Feargus Urquhart Comes Home

Russ Pitts | 30 Apr 2010 18:00
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TE: So if you run into a recurring character, it's an exceptional case.

FU: Yes. A lot of it is to sell the feeling of what is the West coast vs. the East coast. It was actually kind of interesting when we first started working on it, because we really looked at how they made the Washington D.C. area and they used a lot of walls, technically, to block how far you can see, so you don't have to draw anything on the other side of that hill.

So we just used satellite data for the Vegas base and we put it in and ... we're on one side of the map, and we can see all the way to the other side! So some of that stuff we really had to figure out.

We had to change some of the feeling from Fallout 3 to what we're doing. We had to accentuate all of the little bumps and hills. There's a slightly different feeling. New Vegas is more spread out, where Fallout 3 was more centered. There was a lot of stuff, but there was a lot of concentration on the city, and here we have more stuff all over the place, with really key areas.

That's one thing I thought the internal team did a really great job on - the landmarks. Wherever you were, you knew where DC was because there was the Washington Monument and Jefferson [Memorial] and there's Tenpenny Tower over there. You could orient yourself without looking at your map. So we tried to do that with our own sense - like the dino (The Obsidian Entertainment team has imbued Fallout: New Vegas with the essence of some of the West Coast's iconic, kitschy monuments, like, for example, Dinky the Dino, the giant Tyrannosaur gift shop. - Ed.) - like "Oh, Dinky's over there, so I know where I am."

TE: That ties into that sort of kitsch in this part of the world, too. What with the giant thermometer in Barstow, CA. So how does this change the way that you guys think and design for Fallout? The [Fallout] games you've worked on are isometric, top down, very zone oriented and now you're in a broad world. Does that change anything fundamentally about the way you guys design it?

FU: It has to change some things. The biggest thing is the technical aspect. You have to worry about memory and draw distance and things like that. When you're using isometric maps, we can do some balancing for stuff.

I remember when I was working on The Hub, which was a big area in Fallout 1 - you always went back to the Hub to gear up and there were some continuing quests. We had this problem where we wanted there to be really high powered gear in there. In all the Fallouts, you can just steal stuff, but we didn't want that to happen early on, so we had to play this game of putting enough guards around that could see if you were stealing stuff, and then if you actually did it, they would converge. Technically, it was a problem because we needed a lot of them. We didn't want to make just a few super-powered guys because we wanted, at some point, that a player could start taking them out. If you just put three super high level guys there, the player wouldn't be able to do that, they wouldn't be able to play this game of "ooh, can I get the guards?"

So, technically, we had to think about that stuff. That's the Fallout: New Vegas way to think about it as well, and that's the difference. What's not different is how we approach an area. In a role-playing game - it's different than making a first person shooter. In an FPS, you're like "OK, I'm here. There's the corridor. There's some cool things." But when we do it, we don't start there. This has to be an area people will think is real. So we start with it being a town. And then we start thinking about putting people in it, what's going on here, what's the conflict, what's this, what's that. And that's no different if we're making an isometric game or making a first person role-player like Fallout.

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