The Official Fan Interview is a must read document for all of those that are following the development of Fallout 3, I’ll leave it here in the original form:
Gstaff: So it took a little longer than we expected, but Todd‘s gone ahead and answered the 20 submitted questions for the Community Q&A. Big thanks to Blinzler, the guys that helped him out, and of course everyone who submitted questions.
Also, when Blinzler submitted the questions, he also sent over 5 “bonus questions,” which you’ll see that Todd answered at the bottom.
So here’s the questions…I’m going to close this thread, but feel free to talk amongst yourselves.
Community FAQ – 20 questions
1. Is unarmed combat in? If so, is it lethal or does it knockout your opponent? [Waterchip]
Yes, it’s in, and yes, it’s lethal. It’s a big part of the game, and as far as game balance, it’s our goal to make melee as viable as using guns in killing off enemies. It’s something we’re obviously still balancing, but I expect melee to be more “lethal”, as getting near an opponent can be more difficult, especially if they have a gun, but at the same time, you don’t have to worry about your ammo counts, so that’s an immediate benefit to melee.
2. Is combat playable in the zoomed out third person (“almost iso”) perspective and how will VATS work from it, meaning – will it zoom into FP or something else? [kaos]
I’d have to say “no”. Combat’s not really playable when you zoom the camera all the way back and point it down. You can try, but it’s not meant to be played that way, because you still have to aim at the center of the screen, and at that point, the center is the ground. It’s playable from 1st and 3rd person, but closer-in over-the-shoulder 3rd person. Regarding VATS., it does zoom in on your target, from your eyes, so I guess you’d say it is a “1st person” view. So if you’re playing in 3rd person and enter VATS, you zoom in on the target, and when you’re done, it flips back to your 3rd person view. It happens pretty fast and it’s smooth. I kind of see VATS as its own view.
3. For what else can we use AP`s while in VATS and what is the “cost” of such things in real time? Some time consuming animation perhaps? Example: if taking stimpacks or using inventory in VATS will cost AP`s – then what will it cost in RT? Besides that what else besides shooting can you pull off in VATS, and how do you balance those things with their real time counterparts? [MrHappy1991]
The only thing you can do in VATS. is shoot, and it’s designed as just that. It’s kind of an “aimed shot” mode, so no taking stimpacks, etc. When dealing with the AP regeneration, that’s one of the big questions, even for us, as to what we set it to, and that’s going to get serious tweaking the more we play the game. It’s definitely tied to your agility, but we haven’t pinned down the range, so I don’t know if an agility of 10 gives you twice the regen rate over an agility of 1, or if it will be in the 5-10x multiple range. I’d wager closer to 2x on that one. When you’re not in VATS., attacks use up AP as well. At this stage, we’re playing the game so that the AP usage in real-time is less then the regen rate, so the end effect is that attacking in real-time slows down the regen. I imagine it will end up being close to that feel.
4. Because so many of us still don’t understand, could you describe VATS in painstaking detail? No really, please! [Waterchip]
I’ll try, but I worry it will raise more questions then it answers. I assume you know the basics: press a button and it stops time, you queue up shots on body parts using AP, and then press the “go” button and it executes the moves. The playback is done cinematically, sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slower – depending on if something cool happens.
Probably better if I give you a closer look at how we approach it and view VATS. First, I don’t see it as an either-or thing. VATS is meant to be used with real-time, it’s not one or the other – they should feel like they go together. I don’t want the fans confused that this is turn-based, because it’s not. It’s a glorified aimed-shot mode, and a pretty glorious one at that. You’ll be able to use it a lot, but not constantly, because it is the most effective way to kill things. And that’s how we define it usually, it’s the most effective and entertaining way of killing something, and we break up those two parts while developing it, “effect” versus “entertainment”, or the “gameplay” versus the “playback”.
Let’s start with the gameplay. One, you can enter VATS, whenever you want, you just may not have enough AP do take any shots yet, or enough AP to do as many shots as you’d like. The AP needed to do a shot is based on the weapon’s rate of fire; pistols can get more shots off in VATS than a hunting rifle. The camera zooms in on the target from your eyes, as VATS does a scan of the target, and you get a percentage chance to hit each body part. This accomplishes two things: 1) it just looks really cool, we even use the “combat-turn” sound from Fallout 1 here, and 2) the scan actually is detecting how much of the body part you can see to get us a good hit percentage. That hit-chance is based on how much of the body part you can see, the distance, your skill, the weapon itself, and a base body part chance we set per body part. That last thing, the base chance, is needed for us to jack up or down the hit-chance for game balance, so even if the head is X size compared to the chest, we can adjust it.
