Josh Sawyer Talks Fallout: New Vegas

I've not heard about this Steemit website until recently, but a contributor who goes by badastroza there has been busy interviewing some interesting people lately. Thanks to them we have an interview with Chris Avellone focused on Pathfinder: Kingmaker and one with Josh Sawyer about Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. And now, we have another Josh Sawyer interview where he talks about Fallout: New Vegas. Here's an excerpt:

Fallout: New Vegas was such an amazing game. Bethesda’s move from isometric to first person by the time you got to work directly on a Fallout game – was this a disappointment, or were you super stoked just to be working on Fallout?

Josh: Well, I like making isometric games. I’ve always wanted to make a turn-based game with a tactical emphasis and that is really what I wanted to focus on when we were working on Fallout 3 at Black Isle. But I mostly just liked that setting and my excitement came from working with that. Obviously Bethesda’s Fallout 3 is not the Fallout 3 that we set out to make, but once we started working on New Vegas I’d played, oh, 160-something hours of Fallout 3. I exhausted every location and I got into it. I was like, “OK, I get how exploration works here, I get how discovery works, how landmarks work” as did many other members of the team. So I was just excited to work on Fallout again, and that’s really how I looked at it! (laughs)

Instead of really trying to focus on bringing over gameplay elements, we, especially Chris Avellone, developed a ton of ideas for Van Buren (Black Isle’s Fallout 3), and we asked, “well what elements of these can work here?” and some of them worked directly, and others we adapted and updated. So there are a lot of general ideas that went into it, whether it was faction development or just the vibe of the world of certain characters coming over, and we just ran with it.

Fallout New Vegas was another game where we had a very short development cycle. It was 18 months, and none of us had worked with the tools or the engine before. To Bethesda’s credit, that toolset is extremely powerful for generating content. There’s absolutely no way we would have been able to make that game without their engine and tool. So yeah, we just dove right in and it was a lot of fun making it.

You’ve got a BA degree in history – were any of the factions influenced by that? I’m thinking of Caesar’s Legion. Did you able to bring any of that in, or did it just happen to be a throwback to Caesar?

Josh: Caesar’s Legion as it was originally conceived wasn’t quite the same as how I and John Gonzalez ended up using it in Fallout: New Vegas. If I recall correctly, it didn’t quite have the literal ‘Caesar as Caesar’ with the legionnaire type characters in it. There was a theme that we found developing over time in New Vegas which was remaking the new world in the image of the old world. This is something that’s found in Caesar’s Legion, the Kings, the NCR, the Great Khans – there are tons of these groups. Now I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of the post post-apocalypse, but I do like the idea of worlds and settings continuing to develop and seeing where they go. I like the idea of, “OK, it’s been more than 200 years, people aren’t just scraping by. Now they’re reforming societies and those societies are now coming into conflict with each other.”

So the question that came to me is, “what are they trying to do? Are they going to make something brand new, or are they going to try and shape the world from what the understand the world used to be?” and the NCR is looking at it like, “OK, so we had this great, prosperous republic in California, in the United States, so we should have that – we should have a democratic republic with representatives, with a senate and a president. We should have all these things and build our world like that”. And Caesar was coming at it from a completely different direction. He was like, “this world is wild and terrifying and it needs order. There’s no room at this point in history for democracy and for people to have their usual vote and voice. If you had gone into the tribes’ lands where I went, I would have died unless I had done this. I needed to bring these people together, and once I did it I realized this is how this needs to be run. Basically, life in the wasteland is too fragile to leave to democracy”.

And then you have someone like Mr. House who is very intelligent, he’s very powerful, and he wants to let people do what they want but ultimately have control over the way that things are run. He’s kind of this weird, libertarian guy, but he’s also trying to recreate the spirit of pre-war Las Vegas. So all of these groups, and the others ones I mentioned, are all kind of looking backward to try to move forward, and that’s where I tried to bring in historical elements from everything from how the different legionaries are ranked – like the recruits, and the veterans, and those guys – that’s based on the Marian reforms, how they have these three categories of footsoldiers. A lot of people comment on how the base legionaries don’t even have guns. They only have spears and machetes. But there was this vibe in the real Roman Legion’s development where the best equipment did not go to the recruits. The idea in New Vegas with Caesar’s Legion was, “if you do well with spears and machetes, then we’ll give you a gun”. Later when you see the veterans, the real expert guys, they do have pretty heavy weapons because they’re experienced and they earned the right.

So, yeah, we just tried to borrow elements that seemed fitting for whatever the vibe of the faction was, given that they’re pulling these elements from history often not fully comprehending them or recreating them in their own weird way. For example, all of Caesar’s Legion’s uniforms and armor are actually sports equipment. Their base padded armor is like a catcher’s chest pad and they use all sorts of other athletics equipment. The idea is that they went to the University of Arizona and they just stole all that stuff, and they’re trying to make themselves look like old Romans. So I borrowed a lot of stuff from history, or tried to anyway, to develop those factions.