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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 6 of 6

Are you guys working on the Aliens RPG at all?

FU: (laughs) No comment. And it's for the reason of, obviously, Sega announced that we were doing their game. It's their game. We have confidential agreements with them, and so really -- whatever might be or might not be going on with that game -- they're the ones that would have to say something...

But you're working on Alpha Protocol.

FU: Oh absolutely, yeah. So, we continue to work on Alpha Protocol, and it's actually going great. I'm actually pretty excited from the standpoint of, you know, we hit content complete, so we shoved all the -- I'm not going to call it crap -- we got everything in the game, and now we're just working towards alpha.

In essence, we get to polish a number of months before alpha, and then a number of months to beta, so it's looking really positive. We've been able to fix a lot of things. As a developer, there were a lot of things we had to learn with Alpha Protocol, things we didn't have to do in our previous games. And so, we've been really hitting those things.

Well, you were talking a little about taking RPG elements and broadening that out a little bit. This is what Alpha Protocol seems to be, right?

FU: Yes.

There are a lot of action elements that I assume you guys haven't done before.

FU: Right, it's pulling things we haven't done and pulling them into RPGs. There's kind of a couple things for me as a game maker that I've not had to really think and focus on before. This is going to sound really strange but I've never really had to think about player control. Because other than just making sure running around feels okay.

Because obviously all my previous games that I've made, they've usually been point and click, or with KOTOR II, you're just kind of running around. I mean, it has to feel good but not amazing. Combat was all choreographed, so there's no cover, there's no this, there's no that. So, really with Alpha Protocol, we really had to learn to come up with... I mean, Unreal has stuff in there, but you have to expand on it, basically.

And so, really focusing on movement, cover, how the AI reacts, and AI and cover. AI, cover, movement, and animation quality, that is the lesson that we've had to learn for Alpha Protocol. We can take all the stuff we know about RPGs and get it in there, but then there was this large -- I would say "large" -- group of things that we then had also to learn how to do and get better at it.

And do you do that by bringing in people who have worked on those kinds of games?

FU: Yeah. I think it's both. One, it's a good education. It's good for us. With me, that's the next thing that I look at, now that there are a couple games that we're looking at starting right now. If you asked me five years ago what are the big things that we have to get right...

Well, we have to get area building right because RPGs are all about areas. I guess all games are about areas, but RPGs are kind of, "We have to figure out how to make towns," and things like that which are these persistent things which the player runs around in.

You always know where they're going to go.

FU: Yes, exactly. And so, it's areas, it's creature creation. And from a standpoint, how do we create characters when we're dealing with seven races, two sexes, body morphing, and all this other kind of stuff and all these things?

But what wouldn't have been on there are these things about, "Well, how are we going to do cover? How are we having the AI react to cover? How do we give the player in a third-person over-the-shoulder camera an understanding that if they throw a grenade, where it's going to go." In our games, it's always been like, you targeted something. In Fable II, right, you target something, you don't target the world.

Right, that sort of thing. And that's an artistic choice.

FU: Yes.

And when working on an original property like that, do you have any sort of ownership of Alpha Protocol? You're doing it for Sega, but is it also an investment for Obsidian for the long term? Or is this something that's work for hire, and you see it the same way as doing Aliens or some license?

FU: Obviously, our success come in games selling well, right? So, if you get too far down the line of, "Well, the brand of Alpha Protocol is more important than the game," you start to get all schizophrenically weird. For us, Alpha Protocol being successful is good for us. We look at the game, and the brand is important because if we make the brand feel good, then the game will be successful.

In a world where games often materialize in other media, I'm interested when developers try to own IPs themselves. So, is that the case with Alpha Protocol?

FU: Oh no, it's Sega's property. We've created it, but it's their property.

If it's successful, with you talking about being on the list, do you feel like that if this game works, suddenly you could be on more lists? Do you sort of think like that? Do you still feel like you're the same company you were?

FU: No, I would still want to make RPGs. It's what we think about. It's like how you think about asking questions.

And so, that's how we looked at it. There's a range of different RPGs. You go from the Diablos to the Torments, almost. Planescape: Torment is all kinds of talking, and Diablo is just all action. I think that within those bounds, you can create a lot of different things. And I guess there's even another axis now, which is Mass Effect, Alpha Protocol, and Fallout 3, which is more of this first-person, even action-based, skill-based shooting mechanic.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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