Pittsburghers might regard the traffic on the city's many bridges as pretty brutal at rush hour. But imagine navigating them on foot ... and then throw in a couple of landmines, and change the city itself into a radioactive wilderness.
That's the setting of "The Pitt," an add-on that Bethesda Game Studios released last month for the award-winning Fallout 3 video game.
Fallout 3 takes players into the post-apocalyptic ruins of Washington, D.C. From the Capital Wastelands, the character is sent on countless missions in which he or she faces the horror the world has become. "The Pitt" expansion, which players can download, takes players to the ruins of Pittsburgh, where radiation has spread through the three rivers -- and turned any survivors into mutants.
But why Pittsburgh, of all cities?
"Well, in the base game, we actually reference The Pitt," says Emil Pagliarulo, the game's lead designer. "It sort of plays into the background fiction for an important faction, the Brotherhood of Steel." (In Fallout 3, the Brotherhood is a techno-religious faction that scourged Pittsburgh to cleanse it of raiders.)
"So when it came time to do DLC [downloadable content], we sort of weighed all of our options, and thought long and hard about which areas we'd like to explore creatively." Using Pittsburgh in the game's post-apocalyptic landscape "just seemed like such a logical fit. The city itself is a character; it's got great history and really unique architecture, and we thought we could really do it justice."
What's more, Pagliarulo says, many of the game's designers came from Pittsburgh or studied there. "Some of the artists directly responsible for creating the architecture in The Pitt actually lived and went to school in Pittsburgh for several years, so they already possessed an intimate knowledge of the city. I mean, they started building out the game world when we first started the initial design, and were pretty adamant about doing it, and doing it right."
Indeed, from the skyline down, the game's view of a dark fictional future is eerie. Local landmarks include the landmine-ridden 10th Street Bridge, which has taken on a green tint due to radioactive waste in the rivers. From there, the player has a clear view of the Mellon Bank building and the remains of PPG Place, and can travel throughout Downtown and into Oakland.
"If we had just, say, made up a completely fictional version of The Pitt, that would have been a huge missed opportunity, and a disservice to those fans who actually know Pittsburgh," Pagliarulo says. "We wanted to use the real Pittsburgh as not only the inspiration, but as the architectural basis. Without the real Pittsburgh, The Pitt never would have come to fruition."