Original Fallout 3 Was Cancelled Because Even ‘Death March Crunch’ Couldn’t Save It, Says Series Creator

Original Fallout 3 Was Cancelled Because Even ‘Death March Crunch’ Couldn’t Save It, Says Series Creator

Years before Bethesda released Fallout 3 in 2008, another version of the game existed. Codenamed Van Buren, the original Fallout 3 was in development at Black Isle Studios, the developer of Fallout 2, as well as the acclaimed Planescape: Torment. The project was cancelled in 2003, leading to the closure of the storied studio. However, despite never seeing the light of day, the game still looms large in the minds of Fallout fans, and now, series creator Tim Cain has provided fresh insight into the circumstances leading to its cancellation.

Cain details the cancellation of Van Buren in a YouTube video posted on June 19. In it, he explains how he may have had a hand in ultimately ending the original Fallout 3. To begin, the fact that he was involved in Van Buren at all is a fascinating detail given that he left Fallout developer and publisher Interplay in the middle of Fallout 2’s development. However, Cain reveals that in 2003, an Interplay vice president asked him to play a prototype of Van Buren. The project was already in trouble, with the VP telling Cain he planned on cancelling it unless Cain could give him an estimate on development time that would reassure Interplay.

Cain played about two hours of the prototype and asked members of the development team several questions to get a better idea of the state the game was in. Eventually, Cain was able to determine a time frame. He told the VP, “I’m convinced in 18 months you could have a really good game shipped,” Cain recounts. The VP’s response was to ask if it could be done any faster. Cain did not recommend it, saying that even with a “death march crunch” the game could not be completed in less than a year. At this point, the VP told him that any answer over six months was going to result in Van Buren being cancelled. Cain jokes that the answer he gave got the game cancelled, but notes that the game would have been canned no matter what given the VP’s desired timeline.

Cain explains that Interplay, which had been experiencing financial hardship for years, simply couldn’t fund more than six months of development. Sure enough, Van Buren was cancelled, Black Isle was closed, and all of its staff was laid off. Eventually, a game called Fallout 3 made its way into the hands of gamers thanks to Bethesda, but Van Buren never did.


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