Original Fallout 3: Van Buren designs included really smart companions and a player theme tune

Fallout 3 Van Buren

Back in the days before Bethesda obtained the rights for Fallout and turned it into a sci-fi Elder Scrolls series, the post-apocalyptic RPG was an Interplay game. The original designs for Fallout 3 – codenamed Van Buren – were very different from the game Bethesda would eventually make, and some of those ideas have now seen the light of day thanks to a talk from Chris Avellone at NYU Games Center’s Practice 2015 conference.

Perhaps some of the original Van Buren ideas will become mods for Fallout 4?

Interplay were planning to make a third Fallout game, but the idea was eventually scrapped as the company drifted away from PC development. But Chris Avellone – these days known for his legacy of RPG designs and the recent Pillars of Eternity – had been working with a team to create Fallout 3: Van Buren. His presentation at the Practice conference showed off binders worth of papers and materials from the conceptual stage of design, with a pen-and-paper RPG that was used to test some of the games systems.

The main character of Van Buren would have been an accused criminal, who travelled with a team of companions who could have notable impact on the world. The AI of these characters would be able to make decisions, similar to how RPGs have the player make decisions, and there would be consequences.

Avellone also explained an idea for players to be able to choose a theme tune for their character, which was there to make the game cinematic. The tune would add a 50% bonus to any skill, and could be played once per session. This was actually implemented into the tabletop mockup Avellone made, as well as cutscenes that worked like slideshows.

If you’re feeling sad that the ‘real’ Fallout 3 was never made, don’t be too upset: you may have actually played some of it. When Avellone’s Obsidian was able to return to Fallout with New Vegas, several elements of Van Buren were salvaged and turned into ideas for the Mojave-set sequel. Many NPCs were based on prototypes created for Van Buren, as were some area designs.

Do you still pine for a day when a genuine successor to classic Fallout will return? Or are you happy with the direction Bethesda have taken the series with Fallout 4?

Thanks, Polygon.