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Wasteland 2 Dev: More Tension Between Developers And Publishers Than You Would Believe

A lot of times publishers send out their PR spokesmen to patronize the gaming community; telling gamers they don’t understand the process of game development. That gamers just don’t understand the business aspects of getting a game out there.

Lead designer for the Kickstarter funded Wasteland 2 basically breaks down and explains that it’s not all peaches and roses between developers and publishers, and oftentimes gamers assumptions about the poor quality of a product being the publisher’s fault is correct.

Ripten has a very, very informative interview up with Brian Fargo, as he talks about the process of getting the game made, some of its features and most importantly, how no big publisher was willing to pick up the publishing rights and actually get the game made.

What’s more is that Fargo explains that the relationship between publishers and developers is no laughing matter…

There is more tension than you can believe. You would not believe the stories you hear about how developers are treated by publishers these days. It is abysmal….

When asked about why there is so little transparency on the matter, Fargo further explains that most devs just want to keep their jobs and spilling the beans on a big publisher is not the way to go about staying regularly employed in this multi-billion dollar industry…

“…they are afraid to talk, because they’ll never get another contract if they do. That’s why. You cannot believe… it’s awful. It’s really bad. You should try to dig in and get some stories out there. Look at the most recent one with those poor guys at Obsidian. They did Fallout: New Vegas, the ship date got moved up and, who does the QA on a project? The publisher is always in charge of QA.

“When a project goes out buggy, it’s not the developer. The developer never says, “I refuse to fix the bug,” or, “I don’t know how.” They never do that. It’s the publisher that does the QA, so if a product goes out buggy, it’s not the developer’s fault. So, (Fallout: New Vegas) goes out buggy and they didn’t do the QA, their ship date got moved up and they missed their metacritic rating by one point. Did they get a bonus? No. Do you think that’s fair? I tried to get some of my publisher friends, who I used to make a lot of money for, to donate. Do you think they donated? No. Their employees did.”

Oftentimes, savvy gamers are quick to point out that most big publishers are greedy. It’s a given. Most big publishers use the PR route of simply passing it off as if gamers don’t understand, but most people already understand that it’s all about investments and making money. But that’s not why hardcore gamers are hardcore gamers…we don’t care if a big business wants to go from an annual intake of $4.74 billion to $5.2 billion the following year; we care about whether or not the games are good, are long lasting and fun.

When asked if he would return to a big publisher if Wasteland 2 manages to become a critical success, Fargo simply stated that…

I don’t know why I would need to. Kickstarter and Steam allow me to bypass publishers and bypass retail. I think the world is going to go toward creative people carving out a direct relationship with their fans, and they are going to find a way to do business in their niche.

The interview also covers one other very important topic. The inflating cost of video game development. This has been a subject of contention for quite some time, but Fargo breaks it down by explaining that budgets for most games, under big publishers, can inflate anywhere between 25% and 35% due to mismanagement and over-spending, oftentimes in the areas of cinematics, voice acting and audio recording. He explains that…

“At least 25%. In some cases, 35%, because sometimes they insist on taking over functions like doing all the casting and audio recording, where they would spend way more than what we would, if it was our money. I mean, it is our money, because it’s advances, but they insist on taking it over. They can trump the cost up.”

The entire interview is great, and Ripten did a fantastic job of asking all the right questions. It definitely gives you something to think about and coincides a lot of what was covered in the Top Misconceptions about Gaming.

You can check out the entire interview with Wasteland 2’s Brian Fargo over at Ripten.

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