Project Spotlight: Fallout New California

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Fallout New California is a massive mod project for Fallout New Vegas. After 5 years in the making, the team has announced its release date and - if all goes well - come 23rd October, we will all be able to enjoy a brand new story with 12 endings and over 16,000 lines of dialogue.

Today we are joined by the project lead Thaiauxn to talk about this massive endeavour.


To start off, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got started with modding in the first place?

I am Brandan Lee, I run Radian Helix Media, a group of visual artists primarily for film, but I'm aiming to get into games full time.

I started making mods back in the 90s, starting with Total Annihilation and Mech Warrior 2's community editing programs. I also made some map packs for StarCraft and other games. Then I got into RPG Maker XP for a while.

I made and edited maps for the mod Battlezone II: Forgotten Enemies as a kid, and that was the first time I saw a mod team make a full campaign for a game. That was all during Highschool or before. But that total conversion told me that a mod like FNC was possible.

Eventually I picked up the GECK for Fallout 3 in 2010, learned a little bit of how it works, then later in 2012 came back and started New California. I’ve been juggling the mod, which more or less took over all my free time the past 4-5 years, and work as a remote VFX artist ever since.


Fallout New California has garnered much attention: PC Gamer, Polygon, and Eurogamer have written articles on it, and your latest trailer has over 400,000 views on YouTube. For those who are yet unaware, how would you describe New California and can you give us some insights into the story - without spoiling anything, of course?

New California is an all new campaign built in the New Vegas engine. It takes place 20 years before Fallout New Vegas in 2260, just decades after the events in Fallout 2 while the New California Republic is expanding eastward, before meeting the Legion and before Bitter Springs, right at the end of the Enclave and Brotherhood wars.


You start out an adopted resident of Vault 18, and after some early quests you end up in the wasteland dealing with the aftermath of the NCR's ravenous expansion, corrupt Mob politicians, a Raider Alliance full of those fleeing the NCR pacification wave, and many others. Then the mod ends in New Vegas in one of 12 ways.


New California is set up as a prequel to Fallout New Vegas with brand new locations and a massive, branched story. What was it that inspired you to make a prequel to New Vegas, rather than, let’s say, a sequel or a completely independent story?

Originally it was a unique and independent story. But after Project Brazil came out, which as basically our demo/prototype, a lot of people wanted a way to tie it into New Vegas, so that is now an option in our main campaign.

FNC ties events from Fallout 1 and 2 into Fallout 3 and New Vegas in a lore friendly way that to me as a fan of the originals and the new games feels really good. It’s just a snapshot of events in one valley called The Pass, but all the loose threads come together right there that send them back to the Bethesda era from the Black Isle era. 


Ian, Nick, Carl, Nino, and Andre from 6 Finger Discount provided voice roles for the project.

Other than a new story and adventure, are there any big changes to, let’s say, the core gameplay of the base game? Will we have new gear and toys to play with?

There’s so much gear and new stuff it’s incalculable. But that wasn’t the focus of FNC. All new gameplay features are story based as opposed to making global gameplay changes. If you want global gameplay changes you can use our recommended mods.

But the way we handle SPECIAL stats and SKILLS is much different. We treat your SPECIAL stats as ubiquitous elements of your personal character, in how you interact with other characters and the world. So your personality as a charming charismatic or a more aggressive strongman, a clever intelligent genius or a total idiot, etc. Those both flavor the responses you get to things you can say, ad open and close doors in conversation, letting you access unique paths you may not have available.

Skills like speech then become about giving a legitimate SPEECH, like to an audience, which you have five opportunities to use in the mod, the success or failure of which determines how the crowd reacts to your leadership. Repair and science and barter then become more about, “yes, I can do this,” or, “no, I need another way to accomplish this.”

That’s unique in almost all games I’ve played and I plan to improve on it again in the future. 


You set out to create Fallout New California 5 years ago. Can you tell us a bit about what motivated you to jump into this grand undertaking?

