Eurogamer: The Fallout 3 We Never Got to Play


Eurogamer has posted an article in which they interviewed Chris Avellone, the highly-regarded writer for a plethora of (primarily) PC RPGs, and Josh Sawyer, who is a prominent game designer on many similar games, such as Icewind Dale and Fallout: New Vegas. They discuss Van Buren, the codename for what was, at the time, going to be Fallout 3.

Many of you may be aware of this scenario, in which Van Buren was to be the next game in the Fallout franchise in a similar style to the first two games in the series. What happened, of course, was something else altogether. That’s not to say the end result was awful – far from it – but being able to take a look back at what could have been is a fascinating read. From the interview, here are some of the things we learned:

  • Avellone essentially took on the role of planning for Van Buren all on his own. While Van Buren wasn’t slated to go into development for some time, he began creating the world and lore surrounding the events of the game. He would develop D&D-style modules, many of them, to plot out how the two rival factions he envisioned would interact with the world and each other.
  • He felt that while Speech was an integral portion of the Fallout universe, it could be improved upon. He wanted to design a more involved dialogue system, rooted in trying to understand how NPCs would react in a variety of scenarios.
  • Being able to choose your race at the outset was something that had never been done before in Fallout, giving the player the opportunity to play as, say, a Super Mutant.
  • The Pip-Boy would play a much more prominent role, its functionality expanding as you played the game to be more than just your characters’ statistics screen and inventory.
  • Sawyer jumped in later to begin development of Van Buren, marking the series’ transition to 3D (albeit still in the same “style” as the previous games).
  • There was sadly pressure from on high to move the series to a more Diablo-style gameplay system, leaving turn-based combat behind.
  • A tech demo was released, which apparently showed the game with potentially a year’s worth of work to become complete.
  • Some good news: many of the scenarios and ideas that were planned for Van Buren ultimately ended up in Fallout: New Vegas, which both Avellone and Sawyer worked on.

It’s a really fascinating read, and any Fallout fan worth their bottle caps should take a peek!


Josh Headshot A fascinating look at the game that never was. Chris Avellone is one of the more well known writers out there for games, and I’ve always been a fan of his work despite Not Being Good At Old-School D&D-Style Games™. Fallout and Fallout 2 were amazing games that I grew up on, and while I do appreciate what ended up being Fallout 3 it’s really cool to see what could have been. Make sure to read the full article, there are some interesting tidbits on just how much work was done on the game despite never actually getting off the ground. Maybe someday we can see a resurgence of the original Fallout-style game. I know Underrail attempted to recreate it, but I haven’t had the chance to give it a shot yet!
Elliot Headshot I love stories like this. They show you just a tip of the game development iceberg that’s constantly churning along. So many more games get not only started, but sometimes nearly finished and we never even hear about them. It makes you really think about what could have been. I’ve never finished a Fallout game, but I’ve played bits of all of them and I appreciate the history of the series and its creators. So getting to see this glimpse into an alternate history that never was is really cool and makes me wonder, what if?
Stevo Headshot This story has everything! A classic game series, an auteur’s obsession, a reminder of CRPGs’ board game heritage, the fall of a PC game dev powerhouse, and ultimately satisfaction that many of the ideas made it into a great Fallout game (Fallout: New Vegas). Well done Chris Bratt and the Eurogamer team on a captivating piece of games journalism!


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