I don’t think it showed, but I was completely flustered when I conducted this interview. That’s not an excuse, that’s testament to how absolutely blown away I was when Andrew and I finished our thirty minutes with the game. I’m just glad that every question wasn’t, “Hey, remember when that was awesome, like 30 minutes ago, and… tell me about that awesome.”
Click the jump for Pete Hines’ take on Fallout 3’s Achievements, violence, and why Fallout was better than Fallout 2.
Before we start, you should probably watch the Fallout 3 trailer below, since 1. we talk about it a lot, and 2. it’s hilariously… awesome.
Zungre: Pete, what attracted you to the Fallout series, originally?
Pete Hines: We were looking for something else to do, besides the Elder Scrolls. We talked about what kind of game we wanted that to be and, honestly, it was just the discussion that nobody’s doing anything with Fallout. And we really love that kind of game and it sort of fits with some of the things we like to do well, but it’s very different at the same time. And “wouldn’t it be cool if we got that.” We talked with our senior management about it and they went out and got it for us.
Zungre: Was it easy to get people excited about doing a game like Fallout?
Pete Hines: (chuckling) Yeah. Absolutely. That was like a no-brainer sell. Everybody was like, “Oh my God, I can’t wait, when can we start?”
Zungre: Were you a fan of the game when it came out?
Pete Hines: Absolutely. Actually, I was a journalist back then and Interplay was one of my companies. I still have a Fallout 2 shrink-wrapped box, never been opened. I was a big fan, actually more of [Fallout] than [Fallout 2].
Zungre: Why so?
Pete Hines: For me it was the tone.
Zungre: Because I jumped in on Fallout 2, and then went back to the original.
Pete Hines: You know what, there was the stuff in Fallout 2, you know, I liked Fallout 1’s more serious treatment, not the Monty Python references, not going overboard with the sexual references, like with the porn star. That wasn’t what I enjoyed most about the first one. The first one I liked, you know, the storytelling and the violence and the combat and that kinda stuff. That, sort of, stuck with me more than the second one.
The violence in Fallout (top) is very present in Fallout 3 (bottom).
Zungre: Well, one thing I noticed when we saw the trailer, which was amazing by the way, hilarious…
Pete Hines: Thanks.
Zungre: …was what the announcer said when he was talking to little Sally. “Hey little Sally, you can find that special someone in the vault” and repopulate the earth and it shows the babies popping out. And she’s all unsettled. But does that play a part in the game? What’s the sexual tone of the game?
Pete Hines: It’s pretty mild, we don’t go overboard. We focused more on the violence and the struggle to survive in this world, as opposed to people trying to make a living as porn stars or whatever. It’s 200 years after the war and the world is not doing well. Humanity is not making a comeback, they’re barely hanging on. So it’s more about survival, as opposed to whackity-schmackity jokey stuff.
It doesn’t get any more not-whackity-schmackity than the nuke launcher…
…also found in replica form at Bethesda’s booth.
Zungre: Okay, so you’re not going overboard with the satirical.
Pete Hines: No that was really more designed to be like, you’re watching it as if it was made pre-war. They make a commercial where they don’t even know, they don’t even realize that that’s not appropriate and the dad and the daughter, you know, exchanging that really uncomfortable glance, as Dad’s thinking about his little girl and her repopulating the planet.
Zungre: Did you have a hand in creating that trailer?
Peter Hines: I did actually. I had this idea and I was talking with Todd and Emil Pagliarulo, who is our lead designer, in his office and I was like, “I want to do our trailer and I want to do a live action thing.” And I talked to the ad firm and they were like, “we love that idea, can you write it up?”
Zungre: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Peter Hines: So I wrote up the whole thing for it and they went and said, “uh, what you proposed would be awesome and it’d cost a bazillion dollars.”
Peter Hines: And so they said, “But we can take [your idea] and shoot it on a single set and it would be easier to do.” And I was like, “Alright, well let me see that.” So they took what I did and turned it into more of a single set.
Mine was a vault tech salesman driving down the street in the car and looking at the white picket fences in the neighborhood and then coming into the houses. So they took that vibe and did it in a single location and we worked back and forth with them and came up with [the trailer]. But it was a ton of fun to put together, honestly.
Zungre: It was super-fun to watch.
Pete Hines: Oh, you know, no bones about it, we’re immensely proud of it. It really nailed what we think is fun about the game: this optimism and this, sort of, warped sense of reality, and then post nuclear violence gone crazy set to funny Bob Crosby music.
