Fallout 3 had a big showing at last month's E3 Business and Media Summit. It picked up numerous awards and nominations, including GameSpot's Best Role-Playing Game and Best PC Game. That's high praise for an RPG that's due out in fall of 2008, but developer Bethesda Softworks gave an impressive demo. Fallout 3 is set hundreds of years after a nuclear war, and you'll play as a vault dweller, the descendent of survivors who fled to the safety of vast underground fallout shelters known as vaults. You'll leave the safety of your vault to explore and adventure in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of mutants, monsters, friends, and foes. To get more information on Fallout 3's E3 appearance, as well as more details on the game itself, we turned to executive producer Todd Howard.
GameSpot: By the looks of it, Fallout 3 had a great E3 demo. What did you demonstrate at the show and what was some of the more interesting feedback that you received?
Todd Howard: We showed about an hour of the game, which is by far the longest E3 demo we've ever had. So for a "first look" at the game, we certainly showed a lot. We showed about five different areas in the game and showed off the new combat system, dialogue, and such. Feedback? I was happily surprised that so many press guys were big Fallout fans and really knew the series well. The game is a blast to show off, and you'd think I'd be sick of the same demo by now, but it actually plays a bit differently each time.
GS: What platform was the demo running on? What's the primary development platform? Will there be any major differences among the three versions of the game?
TH: We showed it on the 360, which is the platform we do a lot of the initial work on, as it's very developer friendly and contained…unlike a PC, where even in the office it can be hard to get the same results on everyone's system. That's one area the 360 really excels--awesome development tools. In the end, all three versions (PC, 360, PS3) should look the same.
GS: The Fallout community can be pretty vocal about its favorite game. What's the feedback been based on what you've shown of the game thus far? Have you managed to make some converts?
TH: Most haven't seen it yet, so I don't know if they'd be converted by screenshots or a teaser. Perhaps, but I doubt it. My general impression is they've hated the idea of us doing anything at all with it since 2004, so there's not much you can do about that except make the best game you can that is true to the series and yourself. To any fan that's actually seen the game, like many of the press guys, the feedback's been great…far better than any game we've ever shown. And it's pretty nerve-racking because you work for years on something and then pop your head up like "ta da!" with your fingers crossed. All the E3 awards certainly make you feel good because you really have no idea how you compare at the actual show. But to be called "best in show" so many times…and with hundreds of great games at E3, it definitely gives the whole team something to be proud of…to know we're heading in a direction a lot of people like.
GS: Everyone's interested in the VATS combat system. Can you tell us more about how the system works? For instance, you go into battle, pause and access VATS, target an enemy's body part, and then what happens? Does the game take control from there? Does it automatically pause once combat actions are complete?
TH: It's hard to describe without seeing it, but you stop time and are allowed to queue up attacks based on how many action points you have. And then you press the "go" button. The actions you chose are then played back for you cinematically--but fast. It only lasts a few seconds unless something amazing happens, like someone's head explodes. Once the playback is done, the camera warps back to where it had been.
GS: We've heard that the gameworld will be slightly smaller than that of Oblivion's. How does it compare in terms of the amount of stuff that you'll be able to do or the number of quests that you can pursue?
TH: It's a shorter and smaller game than Oblivion, and that's intentional. Don't get me wrong, it's still huge. On the quest side, we have a lot less but are pushing more on the quests being solved in very different ways. So in Oblivion, we have good and evil quests, but Fallout is much more about quests that allow you to do both within a single situation. So, [it's] smaller than Oblivion but much bigger than the previous Fallouts.
GS: It's been said that the first Fallout, rather than Fallout 2, was the model that Fallout 3 was built on. What's the reasoning for that?
TH: I think the first one has the right tone, and the ones after it tend to drift. I liked being a vault dweller, searching for water. That was a theme I wanted to pick up on again…someone who's lived his whole life in this out-of-touch underground world, who's thrust suddenly into a wasteland.
GS: It's also been mentioned that the Radiant artificial intelligence system has been improved considerably in Fallout 3. What sorts of improvements are there? How does this translate into better gameplay?
TH: [We're] not talking specifically about that yet. But it is a mix of new features and just us getting better at using the system itself because as is in Oblivion, it's extremely powerful, but only shows itself off in select instances.
GS: Now that E3 is over, what is the team working on? It sounded like you're almost at the stage where you need to build the rest of the game's world, or are you still trying to iron out all the gameplay mechanics?
TH: We're in full production, cranking out content and features daily. The E3 demo is essentially how our preproduction ends: Here's a big chunk of the game, how it looks, feels, plays, etc. Now we need to make the rest of it. We have yet to balance a lot of the combat and overall gameplay, and that gets tweaked until we ship, but the systems are working enough for us to play with them now.
GS: The game will come out for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but PC fans would like to know if there's going to be any support for DirectX 10 graphics hardware or features.
TH: To be determined. You will not need DX10 to run it.
GS: Finally, is there anything that you'd like to say about E3, or about Fallout 3 going forward?
TH: E3 was great this year. I would hate to go back to the circuses of the previous ones. I just want to show the game off and chat with folks, and that was much easier this year. Also, big thanks to everyone here that's continued to support us. We know it's a game everyone wants to see made well, and I hope you give it a shot.
GS: Thanks Todd.