Fallout (computer game)

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Fallout box art

Developer(s) Interplay
Publisher(s) Interplay
Release date(s) 1997
Genre Role-playing game
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature, ELSPA: 15+
Platform(s) Windows, Macintosh

Fallout is a computer role-playing game produced by Tim Cain and published by Interplay in 1997. The game is sometimes considered to be an unofficial sequel to Wasteland, but it could not use that title as Electronic Arts held the rights to it, and, except for minor references, the games are set in separate universes. There were two role-playing titles in the series (Fallout and Fallout 2), one squad-based tactical combat spinoff (Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel and one third-person shooter for PlayStation 2 and Xbox (Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel). The spin-offs are not considered canon by the current developers of Fallout 3 at Bethesda Softworks, as well as former Fallout 3 developers at Black Isle Studios and most of the fan community, due to major contradictions to the role-playing games in the setting.



The background story of Fallout involves a "what-if" scenario in which the United States tries to devise fusion power resulting in a hegemonic United States that has less reliance on petroleum. However, this is not achieved until 2077, shortly after an oil drilling conflict off the Pacific Coast pits the United States against China. It ends with a nuclear exchange resulting in the post-apocalyptic world the game takes place in—although it is said in Fallout 2 that nobody knew who sent the first missile.


The protagonist of the first game is a descendant of those that managed to find solace in government contracted fallout shelters known as the Vaults. The year the game takes place is 2161, somewhere in Southern California in Vault 13. In it, the Vault's Water Chip, which controls the water recycling and pumping machinery for the vault, has malfunctioned. This results in the player character being selected to leave the vault with minimal supplies, a handgun and a small amount of ammunition to find a new water chip. Eventually, the main character learns of a graver threat to not only his vault, but the rest of civilization. A mutant by the alias "The Master" has begun using a pre-war, genetically engineered virus to create a race of "super" mutants. The player defeats The Master and returns to his Vault. There, he is told that he has changed too much, and that his return would damage the isolated Vault world. He is exiled.

Fallout 2

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Fallout 2
Fallout 2 (European version) box art
Developer(s) Black Isle Studios
Publisher(s) Black Isle Studios
Release date(s) 1998
Genre Role-playing game
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature, ELSPA: 15+
Platform(s) Windows

The second game takes place 80 years after the first. It tells the story of the original hero's descendant and his or her quest to save their primitive tribe from starvation by finding an ancient environmental restoration machine known as the "Garden of Eden Creation Kit," or GECK.

The player does eventually acquire a GECK by finding Vault 13, less its former human inhabitants. He returns to find his village captured by the remnants of the United States government known as "The Enclave." The player, through a variety of means, boards an ancient oil tanker to The Enclave's main base, an offshore oil derrick.

It is revealed that the Vault 13 citizens were captured as well. The Enclave has created an airborne disease to destroy all living people on Earth, in order to allow Enclave citizens—the only people not mutated at all—to take over the planet.

The player frees both his village and Vault 13 from Enclave control, and destroys The Enclave entirely.

The fact that in both games the character is raised in an isolated community works nicely with the plot structure, allowing the character to be as ignorant about the game world as the player would be and explaining why the map you start with is almost completely unexplored.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 (codenamed "Van Buren") was in production in 2003, but was cancelled by Interplay when Black Isle, the RPG unit was closed. The license to create 3 new Fallout games was acquired by Bethesda Softworks in 2004, and a new Fallout 3 project is currently in development. Interplay, however, kept the rights for a Fallout MMORPG.

Mutations And Their Causes

According to the "Fallout Bible" (a series of documents answering questions from players by designer Chris Avellone), it is interesting to note that most of the mutations in Fallout and Fallout 2 are not because of radioactive fallout. According to the Fallout plot, most of the mutations the player experiences are because of a pre-War biological serum, named the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV). Some players feel that this reliance on FEV paints the story with a genetic engineering theme that a 50s-viewpoint game should not have. Others, however, point to the fact that in the 1950's and early 1960's, radiation was viewed very similarly to the way that FEV was in Fallout and Fallout II. It is patently impossible for it to behave the way it does, and it is used as a catch-all to explain away the impossible.


Fallout and Fallout 2 are both role-playing games in which you control a single character (possibly with AI-controlled allies) from an isometric perspective.

