Brian Fargo was interviewed by Ripten about his upcoming Kickstarter-funded project. While most of the interview had to do with his intent for Wasteland 2 and his days back at Interplay, he had a number of things to say in regards to publishers and their control over the industry.
Perhaps most jarring is that all the terrible pitch reactions in the very funny Kickstarter pitch video actually happened, the only difference being that the Farmville requests came through Facebook itself. “I would be waiting for people to call me back to give me a response, and they would send me Farmville requests all day long, but they couldn’t return a phone call. It was beautiful,” Fargo said. Considering Brian Fargo’s extremely impressive resume, it’s pretty much insane to think there are some publishers who have never heard of any of these games. It would literally be the equivalent of a movie executive never seeing a Hitchcock movie.
He also talks about the flighty nature of the publishers who were bipolar in their support. “I would ask why they passed, so I wouldn’t bring them the same kind of project again, but they could never tell me why they passed,” Fargo said.
Probably the biggest revelation from Fargo is how much the publishers actually influence the actual development of a game, especially in regards to QA.
Look at the most recent one with those poor guys at Obsidian. They did Fallout: New Vegas, the ship date got moved up and, who does the QA on a project? The publisher is always in charge of QA. When a project goes out buggy, it’s not the developer. The developer never says, ‘I refuse to fix the bug,’ or, ‘I don’t know how.’ They never do that. It’s the publisher that does the QA, so if a product goes out buggy, it’s not the developer’s fault. So, [Fallout: New Vegas] goes out buggy and they didn’t do the QA, their ship date got moved up and they missed their Metacritic rating by one point. Did they get a bonus? No. Do you think that’s fair?
The Metacritic situation Fargo mentions is that Obsidian Entertainment’s Fallout: New Vegas missed the minimum 85/100 score by a single point so they lost out on any bonus pay which contributed to the layoffs Obsidian endured two weeks ago. Considering that the main reason the game lost out on higher scores was because of bugs that could have been fixed with QA, it does not paint a particularly pretty picture of the industry.
Fargo says that the ever-thinning gap between developers and consumers, thanks to portals like Kickstarter and Steam, are helping push more creative games to the limelight and hopefully give developers’ creativity the chance to shine once more. “I think the world is going to go toward creative people carving out a direct relationship with their fans, and they are going to find a way to do business in their niche. It could be someone that makes model train simulators with their 10,000 fans or RPGs with millions of fans.”
Here’s hoping we see more of that and less of an industry run by people who didn’t know there was a Fallout before 3.