River, The Dog Who Inspired A ‘Fallout 4’ Game Character, Passes Away

If you’re a gamer, you may know her as “Dogmeat” from Fallout 4. If that sounds like gibberish to you, let me introduce you to River, as she was known in real life. I’m talking about an actual dog who inspired a video game character (also a dog.)

River the German Shepherd’s time in the studio had a huge impact on the popular game. Fallout 4, a series installment released in 2015, is a role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic environment. The game features a companion character, Dogmeat, who’s a virtual dog you can choose to adventure alongside you.

@JoelBurgess/Twitter

Sadly, River passed away in June of 2021. Capy Games Studio Director Joel Burgess, who worked on Fallout 4, created a Twitter thread dedicated to the dog and her inspiring ways. Burgess began the thread by saying:

“I said goodbye today to River, who most of you know as Fallout 4’s Dogmeat. Heartbroken doesn’t cover it, but I won’t eulogize her here. For Twitter, I thought it’d be appropriate to look back at her impact on that game.”

@JoelBurgess/Twitter

River As A Model And Team Member

Technically, Dogmeat existed in earlier games, but the team modified the character with this newer installment. As a reference for the updated game character they were designing, River spent a lot of time at the studio. Burgess’ thread continues:

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

@Game Spot/YouTube

In addition to working alongside the game developers, River became so loved that her personality made its way into the Dogmeat character design. Little details like bringing your character sticks or coming right when called were incorporated.

“The Dogmeat team was just a handful of us early on – as River stole hearts around the studio, however, more and more folks found ways to pitch in and help bring her personality into the game. She was more than a mascot or an inspiration – she was part of the team.”

A Video Game Character Based On A Good Girl

The design team gave Dogmeat many characteristics associated with his inspiration. For example, the video game dog gets very distressed when away from your character, and it also aims to protect you.
“You see, Dogmeat isn’t primarily focused on killing your enemies. He’s *protecting you*, often throwing himself directly in harm’s way, giving you the time + opportunity to deal with the threat yourself. If you’ve ever had a German Shepherd, you understand.”
Dogmeat even sounds like River, as the team wanted to avoid stock audio for the character as much as possible. Burgess recalled how they got the “distress call” audio:
“The only way we could get these was to separate us – I’d have to stand in an adjacent room where she could smell but not reach me, until she started calling out. (These sessions were a little heartbreaking, but they also turned out to be great references for happy little celebration yips as well.)”
Concluding his thread, Burgess said he’s proud of the legacy the real-life River is leaving behind.
“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. And if love is River’s legacy, I am contented. Rest in peace, big girl.”
Fans noticed the detail and love that went into designing Dogmeat, and many are sad to hear about River’s passing. This loyal companion brought a lot of people joy, and her legacy lives on.
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