Eurogamer had the opportunity to sit down with Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone for a hefty four-page interview about a range of topics related to the Fallout series, Alpha Protocol, Aliens: Crucible, the definition of an RPG, and more.
Eurogamer: So what did you think of Bethesda's take on Fallout 3, given you worked on the original attempt?
Chris Avellone: I enjoyed it quite a bit. Some of the things I really liked about it were... Well, in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, a lot of the special skill structure they had for the game system actually either ended up being only useful in special cases, like Repair. That, or they had a time limit involved with them, like Doctor. Doctor worked in Fallout 1 because the game had a time pressure, and it was faster to use the skill than buy Stimpaks. But when they took the time limit away in Fallout 2 - and they did the patch that removed it from Fallout 1 - that skill wasn't really balanced anymore. I like very much how Fallout 3 took a lot of skills that had issues before and made them relevant - like, Repair is pretty damn important in Fallout 3!
The only drawback I can think of so far is that I made the mistake of starting out with a four-strength character during my first playthrough, and the amount of stuff you need to carry around ... I was constantly using mailboxes to store stuff, and hopping back and forth between Megaton and my little safehouse to sell it all! I wish I'd made my strength higher.
Eurogamer: Right. Well, anyway, so here's a big one: what defines an RPG these days? It seems to change a lot.
Chris Avellone: Well, I have a personal definition. Of the RPGs I've played recently, I'll be honest: I've been pretty much immersed in Fallout 3. But it seems to me that the most important parts of an RPG are that, in terms of all the character-building you can do in the opening screens, all those skill choices and background choices need to matter in the gameworld.
That may sound kind of self-evident, but there's a lot of game balance that needs to go into making sure that each skill, trait, and attribute score is valuable, and an RPG has to deliver on that. If you're going to give the player a chance to specialise in or improve a certain aspect of their character, there needs to be value for that in the gameworld.
The other thing that's important is that there has to be a lot of reactivity to the player's actions within the environment, either in terms of quests, faction allegiance, even physical changes in the environment. The player making an impact is incredibly important.