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Old 02-23-2009, 06:28 AM   #1
Pavlos
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StarWarsKnights interviews Chris Avellone

Mr. Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment and Black Isle fame, lead designer on Planscape: Torment and our own beloved KotOR II has kindly condescended to answer my annoying questions about the development of Torment and The Sith Lords as well as some of his design philosophies. The whole thing weighs in at just under three thousand words so this is to be part one of three. The other two parts should be released on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

A big thanks to both MCA and Obsidian's marketing producer, Matthew Rorie for helping to organise this.

Enjoy!


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Old 02-23-2009, 07:12 AM   #2
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Well, this is a pleasant surprise.

It's good to see that you and Devon hadn't managed to scare him off the first time around.

Great work! I'm looking forward to parts two and three.


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Old 02-23-2009, 07:49 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avellone
It probably has to do with my unresolved irritation with religion and zealots.
Oh my, I so love this guy. Thanks, Pavlos, reading an Avellone interview is always interesting. Can't wait to read the other parts.


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Old 02-23-2009, 08:24 AM   #4
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It's great that you guys were able to intimidate persuade Avellone into an interview. Do we expect to see anything about Avellone's thoughts about TOR?
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Old 02-23-2009, 09:50 PM   #5
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I enjoyed the self-deprecating background done in third person.

Really looking forward to more of this interview with MCA.


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Old 02-23-2009, 10:08 PM   #6
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Sorry I didn't comment before, but that's a fantastic interview. Insightful answers from Avellone and I liked that intro you made, Pavlos.

Still, I don't think I'll be quite satisfied until I have seen more of this interview.


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Old 02-24-2009, 12:38 PM   #7
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Here is the promised second part of our interview with Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment, as promised. If you haven't read it then part one can be found here.

Quote:
The introduction of the “talking film” into cinema prompted discussions on the art of sound but the emergence of 3D engines and cinematics in video-games has yet to provoke such a discussion. Is there “art” in your “emotive facial rigging [and] animations” or is it simply a new toy to draw in the crowds and their wallets?

It is art. It may have to wait until Alpha Protocol is released, but I'd love to post some captured footages of some sequences in the game that say more with silence and facial expression than any text or voice actor could. I'm not cynical enough to say that it's a gimmick to take money from the consumer - I very much believe it's a better way to convey story, despite how resource-intensive it is.


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Old 02-24-2009, 01:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Avellone
Also, I really wanted to prep for a third title that examined Revan’s long-range plans, but that was only hinted at in the game.
Someone give this man a development team and lots of money pronto.

Great interview by the way. I look forward to part 3.

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Old 02-24-2009, 05:44 PM   #9
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Great read, I haven't played Torment (yes I know) but knowing him from Knights 2 and other games it's great to get some insight on his design philosophies. Looking forward to the final part.


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Old 02-24-2009, 07:12 PM   #10
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That was great. Thanks a lot Pavlos!
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Old 02-24-2009, 11:57 PM   #11
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Awesome interview, Pavlos! Thank you



The sun goes down and the sky reddens, pain grows sharp.
light dwindles. Then is evening
when jasmine flowers open, the deluded say.
But evening is the great brightening dawn
when crested cocks crow all through the tall city
and evening is the whole day
for those without their lovers

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Old 02-25-2009, 12:13 AM   #12
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Cool interview; thanks for getting it!

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Originally Posted by Char Ell View Post
I enjoyed the self-deprecating background done in third person.
Agreed - and it had an RPG flair to it as well.


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Old 02-26-2009, 07:57 AM   #13
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Part III

Apologies for the delayed post. This is the final part of our Chris Avellone interview. Yeah... that's all there is to it. Parts one and two can be found here und here.

Quote:
Putting aside Mr. Avellone, the businessman, though: Did you like the ending (or what was planned for it) yourself?

Yes


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Old 02-26-2009, 11:37 AM   #14
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"I am never going to do an Empire Strikes Back ending again in a game, even if they put branding irons to my feet." Why not? What sort of Will save do you need to successfully resist the branding irons, anyway?

You can never guarantee a publisher will want to do a sequel, and if they do, there's no guarantee that a development team will remain stable for the next game. For example, for NX1: Mask of the Betrayer (and this isn't a bad thing), the NX1 team did not wish to continue the NWN2 narrative. For Knights 2, we didn't have Knights 3 lined up. For Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance 1 we didn't have the same team for Dark Alliance 2, and unfortunately for the second team, they felt the need to explain the ending for Dark Alliance 1, which I didn't feel was necessary in the first place.

So, in short, I guess the cautionary tale is not to present any sort of ending that doesn’t resolve itself, because anything that follows is so uncertain that you can’t guarantee you’ll have a shot at continuing the story.
Mr. Avellone,

That might be why you didn't get Knights 3. You didn't plan ahead. I wanted to achieve something wonderous in Knights 2; thus, ending with the overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It never happend. I loved everything else about the game, but I hated how Malacore V played out. Here is the irony -- You may never get another chance to fix it all. Knowing you might not get a sequel should have played into your plans; therefore, you should have created a more defined ending to Knights 2. I'm overwhelmed with joy that BioWare, Knights' founding fathers, will accomplish what you can't. We will have our ending, and it will be epic Star Wars style.

