If Bethesda’s earlier plans for Fallout 4 had panned out, the post-apocalyptic RPG would have ended up looking very different from the version we played.
A new documentary from Noclip, titled The History of Bethesda Game Studios, explores some of the earlier history and design processes in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. In particular, the nearly 90-minute documentary goes into some detail on the early days of Fallout 4, and outlines several ways in which the game could have been very different.
For one, the game wasn’t always set in Boston, Massachusetts. New York was high on the list of possibilities, as was San Francisco. According to narrator Danny O’Dwyer, San Francisco was such a strong possibility that Bethesda asked Obsidian Entertainment to change a line of dialogue in Fallout: New Vegas, which had stated that San Francisco was “totally wiped off the map.”
A major selling point of Fallout 4 was the game’s base building and crafting mechanics, but those didn’t always exist. In fact, the team came very close to cutting the settlement systems entirely.
“The Workshop mode in [Fallout 4] was on the cutting block for so long,” studio director Ashley Cheng said in the documentary (via IGN). “We just weren’t sure, ‘does anyone even care about this?'”
The entire Workshop system was seen as something completely separate from the rest of the main game, and therefore first in line to cut if the studio had needed to make changes. Because the team didn’t commit to it for most of the game’s development system, the Workshop remained as a part of the game that’s almost entirely separate from the main quest line.
Another surprising tidbit is that Fallout 4 very nearly had a quest with magic, pulled straight out of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. According to design director Emil Pagliarulo, the team had originally considered putting in a side quest with a fight between the towns of Salem and Danvers. The central theme of Salem was “witches,” with “weird powers… caused by radiation” that could work near-identically to Skyrim spells like Fireball and Telekinesis. In the end, the towns ended up being too close together on the map for the fight the directors envisioned, and the ideas eventually turned into the Devil’s Due side quest that’s in the game today.
The entire Noclip documentary can be found on YouTube for free here.