The Fallout franchise returns to its Southwestern roots today in the new action RPG Fallout: New Vegas for PC, PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Before venturing back out into the Wasteland, those who purchase the collector’s edition of the game receive a copy of Fallout: All Roads, a prequel graphic novel detailing the events and the state of the world immediately preceding the start of the game. Newsarama recently sat down with the comic’s writer, Chris Avellone, Creative Director for Obsidian Entertainment and the Senior Designer on New Vegas to talk about the game, the comic and why life in New Vegas requires a little more than just luck.
Screenshot from New VegasNewsarama: What was the impetus behind creating Fallout: All Roads?
Chris Avellone: A deep-rooted desire to unite my love of game design with my childhood dream of writing comics. I had my first shot when Obsidian worked on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. I wrote several stories set in the Star Wars universe, including Star Wars Tales and Clone Wars Adventures, including an Aurra Sing story I'm really proud of, among others.
By this time, I had developed a good relationship with Dark Horse, so when Obsidian had a chance to return to the Fallout franchise with Fallout: New Vegas, I figured I'd take another run at it and asked Bethesda if they'd want to do a Fallout comic. Our marketing manager, Regi Jacob, shook hands with the Dark Horse folks, then both took the idea and ran farther with it than I expected. Less than a year later, it's a graphic novel with some of the most respected artists in the industry, and I'm grateful.
Nrama: Where does All Roads fit within the Fallout canon?
Avellone: It takes place a week before the opening movie of the game [Fallout: New Vegas]. The idea is that you can read the graphic novel then play a new game. The transition is seamless. You get to see the path of your adversaries and the road they took to track you down at the start of the game. It also forecasts future events you'll see played out as your character adventures in the Mojave surrounding New Vegas.
Screenshot from New VegasNrama: How critical would you say this story is to the understanding of the events of Fallout: New Vegas?
Avellone: The story in All Roads isn't critical to the New Vegas experience. We just wanted to tell more of the story surrounding the events in-game, not focus on the critical path which would be unfair to anyone who didn't have the Collector's Edition. It gives more context and backstory to a number of the characters and some of the factions you meet. It’s for people interested in digging deeper into the game world.
One challenge of working on a computer game is that you may have to create a good deal of lore and backstory on the characters and factions, but it’s rare to be able to show all of it in-game. What's great about graphic novels and novels is they allow the game creators an opportunity to get that backstory out to players interested in learning more about the history and events surrounding the characters.
Nrama: You’ve been working on and writing for RPGs for over a decade, dealing with branching narratives and compensating for player choice, how was the shift to writing for the graphic novel format, and which is more challenging and why?
Avellone: Much easier - when writing an RPG, you're usually writing 3-4 branches at any one time for any type of character personality and skill set, like a gun-toting combat monster, smooth-talking speech character, or stealthy thief. With a graphic novel, there's one audience, one critical path, and you can pace the events as you choose. It's more relaxing and focused to write a comic script than writing some game characters, although I enjoy both.
Nrama: The comic introduces a pair of new characters, who is Chance and who is the Man in the Checkered Suit?
Avellone: Chance is a drug-addicted member of the Great Khans who are a band of raiders who were ruined by the New California Republic. The Great Khans now make their living in the Mojave as drug runners, slowly losing their strength year after year. As for the Man in the Checkered Suit and Chance's final home, you'll have to play New Vegas to find out - that's your story.
Screenshot from New VegasNrama: Will the player character, AKA the Courier, make an appearance? Why or why not?
Avellone: No, the events are told from the opposite side of the coin, or chip as it were. The comic focuses on your adversaries who are coming to kill you and all they went through before you woke up at night in the Goodsprings cemetery with someone holding a gun to your head.
Nrama: The Washington DC of Fallout 3 was almost a complete wreck, how did Las Vegas fair in the nuclear exchange?
Avellone: The bombs missed Vegas, and as such, the Mojave shows less radioactive wear and tear than then rest of the wasteland. There's a story reason for this, so prepare for the revelation in-game as to why Vegas is so closely tied to the Old World... and how it manages to thrive in the present.
Nrama: The Fallout games take place over 200 years after the war, does that fact present a challenge or an opportunity in creating a world for the comic and the game?
Avellone: It's both - mostly an opportunity because you can play around with real world locales and see how they might have “evolved” in the world of Fallout. A number of locations in the game (mentioned below in the final question) were playgrounds for the designers to see how these communities mutated after the war...along with the Mojave's ruthless nature when it has a chance to exert its influence for 200+ years with no one to hold it in check. Some structures are still intact and survived the test of time. Others didn't. And, some like Vegas have changed considerably, even if at first glance it seems like a reflection of the Old World in all its glory.
Nrama: When you saw the art from Jean Diaz (Incorruptible) and Wellinton Alves (Shadowland: Blood on the Streets, Nova) what did you think?
Avellone: I was impressed! We'd gone into the title understanding that as much as the story took place from the perspective of Chance and the Man in the Checkered Suit, and so the art styles would need to complement each character's perspective. Diaz and Alves ran with the idea, and each brought their style to the characters while keeping the Fallout wrapper intact.
Nrama: Was there an effort to get the comics art to match up what is seen in the game?
Avellone: Yes, artists at Obsidian and production at Bethesda, thanks especially to Will Noble, worked hard in compiling all the art pieces, character models, weapons, and other visual elements of Fallout to make sure the artists had all the source art they needed when drawing the book. It was an exhaustive list, but we wanted to make sure it was true to the game and allowed the artists to focus on the art.
Nrama: The Southwest has been a popular setting for Fallout games, including titles as old as the original Fallout, Fallout 2, and even Wasteland, is there anything fans should keep their eyes peeled for?
Avellone: There's a lot to keep an eye out for, and in the game as well. A number of the locations you encounter in the game are based on real world locations. Primm [is] one of the nearest settlements to Goodsprings where you start the game, and you'll see a lot of creatures and factions from previous Fallout titles: Geckos, Nightkin - the remnants of the Master's army that used cloaking technology to infiltrate communities, and descendants of famous Fallout characters, like Rose of Sharon Cassidy, the daughter of Cassidy from Fallout 2).
Of course, there's still nothing more amazing that seeing the lights of Vegas for the first time in-game, and seeing Hoover Dam spread out across the Colorado. There's plenty to see, and even if you're not familiar with previous titles, there's more than enough visual wonders and vistas in the Mojave to give players a thrill. Much of the joy in a Fallout game is exploration, and New Vegas delivers.Did you get the Collector's Edition?