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Is 18 months production cycle enough for Wasteland 2?

Monday, 23 July 2012

While the new Wasteland 2 in-game screenshot of pre-alpha stage graphics has raised controversy, some praising it while others saying it looks too bland lacking personal look, this controversy has also raised a discussion can Wasteland 2 be made in 18 months? The game has been in development since April 2012 with a budget of $3 million and is set to be out at October 2013 unless delayed

Or one should rather think can Wasteland 2 be made in 18 months to achieve everything that is expected from it, or even what it was promised to be. Most of us would like at least graphically personal look to the game with it's artistic style - in which case Fargo and the team has some work to do to make things look bit more tempting than in the early screenshot. I think it's decently nice but lacks something. It's not rather the issue that Unity wouldn't be good as a game engine, but does it fit as rpg game engine? Can they make Wasteland to look unique and interesting with it within the next 18 months? One may also wonder why didn't InXile decide to use a game engine previously discovered to be well fit for a role-playing game.

Why did they decide to use 3D engine for a short period of development time while 2D engine would had surely been faster to work with. Was the reason mass-appeal? Perhaps it was but I would argue that you can make high resolution 2D to look equally beautiful than what average 3D engine can offer, if not better. Just take a look at this fan made Wasteland art using 2D. I'd enjoy something like this equally if not more than what the actual official screenshot has to offer:

(2d fan art of Wasteland 2)

(3d official screenshot of pre-alpha stage Wasteland 2)

It's common understanding that full scale role playing games would take at least three years to produce while Fargo's team is aiming for a one and half years with some previously thought up and perhaps even written plans and ideas for the game but no actual previous production. This means they are starting actual production pretty much from the scratch. It sounds suspiciously short amount of development period for a large scale party based role playing game set to revive the genre. Think about the amount of quests, story, dialogue, choices, items, stats and skills. A sandbox style rpg requires huge amount of work.

18 months production time may, but hopefully does not, indicate that the first version of the game could be either stumbling with gameplay issues and bugs, or be solid on gameplay part of it but being dumped down on the actual role playing and interaction part of it. Hardcore fans awaiting for a great old school role playing experience probably wouldn't mind if the original release date of Oct 2013 was delayed at the cost of making the game better and bigger. That's something one can read from popular rpg purists forums such as Rpg Codex.

Few examples of game development cycle lengths include (approx.):

  • Fallout 1 - 3 years 6 months
  • The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall - 2 years and 3 months
  • Bard's Tale (2004 "remake") - 2 years

Bard's Tale (2004) was Fargo's previously designed game that was average action rpg, yet it took two years to produce. Fallout (where Fargo was also involved) took over three years to be made and it is one of the largest open-ended role playing games released until today if we don't look at it only at the point of land-mass and game area, but from the view point of in-depth story, dialogue, amount of choices, and amount of interaction. Could a bit similar Wasteland 2 be finished with similarly large scope of game world than original Fallout using only 42% of the development time than Fallout did?

Fargo did say that Fallout took a long time to make with the tools they had back then to make it and that tools they have for Wasteland 2 would be much quicker to work with. Also one thing to remember is that when comparing to the most classic games out there Wasteland 2 is crowd funded and so developers have free hands to work with the project without publisher interfering things up. Only thing that it needs is a strong leader with clear goals and skills to manage his team well. Fargo may well be the man but 18 months still sounds quite scary if you expect the game to be vast like Fallout or Baldur's Gate.

It is good to end up with a quote from Tim Cain (game producer, lead programmer and designer for Interplay and Troika Games) about production time required for few games that can make us wonder:

"With that said, the Vampire (the Masquerade: Bloodlines) had been under development for three years. While that's not a long time for a role-playing game - Fallout had taken three and a half years to develop... The original schedule for Temple (Of Elemental Evil) was 18 months, which was and is unthinkable for a full-featured role-playing game."

..and you may remember what Temple Of Elemental Evil's huge problems were after the release. Even patched up it was very unfinished with loads of major bugs and gameplay issues plaguing otherwise quality game.. you could say the same about Daggerfall which development cycle was earlier mentioned to be 2 years and 3 months being released as totally bug ridden.. (all rights reserved)


  1. I'm really having a hard time to read through your entire article because there are so many mistakes – did you go over this before posting it or is this just a very long brain fart?

  2. Hi. You'd better refer to a mistake (an example). That way your input would hold some value. Thanks.