Fallout: The History of Vault-Tec (2024)

Vault-Tec Corporation (also called Vault-Tec Industries) is responsible for the mysterious and often entertaining vaults found throughout the Fallout series. Players can learn the history and background of this company through files and documents scattered throughout the post-apocalyptic US in the games; largely though, the player will encounter many of Vault-Tec's failed and unethical experiments. Within the Fallout universe, Vault-Tec was formed sometime before 2031 and has a long history of corruption and mismanagement, but is also responsible for a lot of the advanced technology found in Fallout games.

Obviously, the iconic Vault Boy and the many explorable vaults in the games come from Vault-Tec, but so too does the game's V.A.T.S.; Vault-Tec also collaborated with RobCo and issues Pip Boys to inhabitants in every vault they created. While Vault-Tec's vaults were intended to protect the population from nuclear attack, it quickly became apparent that many of the vaults were twisted experiments that would quickly fail after the Great War. Regardless of Vault-Tec's ethics and practices, it is one of the most important pre-war companies in Fallout lore and plays a huge part in shaping the wasteland.

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Vault-Tec's Pre-War Reputation and Vault Construction

Fallout: The History of Vault-Tec (1)

The earliest account of Vault-Tec found in the Fallout games is the creation of Vault-Tec University in Morgantown in 2031, as seen in Fallout 76. However, it is not until the 2050s that the government contracts Vault-Tec to construct fallout shelters with Project Safehouse. The reason the US government works with Vault-Tec relates to Fallout's alternative world history; in particular, the vaults were created as a precaution following the use of nuclear weapons in the Euro-Middle Eastern War (part of the larger Resource Wars in Fallout canon) and the New Plague (which leads to the Forced Evolutionary Virus from the games).

The idea of the vaults proved to be popular, though, as despite the huge delays in construction of the American vaults, Vault-Tec was beginning to construct vaults in Canada at the time of the Great War. There are very few mentions of how other countries have faired after the Great War in the Fallout universe, and Canada is the only time Vault-Tec is mentioned to be operating in a different country. There are also mentions throughout the games of work stoppages preventing vaults from being completed, and financial mismanagement despite Vault-Tec's planned expansion to Canada.

The brief glimpse of pre-war life shown in Fallout 4 features a Vault-Tec door-to-door salesman. This interaction gives some insight into pre-war perceptions of Vault-Tec, before their secret experiments were discovered; during this time, since Vault-Tec was a government contractor it was protected by the New Amended Espionage Act, which meant that it was illegal to publish material on their affairs. While the loss of human life was considered irrelevant during Vault-Tec's early technology experiments, the Societal Preservation Program, enacted in the run-up to the Great War, marks the beginning of the company using the vaults for human experimentation. Over 100 vaults were commissioned by the US government, and 122 were built before October 2077 when the Great War took place.

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Vault-Tec Post-Apocalypse

Fallout: The History of Vault-Tec (2)

While Vault-Tec is largely defunct during the majority of events in the Fallout series, the company and its operations have numerous effects on the post-apocalyptic US. The foremost of these effects is obviously the vaults and their protection from the nuclear event versus how lethal their experiments proved to be. Of the 122 vaults created, only 17 were control vaults, meaning no experiment was conducted, and these vaults were merely intended to protect their inhabitants. Not all vaults were finished before the Great War, and players can find 3 unfinished vaults in the games so far. Of the 17 control vaults, the fate of 3 are known, with one failure and two opened successfully. While the fate of all vaults isn't known, there have been at least 15 failed experiments (meaning the test subjects died, escaped, or the experiment could no longer continue). Beyond that, there's a handful of active vaults across the wasteland.

Some of these vaults are still in good condition by the time the player finds them, but with each vault comes a story of psychological and physical torture. The vaults were designed to put humans in extreme situations or circ*mstances and study the resulting data. In some vaults this was achieved through drugs, pitting vault dwellers against each other, and in one vault, requiring a yearly human sacrifice. In addition to Vault-Tec University mentioned earlier, the Fallout games feature three other Vault-Tec buildings that can be found. Fallout 3 features Vault-Tec Headquarters, while Fallout 4 includes Vault-Tec Regional HQ. Finally, the Fallout 4 DLC Nuka World features a Vault-Tec amusem*nt ride called Among the Stars, which was intended to attract potential vault customers.

Vault-Tec Technology

Fallout: The History of Vault-Tec (3)

Though the vaults are certainly what most fans immediately associate with Vault-Tec, it is also responsible for a number of the futuristic technologies seen in the Fallout games. While it was RobCo that created the iconic Pip-Boy, Vault-Tec issues a Pip-Boy to every one of its inhabitants, and they prove to be essential items for players to explore the post-apocalyptic US. Vault-Tec is known to have made at least two holodisk games for the Pip-Boy, named Pipfall and Red Menace, as seen in Fallout 4. The latter of these games serves as pre-war anti-Chinese propaganda. There are few mentions of Pip-Boy usage outside Vault-Tec, although Fallout 76 includes a note that implies the members of the Free State use them.

One of the most significant Vault-Tec technologies the player will interact with is certainly the V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System). Fallout 76 includes a note which implies the Pioneer Scouts and their parents had access to V.A.T.S., possibly acquired from the nearby Vault-Tec University. Beyond this, Vault-Tec is also responsible for C.A.M.P.S., the portable homes in Fallout 76, the G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit), and various pieces of equipment and supplies intended to prepare vault dwellers for the post-nuclear wasteland. While not all of these inventions were useful, it is clear from Fallout lore that the Vault-Tec corporation was a significant factor in the downfall of pre-war society. While the wasteland of these games comes with its fair amount of threats, Vault-Tec mainly represents the folly and cruelness of pre-war society.

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Fallout: The History of Vault-Tec (2024)

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