A good example would be the antennae on the ants, they are way too small to realistically ever want to use your AP on, but we up the hit-chance on them and it just plays better. So in real-time, you almost never hit their antennae, but you can do it more in VATS. And that’s the key “behind the scenes” difference between VATS and real-time, in real-time the bullets just go-where-they-go, based on your skill, the gun, and some randomness. We don’t calculate a hit-chance and roll dice against it. In VATS, we calculate a hit-chance and roll dice. If you succeed, we send the bullet right for what you were aiming at, and if you fail, we send it off slightly, meaning it should miss, but we still let it hit whatever it hits, so you can still miss a guy’s head and end up shooting his chest.
Ok, now the “playback,” or the entertainment part of it. Based on what is going to happen with what you chose, we select a number of camera angles and various playback shots to show you, the playback is only a few seconds. They are always pretty quick, the longer playbacks are rare, and we’re the first ones to get annoyed if something repeats itself too much as we’re playing the game. We have a VATS camera section of the editor where we make cameras and can setup almost anything we want, such as a special camera that tracks a bullet in slow motion that shoots a gun out of someone’s hand, but only if they are using a specific pistol and only on a certain enemy. Pretty much anything we want to do; we can setup quick, so expect lots of various camera shots. One of things to know about the playback is it’s not a “replay”, it’s the actual game time moving forward, so what you see is really what is happening right now. The selected cameras control how fast various things move, so most of the time, you, the player, are animating in real-time, the enemy you are shooting at is moving at one-tenth speed, and the rest of the world is paused, or updating slowly. We found just playing everything at the same speed doesn’t feel or look good at all, we had to separate the three out; you, the enemy, and the rest of the world. Another thing we stumbled into, because time is moving forward, is that while you are watching an enemy react to getting shot in this great camera angle, your character can be getting mauled by another enemy. Really frustrating early on as we played it, so we do two things now: 1) depending on the camera chosen we essentially pause the rest of the world, and 2) we have a setting that dramatically reduces the damage the player takes during such an occurrence. You probably wouldn’t notice any of these things, the playbacks just look “right”, but you’d be surprised how much tweaking goes into making a two second snippet work well.
Hope that addresses the question, hard to answer that one. At some point in the future we’ll probably release even more info on body part damage and how that affects the gameplay, as that’s the key decision you are making in VATS – what body parts to shoot.
5. Will party members be deep and interesting characters, with their own unique personalities and desires? Maybe even secret agendas? Or will they just be henchmen who do your bidding? [Calgone]
There are a very limited number of followers you can get, I would never call them “party members” because I think that leads to a different expectation. Yes, they have pretty strong and defined personalities. I’m always leery of the follower thing, because if I’m not in direct control of someone who’s supposed to be helping me, they often seem to do something stupid. That being said, I’m pretty happy with how far we’ve come with them, and the amount of things you can tell them to do.
6. What skills will be in the game? And why the lower than usual stats in the Pip Boy screenshots? [Ausir]
Sorry, we’re not talking about what all the skills are yet, that will be later. In regards to the SPECIAL stats, that just happened to be the player’s data we set for the demo, and until you asked, I didn’t even notice they didn’t add up to 35, which they should. When you create your character, you get a total of 35 points, we go with the assumption you can make every stat a 5 if you want, so 5 is the “average”.
7. Are all the old traits and perks returning? Are certain perks adapted for the new combat system and how so? [anonymous]
Sorry, another area we aren’t talking about yet, but I can say yes, many old ones are returning and some new ones that work with new game systems; combat and VATS being obvious ones. I’m happy with how many old favorites have been translated, and the new ones fit in seamlessly, that is, it’s hard for me to tell the old ones from the new ones in flavor.
8. The stealing (and getting caught) system? Does it differ from Oblivions system? [kaos]
It differs a lot, in that there is no “jail”, or specific crime system with money on your head. It’s actually a lot easier for us to handle in Fallout, where it’s ok to have violence break out when you do something people don’t like and then calm down later. Also, instead of a “global” thing like Oblivion, it’s on a faction level in Fallout, which also makes it work much better. And we use factions for any type of group, so the town of Megaton has its own faction.
9. Will you have the written descriptions of items or just the visual? Granted, the visuals work just fine for me, but I loved the descriptions from the earlier Fallouts about how nasty the bed looks or whatever. Will there be something like our beloved text box anywhere in the main HUD? [anonymous]
We just show the object name, like “nasty bed”, but in general, I think if we’re relying on text to describe how something looks, sounds, etc, then we screwed up not having that come across naturally with what the player is seeing. It annoys me whenever we have to resort to describing something like that, even in Oblivion, with, say a journal describing how I feel or what I am seeing…it should just happen naturally.
10. What sort of factions & faction action/interaction/conflict/reputation can we expect? [MrHappy1991]
Going off the crime question above, we use “faction” pretty heavily, and it’s at the heart of many of our systems now, from crime to combat. So each faction knows how they feel about you and the other factions. It guides them in how they handle group combat, how they react to crimes, and how they handle the player in general.
