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The Origins of Fallout - Part 2

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The Origins of Fallout - Part 2

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Thu 16 February 2012, 21:54:18

Tags: Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game; Interplay; Wasteland

[Part 1]

Part 2 of No Mutants Allowed's epic editorial on the origins of Fallout is up. This time topics include the origins of the setting, design principles and conflicts with GURPS. Must read.


The post-apocalyptic genre is still very dear to my heart. The idea of humanity destroying itself is one of the darkest themes in all of literature. However, the archetype of the Survivor – the lone hero who does not succumb to the anarchic world or his base desires; who is his own justice and treats people like he would like to be treated – no other heroic figure is stronger. He is literally one man against the world, and no matter the cost to himself, he remains the paragon of the best aspects of humanity, carrying the hope that the idyllic and prosperous world of his past – our world – will eventually be revived.

The world after an apocalypse is fraught with danger and adventure; it brings out the worst – and best – of humankind. It is a brutal world, full of savagery and devoid of honor. There is only Survival. That and a distant dream of lifting themselves from the ashes. Few genres can elicit that level of primal emotions from an audience.

As the team gathered for the upcoming Christmas break, we all shared our ideas of where a GURPS: Wasteland could go. We liked the idea of setting it in Southern California; close enough to the Las Vegas of the first game where we could still use some characters, but different enough where we could tell our own story. Our player would be a member of the Desert Rangers dispatched to So. Cal. to investigate a mutant uprising, or a robot uprising, or something. . . but it was going to be great!

As we were about to end the meeting, Interplay’s legal counsel stepped in to say “have a good holiday!” And, just as he was leaving, he said, “Oh yeah, it turns out that EA still retains the rights to Wasteland. Merry Christmas!”

Sadly it was true. We wouldn’t be able to use the Wasteland license. Even though Interplay created the game, Electronic Arts had published it and still retained the rights. The worst part? EA had let the Wasteland license die, since it was seven years since the product had been released. However, because Interplay had released Wasteland as part of Interplay’s 10th Anniversary collection (and had given EA money for the right), it was as if EA re-published the game, thusly securing the Wasteland license for EA for another seven years.

Bugger.

So we all left for our vacation completely adrift. The genre and the story we had settled on were now gone, and it was back to the drawing board. Not a good start to the project.

Interestingly enough, I later learned that EA didn’t even care about the Wasteland license at the time. Apparently there was still some animosity over Interplay becoming its own publisher; competing with EA when only years before they were publishing through EA (and making them fat money). I had also heard that after denying Interplay the right to use Wasteland, EA asked their internal teams if anyone wanted to use this license. Apparently one did. Years later, after Fallout had shipped, I was pitching a game at EA Redwood Shores. I remember walking through their development cubicle-farm and seeing lots of wild-west-meets-Wasteland concept art and was hinted that this was to be a sequel to Wasteland. Although it never was released, that game was prompted by that phone call to deny Interplay the use of Wasteland.

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