Fallout 3 maybe the game I am most excited about going into this E3. I say maybe, because there are some other titles up there that have me pretty psyched (Left 4 Dead). But Fallout 3 for me is a wonderous mix of nostalgia and clever game design.
I can't talk about what I saw yet while playing through a chunk of the game last month, but the Bethesda folks took the time to throw together a massive fan-driven 25 question and answer post. In it they touch on everything from child killing and drug addiction to AI and dialog trees. Here's my favorite question. Hit the jump for one on the AI and two more screens. Make sure you check out the full post if you're interested in the game.
1) Which of the following, if any, will be featured in Fallout3; Romance, Sex, Homosexuality, Nudity, Prostitution, Slavery, Cannibalism, Children, Child killings, drugs, addictions? And of the things that won't be featured, can you explain why they won't be included in the game?
It touches on most of those. Slavery, children, drugs and addiction more than the others, as those factor for into the setting more. In regards to nudity and child killings, no, it features neither of those, as they don't really add to the flavor of the game (I'll get into children in the next question more). I think if you look at Fallout 1, and the footprint it has with the topics you ask about, Fallout 3 is pretty much the same, in that it features the types of things you mention at about the same rate, no more, no less. Drugs and drug addiction play a larger role perhaps, as it's a key gameplay device. I think the heart of this question is "has the harshness and maturity of the world of Fallout 3 been tempered from the earlier games?" and I can certainly say "No, it hasn't been."
10) How advanced will the AI of NPC's be this time around? Are they really going to have a life? Speaking to other NPC's in a logical manner, traveling and trading with/in faraway places, Submitting to the player rather than fighting if they know, or think, they're no match for him?
I wish I could answer with a number, like "it will be 17 advanced." AI is difficult to define, the NPCs certainly appear much smarter than our previous stuff, by a lot. Much of that is us giving them better data, massaging what they do so the player gets to see more of it. We added a lot of animations, so people in town are doing more. They "seem" to be interacting with the world in a more realistic manner, but that usually means going up to something and playing an animation. It can be something really simple, like we added "lean against wall". It's funny how something that small can give life to a person. They walk into a space, and just lean against the wall, arms folded. Like Oblivion, we use our Radiant AI system, so most of the NPCs eat, sleep, work, etc. I think we take it for granted now, but it's pretty great to have that level of control. We've also done a lot to the conversation system, which makes them seem a lot smarter, but again, that's better data, not a new system.
On the technical side we spent most of our time doing an all new pathfinding system. Morrowind/Oblivion use nodes for pathing and Fallout uses a navmesh. This is the difference between an NPC having a valid point to stand on (node) versus an area to stand in, or walk around (mesh). You can do much more sophisticated actor movement and behavior with a navmesh, and I think you'll see the results onscreen, especially when the bullets start flying. The actors do a great job of finding cover and using the space well, something we could never have done with pathnodes.
In terms of the NPCs traveling around, many travel around town, and some travel the wasteland. There are a few caravans in the game that go from town to town trading. Radiant AI handles something like that really well.
Lastly, as far as submitting to a more powerful foe, yes they do that, in that they run away. If they're overmatched, they holster their weapon, flee and try to hide. While this sounds cool on paper, it's often not fun at all, and we've ended up really dialing that back, because it gets really annoying really fast, to have people run away all the time. The main faction that still acts like this are the Raiders, the others don't do it so much.