The second half of Bethesda’s inaugural E3 conference was quite possibly the biggest highlight of the entire expo for any Fallout fan, with 30 minutes of nonstop Fallout-based reveals and announcements.
The visionary behind Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and other award-winning Bethesda titles, Bethesda Game Director Todd Howard presented the second half of Bethesda’s E3 2015 conference with a 30 minute block dedicated strictly to Fallout 4. The past several years have spurred countless rumors of a “Fallout 4” game being in development; Howard officially confirmed that development on Fallout 4 began shortly after the release of Fallout 3 in 2009- 6 years ago. Howard jokingly admitted that the team was “busy with the Skyrim game” at one point of the development cycle.
A myriad of concept art was shown, highlighting the attention to detail from the artists, and the widely varied environments and creatures that players will explore and encounter. The concept art segment closed with a piece depicting a quiet neighborhood community, frantically disturbed by nuclear war. The gravity of the piece reflects the beginning of Fallout 4, as the game starts moments before the nuclear holocaust.
What followed was the introduction to an extensive block of Fallout 4 gameplay, highlighting both familiar and new features to the series. Players will begin their post-apocalyptic survival story with a couple standing before a bathroom mirror; it is here where the player customizes his or her protagonist. There will be no traditional “sliders” for customizing each area of the face; instead the player can select an area and sculpt it however he or she pleases.
Both the man and woman can be customized; not only is the couple’s child generated by the player’s customization options, but whichever character leaves the bathroom mirror will become the protagonist of the game. Depending on what name is given to the protagonist, there will be a chance that NPCs (non-playable-characters) will refer to the player by name- over 1,000 common names have been recorded into Fallout 4‘s audio, Howard says.
E3 conference attendees were given a look at the retro-futuristic house that the game begins in, complete with the family’s own robotic assistant Codsworth. As with past Bethesda games, nearly every object in the environment can be interacted with; some of which cause the protagonist to spout comical statements about the item at hand. Longtime Fallout fans will immediately notice that the conversational system has been improved. Players are no longer locked into a dialogue tree, and are free to respond and interact with NPCs as they please. As shown with the salesman and later hinted at by Howard, players can end a conversation at any time simply by walking away “or shooting them in the face if they want”. The camera has also been pulled away for a 3/4 view of each character in the conversation, opposed to Fallout 3 where the camera was zoomed and locked onto the NPCs face.
After a frantic escape to Vault 111, the player awakens 200 years later to the dilapidated remnants of downtown Boston, MA. From this point, players are completely free to explore and do whatever they please, in what Howard claims is the largest Fallout game to date. As Fallout 4 is the first next-gen installment of the series, the title was built using an enhanced version of Bethesda’s Creation Engine, previously used to build The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The new iteration is capable of producing physical-based rendering and dynamic real-time volumetric lighting, The E3 gameplay presentation progressed to show off the dog companion, as previously hinted in the Fallout 4 debut trailer (shown above). The dog can be given commands through the dialogue interface or through contextual commands in the environment. Howard demonstrates this by having the dog bring the protagonist a combination wrench; when retrieved, the item is stored within his inventory. The player’s dog will also attack other enemies; Howard confirmed in a later interview that the dog cannot be killed.
The “Pip-Boy” has always been an integral part of Fallout‘s gameplay; Fallout 4 will be no exception, as a few changes have been made to the iconic smart-watch. Subtle character animations have been implemented to give the inventory and stat managing Pip-Boy more life; the protagonist will fiddle with the knobs and buttons while the player switches between menus. The iconic “Vault Boy” mascot is more animated than previous versions, giving personality to the otherwise mundane task of inventory and stat-managing. Several holo-tapes can be found around downtown Boston, with some even containing mini-games inspired by classic real-world titles. Two holo-tape mini-games shown in the E3 demo were the Donkey Kong-inspired “Red Menace” and the Missile Command homage “Atomic Command”.
After highlighting the remodeled Pip-Boy, Howard soft-revealed the Fallout 4 Collector’s Edition. The “Fallout 4: Pip-Boy Edition” will include a life-sized replica of the new Pip-Boy, which contains a slot for smartphones. Bethesda revealed that a second-screen companion app is in development, allowing players to use their smartphones to manage their stats and inventory- a phone-based Pip-Boy. The app will launch alongside Fallout 4 for both iOS and Android, and is compatible with all versions of the game (PC, Xbox One, PS4).
Announced alongside the Pip-Boy app was Fallout Shelter, a brand new mobile game developed by Bethesda. The title is inspired by such classic titles as XCOM, Sim City/The Sims and Progression Quest, and involves the player managing his or her own Vault in its entirety. The player is in charge of building the Vault, managing resources and governing all of its inhabitants. Certain rooms can be built to improve the stats of the Vault dwellers, with the likes of classrooms for “Intelligence” or bars for “Charisma”. People can also be assigned roles within the Vault, or sent out into the post-apocalyptic world to gather additional resources. If the conditions are met, residents can fall in love and have children, whom are named by the player and raised within the Vault. The player’s success is awarded through lunchboxes that contain random loot; if the player desires additional lunchboxes, he or she can purchase them via micro-transactions. While Fallout Shelter is free-to-play, micro-transactions are only limited to the option of buying additional lunchboxes; there are no paywalls, time-locked content, or progression-based micro-transaction items in the game.
Fallout Shelter was developed for iOS, and launched worldwide shortly after the conference. An Android version is currently in development, and will launch sometime in the following months. The title currently holds the number-one spot in the App Store, dethroning Candy Crush Saga.
Todd Howard closed out the Fallout 4 presentation with a robust segment dedicated to the crafting system. Nearly every object in the game contains some kind of item that can be scrapped for parts, from small toys to an entire shack. By collecting enough parts from random junk, the player can build a plethora of weapon modifications, power armor parts, turrets and even electrical systems. For the first time in the franchise, Fallout 4 even allows players to build their own strongholds from scratch. Using parts from scrapped items, the player can build housing segments to be placed within predesignated areas around Boston. These strongholds can be layered up to three levels as shown in the E3 presentation, and populated with beds and other furnishings created by the player. Trading posts can be erected outside for traveling vendors to sell their stocks; certain items can only be obtained through trader stores. By planting a garden, or creating an electrical system, other survivors may provide assistance in the game in exchange for resources. Players be warned, as Raiders can- and will- attack strongholds; turrets and other environmental hazards can be crafted from spare parts to act as stationary lines of defense. Advanced electrical systems can be installed by first building a generator; once the generator is crafted and in place, the player can run electrical lines between the stronghold, outside machinery and defensive turrets.
With a new engine, advanced crafting system, second-screen experience and an abundance of other enhancements, Fallout 4 is proving to be one of Bethesda’s most ambitious titles to date.
Fallout 4, the Pip-Boy companion app, and the Fallout 4: Pip-Boy Edition will be available on 11/10/15.
Todd Howard’s Fallout presentation can be viewed in its entirety below, courtesy of Bethesda.