Yar.
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Old 02-26-2009, 11:52 AM   #15
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Pity, I actually liked the ESB-style uncertain ending. It fit the game like butter on bread.


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Old 02-26-2009, 11:54 AM   #16
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That might be why you didn't get Knights 3. You didn't plan ahead. I wanted to achieve something wonderous in Knights 2; thus, ending with the overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It never happend. I loved everything else about the game, but I hated how Malacore V played out.
The ending of KotOR II was designed from the off to be... empty. Even though a lot of the feeling you get from it is accident rather than art, it is fitting that in a game filled with circular (hole-like) rooms and a lot of talk about "echoes" and "voids" that you should feel disappointed and defeated.


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Old 02-26-2009, 12:58 PM   #17
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The ending of KotOR II was designed from the off to be... empty. Even though a lot of the feeling you get from it is accident rather than art, it is fitting that in a game filled with circular (hole-like) rooms and a lot of talk about "echoes" and "voids" that you should feel disappointed and defeated.
Avellone mentioned it was intended to be part two to a three part play; however, the plans for working on a part three were not etched in stone. He planned for the story to be continued, but he didn't have the contract in hand for a third. Avellone knew ahead of time there might not be a third; thus, he proceeded with the cliffhanger anyway. Revan and Exile's story will not be concluded until the MMO; however, it will not feel like an Obsidian sequel. BioWare will most likely conclude them in a datapad or something. Placing the MMO 300 years into the future gives them a clean pallete, and they will begin the process all over again. It will be as if Revan and Exile's history is wiped clean. Knights 2 will never have a official cinematic single player rpg ending. Knowing how the world turns out tomorrow takes away from being surprised. Avellone lost his chance; thus, he should have planned a better ending.

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Old 02-26-2009, 01:54 PM   #18
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The Force has always bugged me from the sense of pre-destination, and I thought trying to make a sympathetic Sith Lord would be challenging, so I went ahead and did it (I don’t think I succeeded, but I enjoyed the challenge).
Quote:
It probably has to do with my unresolved irritation with religion and zealots.
Quote:
the theme of the Sith Lords was an examination of a universe where an all-powerful cosmic force is guiding its individuals to achieve certain nebulous ends, and how I would feel trapped in a universe like that – and how much I would want to rebel against it (which both the player and their mentor explore differently). So how do you fight back?
Does this mean what I think it means? If so, then Darth Traya is Avellone's instrument of inserting his own opinion on Star Wars' concept of "the Force" into the game.


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Old 02-26-2009, 02:34 PM   #19
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^^ I think it probably does, and i'm with Mr Avellone in his view of it as well. Much more interesting than the bread-and-butter lightside/darkside nonsense. If i was in the position where i could plot and write for my own game, i'd change a few things aswell.

starting with those damn ewoks...
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Old 02-27-2009, 09:47 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yar-El View Post
Avellone mentioned it was intended to be part two to a three part play; however, the plans for working on a part three were not etched in stone. He planned for the story to be continued, but he didn't have the contract in hand for a third. Avellone knew ahead of time there might not be a third; thus, he proceeded with the cliffhanger anyway.
That brings to mind the old adage: hindsight is 20/20. Certainly you can second guess Chris Avellone's decisions in KotOR 2: TSL all you want but I think Mr. Avellone is saying he has learned his lesson. IMHO a game designer ideally should be able to accomplish both objectives for a game: creating a self-contained story with enough hooks and lead-ins to create a sequel if the opportunity arises. I guess the position many would take on TSL is that it wasn't sufficiently self-contained and, as you say, left too much of a cliffhanger at the end.

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Does this mean what I think it means? If so, then Darth Traya is Avellone's instrument of inserting his own opinion on Star Wars' concept of "the Force" into the game.
I've thought this was the case for some some time now. Though he couldn't actually make it happen Mr. Avellone introduced the concept that the Force could actually be destroyed. I've wondered if this was one of the reasons LucasArts held off on going with Obsidian for KotOR 3 and then once BioWare approached with the TOR MMORPG concept KotOR 3 ended up becoming a moot point. Not saying this is the case at all as this is just my personal conjecture. But yeah, I get the distinct impression that Chris Avellone isn't all that keen on the concept of an unseen Force that controls people's destinies.


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Old 02-27-2009, 10:50 PM   #21
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But yeah, I get the distinct impression that Chris Avellone isn't all that keen on the concept of an unseen Force that controls people's destinies.
Who would be? Especially with the way he portrays it, playing its perpetual game of balance with the lives of every living thing in the universe...


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Old 02-28-2009, 09:52 AM   #22
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Who would be? Especially with the way he portrays it, playing its perpetual game of balance with the lives of every living thing in the universe...
Thank you Pavlos for an excellent interview. It's a toss up for who is my favorite RPG writer. Chris Avellone or Tim Cain.


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