Interview With Brian Fargo: Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and Bard’s Tale IV

I recently had a chance to interview Brian Fargo of InXile Entertainment to talk about his latest projects. We talked about the success of Wasteland 2 (which we reviewed here), and what their plans are for the future with the game, and other projects in development at the studio. 

InXile hasn't been resting on the laurels of Wasteland 2's apparent success. What drove you to decide to bring the game to the console?

The best and most important reason was that we had a pretty steady stream of requests asking us to bring it to console. We didn't want to spend time thinking about it during production but there was a lot of synergy in bringing it over. We had wanted to move the game to Unity 5 to improve our graphics and support controller play on PC,  two components that pushed us further along for creating a console version of the game.

Dialog-heavy turn-based RPGs that are heavy in strategy have been traditionally PC-focused affairs. How do you think the console crowd is going to treat Wasteland 2?

We certainly hope the console crowd is interested in this type of game.  A game like Xcom: Enemy Unknown had a great deal of success on consoles.  Our combat is very similar in style to theirs.  There really isn’t much else currently on Xbox or Playstation that is similar to Wasteland 2.  We think the crowd will enjoy this type of game as long as we hit all the notes on the controls. 

What are some of the challenges in adapting the PC version of the game to a controller-based console?

Outside of simply porting the game from a more open PC architecture, the toughest challenges are making sure the controls feel great and updating or modifying the UI systems to support a controller based input as opposed to mouse and keyboard.  While making Wasteland 2, we weren’t even considering how each new feature we designed would work on console.  We had promised to deliver a great PC experience and we had to nail that first. 

Given that the game is being ported to the console, will we see controller support for the PC version?

 Yes.  We’re going to add an option that will allow our PC fans to play with a controller.  Since the UI will be modified for console, we are planning on having it change to use the controller based UI instead of being forced to attempt to navigate the PC UI with a controller. 

How easy (or difficult) is it to upgrade the game's engine from Unity 4.5 to Unity 5? Tell us a bit about the process and the challenges that involves.

We spent a month testing the waters to get a sense of how much would change from Unity 4.5 to 5.  In general, the upgrade was quite smooth.  Depending on how many of the new features you want to use, that’s where most of your upgrade time will go.  We decided that the game would benefit greatly from us revisiting all scenes and improving the art to take advantage of the physically based rendering pipeline.  This adds a good amount of time and work as we are touching almost all assets, but it’s been well worth it. 

Are there any plans to expand upon Wasteland 2 with future content?

The GOTY version will have some additional features as well as the visual upgrade.  We’re adding in a Quirks and Perks system to give the player more opportunities to customize their characters growth.  Quirks as similar to traits in the Fallout games.  They are personality elements that have a positive and a negative tied to them so they do a great job at modifying the experience.  Players will earn points to spend on their unlocked perks as they level up.  Perks are all positive and can give you unique ways to approach combat or other skills

You recently announced The Bard's Tale IV, a proper sequel to the series that got many of us into RPGs in the first place. Are you planning to modernize the game, or will it feature grid-based dungeoneering a la Etrian Odyssey, or some combination of the two?

We are going to experiment with a couple of new techniques so I hesitate to reveal too much now but I would say that locking someone onto a grid would take away from the immersion I want to get across. There are ways to have the best of both worlds.  I wouldn't want people to read too much into this answer since I have some ideas that I want to see played out first.

Can you tell us a little more about the combat system in The Bard's Tale IV? In an interview with IGN awhile back, you mentioned borrowing concepts from Hearthstone. Could you shed some light on how that works?

It’s still very early in the design phase for The Bard’s Tale IV but we have a good sense of how we want it to feel.  Heathstone is a game that does a great job at providing systems that make the player think at each turn.  Instead of simply having a battle of attrition where you spend turn after turn slowly reducing your enemies health, we want to keep the combat lively, forcing you to make tough decisions at each round.  Our focus right now is in defining the core combat variables that our designers can use to craft the enemy skill and spell books.  Many skills will have direct counters that will allow you to turn the tides in your favor based on your character choices and party make-up. We want it to move snappier than a turn based game, not be a click fest nor be too passive. Stay tuned.

When are you planning to announce the Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale IV?

I think we did. 😉 Timing of a crowdfunding campaign is a function of us having the proper assets ready for prime time.

Finally, tell us a little about what's happening with Torment: Tides of Numenera's development. 

First I have to say that I am very proud of what the team is putting together, it's really special. The graphics look beautiful and the writing has captured the tone and feel that made the otherworldliness of Planescape: Torment so fascinating. Currently our internal testers are starting to play through sections of the game including the Bloom.  We are looking forward to revealing more later.


This interview with Brian Fargo was conducted by Ian Miles Cheong on March 15, 2015 via email. It may not be reposted in its entirety without permission.