As most people know, Bethesda owns the Fallout intellectual property. Bought off of struggling Interplay for $5.75 million, everything from the radscorpions to Nuka Cola is owned by Bethesda. You would assume that any future Fallout game is going to have a Bethesda stamp on the box.
But this isn't the case, apparently. It seems some sub-clause of a clause's clause in the big stack of paperwork transferring the Fallout IP from Interplay to Bethesda allowed for one more final non-Bethesda Fallout game to be made, with conditions.
Interplay is legally able to make a Fallout MMO if they : a) started to work on it within 2 years of signed over the Fallout rights; b) were able to secure $30 million of funding, to do the job right; and c) finished the game before April, 2013.
Work has started and continues on the mysterious Fallout MMO. Referred to as Project V13, not much is known about the game, and it is not officially confirmed, but it seems that it is all but certainly a Fallout game. Working out of Orange County, Project V13 (V13 is assumed to stand for 'Vault 13', an important vault in the Fallout universe) recently hired Chris Taylor in a design capacity for the game. Christopher Taylor (not the same Taylor as the Supreme Commander guy) was a member of the original Interplay Fallout design team. Chris will join other ex-Fallout guys working at Interplay now.
Image taken from Fallout fansite Duck and Cover
Do you think you have what it takes to be a Technical Director? A current Interplay job ad is looking for one -- but you'll have a better chance of getting the job with "Familiarity with the Fallout® universe." With this job posting, the new hire, the clause in the contract and some hints dropped here and there in forums, it seems like it's 'game on' for a Fallout MMORPG.
Absolutely nothing official at all has been mentioned on the game, so no one has any idea what it'll be all about. But that doesn't stop us from making a couple of complete guesses.
First off, player races. Being able to choose between a human, ghoul or super mutant all seem likely (if they allow the choice of race at all.) Being able to play as DeathClaw seems like it might work as well.
Next up: classes. From comments made by artist and designer Jason Anderson, it appears that Fallout will have a classless, skill-based game going, probably based on the SPECIAL character system. Fallout 1 & 2 always had a lot to them more than combat, so I would guess that Project V13 would have some pretty robust skills available to help make a player economy. Maybe you'll be able to play the game as a mobster, a doctor that charges people for healing, or a weapon (or even drug) crafter.
The name of the project seems to indicate that game will be centered around Vault 13. For those that haven't played Fallout 1 or 2, Vault 13 was the vault that the player character comes from, in Fallout 1. The 'Chosen One' (you in the games) led to abandoning of Vault 13, so this leads me to predict that the Fallout MMORPG will take place between Fallout 1, and 2. Story-wise, this seems like a good time to set the Fallout MMORPG. The start of the game could take place during the time of the Vault dwellers' mass emigration into the Wasteland -- not a bad back-drop for a MMORPG at all. This also seems a good place to set the game because presumably Interplay would not want to deal with the events that will happen in Fallout 3 at all -- even if they had full access to this material, I'm sure Interplay would not want to mess about with what Bethesda will establish for the series.
Very cool tie, Vault sales guy.
One more final guess: it seems that in the contract for the game, Interplay agreed to pay Bethesda "12 percent of sales and the subscription fees" for Project V13. If the contract states specifically "subscription fees" and not a more blanket, legally broad statement, perhaps Interplay might try to use its tagged sneak skill to save itself some fees by making the game micro-transaction based, instead of monthly subscription based.
Only time will tell. MMORPGs are always more difficult to make that anyone imagines them to be -- so my last guess is that this game will secure big funding after the success of Fallout 3, and will be come out right under the deadline, of April, 2013.