Fallout 3 Interview

by on 19th Jul 2007

Fallout 3: Post-apocalyptic adventure in the wasteland

By now, all Fallout fans have heard what a great presentation Bethesda put on at this year's E3. It was standing room only in the demo I attended (which was the last one given at E3), and quite a few people were turned back at the door. The 45-50 minute walkthrough started at the beginning of the game and moved the character through the Vault and into the devastated ruins of Washington DC. Within the Vault, the player gets to choose the character's SPECIAL primary statistics and traits before leaving "home". Using both the characters reactions to situations within the Vault and the GOAT aptitude test, the player's tag skills will be determined. Bethesda hopes that this will add to the realism of the game. The player can, however, change the tag skills before leaving the Vault.

In any event, the character made his way out of the Vault, following his father after Dad found a way out/escaped. The philosophy of the Vault's Overseer seems to be that if you were born in the Vault then you should damn well die in the Vault and be a happy, productive citizen while you're at it. After leaving Vault 101, the character arrived at Megaton, a town built around an unexploded A-Bomb. There he met a few NPCs and received a quest that led him into DC proper. The character made his way through a Metro subway tunnel occupied by Super Mutants and a Protectron robot (very nicely done and in keeping with the 1950's image of the future). The character arrived in DC only to find the Brotherhood of Steel battling it out with invading Super Mutants. The Brotherhood did well until a 20 foot (6 meter) tall Super Mutant showed up. The character conveniently found a catapult-launched nuclear grenade which incinerated the giant Super Mutant. Throughout the demo, the audience was shown how the VATS pause-in-real-time combat system worked. The gamer can choose not to use the VATS system, but Fallout 3 will be harder to play that way. Bethesda is still modifying the combat system so time will tell.

The demo certainly captured the imagination of the audience, and was received with a round of applause at its conclusion. All-in-all it was a riveting, action packed and graphically beautiful-to-behold performance which I would gladly watch again and again. The change to first person is definitely much more visceral than the isometric graphics of Fallout 1 and 2. Bethesda has also tried their hardest to make the NPCs come to life, using pixel shaders, animation and lip syncing, and they have succeeded.

Some fans who loved Fallout 1 and 2 will find a number of features which will piss them off. The 20 foot tall Super Mutant was something out of Lord of the Rings and fit poorly with the earlier Fallout universe. It would have been more in keeping to have created an all-new Super Monster rather than including a giant Super Mutant. After all, the Super Mutants could have used the mutagenic virus on a Deathclaw or some other wasteland creature. Maybe the reason for the giant was explained in the storyline, but it was out of place from what I saw. Regarding the VATS combat system, I couldn't tell how well it will work. After killing a hundred giant ants, Super Mutants or whatever, the slo mo cinematic playback may become tiresome. VATS does stop the game from becoming a twitch fest, but turn-based combat could have achieved the same result.

Fallout 3 will be a worthy addition to the Fallout universe. It won't please those fans that want an isometric, turn-based game, but will please those who love the Fallout atmosphere and are willing to play the game from a new perspective. With its branching storylines and the ability to create a character in all shades of gray, it should be fun for the same sick and twisted individuals who enjoyed the original games.

For those gamers that like turn-based, isometric combat, please read StrategyCore's Jagged Alliance 3 preview due within the week (sorry, but I'm a slow writer).

Mike Nino, StrategyCore

Post-presentation Question & Answer Session

StrategyCore (and a few other journalists) had a chance to sit down with Emil Pagliarulo, Fallout 3's Lead Designer, and ask him a few questions after the presentation.

"What it comes down to is that we're all Fallout fans. We love the original games. (But) not every Fallout fan wants a turn-based isometric game." Emil Pagliarulo, Lead Designer, Fallout 3

SC: How is the GOAT system going to work? Is it like a quiz?
EP: The GOAT is sort of like an oral exam that helps you determine your tag skills. Your tag skills are your three main skills. It sort of harkens back to the type of character generation quiz we had in Morrowind. But if you don't like the tag skills GOAT determined, when you leave the Vault you have a chance to re-spec your character anyway.

