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What do you do in the case of a nuclear Armageddon? Talk to Bethesda's Pete Hines of course...
While sifting through the rubble of Fallout 3's Washington DC, ruined by the ravages of a nuclear holocaust, we came across a peculiar site. There, in amongst some discarded 'duck and cover' pamphlets, was Bethesda's Pete Hines. After he'd cleaned himself up a bit and we moved away from the radioactive puddle next to us, we sat down and he spoke to us about what Fallout 3 has in store.
TVG: What sort of influences did you draw from to create Fallout 3's post-apocalyptic world?
It comes from a lot of different places. If you haven't read it yet, we've put up these team diaries on our website and Adam Adamowicz did one (he's our Concept Artist) where he talks about the concepts for all of the stuff in the game - how he came up with the ideas; where he looked for sources of inspiration.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that the look we were most trying to nail was the look of Fallout 1, but brought into a realistic first-person view. We spent a lot of time trying to work out how to capture that look and that feel. Beyond that, there's a lot of different stuff. From an architectural standpoint, we've been looking at a lot of different architecture from the 40s/50s era; the 'Guggy' architecture and that kind of thing.
For the look of the creatures in the world, some of it was just taking something like a Braman and bringing it into this game the best way that we could imagine that Braman not being a little thing on the screen, but being this giant two-headed cow/bull thing. All of that is innovative - it's like, 'Okay, well if that's what that looks like, we're going to have this new creature and how would that mutated thing look', or 'What would a Molerat look like given the other pantheon of creatures we have, both new and old.'
The number of iterations we did on the Vault suit... It was like, 'What would it actually look like, you know? On a person, what would it practically look like? Where would it have hatches or zippers?', every little detail to try and make sure that we've nailed the look of that stuff, and made it look and feel just right for the world that we're talking about.
TVG: We had a walk through Greyditch in our hands on today and we had a look at Megaton during our First Look last year. How many other cities are there in the game world?
There are not actually that many cities. There are a couple and then there are a lot of little settlements and places where a few people have huddled together to try to survive in this world, but not big thriving cities. You go here; you find somebody who's trading some goods; there are a couple of houses, and over here is this lady and her boy scratching out an existence. It's more of that as opposed to, 'Oh, here's this big city!' It's post-apocalyptic DC; they have lots of issues staying alive.
TVG: During our hands on we came across a boy who wanted us to find his father, which required killing a lot of Fire Ants. Is that part of the main quest or was it a side quest?
Just a random thing to find out in the world.
TVG: Okay, so that's a side quest then?
If you never go that way, you may not ever run into that kid and you may not see that for 20 hours. It's just a thing to do as you're out wandering around.
TVG: In that sense, does Bethesda not necessarily have any specific main or side quests; they're just things that happen in the game world?
No, there's definitely a pretty substantial main quest - it's probably about 20-25 hours to play it. That's to do with your dad and why your dad left you behind in the vault and what he left to go and do. That serves two purposes: number one, it's a very strong story to experience and play, so if that's all you did, I think you'd find it a really fun and interesting. It could almost be a linear gameplay experience; just ignore all the other stuff, go and do this and be done with it.
But it also does serve a purpose because it encourages you to parts throughout the world, so that you do see things like Grayditch where you go, 'Oh, maybe I do want to go and help this kid out.' You do get introduced to other parts of the game that have nothing to do with the main quest - they're just interesting things to do out in the world. So you can decide for yourself, how much or how little of one or the other you want to do.
TVG: It's hard to quantify I'm sure, but with all of those additional things that you'll come across, how long would it take for a player to complete all of the things that the game has to offer?
It would probably have to be somewhere around 100 [hours] I'd say.
TVG: So there's a large portion of that extra stuff then?
Yeah, there's a lot of random stuff to do in the world. That includes random locations such as an office building that's been taken other by some kind of creatures and it has to be cleared out so you can get all the loot from there. All of that kind of stuff; quests, the whole thing.
TVG: Over the last year there have been a lot of reports about the number of different endings that Fallout 3 will have, 11 endings was touted at one stage I think, but how are you determining this? For example, we've seen in-game footage where the player can choose to set off a nuke in the settlement of Megaton or leave it be. Will choices like these factor into the number of endings that Bethesda has been talking about, or will there be 11 separate and conclusive endings?
