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Falling Into Fallout 3: Director Todd Howard Talks Scope And Evolution
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Falling Into Fallout 3: Director Todd Howard Talks Scope And Evolution

October 13, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

As a game director -- and it's not like this is the first time you've done this -- how do you even approach something like this? It seems like such a fairly monumental task, on two fronts: one, it's just the issue of making a game this big, but you guys have done that before. But then there's also the issue of inheriting that IP. Not that you're doing it alone, but it seems like a pretty substantial undertaking. How do you approach that?

TH: The good thing with Fallout is that, from a workflow standpoint it's similar to what we do with Elder Scrolls, where it's very big, and it's an established world -- whether or not we've established it, or somebody else. The Elder Scrolls [world] is so big that no one person can remember it all, so when we think up stuff, we have to go research it. Like, "What did it say in this book in Daggerfall?" It's so much stuff. So we go through the same work with Fallout.

And frankly, it was a very nice change of pace for us. We were really excited to do the project. So, I think we're kind of used to doing it. I don't know that there's something specific I could point to, and go, "Here's how we go about it."

The one thing we do is we lay out the world. One of the first things we do is draw the map, and come up with the people and places. And the rest of it comes out of that. I mean, in Fallout, we knew we wanted to have vaults.

I usually come up with -- this is bizarre -- the first thing I always come up with is the beginning of the game, and the interface. I don't know why. Like, how does it start, and what's the interface. There's no reason for that; it's just what goes on.

And we knew we wanted to start in the vault, and play through. I've always been interested in games that just start, and you play them; the character generation is part of the game. An early influence is Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

That's a great game. I love that game.

TH: I mean, you don't even realize you can click on the screen, and then you click, and then [Indiana Jones] falls through [the floor], and more of the credits roll, and [you realize], "Oh! I'm already playing." I've always wanted to do it with RPGs as much as possible. So Fallout's is a lot of fun.

So we knew we wanted to start in the vault, and we needed a jumping-off point. We knew, jumping off, that you're attached to your father, and then he's going to leave. That's the thread.

And then after that, it's, "We're going to design the world." We're going to detail all the towns, and the people, and how they live, and where the enemies are, and what enemies there are; come up with a compelling world, and the rest of it kind of falls out of that.

And what's nice about all that is that you, by default, connect all the dots. When you're designing content, you know these things are there, so you can reference them. It feels tighter than if you sat down and designed a series of specific quests first. I'm inspecting set pieces, like, "Oh, this would be a really cool quest," and then we fit it into the environment.

I love the idea of "researching the world" -- of there being "research material" for worlds that exist purely in the video game space. I think that's a really fascinating concept. Researching for something that you didn't create in the first place must almost make it more like genuine research. You've got to go out and find things.

TH: Yeah, we actually got the hard drive from the server, from Interplay. They sent us everything. So we got to poke through that, and see all old design stuff that didn't make it, and what made it.

Another thing that I like to do is read old reviews. So, find old reviews of Fallout 1, because they're written in a way that doesn't have a lot of aging. They talk about how great the animation looks, and how crazy it is when you kill people. And if you were to just pop the game in and play it, those things wouldn't register with you now, but they registered then.

So it's like, "OK, this is what we've got to do." I tell people, "You could pull up a review of Arena -- the first Elder Scrolls game -- and just black out two or three words, and you wouldn't know which Elder Scrolls the person was describing." So we want it to feel the same -- but as time moves on, you've got to use different things to do that.

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