x360a Meets: Pete Hines, Fallout 3, Part 1
Written Sunday, August 03, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
On Friday, when we got our hands on with Fallout 3, we managed to (alongside a few other sites) get some time with Pete Hines, Product Manager of Fallout 3 at Bethesda. In the fairly relaxed Q & A session, Pete answered any question we threw at him and it made for a interview of epic proportions with plenty more insight in to the upcoming Fallout title.
Check out "Part 1" of the interview below where discussion revolved around the Fallout franchise, the engine, the dialogue system and Oblivion comparisons that are inevitable amongst other things. Check back tomorrow for "Part 2".
Were you not tempted to do a game maybe more mainstream, less RPG, less Oblivion to make it more accessible?
You mean with this one?
No, not necessarily, we certainly spent a lot of time on things like combat and how does it feel to be playing the game with the gun in your hand in first person and third person because... You know, let’s be honest, you do spend a lot of time, or at least most people spend a lot of time running around shooting stuff or getting in to combat of some kind, whether its Elder Scrolls or Fallout. So we did want that part of the experience to be very good. I think it’s probably fair to say that we don’t feel compelled to beat people over the head with the letters RPG and to insist that they acknowledge they are playing a role playing game. With Oblivion and with Fallout we like to have it be such that if you are hardcore and you want to get in to power gaming and the numbers and how you’re levelling up, what you’re putting skills in, what perks your picking and really sort of power game that... you totally can and if you want to spend most your time doing dialogue or whatever the hell it is, you can.
At the same time it’s a game that is designed to allow you to do whatever you want, which is, you know, from my standpoint is fairly hardcore cause most games don’t. Most games, if they want to treat you like an infant, they’ll just simply tell you what you have to do next and once you do that thing, then they’ll give you the next thing you have to do. I think that’s a much more simple way of playing the game. There are a lot of games that take that and take it to the ‘enth degree and make it an incredible experience. For us, we’re doing something different, a sandbox game, go wherever you want, do whatever you want and so I think it can be both. I think it can be accessible but still be very open and sort of hardcore in terms of how you’re going to play the game and all the different options you have... How you can finish this quest, how you can talk to this guy. I think you can do both, make it accessible and still be true to what it’s about.
Would it be fair to label Fallout 3, “Oblivion with guns”? It seems as if the dialogue seems to be the same, the wide open spaces and there are a lot of similarities.
Well, from the standpoint of both Fallout and Oblivion are kind of “go wherever you want” kind of games, so certainly from an engine point of standpoint, we designed it to be something where we wanted to give you big vistas and really sort of impress upon you the level of destruction as well all the possibilities. All of these places you can see, you can walk to in real time and go explore.
You know, the dialogue is exactly like the dialogue from Fallout so it may feel similar to Oblivion and I guess in terms of how it’s structured, but it’s sort of exactly the way Fallout presented its dialogue; You know what it is you want to say, how people respond back, trying to do a lot more with the dialogue in terms of choices of how you talk to people, the ability to unlock certain options in dialogue based on having a higher speech skill or having certain attributes that allow you to unlock a certain dialogue option that you usually wouldn’t be able to get, different perks, you know when you levelled up you may have noticed “The Ladykiller” or if you’re playing as a girl, it’s called “Black Widow” where you pick that perk, then talking to certain people you get a dialogue option that you wouldn’t normally have gotten. All of that is very different ad unique to Fallout in terms of giving the player options they wouldn’t normally have gotten because of the type of character they are playing with, you get to say this because of who you are.
To answer your question, I don’t discount that folks are going to call it that, it’s based off the same engine, it’s still doing big epic vistas, but I think Oblivion was a really good game, my only hesitance with that phrase is that it doesn’t take in to account how much effort we put in to making this a very true Fallout experience with characters, dialogue and setting and all that stuff to make it very different and true to what the series is about. I think we’ll certainly get that and I don’t think that’s ever going to go away but I think it probably sells the game a bit short.
Obviously the Fallout franchise was owned by Interplay, when you bought the IP to Fallout you decided to start from scratch. Why did you decide to do that?
