Fallout 3 EP19: Stop Calling Me Mungo

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 4, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 139 comments

Link (YouTube)

In this episode we discuss games where you’re given a friend / companion / family member in a game, only to have them killed off two minutes later. It’s interesting because we were just talking about this in relation to Dishonored.

So here we are, in the very depths of the bowels of the pits of the dungeons of the bottom of Fallout 3’s barrel. This is the part of the game where the writers thumb their noses at the player while blowing raspberries and taunt, “Stop degrading yourself! Stop degrading yourself!” This is the most ludicrous, poorly-justified, aggravating, lazy railroad job in the entire game.

These parent-less kids live in in a self-sustaining society ruled by the youngest, inhabiting caves between the wasteland and the irradiated caves filled with super mutants. They have no food, no supplies, no income, no obvious source of new kids to replace the ones that are forcibly booted out by the younger kids at sixteen, even though that’s not how kids behave or organize themselves. And somehow these ultra bad-ass children become the biggest losers in the wasteland when they graduate, moving to Bigtown and getting eaten or enslaved. Their plywood plot door stands between you and your mandated quest goal, with no alternate route for stealth, force, bribery, bartering, trap-evasion, explosives use, or any of the other dozens of skills in the game. The only way around besides doing the quest is to take a perk which has basically no other use than to skip this quest.

The quest has no humor, no meaningful themes, nothing to say, and doesn’t advance the plot other than to let you pass through a door. It creates an awful tonal clash with the recent passing of your father, which was intended to be, somber, or bitter, or poignant, whatever the writers were going for.

This is an affront to the name of Fallout, which began as a game with strong world-building, dark comedy, a gritty mood, and lots of ways to solve different problems. This quest is like splicing twenty minutes of a late-period Adam Sandler movie into a Michael Bay droolfest and claiming you’ve made a Terry Gilliam film. This is beyond infantile. This isn’t just a spot of bad writing, or a dumb sidequest, or a bad plot-hole. This is an act of hostility against the audience. This is a quest so offensive and horrible that players began demanding the ability to murder children.

I didn’t like the quest, is what I’m getting at.


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139 thoughts on “Fallout 3 EP19: Stop Calling Me Mungo

  1. MrGuy says:

    While I agree with the sentiment, you’re wrong that the only way to avoid the quest is with Child at Heart. You can also speech check Mayor MacCredy at the door. The fact that Josh steadfastly refuses to try doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

    This is the one place where I really appreciated the “save scum your way through speech checks” “feature” of FO3…

    1. Neruz says:

      I’d say that Little Lamplight or whatever this hellhole is called pretty accurately depicts every single thing that went wrong with Fallout 3.

    2. Factoid says:

      Yeah, I don’t get that either. I speech checked my way past the door on the first try. I didn’t even have that much speech. There are sometimes when it’s OK to roll your eyes and go “Yeah yeah, it worked for you, whatever. Doesn’t mean it works for everyone” but this is not one of those times. It’s not a difficult speech check.

      I do wish there was at least one other option for getting around besides a speech check or Child at Heart. There should probably be a major league difficult method of getting through the out door radiation. Maybe a few small patches of relatively radiation-free zones that you can make it through with the appropriate gear and a lot of radx/radaway.

      1. Thomas says:

        Josh hasn’t got awful speech and it’s still 40%. I think rolling for speech checks is a bit weird to be honest and this shows how, you can put some decent points into speech and still not be guaranteed to speech you way through situations, whereas points in weapons are always going to be useful and it’s sort of limited by your willingness to save scum

        1. anaphysik says:

          “I think rolling for speech checks is a bit weird to be honest”

          It’s a matter of tabletop dynamics vs. video game dynamics to me. In video games randomness is annoying because it just promotes save-scumming (not saying that save-scumming is a despicable activity which the game must make difficult – rather the opposite, that gameplay that makes the player feel they must employ save-scumming is a failure in design). In tabletops random chance is fine because you can handle failure adaptively, so the lack of save-reload isn’t important. (And also because even small chances of success incentivize making rolls, whereas thresholds mean that it’s usually not worth even checking for things a character isn’t good at (also, tabletops are usually party-based, and thresholds make overlapping skill sets nearly useless (unless you split the party, which is demonized far more than it should be, but still)).)

        2. Adam says:

          It’s because the percentage chance to succeed on a speech check is a result of not only your Speech skill, but your charisma as well. This being Reginald “Shoot First, Ask Questions Never” “Obvious Reasons” Cuftbert, his Charisma is average at best.

          And I think he refused to do the speech check in this episode because it’s demeaning.

  2. Indy says:

    All I can think of now when I see Macready is how good a pauldron that head would make.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      Centurion’s Armor mod for New Vegas!

  3. MrGuy says:

    Also, can I just say how awesome it is that the episode ends on Sammy saying “What are you, some kind of crazy person?”

    Perceptive kid, really…

    1. Chris says:

      I noticed the same thing and realized if the kid only knew how much he was right, nuke a town and kill everybody in site.

      1. Nicholas Hayes says:

        *sight. But yes, everyone ON site as well :p

    2. silver Harloe says:

      “what are you, some kind of crazy person?” has to be the smartest thing anyone has said in this game yet.

  4. MrGuy says:

    The other thing that really strikes me in retrospect about this are the parallels with FO:NV’s Come Fly With Me quest. Both are quests that are required to unblock main quest functionality (finding out where Benny went from Manny in NV, getting to Valut 87 in FO3). Both are long, involved quests that take a lot of time. Both are only tangentially (at best) related to the main plot goal you’re trying to accomplish. But the main plot clearly WANTS you to do both of the quests.

    And that’s where the symmetry ends. Because in NV you can skip “Come Fly With Me” my breaking in to Manny’s room and hacking his terminal (with Karma penalty). Or just walk around it and hunt on your own. You have several ways to accomplish the main plot goal.

