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Editorial The Origins of Fallout - Part 2

VentilatorOfDoom

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Tags: Fallout; Interplay; Wasteland

[Part 1]

Part 2 of No Mutants Allowed's epic editorial on the origins of Fallout is up. This time topics include the origins of the setting, design principles and conflicts with GURPS. Must read.

The post-apocalyptic genre is still very dear to my heart. The idea of humanity destroying itself is one of the darkest themes in all of literature. However, the archetype of the Survivor – the lone hero who does not succumb to the anarchic world or his base desires; who is his own justice and treats people like he would like to be treated – no other heroic figure is stronger. He is literally one man against the world, and no matter the cost to himself, he remains the paragon of the best aspects of humanity, carrying the hope that the idyllic and prosperous world of his past – our world – will eventually be revived.

The world after an apocalypse is fraught with danger and adventure; it brings out the worst – and best – of humankind. It is a brutal world, full of savagery and devoid of honor. There is only Survival. That and a distant dream of lifting themselves from the ashes. Few genres can elicit that level of primal emotions from an audience.

As the team gathered for the upcoming Christmas break, we all shared our ideas of where a GURPS: Wasteland could go. We liked the idea of setting it in Southern California; close enough to the Las Vegas of the first game where we could still use some characters, but different enough where we could tell our own story. Our player would be a member of the Desert Rangers dispatched to So. Cal. to investigate a mutant uprising, or a robot uprising, or something. . . but it was going to be great!

As we were about to end the meeting, Interplay’s legal counsel stepped in to say “have a good holiday!” And, just as he was leaving, he said, “Oh yeah, it turns out that EA still retains the rights to Wasteland. Merry Christmas!”

Sadly it was true. We wouldn’t be able to use the Wasteland license. Even though Interplay created the game, Electronic Arts had published it and still retained the rights. The worst part? EA had let the Wasteland license die, since it was seven years since the product had been released. However, because Interplay had released Wasteland as part of Interplay’s 10th Anniversary collection (and had given EA money for the right), it was as if EA re-published the game, thusly securing the Wasteland license for EA for another seven years.

Bugger.

So we all left for our vacation completely adrift. The genre and the story we had settled on were now gone, and it was back to the drawing board. Not a good start to the project.

Interestingly enough, I later learned that EA didn’t even care about the Wasteland license at the time. Apparently there was still some animosity over Interplay becoming its own publisher; competing with EA when only years before they were publishing through EA (and making them fat money). I had also heard that after denying Interplay the right to use Wasteland, EA asked their internal teams if anyone wanted to use this license. Apparently one did. Years later, after Fallout had shipped, I was pitching a game at EA Redwood Shores. I remember walking through their development cubicle-farm and seeing lots of wild-west-meets-Wasteland concept art and was hinted that this was to be a sequel to Wasteland. Although it never was released, that game was prompted by that phone call to deny Interplay the use of Wasteland.​
 

hiver

Guest
Im reading as fast as i can!

btw, maybe all this would work better being fused into one post.

-edit-
We all agreed: “Screw EA.”
:mob:


I had some interesting ideas, but nothing strong enough to call a “good story”.

That’s when Tim Cain had the idea. He said that he had it in a dream.
Blaimey! This is pure gold!

:salute:
 

Brother None

inXile Entertainment
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btw, maybe all this would work better being fused into one post.

Well put it up as a text-only PDF after publishing the last part, for people who want to read it in one go and/or print it out and read it.
 

hiver

Guest
No, no... i meant here on the codex, since its only a link to the article.
Article itself is fine. FINE.
 

Country_Gravy

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Wasteland 2
This article was awesome. Really gave insight into the computer industry at the start of the fallout era. The stories he told about the developers were good.
 
Repressed Homosexual
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Sadly though, it doesn't seem different from the kind of ideas Bethesda would come up with. What I got out of the article was just a series of "dude, it will be AWESOME!". The only difference between this and Bethesda is that they come from a heavy pen and paper RPGs background.
 

Brother None

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Is that what White Moon Dreams does, browser-bases game? I had no idea.

The only difference between this and Bethesda is that they come from a heavy pen and paper RPGs background.

