Tim Cain interviews are know no longer holy grails but RPGcodex just interviewed him and this one in particular is fairly well done and covers a lot of topics. Below is the news article RPGcodex has about it, you can read the full version here:
In this entry in the RPG Codex retrospective interview series, we are happy to offer you an interview with Timothy Cain. At Interplay and then at Troika Games, Tim Cain designed some of the RPG Codex' all-time favorite CRPGs: Fallout, Arcanum, and Temple of Elemental Evil. The interview deals with Tim's career and his thoughts on RPG design, and even includes a question on Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. We are grateful to Tim for taking time to answer our questions in detail. Have a snippet:
Troika's games, while arguably among the genre's most outstanding achievements, were notoriously rough at the time of release, often criticized for bugs and unfinished content. In retrospect, how do you explain this? Do you feel this kind of criticism can sometimes get unfair?
I don't think criticizing Troika games for being buggy was unfair. They were buggy, and I think there were two big reason why that was so. First, we tried putting a lot of features into these games. We really needed to learn how to edit, because we would spend a lot of man-hours putting a feature into a game that hardly any of the players would ultimately care about. For example, Arcanum had newspapers that reported on major incidents that were caused by the player, but I don't remember a single review mentioning that. We spent a lot of time getting that working, and those hours could have spent balancing real-time combat, or fixing the multiplayer code.
Second, we kept our team sizes small, both for budget and for management purposes. This meant we had less total man-hours to work with, and all of the late nights and weekends couldn't make up for the fact that we only had about a dozen people working on the Arcanum and Temple projects. Looking back, I am amazed our games were as feature-rich as they were, but I am not surprised they were as buggy as they were. We should have made some serious feature cuts early in their development.
Troika got characterized as “always blaming the publisher” when something was wrong and I think this was unfair. We would always own up to the parts of the development process in which we had made mistakes, but it seemed that if we ever said “we messed up this, and our publisher messed up that”, some people just heard the latter part of the comment and would start screaming “Troika is blaming the publishers again!”. It got frustrating after a while, especially when I saw people at Troika quoted out of context. But I did gain quite an insight into the American political system, which seems to deal with the same kind of illogical, sound bite oriented system of criticism of its political candidates. People hear what they want to hear, and often make up their minds before seeing, or even in spite of, any evidence to the contrary.
Temple of Elemental Evil featured what is to this day the best translation of D&D to the PC. Sadly, there only was one game using that engine. Were there any plans to keep using it for other games, or perhaps license it to other developers, in a manner similar to the Infinity and Gold Box engines?
Yes, we had great plans for that engine. For the sequel to The Temple of Elemental Evil, Troika proposed using the super-module GDQ: Queen of the Spiders, which consists of seven modules from the popular Giants and Drow series, plus the special Q-series module that completed the adventure. In fact, we were going to let the players bring their characters over from ToEE directly into the QoS, so they could simply continue playing with the same group of characters. Alternatively, we had suggested using the engine to create the long-awaited Baldur's Gate 3, and Obsidian had also expressed interest in licensing the engine to make D&D licensed games. Unfortunately, Atari never followed up on any of these proposals.
In his speech at the 2012 Unite Conference, Brian Fargo claimed the industry has "come full circle" since 1980s, shifting away from the console model dominant since the late 1990s and back towards "2 and 3 man teams" empowered by new tools, crowdfunding, and new distribution methods. Do you agree with this kind of picture? How would you describe the way the industry changed over the years that you have been active in it?
Small 2 and 3 man teams may be able to produce a few PC and console games, but mostly they are making smaller games that have much less complexity or player time investment than full-sized games, and those latter games still need a team to develop them. I am glad to see crowdfunding add an alternative to the publisher model for many developers, and digital distribution creates sales channels for smaller companies that can rival the older physical distribution of large publishers. In short, I think variety and options are good things, in the game industry as well as in games.
I am concerned about the mid-tier developer being crowded out of the market by these new methods. It seems that we are increasingly seeing two types of games, ones made by small independent developers and ones made by huge, publisher-owned teams. The mid-tier developer, which have teams of 30-60 people, are shrinking, and small teams of less than 10 people and large teams of over 100 people are becoming the norm. I am worried what this means for the types of games that will be available over the next few years. Will they be either small casual games that you play for a few hours and then move on, or gigantic behemoths that you devote months of gaming time to, possibly investing in DLC to stretch the gap between sequels? It's as if books are disappearing, to be replaced with short story collections and lengthy book series, or movies are being replaced with TV shows and movie franchises. Is there no middle ground any more? I don't know, and that worries me because some of the best games have come from such development, and it would be a shame if it was lost.
