E3 2010: Feargus Urquhart Interview

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GB: Speaking of which, you guys bought a lot of the Icewind Dale assets didn't you?

Feargus: Yes.

GB: What's the chance you could do something with that, non-D&D related?

Feargus: The tough thing there is that the stuff was all pre-rendered with lots of touch-up. So it's hard to use the assets as is. The only way we could use the assets is... well, you could use the map but we can't use that because Wizards of the Coast owns that. So yeah, we have all those assets, it's too bad we haven't actually used them. It's one of those ideas that I had that didn't pan out exactly as I hoped. But yeah, I'd love to make another one.

GB: Couldn't you make Icewind Dale into a brand new series inspired by the original?

Feargus: We could. And actually, to tell you the truth, we could probably do it with a changed version of the Neverwinter engine. Looking back, we know how to make Neverwinter look better and play better and all that stuff. That's not a bad idea, actually [laughter].

GB: I'd love to see it. I'd buy it on day one. I don't really understand why there's been such a push for the zoomed-in, over-the-shoulder viewpoints with all of the modern RPGs. Even with the MMORPG space, I walk the show floor here, and I see that every single one of them looks exactly like World of Warcraft.

Feargus: Yeah.

GB: Why does nobody want to go for the zoomed-out perspective anymore, or even chase the original Ultima Online format in the MMO space? To me, that's what the industry needs. Going after the EverQuest/World of Warcraft format costs $150 million or whatever, but if it's something like Ultima Online with a modernized graphical engine, I'm betting that asset creation would be a lot cheaper.

Feargus: Absolutely. It's interesting, because even if you look at Dungeon Siege III, the reason we have a close-up camera, not the super close-up camera, but the more close-up camera is because people want a closer up view. And, when we started working on Dungeon Siege III it was a *huge* fight. Everyone wanted it far away, and were saying, "Why are we doing that?" And I'd say we're doing it because when we show the game it's going to look really cool in that mode And along with it looking good, it will play really well as well. Now it did take a while to have that actually happen, but it has and the game plays great with a closer view.

My main issue with that direction was that if we show a little character on the screen, it's going to look too much like a PC game and I'm not saying I hate PC games - but it's going to look too much like a last-gen game. And that means we're screwed. We're just screwed. With modern games, you have to have people say how pretty the game is and it is one a real expectation. That probably sounds bad to say, but it's what even most of us expect.

GB: See, as a PC gamer myself, a zoomed-out viewpoint is my first choice. The Infinity Engine had about the perfect perspective for me.

Feargus: Infinity Engine games, I love them. I didn't play as many hours as Ray did, but I put like 150 hours into Baldur's Gate II. I loved it. The games were awesome, and it's strange because it's not like the sales on them went like this [makes a downward slope with his hand]. We just stopped making them. It wasn't like, "Oh, no one's buying them anymore, let's stop making them." It wasn't that consumers weren't interested, it was the publishers that weren't interested.

GB: That's a shame, it really is.

Feargus: Yeah.

GB: The artwork in those games, to me, has stood the test of time because even a modern engine can't compete with something like Planescape: Torment. The painted backgrounds in high resolution look amazing. With Dungeon Siege III, I noticed you sort of have a similar look in the caverns with a three-dimensional foreground atop what looks like a far-off 2D background.

Feargus: Actually in the caverns, it's all 3D. That blurry background, that's actually just a depth of field. It's one big level. As you get closer to it, it becomes less blurry.

GB: Interesting, it looks really good. Also, in that cavernous area, there were two different character classes being shown. How many different classes are you going to have?

Feargus: More than two. A lot more than two. That's one thing I'm not allowed to talk about yet [laughter].

At this point, I notice the crowd that's gathered in the Square Enix booth waiting for Feargus to give the next Dungeon Siege III demonstration. Realizing I've chewed up way more of his time than I probably should have, I thank him for the interview and let him get back to showcasing his latest game.