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Posted by Brother None

Download Van Buren tech demo


This is a guide to the demo of Black Isle's Fallout 3, code-named Van Buren during development at Interplay, and has been written by the Fallout fans of No Mutants Allowed. Be aware that this demo is in pre-alpha-state, and does not have full functionality. It may crash frequently and does not have any kind of finalized combat. However, it should still hold interest for any Fallout fan. We hope that you enjoy it and can reminisce over the good times of the past.

***This is the tech demo of Black Isle Studio's Van Buren, and is not related to any products of Bethesda Softworks.***

Music in the demo is from Various Artists - Funeral Songs.

J.E. Sawyer on the demo

The demo was a segment of what was going to be the F3 tutorial. The tutorial was supposed to be an "educational film" called "After the Bombs Fall: Moving into Your New Vault". In it, you played a young woman who comes home with her brother to find that her parents were wasted by Commie insurgents. The bombs are starting to fall, and you and your brother have to make your way to a vault with the help of GMC Cpl. Armstrong. It would have taught you how to move, look at your character sheet, use the world map, fight, etc.

The segments in the demo are the last two portions of the tutorial, obviously with the "real" F3 Protagonist-type character instead of vault younglings.
General interaction
Debug commands
Character creation
Settings in F3.ini
Nonfunctional game elements
Developer comments


Citizen, through bad luck or personal negligence, you have been caught in the midst of a nuclear war. Your only hope of survival is to locate the safety of your local Vault. You have made great progress in finding a relocation center, where Corporal Armstrong of the 4th Armored Infantry Division has volunteered to escort you the rest of the way. Reports indicate that Communist insurgents have blockaded the entrances to several Vaults; there are no military forces or supplies to spare at this critical point in the War. Corporal Armstrong and you will have to make due with what you can scavenge in case you encounter this threat. You will be safe once you reach the Vault, which has been created with the latest technology and incorporates redundant systems to prevent any possible malfunction.


To install the Fallout 3 (Van Buren) demo, simply extract the RAR file to a directory of your choice. If you are unfamiliar with RAR files, you can download 7-zip The first time you run the demo, you might receive a blank screen for several minutes; don't worry, this is normal and won't happen again (it has been known to take up to eight minutes). Whle the screen is blank, a 'F3' folder will be created under 'My Documents' or the equivalent on your computer, which is where the .ini, log, and character files (.CRT) will be stored.

After installation, you can edit the resolution to fit your preferences by changing the 'height' and 'width' variables in the .ini file in 'My Documents'. See Settings in F3.ini. You can also install the fonts from the RAR in your own fonts folder for a better look.

General Interaction

Left Mouse Click - Move PC to cursor location or attack if weapon is selected.
Right Mouse Click - If object is selected (highlighted blue) brings up a context menu, if no object is selected it will 'grab' the screen and allow you to rapidly move the camera
Mouse Wheel - Move the camera in or out
Arrow Buttons - Left/Right rotate the camera 45 degrees in their respective directions, Up/Down switch the camera from isometric perspective to top-down
W - Weapon toggle
I - Bring up character inventory
X - Freely rotate camera around PC

Debug Commands

2 - Remove/Bring Up the action bar
F1 - Activate in-game statistics
Ctrl-B - Activate/Deactivate bilinear filtering
Ctrl-F - Switch to Fullscreen/Windowed mode
Ctrl-L - Activate/Deactivate lighting
Ctrl-N - Start new game with current character
Ctrl-O - Activate/Deactivate octree
Ctrl-M - Activate memory test
Ctrl-S - Switch shadows between None/Simple/Stencil options
Ctrl-T - Activate/Deactivate transparencies
Ctrl-W - Activate/Deactivate wireframe mode
Ctrl-K - Kill the highlighted entity


Combat is extremely basic, virtually unimplemented and real-time only. Aimed shots do not work, but other attack modes do. Ammunition is unimplemented (and thus infinite), but weapons will need to be reloaded. In combat, enemies will have a thin red outline.

To attack, you have to click on the weapon selection box in the interface, move the cursor over the person you want to attack and click on them when they are highlighted in blue. With a firearm, the PC will continue attacking until out of ammunition, at which point they will automatically reload and cease attacking. While attacking an opponent, you can select weapon again and click on a second opponent, the PC will alternate attacks between the two. Also, while attacking, you can switch weapons or change attack mode, the PC will switch and continue to attack the same target(s).

If you select attack mode by accident, left-click on the ground to unselect; or press escape in certain cases for the minigun and 9mm weapons.

The Game - Character Creation

Before you can attempt to reach the Vault, you must create your character. The Van Buren character creation uses a modified version of SPECIAL as envisioned by J.E. Sawyer. The number of skills have been reduced to 13 (from 18). As in the original Fallouts, you can spend 5 points upping your primary characteristics and tag three skills. The traits are described in the menu, but do not work for the demo. The appearance of the PC is modifiable in body type, skin type, hair type, ponytail, mustache, beard, and hair color. You can also choose to play as a female, but the options are not complete.

