Why The Outer Worlds Won't Repeat the Mistakes of Past Over-Ambitious RPGs

Why The Outer Worlds Won't Repeat the Mistakes of Past Over-Ambitious RPGs

Obsidian wanted to avoid bloat and bugs with The Outer Worlds.

Open-world RPGs these days are often an exercise in excess. Many modern RPGs boast an abundance of features, and it can sometimes lead to bloat, or worse, overextension on the part of developers. Managing that excess to deliver a feature complete experience is a main driver for Obsidian Entertainment, the developers on The Outer Worlds. So much so that Obsidian's latest RPG has been fully playable even at the early stages of development.

In an interview with The Outer Worlds directors Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky at PAX East, Cain told USG, "I don't think we've ever had a game that was fully playable from start to finish so early in development." This made it easy to introduce new members of the development team to what was expected out of The Outer Worlds, because they could just play the outline of the whole game.

"[The Outer Worlds] has been going on for so long, has been playable for so long, when anyone new comes on the team, we have them play the game now. The game can stand on its own as an example of itself," said Cain. "So that's why it's been over a year, maybe a year and a half, since we've ever had to recommend something for someone to do to get an idea of what the game's like." The current build, essentially, speaks for itself.

Cain and Boyarsky know a thing or two about how overextending on the scope of a video game project can sometimes lead to less than ideal results. Both developers formed Troika Games where they developed the first Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. While Vampire became a cult classic, it was shipped in a buggy and unfinished state due to its ambitious scale and rushed release.

When we asked Cain about the experience, he said it really changed his outlook as a game developer. "I really pay more attention to scope control. [Vampire: The Masquerade] was much bigger than the team we had making it." Cain said if you don't catch stuff like bugs early the team will "let some things go for so long that eventually the game ships those bugs, and nobody wants that."

Boyarsky added, "It's just the working with what you have and really keeping the end in sight at all times. There was a lot of stuff that was out of our control but, like Tim's saying, there were things that we probably could have done, that we did have control over, that we didn't."

Cain recalled going to the The Outer Worlds' lead designer Charles Staples early in development and telling him, "Charlie, you have to be my editor. You're allowed to say no to me, and you have to do it a lot because I'm a bad person sometimes, and I want more things than I know I should put in." Because according to Cain, "I'll put everything in a game and the kitchen sink, so I think we've done a lot better at scope control on this game."

While everything we've seen so far about The Outer Worlds makes us believe it's a world we want to spend a lot of time in, Cain and Boyarsky are eager to create an experience that's first and foremost something we can finish. Hopefully in a bug-free state with features the devs truly care about.

We'll see how successful that is when The Outer Worlds comes out sometime in 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store. Stay tuned for our full interview with Cain and Boyarsky from PAX East, and check out our Outer Worlds guide for more coverage.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Matt Kim

News Editor

Matt Kim is a former freelance writer who's covered video games and digital media. He likes video games as spectacle and is easily distracted by bright lights or clever bits of dialogue. He also once wrote about personal finance, but that's neither here nor there.

In other news

Wasteland 3 Delayed Due to "Logistical Challenges" of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Instead of releasing in May, inXile's RPG is now slated for August.

The Outer Worlds Gets a New Nintendo Switch Release Date After Delay

You'll be able to take Halcyon on the go this June.

Ring Fit Adventure Has a New Rhythm Mode With Some Killer Nintendo Jams

It features music from Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and more.

Need help?

Witcher 3: How to Start the Blood and Wine DLC and Meet Its Level Requirements

We explain how to get to Toussaint and what level you should be when you do.

Witcher 3: All the Correct Play Lines in "The Play's the Thing" Quest

We explain how to perform the Doppler's play with Priscilla, as well as whether to choose tragedy or comedy.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Mystery Gift Codes List (January 2020)

You can get free gifts in Pokemon Sword and Shield by entering certain Mystery Gift Codes. Here’s a full list of all the active codes available right now.

The Outer Worlds Shrink Ray - How to Get the Unique Shrink Ray Science Weapon

This is where you can get the Shrink Ray science weapon in The Outer Worlds, one of the unique weapons in the game.