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No, the Fallout TV show hasn't written Fallout: New Vegas out of history, says Bethesda design director

Senior developer responds to fan outcry over blackboard scene

A screenshot of Fallout New Vegas showing the player taking aim at some enemies.
Image credit: Bethesda Softworks

Friends, there is trouble a-brewing down the radioactive watering hole. While Amazon's Fallout TV adaptation has launched to pretty positive verdicts, a contingent of Fallout players are up in arms over its portrayal of the Fallout timeline. In particular, it's being claimed that the show has written the events of Obsidian's Fallout: New Vegas out of the canon, despite reassurances from Bethesda Game Studios design director Emil Pagliarulo. Dare you read on? Let me just load up my Junk Jet with piping, hot Fallout Season 1 spoilers...

Spoilers away! I'll try not to reveal more than I have to. Briefly, in Episode 6, "The Trap", there's a shot of a blackboard with the words "Fall of Shady Sands" and "2277" and a big arrow pointing to a mushroom cloud. First-class environmental storytelling, no notes. In the Fallout game series, Shady Sands is the capital of the New California Republic, a relatively cuddly wasteland outfit that becomes a major faction in 1998's Fallout 2, and is central to the plot of 2010's Fallout: New Vegas.

The trouble is, Fallout: New Vegas is set in 2281, but the game references Shady Sands as a still-existing location, though the city can't be visited. Hence, Obsidian diehards and wiki-enforcers getting their power armour in a twist over the scene from the TV show - which Bethesda's Todd Howard has said is canon (thanks Eurogamer).

Pagliarulo attempted to smooth these ruffled feathers yesterday by means of the classic diplomatic gambit of posting on Twitter, the social media platform everybody uses when they want to resolve disagreements amicably and not harass and defame each other. He didn't mention the Shady Sands scene specifically but he did assure one user that Bethesda still consider Fallout: New Vegas canon. This latter tweet followed a thread begun 9th April, in which Pagliarulo stressed that he's as wildly overprotective of Fallout lore consistency as anybody. "Occasionally I'll read something to the effect of, 'He doesn't give a shit about the lore,'" reads one post from that thread. "That is such an insane statement. Just ask the people I've annoyed over the years with my hardcore adherence to the canon. Mistakes and discrepancies KILL me. As they should."

Pagliarulo has also now posted a timeline of the Fallout universe that, yes, includes Fallout: New Vegas and also rubberstamps the semi-apocryphal Fallout Tactics as a canonical entry in the bargain. This timeline doesn't, however, address the temporal inconsistency suggested by the Shady Sands blackboard scene, and folk are predictably running riot in Pagliarulo's quote-tweets, yelling about all this being Bethesda's overdue vengeance on Obsidian for making what is often called the best Fallout game (by philistines and traitors - the best Fallout game is Fallout 2).

There are some alternate explanations for the Shady Sands scene. One is that whoever wrote "2277" on the blackboard could be lying, or simply misinformed. This is a post-nuclear wasteland, after all. Dating is probably a matter of guesswork for a lot of people. Look upon my Works, ye Mighty, and despair - because there is no longer an official fan wiki you can reference when attempting to validate said Works and make sure that Ozymandias wasn't screwing around with the continuity.

The other explanation is the usual and boring one: mistakes are sometimes made when writing new entries for narrative properties this gargantuan and lore-stuffed, to say nothing of the headache of creating a TV show based on several videogames with hundreds of branching quests and multiple endings. And DLC expansions: as a few people have pointed out, you do have the option of nuking the NCR at the end of New Vegas DLC expansion Lonesome Road. Is that ending canon, then?

Blow-ups like this are why Bethesda decided to set The Elder Scrolls Online several hundred years before the events of the numbered Elder Scrolls RPGs, giving the MMO's designers a reasonably free hand to rewrite the setting providing they remembered to mention a Skyrim NPC's great-great-great-etc-granddad, now and then. As a narrative property, Fallout doesn't quite have that luxury - everything needs to happen close enough to the apocalypse that things feel post-apocalyptic, after all. Anyway, if you've found all this intriguing I have a related story to tell you about Vault Boy's thumb.

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