Todd Howard (currently working on Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI) didn’t just get his fists in the air in delight after a text message or a direct conversation.
Black Isle Studios, the RPG division of Interplay, created Fallout in 1997, followed by a sequel a year later (one of the leading developers was Feargus Urquhart, who went on to create Fallout: New Vegas with Obsidian, and we wrote that he would like to make another instalment in the franchise.) Except after the original 2D games, the third instalment was 3D, and it took a decade to arrive!
Bethesda Game Studios (BGS) bought the license for Fallout from the bankrupt Interplay. However, its director Howard didn’t exactly get the usual green light to make the game. In a video celebrating Fallout’s 25th anniversary, he recalled: “I can remember this. Coming back to my desk, Todd Vaughn, our VP of development here at Bethesda, had left a yellow sticky note on my keyboard, saying, ‘Fallout’s yours.’ That’s all it said. I’ll never forget that. I think I screamed and ran around the studio because everyone in the team had heard this might be a possibility.”
Fallout 3 was shown to the world at E3 2008. Pete Hines, Bethesda’s senior vice president of international marketing and communications, added that it was essential to get Tim Cain, the original Fallout producer, on board with the new direction BGS was taking. However, Cain was wary of the changes: “I felt like another family had adopted my baby. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the family. My baby was going to be raised differently than I would raise this baby… but it was mesmerizing, immersive, and incredible [to see Fallout in first-person for the first time]. I especially loved when you got to leave the Vault, and the light came up, and you saw the Wasteland.”
Hines added, “That was a big watershed moment in some ways. Wanting to do right by Fallout meant you go back to the folks who came up with this stuff and said, hey, here’s what we’re doing.” And nearly a decade and a half later, it may have been the right direction, even if it wasn’t the one the first two episodes set out to achieve.