One of Fallout's Fathers Returns to the Wasteland

Polygon has just published an excellent and lengthy piece on Brian Fargo, with additional contributions from Blizzard's Rob Pardo and Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart. Here's a snippet on Fargo's troubled relationship with publishers:

As head of InXile, Fargo spent much of the last decade going to publishers, looking to make a new Wasteland. He made the argument that what had worked for Bethesda could work for them too, especially if the game was made by many of the people behind the original. The market was excited about RPGs.

"No traction. Zero. Not even a, 'how much would that cost, Brian?'" he says. "I'd get questions like, 'How many weapons does it have?' Inane questions. Or, they'd say 'We like to create new franchises' even while they were publishing sequels all over the place."

Fargo's Kickstarter video for Wasteland 2 savaged the way publishers handle pitches from developers. He portrayed them as callous and clueless children.

How much was this an expression of his own anger and disappointment? A man who had once sat in the big chair, listening to pitches was now forced to traipse around the meeting rooms of former rivals, looking for support from execs half his age.

"I'm never angry that someone says no. That's part of it. You gotta be an adult," he says. "But it was the treatment that me and my developer kind [of] faced the disregard of the humanity for what we're trying to do. Yeah, that was frustrating for sure. There were people who would be text messaging in the middle of the presentation. It never used to be that way."

"We all have to do that," says Urquhart. "I have to walk into meeting rooms all the time with people who've been out of QA for four months, and have 20 less years of experience than me. I have to convince them that what I'm going to make is going to be awesome. You have to be arrogant and humble at the same time.

"But for Brian, it's a bigger difference. This is a guy who ran a successful top-10 publisher in the late '90s. To now have to cajole people into just calling him back, yeah, it's kind of humbling. But you're only as good as your last hit. That's how I think any entertainment industry works, whether it's music or movies or games or anything."

Fargo says he only gets upset with publishers when they start making decisions that negatively impact his staff. "The things that got me wound up the most were when it started affecting my guys' jobs, or me having to lay off people, or hurting my company. That upset me more than my ego in a meeting with a 22-year-old. That didn't bother me so much."

He says that game publishers now operate at a different level of expectation than game studios. "They really do look at everything in terms of 'How can we get a half a billion or a billion dollar franchise out of this?' What they're missing is that every billion dollar franchise they own began with much more modest expectations. Whether it was Tony Hawk or Call of Duty, Tomb Raider or Grand Theft Auto, you name it, not one of those was originally projected to do a billion."