Level Designer Diary

A new dev diary has hit the official site.  This time we’re talking level design.

Fallout 3 has been the first Bethesda Game Studios project with a dedicated level design team from the outset. With this resource, we were able to set our sights higher than ever before. We knew early on that one of our big concepts for the game was to challenge the traditional RPG divisions between towns, wilderness, and dungeon. With that mission in mind, we actively sought to blur the lines and create a world that was at once believable, unpredictable, and above all; entertaining.

It’s an interesting read, especially in light of the repeated criticisms of how tightly compressed the world feels.  Hopefully this is a topic we’ll be able to revisit once the game hits and we’ve all had a chance to judge for ourselves.

Emil Thinks We’re All Crack Addicts

Bigguns is looking for the groin shot.

Bigguns is looking for the groin shot.

Emil made an appearance at the BGS forums to defend his baby.  Some interesting comments in there about the inspiration for V.A.T.S. and the implementation.  Here’s one quote that tickled my funny bone:

It certainly wasn’t the case that we came up with a concept, put it into the game, and said, “There it is! It’s perfect” The road from paper design to implementation was loooonngg…. So regardless of what the paper design was, for us, that’s always just the beginning. The one thing you have to realize is that anything can look good on paper. Anything. In a written doc, you can justify your arguments, tighten any logic errors, dot your i’s and cross your t’s… but if you get it into the game, and it sucks (and it often does!) you have to change it. Most of the “bad’ games I’ve played are bad not because they’ve been crappy ideas, but because they haven’t been properly executed. It’s as if the developers were so blinded by the the awesomeness of their ideas on paper, they couldn’t accept that those same ideas just did not translate into fun gameplay. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and every developer has at one point or another, myself included.

Laughing with me yet?  Maybe sometime soon.  He also goes on to say that V.A.T.S. will please everyone, really!

We designed the combat balance with V.A.T.S. use in mind. Trust me, those who say they won’t use it will. If there’s one thing we learned throughout development it’s that people use V.A.T.S. It just feels natural, and the camera playbacks are a kind of visual crack. So V.A.T.S. is one part tactical, one part pure visceral entertainment. Chances are at least one of those elements will appeal to you, and you’ll end up using V.A.T.S.

And of course, later in the conversation, the sore subject of groin shots reared its ugly head.

Quick answers — no groin shots because it took long enough for us to get the other body parts balanced. And we were afraid the groin shots would instantly change the tone to “goofy” — so they didn’t make the cut.

Yes, it seems groin shots were the tipping point on the goof-o-meter.  Truly a fine line between the comedic and the dramatic that the designers had to walk.  Steel be with them in that endeavor.

Chime in over here.

X-Play Fallout 3 Special

If you’re like me, you probably can’t even find G4TV on your television dial and luckily for us the good people at G4 know this.  They’ve posted up their Fallout 3 X-Play special on the internets for all to see.  Included is some great footage of Rivet City and commentary from Todd, Pete, Istvan and my personal favorite Emil (do moar interviews, plz).

Polish dialogue details

Grzegorz Wons, the Polish Neeson

Grzegorz Wons, the Polish Neeson

Cenega, the Polish publisher of Fallout 3 confirmed that the release date will be the same as in Western Europe – October 31. They also announced that the actor to play Dad in the Polish version will be Grzegorz Wons. Funny thing is that like Neeson, he has a Star Wars connection – he was C3PO in the version dubbed in Polish.

Aside from Poland-specific stuff, the press release says that there are 1350 pages of dialogue in the game, and 2000 pages of text overall. Over 80 actors were used for the Polish dubbing, so it can be assumed that the number is similar for the original version. The Polish edition will let you choose between original English and Polish versions.

Gamasutra Interviews Todd

Gamasutra has posted an interview with Todd Howard.  While light on Fallout 3 details the interview does go into some of Todd’s view on game design:

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 — I mean how we go about what we do — 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.

Check out the full interview over yonder.

This newsbit pilfered mercilessly from Kharn.

Bring Back Will Wright

A new episode of Todd Time has gone live on G4TV’s website.  This week, Todd talks about reinvention in game design.  Recycling old ideas.  Professing his love for space marines and nazi killing.  Yeah, I’m not sure either.  Make sure you navigate away from the page before that E for All video starts, you might find yourself in mortal danger before you know it.

You’re Not Invited

Why is VaultBoy holding a toilet seat?

Joystiq got invited to a party, we didn’t.  Not that we’d go.  We’re busy that night.  We’re busy every night.  Too busy for launch parties anyways.  People that did get invited:

The party features headline music by the Foo Fighters, and it’s hosted by Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Odette Yustman, Ben Harper, and it’s being co-hosted by the Bethesda / Zenimax board of directors, which includes bigwig producer Jerry Bruckheimer, bigwig CBS president Les Moonves, bigwig MGM president Harry Sloan and and bigwig baseballer Cal Ripken, Jr.

I heard Ausir was invited too.  (Not really but I’m using this to link the wiki and make him feel better about the whole thing.)

GTTV Footage

A Planetarium in Fallout 3

As Briosa mentioned earlier, GTTV had an episode dedicated mostly to Fallout earlier this morning.  You can watch the episode over at Gametrailers.com,  There’s some new footage interspersed with lots of old footage and short Q&A sessions with various developers from the game.  There’s also some coverage on other games and an exclusive Red Alert trailer.  But hey look, a planetarium, I love planetariums!

