If you've never been to E3, let me just say that it's jam-packed with craziness - and lots of people. My very first appointment of the day was with Fallout: New Vegas, and Chris and I had talked about doing an interview afterward. Considering that the Bethesda booth was literally shoulder-to-shoulder by the time my hands-on time with Fallout: New Vegas had concluded, I honestly didn't expect Mr. Avellone to find time for a Q&A in between demonstrations. But he did, and so I very quickly covered a handful of subjects on both FNV and Alpha Protocol with the long-time RPG designer. Our conversation to follow:
GB: What would you say your primary goals were when approaching Fallout: New Vegas after the success of Fallout 3? What did you come in wanting to build upon and change, primarily?
Chris: To be fair, I came on Fallout about halfway through the project, so the goals were established by Josh Sawyer and our art director Joe Sanabria. But there were some key ingredients that made everything recognizable. One of the parameters for our project was that the game had to take place in the Western part of the United States. We were trying to figure out what city represented the Western half of the United States best, and so: Las Vegas.
It seemed a good fit. The design staff got excited about things to do in Vegas, the art staff got excited about the color and lighting schemes you could play around with in Vegas with signage, casino themes, and more. There were elements we wanted to tweak from Fallout 3 (some weapon skills, skill breakdowns, some system changes, more weapons, more things you can do to weapons) but we wanted to leave the Fallout 3 aspects people loved, including the open world exploration, which we felt was key to any Fallout title. We thought that we could add some of Obsidian's strengths on top of the title (expanded companion range, new ways of interacting with them, personal quests), and bring the things we enjoyed about Fallout 1, 2, and 3 to New Vegas.
GB: I saw in the demo that the game has a lot of new weapons. Named weapons were quite popular in Fallout 3 - are you implementing those in New Vegas, too?
Chris: Yes. At the least they'll have a new texture, and some have unique models.
GB: So what kind of modifications will we be able to add to a weapon?
Chris: Scopes, expanded magazines, mods for greater rate of fire, and more.
GB: Can we customize the unique named weapons to make them even more powerful?
Chris: No, they are great all by themselves.
GB: Will we be able to add modifications to any other items?
GB: Where does New Vegas fall in the Fallout timeline?
Chris: It takes place 40 years after Fallout 2 and four years after Fallout 3.
GB: What made you choose that particular timeframe?
Chris: I believe we initially proposed New Vegas to take place before Fallout 3, and it was decided that we should be after Fallout 3.
GB: Will we see any cameo appearances from Fallout 1 or 2, or will we come across descendants of characters we’ve met in previous Fallouts? Anyone at all that we’ll recognize, anyway?
Chris: If you haven’t played Fallout 1 and 2 and you play New Vegas, you’ll enjoy it and won't miss anything. If you have played Fallout 1 and 2, there are things that you will hear and see that you'll recognize from previous games and draw a connection to.
GB: We’ll obviously be picking our character’s skill tags, and I’ve read that they will have more of an effect on the game than just a skill boost. Can you elaborate on that?
Chris: As with the GOAT test in F3, you'll get a Q&A with Doc Mitchell in Goodsprings at the beginning of the game, and your answers will "suggest" tag skills to take. Like the GOAT test, you don't need to take the suggested skills, you can still choose whatever you want. And you can also re-choose your Tag Skills once you leave Goodsprings if you don't like your choices.
However, we made a conscious effort that (1) every weapon skill had a low level version so you didn't have to wait a long time to get energy weapons, which was a mistake we'd made in previous Fallouts, (2) you can do a lot more with skills you wouldn't expect, notably in conversations. In my opinion, some of the best conversation options you get in the game are Barter ones, when you start using economic arguments to solve quests or convince people of the wisdom of your choices. You should see an almost immediate use for all your skills in Goodsprings and onwards, it was a design mandate.
GB: Have you seen Interplay’s Fallout Online? What’s your take on that?
Chris: I haven't seen much of it. I know some designers from Fallout 1 are working on it (Chris Taylor, Mark O' Green), and I like those guys, so I have high hopes.