SC: So what happens when your character levels? You choose the skills you want to boost?
EP: Yeah, when you level you get skill points, and the number of skill points you get are based on your intelligence. So you can put those toward your skills and the primary tag skills get more points added when you level up.

SC: The same as the original game?
EP: Really similar to the original game.

SC: So you get to choose where you put your points?
EP: Yes you do. It’s not like Oblivion, skills don't increase with usage. It’s definitely an experience point based game.

SC: So the experience points aren't allocated in a GOAT-like manner?
EP: It kind of does. It's not a hard and fast system, it doesn't lock you into a character type. It gives you a guide that you can change if you like.

Other interviewer: The presentation mentioned that unlike Oblivion the enemies are not going to scale to the character. Is that going to make a more linear game play, since that will limit free roaming, do-what-you-want-to gameplay.
EP: A couple of responses to that. Because it’s an experience point based game and you get the majority of the experience points from questing, it’s a lot easier for us to guess where the player is going to be and what level he will be at. We know that if you’re doing a main quest path you will be at least this level so we can tailor those areas. Now if you’re outside the main quest path, it’s really a matter of giving the player the right kind of feedback. If you're a level 2 and you go far out into the wasteland and you find a group of five super mutants decked out in full body armor with rocket launchers and laser rifles, I think the player is smart enough to turn around and come back later.

Other interviewer: Do you run into instances where NPCs are fighting?
SC: Or random encounters?

EP: We love to do that and we have good tools to do it. We didn't do this in Oblivion, but for the first time we actually have a designer completely dedicated to free-form encounters out in the wasteland. You'll definitely encounter people fighting rad scorpions and other creatures out in the wasteland. It's definitely a single character game, but there are companions that you take. Your companions are based on your karma, so there's a sunset of companions that are good guys, evil guys or neutral. But you need to find those guys, take them with you, and watch the interaction between those characters.

Other interviewer: How many voice actors will there be?
EP: There are many different voice types, we're talking 30-40 different voices. Because the world is smaller and we have fewer NPCs, it’s allowing us to customize and detail the voice acting.

SC: Are there going to be a lot of new weapons? The FatMan (essentially a nuclear hand grenade launcher) in the presentation is new, but what other new weapons will there be?
EP: There are a lot of weapons. I was surprised looking at our weapon list and seeing how many we had. There are the Fallout weapon skills: big guns, small guns, energy weapons, melee, unarmed which are all fully exploited, so we have weapons for them all. We also have a series of custom made weapons that you can construct if you find a schematic and the right junk in the wasteland. So yes, there are quite a few weapons.

SC: Can you add scopes or silencers to weapons?
EP: No, you can't. We don't allow you to modify existing guns to customize them. For example, you can't take a pistol you've been using and add a scope to it. It's more like finding an old motorcycle gas can and an old sword blade and creating an entirely new weapon.

Other interviewer: What about traveling in the game? Is everything done on a walking basis?
EP: You are walking everywhere. There are no vehicles. Maybe there will be some kind of fast travel system based on the map but we are still working that out.

SC: Regarding the Metro Subway, it doesn't look like it is functioning. Are they just tunnels?
EP: They are not functioning. The trains are ruined.

Other interviewer: What is the square mileage of the game?
EP: We haven't calculated the square mileage. A lot of games do that now but it’s always sort of a fudged number. In Oblivion, it’s a really big area, but the borders kind of stretch and curve. The game play map in Fallout 3 is much more of a solid square, so a lot more of the map is actually accessible game play space. It’s smaller than Oblivion but still huge. The approach is smaller, more manageable and more detailed. It’s DC and its environs. That is where the game is set.