Zungre: Right, exactly. What about the moral choices you make in the game, I remember hearing that stressed a whole lot. There seems to be a lot of games that make you make moral choices and they punish or reward you accordingly, but what separates Fallout 3 from those other games? And did you want to make the player feel something when they make a choice?
Pete Hines: Absolutely, yeah, we definitely wanted it to be about “in the moment.” Like you’re presented with dialogue options, you’re presented with choices on how your going to complete this quest, and, you know, what are you going to do? It’s like, “God, I’m really not sure if I feel comfortable doing X or Y”, or you know, maybe it’s really funny because it’s really evil. “I totally have to do that, just to see what happens.”
It’s more about presenting the player with interesting choices that are obvious and seeing which way they want to go and having that be satisfying. It’s also fun to allow the player to see if they can figure out their own way of doing stuff and then account for that. So like, “oh, I don’t wanna do that, I’m going to try this. I’m gonna see what happens if I kill this guy.” And then the game has planned on that and reacted to it.
Pete Hines: You think, “oh I’m going to kill this guy, the quest giver, and then there’s nobody for me to go back to and finish the quest.” But we steer you in a different direction. So we try to account for letting you be who you want to be.
Zungre: Right, because in Oblivion there were people that you couldn’t kill, right?
Pete Hines: There were a lot of essential characters, and we try as much as possible for this one to account for things like character death.
Zungre: So it will redirect you, so if I cap the mob boss…
Pete Hines: Not in every single case, but in a lot of cases [if] the guy who gave you the quest ends up getting killed there’s a plan B. His successor or somebody else ends up being the guy you finish things with.
Zungre: Fantastic. Now do you have any affection for [Vault Boy]?
Pete Hines: I mean, I love him. He’s everything you need to know about Fallout.
Vault Boy giving his good friend Pete Hines an affirming shoulder squeeze.
Zungre: It really sets the tone, right?
Pete Hines: Yeah it does, totally.
Zungre: I was actually going to get a t-shirt in high school with Vault Boy on it, but I never ended up doing it.
Pete Hines: Vault Boy is a huge part of what makes Fallout, Fallout. Yeah, I mean, he’s everywhere. I just think he does a great job of communicating what the game is all about.
Zungre: What about something the you’re especially proud of? Is there anything you’d really like to highlight, just you personally?
Pete Hines: You know for me, honestly, I’m really proud of the team as a whole for what they came up with for V.A.T.S. That’s the pause combat. Just how much work went into putting that together. And [for it] be part of the flow of the game and not interrupt [you when] you’re running around and you slow down and you [use V.A.T.S.] and it’s really dramatic and then it speeds right back up again. Just the timing of that and the camera angles, just how it looks and feels and plays. It was a huge undertaking and a ton of people spent a ton of time on it.
V.A.T.S. Targeting mode.
Just watching people play it [at E3] and seeing how much they enjoy V.A.T.S. mode and slow-mo, watching a guy’s head get taken off and you just start busting out laughing. Like, that’s kind of the dark humor of the game right there. Whack a guy with a sledgehammer, his head comes off, like, that’s funny. So the amount of effort that went into V.A.T.S., and knowing what those guys went through to get that working and how long it took us to get it where we were really happy. For me that’s what i was most proud of.
Zungre: And Xbox 360 Achievements, anything you like about the Achievements you guys are going to have for the game? Any favorites there?
Pete Hines: Yeah I definitely have some but we’re not talking about those yet. But there are some really good ones.
Zungre: Like hilarious good?
Pete Hines: Yeah, hilarious good, but that ties into hilarious things in the game itself. Rewarding you for doing stuff that’s just ludicrous and hilarious.
Zungre: Like stuff the players wouldn’t normally think of? Stuff where you guys were like, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we made the players do this…”
Pete Hines: There’s a couple that are, yeah, things that [you wouldn’t think of.] Folks will know beforehand. They’ll sniff out [the Achievements] beforehand and then go try because they know what it is. But it’s just one of those things where you wouldn’t necessarily be like “Oh, I bet I get an achievement if I go do this.” It’s probably stuff that you wouldn’t even think to try, honestly. It’s stuff that if we never mentioned anything, I wonder how long it would be before somebody actually figured out, “Oh if you do this, this actually happens. Oh my God, that’s hilarious.”
Zungre: Wow, very cool. Well thank you so much, Pete.
Pete Hines: Yep, nice to meet you.
And with that, Pete whisked out of the room to tend to the many salivating journalists populating the Fallout 3 console stations. So i took this opportunity to ask Vault Boy for a picture. He graciously agreed.