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The world ended on September, 30 1997. Or, rather, that was the day we were first shown what would become gaming’s enduring definition of the end of the world. Interplay’s Fallout, a very different game from Bethesda’s Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 (not that this seems to bother anyone; no sirree, not a soul), was and is a landmark roleplaying game. It disrupted ideas that RPGs meant elves and kobolds; it disrupted ideas that RPGs were a straight march to the finish line; it disrupted ideas that RPG heroes should be heroic.
War never changes, but Fallout changed most everything else.
Since its foundation in 2003, Obsidian Entertainment has worked with seven different publishers. Commencing with LucasArts on Knights of the Old Republic II, Obsidian has since signed contracts with Atari, SEGA, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft and most recently, Paradox Interactive. In fact, up until Pillars of Eternity [official site], every single game Obsidian had made was funded and distributed by a different publisher.
This is a highly unusual state of affairs, and has proved precarious more than once in the company’s history. But it has also provided Obsidian with a unique insight into how the world of publishing works, and how the relationship between developer and publisher has changed in the last couple of decades. This topic is especially pertinent today, as new methods of funding and distributing games have seen a significant shift in the power dynamic between developers and publishers.
I spoke to CEO Feargus Urquhart about how it all works (and doesn’t).
When Obsidian Entertainment started work on Pillars of Eternity [Official Site], the studio had two goals in mind. First, it wanted to recreate the style and tone of the classic Black Isle RPGs particularly Baldur’s Gate. Second, it wanted to modernise that style, taking advantage of today’s technology, and avoiding mistakes made the first time around. (more…)