Gameplanet: What did you identify as New Vegas’ key areas for growth over Fallout 3?

Chris Avellone: That’s an interesting question because with Fallout 3 there were a lot of things we didn’t want to touch because we liked them so much – so the question we asked ourselves is “what do we want to tweak or modify in order to make the experience better?”

So the first thing we looked at was the mod community – what were the things people were changing most about the title that we really like? One of them was weapon mods. We were like, you know what? We can implement those in New Vegas and make the weapons a lot cooler and make dealing with merchants a lot cooler, why don’t we implement that system and put it in?

Obviously we also have the usual stuff like an extended list of perks and an extended (base) arsenal and custom animations for those weapons, too. We also looked through the various weapon skills and then through the (Fallout 3) forums to see people’s reactions to them in order to find out why people found each one satisfying.

So we looked at things like melee combat, for example, and it seemed like melee players don’t have enough to do in combat. So we said to ourselves, why don’t we have the melee skill unlock special combat moves for each individual melee weapon you can get in the game?

We looked for things like that – not to overwrite the Fallout 3 experience, but to tweak in ways so that players can enjoy it even more.

Gameplanet: How has Obsidian’s back catalog helped to shape this game?

Chris Avellone: We went back over our studio’s history and we recognised that we have a strong history creating content and characters. Then, we recognised that Fallout 3 did a really great job of open exploration. So why don’t we take this open exploration world that people like so much, then we’ll get these deep character arcs for companions who can join your party – they’re completely optional – we’ll add a lot more quests and interactivity in locations; the reputation mechanics.

Now there’s not just one critical path for the game. We have that critical path break and branch out so that there’s four critical paths that all lead to the endgame. So if you want to play the game four times over, they make that possible.

Gameplanet: Can you set up New Vegas’ narrative for us? Where’s the tension?

Chris Avellone: New Vegas has a shock beginning – it’s a very Vegas-style beginning: You get two bullets in the head and get dumped in a shallow grave in the desert. We absolutely want to maintain that Vegas feel from the outset: This guy tried to kill you, he got it wrong. What you want to make sure is that he doesn’t get it right the next time and figure out why he wanted to do it at all. You’re a courier and he’s taken your package: What was in it that was so important, and how do you get it back in order to fulfil your contract? Following that investigative trail leads to a whole host of other questions and it’s going to lead you to explore most of the Mojave wasteland, and suddenly realise that the Mojave is a very, very complicated place.

Gameplanet: So we’ll have a confrontation with this purse-snatcher endgame?

Chris Avellone: One element that we’re not going to have is one Big Bad Guy in Fallout: New Vegas. We’re going to dump the player into a situation then allow him to examine the faction politics: Where they’re coming from, where they’re succeeding, where they’re failing and letting the player decide where his loyalties lie as a result of that. It’s based on player-choice: he can say “I want to support those guys.”

Or he can support none of them at all, (saying) “I have a better vision for the wasteland than any of these people.” That’s totally the Fallout way.

Gameplanet: You mentioned a Mafia-style execution in the desert, what are your other influences?

Chris Avellone: Oh yeah, the Rat Pack, 1950’s Vegas – redesigning it (with that aesthetic) for the future and then dropping bombs on it, that was a lot of fun for our artists to do!

Gameplanet: You’ve mentioned upgrades to the melee system, can you elaborate?

Chris Avellone: Yes, so you can unlock special moves that require more AP points for melee weapons and you’ll get much more visual feedback in terms of what weapons work better against certain opponents.

Now, a (HUD) red shield will pop up if, for example, you’re using a small calibre firearm against, say, a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin, letting you know you should probably switch out for something else.

All the creatures in the game all have different damage thresholds and resistances that will encourage you to switch out your weapons more often, rather than just relying on one weapon.

Gameplanet: Cool. There’s been a lot of talk about hardcore mode – what was the genesis of that idea?

Chris Avellone: Project director Josh Sawyer recognised that people who played through Fallout 3 probably played through a few times, and then played the downloadable content and that when they come to Fallout: New Vegas, they’ll recognise a lot of the mechanics, they’ll be experienced. A lot of people also said that they thought Fallout 3 was too easy, especially at the end. So, hardcore mode is set up right from the beginning, you can switch it on.

Ammo has weight, stimpaks take a while to heal you, you suffer from dehydration, you need to rest your character before he gets exhausted – all these elements we think should really challenge experienced players.

Gameplanet: Can we expect to see any characters or references to Fallout and Fallout 2?

Chris Avellone: If you have never played Fallout or Fallout 2 you won’t be missing anything (knowledge) in Fallout: New Vegas. However, if you’ve played Fallout or Fallout 2, you’ll understand much more of the backstory of certain groups you encounter. Possibly you’ll also meet descendents of people you know from Fallout and Fallout 2, and of course creatures you’ve seen in those games in the New Vegas world.