Brian Fargo, CEO of InXile Entertainment and longtime RPG publisher, has been a very busy man since putting Wasteland 2 up on Kickstarter. The game, which passed $1 million in under two days and now stands at $1.4 million, is planned as a sequel to the award-winning Wasteland RPG from the 1980s.
Full disclosure: I worked with Brian when I was a product marketing manager at Electronic Arts back in the '80's, when EA was publishing RPGs like Wasteland, and I've known designers Mike Stackpole, Liz Danforth and Ken St. Andre for nigh on 30 years now.
Brian was kind enough to take some time to answer my questions about Wasteland 2.
Most certainly I was inspired by what Tim [Schafer] accomplished, both by the number he achieved and the way he approached the video. His humorous approach was wonderful, and it set the quality bar for this kind of presentation. I was equally as inspired by the fans who immediately started to tweet me and send messages via Facebook that Wasteland 2 would be perfect for Kickstarter. I agreed, and sprang into gear.
I started to pitch Wasteland as far back as 2003, and then I really turned up the heat in 2009 when Jason Anderson joined the team. The sad part about pitching is that we didn't even discuss budgets at all. The interest was so low that it never got to the money requirements. Often I would ask what the reasoning for passing on the project was and it was just generic responses about "looking at other things" or "going in another direction." I still have some of these wonderful little emails.
"One large cost with making games these days are all of the cinematics that publishers spend on games, with costs that hit as much as $1.6 million per minute"Brian Fargo
It was not a problem at all getting the band back together, and as you probably know by now we have already roped both Ken and Liz in. We all had a lot of passion for the game and they are all pleasantly surprised to be able to work on the sequel. When I first told Mike and Alan what I was proposing to do with Kickstarter I think they thought I was being a bit too optimistic. The feedback from the RPG crowd has really been over the top.
There is no reason why the less known developers cannot find funding for smaller budgets if they present it well. I have seen several pitches that have funded so we know it works for unknown developers. Some of these groups will do a fantastic job on the game and be able to come back to the well for a bigger drink next time. I certainly put my time in working up the food chain, and I know others will too.
This is a PC RPG first and foremost so our decisions about interface, graphics, and players will all derive from that starting point. That said, we look to be achieving our goal of $1.5 million, which means we can add Mac and Linux, which is perfectly fine since those are fairly straightforward conversions and won't affect the lead format nor should those experiences suffer.
Tablet is a consideration due to its size and interface, but we just have not decided conclusively on this. We are unlikely to support console for fear it would not be a good enough experience and take away any of our mindshare from what is primarily a PC experience. There are other variables like distance from the screen that affects the conversion to console that developers have to consider.
We have a series of advantages in making this game for a reasonable budget. One large cost with making games these days are all of the cinematics that publishers spend on games, with costs that hit as much as $1.6 million per minute. Not only are they expensive, but they can cut down the options a player has in gameplay depending on design. We are also having a tremendous amount of pre-production done, such that all variables are nailed down at the start so that no cycles are wasted by designing on the fly.
We also save 20% plus in not having to prove to a publisher we know what we are doing or prepping for endless tradeshows. This sounds like a small thing, but developers have to halt production countless times for these things. Additionally, we will job out much of the art to keep our fixed overhead low. Wasteland 2 will be as big or bigger than Wasteland 1.
"I am overwhelmed by the response and the faith and support from the fans makes me happy to be in the games business again. Never have I been at a better place to just make the games I love to make"Brian Fargo
I am certain we will work out a bonus for people who contributed; in fact, several of them are working for very little to nothing in order to make this happen. And for myself, I'm not taking a salary from the Kickstarter funds to help keep the costs down.
At this point we have hit our minimum funding level and are closing in on the $1.5 million, so I am very pleasantly surprised. The overall response has been so much stronger than I had anticipated and the desire for this style of RPG is red hot.
Not yet... I'm focused on Wasteland 2 and nothing else.
Just to repeat that I am overwhelmed by the response and the faith and support from the fans makes me happy to be in the games business again. Never have I been at a better place to just make the games I love to make and this whole fan funding has provided.