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Battlefield and Payday veteran escapes AAA for an indie RPG

David Goldfarb has announced his new indie studio, appropriately called The Outsiders, and given a few hints about its first project, a role-playing game. Goldfarb, who previously worked on the Battlefield series for DICE, co-founded the four-person studio with fellow DICE alumnus Ben Cousins, who has most recently worked as a consultant on free-to-play games. The new game will likely be for PC, and will probably not rely on a free-to-play pricing model, despite Cousins’ pedigree.

Goldfarb was most recently at Overkill Software working as the director for Payday 2He announced his amicable departure from Overkill in July 2014 to start his own studio, hinting that his lifelong fondness for RPGs made one a likely first project. He confirmed in a recent interview with Eurogamer that The Outsiders’ first project would in fact be an RPG.

Related: Payday 2 lead takes the money and runs to start a new studio

“It’s my first stab at [an RPG] – or my first real stab, I should say… I’ve loved RPGs all my life and have been shoehorning elements of them into games I’ve made over the years with lesser or more success. This is an opportunity, anyway.”

Details about the project are otherwise scare, but Goldfarb did mention an interest in dynamic narrative — which is to say a story that changes and evolves based on the player’s actions — citing Ken Levine’s ideas about systemic narrative as a point of reference.

“I’m interested in systemic story stuff. I know Ken [Levine] has recently been talking about this. I have another way I want to try and do it. But I think it won’t be a game of cut scenes. If the guys at Naughty Dog want to go do that — and they’re superb at what they craft — then that’s awesome. I would rather find the stories that exist in… people use the sports analogy a lot, but when you play Madden, for example. The dream is to combine some of that with some of this.”

At the time of his departure from Overkill, Goldfarb mentioned his dissatisfaction with working in the AAA gaming industry as one of the main reasons for starting his own studio. He articulated that notion further in a recent interview with gamesindustry.biz, explaining how the risk involved in AAA budgets limits creative experimentation.

“It’s one of those things where if you get past the threshold then you begin to make lots of money. I think the risk/reward for the companies that can spend the marketing money and that have big successful franchises, for them it’s still worth laying out that investment. But for people who don’t have that kind of capital, you’re not really in a practical success loop. AAA is the equivalent of the One Percent right now. It comes with all these caveats. You can’t make the crazy stuff really,”

He is optimistic, however, about the space opening up for mid-tier developers, supported by the widening market that the rise of indies has created. He mentions Paradox Interactive specifically, which has achieved steady success in publishing niche, grand strategy games for PC. In this growing, sub-AAA market, Goldfarb sees the the ever-increasing possibility for more serious and interesting games that challenge the narrow range of tropes that dominate the mainstream industry. He mentions This War of Mine as a recent example.

It will require a breakout success to get the major publishers involved, though.

“It’s going to happen because it breaks out like Minecraft, whether it’s a love simulator or whatever the fucking thing is… because that’s always how it is. It’s not going to be proactive, it’s going to be reactive. They’re going to be, ‘Oh ok we should do that now.’ But fine, just as long as that stuff starts getting made and people start looking at new gameplay verbs.”