Obsidian Entertainment CEO Fergus Urquhart reveals that Black Isle Studios originally worked on two different versions of Fallout 3, including an early 3D version of the game.

The Fallout series originally began life as an isometric RPG series in the hands of the now-defunct Black Isle Studios, but when the IP was bought out by Bethesda over a decade ago, the franchise was morphed into the first-person open-world series we all know today. While there’s no denying that Bethesda’s take on Fallout 3 managed to brilliantly reinvent the franchise, so much so that it was deemed one of the best games of the last generation, there might have very well been a very different version of the game had things gone slightly differently for Black Isle Studios.

In a new interview with IGN, Obsidian Entertainment CEO Fergus Urquhart revealed that prior to the development on Black Isle Studios’ widely known Fallout 3 game, the canceled Van Buren project, the studio had in fact worked on another different version of Fallout 3. In contrast to Van Buren‘s isometric viewpoint, the studio planned to introduce 3D into the series with its first Fallout 3 project.

“Now 3D was the cool stuff. So we were going to move from being a 2D engine and be a 3D engine, and so we actually started working with this 3D technology called NDL.”

Why 2015 is the Year of Fallout - Fallout 3 box art

This project ultimately never came to fruition as Black Isle’s publisher Interplay ran into financial problems and this first Fallout 3 game ended up becoming Icewind Dale, a dungeon-crawling RPG that Urquhart fondly describes as an excellent “counterpoint” to Balder’s Gate. In an interesting twist of fate, Urquhart went on to reveal that the NDL 3D game engine Black Isle Studios was working with ended up getting bought by Gamebyro, which was coincidentally later used to make a number of Bethesda’s titles, including its own version of Fallout 3. 

While Black Isle Studios’ two cancelled Fallout 3 projects offer up an intriguing “what if” scenario in regards to the direction the series could have headed, it certainly appears that the franchise is safe in Bethesda’s hands, especially after the positive reception to 2015’s Fallout 4. Following Interplay’s closure in 2003, Urquhart and a number of former Black Isle employees ended up forming Obsidian Entertainment and the team ultimately got the chance to make their own Fallout game in the form of New Vegas. 

With speculation over the existence of a Fallout: New Orleans project, it’s quite fitting that we could possibly see Obsidian make a second return to the Fallout universe, especially now that it is known that that team took part in two failed Fallout 3 projects.

Bethesda’s version of Fallout 3 is currently available for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.