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Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance

Strategy Informer has comments from Obsidian Entertainment Creative Director Chris Avellone, who states the recent success of fundraisers for old-school-style RPGs like Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and Obsidian's Project Eternity have opened they eyes of publishers to the commercial potential of this genre they long ago decided do not hold the desired potential for profits. He seems surprised that this would attract this kind of attention, but it seems no more surprising that the big guys would find these upstart kickstarts of interest after we saw a couple of major publishers issue "indie bundles" once those became a thing. Here's word:

We have actually had companies reach out to us and go 'you know what, for that price point, which is a much smaller risk than a lot of our AAA titles where there's a lot more at stake, that's much less risk for us and we wouldn't mind exploring the idea of doing old-school RPGs that are set up like this'. That totally floors me, I did not realise there would be that sort of sea change from publishers, but apparently there are a number of publishers that realise that doing an Eternity-style game is a good fit for them, and I am thankful for that.

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32. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 26, 2013, 21:31 jdreyer
 
Ah, gotcha.  
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31. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 26, 2013, 20:33 Slashman
 
jdreyer wrote on Jun 26, 2013, 19:07:
There's actually a renaissance of midrange games coming out these days thanks to digital distribution, which makes it feasible to launch at the $20-30 price point. Examples: Prison Architect, Ride to Hell, Xenonauts, Rising Storm, Expeditions: Conquistador, War for the Overworld, Zeno Clash 2, Stardrive, etc. And many games launch at $40, a far cry from $60: Airland Battle, FE: Legendary Heroes, Pro Cycling Manager, Moto GP, Deadpool. These aren't quite AAA games, but not casual indie games either.

I know and that's great. I was more referring to larger publishers not wanting to fund more mid-range games in deference to AAA titles.

 
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30. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 26, 2013, 19:07 jdreyer
 
Slashman wrote on Jun 26, 2013, 08:30:
Jerykk wrote on Jun 26, 2013, 04:22:
Back on topic, I'd love it if the big publishers started making mid-budget games again. A traditional CRPG could easily be made for less than $5 million.

That's the problem right there. They don't want to make smaller games. Why would you not diversify your offerings as much as possible?

There's actually a renaissance of midrange games coming out these days thanks to digital distribution, which makes it feasible to launch at the $20-30 price point. Examples: Prison Architect, Ride to Hell, Xenonauts, Rising Storm, Expeditions: Conquistador, War for the Overworld, Zeno Clash 2, Stardrive, etc. And many games launch at $40, a far cry from $60: Airland Battle, FE: Legendary Heroes, Pro Cycling Manager, Moto GP, Deadpool. These aren't quite AAA games, but not casual indie games either.
 
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29. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 26, 2013, 08:30 Slashman
 
Jerykk wrote on Jun 26, 2013, 04:22:
Back on topic, I'd love it if the big publishers started making mid-budget games again. A traditional CRPG could easily be made for less than $5 million.

That's the problem right there. They don't want to make smaller games. Why would you not diversify your offerings as much as possible?
 
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28. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 26, 2013, 04:22 Jerykk
 
Golwar wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 21:25:
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 16:21:
Orogogus wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 16:01:
The development budget for The Witcher 3 is supposed to be $15M, which is up there, plus $25M for marketing, pushing it into the tens of millions range.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=62992246&postcount=1

I was unaware the dev budget was that high, but the marketing budget is bullshit (I don't doubt that they're spending it, but that's wasted money, like all marketing budgets in game development are. They are NEVER worth their expenditure. If CD Projekt really thinks it's going to sell an extra ~ 1 million copies because of marketing, they are sadly deluding themselves.)

Creston

That's what we all think. Among those who are generally well informed about games. We don't need advertisement.

But considering that those who spend the money on marketing, should be as suspicious as everyone else is about the efficiency of their investments, I'd wager that we are probably wrong.

This. Marketing does matter, much as we may not like it. Indie and lower budget games need less marketing because they need fewer sales to make a profit. Conversely, big-budget games require far more sales to make a profit. While there are definitely unnecessary expenses in AAA development (Hollywood voice actors, licensed soundtracks, worthless multiplayer modes that nobody plays, etc), the simple fact is that if you want to make a game with high production values, large scope and you want it to be finished within 5 years, you're going to need a lot of artists and designers. Witcher 1 and 2 sold decently enough but given the significantly budget of Witcher 3, 1 million sales isn't going to cut it.

