Not that we can’t still arguing about it from time to time, but Fallout: New Vegas is widely regarded as the best Fallout game in the series’ 25-year history, not to mention one of the best RPGs of all times. This is particularly unusual because New Vegas was not made by Interplay, the original creator of the series, or Bethesda, who took over the license, but by Obsidian Entertainment, who made a single Fallout game and then never touched the series again.
But Obsidian’s RPG masterpiece almost wasn’t a stand-alone Fallout game. According to Todd Howard, Fallout: New Vegas was originally planned as just a “big expansion pack” for Fallout 3.
To celebrate the 25th birthday of the Fallout series, Bethesda released a series of retrospective videos (including one last week, where Todd Howard revealed that he found out he was going to make Fallout 3 from humble Post-it note fixed on his keyboard). Another video released today (embedded above) focuses on the origins and development of Fallout: New Vegas.
In 2008, before Bethesda even released Fallout 3, the studio was already hard at work on The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. When Fallout 3 turned out to be a hit for Bethesda, there was naturally pressure to quickly follow it up with more Fallout. But with Bethesda Game Studios busy putting together Skyrim, it turned to another developer.
“Well, there’s only one band we’d really like to do this,” Howard says in the video. Obsidian was the clear choice, considering the studio was packed with Black Isle Studios veterans like Feargus Urquhart and Josh Sawyer, who worked on Interplay’s original Fallout games (including the canceled Interplay version of Fallout 3).
“And it actually started as a big expansion for Fallout 3,” Howard said, although the idea that New Vegas was just an expansion didn’t last long. “I felt really strongly that it should be its own game.”
The role of game director for New Vegas quickly fell to Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer, who played the original Fallout while in college. “I kind of let it take over my life. I thought it was incredible,” Sawyer says in the video.
Obsidian didn’t want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Fallout: New Vegas, but wanted to put a unique stamp on the game, which included features like Hardcore Mode that added survival elements like thirst and hunger to the game.
“In terms of the story itself, I really wanted to bring back characters and factions, or descendants of characters, from the original games, and do the classic Obsidian presentation of, there are these factions competing for control,” Sawyer says. “You come into the problem and you have to choose a way to get through it, and think a lot about your own values and decide who you want to support or don’t want to support.”
“I think that’s maybe one of the reasons why people love it so much,” says Feargus Urquhart, President and CEO of Obsidian Entertainment. “They can go into this world of Fallout and just be whoever they want to be.”