Bethesda power-dresser Todd Howard has promised that Fallout 3 will lose none of the "harshness and maturity" fans like about the series.
Howard said "slavery, children, drugs and addiction" will feature as themes, and that narcotics abuse will be a "key gameplay device". But child killing and nudity will not feature, as they were deemed to add nothing to the "flavour" of the game.
"I think the heart of this question is, 'Has the harshness and maturity of the world of Fallout 3 been tempered from the earlier games?' And I can certainly say, 'No, it hasn't been,'" explained Howard in a fan interview on the official forum.
"You will not be able to be a child killer. There are several reasons for this, some of them are very basic, like we wouldn't be able to sell the game anywhere to anyone if the children could be killed. I'm not using that as a scapegoat. We never wanted the game to offer any incentive or desire to be blowing kids away. From our initial designs we didn't know how we were going to handle [what happened] if you shot them, we just knew it was going to be a big no-no...
"Anyway, when attacked, all children flee and any regular NPCs friendly to the children will instantly attack you, so it feels good in the game, in that there is an appropriate response," he added.
Howard went on to weigh-up good and evil choices in Fallout 3, and said the moral grey area in some of its choices choices is a feature he's particularly proud of.
"The grey area comes into several quests where the situation is just 'bad'. Some feel like no-win situations and they come across as 'make a hard choice'," said Howard. "I think that's where it feels best, honestly, but we do need to mix it up between that and simpler good or bad [decisions]."
Dialogue will play a central role in Fallout 3, and you can often start a conversation with an opening line to set the tone. You could be strong and silent, for instance, or poke fun at someone. Whatever you're after, Howard promises lots and lots of it.
"They are big," said Howard of dialogue trees. "If you look at Fallout 1, it's deeper than that. To give you the scale, we have over 40,000 lines of dialogue, compared to a few thousand in Fallout 1."
Fallout 3 is a post-apocalyptic role-playing game for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. It's due out this autumn and will let you make a bloody mess with big guns.