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Fallout 20th Anniversary: Available Free on Steam, Interview at PCGamesN

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Fallout 20th Anniversary: Available Free on Steam, Interview at PCGamesN

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 30 September 2017, 20:57:34

Tags: Chris Taylor; Fallout; Feargus Urquhart; Interplay; Leonard Boyarsky; Tim Cain

The original Fallout was released by Interplay twenty years ago today. If you're reading this, you probably know how important a game Fallout is. Along with Baldur's Gate, it would help kick off the late 90s revival of the computer roleplaying genre. The RPG Codex would almost certainly not exist without it. In honor of this anniversary, the franchise's overlords at Bethesda have kindly made the game available for free on Steam for today. Meanwhile, the gentlemen at PCGamesN have published an interview with some of its creators who now work at Obsidian Entertainment. Here's an excerpt:

For a short while, Interplay had planned to make several games in the GURPS system. But soon afterwards they had won the D&D license, a far bigger property that would go on to spawn Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. As a consequence, Caine’s team were left largely to their own devices.

As for budget - Fallout’s was small enough to pass under the radar. Although Interplay are best remembered for the RPGs of Black Isle and oddball action games like Shiny’s Earthworm Jim, they had mainstream ambitions not so different to those of the bigger publishers today. During Fallout’s development they were primarily interested in sports, and an online game division called Engage.

“It was almost like a smokescreen,” Urquhart explains. “So much money was being pumped into these things that you could go play with your toys and no-one would know.”

Which is exactly what the Fallout team did, pulling out every idea they’d ever intended for a videogame.

“Being just so happy and fired up that we were making this thing basically from scratch and doing virtually whatever we wanted, we had this weird arrogance about the whole thing,” Boyarsky recalls. “‘People are gonna love it, and if they don’t love it they don’t get it.’

“Part of it was a punk rock ethos of, every time we came up with an idea and thought, ‘Wow, no-one would ever do that’, we always wanted to push it further. We chased that stuff and got all excited, like we were doing things we weren't supposed to be doing.”​

[...] “We were really, really fortunate,” Boyarsky says. “No-one gets the opportunity we had to go off in a corner with a budget and a team of great, talented people and make whatever we wanted. That kind of freedom just doesn't exist.

“We were almost 30, so we were old enough to realise what we had going on. A lot of people say, ‘I didn't realise how good it was until it was over’. Every day when I was making Fallout I was thinking, ‘I can't believe we're doing this’. And I even knew in the back of my head that it was never going to be that great again.”

Once Fallout came out, it was no longer the strange project worked on in the shadows with little to no oversight. It was a franchise with established lore that was getting a sequel. It wasn’t long before Boyarsky, Caine, and Anderson left to form their own RPG studio, Troika.

“We knew Fallout 1 was the pinnacle,” Boyarsky says. “We felt like to continue on with it under changed circumstances would possibly leave a bad taste in our mouths. We were so happy and so proud of what we'd done that we didn't want to go there.”

Fallout is larger than this clique now. Literally, in fact: the vault doors Boyarsky once drew in isometric intricacy are now rendered in imposing 3D in Bethesda’s sequels. And yet Boyarksy, Taylor, and Caine now work under the auspices of Obsidian, a studio that has its own, more recent, history with the Fallout series. Should the opportunity arise again, would they take it?

“I’m not sure, to be very honest,” Taylor says. “I loved working on Fallout. It was the best team of people I ever worked with. I think it’s grown so much bigger than myself that I would feel very hesitant to work on it nowadays. I would love to work on a Fallout property, like a board game, but working on another computer game might be too much.”

Boyarsky shares his reservations: that with the best intentions, these old friends could get started on something and tarnish their experience of Fallout.

“It would be very hard for us to swallow working on a Fallout game where somebody else was telling you what you could and couldn't do,” he expands. “I would have a really hard time with someone telling me what Fallout was supposed to be. I'm sure that it would never happen because of the fact that I would have that issue.”

Urquhart - now Obsidian’s CEO - is at pains to point out that Bethesda were nothing but supportive partners throughout the making of Fallout: New Vegas, requesting only a handful of tiny tweaks to Obsidian’s interpretation of its world. “I’ve got to be explicit in saying we are not working on a new Fallout,” he says. “But I absolutely would.”

Caine has mainly built his career by working on original games rather than sequels: Fallout, Arcanum, Wildstar, and Pillars of Eternity. But he would be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about working on another Fallout.

“I’ve had a Fallout game in my head since finishing Fallout 1 that I've never told anyone about,” he admits. “But it's completely designed, start to finish. I know the story, I know the setting, I know the time period, I know what kind of characters are in it. It just sits in the back of my head, and it's sat there for 20 years. I don't think I ever will make it, because by now anything I make would not possibly compare to what's in my head. But it's up there.”
If you don't own Fallout on Steam already, get it now. Play it, remember it. This is a nostalgic moment, but also a sad one, because right now it seems highly unlikely that the Fallout series will ever amount to much again. At least not until Chris Avellone achieves his secret goal of insinuating himself into Bethesda's favor and becoming its Michael Kirkbride-esque creative lead.

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