Fallout 3 was so engaging in every detail that it made most people’s ‘top game’ list in 2008. Now we’re off to Vegas and new developers, Obsidian Entertainment, the folks who gave us Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, NeverWinter Nights 2 and recent flop Alpha Protocol, are out to prove that not even nuclear fallout can dim the lights of Sin City.
We spoke recently with Obsidian’s Larry Liberty, Senior Producer on Fallout: New Vegas, about the series’ transition from wasteland ruins to a post apocalyptic tinsel town.
Gamefreaks: What can we expect to see in the story of Fallout: New Vegas?
Larry Liberty: I think that really depends on the player. For many players it will be a story of revenge and redemption. But, there’s nothing to stop the player from dealing with the events of the world on their own terms. For the first time in a Fallout game, the protagonist is not a vault dweller. Instead, you play a courier who is robbed, shot, and buried in a shallow grave. The package that was stolen from you is tied to the looming conflict that threatens to engulf the Mojave Wasteland.
GF: Why choose Vegas as the location for the game?
LL: The choice was rather easy. Given the historical ties that many of the New Vegas development team have to Fallout 1 and 2 it was only natural that a location in the western United States was chosen. We wanted to take the franchise somewhere new but that would be iconic and lend itself to both great gameplay and a compelling story. Vegas was the place we chose from the beginning.
GF: Is there any connection between the plot and characters of Fallout 3 and this game?
LL: There is minimal connectivity between Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. It certainly takes place in the same world, and progresses the storyline, taking place four years after the events of Fallout 3. But, given the vast geographic distance between DC and New Vegas, it made more sense to have a closer bond to the factions that were introduced in Fallout 1 and 2. There are a couple of story elements that are common to Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but they aren’t obvious and will take a little playing time to discover.
GF: Are there new enemies to see and fight?
LL: There are certainly new characters to interact with, and being Fallout you can choose to make an enemy of any of them. If you’ve seen any of the New Vegas previews you’ve most likely seen Securitrons (the robots with CRT faces – think of a 1950s RoboCop) and Bighorners (giant, mutated sheep variants). We’ve also reintroduced first-generation, Mariposa super mutants, and gave them a nice visual update. There are more things to discover in the Mojave Wasteland, but you’ll have to play to find them.
GF: How has the combat been changed and improved?
LL: We’ve overhauled ranged combat, more than doubling the number of weapons in the game, filling in gaps in the weapon tiers, making button input more responsive, and adding true iron sights. In addition, the way that the Strength and Skill attributes work together has changed to make for a more gratifying experience. Weapons have Strength and Skill requirements; if you don’t meet them you’ll be less effective.
For instance, if you want to be as accurate as possible with a high-powered Minigun you should stop, kneel, aim, have the appropriate skill level (100 Guns) and 10 Strength. If you don’t have the strength required to effectively use a weapon, you’ll see more “wobble.” We also added special moves for melee weapons in VATS, as illustrated by the “Fore” move in our first press demo, a special attack that allows you to swing your 9-iron like a professional golfer with a high probability of knocking your opponent down.
GF: Fallout 3 wasn’t amazing as a shooter. Is it possible to play through the game using real-time combat instead of the RPG-style VATS system?
LL: That was one of our goals. We actually had one of our programmers play through the game without using VATS once. Of course it won’t be easy but it can be done!
GF: New Vegas is a post-apocalyptic version of what people in the 1950s would have imagined a futuristic Las Vegas would look like. Given that complex origin, what inspired your designs?
LL: We drew a great deal of inspiration from Googie architecture and mid-century modernism. When it comes to Vegas itself, we looked to the Rat Pack era of the late 50s and early 60s. At the time, Vegas was less developed and more sprawling.
GF: Have there been any graphical improvements made since Fallout 3?
LL: We had to add support for emissive LODs, so you can see neon lights from a distance, and see the “light pollution” that surrounds the greater Vegas region. We also made improvements to the memory management system, which was needed to support our generally larger towns, casinos, and combat areas. As far as lighting and core rendering functionality, it is essentially the same as Fallout 3, but the additions that we’ve made should help make the game feel different and richer.
GF: We hear there are various competing factions in New Vegas you can join forces with. How does this affect your character and progression?
LL: The Reputation System might be the biggest new feature in the game. This is the system by which the player can gauge their standing with various groups and locations that call the Mojave Wasteland home. There are so many factions and towns in the game that it would be almost impossible to play through every reputation permutation. By developing a reputation with a specific faction, they will react to you — good or bad — in direct proportion to your actions toward them. If you help the NCR, they are going to assist you throughout the game. If you’re hated in a particular town that’s not strong enough to take you out, they might pay tribute to you. Your standing with factions determines who will ally with you, where you can freely travel, and what perks and benefits you will get.
GF: Did having the game engine and world already set in stone by Bethesda make things easier or harder?
LL: It made it a lot easier to jump in and start making content. It’s a testament to Bethesda’s engine and toolset that we were able to make an absolutely massive game in the time we had.
GF: Are any expansions or DLC planned?
LL: We’ve let people know that there will be DLC. Stay tuned for more details!