It’s been a long journey for inXile Entertainment since it put Wasteland 2 up for crowd-funding all those years ago. No one really expected the enthusiasm that the Kickstarter would eventually receive, due in part to the old-school nature of the gameplay, but Wasteland 2 amassed over $2.9 million in funding when it was all said and done. Along with peers like Broken Age, Shadowrun Returns and Pillars of Eternity, it stands as a shining example of crowd-funded game development.
This year, inXile will be setting a new goal for Wasteland 2 as it not only brings the RPG to Xbox One and PS4 but completely remasters the game’s visuals using Unity 5. GamingBolt spoke to project lead Chris Keenan and lead engineer Dan Jenkins about the game’s release on Xbox One and PS4, the transition to Unity 5, other upcoming content and much more.
"Our decision to work on console versions of Wasteland doesn’t affect Torment development. Prior to Wasteland’s release, we had a team of dev’s focusing on pre-production. Once we released, most of the team moved over under Kevin Saunders’ leadership to work on implementation of the Torment design."
Rashid K. Sayed: Wasteland 2 has been a tremendous success for inXile, generating $1.5 million in the first four days. How does it feel to see such a great reception to an old-school style RPG?
Chris Keenan: It was both amazing and brings a great sense of relief. We knew from day one that our backers had very high expectations for the game. While this added a huge amount of pressure throughout development, it also kept us on our toes in a good way. It’s very inspiring (and terrifying) when you have 70,000+ passionate people pushing you to deliver.
Rashid K. Sayed: With all the tactics, isometric perspective and up to seven different characters to direct, how will you go about translating that control scheme to consoles?
Chris Keenan: It’s certainly not a simple port. We can’t just check the “Xbox One” button in the Unity engine and ship it. We’re evaluating each gameplay system on its own in relation to how it would operate with a controller instead of keyboard and mouse. This means that we’re having to modify many of the underlying systems to support controller input. Most of the UI is being revamped to create a seamless transition.
Rashid K. Sayed: Wasteland 2 will be moving to Unity 5 in the coming months and this will add new graphical features like physically based shading. Can we expect to see these graphical improvements on the PS4 and Xbox One as well?
Chris Keenan: Yes. All versions of the GOTY edition will have the graphical and gameplay upgrades. We’ve been going back over each scene in the game and improving the assets as well. For example, the humanoid character models are being completely redone and are looking much better. Along with the PBR changes, we’re refining the base models and materials in each level. Overall, it’s looking really good!
Rashid K. Sayed: What other changes will be introduced to Wasteland 2 in the coming months and will they arrive earlier than or coincide with the console releases?
Chris Keenan: We’ll have more info on that in the coming months.
Rashid K. Sayed: The PC market has been very enthusiastic towards Wasteland 2 but how do you feel it will translate to consoles, especially given the old-school nature of the game? Do you feel there’s a strong enough audience for it?
Chris Keenan: I certainly hope so! We’ve had a huge outpouring of requests to bring the game to Xbox One and PS4 so hopefully that translates into a large demand for this type of game. We know how important it is to get the controls right and if we do that, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t translate beautifully to consoles. We look at games like Xcom: Enemy Unknown that have a top down camera and a focus on turn-based combat for inspiration. I felt like that played great on Xbox 360 and PC alike.
"We’ve been going back over each scene in the game and improving the assets as well. For example, the humanoid character models are being completely redone and are looking much better. Along with the PBR changes, we’re refining the base models and materials in each level."
Rashid K. Sayed: How has inXile changed since its beginning especially to deal with development on current gen consoles?
Chris Keenan: InXile has had a long history prior to Wasteland 2. Brian Fargo has done an awesome job at the helm, navigating us through the downswings. I think now, we’re absolutely loving the freedom and independence that crowdfunding has brought to the studio and being in a position to make games that our fans are asking for. We get to work directly with them on the type of RPGs that we like to make and play. Many of our developers have been here for years and have worked on just about every gaming platform imaginable.
