Interview: Chris Keenan of InXile Entertainment (Wasteland 2)

Recently, I had the chance to pose a few questions to Chris Keenan, Project Lead at InXile Entertainment for the recent game Wasteland 2 (which I gave a massive thumbs up to in my recent review)

Here’s what he had to say:

How did you go about ensuring that Wasteland 2 adapted to new and updated visuals and themes, while also retaining enough to ensure it remained, at heart, a Wasteland game with its own personality?

Early on, we made sure to get a vision document together that covered all core elements that had to be in Wasteland 2.  This meant we spent a good amount of time playing the original, reading about our fans experiences with it, and thinking about which features from the original needed to be retained.  We then examined each element and made a decision on which features we wanted to spruce up with more modern game design sensibilities and which worked well as they were.   Much of it was trying to capture an intangible “feel” of the original.

 

Looks pretty good eh?

Looks pretty good eh?

What was the biggest challenge during the development process?

I think our biggest challenge was the moving goal posts of a release date.  We originally asked for $900,000 when we began the Kickstarter.  We felt like with that amount of development budget and the initial design, we would be able to complete it in 18 months.  It was quite a bit more popular than we thought and we now had a budget of 3 million.  This creates a very different production plan.  As we worked on the game, we had a few other influxes of cash that allowed us to continue to improve it.  We were selling late backer copies and also had a solid showing in Steams Early Access.  Brian wanted to make Wasteland as good as possible so we rolled all of this money back into the game instead of booking it as profit.  His goal the entire time was to build something that would blow people away.

 

What is the key trait of Wasteland 2? What one thing defines the game and makes it what it is?

My favorite key trait is something I’d call ‘reactivity in moments’.  We really strived to make sure the choice and consequence in this game was so deeply ingrained in its DNA that it was brought up in just about every design meeting.  Every major system stays true to forcing the player to make a decision.  Wasteland is full of crazy moments the player will experience and we want their decisions to impact the way the game reacts to them.  Even in something like character creation, you might notice that you get less attribute and skill points than most games start you off with.  Each point you allocate has a major impact on how that character plays.  This forces the player to think about those trade-offs and either pick wisely or adapt to their choices.

 

Not unlike Xcom, in the basics at least

Not unlike Xcom, in the basics at least

What were the main themes or goals when the concept of a Wasteland sequel was discussed?

The main goal of this game was to bring back the nostalgic feeling players had when they played games like the original Wasteland and Fallout 1 and 2.  Many of us grew up on those games (or made them in Brian’s case) and we didn’t feel that there was anything out there that scratched the same itch.  It felt like such an amazing style of game that was almost forgotten.  It was a simpler time before the cost of creating in game assets exploded and there was a much heavier use of text to describe situations and environments.  As technology got better, developers could now visually show the things they were using text for.  We wanted to be able to describe all the senses in a way that supported the visuals, instead of simply relying on the visuals.

 

What next for the studio? What can we expect to see in the future?

Right now, we have two main focuses at inXile.  One is moving into full production on Torment : Tides of Numenera.  Many of the team members who were on Wasteland have now transitioned full time to Torment.  Kevin Saunders and team have been spending the last year and a half working on an amazing design and prototyping out many of the core systems.  This has allowed for a huge amount of iteration and planning.  Now they’re moving along quite quick.  A few people have stayed behind on Wasteland and will continue to support it with updates and maybe some surprise new features.  We don’t want to simply release a game and call it quits.  With a game this deep, we could work on it for years and never feel like it’s fully complete.

 

Well, thats that folks! I don’t know about you, but following the excellent Wasteland 2, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with Torment:Tides of Numenera

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About Paul Izod
Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod or @FaultyPixelUK or email him at paulizod@zero1gaming.com