Pete Hines (en.)
“For Fallout 3, we really felt
3D was the best thing to go for”
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Fallout 1 and 2, spiritual successors to the legendary post-nuclear RPG Wasteland, have long turned into legends themselves. In 2008, Bethesda Softworks (Oblivion) plans to release part 3 – which will feature first person perspective and action fights, but could still be true to the old Fallout feeling. Jörg Langer talked to Bethesda frontman Pete Hines about skills, story and the combat system.
Jörg: Why did you choose to do the game in 3D? Was is just inevitable considering you’ve done Oblivion before that?
Pete Hines: Certainly the technology we had and could build on was a factor. But ultimately, as fans of the series, we were very intrigued to immerse you in this world. And what is a better way of immersing you in this universe than first person, where you don’t see things in an abstract way, where you can walk up to stuff and touch it? There’s this chair which was like 4 pixels in the original Fallout, and now it’s there, it’s got a surface, you can sit in there!
Jörg: But what if the old Fallout fans do not like it? Won’t they look for the isometric top-down-view instead of Gears of War?
Pete Hines: There are lots of Fallout fans. I’m a Fallout fan! I am personally interested in another game set in that universe, that is true to the kind of game experience that the first two titles provided! I’m not married to the perspective, I’m not married to whether combat is turn based or real time or a sort of hybrid. If you’re someone that believes it has to be isometric and turn based, then you’ll probably be unhappy. But if you’re interested in another game in that great, rich universe, that has great texture and tone and characters, then hopefully Fallout 3 will be something which will resonate with you. At the end of the day, we can’t make a game that’s all things to all people.
Jörg: And of course you want to sell some numbers which would hardly be possible with an old school tactical game.
Pete Hines: Probably not. But we really felt 3D was the best thing to go for, was the best for the Fallout experience. Because I’m really in this world, I’m really doing this, instead of just looking at those characters down there.
Jörg: One thing many people didn’t like about Oblivion was its storyline, which was considered to be rather shallow. Are you planning to do a deeper game this time?
Pete Hines: One of the things that happen when you’re making a game like Oblivion with this massive world and all of these characters and trying to build enough quests to fill it: The one thing you don’t wanna go is deep – unless you want to spend the next 20 years to make the game. You have to apply a certain level of attention to everything in the world, and there is only so deep you can go with any given character or with the story. So what’s brilliant about Oblivion is the ability to literally be able to go to wherever you want to go to and interact with all those people. The world feels much more alive than any game we’ve created in the past of the series. Fallout 3’s emphasis is on fewer NPCs, fewer quests, but much more depth and detail to all of those things. Each quest is about how am I going to do this quest. Every quest in Fallout 3 has lots of different ways to solve it! You can be a good guy or an evil guy or anywhere in between, and that really is what Fallout is supposed to be about: you making these choices, on an individual level.
Jörg: So it’s basically less NPCs, less quests, but more choices?
Pete Hines: Exactly, and more depth. In Oblivion, you would talk to some other player about the game, and you would find that both of you did a lot of different quests. But in Fallout 3, you would talk about the same quests and how differently you accomplished them: “What did you do in Megaton, did you save it? Did you blow it up? Did you do one of those other things you can do there?” Imagine, you can nuke the whole town, and it is gone, with all those people, and all the active quests you had there! Or you could save it. That’s very different from Oblivion where I can be that dark brotherhood guy, and now I am in that mage guild quest, and I can basically do everything. Fallout 3 is about making tough choices.
Jörg: In the demonstration it looked like you would visit Megaton very early in the game. So you meet Mr. Burke, who gives you the quest to destroy Megaton. Is that right?
Pete Hines: Yes, it comes fairly early on.
Jörg: So what happens when you choose to destroy it?
Pete Hines: You get the worst karma score that you could possibly get. That’s the most evil thing you could ever do! That town’s gone – but it opens up ten penny tower, where Mr. Burke is from, which is this different, competing town whose characters are more inclined to people with low karma. You won’t meet them without destroying Megaton.
Jörg: In your hour long presentation, there were a lot of scripted sequences to be seen, for example meeting the Brotherhood-of-Steel-squad and fighting with them against Supermutants occupying a zone in Washington D.C. So will you use a lot of such triggered events?
Pete Hines: Of course, for the sake of the presentation we made sure that we would meet the Brotherhood of Steel. But when you play the game for real, how that example plays out may be very different. Those guys may be there, they may not be there. When does the player go there, how does he go there?
Jörg: Although the crosshairs were right on top of a opponent, you didn’t hit him. Ist that the underlying skills and role-playing system?
Pete Hines: Where bullets go, is based on a die roll, combined from what is your skill with the weapon and the weapon’s condition. That is why improving a weapon’s condition is very important, it gives you a much higher fire rate and percentage of hitting. Normally, the better weapons have a pretty low condition when you find them, so you have to find more weapons of the same type in order to improve it.
Jörg: But will younger players not being used to old fashioned role playing games understand the concept? Or will they say, “what the heck, why am I missing my targets all the time”?
Pete Hines: In the tutorial, when you go through your youth in several steps, we explain about it. You get a BB airgun on your birthday and learn to use it from your father. Ultimately, combat is only one part of Fallout 3. Obviously, it is important, but there are the quests and the skill system and the experience points and how you use them and trading and all that stuff. All that is a part of Fallout 3. So if the dialogue is good and the quests are fun, then you’ll be doing a lot of that stuff, too.
Jörg: The VaultTec Assisted Targeting System — can it be turned on anytime I like?
Pete Hines: Yes. Actually, the way we play the game, we sometimes use V.A.T.S. as a pause mode just to see where the enemies are. Even if we don’t have any action points to use it to fire at opponents. Because your perception skill determines what other characters are visible to you. You may see it in the 3D world, but it is not selectable in V.A.T.S. mode. If your perception skill is really high, you can even perceive people that are behind a door. So you can walk up to a door, go into V.A.T.S. mode, and detect somebody standing behind it.
Jörg: What is the size of the game world in Fallout 3? You likened it to Oblivion during the presentation?
Pete Hines: It’s about the size of Oblivion, in terms of how much you can go and explore.
Jörg: You plan to finish Fallout 3 in fall of next year – for what platforms?
Pete Hines: It will be Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3.
Jörg: And do you have plans to make the PC version harder than the others?
Pete Hines: Not at the moment, but the interface will be PC specific. We had some issues raised on the PC version of Oblivion and it’s interface being less user friendly than the console versions. If we will have differences in the PC version, will be determined when we get well into gameplay testing.
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Interview © 2007 Jörg Langer