This is a selection of the questions and answers from the Reddit Ask Me Anything with inXile CEO Brian Fargo and Obsidian CCO Chris Avellone. Questions not related to Wasteland 2 (and Fallout) are not included. Questions have been shortened as appropriate, answers are not edited.
Ask Me Anything Q&A with Brian Fargo and Chris Avellone
ronin84: Brian, could you tell us anything in regards to where you're going (or hoping to go) with the game engine? Obviously top down, but are you looking into isometric?
Brian Fargo: I probably have not been clear on this but the main city exploration and battles will take take place on an isometric view. There will be limited zooming but unlikely for full rotation. And the world map which gives you the larger scope of the world may or may not be isometric. Straight down for that may suffice but I want to experiment to see if there is a nice look we can achieve with a more isometric angle on that perspective. I should re-iterate that these are the kinds of things that we will throw samples up to the forums for feedback. Once we agree on the look is when I turn the artists loose.
Bglad: What's the likelihood that the game launch is going to be delayed?
BF: We are going to do our best to map out every resource and build some buffer into the plan. I am going to treat the first 6 months of development as crunch time to nail down 100% of the design and to have all the major systems working. Iteration time in an RPG is key. There is always a risk of a game being late and I would always take a product that is robust and varied yet slightly late over something buggy, broken and on time.
pov_dave: As the kickstarter is reaching it's last few days, have you been contacted by any Big Ass Games companies that you've spoken to in the past about Wasteland 2?
BF: Of COURSE I have had some publishers call me to voice their interest in Wasteland and of me doing RPGs. I knew that was coming. I had one group that wanted to fund my marketing for a piece of the pie. I politely explained that we have an ARMY of fans who are better than any marketing campaign.
TanglebonesGWJ: Hi Brian: two question - will Faran Brygo make an appearance, and how do you plan to update the Paragraphs experience for the modern age?
BF: It would seem a shame if Mr. Brygo didn't make a re-appearance. We plan to bring a few characters back from the first game for nostalgia sake and others for scenario interest. We are not sure about the paragraph books but I sure did like seeing people chase down the mythical martian invasion.
jamssi: What kind of a game can you make with 2.5m in such a short period of time? Where do you have to make tradeoffs so that kind of budget is enough?
BF: First off... Thanks for showing up today. To answer the question: The things that we are "trading off" will be cinematic cut scenes and extensive audio from talking heads. Organizing and paying for cut scenes is a very expensive proposition. The fans have been very clear in their wishes of wanting more cause and effect and a bigger world and that is where we are going to spend our efforts. We also have the advantage in that we have the game systems in place which allows us to slide right into the sequel.
Chris F. Avellone: I think you can get a lot more imaginative when the constraints are tighter - as an example, in Fallout 1, the "stupid" dialogue options didn't require any huge leap in engine technology or the latest video card to enhance the RPG experience.
TanglebonesGWJ: Hi Chris! What elements of the game do you expect to be involved with?
CFA: Story, characters, area design, quests. Note that the best way we've found is what was done with Fallout 2: One person leads the charge on the overall game arc, then the game is divided into zones that each designer takes charge of (so, using F2's example, I got a 1-2 pager on New Reno, Vault City, and the Raiders... plus the special encounters, then ran with the design).
TanglebonesGWJ: Do you expect the plot to be tied to a specific main character and their emotional reactions like Planescape, or more free-wheeling, and open-ended?
CFA: It's a party-based game, so my expectation would be it's based on your party's efforts, but I don't think that makes it any less compelling.
I'll also add that I don't feel the Nameless One in PST had an emotional reaction - the players did, and he was the cipher for it. I think this can happen whether it's a single avatar or a band of avatars.
phimseto: Trying to brainstorm: is it possible to create stories for the player-created characters based on the attributes/backgrounds they choose? Something similar to what BW did in Mass Effect with quests specific to those character creation choices. Or should we not really care that much about these characters having that much depth? I don't mean that snarkily, I'm genuinely curious. Should we have retro-sensibilities for our retro-game?
CFA: No, I think it's worth examining a few conventions - for example, I don't know if players want to roll characters any more vs. constructing their stats. It's worth asking, and it's up to the crew here to discuss more.
Stories = Not sure, good question. At the very least, I'd like actions players take in the game to have the consequences you describe, and that might make it more immediate for players.
SkyeFlayme: Even if we do not reach the goal of 3 million. Is there any chance at all that mod tools would be looked at?
BF: It isn't 100% binary but we do need to make sure that we have the financing to make Wasteland 2 everything that it needs to be. We do want mod tools and it could come in the way of a community made software. We have lots of time to sort this baby out.
falloutru: I'm a lonely wanderer. Can I play with only one character and win?
