Obsidian’s Feargus Urquhart talks Dungeon Siege, Fallout and new IP
With a studio reputation that has been moulded by taking on existing licenses, games™ speaks to Feargus Urquhart, head of Obsidian Entertainment, about taking the lead on Dungeon Siege, the lessons learnt from Fallout: New Vegas’s reception and whether we can expect another original IP anytime soon.
What can we expect with this being the first main canon Dungeon Siege entry without the oversight of Gas Powered Games? Particularly, will fans notice a slightly different direction or is this a case of a very symbiotic vision?
The best way to answer would be that it’s a little bit of both. Ultimately, the game, forgetting the license, has got to be one that you want to play, and the hope is that the brand and the license and all the other stuff just adds to it. And so, the first thing we did is we got all the information we could from Gas Powered Games about the world and then we really thought about it a lot and kind of tore it down into two things; into the gameplay we wanted to do and how we would treat the world.
So a lot of it was the thought that the gameplay has to evolve because it has to go from this PC point-and-click to the console and the controller – it had to feel more like an action game. In the end, it ended up that you can dodge, you can roll and block. So the combat is active, you’re actively participating in it. It’s not so much click and they will continue to attack, so we reckon that will take it forward.
When it came to the world and the land we said, ‘Okay, so what is it? People really enjoyed this world and they loved that aspect of it.’ We took all this stuff and moved the world history forward into a new era, making it about Ehb and the Legion. If you tie that to the gameplay, then I think we have a game that is Dungeon Siege III and it does take into account what people would expect from the world, but maybe is adapted to the gameplay that people want on console.
Obviously, people are going to compare the game with the likes of Diablo but, at the same time, Dungeon Siege III is available o consoles too. Do you believe, like some, that RPGs should be dumbed down for a console audience?
It’s an odd thing, I would say. It’s almost unfair not to say that RPGs over the course of the years have been dumbed down for consoles. But, I wouldn’t say that I would necessarily make a PC role-playing game the same way that I would have made one fifteen years ago either.
I think a part of it is that games are evolving, and so a lot of it is looking at it going, ‘So what do role-playing gamers want now?’ The way that I see it is: I always look at accessibility. Accessibility does not necessarily mean ‘dumbing down’, it means that when the player starts the game it has to be accessible to them. It can’t depend on the fact that they know how to play the game, that they’ve played seventeen role-playing games before this and that we just have all these understood things.
A company I used to work for was Black Isle Studios and a PC game I worked on was Icewind Dale, which required you to roll six whole second-edition D&D characters before you could even start playing the game. No one would get through character creation nowadays. You know, people back then loved it, and there are still people that would love that, but I think the thing is when it comes to the console, and maybe all gamers, it has to be accessible, people have to be led into it. And so, my best answer is that the game is easy to get into, and then we ramp up the complexity and sort of add the layers of the RPG system as you play, and that is how we approach things now with the modern console gamer as compared to PC games fifteen years ago.