    What would have been awesome is to have a second option. Maybe make the door to Murder Pass accessible outside Little Lamplight, and make it more challenging, but make the side door into the valut accessible if you save the kids, You can fight your ways round the side quest, but its a tough fight, while doing the quest gives you an easy way in. Or have a terminal (hard or very hard) you can hack to remotely open the door. Or, heck, make the main door to Vault 87 actually accessible (with a radiation suit and sufficient chems) so you can bypass the side quest if you want to glow in the dark. You can even make it a one-way door (e.g. A long drop) so you can still get railroaded on the way it.

    1. rayen says:

      i actually liked the come fly with me quest. Those ghouls and supermutants were crazy but in an endearing sort of way.

      1. MrGuy says:

        Yeah, sorry. I forgot to mention the other key difference that one of these “blocker” quests is that one of them sucks and the other doesn’t. I was just focusing on the “here’s how to set up a highly-recommended-but-not-absolutely-required sidequest” aspect.

      2. StashAugustine says:

        I liked it, but it felt more like something you’d be doing in the post-Vegas screwing around section of the game. When you’re on the way to Vegas, it’s a little tedious.
        EDIT: Also, you can pickpocket Manny for the info.

        1. Ofermod says:

          That’s the thing. It’s definitely a well designed quest, but it’s *very* long for a sidequest that also advances the main quest. A sidequest that the main quest nudges you towards as the proper way to continue.

          I’d definitely like it much less if it was mandatory on each playthrough before you can continue to hunt down Benny.

          1. megalosaurus says:

            I just finished “Come fly with me” a few days ago (I’m on my first play through of New Vegas). I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I would call it well designed.

            There was quite a lot of going from the ghouls to the basement, back to the ghouls and then back to the basement; back and forth, back and forth… ugh. That got tedious.

            Then something actually happened in the quest-story and then I had to go on two fetch quests to actually finish up. (Fetch quests which didn’t see me do any actual fighting and only featured one tedious interaction with an npc… yeah they were not the best).

            A bit too much pointless walking from A to B in other words.

            Overall the story made up for the poor game design and, as I said, I liked it.

            1. AyeGill says:

              I had the exact same impression, and it was made more tedious by the fact that the building the Ghouls hang out in is probably the worst maze in the game.

              1. AyeGill says:

                For some reason I can’t edit my comment, so I’d like to add that despite what I said about this quest, it’s still virtuoso game design offering ecstasy-inducing entertainment and beautiful insight into the nature of life and humanity when compared to Little Lamplight.

                On the other hand, Little Lamplight is a great example that games can serve as art, conveying a message or emotions, at the same level as film or literature. In this case, the emotion is hatred, and the message is that everyone working at bethesda deserves to die in a slow and painful fire.

  5. Gordon says:

    Oh My Goodness. Recently I’ve been pitching the fallout series to people, but URGING them to go for New Vegas instead of Fallout 3, and somehow, in all of my examples of the plot failings, I had forgotten just HOW AWFUL little lamplight is. Holy Hell.

    I mean, the lack of any reason to fight the enclave is pretty damn egregious, and just causes the whole story to experience critical structural failure, but DEAR GOD. That can just be chalked up to careless writing, while this, like shamus said, really is just the writers flipping the bird at the entire audience.

    I mean, the game supposedly allows for the most evil mass murdering bastard who ever crawled across the wasteland – hell, cuftbert ALREADY killed two kids when he nuked Megaton, and then it CALLS ATTENTION to the child plot armor by making the kids the most assole, obstructionist, pointlewssAUGHABLURGHAGLARGH

    1. Dragomok says:


      I couldn’t have said it better.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know,this purification thing would be way less stupid if they said the machine purifies soil instead of water.Which would also make sense why youd need a geck for it,it would basically act as an amplifier.

    Invincible kids,I really dont get the point of that.Yes,some of us may end up killing a few kids for laughs,but so what?How would shooting a digital kid in the face be any worse than nuking a whole digital town?If someone finds shooting a kid in the face offensive,then they wouldnt do it.Giving you the option to do something isnt the same as forcing you to do something.

    1. Wedge says:

      I’ve heard that it has to do with ESRB ratings and similar ratings in other countries. Basically if you let people kill kids (on-screen, obviously, since Megaton doesn’t count) then you have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting an M rating, and getting an A/O rating basically guarantees commercial failure.

      1. StashAugustine says:

        German FO2 made the kids be untargatable, including the ones that pickpocket you. People would drop all their items except live dynamite to clear them out.

        1. ehlijen says:

          That’s not the version I played. In my german FO2 version, the kids were flat out removed (leaving out some quests).

        2. Yeah, I think they were made invisible and intangible, but they could still pickpocket you.

          In any case, the fans made a patch.

        3. GragSmash says:

          That is horrid. Do you still get the child-killer attribute for that?

          Because it actually sounds like a reasonable resolution to that quest, if it were actually the fault of those children. It is that !@#$ing “pai-zan” guy.

        4. You can bypass the kid pickpockets by entering combat near the entrance they’re “guarding,” moving past them, then exiting combat once you’re past. They can’t pickpocket you while in combat mode.

    2. Nick-B says:

      Bethesda didn’t want their game slapped with the label of “child-killer”, similar to how MW2 got “civilian murderer” slapped on it for that one level. If it’s in the game, no matter how useless or pointless or wasteful it is, non-gamers will look at it and go “OH NOES! YOU CAN KILL CHILDRENS!!! CHILDREN MURDER SIMULATOR!!!”

      Remember GTA? You can do it with a prostitute, then kill the prostitute after. Neither are really useful (there are faster ways to get health back, and cheaper) or economical (faster ways to get money than beat up random NPCs) yet all the media could focus on was the “getting points for beating up whores” thing.

