Brian Fargo bemoans publisher influence

Wasteland creator Brian Fargo has hit out at the influence publishers wield over the development process, describing the way creators are treated as "abysmal."

Speaking to Ripten following his successful bid to fund a sequel to Wasteland, a top-down, post-apocalyptic RPG first released in 1988, on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, Fargo used Fallout: New Vegas as an example of how publishers can ruin a project.

Developer Obsidian recently revealed that it missed out on a bonus payment the publisher had promised if New Vegas reached an average score of 85 on review aggregation site Metacritic – a target it missed by a single point.

"It's awful. It's really bad," Fargo said. "Look at 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… They missed their Metacritic rating by one point. Did they get a bonus? No."

Fargo goes on to claim that publisher involvement can push up a project's budget by "at least 25 per cent. In some cases, 35 per cent, because sometimes they insist on taking over functions… where they would spend more than what we would, if it was our money.

"There is so much that the publishers do that the developers get negatively affected by. As a developer, it's frustrating."

Happily for Fargo, Wasteland 2 has been entirely funded by gamers, more than 32,000 of whom have pledged a current total of over $1.6 million. This, it appears, has been an eye-opener for Fargo, who says Kickstarter is just one of several routes to market that enable developers to sidestep the once-necessary evil of a publishing contract.

"I don't know why I would need to [work with a publisher again]," he said. "Kickstarter and Steam allow me to bypass publishers and bypass retail. I think the world is going to go toward creative people carving out a direct relationship with their fans, and they are going to find a way to do business in their niche."

Fargo initially sought $900,000 in funding for Wasteland 2; the estimated budget was an even million, and he was prepared to kick in the remaining $100,000 himself. With that target long since passed, the game will now be released for Mac and Linux as well as PC.