Obsidian have signed a new contract for an unannounced game after South Park, giving them a comfortable 18 month period to get the next big thing signed up and now it's time to consider what are they going to do next? Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart talks through some of the thoughts he has on what the next big thing in RPGs will be.
Obviously Skyrim was successful, and Fallout was successful. Mass Effect is still successful, even with all the hoopla. Dragon Age is a little rocky.
*He mentions Arkham City's combat system positively and suggests that maybe first-person sword fighting isn't always the best entertainment. But as good as games like that and Devil May Cry might be, their systems are very focused on combat and RPGs tend to have a broader overview
*Is the future in console games? Developing for a the PSN or Xbox Live is still very much a closed system and there are a lot of tools now that can really assist smaller scale teams in a PC environment
EA, I know, though they won't announce it to the world, they sell a lot of PC product. Additionally, they've always traditionally sold a lot of PC product. This was a number of years ago. Maybe it was four or five years ago. I'm pretty sure it was still like 40 percent of their sales were coming from PC product. They were just quietly going along, not announcing it.
*Choice, character and story are still a big focus and strength with Obsidian, particularly pushing the idea that there are no good or bad choices, just choices with different short- medium- long-term, consequences, which really comes across in Alpha Protocol, but these choices also require more work explaining those decisions to the player. They're also keen to reward the player in a variety of ways, instead of the old RPG system of good choices earning reputation and evil choices earning money.
* Should more RPGs strip away combat entirely and focus on the story and choice? Like the Walking Dead or Heavy Rain? In his view, combat is an ingrained part of fantasy games, parts can be taken out or maybe simplified, but there has to be something to replace them
as gamers, we just don't view combat in video games the way non-gamers view it. It's just a contest. That's all it is. We could be throwing paintballs. It's just not as fun as watching the bodies explode. It's like the reason people watch horror movies and slasher movies and stuff like that.
*Episodic games are a worrying proposition, because if you make the first episode and it flops, all that design and effort has gone into something that you'll only ever see a small amount of money back for
And finally, he believes that scope and an open world setting don't need to be the focus of RPGs and there's still space for KotoR, Mass Effect style games, where you can go to each planet but it's not a whole open world.
EDIT: And part 2, Kickstarter focused
It was an interesting interview, I was particularly surprised that he viewed episodic games as being more of a risk than straight releases. Surely if you're game is going to bomb, it's better to find out before you've spent everything making it? But maybe a lot of the cost is in producing the art assets and planning the world.
And it sounds like Obsidian are still looking at combat systems outside the norm, if an RPG could be made with an Arkham City combat system, that might be interesting, but given that they'd have so many things to make, I'm worried the actual combat would turn out mediocre. I love the feeling of the KotoR style of semi-open world though and I hope thats something they continue to explore