Emil dropped me a note to let me know he posted in the forums today to clarify his comments a bit further as to dialogue, and what it does (or doesn’t) influence in terms of gameplay. Here’s an excerpt from his post:
I was specifically answering the question about whether or not dialogue affects the endgame. It doesn’t — not directly. The endgame itself doesn’t change based upon things you may or may not have said in dialogue. The endgame is affected by your actions. So that’s what I meant by, “We went back and forth with the impact of dialogue on the character, and ultimately decided we didn’t want to penalize or reward the player for carrying on a conversation.” And yeah, that was a pretty bad choice of words, because it seems like the things you say in dialogue don’t matter — and nothing could be further from the truth.
Believe me or not, but here’s the reality of dialogue in Fallout 3: it does matter. It matters more than dialogue in one of our games has ever mattered. I feel really comfortable saying that, because one of my responsibilities is editing and directing all the dialogue that gets written, and one of my personal crusades is pushing the NPC interactions to be more meaningful. We approached that level in Oblivion — now I really feel like we’ve truly reached it.
You can find his full post here.