Chris Avellone Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Chris Avellone RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Owlcat Games has a Kickstarter for Pathfinder: Kingmaker! Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:41:31 -0400 Kevin S. Behan

Owlcat Games currently has a Kickstarter campaign up for Pathfinder: Kingmaker, an open-world RPG adaptation of perhaps the most popular and acclaimed of the Pathfinder tabletop RPG's adventure paths.

According to the game's Kickstarter page, players will embark on an adventure that include wars over land, kingdom building, and dangerous from both outside and inside your castle walls:

"In the north lies the Stolen Lands, a region that has been contested territory for centuries. Hundreds of kingdoms have risen and fallen in these lands, and now it is time for you to make your mark—by building your own kingdom! To do so, you’ll need to survive the harsh wilderness and the threat of rival nations… as well as threats within your own court."

The Kingmaker adventure path is a pre-written series of adventures for a Pathfinder party to experience. While some groups prefer to make up their own adventure, these 'adventure paths' are fully capable stories that take you through a huge amount of character progression, giving you wild plots and sometimes interesting mechanics. Kingmaker's claim to fame was letting the party of adventurers soon become rulers while still going on adventures dedicated to the protection and expansion of their people.

Perhaps one of the most exciting things about this project is that prolfic game designer Chris Avellone is working on it as a quest writer. Given his recent touches to the stories and characters of titles like Torment: Tides of Numenera and Pillars of Eternity, lots of fans are excited to see what he's able to bring to this new Pathfinder adventure. 

Speaking of characters, the Kickstarter page for Pathfinder: Kingmaker mentions numerous companions. It's unclear where these will be stat blocks with minimal background story, or if they're going to get the quasi-BioWare treatment so they're fleshed out with reactions to the world and personal stories to tell. Since this will be a single-player only game -- and there are no plans for that to change -- many fans are hoping that it will be the latter. 

Owlcat Games has promised that fans of Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons will see many of the mechanics that are central to those pen-and-paper RPG experiences. The developer wants to provide a considerable amount of mechanical variety in how players can build their characters. Fans of old-school RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Divinity: Original Sin should feel right at home in those mechanics, as well. 

The Kickstarter is still in progress, and is coming very close to achieving its' funding. The campaign official ends on July 11. So if you want to back the project, you'll need to do it in the next few weeks. 

If you're interested in other Pathfinder projects, then keep in mind that the RPG is getting a sci-fi spinoff called Starfinder as well. 

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more information about this campaign as it comes closer to its end and enters a full development phase!

Can Torment: Tides of Numenera Ever Be a Worthy Successor to Planescape: Torment? Fri, 13 Jan 2017 07:00:01 -0500 Rob Kershaw

Full disclosure to begin with: Planescape: Torment is my all-time favorite game. Invariably, it's also the one that when I'm asked by friends to name the title that tops my list receives blank looks and the occasional "huh?"

It's not surprising. The 1999 role-playing masterpiece (yes, I believe the superlative is absolutely warranted) bombed financially. Less than half a million units were shifted, despite it picking up a slew of accolades. Many gamers didn't know what to make of it, since it turned traditional role-playing on its head. Your character not only couldn't permanently die, but his death was necessary to advance the plot. The combat took a back seat to the story, and the text-heavy aspect of the game would certainly have put many off. The word count was over 800,000 or, to put it into perspective, just under twice as many words as A Storm of Swords, the biggest book in George R. R. Martin's epic series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Yet, Planescape: Torment developed something of a cult following in subsequent years. Players looked for something a bit more cerebral following Icewind Dale's dungeon-fest, and came back to Black Isle Studios' game to see what the fuss was about. Like me, the ones that understood what designers Chris Avellone and Colin McComb were trying to achieve made an effort to spread the word. To this day, I find myself taking every opportunity to promote this overlooked classic to anyone who will listen.

Despite its later success, I didn't think it would ever get a sequel. It was esoteric, massively involved, and far too financially unsuccessful to justify a return to the world of Sigil. But then Kickstarter happened. inXile Entertainment (including writer Colin McComb), were riding a wave of success off the back of Wasteland 2. A sequel to Planescape: Torment was pitched, and although the studio was unable to acquire the Planescape licence and Sigil was off the table they shifted the setting to Monte Cook's world of Numenera. A spiritual successor was born.

