Fallout 3: the full story
17th Jul 2009 | 08:28
It's Fallout 3 interview Friday! In our latest issue we've put together a feature looking back at one of the greatest RPGs on PS3, where we discuss how we feel about the game now that we've all had chance to explore every nook and cranny of the Capitol Wasteland. For the feature we bagged an exclusive interview with Emil Pagliarulo, the game's lead designer and writer, but we could only use a small part of it. Being the eco-friendly chaps that we are, we thought it was too good an interview to waste, so here it is, in all its glory:
Looking back, what aspect of Fallout 3 are you most proud of?
Wow, that's a tough question to answer. I'm honestly so proud of the game, and of all the hard work done by the dev team, it's difficult to pick out any specifics. I guess there are two things that really stand out for me. The first is V.A.T.S., and the way it really changes the way players engage in combat in first-person. It strikes a really good balance between player skill and character skill, and is always a rush to experience. The second is the game's story, and the reception the writing has received, including a few awards. That was really unexpected, especially considering some of the incredibly tough competition, like GTA IV; I respect the Rockstar guys immensely, so that was a real honour.
Which of the game's quests is your personal favourite, and why?
You know, I've always had a real soft spot in my heart for "Replicated Man," the quest that has you searching for the rogue android. It's part "Blade Runner," part "Logan's Run," and it introduces a place called the Institute, located in the Commonwealth; I'm from Boston, and that's a not-so-subtle reference to Massachusetts.
This quest was pretty simple (read: undeveloped) on paper, and our initial attempts to implement it were overcomplicated, convoluted, and not a whole lot of fun. We ended up scaling the gameplay paradigms way down, and the final quest is actually pretty simple. But it tells a really interesting story, and presents the player with a couple of very compelling choices. That's all I ever really wanted.
When it came to reviews, what criticisms of the game do you think were most valid? Do you think the game was under-scored?
As a hardcore gamer who spends way more money on games than he should, I'm usually of the opinion that any criticism is valid. When I spend sixty bucks on something, I feel like I've earned the right to bitch. So why shouldn't that rule apply to Fallout 3? It definitely should.
A lot of games are very limited in scope. They may have five gameplay elements, and they're each polished to 90%-%100%, if you're lucky. But with Fallout 3, the scope is enormous. You never run out of things to explore or do. But that comes with a bit of a price, meaning it's impossible to polish each of those elements to a 90%-100% level. In some instances, the game isn't as polished as it could be; the production values are maybe at, you know, 85% instead of 90%. Maybe there's an issue with an animation, or the voice acting, or whatever. And that bugs some people. We understand that, and we're constantly working on addressing those criticisms, because they're certainly valid.
As for the scores - overall, I think they're fantastic. The game's got a Metacritic score in the 90s for every platform, so what do I have to complain about? That's an achievement most devs never get to experience, so I consider myself truly fortunate in that regard.
Every Fallout game to date has been set in the United States - do you think we'll ever get to see how the Great War affected the rest of the world?
Who knows what the future will bring. But I will say I'm more a fan of the "write what you know" school of thought. That was one of the reasons we decided to set Fallout 3 in Washington, D.C. - who else, we thought, could really bring the nation's Capital to life in a video game the way we could? We're from the area, we know D.C. It just made sense. I think there are plenty more places in the United States that are ripe for discovery.
How did the team make sure they were sticking to the canon of the first two games when designing Fallout 3? There are some hardcore fans out there that know a lot about Fallout.
The important thing to remember is that there are some really hardcore Fallout fans working at Bethesda, too. So we're very familiar with the canon. Setting the game on the East Coast, after the events of Fallout 2, also helped us establish our own fiction, without fear of stepping on what came before. But we definitely consider Fallout 3 the continuation of the already established canonical fiction.
Was the Broken Steel DLC a response to fans' complaints about the game's original endings? Or did you always plan to change it this way?
Broken Steel was absolutely a response to player feedback, and when we shipped Fallout 3 we had no plans at all to modify the ending in any DLC.
We were very happy with the ending we chose. But, you know, we misread what fans wanted. The original ending of the game - in which the player can die, and the game ends - still works very well from a story perspective. But, guess what? Fallout 3's a video game, and ultimately a lot of people cared more about continuing the game with their character than they did the story we were trying to tell. In a way, it's the greatest compliment we could have been played. So when you've got a bunch of fans saying, "Help us, we want to keep playing your game!" - those are the fans you listen to! And we were more than happy to oblige.
I think Broken Steel is sort of a testament to the power of DLC, in that regard. We were able to respond to player's feedback in months, where in the past those comments would have been addressed in a future game - years later.
Did you ever consider any kind of multi-player or co-op for Fallout 3? We'd love to have a friend playing as Dogmeat...
Honestly, no. Bethesda Game Studios has become known for massively single-player games. It's what we do best, we find people love our games because of that, and so that's where we choose to allocate our resources.
Are there any special weapons or items that didn't make the final cut? If so, can you tell us about them and why they didn't make it?
Actually, there's only one. The Cryolator. It was a sort of freeze ray, and we had a couple of different proposals for it.
One idea was that it would be a non-lethal weapon, and would just freeze enemies so you could sneak by them. And then we talked about it just, you know, turning guys to ice so they shatter. But at the end of the day, we had our hands full with all the other weapons (Rock-It Launcher, anyone?), so the Cryolator simply didn't make the cut.
Several games set in real world cities (most notably Rainbow Six Vegas) encountered opposition during their development because of how the game might reflect on the city it was based on. Did anyone from Washington complain about Fallout?
No, you know, that never really happened, which kind of surprises me. Especially considering we were blowing up the nation's capital right around the time of the most important presidential election in decades! Count your blessings, right?
Your Mothership Zeta DLC features an alien abduction (we're told). How do you think fans will respond to such a leftfield concept?
Great question, and something we've thought a lot about. It's kind of a double-edged sword. Part of Fallout is this sort of pulpy, 1950s vibe, so stuff like aliens and flying saucers is perfectly reasonable. But in Fallout 3, we're also very serious about how we present the world.
There's humour, sure, but it's very grounded in the bleakness of the world. It's dark comedy. So for us, it's all a matter of getting the tone right - making sure the aliens fit into the world, and don't feel too campy, or goofy.
It's also the case that with the DLC, we definitely give ourselves the freedom to think outside the box a bit with this stuff. We're willing to try new things, take players to new places. It's one of the reasons we find DLC so compelling.
Phew. As you guys and gals might be able to work out, we're deep in deadline territory at the moment, so sorry about the lack of blogs this week. Fingers crossed, we'll be done by Tuesday, so normal service will resume...
Have a great weekend.