Black Isle’s Fallout 3 Demo

Some of the Fallout chatter on here reminded me of the canceled “Van Buren” project, which would have been Fallout 3 had Interplay not closed down the Black Isle project in 2003. Most of you will have seen this last year, but I thought it worth mentioning that the tech demo was leaked in 2007 and is now freely available over on StrategyInformer. There’s not a great deal to it, but the very existence of an alternate Fallout 3 makes for an interesting compare and contrast.

Bethesda have said there isn’t going to be a demo for their Fallout 3, which should hit the PC on October 28th.


  1. cHeal says:

    What excuse does any developer have for not releasing a demo? Seriously do they want people to pirate it?

  2. Pavel says:

    its been leaked by NMA a loong time ago. It looks awesome, I would like to play both games.

  3. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    @ Pavel: ‘Loong time ago’ being 2007, as was already pointed out in Jim’s post.

  4. aldo says:

    What excuse does any developer have for not releasing a demo?

    It takes time and is tricky.

  5. sigma83 says:

    Yeah it removes time from the development cycle because you have to choose a segment of the game that you want to show off. It’s not quite as simple as ‘take the first two areas and ship’ because it might not give the best experience of your game.

  6. cHeal says:

    So we’re expected to pay £25 for a game, with no experience of it’s quality? This industry is going backwards, especially consider the music industry is starting to really embrace a more liberal promotional system, releasing singles for free and such.

    A number of movies have released the “first 5 mins” before release, things which if nothing else resemble the Demo promotional model. But the games industry is abandoning this model and expecting people to just throw money at a product, based purely on reviews, and it costs a hell of a lot more to buy a game than albums or DVD’s.

    meh, I have no intention of getting it anyways.

  7. Colthor says:

    It can be a lot harder to release the “first five minutes” of a game than a film or a single from a CD, especially if it’s something, like most RPGs, that doesn’t have a simple level structure to take chunks from.
    I don’t know how you’d go about making a meaningful demo of a game like Oblivion.

  8. Urael says:

    This ‘no demo’ thing really does irritate and is counter-acted by not buying the game on release. I’ve found the only way to get around that is to wait a few months anyway to guage popular reaction and to allow times for any necessary patches to come out. I hate being an unnofficial beta-tester and will happily wait a few months to avoid the pain of a game that won’t behave.

    Still, the Oblivion engine is a known quantity, isn’t it? So I doubt there will be too many technical hitches to contend with. Shame there’ll be no way to safely dip your toe into the gameplay/story though, other than piracy… :(

  9. MetalCircus says:

    Never did play the Von Buren thing, although I know it’s bugged to high heavans. Would it be possible for a mod team to take up the reins on it and work more on it? or is that legally a “no no”?

  10. diebroken says:

    Yes, ‘leaked’… by someone/persons to NMA… who may have worked on Fallout3… maybe. ;)

    Although it’s only a tech demo, it’s still cool! :)

    P.S. Ghouls are zombies?!

  11. cHeal says:

    It can be a lot harder to release the “first five minutes” of a game than a film or a single from a CD, especially if it’s something, like most RPGs, that doesn’t have a simple level structure to take chunks from.
    I don’t know how you’d go about making a meaningful demo of a game like Oblivion.

    Yes but games have been doing it for years, so why is it now not viable? Not releasing a demo will lead to increased piracy and may also affect sales to people who presume they won’t like it.

    Oblivion could have had a demo because the opening level was a sewer. I’m not that familiar with Fallout but doesn’t it start in a Vault or something? I don’t know to what extent this could be used for a demo but presumably the Vault section will get the tutorial treatment.

    Even if that wasn’t possible they could just impose a time limit on the game, so you can only play for 2 hours or whatever.

    It’s the new norm that is developing, that demos are more hassle than they’re worth that is worrying, but this attitude is counter-productive to the fight against piracy. Releasing stable, high quality and worthwhile demo’s is a productive measure against piracy. Compared to say the thousands they spend on DRM.

  12. Ben Abraham says:

    DON’T SAY THE ‘P’ WORD! Do you want Angry Internet Men to appear?

