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J.E. Sawyer answers questions

Ausir April 8, 2010 User blog:Ausir

Over at formspring.me, Fallout: New Vegas lead designer J.E. Sawyer is answering various questions from fans, mostly general ones about game design. Here's some quotes.

How does it feel to know you/Obsidian are one of the few great game devs us cynical WRPG fans have left, and that we're all relying on the likes o' youse to maintain quality writing in video games? :)
I think it's sad, honestly. In my opinion, gamers set the bar very low for good writing.
From a design standpoint, what's your favorite game?
I think it's still the 1992 PC CRPG Darklands. That might seem narrowly-focused, but I love MicroProse for making an RPG that almost seemed like it was designed by non-RPGers -- like traditional conventions about how skills, leveling, races, classes, alignment, health, armor, etc. were "supposed" to work in RPGs really didn't matter. Being set in 15th century Holy Roman Empire didn't hurt, especially since they filled the game with so many details like canonical hours and Medieval currency.
Have you ever played the STALKER games, if so, what do you think of them? Somewhat related to New Vegas.
I only played a few hours of the original STALKER before my system died (for unrelated reasons... I think). I really want to play the newer games because I feel the series has a much different, and very interesting, take on a post-apocalyptic environments and gameplay than other PA games.
Is PC gaming dying? Merely taking a break before it's big comeback? Just fine as it is?
I think the PC market is definitely changing, mostly due to the rapidly rising ease of piracy in North American and European markets. There are some titles that do very well on PC, but I've seen some of the piracy figures for high-profile titles and they are depressing. Console piracy has been huge for over a decade in many Asian countries, but in North America and most of Europe, it's still far behind PC piracy. Publishers are trying a lot of different DRM schemes to combat it, but I honestly I think they need to take a step back and figure out a different profit model (and possibly a different high-level design aesthetic) if the want to focus solely on PC gaming.
As a Project Director and Lead Designer for RPGs, obviously you have to deal with games that are heavy in story and narrative, while not sacrificing gameplay. In current generation games, how relevant and important do you believe cutscenes are?
I think cutscenes are as relevant and important as developers and audiences make them. I believe that the library of top-selling games from the past few years shows that there's room for cutscene-heavy and cutscene-light game. Clearly Metal Gear Solid players don't mind cutscenes or they wouldn't keep buying games in the series. The Half-Life series is tremendously popular and it has scripted events, but virtually no "stop the gameplay" events.
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