Fallout Developers Profile is a series of article published by fan site "No Mutants Allowed," including an interview with Leonard Boyarsky in 2009.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, what have you accomplished in life?
I grew up in Southern California and attended Cal State Fullerton where I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration. After that, I decided I still wasn’t prepared to give up the life of a student and actually have to work for a living, so I went to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where I received a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. After graduating I eventually found my way into computer games. Interestingly enough, the first game I did any work on for Interplay was Rags to Riches, Tim Cain’s first Interplay game which was produced by Tom Decker (Fallout’s original producer and Troika’s current internal producer). After working on Stonekeep and Fallout 1 (and some on 2) I left with Tim Cain and Jason Anderson to start Troika Games. I’m married and have two beautiful daughters.
2. What are your favourite computer games/board games and why?
I loved the first Wizardry, the first Lands of Lore, the original Doom. Ironically, I didn’t play a lot of video games before getting into the industry, I was more of a comic book head. As far as board games, I used to play Risk a lot, and I love playing all different kinds of board and card games with my kids.
3. What hobbies do you have besides computer games?
Besides being at work way too many hours a week, I like to read a lot. My tastes vary between political and history books and science fiction. I also watch way too much Cartoon Network with my youngest daughter. And, on the rare instances when I go on vacation I love to go snorkelling.
4. What are your favourite bands/artists (music) ?
I listen to a wide variety of music: Led Zeppelin, 70’s/80’s punk, Tom Waits, The Birthday Party, Beastie Boys, Black Sabbath, I could go on and on. I also listen to “alternative” music when I happen to be listening to the radio (mostly in my car). And I have more than a passing familiarity to all the newest music those damned kids are listening to, since my 15 year old daughter makes me listen to it. But, the favourite of all time has to be: “Maybe” by the Ink Spots…
5. Tell us a little about your role in the making of Fallout 1/2/3 (Van Buren)/Tactics ?
I was brought on Fallout 1 as lead artist/art director after Tim and Jason had been working on the engine for a little while, but before the decision to go post nuclear was made. I was really excited when we decided to go post nuclear, as “The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)” was my favourite movie at the time.
As Art Director, I was responsible for the look and mood of the game (as far as visuals were concerned). I came up with the idea of the “future of the fifties” setting, and had to convince everyone that that was the way to go. I also came up with the idea/design for the “Vault Boy” and the “cards” (as I called them) showing him doing all the different things in humorous ways. By the way, he’s not the Pip Boy, the Pip Boy is the little guy on your Pip Boy interface. The Vault Boy was supposed to evoke the feel of Monopoly cards, and the Pip Boy was based on the Bob’s Big Boy mascot.
Jason and I designed/executed the intro and ending, and came up with the idea of the Vault Dweller being kicked out of the Vault to wander the wasteland. After the art for FO1 was done, Jason and I found a lot of the areas and dialogs needed reworking/polishing, so I also ended up writing/editing a lot of the non voice acted dialog. Jason, Tim, and I wrote the main story arc, redesigned how followers would work, and designed a lot of the quests for FO2 before we left to start Troika Games.
6. What’s your favourite Fallout memory?
Seeing the intro to Fallout 1 finished, with the music and everything, and watching people’s reaction to it. That and Tim’s face when we told him the Vault Dweller was going to be kicked out of the Vault at the end of FO1.
7. What specifically inspired Fallout for you? What were the biggest influences?
I was really influenced by “The Road Warrior”, “The City of Lost Children”, and “Brazil” in terms of movies, and the comic book series “Hard Boiled”.
8. Pop Culture played a big role in Fallout, what pop culture influences you?
Books, TV, movies, music, anything and everything that floats into my consciousness. During the making of FO1 we kept trying to sneak pop culture references into every aspect of the game, from “Star Wars” to “Simpsons” to everything in between. I mostly tried to hide Simpsons references wherever I could just to make Tim laugh. The TV in the intro is a “Radiation King”, for instance.
9. How was it to be a part of the Fallout team?
I think it was the one of the best game making experiences I’ve ever had. The team was fantastic, everyone was excited to be working on the project, and it had a real “us against the world” type of feel to it, as we were regarded as a B project at best. The fact that it was also the first game I worked on where I saw my “vision” for what a game should look like come to life was also a big factor, as nothing can replace a thrill like that.
