The Outer Worlds Interview – How To Make Friends And Alienate Aliens

I was recently lucky enough to travel to Los Angeles for a hands-on preview of Obsidian and Private Division’s upcoming sci-fi RPG The Outer Worlds. While there, I also had the chance to sit down and chat briefly with the game’s lead designer, Charles Staples, about the game’s development. Head here if you’d like to check out my impressions of the game, and here to read more about the game’s Flaws system. Otherwise, read on and enjoy!

How are you? How’s everything going?

Good! Good. Things are going great.

The Outer Worlds – tell me about it. Give me the back-of-the-box pitch

So The Outer Worlds is a new sci-fi role playing game by Obsidian where you enter a new colony and you’re woken up by a scientist who is asking for your help, and you then get to explore the Halcyon colony and this new world (or worlds) where corporate entities are now the government and are running everything and there’s propaganda and all sorts of craziness going on. You get to explore this new world and decide to help and influence the world how you see fit.

So not that far removed from real life, just in a more futuristic setting

*laughs*

 How long has The Outer Worlds been in development for now?

Uh, probably about three years.

The first thing I noticed while playing really is the humour, I think that’s already standing out and I really like that kind of dark humour and that little bit of silliness that it’s got. Was that always a big part of the game or did that develop over time?

Oh no, that’s always been a big part of it. A lot of that dark humour comes from our co-game directors Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky. Tim is the silly, fun one who’s a big fan of Futurama and The Simpsons and all the fun stuff, and Leonard’s a bit more of the dark, morose one and how those guys mesh together and collaborate on this stuff is where we really get the dark humour. like ‘Yeah this is a joke, but if you look underneath the surface some things might not be right or funny about it’.

You can definitely feel that it’s those two guys, it feels like a throwback to the old-school Fallout days

Yeah and it’s really the secret sauce by Tim and Leonard. The game is just a big merging of those two.

Why this type of game and now? Was it ever a case of seeing the Fallout series sort of fall from grace a little and thinking ‘Hey, remember when Obsidian made Fallout New Vegas and tons of people loved it?’

Not so much. This was really something we’ve been looking at doing for a while now and this was a good opportunity where we had this idea and Private Division came along and this was a good time to collaborate on a game like this.

A lot of people are drawing comparisons to New Vegas though, is that something you’re inviting of?

A lot of us did work on New Vegas, I worked on it, so there’s a little bit of that you know, we have experience with that game and there are some similarities. But a lot of it is we really wanted to make a new role playing game that has a lot of the classic elements of being able to play the way that you want to and having the game react, being able to make choices and seeing the consequences of those choices, but still in a ‘modern’ style game.

As far as the player journey in the game goes, with all of these corporations and these factions, obviously you can side or cooperate with most of them. How much does that affect my character? Could I work with everyone if I wanted to or do some choices cancel out others?

So there are probably ways to try to befriend as many people as possible. There will be times where you’ll make a choice between one of two groups but there also might be (really difficult) ways to get them both on the same page. We try to make sure there’s a lot of options and depending on the way you play or your choices or your skills there should be ways to influence things differently.

And will all of that have a massive impact on the ending of the game? Are there multiple ‘big’ endings or is there more just one thing and then it runs through a list of like ‘Here’s what’s different about this’?

Yeah there’s kind of the ‘main’ ways that the game ends, but then we also have end slides that show little reactivity-based stuff with either characters you met or towns you went to and what happened to those guys based off of your decisions and who you sided with. So yeah the ending is a ‘Hey, here’s a big list of all the things that happened because of all of your choices’ and some of them will be some of your bigger choices and some of them will be some smaller choices along the way.

The companions, are they all recruited through missions or will you find some of the just at random in the world?

So yeah we push a few of them into your main path, but it is possible if you’re focussed on just doing what the quest objective tells you, you could probably miss one or two of them.

I saw it looked like you could reject the very first companion the game gives you and be like ‘Nah I’m good I’m gonna fly solo’

Yes you can, and you can fly solo if you’d like. Or if you just wanna see what happens and be like ‘I don’t wanna pick up this companion at all’ and see how it plays out that’s perfectly valid.

Can they die, like be killed permanently or can they leave the party for good if I do them wrong?

