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GDC: Fallout worked too well to be certified by Microsoft

6:30 PM on 03.08.2012 // Conrad Zimmerman

My favorite session at GDC this week so far has been Tim Cain's postmortem on Fallout. A little while ago, I relayed a story about how a licensing issue nearly killed the game and forced a two-week re-write of the entire game's code. But another anecdote from Cain about dealing with Microsoft's certification process really tickled my funny bone.

As Fallout was getting closer to release, Interplay decided that they wanted to have Windows 95 branding on their package, to take advantage of the operating system's cachet as the future of personal computing. It should have been no issue at all, as the game had been designed to run on all versions of the Windows operating system. As things turned out, their efforts towards compatibility on all platforms wound up getting in the way, as Microsoft rejected Fallout from Windows 95 certification because the game functioned normally in Windows NT.

It turns out that, at the time, Microsoft didn't want to approve software which ran on the company's NT operating system at all, telling Interplay that the program should, as Cain put it, "fail gracefully." 

"I told them it failed so gracefully that it worked," said Cain, but Microsoft wouldn't budge on the decision. To solve the problem, a launcher program was written so that it would simply fail to launch the game in Windows NT, thus ensuring that certification would be approved.

See? Microsoft doing really stupid things in regards to certification of software isn't a new practice, but this is one of the most humorous examples I've heard of that behavior yet. Of course, it's lucky for Fallout fans that the game was compatible with NT in the long run, as we can even now continue to play it on current PCs, as all modern incarnations of Windows are based on the NT framework.

That is, once you get rid of that launcher which breaks it.


Conrad Zimmerman, Moustache
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An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. He can be heard on the comedy podcast () and str... more   |   staff directory

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