had quite a bit of fun with Hunted but it really wasn’t a good game, story was pretty horrible, voice acting so-so and it felt like the levels where a bit rushed and the skills where hardly balanced in a fun way.

      Still it was a pretty fun co-op game if you just wanted to hit some baddies in the face with a sword/arrow.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Yeah, I’d fall into the camp that enjoyed Hunted but only because my flatmate and I were quite desperate for ANY kind of co-op game. But we could also recognise that it was pretty poor on the whole.

      • PegasusOrgans says:

        Yeah, I had a lot of fun with it too, obviously playing it with a best bud! It really wasn’t that bad. I could see what the game wanted to be…

    • JakobBloch says:

      I actually liked it too.

      There was a little too much focus on skimpy armour, and the combat felt… not so good.

      However I did like the setting, the characters worked and I liked the story too.

      The parts I enjoyed most however was when you went off the beaten path. The optional dungeon puzzles were great and I loved how they fed into each other and told another separate story alongside the main story.

      So Hunted: The Demons Forge, not a shining beacon of game development but interesting none the less. Sad to hear that the developer had little to do with the polish of the story.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Agree, I put it on par with a kane and lynch game – turn your brain off and enjoy the co-op spectacle. The banter between the two chars was as amusing as any buddy cop movie.

  8. CobraLad says:

    Dont want to angry the mob, but im the one who thinks that Hunted is decent game and Bards Tale is unbearably boring pseudo hack&slash?

  9. Infinitron says:

    “Most of the guys who were making games back then were making money. ”

    I believe that’s a typo. They weren’t making money.

    • Reefpirate says:

      Maybe you’re right… But I also took it to mean that they ‘were’ making money because they had so little overhead. Sometimes it was one or three guys working on a project in their basements or something.

      Also, games back then really didn’t require much in terms of art assets or polish, most things were text or very rudimentary graphics. Sound effects were little bleeps and blops, etc. I think the huge bulk of the costs associated with modern AAA titles comes from the huge amount of detailed artwork, motion capture, voice-acting, CGI cut-scenes, etc.

      • Shuck says:

        It’s a lot easier to make a profit when you’re a one-person development team and you could pop out a game in less than a year. (And you had a lot of obstacles to publishing, so you didn’t have as much competition as you do now. And the resulting game could be sold for $50.) It’s a lot harder to make a profit when you have a AAA team of 100-1000 developers working for three or four times as long and you’re still selling the game for $50.

  10. Cinnamon says:

    Bah. Independent game development is all about hipsters making incredibly pretentious super mario clones. Don’t try to kid me RPS. It has nothing to do with publishers being horrible.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      and the pixels, don’t get me started on the pixels. Every game’s gotta have pixels now.

    • Emeraude says:

      Publishers don’t need to be “horrible”, their inability to deliver is sufficient for people to look for alternatives.

      • Mad Hamish says:

        Yeah it’s the creative stagnation caused by inflated budgets that’s the major problem here. I haven’t played a AAA game on the PC in bloody years yet the amount of games I play has only increased. All publishers need to do to alienate devs and customers business as usual.

  11. Upper Class Twit says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate here: What exactly is the alternative to publishers putting developers in a debt-hole with a large advance? A blank check with no deadlines? Free money?

    Also, I was under the impression that a studio like Obsidian would be given a deadline by their publisher, like, two years ahead of time or something. As in, “You should have this game finished with only a reasonable amount of bugs by this date”. In which case, it would make sense that a publisher wouldn’t be all that willing to throw more money and time into QA, fixing bugs that a dev said wouldn’t be in the game by launch date.

    • Fatmanuel says:

      They were forced to use a notoriously buggy engine. Bethesda would know all about just how buggy their engine is.

    • Shuck says:

      “Free money?”
      Worked surprisingly well for studios like Blizzard. (In the early days when they got bought up, their owners just shoveled cash at them and let them do their thing.)

      “You should have this game finished with only a reasonable amount of bugs by this date”
      Well, a) publishers and developers play this little game where the time and money given are always less than what’s actually needed. Everyone knows this, it screws everything up, but everyone persists in playing that game. And b) if the publisher is doing the QA, then what bugs are or are not in the game is down to them. There are always going to be bugs, it’s a matter of identifying them and being given the time and resources to fix them.

      • Upper Class Twit says:

        Fair point on the first thing.

        But for the second, if the responsibility of proper QA is on the publisher, isn’t it then the developer’s responsibility to get the game to a state where it can be bug tested well before the established deadline? Using New Vegas as an example, I’m pretty sure that Bethesda didn’t release it in the sate it was in just for the sake of being a dickhead corporation. Its their product, and their profit resting on its quality at release. I always figured the issue was their QA department got access to the game too close to the release date to do a full bug stomp, and Bethesda wasn’t willing to push back the deadline.

        • Jock says:

          Yes, it’s the developers responsibility to to give the QA something to test. However the biggest problem with deadlines in game developement seems to be that aspects of the game have to be constantly modified or even remade by the developer at will of the publisher while they still have to stick to the schedule.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      The solution would be to give the developers a small share of the profit (as long as the game is profitable.) This would give the developers a little breathing room if they want to try new things or if unforeseen problems pop up on future games. It would also encourage the developer to deliver good games, since that breathing room would be riding on their ability to do so.

  12. Danda says:

    I bought two copies of HUNTED for PC on Steam to play it with a friend. We tried to make the co-op work for hours, but it was impossible.

    Maybe it was the publisher’s fault, but that made me weary of inXile’s games. SOMEONE should have fixed that.