Obsidian's Long History of Making RPGs

the outer worlds screenshot

With The Outer Worlds releasing to a heap of critical success, Obsidian Entertainment, the team behind the new Sci-Fi game, has found itself in the spotlight. And while The Outer Worlds is one of, if not the, biggest releases the studio has been behind to date, the company's history of making RPGs spans much further back, with the company being at least partly responsible for some of the best role-playing games of the past two decades.

Obsidian's history with RPGs began even before the studio did. Several founding members of the development company had worked at Black Isle Games, a studio founded by Feargus Urquhart, who also went on to help create Obsidian. Black Isle was responsible for some RPGs that defined role-playing in the '90s, working on games like the original Fallouts and Icewind Dale, among plenty of others. Black Isle helped lay the foundation that Obsidian's games would later draw influence from, in a strange, circle of life kind of way.

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Obsidian itself was founded in 2003 by Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, Chris Parker, Darren Monahan, and Chris Jones. Soon after, the team began working on Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. While Knights of The Old Republic 2 lives somewhat in the shadow of the first game, it's still hailed by many as one of the best Star Wars games ever made. From there, Obsidian went on to release two other games, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Alpha Protocol, before moving onto what would become one of its most famous projects: Fallout: New Vegas.

A fan favorite of the franchise, Fallout: New Vegas has been fondly remembered by the online community. It gave players the opportunity to role-play in a way that Fallout 3 hadn't. And while the game did launch with a plethora of bugs, the team managed to pull off a minor miracle, as the game had only been given a development period of 18 months. After launch, Obsidian worked on patching the game, cleaning up many of the bugs that New Vegas released with. And then, one day, Obsidian got a phone call.

At first, the studio assumed it was a prank, but the company had been approached to make South Park: The Stick of Truth, yet another RPG set in the South Park universe. The game would go on to release in 2014, and while it was short, it received generally favorable reviews. Many compared it to watching an episode of South Park, remaining very true to the show itself. Of course, it being a video game meant it could push the boundaries a little more than the show could, leading to the game being censored in some areas.

But, the games industry is a tide of ups and downs, and Obsidian eventually found itself facing financial troubles. The company had missed a $1 million bonus from Bethesda because New Vegas didn't earn an 85 on Metacritic, instead earning an 84. Plus, Microsoft had just canceled Stormlands, which was intended to be a launch game for the Xbox One, putting the company in a fiscally and emotionally hard spot. Ultimately, Obsidian was forced to undergo a round of layoffs, an unfortunate reality of the game industry.

Eventually, Obisidian decided to fund their next project through Kickstarter, launching a smashingly successful campaign for Pillars of Eternity, a traditional isometric RPG with heavy Dungeons and Dragons roots. It was the perfect project for a team of people that had helped lay the groundwork for that very genre. Pillars of Eternity found both commercial and critical success when it launched, despite the genre falling out of mainstream popularity.

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Studio saved, Obsidian continued to create games. The team developed a licensed Pathfinder game and another RPG dubbed Tyranny. With a few more games shipped, Obsidian began developing a sequel to Pillars of Eternity, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. It built upon a lot of the base mechanics that appeared in the original but introduced a lot of nautical elements to the game. It also managed to find quite a bit of success, establishing Pillars of Eternity as a full-fledged franchise.

Obsidian announced that it had been acquired by Microsoft on November 10th, 2018. Shortly after, it revealed The Outer Worlds, the space-faring RPG that seems to have captured the hearts of many gamers. With its big new release out in the wild, fans of the studio can only wonder what's next. With the next generation of consoles on the horizon and the backing of Microsoft, who knows what the studio will be able to accomplish.

MORE: Is The Outer Worlds the New Fallout?

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