      1. Klay F. says:

        Fat lot of good those labels do anyway. Any time the media stupidly labels a game, it just draws more people to said game.

        1. Nick-B says:

          *shrug* Politicians listen to the “REAL AMG NEWS” more than they listen to actual gamers, aka their constituents. THAT is why we should be worried.

          1. WJS says:

            No, we should be worried if it actually hurt GTA in the slightest. Moral panic without any effect is to be laughed at, not fretted over.

    3. MrGuy says:

      But if you built a soil purifier rather than a water purifier, you’d have to pick a completely different bible verse to make the key quote for the game. And then the code to start the purifier wouldn’t work anymore.

      Do you realize how hard it would have been for Bethesda to set a new access code on something as complicated as a water purifier?

      Not only that, but they’d have to rename an entire quest!

      1. StashAugustine says:

        I know, applying Bible quotes to place where they sound like they make sense but have no relation to what’s actually going on in the story is the hallmark of good storytelling!

    4. Tom says:

      Come to think of it, didn’t that town you nuked have a few kids in it?

  7. Sciencegar says:

    ….But the kids do have food. They grow mushrooms from the flesh of dead people. Didn’t you do that sidequest?

    Frankly, I’ve found that Little Lamplight gets a lot better when you stay away from MacCready and Princess, then you find the elements that almost make sense, and the kids that feel like characters rather than walls in your way. But I understand if you didn’t feel in the mood to explore the place and get the Wazer Wifle.

    1. MrGuy says:

      So, here’s the other thing. There needed to be a decision on whether this was a “quest stop” or a proper town.

      The only reason you come here (in general) is to get to Vault 87. You encounter it late, and mostly just because you’re “passing through.”

      And yet it’s probably the largest single town, with the most named characters, in the wasteland. The main cavern with all the ropewalks is huge. There’s a doctor, a shop, and a few quest-givers. It’s MEANT to be a place that’s big, that you want to explore.

      Forget the non-sensible plot door for a sec. WHY would you WASTE this massive effort in worldbuilding by making it a “yeah, yeah, where’s the door?” waystation on the way to “the important place”? Why bring players here when they’re specifically NOT interested in exploring?

      My theory – the original location of Little Lamplight was more in the center of the map, where it would be much closer to both Big Town and Paradise Falls. This would make a lot more sense geographically. It was meant to be discovered much earlier (probably by running into traders or others who’d tell you the location). It was probably intended that the “Rescue from Paradise” quest was meant to be done simply to unlock the explorable town.

      Then they needed a way into Vault 87, and they decided to make Vault 87 as far across the map as possible to minimize you running into it too soon (as they did with Ben Casey’s garage, Raven Rock, etc). So they moved Little Lamplight to somewhere you’d never explore, and the whole purpose of “interesting explorable town” was completely lost.

      1. Sciencegar says:

        All very true, and the theory makes a lot of sense. Having LL as an extension of the ‘spine’ of mini-settlements in the middle of the map would give it a lot stronger connection to the rest of the world, and probably forced the devs to consider ‘What purpose does this play in the setting?’, and possibly plug some of the setting holes it creates.

        Of course my main point was that Seamus Is Wrong About Something. And for that matter, Anna Holt and Janice Kaplinski are different characters!! They’re both blondes in labcoats with no identifiying character traits, but they’re different people dammit!

      2. I had a rather dark twist to Little Lamplight that would have made its population at least a little more plausible: Have it be a child dumping ground for the slavers.

        Kids are resource-intensive, might not live long, and aren’t worth as much (for the sake of argument). Little Lamplight was discovered by some of the people from Paradise Falls a few decades back, and it gave them a handy place to dump any children they’d acquire after attacking settlements and caravans. These children are taken in by those living there, becoming someone else’s problem. They allow a bunch of older kids to remain in charge so long as they kick out kids at the age of 16. A few have escaped and are now running Big Town, trying to not only survive, but rescue Little Lamplighters from the slavers, who defend their slave-source viciously.

        And while making the town a bunch of pint-sized unkillables doesn’t satisfy some players, I’d have made it so that the initial choice for LL is to defeat the slavers or not, resulting in LL either remaining a source of slaves and misery or disbanding, leaving no place for orphaned children in the wasteland. If the player really wants a “good” ending, they have to recruit someone, go get a friendly robot, or whatever to ensure LL remains as a place kids can be taken where they can find some kind of shelter until they come of age.

        The more I see this SW playthrough, the more I think that one could just sort of re-wire a lot of the quests to not suck so much with a few tweaks here and there.

  8. X2-Eliah says:

    Myeah, I think I disliked Little Lamplight as well – though to be honest, I tend to dislike anything that has to do with kids in videogames (and not in videogames, too). This was just on the bad end of the ‘kids in games’ scale, with the little brats being nasal-voiced, annoying, imposing, unruly and in-your-way.

    1. I think someone thought the old “Teenage Wasteland” trope (available at TVtropes.org, but I’m not linking to it in the name of productivity) where you have a place in a post-apoc environment run by kids was fitting in a Mad Max kind of way, but they should have added something to make even shooting the kids a bad idea. Maybe some kind of old security system that would go nuts if anyone fired a weapon in the caverns or what have you.

      I pretty much speech-checked my way past it the first go-round, and was annoyed mostly by the rope bridge rat maze I had to navigate to find the kid who could open the computer terminal door rather than the plywood one.

  9. JPH says:

    “This is a quest so offensive and horrible that players began demanding the ability to murder children.”

    They would have demanded the ability to murder children anyway. They always do. They demanded that in Skyrim as well, and there was nothing even close to the ridiculousness of Little Lamplight in that one.

    Gamers can be disturbing people.

