Fallout: New Vegas and Pentiment director Josh Sawyer says he “didn’t like” some of the dialogue mechanics and choices in Fallout 3 and sought to differentiate Obsidian’s open-world game from the Bethesda RPG by decreasing “randomisation”.
In Fallout 3, the success or failure of certain dialogue options – for example, convincing someone to give you more caps for a quest – is, to a degree, randomised, meaning you can reload and retry if you don’t get the right dialogue result. Sawyer says he “didn’t like” the “randomisation” and “save scumming” that this system produced, and tried to design New Vegas to “get away from that mentality”.
“I looked at how Fallout 3 did their percentage-based skill checks, and I didn’t like the randomisation and the save scumming that resulted, meaning people reloading a lot,” Sawyer tells Kinda Funny Games. “One of the biggest takeaways from that was trying to get away from the mentality that because a dialogue option is unlocked, you should always pick it because it’s always the best option.”
Sawyer also explains how encouraging players to think more about dialogue options, rather than just choosing them because they’re unlocked, helped inform the choice-based narrative of Fallout: New Vegas and later Pentiment, the Obsidian adventure game launched on November 15.
“In Pentiment, I worked really hard with the narrative designers to make sure when our background options appear… sometimes it’s not helpful, so the player has to put a little more thought into not choosing it automatically,” Sawyer explains. “With Fallout: New Vegas, although they’re very different in scope, people like to see the impact of choice and consequence.
“In Pentiment we tried to look at it like, there is this central storyline that runs through, but there are significant choices about individual people and relationships that play out over the course of the game, and you get to see a lot of those smaller choices reflected in the actual ending. People see the aggregation of all these little things they did come to play at the end.”
Sawyer describes the development of Fallout: New Vegas as “crazy”, outlining how the Obsidian team had just 18 months to develop the RPG based on a game engine it had never used before. The director also suggests some ideas for the settings for new Fallout games, and says he would like to return to the RPG series in the future.
“I do think California or the Midwest would be very interesting,” Sawyer says. “I have to be passionate about it as a director, but also it has to be something the team is really excited about and works within the larger idea of the property. A lot of people have talked about Fallout in other parts of the world. I think those are interesting as well. I love Fallout and I love the setting, and I could see myself working on it again. But we’ll see where the future takes me.”
With details about the Fallout 5 release date still rumbling away, it will be fascinating to see where Bethesda (or maybe Obsidian, who knows?) takes the apocalypse game next. In the meantime, Starfield is still making its way towards launch, so you might want to get ahead of the curve with our guides to Starfield planets and Starfield guns, lest you get caught out when the game finally hits liftoff.