Tonight on Spike TV

A message from Rohan at Gametrailers TV:

Hi! I’m Rohan from GameTrailers TV

I wanted to let you know that this Friday, tomorrow night at 1am on Spike TV, we’ve got a whole show on Fallout 3!

We went to Bethesda to talk about the game with the developers, received over 15 minutes of brand new, never-before-seen footage, and ask the questions that true Fallout fans want to hear. Trust me, I’m one of them. We unveil a new quest that takes you to the Washington Monument and get up close and personal with the Super Mutant Behemoth.

Not only that, but we’ve got other exclusives in the show – everything from an interview with Tony Parker about NBA Live 09 to a brand new Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 trailer that features the remixed Hell March theme. It focuses on the Empire of the Rising Sun, and has to be seen to believe!

Check out the promo for the show here:

http://www.gametrailers.com/player/40937.html

Fallout 3 Gold! It’s Official Now

Fallout 3 Special Edition, coming in October

Almost here

From the Official Site:

October 9, 2008 (Rockville, MD) – Bethesda Softworks®, a ZeniMax Media company,  announced today that its highly anticipated title, Fallout® 3, has gone gold and will be available on store shelves and online in North America on October 28, in Europe and Australia on October 30, and in the UK on October 31. Developed at Bethesda Game Studios – creators of the 2006 Game of the Year,  The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion®Fallout 3 is slated for release on the Xbox 360®video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, and Games for Windows.

Fallout 3 has been the biggest project we’ve ever undertaken,” said Todd Howard, game director for Fallout 3. “It’s been a long journey and we’re really happy with how it turned out. We can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to play it.”

Fallout 3 features one of the most realized game worlds ever created. Set more than 200 years following a nuclear war, you can create any kind of character you want and explore the open wastes of Washington, D.C however you choose. Every minute is a fight for survival as you encounter Super Mutants, Ghouls, Raiders, and other dangers of the Wasteland.

Fallout 3’s first review is featured as this month’s cover story in Official Xbox Magazine, hitting subscribers now and on newsstands October 21. Hailed as one of the most anticipated games for 2008, Fallout 3 has already won numerous awards including Best of Show from the official Game Critics Awards at E3 2008, a selection voted on by an independent group of journalists from 36 leading North American media outlets that cover the videogame industry.

Fallout® 3 has been rated Mature by the ESRB.

Fallout 3 Pirated

While we do not support nor condone piracy (do not expect us to post download links nor tolerate them in the comments), the story is too big and widespread now not to report it: Fallout 3 has found its way to torrent sites. Interestingly, despite claims of piracy killing PC gaming, it’s not the PC version that leaked, but the Xbox 360 one. A few Fallout 3 videos have found their way to Youtube, although they’ll probably be taken down soon.

This definitely sucks for Bethesda Softworks, since it’s almost 3 weeks before the game’s premiere. Since the game has gone gold some time ago and probably at least part of the game boxes are ready for shipment, will it cause them to release the game earlier?

That’s all folks!

The last Vault Arcade comic is up, it ends with a whimper.  The big news though is that the BethBlog is having a contest to celebrate the end of the PA run (or maybe to celebrate the game finally coming out, could be a little of both)…

  • Send an email to bethblog@bethsoft.com. In it, let us know which of the 12 comics was your favorite.
  • All e-mails must be received by midnight (U.S. EST), Sunday, October 12th. Winners will be randomly selected and contacted shortly there after. Any foul play detected will result in automatic disqualification.
  • All participants must be 18 or older to enter and verification may be required before the winner is announced.

While you’re at it.  Tell Bethsoft you want some new wallpapers, preferably high-res versions of those DC ads linked below.

Riding on the Metro

John Cangany of Washington D.C. alerted Joystiq to a new ad campaign by BethSoft in support of Fallout 3.  Apparently, these ads are having the desired effect:

Anyway, metro riders were transfixed by this ad. Unlike the “Fred, your ass is looking fat” hippo posters or the metro etiquette ads, the crumbling Washington Monument and mutated American flag caught a lot of eyes, and people STARED. Like, legit stared, as if the ad were either a really pretty or really ugly, disfigured lady.

Joystiq contacted BethSoft for more information and received a few photos of the different ads.  They’ve also requested some help from DC residents in identifying the locations so if you’re familiar with the locales, head on over and share what you got.

Update: Pete Hines says the ads are currently at the Metro Center station and only at the Metro Center station.

Fallout 3 Review From Sweden

Swedish PCGamer reviews Fallout 3, gives a 81% score, and Dupa got us some bits and pieces in English:

I just got the October issue of  swedish PC gamer and they have a review of the PC version of fallout 3.
In short:
score: 81%
Pros:
VATS
SPECIAL
Megaton at night
Cons:
A feeling of lifeless backdrops
Lifeless/stale Characters
To much on a too small area

Its Written by Joakim Bennet, who has proclaimed love for Fallout many times over the years he has been at PC gamer sweden.

Other short stuff(not quotes):
Vats is great, realtime combat isnt. The realtime combat (damage/hits etc) doesnt seem to be in sync with whats happening on the screen.
HtH combat in 3rd person is just as bad as in oblivion
Bennet misses the world map, random encunters, the empty wastes.
AI isn’t great. Enemies running in circles and no reaction from NPC that gets hot from a long distance is quite common.
You can pick up anything that isn’t bolted to the floor.
The SPECIAL system and Perks works great

He also writes about four important points and compare them to the originals:

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