Cain: Plus, one thing, in the ’90s you could do things no one had ever done before because everything was so young and it was a bit of a Wild West of an industry. Now every time you think of something and you look, it’s like, «Oh, this game did it. This indie game did it five years ago.» It’s hard to think of something that is completely original.
We managed to put some things in here that I’ve never seen done in a game. In that way, I kinda miss that…the sky was the limit back then. If you could think about it, you could do it.
Boyarsky: Well a perfect example of that is, when we made Arcanum, I didn’t even really know what steampunk was. Now there is like every kind of punk there is. When we started talking about this game and the setting we had to be very careful not to fall into this pre-defined thing that has been done before. That’s very important to us. We didn’t want people to look at it and know exactly what this is, because people didn’t do that with Fallout because nobody had seen something like that before. Between now and then, there’s been every kind of mish mash of different styles. I mean, hopefully people took inspiration for Fallout for some of that stuff.
Cain: We didn’t want to make Tolkien with machine guns. One thing I’ve done, every time I ship a game I write a postmortem, just for myself; it doesn’t get published. I write a postmortem of everything I think went right and wrong, and I also keep notes whenever I have an idea. So I went through them for this game and found some ideas from a few years ago that I’d like to try out. And here’s what I thought went wrong with Temple, or Vampire, or Fallout.
I even write, I probably shouldn’t, but every time I play a Fallout game I write a postmortem for it. I have a postmortem for Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and New Vegas, even though I didn’t work on them. So I read through all those notes, to recall what I thought they did right and what I thought they did wrong. And that influenced a lot of what I’m doing with this game.
How often, if ever, do industry trends or audience demands seep into your priorities?
Boyarsky: A lot less than we probably should. laughter We’ve always been really interested in making the games that we don’t think are out there. Maybe there’s a good reason why some of them aren’t out there.
Cain: We always like to joke, «Let’s just make the games we like, and hopefully people will play them.» We have been trying to understand what people have been asking for. I know when we put our combat system together, it was really important that it be an RPG, but people really want…
Boyarsky: Yeah but it’s less of a thing where we go, «Look at what people are looking for.» We really don’t want people to be saying, «Wow, this is a great RPG, you know the combat is just okay, but the RPG stuff is great.»
One of our goals is that we want combat to be fun. Obviously our combat isn’t going to be as good as Call of Duty because that’s not what we are here to do. So, in that aspect when we set out to do something like that, well then what would people think is a fun combat system? What do people want from a combat system that they would consider fun? I think we’ve been in that mode for years, but I’m not sure that we’ve ever focused on those things as much as we have with this one.
I think it’s much more a matter of, I don’t want to say age, but just the length of time doing this. Earlier on Tim was saying that when we set out to make this thing that’s a conglomeration of ’50s and Road Warrior and pulp sci-fi, that wasn’t something that people had done before, or the aspect of it where it’s very gray morality and you could play anyway you wanted to play. With those things, because as Tim said that was a time when it was the Wild West where nobody had done that stuff before, now we have to look at what hasn’t been served. We don’t want to just rehash old ground. That’s how we look at what people might want or what needs to be done in other games. Sometimes it might even inform, I don’t want to say negative, but it might reinforce the opposite.
Like, a lot of games are going towards cinematic storytelling, but to do that you have to have a voiced protagonist. One of our main goals here, as with all of the games we made together, we want people to be able to play this game any way they want to play. We want the person who wants to play as the upstanding, righteous hero who would never do anything a little bit gray to have fun and role-play the way they want to, as much as the person who wants to play the psychopath that wants to kill everyone in their way. Both of those should be fun. But if we picked a voice for you or a character for you that was premade, then no matter how much we let you tweak it, it still feels like there’s a part of it that wasn’t decided by me. I think it’s both things: What do we think is really cool that hasn’t been done, but what are things that people are doing? Do we want to take that, or do we want to keep it more old-school because this is what we get from it?