Lonesome Road: Beginnings and Endings
Chris Avellone, Creative Director at Obsidian Entertainment
Lonesome Road is an artery twisting west out of the Mojave into one of the most dangerous places in the wasteland. The level design complements this - it's like no other road we've constructed for a game before. Bring what weapons you want, what faction allegiances you want, and if the end of the road doesn't beckon you, you can turn away at any time, return to the Mojave... until you're ready to face your past. We're not going to strip your gear or lock you in place. Come and go as you please if history matters to you.
When setting out, the goal was to deliver a Zelazny-style Damnation Alley experience in the Fallout universe (if you haven't read Damnation Alley, I highly recommend it, and recommended the same with our DLC team). Marvel did a more recent take on it with Old Man Logan, and that was a great spin on Damnation Alley as well.
In short, the idea for this last DLC would be the player would be contracted to travel one of the most dangerous roads in the wasteland, the goal a linear one - head for the setting sun, starting at point A, and try to survive to reach point B. In an original draft, we tried to think what payment would work for accepting such a job and what you would carry, when it occurred to us that the player may simply want to satisfy their curiosity about the past and who's been hunting you all this time. So we left it at that.
As for what that means for the Wasteland afterward? Who knows. While the finale of New Vegas proper ends at the second battle of Hoover Dam, traveling into your character's history, into the past of the Courier and of the Fallout world, was still a narrative road open to us.
A bit about writing - when doing narrative design, writing is the smallest part of what we do from a storytelling perspective. The rest is getting creative with the time and resources you have. We then use that to flesh out visual storytelling design documents, scripting the begin and end slides, graffiti layouts and placement design, chronologies and timelines, monster ecologies, level design aesthetics and naming of locations, loading screen lore, quest layouts and quest names - even the inventory items are designed to reinforce the theme, whether from mad scientist gear to Sierra Madre chips.
Still, for all that work, the narrative largely comes from you. In fact, most Fallout players have far more interesting stories of their gameplay experiences than we could ever dream up as narrative designers. In my opinion, that's how it should be.
So this confrontation in Lonesome Road, and the other Courier that claims to know me... did we make a past for your character? Nope. Do you have amnesia? Nope. In fact, when making Lonesome Road, we only knew a few things for certain about your character:
- You've been a Courier.
- You've walked the Long 15.
- You've walked West of the Mojave.
- You've carried packages and messages - and as the Platinum Chip proved, the packages can be far different than what they seem.
It's difficult to predict your character build, your skills and perks, let alone how you'll let things play out depending on your role-playing style. That's all we had to work with, so we did, and we'll leave the rest up to you.
For a change of pace, rather than being cryptic and overly dramatic with trailer speak, I'll end with some concrete facts (if only to focus speculation on the forums, since we're diligent about checking those). If I were your Gamemaster, I'd tell you this before the game session anyway.
- Ulysses is flesh and blood, just like you.
- Ulysses is not related to you, nor do you recall ever meeting a Courier with an Old World flag on his back and a flag pole he uses as a walking staff.
- Ulysses is not affiliated with the Enclave.
- Ulysses has been wounded - and it's reflected in his beliefs and in his voice.
And some minor gameplay advice:
- The weapons in DLC4 are great to use within the DLC, and also without... so check your gear when you get it, and get a feel for everything it can do for you. You won't be disappointed, and it may even save your life a few times.
Lastly, I wanted to thank not only the entire DLC crew, also the narrative designers who contributed to the projects and made the characters what they were.
John Gonzalez for the Happy Trails caravan company and the Survivalist Logs in Honest Hearts, JE Sawyer for the principal characters in Honest Hearts, Travis for all the great work he's done from Honest Hearts companions to the Old World Blues final brain and all the clever Sink appliances, and Rob Lee for a good chunk of the X-13 emails that fleshed out the location. The narrative arc was a team effort, wanted to give credit where credit is due.
Hope you enjoy walking the road - we did.