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.
The Aliens RPG was a game that we were excited to sign and we would have hoped would have come to completion because it was looking great and it would have been great to finish it, but it just wasn’t on the cards and so it was one of those things that just happens.
What have you learned from the experience that has changed the way Obsidian works?
The thing is, publicly, we’ve only had that one cancellation. A lot more games are cancelled than gamers recognise because it’s not done publicly. Sega announced Aliens as soon as we signed the contract so we had to publicly say we weren’t working on it anymore. I mean, it’s interesting; a lot of it is just disappointment. We love making games and it would have been a game we’d have loved to finish, so I guess it was just sad not to be able to finish it.
So how has that affected how you approach projects, or hasn’t it?
It’s not really affected us at all. I think you’ve got to stand back up, dust yourself off and jump into the next thing. Or you say, ‘This industry isn’t for me’, you know? A lot of it is, like when it comes to Alpha Protocol or New Vegas, we look at them and go, ‘Right, what did we do right and what did we do wrong? How can we do it better? How could we run a better company? And how can we make better games?’ We take all of those things and put them into all our later projects like Dungeon Siege to just do our job better.
You have a rich and varied back catalogue, partnering with several different publishers, such as Sega, LucasArts and Bethesda, and now Square Enix. How would you compare the different ways in which they collaborate with developers?
Well, we’ve had good producers and we’ve had bad producers. We’ve had publishers that have been in our studio all the time and we’ve had publishers that have never shown up. So, a lot of our job as a developer is to understand how each of those publishers works and then do what we can to show them what they need to see, give them what they need and just make it as easy as possible. I would say in general though that a lot of people have negative things to say about publishers, but there’s always been someone at every publisher we’ve worked with that has cared about the game and wanted any of the games we’ve made to be successful and has given us feedback, worked with us, and all that stuff.
To be honest, I have no idea. I had left Interplay before that deal and so I just don’t know anything. It was kind of one of those things where I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and go ‘la-la-la’, just because I didn’t want to know.
How well suited do you think the series is to online play in general?
Actually, I think it’s really well suited, I mean that’s the biggest thing. Ultimately, if you think about it, when you’re playing Fallout, it’s like you are playing in a big open world where you are going after mobs, playing Player-Versus-Environment. So it’s almost like you’re playing a PVE game but by yourself, so I think that the game really lends itself to having this big world. And, of course, how the IP works, crazy is normal, so you can have crazy stuff. Like when there is just some weird-ass guy researching Mole Rats in some corner of the world and he’s made Mole Rat Land, so I think that helps it as well. It’s a world where people expect to find the unexpected around the corner and so it just fits.