Fallout 3: Development and Technologies
Fallout 3 just had to be released. Such a popular brand could not be left unexploited. The question was what the gamers would get as the final product. At first, Interplay’s subsidiary Black Isle Studios began to work on the sequel to the legendary series, and we could hope for the preservation of the best features from both Fallout and Fallout 2. Codenamed Van Buren, the project reached a development stage at which it could be showcased to the public. Indeed, you can easily find the tech demo on the Web. It uses 3D technologies of 2003 as well as the main feature of the previous games of the series, the isometric view.
Fallout 3 could be quite a different game. However, the project was cancelled in 2003, Black Isle Studios was disbanded and fired, and Fallout 3 had to wait some more to materialize. For some time no one dared touch the legendary name, but Bethesda Softworks, the famous developer of the role-playing series The Elder Scrolls, took up the banner in 2004. The developers announced at the start than they would do their best to keep the spirit and atmosphere of the original games of the series and would produce a nonlinear and detailed plot.
Fallout 3 was developed from scratch, actually. It is based on the Gamebryo engine. After Numerical Design Limited merged with Emergent Game Technologies, the engine came to be called Gamebryo Element. This engine is capable of creating a huge and highly detailed 3D world without any seams such as levels, maps or anything. This capability was utilized extensively in Bethesda’s previous projects, especially in TES IV: Oblivion which became a long-standing etalon of visual quality for first-person RPGs. The new version of Gamebryo Elements acquired DirectX 10 support and proved to be a good foundation for the vast post-nuclear world of Fallout 3. The developer could give up the game model implemented in the first two games of the series which had had a global map with discrete locations.
Well, there are “seams” in Fallout 3, actually. Like in Oblivion, the cities, buildings and dungeons are individual locations that are loaded separately but otherwise the 3D world is seamless and continuous. You can travel it just like the real world. In fact, the Fallout series has evolved from a classic isometric-view RPG made up of discrete locations you could visit by means of a global map into a global 3D shooter with first- or third-person view depending on the gamer’s choice. This evolution may be questionable, especially for orthodox fans of Fallout and Fallout 2, but it is perfectly justifiable at the current point of development of graphics technologies. The transition to the seamless world is not good or bad in itself. What matters is the developer’s desire and ability to keep the spirit of the original, the modern 3D technologies being just a handy tool. Therefore, it is a lucky thing that the Fallout 3 project was given to Bethesda Softworks who had not only necessary tools but also a solid experience of using them.
The developers have coped with the job excellently. The visual aspect of Fallout 3 is surely splendid. The ruins of the post-nuclear Washington look most picturesque. The lighting model is implemented well: the HDR effects don’t look rough, but create the impression of a veil of dust hanging in the air, the sunlight having to penetrate this veil. Considering that we’re talking about a world that has suffered a global nuclear war, this makes you feel the reality of the situation. We also like the relief effects such as footprints, warped metal, etc, and we like the water that uses displacement maps, realistic reflections and refractions.
Notwithstanding the vast 3D world, Fallout 3 was originally developed as a multiplatform project and you can enjoy it not only on the PC but also on modern game consoles. This should add even more popularity to the Fallout universe. Being a multiplatform project, the game had to be optimized carefully because the hardware resources of modern consoles are very modest in comparison with modern gaming-class PCs. Indeed, we have heard positive reports about the speed of Fallout 3 from gamers who tried it on such modest graphics cards as Radeon HD 3850 256MB and even GeForce 7600 GT.