Character System

When Fallout was first announced, one of its major selling points was its plan to use the popular GURPS ruleset created by Steve Jackson Games. GURPS is known for its point-based character-creation system which allows players great freedom in customizing their characters in any setting or genre, shying away from the class- and level-based progressions and specific settings that characterized some of the competing rulesets of the time (such as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons).

However, creative differences between the two companies led the developers of Fallout to abandon GURPS and develop their own proprietary character creation scheme, called the SPECIAL System. SPECIAL is an acronym representing the seven basic attributes that define Fallout characters: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. In addition to these attributes, characters could also develop Skills (statistics representing their chance to successfully perform specific tasks, such as firing a gun or picking a lock), and Perks (special abilities that allow characters to bend the rules of the game in their favor).

Attributes remain generally constant over the course of the game, and represent the player character's most basic identity. Skills, on the other hand, are improved as the player gains experience points and levels up. A new Perk is also chosen every third or fourth level depending on traits selected during character creation.

The character system was further enhanced by adding traits. During creation of a character up to two traits can be selected, although players can decide to select none at all. Most traits have both positive and negative effects on PC, only exception to this rule being Bloody Mess which only affects the amount of blood and gore that appears on screen.

Storytelling Method

Much of the game of Fallout is spent traveling through the post-apocalyptic wasteland, visiting towns and other bastions of civilization, and interacting with non-player characters.

Fallout stands out among other contemporary computer role-playing games, in part, because of its system of moral choices. Most major locations in the game are characterized by a conflict between two or more competing factions. The player is offered the opportunity to work for any of the factions and to help them defeat their enemies, thus determining the ultimate fate of that location.

For example, in one early mission, the player enters the village of Junktown. Junktown is officially controlled by the sheriff, Killian Darkwater, but a crime boss named Gizmo has also gathered a great deal of influence to himself. The player is initially hired by Killian to collect evidence against Gizmo, but Gizmo quickly makes a counteroffer, hiring the player to assassinate Killian.

At this point, the player can give a recording of Gizmo's counteroffer to Killian, proving that Gizmo is a murderer, and eventually leading to his execution. Or the player can actually carry out the assassination, murdering Killian, and handing Junktown over to the crime boss.

After the end of the game, when the player has made many such decisions, a final epilogue plays, outlining the ultimate fate of each location that the player influenced. Because of the player's choices, the world of Fallout can either become increasingly peaceful and civilized, or increasingly savage and barbaric. Or a mixture of both.

In Fallout 2 it is possible to continue playing after the finale. Although no major changes to the game world are made (ie. the developments outlined in the final slide show sequence "haven't happened yet"), there are some new comments from NPCs as well as several new dialogue options in certain locations. The player is also given an option to raise all of his/her PC skills (through "Fallout 2 Hintbook" or using one of the terminals in Vault City).

Because the ending of the game is so variable, Fallout 2 had to take place primarily in different locations from the original game, to avoid violating the fiction created by the player the first time through. Similar challenges have "plagued" other video game series that featured variable storylines and moral choices, such as Deus Ex and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.


Combat in Fallout is turn-based, and depends on the use of Action Points. Each character in the game has a specific number of Action Points per turn, a figure which is derived from their Agility score. Each action that can be taken in combat costs a certain number of Action Points to perform. Thus the strategy of the game involves the clever and efficient use of Action Points to maximize the player character's damage potential and safety during combat.

For example, if the player character has seven Action Points per turn, it may be wiser to wield a pistol that costs 3 Action Points to fire, rather than a pistol that requires 4, because with the former pistol, the player character could attack twice every turn, rather than just once, thus doubling damage potential. After firing twice, the player character would also have 1 Action Point remaining, which could be used to step behind an obstacle and avoid a counterattack.

During combat, the player often has AI-controlled allies, which can be a source of frustration for players, as AI-controlled characters will sometimes run directly into unreasonable danger, or will open fire with an automatic weapon when an ally is within the area of the weapon's effect.

One prominent feature of the combat in Fallout is the graphic depiction of violence. Death animations, in particular, often show bodies being blown to pieces, humans being burned alive, and upper torsos being shredded by hails of automatic gunfire, leaving only a pair of legs behind. One popular Perk that is available at the beginning of the game (and is thus technically called a Trait) is "Bloody Mess". This Trait ensures that every time a character dies, the player will see the most gruesome possible depiction of their demise.

