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The Untold Truth Of Fallout 4's Dogmeat Model

Oftentimes, video game characters are inspired by people or things in the real world. Dogmeat, the lovable German Shepherd that players get to run around with in "Fallout 4," was inspired by River, a real-life German Shepherd who was just as lovable. On Jun 27, 2021, River passed away, and "Fallout 4" developer Joel Burgess shared River's story on Twitter.


Burgess decided to share River's story because, according to the developer, "writing about game dev hurts less than grieving." While Dogmeat was a strong companion to players in the "Fallout 4" universe, River was that same loyal buddy for Burgess in real life.

River started visiting the development team after a new member on the team shared their canine research, which was made up of "countless images of German Shepherds snarling, all teeth and attack." Burgess said that his "biggest worry" about Dogmeat was that he would become a weapon, rather than the loving partner he was meant to be.

That's where River entered the picture. She bonded with the development team and showed them how to make Dogmeat a companion more than anything. From there, she quickly became the inspiration for pretty much everything involving Dogmeat. Burgess' tweets about River gave a lot of insight on how the "Fallout 4" incarnation of Dogmeat came to be.


River and Dogmeat were an award winning match

German Shepherds are gorgeous dogs in general, and River represented the breed well. Specifically, River's specific markings were a cut above the rest, and it made her the perfect visual model for Dogmeat.


According to Burgess, River's "markings happened to work really well for pose read [and] facial expression." If you've ever met an expressive dog in real life, then you know exactly how well some dogs can show their true feelings. Burgess brought up a 2015 tweet from his wife that feature side-by-sides images of Dogmeat and River, which showed just how alike the two dogs looked at the time the game was released.

River wasn't originally intended to be used as a character model, but she ended up fitting the role perfectly. In fact, as Burgess also pointed out, River was named CW's Top Video Game Dog for her role in "Fallout 4."

Dogmeat's vocals came from River's attachment to the devs

As Burgess mentioned, the team wanted Dogmeat to feel like an authentic character. Therefore, the devs set out to use as few "stock libraries" as possible, which meant getting River to record a number of sounds for the game. While some of these sounds would've been easy to get, such as barking, growling, or other common dog sounds, other cues were a bit more difficult to record. 


As Burgess recalled, the distress sound for Dogmeat wasn't an easy sound to get out of her. For this, they had to keep her in the sound studio with Burgess on the other side of the door. This way, she could smell him but not get to him. While it was "heartbreaking," according to Burgess, it was also a good way to get "happy little celebration yips."

These little sounds brought Dogmeat's character to life in a way that a generic stock dog sound wouldn't have, and it was all authentically River.

River's games changed how Dogmeat behaved

One of the most incredible (and not immediately obvious) ways that River inspired Dogmeat was in the way she walked. Burgess explained that, while taking River on walks, another team member noticed that she'd often walk ahead. However, she'd always turn around and check on Burgess despite staying in front of him.


This sort of tracking system that she had with him was brought directly into the game, and players can notice Dogmeat doing the same. He'll generally run ahead of you, but he'll always check back to make sure you're okay.

River also had a habit of fetching random things as a way to make people happy, according to Burgess. However, he said that the things she would bring weren't always the greatest. As he said, "her intentions were pure, but her judgment wasn't always perfect." To hit this point home, Burgess included an adorable picture of River running with a huge stick in her mouth.

This inspired Dogmeat's own ability to search for items in the game. This will sometimes result in nothing, but other times, he will end up fetching some useful items for you.


Because of Dogmeat, River's 'legacy' is love

After seeing Burgess explain how River directly influenced Dogmeat in almost every single way, it's safe to say that Dogmeat is basically a virtual version of River that is able to share her love and excitement with everyone. In many ways, that was Dogmeat's point in the game.


Burgess pointed out that Dogmeat genuinely loves the player character, who is very much an emotionally isolated character for long stretches of the game. Beyond feeling a sense of attachment as the player and Dogmeat navigate this dystopian world, Dogmeat actually tries to make you happy. Between bringing you random items to checking that you're okay while you're walking, Dogmeat constantly shows his love to the player.

Burgess had the best words for it: "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."

To Burgess, that's the legacy that River left the world in the form of this character: love.