Vault 13: A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure
|This page is about the game itself. For an overview of our Fallout-related articles, see Portal:Fallout.|
A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure
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Vault 13: A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure, later Fallout: A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure, was an early version of Fallout that utilized the Generic Universal Role Playing System (GURPS) by Steve Jackson Games.
History of losing the license
On June 11, 1996, Bob Apthorpe reported that SJG received more screenshots of GURPS Fallout, noting that the game will be as true to the real GURPS "as a computer version can be. Interplay is paying close attention to the rules and plans on fully supporting the reaction rules (in case anyone takes a Charismatic, Very Beautiful character with Voice and Sex Appeal."
On January 13, 1997, Steve Jackson reported on the SJG website that Fallout is rolling along, scheduled for an April release and mentioning that SJ Games received an alpha version for in-house evaluation. He was not aware that a month later, Interplay would release a statement that the license would fall through.
To this day, the precise reasons behind Interplay and Steve Jackson parting ways remain unclear. Scott Campbell claimed in The Origins of Fallout that Steve Jackson Games did not approve the violent intro in Fallout and that the game would likely have to be remade in order to retain the license. However, Sean Punch, GURPS Line Editor at Steve Jackson Games, remarked in an interview with RPG Codex that he is "skeptical of claims that a single cut scene, loading screen, dialog line, etc. caused the parting of ways". He has also stated that the issue that was cited as a reason for the abandoning of the license was "that the license didn't word the approval process in a way that was good for either party" and that it was ultimately easier to remake the RPG elements than rewrite the licensing agreement with all the legal wrangling involved..
Regardless of the reason, Interplay claimed in an official statement that this was a mutually agreed decision, Steve Jackson, in a February 12, 1997, statement released through The Daily Illuminator on the Steve Jackson Games website stated that he wish he knew why Interplay decided to drop the license, and that no official correspondence to that effect was received by that date. It was a surprise to the Fallout development team as well. In a subsequent meeting with Tim Cain, he made a lot of concessions to save the project and the implementation of GURPS created by the development team. However, the decision was handled by the executives of Interplay and Cain or the Fallout developers had no vote in the matter. On March 14, 1997, Steve Jackson received a phone call confirming that GURPS was being dropped, as the development team was told to remove all licensed content and was too far along creating a replacement (SPECIAL) and redoing art assets for them to return to GURPS. The caller laughed when Jackson asked to receive a confirmation in writing, saying that he would "see" if he could send a formal letter confirming this. The unilateral dropping of GURPS after three years of cooperation soured Jackson's relations with Interplay.
As Fallout is identical to the GURPS game in all but the character system, this article focuses on the implementation of the GURPS system. Recreation of mechanics bases on the GURPS Lite free source book and other available materials, like Roleplayer #8, Roleplayer #4, Roleplayer #1, and other online supplements released by SJG. It is important to note that for the purposes of the game, all social standing, appearance, and other variables usually listed in GURPS source books separately are instead divided into Advantages or Disadvantages.
The following screenshots come from the official press pack and demonstrate the GURPS interface.
- Strength (ST), a measure of “brawn” or physical muscle.
- Dexterity (DX), a measure of agility and coordination.
- Intelligence (IQ), a measure of brainpower, alertness, adaptability and general background experience.
- Health (HT), a measure of energy and vitality. HT also stands for “hits” – the amount of physical damage a character can take.
An attribute of 1 is the lowest score, with no upper limit. 10 is the average ability and is the default setting. 8 to 12 is considered normal. 16 and above are unusual. Ratings of 20 and more are equal to superhuman ability.
A self-explanatory section. Unlike SPECIAL, GURPS has a lot of skills the player can acquire. According to available data, the player would have been able to select a total of 56 skills. This was cut down to just 19, a little over one third of what the GURPS builds, in the released game.
Indirectly, this also explains why the game seems slanted so heavily towards a particular playstyle, namely, a character with Speech tagged. Conversations which would normally require one of eight separate skills (estimation according to the purposes of various social skills in the game) just require one: Speech. There is no other skill that has such utility and versatility in the game.
Advantages and Disadvantages
These act like Traits, in that they help define the character. Advantages are explictly positive, while disadvantages quite the opposite. Most were merged into Traits or recycled into perks, if not verbatim, then the underlying principles.