A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)
11. What is being done to improve the AI as seen in Oblivion – wall staring, oblivious to people being killed around them, guards knowing when a character does something unlawful half a map away etc.? [anonymous]
First we’ve rewritten all the pathfinding systems, which eliminates the majority of the “NPC acts stupid” problems. We’ve also centralized the “crime” stuff into the factions, so in general, they behave better, or at least in ways that make more sense – either joining in or running away. We’ve spent a lot of time on combat AI, which is almost all-new as well, in that we are going into a game with guns and groups of enemies trying to find cover, angles of fire, and such.
12. Will we see anything similar to the sexual encounters possible in both of the earlier Fallout games? The first 2 games had all of that but they kept their ratings by fading out (as did Fable). There was one quest in F2 where you could lose a bet and end up as a supermutant’s toy for the night (you got to keep the ball gag as a gift). Can we expect that kind of adult content? [anonymous]
Actual player goes off and has sex? Not right now, but if a situation called for it, I wouldn’t flinch at adding it with the fade-out. We did that in Daggerfall using the fade out. We actually did paintings for the scene and it never made it in Daggerfall, but I still have the paintings. In regards to adding a supermutant rendezvous with a ball gag, the marketing department has been asking for this to put on the box, but we just haven’t found the time.
13. Will Fallout 3 maintain the same amount of drug content as the earlier games or will we see more or less? [thenightgaunt]
It’s about the same as the previous games, there are various drugs, and each as its own positive effects and side-effects if you get addicted to them.
CHOICES & CONSEQUENCES
14. You have talked a lot about choices and consequences in the quest design. Are you aiming for immediate feedback, or long term (and possibly unforeseeable) consequences? In addition to moral choices, will different characters be able to tackle tasks using their different skill sets? [GhanBuriG]
It’s a bit of both, overall I think the player needs something immediate, or they don’t know if they actually accomplished anything, or felt what they just did had any meaning whatsoever. The longer term stuff is great to surprise the player with, whether it’s positive or negative, but if it’s a surprise, you need to be careful, because that can be frustrating, so you give the player another route, or simply treat the consequence as a flavor thing, and not a game-changing thing.
In regards to using different skills, most definitely, yes. We’re really pushing on that, and I think that’s the crux of the game – what skills you use, so each quest or goal of the player’s can be accomplished in different ways using different skills. Even in dialogue we’re using a lot of different skills, depending on who you’re talking to So if you’re talking to a scientist, your Science skill may give you an extra dialogue option.
15. In Fallout 1 and 2, it was entirely possible to say the wrong thing or make a mistake and have no way of fixing it. Unless you used a walkthrough, every player experienced the game differently. Will Fallout 3 be like this? Or will it be more like Oblivion where you could do almost everything in the game with one character and one play through? [El_Smacko]
It’s pretty much like Fallout 1 and 2 there, and not like Oblivion; each person’s game should be different, and you can’t do it all. In terms of dialogue, we are careful to make sure you know the route you’re taking if it’s a big game thing, like blowing up the town of Megaton, and avoid the “make a mistake” part you mentioned.
QUESTS & STORY
16. Will the structure of the Main Quest be more like Oblivion, where you had to perform a series of tasks in the right order to progress, or more like the originals where most of the progress you’d do consisted in gathering information, which was not a pre-requisite in order to end the game? [Thomas Stehle]
Closer to Fallout, in that you can actually skip entire parts of the main quest in Fallout 3 if you stumble across important information on your own. We debated that, but in the end, I think that’s a positive, and has a better feel then an artificial barrier that feels too “gamey”, and it’s something I liked about Fallout 1.
17. It’s been said that the game world in Fallout 3 is smaller than that of Oblivion’s. How does it compare with the number of quests you can pursue, or the amount of things you can do? [anonymous]
On the quest side it’s a lot smaller than Oblivion, but keep in mind these quests have more in them. In regards to “things you can do”, all the freeform stuff, exploring, etc, it’s about the same. Since we have a lot of little freeform activities, like “help this NPC survive” that you run into that we don’t even define as a quest anymore, it’s just an event that takes place.
18. A developer (possibly Howard, Pagliarulo or Carter) has stated that they are trying to ensure that each quest has at least two ways to complete it. Does this mean that there are two different outcomes to each quest, or simply that there are two different ways to complete the quest with the same outcome either way? [Lingwei]
These means there are multiple ways, whether that is to the same outcome, like “get X information” or multiple outcomes. Often we just do what feels natural, so if it makes sense that the outcome would be dramatically different, we do it, if not, we don’t force it.
