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Around The Block With Brian Fargo
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Around The Block With Brian Fargo

January 14, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

You can kind of see where that's going because that's what Zynga's doing. They're hiring people like Brian Reynolds and more of the more "traditional" designers so they can inject these games with that expertise.

BF: I try not to dwell on the past too much. It's not too helpful. One thing that I find interesting is that 10 years ago, you could make retail games for $2 or $3 million. Four million dollars wasn't a big deal. Now with these goods, these things can [cost] $100 million. It's made publishers crazy. Whole careers are on the line. Whole companies are on the line. Creating products creates this intense pressure.

And so with the smaller stuff, you get kind a return to the roots. One of the things I do like is that part of the industry reminds me of the late '80s -- Small, creative teams trying to figure out how to make a buck. You didn't have these huge costs and risks.

The costs and risks turn down because you're kind of able to creatively try some different things. We've had huge success on the iPhone and just for a fraction of the cost of what we had to spend on these other things.

And so that is the downside of the triple-A. There's a need to feel like there's this science [game makers] need to apply. There's so much money at stake, the investors better hear about the science of how you're going to make a success.

The truth is, it's same old entertainment business it used to be. The same old instincts apply. Everything else, the way you develop games, is pretty much the same.

But the truth is developers don't want to hear that. No one wants to devote hundreds of millions of dollars and say, "It normally comes down to instinct." If you think about the film business, let's talk about the '70s. I just read an interview with [former Apple CEO] John Sculley -- [current Apple CEO] Steve Jobs doesn't believe in focus groups, okay. He doesn't believe that consumers are going to tell him what people need. He's going to tell people what they need. He says they can't imagine these things that he sees.

So, in the '70s, the people like [film producer] Bob Evans who ran Paramount, whether they release movies like Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown or Godfather, or whatever the movies were during that time, these were guys who ran these groups and said, "That's a good idea. That's a good idea. That's a good idea," And they did it, and their batting averages were what they were.

Now you have the "science of Hollywood," and its batting average is no better than what they were back then. But who wants to hear that? Again, I don't dwell in the past, but I do miss that part of the business where you had the early EA, for example. It was Bing Gordon, it was Trip [Hawkins]. It was all these guys. You could go and have these conversations, and they say, "That's a good idea."

[InXile is] fortunate because we did get a little bit of that with Bethesda. Todd Vaughn [VP of Bethesda] and these guys are hardcore, and so, I can pitch them a concept, and they can go, "We get it. We love it." Boom, off we go. Love that. But that's becoming harder and harder.

So to sum it up you think the industry relies too much on focus groups?

BF: Absolutely it's more rare [to rely on instincts]. What stinks about it is that if they have success, then everybody is going to go "That's the way to go. We need more instinctual guys." If it doesn't work, everybody's going to say, "Told you so."

But the truth is that it's just the randomness of the entertainment business. The approach isn't the only reason why a product succeeds. How hard is it to pick a product out in this business? They killed Steven Spielberg's game! We'll kill the Steven Spielberg project. It's just that tough.

It's interesting because you've had this past where you've been involved in these kind of groundbreaking games like Bard's Tale, Wasteland, Baldur's Gate and Fallout. Do you ever feel like that you have to live up to these big titles that you released in the past?

BF: Well, I mean, yes and no. Look, on one hand, I've had recent success, Line Rider and Fantastic Contraption. So, it's not like I'm just focusing on those [previous accomplishments]. On one hand, I'll go on a press tour and I will talk with young guys on the blogs -- they've never heard of Interplay, forget Baldur's Gate. So, on one hand, I had to adjust. I was shipping games before these guys were born.

For those guys, there are no expectations. On the others, I don't know. There's certainly a "it better be good" kind of concept, but I just have to do what I think feels right. I look at the product, I have my own way of looking at things, my own sensibility of things that are important to me. I just keep applying them and hoping they line up with what people are wanting to see.

I think Hunted: The Demon's Forge definitely feels like something that I've been involved with. You'll feel my thumbprint on that game and it's going to have a lot of personality and a lot of depth. And at the same time, I'm recognizing it's the year 2011, so it's not about the feel like something that shipped in the mid-90s.

Some people beat on their own drums better than others, but I gave starts to Treyarch and BioWare and Blizzard and Black Isle. [My publicist] said we should probably get that out a little more at some point [laughs]. I don't really talk about that stuff, but I'm still in the frontlines doing things.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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