The interview really covers a lot of ground, so I strongly recommend you read it in full.
As much as my current position on the whole "games industry-press-consumer" triangle (which is with my back to the gamer edge and feeling the ground starting to crumble beneath me feet) allows me half-guess, last Friday’s release of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is one of the most important goings on in the PC gaming canton this whole year.
But not, as one would assume, important in the sense that the PC audience is finally getting to taste the long forbidden fruit in the form of one of the most lauded console games of this (seemingly unending) console generation. No. Rather, as a perfect opportunity for one interested in gaming in general, PC gaming in particular (as well as consumer and press reaction), to draw a bead on things and notice the manifold idiosyncrasies of this love-hate triangle. It's a prime "case study", if you will, of agent, advisor and emptor.
But why? Surely every AAA release these days gets more written about it online than most headline news. Why's this one special, if the quality of the game is secondary? Exactly because the quality of the game seems to be its sole saving grace. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. What to look for:
From Software's declaration that they're not pursuing the port unless...; The Fan's overwhelming cry of attention in the form of a quite audible request for a PC version; the Press' thorough support of the Fan's cry; From's inability to ascertain the dos and don'ts of the PC market (the use of GFWL/graphics options/claimed inability to make the game run without frame drops, despite the PC's superior potential (apparently sorted at launch)); From's (at least, implicit) admission that they might not be the right "man" for the job.
Most important of all, though, the launch. One fan's use of a pirated copy and 23 minutes' work (with 1 week's prior work without access to game code) to sort out a major graphical problem the developers couldn't or wouldn't (and that delicious double-irony); general PC gamers' criticism of so shoddy a port contrasted with fans' claims that either "it's not that bad" or that "you should buy it anyway because you asked for it (and if you don't, no other console developer will ever grace the PC with a port that's not planned for)"; the journos' inability to take a stand, as usual, for fear of stepping on someone's toes; and finally, the worst one of all, the ever-recurring argument of "gamer entitlement".
A small comparison between launch DS (left) and Neogaffer Durante's modded version. Click for larger versions.
Now take a step back, and let's run a comparison, they're always good fun. Imagine any other industry-press-customer (unholy) trinity in which the above could, within reason, happen. Not on a regular basis, like in gaming, just the once. For the purposes of this piece, let's choose the auto industry. Imagine Toyota releases a car whose performance is lauded by Asian/European customers and world press, and that they refuse to release it in America. Imagine Americans get together a request and, with the support of the auto press, convince Toyota to release it there. Imagine Toyota saying they're having some problems with it but they'll release the car anyway. Imagine the car's released but its wheels are the wrong way on and it drives sideways. Imagine some random American got his hands on one of them and after a couple of hours and armed only with a spanner, he manages to get the car to drive diagonally- not ideal, but a vast improvement. Imagine that all through this there is not one single Auto journalist that puts his foot down and says: "This is not acceptable". You can't, can you?
-"But, Tofu, comparing cars and games is idiotic, they're worlds apart in function, it's only natural that the industry-press-consumer reactions are going to be vastly different!"
Ok, then, let's compare it to the movies. Imagine a great movie gets released in Betamax and VHS and later ported over (after customer outcry) to DVD. Imagine the DVD is of equal image quality to the Beta and that you can't use the DVD remote and have to get a different one. Imagine it still sells like hotcakes and that the fans/press tell you it's wholly worth the asking price, despite an abundance of other, similarly priced, good films with proper DVD mastering. Imag-
-"Come on, films don't generate nearly the same amount of consumer involvement as games. That's virtue of the games' DIY nature, as opposed to film, music and that sort of media. These comparisons are pointless!"
Oh, fuck you. You're probably right, but fuck you anyway.
