Dungeon Siege III Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Square Enix
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date:2011-06-21
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Had it not been for David Hoffman, Square Enix's director of business development, Obsidian Entertainment might not have been the company that was chosen to develop Dungeon Siege III. Since he played such a pivotal role in setting all of the necessary events in motion, he was one of the first people I wanted to chat with during my time in Irvine earlier this month. Interestingly enough, when David discovered that I focus entirely on role-playing games on GameBanshee, he actually kicks off the conversation:

David: I started early playing role-playing games, too. I've been playing them since I was little, and when I was I'm dating myself again, I think when I was ten or so, I started with D&D and Advanced D&D. I had my own maps, created my own little graph paper maps, total nerd. I loved it. And I still love it even today. That's why I'm here doing what I do.

GB: Yeah, I spent much of my youth DMing various Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, and in the CRPG space, I initially cut my teeth on Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord on an old Apple II, The Bard's Tale on a Tandy 1000, and Dungeons of Daggorath on a TRS-80.

David: Yeah, I still have my Apple IIe at home with all my five and a quarter inch disks, double sided thanks to a hole puncher.

GB: Good times, good times.

David: Oh, good times for sure, man. I have the old Infocom stuff too. So I'm right there with you. We're old school.

GB: It's good to hear that I'm not the only one with such fond memories of the classics. [laughter] Back on topic, when did you originally approach Obsidian Entertainment to develop a western RPG?

David: I think it was two years ago. Yeah, something like that. It seems like ten years ago. So much has happened since we first approached Obsidian. I basically just said, (Look, Square asked me to make a list of suitable studios that I thought could handle producing a AAA RPG, or action RPG,) and it wasn't easy.

A lot of the studios are purchased already, or their core strength isn't in action RPG. And that's really important to Square - we want to focus on the core strength and to really build upon it, and so I identifid a number of studios. Obsidian was at the top of my list.

So I called over here and spoke to Feargus. We talked a little bit about it. He was like, (Yeah, sure. Come on down.) He didn't know me from Adam. We didn't have a prior relationship. There was no buddy-buddy, let's get together and make a game, nothing like that. I came down and took a tour of his office. We talked a little bit about what kind of game he was currently working on and what they wanted to do in the future because that's really important to Square too when we're talking to external studios.

A lot of people come to me and say, (Well, Dave. What do you want? Tell me what you want and I'll make it for you.) And then I think about it and I say, (If I tell you want I want and you make it for me, then I'm going to get a plain white fence. Let's say I'm asking you to build me a fence. I'm going to get a plain white fence, and it'll suit my needs. It'll do what the purpose of the fence is supposed to do. But is it going to be anything special? No, I don't think so.) It's more about, (What do you want to make, Obsidian? What are your strengths and how can you take this particular IP, in this case Dungeon Siege, and make it gravitate way past a white fence?) That's how we started the conversation.

Once we came to an agreement in terms of what we wanted to do, and what their strengths were, and how it would work in an action RPG, I informed Square Japan. We actually had some high-level executives including Wada-san himself come out here, sit down with the team and the executives here at Obsidian, and really just kind of just talk about it and about how we make RPGs versus how the west makes them. We were really interested to compare notes on that. Wada-san even made the comment that Obsidian seemed like Square did in its earlier days. That felt like a memorable statement to me personally because I really value and respect Wada-san, and if he identified Obsidian as a fledgling Square, that could mean great things for the future of Obsidian. So it just kind of naturally evolved from there.