Picking Games Apart, One Title At A Time

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 8: Motivated by Money

Tents, a mainstay of all military organisations. Never underestimate their importance.

Tents, a mainstay of all military organisations. Never underestimate their importance.

With Eighton out of the way, it’s onto Talon Company, Reilly’s Rangers, and the Regulators. While I will talk about karma later, let me say this right now: it sucks. At least as it’s currently set up. Having mercs spawn to attack you just because you’ve got positive or negative karma is beyond ridiculous in a post-apoc world like this, so I’ll be axing that as a concept straight away.

Instead, we’ll be using a New Vegas style of system where annoying the wrong factions will lead to murder squads coming after you. Technically this is what the Talon mercs are, they always have a note on them indicating someone is unhappy with you, but since factions aren’t a thing it’s instead tied to karma (and to the bomb disarming quest, but that doesn’t exist any more in my world).

In any case, we’ll start with Talon since I already mentioned them in Tenpenny’s part. The general idea behind these guys is that they’re Tenpenny’s muscle and engage in various mercenary activities for money, some of which goes into Tenpenny’s coffers, and they also keep the plebs in line around the tower itself. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 7: After Eights

After Eight Special.

After Eight Special.

Right, with Vault 101 out of the way, let’s talk a bit more in-depth about Eighton. As I mentioned a couple of parts back, Eighton is based around the general area of the Super Duper Mart. I’d probably move it a little further away from DC itself in order to make it a bit safer overall, but as a location it works fine for the most part.

There’s the nearby Potomac for water, plenty of space for purifiers, several tall buildings for sniper nests and lookouts, a metric crapload of land for farming and houses, and a sturdy pre-war building for use as a town hall and council meeting area. And Greyditch just up the road as a potential allied settlement… or even part of Eighton itself.

You’ll see from the above screenshot that I’ve spent a few minutes (actually more like an entire afternoon) in the GECK making a few basic modifications to the Super Duper Mart in order to illustrate roughly what I’d be going for. Naturally, given engine limitations and my own unwillingness to spend hours on something just for a few screenshots, it’s not exactly as I imagine the settlement, but it gives you a basic idea. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 6: Settlements 101

Work is work. Indeed.

Work is work. Indeed.

Vault 101. Well, at least I don’t need to talk about food and water? That’s something, I suppose. The whole point of the Vaults is that they’re self-sufficient, so – certain naughty secret experiments notwithstanding – I don’t need to belabour that point. Yay! Of course, this isn’t a win for Bethesda as never having to put any real thought into something in the first place doesn’t exactly count.

The first thing I’ll say here is that I’d really like to kill Vault 101 as the starting point for the game. Because really, Bethesda’s one-track mind when it comes to pre-war and the Vaults is kind of tedious.

On the other hand, they’re taking an old CRPG and modernising it, and a vast amount of players simply won’t have played the first two games… so okay, I’ll compromise there as it’s a useful way to introduce an important part of the lore.

Speaking of the lore, Bethesda really butchered the point of the Vaults, didn’t they? There are hints in the first game as to the true purpose of them – whether those hints were intentional or not – but the Project Safehouse experiments and Enclave really came to the fore in Fallout 2.

Technically speaking some of this lore was never exactly made canon as it was based partly on Van Buren, the cancelled Black Isle Fallout 3, and on the Fallout Bible. But the experiments themselves certainly exist, and also had a unified theme; social experiments on random populations in controlled environments. Wacky science was never part of that goal, something Bethesda’s writers completely missed the memo on. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 5: Any Old Iron

Any old iron.

Any old iron.

Rivet City! Neat concept, but it has issues. Of course it has issues, it’s a community holed up in a rusting metal aircraft carrier. Harkness raises a valid point when you talk to him; that it’s a safe location because there’s effectively only a single way in. This is true.

But that also means you’re trapped in there, making a siege trivially easy to win, given they should have massive food issues inside. And a metal aircraft carrier isn’t the best place to try growing things.

There are ways around this of course. Because radiation shouldn’t actually be a problem, it’d be possible to use the deck for growing food. Yes, it’d be a lot of work transporting soil up there, and all the associated logistical hassles in general, but it should be doable. And it’d be safe as you like, unless the Enclave show up in magical Vertibirds… which they won’t.

Hell, you might as well create a lift of some sort to hoist things up while you’re about it. They’ve already invested in a large swing bridge, so putting that extra effort into a lift system for easily hauling supplies up seems like an excellent plan.

The hydroponics bay inside is a nice idea, but unlikely to support the entire community, not without supply problems. And since they apparently trade fresh food for things with other settlements they’d have an even bigger problem on their hands.

All in all, this is the least problematic location to my mind. Bethesda at least put some thought into the all-important question of how they survive, but it certainly has some issues that would still prevent it being a successful settlement (for successful, read: surviving past the first week). (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 4: In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Spare a penny, sir? Perhaps ten?

Spare a penny, sir? Perhaps ten?

