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RPGs, Moving Forward: An Interview With Feargus Urquhart
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RPGs, Moving Forward: An Interview With Feargus Urquhart

June 5, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 6 Next

So, that's kind of an interesting question then. If you look at the sort of pretty mainstream success of Fallout 3, do you think that they found a way to make a hardcore RPG much more mainstream than has been done in the past? Or when you look at how Fallout 3 is suceeding compared to what you've done on Fallout 2 or other RPGs that you've done...

FU: I think Bethesda did two things, and I'll start with that sort of thing. Any great game, it's beyond how exactly you play it. It's how you play it, and a specific "Are there numbers? and "Are there not numbers?" and all that kind of stuff. It's more of a feeling.

What really was great about the original Fallout, Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, was the feeling of being in this world. And that was attractive. Well, attractive is maybe the wrong word. It was compelling. (laughs) That's a better word.

I think what Bethesda did an incredible job at is making you feel like you are in this Fallout world. And that's what we did back at Black Isle, to make you really feel like you were in this Fallout world. The whole thing -- from the loading screens to the main menu to the Pip-Boy to all that kind of stuff -- it really felt like it was a whole cohesive unit of feeling like you're in this world. And they did that.

When you do that, it is instantly more compelling to any kind of gamer. As long as they feel like they're not being hindered by something or that something is annoying in the game, then they're probably going to enjoy it. And I guess part of that is also taking it, obviously, from a turn-based PC game to using the Oblivion engine and learning how to use their Oblivion engine and make it Fallout. And that's not to say that it's just Oblivion: Fallout.

I think the second thing that Bethesda did an incredible job at -- and this is what they do really well -- is they are just behind their games. I think a lot of the success of Fallout 3 in particular -- because there are people probably at Bethesda that Fallout 3 is not the kind of game that they play -- but they jumped in with both feet, like, "This is the game. We believe in this game." And I think that is why you see a success, too. It's almost catching.

In other words, you have a publisher who's like, "Well, we have these seven games. What do you think?" Bethesda is, "No, you're buying this damn game." So, I think that the success was from both ways. They were able to get the feeling of Fallout, and they really believed in their game. And that belief in the game came through in how they were talking to everybody and pimping it and all that kind of stuff.

In starting Obsidian -- I don't know the exact process -- was it more a circumstance thing where you were like, "I guess I need to start my own company because that's the position I'm in," or was it like, "I've been working in this industry for years, and I'm ready to do my own thing"?

FU: I think any kind of those decisions are a collection of a bunch of things. I was 33, and I think one of the owners is a year older than me, and the youngest owner is like three years younger than me. So, I think we were literally like 30, 31, 33 -- 32, 33, 34, something like that.

We were like, "This is the time to do it." If you kind of think about it, when we're 40 and we have kids that are now getting [older]... In one case, owner's in high school, or my kids at that point would have been in grade school. You have less of a chance that you're gonna go take a chance like that.

So, that was part of it. I think the second thing is we had been working for Interplay for a long time, and we worked really hard, and we made a lot of great games, both internally and externally. And Interplay just wasn't going anywhere. And that was really sad because we would work really hard, and then the money we would make would go fill a hole somewhere else.

Yeah, somebody's debt.

FU: Yeah, exactly. If you do that a few times, you're just done. And on top of that, because the money was so tough, it just got harder and harder to make games. I think the one thing that I've often told people is that the straw that broke the camel's back for me was that it took me three months to get $20,000 worth of computer purchases approved because it got approved and unapproved four times.

And then finally after three months, I'd heard it got ordered and everything, and then I got an email how that now, "Well, we weren't really sure that you needed them, so it's been turned over to the tech director for the company to decide whether you really need them or not." And I'm like...

Just trying to design some games.

FU: My guys, now, literally... The computers were like six months too old when i started this process, you know what I mean? And not that I walked out that day. It's just, you know, this and this and this. And it just seemed like a good time, and there should be opportunities and things like that. It wasn't so much like, "We're going to go off, and Interplay are retards." Because a lot of it is we modeled a lot of what we did off of Interplay, both the good and the bad.

In some cases, we said, "Interplay didn't do that well -- why did we not like that? Let's not just react to it, let's figure it out." Because in a lot of ways, Interplay was a great company. At times. Even at the end, there were so many great things about it.

I've talked to Mike Morhaime a lot. I mean, Blizzard was initially modeled after Interplay. So, it wasn't a bad company. So, in essence, we had no reaction to that other than the situation that it was in at that point that really made it hard to make games.

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