Get ready to roll the dice and place your bets, because the “Fallout” universe is getting its due in a graphic novel – but this isn’t the “Fallout” you remember. In “Fallout: New Vegas” from Bethesda Softworks and Obsidian Entertainment, players get a look at the city of hopes, dreams and five dollar lobster through the lens of the Wasteland – a post-apocalyptic expanse that has swallowed the United States following a nuclear attack – and strike out on their own adventure with nothing but their brains and whatever weapons they can get their hands on.
Longtime “Fallout” fans are in for a treat this time around. The limited edition version of the game not only comes packaged with a bunch of cool collectables (including a deck of cards and poker chips featuring the logos of the in-game casinos), but also includes an original hardcover graphic novel called “All Roads” produced by Dark Horse. Setting his writing hand to expanding the “Fallout” mythos is the game’s senior designer, Chris Avellone. While comic fans may not be familiar with Avellone, video game and RPG fans will likely recognize his name from a number of critically acclaimed games including the “Icewind Dale” series and “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.” Keen-eyed “Fallout” fans will recognize Avellone from “Fallout 2” and the cancelled, original Fallout 3, “Van Buren.” Hardcore “Star Wars” comic fans might recognize him from “Star Wars Tales” or “Clone Wars Adventures.” Now, he’s running head-on into the wasteland of “Fallout: New Vegas” for a brand new adventure. Unfortunately, while a preview of the book is currently on iTunes, the full version will only be available with the collector’s edition of the game.
CBR News was spoke with Avellone about his first foray into the world of comics to get the who’s-who of artists working on “All Roads,” glean some details on the game’s upcoming release and pick his brain on the differences between designing a game and writing a graphic novel.
CBR News: Chris, tell us a bit about “Fallout: New Vegas” and how it builds upon the already-existing “Fallout” Mythology.
Chris Avellone: Bethesda asked Obsidian if they’d be interested in developing a Fallout game. “Fallout: New Vegas” is the result. It’s the latest installment in the Fallout franchise, and it takes the player west – far out west – to the Mojave wasteland surrounding the still-glittering, walled city of New Vegas.
It takes place four years after the events in “Fallout 3,” and about four decades after the events in “Fallout 2.” The player takes on the role of a courier with the Mojave Express, contracted to deliver a mysterious package to the Strip in New Vegas… however, the journey is interrupted and the player is shot in the head and dumped in a shallow grave, Vegas-style. Then the game begins.
You’ve worked on the “Fallout” franchise before, first on “Fallout 2,” then on the cancelled “Van Buren.” How does it feel to be back in this universe?
Like putting on a favorite pair of old shoes you found while cleaning out your closet, wiggling your toes, and finding out not only do the shoes still fit, they’re just as comfortable as you remember.
For fans of the “Fallout,” what are you keeping from the previous installments and what new innovations are you adding?
“Fallout 3” was well-received, so we didn’t want to mess with the elements that made it great. In “New Vegas,” we just wanted to make sure there was more to do, not change the existing systems the player had come to enjoy from “Fallout 3.”
We have new reputation mechanics (factions in the game remember what you’ve done for and against them and respond accordingly), weapon mods, new skills, new applications of old skills, improved companion interfaces for easier companion control, traits from “Fallout 1” and “Fallout 2,” new weapons, new perks, companion quest arcs, and an open-world-style storyline that lets you decide where you stand in the Mojave wasteland – and who stands against you.
While you’re senior designer for “New Vegas,” you also put together “All Roads,” the original graphic novel that comes with the collector’s edition of the game. How exactly did that come about?
I have a good relationship with Dark Horse as I worked with Dave Marshall and Jeremy Barlow at Dark Horse during “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords,” did a short story for “Star Wars Tales” and then four more scripts for “Clone Wars Adventures” that were a lot of fun. When it came time to explore the possibility of doing more comic book game tie-ins, I suggested an “Aliens” comic through SEGA, then an “Alpha Protocol” comic through SEGA as well – neither of these took off, unfortunately.
I was still driven to try and make it work, though – the chance to write for comics was one of my childhood dreams – so I took another run at it and introduced Nick McWhorter from Dark Horse to our “New Vegas” marketing manager, Regi Jacob, and to my huge surprise, Regi and Bethesda grabbed the ball and ran with it. At the end of it all, I got to write a book with some amazing artists – Jean Diaz (“Incorruptible”) and Wellinton Alves (“Shadowland: Blood on the Streets,” “Nova”) and a cover by Geof Darrow. Geof Darrow! I couldn’t have asked for a better chance at comic writing. Many thanks to Dark Horse and Bethesda.
What’s the main plot of “All Roads” and how will it add to the experience players have in “New Vegas?”
“All Roads” starts a week before the opening movie in “Fallout: New Vegas…” If you read the graphic novel while downloading the game, you’ll look up from the last page and into the opening movie seamlessly. The idea was to take the background we’d introduced for the factions, adversaries, and even areas such as Vegas and showcase them to the player to give them context for the brutal attack that occurs at the start of the game. You’ll even be able to retrace the events and key locations in the comic in the game environment as well, with some possible unique items if you know where to look after reading the comic.
Did you grow up a fan of comic books? What are some of your favorites?
Some old school comics are in my arsenal, and some are collected story arcs into graphic novel format: “The Killing Joke” (the ending nailed it for me and I felt it was one of the best moments in comic history), “Born Again,” any of Morrison’s “Animal Man” or “Doom Patrol” compilations, “Watchmen” (which I read in high school), Moore’s “Miracleman,” “Batman: Year One,” all of the Garth Ennis “Hellblazer” and “Preacher” collections, the first two years of “The Authority,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” Straczynski’s “Midnight Nation” and “Rising Stars,” and a bunch of others. I just finished reading “Dark Reign” and enjoyed it.
While you’ve worked on a number of games praised for their stories and secondary character development, and early in your career you wrote Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, this is your first run at doing a graphic novel. How do you feel the graphic novel format is well-suited to the story you want to tell as opposed to telling it in-game? How is writing a graphic novel different than designing a game?
In a role-playing game, especially for “Fallout,” you need to design characters and events that can be approached from any direction, any faction allegiance, any character skill set and set of attributes (stupid brute, sneaky thief, silver-tongued scientist), and any order in the storyline. This can be challenging to design, so much so you may be telling three or more stories with a character depending on how they react to the player – but that range of responses are what role-players enjoy.
Graphic novels, in many respects, allow more focus, and provide more opportunity to introduce a specific theme, along with elements of the background of locations and characters that players may not have a chance to see in the game. As an example, in the graphic novel, we’re able to showcase some of the history of the Great Khans through the perspective of one of their own, something that can be difficult to do from a player perspective in the game, but not from a reader’s perspective.
Why should fans of the “Fallout” franchise get excited about “All Roads?”
It leads right into the opening movie, gives greater background on the people looking to kill you (even if they messed it up once), and as you explore the “Fallout: New Vegas” world, you’ll see the exact same path and have a greater understanding of some of the faction politics in the game.
Do you think you’ll do more “Fallout” content in the form of comics or graphic novels? Are you interested in writing comics in the future?
If there’s enough fan interest, I hope that might be enough of a push for a regular series. If readers would be interested in seeing more stories in the Fallout universe outside of DLC and “New Vegas,” say the word on forums. I’m definitely interested in writing more in the world of Fallout. I enjoyed writing for Star Wars, I’d love to do it with another franchise, and Fallout is near and dear to my heart ever since I played “Fallout 1,” worked on F2, and after all that I’ve been able to contribute to “Fallout: New Vegas.”
“Fallout: New Vegas” is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC on October 19, 2010.