Other interviewer: Could you actually play the game without using the VATS system?
EP: You could. If you were to do that I would compare it to Deus Ex 1, which would have a similar feel. You certainly could. It would be harder. It’s harder to play the game that way tactically. In VATS, we are sort of still playing with that. For example, if you are trying to shoot the antennae off a giant ant, it’s really hard to target that in real time. So we might jack the percentage up a little bit to make it a viable option. But you could certainly play the entire game without using VATS. But we've found in the office playing the game that the third person playback (which only happens in VATS) is a lot of fun to watch. When Todd and I first started prototyping VATS, we played other real time games like Call of Duty and Halo. We'd sit there and say "if I were playing this game and could freeze this moment and go into some kind of targeting system, how would that feel?" Sometimes you want to take a breath and think tactically and not feel rushed. We struggled a long time with the first versions of VATS whether the game should be paused or should we do some slo mo thing. We decided to pause the game and let the player think, be more tactical and not pressure them.

SC: No shots to the eyes?
EP: No, and I'll tell you why. We talked about that, we prototyped it, and when you play the game and see it in such high def, when you shoot someone in the eyes you expect the head to blow up anyway. Shooting someone in the head has the same effect. If you get a critical on them they get dazed and stuff.

SC: It doesn't look like you could finish the game without killing a lot of people.
EP: Not entirely true. It depends on the quest. You saw all the speech options and dialog in the demo. As far as dialog options go, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of interaction through dialog is three times what we had in Oblivion. There's a really strong stealth component. There are a lot of paths through the quests and some are non-violent. That said, you can't wander off into the wasteland and expect to live.

SC: Can a character dodge?
EP: That is part of the real time engine. You can definitely move to take cover behind stuff and duck down.

Other interviewer: Will the PipBoy evolve with your character? As your character gains skills, will it add abilities?
SC: Can you add anything to it?

EP: No, it’s a pretty consistent piece of equipment throughout the game. The PipBoy itself really doesn't change.

Other interviewer: How many radio stations are there?
EP: I'm not saying. (laughter and moans) Several, though. The cool thing about the radio stations, obviously there's the music and the DJ, but you can use it tactically by picking up the frequency of the enemy out in the wasteland and listen in on their transmissions. You can get quests that way. We use it a lot.

SC: Is the Enclave in the game? The presentation mentioned their radio station.
EP: I don't know what you’re talking about. (laughter) We're not talking about that.
SC: Thank you.
EP Quite welcome (laughter)

SC: Will there be aliens in the game?
EP (makes a face) No. (laughter)
SC: Alien weaponry?
EP: (pause, another face) These are things I'm not supposed to talk about.

SC: Do you get a dog?
EP: Mmaayybbee Yes.

SC: Are there any new mutant animals?
EP: New mutant animals. Let's see. We're still going through our creature list. I don't want to say what they are, but yes.

Other interviewer: What kind of creatures are in the game?
EP: All of the Fallout classics are back. There's a full line of robots: you saw the Protectron in the presentation (a Robby-the-Robot-type robot that was in the Metro Subway), Mr. Handy, Robobrain and Sentrybot. Right before E3 the rad scorpion just went in fully animated. There's also the classic deathclaw. There are lots of creatures are in the game.

SC: So is the DC Brotherhood of Steel the same Brotherhood of Steel that was on the West Coast? Is it nationwide?
EP: You’re the only person that asked me that question. I'm surprised that no one else has. Let me just say that its come up a lot that "How did the Super Mutants and the Brotherhood of Steel get on the East Coast?". We answer those questions in the game and there's a reason why they're there. They are somehow connected to the other Brotherhood of Steel but we cover those bases within the game. (Note: it appears that the Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout 3 is not the West Coast one but an offshoot that was mentioned in Fallout: Tactics. In that game, a blimp expedition from the West Coast was sent over the Rockies to follow the retreating Super Mutants. The lead blimp crashes near Chicago and the survivors set up their own version of the Brotherhood of Steel. It may be that BOS that is battling the Super Mutants in DC, or maybe another one created by the blimps that did not crash in Chicago but continued eastward. Just an educated guess...)

