Fallout 3 Design

This is how Fallout 3 came to life...

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Like so many Fallout fans out there, I was eagerly waiting the release of , while being worried that Bethesda's sequel won't meet my expectations, lose the atmosphere and destroy the franchise.

Fortunately, Bethesda managed to pull it of so I can enjoy the Fallout experience in 3D.

One of the main reasons that I have always been a fan of the Fallout series is that it lets you tell your own story. Without a linear storyline you are free to do whatever you want and be whoever you want.

Bethesda created a world that was believable, unpredictable, and above all, entertaining. The Washington, D.C. area was chosen as the main "playing ground" due to its architectural beauty and symbolism. Besides, Bethesda is just across the Potomac River from Washington.

At first, the programmers found out that building a city in a open world was not only a performance nightmare, but also prevented them from creating the kinds of gameplay scenarios that they had in mind. Therefore, the designers had to instigate into players that peculiar feeling of *fallout*. "This city is completely destroyed; you cannot go any further because of all the debris; turn back and find another way."

Fallout 3 Design & Concept

Fallout 3 design was rather focused on capturing the Washington, D.C. spirit, rather than rebuilding the city street by street. Even more, Fallout's D.C. area is distinctly different from the one we know today. Major historic landmarks, such as the National Mall or the Washington Monument, remain. However, like any respectable Fallout fan would expect, they are in ruins and they're major quest elements in designing Fallout 3.

Each of D.C. neighborhoods is its own large outdoor area with distinct personality and population, instead of D.C. being an enormous open area on the world map and turning into a performance nightmare for the programmers.

fallout 3 design

The neighborhoods of D.C. are so varied and unique that the designers found it difficult to select which ones to re-imagine. Even further, when a level designer was finally assigned to a neighborhood, his difficulty was not in finding defining elements of a neighborhood, but which of many to focus on. Navigating the ruins of D.C. often requires passing through seeming unrelated areas, such as clambering from a Metro tunnel into the basement of an office building, and emerging in a city park. As you can see, connectivity is an important part of the Fallout 3 design.

I remember thinking when I first played Fallout 3: "Oh my God, it would be such a bore to get back to this tunnel's entrance." But guess what? The game designers, wanting to achieve a believable world design created multiple ways in and out of an area. Personally, I was grateful that I was not forced to back-track my steps, like in other games out there and thus my decision to buy Fallout was a good one. Because the multiple entrances allowed the designers to connect each neighborhood to the others, one can easily describe Fallout 3 as an elaborate network of ruined tunnels and structures in terms of design.

The D.C. "Metro" system allows the player to reach almost any neighborhood without needing to go above ground, where supermutants and mercenaries are likely to kill your low-level character. The decaying tunnels are inhabited by aggressive feral ghouls and radroaches which I personally found easy to dispose with one single hit.

Another design characteristic that turned Fallout 3 into a highly enjoyable experience for me was the unicity of each and every area in the game. Both designers and artists spent their time carefully arranging even the smallest things in the game in order to avoid repetition and player fatigue. Even the smallest tunnel or shack is unique in some way.

By design, the Capital Wasteland is an overwhelming place to visit. There are so many places linked together: neighborhoods, tunnels, caves. However, players are not expected to complete all quests in the game; they can always return to an area previously inaccessible to them. Besides, NPCs throughout their dialogues always try to reinforce this sense of open world. The D.C. is vast and dangerous; venture out at your own risk!

fallout 3 concept

Other great things I appreciate about the Fallout 3 design is the instant travel system between areas already discovered and the auto-saving system that activates at checkpoints, so I won't be forced to save manually and ruin my immersion. The game designers also filled D.C. with countless side quests delivered through means of dialogue, terminals and recordings, to further immerse the player into the game world. You will occasionally encounter unlucky survivors who struggle to get out alive from most dire circumstances.

For example, I remember this mutant having a human prisoner at the entrance of Rivet City. The girl was calling out for help but I was too late, so he killed her. I was so angry I emptied an entire clip into the mutant then I continued punching him while she was dead. If that isn't immersion, tell me what is! If you din't already, you should hit up a games retail shop and buy Fallout right now!

Much of the storytelling of Fallout 3 is told by level designers through the voice of the world itself: devastated buildings, human gore, long-abandoned outposts, deserted cities - all unveiling the unfinished tales of lives cut short by nuclear holocaust. Most of the side quests are interesting mini-adventures that succeed at avoiding typical RPG cliches, like for example having to kill a given number of enemies, and helped me further understand the world of Fallout. Besides, the side quests can be completed in a variety of satisfying ways, providing meaningful ways of approaching any given situation.

Fallout 3 managed to keep the mature atmosphere of the series and, from my point of view, it does justice to the Fallout franchise. The beauty of Fallout is in the choices you make in order to survive. Long live the franchise!

Designing Fallout 3
Fallout 3 does justice to the Fallout franchise. Its beauty is in the choices you make in order to survive. It's all in the design, you see?

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