Yes, it's still happening – and it will be the whole game
Bethesda originally announced that it was working on a virtual reality version of Fallout 4 at its E3 2016 media event and showed off a brief but limited experimental demo that illustrated the potential of the idea. When we spoke to Bethesda Game Studios executive producer Todd Howard in November, he told us "that’s the promise of VR, being in a big virtual world. The core experience, meaning you put on the headset and you’re standing in the world of Fallout and can go where you want, just that little bit is every bit as cool as you hope it would be. Once we did that, we were like, 'OK, we gotta see where this goes,'" he said.
We spoke with Howard again this week, who provided a brief update on the project, and it seems his team is on track to achieve what it set out to do. "Fallout is going great. There's a lot of work to be done, but it's super exciting. We are doing the whole game," he assured us. "You can play it start to finish right now, and the whole thing really works in terms of interface and everything."
When we asked him about the challenges of porting a game designed as a "traditional" first person game to a virtual reality environment, he was unphased by the challenges. "I will say that Fallout works because of the interface," he explained. "The Pip-Boy is on your wrist and we've been able to present so that it works the way you expect. You look and there it is. The fact that the gunplay is a bit slower than in a lot of games has certainly helped us but we have V.A.T.S., so you can pause or slow down the world," he says, describing the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System that allows you to freeze real time combat and target specific areas of enemies before unfreezing the action and watching it play out. "I assure you, V.A.T.S. in VR is awesome. We love it."
On the subject of moving around Fallout 4's enormous game world, he notes that the studio is working on a number of solutions to the problem, acknowledging that locomotion is a problem that all developers of VR games are tackling. "We're lucky that the action isn't super twitchy," he says. "Locomotion is definitely the hard part, I will admit. Given the size of the world and the amount that you're moving in Fallout 4 that part is tricky because you're doing it a lot. Right now we're doing the teleport warp thing and that's fine, but we're experimenting with a few others."
Interestingly, Howard says that the studio's plan isn't to come up with just one solution, but instead will be trying everything it can. "Our plan is to ship with as many as we can, because it's different for everybody," he says. "There are a lot of indie developers and students that are working on prototypes and thinking about how to move in VR and so we're looking at a lot of those. "
There's still no firm release date for Fallout 4 VR, but it seems likely we'll be hearing something very soon. "It's going great. It's definitely the right game for us to do," Howard says.