InXile's Chris Keenan talks Wasteland 2's Xbox One and PlayStation 4 debut

InXile Entertainment announced they would be bringing its critically-acclaimed PC RPG, Wasteland 2, to both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this summer in a special Game of the Year Edition. The game will feature a number of improvements to the PC version, including further squad customization options and the addition of Precision Strikes.

Seeing how PC players couldn’t stop talking about Wasteland 2, we thought we’d chat with InXile Entertainment project lead Chris Keenan about what makes the upcoming console release so special, what drove the studio to consider releasing it on consoles, and if PC owners of Wasteland 2 will receive any benefits from the its console release.

Shacknews: Wasteland 2 received much critical acclaim last year, even earning our #10 spot in Shacknews' Game of the Year awards. Was critical and fanatical response to the game the reason why inXile decided to bring the game to consoles?

Chris Keenan:  It certainly was a major reason why we chose to work on console versions.  After the game was released, we were consistently getting messages from people who had heard about the game and had friends playing it, but either don’t have a gaming PC or only play games on consoles.  Since the game was developed using the Unity engine, we decided to spend some time exploring what it would take to do a proper console version.  The engine handled much of the under the hood tech needs and we felt we could make some solid changes to the UI and controls to make a great experience.

SN: There's a strong possibility console gamers may not have heard of or played the original Wasteland. For those who may not have heard of Wasteland, or played Wasteland 2 on PC yet, how would you best describe the game?

CK: Wasteland 2 is a party-based, turn-based tactical RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world.  That’s the high-level one liner.  You play as a group of Desert Rangers, who are tasked with trying to keep order in the crazy Arizona and California desert.  The original Wasteland (created in 1988) was the game that spawned the Fallout series.  Our CEO, Brian Fargo created Wasteland and couldn’t get the rights back to make a sequel, so he instead made Fallout.

Wasteland 2 harkens back to the more choice and consequence, turn based nature of Fallout 1 and 2.  Our game world very heavily reacts to the choices that you make and changes your experience.  With over 80+ hours of gameplay, it’s almost statistically impossible for two players to have the same experience.  Within the first 30 minutes, you make a choice that can cut off a 2+ hour level. 

In Wasteland 2, we committed to the idea of the world changing around you.  Even to the point of you missing out on the second half of the game in California based on your choices.  As a ranger, you’re supposed to be following a set of loose laws set up by the rangers, but you don’t have to listen to the general along the way.  If you go rogue and start killing innocents, General Vargas will start to show his displeasure.  If it keeps happening and word gets back to Ranger Citadel, Vargas strips you of your ranger star and sends a hit squad after you.  Now in order to survive, you need to lay siege on Ranger Citadel.  This has its own proper ending just as if you finished the game in a “normal” way. 

SN: In your announcement, you said Wasteland 2 has been ported over to Unity 5 for the console version. What improvements should we expect from the game because of this?

CK: We’ve got a pretty nice list of new additions for the GOTY console version.  First off, Unity 5 allows us to use a new shader called Physically Based Rendering.  The short description is that it helps to simulate real world lighting situations better than the previous art pipelines.  In order to use it properly, we’re going back over all environments and adjusting the materials of the objects to work properly.  At the same time, we’re improving the meshes and textures so all scenes are getting a nice facelift.  We’re also redoing all humanoid character models in the game.  Combined, these two elements have a massive impact on the visual quality. 

As for gameplay systems, we’re adding a precision strike system (similar to aimed shots), quirks and perks, cleaning up enemy AI, additional crafting of each combat zone, visible armor and a UI overhaul to support controller inputs.  Adding all of this new content requires a full balance pass as well, so we’ve taken player feedback into consideration and will be making those adjustments along the way.  As you can see, it’s not simply a quick console port. 

SN: Will PC owners be able to receive the improvements you're making to the Game of the Year Edition of Wasteland 2? For example, the Perks and Quirks feature and Precision Strike?

CK:   Yes.  All new improvements will be in the GOTY PC version.  We’ll have more news in the future on what that means for those who already own a PC/Mac/Linux copy of the game.

SN: What kind of work are you putting behind improving the voiceovers?

CK: The plan is to add VO for all companion NPCs that journey with you in the world.  Right now, they’ll bark dialog text but most of them don’t have an actual voice.  Along with the CNPC’s, we’ve been going over the list of major characters in the game and working on casting for NPCs that we feel should have more of a voice.  As of right now, we’re at over 4000 new voiced lines and it’s still growing. 

SN: How does the PC point-and-click experience translate over to consoles?

CK:   The honest answer is it doesn’t without a good deal of work.  The thought of having to click around the world with a controller as you would with a mouse sounds absolutely horrible.  We’ve been working on creating console controls that give the best experience possible, which means making adjustments to many of the systems when on console.  As we look at each major gameplay element, we discuss what it would play like on a controller and if it doesn’t feel like a seamless transition, we modify it.

SN: Did you or have you run into any issues translating a game that's primarily interfaced with a mouse and keyboard to be used with a controller?

CK: Oh yeah.  While we were making the PC version, we only trying to make a great PC game.  There were no considerations for “if we put this on Xbox in a few years, this system won’t work”.  We were razor focused on delivering what we promised to our backers.  While that makes our job harder now, we have a very good design and engineering team looking at each of these issues and changing what needs to be changed.

Outside of UI modifications, some underlying systems like using a lockpick skill on a door needs to work differently.  In the PC version, you would click on the lockpick icon on your hotkey bar, then click on the door you want to pick.  We don’t have that option on console.  Now, you can bring up a radial menu of your skills while pushing the thumbstick in the direction of the door.  This highlights the object and assuming you’re close to it, activating that skill will unlock the door.  It feels very natural while using a controller. 

SN: Will the PC get controller friendly controls added in? (from Chatty member Horn)

CK:  Yes.  We’re adding an option you can check if you’re using a gamepad on your PC.  This will update the UI to use the more console focused systems as opposed to fumbling around the PC UI with your controller. 

SN: Considering all of the work that went into Wasteland 2 on PC, and now its console version, will it take another 16 years to get another sequel?

CK:  Hah!  16 years?  Wasteland 2 was 25 years after the original!  That’d put us at the year 2040.  What I can say is that if it’s going to take that long, the next interview will be with the new project lead at inXile as I’m pretty sure I’d be canned. 

SN: No questions, but as an original backer I'll say huge kudos once again. As an original Wasteland / Fallout 1&2 player, this game scratched an itch for me that Fallout 3/NV (both of which I enjoyed immensely) didn't. (from Chatty member jimmy-buffett)

CK:  I love that.  To me, it’s the best type of comment we can get from a backer of the game.  We set out to tap into the nostalgia of the original Fallout games so hearing that is as good as it gets!

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