Fallout: New Vegas project lead Josh Sawyer has answered a few more questions on his Formspring page. Here are the interesting/relevant ones:
Q. Main plot, sidequests, character development, music, graphics, NPC dialogs. Chose only three for a game you would enjoy.
A. An interesting omission from this list is "game play", which I would take over any of the above.
Q. Can a game tell a complex story mostly through environment and inference on the part of the player, or are exposition dumps inevitable?
A. Certainly. I actually prefer this kind of storytelling, but it can be tricky to pull off. If a developer were to establish hard and fast rules for presentation in a game, I'm sure they could have a rich, complex story with minimal exposition.
I think games like Ico show that developers are capable of presenting narrative in a lot of untraditional ways. I'd like to work on a game with no dialogue -- or dialogue that's all spoken in nonsense/indecipherable language, with intonation and facial expressions being the player's only hints at what's being discussed.
Q. What kind of balance do you try to strike between player-driven events and plot-driven events?
A. Within the context of "Obsidian-style" RPGs, we tend to give the player a lot of options, but they are still designer-created events. These options can reward a player's investment or character choices, but ultimately it's just picking from a pre-defined menu.
Personally, I try to push our game play in directions that allow players to create their own stories. I want people to enjoy the stories and characters Obsidian creates, but I also want our game play to be compelling and dynamic enough that player stories overshadow our meager choose-your-own-adventure plots.
Reading through someone else's story can be entertaining and satisfying, but if you get the opportunity to create your own, that adds another layer of enjoyment.
You can go ask Josh a question by clicking here.