The Wasteland series has evolved significantly since the original release in 1988. The upcoming Wasteland 3 offers a whole new experience by throwing players into the snowscapes of Colorado and featuring a dialogue system created by the team at Obsidian Entertainment for The Outer Worlds whilst maintaining its original post-apocalyptic core design. inXile Entertainment studio head Brian Fargo has been at the helm for over 30 years. Fargo has woven his Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer tactical gameplay experiences to create fresh new RTS game mechanics including spending “quite a bit of time on animating ‘gruesome’ deaths.”
In an interview with OnlySP, inXile Entertainment’s Brian Fargo spoke about becoming a Microsoft first-party studio, the evolution of the Wasteland series, and much more.
OnlySP: Why was it important for inXile to develop a new game in the Wasteland series, rather than an original title?
Fargo: Wasteland has always been near and dear to our hearts, and we were excited to build upon the success of Wasteland 2. Post-apocalypse is a fascinating genre and it allows us to get our dark humor and interesting NPCs rolled into its weird and brutal world. But we’re working on new IPs as well.
OnlySP: inXile Entertainment has built up a strong identity developing intense, innovative narrative-driven RPGs. Where the inspiration for the deep stories and tactical, strategic gameplay come from?
Fargo: Our love of tactical combat comes from our experiences with [Dungeons and Dragons] and tabletops like Warhammer, while the stories come from the thousands of books and movies we all collectively read and see. We are all heavily steeped in the storytelling from all mediums.
OnlySP: inXile has an impressive track record of crowdfunding several games including Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and The Bard’s Tale IV while also engaging closely with its backers. How important is crowdfunding as a development strategy for your studio? Will all future titles also be crowdfunded?
Fargo: Crowdfunding was critical for us. I don’t think we would have ultimately found the success that we did if it wasn’t for technology allowing fans to fund us directly for the kinds of games they wanted to play. Microsoft has been extremely supportive in allowing us to work on and make the kinds of games we want to make, and fortunately, that leaves us in a position where we don’t need to use the crowdfunding model any longer.
OnlySP: With the global pandemic of COVID-19 sparking mass panic buying and severe financial retractions similar to an archetypal apocalyptic story, is it surreal to develop and release a post-apocalyptic game when these events are happening in the real world?
The timing of the game does feel a bit surreal but fortunately, we are offering an escape from the real world. The good news is that people pull together more often than going to a dark side—we are wired for social strength.
OnlySP: Wasteland 3‘s beta is due to release next week for some who backed the project on Fig. As Wasteland 3 is due to release in May, do you anticipate that the beta responses may change the game’s content or to fine-tune existing content?
Absolutely. We’re going to be very focused on feedback, as we were with the Alpha, to see what players think, how they’re playing, and adjust as necessary. Feedback and iteration are critical for us as developers.
OnlySP: Wasteland 3 boasts a revamped, intricate dialogue system influenced by Torment: Tides of Numenera whereby the dialogue options can react to the player’s choices and open up branches depending on skills that players have invested in. How does this system add to the replay value, and will the different narrative branches lead to multiple endings?
It’s a pretty critical component to the storytelling in this game. We have a much tighter and intersecting narrative than we would have been able to have before, and that’s thanks to the Obsidian guys and the dialogue tool they developed that we’re using for Wasteland 3. If you played The Outer Worlds then you’ll have seen how well it works.
OnlySP: inXile made a bold decision to branch away from its roots by basing the game in the snowscapes of Colorado instead of a dry and desolate location whilst also increasing the sense of isolation. How do you want players to feel as they journey across the environments? How likely will it be for a future Wasteland game to be set outside of America?
We want them to feel cold! It’s a bleak existence, but actually it also serves as a really nice juxtaposition when you finally get inside. You’ll be driving your Kodiak through a snowstorm, you’ll run your rangers over ice and through a blizzard, and then you come across an interior and the color palette changes, it’s warm and inviting, and it actually makes you feel cozy.
As far as future Wasteland games… we’re focused on getting this one finished!
OnlySP: Enemy combatants are aesthetically stunning, especially the gigantic, arthropod- and arachnid-inspired mechanised robots. What inspired the animation of the enemies and how the art design brings the world together?
The Scorpitron has been a defining enemy since the original Wasteland back in 1988, of course the design has evolved quite a bit. When we’re looking at a game that’s a split of deep RPG story and tactical turn-based combat, it’s important for characters you’re speaking with to look good (our first-person cinematic conversations help with that) but it’s also important on the combat side for enemies to be impressive, move and react in combat in interesting ways, and then (most importantly) die in some spectacular ways. We spend quite a bit of time on animating ‘gruesome’ deaths.
OnlySP: In 2018, inXile was acquired by Xbox Game Studios as a first-party studio specifically to make engrossing role-playing games. How has your studio benefited, and what challenges have you encountered as a first-party studio?
The benefits have been pretty drastic and immediate. A lot of what you’re seeing with Wasteland 3 is a direct result of additional resources and time. Our visual fidelity took a big jump up, we have a fully voiced game, our soundtrack is really incredible, and we’re taking advantage of the internal testing and user research labs to help improve things like controller support. Those are really just a few of the benefits that are directly improving this title already, and we’re looking forward to really taking advantage of the full Xbox experience in future titles.
OnlySP: Can you reveal any details about how long the campaign will be?
We set out with this game trying to be more focused, to keep some of the sprawl we had in Wasteland 2 in-check, but in true RPG fashion, we probably failed a bit. We’re estimating around 50 or 60 hours for the average player. Of course, there’s a lot more in there if you want to take your time and explore it all.