Back on topic, I'd love it if the big publishers started making mid-budget games again. A traditional CRPG could easily be made for less than $5 million.

This comment was edited on Jun 26, 2013, 04:27.
 
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27. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 22:57 Slashman
 
Golwar wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 21:25:
That's what we all think. Among those who are generally well informed about games. We don't need advertisement.

But considering that those who spend the money on marketing, should be as suspicious as everyone else is about the efficiency of their investments, I'd wager that we are probably wrong.

I think that we do underestimate the need for marketing when a game is is a certain size and scope.

At the same time, I think there is a huge amount of waste in AAA game development. CGI cutscenes are one major expense that can happily die. They add so little that a decent in-engine cutscene couldn't do. Hiring all-star casts of Hollywood actors to voice your games is another area to cut the hell back on. You do not need Patrick Stewart to do voice work in your game to make it a success.

I don't think it's big or ambitious games that need to die. It is the AAA formula and mindset behind it that really needs to go.
 
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26. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 21:25 Golwar
 
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 16:21:
Orogogus wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 16:01:
The development budget for The Witcher 3 is supposed to be $15M, which is up there, plus $25M for marketing, pushing it into the tens of millions range.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=62992246&postcount=1

I was unaware the dev budget was that high, but the marketing budget is bullshit (I don't doubt that they're spending it, but that's wasted money, like all marketing budgets in game development are. They are NEVER worth their expenditure. If CD Projekt really thinks it's going to sell an extra ~ 1 million copies because of marketing, they are sadly deluding themselves.)

Creston

That's what we all think. Among those who are generally well informed about games. We don't need advertisement.

But considering that those who spend the money on marketing, should be as suspicious as everyone else is about the efficiency of their investments, I'd wager that we are probably wrong.
 
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25. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 21:04 Dev
 
So, where were these publishers a year ago? Mostly they only care about AAA titles, and are actually downsizing on indie type stuff (wasn't it EA that just closed down some of those departments? Plus, didn't MS announce they were going to be even less friendly to indies in XBone?)  
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24. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 17:07 Cutter
 
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:50:
I mean, that dungeon alone is going to be sixteen (?) levels!

Creston

It'd be funny if they were like 1 room each.
 
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23. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 16:21 Creston
 
Orogogus wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 16:01:
The development budget for The Witcher 3 is supposed to be $15M, which is up there, plus $25M for marketing, pushing it into the tens of millions range.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=62992246&postcount=1

I was unaware the dev budget was that high, but the marketing budget is bullshit (I don't doubt that they're spending it, but that's wasted money, like all marketing budgets in game development are. They are NEVER worth their expenditure. If CD Projekt really thinks it's going to sell an extra ~ 1 million copies because of marketing, they are sadly deluding themselves.)

Creston
 
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22. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 16:21 jdreyer
 
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:24:

They said Eternity was going to be stupidly huge, so I expect that to take a really crazy amount of time. And you finished BG2 in 25 hours??
Heh, not BG2, just BG.

Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:24:
But they don't HAVE to. The Witcher 3 isn't going to cost tens of millions to make, and if anything it looks like Skyrim ++. There have been similar open world titles that didn't cost anywhere near that much.

Admittedly those games weren't as cool as Skyrim, but Skyrim's also a bit of an outlier.

My point is that you don't NEED to spend that much money to make a great RPG.
Creston

Well, you'll notice that neither Torment or Eternity are full 3D with full voice acted NPCs etc. That's what I mean when I say a "publisher RPG", a AAA game. They don't have to do that, no, but they want to duplicate CoD, so they put all that stuff in there.
 
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21. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 16:01 Orogogus
 
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:24:
But they don't HAVE to. The Witcher 3 isn't going to cost tens of millions to make, and if anything it looks like Skyrim ++. There have been similar open world titles that didn't cost anywhere near that much.

Admittedly those games weren't as cool as Skyrim, but Skyrim's also a bit of an outlier.

My point is that you don't NEED to spend that much money to make a great RPG.

Creston

The development budget for The Witcher 3 is supposed to be $15M, which is up there, plus $25M for marketing, pushing it into the tens of millions range.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=62992246&postcount=1
 
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20. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 14:52 nin
 
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:50:
nin wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:44:
They said Eternity was going to be stupidly huge, so I expect that to take a really crazy amount of time.

