VIVA NEW VEGAS!
Fallout relocates to a post-apocalyptic Sin City!
This month Bethesda revealed plans for an all-new Fallout game entitled New Vegas. The game is being developed with help from Obsidian, the developer behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2. “It is not a sequel to Fallout 3. It’s simply another Fallout game in that universe,” Bethesda’s Pete Hines revealed. “It will be the same sort of role-playing game experience seen in Fallout 3,” he added. Here, we get the lowdown from Pete and lead designer Emil Pagliarulo…
BETHESDA TALK FALLOUT 3
Their lips are sealed about New Vegas but they will chat about our favourite game of last year!
GM: Fallout 3 swept our annual GamesMaster Awards for 2008, did you ever envisage such a huge fan following and cult status?
Pete: Not really. Maybe just because we never let ourselves be distracted by thoughts of that kind of thing. We’ve developed a really good culture here where we focus on the things we can control and trying to make the best game we can. You get your head in the clouds thinking about already being a success or taking anything for granted and it all can go wrong in a heartbeat.
GM: Some of us in the office have invested over 100 hours into Fallout 3. How do you sleep at night!
Pete: I said long ago that our ultimate goal was a global decline in productivity. So the more people that spend untold hours playing the game, the better we sleep at night.
GM: With regards to the Fallout DLC, are you going to keep this world you’ve created and visit different areas on the globe? What does the future hold?
Pete: Well obviously the first one is a virtual reality visit to Anchorage, followed by an actual visit to what’s left of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The third continues the story after the main quest in the Capital Wasteland, so we do like to mix it up both in terms of where you are, and what you’re doing.
GM: How much of a risk was it acquiring the Fallout franchise from Interplay? Was there a plan set down on where to take Fallout beforehand?
Pete: Really, it boiled down to “we loved that series and we want to revive it and make another one.” People ask a lot about how far you’ve planned this series or that one, but ultimately the focus has to be on the next thing you’re doing because if you botch that, there may not ever be anything else.
As far as how risky it was, Fallout was probably pretty high on the “risk” chart. Picking up this beloved franchise that was so revered and making another game in that series and putting ourselves up for all that ridicule and speculation…that was no easy undertaking. I’m glad people like the game. It makes going through all of that worthwhile.
GM: How were subjects in the game such as slavery approached during development? Do you think humanity would resort to that if the Fallout scenario was played out in reality?
Pete: Well the fun of Fallout is that it’s not just what would happen after a nuclear war, but what would happen after a nuclear war in this alternate universe where things are a bit “odd” as it is. We wanted to stay true to as many of the mature themes as possible, without them being distracting. So things like drug use, violence, slavery, prostitution, etc….we felt it was important to include those things without them distracting from the game. We wanted to use things like slavery to give you a chance to define who you are…a good guy, or a bad one? Help the slaves, or profit from them? The way slavery is portrayed in the game is believable enough that you think it could really happen like that. The more things we do to help you suspend belief, the more immersed you become. And the more sleep you lose. And the happier we are.
GM: We’ve stumbled across UFO’s and many other secrets in Fallout’s world. Is there anything that’s gone over the public’s head and you’re disappointed hasn’t been made more of?
Emil: Now there’s an interesting question. You know, in a game like Fallout 3, a big game that gives the player 50 hours of play or so, there’s always going to be stuff the player misses. And as developers, that’s one of the challenges – showing the player something new at, say, hour 30.
There are two systems in place in Fallout 3 that really sort of ensure that players will discover some fresh stuff really late in the game – the random encounters, and conversations. With each of these, we knew we put in some really cool nuggets, but we also realized players may very well never see them. Such is the nature of a system like that. And that’s a really difficulty, necessary thing for a designer to do, to create work you know someone may never see.
Here are a couple of specific examples: there’s a random encounter where a UFO blows up in the sky overhead, and rains down debris… including an Alien Blaster you can find and use. We actually discovered through playtesting that the weapon tends to get lost out there in the Wasteland when it falls, but Dogmeat is the perfect way to find it; if you see an explosion in the sky, you just tell him to find you a weapon, and he’ll likely bring it back.
In the conversation system in the Citadel, you can overhear two Brotherhood of Steel guys talking, and one of them is trying to perfect his “Olde English,” because he figures it’s more knightly; the other guy, of course, makes fun of him. So really, it’s stuff like that I hope players experience, but there’s no guarantee.
