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Chris Avellone's entire 55-minute talk about the pen and paper roots of Interplay's Project Van Buren, the company's own take on Fallout 3, is now available to watch for everyone on Vimeo. After a short recap of his career and the reasons that convinced him to start designing Van Buren with a tabletop role-playing campaign, Avellone goes over the Fallout staples he examined and attempted to reinvent for the campaign.
For example, skills such as First Aid had a limited number of uses per session, and the Pip-boy would unlock new functions while exploring areas. Players would also get a chance to play a theme song once per session while performing an action symbolic of their characters to gain a skill bonus. Avellone was hoping to implement a similar function in the actual videogame with the use of local MP3 files.
Another element Avellone was toying with for Van Buren that didn't really materialize in any of the actual games were additional player races such as Super Mutants and Ghouls, which have only existed as NPCs in the released Fallout games. He also aimed to better support science-based characters, something that subsequent Fallout games have attempted with various degrees of success, in part because of the inspiration provided by Lucifer's Hammer, a post-apocalyptic novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
During the talk, the veteran designer also goes over the area design work he did for the campaign and how that served as a basis for the work of concept artists and level designers during the development done on the title before cancellation. Avellone also penned a detailed bestiary for the game, which contained information that would have gone in a journal in the final title, and a long list of items to strongly support the various possible character concepts. Avellone also prepared a binder with the campaign's various factions and characters, information that would be again passed to the art and design team later during production, and even narrated the game's cinematics, in an attempt to simulate the franchise's own introduction and ending videos.
Ultimately, the Fallout 2/Fallout: New Vegas designer argues that pen and paper prototyping has its own pitfalls and was only possible because he had the luxury of time and Fallout 3 was supposed to be a turn-based title, two conditions that aren't often present for other projects. That said, there was upsides too. Many of the design ideas for Van Buren migrated into Fallout: New Vegas, although often in dramatically different forms (Dead Money companion Christine Royce apparently shared her name with Corporal Christine Royce, a character from Van Buren). Additionally, Avellone was able to use his experience making maps for the campaign to help with area layouts and to better communicate ideas to the artists while working on projects such as Knights of the Old Republic II and Wasteland 2.
The talk ended with a Q&A session with the attendants, which helped Chris explain how exactly the sessions were set up and how they worked in practice in terms of both flow and feedback from the players.
Spotted on RPG Codex.