Fallout Wiki
Fallout Wiki

How Fallout Got Its Name is a video blog by Tim Cain, which describes how Fallout was named Fallout.




Hi everyone, it's me, Tim. Today I want to talk about how Fallout got its name, but before I do that, I need to tell you it's very, very hard to come up with a name for a game. Especially a new game with new mechanics and a new setting and new characters.

You would think there's a whole team of creative people who've been working on it for a while - they can just go "Boom this is the name."

It doesn't work that way. It's hard to come up with a word or two that:

  • captures the essence of your game,
  • is a word that hasn't been used before,
  • or a phrase that hasn't been used before that doesn't have any connotations to it,
  • that doesn't become an acronym that's going you're going to regret.

When people talked about making Fallout Online, I was like "That's F-o-O-l." When people talk about that online they're gonna be talking about "I was playing Fool."

A lot of words by the by the late 90s... There was already this vibe that certain words were way overused in game names. Words like Dark, Shadow and Blood: These were starting to show up so much that we would almost kind of make fun and say "Oh, let's call ours Dark World or Dim Place Souls of Blood. They're overused and we're kind of over it, so (by the way, just so you know, for Arcanum, I was the one who came up with that subtitle - Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura, which I thought at the time was super cool; um, it's been made fun of a lot so I've learned my lesson on naming games)...

So anyway, in Fallout, I went through my notes and I found not only a list of names we went through, but kind of the process we went through when we first... I should say when I first started making the game. I was by myself and I was making a lot of different engines. It was called Testbed, because I would make a voxel engine, and I would make a 3D engine, and I'd make a sprite engine, and they would [be] Testbed 1, Testbed 2, Testbed 3... I was very unimaginative.

I was a programmer, I was doing programmery things.

Later, when we got the GURPS license, it was called GRURPS so you'd make a build called gurps.exe and we were Team GURPS. When we started making the setting, we called it Vault 13, so there was a vault 13.exe after the first Vault.

Starting it sometime around mid '96, I remember talking with someone - I don't remember who it was - and I said, "You know, if we ever make a sequel, we cannot call this game Vault 13, because what would the sequel be? Vault 13 2? [Vault] 14? More vault 13? Beyond Vault...?" It just was a bad name, so that's when I said, "We really need to come up with something better".

I found my notes, I'm looking over here, because I'm reading them (by the way I put together all my notes on Fallout from all these disparate sources, old emails, paper notes, in one Word doc, and it's already 86 pages long).

I found my "Naming the game" note and this is from June 19, 1996. Let me read what I wrote, before I start going down the list of what we named. I wrote "This has been an exceptionally difficult time. To find a name for this game that is both catchy and tells somewhat about the premise of the game is not easy. The cool words describing a nuclear war, such as Apocalypse, Holocaust, Armageddon, Aftermath, Wasteland, have either already been taken or have religious connotations we don't like."

So here's a small list, in no particular order, that we came up with. We basically had a meeting I asked people to come from the team to the conference room and just throw out ideas. I said no idea will be critiqued (although I may critique them now), I just wanted people to throw them out so here they are, alternate names for Fallout, as of '96:

The Vault

Ground-Zero (that dash is important)


Warriors of the Apocalypse

Rad Storm (I think that one was mine)

Nuclear Winter

Doomsday Warrior (chuckles)

After the Bomb

Hiroshima Revisited

Vault 13 (yes, somebody's suggestion of renaming Vault 13 was Vault 13)

Remains of the Day

Devastated Earth


Nuclear Summer

Nuclear Winner (came earlier than nuclear summer)

Dying Earth (yes I knew about Jack Vance and I didn't say anything, but I knew we weren't going to get that one)

Out of the Vault

Ground Zero (with no dash, yes we talked about that, well I don't think the dash is a good idea what if we did Ground Zero and so the person wanted it written up there without the dash; by the way I think that person was me)

The rust age (I think that was Leonard, Leonard liked the word rust)

Future Past,

Dead Glow,

After Effects (both spelled e f f e c t s and FX)


Earth A.D (of course would apply to any game set after year zero)

(I have to scroll, there's so many I have to scroll!)

The Surface

The Surfacing

Moribund World (that one was for sure Jason Anderson)

Vault 666

World Gone Mad

Static Age

The Chosen Ones

The New World (there are so many things wrong with that one I'm not even gonna)

The World Outside

Outside the Vault

After the Collapse

Return to the World

and then


So that's the result of about an hour and a half, 90 minute brainstorming session with the team.

Oh as we're finishing up, somebody threw out Wasteland 2.

Okay, so I had mentioned we had like producer meetings. I mentioned in the producer meeting that we were going to be doing this, so I got an email from marketing. The marketing department had their own meeting. Here were their suggestions:







Biohazard Mutilation

Scarred Earth

Further into the Wasteland

I took this list and I was thinking about it. I was also applying, "Well, if we do a sequel, can we have a Further into the Wasteland 2, or even More Further into the Wasteland..." Every now and then I'd have meetings with Brian Fargo and I suggested to him what I thought were the best ones on this list. I don't remember what those were, I didn't write down what they were.

I don't think I mentioned Fallout. My thought pattern then was "Wow, there's no fallout, that's 80 years later, that kind of ionizing radiation has decayed."

Brian came back the next day and said, "Why don't you just name it Fallout? It's a great name - it probably won't even be shortened." I think he underestimated people on the Internet, [who] would take Fallout and shorten it to Fo just to save a few letters, and I kind of didn't like it. I said, "Let me think about it", and sure enough the next morning I woke up and went "Fallout's actually a really good name."

I suggested it to the team - boom. Everybody loved, it was the number one choice. It really worked well for sequels (Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Fallout 4). I specifically did not want to call the first one Fallout 1. I mean, it was a little bit hubris to say, "I'm gonna call this Fallout 1, and there will be a sequel," so we just called it Fallout.
I know a lot of people these days call it Fallout 1 just to distinguish it, [but] I still just call it Fallout. To me it's just Fallout.

Now, the funny thing is: I think it took weeks before I actually changed the build to produce a fallout.exe. I think it was still producing either gurps or testbed or something. Keep in mind, we were making a Mac, DOS, and Windows version, so it became: fallout was DOS, falloutw was Windows, and falloutm was Mac.

Anyway, that was probably - in hindsight - the easiest naming process. Every subsequent new IP I made had the most drawn out naming. Meeting after meeting, copyright searches, people pointing out that it was too close to something else or that it had bad connotations, or that there was a book, or an old movie that already was named that...

What I really like is, and I'll give it to Fargo for basically just pointing [it] out: Fallout is a nice, short name [that] captures the essence of the game.

You say Fallout and you immediately think, "Well this is probably a post-apocalyptic game and it's probably not a happy post-apocalyptic game", so Fallout fits perfectly.

And that's where the whole series got its name.