Fans of the action-RPG series Fallout often associate the franchise with Bethesda, which has developed and published some of the most popular entries, including Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and the online multiplayer Fallout 76. But the man responsible for the original Fallout back in the 1990s is still making games—even if some of his favorites, for now, reside purely in his imagination.
Fallout began at Interplay, which developed and released the original game in 1997. One of the chief architects of the original vision was Timothy Cain, who served as creator, producer, lead programmer, and one of the game’s main designers. Cain is still working on games—he was a programmer on South Park: The Stick of Truth a few years back and even co-directed 2019’s The Outer Worlds—and recently launched his own YouTube channel to “tell stories about game development, including stories about design, programming, team building, working for development companies, [and] pitching to game publishers.”
Cain has a new video discussing his favorite fantasy/science-fiction book: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. The novel is set on a planet colonized by remnants of Earth, where some people appear to have magic powers but actually are using science to strengthen their minds and bodies. Being a game designer, Cain claims to have a notebook filled with ideas of how to adapt the novel into a game. Cain explains, “I designed it as a game in two parts,” the first being a “very standard fantasy game” where you make a character and level up with experience. However, Cain says, the game would “force you to pick a specialty at some point” when pursuing skills, and once the player reaches the level cap, they would be approached by someone from a celestial city (an idea from the novel) who would essentially make the player “the god of whatever specialty they chose” through the implementation of “biofeedback, drugs, and brain surgery.”
According to Cain, “At that point, it becomes a wholly different game. It becomes a science-fiction game where you take your specialty to just an incredible, powerful level.” Cain added that in the back half of the game, the player could even become immortal. The idea sounds even more ambitious than Fallout, with Cain’s approach offering plenty of fun-sounding gameplay and a unique strategy to keep players going after the level cap.
Cain himself seems to be a champion of unique game ideas, even bemoaning the industry’s reliance on sequels, remakes, and remasters later in the video. “There’s something incredibly exciting about making something original,” Cain says. And although he would be pulling from an established work, his idea does sound like something we’ve never quite seen before in interactive storytelling. Mileage may vary on whether players want their fantasy games to suddenly morph into sci-fi games after putting in so many hours, but Cain’s explanation sounds like a cohesive whole built on a neat two-tiered mythology that people would probably love to obsess over.
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