With Fallout 3, we're probably approaching the end of the stage where the game is just demoed to journalists. The content is almost there, leaving the gargantuan task of making it all work properly ahead of Bethesda. Close as we are, though, we're not there yet, and while we long to actually play the bloody thing, there's still much to talk about. Bethesda's enthusiastic vice president of public relations and marketing, Pete Hines, sits back after his latest demonstration of Fallout 3 and asks if we have any questions. Yip.
Eurogamer: What I've never quite understood about Fallout 3 is why would Bethesda buy the licence? Arguably "Bethesda does post-apocalyptic game" is a bigger story than "Bethesda makes Fallout 3". Fallout is a relic to modern gamers. If you'd made your own world, you'd have sidestepped all the stress of dealing with over-protective fans.
Pete Hines: It's like, if George Lucas died tomorrow - God willing, he doesn't - and you're a film director. And you've grown up making big epic films - maybe you're Peter Jackson. And he finishes whatever his big next film is. And someone asks him, "what do you want to do next?" And he says, "I always wanted to make a big space movie. A big epic movie full of action." And they ask, "do you want to do generic space movie that you make up yourself, or do you want to do Star Wars." And he says, "I could do whatever, but I grew up as a kid and Star Wars made me want to get into making movies. It had such a profound impact on me, I would love to pick up this thing I loved and cared so much about and make the next one. And I'm not the guy who did the originals, but it means so much to me, and would mean much more to me to work in this world. It would be easier, perhaps less controversial and less pressure to do my own, but I'd rather do this thing that someone else did so much more."
That's the best analogy I can use. We could have made anything and people would have been interested in it, probably, but Fallout meant a ton to us, and we love the tone and flavour of that world, and how meaningful it was for its time, how different it was from other stuff that was out there. We said, "we could do anything, but what we'd really love to do is Fallout". Use that character system and that world that's so unique from anything else that we might come up with. We'd rather do that than come up with our own thing. Bring that to life - and bring it not to just people who played the it before, but people who've never got to play or experience it. There's this great game and world which somebody came up that we really think you'll want to play.
Eurogamer: You're driven by love. Do you think that's something the very hardcore Fallout fans miss?
Pete Hines: I don't know whether they miss it or not - it may be that they don't care and think, "that's all well and good, but you're not the ones we wanted to make this". I don't pretend to know exactly what their motivations and thought processes are. Those guys are very enthusiastic - we're talking about the very hardest of the hardcore Fallout fan. They're very passionate about this thing and protective about it. And that's okay. It's something they've clearly got a lot of attachment too. At the same time, we are making the very best game that we can. It's not for any one group of folk - we're making the best game we know how for a lot of people who'll come to play and enjoy it.
Eurogamer: So do you blank out the criticism then?
Pete Hines: You never blank it out. You take all the feedback from Oblivion, and all the feedback from what people want from a Fallout game. And what you find is there's never agreement on anything from anyone. We get feedback from people who say you've got to have this. As long as you've got the SPECIALs [the game's statistics - Ed] and perks, that's Fallout. And some people say if it's not isometric and not turn-based, it's not Fallout. So you basically go and look at what made the game meaningful for them, and try as much as you can to match it with what you're doing, so you're doing what people remember and is important to them. But it's more of getting a vibe of what they want, rather than sitting in an art meeting and going, "What do we want this creature to look like... let's go and ask the fans". At some point we have seventy-five people making the game, devoting 3-4 years of their life and they're ultimately the tie-breakers. And it's not as if all seventy-five people think the same thing. We have big rows over should something work like X and Y or Z. And eventually a decision gets made, and we move forward with it. It's the same with feedback from outside the company - we take it all into account, but at some point you have to pick and direction and move on.
Eurogamer: Any example comes to mind when the team have crossed swords?
Pete Hines: If I could think of one, I'd tell you, but nothing springs on me. It could be really little stuff, like how do you repair weapons? Is it a separate item in the bottom of your inventory? Is it a button off to the side? We've had all kinds of debates, like how do we convey to the player their level of being hit? How do you convey to the player damage to an enemy? Little stuff like that. It should be red! It should be green! It should be here! It should be here! Sometimes it's twenty different people with twenty different opinions and Todd [Howard - Ed] goes, "okay, here's what we're doing". That's the job of the executive producer: "here's what we're doing and why - let's move on".
Eurogamer: You talked about wanting the Fallout world. I wondered - if you could get access to any franchise, what would you take? I mean, from any medium. Books, films... hell, even albums?
Pete Hines: Me personally? Probably something Tolkien. Which is probably a bad answer. If you put a gun to our heads, we probably wouldn't, as it's kind of similar [to the Elder Scrolls]. But I so love Tolkien and all his stuff, and the films were brilliant. There's lots of stuff. Which direction do I get to go? Do I get to go Blade Runner? Do I get to go Escape From New York or Batman? Around the office we're always kicking around ideas for stuff we'd like to do.
Eurogamer: Bar Liam Neeson, any voice actors you can talk about?
Pete Hines: Not that we're talking about. The bulk of the voice acting will be voice people - people who are more in the voice-acting business. We're not going for an all-name cast. So we pick out key roles for people and who we'd like for those roles and what kind of presence we thought they'd bring to it. And we always thought Liam was the perfect father figure. We have one or two other roles which we have things in mind but the bulk of it - and we have a lot of voice-acting in the game - is done by voice actors.
Eurogamer: We were wondering - what's the corpse-eating statistic we spotted about?
Pete Hines: We'll have to wait and find out.
Eurogamer: And any plans for the demo?
Pete Hines: We build our game much like we did in Oblivion. That is one enormous seamless world. When you build it as one thing, there's no way to portion off a section and have it stand on its own, as a little level self without putting the whole game in the demo, which we're just not going to do. And it doesn't really capture the fun of a game like an Elder Scrolls or a Fallout, where you can go where you want and do what you want. It's all about player choice, but here's one little thing where you're a rat in a box. It doesn't really capture what's great about the game. The...what do I do now? So no demo, sorry.
Eurogamer: Something that struck me, post-BioShock the retro-futurism thing is back in style again.
Pete Hines: Yes. Yes. Those guys I think did borrow somewhat from some of Fallout's iconic things. Yeah.
Pete Hines: That's all I'll say.
Pete Hines: Buggers.
Eurogamer: [Laughs loudly]
Pete Hines: Actually, Ken Levine came by our booth at E3 last year. Which was pre-BioShock. We were announcing Fallout and we were chatting about influences and stuff. It was good. It was fun to hear the sort of things from the original games that had an influence on him and BioShock. He's a good guy.
For more on Fallout 3, check out our preview. The full game is due out in autumn on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.