So based off of your decisions along the way they will talk to you like ‘Hey I don’t agree with what you’re doing right now and if you don’t change your ways I don’t think we can work together’. So there are definitely times where based off of what you’re doing they might come up to you and say ‘Hey, I’m gonna leave if you keep doing this’. And then also in the Supernova difficulty companions can die permanently in combat, so instead of them just getting wounded and getting back up at the end of combat they would be dead permanently and they’re gone, ‘Bye’.

Supernova is obviously the ultra-tough difficulty? Does that permadeath extend to the player as well?

We do restrict your saves a little bit more, and then there’s survival mode elements like thirst, hunger and fatigue that you’ll have to manage. So Supernova difficulty adds a few extra challenges for either experience players or players that are looking for that extra challenge.

One thing I noticed while playing is there’s a day/night cycle. Does that affect when things are available, is time ever a factor like that?

We didn’t do much of that for this game. Right now the time of day stuff is mostly just ambience. There might be a few changes here and there but nothing major.

The combat is obviously very shooter-y. For someone like me who’s terrible at shooters are there ways that I can make up for that skill gap with perks and such?

So time dilation is our way of trying to make shooters a little more accessible for people who are more into the RPG elements, and we do have a lot of perks that can improve your tactical time dilation. So there are ways to either increase the bar based off of what you’re doing, the time dilation itself and what you can do in it is pretty similar but pased off of the perks you can extend it or like, every time I get a kill it gives me more meter so it allows me to stay in it longer.

Could I not engage in combat for the entire game?

We have had people on our team complete a pacifist playthrough where they have not killed anything themselves. It’s pretty difficult though, if you can manage to do it.

Probably the coolest thing that I’ve seen in this game so far is the Flaws system. Where did that idea come from? Was that always in it from the beginning?

I think this was always an idea that Tim Cain has had for quite a while and goes back to Joseph Campbell had something like ‘It’s the flaws about a character that make them more interesting’, and trying to incorporate that along the way. So it’s something that he’s had in his brain for a while, and trying to make sure like ‘Okay, well we have character creation and you pick a character but how can we be evolving your character over the course of the game and allowing you to make decisions and having the game react and be like okay, well now that this has happened to your character – how does your character change now and what happens to them?’ A flawed hero is more interesting rather than becoming this like, uber god who’s impervious to everything.

How many unique flaws are there in the game roughly?

Oof, I don’t even have a number I mean we have flaws based off of damage types, or fears of certain types of enemies even things like fear of heights as well.

So a lot.

Yeah!

How many can a player character have at once. Can I be as flawed as I am in real life?

*laughs* Well that depends. So on Story difficulty and Normal difficulty you can take up to three flaws. On Hard difficulty you can take four, and on Supernova you can take five.

Are the Flaws any different in Supernova? Do they have increased effects or anything?

Same effects but it’s just with the increase in difficulty of Supernova and all the other additional challenges that it adds it might become a little bit more, like, one of the things is you can become addicted to drugs. So now you have to worry about ‘Okay, well now that I’m taking more damage I’m using more drugs so now am I gonna get addicted to those as well?’

In terms of the game world itself. Is it just Monarch like we saw today, or are there other worlds as well?

We have two main terraformed planets and then there’s other places that you can explore – space stations, asteroids, ships.

In your estimation or based on playtesting how long do you think that the game will take for an average playthrough?

Average playthrough? We’ve seen people get through it in between 20-30 hours, we’ve seen people rush through and get through it faster by doing a ‘kill everything’ playthrough. The game has a lot of depth to it but it’s a matter of how deep do you wanna dig? So we wanted to make sure that it was accessible enough that anyone could get into it and just enjoy the ride but if you really want to get into it and the lore and talking to every person and going through every dialogue you can spend a long period of time there. We put a lot of detail into the items, the item descriptions, the computer terminals and making sure all this lore is building an interesting and engaging world for people to play in.

Is there are New Game Plus or are there plans to add one in?

There’s no New Game Plus but the game is very replayable based off of all the decisions that you’ve made. I think right now Tim is on his 10th or 11th playthrough and he will still come over and be like ‘I just saw something that I’ve never seen in my nine other playthroughs, how did I not know about this?!’

Alright well that’s my time I think so thanks for talking to me and nice to meet you!

Thank you!

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