In May 1999, John De Margheriti, our CEO, visited Interplay Productions with a pitch for an isometric scrolling shooter called Chimera. Phil Adams at Interplay was impressed with the quality of the demo, but was not interested in the game itself. However Brian Christian, who was the head of Interplay's 14 Degrees East studio, saw enough potential in the demo and in particularly the Phoenix engine to propose the idea of doing a tactical combat game set in Black Isle's postapocalyptic Fallout world. The new game would continue with the themes explored in earlier Fallout games but with an emphasis on tactical-style combat rather than RPG gameplay.
After a rough design document was put together by Ed Orman, our designer, a design meeting was set up and key members from Micro Forte visited the Interplay offices for five days to thrash out the initial design specification. Much was discussed, including doing the game as turn-based only, and where the game would fit in the Fallout timeline. We would stick to the original prerendered appearance of Fallout, as we felt that current 3D technology would not give us the detail that we wanted to show in the environments. The game would run in much higher resolutions than other prerendered games, and our engine would make extensive use of alpharing for antialiasing and other effects. Brian Fargo, Interplay's chairman and CEO, stipulated early on in the design process that one of the major components of the game would be the inclusion of a multiplayer game. A ship date was fixed so that the game would be on the shelves for Christmas 2000, and a series of milestones created. The first major demo called for us to show a fully playable multiplayer game at E3 2000, and this became our initial focus.
Over the next 15 months we worked tirelessly until the game finally
went gold on March 5, 2001 -- approximately four months late. We ended
up creating 21 core missions (some of which were so large that a vehicle
was required to get around the map), 30 unique encounters in the flavor
of the original Fallout game, hundreds of different combinations
of randomly generated missions, five highly detailed bunkers for the
player to visit when re-equipping the squad, five different types
of vehicles, and a whole new race system. On top of this, with the
help of Dan Levin at Interplay, we produced an interesting and involving
story that progressed through the use of prerendered movies, hand-drawn
illustrations, and in-game cutscenes. The game includes over three
and a half hours of in-game voiceover plus 30 minutes of prerendered
movies. There are more than 26,000 separate tiles and more than 300,000
separate frames of animation. Our animations are some of the best
I have ever seen in the industry. We included real-time lighting and
a novel shadow-casting routine, which really helped to disguise the
tiled aspect of the game.
Bos soldiers ready to ambush unsuspecting raiders.
A concept sketch for a BoS scribe.
It was a rocky ride. The first few months were spent bringing the team together and getting a clear idea of what the game was going to be. Because the lead programmer from the original design left, we had to work extra hard with 14 Degrees East to convince them that the project was still viable. They, in turn, had internal problems convincing the powers that be that this was going to be a successful game and that we would deliver it on time.
Along the way we got into arguments with the Fallout fans about what the game should be and often felt that we would never be able to produce a decent product. We got through it, and we all learned a hell of a lot. There are a lot of things I would do differently in retrospect, but changing the people involved is not one of them.