Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 21: ATOMIC SCIENCE!

Nukuler Attums.

Nukuler Attums.

As promised, this week we talk about the atomic dimwits. Remember when I talked about the ghouls in the DC ruins at both the museum and beneath the White House? And how the Super Mutants would be one of their main trading partners? Let’s add to that.

Thanks to a random discussion at the No Mutants Allowed forums, I had a new idea, one involving an existing – and incredibly stupid as it currently stands – faction: The Church of Atom.

Allow me to start by saying I don’t necessarily think the Church of Atom faction itself is stupid. It’s how they’re portrayed that’s stupid. Especially the likes of their radiation immunity, something that is never explained. Or why they’re so widespread in Fallout 4. Or why they’re automatically hostile (eh, could say the same about most Bethesda factions, I guess, gotta have them targets to shoot).

Anyway, my idea for this faction is thus: they’re a cult who sprang up several decades ago in the Boston Commonwealth area (yes, this will span both 3 and 4, I’ll talk more about them in 4 when I start the Reconstructing series for it). Cults generally worship something, and like in the base games they effectively worship atomic energy.

However, unlike Beth’s dumbass cultists who literally treat it as a religion, I’m thinking something more along the lines of the Followers of the Apocalypse. They’re cult-like, kind of nuts in some ways, have some weird as hell rituals, and certainly treat atomic power with an almost religious fervour and reverence. Okay.

But they’re also made up of people who understand nuclear power and weapons. Scientists, technicians, mechanics, all sorts, alongside regular folk who provide the more basic day to day amenities. In the Boston area they’ll be pretty big and pretty powerful, notably through their understanding of technology.

They’re also a pretty decent sort overall, willing to help people get old tech working and so on (basically the east coast’s answer to the Followers), but are also extremely interested in anything to do with nuclear power. They’ll use energy weapons, be capable of producing fission batteries, microfusion cells, and other useful tech, and generally be a force to be reckoned with.

Moving to the DC region, the Atomists (nice shortening of their name for convenience) have sent out some small expeditionary parties to scout out other areas and determine whether there is anything of value. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 20: Mutant Mayhem

Ancient Evolved Ninja Mutants: The Secret of the Ooze.

Ancient Evolved Ninja Mutants: The Secret of the Ooze.

Super Mutants! Regardless of how little sense this faction makes in Fallout 3, they remain the primary antagonistic force in the game for a considerable period until the Enclave shows up. Let’s see how they might be improved and fixed. My first thought was to remove the dumb second generation Vault 87 mutants entirely. But then I decided there is possibly a better way.

Instead, what I’m thinking is this: Marcus originally set out with a large number (comparatively, given there aren’t many left) of fellow mutants in order to find a place to call home. Because we now have our own version of the Silk Road, we can say they travelled with the merchant caravans, providing some additional muscle and protection until they decide to put down roots somewhere.

However, over time a secondary faction arose among the mutants that didn’t feel like sticking around the west coast region. While some mutants integrated into society, the new faction decided it wanted to leave this area behind and make a new life far to the east. (Note, Harold also goes along on this particular journey.)

Eventually, this second faction split entirely and made their way east, continuing on with the caravans. Marcus, the Nightkin, and the other mutants with him settled down at what would become known as Jacobstown, thus neatly tying into the later plot/location in New Vegas. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 19: Ever-Clean Pills

A Behemoth chillin’ after some pillin’. Because giving giants drugs is fun.

A Behemoth chillin’ after some pillin’. Because giving giants drugs is fun.

Evergreen Mills, yet another location that could’ve been great but ended up being utterly squandered as usual.

Now, before I get to Evergreen Mills itself, I need to quickly cover one other, uh… I can’t say faction because it’s basically a faction of one, but certainly an important character who’ll have a prominent role in the world, even if he technically wants to remain hidden for the most part.

Remember that ghoul fella living in Northwest Seneca Station? Murphy? The one who wants to improve Jet and make a shitload of caps getting ghouls addicted because regular Jet doesn’t really have the same effect for them? Yeah, him. Let’s improve him and turn that quest into something a little more helpful (or the reverse depending how you decide to play it!). (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 18: Wasted Space

It’s time to delve into some of the minor locations that are just sort of there, no real reason behind them besides the usual Bethesda Rule of Cool, including the DC ruins and Citadel. This’ll be a shorter post since it’s going up together with Part 17.

DC Ruins:

I love the smell of radiation in the morning.

I love the smell of radiation in the morning.

First of all, I have no interest in console limitations, I’m writing this series from the point of view of world building as a writer, so all those godawful metro tunnels blocking your way? Those would be the first thing gone/altered.

Getting lost in a maze can be fun for a short while, certainly, but not when you’re being forced to navigate it regularly. The only mitigating factor is fast travel, but a convenience like that should never be used as a crutch; some players roleplay to the point of disabling fast travel, after all.

