Back when Interplay and Black Isle Studios were still making Fallout games—prior to Bethesda's acquisition of the series—"Van Buren" was the codename given to an ill-fated unreleased turn-based version of Fallout 3 that long predated the three-dimensional open-world game launched in 2008. What you may not know is that 2000's D&D-inspired role-player Icewind Dale also began life as a 3D take on the post-apocalyptic wasteland in a bid to serve as a counterpoint to Baldur's Gate.
That's according to Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart, who, in conversation with IGN, explains that prior to working on Van Buren Black Isle Studios also worked on a different version of Fallout 3—immediately following Fallout 2, while Planescape: Torment was still in the works.
"It was actually the second Fallout 3," says Urquhart of Van Buren, suggesting that the decision to make Fallout 3 three-dimensional wasn't necessarily first thought of years later. "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."
Interplay's well-documented financial bother ultimately led the Californian publisher to capitalise on Baldur's Gate's popularity, as it changed the direction of the proposed Fallout 2 follow-up and instead began crafting a dungeon-crawling RPG. "The Fallout 3 team became the Icewind Dale team," adds Urquhart.
And the rest is history, so goes the well-worn cliche. Interestingly, Urquhart says the aforementioned NDL technology was purchased by Gamebryo, who ultimately powered Betheda's version of Fallout 3 years later.