The RPG genre has never been so filled with amazing content. This year some major titles are hitting the scene with successful games like The Witcher and Fallout 4 on the menu, anyone can see that a new golden age of RPGs is here. InXile Entertainment is right in the driver’s seat for the Indie scene with games like Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and a new take on The Bard’s Tale. Brian Fargo is the company’s CEO and he has a lot to say about the state of RPGs and what plans they have for the future as his third successful Kickstarter campaign winds down.
We started off talking about the host of Western RPGs now becoming available to fans. Games like Pillars of Eternity, Darkest Dungeon, and The Witcher all play out on different scales in terms of size and scope, but they remain part of a new movement in role playing. For a long time, Brian said that you had very successful Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy, but not many games were being made in the states. Now there is a definite resurgence and through methods like Kickstarter fans are getting much more of a say in the creation of their most-wanted titles. You are also seeing a lot of progression and role playing mechanics make their way into other genres like shooters or even sports games. Everything is getting a bit of RPG it seems.
However, for Brian what really sets apart a good solid role playing game is the story as well as choice and consequence. Building these elements into the world requires a lot of content to be written. Brian explained that it is normally content only certain players will see based on their choices. “You have to make that commitment in the beginning,” he mentioned. Once you know you’ll have to produce a deep world, you can begin on a game that will have real consequences. Brian talked about getting the sequence of events right. It is critical for the player to be able to try different things in the beginning and get them correct, then the game starts to draw you in. It is when you keep trying to solve puzzles or combat early on and failing that player quit the game. So getting the balance right from the start is critical.
We asked Brian about how he sees the model changing from the classic format of Dungeons & Dragons which gave us the founding template of the modern RPGs. Brian said that with video games action combat and character control can be your biggest tool in changing up the style. You can physically get better at the game which adds to the progression. You can mix various styles of action combat with different skills which makes the player truly feel like they are getting stronger.
Story also was a big topic we discussed, especially in terms of a game like Bard’s Tale. “The writing humanizes the experience,” Brian stated. In many ways for Brian it is not about the overall story arc in an RPG. It is more about the major individual plot points which sell the story. When those individual moments are so strong, players enjoy the large arc, but remember the epic moments in the game. He says he still gets fans mentioning the berserkers from Baron Harkyn’s castle in Bard’s Tale, even to this day.
The latest version of Bard’s Tale is finishing up its successful Kickstarter this week. Brian wanted to bring the game back to do a lot with the new technologies available now. Unreal Engine allows them to do so much with the visuals that it will only enhance the strong story line.
The other title InXile has is Torment which Brian takes very seriously. Planescape: Torment is one of the top-remembered games in the genre all the way back from 1999. So Torment has a seriously big pair of shoes to fill with the team. Brian said that the new Torment will be a very unique product. Just like the old one, they want it to break new ground. It takes place in Monte Cook’s Numenera universe, and can be seen as the spiritual successor to the 1999 game. The team set out to make a unique RPG with very abstract monsters and otherworldly experiences. Brian said hopefully early access and beta will be upon us soon, but gave no dates just yet.
Wasteland 2 is another title that InXile has which is now moving to PS4 and XB1. The game also has a sort of director’s cut version coming out which includes features that the team had always wanted in the game. Brian mentioned that if you had bought the original PC version the console version will be free, as will the Director’s Cut.
We ended the conversation on crowdfunding which is what Brian believes makes building these great RPGs possible. We laughed at how board game or roleplaying game campaigns are hugely successful, but sometimes people are skeptical about video games. These classic dungeon crawl style games are not necessarily mainstream but do have very passionate audiences. He believes that crowdfunding is really only one aspect of crowdsourcing where you work heavily with your fans to build these projects. Often you find that the people who invest in the game are willing to help and be proactive in the process. “They want you to get it right,” Brian said. We agreed that the backers on these projects are some of the strongest supporters you could hope for. Usually these fans are not the ones trolling the games. There is a lot to look forward to from InXile over the next few months. We will continue to bring you coverage on all these titles as well as other announcements from the studio.