I wanted to learn how to make games. I needed something creative that could showcase my talents and abilities that I could do largely on my own with some friends on the internet. I realized after several years of film-making that the crowd of people I was establishing myself in was not healthy, and while it had the facade of progress, there was no genuine opportunity for advancement. They were just using you and planning to keep you stuck while talking up those pseudo-opportunities. So I moved back to my hometown a couple times to avoid taking on too much debt and doing work there; and the only thing I could think of was to start modding again.

 

Modding took all the voice talent I knew, all the technical art skills I had amassed, and my storytelling and put it into one place.  It was the best way to make something from nothing but what I had at hand, for free. And since the assets were already in New Vegas we could use that as a much much better starting place than making an engine from scratch or building all the mechanics into Unity or Unreal or Godot.


For such a massive project you, obviously, need a team, voice actors, artists etc. How many people would you say are in your “core” team and what was the “recruiting” process like?

I consider the core team the ones doing the work in the GECK. So that means me and Rick are the two core team members on FNC doing all the heavy lifting day to day.

Rick handles all version control and our key architecture, where I am the content producer doing the technical and creative art. We then do all our own QA in our respective fields, all our own social media, leadership, and our community management.

We then have a little community of friends and collaborators who work outside the GECK producing music and editing audio, and we collaborate with other large mod projects and the rare donation of a pre-made community asset from Nexus or Turbosquid. We also share a lot with the Frontier and TTW teams, the Niftools community, and my home theater and film community here in Tucson, Arizona: Full credit list of Fallout New California contributors. 

I recruited by inviting people onto the team and forming a community around it.


Five years of development is a long time for a mod project. It reminds me of Enderal - a game based on Skyrim’s engine that took a staggering 8 years to develop. What would you say were the main struggles, trials, and tribulations during all these years, and what made you guys persevere?

I spent about 5 days working for Enderal on their english voice acting. I took four of our actors from New California and recorded them for Enderal, and sent them in. Sure AI is legendary. I still keep in touch with Johannes and Nik from time to time on Facebook, they’re awesome.

The biggest struggle was just capturing and retaining people. No one here is getting paid and very little of the mod was paid for, so it’s literally fueled 100% by sweat and determination. People think sweat and determination are “free,” but they cost biological energy. That’s genuine physical and emotional stress.

 

There is no feeling worse in the world than working so hard on something you love that doesn’t pay you. But in the end, it is what you make of it. So just staying determined and not tapping out -- that’s the hardest part of everything in life. But all the good things in life come to you when you accept that responsibility and never quit. Everything is locked on the other side of that resistance, so you just keep going and be thankful for the ones who stick it out with you along the way.


How do you organise the workflow and what did you learn about managing such a big project over the years?

A core design document and daily communication with Rick and our Team via email or Discord. Rick and I know what we are doing in the document. That is our blueprint.

I wrote the story as a narrative first in a 1-4 paragraph synopsis at the top of every document, then Rick or I broke down every planned stage of the document, then finally spent the rest of the document writing the names of conditions and dialogue topics, then finally writing the entire game’s branch dialogue start to finish.

We then translate all that into the engine by importing the dialogue in the form of those TopicIDs and script together the topics with quest stages, conditions, and variables. Rick assigns all the actual code that the game then uses to fire AI packages, events, and quest handling and fills in creative details as they appear, or bounces them to me to make more content.

 

Then I would go through and establish all the level designs as a rough blockout, using greyboxes or temp vanilla assets to build the worldspace.

Over the next 5 years as Rick scripted the main quest, I got it all voiced, I was making 3D art and keeping myself busy doing level art and character stuff, inventing new tasks for myself and roping in anyone willing to help, like Jamilla Humphrey and Jack wong who helped with a lot of our animated resources and vfx, or Pablo Cortina and Martin Purvis who did some writing and musical scores.

Editing all the dialogue was the hardest part for me. It was greuling. 16,825 lines. Mark Hickman’s editing was invaluable, he did probably a good 25-30% of the voice editing, supplemented on a per-character basis by Quinn, Dustin, and Scott. But the rest was me, and I also handled virtually all casting, scheduling, recording, and data handling by myself.

Rick and I could organize the narrative easily, but the rest of the production absolutely needed more team leads to manage the coordination of the art and administration. That was all jazz. We made it up as we went.


