At the University of California Riverside Roby Atadero the Senior Programmer at Obsidian Entertainment gave a talk on the gaming industry to undergrad students. Similar to past talks shared on TICGN, Atadero offers advice to those wanting to join the gaming industry as well as his personal background.
A lot of hype has been generating around Obsidian Entertainment these last few weeks. The rumor that the studio was being acquired by Microsoft turned out to be true. Coming straight from the recent news, Roby Atadero Senior Programmer at Obsidian Entertainment offered UCR students mentorship on joining the game industry. With his experience as a member of the interview panel at Obsidian, Atadero offers one of the more direct sources of advice in the Southern California area.
According to Roby Atadero, Obsidian’s history began with a group of ex-Interplay employees. For those unaware Interplay was the original creator of the now hugely successful Fallout series. Black Isle studios a division within Interplay would be closed down for financial reasons and be reborn as the independent company Obsidian Entertainment. Interplay founder Brian Fargo would also leave and go on to create InExile Entertainment. The name was a joke, a self-reference in which Fargo would feel as though he was the leader in exile. Perhaps it was fate that both Obsidian and InExile would both join forces now that Microsoft declared they were acquiring both companies at XO 2018.
Throughout its fifteen years of independence Obsidian was able to create several notable games in the Role Playing Genre. Throughout its tenure Obsidian crafted unique tales with games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout New Vegas, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Atadero explains that the reasoning behind the constant output of RPGs is because the founders of Obsidian have a huge background in Dungeons and Dragons. Of course there are a few outliers like Alpha Protocol but the RPG influence can be seen even in that game.
Speaking on South Park, Atadero reveals one of the more humorous mistakes the team at Obsidian faced was censorship. Having worked on the game South Park The Stick of Truth it was common for the team to push the humor to the very edge in the same way only South Park could. Like its television counterpart, the video game would also face its own scrutiny. The issue came with Germany and its strict censorship of Nazi imagery. In Germany, the game would need to be censored for its use of the Swastika. The Nazi symbol was rampant in the game thus removing it became a top priority. Unfortunately for the team a single Swastika was found and the discs for the video game would need to be reprinted. Although the game had its issues, South Park: The Stick of Truth would become a favorite among gamers, the RPG studio would have a hit once again and Atadero his first taste of being in the games industry.
It’s that RPG specialty that would attract Microsoft in sealing the deal. In a Q&A session I was able to ask Atadero what the reaction was to Microsoft’s plan to acquire the studio. Sure Xbox fans felt excited around the internet but did the employees feel the same way? Atadero shared that he was generally happy about the acquisition but there was some uncertainty among his coworkers. Atadero shares that some employees even came up to him wondering if they were at risk of being fired. Atadero recalls that it often happens in the industry that once acquired major changes take place but this wasn’t the same deal.
Microsoft had come to Obsidian because they had a gap in content when it came to RPG’s. In order to provide original RPG’s they came for the best in Southern California. Xbox Game Pass had only been in effect for a year yet it already started shaping how Microsoft operated, how it saw gaming content as a whole.
New Game, New Tech
Before the acquisition Obsidian would develop games using their in-house built Onyx Engine. The team would also move on to use Unity for Pillars of Eternity and now have begun work on a new unannounced project using Unreal Engine 4. Atadero did not divulge anything deeper on the topic but did mention that the change in engines came from emerging power from engines like Unity and Unreal.
Obsidian looks to push towards creating original RPG’s without the need to scrounge for publisher support.