I said goodbye today to River, who most of you know as Fallout 4’s Dogmeat. Heartbroken doesn't cover it, but I won’t eulogize her here. For twitter, I thought it'd be appropriate to look back at her impact on that game. (plus, writing about game dev hurts less than grieving)

5:00 AM · Jun 27, 2021

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But first, I encourage you to volunteer w/your area rescue. If you can’t volunteer, make a donation to @ASPCA, @HSIGlobal, or a local group. Consider rescue animals first when adopting, and choose responsibly when working with breeders. Please spay/neuter + vax your pets. 💙
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This thread is essentially a long form of the story I always tell about River’s role in Fallout 4; that she was the antidote to my biggest worry for the Dogmeat character – a canine weapon, and nothing more. What we wanted was a companion first, and a combat ally second.
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It wasn’t obvious at first that River would be our subject. We’d started by researching some “professional” dogs, with film and/or police training. Lots of games go this route, and for good reason. But in the end, we didn't.
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I remember the catalyst; an eager new member had joined the Dogmeat team. I visited their desk a day or so later. Research covered the walls; countless images of German Shepherds snarling, all teeth and attack postures. Within a day or two, River started visiting the studio.
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River attended countless meetings; but not just to be poked, prodded, recorded and filmed as reference - her biggest job was just to BE with the team. The more they bonded with her, the more they saw Dogmeat as a character - a friend.
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The Dogmeat team was just a handful of us early on - as River stole hearts around the studio, however, more and more folks found ways to pitch in and help bring her personality into the game. She was more than a mascot or an inspiration - she was part of the team.
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This affected *so much* of how Dogmeat comes across in the final game. (And hey, she even won an award for her role - thanks to everyone's great work.) gamespot.com/articles/fallou… A handful of specific examples:
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To begin with the obvious; River's looks were almost directly replicated to the in-game model. Not just because of her beauty (but yes, that too), her markings happened to work really well for pose read + facial expression.
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River was an exceptionally patient & gentle dog. This made her a great collaborator for gathering foley, modeling and animation reference. She loved being with the team, and they loved her right back. I believe it shows. invidious.mha.fi/XrEQfz4mHAw
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For audio, we wanted to avoid stock libraries as much as possible. This was tricky, especially w/distress calls. The only way we could get these was to separate us - I'd have to stand in an adjacent room where she could smell but not reach me, until she started calling out.
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(These sessions were a little heartbreaking, but they also turned out to be great references for happy little celebration yips as well)
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One of the earliest impacts River had was on pathing. @jean_simonet and I would take long walks with her, and he noticed that she'd trot ahead, but consistently stop to look back and check in me. This behavior went into the game, and really connects the dog to you.
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River really loved making people happy... sometimes by bringing us large objects. Her intentions were pure, but her judgement wasn't always perfect. This helped inspire the item-fetching and seeking behaviors, worked on by @jonpaulduvall & @RadHamster, among others.
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We also crafted the dog's combat AI to focus on holding enemies in place. Direct damage and finishing moves are secondary. (He also HATES being too far from you) This didn't just give Dogmeat a distinctive combat style from other companion NPCs; it was a character choice.
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You see, Dogmeat isn't primarily focused on killing your enemies. He's *protecting you*, often throwing himself directly in harm's way, giving you the time + opportunity to deal with the threat yourself. If you've ever had a German Shepherd, you understand.
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And I suppose this gets at the Big Idea behind Dogmeat's relationship to you in Fallout 4. Like your character, Dogmeat is caught out of time. This dog doesn't belong here, and neither do you.*
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(*anyone looking for confirmation of their preferred Dogmeat origin lore; sorry. There are several intentionally-conflicting clues to this in the game. I can't/won't tell you which theory is true.)
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Fallout is all about exploring a world of bizarre creatures, places, scenarios, and characters. Companion NPCs are a rogues gallery running the gamut from a thespian Supermutant to an Android gumshoe. The strange thing about Dogmeat is that nothing's strange about Dogmeat.
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Dogmeat is a tether. He grounds you in the world, will always stand by you, lead you to your family, and anticipate your needs. He wants you to be safe and happy. In other words, he loves you. And if love is River's legacy, I am contented. Rest in peace, big girl.
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We’ve been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and warmth over recent days. Thank you all. Since this thread, xbox has made a generous donation to the Humane Society, and I invite you all to join in donating, or volunteer locally. 💚🐾
DOGMEAT FOREVER 💚 In honor of River, Xbox and @BethesdaStudios are donating $10,000 to the Montgomery County Humane Society. If you also would like to join us in donating, you can right here: xbx.lv/3jYXnPP
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