Brian Fargo says things are going very well with Wasteland 2, because there aren't any corporate suits around to screw it up.
Brian Fargo, as anyone who's seen the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter pitch video can tell you, isn't really a fan of modern, corporate-driven game development. Fortunately, at least for the short term, he doesn't have to be. He rang up $3 million on Kickstarter, affording him not only the opportunity to make a Wasteland sequel but to do it on his own terms, and apparently it's going very well.
"We've been working on Wasteland 2 for about 100 days, with no distractions from any kind of corporate overlord. We have hundreds of pages of design done, we have our first music in, we have our basic UI up-and-running, and we've taken our first screenshots," Fargo told an audience during his keynote at the recent Unity conference. "The bottom line is that, without any interruption, we're kicking ass."
Three million bucks isn't much money compared to what publishers like Activision and EA throw at their flagship franchises, but Fargo said the industry has come "full circle," as the advent of crowdfunding and innovative development platforms like Unity allows small development teams who are able to appeal to niche audiences to once again flourish. But even big teams can exhibit that same level of creativity, he added, as long as they're given the freedom to do so.
"Corporations don't have artistic integrity; people do. This sort of integrity impacts on production and how a property is exploited... There are employees of these organizations that have this integrity, but they don't have the power to do anything about it," he said. "The best creative work we're seeing is from creative people who have the power, or the financing, to control their destinies... These visionaries can be within an organization. Rockstar would not achieve the level of quality it does if Sam Houser wasn't running that place with an iron fist. He's not a corporation; he's a person."
It's great to see small developers granted the freedom to pursue their visions unencumbered by the demands of a corporate whip-cracker, but in the grand scheme of things we're still in the early stages of this whole crowdfunding business and there's plenty of time for it to go bad. Fargo (and Tim Schafer, and Jordan Weisman, and Arthur Bruno, and Brian Mitsoda) have our money, but what will ultimately come from that is anybody's guess. Corporate-driven game development may not encourage high levels of creativity, but at least when you buy a new Madden or Call of Duty game, you have a pretty good idea of what you're going to get. Not that I'm complaining - I'm incredibly excited that these games are finally, actually going to be made - but if developers want crowdfunding to continue to remain a viable method of financing into the future, they're going to have to make sure that they don't disappoint with the final product.