Can It Succeed?

Torment: Tides of Numenera took a mere six hours to fully fund on Kickstarter, and then broke records before hitting almost five times its monetary goal. Aside from two of the original designers, a staggering array of talent is on board, including many of the crew that worked on the first game. Much of the music is being handled by Planescape: Torment's Mark Morgan. And it's all headed up by Brian Fargo, who also oversaw a few games you may have heard of: The Bard's TaleFallout, Fallout 2 and Baldur's Gate.

So, on paper, the game has all the makings of an instant hit. Kickstarter removed publisher interference, and let the team ask the fans and let's face it, the game wouldn't exist without them what they most wanted to see in a sequel. The stretch goals speak for themselves.

But what looks good on paper might not manifest itself in the game that I want to play. If it is going to be a true successor, it's got to come out swinging. Every aspect has to click, each line of dialog has to contribute to the game world, and all of the playable characters need to be special.

What Can Change The Nature Of A Game?

In Planescape: Torment you played The Nameless One, an immortal who awakens on a mortuary slab. Each time you died, you returned to that slab to start over, but at the cost of another's life. Your entire quest was to discover what caused your immortality, and how to resolve it. The game threw philosophical questions at the player throughout their journey, and from a personal perspective it challenged me to think not only about the events that lead to The Nameless One's fate, but my actual life goals. There was some pretty deep philosophizing littered amongst the story choices, and given the new game is being marketed as a "philosophical role-playing game," there's plenty for me to be excited about.

In Torment: Tides of Numenera you will play the Last Castoff, one of the remaining avatars that was used and discarded by a man who acquired the ability to cheat death. By moving his consciousness to a new host, he became known as The Changing God, and moved through the ages. As he left each successive Castoff in search of a new body, a fresh consciousness imbued the shell he abandoned, resulting in dozens of Castoffs scattered across the lands. When The Changing God's bitter enemy the Angel of Entropy awakens with the intent of destroying him, you and the rest of the Castoffs are targets for the Angel's wrath.

It's intriguing, but the immortal body-hopping narrative draws from a number of tropes that have been around for decades. What is more important is how these tropes are used, and it's here that Tides of Numenera could stamp its claim as a worthy follow-up. The titular Tides refer to concepts such as Justice, Passion, Insight and Fame, all of which could be skewed towards either good or evil.

The focus this time around is the impact that you have on the game. Your interactions with the denizens of the world will dictate the path your character takes. For instance, Insight may mean being able to recognize how to help someone, but refusing to do so and pleading ignorance. Justice could refer to holding someone to account lawfully, or wreaking your own type of vengeance upon them.

Alongside the Tides are the relics known as the Numenera, left behind by ancient beings. These are what allowed The Changing God to continue living beyond his time, and they are scattered throughout the world. They can be used for good or ill, but regardless of how they are utilized, every action will count towards your legacy.

This is perhaps the most exciting prospect of the game for me. Planescape: Torment offered a host of individual stories, but you were ultimately headed towards a fixed goal -- discovering your true nature. Tides of Numenera is being released under the guidance of people with collective decades of experience in writing, let alone story-branching. If the scope of the potential choices and outcomes is to be believed, then the replayability factor is going to be off the chart.

What Does One Character Matter?

I was spoiled by Planescape: Torment, to the point where playable companions in recent RPGs have simply not measured up. Don't misunderstand me, I loved Pillars of Eternity. But almost two years on I'm struggling to recall a single party character, other than that shouty guy with a staff who liked setting things on fire. Tyranny's cast were even less memorable.

Yet, two decades later after only two playthroughs of Planescape: Torment I can still recall Morte, Fall-From-Grace, Annah, Ignus... The reason? They were not only interesting but well writtenMorte was a sleazy floating skull who could literally swear people to death. Ignus was a levitating man made from fire. Fall-From-Grace was an emotion succubus. All of them had their motivations and arcs. All of them left their mark on me.

