Legacy of Black Isle Studios (Topic)

World Of Topics » Games » Legacy of Black Isle Studios

Legacy of Black Isle Studios


This sounds loud, but Black Isle Studios is one of the greatest studios in the game industry. Besides the fact that the studio itself gave us cult RPGs like Fallout, Planescape: Torment, and the Icewind Dale series [as well as participated in the creation of other projects], its key employees in the future contributed to the release of equally cool titles. The value of something depends on its significance. Black Isle Studios is a collective that has left behind a rich legacy, influence, and inspiration for others. Today we will talk in detail about the legacy of Black Isle, and how, a decade later, we can observe the fruits generated by young enthusiasts.

A short but fun life

Black Isle was a division of Interplay Entertainment. A young team, where guys, on average, a little over 20 years old, gathered to make their dreams of an ideal RPG with gray morality and excessive cruelty come true. Many developers remember that their young blood and inexperience made themselves felt and any scandal, be it the smallest, spilled over into major disputes, which, although they were fierce, but ended effectively.


Studios have often had to rely on technology from others, most notably BioWare's Infinity Engine. Icewind Dale's team consisted almost entirely of young designers. But youth and ambition flowed into energy. Almost all Black Isle were workaholics.

“I remember people loved working on games. Maybe not every person, but overall there was a feeling that people wanted to work hard, "says Josh Sawyer, one of the studio's key game designers who joined the team after Fallout 1.


The fact that Fallout has become a legend is not even worth saying. We have less known other studio games. For example, Planescape: Torment, unlike Fallout, stood out with an abundance of dialogue and pushed you to resolve conflicts with cunning and eloquence. Icewind Dale, on the other hand, is more like Baldur's Gate in structure. These three games laid the foundation for many future RPGs. For example, the echoes [if not the screams] of Planescape: Torment can be seen in the recent Disco Elysium.


Alas, over time, Interplay Entertainment lost its Dungeons & Dragons, and everything went to the fact that soon the studio would be gone. And the financial situation, which was deteriorating due to the decline of the PC as a platform, also made itself felt.

Interplay struggled with debt and other problems for years before Furges Urquhart, head of the studio, which he named after his home region of Scotland, finally decided to leave. But he held out nonetheless until late 2003, if only out of the vain hope that they could finally finish Fallout 3. In 2003, Interplay lost $ 20 million, but Urquhart knew it was over long before that.

As Interplay CEO Brian Fargo told Gamepressure:

“At the time, if I had the opportunity, I would have fired everyone at the company except Black Isle Studios and kept 40 people - and it would have gone on. I would rebuild Interplay from there. But no one would let me do that. ”

And so in 2003 the studio was gone. However, three new studios have risen from its ashes, and key collaborators such as Leonard Boyarsky, Brian Fargo, Tim Kane, Chris Avelon, Tim Shafer, Josh Sawyer and Furges Urquhart have continued on the Black Isle journey.

inXile Entertainment

After leaving Interplay, Fargo felt like he was exiled from his homeworld. His feelings were shared by his former colleague Matthew Findlay, who left the studio in 2002. Together they founded a new company, which they called inXile [pun, the name comes from the English exile - exiled]. The studio's first project was a remake of the '85 RPG / Hack and Slash classic The Bard's Tale. However, their main project was the sequel to the very first post-apocalyptic game Wasteland in 1988. Having played it today, you can only laugh, but then it was a cult piece that inspired the Black Isle team to create Fallout, which inherited their ideas.


Wasteland 2 was released in 2014 and to the disappointment of many - it was not Fallout. Moreover, the developers initially stated that they would not have a game. They managed to make an original product that, although it was similar to Fallout, but differed both in gameplay and in appearance.


The studio later released the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment - Torment: Tides of Numenera. InXile is currently developing Wasteland 3.

Troika Games

But Troika Games, founded back in 1998 by Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Kane, who left Black Isle after the second Fallout, became the real spiritual heir of Black Isle itself. It is symbolic that the name, which included the basic principles of the studio: design, art, code, was followed by only three games, but what a juicy one.


And the first one is Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Popularly called it: classic Fallout, if he was in steampunk. The subsequent The Temple of Elemental Evil is closer to Icewind Dale, as it was also a game under the D & D license.


Most likely, the past experience with the creation of games just for D & D gave the studio an impetus to adapt a new cult project, which, alas, became fatal for it - Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. The game was beyond praise, a full-fledged 3D adventure on Soure, which combined the RPG style of the Fallout creators and the unique aesthetics of the World of Darkness.


Alas, due to the fact that the game had to compete with Half Life 2 and other major titles of the time, the project did not pay off. All this happened through the fault of the publisher, who wanted to release the game before the brainchild of Valv was released, cutting off all the deadlines for the developers, which made the game come out raw and buggy. The studio was closed a year after its release.

Obsidian Entertainment

Despite the fact that Troika Games died in 2004, Boyarsky and Kane had where to go. After all, by joint efforts, Furges Urquhart and Chris Avellone created a new successor to Black Isle - Obsidian Entertainment. At the beginning of her work, there were only seven people in the studio and she, like a child who had just gotten to her feet, needed help to take her first steps. In their case, material.

The studio rushed from one major publisher to another, but the collaboration with EA, Ubisoft and Take-Two did not bear any fruit. In their quest, they came under the wing of LucasArts, which needed a studio capable of continuing their cult RPG Star Wars: Knight of The Old Republic.


They recruited a new staff of people from Troika Games, EA, Blizzard, Totally Games, Treyarch and started development. They have prioritized the development of several projects at once, among which was Neverwinter Nights 2. So, from the very beginning, they have established themselves as the guys who will create an excellent continuation for your game.

And soon the damned Bethesda turned to them, returning their own child, and asking them to baby-sit with him. Development of Fallout New Vegas begins. One of the best Fallouts of all time. And despite the eternal sticks in the wheels that the publisher put in, the curve engine, the game really came out great. The conversation really paid less than it was intended under the contract ... But nothing, now she is paying for her sins with the trash that happens with Fallout 76.


This was followed by Dungeon Siege III, South Park: The Stick of Truth, which saved the studio from bankruptcy Pillars of Eternity and ultimately the masterpiece The Outer Worlds, a contender for this year's game.


In addition, Obsidian employees who have been in the industry since Black Isle have helped create other iconic games. The same Leonard Boyarsky worked at one time on Diablo 3, and Chris Avellone is generally a real monster of the industry. After leaving Obsidian in 2015, he has worked as a writer for games such as Prey, Divinity: Original Sin II, Into the Breach, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Dying Light 2, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2, System Shock.

As we can see, the history of the game industry is still largely continued by Black Isle employees. The studio has not existed for 16 years, but today we can enjoy both its legacy and games created by people who were inspired by its work.

The Topic of Article: Legacy of Black Isle Studios.
Author: Jake Pinkman