In fact, I'm halfway convinced that trying to draw similarities between games and any other sort of product/medium and their makers'/reviewers'/buyers' relations is quite the fools errand, even fully realizing that that's assigning games an importance that they don't deserve, not yet, at any rate. And I apologize in advance, but the one thing it reminds me of the most is politics. And that's a point I won't bother expanding on, however interesting it might've been, because my relationship with games is dwindling as is and I fucking hate politics. So, again, sorry for the bait. Besides, the whole point was the current paradigm of gaming from all people involved and how alienating it sometimes becomes for a regular punter armed with only common sense and a wallet full of spider webs.
Alienating, because, as a company, you don't ask your customers for favours and set them tasks. You publish a product, and when it gets A-graded and people ask for more, you do the maths and find out if it's possible to give people what they want, and you either do it competently, you get someone to do it for you, or you don't do it, for fear of disparaging current and would be customers. And if you fail, you apologize and fix it for much the same reasons above.
Alienating, because, as a consumer, you don't "beg" for a slice of the pie that you're going to pay for, you ASK for it, with the intention of paying for it. You don't pay for that piece of pie if it turns out it's made of shit rather than apple, as you requested. You don't get to be told "You can't complain because you asked for it!", because you PAID for it. You don't get to be told "You're why we can't have nice things!" because you aren't; you're why we don't get crap. And you sure as fuck don't get to be told you're entitled or elitist when you want to use a mouse or you want to change resolutions or that you detest being told to press "Start" on a PC, because you're what's stopping the big industry from being completely shameless, regardless if anyone recognizes it or not.
And it sure is alienating when a journalist in PC Gamer has the balls to tell his audience that Dark Souls: Prepare To Die edition is worth 89/100. It's bad enough that he's perpetuating a childish affectation, that of game scores, but it's much worse when he's that off base. Unless he wants to argue that the port itself shouldn't be judged. That's too bad, because that's exactly what the his audience is going to play.
Yes, that is an astronaut duck. I like ducks, me.
As adamant as I might feel about my convictions above, I can't help but wonder, though- maybe because it seems wise to question one's common sense, as in, when it turns out it's not so common, maybe that's because it no longer makes much sense. Besides, it is (or should be) rather beyond both my reach and M.O. to presume to tell you how to run a business, how to spend your money or who to listen to, and how to DO YOUR DAMN JOB (BA-DUM to the -TISH, anyone?).
To end this, at long last, I'd like to address the discussion that half-spawned this, one between meself and Dacker Denister. It's also a functional disclaimer of sorts, if one's so inclined to vapidly presume my arguments meaningless because of one minute detail. I have not played Dark Souls, in any of its incarnations, nor will I until From re-releases a proper version for my gaming machine of choice, the PC. Although the main reason is purely a monetary one, I'm fairly sure I still wouldn't if I had 10 times as much money to burn as whatever many €s they're asking for it. I still haven't played (nor will I) Half Life 2 because I recognized it as something outrageous, a game underhandedly turned it into a launchpad for an otherwise utterly unwanted DRM scheme/store. Same goes for Diablo 3 (or would go if I found such "Skinner boxes" the least bit amusing), for obvious reasons. Dark Souls won't surely be the last major game I can live without.
Yes, it sounds judgemental, but it's really not. Even though I think there's some merit to argument that playing loose and fast with your wallet is the reason there's so many garbage nowadays in gaming, I believe it has the most impact on how industry fatcats speak of their customers on many a silly interview out there. Heck, I'm not, and would not, hold it to you or anyone else personally, for fear of insulting someone I don't intend to (because, in the end, (and again) I don't think enough of games to warrant getting into fights because of 'em), not to mention I'd sound like a massive hypocrite in presuming to tell people what to do with their money when I wouldn't take orders on what to do with mine if they came from His Holy Duckness. I do reckon, though, that in buying it, you made a poor choice.
-”Well, that all came across as awfully dramatic and overblown as a Michael Bay movie written by a 5 year-old. Surely you exaggerate?”
Well, yeah. As a wise man once said, there's always the indies. Although it's fair to say that if the indies scratched all the itches I have, that fabled middle ground between big industry and independent, this would never have seen the light of my CRT. But I'll save that rant for some other time.
One of our sources with insider knowledge of Interplay has sent an update regarding the Black Isle announcment:
You will find the ChrisTaylor (Lead Designer of Fallout) and MarkO'Green (Dialog for Fallout) at Black Isle. Right now everyone is saying it's only Black Isle in name and that's simply not true. I know it for a FACT.