10. Were there things that you wished you had added to either Fallouts?
I wish we had had time to make the revisions to the followers that were added for FO2 to FO1, as I loved the followers, but they could be a pain in the ass some times. Of course, I couldn’t stop laughing when Ian tried to flee combat in the military base and ran into a force field and was fried, but that’s a different story…
For the most part nostalgia has worn away my recollection for the long list of things I would have changed or I was disappointed about when we shipped FO1.
11. What were you favourite places in fallout and why?
It’s been so long since I’ve played Fallout that it all has begun to blend together into this one great experience for me. I could name things I loved about every one of the areas, but for some reason, when I think of Fallout I always think of Junktown.
12. What is your hope for future Fallout games? Would you like to be a part of a future Fo team?
I would like nothing better than to be able to return to the Fallout universe, either as a creator or as a player. I really hope it is carried on as an RPG series someday, by someone who will do it justice.
13. Who would you bring with you in a future Fallout team and why?
Even though I know “you can never go home again” I’d love to have the core team together again. Of course, it would have to contain Tim and Jason, and I’d love to work with Jason Taylor and Chris Taylor again. And I can’t leave out Gary Platner, artist extraordinaire, Jesse Reynolds, and T-Ray (Tramell Isaac), and Scott Everts, etc, etc, etc (my apologies to all the hard working team members from Fallout that I didn’t have room to mention by name). There’s also a lot of great talent from FO2 and 3, and of course, my wonderful team here at Troika. So, in the end, I’d probably have at least a hundred or so people on my Fallout dream team.
14. In your opinion, what are the key ingredients that every RPG should have?
I think the heart of every great RPG is to let the player make choices and to have those choices matter in how the game plays out and how NPCs react to the player. Also, the player should be able to approach the game from a number of different angles, as a stealth character, a diplomat, a fighter, whether he wants to be good or evil, etc. Different endings depending on player choices is always a big plus for me as well. I also am heavily in favour of letting the player create his character with a wide variety of options as opposed to giving the player a specific character to play.
15. Where do you see computer RPGs going?
At present, I see a lot of simplifying of the genre and an emphasis on action RPGs. This is understandable, as games are costing more and more and in depth RPGs are much more complex to make, and appeal to a more specific type of player, than more action oriented type games. Licenses are also really important for publishers right now, as they want every guarantee they can get that this game they’re pouring millions of dollars into is going to turn a profit for them. Therefore, I think (sadly) that we won’t be seeing as many original, innovative RPGs coming out, in the near future at least, as they’re too risky for the publishers right now.
16. How does the fan base hinder/help the projects that you’ve worked on?
The fan base definitely keeps you on your toes. It’s great to have a dedicated fan base to bounce ideas off of in the forums, but sometimes they get a little over enthusiastic. I like to argue over minute details as much as the next guy, but it’s tough when you have fans rejecting your ideas or changes to a system when you’ve been developing, playing, and testing the game and they’re conjecturing from putting together bits and pieces of what the game is like from demos and interviews. Having said all that, I think the fans have some great ideas and ways of looking at things that you may not have thought of…and without fans, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Knowing that there are fans out there that really appreciate what you do is a great feeling, especially on tougher days.
17. When planning the story how do you go through the process of integrating themes and story with the constraints on software?
To listen to our programmers, you’d think our designers never take into account constraints at all. Overall, the process is half figuring out your story and theme ideas and how they can be accomplished in the engine you’re working with, and the other half is looking at what your engine does well and letting the engine’s strengths suggest ideas.
18. If you could make any computer game that you wanted, which would it be and why?
I’m fortunate in that I’ve already had the opportunity to make whatever game I wanted to not just once, but twice in Fallout and Arcanum. At this stage in my career, I’d really love to have the opportunity to do another Fallout game, to be honest. Oh, and let’s not forget the politically correct answer: my dream game is my next one…
19. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I couldn’t even begin to guess. If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be an owner of a game company I’d have thought you were deranged, but here I am. On the one hand, I could still be doing what I’m doing now, but I could also see my life going off in some completely random direction like it did when I got into the game industry in the first place.
20. Any last word to the Fallout fan base?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have all taken a crazy idea that we hatched up because we thought it would be a fun game to play and made it into something that seems to have a life of its own.