"It's a very dark world with dark themes, it can be dark, but we were very adamant: we wanted it to be a fun game," said Leonard Boyarsky about his new science fiction role-playing game .
While most of this year's E3 convention show was dominated by new versions of existing franchises, classic game remakes and popular film series adaptations, the developer Obsidian Entertainment and the Private Division publisher launched a new title: Outside worlds.
Known for role-playing games such as Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New VegasObsidian was eager to work with co-directors Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain. The pair worked on the original Fall in 1997, and now draw the curtain of their latest creation, a sci-fi action-role game combining dark humor, immersive exploration and combat systems.
Boyarsky caught up The Hollywood Reporter at this year's convention to discuss his latest game, the persistent difficulty of presenting new "strange" projects to publishers, his influences (Kurt Vonnegut, Futurama and the Coen brothers to name a few) and the revised combat system of the new RPG.
What are the challenges of launching a new intellectual property?
For [co-director] Tim Cain and I, the challenge was to involve other people because we tend to do things a little out of the ordinary and less common. We did it several times together – it's the third time. We work very well together and we seem to have no problem generating these ideas and proposing new things. We started in April 2016 and, a few months later, we had discussions with publishers, understood the basics of the world and the whole game, and started bringing in people. It was a pretty simple process. Tim and I do not really need a lot of extra communication, but finding a way to communicate that attitude or the strange tones we're trying to duplicate was a bit of a challenge at first, but our writers and artists really understood . into it.
Having to have Fall on your resume, does it help you to launch a brand new game?
We are in a very unique situation because the people who created and started Obsidian were working with us at Interplay when we created Fall. They saw this whole process and specifically wanted us to do the same for them. I think people were interested in hearing what we had to say because of Fallbut still, even if you've done something weird in the past that has been accepted, if you go in a different direction, it's really strange to hear people say why is it not like that strange thing that we did not care about 20 years ago. It is ironical. We found the private division soon enough and she has just been a fantastic partner.
This game looks a bit like Fallbut how is this different from the work you have done in the past?
This is the first time we play a game of pure science fiction. Fall is postapocalyptic, which is a little science fiction but its own specific genre. Then we did Arcanewhich is a type of fantasy world of the industrial revolution. Science fiction being one of my favorite genres, it's strange that it took us so long to create a game of pure science fiction. This one from the beginning, we were really focused on integrating companions in the world and history and their intervention. You will talk to the players of the game and if they try to cover your eyes, your companion will call them. The world really feels like it's a living, living place that has a story.
What were your influences for this game?
Firefly and Futurama. I watched Futurama again in recent times and the branding of our game is heavily influenced. We were fat Simpsons the fans and there are some Easter eggs in sight in Fall who come from Simpsons. On the writing side, apart from Firefly, I asked my writers to look at things like Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers, Deadwood and True courage. Obviously, we did not want to go that far, but we really wanted that flavor. I also pushed them to read some Vonnegut at the beginning.
It's perfect because your games all seem to have a bit of that dry, sardonic humor. There is also a funny thing for them.
Yes. As Tim and I jokingly talk about it, it's our secret sauce. He has this very foolish and playful worldview in many ways and I tend to be a little darker, so we combine these two things. We tell our authors and our designers that it's a mix of these two things. We do not want to be too stupid, we do not want to be too dark. It's a very dark world with dark themes, it can be dark, but we were very adamant that we wanted it to be a fun game. How do you make a fun game in such a context? You make it absurd. You really look into it.
And the other half is the gameplay. What's new on this front in Outside worlds?
We played in the first person in the original Bloodlines, but there are a lot of guns, scientific weapons and melee. We have this whole range. Obviously, we will not have the kind of gameplay that Call of Duty, who is really focused on the shooter, will have it because we have so much width. We have a history of deep stories, fantastic dialogues, choices and everything else, but we really wanted to get the fight to a very good level for this one.
The games seem to have a much longer life span these days. Do you think that you will live with Outside worlds for a moment?
I would like to continue living with this one. In the past, we moved on and I had never done it before. Well, we did the original design for Fallout 2 but we have not finished that one. I hope with Private Division and Microsoft, we can continue to support this game because we have really created a rich universe in which to play.
Do you think the industry has changed this way?
For the better and for the worse, yes. I sometimes think that we insist too much on that and that sometimes we just want to say that's what it is. This should be enough. It's strange for us too, because RPGs have always had a very long line. When we did Fall or Arcane, we did not think that in 25 years, people would still play or talk about these games. So it's good to work on role plays because it's like we do not need to add anything to keep people engaged. It comes with the territory of all things that you can explore in the game itself.