Rashid K. Sayed: Will Wasteland 2 see any major content expansions like Shadowrun did with Dragonfall (and its Director’s Cut)?
Chris Keenan: We don’t have any content expansions planned for the immediate future, but who knows what comes next. InXile is still a fairly small studio (comparatively) so we try to only focus on a few things at a time. Moreover, Brian is very cautious against doing a hiring binge and piling manpower into projects, only to have to lay off those same people when the projects are over.
Rashid K. Sayed: With Wasteland 2 arriving on the PS4 and Xbox One, what will be the fate of projects like Torment: Tides of Numenara? Can we expect to see such games release on the same day for Xbox One and PS4 as PC or will the decision for console releases operate on a case-by-case basis?
Chris Keenan: Our decision to work on console versions of Wasteland doesn’t affect Torment development. Prior to Wasteland’s release, we had a team of dev’s focusing on pre-production. Once we released, most of the team moved over under Kevin Saunders’ leadership to work on implementation of the Torment design. As far as a console release of Torment, we don’t have any plans for it. We have a duty to our backers to deliver exactly what they pledged for, which is a great Windows/Mac/Linux experience. Our primary focus is on getting the game right PC platforms, and no design considerations are made for consoles while we’re working on our PC focused games.
Rashid K. Sayed: What are your thoughts on developing for the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of the hardware itself? What advantages and disadvantages does it present compared to developing on the PC?
Chris Keenan: So far, it’s been great. I’m not sure we would be making a console version if we weren’t using a game engine that eases the process for us. Advantages would be that we know exactly what the hardware is for all console players. We don’t have to worry about compatibility problems or quality settings or bugs coming from various drivers not being updated. As for disadvantages, there tends to be more red tape on consoles. There are approval processes and technical requirements that you don’t have to worry about on PC.
Rashid K. Sayed: What is your take on the differences between the two consoles? Which one did you found easier and more powerful to develop for?
Chris Keenan: I think it’s a bit too early to say which one is easier to develop on. What I can say is that it feels like developing on the Xbox One and PS4 is much easier than on the previous generations. Part of it could be that the game was finished before we started, part could be that we’re using Unity, which handles much of the individual system issues.
"Wasteland 2 Game of the Year Edition will arrive on consoles in late summer. We will give an exact date when we’re a bit further along in development. One of the benefits of not having a publisher is we get to put the games out when we feel they’re ready!"
Rashid K. Sayed: Is Wasteland 2 going to run at 1080p and 60 frames per second on both the PS4 and Xbox One?
Chris Keenan: We’re a single-player, turn-based RPG, so our needs for performance are a bit different than other games, like multiplayer shooters. We are looking to strike the right balance in performance and looks for our style of game. We’re currently running at 1080p and don’t foresee any issues as development progresses.
Rashid K. Sayed: Did you face any issues while developing on the Xbox One? Specifically the eSRAM? It has been widely considered to be the reason behind the resolutiongate.
Chris Keenan: So far, we haven’t had any issues with Xbox One development in regards to the eSRAM or anything else for that matter.
Rashid K. Sayed: What does Inxile’s opinion on the DirectX 12? Do you think developers will widely adopt it on X1 and risk support fragmentation with PS4? I mean, there are 20 million PS4’s out there so do you think developers will pursue DX and take a calculated decision to not release to that user base?
Dan Jenkins: We rely on the game engines we’re using, like Unity, to take advantage of these features for us when we publish on different platforms. We don’t operate at a low enough level in the engine code to worry about specific API calls like this.
Rashid K. Sayed: When exactly can we expect to see the release of Wasteland 2 on Xbox One and PS4?
Chris Keenan: Wasteland 2 Game of the Year Edition will arrive on consoles in late summer. We will give an exact date when we’re a bit further along in development. One of the benefits of not having a publisher is we get to put the games out when we feel they’re ready!
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Chris Keenan: If you’re a fan of what we’re doing with Wasteland 2 or Torment: Tides of Numenera, keep an eye out for our crowdfunding campaign for The Bard’s Tale 4 in the near future!