Bethesda’s involvement in the Fallout franchise began in late 2004. After years of working on their much beloved Elder Scrolls series, the company was looking for a much needed change of pace. This opportunity would come out of the blue from the dying Interplay studios. Without it’s own creative minds at it’s own disposal and every attempt on their own ending in failure, Interplay needed a team with a pension for quality. Bethesda just happened to fit the bill. Starting production in July 2004, Bethesda put a team of just ten people on the job. As Bethesda had always been in the Elder Scrolls business, their next project, Oblivion, was a top priority so they could only afford to put that many people on the project. As soon Oblivion was on store shelves, however, they brought the whole team onto the project. Led by Bethesda figurehead, Todd Howard, the team would try to create a worth successor to the originals with their own flair.
Their Fallout 3 would bring back the series traditional non-linear gameplay, story, and black comedy. One thing they didn’t bring back were the self-referential gags brought about by Fallout 2. While fun and quite hilarious at times, they would often break the immersion of the depraved world players inhabited and Bethesda just didn’t want that in their version of this world. Fallout 3 would also be developed on the Gamebryo engine, the same one used for Oblivion and future Bethesda titles. But the wasteland they created with it would be nothing like its predecessors. In fact it would be nothing like them entirely. Instead of the charred remains of California, Bethesda would instead turn their eyes towards the east, more specifically our nations capital. The Capital Wasteland, as they called it, was a far cry from the developed and thriving New California that was depicted in Fallout 2. Bodies liter the streets and buildings with artifacts of a bygone era are strewn about while people still fight for survival, not thrive in it; all with the cheery 1950’s background that had made the series iconic intact. It was in some aspects are darker setting then previous entries but that wasn’t the major change that shocked the world. What would shock the world was their choice to leave the trappings of the series 2 dimensional past and enter the third dimension that Bethesda felt home at. This change also brought about another radical innovation to the series. Turn based combat had always been at the forefront of a Fallout game. This time it wouldn’t be the case. Instead of turn based combat everything would happen in real time like a first person shooter. But they wouldn’t forget about the franchise’s strategy roots. Their idea would transform the system of the past into the V.A.T.S or Vault Tec Assisted Targeting System. Allowing players to pause time to select individual body parts VATS, while originally inspired by Burnouts’s crash mode replays, helped bring Fallout into a new medium while keeping it one foot in the past with its bullet time nature
The perspective might have been different but the team still tried its best to hone in on what made the series great. The SPECIAL system was still as deep and inventive as when it was first created. Perks were better than ever before with new ones adding to the experience. Crazy side-quests returned with vampires, undetonated nuclear bombs and a city populated only by children being one of many. Karma was more important then ever before with decisions that could affect the wasteland permanently or in slight ways; and character creation was more deep and expansive then ever before. The team behind it was just as dedicated and passionate about the series as their predecessors. Istvan Pely brought Chris Taylor’s cherished original designs into their own world then made the landscape dense with interesting clutter. Lead Designer Emil Pagliarulo took on writing duties, returning to classic elements like the Vaults, the G.E.C.K., the Brotherhood, the Enclave, the Pipboy, Vault Boy, Companions, and the much-missed Dogmeat. As a final touch, Bethesda did what Interplay couldn’t, licensing the Ink Spots’ “I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire” as their theme song, a track that was intended for the very first Fallout game. Even more encouragingly producer Ashley Cheng constantly blogged about her hatred of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel throughout the production. These people wouldn’t allow Fallout to crash and burn, they try their best to make it thrive.
And thrive in their hands it would, completely and utterly. Just a year after beginning full production on the project Interplay was finally cornered. As they had been contracted out to create the next Fallout game, a lot was riding on the outcome of this financial situation. But there was more at stake then they thought. To pay off their creditors, Interplay was forced to sell the Fallout IP to Bethesda. All rights to the franchise would be theirs from now on, for better or worse. Interestingly this happened to coincide with the public unveiling of Bethesda’s Fallout 3 to world. After the first trailer was released in June of 2007, three years into development, the public was hooked. Hype was being built up for the Fallout franchise for the first time, something it’d never seen before. Fallout was back with nearly everything intact. Even Ron Pearlman, the iconic voice of the series, returned to provide his fantastic narration.
Releasing on October 28th, 20008, Fallout 3 would once again star another Vault Dweller. Unlike previous dwellers and descendants of said dwellers, this time we would see the player grow from birth to his late teenage years. After your father escapes from the Vault you must follow him out into the wasteland, a world much different from your own. Deadly radscorpions and Super Mutants around every corner along with your fellow man presented a world just as deadly as the ones before it; and characters that were as unique and colorful as the originals populated it all. Whether you were a saint or a devil it was your world, a world that you could save or blow up into smithereens. The choice as always was yours. And all the while you would be caught in between a titanic and climatic battle between the Brotherhood and the remnants of the Enclave. It was a story that was just as grandiose as its predecessors and while it faltered at times all the while it was still Fallout. Every single inch of the screen oozed the series iconic style and creative flair. We were home once again. As time went on Bethesda expanded on this even further with its largest expansion packs in history. Operation Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout, Mothership Zeta, all of these in some way or another added onto the Fallout mythos whether it be extending the end game or the series mythos and beyond. All of these and more proved to be a major boon for the series. Sky rocketing past the franchises financial woes while keeping its critical expectations, Fallout 3 sold a whopping 4.7 million units across Xbox 360, PS3, and the series standard PC. Winning multiple Game of the Year awards, it was official, Fallout was a phenomenon, one that Interplay could never hope to obtain. People who would have never heard of Fallout were quickly becoming fans of the series, discovering a hidden gem that had been lost to the ages.
But their was one final problem to be solved before they could continue on with the franchise; and that was Interplay. In their deal there was one caveat, Interplay would be allowed to make a Fallout MMORPG and have the rights to sell Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics. While the later was ok in the eyes of Bethesda the former was not. According to them Interplay had the right to make and MMO with the name Fallout, nothing less and nothing more and was supposed to have made it by then. The storied lore of the franchise was not at their disposal, and they didn’t know this. After two years in development, Bethesda launched a legal battle against Interplay for the rights to the project. Years of arguing ensued while production had completely stalled on the project. It was even in a near beta stage when the battle ensued with a previous Fallout developer, Jason Anderson, at the helm. Interplay was once again in trouble over their creation and it would not end well for them. Three years of uphill battles later and Interplay had lost the rights to their next project. While they would be able to continue selling their previous creations for years to come, they would never be able to create another Fallout in any shape or form. Interplay would eventually try to revive the project as V13 through crowdfunding but a lack of rewards, access to a proposed forum for contributors to the campaign, no indication of funding goals, and the end product being a prototype, not an actual product made their final Fallout like effort crash and burn.
Fallout finally seemed to be in the right hands. A company that was still able to keep the spirit and comedic attitude of the series in tact while improving and changing it in various ways. Because of them Fallout was finally as iconic and successful as it deserved to be, something that Interplay could never achieve. With Bethesda’s help even the originals were able to have a new spotlight shined on them and introduce a new generation to the adventures of the Vault Dweller and the Chosen One. They had reached the top and the only was up. So what direction would they take? Why not bring the original creators back from the brink to create the masterpiece that they had intended to make? But would they let them run free or would their new overlords destroy it all?