Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone has agreed to be subjected to yet another interview, with this latest Q&A rearing its head over at Spanish website el Pixel Illustre. Topics include why he's most proud of Planescape: Torment and the Fallout: New Vegas DLC, his post-mortem thoughts on Alpha Protocol and the mission DLC they were planning to release, the cancellation of Aliens: Crucible, and much more. Lots of ground to cover, here:
-You’ve worked in quite a few games now. What project are you most proud of?
Planescape and the Fallout DLCs (Dead Money, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road) are the titles I’m most proud of – on all four, I was effectively Project Director and had the most freedom, so the fact that you own your mistakes as well as the praise generates a certain amount of pride. Also, almost all of them were under the radar, so they didn’t come under as much scrutiny as other titles going on at the time – Torment because of Baldur’s Gate, and the DLCs because no one gives a shit about DLC as long as it can boost sales of the original, blocks rentals and sell-backs-to-the-store, and be potentially rolled into a larger edition and make more money, so you have more freedom over the narrative, release dates (digital release is sooooo much better than physical copies when it comes to putting out a game, and I’d argue it makes for a better game as well as helping the environment), game titles (there is no way we could ever named a triple A sixty-buck title “Old World Blues” and gotten away with it), themes, and playing around with game mechanics to try out new ideas.
-As the lead designer for Alpha Protocol, we guess you were heavily involved in the writing as well. Is there any character, dialogue or scene that you are particularly fond of?
During the 2nd half of the project (after we did the overhaul of the game’s pipelines, direction, and management), I effectively became the Creative Lead, and our Project Director took charge of the systems – level design was assigned to a specific lead, and he carried it from there.
I inherited a lot of the characters from the previous iteration of the story, but my favorite scene was a Moscow conversation with Sis, Albatross, and Thorton when they’re discussing how things are going to turn out in the end, and nobody’s too optimistic. The scene was based on the skeleton of a previous implementation, but I really liked working on it and fleshing it out.
Also, the scene where Madison hates Thorton and turns on him is also a favorite of mine. While I despise romances, I love “hate-mances,” and she can really come to hate you.
-Was it easy working with SEGA during AP’s development? Were they very involved, influencing the project, or did they just “foot the bill”? Did that experience had anything to do with the cancelation of the Aliens RPG?
They were involved more heavily toward the 2nd half, and towards the end of production, they were calling the shots and the final, indisputable word on the game’s direction and especially the mechanics (targeting, especially, jumps to mind). They didn’t care so much about the story, however, which is pretty standard with most publishers we’ve worked with. Note that none of this absolves us of any of the choices we as a studio made up to that point, so if anyone had an issue with the game, we shared equal, if not more, responsibility for all the critiques folks had.
As far as I can tell, the Aliens RPG fate wasn’t tied to AP’s fate, that seemed to be a different beast, and to this day, I couldn’t comment on why that decision was made except speculations which don’t do anyone any good. In the end, however, it financed the development of the Onyx engine and allowed us our own technology to make games, it built a team we could move on to DS3 and Fallout New Vegas, so a lot of good came out of it. I did think the Aliens RPG had a lot of promise, and I did enjoy working on it for the time I did.