Forgotten Ruins: The Roots of CRPGs - Interplay

Bitmob has moved on to part four of their "Forgotten Ruins: The Roots of CRPGs" editorial series, with this latest entry covering the rise and fall of Interplay. The Bard's Tale series, Dragon Wars, Stonekeep, Descent to Undermountain, the Fallout series, Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, and a couple of the company's other CRPGs are all mentioned by name:
Strong titles such as Descent and their Star Trek-based adventure games had also shifted Interplay's focus away from CRPGs, especially in the wake of flubs such as Descent to Undermountain, which attempted to adapt Descent's engine into a CRPG setting with grim results. I remember killing a lich -- something like an undead über sorcerer that no eighth- or ninth-level character should ever solo -- simply because it was stuck behind an object and couldn't get to me.

Even though Interplay had critical successes with several of its titles, the company continued to bleed money. Since '95, Interplay reported a stream of losses. And then in '98, Fargo decided to take the company public to drum up funding. It would also be (as some might put it) the beginning of the end. Despite a strong showing in the early months of its (reduced) IPO following June, the company's stock went into a tailspin in October after reporting massive losses of about $15.5 million dollars -- nearly half of its already depressed value.


Interplay's meager attempt to refocus on consoles also gutted its PC presence even further. Among the casualties were those at Black Isle whose work included Bioware's Baldur's Gate series, Planescape, Icewind Dale, and a canceled prototype of Fallout 3 (codenamed Van Buren). But its developers would land on their feet elsewhere at such places as Troika and Obsidian Entertainment.

In 2002, Brian Fargo would leave the company he had founded. Speculation at the time cited differences between himself and the new bosses at Titus -- Herve Caen in particular -- which turned out to be true to some extent. But it was clear that Interplay's golden days were far behind it as it struggled to find its place in the changing market.