No, we're talking about what you're talking about, which is doing it the same way that the original Fallout games did it and giving you an ending that is customised to the way that you played the game, and, at certain points in the game, taking into account whatever you did and incorporating that into your ending. So that what you're getting is tailored for your experience as opposed to the generic, 'Here's how it ends!' with no real account of how you played the game with the kind of things you did at various points. So, to your point, it's exactly that.
TVG: With that in mind, how many end situations do you see there being?
Oh, how many factors go into that?
TVG: Err... no, just end states, as in the final scenes. Is there a good and an evil ending, for example?
Oh, no, it's a whole mix. I mean the number of variations is over 500, but that's of all the different permutations you can have of each different variable and what you did at each point. I don't know how many of those there are (I haven't gone back to look), but it takes into account any number of things you've done from early in the game, right up to when the game ends - it takes into account all of that stuff.
TVG: I guess what I mean is that Knights of the Old Republic, for example, had both good and evil endings, or different story-arcs depending on whether you opted for the dark or light side. I understand that your choices in Fallout 3 will bring about different permutations, but as far as the final scene of the final level is concerned, is that one set ending or will there be more?
Yeah, I get where you're going. So, first off, we're really not talking about the main quest at all until the game comes out, so I don't want to say anything that reveals how that works. So, I'll probably just leave it at that to be safest.
TVG: The VAT system brings in a tactical element to the combat...
That's the idea, it was designed to slow things down a bit, it's obviously a nod to the original combat system of Fallout, to make it a little more tactical, to let you make some decisions, to handle multiple enemies that you may be faced with. In a one-on-one situation you may be fine, but if you get three or four more creatures you may be compelled to figure out which ones are injured and target those first, target the legs on this one because it's got a weapon I don't want it to use, cripple that one, shoot this one in the arm or shoot his weapon to disable it. You can make those tactical choices and do it in a pause mode as opposed to real-time frantically trying to get your crosshair on the right thing, it does slow things down, and as a result, it's a little more powerful
It's nice that the game doesn't force you to go either way
That's the way it was designed, it's not jammed down your throat it's just there and most of the folks I see play the game use a combination of the two, but there are definitely folks who lean more to one way or another. Some who run around like a regular shooter, which is fine, and some that rely really heavily on VAT and use it exclusively.
TVG: There appears to be a lot of factions vying for power all over the place...
There's a lot of groups in the world that have their own thing going on. The Raiders are random lunatics out in the wasteland, where society has fallen into complete chaos and they're just taking advantage of it, they're just giant pains in the arse. But you've got mercenaries that you'll find in the world, guns for hire that you'll have to deal with, the Enclave, the Brotherhood of Steel, a splinter group from the Brotherhood of Steel, you've got the Slavers, the people that have Megaton. There's lots of different groups of people you come across, everybody's got their thing going on and you've got to work out how you're going to interact with it - 'I gotta free the slaves or I'm going to make some money out of this'.
TVG: What's the deal with exclusive downloadable content for Fallout 3?
It is exclusive to PC and Xbox 360. I can't tell you how many we'll be doing or when they'll be out; I don't actually have definitive answers to either of those. But our plans are to do substantive stuff, so if you're familiar with the Knights of the Nine download for Oblivion, it'll be things that are of that size. Something that's substantial and adds a couple of hours of gameplay - that's our goal.
TVG: What about Fallout 4?
The whole reason we went out and acquired the license and that we now own Fallout is that we clearly intended to make more than one. This is not something we're going to do once and then go away and never do it again. When that will be or how long that will be, god only knows, but we acquired it specifically because we wanted to own it and develop it and work on it like we do with The Elder Scrolls.
Is there any truth to the rumours of an MMO?
We licensed rights to Interplay to do a Fallout MMO, but I don't have any knowledge of where that is or what they're doing with it. I don't know anything about it.
TVG would like to thank Pete Hines, Bethesda's Vice-President of PR and Marketing, for taking the time to speak with us about Fallout 3, which is set for release in October on the Xbox 360, PC, and PS3.