    1. Jokerman says:

      I dislike plot armored people at the best of times, but when they are outright rude and offensive hiding behind the plot armor its truly infuriating…i just want the little buggers to be operating under the same fear of being killed that everyone else is. This problem i have is not just with kids obviously, anyone who uses the fact they cannot be killed to constantly annoy me.

      If they gave no reason to dislike them there would be much less desire from me to kill them :D

      1. Irridium says:

        I think the problem stems from the fact that the children are immortal, and are incredibly rude to you. Personally, I don’t want to kill them. I’d just like the ability to sternly talk at them or tell their parents or just… something between doing nothing and murdering children.

        1. Shamus says:

          Yes. It’s actually a stacked problem:

          1) You MUST interact with these NPCs, who are roadblocks on the MAIN QUEST.
          2) They are ALWAYS incredibly rude and confrontational towards you in a way that no sane, mortal person would behave. They KNOW you’re toothless and they taunt you for it.
          3) You can’t use your other skills (aside from the speech check, which either didn’t appear for me or I overlooked, and which you can fail even with high speech because LOL RANDUMB) like explosives or hacking, even though you’re just trying to get over a two-meter slab of plywood. Players are denied their usual tools for non-violence.
          4) You can’t ever respond proportionally with threats, punishments, shoving. You can’t take their sweetroll or break their toys, so to speak.
          5) You can’t even answer back on their level. I think a character with high intelligence and speech skills out to be able to out-taunt an eight year old. But you can’t hurt their feelings. You can’t even TRY.
          6) After all this, the game won’t let you kill them.

          Everyone focuses on #6, but fixing the previous 5 problems would make 6 pointless. We don’t REALLY want to kill kids in a game, we’re just annoyed and hamstrung by jackass game designers. The result is “I want to knock aside this obstacle with violence and the game won’t let me.”

          1. Bropocalypse says:

            Exactly, them being children is incidental to them being immortal jerks who you want to punish.

            1. Keeshhound says:

              You can taunt them back on their level…

              If you take child at heart. Which has all of two? three? uses in the entire game.

              1. anaphysik says:

                Really though, Josh was at a loss for a perk to take right before getting here. He should have just taken Child at Heart and blasted though this bullshit.

                1. Ah, but games making Josh (and the others) angry is half the point of Spoiler Warning!

            2. Sleeping Dragon says:

              This is why I think LL breaks the 4th wall, if they created any other community of hostile jerks wiping them off the face of the Earth would be an option but isn’t created as community of jerks “oh and we had to make them immortal because they are children,” it’s created as community of jerks because they are immortal children, the only reason it exists is because of part of the game mechanics rather than the game world. Most players roll their eyes at “immortal children” because we know that the reasons behind it are stupid but we sort of accept this is not part of the established world. The devs try to create this unspoken contract “children can’t be harmed because of out of game reasons but in return we won’t really create a situation where killing kids would be a viable and desirable option for progressing.” Little Lamplight breaks this contract, the kids are so obnoxious it would only make sense if they knew they had plot armour. There are only two explanations for the devs that I can see, one is clinical insanity, the other just trolling the player.

          2. Jokerman says:

            Yea, that is what i was “trying” to say.. badly. Feels like you are being taunted while handcuffed. I don’t mind people like that in games, as long as at some point i can drop a salt lick on there face eventually.

            Id give the kids a pass and just threaten or push past them if the option was also there.

          3. newdarkcloud says:


            Bethesda should not be allowed to give NPCs plot armor. The NPCs they do give this privilege are often the exact same people you want to kill.

            Doubly so in Black-Briar’s case. When I killed the Dark Brotherhood and stole the Skeleton Key from the TG to cripple it, I should NOT be getting threats from Maven to send both organizations at me!

            In the case of shitty little kids, I’d be just fine being able to bend them over my knee and giving them a beating.

            1. Klay F. says:

              There are no words to describe my hatred of Maven Black-Briar.

              I used the console to make her mortal, deleted everything in her house, then disintegrated her. It felt quite good.

            2. Asimech says:

              “Bethesda should not be allowed to give NPCs plot armor. The NPCs they do give this privilege are often the exact same people you want to kill.”

              This is what I was afraid when I heard Fallout 3 has immortals in it. Devs in general seem to do this, but Bethesda is particularly horrible about it. If any NPC is invincible for any reason, that character is very likely to be an insufferable prick and you can’t talk back to them to any reasonable extent. The only possible recourse is murder, but you’re not allowed even that, so the irritation accumulates.

              1. hborrgg says:

                Actually, come to think about it there are very few essential marked NPCs in Fo3 other than the kids. (James, Dr. Lee, the Lyonses, and then a couple more in the citidel and rivet city)
                It’s definitely not like Skyrim where every other joker and their dog was immortal because of some obscure side quest that a developer was really proud of for whatever reason.

            3. Jeff says:

              “Bethesda should not be allowed to give NPCs plot armor.”

              That deserved to be quoted. It should be plastered on every wall in their office, made into a giant banner hanging from the building, and whatever uncreative failure implemented it between Morrowind and Oblivion should be hung by the banner with his corpse left hanging as a warning.

              1. WJS says:

                The difference between Morrowind and Oblivion is voice acting. Writing alternative dialogue in the event you kill someone is easy. Having it voiced is expensive. Doing this for every sidequest in the game would eat up a significant chunk of the budget. Personally, I’d prefer they’d left voice acting to important characters. How’s about this: “If you want to make them immortal, you have to voice them. Otherwise you don’t.” Make plot armour expensive, and see if they continue abusing it.

                …Anyway, it’s a nice fantasy, but neither of us are going to get to set a rule like that.

          4. Lame Duck says:

            There’s also the problem that we’re told that they’re children and they’re the correct size and shape to be children, but they don’t act or talk or do anything like children, so players don’t really think of them as children. They have the same problem in The Pitt where we have what is supposed to be a baby, but in reality it’s an inventory item and a MacGuffin.

