While the big, mega-entertainment panels at Comic-Con can be interesting, they too often are a barely disguised attempt to generate consumer awareness of upcoming entertainment products... you know, like commercials. Not so the smaller, more focused panels at the con. They tend to be less full of hype and OMG! moments, but can be a ton more interesting, if you're "into" the subject being discussed. I'm very, very into Fallout, and this year, Obsidian Entertainment got all in-depth about the opportunities and challenges that come with developing video games based on existing intellectual properties, specifically, what the writing process was like during the development of Fallout: New Vegas, the upcoming sequel to Bethesda's smash mega-hit Fallout 3.
The panel, originally (humorously) entitled Fallout: WFEGEF (Writing for Evolving Game Franchises), began with Chris Avellone, Creative Director of Obsidian, John Gonzalez, Lead Creative Designer of Fallout: New Vegas and George Ziets, Creative Lead of Dungeon Siege 3, giving a little background as to who they were and how they came to be the authors of the latest chapter in the greatest post-apocalyptic role-playing game series ever.
Gonzalez said that being chosen to be the lead creative on the next Fallout game was like God coming down and asking him to write a new chapter in The Bible. The accompanying Power Point slide summed up his feeling: "No f*cking pressure, right?"
He tackled the problem by going back to the basics and examining what makes Fallout great. They wanted a "Signature City," like D.C. is to Fallout 3, so Gonzales and the Obsidian team hit on Las Vegas.
The next step: Research. That means more than just replaying the first three Fallout games (and Fallout: Tactics, I suppose), it means cracking open books and plugging in the DVD player. Gonzales listed the following as inspirations for New Vegas:
- Las Vegas: An Unconventional History by Michelle Ferrari and Stephen Ives
- Oceans 11 (The original, not the terrible George Clooney movie)
- The Road
- Six String Samurai
- Vegas Vic (The iconic cowboy statue that presides over Vegas's "Glitter Gulch"
- Famous gangster Bugsy Siegel
- The Rat Pack (naturally)
- Howard Hughes
- And a ton more
Then Gonzalez spent time spitting out many, many pages of ideas, stories and quests. In fact, he showed a slide of an annotated page of his writing... sadly, we were asked not to take pictures, or I would have let you read the brief, tantalizing glimpse into some of the gangs of New Vegas.
Here's what I remember: The gang that runs the Tops casino is very Rat Pack oriented. They come from a macho culture, and if you want to lead the place, you can take out the current top man... at least, that's how things worked in an early draft of the game. Finished product could be very different.
Another casino has a Vault theme, and is run by a family who loves musical theater(!). These guys have created a fully choreographed musical production that tells the tale of the first couple Fallout games in song. You can sit and watch the revue... again, if these ideas made it through the editing process to the final game.
The next step in the process is giving the text to the rest of the writers to create dialogue and other material. The Comic-Con audience was given a bief quiz to illustrate the importance of a standardizing document when working with a group of writers. I thought you Fallout fans might enjoy testing your knowledge:
c) stim pak
D) stim pack
The answer: None of the above. It's "Stimpak." Hence the importance of a game style guide.
Overall, no groundbreaking news was really dropped at this panel, but the look into the creation process for Fallout: New Vegas, and the obvious care and expertise of its makers, give me ultimate confidence that the game will be very, very good when it comes out this fall. See you in the Wasteland, people!