Just some food for thought.
Edit: Black Isle are working on a game, but I can now confirm that it is not a new Plancescape or a new Icewind Dale. I can also confirm that this new game is directly related to a game that Black Isle has done in the past. A new Dark Alliance, perhaps?
Interplay has resurrected Black Isle. This will probably be the first and only time this matters to any of us, as Interplay is still just a walking corpse. There is a website, twitter, and facebook account. As far as I know, Interplay has no IPs worth mentioning, so this is an empty gesture.
Interplay didn't close Black Isle out of financial difficulties, like the article indicates. I know, I was there.
Black Isle closed because Herve boldly claimed he didn't need them and their ideas, that he knew what the public really wanted. He also felt, openly so, that PCs were a dying market and consoles were the way to go.
Rumour time, ladies and gents, and one coming from Denister's favorite site, Le Reddit. One user by the name of "fallout4boston" decided to either troll the living hell out of everyone, or go behind the back of his employers in breaking the news: Fallout 4 (tentative title, Howard is toying with the F4llout idea) is heading to Boston, Massachusetts and The Commonwealth. Here's what he said:
The rumors are true, Fallout 4 will take place in Boston. In case you haven't heard, Bethesda has recently been scoping out and researching Boston. They also have a strong connection to MIT. I may or may not be an MIT employee. But that's really all I can say for fear of losing my job.
I am telling you it will take place in Boston. Whether you believe me or not, how do you feel about a Fallout Boston?
To which he also added:
Apologies for the vagueness of this post. It's not just my job that worries me, but also getting the fuck sued out of me. Bethesda's contracts are basically full-proof so if they were to discover who I am, or rather, who I got this information from, a few people including myself could get into a lot of trouble.
Now, I'm no Reddit user, so this to me might as well be chinese insofar as determining its legitimacy. DaC's own Susan, however, uncovered this same rumor on the GameRevolution.com frontpage and a quick Google would indicate that there are a lot of sites pushing it, if none of the big ones. If that's up to plain ol' GaemIng JoUernalIZm or something else, I dunno. More can be added by our own King of Creation, if he's available, since he's the one of us that apparently uses Reddit.
To reiterate Susan's question, should we be excited?
We an' I tink dat depend on de engine. - A smart fella.
I've been hearing reports from people in the Boston area, where my fellow Fallout-obsessed brother lives, that Bethesda has been in the Boston area doing initial research for Fallout 4. It's highly speculative, but the main rumors surround Bethesda's connection to "The Institute", or what we call the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or M.I.T..
M.I.T., although in populated Cambridge and just across the river from Boston proper, still has a small-town feel when it comes to the way news propagates through the community. It is students and staff at M.I.T. that seem to be the ones talking the most about it, and they would be in a position to know. I wouldn't be surprised, at all, if the rumors prove to be true in coming weeks.
Just thought I'd share! I'm not confirming anything, but all signs point to yes.
Mad Max: Fury Road has officially begun principal photography. Here's the press release:
Principal photography began 9 July on the dystopian action adventure "Mad Max: Fury Road," a Kennedy Miller Mitchell production written and directed by "Mad Max" creator and Academy Award(R) winner George Miller ("Happy Feet"). The film will be presented by Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Village Roadshow Pictures. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.
"Mad Max: Fury Road"--the fourth in the franchise's history--stars Tom Hardy ("The Dark Knight Rises") in the title role of Max Rockatansky, alongside Oscar(R) winner Charlize Theron ("Monster", "Prometheus") as Imperator Furiosa.
According to Miller, "Mad Max is caught up with a group of people fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa. This movie is an account of the Road War which follows. It is based on the Word Burgers of the History Men and eyewitness accounts of those who survived."
"Mad Max: Fury Road" also stars Nicholas Hoult ("X-Men: First Class") as Nux; Hugh Keays-Byrne ("Mad Max," "Sleeping Beauty") as Immortan Joe; and Nathan Jones ("Conan the Barbarian") as Rictus Erectus. Collectively known as The Wives, Zoe Kravitz ("X-Men: First Class") plays Toast, Riley Keough ("Magic Mike") is Capable, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley ("Transformers: Dark of the Moon") is Splendid. They are joined by supermodel Abbey Lee Kershaw as The Dag and Courtney Eaton as Fragile, both of whom are making their big screen debuts. Also featured in the movie are Josh Helman as Slit, Jennifer Hagan as Miss Giddy, and singer/songwriter/performer iOTA as Coma-Doof Warrior.
