The Washington Post did a write up on Washington DC's role in Fallout 3. Here are some clips:
Q: How did you choose Washington, DC as the setting for Fallout 3?
Howard: Obviously, we're from D.C., so that immediately jumps to
your mind: "Maybe we should do the game here." The previous games were
on the West coast and part of it was to tell our own story and separate
the game and make it its own thing from the previous games.
I think there's this interesting idea with a post-apocalyptic world:
Who's in control? What's the government like? And so, just the
immediate visual of the Capitol and the Washington Monument and things
like that, they tell a story immediately. The imagery is really
evocative, these American icons, these big, epic structures kind of
destroyed. It has the feeling of, what would you do? How did it get
that way and what would you do in that world?
It came up over and over when we talked about locations that
[Washington] hadn't been done a lot in games and, who better to do it
than us, with the way we put our games together and being from here. We
go down to the Mall often, we go to DC often, it just became perfect
Q: How close did you try and stick to the real-world map?
Howard: Not that close.
When it comes to really high-level geography, we did that, but the
timeline in Fallout splits after World War 2. We did a lot of studying
of D.C. and the history of D.C. and how it was built. We wanted to do
the big things [like] the Mall and we did Dupont Circle and various
other sections of the city in the flavor they are. Georgetown, the Key
Bridge, the Pentagon -- but the Pentagon is now this big fortress that
the Brotherhood of Steel lives in, they're kind of like the knights of
The problem is, when you get into a game, when you're actually
playing and walking around, the scale doesn't work. It doesn't feel
right. So we would go down [to Washington] and walk around and see how
it felt and translate that to an appropriate scale in the game. So it
has a similar feeling but it's dramatically compressed in some places,
and some places are opened up a bit.
Read the whole article here.