  13. McCool says:

    Two hours of a 8 gig plus game? Something like that would work on a console, but offering the full game with a time limit on the scale of something like Oblivion of Falllout 3…..have you actually thought this through?

    And a “demo” that just comprised, say, the tutorial level of Oblivion or Fallout 3 would -apsolutely- be out of the question, simply because they are just tutorials, meant to teach you the basic gameplay mechanics before the game proper actually starts. Integral to everything that makes Elder Scrolls and Fallout great (and in the case of Elder Scrolls, pretty much all they have) is this notion of freedom, go anywhere, do anything. They are freeform, free-roaming RPGs, a demo like that wouldn’t even give you a glimpse of what the game is -actually about-.
    Thats the real reason theres no demo for Oblivion or Fallout 3.

    Here is a chilling thought, imagine a demo for Fallout 2 that comprised soley of the Temple of Trials. Urrrrrgh…..

  14. reiver says:

    It’s so much easier to lie to the consumer through videos, carefully stage managed “hands-on previews” and select exclusive reviews. A demo allows a person to make their own mind up and may be counter-active to the whole PR push. Look at the Invisible War demo. It took my anticipatation of the game from slavishly devouring every snippet of info and camping out on the Ion Storm forums to an indifferent wait and see. Beth already know they can lie through their teeth and manipulate critics, why change?

  15. Caiman says:

    Conversely a bad demo can have a very negative effect. Developers have to put a lot of effort into a really good demo to convince me to buy it, because a half-arsed job will put me right off the game. I distinctly recall missing Syndicate for several weeks because the Amiga demo was terrible, but playing the full game on the PC at a friend’s place felt like a totally different experience.

    However, these days I usually don’t bother with demos anyway – they are far too large to “waste” bandwidth on a chance.

  16. Meat Circus says:

    Bizarrely, it’s *uglier* than Fallout 2 with Hi-Res patch.

    That takes some doing.

  17. Evangel says:

    So grab a town, throw in some quests with different solutions (doesn’t even have to be good quests, just gotta show off what the games about) and bam, instant demo.

    What’s that you say? The entire point of Bethesda games is large, free-roaming areas? Where’s my substance, bitch?

  18. Colthor says:

    I agree with Caiman; I skipped Terra Nova for years because the demo was confusing and inaccessible. Without it I probably would have bought it on the strength of the PCG review and one of my friends raving about it.

  19. Koopa says:

    I assume Fallout 3 has around 10-15 towns/locations. Choose one that you think represents the game rather well, and use it for a demo. Only allow a little of the wasteland to be explored, if none at all (e.g. a route to a dungeon).

  20. plant42 says:

    Screw demos. 90% of people will look at the metacritic score 2-3 days after it comes out and will buy it if it’s above 85 or so.

  21. JonFitt says:

    Open world games rarely have demos. Take GTA 3+ for example. Didn’t seem to hurt it though.

    It would take engineering time to cut out a meaningful section, and polish it as a demo. I’d rather play the full game earlier.

    The time locked idea on a game of this size is ridonkulous!
    a) No one wants to download 8GB for a 10 minute demo.
    b) Demo is hacked within the hour to remove time limit.

    I do feel for people who are scared to buy games because they’re not sure if they’ll run on their system, but as long as you use a reputable source for system specs you should be fine. I can’t remember the last time I bought a game that I couldn’t get to run when I met the specs.

    Aha. I know. All they need is to produce an in-engine looping timedemo. It combines all the appeal of a trailer with the usefulness of testing your PC.

  22. Fumarole says:

    “Here is a chilling thought, imagine a demo for Fallout 2 that comprised soley of the Temple of Trials. ”

    Exactly. Wait for reviews people, is that really so hard?

  23. Brother None says:

    @ Pavel: ‘Loong time ago’ being 2007, as was already pointed out in Jim’s post.

    Still a bit odd though. Why is RPS linking to Strategy Informer instead of to NMA, where it was originally released? Unlike some other sites, SI doesn’t even bother to acknowledge that it originally comes from NMA.

  24. Weylund says:

    Demos are hard to make, man. And an RPG? Has there ever been a useful demo for an RPG? Curious.

