A quite extensive interview with Pete Hines at IGN-XBox360:
IGN AU: What did you learn from making Oblivion? What didn’t work?
Pete Hines: There’s no giant ‘we can’t ever do that again’ stuff. It’s more how do we design quests, what kind of choices do we let the player make, how do we account for things we think the player might try and do and anticipate those? So that they’re like ‘Oh, I wonder what happens when I do this?’ And then there’s actually something in the game that acknowledges it and takes it into account. And they go ‘that’s really cool that I got to finish this quest in a really unique way and the game recognised that and gave me a satisfying response.’
In Oblivion the most extreme example is the bandits, who’s armour keeps going up and up as you’re playing through the game. Suddenly they’ve got glass armour and amazing weapons. It was an obvious thing that didn’t feel right. So we’ve spent a lot of time on making sure that the player has the ability to go where they want and do what they want, but to also provide them with situations where they’re getting in over their head – so they’ve got to leave and come back. Or they’re getting into situations where they’re further through the game and their character is really tough and they get in there and they kick ass and feel like a bad ass for a while because they’ve spent a lot of time buffing up their character.
We’ve certainly tried to put more stuff on the screen in front of the player to make the world more believable. The dialogue is much more specific to those characters, as opposed to generic lists of things they can talk about. A lot of it is just tweaking and refining stuff that the player won’t even notice. Stuff that we’re doing behind the scenes to improve the way the game performs. A lot of it is taking those lessons and learning how to apply them better.
You know, Fallout is a very different game [to Oblivion]. You’ve gone from swords and melee weapons and one ranged weapon to now where you’ve got lots and lots of ranged weapons. It almost flips the gameplay balance stuff.[…]
IGN AU: Was it tough balancing the RPG and FPS elements so that both felt right?
Pete Hines: We certainly spent a lot of time on that because we felt that the shooter element, what you’re doing minute-to-minute, has to look good and feel fun. If that’s all you do for ten minutes it has to feel good. There is all this other stuff you can do behind the scenes. It’s not just a shooter. It’s not that limited. But the shooting has to be good. Because 99 per cent of people at some point are going to pick up a gun and start shooting stuff and if it doesn’t feel right and doesn’t look right then we have a big problem. We did spend a lot of time on that because we felt it was important to get it right.
I think from our internal play-testing, and from some folks who’ve been able to play it recently, the feedback is that it feels pretty good. It’s clearly not just a shooter but it holds up well when you’re just running around shooting stuff.[…]
IGN AU: I was intrigued by the custom weapons. The example you gave of the Rock-it Launcher (combination vacuum and a rocket launcher that can suck up and use any object as ammo). Is it possible to use a rock as ammo in the slow-motion VATS shooting mode and watch it cause different animated damage compared to say a bullet?
Pete Hines: I don’t want to spoil everything. But we take lots of things into account. We spent a ton of time on VATS and making sure that it’s fun and unique. There are still a few things for VATS that we’ve not talked about yet that add more layers of fun and coolness to that mode.
IGN AU: You mentioned that your canine side-kick Dogmeat can be killed off. Are there main characters in Fallout 3 you’ve chosen to make invulnerable, as you did in Oblivion, for scripting purposes?
Pete Hines: In very few cases we may have folks who either permanently or momentarily can’t be killed. In Oblivion there were a lot of guys who got flagged because we didn’t want you breaking quests but in Fallout we try and account a lot more for quests being able to continue on without characters being alive. So here’s this quest going on. ‘Now what happens if the players kills this person?’ ‘Oh well, then this happens.’ ‘Well, then, what happens if they kill this person and that person?’ ‘Well, then this happens.’
We do want to make sure you can continue along the main quest and not fundamentally break your game, but we’re able to do that without flagging most folks as essential. This time there’s a much larger number of people who can be killed while you still keep playing your game.
This one is worth a read, it goes into some detail. Spotted at VoodooExtreme.