The Game - Walkthrough

Junked town

At the very start of the game you will have a cattle prod in your inventory; you might want to equip it, based on your character's attributes.

You will be close to Corporal Armstrong, who will explain the situation. You can listen to him, talk to him, or ignore him; in any case he will follow you once you start moving.

There is quite a bit of combat in here, where Corporal Armstrong is useful. If you want to, you can simply leave most of the fights up to him, or follow his instructions. Armstrong will also indicate where it is advantageous to raid certain buildings and warn of nearby communist insurgents.

At any point before he bids you farewell you can attack Armstrong to get his equipment. He won't attack you and is quite beatable even with a cattle prod. You can take his suit of power armor, .223 minigun, .44 pistol and 3 clips of .44 FMJ ammo from his body.

If you want to avoid most of the combat, you can follow the edge of the map south, until you reach the cliff. From that point follow the cliff towards the center of the map. The southernmost unarmed and knife wielding insurgents will likely spot you as you approach the Vault door, but that should be the only combat you face.

To experience the full map, head south between the two buildings. You will be attacked by two insurgents, one armed with a knife, and the other with a 9mm pistol. The latter is in the building to the west and won't always come out. Loot their bodies for their weapons and armor; then enter the red brick building and search the shelves to the north wall for a helmet, a medkit, an SMG and some 9mm ammo.

Continue to the south. You will encounter an insurgent with a flamer in the pen structure, assisted by an unarmed insurgent who will approach from the south. A fifth insurgent with a knife is a bit further to the south, between the two shacks. Beyond him is the Vault door, as you approach it Corporal Armstrong will bid you farewell.

There are some dogs who wander along the sides of the map, if you approach they will follow you for a short distance. You can attack them if you wish.

Press on the Vault door console, on the left side, to open the Vault and enter it. There might be some loading time involved here, so be patient.


Inside the Vault you will be accosted by a man named Frank. Frank is the Underseer and needs help getting the generator turned on, so that life-support can be turned on.

To the south wall of the room to the west of him is a supplies shelf. Search it for a power armor helmet, a tool set and a set of lock-picks.

Go north to the T-juncture. Equip the lock-picks to open the door to the generator room. Once the door is open, you can either fix the floating eye-bot and let him repair the generator, or fix the generator yourself. In both cases, equip the tool set to do so.

Once the generator is up and running, use skill (science) on the computer to the south wall of the computer room to get life support back on. You can talk to Frank to receive his gratitude, but otherwise you are finished with this demo.

Note: To use skills, click "use skills", click on the target and choose the skill you want.

Note: While all skill uses (presumably) have skill checks, you will succeed whether you have them tagged or not.

The Game - Mini-quest list

Reach the Vault Entrance
From: Corporal Armstrong
Solution: Reach the Vault Entrance in the south of the junked town location with Corporal Armstrong alive.

Loot the Red Brick Building
From: Corporal Armstrong
Solution: Go into the red brick building and search the shelves.

Repair the Floating Eye Bot
From: Frank the Underseer
Solution: Use skill - repair on the broken floating eye-bot in the north-western room of the Vault.

Fix the Generator
From: Frank the Underseer
Solution: use skill - security on the door to the generator room to the north of the Vault and then either use skill - repair on the generator or let the eyebot do it.

Get Life Support Up and Running
From: Frank the Underseer
Solution: once the generator is running, use skill - science on the computer to the south wall of the eastern room of the Vault.

Settings in F3.ini file (comments are in italics)

CDAudio = 0 Does nothing, there's no CD audio.
DirectMusic = 0 Set this to 1 to use DirectX for sound rendering.
DirectShow = 0 Set this to 1 to use DirectX for video rendering.
Music = 1 Set this to 0 to turn-off music.
MusicVolume = 100 Changes music volume.

debug = 17416248 Doesn't appear to do anything.
port = 22502 Sets TCP port for multiplayer protocol on the client side. Since there is no multiplayer, it does nothing.
rate = 0 No idea what it does. When I tried settings this to values greater than 0, game performance plummeted. Keep this at 0.
timeout = 600000 Most likely connection timeout for multiplayer. Since there is no multiplayer, it does nothing.

mode = 0 Sets combat mode. Since only real-time combat is implemented (and only barely), it does nothing.

