Talking to Megan Starks, the Senior Narrative Designer behind Outer Worlds, to pick her brain about the upcoming game and what players can expect when they jump in.
It’s almost a guarantee that if you asked ten random players what their favourite iteration of the Fallout franchise was, 9/10 would say Fallout: New Vegas. That’s due to the amazing writing and branching narratives, not to mention hilarious dialogue and actually interesting characters, that come with any game developed by Obsidian Games.
Their upcoming RPG, The Outer Worlds, was shown in a closed-doors demo at E3, and those of you who have been craving an experience reminiscent of New Vegas, but free of the trappings of post-apocalyptic Earth with its varying shades of brown and grey and chock full of bright colours and beautiful alien biomes, are in for a treat. We were lucky enough to snag a sit-down with Megan Starks, the Senior Narrative Designer behind Outer Worlds, to pick her brain about the upcoming game and what players can expect when it you jump into this new, rich open-world experience.
CG Magazine: You guys are known for having deep narrative experiences in your games. What have you done with Outer Worlds to innovate on that while also keeping things familiar for long-time fans of your games?
Megan Starks: I think we have built up a pretty good legacy of what players expect out of an Obsidian RPG and we are trying to provide on that promise, but at the same, with every game that we make, we’re learning new tips and tricks and expanding on it. I started three games ago with the company and each one we develop little twists on the systems and we get better at providing more player choices, more ways that you can go through the game. With Outer Worlds specifically we knew we wanted to provide options, whether you want to go through and area using stealth, direct combat, using dialogue skills, or if you want to do the leadership path where you focus primarily on your companions, you make them more effective in combat and they also bring skills to the table that help you progress through the game.
On the highest level, you have your overarching story, who do you want to side with? This scientist wakes you up after you mysteriously disappeared in space 70 years ago, and he wakes you up and has an agenda where he wants to save the system. Or, you can side with the Board and move up through the ranks and reinforce what they’ve already established, or you can kind of double-cross both and go your own route. Underneath that, you can go to a different world and see a different company town where there are regional storylines and factions that are competing there and you can choose how you want to affect that area or world. Underneath that, every time you talk to a character in the game or you’re doing a quest, we’re always trying to provide points in the dialogue or the content…what interests you, how are you roleplaying, what do you find fun, and we’re tracking that and trying to have the game react to that based on your decisions.
CG Magazine: What can you tell me about the perks and skills in Outer Worlds?
MS: As you go through the game, you start off with points you can allocate based on what kind of character you want to make, and as you go through the game, when you do quests or kill things you get general experience that allows you to level up, and when you level up you can spend your perk points to gain additional abilities, or stat changes. We’re also tracking how you level up your skills individually, like if you lie a lot you can gain experience in lying. What you’re doing in the game is what you can specialize in. There is also the option to re-spec if you don’t like the way your character is going. You’ll have your perk tree, but as you’re going the game and experiencing different scenarios…for example I ran over a bunch of mines instead of shooting them, and I was offered a permanent concussion flaw. You don’t have to take the flaws on normal modes, but if you’re playing on the hardest difficulty you must accept the flaw. For the most part its optional, for instance if you’re taking lots of damage from robots you can take a flaw that gives you some negative status effects from them but if you do choose to take the flaw you get an instant perk point.
CG Magazine: Will the humour of previous games be on display in Outer Worlds?
MS: I think that’s a big selling point and a huge draw that makes the game really unique from other intellectual properties. When you come on to a project like this there are several different “touchstones”, where they want to make sure everybody gets the idea of the vision we’re trying to do. When I came on they told me to watch the movie Brazil, which is so weird but also cool, and also stuff like Futurama which I love, and when we were doing a lot of the voice recording for the dialogue Leonard (Boyarsky) said he wanted to have that Cohen Bros. style of humour so you get a really good mix. Leonard is also more on the darker philosophical side, and Tim (Cain) is much more upbeat and Futurama style, so when they blend together it’s nice because the game never gets so dark it’s depressing, we always have those entertaining moments. There’s definitely serious moments and weight to it, especially the decisions that you make have consequences on the world and we’re also trying to tell a large-scale, high-stakes story. Not just a single planet but an entire colony system is at stake.
CG Magazine: Thanks so much Megan, is there anything else you’d like to add?
MS: It’s just been so much fun to work on and I think the energy on the team has been really good because any time you get a group of people together who are like really passionate about what they’re making, and we’re creating the type of stuff we like to consume. I think it’s cool that people come by and they’re like, “wouldn’t it be cool if we did this,” and I’m like, “yes make it happen.” I hope that comes through when the game is out and that people enjoy it.
You can read the full interview in CGMagazine issue #38, avalable on News Stands and digitally everywhere.