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Van Buren is the codename Black Isle Studios assigned to their second iteration of Fallout 3. It saw development by Black Isle Studios until its cancelation in December 8, 2003 and would have been published by Interplay Entertainment.


Black Isle Studios planned to include a dual-combat system in the game that allowed for the player to choose between real-time (Bethesda Softworks' Fallout games and Micro Forté and 14° East's Fallout Tactics) or turn-based combat (Fallout and Fallout 2) but real-time was only included due to Interplay's demands.[1] The game would have used the Jefferson Engine, with a look similar to the Infinity Engine used in Baldur's Gate. The game's emphasis was turn-based play, and cooperative multiplayer was planned for inclusion.[1] On December 8, 2003, the game was canceled due to financial difficulties at Interplay Entertainment.[citation needed]

Tech demo

A tech demo of Van Buren was created during the game's development. When asked about it, Bethesda's Pete Hines replied, "releasing someone else's unfinished product, or assets from it, is not something we intend to do."[citation needed] Several screenshots and one video of the tech demo were released at No Mutants Allowed on April 30, 2007, followed by the tech demo itself on May 2.


Van Buren would have taken place in the American southwest, where the westernmost sites on the game map served as the easternmost borders of New California Republic.[2] According to the design documents, it would have been set in the year 2253.


Main article: Van Buren SPECIAL

The game used a highly modified version of SPECIAL (the character system used in the previous Fallout games) the changes were introduced mostly by J.E. Sawyer. Some of his changes include merging combat skills and dividing Speech into Deception and Persuasion.


Van Buren was at some point planned to have three playable races, including humans, ghouls and super mutants.[3]


JerichoNurseryBurham SpringsOuroborosFort AbandonMesa VerdeTwin Mothers VillageReservationTibbets PrisonMaxson bunkerBlackfoot VillageGrand CanyonBloomfieldHoover DamBoulderDenverInteractive Van Buren world map
About this image

The Prisoner

The game would have begun with the player character in a prison cell. Because of this, the player was given a choice. The prisoner could be an innocent that was imprisoned because of some misunderstanding, or they could choose to be a criminal and take bonus traits that would bolster some of their skills.

The player would awaken in a prison cell, but not the one they remembered falling asleep in. Suddenly, the floor rocks violently from an explosion, and the player is knocked unconscious. When they awaken, they find their cell door open and a hole in the wall leading outside. Leaving the prison, the character is under attack by some unknown assailant. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, the player flees into the night to explore this new world.

Presper's plan

Main article: Van Buren endings

Eventually, the player would discover the true reason behind the prison and the attack on it. It turns out that, through extensive research, the mad scientist called Presper, disgusted with what the world turned into after the War, discovered the history of New Plague, the virus that FEV was initially created to cure, and its genocidal potency, and also discovered a viable means to cleanse the world. Using ODYSSEUS, the quarantine prison, and a ballistic satellite known as B.O.M.B.-001, the way to human planetary domination and order became clear. He needed to get to B.O.M.B.-001 and use the nuclear weapons to clean the filth and wretch that currently have occupied the surface.

Presper and his followers released the New Plague virus in the remote areas near Boulder and Denver. It was close enough to the quarantine prison to spur ODYSSEUS into action, but not near enough to cause huge populations to start a general panic. Once enough people were infected and ODYSSEUS "arrested" enough people to just about fill up the prison, Presper’s men would stage an attack on the prison which would allow everyone to escape. This event would start a countdown of sorts for missile launch on B.O.M.B.-001. ODYSSEUS would assess the viral spread, try to gather up the escaped prisoners, and, once 90% of the prisoners had been retrieved, launch nuclear missiles to “clean & prevent” any further infection. By the time this happened, Presper had planned to be on, and in full control of, B.O.M.B.-001 and reprogramming targeting solutions to clean the areas he wanted. Humans of his choosing would wait out the second nuclear holocaust in the Boulder Dome, until the day came where he declared the Earth safe for pureblood humans once more.



