River, the real-life German-Shepard that was both the model and the inspiration for Fallout 4’s Dogmeat, has sadly passed away under undisclosed details. River’s owner, the Capy Games studio director Joel Burgess, shared the news of her passing last night, reminiscing on how River came to portray fan-favorite Dogmeat in the first place.
Burgess shared the news of River’s passing on Twitter, stating that he “said goodbye” to the dog best known to the fandom as Fallout 4’s Dogmeat, as reported by IGN. Burgess stated that River was the antidote to his biggest worry about the Dogmeat character, which was basically a canine weapon in the game, and nothing more. However, River’s presence around the development team made their goal of having Dogmeat become a companion first and a combat ally second in purpose.
You can see the tweet from Fallout’s Joel Burgess below.
Initially, Dogmeat was supposed to be Fallout 4’s in-game asset, a weapon to be used and perhaps discarded if and as necessary. The team assigned to Dogmeat’s development began by researching dogs with movie and police training, only to be bombarded by images of German Shepard snarling and showing teeth while assuming attack positions. And for the purposes of developing an in-game canine weapon, the images sufficed – at least until River showed up.
Though the team considered casting a professional dog with formal training, Bethesda, who is allegedly working on an Indiana Jones title, decided to cast the lead-level designer’s dog instead because it was the right fit for the project. So, Joel Burgess, who worked at Bethesda at the time, brought River to the office, which made the Fallout development team change the entire concept of the Dogmeat feature. Namely, River was well received by the group, which quickly bonded with her and began adding much of her personality to the Dogmeat character – serving more as a part of the team and a true inspiration for the role.
Besides replicating River’s looks, which was made easy by her natural markings, the development team incorporated her patience and gentle nature into the in-game character. They even recorded much of her voice for the Dogmeat’s audio, including happiness and distress calls. This was made possible by separating her from Burgess enough so that she could smell him but not see him until she started calling out. Her behavior and natural movement were also captured, as her innate protective behavior would have her trot ahead and stop looking back and checking in on Burgess. This behavior was translated to Fallout’s Dogmeat character, helping players connect to their in-game companions, showing genuine care for the players.
Joel Burgess’ tweets about River on his Twitter thread were touching. He talked about bringing River into the game and encouraged people to volunteer with animal rescue campaigns where they live or make a donation. In the end, it’s not easy to lose a friend, especially a constant companion that loves us unconditionally like a dog. We want to extend our sympathies to Joel Burgess, and everyone who enjoyed River’s company and encourage everyone to play through Fallout 4 once again, and volunteer at their local animal rescue, in honor of her memory. The franchise’s fans will always appreciate River’s contribution to the game – which was awarded at CW’s World Dog Awards.
It’s worth noting that the Fallout gaming franchise has a television adaptation in the works at Amazon, which will likely thrill the fans of the game, despite its long development cycle. It may have its own German Shepard; who knows.