SC: Why Vault 101? Seems like it would be Vault 1 if it was in Washington DC?
EP: We looked at the Fallout fiction and how many Vaults there were. We decided that we should go with higher number Vaults since the lower number ones were on the West Coast.

SC: Will we see any NPCs from the previous games?
EP: Maybe. We're not talking about that.

SC: From the demo, it looks like the currency is bottle caps?
EP: That is correct.

SC: Do you have a favorite technological marvel?
EP: I do, but I can't tell you what it is.

Other interviewer: Can you give us a generalized development timeline over the next year?
EP: Sure. You look at our 45-50 minute long demo and it looks like there's a lot there. But on the design side we want to have these important character interactions. We want players to feel like they are real people. In order to do that it simply takes a lot of time. In Oblivion there is what we call essential characters, characters that you cannot kill. A lot of games have them. For Fallout 3, our goal was not to do that. If a NPC gives the player a quest and the player blows his head off, how does that affect the quest? We have to deal with that, and it takes a lot of time to do that. Multiple pathways to fulfill a quest take a lot of time to develop. In Oblivion, the player makes his decisions on a higher level: if I want to be evil I join the Dark Brotherhood, whereas Fallout quests have multiple pathways to complete the quest.

Other interviewer: Is there a centralized storyline or is it completely free branching?
EP: There is definitely a storyline. We use the character's dad as a device: Dad leaves the Vault, you follow him. But why did he leave? What was he up to? And all that ties into the players’ relationship with the Capitol wasteland and are those people worth saving.

Other interviewer: Are there going to be DX10 capabilities? Would we see any difference?
EP: I can't imagine that we wouldn't but we haven't yet. We're sort of taking a wait and see attitude and see what on-line games do.

Other interviewer: Are you planning to develop expansion packs?
EP: We've talked about it and we just don't know yet. We're so focused on making the game. Ironically, if I say "yes", and the game comes out without the new features, we'll be accused of ripping the players off by not releasing the full game. The truth is, we really don't think about expansion until after the game is out.

Other interviewer: So are you looking for a simultaneous release for all three platforms?
EP: Yup, all platforms the same day.

Other interviewer: How much are your actions and how you address each quest going to affect both the game play and the story? How does being good or evil affect the game?
EP: When we first started we had that very convention, the good or evil thing. But we realized that a lot of Fallout is about these shades of gray. So we're fully supporting a neutral path as well, which has been interesting for us. I can be the good guy or this evil guy, but what if I don't want to do that? What if I want to be this sort of mercenary guy in the middle? And that plays into the quests, too.

The interview ended with the eager interviewers getting kicked out of the conference room so Emil could do a video interview. I would like to thank Emil Pagliarulo for his time and gracious patience and No Mutants Allowed for their extensive list of Fallout 3 questions!


Add Comment Comments

26 Jul 2007 - 11:15am

Slaughter, on 25th July 2007, 3:48pm, said:

Welcome back BA! In the sarcastic corner today? :)

hmm duno yet might be
Azrael Strife\
25 Jul 2007 - 5:33pm
Azrael Strife
Well, I think the game looks terrific, bar the Mutant-Orc, it might not be what I expected (a true old-school RPG) but still looks promising and I'll definitely try to get my hands on it as soon as it's released.
25 Jul 2007 - 3:48pm
Welcome back BA! In the sarcastic corner today? :)
24 Jul 2007 - 11:18pm
awesome awesome awesome, this is will be the next game i play after helo 3 for shore..lol
24 Jul 2007 - 9:55pm
You know what they say about video: it adds 5 kilos to you!  It my case, its more like 15, but what can I say.  I did re-order some of the questions & answers, so it won't play out the same way I wrote it down.
24 Jul 2007 - 6:39pm
Video from the interview (though second half is broken for now). Have fun!

