Chris Avellone Interview

Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone continues to field questions about his video game development history around the web, and this time the RPG veteran has been quizzed by the folks at Memory is Fiction. Narrative design seems to be the theme in this interview, and many of the questions revolve around the approach he and the other team members took with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II:
2. How do you feel about the present state of storytelling in video games, both in terms of narrative maturity as well as how effectively writers and developers use the mediums' unique properties?

I'm increasingly happy with it. I feel that narrative design is a respected element in games today, and the voice cast and scripts coming out of games is beginning to rival those coming out of major Hollywood studios. It's been a fascinating thing to watch over the past 10 years, and I believe KOTOR1 lead the charge by having one of the first fully voice-acted role-playing games, so kudos to BioWare for making that happen.

Also, this is something that we strive for at Obsidian, but part of our narrative pre-production process is outlining the game's themes in advance and examining how those themes matter to the player. As an example, when we approached the Fallout: New Vegas DLCs (notably, Dead Money), one of our themes was clearly player greed and what it takes to combat human nature to achieve cooperation, even if it's against your will (the bomb collars). The main antagonist's frustrations in Dead Money are against human nature and what he needed to do to subvert human nature to reach his goals. it's fair to say that when he's venting at the player during the DLC, he's speaking with my perspective.


8. The character of Kreia, your character's advisor who seems to exist solely to second guess every moral or immoral decision you make, plays such a central role in the game's narrative. How did players and critics react to this character? Do you think that players want to have their assumptions and biases called into question so directly and persistently?

Critics and players were split on Kreia. The common points:

- She questions the Force in an unorthodox way, which was received poorly in some quarters and highly in others. At the least, it seemed to make people think and cause debate, and in my experience, that's a lot better than creating a character that people are indifferent to or simply shrug and go (meh, she only does 1D6 with her short sword.)

- Kreia's questions about what seems to be moral behavior vs. the consequences did raise some questions in some player's minds. One of the prime examples was one of the questions on Nar Shaadaa: Is charity truly the best way to elevate someone and strengthen them? Maybe the Sith have some things right maybe adversity and suffering is more of a benefit at times than it may seem.

- I'd like to believe that because she has such a player-focused point of view, that it ends up catering to player's egos. At least, that was my hope.

In general, I liked writing her for all the reasons above. She was a mouthpiece to question the Force from someone who had an intimate understanding of it (and both sides), she was there to be a sounding board to many of the player's actions, and she was there solely because of her feelings for the player character.