    @Colthor: Dude, I’m sorry you missed out. Terra Nova is one of the best games I’ve ever played. Free-form squad-based tactical shooter with power armor, variable weapons loadouts, and 40-ish diverse missions, anyone? Hell yes. Fourth on my list of all-time favorites after Wasteland, SEAL Team, and TOAW and / or XCOM.

  25. Kadayi says:


    You are aware of places like
    or ? Places which show game media and list review scores? Which allow you to get a handle on what’s upcoming in the gaming scene and how good/bad a game might be?

  26. danarchy says:

    All commentary on the original flame trolls statement aside….I wonder if their is going to be a demo for the new Fallout3? At the very least it will give me a chance to put my fears aside that another rpg will get ruined by trying to draw in the twitch fanbois (ala Shadowrun)

  27. Real Horrorshow says:

    The Bethesda F3 looks much more interesting than this.

    I’ll be waiting for the Fallout lynchmob on my porch in a rocking chair with a double-barreled shotgun. Bring it >:(

  28. Evangel says:

    Weyland, the Arcanum demo by Troika. First 4 areas, all quests intact, gives you a very good idea of what the game is gonna be like.

    Not having a demo for Fallout 3 when they can just cut out a town, make sure it has all the elements of the game and ship that as the demo is just lazy.

  29. Erlam says:

    “Oblivion could have had a demo because the opening level was a sewer. ”

    You don’t just ‘take an opening level’ to make a demo, it doesn’t work that way. You have to realise that games aren’t built like: You build the engine, it’s playable but buggy -> you add all the levels -> you tweak all the settings -> you polish the game -> done.

    If you want to use, say, your opening level as a demo, all mechanics needed have to be in place. The game can’t have any TRC violations. There can be no legal issues. If it’s international, there cannot be any unlocalised text. The game has to lock out the later levels. This has to all be tested. It has to be authorised by the producers. It has to.. etc.

    A game isn’t a loaf of bread you can just slice off the front of and show it around. It’s like an airplane or something. You get the idea.

  30. Colthor says:

    Eventually got it for a few quid in a bargain bin, and it was brilliant. Been a little wary of demos since.

  31. SixStringSamurai says:

    did someone say that they WEREN’T going to get fallout3?! blasphemy!

    but honestly, demo or no demo, it’s going to be great, i’m sure, esp after all the gameplay vids, and then people will tell people how great it is and there won’t have had a need for a demo. go fallout!

  32. Weylund says:

    @Colthor: Good job on finding it! I tend not to finish games; Terra Nova was one that I finished several times. The gameplay was engrossing. Games where your character goes through an entire campaign (or several, if you’ve played EA’s SEAL Team) just make me happy.

    @Evangel: Hmm. Perhaps I should have said “RPGs that sold well”. Kidding. At any rate, you’re right. As I think about it, plenty of RPGs have demos. I wish F3 were going to get one. As a dev, though, I can think of a thousand reasons NOT to release a demo, most of them including the words “extra work”.

  33. Evangel says:

    Weylund, Fallout 1 had a demo aswell :P

    It still smacks of laziness. They don’t need to make a new area or NPCs, they don’t need to put voices in, it can just be an example of what the gameplay is like.

  34. Briosafreak says:

    There’s a guide on how to operate/hack the demo at NMA.

    Bringing this to the world was one of the hardest things we ever did. No one knows the original source, but involved CD’s being flown across the States, files being sent to Serbia and distributed through several places in Europe, trying to learn how to operate what is in fact a pre-alpha that doesn’t have a lot of features of the final game.

    Inside that code there are other maps, notes, some cool stuff for those more tech inclined.

    Again being able to bring that to the fans was an incredibly hard operation, strange watching SI getting the credit, when they had nothing to do with it.

  35. sigma83 says:

    I should clarify my standpoint on the issue.

    Demos being released BEFORE the game comes out is a Bad Idea because of all the detractors to the actual development of said game.

    AFTER the game has shipped? Release a demo ASAP.

  36. LionsPhil says:

    No demo, no sale.

    But I bet they’ll blame piracy when people refuse to fork out upfront for a game that’s on very shakey ground.