|Image||Name||Status in Fallout|
|Acute Hearing||Removed from the game|
|Acute Taste/Smell||Removed from the game|
|Acute Vision||Image used for Awareness.|
|Alertness (GURPS)||Image used for Perception, general principle used for Awareness.|
|Ambidexterity||Removed, image recycled for Fast Shot.|
|Charisma (GURPS)||Remade into Charisma.|
|Combat Reflexes||Recycled into generic combat perks.|
|Common Sense||Removed from the game|
|Danger Sense||Recycled into generic combat perks.|
|Eideric Memory||Removed from the game|
|Empathy (GURPS)||Recycled as the Empathy perk, image reused for Animal Friend.|
|Handsome||Removed from the game|
|High Pain Threshold||Image recycled for damage resistance.|
|Intuition||Removed from the game|
|Literacy||Image used for Intelligence.|
|Lucky (GURPS)||Folded into Luck as an attribute. Image unused.|
|Night Vision (GURPS)||Recycled into the Night Vision perk.|
|Peripheral Vision||Removed from the game|
|Rapid Healing||Image recycled for healing rate.|
|Strong Will||Removed from the game.|
|Toughness (GURPS)||Recycled into the Toughness perk.|
|Voice||Image recycled for the Speaker perk.|
|Image||Name||Status in Fallout|
|Bad Breath||Removed from the game|
|Bad Temper||Removed from the game|
|Berserker (GURPS)||Removed, image reused for the kill counter.|
|Bloodlust||Image recycled for the Berserker reputation.|
|Code of Honor||Removed from the game|
|Colorblindness||Removed from the game|
|Combat Paralysis||Removed from the game|
|Compulsive Lying||Removed from the game|
|Delusions||Removed from the game|
|Dulled Nose||Removed from the game|
|Gullibility||Removed from the game|
|Hard of Hearing||Removed from the game|
|Honesty||Removed from the game|
|Lecherousness||Removed from the game|
|Low Pain Threshold||Removed from the game|
|Nose Picking||Removed from the game|
|One Eye||Recycled as image for crippled eyes.|
|Overweight||Removed from the game|
|Pacifism||Removed from the game/recycled into Good Natured.|
|Phobias||Removed from the game. Owing to the number of calls to it, there were three specific phobias in the game.|
|Sense of Duty||Removed from the game|
|Skinny||Removed from the game|
|Stuttering||Removed from the game|
|Truthfulness||Removed from the game|
|Ugly||Removed from the game|
|Unluckiness||Folded into Luck, together with the image.|
|Weak Will||Removed from the game|
Quirks are additional elements that define a character in GURPS. While the game files contain an image referring to them explicitly, it is unknown if they would be implemented, given that certain quirks, like Delusions, have been folded into disadvantages.
While the general gameplay between the games remains identical, there are some differences. For starters, the game still used the triangle menu for deciding on the type of interaction the player wanted to have with the target object or character.
Another difference is that there was a single item field divided into two halves, representing the player's hands. This indicates that it was, at one time, possible to fire two single handed weapons (hence the Ambidexterity advantage). Unlike the final product, where the player has two active item slots to use and allowed to freely switch between them, in the GURPS version the player would have to switch weapons by entering the inventory.
The SkillDex was completely different and allowed the player to view all of the skills, advantages, and disadvantages in a separate window, apparently assign them to six different quick use slots, and access the character sheet (it was not accessible from the main interface bar).
Interestingly, the screens also indicate that the player would be able to directly select the skill to use in a given setting, as well as allow the game to choose it for them (the Auto setting).
Combat was majorly different, due to the use of Fatigue Points (FT) on top of Hit Points, as well as including disadvantages that can severely cripple the character in combat - including Combat Paralysis.
There were also more options for calling shots, including aiming for feet and hands, the neck, and even the brain. The groin was referred to as vitals. Another interesting feature is that the game included many of the combat maneuvers that make GURPS famous (and slow to play), including Step & Attack, Step & Ready, Aim, Move, and so on and so forth. These were accessible through a button now used to access the SkillDex.
As part of Fallout's 10th anniversary celebration, The Vault has acquired two prototype images of the GURPS variant of Fallout, released to us by Chris Taylor. They come from a time when Scott Campbell still handled the game's design.
- Fallout's 10th anniversary at No Mutants Allowed
- Mirror of the Fallout: A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure official website at Duck and Cover
- The Daily Illuminator: "June 11, 1996
GURPS Fallout Update!
We've got some good news - we've just received more screen shots of GURPS Fallout, the first GURPS computer role-playing game from Interplay Productions.
Fallout is planned for Windows 95 release, with a DOS version very likely. A Macintosh version is expected from Macplay.
"How true to the real GURPS will Fallout be?" you might ask. Very close. As close as a computer version can be. Interplay is paying close attention to the rules and plans on fully supporting the reaction rules (in case anyone takes a Charismatic, Very Beautiful character with Voice and Sex Appeal.)
For more info, check out the GURPS Fallout FAQ."
- The Daily Illuminator: "January 13, 1997
GURPS Fallout Progress Report
Interplay's GURPS Fallout computer game is rolling along - it's scheduled for an April release. Here's an article about it, and an interview with Tim Cain, the producer.
SJ Games has an alpha version in house for evaluation - we'll tell you more soon."
