Adam Lacko is working on bringing Van Buren, the cancelled Fallout 3 to life.
Project Van Buren looks to bring Black Isle's Fallout 3 into reality. Using the tech demo, concept art and incomplete design documents, Lacko and his team plan on making the whole game playable while taking notes from the original developers.
Van Buren Teaser
Van Buren would see the player taking the role of a prisoner. Being able to choose the scope of their crimes or whether they were innocent of said crimes. This would decide perks and traits of the character.
The Smartest Man on Earth, the Mad Scientist Dr. Victor Presper would act as the main antagonist of Fallout 3. The good doctor was born and raised in the area known as Shady Sands. He spent many of his years as a scientific advisor to President Tandi before his disillusionment settled in, fueled by the Caravan houses that ate away at the NCR.
Based on Original Design Documents
Lacko stays true to whatever original documents that are available. Promising to bring to life the locations and factions that were set to appear in the cancelled Fallout 3, Van Buren.
Will this cost money to play?
Of course not. As you may have already noticed, we are not trademark holders for Fallout franchise, and thus there is no way to make any kind of profit nor any commercial attempts in general. This project does not intend to challenge Bethesda's ownership of the trademark, so to stay non-profit, it will be free to all players. Think of it as a mod that is based on someone else's intellectual property, even though there is no actual EULA-covered technology (like engine or assets) from the franchise owners being used like in most mods.
Do you have plans to release a beta or alpha?
Testing has always been one of the most crucial parts of game development, and to use an advantage of community-driven project, there will be a demo for public testing. In February, I promised on NMA forums that the demo will be available in September this year. I'm very careful about promises, so I can't say what amount of content will make it into this demo, the only sure thing I can guarantee is that some sort of demo will be released. Our goal is to implement as much systems (mainly combat and interactions) as possible for people to test and give feedback for. Many game mechanics are already implemented, although there is a refactor planned for several ones.
Do you plan to make the entire game?
Yes. Once the demo is released and feedback received, a real production will start. Let us hope it will remain in this state long enough to complete the entire game one sunny day.
Is there a way to support this project?
As I stated before, this project has to remain non-profit so we are not receiving any monetary donations. More than money, we need manpower for production phase of a development. However, there used to be folks who insisted on helping out even though they could not provide any creative skill (and I admire all of them for being so enthusiastic), so they bought us a few assets here and there, which always helps big time. So to sum it - best way to help out is to simply support the project, whether by providing creative skills (3D artists, level designers, writers and so on) or even hitting that little like button on whatever social media, which can be surprisingly powerful and bring us even more manpower. Last time one of my tweets was retweeted by rather popular account, 6 people joined my team, some of them even have actual industry background with major RPG-dedicated game studios we all know and love.
Which Fallout devs have you spoke to about this?
Well, when I started this project, I've been mostly working on map recreations, just to show my visions of certain locations that the design documents induced in my mind. I've been literally bothering Josh Sawyer with most of my creations on twitter by tagging him, and yes, I know it's horribly childish. But, he always left a like, or even retweet. I mean, it's not a big deal really, but even such a small thing kept me going and creating more. I told myself, it can't be entirely bad if the last project director of Van buren likes it, right? As the project's scope got bigger and it was decided we're going to attempt to recreate the whole game, I realized soon enough we will need to contact the original dev crew members, since many design documents are incomplete or even providing contradictory info (due to changes made between first and second development iteration as well as further scaling down and content cuts in the latest months of the project). Now of course, there is no need to ask about every single missing thing, some missing details can be added by our writers too. However, I felt like the inconsistencies present in higher level design information we discovered should be discussed with, you know, higher authority. I had a little chat with Chris Avellone thanks to whom I was able to assemble the timeline (which is different from the first iteration timeline established by him and closer to second iteration one). From time to time, I contact Josh Sawyer on his tumblr if such need arises, and I was always given a very helpful answer. We also have a contact possibility established with John Deiley through one of my friends. A great deal of story and narrative info was also provided by Damien Foletto's long buried forum posts on NMA, although I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet.
Any word from Bethesda?
No word from Bethesda so far, which many of our team members consider as a good thing. I was once contacted by one, well, stranger, who was offering some sort of negotiations with Bethesda, but I refused since, as I said earlier, we don't intend to turn this project into commercial product, ever. To be honest, I don't even think he was for real, who knows. Anyway, I think that as long as there is a silence from Bethesda, we should be good to go, just like Fallout Nevada, Fallout 1.5 and other successful projects in a past.
Specs to run the game?
The game is not that demanding at all, I think you can already tell that from the visuals. Besides, whatever you may think or hear about Unity engine (because I often meet people who keep hating Unity for some reason), it has undergone a very long journey since Unity 5, and is getting better a bigger with each tech-stream upgrade. But, to answer your question, I run current builds of the game on my rather older laptop with I7 6700HQ and GTX 960m on around 80fps. Of course, once the development moves forward, there are several optimization processes planned which will increase the performance significantly.
Did you build this or is a mod of the classic Fallout engine?
As you may have already seen, this game does not use any original tech. It has been built from scratch using Unity engine. Current engine version is Unity 2018.4 and we plan to stay in this version for it's an LTS (Long-term support) stream.
What is the scope of the project? Do you plan on including everything you can find that the past devs had in mind and filling in the blanks based on their feedback?
The scope has been changing ever since I started this project. Initially, I dreamed of fitting the Van Buren lore to Fallout: New Vegas so that it would be possible to make some sort of a prequel installment. Looking back now, it was horribly naive idea and it sure as hell wouldn't work not even close to well. Because of this, it was decided to totally abandon any connections with New Vegas, and, just as Black Isle in 2003, concentrate on connections with Fallout 2 instead. Current scope works with as close implementation of the original design from BIS as it's reasonably possible, using the original storyline, locations, factions as well as the original game design premises. One thing that is (very) slightly changed is game system. It still follows the system seen in Van Buren tech demo, but with additional tweaks to certain skill/derived stats formulas for even better balancing (as the original SPECIAL system used in Fallout and Fallout 2 was very unbalanced). Combat system is going to be dual, meaning that each combat situation can be dealt with in real-time or turn-based way. There is a possibility to choose whether to play in either of these modes during the whole playthrough or to let the game ask for a combat type before every encounter.
Q&A with Adam Lacko
All of the above content related to Van Buren is property of Adam Lacko and used with his permission.