Well, that and more respect for keeping a setting consistent and realization when an idea jars with the setting (like the clown gang).

Besides, the p&p background is a pretty significant difference.
 

CappenVarra

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Really interesting stuff.

That’s when Tim Cain had the idea. He said that he had it in a dream. Something about being in a huge fallout shelter locked behind a massive door. This wasn’t just a shelter, this was a whole city. People lived their whole lives there, never seeing the outside world…

...
To most-rapidly and cost-effectively make these underground shelters, a hole is drilled a half-mile down into a granite mountain. At the base of the hole, a one megaton nuke is detonated. This creates a quarter mile diameter sphere of liquid magma which eventually compacts and cools into a flat stone floor, leaving a small dome of gasses which escape from the hole in the top. Voila! A domed underground structure!

...
Speaking of funny language restrictions, while the Super Nintendo version of Lord of the Rings was submitted to Nintendo for approval, it was rejected. Why? “Nine for mortal men doomed to die.” Nintendo would not allow us to use the term “die” in a SNES game. Seriously. We told them that we were quoting from a piece of great literature, but still they denied our submission. In anger, the game’s producer changed it to “Nine mortal men doomed to cry.” (And I can still hear the screams of horror from the Tolkien fans in the office.)
Crazy :)

And yes, when people making the game have a heavy P&P background, it shows.
 
Self-Ejected

Davaris

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Really interesting stuff.

That’s when Tim Cain had the idea. He said that he had it in a dream. Something about being in a huge fallout shelter locked behind a massive door. This wasn’t just a shelter, this was a whole city. People lived their whole lives there, never seeing the outside world…

A Boy and His Dog Trailer
 

CappenVarra

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Heh, never watched the movie, but the short story was good. Ties in nicely with Wyrmlord's recent explanation how RPGs already have all the cool ideas that ever existed :roll:
 
In My Safe Space
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Codex 2012
For example, if the GM said, “There are two bandits ahead of you.”, there would always be a variety of actions from the players. “I sneak into the bushes to lay an ambush.” “I take cover and ready my bow.” “I approach to parley.” “I run up and intimidate them into giving me their money.” “I run past them shouting, ‘Oh god, it’s right behind me! Run!’” It was rare that players in a paper-and-pencil game would just say, “We attack them.”

GURPS was also a skill heavy game, and its combat was kind of brutal. Characters in a fight could easily be overwhelmed by their opponents, even weak ones. Players had to rely on their character’s skills to best foes or overcome obstacles – and GURPS had a LOT of skills. (No really, at the time there were hundreds of skills, and in its current incarnation there are one thousand plus skills!) It was common to have a dozen of skills on your character sheet, but potentially only use a handful during a whole adventure.

All of this led us to two very important decisions:
Rule #1: Multiple Decisions. We will always allow for multiple solutions to any obstacle.

Rule #2: No Useless Skills. The skills we allow you to take will have meaning in the game.

This meant that the player will never be presented with a dialog stating, “Will your stalwart band choose to (F)ight or (R)un?” They will need to have an enormous amount of freedom to tackle each encounter as they see fit. If they spent the points to purchase the Intimidation skill, they should be able to use it as often as possible and to accomplish as many challenges as possible.
Too bad the final game is filled with execution squad-style encounters with mutants, raiders, etc.

The beginning of the game was intended to be a lot more interactive. Instead of just a movie of the Overseer, the plan was to start the game in Vault 13:

You would start out in your room, with pleasant music playing, and a computer voice prompting you to dress and go to work. Your closet is full of Vault Jumpsuits – all the same color. As you leave for work, people dressed exactly like you wave and say hello. You pass some people complaining about the taste of their water. Where you work depends on the skills you assigned to your character: Security Guard, Scientist, Maintenance Worker, Vault PR. You are able to pick up a few items in the vault, and talk to as many people as you like. People are generally nice but in a malaise. A few are afraid of the “water problem” but seem a little scared to mention it in public. Luckily, your utopian boredom is quickly brought to an end. The vault’s Overseer calls you into his office.

He explains that the vault’s water purification chip has burned out. It’s only a matter of time before the water recycling will become toxic. The vault’s central computer has chosen you as the citizen most likely to succeed in leaving the vault and returning with a new chip.

