Interview: Chris Avellone on Fallout: New Vegas

All you Fallout fans are probably having a hard time waiting until the release date for the latest entry in the franchise next month. Well, we’re here to help tide you over until then with this interview we conducted with Senior Designer Chris Avellone, of Obsidian Entertainment, the developers behind Fallout: New Vegas. While much of this information may not be new, it might shed a little bit of light on some things we’ll be seeing in the world of Fallout in the near future.

Chad Awkerman (DualShockers): Does New Vegas use the same engine as Fallout 3, or have you made improvements? If so, what?

Chris Avellone (Obsidian Entertainment): Same engine, yes. We did new animation sets, improved first-person combat, interface improvements (Pip-Boy layouts and weapon damage specs), and new interfaces (companion wheel), and additional functionality to the GECK itself which the mod community can make use of (new dialogue editor, mod functionality for modifying ammo lists, ammo subtypes, and other new data types).

Chad (DS): What is the biggest change between Fallout 3 and New Vegas?

Chris (Obsidian): Moving it West, with all the visual and ambient changes – much clearer skies with a darker purpose, and a frontier feel with a tiny bizarre slice of the Old World in the middle with war raging all around it.

Chad (DS): What are some things we’ll experience in New Vegas that we didn’t in Fallout 3?

Chris (Obsidian): New ammo. Gambling. Wayne Newton. A dinosaur with a gift shop in its belly. Rockets. Companion quest arcs that change their perks and their attitude. Calling death beams from orbit. Faction politics, both violent and passive. Confronting a situation where you choose the bad guy…even if the bad guy is everyone. More than one critical path. Survival recipes. Mantises. Geckos. Modding weapons. Traits.

Chad (DS): What are some of the famous Las Vegas area landmarks that we can look forward to seeing and possibly exploring in New Vegas?

Chris (Obsidian): Vegas is Fallout Vegas, not real-world Vegas. While there are some hooks to the Vegas we know and love (Vegas Vic, Wayne Newton, the classic Vegas sign), this is Vegas as envisioned by people in the 50s… as they viewed Vegas of the future…and then bombs dropped everywhere but there. People looted the “lucky” city in great rioting mobs, rebuilt it, and then repopulated it, making it a slightly uncomfortable brightly-lit shadow of what it once was.

Chad (DS): Will New Vegas include as many (or more?) branching dialog segments than Fallout 3?

Chris (Obsidian): Haven’t counted, the metrics don’t matter as much as the feel of the dialogues, and they definitely feel like they have choices – and many times, reactions to choices outside the dialogues.

There’s a lot of skill checks in conversations (some not for dialogue skills, just ones that showcase expertise, like explosives), checks for faction, and different reactions depending on rep. We definitely have more lines of dialogue and quests, as the areas are thicker on population and factions.

Chad (DS): The shooting mechanics of Fallout 3 received some criticism for feeling loose and lacking any weight – it was very “digital” feeling. Has this been addressed?

Chris (Obsidian): Our project director Josh Sawyer loves guns. He loves making games where guns feel fun to shoot, so he has thoroughly caressed this system with his designer hands.

Chad (DS): Will New Vegas feature the same detail in regards to creating make-shift weapons? If so, what are some examples of new weapons that can be created and parts to do so with?

Chris (Obsidian): There are a number of makeshift weapons you can make in New Vegas at reloading benches, campfires, and workbenches… but not just weapons: ammo (including homemade flamer fuel and recycling energy weapon ammo), poisons, doctor bags, explosives, and even Survival crafting recipes using food and hides you scavenge from Wasteland creatures. The Doctor Bag creation in hardcore mode especially is helpful, in terms of some of the weapons, however, some of the classics are making a come-back including Bottlecap Mines, you can also make Time Bombs (req: Explosives 50) out of Duct Tape, Dynamite, an Egg Timer, and 2 pieces of Scrap Electronics.

Chad (DS): Will the V.A.T.S. system still be around? If so, how will it be improved over Fallout 3?

Chris (Obsidian): Yep, V.A.T.S. is intact and ready to use via your Pip-Boy. We added new functionality for melee weapons in V.A.T.S., otherwise still the same.

Chad (DS): New Vegas seems to have quite the star-studded cast of characters, with the likes of Felicia Day, Zachary Levi, Matthew Perry, Ron Pearlman and even Wayne Newton – what was it like working with all these talents? Did you have certain ones in mind that you wanted to bring on to voice particular characters or did the pairings come about some other way?

Chris (Obsidian): I only sat in on the Felicia Day session. I also did some of the writing for the Ron Perlman narrative. The characters I wrote were done by other actors who are also extremely good. Felicia Day was great, she did a good job with Veronica, one of the companions in the game. No, Veronica does not sing in the game. Although I wish she did.

Chad (DS): Is there going to be the opportunity to play as a super mutant or any other character? Perhaps in some DLC?

Chris (Obsidian): You are human in FNV. Although you can adjust your age, you can’t mutate yourself.

Chad (DS): For gamers who may not have enjoyed Fallout 3 or its setting, what would you tell them to get them interested in trying out New Vegas?

Chris (Obsidian): As my girlfriend proved, watch the opening movie. Then play it for 5 minutes. Then play for 4 hours. Addicted! She keeps asking when she can play it again. She got so into it, she tackled Fallout 3 again as a placebo, when she hadn’t played much of Fallout 3 before New Vegas.

[End interview.]

We’d like to thank Chris Avellone, Obsidian Entertainment and Bethesda for giving us a little insight into Fallout: New Vegas. The game releases in less than a month, on October 19, 2010.

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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