Inside the Vault: Meet Emil Pagliarulo

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The first of a series, Inside the Vault, we have a Q&A with Emil Pagliarulo, the lead designer of Fallout 3. I asked if he would answer some fan questions from the forums, he kindly obliged.

What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc)

Honestly, I’m the Peter Petrelli of gaming. I absorb whatever games are in close proximity. I don’t discriminate. Here’s what I’m currently playing on PC: “Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened,” ARMA, Neverwinter Nights 2, Lord of the Rings Online, the Avernum IV demo, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. On the Xbox 360, I’m playing Spider-Man 3, Command and Conquer, the Halo 3 beta, Guitar Hero 2, and some Marvel Ultimate Alliance with the new downloadable heroes. On PS2, it’s Guitar Hero 1 and Thrillville with my kids. Zelda and Warioware on the Wii. If I had a PS3, I’d be playing Resistance: Fall of Man.


1) What’s your job at Bethesda?

I’m the lead designer of Fallout 3.

2) What prior projects have you worked on?

Let’s see. Here at Bethesda, my very first task was creating all the miscellaneous quests for Bloodmoon, the second official Morrowind expansion. I then did a lot of design work on Oblivion, including the Arena and Dark Brotherhood. Before working at Bethesda, I was a designer on the Thief series, and worked at Looking Glass and Ion Storm Austin.

3) What have you drawn on for inspiration in developing Fallout 3? Books, movies, music, etc would be fine, if you don’t want to name any games.

When we first started working on Fallout 3, I completely overloaded my system with post-apocalyptic films. I’m not just talking “Mad Max” and “A Boy and His Dog” here – I’m referring to some of the most depressing movies I’ve even seen in my life. “The Day After,” “Testament,” “When the Wind Blows.” Stuff like that. Fun! I was pulled back from the brink of suicide with a lot of great 50’s sci-fi flicks, like “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and “Forbidden Planet.”

I tend to draw inspiration from a variety of sources, though. The amazing characters from a TV show like “Deadwood,” the strong themes of great classic literature like “A Tale of Two Cities,” maybe the subtle irony in an old Billie Holiday song. It goes beyond just playing the old Fallout games – it’s whatever moves me on a personal level.

4) How is the work-environment? Is it competitive or co-op? Do the different teams talk together?

I have a desk full of swords and daggers. [He is not making this up. -ash] So it’s very cutthroat. But only when I cut someone’s throat.

5) What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc)

Honestly, I’m the Peter Petrelli of gaming. I absorb whatever games are in close proximity. I don’t discriminate. Here’s what I’m currently playing on PC: “Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened,” ARMA, Neverwinter Nights 2, Lord of the Rings Online, the Avernum IV demo, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. On the Xbox 360, I’m playing Spider-Man 3, Command and Conquer, the Halo 3 beta, Guitar Hero 2, and some Marvel Ultimate Alliance with the new downloadable heroes. On PS2, it’s Guitar Hero 1 and Thrillville with my kids. Zelda and Warioware on the Wii. If I had a PS3, I’d be playing Resistance: Fall of Man.

So I generally play it all and love it all, with some exceptions (you can keep your Madden, thanks very much).

6) How long have you been playing Fallout, and how would you describe your feelings towards the franchise?

My love for Fallout goes back to Wasteland, which was one of the first computer games I ever played, back on my Commodore 64. That’s kind of ironic, considering I didn’t play Fallout when it first came out. It took a friend and colleague of mine (Jordan Thomas, now a designer, whom I worked with at the Adrenaline Vault website back in the day) actually mailing me his copy for me to realize what I had been missing.

As much as I loved the characters and open-ended gameplay, it was really the richness of the fictional world I found so compelling. It would have been so easy for Fallout’s creators to simply make a post-apocalyptic game, set in contemporary America. Instead, they split the timeline after World War II and created an alternate America, a Walt Disney Tomorrow-Land of robots and nuclear-powered cars. It was the ultimate American future – and they blew it all to hell. Brilliant doesn’t even begin to describe that premise.

7) Considering that much of the game will probably be in a wild wasteland, do any of you spend much time hiking, camping, etc, and if so where?

Not as much as I’d like to, considering I have four small kids. But I absolutely love the outdoors – hiking, camping, etc. – and am really psyched that my children are getting old enough to appreciate that kind of environment. In fact, at lease once a year my family rents a cabin in the woods and we just hang out and “unplug” – no games, no TV. Just us as a family chilling out.

8 ) What’s the last game you bought? Did you like it?

The last game I bought was Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened for PC (I love me some digital download!). I’m really enjoying it. I mean, it’s the first game to combine Sherlock Holmes with the Cthulhu mythos, so that’s a huge plus. But it’s got great writing, really believable voice acting, and a very relaxed, almost contemplative pace.

9) What games are you looking forward to on the horizon?

Wow. Let’s see. The games that pop into my head right now are Mass Effect, Bioshock, GTA IV, Rock Band, Assassin’s Creed… Oh! And I just discovered Parkan II is available for download! I played the original years ago and loved it. Think I’ll buy that as soon as I get home…

10) Other than videogames, what are your interests? (Board games, reading, music, etc)

When I’m not playing games by myself, I’m usually playing games with my four kids. I also have a pretty decent sword collection (nope, I’m not a LARPer, just a collector), and am a pretty voracious reader (I recently finished Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and am halfway through Tolkien’s “Children of Hurin”).

I studied Kung-Fu for several years, but it’s been awhile since I’ve actively practiced, though I do retain the interest. These days, I just eat lots of Chinese food, and leverage that addiction by lifting weights whenever I can, which is generally 4-5 times a week. That helps me maintain my unique physique, which can best be described as “turn-of-the-century bare-knuckle brawler meets Paddington Bear.”