Will Tides of Numenera do the same? Possibly. The line-up includes an oracle who speaks through the vessel of a broken-minded man, a priest who can attack people with living tattoos, and a multi-dimensional magician, trapped in time. All of them will need something from you... and all of them can be used for your own selfish ends if you wish. If their personalities are imbued with the same attention to detail as that of their predecessors, then we could be looking at something very special.

"No Wonder My Back Hurts; There's A Damn Novel Written On It"

I enjoy reading, which is just as well since Tides of Numenera's word count is going to trump Planescape: Torment by over 200,000 words. Yep, it looks like there will be over a million words of text crammed into the game. Given the density of the first game's prose is one of the reasons for its underachievement in the market, is an even bigger game likely to impact sales?

You have to factor in a couple of points when considering this.

Firstly, no-one was expecting Planescape: Torment. It came out of left field, dazzled us with its reams of text (some may consider it "verbiage", I call it "world building"), perplexed traditional RPG gamers with its comparatively light focus on combat, then disappeared. This time around, we know exactly what to expect. In fact, fans have demanded more. Kickstarter means that there's no publisher interference, and the team can work to deliver the game that they not only know fans want, but which they themselves want to play. The story and the characters are the key to that process.

Secondly, you won't be exposed to a million words of text on your playthrough. It's unlikely you'll ever read everything that's been written for the game. Conversational branches are so packed with choices, responses and outcomes that it would likely require you to go through the game hundreds of times, trying out every conceivable party configuration, attempting every possible iteration of any given quest, and keeping track of each individual result. There's a reason that the development team had to lock down individual areas in the game, and create a monumental piece of dialogue-tracking software to keep on top of it all.

"Sense Of Closure Imminent"

Like many gamers, I had my doubts about Tides of Numenera. Some still linger. Have the team tried to cram so many ideas into the game to make Something Meaningful that it comes at the cost of the overall product? Will the mooted area lockdowns which Colin McComb has discussed give the game more of a staccato feel? How will the combat work? Most importantly, will the endings not only truly reflect the choices you make, but be as equally meaningful?

These question won't truly be answered for another few weeks, but the more gameplay videos inXile release, the more confident I am that Tides of Numenera is going to be a success. The locales look otherworldly and beautiful; their inhabitants are bizarre and unique. It's taken 18 years, but I'm quietly optimistic that there may finally be the possibility of playing the successor I've been hoping for.

Do you think Torment: Tides of Numenera will be a worthy successor to Planescape: Torment? Are you excited for its release, or do you think it'll never meet expectations? Let me know in the comments!

Divinity: Original Sin 2 getting dedicated mods, Chris Avellone joins team Sat, 26 Sep 2015 04:23:37 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Divinity: Original Sin was an absolutely amazing game.. so shouldn't the sequel be even better?

The Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter is about to reach the end of its funding period on September 30th, and donations are still going strong. Just today it's reached its $1,650,000 milestone, guaranteeing the game will come with dedicated mod support for players who want to take their game further.

The above news is pretty good, but Divinity fans got an even bigger surprise today: Ex-Obsidian writer and developer Chris Avellone has joined the project to help develop and write one of the game's origin stories.

Chris Avellone is a big name in the traditional computer RPG space, and he has been involved in some of the best-loved games of the genre. Avellone had a hand in developing the Icewind Dale series, Planescape: Torment, Fallout: New Vegas, and most recently Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity. And this is only a short list of his attributed titles.

It's less than a week until Divinity: Original Sin 2's Kickstarter comes to a close, and it's less than $350,000 away from the coveted Game Master Mode. With a little luck (and $350,000), we'll get what would be the ultimate sought-after mode for a traditional computer RPG. Will it make it? Throw some money at it and let's hope so.

Obsidian: The Gamer's Marmite Fri, 10 May 2013 17:37:18 -0400 Lloyd Gyan

The mere mention of Obsidian Entertainment will spark a wave of controversy in any group of gamers. Praises as pure as the sun will rain from some, sharp prickles of disappointment from others. Since its creation, Obsidian has always been the underdog of the gaming industry that could do no wrong in your eyes one day, and should burn in a bitter hell the next.

