The dog who inspired Fallout's iconic canine companion, Dogmeat, has died, according to developer Joel Burgess.
Burgess broke the news to fellow Fallout Dogmeat fans via his Twitter profile early on Sunday, June 27. In the thread that followed, he expressed his grief over losing the development team's only German Shepherd member.
"Heartbroken doesn't cover it," he wrote.
However, he did take the opportunity to explain River's role in the team and how much impact she had when designing Dogmeat. He described her as "the antidote to my biggest worry for the Dogmeat character – a canine weapon, and nothing more."
Fallout's German Shepherd Developer, River, Passes Away
Burgess began by explaining the team initially looked into working with and studying "professional" canines in film and vocation. It wasn't until a new member joined the team in charge of developing Dogmeat that they got to meet River.
"Within a day or two, River started visiting the studio," Burgess wrote, "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."
Over time, she became exactly what they had always wanted for the character in-game: a friend. River was "more than a mascot" to the team. She was a bonafide member whose popularity drew other developers to the project in droves.
As such, it only followed that the team put as much of River into Dogmeat as they could fit. Her image is directly translated onto the character from nose to tail—as well as her expressions and behavior. For example, Dogmeat's habit of scouting ahead only to stop and check back on the player came exclusively from River.
"River really loved making people happy... sometimes by bringing us large objects. Her intentions were pure, but her judgement wasn't always perfect," Burgess wrote, explaining how this factored into Dogmeat's fetching and seeking behaviors.
River's genuine love for her team was what made Dogmeat the ideal canine companion in Fallout 4. He isn't just an animal the player can use to end combat quickly. In fact, the developers designed him against that—to protect the player, first and foremost. Dogmeat holds enemies in place to keep players safe from harm.
The character is meant to help players keep their heads in a world neither are "meant" to be exploring. Both are "caught out of time." According to Burgess, the "strange thing" about Dogmeat is simply that there isn't anything strange, at all. He's the player's German Shepherd dog—man's best friend.
"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," Burgess concluded, "In other words, he loves you. And if love is River's legacy, I am contented."
Rest in peace, River.