<rubs hands together> Yessss....YESSSS!


I mean, that dungeon alone is going to be sixteen (?) levels!

Creston


To be honest, I've backed so many of these (and don't keep up with every update), to the point that I forget who promised what. That, and I'm trying to not get overly excited when I know we have a year or more wait...

So these little reminders always jump out at me.


 
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19. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 14:50 Creston
 
nin wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 14:44:
They said Eternity was going to be stupidly huge, so I expect that to take a really crazy amount of time.

<rubs hands together> Yessss....YESSSS!


I mean, that dungeon alone is going to be sixteen (?) levels!

Creston
 
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18. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 14:44 nin
 
They said Eternity was going to be stupidly huge, so I expect that to take a really crazy amount of time.

<rubs hands together> Yessss....YESSSS!

 
http://www.nin.com/pub/tension/
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17. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 14:24 Creston
 
jdreyer wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 13:33:
Are we expecting Torment and Eternity to be 80 hour RPGs? I assumed they'd be around 20. That's about how long it took me to finish BG back in the day. Maybe 25.

They said Eternity was going to be stupidly huge, so I expect that to take a really crazy amount of time. And you finished BG2 in 25 hours??

But yeah, the rest will be 20 hour affairs, which is fine.

jdreyer wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 13:58:
Major publisher RPGs like Skyrim and Dragon Age cost tens of millions to make.

But they don't HAVE to. The Witcher 3 isn't going to cost tens of millions to make, and if anything it looks like Skyrim ++. There have been similar open world titles that didn't cost anywhere near that much.

Admittedly those games weren't as cool as Skyrim, but Skyrim's also a bit of an outlier.

My point is that you don't NEED to spend that much money to make a great RPG.

Creston
 
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16. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 14:02 jdreyer
 
Beelzebud wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 13:00:
It says a lot about the shortsighted stupidity of the people running the publishing houses. These are people that don't play games, don't care about them as art, and don't even understand them.


Right, the fundamental difference is that a publisher wants to make money, a dev house wants to make a good game. Completely different approaches. And that's why we're getting all these interesting projects out of KS, since we're bypassing the publishers. Games like Torment and Planetary Annihilation won't do Call of Duty numbers. That's why there's been no publisher interest in these titles for the past decade.
 
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15. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 13:58 jdreyer
 
Creston wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 12:53:
Also, it's kind of the point that you can make an RPG for 4 million rather than 100 million.

Creston

Fixed that for you.

Major publisher RPGs like Skyrim and Dragon Age cost tens of millions to make. Chris Taylor said that it cost $10m to make Sup Com, and $11m to make SC2. And those games don't have the voice talent, sprawling maps, quests, dungeons, crafting systems, variety of environments, etc. etc. that RPGs do.
 
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14. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 13:34 Beamer
 
jdreyer wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 13:33:
Beamer wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 12:40:
But these RPG games? I'm not really backing them, because it would kill me. How many 80 hour RPGs can I realistically play in a year? 1? 2? If I back them all I'd just end up with another queue, like my Steam list, of games I'll never get to, except unlike my Steam list I paid for them well ahead of time and for more than $5.

Are we expecting Torment and Eternity to be 80 hour RPGs? I assumed they'd be around 20. That's about how long it took me to finish BG back in the day. Maybe 25.

Probably makes more sense. I still don't think I can do many of those.
I don't think I did either of those, though. Wasteland, maybe Eternity actually, but not Torment.

Too fond memories of the original for me to not take a wait-and-see. Wasteland I think can work due to the setting. Torment needs the writing.
 
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13. Re: Avellone: Kickstarter Inspiring Old School RPG Renaissance Jun 25, 2013, 13:33 jdreyer
 
Beamer wrote on Jun 25, 2013, 12:40:
But these RPG games? I'm not really backing them, because it would kill me. How many 80 hour RPGs can I realistically play in a year? 1? 2? If I back them all I'd just end up with another queue, like my Steam list, of games I'll never get to, except unlike my Steam list I paid for them well ahead of time and for more than $5.

Are we expecting Torment and Eternity to be 80 hour RPGs? I assumed they'd be around 20. That's about how long it took me to finish BG back in the day. Maybe 25.
 
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