11) Have you played the VanBuren Alpha? If so, what were your feelings on it?

Actually, I haven’t played the Van Buren Alpha. Yet. Part of me is, of course, incredibly curious about the game. But another part of me feels like I need to keep my distance. I want to respect Van Buren for what it was, and continue with “our” Fallout 3. But ah, who am I kidding. I know I’ll play it sooner or later.

Bonus Round

What’s Your Perfect Game?

I’m Batman in a massive, open-ended Gotham, and when I’m not cruising the streets in my custom Batmobile or interrogating the inmates at Arkham Asylum, I’m back at the Batcave using my skills as the “World’s Greatest Detective” to solve the game’s great mystery. Okay, why in God’s name HASN’T this game been made?

Finally, time for a rant. Go.

Okay, this goes out to my peeps from New England. See, I grew up in Boston (go Southie!), but haven’t been home in a few years. You know what the biggest bit of culture shock has been, living outside of New England? The Chinese food is… well, it’s not right.

Okay, you’ve got to understand… In New England, a Chinese food meal consists of three primary elements – pork fried rice, chicken fingers, and boneless spareribs. You could order something else, but why would you want to? Those are the “Big Three,” the Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt of your Chinese meal. Without them? Chaos.

Now, I don’t know the origin of the standardized New England Chinese food plate, but to my knowledge, it is simply not available anywhere else in the country. You can get pork fried rice, I’ll admit – but it’s not the same. You can get chicken fingers, too, but they’re completely different (horrible breaded chicken strips as opposed to delicious tempura fried chicken strips). And boneless spareribs? You’re dreaming.

So please, if you live in New England, appreciate what you’ve got. And if you own a Chinese food restaurant in the Montgomery County region of Maryland, could you please take a trip to Boston and find out how to make REAL Chinese food?

Excelsior!

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Emil,
    I’m glad you’re looking forward to Assassin’s creed, because I want that kind of social stealth implemented in Fallout 3 and Tes 5!

  2. Hello Emil :) Lucky you seeing all those doomsday end of the world movies til you fell into a bleak black void where flesh ceased to exist and all was emotional nothingness.

    Thanks on the info about the pc game SHERLOCK HOLMES THE AWAKENED. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used to be a big love of mine when i was working in hotels when i was..younger. Never knew the game existed :) Yes i have tunnelvision when it comes to deviating from playing TES and Warhammer40k games. Not too many games that are as configurable to ones tastes as these are.

    Hope FALLOUT 3 is even more desolate like a dead world struggling on its last legs then the others were. Keeping my fingers cross the ambient sound effects will be as haunting as the creepy church bells ringing in the desert ruins in the first FALLOUT. Maybe some demented bone chilling screams and moans now and then over the airwaves from ham radios by victims of radiation would be cool.

  3. You are never forgotten Spacekungfuman! For your fists of fury and five fingers of death shine brightly across the blushing red heavily smacked up faces of your foes obliterated by your ever truthful questioning!

  4. Hi Emil

    Its nice to get to know you a little bit more mr. Lead designer. Very good of you to come forward and confess :). I hope you will take time and make some folow ups answering questions me and the rest of the mates and matesses (?) are pulling out of the loony hat in Meet the Devs.

    A few sugestions if you dont mind.

    1. Will it be possible to use Vats without it zooming into FP at all?
    It would be a nice adition if I could target and do other things in it from 3d person perspective all the way.
    It was really good to hear we will have a posibilty to zoom out.
    Great infact.

    1b. Will we be able to do any other actions while in V.A.T.S.? Take stimpaks, open inventory etc? Will those things cost AP`s too? They should, you know… but then you have to make some analog cost of it in RT too. Maybe just some time consuming animation would serve the purpose? And influence regeneration of AP`s some more maybe?

    I hope you look at the 3d person view not just as an option but as one of the strong points of the game. As it really could be.
    It realy is more immersive than FP in a way because I can clearly see where my alter ego is down there with all the fancy stuff on him/her. And that helps in role playing aspect a lot too.

    Oh yeah… it would really be nice to see some american natives around in Fallout, just a few individuals living alongside all the rest in various settlements. I missed them in previous games. And it would be cool if you named them with their true names not english translations, atleast in some cases. After all, they belong there.

  5. You should try out kebab. Awsome, even when done wrong. ;)
    Also Im bit suprised that you didnt menton Crysis, if you for some weard reason havent heard about it, you should check it out. That’s truly next-gen. :)

    Mikko

  6. Hello Emil, I enjoyed very much reading your interview, and I could estimate that not only you make what you like, but also you are work at what you like to do, at least this it was my impression(I´m sorry if it is not the case).
    My favorite game is Oblivion IV, I spent almost 13 months to finish it, since had too many details to observe, and I like to give you them thanks to you, and to all those who worked so hardly to develop this excellent game. bye and take care

  7. Pingback: Bethesda Blog » Blog Archive » Breaking and Entering: The “Pinata” Edition

  8. ou should try out kebab. Awsome, even when done wrong. ;)
    Also Im bit suprised that you didnt menton Crysis, if you for some weard reason havent heard about it, you should check it out. That’s truly next-gen. :)

  9. Will we be able to do any other actions while in V.A.T.S.? Take stimpaks, open inventory etc? Will those things cost AP`s too? They should, you know… but then you have to make some analog cost of it in RT too. Maybe just some time consuming animation would serve the purpose? And influence regeneration of AP`s some more maybe?

  10. Never knew the game existed :) Yes i have tunnelvision when it comes to deviating from playing TES and Warhammer40k games. Not too many games that are as configurable to ones tastes as these are.