DGC Ep 064: Interview with Chris Avellone

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we are discussing 1999 Black Isle classic Planescape: Torment. We talk with Chris Avellone about the genesis of the game and its development and themes, and he drops lots of lovely design gems. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:43       Segment 1: Avellone interview
1:03:45  Break
1:04:20  Segment 2: Taste test, Next time

Issues covered: how the opening areas were designed, Hive as playground, leveling up along with the city, building an engine and Black Isle lacking skills to do so, licensing engine from Bioware, Interplay's financial woes, The Birth of Avellone, interview, the forehead of Zeus, turning tropes on their heads, having the franchise before you had an idea for a game, crafting a vision document, players being smarter than publishers give them credit, Fargo having faith in his developers, Fallout dev issues and Fargo's support, recording FF effects and using that to help, changing the death mechanic because it makes you stop playing, death as a tool, flexibility of alignment shifts, what kind of player are you?, not judging the answers, Chosen One vs Broken One, causing problems across the Multiverse, story/adventure/puzzle heaviness, IWD as a cash-in attempt, writing a story in a weekend, IWD a step back rather than a step forward, "an unconscious bad choice," working around the combat if you want, unbalanced combat system, gratification from dialog choices, using experience points as systemic reinforcement of story importance, chunky dialog options, balancing, building your own Fortress of Regrets, fearing for the end of your career, localization costs, Fargo sticking up for the writing, expensive localization because of all the writing, possible loss of the companion dialog, New Vegas companions not being tied to storyline, lost opportunities, attempt to trade versatility, conveying the spine of a story via companion commentary, doing more vs doing quality, allowing polish to shine through, memorable stories, trying to do one thing really well, System Shock 2, Avellone freelancing, XP on its head, how it came to be, companions wrapped in story, number of 2D companions vs 3D companions, taste test.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Interplay, Conquest of the New World, Starfleet Academy, Fallout 2, Descent to Undermountain, Planescape: Torment, Black Isle, Icewind Dale, Feargus Urquhart, Obsidian Entertainment, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, KotOR II, Prey, Divinity: Original Sin II, BioWare, Infinity Engine, Unity, Unreal, Baldur's Gate III, Throne of Baal, Dungeons & Dragons, Marco Green, Brian Fargo, Tim Cain, Leonard Boyarsky, Final Fantasy, Wasteland 2 & 3, GURPS, Steve Jackson, Jason Anderson, Chris Taylor, Ken Lee, Robert Holloway, Gold Box series, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout: New Vegas, The Walking Dead: Season 1, Halo 6, Prey, Arkane Studios, Rafael Colantonio, Swen Vincke, Night Dive Studios, System Shock (reboot), Shodan, Ken Levine, Ricardo Bare, Jason Schreier, Nick Hadsel-Mares, Blue Bandana Chocolate, Operation Neptune, Ancient Empires, Super Maze Wars, Half-Life, Mr. Eric Anderson, The San Francisco Kid.


Blue Bandana Chocolate

Next time:
Half-Life! Up to: "We've Got Hostiles"

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