Chris Avellone Interview

I have to assume it's "Anon" from Anonymous of Holland who conducted this recent interview with Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone, in which the veteran designer tackles questions about Project Eternity's mega dungeon, the opportunities afforded to him during the creation of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, his proudest development moments, and more:
AoH: Another Project: Eternity related topic that seems to be on everyone's mind is the Mega Dungeon. During the Kickstarter campaign we collectively brought the number of levels to a massive 15, which has me slightly worried it could end up turning into a Shin Megami Tensei-level chore to get through. So far this has also been the subject of very few updates, which I suppose is because Obsidian is still working out the details. Are you personally working on the dungeon as well, and if so, in what capacity? Should we expect the dungeon to be mainly a '˜hack and slash' experience or will there be more to it like in the case of the Castoff's Labyrinth in Torment: Tides of Numenera?

MCA: I am not personally working on the dungeon (we haven't entered the design stage for it yet), and I couldn't give you an exact breakdown of talking vs. fighting. That said, combat and combat resolution is a big part of Eternity, and while conversations and stealth can help set you up in a favorable position when hostilities erupt, talk-intensive encounters are likely to be left for communities, towns, and other areas where it makes more sense; it may be that Od Nua becomes one such location. In the current iteration of the story, the mega dungeon serves a key role and has a lot of interesting mechanics being kicked around for it that I think will be compelling.

But to make this question personal, I love level design. The last time I did area design for Wasteland 2, I enjoyed it, although we have level designers here that are more capable than I could aspire to be (Bobby Null and Jorge Salgado are currently tackling the Vertical Slice levels). Personally, I look at a level design such as Od Nua and see possibilities, not as a chore, and so do our level designers. If I asked someone to design 15 levels of archaic soul-lore-focused insanity and have fun with it. the results I imagine would be great, and it's worked with our other projects where we've given the LDs such freedom ([Fallout: New Vegas DLC] Old World Blues).


AoH: As someone who has been in the industry for such a long time, there must be many things you've done and were extremely proud of, and perhaps just as many things that you regret not getting exactly right or even screwing up completely; what are the first things you think of when you hear this?

MCA: I am proud that I still have time and make time to talk with and respond to aspiring game developers who wants advice or help. That would rarely happen while I was growing up, and I always appreciated the few people that took the time to give me pointers and help me reach my dream job.

I am also proud that I champion speech-related and talking-related pacifist solutions and freedom of character agency in RPGs I work on. I like it when you can join the bad guy, or tell him why his plan is screwed and have him give up or fall apart, and just prove that brains is a viable solution for some character builds.

I am proud of making a game ([Planescape:] Torment) that took everything I hated about RPGs and turned them around and lived to see it appreciated for what it was. On the converse, I am not proud of the fact that that may be the only message I have for the world before I'm out of here. ;)

Also, I'm not happy with scope evaluations of previous projects I've worked on, the last of which was Knights of the Old Republic II. We could have downscaled earlier and not pursued some story elements in that title (cut down the companions, removed the minigames, and recognized that cutscenes are difficult to do in the engine) and made a more complete version. I've worked hard to fix that in titles since, but KOTOR2 still stands out as a game that could have been much better than it was, and I am responsible for that.