The Metro system itself would of course still exist, not least because it’s an integral part of trade between Rivet City and several other locations. But it needs some drastic fixing as far as layout and complexity goes.

Honestly, a less detailed but more stylised art direction would’ve gone a long way towards fixing this as you could have larger areas with less loading screens. Think along the lines of the style used in Borderlands, something simpler that doesn’t demand ultra-realism… especially as ultra-realism often results in reduced realism because everything looks so uncanny and unreal (especially with Bethesda’s potato people).

Beyond that, I actually like this region a great deal. The grandeur and decay, the tall and imposing skeletal remains of buildings surrounding you, the desolation. It all adds up to a pretty nice thematic whole. I’ll give Bethesda credit there, at least, they’re pretty damn good at tone, mood, and environmental storytelling. I just wish they’d put the same effort into the rest of the world, characters, and story.

Add in copious greenery overgrowing everything and you’d have an I Am Legend kind of dealie; a necropolis populated by the dead, but with some safe areas and various quests available from people in settlements who want particular things but don’t have the wherewithal to retrieve or complete them. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 17: Full-Floral Jacket

Treehugging Hippies, Inc. Maybe we should ship them over to Big MT, I’m sure they could find a use…

Treehugging Hippies, Inc. Maybe we should ship them over to Big MT, I’m sure they could find a use…

So this time I’m going to be looking at Oasis and a nearby new location I’ll be adding. First of all, let me say this: I hate Bethesda for what they did to Harold. He’s a fun and interesting character, and having him shoehorned into dreck such as Brotherhood of Steel and, of course, Fallout 3 as a living god-tree is just… *sigh*

That being the case, I’ll be changing it entirely. No more silly god-tree, no more dumbass treeminders, no more Oasis. The location itself will exist, but it won’t be filled with treehugging hippies and will instead be something rather more morally grey, with an unpleasant history leading the player to actually have to make a difficult decision on how to deal with the uh… inhabitants.

But first, Harold. He’ll be around, we can still say that he headed out east and just continued walking, or alternatively we can say he’s here in DC for a specific reason. I’ll be going with a specific reason I’ll get to in a later post, when I talk a bit more about quests and how some of the unused locations can be tied into the wasteland, but either way his presence isn’t offensive in and of itself.

It’s how he’s presented that’s the problem. Taking a well-known and well-liked character like Harold and turning him into a bad joke is in very poor taste, but it’s about what I’ve come to expect from Bethesda; you only have to look at how badly they handled everything else in Fallout 3 to see they don’t give a crap about the source material beyond how it can make them the most money.

It feels like someone sat down with the Fallout Wikia and hit the random page button, got Harold as a result, and thought, ‘Hmm… interesting, he has a tree growing out of his head, I wonder if we could use that… wait, wait… WAIT… I’ve got it! We can turn him into a tree! Genius, gaming is saved, guys.

Anyway, I don’t want to spend ages ranting on Harold, I’ll cover him later, but for now you just needed to know that he ain’t a tree-god in Oasis in my world. Moving on! (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 16: Aiding With the Raiding

Welcome to Raider Town.

Welcome to Raider Town.

So let’s talk raiders and others of their ilk. I’ll be both introducing a new location and overhauling an existing one here, so I guess I’ll kick off with the overhauled one as that ties directly into Eighton.

Raiders of one form or another have been a staple of the series since the start; the Khans, Vipers, Jackals, Scorpions, Fiends, etc. And in every game not made by Bethesda they’ve also been either joinable in some way, or at the very least the player can talk to them and potentially pick up quests. Catering to the evil types is a necessity Bethesda sadly ignores in their gimped version of Fallout.

Remember that lovely location in the north-western portion of the map, the three satellite towers together in a triangle shape? The generic Raider haunt? You can see it there in the above image. I’ll be livening that place up a bit momentarily, but first I’m going to focus on Springvale and its associated school, pointless Raider haunt that it currently is.

So the general deal with Springvale is thus: technically it’s a Raider haunt, and the people living there are certainly less than pleasant to outsiders, but in reality these were mostly people from Eighton who were banished for one reason or another.

For certain crimes, the legal system of Eighton hands out banishment rather than death, figuring that the Wasteland is a death sentence in any case, and probably worse than a quick death by firing squad or whatever. This is a relatively new thing introduced by the hardliners with their more militaristic ideals, and banishing is considered a fate worse than death. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 15: DLC Attacks!

The Enclave is real! /TinFoilHat

The Enclave is real! /TinFoilHat

So… DLC. This is a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand you have Broken Steel and The Pitt, both fun and surprisingly varied romps with a fair amount to recommend them. In the Pitt you have some actually decent writing, a story that’s rather more morally grey than Bethesda’s usual fare, and can even choose who to support (*gasp!* choice in a recent Bethsoft game? Never thought I’d see the day!).