The cast is rounded out by well-known Australian actors John Howard, Richard Carter, supermodel Megan Gale, Angus Sampson, Joy Smithers, Gillian Jones, Melissa Jaffer and Melita Jurisic.
Miller is directing the film from a screenplay he wrote with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris. Miller also produces the film, along with longtime producing partner, Oscar(R) nominee Doug Mitchell ("Babe," "Happy Feet"), and P.J. Voeten. Iain Smith, Graham Burke and Bruce Berman serve as executive producers.
The behind-the-scenes creative team includes Academy Award(R)-winning director of photography John Seale ("The English Patient"); action unit director and stunt coordinator Guy Norris ("Australia"); editor Margaret Sixel ("Happy Feet"); production designer Colin Gibson ("Babe"); Oscar(R)-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan ("A Room with a View"); and makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt ("Knowing").
Shooting on "Mad Max: Fury Road" is taking place in Africa with the support of the Australian government. Originally slated to be shot in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, the production was forced to relocate due to severe flooding, rendering the Australian landscape unsuitable for the film. The rain turned the area into an oasis instead of the post-apocalyptic terrain that is the setting for Max's world.
On the heels of the Fallout 3 and New Vegas sale, the original Fallout collection is now on sale at Steam for $6.79 - 66% off. The collection includes Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics. Head over here and grab them.
In case you missed the huge discounts on Fallout 3, New Vegas and their DLC during the Steam Summer Sale, now is your chance to grab them. Steam has the new Fallout games on sale today in honor of QuakeCon. Head over and grab them at 66% off.
Ever wonder what's the worst thing that can happen to your favourite games franchise when the studio that made it goes under? Most of DaC knows. And as of today, so do all Stalker fans.
These guys happen.
At least that's the word from Sergey Galyonkin, the same guy that broke the news that GSC was going under and that Stalker 2 was no more. Word is (yes because games news is serious business) the guys pictured above are now free to make a Stalker game with their own engine. Previous GSC boss Sergei Grigorovich and.. er.. "those other guys" [because if it isn't a censored word in DaC, it should] haven't made any sort of official comment yet, but I recommend having your Ukrainian-English dictionaries at the ready or at the very least Google-translating "arrow", "knee" and "mudcrab" into Ukrainian.
Ukrainian blogger and marketing man Sergey Galyonkin – who tipped off the closure of the STALKER 2 project earlier this year – has claimed that Bethesda now have the rights to make a publish a STALKER game. They apparently do not have rights to the extended universe. GSC owner Sergei Grigorovich has not sold the brand, but apparently Bethesda could now make a game based on the property with their own technology. We’ll report more on this as we get it.
This follows on from the closure of STALKER 2 earlier in the year, an event which culminated in Ukrainian spin-off studios such as Survarium devs, Vostok.
We’ve contacted Bethesda for a statement. UPDATE: Currently they are saying “No comment.”
UPDATE 2: Turns out the "creator" was actually a troll posing as the creator to get some lulz on 4chan or something. Anyways, our apologies to the Fallout: Equestria people for mistakenly posting the previous update as legit.
UPDATE: Fallout: Equestria creator responds -
Hey, I am the female responsible for Fallout: Equestria. We had an explosion over at the IRC about this, and how negative the response to it was. I have been a fan of the Fallout franchise long before Fallout 3 made it mainstream.
I'm sure your dumbfounded just because this crossover between the MLP:FiM and Fallout universe exists, so I wanted to provide you with a link to an interview that I had, and I hope it explains why I made this.
Hey, I'm not positive that this will make it onto the headlines, but I am positive that when you read this, your minds will be shitting bricks.
As you may or may not know, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has a growing fandom of teenage and adult men called "bronies". Recently, a female fanfic writer by the name of Khat created the fanfiction "Fallout: Equestria", and ever since it's completion has grown it's own massive fanbase.
I'm not joking. It has about 100+ of it's own little spin-offs.