But by whatever god you believe in, when they do something right, they really do it right.

Alright folks, history lesson time. Back in the early 2000s, a rather successful company called Black Isle closed its shops forever (well, ‘ish’, there is a revival coming up--haven’t you heard?). It had left many a fabled beauty behind in its wake - Fallout 2, both Baldur’s Gate games (in conjunction with Bioware of course) and, their greatest achievement, Planescape Torment.

It was sad to see them go, and even sadder to see their writing staff without a game to work on. So when Chris Avellone announced that he was going to be forming a new company called Obsidian Entertainment, the gaming world rejoiced. It was a miracle! The games the company would make could only be rated incredible, as they had such a strong and incredible track record.


...That’s where the problems started.

Their first game was the sequel to KOTOR - Knights of the the Old Republic 2, The Sith Lords. The tale of the first game was nothing compared to the plot line, the characterisation, the conversations, the options. Everything was good.

The game also shipped far too early and was littered with terrible bugs all the way through. It marred what would have been a fantastic release, and was a promise of things to come.

They announced they were going to do yet another sequel of a Bioware game - Neverwinter Nights 2. Once again, the plot of the game and its additional expansion packs were beyond compare. The dialogue felt real, and conversations worked out. It was also the second game that players could build their own persistent online worlds to roleplay in. It looked pretty in all the right places.

It played like a falling ton of bricks, and also managed to single-handedly kill the persistent world market all by itself.

For a long, long time, Obsidian was doomed to this fact. They had started with well established games and made sequels out of them, but they just couldn’t get them to not... Well.. Suck. They needed to try something different. Something special. Something incredible that was their own.

They needed to release their own game.

In 2010, the world (and by the world, I mean everyone on Steam) was treated to Alpha Protocol, the world’s first (and currently only) Espionage RPG. It boasted a deep and and intriguing storyline with multiple paths and options that would dramatically change how your game played through. It told of how your style of gaming did not matter, as long as you had fun with it and stuck with a style that worked for you. It showed that games did not have to be linear or restrictive in what the player can do, and that letting them have a bit more than just choosing a good or bad option is not how to write a conflicting storyline.

It told the world that Obsidian Entertainment could write the living daylights out of of a plot.

It also told the world that Obsidian Entertainment could not program a game.

I am not going to lie to you people. Alpha Protocol is easily the greatest game ever created. Take every single mass effect game and its branching storylines and interesting lore. Hell, take every single plotline Bioware has ever done that you have enjoyed. Add them all together with a touch of salt, and maybe even decent dialogue.

Your result will be beaten within one hour of playing Alpha Protocol.

Obsidian would have had a goldmine had the game not been riddled with bugs. Characters would randomly disappear during a mission, including vital ones you needed to progress. The mini-games would randomly stop loading, forcing you to have to use one of your expendables to get it to work. I once had a fantastic glitch where the menu buttons on the starting screen made fighting noises when I selected them. The game play itself wasn’t as strong, and could be cheesed quite easily if you knew how.

But then again, this is the only game I know where you could instakill the hardest boss in the game by talking about conspiracy theories with some dude in Taiwan.

Tell me that isn't awesome.

Sales of Alpha protocol were not as high as hoped, sadly, and the game does not seem to be working its way to a sequel. It would be glorious if it did, but sometimes, the world does not work the way you wish it to. As was the case for Obsidian Entertainment.

They were undaunted though, because there were games to be made, plots to write, and Bethesda had given them a call to tell them they had a new license to play with.

Fallout New Vegas also came out in 2010, a sequel to Fallout 3. This was the golden dream of any gamer - the game was mostly already made: its was the same engine as Fallout 3 without too many changes. True, it still had bugs, but they weren’t Obsidian Level Bugs. All they had to do is use it, design the plot, and it’s an instant winning formula. It worked...

...To an extent.

Fallout New Vegas can best be described as ‘Like Fallout 3... but good’. A game designed to simply walk up to the player after the initial phase of the game and go ‘here are six different choices of how things can go. Feel free to pick anyone you like. Or say screw the lot and rule this land yourself. Doesn’t matter either way, it’s going to be a ride’.

