Before Bethesda took over the rights to the Fallout franchise, Black Isle almost completed their own version of the third installment in the series, known as Van Buren project. This story is far from obscure; fans could even test the tech demo making rounds on the Internet. But Feargus Urquhart, the co-founder and CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, and before that a Black Isle employee, has revealed in an interview for IGN that even prior to the works on Van Buren, the devs had been creating a different version of Fallout 3.
The first approach to the third installment in the postapocalyptic series took place right after the second one was released. Urquhart reveals that already at that time – near the end of the ‘90s – his team was planning to introduce the third dimension into the game. “Now 3D was the cool stuff,” he recalls. “We actually started working with this 3D technology called NDL”. What’s interesting, NDL later evolved into the Gamebryo engine, used by Bethesda when developing Fallout 3. As for the project by Black Isle, it fell victim to the financial problems of Interpay, the publisher of the series. That’s how the early version of the third Fallout became a foundation of another title, namely Icewind Dale, which – as per Urquhart’s intentions – was to serve as counterbalance for BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate. The production in question became another smash hit in the studio’s portfolio, but it never became a cult classic like the Fallout series.
You know the rest of the story: Interplay sank deeper and deeper, which resulted in cancelling several projects by Black Isle and letting go a big number of employees. Eventually, in 2003, Urquhart decided to team up with a couple of colleagues and set up his own independent studio called Obsidian Entertainment. They later released hits such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords or Pillars of Eternity. Black Isle was shut down, and Interplay had to sell the right to Fallout to Bethesda to save itself from bankruptcy.
Feargus Urquhart will be a guest on the next episode of IGN’s video series called IGN Unfiltered, which is to be published on Tuesday. It’s possible that he’ll reveal even more interesting facts about Black Isle and Obsidian Entertainment – or perhaps even shed some light on Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, which was announced last week.