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Mountains to molerathills: Squeezing the Mojave desert into Fallout: New Vegas

Two devs behind Fallout: New Vegas share how they compressed an expansive desert into a Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3-sized open world game without losing its charm.
"Any developer who is like ‘Hey, we’re going to do this thing in the game that’s very complicated and reactive’, the best way of managing the risk for that would be to look at other things that are potentially complicated and reduce the complexity of them. It’s triage.”

- Josh Sawyer explains the tricky balance devs have to maintain when developing on a tight schedule

PCGamesN took some time to chat with some of the developers behind Fallout: New Vegas and collect some of their stories and memorable moments. The full piece itself is brimming with charming anecdotes and memories from a uniquely game dev point of view, but one particular snippet explores how Obsidian molded the landscapes found within the post-apocalyptic game.

Scott Everts, the lead world builder on New Vegas, explains that the team found real satellite date online for Las Vegas and the surrounding area and was able to import it into the game and scale it down. As you’d expect, that led to its own sort of issues with geographic features that were suddenly too large or comically small. 

“The Colorado River was pretty funny, because we scaled it down and everything seemed to feel pretty good in terms of traversal, then you go to the Colorado River and you could jump across it,” lead designer Josh Sawyer added. “The scale was reduced down so much, so Scott had to do some surgery and kind of expand the Colorado River and Lake Mead so it wasn’t just this puddle.”

The pair explains that they also had to tweak the environments and the size of the overworld in order to keep the game functioning on consoles. In the final game, certain cities require entering a gate and sitting through a loading screen that might not have been necessary if the game had been a PC only title.

Part of the reason the team had to be so mindful of performance for Fallout: New Vegas was thanks to some of the games more memorable features like eternally wondering NPCs and a surprisingly intricate faction system. You can find stories about both those quirks and more in the full conversation on PCGamesN.

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