Feargus Urquhart Interview, Part Two

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published the second part of their interview with the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, Feargus Urquhart, which this time deals with Project Eternity, Kickstarter in general and South Park: The Stick of Truth (no new info on this front, though). Here's a snip:
RPS: But, hypothetically, if you ever ended up in a situation where it came down to what you promised backers versus what was really right for the game, what would you do?

Feargus Urquhart: It would really depend. We're all gamers. Everyone who makes games is. There are things I like about a game that other people don't. There are things they like that I don't. There's always going to be different opinions, even personally, as to what works and what doesn't work in a game.

If we came to a block, if we came to something that we promised, but in looking at it or trying it it just didn't work out, we would just be really up front. We'd say, (Hey, we tried this. It didn't work out. The direction we're going is this.) Now, if the internet falls on us. [laughs] .and says, (How dare you go off on some different direction?) maybe there's a conversation online about it. Then maybe we wouldn't go with our gut.

But I think that's it. The first thing is to say that there's a problem. Generally, because we play the games that we make, we're kind of our own target market in a lot of ways. I think a lot of times our gut is correct. But that's how we'd handle it. I think you've probably seen that we're pretty open about all the stuff we're doing. We're doing lots of updates. We were really worried about releasing temp art stuff. People would then think that it's final even though it looks like crap. Our art director stamped all this funny stuff on the art so that people would recognize, (No, it's not final at all, remotely, we just wanted to show you guys progress.)

But that's how we would handle it. We'd do an update. Josh would probably get on a video and say, (This is what it is. This is why we're changing this. See this on the whiteboard.) As an example, Josh has changed the armor system in the game in the last three or four weeks. He's changed it three times. Some of that is based on conversations he's had with people online, friends of his in the industry, or internally. That's the other cool thing about the Kickstarter. We get to change stuff ourselves. That's fun.

RPS: Plus, you're not beholden to a publisher on this one, so you don't have to deal with milestones and all that stuff. And, I mean, some of Obsidian's previous efforts have been super glitchy, which suggests a breakdown in the release process for you. A goal publishers demanded that just didn't mesh with your way of doing things.

Feargus Urquhart: Yeah. But I certainly don't want to throw publishers under the bus. It's a two-way street.

It's tough. It's a tough thing. You have to know enough to get to the nitty gritty of game development. But it's a tough thing. You're working on this game. Some things don't go right. The budget you pitched two years ago is not working out. There are challenges in working with a publisher, to say that you need to keep more people on it for another month. They don't want to spend any more money because we said it was going to cost this much. That doesn't take into account external forces and other kinds of stuff. That's the only unfortunate thing, I'd say.

It's sometimes hard to have unemotional conversations, very matter-of-fact conversations about budgets and timelines and stuff like that. The example I use a lot of times is, if I were to hire a guy to come put in a pool. If the guy's going to come put in a pool, he's not going to hire some weird ground-scanner to say exactly what type of soil is there. They bid and then they come back and start digging the hole. Whoops, half the pool is on bedrock. We're going to have to chisel that crap out. I can get mad at him, but it's life. I think that's the challenge a lot of times. Things come up in games and it's hard sometimes to get through that stuff as planned.

But some of that's stuff on us. So we've changed a little bit when we're working with external [publishers]. We put a lot more buffer in now than we used to. We do that purposefully, because then we have that to draw upon when we can. If there's a problem then the budget is already there to deal with it. You can skip the emotional part of it.