BF: You might need to find the Iron Man skill for this.
csixty4: Are the foreground characters in the Wasteland 2 concept art supposed to represent the original party of Hell Razor, Angela Deth, Thrasher, and Snake Vargas?
BF: The Desert Rangers in the concept piece were not specifically meant to represent those particular ones. But I have had MANY comments from people wanting to re-engage with the original team. Perhaps I should have one of the old school rangers accompany the new rangers in their initial missions.
zhrakkan: Would you be interested in performing another old sequel like Bards Tale thru Kickstarter?
BF: My hopes is that I am able to bring you all RPGs for the next decade plus with fan funding. Bard's Tale is just one of the many potential games.
Intergaki: Regarding ESRB ratings and the like. Considering that you're funded through Kickstarter and don't have a publisher breathing down your neck, do you feel you can make the game that you and the team want without any restrictions in that respect? Are you looking to include more sensitive topics that you otherwise wouldn't have?
BF: I can pretty much guarantee this will have a minimum of an M rating. We don't plan to pull any punches when it comes to adult subjects. Our audience can handle this and it is the world the fans want to see. A post apocalyptic world is not a pretty place.
locust64: Brian and Chris, How linear are you thinking this game will be? And how to you think the re-play value will be? -Also, if the game is deep and long enough (and i have faith it will be) Have you considered a strategy guide?
CFA: Linearity can suck my balls. Wasteland 1 let you go anywhere and suffer the consequences - or reap the rewards.
In open-world tradition, we'd like the player character and party composition along with your choices and path through the environment cause a lot of ripples and consequences - that's what makes a gameplay experience.
Strat guide - I believe that fans (and places like Game Banshee) do a much quicker job of delivering all the facts in an easily-searchable internet format. Most strat guides feel out of date within days (ex: Ausir's Vault for Fallout is more comprehensive than anything I can imagine, and it can update rapidly with new info that strat guides have a delay on).
FollowerAnderson: Will there be a bunch of cultural references like in fallout 2?
BF: Yes the cultural references are part of the charm of these games. We did quite a few in the first Wasteland and you can get you will get some more from the 80's. Speaking of which I recommend the book Ready Player One. A fun read and also did a great job of cultural references for anyone who remembers the 80's.
cbspike: Hi, now with MCA from Obsidian on the board will you be able to use some ideas from Van Buren?
CFA:Denver would be cool - adventuring on rooftops was always really cool in my opinion from my player perspective. That, and the excavation teams that were digging up the still-useful materials from the city.
There was also one pen-and-paper location that I don't think was ever revealed that I'd love to use, I was thinking about it this morning. I'll call it out if it makes it in-game.
Ralome: What are the elements of Wasteland 2 you can put in the game that you would definitely have trouble getting past the major publishers?
BF: I am pretty certain that our adult approach and PC centric development would not have been popular with publishers. It is quite nice to be developing a game without worrying about a controller interface or what happens when you are 6' away from the screen.
UOLATSC: With regard to setting and tone, is Wasteland going to be taking on the mid 80s sci fi aesthetic (Terminator, They Live, The Thing, Mad Max) the way Fallout took on 50s sci fi (Buck Rogers and ray guns)? In terms of overall goofyness, would you characterize Wasteland 2 as closer to Fallout 1 (played mostly straight) or Fallout 2 (more self referential), or beyond Fallout 2? How tired are you of fans asking you insanely detailed questions regarding setting and tone of a video game that won't be released for over a year?
BF: We don't mind the questions at all and especially in light of it being fan funded. Sometimes we don't have all the answers as we are still polling the forums to nail down the main sensibilities.. though most of them are well known now. We are going to take the universe of Wasteland serious and not parody or joke about it. But there will be twisted humor that will spring forth and not every scenario will be dead serious. Modern day police cover a number of crimes than range from murder to more domestic issues. There will be a heavy mood that is accomplished with the music of Mark Morgan, the visuals and the writing. Expect a somewhat dense narrative as the literary vibe is what made many of those old school games hum.
Snake_Squeezer: Chris, Do you see wasteland 2, Double Fine Adventure, Banner Saga, Shadowrun etc. as acid tests for the Kickstarter approach to funding games ? Could you see publishers changing their attitude to developers of games like these, or has the system just gone too far for that ?
CFA: Yes, I see it as an acid test.
I believe there's always going to be a market for BIGBUDGET(tm) RPGs, shooters, etc, and I don't believe publishers will change their attitude on these genres or care about Kickstarter unless the revenues from one of these titles ends up being significant. I can't define "significant" for you, however, although it's probably astronomical in publisher minds.
I think large publishers are committed to their larger models.
Zeronet: I can't tell you how much my eyes lit up when you mentioned setting up a Ranger Base in California. Being able to take a place and develop it as a character like in the Stronghold missions of Baldurs Gate 2 and NWN2 is very fun for me personally.
