Dogmeat, the Emotional Center of Fallout

Fallout originally did not plan on having NPC followers at all. But the original game's designer figured out how to make a system work. Thus was born one of the franchise's most iconic characters.

Not only that, the original design of Fallout 3, by Black Isle, there were no plans to include Dogmeat. But Bethesda ultimately brought him back. It seems bizarre that they could have left out a dog companion, one of the most motionally fulfilling features of the original two games.

The Escapist's latest issue examines canines in gaming, and no such study would be complete without a discussion of Dogmeat, the unwaveringly faithful follower your Lone Wanderer picks up in all three Fallout titles. The game's creators never imagined how attached players would become to the dog, going to hell and back to keep him alive until the end of the game.


Junktown Dog

"Dogmeat was definitely inspired by The Road Warrior," says Cain. "Leonard Boyarsky, the art director ... had that movie running continuously in his office, and I think he remarked on several occasions that having a dog in the game would be really cool. [It's] why we wanted a dog in the first place."

Many pieces of the Fallout games were inspired by The Road Warrior, from the opening "newsreel" monologues (narrated by Ron Perlman of The City of Lost Children, another inspiration according to Cain) to the games' stylized leather armor and medical braces. One of the most vivid images from Bethesda Game Studios' Fallout 3, the latest installment in the series, is that of the Lone Wanderer with Dogmeat by his side, a mirror image of a scene from Mad Max. Even the breed is the same: Both are Blue Heelers, known for their loyalty, trainability and heterochromia (one blue eye, one brown eye).
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What isn't derived from The Road Warrior is Dogmeat's name; that likely comes from a scene in the 1975 film A Boy and His Dog where Vic (Don Johnson) refers to his mutt as "Dogmeat."

"A Boy and His Dog inspired Fallout on many levels, from underground communities of survivors to glowing mutants," says Heinig. "My understanding is that (Fallout designer) Scott Bennie settled on the name 'Dogmeat' for the character, and it's likely that he did pick that from the story in question." Good thing, because according to Bennie, Dogmeat's original name was "Dogs**t."

In the original Fallout 3 (aka Van Buren), designed to near-completion by Black Isle, there were no plans to bring Dogmeat back, but fortunately for dog lovers he made it into Bethesda's version as a presumed descendant of the original dog who - according to the developers - perished in a "force field accident." Fallout 3's Dogmeat not only follows and defends you, but will fetch food, ammo and weapons (even boasting the curious but helpful ability to pilfer things from locked containers). When he goes missing, he can often be found waiting patiently outside Vault 101, perhaps inspired by the final scene from A Boy and His Dog where "Dogmeat" waits outside a vault for his owner.

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Dogmeat's unwavering devotion lets players "Pet the Dog," a fiction trope wherein a potentially despised character appears kinder by demonstrating a love for dogs: In Equilibrium, Cleric John Preston slaughters a dozen policemen to save a puppy; Discworld's Lord Vetinari (veterinary?) is an ex-assassin with dogs named Wuffles and Mr. Fusspot; even Richard Nixon had Checkers. In an uncaring wasteland where you can play a total psychopath if you so choose, Dogmeat is a moral compass: Though your needle might swing towards good or evil, his center always holds strong provided you protect him. If you don't, his death becomes a sad reminder of the consequences of reckless slaughter.

For many reasons, Dogmeat is arguably the most successful NPC companion ever, according to Chris Avellone, Level Designer for Fallout 2, creator of the Fallout Bible and Chief Creative Officer of Obsidian Entertainment, developer of Fallout: New Vegas.

"One, he doesn't talk, so the players can project a personality on to him," says Avellone. "Two, he's effective in combat ... and three, he's a dog that stays with you through thick-and-thin. I don't think there's a deeper 'awww' sentiment than people have in their hearts for their pets."

- Michael Fiegel