Black Isle Studios' ex-honcho speculates on what 2004 holds for his former employer Interplay and his new company, Obsidian Entertainment.
In the first part of his interview with GameSpot, renowned RPG creator Feargus Urquhart focused on the past--namely, the December 2003 closure of Black Isle Studios, the development house where he made his name. However, he also touched on the future of the role-playing genre in general. Today, the architect of the Fallout and Icewind Dale series gets specific about what 2004 will hold for both Interplay, his ex-employer, and Obsidian Entertainment, the development studio he founded last summer.
GS: When you left Black Isle Studios in April 2003, you said it was because "[BIS parent] Interplay has a direction that it wants to pursue concerning projects and I have a direction that I want to go." What was that direction?
Feargus Urquhart: Interplay wants to focus on console titles and I don't think that the future of gaming is entirely on the console. I enjoy developing games for both the console and the PC and abandoning one completely for the other is not a direction that I would like my career to go.
GS: Do you think [Interplay CEO] Herve Caen is taking the company in the right direction?
FU: I think Herve has a plan for the company and he is following it.
GS: Given its financial trouble and its shuttering of Black Isle Studios, its most highly regarded division, do you think Interplay has much of a future?
FU: I think Interplay still has the chance to return to being one of the top five or 10 publishers in the industry. There are still talented people there. However, like many other companies that have restructured and shrunk in size, they need to evaluate what they now want the company to be, and then follow that course.
GS: Some reports are coming in that Interplay is going to keep the Black Isle brand alive, even though they have reportedly let most of the staff go. Do you think that's even worse than closing the studio down altogether?
FU: Interplay is doing what it needs to do to stay alive as a company. I would assume that they are changing Black Isle from a studio to purely a brand that they can put on certain products that are published or developed by them. Whether that's a good thing or the same thing as shutting the studio down is up to debate.
GS: Many independent studios are facing a pretty grim future. Were you worried when you launched Obsidian Entertainment last summer?
FU: Well I had a baby coming in a few months and I'd never started a company before, so you can probably say I was scared sh**less. However, my partners (Chris Parker, Darren Monahan, Chris Avellone, and Chris Jones) are all great guys and most of them came on very soon after I left Interplay. Plus I had a number of people who I could call upon for help in the industry, like Ray [Muzyka] and Greg [Zeschuk] from BioWare.
GS: How many people do you currently employ? Do you plan on expanding?
FU: We currently have 20 people and are actively looking for a second project. We are also starting to work on our own internal technology and are also looking for talented people that have had success doing that in the past.
GS: Will Obsidian only make RPGs or do you plan on branching out to other genres?
FU: For the immediate future we are going to focus on RPGs, since that is what we are good at. However, we all play different types of games and so we'd love to tackle a Battlefield 1942-type title at some point or an RTS like Empire Earth. Games like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank sound like they would be a whole lot of fun to be make, but personally it's daunting to go up against experts in that area like Naughty Dog and Insomniac.
GS: When can we expect to see the first game with the Obsidian logo on the cover?
FU: No sooner than tomorrow and no later than Christmas of 2010. [Laughs]
GS: Where to you see role-playing games 5 years from now?
FU: Having just seen the latest Lord of the Rings movie, I want to say that they will be like that. Not in the crush of armies sense, but in the feeling of a complete world sense. Worlds will be lush and alive and respond to what the player does. That is what has always intrigued me about RPGs. As a developer you can really look at the game as a world and how that can change and evolve as the player plays around in it.
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