In typical Bethesda fashion, Tenpenny Tower is a simple black and white, ‘good versus evil’ type deal, except missing any form of subtlety or nuance. The really interesting thing is that they seem to expect the player to automatically assume that ghouls = good, Tenpenny = bad. But if you analyse the options with even a cursory glance, it’s arguably the complete opposite. Or you could say they’re simply different shades of awful.

Let’s take Tenpenny’s side first. Gustavo refuses Roy Phillips entry into the tower. Why? Because he’s a ghoul. Now okay, initially this seems like a pretty horrible reason, and could have been used to explore the realities of racism and bigotry in a post-apocalyptic setting. Especially as Gustavo raises a valid point about ghouls eventually turning feral.

But in reality it comes across more as Baby’s First Bigotry Lesson (or racism, really, since it’s wholly predicated on Roy and his followers being ghouls). Roy doesn’t like that Tenpenny and his residents hold the opinion that ghouls are bad simply because they’re ghouls, wants to kill everyone as a result, and is blind to his own hypocrisy. Again, that could be a pretty good thing to explore… but nope, easier to just have the player assist in small-scale genocide.

If you have a little chat with Tenpenny himself you’ll discover that he’s actually perfectly happy for Roy to come in… if you can persuade certain important residents. On the other side of the fence, Roy says he can afford to move in, but for reasons that aren’t clear he instead wants to overrun the tower with feral ghouls and kill everyone, possibly because he’s a short-tempered arse, or because he’s turning feral himself. Maybe both. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 3: Settling for Traders

Craptastic Crater.

Craptastic Crater.

Let’s kick off by having a good ol’ moan about Megaton. I’ll also be adding a section on Canterbury Commons for reasons that will become clear as we go along. So… good old Megaton. I actually like this place as a general concept—leaving aside the silly unexploded bomb aspect.

It’s an interesting setting with potential, and pretty unusual in that it’s a new town built from scratch rather than based out of an existing structure or location. A crater with defensible walls is good… but you’re likely to have issues with flooding if you’ve thought at all about the level of precipitation in the DC region. That could be turned to your advantage by piping it to your water purifier, though, making a problematic situation beneficial.

However, this settlement’s success is also contingent on having some means of producing food, which Megaton doesn’t beyond scavenging. They’d starve within a week, tops. With a large enough crater this could be mitigated by either planting crops or having planters and things up on wooden gantries.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of pulling apart several old pre-war planes, building them into a settlement in a crater, going that little bit further to add infrastructure for food production makes sense… assuming you don’t want to die in the first week. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 2: Wasted Land Potential

Mother Nature laughs at your pitiful human structures.

Mother Nature laughs at your pitiful human structures.

I suppose the best way to kick this next part off will be to raise my eyebrows in some surprise at the utter desolation of the DC Wasteland. Two hundred years is an insanely long time, and nature tends to do a pretty god job of cleaning up after our mess. Add to this DC’s high precipitation levels and… yeah, what the hell?

Both the desolation and the high levels of radiation all over the place seem a little silly. Radiation drops off precipitously over time – not to mention that the bomb casing and components block a lot of radiation release in the wider area – and this long after the bombs fell, regardless of the global nature of the exchange, the radiation levels should be pretty well non-existent bar certain hotspots.

Not to mention that filtering water through the earth actually removes radiation pretty damn effectively. Certainly, there would’ve been black rain, dust storms, and all manner of other nastiness right after the war, but we’re looking at two-hundred years here. That’s just not reasonable, no matter how you slice it.


Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 1: Back into the Wasteland

Time’s a’wastin’.

Time’s a’wastin’.

Ah, Fallout 3, a game with one of the most utterly broken worlds ever conceived, in every thematic and narrative sense possible. Add to that Bethesda’s usual gameplay mechanics (‘make the player a god’), which are equally broken, and you have a recipe for many scathing remarks of a pithy nature.

But I don’t really do pithy when it comes to critique. I do long-form complaining, oh yes. So that’s what this series will be about; deconstructing Fallout 3’s world, setting, characters, and story, along with additional reconstruction into something less ridiculous. Effectively turning the broken aspects into something thematically coherent and consistent.

Before I start, I should point something out: it’s easy to be an armchair critic. It’s a lot harder to actually implement something if you’re the one who has to do it. On the other hand, I’m an experienced writer and most of what I’ll be talking about is really basic stuff any decent writer should be thinking about before they even write a single word.

World building, tone, logic, internal consistency, pacing; all of these are important to crafting a believable world and story, and Bethesda utterly failed on nearly every count, with the single exception being tone, which I have to admit they nailed, especially around the DC area itself.

Still, while I acknowledge that being an armchair critic is easier than actually being the one to fix the problems, it’s also true that improvements can only be made when you analyse what went wrong and propose solutions, so that’s what I’ll be doing here. Plus, most of what I’ll be suggesting wouldn’t even take that much additional effort over what was already implemented, it’s more about tweaking the existing world to make more sense.

Naturally this whole series will involve spoilers – major and minor – not only for Fallout 3 itself, but probably New Vegas and Fallout 4, as I’ll be using those for occasional comparison. Chances are this’ll end up being several dozen posts or more, so… strap in and a grab some snacks and a Nuka-Cola. Or Sunset Sarsaparilla, if you prefer.