Under normal conditions, the severity of the death animation depends on the amount and type of damage done to the character with the final, killing attack.

Cultural References and Real World Parallels


While most of the towns in Fallout are not present in the real world (Junktown, Shady Sands, The Hub, etc) Los Angeles is in its correct place. However, the town of Necropolis is described as being the city of Bakersfield, hardcore fans have compared it to maps and found that it more accurately resembles Barstow. The Hub, also called “The Hub Trading Company”, may be a reference to “The Hudson’s Bay Company” based in Canada.

There are many references to post-apocalyptic Science Fiction, such as Mad Max. One of the first available armors is a leather jacket that resembles his and is one-sleeved. A player wearing this jacket can get a dog, named “Dogmeat” for Mad Max’s dog, to join the party in Junktown. Like Fallout 2, many of the references to other material can be found in random encounters, which include a vanishing British Police Call Box à la Dr. Who, and a massive footprint that resembles Godzilla’s.

Fallout 2

Town Names are often derived from real-world references. For example, Klamath and Modoc are named for different Native American Tribes. The player-character’s home village, Arroyo, could be named for any number of different locations ranging from parts of Arizona, to different areas of Mexico. Several of the towns are based on real cities, including San Francisco and Redding. Broken Hills, a uranium mining town in the game that eventually becomes a ghost town regardless of the player’s actions, is probably named for Broken Hills in Nevada, a mining town that has since become a ghost town. There is a great deal of similarity between an image shown to signify the town in the end sequence, and a real area of the ghost town. Similarly, New Reno is derived from Reno in Nevada, a city known for gambling which purportedly has gang problems.

There are other cultural references, typically in the form of dialogue which occur throughout the game. Some examples are more overt than others. For example, the Hubologists that the player encounters in Fallout 2 resemble the modern Scientologists in many respects, including the presence of “celebrities” named Juan Cruz and Vikki Goldman, likely meant as references to real life scientologists Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Other parallels include the similarity of Vault City, a quasi-utopian dictatorship to Rome under Caesar.

Other notable references include most of the Random Encounters. While many of these include parties of Yakuza, Bounty Hunters, Mutated scorpions, etc, others include references to Star Trek, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Dr. Who, and the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. One particularly witty, if esoteric, reference is a character found in the town of Gecko named “Gordon of Gecko”. The player can undertake a quest from him, and the dialogue leading up to this paraphrases Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is Good” speech from the film Wall Street.


Fallout draws much from 50s Pulp magazine science fiction and superhero comic books. For example, computers have no transistors and use vacuum tubes; energy weapons exist and resemble those used by Flash Gordon. The Vault Dweller's main style of dress is a blue skintight jumpsuit with a yellow line running down the center of the chest and along the belt area, though the main character's appearance changes while wearing armor. The lack of such retro style was one of the things the Fallout spin-offs were criticized for.

Fallout also draws minor influences from other sources. One of the initial armors available in the game is the one sleeved leather jacket, which bears a resemblance to the jacket worn by Mad Max in The Road Warrior. Also, the armor featured on the cover of the game is powered armor.

The Fallout games are famous for their Easter Eggs. While the first game mostly had references to the 1950s and 1960s pop-culture (Doctor Who, Godzilla), in Fallout 2 there are many references to Star Trek, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and Monty Python; some fans of the first game think that there are too many of them in the sequel.

The Fallout Community

Most of the English-speaking Fallout fan community is focused on two oldest functioning Fallout fansites - No Mutants Allowed (http://www.nma-fallout.com), founded in 1997, and Duck and Cover (http://www.duckandcover.cx), founded in 1998. The game is also popular in Central and Eastern European countries, such as Russia, Poland and Germany.

In general, the fanbase of the Fallout series is infamously known in gaming circles. Because of their reaction to arguably every Fallout game since Fallout 2, the Fallout Community has often been considered extremely angry and overly argumentative. These fans themselves say that this anger is because of Interplay's treatment of the franchise in the 6 years.

