Wednesday, 13 April 2016

FALLOUT unlikely to be outsourced again, according to NEW VEGAS developer

According to Fallout 2 and New Vegas designer Chris Avellone, Bethesda are unlikely to outsource the creation of future Fallout games to external companies. They did this for 2010's Fallout: New Vegas, when they employed Avellone's former employers Obsidian Entertainment to make and release Fallout: New Vegas and fans have been speculating that Bethesda may repeat the trick to reduce the 3-5 year gaps between their games.

Avellone's statement comes after controversy surrounded the release of New Vegas. The game was released in a buggy state after Obsidian passed the code to Bethesda for QA and testing. Obsidian subsequently took the blame for the game's release problems, which saw the game get initial lower review scores than Bethesda's Fallout 3. However, after patching the game turned out to have a very long tail and now regularly tops polls and critics' choice lists as the finest Fallout game. It's worth noting that Obsidian are, effectively, a reconstituted version of Black Isle, the company that created the Fallout franchise in the late 1990s and produced the first two games in the series (Avellone was project lead on Fallout 2 and New Vegas's DLC Old World Blues, and worked on New Vegas itself and its other DLC as a designer and writer).

Further controversy unfolded when it was revealed that Obsidian missed out on a bonus payment that was north of $1 million that they would have received if the game had scored just one percentage point higher on Metacritic. The fact that the game became Bethesda's biggest-selling-ever title on release, shipping 5 million copies in its first month on sale (almost double Fallout 3's first-month sales), was apparently not rewarded. Bethesda's next two games have sold more, Skyrim shifting 7 million copies in its first month in 2011 and Fallout 4 almost 12 million last November.

Despite these issues, Obsidian did propose a new Fallout project to Bethesda a few years ago. This game would have been set in Los Angeles, expanding on the Boneyard setting established in earlier games.

However, whilst Avellone's remarks might be misconstrued as Bethesda becoming more controlling of the franchise or petty over past criticisms, there's actually a far more practical explanation. Outsourcing a game requires close coordination between the IP holders and publishers, and the whole production studio. In New Vegas's case, this required Bethesda - based just outside Washington, DC - and the LA-based Obsidian to coordinate development which ended up being less practical than expected. Bethesda, more likely, will want to employ their own in-house secondary team to create games at a faster pace, and last year they announced the formation of a new team in the (relatively) closer location of Montreal to do just that.

Bethesda have hinted at some major announcements at E3. It seems unlikely that The Elder Scrolls VI will be announced so soon, so it's more likely to be about games under development from their other studios.

Chris Avellone is currently at Larian Studios working on Divinity: Original Sin II. Alongside the likes of Patrick Rothfuss, he's also contributed writing and story development to inXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera, which should be released this summer.

1 comment:

JD Woodman said...

Not wanting to get upstaged again with the IP they bought and paid for has got to be in the mix somewhere.