Do you approach locations from the perspective, that they are in essence a character that the player can help direct and develop into a direction?
CFA: Stronghold mechanics/homebase mechanics (like in Old World Blues) is something we've seen players strongly respond to, so we have a lot of mechanics and systems to draw upon to flesh this out.
FollowerAnderson: Is Wasteland 2 going to have a take on religion and cults like all the previous games?
BF: We will most definitely make the religious cults a key part of the world. Religion always becomes a driving force in a world in strife and in this case it is is a very strange one.
Gengi: What do you consider your worst game?
BF: I'm pretty happy with the games that I was able to manage myself. There have been times in which I didn't have real control (Hunted) or when I was so caught up in the financing events I could not stay on top of the producer. Descent to Undermountain was a great concept but the execution of it was horrible for example. There are probably others that I have tried to erase from my mind.
Bakuraptor: Do you hope to capture the younger generation's imagination with Wasteland 2 - and how far you think that there's the potential for marketing games like that to gamers who've never experienced anything like it?
BF: One of the things I love best about making this project is that I am simply not worried about how to get to the larger audience. My attitude is that if we make a great game they will find us. The fans have been very clear about the experience they want and I'm not going to dilute the approach based on the worry of some player that may or may not like RPGs. That said I can't imagine how anyone would not love a post-apocalyptic RPG with sandbox game-play, twisted humor, tactical combat and incredible music and graphics.
vault_overseer: You were in control of Interplay when it started sinking and, eventually, was taken over by Evil Herve. On top of that, R. Scott Campbell's comments about interplay at the time of Fallout were not very flattering. That makes me concerned about the future of W2. Could you please comment on the less bright parts of your history? What would you say to the cynic in me to alleviate the concerns?
BF: A cynic on the forums? no... I'm not certain what Scott's comments were but when things are going sidewise a lot of people jump on the bandwagon of blame. I certainly made my mistakes but one of the biggest things that hurt us was trying to stay true to the PC while the world went to console. I'm very proud of the products we were releasing during a time of EXTREME pressure. Torment, Sacrifice, Giants, Baldur's Gate 2, Fallout 2 etc. While companies like Activision flourished with Tony Hawk and Take 2 with GTA we just didn't have a big enough hit to carry us. I held onto the quality while bankers had guns pointed at my head.
Apothecary_Taka: Love what are you doing for gaming industry, but don't you fear to not get anymore jobs from publishers due to your kickstarter campaign?
CFA: As one of the last independent RPG developers in North America, I'm not worried. I doubt publishers really care because ultimately, it's $$$ that matters. It hasn't hurt us and publishers don't want to make the kind of games we're promoting on Kickstarter anyway.
dmiller-7: Brian, have you tried to get Jason Anderson involved with Wasteland 2 again? Has he given any thoughts on its success with Kickstarter? He's a really good game designer, would be thrilled to see him get back with it.
BF: We are using a LOT of material from Jason. He was here for a year generating storylines, characters, and filling out the tone of the Wasteland 2 world. Unfortunately he is on a project for THQ and I'm sure knee deep in design of that. Hopefully I will get to work again with him soon.
dusmeyedin: What are your thoughts about level scaling?
BF: I personally hate monsters that scale up with my level. I want the satisfaction of mowing through the enemies that use to harass me. Having the difficulty curve to steep at the start is a different issue than scaling. I am for having monsters increase in difficulty on triggers like night time but that is still not scaling.
CFA: I concur. I do advocate scaling for certain lieutenants and bosses, however, especially if you know future DLC packs will raise the level cap. :)
mtndewhero: Do you anticipate dialogues to be short and to the point (Fallout) or long and in depth (Planetscape) ?
BF: There is no doubt that there will be a stronger literary vibe to this game over some of the more recent RPGs. I suspect we will have a combination of approaches as some areas need to move quickly while others require taking in more information.
phimseto: Brian and Chris, at this stage in the feedback process, what would you say are the Top 3 things people want and don't want? Any surprises in those groups?
BF: The 3 things people want are a larger world/more content, more portraits and equipment artwork and a mod kit. The only real surprise was how low enhanced audio came in. Audio does a great job setting the mood but Mark Morgan has us covered there.
megazver: Do you prefer [Speech 76%] Hey, can I get some more money? or [Has Speech 3] Hey, can I get some more money? for your Speech checks?
CFA: I prefer neither because Speech checks are insta-wins and don't require any thought to make them successful.
I prefer speech skills like "empathy" from Fallout 1 where it would tell you what the listener reaction would be, but that wouldn't tell you whether it would actually help you with a quest goal or objective or not (sometimes you'd want someone to go hostile on you).