19. Please outline in detail and give an example of an actual or hypothetical FO3 conversation: Dialogue options, what influences them, length of PC lines and NPC replies, what is the effect on the game. [GhanBuriGhan]
I’m not going to write out an entire dialogue here, but I’ll tell you what I can, and I realize for many, this is one of the key things that made Fallout, and I assure you it is for us too. If you look at Fallout 1, our dialogue trees are larger and more in-depth. I’m incredibly proud of the job our designers are doing with them, and they know they have a lot to live up to.
First, it’s all dialogue trees, like the previous Fallouts. You always see your own voice and it’s all tree based. It’s is not topic based like Oblivion.
Second, there are “speech challenges” – these are for using your Speech skill when talking to NPCs, and they are specific things you can say with a percentage chance they will succeed. This chance is based on your Speech skill, how much the NPC likes you, and the difficulty of what you’re asking for. Asking for something small is easier then asking for something big. If you fail, the person is going to like you less.
Third, your skills determine the “extra” dialogue options you get, so depending on the character you are talking to, and your own skills, you may get an extra choice based on any number of skills, karma, or perks. These choices are always successful, unlike the speech challenges.
The length of the lines is as long as we need them to be, again pretty much like Fallout 1.
20. How much do you plan to stick with the Universe of the original series from the point of view of living creatures? Will you have mutated ghouls and FEV-treated supermutants portrayed as living “persons” with needs, or will there simply be “ghoul-villain” and “Supermutant-enemy” who will only engage in combat? [anonymous]
We stick to it pretty close, so the Supermutants in this game definitely have an agenda. It really depends on the creature, and many come in different flavors. I guess I can say that, yes, we do have ghouls in the game, and most are used as NPCs you talk and interact with. We use them heavily. But there are also other ghouls, the Feral Ghouls, these are more “creature” like, and are aggressive.
1. Will there be NPCs that you can hire/recruit to join you in your quest? If so, how many NPCs will you be limited to at once and approx. how many joinable NPCs will be available in the game? Also, will there be more detailed behavioral settings as in Fallout 2? [Nukem354]
Yes, and like I mentioned above, they have personalities, and you can give them a host of directions for how they should help you. I’m really encouraged by how cool they are. Right now we limit you to two with you at a time, because there are also other quests where you get more people with you, and we obviously need to limit it. Total number in the whole game to hire? As of today there are only six, but we’re just focused on getting them working great and being deep characters. Wouldn’t surprise me to see that number go up.
QUESTS & STORY
2. Is there going to be any character type specific quests that other types of characters will not have at all, or will all the quests be open to any type of character? [kaos]
Depends on what you define as a quest, we mostly design situations that can be approached from a number of angles, so we have “quests” with very different paths in them depending on your character.
3. Who wrote the main story, or is it a group effort? Are you not afraid that introducing a father figure limits the freedom to imagine your avatar and imposes motivation on the player that may not be in keeping with the avatar he imagines? [GhanBuriGhan]
Emil Pagliarulo, the lead designer, does the bulk of the writing. I can’t say enough good things about his stuff, it’s fantastic. We both wanted to do a father/child thing very early on, with you growing up in the Vault. We also have three other designers working on large chunks of the main quest; Kurt Kuhlmann, Alan Nanes, and Brian Chapin. In regards to pushing a persona on the player, yes, that is a concern, and we’re pretty careful not to do that. You don’t have to be nice to your father. I think you run that risk with any character driven story, the risk that the player doesn’t actually care about the characters, or isn’t motivated to follow them. You’d be surprised how much that enters our conversations about any quest, “What’s my motivation? Why do I want to do this?” The answer sometimes is “because the game told you to”, but that’s never a good answer, so we keep pushing until it feels right.
I did love how Bioshock handled the “because the game told you to” dilemma. They twist that brilliantly halfway through the game. If you haven’t played it, do so.
MAP TRAVEL & SPECIAL ENCOUNTERS
4. What exactly will the map travel look like – will we see ‘Indiana Jones’ style dotted line travel across a stylized map or something like Oblivion fast travel and will there be a quest compass that we can turn off and how will the random/special encounters work? [Blinzler]
Sorry, but not ready to discuss that stuff yet. I will say the feedback from the Oblivion map system was really good, and I think it struck a good balance of finding locations while wandering and quickly get back to ones you’ve been to already. Regarding the quest compass, you always need an easy way to tell the player where you want them to go, so we’ll use something similar. I don’t think it’s a question of the system, it’s a question of how often/specific you want the player pointed. Sometimes we want the location to be a mystery, sometimes we don’t.
5. How will the endings work out? Will the 9-12 different endings be like Fallout’s ending slides, or will it be a Daggerfall-esque, whoever gets the MacGuffin at the very end triggers what ending? (Frank Horrigan)
The ending is based not only on specific choices you made, some of those near the very end, but also how you acted as a whole throughout the game. So it’s permutations of a number of things, and that’s why the number of endings is still fuzzy, some of them are only slightly different than the others.