    2. MadTinkerer says:

      It kills immersion when you have characters that are arbitrarily invincible for no good in-universe reason. I don’t go around killing kids in games (usually), but if there’s a great big monster and the kids are yelling “Help!” and I know it can wait while I do these other sidequests for a few hours because Nothing Bad Can Happen To Kids In This Game, it totally kills the feeling of immersion.

      A better solution is to do the Half Life 2 thing where you can’t harm characters that Gordon Freeman also wouldn’t want to harm. Instead of being arbitrary, it’s just enforcing something that you’re supposed to do anyway.

      1. Wedge says:

        I agree that this worked really well in Half-Life 2–they actually made a “you can’t kill friendlies” system that doesn’t involve them magically absorbing infinite bullets. I think it would be just as ham-fisted, though, in a game like Fallout. The whole idea of a freeform roleplaying game like Fallout is to decide for yourself what your character does and how they react to the situation they’re in. If I’m playing a chaotic evil sociopath, having the game decide for me that my character refuses to murder children is just as immersion-breaking as having the children be magically immune to bullets.

    3. John the Savage says:

      But they didn’t demand it for Oblivion. I can imagine that the desire for killable children was created in this game, and just carried over into Skryim.

      Now, you might say gamers didn’t demand it because there were no children in Oblivion, to which I would say: …touché.

    4. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, it really bugs me when the developers, A. prevent you from doing something sensible, and then B. taunt you about it through characters in the game. It basically says “Not only did we fail to make the universe make sense (A) but we’ve told the other characters about it (B).” It’s cheating on top of cheating.
      Of course, the solution is not to “kill children” or anything of the sort. The solution is to not give these people your money, and then when their company goes out of business they will have plenty of time to think about characterization and world building while sleeping under a bridge.
      But no. We, as “gamers”, will accept any amount of abuse and garbage as long as it’s branded with a name we have fond memories of. Then, when the experience is terrible, we want to punish the actors instead of the playwright. We are our own worst enemy.

    5. ehlijen says:

      The big problem is that Bethesda made sure everyone knew the kids where invulnerable by making everyone want to hurt them.

      If they were actually likeable or interesting NPCs, the majority of players might just breeze past them in the game, never learning if they’re invulnerable or not. Only because people were made to try did they even notice the wall in the world.

  10. CTrees says:

    It strikes me that if you simply reversed Little Lamplight and Big Town, it’d be significantly less awful. Have LL be the town outside, in the wasteland, with the incompetent inhabitants who are always getting enslaved or eaten. Being filled with children allows this to make sense, and provides an extra, emotional incentive to helpthem, and explains (by the same mechanism – charity for orphans – how the town sustains itself). Then, have Big Town be the sheltered town, filled only with survivors of LL (who by nature would be the bastards cagey enough to survive), and you explain the paranoia, dislike of outsiders, taunting of the big, strong vault dweller with his sheltered life, and so on. As killing kids is verbotten, this could easily allow the alternate quest solution of killing everyone (since they’re not kids anymore in the plot-door town).

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Excellent suggestion! Perhaps the developers thought of this and (in a misguided attempt at originality) reversed the roles on purpose. Who knows.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      That sounds a lot like that town in the 4th episode of The Walking Dead, really.

  11. Vect says:

    I remember that J.E. Sawyer stated that even HE wanted to kill the Little Lamplighters and that because of them he tried to make the kids in New Vegas much less annoying (with the “worst” in his opinion being the caller for Mick & Ralph’s).

    And now I’m reminded of Jarl Balguuf’s kids in Skyrim. What is it with Bethesda and annoying-ass kids that basically make players create a kid-killing Mod?

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I think it’s a combination of things that goes beyond Bethesda and more into general popular culture (though some offenders are worse than others).

      First, children are really hard to write, partially because a view of what child is “realistic” is pretty inconsistent, especially now since the western culture is focused a lot on freedoms and rights of children letting “kids be kids” for a relatively long time and even if it’s a matter of getting something that is absolutely key to the survival of a community/world/whatever just taking it or showing even a sign of impatience towards the child is a sign of eeeeevil.

      Second, it’s a cop out for plot hooks, a child can have different priorities and behave in a way that seems irrational to adults and doesn’t have to be explained. Think of all the scenes where a kid moves against the current of fleeing people or leaves a safe hiding place (of any kind) to get back a teddy bear or a doll despite approaching fire/water/monsters/whatever, I’m pretty sure there must be a trope for this.

      Third, it’s also a cop out for the morality compass, because you can’t really be wrong saving a child. Helping a child is always good, playing with the child is always good whereas putting it under any sort of stress is bad.

      Kids are, in fact, pretty adaptable when circumstances force them, I think this is why Clem in TWD works so well, because she adapts, changes, matures. She makes mistakes, especially that major one but in any other work all the things that Ben messes up would be messed up by the little kid instead. In the best of possible worlds Little Lamplight would be an interesting subversion, they’d establish it as “city of children” and then would twist it so that the kids are a bunch of insufferable bastards, possibly making it so working for this community is actually “evil” on the karmameter because they are selfish and only concerned with themselves.

      But this isn’t the best of possible worlds and I’m still puzzled as to what they were thinking. What is particularly jarring for me is the fourth wall breaking way that the writers approached Little Lamplight, this would make more sense if children being immortal was part of the plot (of course nothing else would make sense then but still). The way the Lamplighters act I wouldn’t be surprised if the mayor said something along the lines “the modified FEV virus makes it so you can’t really harm us anyway so there, prrt!”

      1. StashAugustine says:

        Immortal kids due to FEV would have been a decent plot twist. Wouldn’t have made any sense, but nothing does already.

        1. krellen says:

          Would’ve also been a nice nod to Star Trek, where they probably got the “city of children” idea from in the first place.

