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River, inspiration for ‘Fallout 4’ Dogmeat companion, passes away

By Arthur Apostol Published Jun 28, 2021 4:49 pm

River, the real-life canine inspiration for Fallout 4’s “Dogmeat” companion, has passed away.

Her owner, Fallout 4 senior designer Joel Burgess, shared the news on Twitter with a thread that honored River’s life with images, stories and many more.

Burgess also shared how much impact River had on the game's development.

The development team began the design for Dogmeat by researching professionally-trained dogs. Burgess recollected seeing a member of the Dogmeat team browsing pictures of German Shepherds aggressively stanced and snarling with their teeth out. 

He said that River was the "the antidote to my biggest worry for the Dogmeat character—a canine weapon, and nothing more."

The aggressive concept of the Dogmeat companion was eventually changed by River, as she was constantly brought to their office and was allowed to interact with the employees.

“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,” Burgess said.

“The more they bonded with her, the more they saw Dogmeat as a character—a friend,” he added.

Because of her participation, the development team was able to fully capture what it was like to have a dog as a companion in a video game that is constantly chaotic.

“She was more than a mascot or an inspiration, she was part of the team," said Burgess.

Burgess also noted that Dogmeat’s item-fetching and seeking behaviors which were sometimes very vital while exploring the wasteland were also inspired by River.

“River really loved making people happy... sometimes by bringing us large objects.  Her intentions were pure, but her judgement wasn't always perfect,” he said.

Players can meet Dogmeat at the Red Rocket truck stop just outside of Sanctuary in-game.

“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,” Burgess said.

“And if love is River's legacy, I am contented.”

(Images from Bethesda and Joel Burgess)