- No Mutants Allowed, The Origins of Fallout, Scott Campbell: "So, Leonard and Jason had just completed the opening movie for the game. It was a slow pan-out from an old 50's style black and white television showing quick documentary style scenes that silently gave the player an idea of the dystopian future they were about to step into. In one of these quick scenes, two soldiers in power-armor shoot a kneeling and unarmed man in the back of the head, and then gleefully wave to the camera. It was a tiny scene, but one that let you know that you were about to play a violent game. We all liked the movie and, just to keep Steve Jackson Games in the loop, a copy was sent to them.
And then it happened. The response came back "Unapproved". The reason? They stated that "The movie was too violent".
Whaaaaa? Too Violent!? Haven't they been looking at the game we'd been making!? There was blood and violence all over the place! We had Head Of Gore TechnologyTM! You could split people in two with a chainsaw for chrissake!
Apparently they hadn't been looking at the game we'd been making. All of that "The more violence the better" stuff was long forgotten. With that rejection it became apparent the game would need dramatic changes to get approval from our IP holder.
A decision had to be made: Keep GURPS, abandoning our creative freedom and yielding to the mercurial whims of the licensor - or throw out all of the mechanics and interface we made functional in the game and start over.
And thus, the SPECIAL System was born, and both problems, IP rights and overly complex game system, were removed in one stroke.
The SPECIAL system was almost identical to the "GURPS-Lite" system that we had been implementing, so in the end, what could have been a big setback was in actuality an enormous boon. "
- RPGcodex, Sean Punch interview: "Fallout 1 was initially supposed to utilize GURPS for its rule system, but in the end it did not. The only information we have been able to find on the subject is that SJ Games were concerned about the amount of blood and gore in the game. Can you tell us more about why a GURPS Fallout failed to happen?
SP: Ultimately, the issue was that the license didn't word the approval process in a way that was good for either party, and it was simply easier to design a new RPG engine than to redo the licensing agreement and all of the approvals. That might sound extreme, but the RPG elements of a CRPG are minor next to the storyboards, level designs, visuals, audio, and all that other good stuff. Whether the specific concern that led to the discovery of the approval issue was somebody at SJ Games disliking blood and gore, I cannot say -- I did not then and do not now handle licensing, and I never saw so much as a screenshot at the time. I can say that geeky guys at my own pay grade on both sides regretted seeing the plug pulled, but apparently my bosses and their bosses viewed that as the right move for financial reasons. To this day, I remain skeptical of claims that a single cut scene, loading screen, dialog line, etc. caused the parting of ways."
- The Daily Illuminator: "February 12, 1997
Rumor Control about Interplay
Executive Summary: We wish we knew.
I had problems with a couple of features of the otherwise very impressive alpha version of GURPS Fallout. As I corresponded with Interplay staff about this, I got handed up the ladder but their responses remained puzzling -- and that is the most detail I'm going to give for now.
Just before leaving for Europe last week, I got a call from a reporter asking me to comment on the Interplay decision to drop GURPS. I told him this was the first I'd heard of it. Calling Interplay, and talking with the last man I'd corresponded with, I got first "We haven't decided that, where'd you hear it?," then "Well, we have been talking about it and somebody must have gotten the idea it was decided," and finally "Yes, we have decided to drop it, so sorry."
The statement on the Interplay web site, to the effect that this was a mutual decision of SJ Games and Interplay, is not true. Scott Haring tells me that no written correspondence from Interplay has YET been received at our office. We are not clear what their proposal to finish and release the game without the license entails, for us or for the game, and have absolutely not agreed to it.
I can't imagine how Interplay could take three years working on a GURPS. computer game, and then be able to create and install a completely dissimilar game engine in a few months. Nor have I read (or heard) any explanation of how they might plan to do that. So "no comment" on that for now, too.
I've been invited to meet with Brian Fargo, who I understand owns Interplay, when I'm in LA in a few days. I'll be very interested to see what he has to say. I hope we will be able to announce that this was a tempest in a teacup."
- The Daily Illuminator: "Yes, I visited Interplay while I was on the West Coast. Marathon six-hour negotiating session with the programmer who is now in charge of the FALLOUT project. Clearly all the original problems could be resolved; I made a lot of concessions because I want to save the project. The GURPS implementation they've created is *worth* saving. But their decision won't be made by the programmers. All I can say is "wait and see."
- The Daily Illuminator: "March 14, 1997
I just got a phone call from my contact at Interplay, telling me that they were indeed dropping the GURPS system from the project which has been going forward as GURPS Fallout since 1994. Sigh. The stated reason was that they were "too far along" with the process of deGURPSizing the game. I asked if I could get any of this in writing. He laughed. But he said he'd talk with others there and "see" if he could send me a letter.
He also stated that Interplay was still interested in starting a new game using the GURPS system, and I replied that I would look at a proposal. But the saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me" comes to mind.
I'll be at the Computer Game Developers Conference this April, and it looks like I'll have a lot to talk about with the companies represented there."