Tim Cain - the man, the myth, the legend. Producer, Lead Programmer, and Designer on the original Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game, Tim Cain is one of the Founding Fathers of the Fallout world and one of the main reasons that websites like Duck and Cover exist. Currently Design Director at Carbine Studios, Tim's resume reads like a gamer's must-play list: Fallout, Fallout 2, Stonekeep, Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil, and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines to name a few. Although he hasn't directly been involved in the Fallout series for a decade, Tim's influence is still clearly evident today. Duck and Cover caught up with Tim to find out what he has been up to the past few years, as well as to find out what happened to his secret Fallout 3 design and Troika's unpublished post apocalyptic game. Read on...
DAC: A lot of us are already very familiar with you, but the release of Fallout 3 ushered in a new generation of Fallout fans who might be a bit too young to have been around during the "golden era" of the Fallout series. Can you give us a little information about your background and how you got started in the Fallout world?
Tim: I have been working in the computer game industry since I was sixteen years old, and I continued to work in it to pay for college and graduate school. I worked as a programmer, but I also did quite a bit of design work too, until finally in 1994 while at Interplay, I got the opportunity to be a project leader and pick my own project. I started by myself, but within a year I had a small team. We knew we wanted to make a cRPG, but fantasy seemed too common at the time, so we went with a post-nuclear setting. For a while it looked like we might be the sequel to Wasteland, but the license never became available and we ended up designing our own world, which became the world of Fallout.
DAC: What was it like to work at Interplay back in the day? Do you miss it?
Tim: I started at Interplay in 1992 when it had forty employees, and everybody knew everybody else. You often wore more than one hat, with producers doing design and programmers making art. When I left in 1998, there were over 500 employees, and it was a different company. It was headed in new directions, and I left to find my own way. I missed many of the people there, and I have had the opportunity to work with them again over the years as we all moved throughout the industry.
DAC: You're almost as revered for your games at Troika as you are for the ones at Interplay. Did you enjoy being head honcho, or is it better just to make games and not deal with the other stuff?
Tim: There are advantages to both roles. I am glad I have experienced both, and I have no regrets, but I am happy to be in a non-business role now. It suits me better.
DAC: Where are you now and what are you working on?
Tim: I am at Carbine Studios, a division of NCsoft, working on an MMO. I have always loved that genre of games, from back with I would play MUDs in college, thru EverQuest in the late 90s and now World of Warcraft. I started here as the Programming Director, but last year I switched to Design Director and now I get to steer a design department that is already bigger than Troika at its largest.
DAC: There is some fantastic concept art on the Carbine Studios main page, showing what appears to be a game in a fantasy setting. Any plans for a post apocalyptic game at Carbine?
Tim: Not right now. I’m very much a one-game-at-a-time fellow.
DAC: What happened with the mystery post apocalyptic game that Troika was working on? We'd love it if you could tell us a bit about it. (screenshots here)
Tim: We had begun the development of a really interesting take on the post apocalyptic genre. The background was about as different from Fallout that you could get while looking a great deal like that game. We had made our own modern 3D engine to drive it, complete with real-time shadows and incredibly smooth character animation. Jason, Leonard and I wrote a background and system specification that would have made for a very rich game world to set adventures in, but we never found a publisher that was interested.
DAC: Any plans to bring it back to life?
Tim: Not really. Troika is gone, the code is ancient, and we have scattered to different companies.
DAC: In a previous interview at Duck and Cover you mentioned that you wrote a design for your own version of Fallout 3. Any chance we could have a peek at that? :-)
Tim: Nope. Sorry. Maybe it will get made one day, but as long as I never show it anyone, I know it will never get made without me.
DAC: What are your thoughts and opinions on Fallout 3 and its various DLCs from Bethesda? Did you play/finish the game?
Tim: I played and finished Fallout 3 as soon as it came out. I really enjoyed the game, and I think Bethesda’s designers had really done their homework. The game showed they had a deep understanding and knowledge of the key aspects of the original games. I even replayed it a few times to see how I could have different experiences, and I had fun with that.
Of course, I would have done things differently if I had made it.
DAC: What was your initial reaction when you learned that Bethesda bought the license from Interplay?
Tim: I was surprised and a little disappointed. I was hoping that Troika would get the license, but we were massively outbid. But in the end, they made a good game, and I went to a great company to make MMOs, so all was well.
DAC: Interplay is back to life again with Chris Taylor heading up a Fallout MMO codenamed "Project V13." What are your thoughts on the possibility of an MMO in the Fallout universe?
Tim: The possibilities really are endless. I’ve hung out with Chris since he went to Interplay, but I don’t really know what he is planning. But I get to be a happy customer like all of you when it ships. Sometimes not knowing is a good thing, because then you get to feel the anticipation with everyone else!
DAC: Looking back, is there anything that you would have changed about the original Fallout games?
Tim: Oh, there is so much that I would have done differently based on what I know now. The interface could have been improved, and there are ways to speed up and balance the turn-based combat system to make it more comparable with modern games. I also wished our budget could have been larger, not only to make a bigger and longer game, but also to have a real marketing campaign. Sometimes I feel that Fallout 1 was basically an advertisement for Fallout 2. :-)
DAC: Finally, is there anything you'd like to say to the Duck and Cover community and Fallout fans in general?
Tim: There has been such an incredible outpouring of support and positive comments from the Fallout fans over the years. It sustained all of us at Troika thru some tough times, and it’s really a wonderful feeling to know that you have had a chance to touch the lives of so many people. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. Thank you everyone. -Tim.
Thank you very much to Tim Cain for taking the time to answer our questions, and also thanks to Troy Hewitt and Carbine Studios.
22 February 2010
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