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Interview - Obsidian's Chris Avellone on Fallout: New Vegas [Update]


Update: New shots here.

Original: When Fallout: New Vegas was announced at a London event back in April 2009, folks nearly broke the internet. Fairly popular, is Fallout.

All anyone knew back then was that it wasn't a sequel to Fallout 3, it was a multi-platform title, and Obsidian was set to develop it.

Earlier this year, Bethesda and Obsidian released a teaser video giving a glimpse at the game's world without providing any concrete information.

Thankfully, last week, Bethesda decided to relent and held a pre-E3 event just outside Paris, showing-off the game to invited press outlets.

While there, VG247 was given the opportunity to speak with Chris Avellone, lead designer for Obsidian's Alpha Protocol and senior designer on Fallout: New Vegas, where he explained to us what exactly makes New Vegas stand-out from its predecessor.

Since New Vegas is following so closely on the heels of Fallout 3, couldn't it as easily have been used as DLC for the title?

What you find out, may surprise you.

[Interview by Johnny Cullen]

How long has Fallout: New Vegas been in development? Since before Fallout 3 was released

Chris Avellone: No, actually. It was like a few months after the release of the last Fallout 3 DLC that Bethesda wanted to start up the next installment in the series. They approached us after that.

How did the idea of Obsidian doing a Fallout spin-off come about?

Avellone: Bethesda basically approached us and said, "Hey, do you wanna do another game in the Fallout universe? We have the western United States to deal with. Choose a location there, give us a pitch, tell us what you think would be exciting and then we'll just see if we like it."

And we were like, "OK. Well, here's our pitch and here's what we're excited about it. "hat do you guys think?". And they were like, "OK," and then we just started. [laughs] It was pretty cool, I was like, OK, that's awesome.

You detailed Hardcore Mode today in the demo, and said that it was a new feature for the game. Can you explain that a little bit more in detail?

Avellone: We recognized that there were some comments on the forums that Fallout 3 wasn't difficult enough. We wanted to make sure that if you really wanted, you could go for the full-on difficulty option.

So we were like, "Why don’t we make this a special option mode and we give ammo away – which always made sense to us - regardless?" Then there’s things like you always having to deal with dehydration, which makes sense even though you have to manage your water supply, stuff like that, and the idea that healing items would not heal instantly.

Like, if that mechanic was a precedent in Fallout 3 – that game would have been much, much more difficult.

I mean, personally, there were so many times that shooting a stimpack gave me instant health back, and saved my life so many times.

If I would have had to wait two seconds, four seconds or six seconds for my health to return to the maximum amount that would have changed those combats completely, and I definitely would have had a tougher time in fights.

The game does look incredible, truth be told. I asked you in the Q&A after the demo if it was running in 60fps. You told me you were aiming for 30fps.

Avellone: I don't actually know the framerate on consoles, but the reason it was probably running so fast is because it was on a PC here, obviously.

The actual thing we always want to shoot for though, is to try and make sure it's at least 30 on any of the platforms we release it for, because otherwise you feel the affects when it's playing.

I am just going to move on to some general Obsidian questions. The addition of Fallout to the studio; did it really affect the developments of both Alpha Protocol and the now-canned Aliens RPG?

Avellone: No, it didn't, and as sad as it was for the Aliens thing to stop -  it just meant that we had another team that could go on and do Vegas. Alpha Protocol was already set up with this other team. I finished working on Alpha Protocol in October and just transferred on to to New Vegas after that.

I would have loved to have started on New Vegas from the beginning, but they already had a good solid team for it anyway.

You also faced some lay-offs last year. That must have been really hard for the studio.

Avellone: That was not good times. That is never a conversation you ever want to have with employees.

I guess if I could express some sort of frustration, is that we didn’t have the full finances to support the staff we had after just the general economic problems, and the frustrating thing was we didn’t really have anyone at the studio that we wanted to let go.

Everyone was performing great, but we actually had to reduce our staff and that totally sucked. Like, we took pay cuts, and we were like. 'If we do this we could keep more staff.' But we just couldn’t keep everybody.

It was a pretty miserable time.

I'm sure it was. Back to New Vegas in general, Bethesda supported Fallout 3 humongously. What plans does Obsidian have for New Vegas? Any plans for DLC?

Avellone: I can't say much about it. Bethesda has plans, but we don't know the actual facts of them yet, so it's pretty much premature to say anything - but my hope would be that they would.

Hypothetically, would you like DLC done for New Vegas?

Avellone: Hypothetically, I would love that.

I hope you don't mind me asking this, but what would your personal opinion be on the Infinity Ward situation?

Avellone: You know, I don't know enough about the whole picture, 'cause here's the whole thing: I don't know everything that's gone on with it. I'm just standing back and watching. [Inaudible] I'm not even sure I'm as well informed on the situation as I should be, so I'm like, it's just simply a crazy time for both groups.

Fallout: New Vegas ships later this year for PC, PS3 and 360.

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Stephany Nunneley-Jackson

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Stephany is VG247’s News Editor, with 22 years experience (with 15 of them at VG247). With a brain that lacks adhesive ducks, the ill-tempered, chaotic neutral fembot does her best to bring you the most interesting gaming news. She is also unofficially the site’s Lord of the Rings/Elder Scrolls Editor.