Fallout Creator Tim Cain Addresses How Many Vaults Were Originally Planned

Originally Vault-Tec would have had hundreds of Vaults...but, well, plans change.

By its very nature, the Fallout franchise can always at some points be categorically recognized as a partial horror property – even at its surface level nuclear war and fallout followed by its lasting effects on the planet is horrifying enough. When you take into account the actions of Vault-Tec, however, a new layer of horror is realized – a horror where corporations and governments treat people like no more than their playthings and deliberately take steps to make their lives harder, even torturous in certain instances. Vault-Tec's villainy is reflected throughout the games and Prime Video's live-action series, their actions an appalling representation of what humans are capable of inflicting upon one another in the Fallout universe. 

It's this villainy that is the very lifeblood of Fallout, and Vault-Tec's evil deeds and corruption have always been on display in the form of the Vaults they built to "protect" citizens of the States who were able to afford a place in them – though as anyone who has experienced any of the franchise knows, the majority of these Vaults were either built to fail or built to carry out often horrific experiments on its inhabitants. 

Producer, writer, and co-creator of the original 1997 RPG Fallout, Tim Cain, has discussed these Vaults in his newest YouTube video regarding the franchise (as originally pointed out by PCGames), after he recently addressed what it would take for him to return to Fallout on his channel last month. In the latest Fallout Video, Cain can be seen speaking about the quantity of Vaults originally intended by Vault-Tec, why they didn't quite reach that number, and why the company went a different direction with them (the human experimentation direction), though he stresses what he's relaying shouldn't be taken as canon at this point. 

"The original design for Vaults was that there were going to be 1,000," Cain explains. "Much later we started revisiting this idea. If each of these Vaults hold 1,000 people, that's only a million people, which is way less than the population that we imagined in the US. There are 50 states, 1,000 Vaults. That means every state should have about 20 Vaults. Bigger states would have more, smaller states would have less. I'm sure it's not distributed evenly, but we're looking at about 20 Vaults per state. Fallout 1 was in the middle of California and then southern California."

"Fallout 2 was that area and the north, so together, Fallout 1 and 2 were pretty much the entire state of California. California is a pretty big state, but Fallout 1 and 2 combined only had about four to six Vaults in them. The TV show, which is also set in California, they added four more. That still only gets us ten – ten Vaults for the entire state of California. You'd expect at least ten more out there."  

Cain also continues to address why states audiences have previously seen like California and Nevada have so few Vaults, which Cain points the finger at Vault-Tec again to answer. "Vault-Tec," he says. "They didn't build all 1,000 Vaults. They didn't even come close. I know some of the Fallout games show Vaults still under construction when the bombs fell, so you could argue they were planning to do all 1,000 and they just never made it – they never got there.

"If you look at all the games together and the show, I think my estimate would be Vault-Tec had probably built fewer than half – probably far fewer – than the Vaults they were supposed to. And then you have to go 'well, why was that? What's going on?' Not only did they [Vault-Tec] win the contract from the government by underbidding – severely underbidding – they probably also under-planned and under-scheduled, and probably just didn't think they were going to do them all." 

It's the under-planning and under-scheduling that would eventually lead the company to decide to use the Vaults for more...creative purposes. "When you add in the fact that Vault-Tec probably knew they weren't going to build 1,000, and the ones they were building were really bad, you can see where the experiment idea might have come in," Cain concludes. "It's like, 'hey, we're not going to build all these, so we're not going to get a lot of people saved, so saving people obviously isn't the goal. What if we did this other thing instead?'"

The Vault experiments range from a simple question of "What would happen if we designed a door that intentionally won't close? for Vault 12, to extreme and unexpected isolation in Vault 77, to what I'd consider the worst thing Vault-Tec has been shown doing (...so far?) which would be the AI-mandated sacrifices in Vault 11.