Eurogamer: So what did you think of Bethesda's take on Fallout 3, given you worked on the original attempt?
Chris Avellone: I enjoyed it quite a bit. Some of the things I really liked about it were... Well, in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, a lot of the special skill structure they had for the game system actually either ended up being only useful in special cases, like Repair. That, or they had a time limit involved with them, like Doctor. Doctor worked in Fallout 1 because the game had a time pressure, and it was faster to use the skill than buy Stimpaks. But when they took the time limit away in Fallout 2 - and they did the patch that removed it from Fallout 1 - that skill wasn't really balanced anymore. I like very much how Fallout 3 took a lot of skills that had issues before and made them relevant - like, Repair is pretty damn important in Fallout 3!
The only drawback I can think of so far is that I made the mistake of starting out with a four-strength character during my first playthrough, and the amount of stuff you need to carry around ... I was constantly using mailboxes to store stuff, and hopping back and forth between Megaton and my little safehouse to sell it all! I wish I'd made my strength higher.
Eurogamer: You need strength to survive in the Wasteland, Chris.
Chris Avellone: Well, I wanted to bump up my intelligence and charisma as high as possible, because I wanted all the speech options. Generally, whenever I go into an RPG, I want to see every single possible way of interacting with someone, so I chose, for example, the Black Widow perk - I think that's the name - and the Child at Heart perk, too, because I wanted to see all the dialogue options with the kids and the opposite sex, and things like that.
Eurogamer: Do you think Bethesda carried on in the spirit of the series?
Chris Avellone: Yeah, absolutely. I guess my critique would be that Bethesda's always gotten the openworld game mechanic down pretty well. They have a tradition of it; they understand the design mechanics involved with that, and I believe very much that the Fallout world, by design, all the way from the first one, was always intended to be a go-anywhere-you-want-and-do-anything open world. And I think that Bethesda's design methodology and the Fallout world have always been pretty complementary.
Eurogamer: So you read it [RPG Codex], then?
Chris Avellone: Oh, yeah, sure. The two sites I usually follow are RPGWatch and RPGCodex. And there's one other site I follow, but it escapes me right now ...
Eurogamer: Right. Well, anyway, so here's a big one: what defines an RPG these days? It seems to change a lot.
hris Avellone: Well, I have a personal definition. Of the RPGs I've played recently, I'll be honest: I've been pretty much immersed in Fallout 3. But it seems to me that the most important parts of an RPG are that, in terms of all the character-building you can do in the opening screens, all those skill choices and background choices need to matter in the gameworld.
That may sound kind of self-evident, but there's a lot of game balance that needs to go into making sure that each skill, trait, and attribute score is valuable, and an RPG has to deliver on that. If you're going to give the player a chance to specialise in or improve a certain aspect of their character, there needs to be value for that in the gameworld.
The other thing that's important is that there has to be a lot of reactivity to the player's actions within the environment, either in terms of quests, faction allegiance, even physical changes in the environment. The player making an impact is incredibly important.
Eurogamer: "Choice and Consequence" now tends to be discussed as a separate, defined gameplay mechanic. Is that something you take into account with everything - every quest - you design?
Chris Avellone: It comes down to this: depending on the rules for the gameworld, the player has to be given a series of options on how to solve each problem. For Fallout, for example, it was easy: you always want to know that, as the bare minimum, you have a Combat Boy, Stealth Boy, and Speech Boy option for solving each quest. And then you go into consequences: for each option, what's the reactivity in the world and possible long-range consequences, and how does it factor into the endgame? Or does it not factor into the endgame at all, or just the area, or just the one person who gave you the quest? That's our process..