Game Design

Thanks go to Chris Avellone

I think life is fair, no matter how much time it takes to balance things. Call it karma or whatever you want.

When Chris Avellone and his team at Interplay set out to make Planetscape:Torment, they received many positive reviews, but sales did not reflect the same. Many years after, you can get again PS:T on digital distribution at GOG. And it seems the game is working pretty well. GOG says it’s the second most sold game in the platform (i guess the first might be The Witcher, not pretty sure).
Most of the merits of the game are on Chris account, that’s undeniable.

Avellone is co-founder at Obsidian Entertainment (NW2, Alpha Protocol, Fallout New Vegas), and as one can imagine, he’s a quite busy man.
He went to the GameLab Conference at Barcelona last July to talk about Kickstarter. I was there and it was a very amusing talk. There wasn’t much time for questions, and mine were a bit technical, so would have required a lenghty explanation. I didn’t approach him after the talk as he seemed a bit tired (jet lag and all that i guess) and some people also wanted to talk with him too.

Some days after, i tweeted him and he kindly got back offering his help to clear out my doubts regarding dialogue branching trees and other related stuff.
I deeply appreciate he took the time to answer and give some piece of advice about how to tackle the daunting task of writing a deep history, engaging dialogues and believable npcs, as well as some general tips on how to put it all into practice.

Avellone isn’t personally involved in the project so I don’t mean to use this entry to promote our game. The remarkable fact for me is that such a professional in the RPG genre took some of his time to answer an indie dev he doesn’t know anything about. He took my questions seriously and gave useful answers to the issues i was doubtful about.

One of his recommendations was to check the GECK editor, the same Obsidian used to make Fallout: New Vegas. Besides level design, it’s also used to design quests, dialogues and npcs. I’m sure it’ll help us to improve our workflow and make it easier and more efficient. I must say at the moment i’m VERY HAPPY with the tool Jose Manuel is coding for dialogues though, it’s amazing stuff really. Even i’d wish to talk about it, i think it’s too early yet. It can do pretty much the same the PS:T dialogue interface and branching trees do. Excelling at creating the same engaging and deep world is another story. I do not have as much time and resources to allocate to dialogues as PS:T (it’s a one-man task in our case!). Anyways, as i said on my first post, i accept the challenge diligently and highly motivated. ;)

The GECK editor

If you check the Obsidian forums, Avellone offers help to indie devs aiming at Kickstarter as a way to hone the skills of interns at Obsidian. I’d say it’s a win-win proposal, so if you’re interested, let Obsidian know about your projects.
In our case, we don’t dismiss uploading our project on Kickstarter if we are tight on budget. Whatever the case, this won’t happen in the next six months until we can show the world a nice working demo.

I promised myself not to bug Avellone anymore unless i stumble upon some stopper issues, regardless his humble predisposition to help further.

Chris, you rock, and i hope there was more people like you in our games industry.

Autoloot Games sincerely wish you great success with Wasteland 2.