Chris Avellone Interview

Yet another interview with Obsidian Entertainment creative director and RPG-developing veteran Chris Avellone has surfaced on the Internet, and this time it's Nightmare Mode asking the questions. By far the most interesting tidbit in this Q&A is the suggestion that a Planescape-based action RPG was in development at Interplay, before apparently being canceled:
Recently there has been a lot of commotion over Matt Findley's (Hunted: The Demon's Forge and also hailing from Interplay) comments regarding older fantasy games typically RPGs )always wanted to be action games at their heart.) Do you agree with that statement? Would you, as someone who also worked at Interplay, say that some of the games you've worked on in the past actually wanted to be action games at heart?

I think Stonekeep definitely wanted to be an action RPG (Ultima Underworld was out around that time). I don't think Baldur's Gate could have been and still been Baldur's Gate (or at least had as many party members), same with Torment and Icewind Dale. That said, however, at points in development at Interplay there were action RPG versions of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape (not Torment, but an action title like King's Field in the same universe) all in the works, although only the ARPG BG title came out (Dark Alliance).


The dialogue wheel vs. traditional lines of text. Do you think choosing one or the other for an RPG has significant consequences? Does the former make role-playing easier since you are choosing based on a general principle, or harder since you don't know exactly what you are choosing to say?

I prefer choosing text lines because I want to know exactly what I am going to say, not the (gist) of what I'm going to say and then passively watching to see what I say. This may sound strange coming from the narrative designer of the title, but I didn't like the emotion adjectives in Alpha Protocol, even though there were parts of that system that I thought were great.

Also, I don't usually care for games that give my character a voice that's my only comment. I think it works sometimes (Mass Effect), other times I feel it ends up being extraneous and a waste of time. although it all depends what type of (role-playing) you're doing. If you're role-playing a specific character (which may sound strange in the context of (role-playing)), then voice is fine and great. If you're allowed to build and customize your character, I prefer no voice.

Then again, my approach with that may be Old School, so take that with a grain of salt.


Feargus Urquhart says that 10 years ago, you didn't want to contemplate the idea of Torment 2. Let's open that can of worms: do you still feel that way? Could you see yourself revisiting the game or for that matter, any of your older projects?

Torment 2, no, Planescape 2, yes. I'd always work on Fallout, and Icewind Dale was always fun because no one took it too seriously and even the campaign setting was a little more relaxed than the rest of the Forgotten Realms. Icewind Dale 2, especially, I thought was totally nuts in terms of flow and level design, but the designers at Black Isle had fun making it. we took that principle into Fallout New Vegas: Old World Blues to see what people would come up with, and in my opinion, it worked. There's plenty of variety in the locations for folks to check out and explore.