And in Broken Steel you have a reasonably open area at Adams Airforce Base with a bunch of fun things to get up to, including releasing Deathclaws and calling in (utterly nonsensical but still fun) artillery strikes on the hapless Enclave soldiers. Plus the amazingly atmospheric White House Metro areas.

The base crawler is kind of nonsensical as well given the insane amount of fuel that thing would require to move at all, but clearly that’s not something Bethesda cared to think about, exactly as they didn’t think about the existence of Vertibirds and the problems those present. Maybe it’s meant to be an atomic-powered crawler rather than diesel, who knows.

Also, the space race kind of went differently in Fallout’s universe, would they even have had mobile platforms for moving shuttles around? Considering the USS Quetzel is a nuclear-powered reusable shuttle that can take off under its own power… it seems like the crawler-transport potentially wouldn’t even have existed. Oops. See what you get for only paying attention to Rule of Cool instead of consistency of setting?

And then we have Anchorage and Zeta. Anchorage… well, overall it’s actually not as bad as some people make it out to be, and it’s nice to see Bethesda trying something different with this particular expansion. The Gauss Rifle was a nice addition as well, though the DLC itself is about as linear as it gets, even if you can choose which missions to tackle. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 14: Forbidden Fruits

A simple matter of rearranging reality.

A simple matter of rearranging reality.

On the G.E.C.K.

Since this is a Vault-specific device I’ll talk briefly about it here before moving onto the last couple of locations, mostly because holy shit did Bethesda screw this one up. Beth’s version of the G.E.C.K. (henceforth known simply as the GECK because screw typing those periods every time) is a magical matter rearranger, totally alien to the original concept of the device. I use the term magical on purpose, because that’s effectively what it is.

Overall, I don’t exactly take issue with the device’s mode of function in Fallout 3, we’ve seen similar tech used elsewhere, after all, most-especially the Sierra Madre’s vending machines. It’s more the lack of care and attention paid to actually explaining the major change in functionality from what we’ve already seen in the previous game.

As the main cause of the war, not counting political tensions, was the dearth of natural resources around the globe, research into highly experimental tech of this nature would be entirely within the realm of reason.

Sinclair had a personal vault built for Vera, and commissioned research into all manner of things via Big Mountain – including the vending machines – specifically so she (and, it has to be assumed, he) could survive the inevitable nuclear war he had already predicted. Research into this magical Beth version of the GECK is roughly similar in overall goals, just on a rather more grandiose scale.

With the advent of micro-fusion technology, it looked like we might avert disaster… until the bombs fell. If we’d obtained that sort of tech earlier, we might well have avoided the war because most of the world’s problems would have been solved with a source of effectively infinite energy… though it’s always possible another war could’ve sprung up over who gets access to the tech. *shrug*

Similar to the Madre’s vending machines – experimental and only ever shipped to the casino and its villa, and even then only after Sinclair allowed the Big MT scientists to use the villa as another test city, and right before the bombs fell, therefore making the tech useless anyway – this magical matter rearranger GECK could have been a super late development, too late to be of real use before the war happened. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 13: High Vaultage

Vault 101? Feels more like Bethesda needs a world building 101.

Vault 101? Feels more like Bethesda needs a world building 101.

So let’s take a quick look at some of the logical social experiments conducted in the non-Bethesda Vaults, starting with Fallout 1.

Vault 13:

The starting point for all things Fallout, this is the Vault the player is kicked out of in the first game in order to search for a water purifier chip. The experiment here was prolonged isolation. The only reason it was unsealed is because the water chip broke; unintentionally, and their supply of chips was accidentally sent to Vault 8 instead.

(There’s minor conflicting info here from two different sources – Chris Avellone and Dick Richardson – who say it was a prolonged isolation experiment, or ‘was a Control Vault designed to stay sealed until it was needed’ respectively, but either way the basic premise is the same; it was meant to stay sealed.) (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 12: Divided Deadites

Under the hills and far away.

Under the hills and far away.

Underworld is the ghoul settlement in the centre of DC’s ruins founded in the old history museum. The usual supply problems are there; where do they get water, food, and supplies, which I’ll get to momentarily. But beyond that it’s a mostly okay location. The ghouls have a good reason to hide out there (racism, bigotry, Muties, Brotherhood) without being quite as in your face about it as the whole Roy Phillips questline.

We know that ghouls have the same biological processes as non-ghouls (though Beth is busy retconning this with that goddamn kid in the fridge quest, ffffffffffaaaggghrrr), meaning they need food, water, and sleep.

Sleep is no problem. Food and drink… not so much. On the plus side, they’re already immune to radiation so they can handle not only entering irradiated zones to scavenge, but also potentially eating foods that would be deadly to regular humans. (more…)