The Original Fallout 3 – Investigating Fallout Van Buren

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In the late 1990s, few video game developers were as synonymous with PC role-playing games as Black Isle Studios. Established in 1996 as a subsidiary of Interplay Entertainment, Black Isle helped create and foster an array of beloved isometric RPG series, including Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout.

Of all its works, Fallout set itself apart with its 50s Americana-inspired post-apocalyptic setting and open-ended design, which enabled players to craft their journey through the irradiated remains of the United States with an unprecedented level of freedom. Whether allowing them to be the scourge of all that is living, a pacifist capable of convincing their foes to surrender, or a straggler just trying to get by, both Fallout and its sequel, Fallout 2, exemplified the power of player choice in games, and served as hallmarks of Black Isle’s talent.

After years of false starts, development on a third mainline entry in the series for the PC materialized, one that would have seen the player embroiled in a plot involving escaped convicts, a mysterious virus, and a calamitous space station. Unfortunately, despite coming within striking distance of being completed, both this project and Black Isle as a whole would be shut down in late 2003, snuffed out by Interplay’s financial woes and shifting priorities.

Their ends were tragic – yet both Fallout and the talent that shepherded it would live on, with the former becoming one of the biggest names in gaming, and the latter joining a new development studio that would eventually incorporate elements of their cancelled entry into their works.
This is the story of Van Buren, the original Fallout 3.

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