Fallout: New Vegas dev on the benefits of licensed games

Obsidian co-founder Feargus Urquhart explains his studio's tendency to work in other people's worlds, and the headaches of original IP.

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Obsidian Entertainment has made a name for itself by making sequels to other studios' games. Its first two projects--2004's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and 2006's Neverwinter Nights II--were sequels to BioWare-developed role-playing games. The studio dabbled in original intellectual property with last year's espionage action game Alpha Protocol, but quickly followed that up with more licensed sequel work in the form of Fallout: New Vegas, Dungeon Siege III, and the yet-to-be-released game based on Robert Jordon's Wheel of Time novels.

Urquhart is a fan of playing others' worlds, even the postapocalyptic ones.
Urquhart is a fan of playing others' worlds, even the postapocalyptic ones.

In a presentation at the International Game Developers Association Leadership Forum yesterday, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart explained his affinity for working with licenses.

"I really like making licensed products," Urquhart said. "I really enjoy playing in other people's worlds. And that doesn't mean I don't ever want to make another original IP. I just think that in some cases, a lot of people in the industry think that original IP is the pinnacle achievement of your life and that you can only be creative if you're working in original IP. I can say that I've had the most fun in my career working on licensed products."

Urquhart later amended that statement to suggest his work on the original 1997 Fallout for Black Isle Studios was as enjoyable as his previous licensed work.

"The creativity on original IP is awesome," Urquhart continued. "You get to invent something. But there is no box. And because there is no box, all you get for a long period of time is a lot of people arguing about what the box is… We've learned that you have to have that person who gets the box, and through sheer force of will, force that box on everybody else. There has to be someone who comes in and says, 'No, this is the box. All of you need to shut up.' In my opinion."

As a result, Urquhart said that a lot of time is spent selling the original IP. That's not just a matter of selling it to publishers, who are likely skittish about the risks they're taking on unproven ideas, but also to the development team itself.

Going forward, Obsidian looks to be involved in both original and licensed game development. Earlier this year, Urquhart revealed that the studio is working on an original downloadable title for the Xbox 360, as well as another licensed project.

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