Spotted at NMA.
baby arm\
24 Jul 2007 - 5:35am
baby arm


Bethesda does listen to constructive feedback
Bethesda? What have you been smoking?
23 Jul 2007 - 3:25pm
Just as a note, in the July 2007 issue of GameInformer magazine there is a 10 page cover story on Fallout 3. It's quite a read with short interviews from a lot of the development team (including Emil). Of course, most of the 10 pages is reserved for pictures with an impressive one detailing The Fatman: "a handheld nuclear catapult". :)

Being a complete noob to this series, I am contemplating looking into this further. It might not be exactly the same as the other Fallout games and it may borrow ideas from Elder Scrolls, but from where I am sitting it is interesting (that says a lot). Still, this game is coming out, when? Fall 2008? That's a long way off, and a lot of things can happen between now and then. Bethesda does listen to constructive feedback (which is a rare trait of developers these days) from the gaming community, so things may still change. :)

- Zombie
22 Jul 2007 - 7:52pm
I'm doing fine, all the best :)
22 Jul 2007 - 7:46am

Briosafreak, on 20th July 2007, 10:56pm, said:

I've been saying that this game is more an attempt to pick up the Deus Ex/System Shock style of gaming and take it to another level for quite some time now. It has a bit of Oblivion, a bit of Fallout, a bit of Gears of war, but the filliation seems to be mostly on the Deus Ex school, which makes sense, since Emil worked at Looking Glass and Ion Storm.
Didn't know that, thanks for the heads up! Emil seems like a good guy, and what he said in the interview was quite interesting.


That makes it interesting to follow, but that doesn't mean (quite the contrary) that it will be a Fallout sequel. Tough luck for me, but that's life.
I agree that it would be better if they didn't call it Fallout 3. Since it is so different from the two first ones, if would be better to do as tactics did.

That being said, I think it's a shame that parts of the community is so hostile. I understand that people are disappointed we'll not get isometric and turn-based, and everyone that feels that way should tell Bethesda so in a constructive manner.

When that is done, people should provide useful feedback on Bethesda's current project in the Fallout setting to make it the best it can be. Bad-mouthing Bethesda and Fallout 3 accomplishes nothing, and I understand that Bethesda do not tolerate it.


Always good to see you Slaughter, check my blog here with info about Fallout3.
I'll be sure to check out your blog, thanks for the heads up! Hope you are doing well!
20 Jul 2007 - 8:56pm
I've been saying that this game is more an attempt to pick up the Deus Ex/System Shock style of gaming and take it to another level for quite some time now. It has a bit of Oblivion, a bit of Fallout, a bit of Gears of war, but the filliation seems to be mostly on the Deus Ex school, which makes sense, since Emil worked at Looking Glass and Ion Storm.

That makes it interesting to follow, but that doesn't mean (quite the contrary) that it will be a Fallout sequel. Tough luck for me, but that's life.

Always good to see you Slaughter, check my blog here with info about Fallout3.
20 Jul 2007 - 6:34pm
I weren't too interested in this game until I read the "Deus Ex 1" comment in the interview. If they can make something close to the first Deus Ex, I'll enjoy myself! Remains to be seen how advanced they make it however. If it lands closer to Deus Ex Invisible War than Deus Ex, I'm out.

@FullAuto: Yeah, I agree with you on killing everyone (and the rest for that matter). The freedom of Fallout is one of it's many strengths, and a very essential part!
20 Jul 2007 - 6:14pm
From the little I've seen it does look good (love that screenshot of the head popping).  I think one of the main concerns was graphical style rather than quality, but they seem to have both.

Although I'm a turn-based fanatic, there have been a few games that have used the real-time but pause anytime style successfully, and I think the option to not use the VATS and play it all in real time is rather good, as it will make easy encounters go by faster, surely?

The level of character development looks okay, seven attributes each affecting 2/3 skills/stats.  Not a massive amount, but room to move, certainly.

It definitely sounds like it has replay value, being able to go back and explore different quests and different ways of completing them, ferreting out and constructing your own weapons.  I applaud the idea that no character is too important to kill.  You should be able to kill everybody and it should have consequences each time you do kill someone.


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Fallout 3 Box
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks



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