Peter Hines grilled on Fallout 3
Fallout 3 is looming ever nearer; the world eager to find out what Bethesda will make of the old school RPG IP - updated for modern consoles and tastes in a new first-person incarnation that has proved controversial with hardcore series fans.
We sat down with Bethesda exec Peter Hines during last month's Games Convention event in Leipzig to find out more.
Hi there Peter, I hope you're enjoying the show. What's it like seeing people play the game for the first time?
We've had a chance now, between E3 and Leipzig, to let a lot of people play the game and get their hands on it. For the most part its been really positive. Folks who have seen the game progressing seem to like where its gone, and folks who've never seen it before, haven't play it previously, seem really impressed as well. I'm pretty pleased!
Who are you expecting to play the game? Will it be mainly new players, or will it be players who've had experience of the series previously?
I think it'll probably skew a lot towards newer players, just if you look at how many people bought or played Fallout before, versus what we're looking at sales-wise, the numbers don't add up, there's got to be a lot of new players. Either that or all the original Fallout players need to buy ten copies each!
I think it'll be a mix. Even on 360, or PS3, there are a lot of people who used to be PC players in the 90s - maybe still are - but maybe they now play consoles and they're likely to play Fallout on these platforms. Rather than PC... that's their new platform of choice now.
Could you have made Fallout purely on the PC? Is it viable for a game of this kind to be made just for the PC at present?
I guess we could have. I'm just not sure whether there will ever be a good enough to reason to only put it out on one format.
How has the game you thought you were going to make when you started work four years ago changed into the game we're now playing, today?
Its pretty close, honestly. A lot of it is that we try not to spend too long on the concept part of a development, and as much as possible getting stuff in the game. You can then play it to see how it feels. Things that sound like a good idea maybe aren't when you start playing it, things need to be done in a different way. Then there's things that you weren't sure whether they were going to work, need a tweak, then become terrific. There's a lot of that. You put your hands on it; play it. This doesn't work at all; this is great; we need to do this differently - there's a lot of that.
Are there any elements of the new release you're worried about?
Not really. I mean, even when we get to do something like this, when we let people do whatever they want rather than restricting them to one area - the number of things people have experienced; thousands of hands-on sessions. People have done all sorts of different things, we've got all kinds of positive feedback. People comparing experiences, doing things different ways, that's kind of the point of the game. You do things at your own pace, however you want.
What's the most interesting route through the game you've seen someone take so far?
I don't think there's anything really surprising. I've seen some folks that have got to places no one has got to, like found one of the other vaults and gone wandering around in there, or had every intention of going to do "X" then got side-tracked doing another thing and spent all their time in another area they got sucked into. Again, that's kind of the point of the game. You never really know what's over the next hill, or what's going to grab your attention for two hours. There's nothing "I can't believe they went and did that," though.
I like the way you further the plot through incidental dialogue, things you read, etc. How important is the aspect of the game's story-telling?
Hugely. Hugely important that you're able to get at information in a number of different ways, that you can talk to people. How you can talk to them. Some games, regardless of whether you're nice or nasty you get to the exact same point - but via different routes - I like the way in Fallout if you're mean then people won't ever tell you about things. They might not even give you the quest. However, if you're nice you get good karma, the game responds differently, based on your chosen path. The response you get feels appropriate for what you did. As opposed to that sense of things being a different flavour of the exact same thing.
Are there points in the story that players will always have to experience?
As with regards to the main quest, yeah, if you're going to play the main story people can go about things in different ways, and how quickly they move between parts of the story can vary. But the main quest does have the same major points along the way. You can change your approach. Things can vary in places. Outside of that its entirely up to the player, whether you do these other quests, visit these other places, is entirely up to you. Its what you want to do.
Which other games did you look at when designing Fallout 3?
I mean, mostly we looked at the first two Fallouts in terms of what parts of these games will we bring forward; capture and replicate. And how can we do that. But, we started in 2004, so there wasn't a tonne of similar games about. I mean, we get asked about games that are similar in style or approach. We get asked whether we were influenced by this or that, but we say "we were three years into the project when that came out", and we weren't stopping for anything at that point. Mostly, we're influenced by a lot of the stuff we've done before, books, movies... post-apocalyptic... the presentation of that tone; that vibe. But you know, we also draw a lot from our own experiences. What kind of game do we want to want to make, what kind of experience do we want to create.
The world is very detailed. How do you go about fleshing out a landscape as vast...
It takes four years! [Chuckles all round]
That's how you do it. Its daunting. That's why you don't see a lot of games like this, its something we've become adept at doing. We've been making these big open-ended games for years now. And so we have a method of going about it, using artists and level designers who know how to add the little touches, and subtle notes that are a nice of level detail. When you notice a certain thing in a certain area, it really takes the game to a difference level. You notice something that somebody clearly took the time to put there; that's really cool. Its really different.