Obsidian’s Chris Avellone is working with inXile Entertainment on Wasteland 2, one of the most anticipated game projects funded with Kickstarter. He addressed the issue of demand, and whether having the majority of all your sales upfront was a good thing.
“I think that there’s a danger of nobody, or a small percentage of people buying it once it’s funded. But at the same time the advantage comes from the fact that you’ve developed a project with funding, you’ve hit the goals that the players want, they enjoy the product – chances are that you can do it again, with Wasteland 3 or whatever,” said Avellone. “The reward if people do respond to it after a kickstarter, and you sell shitloads and people really find it fun, suddenly things change in a different way – suddenly you don’t need kickstarter to sort the next project but you’ve proven the idea is viable and that people will pay for it, and not just the original backers. It becomes more validating.”
On encouraging a sense of entitlement Avellone said, “I think there’s always that danger, it’s already there to begin with. What has changed is that you get a lot more input about what people want to see, you can talk frankly about it. That makes you more likely to hit the end goal I think.”
“I think publishers are basically rolling the dice a bit when they start projects, they develop them in a vacuum for a year or so before they can say anything to the public, before any direction is shared. They don’t know if it’s going to be profitable or popular so I think that’s why they often play it safe with the sequels and the franchises etc.” he added. “With a Kickstarter you get that input early and you know how exciting people find your project, you’ve got that acid test.”
Some think that crowdfunding will eventuality be a replacement for publishers, but Avellone disagrees saying, “There’ll always be room for publishers and AAA titles, no matter what. People will always want those summer blockbusters and big production value games. I think the publisher model will always be there, Kickstarter will always be a better fit for indie and concept games. Kickstarter won’t be the silver bullet that changes everything.”
While Wasteland 2 was one of the most successful game projects on Kickstarter, Avellone agrees with the sentiment that fatigue is setting in.
“I think people already are getting tired of hearing about it,” said Avellone. “People are also running out of money for it – it had a contagious energy once Double Fine started doing it which caught hold of everybody because it was brand new and it was an exciting thing to get involved with. It had the appeal of being something special, something to get involved with that no-one else will.
“I think that all contributed to this huge emotional wave with Double Fine, but that’s been going down as it becomes more standardized and it’s harder to get excited by new appeals as the exhaustion sets in.”
The thing above all else that Avellone gets asked about is doing a new version of Planescape: Torment, one of the most acclaimed games to come out of his time at Black Isle studios. If Obsidian was to take up a game like that, Avellone intimates that they would look to change it in key ways.
“Yeah – I think the challenges we’ve spoken about would all have to be considered and to be honest I don’t know if I’d want to do it as a Planescape game – I think a better approach would be to ignore the D&D mechanics and respect what Planescape was trying to do and what the game did and see if you can do what Fallout did when it became the spiritual successor to Wasteland,” said Avellone. “I think if you made a game using some of the concepts of Planescape, the metaphysical ideas and the plane travel, without using the D&D mechanics, you could actually come up with a much better game. With Torment, I’d argue that the D&D base actually, in places, got in the way of the experience. It was a lot harder to make a game with those ideas in it with D&D mechanics. So much that we had to break a lot of them. We had to ignore certain spells, change up the class mechanic so that you can switch at any time you like by remembering abilities.”
“That was stuff that D&D didn’t allow for, it was to restraining in some respects. If we did do a spiritual successor, then I don’t know if we’d use the Planescape licence or attach the mechanics, perhaps something that has a different feel to Torment,” he concluded.