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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 4 of 6 Next

What's your sense of what it's like in the market now, not only for being an independent developer, which I know can be challenging, but also one that's pretty focused on one genre of games?

FU: Well, I think the thing is focusing on a genre is a good thing, because I think it's a problem if you're a generic game developer. Like, you're on no one's list. If you're on someone's list, at least, like, "Hey, we want to make an RPG. Who are we going to call?"

Yeah, you know you're on that list.

FU: I know I'm on that list. And so, I think that aspect makes it better. I think the other aspect of it, and I think you even wrote some of our troubles... (laughs)

I think the hard thing is that when a company externally gives another company 15 to 20 million dollars to make a game, the risk is so large that I think everyone has a hard time keeping their wits about them.

I am the person who will never blame publishers for everything. I think it's a joint thing. It's so easy to lose a lot of money just by blinking, when you have 60 to 70 people working on a team. I think that aspect of game development, for an independent game developer, when you tie that to the economy and when you tie that to publishers being scared -- and I'm not saying "risk-averse" -- about these investments...

A lot of relationship and communication and a lot of stuff that the industry has never had to deal with have really become big challenges. And I think my reaction to that in a lot of ways is that -- and this going to sound... not bad, but I don't mean it as horrible as it's going to sound -- to look at it as if we're contractors.

It doesn't mean that we're not creative, and it's not that we're not amazing at what we do, it's that at the end of the day, we're a contractor, and so we have to run our businesses that way. And we have to run our businesses in a way that, "Yes, we have a relationship with our publishers. But at the end of the day, we have to protect our business." I want to keep on making games. I don't want to close the doors tomorrow.

You want to make Sega happy, for instance, at the moment, but ultimately, your job is making Obsidian work.

FU: Right. If I make Sega happy, or whatever publisher happy at the expense of my company, well great, they're happy, and then I go out of business. What's that good for anybody? And that's a hypothetical, of course.

But that's a great way to look at it. And I think that before these budgets got to the 10, 15, 20 million dollar range, mistakes could get swallowed up easier. Like, "Ah, throw another million dollars at the game, whatever," You know what I mean? The accountants don't even care.

But throw another six million dollars at the game? Well, how many units do we have to recoup? What do we all feel about this? It was like easy three, five, six years ago when publishers came in and would say, "You know, we don't like that interface. We'd like you to change it." Well, we could almost absorb that within what was going on, and we wouldn't have to do anything.

My mistake, as the guy running a business, has been that the publisher will come in -- the interface is perfectly fine. Yeah, we can talk about little tweaks and all that kind of stuff. And now we get into these kind of complicated, subjective things. "Okay, you want to change it entirely. Well, we've already made one. If you'd like another one, well that's going to be $300,000."

The problem is that the industry hasn't gone through that process before in which, "It's not my job to absorb it. This is a work for hire. I'm the guy putting in your pool." That sounds like I don't care about games -- I love making games.

No, it seems like you care, but you care about your budget; you care about your company.

FU: Right, because I don't want to go out of business. And that's really where independent developers have to go. Independent developers have to go to the point where, either you're making games that have no risk -- there are games out there like that --

Like a movie license, maybe?

FU: A movie license, or a sequel where you're reusing the technology, like KOTOR II for us. Not a lot of risk because we get in and we did well at it.

But when there are these projects that have risk, you have to manage it like a business.

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