In one of our past interviews we spoke to TheModernStoryTeller - a modder turned indie developer. Do you and/or your team have any plans of maybe branching out into game development in the future as well?

Yep. I have design documents for 3 more games:

Project Morganshir - A Survival Tactical RPG set on the ruins of a massive alien megastructure, somewhere between Rimworld and Don’t Starve.

Project JINN - a Hand to Hand Melee RPG with the narrative dialogue of Fallout and the gameplay of Bungie’s Oni, set in a cyberpunk post-apocalyptic dystopian subterranean city.

Project Shadow Star - a First Person Starship Simulator set in a complex political universe packed with character and lore, with ship to ship combat like if Mothership Zeta were more like Mechwarrior meets Fallout.



I hope to start the first one right after FNC releases. Unless a studio hires me, then I’ll go work in AAA for a few years, ship a title or two, then start my studio back up and make my games with more of a history shipping games for profit to make these three.

Which is a good 15-20 years of work right there.


Do you have any advice for modders out there who want to accomplish what you have accomplished?

If you’re going to do this and you’re serious, you need to remember two things: Never ask anyone to do something you would not or cannot do yourself. Because you will probably be the one who ends up doing it. And: remember to take burnout into consideration, because you will get exhausted, you will want to stop, you will hit roadblocks, and life will come to get you. Balance this with your daily exercise and diet, stay in contact with your social life, and make paying work a priority first.

You eventually have to just accept that it will take as long as it will take, and not try to force your team to go faster. It’ll get done when it gets done and there’s nothing you can do to expedite that except do it yourself or cut/redesign content.

The sooner you accept that the better.


Is there anything else you would like to say to the community about Fallout New California, or in general?

Support your community of indie developers and modders.  The era of publishers is dead. You are the producers now. Pay for things you want to exist. Don’t pay for things you want to abort. Accept the risks and responsibilities therein. Simple as that. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Hope you enjoy New California this October.

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Thanks a lot to Thaiauxn for taking the time to talk to us, and we are all looking forward to Fallout New California! As always: If there's an author or mod project you'd like to know more about, send your suggestions to BigBizkit or Pickysaurus. 

88 comments

  1. Fecler
    Fecler
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    so I downloaded it with NMM, but when I tried to activate it (200 first, as they said to) I got an activation error and it wont work.

    what do
    1. mario58791
      mario58791
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      Read the description it says NMM and FOMM don't work for that exact reason. You must use Vortex or MO2.
    2. Thaiauxn
      Thaiauxn
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      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XBpyRfK4Ok

      That should help!
  2. DICKSUCKING3
    DICKSUCKING3
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    damn, every time I download it, my computer says this download file is corrupt. i also tried downloading it on modmd and it saysd the same, mabie its my computer..
    1. Thaiauxn
      Thaiauxn
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      It's likely corrupted download. There is a torrent available online.
  3. JoeyG0933
    JoeyG0933
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    This looks absolutely amazing. My compliments to the creators.
  4. Piyush1991
    Piyush1991
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    Many thanks to you.. I wish you all deserve much more than fallout 76 ... this is very exciting
  5. Eslobo
    Eslobo
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    does anybody know what this frontier mod they talk about in the faq for new california is??

    "Yes. You can play FNC -> FNV -> FTF in one big long save game. (The more mods you have the higher the probability of corruption.)"
  6. 50mk
    50mk
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    can't wait
    1. Eslobo
      Eslobo
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      you dont need to wait, its out now!!
  7. catburger123
    catburger123
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    A few places to get FNC

    Hosted here: https://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/45138/

    and here: www.moddb.com/mods/falloutprojectbrazil

    torrent: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/492201348733861900/504207911942225920/Fallout_New_California_BETA_201.torrent
  8. 516785e
    516785e
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    YA QUIERO JUGAR!! :D
  9. 516785e
    516785e
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    OMG, Will it be released tomorrow ?? :D
  10. noahthegrey
    noahthegrey
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    • 221 posts
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    Hi. Noahth3grey here. I played your mod when it was still called Project Brazil and i was fascinated by the fact that it looked like an actual fallout game from the immersion, the gameplay, the dlc sized experience, it's so good. I cannot wait to play this mod for myself again when the full version comes out.
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