After Interplay released Fallout things weren’t all what they seemed. While the game was the critical success they hoped for, financial they were in rather dire straits. Interplay had published numerous games before and after Fallout such as Battle Chess and the Baldur’s Gate series, but, for the most part, they were all failures on the business side of things. And thing just got worse from there. In 1998, Interplay had to file for bankruptcy due to their many failures as a company. If they continued as a private publisher, at this rate, they would most assuredly go under. Seeing this, Interplay turned public for the entire world to see. After this, sales of shares on the stock market went through the roof, bringing them back from a wasteland of their own making. To reflect their new status they also changed their name to Interplay Entertainment Corporation, a bi-product of going public.
Either way, with more money in hand the company had the funds to continue their adventure in the future they created. But more internal strife was yet to come. Once Fallout came out a small subset of Interplay developers broke away to form their own studio within the company to work exclusively on the franchise. Their name would be Black Isle Studios. Their goal would be to make a sequel that would appeal to all of their rabid fans demands while also creating something that could exceed the original. It would bigger, better, and more badass. Players would be free to roam about the wasteland at their own leisure with no limit to their time at hand; along with this even more areas to explore then they’ve ever had before and living, breathing people populating every corner of it. The game would also be more over the top then ever before with politics and plenty of sex, drugs, and violence along with a saturated landscape of pop culture references. On top of all this instead of the leisure 3 to 4 year developmental cycle of the first game, Black Isle only had a year and a half to make it. These, among other things, tore apart the original developmental team to a nigh unrecognizable state. Tim Cain, the creator and grand designer of the original Fallout, left the company behind for good due to creative differences. Jumping ship to found Troika Games, creators of Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, along with Leonard Bovarsky, and designer Jason Anderson, Tim Cain, the creator of this new cult classic, would never have a hand in creating another entry in the series ever again.
With much of the developmental team disappearing from the company Feargus Urquhart, the founder of Black Isle, would take on the task of leading this new effort. But Feargus had to push his people to the breaking point to get the game to release. Hundred workweeks, way above the healthy amount, were extremely common. Many even collapsed due to the pressure. The team was also split into multiple segmented parts with different people taking a different corner of the game world as their own. All the while all of them had no idea what the other teams were doing with their own little pieces of the world. If done any less the game could have been a disaster but some where along the way all the pieces were able to fit into their own little masterpiece.
Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game, would try to pick up the pieces of the first game where it left off. 80 years after the events of Fallout 1, the original Vault Dweller has founded a new town called Arroyo after being forced to leave Vault 13 forever. Decades later he’s disappeared from the settlement entirely leaving you the Chose One as his direct descendant and only heir. With severe famine and droughts plaguing his hometown the player must search for a G.E.C.K. or Garden of Eden Creation Kit, to save everyone he loves. Donning the classic Vault 13 jumpsuit and a Pipboy 2000, the Chosen One must begin his own journey into the wasteland, with all the hardships his predecessor endured.
While the story would maintain much of its tonal consistencies from the original, the planned changes also came into play for better or worse. Pop culture references to things such as Monty Python and Star Trek became common occurrences along with multiple parodying dialogue choices that represent the series itself. At times, the game found even break the fourth wall entirely. This wasn’t your Fallout, it was something slightly different. Still, throughout it all the game maintained its unique 1950’s past. The Vault Boy and the various cartoons and cheery ideals that came with him were synonymous with the series and seemingly added to this new setting that Black Isle had created.
The game also received several improvements in the gameplay department. Still keeping its traditional branching dialogue system, more options were added into to spice it up. Your party members or companions that had existed in the previous entry now were fully customizable with their own sets of attitudes to choose from. Players also were given the option to get a little rougher with NPC’s, throwing them aside from doors if they’re in the way. The world was expanded on too with new locations such as New Reno and the New California Republic being ever present. Even old locations such as Vault 13 were available to the player, although some would not be in the state they used to be in. Alongside this combat was also shored up to a considerable degree, ironing out all the kinks from the previous system. The SPECIAL system was still ever present, defining who you character would be and how they would react to the game world. Perks also made a return with an wider variety of them being available to use for good and bad reasons. The other iconic system introduced back in the day, VATS, was also reworked into this new world with several improvements across the board.
But still choice was always paramount to the games success. Just like in Fallout 1 it was up to you to decide the fate of the wasteland. Whether you became a law-abiding citizen or a rampaging murder was all up to you in the end. And that’s what separated the franchise from the crowd. The ability to make your decisions and carve your own path was unheard of in much of the gaming industry at the time. But that’s what kept their rabid fan base intact for the sequel; one of the most fanatical fanbases in all of gaming.
Releasing just in time for its soul crushing December 1998 deadline, it seemed all was well for just a second. They would regret that. While somehow the pieces had fit together to tell a coherent and well thought out story and world, Fallout 2 was littered with bugs on release. Due to a lack of a beta and QA testers and having put the finished product together two weeks before release, Black Isle had a considerable task at hand of putting their work back together. Worse yet, sales only improved ever so slightly. While their new hit franchise, Baldur’s Gate sold an amazing 1 million units, Fallout 2 only sold 100,000, a mere 20,000 more then its predecessor. Even in this dire situation there was still some hope. Critics praised the game even though some still said it was more of the same. But that “same” was considerably strong as the fan base ate it up, bugs and all. Black Isle had no idea what a sensation they were. To their fans they were gods among gaming. To themselves they were just glad to be done with it all. But, for a moment, these coders and designers were icons. Even though all of this was just about to come crashing down on their heads.