"Modding" is sort of like fan fiction for gamers: You take the skeleton of an existing game and mold it. Some mods simply enhance or change certain aspects of a game in fun ways (like this Grand Theft Auto V mod that lets you fly around in a Star Destroyer), but other mods aim to create an entirely new world.
Enter, Fallout: The Frontier, a massive new mod coming this winter will add a completely new explorable world and characters to the 2010 hit Fallout: New Vegas. The game brings the storyline to post-apocalyptic Portland with a huge explorable map and 4-8 hours all-new gameplay. You can check out the trailer here.
To get you up to speed, the Fallout series, which began in 1997, is a futuristic role-playing game set in an alternate timeline where the world was destroyed in the 1950s by nuclear war. Players roam the wasteland, completing quests, amassing new weapons and gear, and gaining new skills. The next official installment of the franchise, Fallout 4 will be set in Boston and releases this November.
We talked with Andrew Lee, the lead modder on Fallout: The Frontier and a fourth year pharmacy student, on what players can expect.
You're not getting paid for this. Why take on this project at all?
First and foremost modding is our true hobby and passion. You can already tell from the scenes we teased off that was a lot of work and love was put into the mod. We don't get paid for doing it and just enjoy sharing our creation to everyone. If there was something considered an "end goal" we have thought about starting a indie team and making a professional game. However, we barely talked about this and right now we are 110% committed to the Frontier. I also know some modders are interested into getting in the gaming industry and working on the Frontier will essentially beef up their applications. But the bottom line is that, modding is our true passion. Even if we start an indie team or get into the professional gaming company, you can most certainly bet we'd still be creating mods.
I myself put countless hours (hundreds of hours) of recruiting, writing, bug testing, and group meetings. This ultimately did effect my school performance but I still managed to maintain grades enough to pass each year of Pharmacy. Others too put hundreds of hours into the mod. I don't want to know how many hours our lead scripter has put in. Some short scenes like the one we showed called "Walk of Shame" must have easily taken him a week to do.
Where are you based?
Believe it or not, even with a modding team this big, we are not officially based anywhere except our own homes. Thankfully, nowadays it’s easy to share information and data with each other over the internet. With programs like Skype, we are able to host meetings and easily catch up with one another as if I was working with them in real life.
Why did you decide to choose Portland as a location?
Portland and Seattle were our two final choices. While I knew Seattle would be a more a logical choice for a snowy wasteland, we finally decided to go with Portland because it was much closer to the Mojave Desert. This way it wouldn’t be too outrageous to use factions and quests from the Mojave in Portland.
Also, in reusing some of the factions from the Mojave spared us from creating new factions and new background that may not have fit the Fallout lore. Also, this saved up a lot of time writing and planning because we all knew Fallout 4 release was coming very soon. We wanted to make sure we could finish this project around the time Fallout 4 was released. Lastly, the war between the NCR and the Legion in the Mojave felt a bit stale and left a lot to be desired. I wanted to somehow spice up the war between them.
So in using the NCR and Legion, we had to have them as close as possible to the Mojave. Alaska and Canada were definitely out of question. We felt Seattle was a bit stretch too far and settled with Portland. And by using Google images, it seemed to be viable to have Portland covered in snow.
Did you do any location scouting or research?
This may sound disappointing to some but all we used was Google Earth. Most of us have full time jobs (all across the world) and I myself is a currently a 4th year pharmacy student. Essentially, we pretty much had no time to ever visit Portland. In addition, we’re not making any money from this big project as well. It will of course be free for everyone. Fortunately, we had a few people from Portland, who would highlight local landmarks and give us information what was popular in Portland. For example we want to add the stag, the man with the umbrella… we even sent a message to Rogue Soda if we are allowed to create Nuka drinks based off their drinks.
What are the challenges of building a digital world based on an actual city?
There are a lot of challenges in building a digital world on an actual city. Even if we went to Portland, took a lot of nice shots for inspiration, map out important locations it still will be very difficult to build an actual Portland city.
First off, Portland has a lot of unique skyscrapers and buildings in which the GECK (Fallout editing software) does not include. If we were to make every single custom buildings ourselves, this would even further push back our production time.
Secondly, there are a lot of unique landmarks in Portland. It’s nearly impossible to build every single block of the city from one landmark to another landmark. So we had to essentially scale the city (I admit even a bit awkwardly) to fit these in. Fallout 3 was known to do something similar as this. Obviously, it was impossible for their team to recreate the entire D.C. (although they pulled off their scaling really well).
Did you attempt to be faithful to the layout of the city?
We had to take artistic license. If we didn’t we’d have a very small city with a few landmarks that may be recognizable to people who live in Portland, but have very little gameplay value. Like all previous Fallouts, we wanted to add a wasteland type area for a player to explore. That’s what helps give the Fallout feel. I was a bit hesitant to spend all of our resources in building a small replica of Portland.
How has Portland faired during Fallout's apocalypse? Is it worse off than, say, DC?
DC was the bigger focus of nuclear strikes. Portland technically didn’t really have any strategic value but during wars, usually (I would assume) one would want to inflict as much damage as possible. Portland was hit by a few nukes but it was enough to change the environment and make it cold.
We made a script called "Chill Factor". The player would need to dress appropriately for winter. If's snowing outside, the player would need to wear some sort of clothes that provide "warmth" bonus. There will some sort of new indicator like rads to keep track of your points in this section. If the player refuses or neglects to dress appropriately, than the player could expect to suffer from consequences such as lowered stats or even death.
What local landmarks can we look for in the game?
We actually talked about removing Autzen stadium and changing that up to a different name. I think it’s just too far out even if we justified by scaling. We want to add some wilderness and natural landmarks around Portland as well.
When will the game be released?
We have no update on the release other than we're hoping to release it sometime this winter. It's unfortunate that Bethesda was not more transparent with their fans regarding the release of Fallout 4 date. Because of this we are working like crazy to get this mod out before the arrival of the Creation Kit for Fallout 4. All of us wants to get our hands on the new developmental tools of the new engine. Originally we had in mind to release the Frontier around late 2016 early 2017 before the announcement of Fallout 4 . As you can see we had to push a more than year's of work to a few months. Due to this, we do not have definite release date. IF we miss our deadline, I'm pretty sure there will be a lot of angry people. Once I am sure of a true due date, you will be the first to know.