Fallout: New Vegas key art combined with a Van Buren screenshot

How an Abandoned Fallout Game Inspired New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas is one of the most acclaimed entries in the post-apocalyptic video game franchise. But did you know that New Vegas was inspired by another, abandoned Fallout project?

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How Van Buren Inspired Fallout: New Vegas

The title screen for Van Buren, Black Isle Studios' cancelled version of Fallout 3

Fallout: New Vegas is based in part on Van Buren: Black Isle Studios’ unfinished version of Fallout 3. Black Isle pulled the plug on Van Buren (the project’s codename, rather than its actual title) in 2003, after its parent company, Interplay Entertainment, hit the skids. Interplay subsequently sold the Fallout rights to Bethesda Softworks. Bethesda then produced its own, entirely separate version of Fallout 3 via its development division, Bethesda Game Studios, in 2008. Following that game’s critical and commercial success, Bethesda — already knee-deep in development on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — hired Obsidian Entertainment to oversee a spinoff, Fallout: New Vegas.

Related: Obsidian Is Eager to Make a New Fallout Game, If the Opportunity Arises

So, where does Van Buren come into the mix? Several Obsidian staffers, including director Josh Sawyer and writer Chris Avellone, worked on Van Buren. So, when it came time to flesh out Fallout: New Vegas, they revisited their original plans. Van Buren characters and concepts they carried across to New Vegas include companion Joshua Graham, Caesar’s Legion, and the NCR-Brotherhood War. The Hoover Dam is a key locale in both Van Buren and New Vegas, too. Obsidian also incorporated the robust faction mechanics planned for Van Buren (but absent from Fallout 3), coupled with a greater emphasis on moral ambiguity.

Did Obsidian Cut Any Van Buren Concepts From Fallout: New Vegas?

Probably needless to say, loads of stuff from Van Buren didn’t make it into Fallout: New Vegas. For one thing, the former’s setting would’ve been markedly different from the latter’s. While New Vegas is limited to Nevada, Arizona, and California, Van Buren would’ve encompassed more territory. In addition to Nevada and Arizona, Black Isle would’ve shunted players off to Colorado and Utah. As such, Van Buren‘s overarching plot didn’t revolve around the fate of New Vegas (which didn’t even appear in the game). Instead, the ultimate objective was preventing a mad scientist from launching a Wasteland-wide nuclear strike from space. What’s more, the player character in Van Buren was a prisoner, not a courier.

Not all the Van Buren material that wound up Fallout: New Vegas was identical to what Black Isle originally conceived, either. Notably, Joshua Graham’s characterization and backstory were dramatically different in Van Buren. Whereas Van Buren‘s Graham was borderline irredeemable, his New Vegas counterpart is torn between his faith in God and his thirst for righteous vengeance. He was also known by the alias “The Hanged Man” in Van Buren, due to players first encountering Graham dangling from a noose.

Fallout: New Vegas is available now on Windows, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5.


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Leon Miller
Leon is a freelance contributor at The Escapist, covering movies, TV, video games, and comics. Active in the industry since 2016, Leon's previous by-lines include articles for Polygon, Popverse, Screen Rant, CBR, Dexerto, Cultured Vultures, PanelxPanel, Taste of Cinema, and more.