Chris Avellone Community Q&A

Yesterday Kotaku conducted a community Q&A with Obsidian's co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Chris Avellone, who has recently been working on Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera, in addition to an unannounced project at Obsidian. The Q&A touches on a range of subjects, from writing practices to Avellone's favorite books. As customary for us, I'm going to quote a couple of questions and answers, though I recommend you just head over to the link and read the Q&A in full if you have the time to do so:

I'm curious about how many drafts you are able to have/need to have for most of the main storyline dialog (I imagine it is much, much less for sidequests, etc).
A brief contextualization: while I imagine you can have as many drafts as you want (within the time frame allotted) at your own computer, but I'm curious about the process of getting the story outlined, then written, then revised as the project develops (an outline as early as possible as the game is in early production stages, then scripts, then any revisions for length/changes/VO recording/etc).

Good question - so we go through a few phases with narrative: the 1-2 page outline of the story, then usually a 4-8 pager when the basic outline is approved, then a narrative doc of the global characters (1-2 page bios), then Region documents with other NPCs (1-3 pages), and once those summaries are approved and good to go, then we start writing in earnest, sometimes directly, sometimes on top of a scripted skeleton an area designer has provided with all the quest states they need. Once the first draft is implemented, we usually try to have another designer review it whenever possible, and then it goes to the bug-fixing stage.

We also try and do table reads for any voiced character (usually read by a person who DIDN'T write the dialogue) so we can see how someone fresh to the lines would say them - or try to say them. Studio time is so important (and costly) that you don't want to waste any of it once you begin recording. Hope that helps!

Haven't finished yet but I have to say Grieving Mother is my favorite party member, storywise. She just gives me chills.
What inspired Durance's line, (Fiery whore of a goddess!)? Did you have input on Magran or did you just have to react to the already established lore?

She was pretty uncomfortable to write (as was Durance). I took a different approach with those two and tried to imagine characters that didn't share my outlook (both have a number of principles I disagree with, but I wanted to give those a voice and listen to the characters talk about them and try to reconcile them).

Magran was established, but when designing Durance, the idea of a classic priest was boring, and the second take on Durance (Falstaff-ian) also felt too comfortable, so I was like, (what if he hates his own god? What would drive a priest to do that?) And that's a great theme to explore in Eternity, imo.

How did you write the 2 characters for Pillars of Eternity while at the same time Torment: Tides of Numenera?
Did you have to find a way to make sure that the themes in each didn't bleed over?

When writing the companions for Pillars, I focused solely on them for many months. I wanted to do something different and also do the best work I could do. There may have been detours and other design requests during that time, but it was 7 days a week, at least 10 hours a day, and weekends I saw as just another quiet, welcome opportunity to write.

There was no danger of the themes bleeding. The companion for Tides of Numenera is much, much different than the Grieving Mother and Durance, but no less passionate. :)

Before I forget, Chris also answered to the question all of us were honestly going to ask, sooner or later:

What does the flame reveal?!
Also are you ever going to play Arcanum again? That let's play was hilarious and insightful.

Yes, got all the equipment for home (mikes, headphones) thanks to advice from the community as to what the best LP set up is, asked our IT folks if I could have the Arcanum LP computer (the system is so old they were going to take it outside and shoot it, but I asked them if I could have it, and they said (sure.)) Apologies on the delay, the content for our titles came first, and I wanted to make sure they were of quality before finishing the LP.