      2. anaphysik says:

        “moves against the current of fleeing people or leaves a safe hiding place (of any kind) to get back a teddy bear”

        Teddy bears are serious business and don’t you DARE imply otherwise.

        1. StashAugustine says:

          How many do you have in NV at this point?

          1. anaphysik says:

            60 in my Goodsprings home http://newvegas.nexusmods.com/mods/34748
            25 in The Sink
            1 on my bed in Novac

            1. anaphysik says:

              Oh yeah, and in my inventory is a console-commanded-in Barnabas bear (unavailable in the base game) :D

              (Still getting my fields wiped, Shamus…)

      3. I think you’re reading too much into society’s impact on this portrayal of children.

        I posit that the devs were nerdy or otherwise awkward in school. Children being dicks to “the hero” is how they remember their own experiences with their peers for probably more years than they’ve admitted to their therapists.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          So why isn’t every child in the game like this? Most other kids in game (for example in Megaton and Andale) are childish but not outright provocatively obnoxious. For me nothing explains Little Lamplight but simply trolling by the devs.

          Also, that wall of text was a bit more about the general reasons why most children in games, and often movies, TV series… generally in pop-culture are kinda annoying at the best of times, ‘thesda went above and beyond.

          1. Why isn’t every child like this?

            Because voice actors cost money, and the ones that are actively obnoxious are ones that are plot-relevant. Kids that are inconsequential to the main quest are pretty much blah.

            1. Jeff says:

              I rather liked the kid in Megaton if you get the sheriff killed (be it malevolence or incompetence). Wear the sheriff outfit around him, and he’ll look at you and go “You’re not my dad.” :(

    2. scowdich says:

      Oh, another wanderer, here to lick my father’s boots. Good job.

  12. Jokerman says:

    and it was megaton they allowed you to blow up…. I liked Megaton…

    1. Theminimanx says:

      And now I want a mod that let’s you haul the nuke all the way over to Little Lamplight.

      1. Ciennas says:

        I was leafing through the Fallout Wiki. Do you really want to punish Princess and Mayor Macready?

        REALLY punish them for being unrepentant dicks?

        Go to Paradise Falls, and talk to the doorman or the guy in the pimp suit, it’s been a while. Tell them about Little Lamplight. Next time you visit, the entire place is completely empty.

        You get a MASSIVE pile of evil points, and 3-Dog calls you mean things, but if you can bear all that, then congratulations, you’ve beaten those two snotty kids.

        I just grinned and bore it through the questline, while hammering the Skip Dialogue key. They’re far less irritating that way.

        (Really, this is Bethesda’s biggest problem: for being a game all about Choices, they really don’t like giving you really meaningful ones very often, do they? Paradise Falls was really the only time it ever came up properly in Fallout 3. I liked crushing them under my boot, personally.

        Also Cloud, I agree. Any writer worth their salt can come up with a new asshole for the interim between games to fill in the role Maven fills. Why is she so important that they bothered god-flagging her? Relatedly, I wish you could cut the College questline short once you’ve spoken to Dunlain the mystical gas cloud and fingered the villain.)

  13. Thomas says:

    The thing Shamus said at the beginning about the water dispenser is interesting, without getting into the whole water plot business again, how did this specific water dispenser come into being? It’s a fairly arbitrary reward that could have been many many things and you’d think anybody who knew the main theme was about creating pure water wouldn’t even consider adding this neat little doo-hickey in.

    Maybe they decided on the plot fairly late in development and it hadn’t informed the work that everyone else was doing? Or they didn’t really communicate it to everyone else?

  14. Wedge says:

    “I was built with paradox-absorbing crumple zones!”

  15. Bropocalypse says:

    I think Lamplight would be a lot less terrible if it didn’t have one of those awful vertical catwalk setups that you have to wander around in, not to mention multiple rooms. In a real settlement, if somehow it ended up with this sort of vertical arrangement, you can bet someone would put in shortcuts fairly quickly.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      I used the Child at Heart perk to get through, didn’t realize I’d completed the quest, and got lost for like 20 minutes trying to find the way out.

  16. StashAugustine says:

    I did like Paradise Falls, since I was a good character and an evil town gives me the opportunity to sociopathically murder an entire city, and have it be totally justified.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      On the other hand, it’s dumb that killing an entire slaver camp is more difficult than going through a plywood fence.

      1. StashAugustine says:

        I had Child at Heart (was grabbing all the dialouge-related perks early on), so Paradise Falls was purely optional. Incidentally, is there a way to fail the Paradise Falls quest? What happens if you go there before LL?

        1. Klay F. says:

          To fail that quest, you would need to be able to kill the children you were sent to rescue, so no, you can’t fail it. Also, if you kill everyone in Paradise Falls before you find LL, the kids will make their own way there, then once you get to LL, you can just tell MacCready that you were the person who rescued the kids.

    2. Jeff says:

      I walked in there in power armor holding a missile launcher, with a follower also in power armor holding a gattling laser.

      I was really impressed with the cook who ran at me with a cleaver while I was firing missiles into everyone’s face. I was like “Seriously? Everyone else is at least shooting at me, you don’t even have a shirt on! Props bro, but you’re still taking a missile to the eyeball for your trouble.”

      I… needed someplace to use up my hundred-something missiles.

  17. John the Savage says:

    Is it me, or is this post no longer viewable from the front page?

    1. It appears there for me.

    2. Keeshhound says:

      I’m not seeing it either, but if I search for “Fallout” I can find it. I wonder what the cause is.

    3. John the Savage says:

      Now it seems to be glitching on and off the page for me. Sometimes I’ll see it, sometimes not.

    4. Even says:

      The frontpage and the threads in it are stuck for me in some specific point of time from yesterday. Gravatar’s are offline and none of the more recent comments show up. The “Do not panic” is the most recent with 109 posts. I had to use Google just to find this post.