GM: Is there anything at all you’re disappointed with? What didn’t make the final cut that you’d have loved to have seen on a personal level?
Emil: I can’t really say there’s anything I’m honestly disappointed in, but I do have to wonder about some ideas we had in pre-production that we ultimately cut. Originally, the Enclave didn’t only take over Project Purity – they also took over all of Rivet City. And this happened while you were at the city, so your task was to help lead Doctor Li and the citizens of Rivet City out of a secret escape route, and escort them to the safety of the Citadel. It was sort of the game’s “escape from Bespin” experience.” It wasn’t meant to be but part of me still wishes we had the time to pull it off, simply because those kinds of large-scale, reactive world moments are so memorable for players.
GM: Some glitches have been found and exploited by players, such as the cap glitch. How difficult is it to eradicate errors like these in a game world as huge as Fallout’s?
Emil: Maybe more difficult than anyone can imagine, to be honest. On the surface, they may seem simple to find and fix, but they aren’t. However, we don’t use that as an excuse. We examine our process, and constantly improve on it. That was the case moving from Oblivion to Fallout 3, and it’s already the case as we work on the Fallout 3 DLC.
GM: Art wise, how much fun and love went into creating the monsters in Fallout? Guide us through the creative process.
Emil: Creating monsters or enemies is always a lot of fun. It’s a guilty pleasure, really, and one of the things that makes me remember how lucky I am to be doing what I do. When I go home, and my kids ask me what I did that day, and I say something like, “I helped design a Super Mutant,” it doesn’t even seem like reality.
For Fallout 3, it was an interesting process, because we weren’t so much creating creatures from scratch as we were updating a lot of the original Fallout creatures. That process started with us determining which creatures or enemies we wanted to have, and how they would be represented in the game. Those initial designs then went to our concept artist, who would crank out iteration after iteration, until we had the versions we liked. And then came the biggest challenge, really – creating those creatures in the game itself. And again, it always came back to us wanting to update the original designs. How do we make a Deathclaw that feels just as scary as it did in the original Fallout? Is this a good change to the Sentry Bot?
In the end, the monsters of Fallout 3 really are an excellent example of every design discipline working in unison. Design, art, programming, animation – it’s all represented in every creature we do.
GM: How hard was it to programme V.A.T.S. combat? Are you pleased with the end result and how it differs from combat in Oblivion?
Emil: Like anything, getting V.A.T.S. to the state we wanted it was a matter of constant playtesting. For us, it was very much about the feel of the system, and how it flowed naturally from run-and-gun combat and any other aspect of the game. It’s really kind of surprising to me how close the end product is to both the initial design, and the initial concepts we did.
Ultimately, I think the system epitomized the Bethesda development ideology of “keep it simple,” but before we arrived at the streamlined system we shipped with, it certainly experimented with more complexity. We had discussed doing an entirely new interface for throwing grenades, for example. And, at one point early on, you could target every explosive environmental hazard in V.A.T.S., from cars to fire extinguishers. But in the end, these added layers of complexity didn’t really improve the player’s experience; they really just served to slow down the combat experience and the game as a whole, so we went back to the simpler, cleaner, and must faster implementation.
I’m incredibly proud of the V.A.T.S. system we shipped with. It was a labor of love for a lot of talented people, and I think it changes the way players think about gun combat – in first-person shooters as well as RPGs. So not only did we create a cool new system, we also challenged some traditional ways of thinking and playing in other genres. That was sort of the unexpected cherry on top for us.
GM: Is it worth doing a Fallout 4 after creating such a massive world? Where do you go after Fallout 3?
Pete: If it wasn’t worth doing we wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble to acquire the license. There are lots of things left to do with a franchise like Fallout.
GM: What was it like working with vocal talent like Liam Neeson? We can’t imagine him being anything other than a perfect gent!
Pete: Our internal joke is “it turns out Liam Neeson is a really good actor.” He’s incredibly nice, and incredibly talented, and was so good at taking the context of his lines and getting into his character and what he was doing and feeling at that moment.
GM: There was obviously concern when the game was leaked before release, but no official comment was made at the time. How do you view the piracy situation now, in hindsight?
Pete: My views haven’t changed. Piracy still sucks and still hurts us as a business. Period.
GM: Finally, any exclusives for our readers? Future Bethesda projects, perhaps?
Pete: You heard it here first: Bethesda will have future projects. J
Thank you very much for your time, folks. Good luck with all your future projects!