Inside the Vault: Obsidian’s Chris Avellone


Q: What do transvestite dragons, Dodge Omnis and 32 ounce steaks have to do with Obsidian Entertainment?

A: They are all things closely related to esteemed Creative Director Chris Avellone.

Intrigued? Pull up a beanbag chair and prepare yourself — and your beef — for an Avellone assault in our latest Inside the Vault Q&A session.

What’s your job at Obsidian?

I’m Creative Director. I direct creativity, sometimes in a positive direction. I also ask “why should the player give a crap?” a lot.

What games have you worked on?

I worked as a level designer/senior designer on Fallout 2, the Icewind Dale series (all of them), Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Mask of the Betrayer, and as a Lead Designer on Planescape Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (man, that’s a long title), and Alpha Protocol. Currently working as a senior designer on Fallout: New Vegas.

I also did a lot of writing for Hero Games’ Champions back in the day, which was good times.

What is the best part about your job? The worst part?

Best part of the job is knowing I can run down the hall and jump into my bean bag couch. The worst part is that I can’t sleep on it because it gets too hot in the office at night.

Any fun facts you’d like to share about Obsidian?

All of our desk drawers are designed to be rolled out and used as extra seats. The rollers also mean that if we wanted to, we could have a demolition derby in the halls, although I can’t confirm that in a public forum.

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?

I was traded for $300 worth of software. My advice? Be persistent and work hard. Eventually some editor, developer, or someone with more money than you will get into trouble and need your help to fill a gap in their pipeline or product line for a ridiculously low price. This ridiculous price will still end up being more than what you’re making at a job you may love a lot, however, as happened to me. After that, all you need to do is drive across the United States to the opposite coast in a failing Dodge Omni. True story.

Thus far, what’s been the highlight of your career?

Threatened by Ron Perlman. He was just tired. In the next game we had him in, I had the privilege of telling him he was playing a transvestite dragon. Great times. Fearful times.

Actually, I take that back. Being in the studio with Sheena Easton was great, she’s funny and tells great stories.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?

Tough, some old school choices: Chrono Trigger, System Shock 2, Wasteland, or Ultima Underworld 1.

What games are you looking forward to?

Fallout: New Vegas… and Heavy Rain 2.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

My alarm clock and the shakes I get if I don’t get my endorphin fix from early morning aerobics.

Worst job you’ve ever had?

Campus center supervisor. Which still wasn’t bad. Greatest job aside from game design? Role-playing a criminal in Hogan’s Alley at the FBI training facility in Quantico, VA. Nothing beats an instructor coming by and saying, “today, you are going to be a kidnapper – take this gun and meet with your gang at the pool hall.”

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy defying gravity with heavy weights, runs in April through mud with a Viking Helmet on, doing cartoons for the back pages of Knights of the Dinner Table, writing the occasional Star Wars comic, and concocting various horrible mixed drinks.

We’ve heard you can put away a 32 oz steak and have plenty of room for desert. Is competitive eating an ambition for you?

While you’re asking the question, I’m halfway through the next steak, my friend.

Reader Comments

  1. Good interview, I like this guy! 😛 His interview seems a lot more lively than the others, some good answers in there, I would love to watch a desk drawer demolition derby!



  2. Sheena Easton! She was in my favorite game of all time, it was the first game that I felt like I could hold up as an example and say, “See? Video games can be art!”

    (Planescape: Torment)

  3. Truly he is of OBSIDIAN stock. Thank you for the great read which shows FALLOUT NEW VEGAS is in the perfect insane hands of artistic creativity.

  4. I love KOTOR II and just started a new game last week with the restored content mod. Perhaps i will get a taste of your true vision for the game.

    I really appreciate your style in the gaming industry and I’m looking forward to NV. Thanks for sharing

  5. will there be dual wield pistols in fallout new vegas? i would love to ran around like a cowboy with two chinese pistols!

  6. wicked looking game you’ve got going now, and i must say that champions of norath was my first game and one of the best i have ever played two thumbs up!

  7. He likes chrono trigger! This game is awsome! For those who didn’t try it a nintendo DS version was released (15 years after the 1st release date in japan).