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How  Fallout  almost didn't ship with its key SPECIAL system

How Fallout almost didn't ship with its key SPECIAL system

April 4, 2019 | By Emma Kidwell

April 4, 2019 | By Emma Kidwell
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More: Console/PC, Design

“We were all working together to go in the same direction. There was very little clash of egos or desire to pull the game in a different direction. That is rare in development."

- Interplay's Brian Fargo disussing the development of Fallout

There's no mistaking the brutality of 1997's Fallout. The game was unforgiving, painting a bleak picture of life post-nuclear war. There was a lingering sense of uneasiness, knowing that one wrong move could result in death-- and there were plenty of ways to die.

Devs interested in learning more about its origins should check out an interview PC Gamer published last year (only now making its online debut) in which a few developers across the various Fallout games discussed the early days of development, and how the game evolved into what it is today. 

Fallout was developed by Interplay back in 1997. Brian Fargo, executive producer on the game and founder of the company, described how Wasteland (a science fiction role-playing-game developed by interplay in 1988) served as initial inspiration.  

“I had been a post-apocalyptic fiction fan since I was a kid,” Fargo explained. "Wasteland was my first attempt at bringing something to the genre. Shortly after finishing the game, Interplay became a publisher and we no longer created games for other people."

"I tried to get EA to license me the rights back, but I was unable to succeed despite trying for many years. I finally decided we’d do our own post-apocalyptic game and call it Fallout.”

And so Fargo got some developers together to sit and analyze what made Wasteland tick. “It was a matter of getting a small team to start bringing the project to life," he continued.

“We created a sensibilities document that spoke to points such as moral ambiguity, tactical combat, a skills based system and the attributes system. After we nailed down what was important, development went off and began working on ideas that hit the touch points.”

Tim Cain, who is credited as being the creator of Fallout, created the engine used to build the game and went through several design ideas-- one of which was a GURPS (Steve Jackson Games' "Generic Universal Role-Playing System") ruleset that was implemented but later abandoned.

 “Fallout was originally a GURPS game,” said Chris Taylor, lead designer on Fallout.

GURPS was a tabletop system made to be used across all forms of role-playing, but Interplay's attempt to license it didn't work out, and Fargo needed a replacement ruleset. 

“I wrote my own RPG system on the back of three-by-five cards, in notebooks and on scraps of grid paper. My game was called MediEvil. It was not good. So [my friend and I] played D&D instead," Taylor said. 

"But I kept those notes and would work on the game every now and then for a decade—when it came time to replace GURPS, I had something to work with."

“The team took the system and made it work. We took it and adapted it; it had the statistics and skills we needed, but Perks were created specifically for Fallout to replace the GURPS advantage/disadvantage traits.”

For more dev insight and historical perspective on the Fallout franchise, be sure to read the entire piece over at PC Gamer

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