Why Interplay’s Fallout 3 Didn’t Happen

The publishers scrapped plans included 3D projects and turn-based strategy combat.

Remember when Fallout 3 was announced and some fans of the series thought that Bethesda was going to run the franchise into the ground? While that feared fate never quite came to pass, there’s no denying that Bethesda took the Fallout property and really made it their own via the game’s third canonical installment. 

While many agree that the studio did an admirable job with the franchise’s transition into next-gen, longtime Fallout fans may be interested – if slightly heartbroken – to learn that Fallout’s original developers actually started and stopped working on two distinct versions of Fallout 3

In an interview with IGN, Obsidian CEO Fergus Urquhart revealed that he worked on two different versions of Fallout 3 while a member of Black Isle Studios. The first, known by its codename, Van Buren, is the same version of the game that has been floating around the internet for a couple of years now. This build of the game was most notable for its advanced AI that was designed to operate independently from the actions of the player. 

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According to Urquhart, though, there was another concept for Fallout 3 that most people don’t know about. He refers to this version as the “second Fallout 3” and claims that work on it began sometime after their first attempt at a sequel fell apart. Unlike that first build, this project was intended to be a 3D take on the Fallout universe. Using technology called NDL, the team began the daunting task of converting the previously isometric series into a 3D title. 

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Recently, Obsidian director Josh Sawyer added to the intrigue surrounding these canceled projects by revealing to IGN that he intended to turn one of those abandoned builds into a turn-based game while he was working at Black Isle. His idea was to incorporate gameplay elements of Fallout Tactics and design a more strategic Fallout combat experience.

However, the relative failure of recent turn-based games on the market at that time meant that Sawyer eventually compromised and agreed to develop a system that utilized real-time and turn-based options. 

Unfortunately, publisher Interplay’s financial trouble forced the Fallout 3 development team to abandon all projects related to the franchise. All was not lost, however, as the team working on that sequel took some of the concepts they had been developing and applied them to the Icewind Dale series. As for that NDL technology, it actually ended up becoming the technological foundation for Bethesda’s Fallout 3

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