Fallout: New Vegas director reveals the RPG's most twisted Vault was inspired by the Haunting of Hill House's author

Fallout: New Vegas
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Fallout: New Vegas' director has revealed that a classic Shirley Jackson story inspires one of the Mojave Wasteland's most devilish vaults. 

Obsidian Entertainment's design director Josh Sawyer - who also led heavyweight games such as New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, and Pentiment - occasionally shares insightful tidbits about the studio's catalog on social media. His most recent treat explains how New Vegas' Nipton Lottery and Vault 11 came to be.

Nipton is a small town in the wasteland that's under attack when the player stumbles in, with bandits gruesomely executing and crucifying innocents. But after running a lottery, the invaders decide to let one young man run away unharmed. When recently asked about the quest on social media, Sawyer explains that the town was inspired by its real-life counterpart, also called Nipton, because it's the "closest place from Vegas [that] could easily buy California lottery tickets." A practical explanation, then. 

The fan was also curious about Shirley Jackson's influences - the author behind twisted classics such as Haunting of Hill House - specifically her short story called The Lottery (originally published in The New Yorker in 1948) which features a small rural community who sacrifice people based on lottery results in a superstitious bid to improve their crop's harvest. The Lottery, despite surface-level similarities, didn't inspire Nipton, but it did inspire the bone-chilling Vault 11, according to Sawyer.  

Vault 11 is one of those insidious social experiments that were more focused on sadistic drama rather than preserving life beyond the apocalypse. Vault 11 inhabitants were told that the community must sacrifice one person every year, or else the entire place would implode. What followed was years of strife as Vault Dwellers split off into voting blocs to decide who the sacrificial lamb would be - with the bigger voting blocs coercing and intimidating others to get their way. In reality, nothing would happen to the community if they decided to just, like, not murder anyone. Untangling Vault 11's nightmarish history makes for one of the series' best vignettes, so it makes sense that the embryonic idea came from the great Shirley Jackson.

Josh Sawyer also teased that he would happily make Pillars of Eternity 3, if only it could have a Baldur's Gate 3 budget attached. 

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.