Well, because first of all it was done by a completely different team of people, so to take a project that one group of people had done, started and gotten to whatever level was at, and then hand it over to another group of people and say “here, you finish this”... that’s not really how we envisioned it. We envisioned taking over ownership of this franchise and treating it as if it’s our own because you know, it is and then developing it like we did with Elder Scrolls which is, we’re going to spend a lot of time, a number of years, 3, 4 years putting a lot of work in to making this thing as good as it can possibly be. Just to say you have to take this work someone else has done and just clean it up and finish what they had started... That’s not something we even considered for a millisecond. That’s somebody else’s work, they didn’t get a chance to finish it which is a shame but, we’re going to make the game that the people here feel passionately about and think they can make the best game possible with, as opposed to being saddled with finishing someone else’s idea.
Why did Bethesda decide to take on the Fallout franchise?
We had been talking for a while, possibly since Morrowind in 2002, doing something else besides the Elder Scrolls, probably before that, but really started seriously looking at what else are we going to do. At some point after Morrowind and before 2004, whenever it is that we picked up the Fallout franchise, we had gone to senior management and said “look, you know, if you really want to know the truth, what we’d love to make is Fallout... Nobody is doing anything with it, do you think you could go see if you could get it” and some folks (our bosses), knew some folks at Interplay and got it for us. We felt like it was a good fit for the kind of things we liked to do; create any kind of character you want, do whatever you want, but it was also very different in the terms of the kind of game that it was; the setting and that creatively, we could move away from doing a classic fantasy kind of thing with the Elder Scrolls and do something very different in post apocalyptic where it had some similarities but were also very different. At that point, 2004, we had started on Oblivion already but were about to get in to roughly 7 plus years of making Elder Scrolls and sometimes you don’t mind a little break creatively, do something else.
The engine is obviously one you’ve used before, is this an engine you’ll use again or is this the last time?
Oh I don’t know, I think given all the work and time we’ve put in to it, I doubt we would just walk away from it. You know, at this point, it has been heavily customised and modified by our own programmers for years now, so, and I think all the things we’ve been able to do from Oblivion to Fallout in terms of just the amount of detail on the screen, that we’re able to put on there and the speed at which it runs and the new things we’ve done... You know, every time we do another game, whatever we do next after Fallout 3, we always take stock of where we’re at currently and what we stuff we want to blow up and what stuff we want to do this with, so I’m sure we’ll probably do that again. I don’t know if we’d say “ok, scrap it, throw everything away we’ve done and let’s start over again” I don’t know if we’d do that or not.
I guess it’s an engine that looks like it doesn’t need to be scrapped at this point.
Well yeah and because it’s not an off-the-shelf thing, it’s not like it’s Unreal this, or this version of whatever other engine... It’s our own custom built thing where basically, our programmers have done all the work for updating every particular faucet with the possible exception of a few things, for example we love having physics and we use it extensively, you know, never going to blow a path in physics, but that’s us using a middleware solution... As far as the core rendering engine and all that other tech, that’s all us and I would imagine, you know, it would be a part of that eval process we do of “hey listen, we have a new solution for doing this and we should do it and take this risk and do it this other way”, or “I have all these other ideas to make it better”.
The dialogue system, do in-game decisions affect the environment and the world you live it or will it just really shape the storyline?
The decisions you make affect how people think about you based on what you do. Even just in talking to folks, not even having to kill somebody and you walk up to them... The Sheriff for example, you walk up to him and if you’re really rude, he sort of goes down one path and if you’re nice, he’ll go down another and people may come to you for help. If you’re very nice, they’ll reach out to you and ask you for help and ask you to help them with a quest and if you’re a real jerk they may be like “screw you, I don’t need your help anyway”.
So it pays to be nice?
Well, it’s up to you. It that’s the kind of character you’re playing and some snotty kid comes running up to you and asks for help and you tell them to “piss off” then that’s the kind of character you’re playing and you didn’t want to do that quest anyway. I would assume, you didn’t want to do that quest anyway if you were being a jerk. If you wanted to do every quest but you wanted to be as mean to people as possible, that’s probably not going to work out for you because people are going to react on the way that you’re treating them and the more of a jerk you are to them, the less likely they are going to provide you with information or offer you a quest or have anything to do with you.
Check back and read "Part 2" tomorrow where we discuss achievements, release date and the hardcore Fallout fans.