Not that we can’t still argue over it from time to time, but Fallout: New Vegas is widely regarded as the best Fallout game in the 25-year history of the series, not to mention one of the best RPGs of all time. That’s especially unusual since New Vegas wasn’t made by Interplay, the original creator of the series, or Bethesda, who took over the license, but by Obsidian Entertainment, who made a single Fallout game and then never touched the series again.
But Obsidian’s RPG masterpiece almost wasn’t a standalone Fallout game. According to Todd Howard, Fallout: New Vegas was originally planned as just “a big expansion pack” for Fallout 3.
To celebrate the Fallout series’ 25th birthday, Bethesda has been releasing a series of retrospective videos (including one last week where Todd Howard revealed that he learned he’d be making Fallout 3 from a humble Post-It note stuck on his keyboard). Another video released today (imbedded above) focuses on the origins and development of Fallout: New Vegas.
In 2008, before Bethesda had even released Fallout 3, the studio was already working hard on The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. When Fallout 3 turned out to be a hit for Bethesda, there was naturally a push to quickly follow it up with more Fallout. But with Bethesda Game Studios busy putting Skyrim together, it turned to another developer.
“Well, there’s only one group we would really want to do this,” says Howard in the video. Obsidian was the clear pick, considering the studio was packed with Black Isle Studios veterans like Feargus Urquhart and Josh Sawyer, who had worked on Interplay’s original Fallout games (including the canceled Interplay version of Fallout 3).
“And it actually started as a big expansion pack for Fallout 3,” Howard said, though the idea of New Vegas being just an expansion didn’t last for long. “I felt really strongly it should be its own game.”
The role of game director for New Vegas quickly fell to Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer, who had played the original Fallout while in college. “I kind of let it take over my life. I thought it was incredible,” Sawyer says in the video.
Obsidian didn’t want to reinvent the wheel when it came to Fallout: New Vegas, but did want to put a unique stamp on the game, which included features like Hardcore Mode that added survival elements like thirst and hunger to the game.
“In terms of the story itself, I really wanted to bring back characters and factions, or descendants of characters, from the original games, and do the classic Obsidian presentation of, there are these factions vying for control,” Sawyer says. “You come into the problem and you have to pick a way to go through it, and think a lot about your own values and decide who you want to support or don’t want to support.”
“I think that’s maybe one of the reasons why people love it so much,” says Feargus Urquhart, President and CEO of Obsidian Entertainment. “They can go into this Fallout world and just be who they want to be.”