The turbulent history of what would be the third Fallout game, the fans argue, is a good example of what they consider poor treatment of the Fallout series. Twice in development, these proto-Fallout 3s were cancelled long before release - often even before official announcement. To add insult to injury, the Fallout titles that did get released were not serious role playing games - they were tactical combat and third-person shooter games. Both of them contained many contradictions to the Fallout setting, and were not considered canon by the developers of Fallout 3 (in both the Black Isle and Bethesda incarnations). While the later game was unarguably a flop, the tactical combat Fallout game - Fallout: Tactics - was moderately well received by both gaming critics and the general community. Some have argued that Tactics' moderate success, based on concepts the Fallout community is not fond of, has been a major aspect of how the Fallout community is considered by general gamers.

This sense of communal isolation again became apparent when Bethesda Softworks was given the rights to not only make Fallout 3, but also Fallout 4 and 5. The news that Fallout 3 would again be production (after a previous incarnation had been cancelled), was generally well received by the gaming community.

In contrast, the move was met with anger and dissapointment in the Fallout communities. Denigrating Bethesda's Morrowind as a role-playing game (and the Elder Scrolls series in general), the Fallout community was most offended that companies founded by the developers of Fallout and Fallout 2 who left Interplay (Troika and Obsidian) did not gain the rights. Only one of those companies, they argued, could truly make a proper Fallout 3. The anger became greater when it was revealed that Troika did make an offer for Fallout's rights, but was soundly out-bid by Bethesda. In 2005 Troika went bankrupt, although evidently they are still in operation as they have announced that they are working on several projects.

Arguing that they are not "dismissing" the game series, the Fallout community claims that they fear Bethesda, will make a Fallout 3 that has little connection to the original Fallouts - essentially making it a "Morrowind with guns". They also concede that they have been hurt in the past by companies.

For example, many fans of the series consider isometric view and turn based combat to be essential to a Fallout game. These concepts have had their prominence lessened since the time of the original games, however, and some have tried to argue that these concepts are not entirely essential. Another fear is that the dialogue tree system of Fallout will be replaced by a keyword-based one, similar to the one in the Elder Scrolls games. Bethseda has announced that they will most likely not use an Isometric Camera, but that they are hoping to use the SPECIAL System to run the new Fallout.

A positive aspects of Bethesda's acquisition of Fallout is that, despite the fact that Morrowind could be viewed as being too open-ended, the Fallout games were both lauded for allowing a great deal of freedom within the game world and allowing the character to reach virtually every location in the game in any order, save for the endgame areas.

There is also worry that the game will be "dumbed down" in various ways, in an effort to appeal to sorts of gamers who are either ignorant of - or unhappy with - the previous Fallout series.

There are two major references to the Fallout fan community in the Fallout games themselves. One is a special encounter with Unwashed Villagers, an early fan community, in Fallout 2. They are depicted as a group of people attacking a spammer. In Fallout Tactics, there is a a senile old man who urinates into other people's drinks, named Roshambo; this is the name of a No Mutants Allowed admin, well-known for his distaste of the Fallout spin-offs and those that enjoy them.


  • The song that plays during the intro sequence in Fallout is entitled "Maybe" and is sung by The Ink Spots. The song in Fallout 2 is Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On". The original theme to Fallout was "I don't want to set the world on fire", also by the Ink Spots, but apparently they were unable to get the license.
  • Three key members behind the original Fallout (Tim Cain, Leonard Boyarsky and Jason Anderson) left Interplay in 1998 and founded Troika Games. Troika was closed down in February 2005 due to financial problems.
  • "RadAway", in Fallout, was a medicine that lowered the game character's level of irradiation. Supposedly it worked by bonding itself with radiation particles making it possible for them to "pass" through your system.
  • "Mentats", a drug in the series that temporary raises your intelligence, is named for the human computers in the Dune universe.
  • "Brahmin", the two-headed cows, share their name with the Hindu priestly caste. The possibility of this name usage being purely coincidental is diminished when considering that cows are sacred in Hinduism.
  • In Fallout 2, the reason why Vault 13's water chip malfunctioned is "explained" in a random encounter, in which the Fallout 2 character discovers a portal similar to the Guardian of Forever. If he enters it, the player is transported to a small section of Vault 13, devoid of any other characters. When he interacts with the only computer he can, he breaks the Water Chip, ensuring the events of the player's past continue as they should. This encounter, like all special encounters, is only a joke and is not considered canon.

External links

de:Fallout (Computerspiel) fr:Fallout no:Fallout pl:Fallout


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