What is Project Van Buren?
Project Van Buren was born in 2017 as an attempt to recreate the original Fallout 3, a 3D isometric computer role-playing game codenamed Van Buren, that was developed by now-defunct Black Isle Studios before the project’s cancellation in late 2003. Blending together the original design of the legendary role-playing masterminds and modern technologies of today, Project Van Buren aims to reimplement the once-to-be-classic sequel to Fallout 2 with utmost focus on preserving its original spirit in modern technical finish.
In spite of being still in relatively early stages od development by the time of project’s cancellation, Black Isle Studios had already managed to establish a recognizable yet unique artstyle that brought the original “retro-futurism meets Mad Max” post-apocalyptic style of Fallout and Fallout 2 into fully three-dimensional environments. Project Van Buren aims to recapture and preserve this visual presentation to the pettiest detail, staying true with the intended course of its original makers.
Reviving nearly 20 years old product inevitably brings up a lot of questions in terms of its technical implementation in modern age. We’ve been changing and shaping both tech and art to finally achieve perfect blend between old-school visuals and modern-day standards in computer graphics. We made sure the original geometry created by Black Isle Studios artists and precomputed static lighting combined with AI-enhanced textures, modern shading and realtime dynamic lighting does not harm the original aesthetics, while it makes it more visually acceptable for modern gamers.
Despite being unfinished, the production of Van Buren was foregone by an extensive pre-production process and thus most of the design had already been born before its actual implementation. In 2007, over 700 pages of the location design documents were leaked so the fans could finally get a general picture of the game’s story and narrative. We did not stop there, however. We established scarce yet very valuable contact with some of the original designers to help us fill up and resolve conflicting and/or missing information to be able to implement the game as close to the original intent as possible.
The role-playing system in Project Van Buren is a revised version of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system used in Fallout and Fallout 2. One of the major changes intended from the initial development stages was to introduce the Archetype design principle. Furthermore, being a GURPS derivate, the original S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system suffered from several TT-artifacts and balance issues such as non-uniform difficulty scale, a high number of relatively useless skills, armors and damage calculations inbalance, etc. The resulting overhaul, designed mostly by J.E.Sawyer, aims to bring robustness and a more systemic approach into S.P.E.C.I.A.L. role-playing system.
Despite not being fully emphasised by some of the Black Isle Studios developers, the original Fallout 3 was supposed to introduce a real-time with pause combat system in addition to the previously used turn-based system, providing players with ability to choose between the two. We decided to follow this trail and implement both combat systems as it was intended, while retaining game system design emphasis primarily on turn-based system.