Feargus Urquhart on Obsidian's Future, Independent Development Hurdles

Computer and Videogames has published an interview with Obsidian Entertainment's CEO Feargus Urquhart that covers, among other things, the company's future, their reputation for developing licensed games, and the current industry landscape, while also confirming their next Kickstarter project will be an RPG and clarifying the Wheel of Time license deal. Here's a snippet from this interesting read:

CVG: Obsidian has had an interesting trajectory in recent years, experimenting with Kickstarter and moving into free-to-play MMOs.

Feargus Urquhart: We've been around for 11 years now. And as independent developers we have to, I don't want to say keep up with the times, but look at what else we want to do, what's available out there. What are the things that let us keep on making games? Because that's why we got in to do this in the first place. It's even why we left Interplay to start Obsidian.

It was just getting hard to make games at Interplay, and we were worried that we were just going to show up one day and there would be a locked door. So we wanted to make sure that we could continue to make games. And that's a big part of being an independent developer.

For us, and me in particular, selfishly I love working on role-playing games. It's what I play. I don't know how many hours I have in Skyrim now. But I love playing role-playing games, I love making role-playing games. That's the trajectory we want to always be on, and Pillars of Eternity is a great example of that.

Right now, fewer major games are being worked on by independent developers than almost any time in the games industry. That's one of the challenges of being an independent developer right now. We could be done making a big game like South Park and then no publisher has a slot at that time to have a big team work on a big RPG.

That kind of puts us in a really weird situation as a business. We saw that was happening and that we needed to do different things. And out of that, in 2012 we saw what Double Fine and inXile did with Kickstarter and were like, well, we've been wanting to make these Infinity Engine style games again, and that was a great opportunity.

On top of that it also meant that we get to own something, which is pretty cool, because it's gotten harder and harder to own what you make if you're doing big games. So we kind of jumped on that. And we're looking at what else we can do to Eternity.

Then the opportunity to do Armored Warfare came along. Of course, a lot of the game world is going free-to-play, and we have a lot of people here who love those games, who play World of Tanks, who play War Thunder, who play League of Legends - tons of League of Legends. I know a lot of people are like, "What? How does that have anything to do with what you guys do?"

A ton of making an RPG is of course making the world and story, but then another huge part of it is the character systems - and the balancing - and the XP tables - and the abilities - and balancing all of these 400 spells and 12 character classes and 9 races. All that together. That's a big part of doing something like a modern armored vehicle MMO. So you kind of tie that together with our abilities and what people like to do and so, hey, why not? We have the opportunity, why not take it? And it's good to try new things.

That's the stuff that put us on the trajectory we are on now. Of course, we don't want to get away from doing the big role-playing games. So we're still out there talking to people and seeing what we can make happen there.

Spotted on the Obsidian Entertainment forums.