      Edit: And now that I posted, the site is back to normal. Something to do with cookies, I guess. I’ve got Firefox set to automatically clear all cookies when I close it, so it’s always a fresh one.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        The live testing continues. Ahh, the joy of blog administration!

    5. X2-Eliah says:

      Yup. The frontpage seems to sometimes come from a limbo state in some time from the past.

  18. Collin says:

    I don’t mind railroading so long as I’m having fun.

    But yeah. I had no fun with most of Fallout 3’s main plot.

    1. Jace911 says:

      Coincidentally railroading is the only thing that happens to you in Fallout 3’s main plot. The only real time you have any of the game’s touted “freedom” is when you’re dicking about in the middle of nowhere.


      1. hborrgg says:

        I think Bethesda did sort of the same thing in Skyrim, where the plot isn’t so much the heart of the game as it is a tool to get the player hoofing it all over the map they made and learning about all the lore they came up with.

    2. Ofermod says:

      It’s as I always say: Railroading isn’t bad, as long as you like where the tracks are taking you (or can at least understand why they’re going there).

  19. John the Savage says:

    If Deadfast is reading the comments here, I think the shish kebab qualifies as an overpowered item. More powerful than Jingwei’s sword, and it stacks with pyromaniac.

  20. Paul Spooner says:

    It does seem like the “false binary choice” here of either “obey children” or “kill children” is something that a disturbingly large number of adults actually believe in real life. I’m guessing we don’t want to turn this into a “proper way to raise children, discipline versus diplomacy, spanking, etc…” thread, but it’s interesting that so many people object to the one extreme (no physical pain inflicted on children) in this fictional setting. People would also object to the other extreme, but this just demonstrates the absurdity of choosing extremes in this matter.

    1. Khizan says:

      Well. I nuked a city at the request of the Montgomery Burns of the Capital Wasteland. I worked for the slavers. I took a flamethrower to Harold and his followers. I played along with Braun in Tranquility Lane. I gave the android to the guys hunting him.

      What I’m saying here, is that I was kind of an awful person and basically an evil bastard.

      And so, when some little snotnose says “Ha, no, you cannot come in! You must rescue our friends from the slavers you work for!”, my first instinct is to feed the mouthy little bastard a plasma round. When the game, which has otherwise let me be a completely awful human being, gives me a choice between savescumming a 1% speech check or helping a bunch of kids free their friends from the slavers I work for, I get pissed off.

      At this point, I just stopped playing Fallout 3. Nope. Done with it.

  21. Astor says:

    If you are not gonna let me kill children, then don’t draw my attention to it! Hide ’em! Especially when you allow me to *nuke an entire town* (children included, ell, oh, ell).

  22. Oleyo says:

    Ignoring the morality of the thing, and it’s effect on immersion for a second:

    It seems an incredibly arrogant and mean-spirited thing for the DEVELOPERS to have done here. They decided to make the children immortal. Fine. There are a lot of reasons for this, whether or not players find these reasons valid.

    However, It seems to me absolutely *inexcusable* that, having decided to do so, they also scripted the children and their quest this way. It is nothing short of actually trolling your players.

    Imagine this quest again, but with only slightly different child reactions:
    Lets say all the other elements are the same, except instead of taunting and sneering at you from behind their plot armor (PC armor?) the “mayor” is frightened, and his voice is shaky. He won’t let you in because he is scared, and you need to earn his trust to get inside. You might even *want* to help in this case, not just to get through the door.

    As written, there is no other explanation but that the game designer wants you to hate these children, which is pretty mean. You are humiliated without being able to retaliate in *any* way, whether lethal, verbal, or whatever. Precisely the tactic one might use in writing a VILLAIN.

    Since they are unassailable, the game designer should really go out of their way to make them likeable. Anything else is just rubbing your face in the mud and laughing at you.

    Also, Put the mayor behind an embrasure of some sort, which you wouldn’t be able to fire inside of, sure it’s still totally contrived like the plank door, but at least the game designer is saying, “yeah we don’t let you take certain actions here, but at least there is an environmental reason, however tenuous.” It would be slightly more elegant than “you cannot use your arms here”.

    At least then you could vent a little by at least firing at the little bugger, even if you are never allowed to hit.

    1. Scampi says:

      Obviously, they ARE villains…how do you think can the enclave just march through this place later without freeing enslaved children first? They’re in cahoots for sure. I bet only the losers go to Big Town-the rest is directly recruited by the enclave. Plus: Autumn actually is a set of grown up twins from LL. Poor bastard forgot he lost his plot armour at the age of 16. Else he’d have gone through with his dastardly plan of doing nothing to have someone else use a water purifier…and living to tell the tale-actually-in my last playthrough he DID live to tell the tale. I didn’t feel like doing any more shooting. Also, my weapons were in bad repair.
      Actually, there were 2 times in the game when I had the desire to punish children. One was LL, the other one the insane child who enjoyed the devastation of his hometown at the hands of wasteland-supers. I would have settled for a slap there, though.

      Btw: it would even have worked if they e.g. put a slave collar on you for the time you’re in LL with someone having control over the PC’s life during his stay.

      1. Ciennas says:

        The child who enjoys the what now?

        No seriously, what kid says that? I don’t remember any kid that crazy in this game.

        There was a lot of crazy to go around, for sure, but I don’t remember this one.

        So…. Where?

        1. Scampi says:

          So you have the answer (I sure hope you still read this): In Canterbury Commons (it’s in the central east area of the map) there are 2 “superheroes”: The AntAgonizer and the Machinist are “terrorizing” the small and comparably well off town…no more spoilers from me for this (so you can enjoy it yourself-when I saw it for the first time, I was laughing for 15 minutes straight), except the location:
          look at this map:

          You see where location 29 (in the east) is? THAT’s Canterbury Commons. Go there, enjoy the quest-and listen to the kid you ought to be told to talk to-I totally had the impression that he REVELS in all the violence (or is it only action?), but as I mentioned before: I play a badly localized version…maybe he’s not such a pain in the English original.
          Just meant to add: I don’t really see the devastation I mentioned, but the grown ups in CC seem to be pretty serious about the “supers” and considering them a real threat.

