For Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone, Fallout is an old mistress. When he was at Interplay, he worked on cult hit Fallout 2 and was lead designer on Van Buren – the Fallout 3 game that never was. Now, Chris has come full circle. As lead designer of Fallout: New Vegas, due out this autumn, he's once again been sucked into Fallout's retro futuristic post-apocalyptic world. So, how's he handling it? And how is he improving on what many consider to be the greatest game of this generation? At Bethesda's recent Gamers Day event in France, we found out.
Q: Cast your mind back to when you thought you were done with Fallout. Did you think you'd ever go back?
Chris Avellone: Never.
Q: How long has it been?
CA: It was probably… I'm going to guestimate about five years. And then one day Bethesda brought up the opportunity, and we were totally surprised and totally enthusiastic about doing it. I love working on Fallout. The chance to do it again, I was like, woo! The guys at work, especially the Black Isle guys, were like, woo! People just love Fallout. It was good times.
Q: Did you go on a massive bender to celebrate returning to Fallout? Did you have to go back and look at all your work on Fallout to refresh?
CA: No party, because we had to jump into things really quick and we had other titles we still had to juggle at the time, too. However, in terms of a refresher course, I absolutely had to go back and look at stuff. I was like, you know what, it's been a long time since I memorised the time-line, where I knew the ins and outs of super mutant culture. All that stuff I had to go do a refresher course and go, okay I'm going to clear my brain, get all the Star Wars out, get all the Aliens out and bring Fallout back in.
Q: You were working on a Fallout 3 that didn't happen, called Project Van Buren. Are there any ideas or mechanics you had in place for that game that we'll see in Fallout: New Vegas?
CA: We thought we would but actually it ended up not being the case. If you ever read any of the Van Buren documents you might recognise certain titles for groups, like Caesar's Legion. But what they actually became in New Vegas was far divorced from anything they were planned for in Van Buren. So it's actually taken kind of an interesting spin. That five year break, I think you just end up having new design ideas. You're like, well you know actually it would be more interesting if they went this way. So I mean Van Buren was a good testing ground for some of that stuff, but New Vegas is basically a brand new game.
Q: Why New Vegas? Why that part of the world?
CA: We were given the parameters for like, just do something on the Western side of the world, go off and do your own thing. We were like, okay. So then we were like, what's a signature city that's comparable to Washington DC but in the west? We asked people independently and Vegas just kept coming up all the time. We were like, okay well you know that is a cool signature city. But at the same time, it turns out people in different departments got excited about it for different reasons. An example would be the artists got really excited about it because that's one city where you can play around with the architecture within almost every city block and go, hey here's a theme for this casino and we can go fucking crazy with it because it's Vegas. Like, here's a signage we can use. Here are the different colours we can use. Here are the lighting schemes we can use. When you walk down the strip in Vegas in real life, all those signature casinos like the Luxor have these really cool themes. And the artists were like, oh this would be fun to do. And we were like, okay let's just take that energy and momentum and just make a fun location.