After this, you can gather whatever supplies your character can beg, borrow, or steal. The people know you are going and hope for your safe return. Some are anxious to hear of news of the outside world, others think only death awaits you. As the mighty vault doors grind open, you enter the tunnels leading out… and that’s where the shipping game actually begins.

Personally, I thought that this was an important buildup to entering the Wasteland, for the player to realize what was at stake if they failed.

I intended the Vault to be your base of operations, allowing you to return there as often as you liked. I had also planned that the Vault was to be attacked by some of the desert gangs, and eventually by the Master’s hordes of Super Mutants, dragging your family to the Mariposa Base unless you stopped them.

However, the interior of Vault 13 was simply cut due to time. Sure it makes me a little sad, but in the end, all creative endeavors are a business, and sometimes hard decisions must be made.
Goddamnit, fuck, I always missed it - I even remember talking about how I felt that my character is a fucking wasteland dweller not a vault dweller. Fuck shit, not only GURPS but fuck, shit goddamned vault life.



Another crazy idea I wanted to employ was something I saw in Ultima VI: those NPCs kept to hand-crafted schedules. The woodcutter would get up at 6am, sit at his table until 7am, go to work until 5pm, then return home until 9pm, and then go to bed. This gave a convincing illusion of a living world.
Of course, I didn’t just want to steal the idea – I wanted to expand upon it in the following ways:
  • We can describe the actions required by certain jobs, so when an NPC is cleaning the sewers, they know where they need to go, what actions need to be performed, and how much time they should take. This means that if the player decides to watch them, they seem to behave intelligently.
  • You could alter an NPC’s task list. If you tell a friendly NPC to meet you at the fountain at 8pm, they will modify their schedule to appear at the fountain from 8pm to 9pm (and if you leave them waiting, they’ll be ticked off!) Also, if the environment changes – like someone in the city is shooting it up - they can override their tasks to get help, find cover, or try to apprehend the lawbreaker.
  • You could talk to anyone about anything. There would be a range of pre-defined personalities that could run the gambit of emotions. And, they remember you. If you make them laugh or help them out, they will treat you with respect, become your friend, or even fall in love with you.
  • Because anyone can be your friend, enemy, or love interest, technically you could recruit any character in the game into your party. This was intended make the Seduction skill immensely powerful for all those Mata Hari archetypes.
  • Personality differences matter. If your actions offend a follower, they might leave you. However, personalities are malleable over time. Instead of an NPC or follower continually being offended that you drink, after a while they just might join you (depending on the strength of their personality.)
  • Reputation is king. GURPS has a whole mechanic for reputation effects, so this would be an important part in interacting with NPCs. As you adventure through the game, people will say, “Hey! That’s the guy that killed Gizmo in Junktown!”, which will have different reactions based on the NPCs personality traits.
Although very little of this made it into the game, I’m glad that future games had similar ideas and ran with them. When Fable was announced, my immediate reaction was: “See! I wasn’t crazy! It can be done! Look, they’re doing it!”

Fuck, what, fuck, why? Why? So fucking avant-garde but never made.

At the time, I had a love-affair with X-COM: UFO Defense. In fact, many of the visual decisions for Fallout stemmed from the three-quarter perspective view from that game. The interface was no exception. I wanted to emulate their static, icon laden horizontal combat bar. I kept their big graphic icons showing character's readied weapon (which kept things sexy looking) but there were so many action buttons, we needed a better way to identify the icons. A readout at the bottom of the screen would give the description of the button you were highlighting – and there were A LOT of buttons. You had buttons that changed your stance, buttons that showed and let you use your active abilities, buttons to perform skills, buttons to change up your inventory, to see your reputations, access your stats, to attack, defend, evade, acrobatic dodge, macramé . . . is your head spinning yet?
So, it would be more advanced than JA2... Fucking Steve Jackson. Fuck, and first he said "the more violence the better" and then started bitching about violence, fuck, that's so fucking low.
Oh wait, they wanted to dumb it down anyway...
Though I wonder how much - the interface from the GURPS screenshots looks pretty simplistic and it still has stuff like aiming and actions.
 

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