adapter = 0 Sets the display adapter. If you have multiple video cards in your system, you can set this to an alternate value.
The next three options are color components, each with range from 0 (darkest) to 255 (brightest). They determine the color to which the color buffer is cleared at the beginning of each render loop. Keep these at 0 (black color), otherwise you'll see visual artifacts in places.
clear blue = 0
clear green = 0
clear red = 0
device = 0 Sets the device used for rendering. Only hardware devices are supported, so unless you have multiple video cards, you'll want to keep this at 0.
displaymode = 25 I'm not sure what this is supposed to do. All I know is that whenever I change it, the game automatically reverts it to 25.
enable bilinear filtering = 1 Self-explanatory.
enable lighting = 1 Self-explanatory.
enable startup movies = 1 Self-explanatory.
enable transparency = 1 Self-explanatory
enable wireframe = 0 Turns on wireframe rendering. Note that both world geometry and GUI will be rendered as wireframe, so GUI will be unusable.
fullscreen = 1 Self-explanatory.
height = 800 Sets screen height (i.e. the height component of game resolution). Feel free to set this to whatever value you prefer.
mode32bpp = 1 Set this to 1 to turn on 32-bit rendering.
refresh = 0 I'm not sure what this is supposed to do. It doesn't appear to have any effect.
shadow type = 2 0 - no real-time shadows, 1 - fake real-time shadows, 2 - stencil shadows (note - stencil shadows are a bit glitchy and don't look quite right)
stats = 1 Set this to 1 to display various rendering statistics (such as frames per second).
vsync = 1 Set this to 0 to turn off VSync.
width = 1280 Sets screen width (i.e. the width component of game resolution). Feel free to set this to whatever value you prefer.

<snip> As far as I know, this is the only way to change key bindings.

configuration = 3 Since there is no multiplayer, it does nothing.

<snip> Since there is no multiplayer, these do nothing.

Nonfunctional Game Elements

Main Menu:
- The only options that work are Start New Game and Exit Game

Character Creation:
- Traits don't work
- Male characters always start with 100/100 HP; female characters always start with 1/10 HP, independent of endurance
- Some minor graphical glitches

- No turn-based combat, barely functional real-time combat
- No load/save
- None of the options seem to work, video options are out of sync with F3.ini
- PIP Boy partially works - it appears to show correct time, it has working maps and it shows task lists for various locations; other functions do not work
- No character screen
- All item weights are set to 0
- Ammunition isn't consumed
- .44 pistol "butt smash" attack works as a ranged attack

Developer comments

In the thread about the tech video in NMA, Van Buren lead designer J.E. Sawyer gave some additional comments on the status of the tech dome:
* Floating damage numbers were meant to be an option, thought it isn't in the options menu in the demo.

* The game was intended to be played either as turn-based or real-time. Because Jefferson was real-time, that was the first combat mode implemented for Van Buren. Even what's there is only partially working. There's no pause (super sucky) or called shots, but weapons did their proper damage types and values, armor resisted properly, and it actually did calculate hit location. In the combat log, it will say where the shots hit and the characters will float comments like, "GOD DAMMIT MY EYES!"

People who have played the demo may have seen a switch on the option screen for combat mode that reads "Ask Me". This would have prompted the player before every battle and asked him or her to select between the two modes.

* The female characters in the demo are on the male skeleton (whoops), which is why they look kind of... El Greco-ish and bizarre.

* True "Fallout-style" death animations were not in the demo because we had to figure out how to do them from a technical perspective. Jefferson wasn't going to have crazy death animations and 3D posed some new challenges for blowing out parts of creatures. It's one of the areas where T-Ray/Brian Menze's 2D work definitely had an edge.

* All males were on the same skeleton, which made it hard to pose the character correctly when he could be a thin character in a jumpsuit or a strong guy in power armor. That's why everyone's walking around "bow-armed" and only the PC's escort in power armor (Cpl. Armstrong) looks like he's in a proper stance. Chris Marleau was our sole animator. He worked really, really hard, but there was no way he could do full animation sets for two male skeletons for the demo deadline.

* The weapons in the demo were chosen either because they were traditional Fallout weapons or because their visual effects/sounds were appealing. The player wouldn't have started with any of that stuff in the actual game.

* Yeah calling Multiplayer "Play With a Friend" was kind of goofy.

* Also, around 20 seconds or so, you might notice Cpl. Armstrong in the upper left corner standing with his minigun floating text. He's saying something similar to, "Move citizen, you're standing in my line of fire!"

Of course, this is the most important element of the entire demo: companions that don't shoot you in the back with an automatic weapon.

* The higher AP was the result of increasing the overall granularity of the AP scale and reducing the effective capabilities of high vs. low AG characters. In F1/F2, the difference between what a low AG and high AG character could do in a round was very large. In VB, a 1 AG character would have 21 AP, with a high AG character at 30. Of course, the overall AP costs were higher, but the change allowed each point of AG to make a difference and it meant that a high AG character was only ~33% more capable than a low AG character (compared to the ~50% bump from F1/F2).

Increasing the AP range also helped give us a little more flexibility in differentiating the costs of actions on certain weapons/from certain perks.

Characters would regenerate all of their AP in a single "round" of six seconds and their total AP (whether or not they had any remaining) directly influenced their movement speed. Movement suspended AP regeneration, so the amount of "stuff" a single character could do in a round was very close to what it would have been in turn-based.
General interaction
Debug commands
Character creation
Settings in F3.ini
Nonfunctional game elements
Developer comments