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Mothership Zeta

Istvan Pely, Lead Artist

I've always wanted to know the story behind Recon Craft Theta. Finding a crashed UFO in the middle of the Wasteland would pique any explorer's curiosity. The pilot's corpse you find is clearly alien, and his technology is clearly quite advanced, given the deadly effectiveness of a certain gadget you find here. Yet the fact remains that this spacecraft, advanced or not, is lying smashed in a ditch just northeast of nowhere. And the story might have ended here, if not for the faint garbled radio transmission your Pip-Boy picks up from the UFO's distress beacon. If your primitive bit of technology can detect the beacon, there's little doubt that "others" are listening as well.

And with that begins the Vault Dweller's final and most fantastical adventure in the Capital Wasteland, or rather several hundred miles far above it. The concept of the UFO visit emerged early in the idea-toss sessions we had for DLC, in fact it was the very first thing to pop into my mind; it just seemed a natural fit. But we saved it for last, as a fitting conclusion to the Vault Dweller's story. The whole "where no man has gone…" business and all that. It's a fresh new venue with completely original environments to explore, hopefully instilling a sense of discovery of the unknown. It starts with an abduction, and your ultimate goal is to regain your freedom. But, if you play your cards right, you'll have a pretty massive item of loot to call your own (with an infinitely massive place to keep it).

You will, of course, have some help along the way. Brian Chapin, Lead Designer on Zeta, has provided a colorful cast of characters to meet, some more helpful than others. And you're probably going to need some assistance, as the alien crew isn't entirely happy with your presence and they're not about to make your escape easy. The Mothership is essentially one very large and treacherous gauntlet, and you can thank Phil Nelson, Zeta's Lead Level Designer, and his team for that. My recommendation is to take your time and explore every dark corner and every innocuous-looking telepad of this vessel, there's some things you wouldn't want to miss.

Mothership Zeta Concept

So, after five new adventures for the intrepid explorer from Vault 101, what stories are left to tell? Well, all of this content is produced by a talented team of creative individuals who each have their own personal story to tell with the work they do. You've already had some pretty detailed insight into the DLC development process in past dev diaries, with Jeff Gardiner's perspective from a production standpoint, Jeff Browne and Alan Nanes talking about the intricacies of design, and Joel Burgess and Nate McDyer going into fascinating detail on creating a living world. Now let's look at how a bunch of diverse individuals each contribute something unique and valuable to the final product.

Take Zeta's art team, the department that's nearest and dearest to my heart. When you play Mothership Zeta, know that the intricately designed Alien weaponry, every chrome-plated screw in that shiny new Atomizer, has been painfully labored over by Dane Olds, our weapons guru. That massive death-ray gun mounted to the Zeta's outside hull? Let's just say Clara Struthers was giddy with excitement with the opportunity to build, well, a freaking death-ray cannon. And that one crazy room with hundreds of those... well, you'll know it when you see it. You can thank Clara's initiative for that one as well. When Liz Beetem was tasked with making a space suit, she asked if she could instead work on the Samurai armor instead. I can see why, I don't think it could be any more authentic-looking than it is.

As you explore the ship you might notice all those bizarre alien trinkets and gadgets lying around. You might wonder why exactly the aliens are so messy. Well, Robert Wisnewski, our King of Clutter, is one of the reasons why everyone in the Fallout universe is a slob, human or not. I remember Tony Greco, after a discussion on what kind of food these aliens eat, walking away with a sinister chuckle after the conclusion was reached: It's probably pretty disgusting, see what you can come up with.

Mothership Zeta Concept

Rafael Vargas, the man behind some of the ship's most visually arresting areas, also had the joy of figuring out how to make a table and other various furniture look 'alien.' And no, just making it shiny chrome with glowy bits won't do. Also, if you're wondering why a particular contraption in one room looks like a giant table saw, well, I don't think Rashad Redic intended this to be where they teach shop class. Rashad, along with Nate McDyer, is also one of our key lighting designers (and to this day continues to try to sneak purple lights in, thinking I won't notice).

Then there's the animation crew, Juan Sanchez who animated the Aliens in such a way they seem boneless (which is just creepy) and Gary Noonan as always on weapons animation duty, often dashing Dane's dreams with a dose of technical reality. And how do you express terror with only two (first person) hands to work with? Just ask Jangjoon Cha, our go-to animation master for depicting an abduction in action.

Finally, I'd like to point out Mark Teare, an FX artist that just recently joined us during Point Lookout's development, who, for only his second project here, was responsible for a list of special effects that probably totaled more than the four previous DLC's combined. The artistry and technical trickery in his work is stunning, and it really comes to life with a spine-tingling soundtrack by Mark Lampert, our tireless audio ninja. Though he actually did look a bit tired after this project's tight schedule.

Mothership Zeta Concept

So that's just a behind-the-scenes peek at the Zeta group (and the sound guy too). There's countless more who are essential to the DLC development process here, like the often thankless roles of our iron-fisted producers Angela Browder and Nate McDyer, not to mention the neighboring departments of Zeta's Designers (Brian Chapin, Jon Paul Duval and Alan Nanes) and Level Designers (Phil Nelson, Daryl Brigner, Jeff Browne, Joel Burgess, and Jesse Tucker) whose lives seem centered around giving artists lots of neat stuff to make. Finally, Matt Killmon, tucked away in the rat's nest of cables in the video editing booth, is assembling a slick trailer to give the world a first look of the game in action.

At the end of the day, as if by magic, all of this comes together in a consumable form that is hopefully entertaining. Yes we all have a common goal, try to make something great, but the devil is in the details. Making sure that lots of itty bits of 'pretty cool' actually add up to one, big, perfectly spherical orb of Awesome (rather than a sloppy, drippy mess of 'kinda interesting'), is where the trick is.
 
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