Brian Fargo has offered a gloomy interpretation of the game developer-game publisher relationship in a candid interview with RipTen.
Fargo co-founded Interplay, the studio that created Fallout. Recently, he has successfully crowdsourced the development costs for a sequel to an earlier game he worked on, Wasteland. That post-apocalyptic RPG directly inspired the Fallout intellectual property, now owned by publisher Bethesda.
Seemingly emancipated from the need for publishers – and perhaps with no intention of ever working with one again – Fargo has taken Bethesda to task for its supposed treatment of Obsidian regarding Fallout: New Vegas bonuses.
Fargo was not involved in the development or publishing of Fallout: New Vegas. Interplay, his former company, has recently settled a protracted and somewhat vitriolic legal dispute with Bethesda over the right to develop a massively multiplayer game set in the Fallout universe. Most recently, Fargo worked at inXile on Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, a game that failed to capture the public’s imagination, also published by Bethesda.
Fargo generally described the relationship between developers and publishers as abysmal, adding that developers don’t speak out for fear they’ll never get another contract.
He then went on to use Obsidian, Bethesda and the bug-ridden launch of Fallout: New Vegas as an example: “The ship date got moved up and, who does the [Quality Assurance] 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, [Fallout: 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,” added Fargo. “Do you think they donated? No. Their employees did.”
You can read Fargo's full interview with RipTen here.