Behind the scenes

  • Before the release of Fallout: New Vegas in 2010, Chris Avellone, one of the main designers, mentioned that aspects from Van Buren would appear in Fallout: New Vegas. The NCR-Brotherhood War, the main framing device of Van Buren, is mentioned numerous times throughout the game, and a companion from Van Buren, Joshua Graham, appears, as does Caesar's Legion.[5]
  • The name Van Buren derives from Martin Van Buren, who was the 8th president of the United States of America. Interplay projects were given code names based on the surnames of American presidents during their development phase.[citation needed]
  • At the pre-production stage, the vast majority of locations (Circle Junction, Fort Abandon, Big MT, the Daughters of Hecate and Caesar's Legion, the Denver Salvager Camp, Boulder Dome, Leavenworth Prison) as well as some character concepts (Corp. Christine Royce, Alaya, Job, Xian, the Hanged Man, Eddie "Crazy Horse" Galenski and his "wife," Helen Wheels, Gen. Coleridge, Capt. Davidson, Lt. Pierce, Maj. Briggs, and Matthias Huxley aka Dr. Presper) were drafted by Chris Avellone.[6]
  • Design document numbered 13 was not part of the released documents, no were those rotating Fort Abandon, Circle Junction and the Grand Canyon.
  • The Boulder design document mentions "Josh's Ulysses Part 2" as a source of information concerning ODYSSEUS AI.
  • Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2, another canceled game, would have incorporated story elements from Van Buren, such as Caesar's Legion in the form of the Caesar Raiders, the Jackals, and the Nursery.[7]
  • In the demo, the male PC's character portrait is that of Eric Wu from Eric Conveys an Emotion. The female PC is naked from the waist up, without the prisoner suit with the "13". The female PC also has no character portrait.
  • Van Buren was Black Isle Studios' second attempt at Fallout 3. The original attempt was created using the NDL 3D technology later acquired by Gamebryo and used to power Fallout 3. Due to financial issues at Interplay, the studio redirected their efforts on the project to produce the dungeon-crawling RPG Icewind Dale.[8]
  • In 2024, Timothy Cain explained that while working at Troika Games after leaving Interplay, he was invited by Interplay to play a demo of Van Buren and assess the timeframe needed to complete the project for release. When Cain suggested that Interplay needed a minimum of 12-18 months to finish the game, the Interplay executive who invited him deemed it too long to complete given their financial situation, which Cain believed ultimately canceled the Van Buren project.[9]
  • Sean K. Reynolds mentioned plans for a sequel to the game, Fallout 4, in an interview with Duck And Cover in 2004.[2][10]



A short video demonstrating the Van Buren tech demo created by Black Isle in 2003. Presented by the website No Mutants Allowed.

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Briareus speaks out, NMA
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sean K. Reynolds interview at DAC: "Question: What parts of the country does the player get to explore first hand in Van Buren? Also, would there be any references to other part's of the country, both those seen in FO/FO2 and other unseen parts?"
    Sean K. Reynolds: "It takes place in the American southwest (Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah) ... the westernmost sites on the game map are the easternmost borders of NCR, and problems with NCR have a lot to do with what's going on in the game. There are references to the midwest (for a while there was a significant faction from the midwest in the game, but when we realized the size and story had gotten too big we cut them out but left some links in to make an easier transition to FO4). In fact, one of the links is there because of the radioactive twisters Cassidy mentions in FO2."
  3. The Original Fallout 3 - Investigating Fallout Van Buren - YouTube
  4. New Canaan design document p. 4
  5. Fallout: New Vegas Preview at videogamer.com (archived)
  6. Fallout Developers Profile - Chris Avellone
  7. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2 design document pp. 13, 21, 26
  8. IGN article
  9. [1]
  10. Denver design document, page 9
Van Buren