In 1997, Interplay shipped the post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout
, which received considerable acclaim and established a reputation that only increased over the years.
Now, inXile Entertainment -- headed up by Interplay founder Brian Fargo -- has hired Jason Anderson, one of Fallout's original leads,
to serve as creative director on a new game to "push the boundaries of RPGs."
Before the completion of Fallout 2
, Anderson and fellow leads Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky departed to form Troika Games, which existed from 1998 to 2005 and developed the ambitious Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magic Obscura
and Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines
More recently, Anderson was briefly reunited back at Interplay with another Fallout
designer, Chris Taylor, on the company's MMO codenamed Project V13
-- widely speculated to be the Fallout
MMO to which Interplay retained rights after selling the franchise to Bethesda Softworks.
Following the inXile announcement, Gamasutra sat down with Anderson for a chat about his plans on the new team, what he learned at Troika, and what he thinks about Bethesda's recent Fallout 3
What can you say about the project you're making? You're pitched as an original Fallout designer; is the game in line with Fallout at all?
Jason Anderson: I basically bring all my experience from Troika and all the games we did there were RPGs. When they tapped me and asked if I'd be interested in coming over, it was a perfect fit. Working on an RPG is the thing I really know how to do. Before that, I was involved with the project V13 at Interplay. But definitely, we're going to be doing an RPG. I don't know to say whether it would be in line with Fallout
Troika's games developed a dedicated following and a good deal of acclaim, but were often plagued by technical issues that arguably led to the company's closure. Are there lessons learned you'll be applying to inXile?
JA: Well, just on a personal note for me, one of the biggest things, especially being part of a smaller development house, is that you wear so many hats. In the early game development days, that worked really well. Even on Fallout
, I was responsible for many things other than art, which is what I was originally hired for.
But games became much more demanding with the amount of content and their sophistication. That was kind of a growing pain, and Troika was right in the middle of that. For example, I took on a lot of different responsibilities -- art, design, running the company -- and I think in the end that was detrimental to the company.
After Troika, I actually took a short break from the game industry.
That was in real estate, right?
JA: Yes, sort of. My wife was going to take a shot at real estate. We actually ended up putting our money into houses in Arizona, which is probably the worst thing anyone could ever do.
But going back to Troika, I really loved the creative process of making games, and that's just where I wanted to be.
Heading up Troika for many years, my art skills kind of fell behind, even though I tried to stay current. So my strongest thing going for me is that I have a really good sense of design. When I got back into the industry, it was very clear that that was the position I wanted to be in -- to oversee the creative side of development.
How do you see that role?
JA: To define creative director, at least for me, the creative director keeps the focus on what's the game is to be, facilitates the creative process, and helps everyone's ideas all come together. The creative director hones in everyoene's creative visision into one vision. But I'm not coming in as the be-all, end-all, "my word is law" kind of thing; it's really a facilitator's position.
By joining up with inXile, you're in a way returning to working with Brian Fargo, who founded Interplay. Did you actually work with him much during the Fallout days?
JA: He was actually more a step away from me. When the Fallout
team had interactions with Brian, it was usually through Tim [Cain]. I never really had personal interaction with him.
Presumably you are working more directly with him now, given the setup.
JA: Definitely. When I came on, I spoke with Brian a number of times. It was a very hard decision to leave Project V13. I loved the project, and we spent so much time on it, and it was not an easy decision to make. But in talking with Brian, it made it a lot easier. We really clicked, and saw eye to eye on what we wanted to see happen to RPGs.
In what sense do you see eye to eye?
JA: Well, RPGs have been kind of in a lull as of late. But there have been a handful of good ones out there -- especially with Bethesda successfully rebooting the Fallout
franchise, and generally showing that RPGs are viable forms of entertainment.
I want to get back to RPGs that are very story-driven and character-driven. Personally, I've never gotten out of [single-player] RPGs. There was the short stint working on the MMO for the past year, but that was pretty much it. I've always been about RPGs and RPG design. Even before Interplay I was a big RPG player.
Have you displaced inXile creative director Michael Kaufman, or is he taking a different role?
JA: No, no. I'm going to be a separate team. He's still there.
Is there anything you can say about the design direction for the new game?
JA: We're still very much in the early stages.
Going back to Project V13, you worked worked with Chris Taylor, another Fallout co-creator, right?
Did you leave that project because of internal factors, or simply because inXile seemed better for you?
JA: The future of the -- well, I don't know if I want to go there. [inXile] was a more stable opportunity. I wasn't even in the process of looking when this opportunity arose. It was a perfect fit.
So have you played Fallout 3?
What did you think?
JA: I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. In some ways I really felt they captured the Fallout
feeling, and other things were somewhat different than what I expected from a Fallout
game. That being said, I definitely understand that these things take on a life of their own. All in all, I felt it was really good. I liked it.
Did you play the other pre-Bethesda Fallout followups, Fallout Tactics and Brotherhood of Steel?
JA: A little bit. Well, not Brotherhood of Steel
. I could tell from the screenshots I didn't want to play that one.
So it sounds like you felt Bethesda was a better caretaker than some.
JA. Oh yeah.