If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I urge you to check out my interview with Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment, published at Gameranx.
I never imagined I would have a chance to sit down and interview one of the persons responsible for Planescape Torment, an eye opening game I played as a teenager in the year 2000.
There’s few other game developers and designers I would love to meet as much as Chris Avellone. I started paying attention to him perhaps when Van Buren was still in development at Black Isle, though in reality I “knew” him long before that, as I played Fallout 2 and thoroughly enjoyed New Reno, one of his contributions to Fallout 2, and having had my mind blown by Torment.
After Chris started compiling the Fallout Bible in 2002, I emailed him to ask some questions, such as was Fallout in any way inspired by The Postman. Chris got back to me pretty quickly and it turns out it wasn’t inspired by it. This was probably my first contact with a game developer, as in that time seemed as distant as the clouds, or more so, what with living in tiny Portugal, where there was very little actual game development. Nowadays a lot of developers are approachable via Twitter, but back then getting an answer to an email wasn’t a sure bet, and I was happy to get my answers.
Things go quiet as Van Buren is cancelled and Black Isle shuttered. The fanbase is sad and angry, having waited for years for a proper sequel to Fallout 2.
But hope is reborn with the founding of Obsidian Entertainment, and although there were a few speed bumps like NeverWinter Nights 2, there were also diamonds in the rough like KOTOR 2 and Alpha Protocol, and fascination with Mask of the Betrayer, the first expansion to NWN2 which in all honesty really deserved to be its own game.
Meanwhile Chris, like Tim Cain and Josh Sawyer, gets increased recognition in the Fallout / RPG fanbase, earning the nickname MCA, which I don’t remember exactly when it started being applied.
These three developers have always been very vocal and happy to disperse with their game design thoughts, particularly Josh Sawyer since the Van Buren days.
After Alpha Protocol, hope was kind of lost for a proper return to the time of isometric (sic) deep RPGs. Alpha Protocol is a great, flawed gem and is a unique game which I am very fond of, but it didn’t slake the thirst for the return to the old days.
It’s been a decade at least since the last proper 2D richly interactive RPG, the fountain of Black Isle having been sacked.
Which is why Obsidian made 4 million dollars when it kickstarted Project Eternity. Everyone who played a Black Isle game was waiting for that to happen, the chance to give someone money to bring those games back again.
The Project Eternity trailer brought me to tears.
Hearing that fantastic piece of music by Justin Bell while the words: “AND LEGENDARY GAME DESIGNERS: CHRIS AVELLONE / JOSH SAWYER / TIM CAIN”, people I’ve read about and followed throughout the years, boomed onto the screen was (AND STILL IS) too much for me. It has been a long decade of disappointment with no hope in sight for a new game in this particular type of RPG. The type of game that molded me during my formative years and made interested in game creation.
I accompanied the Kickstarter from beginning to end with increasing excitement. Read every update and saw most of the videos, where the designers explain their ideas and go into excruciating detail about the game mechanics and the writing.
I feel that Obsidian making 4 million dollars was a vindication, the sign they needed to really bring us what the fans have longed for years. Finally, after the cancellation of Torn, Van Buren, Aliens RPG, the loss of the Fallout IP to Bethesda and subsequent Fallout: New Vegas (which, as a fanboy, I consider the real Fallout 3), we can finally have Project Eternity, and with that fantastic band of designers together.
With the success of the Kickstarter, the opportunity arose for Chris to visit the UK for the Rezzed game show, on its second year now. And funnily enough, I’ve been living here for a year now, having moved from Portugal to follow my dream to work in games. When I heard that Chris would be attending Rezzed, I was ecstatic. And the result is that interview at Gameranx, recorded at a deserted Starbucks after Rezzed was over.
Chris was also kind enough to sign my Planescape Torment poster and CD jewel box, which I brought from Portugal a month before on a chance flight I had booked to see Muse live.
I am very much happy that this was possible, that I too could get some vindication for all of those years spent playing his games and discussing on the forums (especially that RPGCodex) about how bad things were after Black Isle had been closed.
But now the dream is alive again, and we are indeed waiting for Project Eternity, Wasteland 2 and a spiritual sequel to Planescape Torment. If I went back in time and told myself this in 2003, I wouldn’t believe it.
Thank you Obsidian for getting the band back together. Now go make magic again.