Or I should correct that - random chance isn't a good method either because if the Speech Guy puts 95% into Speech and they fail the check, it's not fair to their character build, imo.
The_Nameless_One: Do you plan on having repercussions for making "Good" choices in Wasteland 2? By repercussions I mean more then if I make Choice: A then Faction: B will attack me.
BF: What made Wasteland 1 work so well was the grey area that you lived in. There were often not obvious right choices and sometimes things go sideways even with the best intentions. That is life.
Zeronet: Something i,ve been curious about, i'm sure it's quite liberating to be able to engage with the fans so openly on the game, i suspect this is something that the PR departments of various publishers would not allow?
CFA: It can be crippling to stay on message, but to be fair, I feel most of the publishers I've worked with aren't heavy-handed about it.
We were getting pretty sick of "your weapon is choice" campaign during our Alpha Protocol panel at PAX, so much so we figured it would make for an excellent drinking game during the panel, so we did it.
BF: They absolutely control every word we say. I have been forbidden to use certain words in the past and chastised for saying ONE wrong thing. Needless to say that didn't go over too well with me. What is worse is that most of the PR people I dealt with NEVER played a game before. I'm getting worked up thinking back to those times.
megazver: So you guys have mentioned that Obsidian now has some really awesome dialogue scripting tools that are a vast improvement on everything else you've used. I am curious, what is it that makes them such an improvement?
CFA: We have flowcharting tools embedded in the scripts on a node by node basis, the ability to view conversations not in terms of trees (which changes the flow of a conversation considerably), ability to see the speakers as images, built-in dictionary and pronunciation guides, and (drumroll) a Hollywood script formatting tool for exports. That's only a few of the things, but the improvements make writing a dialogue much faster to write and critique.
Zaxth: Will there be gore in the game, like in Fallout?
X-pert74: Can we expect to see some over the top death animations in-game?
BF: You can count on gore as this is an M rated game and part of the payoff is over-killing things. We will also make sure to feature text as part of this as there are just times when you want to read "exploded him like a blood sausage."
CFA: I don't know how it will translate, but if you can't send someone into a spiraling dance of death, reduce them to a thin red paste, or have them explode like a blood sausage, it's not Wasteland.
PeBeFri: One new aspect I noticed in Fallout 2 that was largely absent from its predecessor was its tendency to break the fourth wall. Looking back, which level of immersion was better suited for the Fallout universe? Will this impact Wasteland 2?
CFA: I prefered Fallout 1 style humor, we went overboard on F2.
PeBeFri: One thing I noticed about the Bethesda Fallout games was that there was less of a specific goal at their beginnings. Do you think the RPG experience is more fulfilling or enjoyable with a set, timed goal, or an atmosphere where you feel little pressure to tend to anything specific and take your time exploring the game world?
CFA: There was an illusion of pressure in F2, but not a real one, imo. And F1's time limit was removed in a patch based on fan feedback. I could write a blog on this and will if you Tweet me a reminder. I believe a set goal and timer depends on the genre and the feeling you want to create.
PeBeFri: Do you consider Fallout Tactics to be in the same canon as the rest of the series?
PeBeFri: Will Wasteland 2 merge in any way with the Fallout universe, in the tradition of Tycho?
CFA: No - it's one thing that publishers would not approve of, and we shouldn't try.
PeBeFri: As I was midway through reading the introduction in Wasteland's manual, I realized I was imagining the text narrated in the voice of Ron Perlman. Is such a practice something you would officially endorse?
CFA: Ron has too much connection to Fallout, I'd prefer a different take on it. Don't get me wrong, I've loved working with him (notably on IWD), it's just that he's so "Fallout" now.
halstedom: What is your opinion on romance in Fallout?
CFA: I don't think Fallout has a romantic bent. I was a little worried with hints of Arcade and Veronica people might expect it (I don't think they did, I think they appreciated the absence, which was cool), but "romance" in Fallout tends to go sour (F2 and getting married, and for FNV, hypothetically Christine and Veronica). But what do I know.
RedSonJude: How's Mark Morgan's work coming along?
BF: I tried very hard to get Mark to post some of the music this week but he just would not relent. He wants to keep working on it. I'm very happy with the direction... the whole style of the world is coming together.
dmiller-7: Brian, PLEASE tell me that Scorpitrons will be that big in game?
BF: Of course they will be that big.. these are some badass dudes. And besides this is Scorpitron 2.0
megazver: Fallout went for burnt out desert wastes, since that fits with the contemporary ideas about nuclear holocaust. But now we knows that it would be probably way, way greener. Empty and overgrown. What will Wasteland 2 be like?
CFA: I think a mix of environments should set it apart from other post-apoc games, and the Scorpitron image is pretty telling. Confining it to a single environment type with a single color filter can get exhausting for players.