Obsidian CEO Urquhart Fears Lack of Originality in Offline RPGs

BOOM widget 113892 Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart is worried that MMORPGs may be cutting into the traditional RPG market, urging that developers need to adapt to the changing dynamic by pushing offline games in new directions. In an interview with CVG, Urquhat emphasized the lack of substantial differences between the core gameplay in offline RPGs as compared to their online competitors. "For instance, it used to be fine to make an RPG that was just wandering around and hacking things up with the player having very little effect on the world around them. Why play that game now if you could just play an MMO?" Urquhart said.

As the former leader of Black Isle Studios, Urquhart is responsible for some of the most popular RPGs in history, credited with work on Planescape: Torment, the Baldur's Gate franchise, and the original titles in the recently revived Fallout series. Following the financial troubles at Interplay that lead to a brief shutdown of the publisher, Urquhart departed Black Isle in 2003 to form Obsidian Entertainment, which has seen the release of the RPG sequels Neverwinter Nights 2 and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.

Using the new campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2 as an example, Urquhart described his vision of how the single player experience can differentiate itself from that of an online, persistent world. "In Mask of the Betrayer, we can make the world react more to your personal decisions than any MMO could hope to. We can let you impact your companions and the game's NPCs--and the entire story outcome--in ways that MMOs cannot," he said. "Many RPGs, including some that I've made, allow the player to just stomp around and not really have to worry about the world that they are playing in. I think that really limits the feeling of you being in that world, which is what I certainly want when I'm playing a great RPG."

During this year's GDC, then-Firaxis designer Soren Johnson commented on the state of offline PC development, putting it into the context of piracy. "Game design on the PC is going to bend toward persistence," Johnson said, boiling it down to an issue of economics. "You can't pirate WoW. You cannot pirate an MMO. Period."

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