Brian Fargo rips into destructive publisher/developer relationships

Former Interplay boss sticks up for Obsidian over New Vegas bonus.

Interplay founder and Wasteland co-creator Brian Fargo has laid into the depressing state of the publisher model, offering some rare insight into the rough treatment many developers are allegedly subject to.

Speaking in an interview with Ripten, Fargo explained that word rarely gets out about how destructive the relationship between publisher and developer can be because those affected fear "they'll never get another contract" if they blow the whistle.

He then went on to highlight the recent controversy over Bethesda's refusal to pay developer Obsidian a bonus for Fallout: New Vegas as a prime example.

"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," he said.

"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, [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."

Elsewhere in the interview, Fargo discussed how having a publisher on board can greatly inflate the cost of making a game.

"At least [by] 25 per cent," he estimated.

"In some cases, 35 per cent, 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."

Fargo also recounted a few torrid tales of what he went through while trying to pitch a Wasteland sequel to outside publishers. He claims he took the idea to every major publisher, and was turned down by every single one.

There's a happy ending of course. Fargo recently took his sequel pitch to Kickstarter, successfully raising over $1.6 million from fan pledges.

For the rest of the interview with Brian Fargo, head over to Ripten.

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