Black Isle Studios
|Industry||Video games industry|
|Headquarters||Orange County, California, USA|
|Key people||Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, Darren Monahan, Brian Mitsoda, Chris Jones (1996-2003)
Christopher Taylor (2012-present)
Black Isle Studios is a division of the computer and video game developer and publisher Interplay Entertainment. Black Isle Studios is a division that develops role-playing video games, and it previously published several games from other developers.
Black Isle is based in Orange County, California, USA. The division was formed in 1996, adopting the name "Black Isle Studios" in 1998. The idea for the division's name came from the Black Isle in Scotland - founder Feargus Urquhart's native country. Black Isle Studios is most famous for working on the first two games in the popular and influential Fallout series as well as the critically acclaimed Planescape: Torment. They also achieved success with the Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate series of role-playing video games, though they only published the Baldur's Gate series. In 1999, IGN's RPG Vault gave it the award for a Developer Of The Year.
Created in 1996 by Feargus Urquhart, the studio was named Black Isle after Urquhart's homeland. The studio, although credited for the creation of Fallout was, in fact, not responsible for the game, but rather a key portion of the original studio came from the team that made Fallout. When developing Fallout 2, the studio's first official game, several employees left Interplay to form Troika Games after they "were unable to come to an agreement with Interplay as to how [their] next team should be structured." The remaining team would go on to release such critically acclaimed games as Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale and produce the critically acclaimed Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn in conjunction with BioWare.
In the years leading to the closure of Black Isle, Interplay's financial difficulties would worsen, leading for the team to cancel anticipated games as Black Isle's Torn and Stonekeep 2: Godmaker, releasing only Icewind Dale II, publishing Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader and developing Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II. On December 8, 2003, in the midst of serious financial difficulties, Interplay laid off the entire Black Isle Studios staff, which also resulted in the cancellation of Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance III and the original Fallout 3.
On August 22, 2012, Interplay apparently restarted the studio, nearly nine years after its closure. The new studio has been stated to be thoroughly focused on creating innovative RPGs like its predecessor. Both ex-Black Isle employee Chris Avellone (Obsidian Entertainment) and former Interplay CEO Brian Fargo (inXile Entertainment) commented that they knew nothing about the reopening of the studio before the announcement. Avellone denied any involvement of Obsidian in the revival. Speculation went awry with the revival, with some speculating that Interplay had once again gotten a Dungeons & Dragons license, others stating that the team would co-develop Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition with Overhaul Games and some that the team would merge with Overhaul's parent company, Beamdog. However, Overhaul was quick to deny involvement with the new Black Isle Studios. Only two members from the original Black Isle team are working on the new team, Mark O'Green and Chris Taylor, who is the head of the studio (not to be confused with Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games). The new Black Isle's first game announced is Project V13; to help get funding for the game through InvestedIn, they launched a crowd source fundraiser called the Black Isle Mayan Apocalypse Replacement program.
Project V13 is a role-playing video game under development by the resurrected Black Isle Studios. The game is the successor to the failed Interplay Entertainment Fallout Online project. The game is reliant on the Black Isle Mayan Apocalypse Replacement Program, an InvestedIn powered system similar to the crowd funding website Kickstarter.
The player character is to be one of the last humans or a new breed of mutant. The human class is split into three options, basic human, transhuman and cyborg. Each class has its own advantages and disadvantages. Transhumans used biological technologies to help evolve them and their descendents, whereas cyborgs "hard" technological implants to change themselves. Nannites, tiny machines, work inside cyborgs to help create a sustaining cyborg race. To create the character, the player must select a race, sex, background and equip them with an item. Once a player character is created, they will be given a colony to create. The colony, which can be created over a deserted city, ruined military base or gas station, comes with a few tools and apocalypse survivors. Leading the colony, the player is able to choose where and when to make buildings and decide how they will be staffed. In order to staff buildings, the player must attract and recruit survivors to work in the colony.
To avoid being more than just a simulation game, the player will also have the option to travel around and experience adventures and go on quests. Said quests are self-contained, giving the player the option to do anything necessary to get the job done. The quests allows for players to gain experience and benefit the town. Missions range from traveling to scavenge lost technology, or fending the town off from a horde of evil villains. Doing missions benefits the colony, while forging the colony helps build missions.
All major decisions related to skill and statistics have been offloaded to character development. This allows for the player choose their "focus" in the game, giving the player the chance to choose as to whether their character will be a natural born leader or a despot.
To work on a new RPG project, Interplay restarted Black Isle Studios. Taking in a project previously worked on by Masthead Studios, Black Isle Studios began work on Project V13. It scrapped most of the ideas and development made by Masthead, and decided to take PV13 in a different direction.
In order to fund enough money to create a tech demo to attract investors for the game, Black Isle launched the Black Isle Mayan Apocalypse Replacement Program, shortened as BIMAR. Similar to Kickstarter, BIMAR has people give money to the company in the style of a fundraiser. Depending on the amount of money given to BIMAR, different rewards are given. Backers have access to a private forum where they are able to discuss the game and suggest ideas to the developers.
- Project V13 (2015)
- Fallout 2 (1998)
- Planescape: Torment (1999)
- Icewind Dale (2000)
- Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (2001)
- Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter - Trials of the Luremaster (2001)
- Icewind Dale II (2002)
- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (2004)
- Baldur's Gate (1998)
- Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast (1999)
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)
- Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (2001)
- Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (2003)
Two compilations bearing their name were also released:
- Black Isle Compilation (2002)
- Black Isle Compilation Part Two (2004)
Canceled projects include:
- Stonekeep 2: Godmaker (2001)
- Torn (2001)
- Fallout 3 (Van Buren) (2003)
- Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound (2003)
- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance III (2004)
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- 1999 Vault Network Awards
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- Published on 23rd August 2012 by Gareth Halfacree (2012-08-23). "Interplay re-forms Black Isle Studios | bit-gamer.net". Bit-tech.net. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Avellone, Chris (22 August 2012). "Twitter post". Twitter. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
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- Avellone, Chris (22 August 2012). "Twitter post". Twitter. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- "Black Isle to publish new games based on clas - Video Game News, Videos and File Downloads for PC and Console Games at". Shacknews.com. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
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- Andy Chalk. "The Escapist : News : Black Isle Studios Launches "PV13" Fundraising Campaign". Escapistmagazine.com. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- "What The Hell Is Up With The New Black Isle? | Kotaku Australia". Kotaku.com.au. Retrieved 2013-04-04.