There has yet to be a game that has stifled you for choice as well as New Vegas. Practically every action you take has a consequence down the line, and by choice--it is not always just a simple good vs. evil choice either. Options upon options are piled on top of each other suffocating you until you break free by climbing to the top and declaring that you are no gutter trash, that you are a man of your own right and if your own right told you that the Enclave were the most hip thing since The Great Gatsby then you go get yourself buried deep in that bosom until you scream for air.

And yet, it just wasn’t good enough for Bethesda: Obsidian had a chance to make a bonus on the game, if they got their Metacritic score above 85%. They got as far as 84% on the PC. It hurt. A lot. Like a sledgehammer to the face for doing something you thought would please him, which hurts. It really hurts.

The controversy formed from such a venture may have hurt Obsidian more than they realised. After Fallout New Vegas, they went back to doing sequels again, releasing Dungeon Siege 3. A game that boasted of having a co-op mode, that was so terribly designed fans attempted a petition to get the words Co-Op removed from its Steam page. Plot was pretty alright though.

Things would have probably continued that way and we may have had them working on the new version of Thief, had Kickstarter not gotten in the way.

So, as the world is beginning to find out, Kickstarter is a way to go for crowdsourcing your hobbies. Be it making a video, writing a tabletop game, or a video game that normal publishers just won’t do for some crazy reason. Like, say, oh I don’t know, that your lead character is a girl.

Obsidian jumped on the bandwagon when Double Fine started up funding for their own, and it worked! Wasteland 2 is looking fantastic, mostly because Obsidian’s Chris Avellone is only writing the plot, and Obsidian has nothing to do with the programming. Project Eternity had a fantastic Kickstarter, and already players are salivating over the screenshots that have been released. And let’s not even talk about the monster that will be Torrent: Planes of Numeria when it comes out.

Of course, Project Eternity is the only thing that will actually be produced by Obsidian Entertainment, so that will be what the fans will be hoping to support, keep it going.

The future is even brighter, now that there is an official release that for South Park: The Stick of Truth, which sounds almost about as absurd as it did writing this down. But it is true - Obsidian is going to release a South Park Game this year. It’s going to be brilliant.

Obsidian Entertainment has seen a lot of ups and downs in its time. Gamers are always two ways about it. It’s run by some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, and will never cease to stop releasing incredible games. It’s only real fault has been funding and release times - something we are hoping Kickstarter and Project Eternity will put a stop to.


A lot lies on the release of that game: As a crowd sourced creation, the world will be watching to see just how good such a venture can be (I’m looking at you Banner Factions Saga), and where a company could go from here. It would be exactly the same as with New Vegas, metacritic scores and game sales may easily make or break Obsidian forever. Will they actually managed to release the next Baldur’s Gate and take a Bioware-Esque step into becoming a household name? Or will they have to be bought by a gaming company by EA just to keep themselves going?

I love you Obsidian, and I hope you never change.


Obsidian looking to make a new Star Wars RPG! Fri, 08 Feb 2013 15:44:37 -0500 Jeremy

Big news today, as it's been let out that Obsidian, makers of games like KOTOR 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and the Baldur's Gate series, is looking to make a new Star Wars RPG. Obsdian CEO Feargus Urquhart (cool name, huh?) spoke with RockPaperShotgun to say that he has been lobbying for the rights to make a new star wars game, since before the mergery with Disney.

Could we finally be getting KOTOR 3?

Sadly, no. Both Feargus, and writer/designer Chris Avellone have stated that they don't want to make another Old Republic game, citing poor sales. Instead, Chris wants to make the setting between episodes III and IV, having the story be about the hunt of the Jedi galaxy wide, and the Emperor's rise to power. Admittedly cool.

Personally, I think this sounds like a great setting for the game, and may lead to some interesting locales and situations. I've always wanted a game akin to Dark Forces and Jedi Academy series, where Force Powers and Lightsabers are only half of the game. Playing a squad of clone troopers hunting down the Jedi, or an Agent of the New Empire, employing stealth and assassination tactics to bring down his prey would be a breath of fresh air, in an setting already flooded with games playing as the powerful Jedi.