Fallout 3 Interview
With Bethesda Softworks' Pete Hines
Hype levels for RPG veterans Bethesda Softworks' latest game, Fallout 3, are reaching peak levels. After an excellent showing at E3 this year and a promise of a significantly different game than anything Bethsoft has ever made before, both new players and the dedicated fans of their past games, the Elder Scrolls series, are really looking forward to this one. But there are still some serious questions floating around there, and I got the chance to ask Bethesda's head of PR, Pete Hines, a few of them.
Jeff: After playing Fallout 3 at E3, it seems to me like the V.A.T.S. "turn-based" system is really meant as a way to augment the real-time combat with extra attacks, as opposed to replacing it, since you can keep moving and shooting while your turn-based Action Points regenerate. Is that a fair assessment?
Pete: It's really designed to work however you want to use it. You can play the game entirely with VATS, use it in combination with real-time combat, or fight in real-time only. It's balanced so that when you use it in combination with real-time fighting, it doesn't become overly powerful.
In my recent preview for the game, I talked about the balance between action and RPG in Fallout 3, and said it seems like both have been amped up over Bethesda's past games - the RPG feels more like a hardcore RPG, while the action feels more like a shooter. Was this the intent? Oblivion was one of the most accessible RPGs ever made; do you think you'll capture the same audience with Fallout 3?
I think it's fair to say both of those things were a focal point. To allow the hardcore folks to tinker a lot with the numbers and focus on that, but also make it accessible to folks who just want to pick up and play, and have both of those things work well together. I would imagine the audience for Fallout 3 will skew wider than Oblivion's simply because of its setting and the nature of the combat. Give folks a more familiar setting with guns (vs. fantasy with orcs/elves) and a lot more folks are interested in playing it, whatever the style of game.
It seems a lot like quests and dialog are having much more thought put into them this time. We know that the world doesn't have nearly the number of dialog-enabled NPCs in it as the Elder Scrolls games did so you could do much more dialog per character, but is the number of quests lower as well? If so, are the quests deeper than we've seen in past Bethesda games?
I would say they're both deeper and wider, in terms of the number of choices and options you have in approaching a given quest and how you want to handle it, as well as what's there to get to in a quest. How we handle all of those choices you make and have them be meaningful. Handling lots of special situations where you get special dialog options based on certain characteristics your character may or may not have. All of that stems from having a world that is smaller in scope from Oblivion and being able to spend a lot more time on fewer quests.
I'm sure that talk of an editor is a sore point for you guys, especially since producer Todd Howard seemed to be much less gung-ho this time about shipping an editor with the game. My question is this: is Fallout 3 still built with ease of editing in mind? Bethesda hasn't committed to actually releasing a Construction Set, but if not, could aspiring programmers put one together in a reasonable amount of time themselves?
I have no idea if they could put one together, but I'd never put anything past aspiring programmers, they're a very resourceful lot. That said, it's not a sore point, but simply one where it's always been assumed where we do one for every game, and that isn't the case. They don't magically appear. A construction set is another product that has to be worked on and modified for public release and to this point, we've not had bandwidth to work on it. That's not to say we won't get to it at some point, but we still have a lot of development work to do so we don't want to be in the position of promising something -- or letting people assume something is definitely coming -- if we're not at all sure it is.
And on that topic, I wanted to talk about modding. Oblivion mods were incredibly easy to install as long as new textures weren't involved, as those couldn't be integrated into a mod file very easily - this meant that some of the best mods for Oblivion were a pain in the butt to install and uninstall unless they used the third-party Oblivion Mod Manager tool. (And putting mods in the right "order" when loading up a ton of them was often more trouble than the mods were worth.) Whether Bethesda releases their own editor or not, do you guys have a solution for these issues in the PC version of Fallout 3?
I don't know. The tool is primarily built for the developers to create the game, so it's not a case where we have the time to start adding in additional features on top of getting it in a state for public consumption.
One of my favorite features in any console game only occurred a single time: DOOM 3 on the Xbox used the Back button as a Quicksave button. For those of us PC gamers who can't control ourselves with the quicksaving, is there any chance that might be an option on the 360 version of Fallout 3?
At this stage in the game, no. We use all the buttons for something else. Perhaps in a future game. We do a lot of autosaving for you so that, while it's not at your command, hopefully that can come in handy when you haven't remembered to save on your own. And since you can save absolutely at any point in the game on your own, hopefully stopping to create a new save point won't be too much of a hassle.
One thing I noticed with Fallout 3 on the 360 was that I didn't get any pausing or loading as I moved around the outside world. The pauses were one of those small things about Oblivion that didn't ruin the game but didn't really help either, and it seems like that issue has been solved in the 360 version of this game. Is Fallout 3 the same way on a fairly powerful PC too?
In a word, yes.