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Chris Taylor Talks Fallout and Wasteland at Board Game Geek

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Chris Taylor Talks Fallout and Wasteland at Board Game Geek

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 27 July 2012, 17:26:04

Tags: Chris Taylor; Fallout; Fallout 2; Fallout 3; Fallout Tactics; Fallout: New Vegas; Wasteland; Wasteland 2

Board Game Geek offers a "Geek of the Week" community Q&A with Chris Taylor, lead designer on Fallout 1. The interview touches on game design, Wasteland 2, Fallout 3 and New Vegas, and of course Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics - plus a lot of other things, mostly board game-related. Have a few tidbits:

What is the most challenging aspect of game design?

For me it's actually finishing the design to completion. I have many ideas and can go very quickly to prototype stage. Finishing the rules, polishing the mechanics and text -- those take a while. A friend of mine, a computer game programmer, with a similar problem said that the "first 90% of the game takes 10% of the time, and the last 10% of the game takes the other 90% of the time." So true.

[...] Specifically about game design, I have the most fun playing around with different mechanics. I do a lot of spreadsheets to test mechanics and values. I'm an iterator, so I like to quickly make a bunch of changes and spreadsheets are the best way to get a basic idea of what components I need to finish the prototype. VPG is great, because I have a lot of constraints and those keep me from going completely nuts.

What do you think of the resurrection of Wasteland?

Oh, it's great. Wasteland was one of the games that made me want to be a computer game designer. There were a couple key ideas from Wasteland that formed the core of the work that I did on Fallout (player actions should have consequences and statistics matter).

So to see the success they've had with their Kickstarter campaign is very heart-warming. I just got a chance to see their first screenshot and it looks very promising. I will be playing it the day it comes out.

Now, for some inside dirt, I actually did a treatment a few years ago for inXile for a Wasteland 2 (along with Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky). Leonard did this concept art of a mutant dog riding a human that I will always treasure. (And an armed Nun that you would not want to run into in the middle of the night.) It was a fun pitch to make even if it didn't go anywhere.

I understand they have Chris Avellone working on the new game in some capacity. If so, that's wonderful news. He is a great designer and should really have fun with the Wasteland world.

You mentioned designing a Fallout Miniatures game, what's your take on a Wasteland setting or scavenging New Vegas game?

Any post-apocalyptic setting worthy of the Wasteland name should have guns with limited ammo; all sorts of odd scavenged weapons; mutants, mutated animals and icky green mutation liquid pools of some sort; vehicles that would make the Road Warrior proud and enough morale dilemmas to shake a snake at. [...]

You've probably been asked this before, but what are your thoughts on Fallout 3?

I once said I'd only comment on Fallout 3 if I had nice things to say about it.

I really liked Fallout New Vegas. I thought it was a very good game. They had a good story, the interactivity was much improved and the Fallout humor was there in the right amount. Obsidian did a great job on New Vegas. I'm biased, of course, and think that FO1 was the best of the series. New Vegas is very good and comes closer to FO1 for me than any of the other games.

Personally, I liked the turn based combat of Fallout 1 & 2 (I have Fallout tactics, but never got round to playing it - should I?).

I liked the turn-based combat of FO1/2 as well. I was a big fan of the Jagged Alliance games of the time, too. I'd rather you play JA than Fallout Tactics.

Tactics wasn't quite finished. It was rushed out the door and didn't get the final polishing it needed.

We also made a bad decision by adding the real-time gameplay about half-way through development. While that didn't take too long to implement (in fact, it was ready before the turn-based combat was), we didn't realize at the time that it was going to cripple playtesting. Instead of playtesting each mission once, we had to playtest it three times. We just didn't test enough to balance the game or fix all the issues.

It's a decent game. Actually, Fallout Tactics a good game with some problems. There are better games to play unless you're a die-hard Fallout fan.

What is your personal opinion of [the] design changes [in Fallout 3 and New Vegas]?

I thought the combat in FONV was fine for being real-time. I understand the nature of the business that they felt they could't afford to go turn-based.

I think VATS is overpowered. I tried not to use it, but it did seem better in FONV.

I tried not to critically analyze the gameplay mechanics of the newer Fallout games. I just wanted to enjoy the games for what there were. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of both games. FONV did a great job with that.

The big improvement from Fallout 1 & 2 to Fallout 3 was the way the inventory was handled - what are your thoughts on this?

Yes. I take full responsibility for the inventory interface design in FO1/2. It worked okay in the beginning, but was too difficult to manipulate during actual gameplay. We didn't really notice it until it was too late.

I would have preferred a Diablo-style inventory interface.

You've covered your favourite of your boardgame babies but which of your computer game designs are you most proud of?

I think the easy answer would be Fallout, but that was really a team effort. People like Scott Campbell, Scott Bennie, and Jason Anderson were all part of the design effort. It would not have been the same game without everyone's involvement. I'm certainly proud of Fallout, but it's a different type of pride.

I'm most proud of a game design I did that was never published. I did a complete Game Design Document (GDD) for a Star Trek game based around traders, like Cyrano Jones, and smugglers, like Harry Mudd. Gameplay was completely open-ended, like Elite. There would have been been missions from Starfleet Intelligence or Orion Pirates, but the majority of gameplay would have been just flying around, exploring, trading/selling and interacting with the Star Trek underworld.

Interplay had a really hard time selling it to Paramount and the developer wanted to take it in a much more "safe" direction (more like Wing Commander). They switched designers and what ended up on the shelves was about 180° from my original design.

I often wonder how it would have been received by players, but man, I was really happy with that design.​

Lots of things of interest in this interview, really, and I haven't been able to quote everything relevant even though I wanted to, so I suggest you read it in full.

Thanks Brother None!

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