  23. hborrgg says:

    Someone pointed out earlier that one of the differences between Fo3 and NV is that the former treats itself more like a post-apocalypse setting while the latter is more of a post-post-apocalypse setting. Now, assuming you were willing handwave any “200 years of decay” problems and come up with some sort of in-world explanation for the differences (i.e. the east cost was hit harder by atomic bombs and thus re-settlement had to be put off for much longer)then that’s a rather important distinction. In a post-apocalypse setting there is actually a lot less incentive for societies to actually make sense since, well, they haven’t been around very long. All you really need for one to exist is two guys and an old bottle of vodka saying “Hey, we should start a society where no one wears socks!” Heck, even NV had a society made up entirely of children buried in the honest hearts lore.

    However, while the concept and viability of a society don’t necessarily need to make sense, it still needs to follow the rules of the gameworld as it is. For example, super mutants should be > little kids, and Cuftbert > both of them. . .

    1. Adam says:

      When you’re making a game, though, the first responsibility you have (even above making your game world make sense) is to make it FUN. Little Lamplight could get a pass if it was at least entertaining in some way, but it doesn’t even do that. Getting insulted and embarrassed by kindergardeners is not fun.

      1. krellen says:

        It’s a lot easier to make something fun if it makes sense. Even a world as crazy as Saint’s Row has its own perverted sort of logic that makes sense in that world. Fallout 3’s biggest failings are not that it doesn’t make sense, but that it is inconsistent with its nonsense, contradicting itself constantly. It is virtually impossible to generate fun under those conditions.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          I don’t know about that. Allegedly Nev Vegas’ world makes sense with all its farms and suc, and, honestly, the monster-meat railroading, the invisible walls and the repetitive ‘realistic’ interiors sure didn’t make it more fun even a bit. heck, it made it more boring.

          1. Even says:

            It makes sense when you stop looking things from game design perspective and think of it as if it was actually a real place. Barring the invisible walls (which I’d say are the only really immersion breaking thing while ironically the reason they were put in the game in the first place was to prevent breaking immersion because of some ugly visuals you’d get from going to the walled-off places), it makes a lot more sense than the Capital Wasteland ever could.

            1. X2-Eliah says:

              I know. Point is, all that sense is worthless when it results in more boringness and less funosity. It makes sense? So bloody what – in NV sense certainly did not help with fun in any way.

              1. Shamus says:

                As I pointed out elsewhere – lazy nonsense can RUIN fun, but making sense doesn’t automatically create fun. You’re acting like coherence is worthless because you didn’t like NV. It’s just one of many ingredients required to make the setting work.

            2. I found it odd nobody noted that the invisible walls were a form of railroading. The ones at the edge of the map might have been to prevent ugly vistas, but the ones around the quarry, for example, were there to keep you from easily bypassing the deathclaws to get to the Great Khans camp where the British Khan waited to be convinced not to join Caesar’s Legion.

              A lot of the other invisible walls did the same, requiring you to take a more “challenging” route to get to things rather than taking the direct approach.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its almost like every one of us has different tastes and different criteria for what fun is.Amazing.

          3. hborrgg says:

            I don’t think so, even New Vegas was at its worst when it made less sense (cough, Boomers, cough).

        2. Adam says:

          My point was more that if you’re going to put something in a game that makes no sense and is stupid, it had better at least be fun. In an ideal world I’d prefer every game come at world-building the way New Vegas did, but I’ll take SR3 -even SR2, which is NOT consistent or logical- over Fo3 any day of the week.

    2. FYI: New Vegas was hit by fewer bombs thanks to a defense system Mr. House used during the war.

      1. Keeshhound says:

        Also, the inhabitants of New Vegas have actually been doing shit in the 200 years since the bombs fell, rather than wallowing in the crater of a nuclear bomb.

        1. hborrgg says:

          I’m not entirely sure there either. My hometown is only ~130 years old and it already has a population of over 100,000. Not to mention that it looks way nicer than Nev Vegas did.

          1. True, but it hasn’t been surrounded by raiders, mutant horrors, and primitive tribal factions all while being run/protected by a nearly-dead oligarch with a small army of robots (even if they’re not upgraded) in a country ravaged by nuclear war and a sudden population decline.

            I also think some people have this idea of constant progress no matter what, when there are places in the world that haven’t made much headway, often due to violence (and not all-out war; it doesn’t take much to make things unstable). And one doesn’t have to assume that war/violence has been going on for 200 years. Peace is not a common thing to achieve, so a given area in Fallout could be unstable due to recent events as well.

  24. ShamusLoggedOut says:

    Doo dee doo. Just looking into this “cache problem” everyone else is reporting.

  25. 4th Dimension says:

    I know it’s pointless to scream at Josh, especially Josh from couple of years ago, but I have to get this out of my system:


    Sorry for that.

    1. As I’ve noted in a kind of semi-review of System Shock 2, us old-timey gamers have a hard time remembering the compass and quest markers are there. Back in the old days, you didn’t have a glowing dot telling you where your next objective was, you had (at best) a quest log that re-stated the objective or you had to remember whatever it was the quest giver told you about where your objective might be. When playing current-day FPS RPGs, it took me a LONG time to remember that if I had a quest to find, say, a book in a library, I had a magical “hot/cold” device that would lead me right to it.

      It almost feels like cheating, sometimes.

      1. Ciennas says:

        As Rutskarn notes though, that is head and shoulders above the older system. Sure, it takes the challenge out of some of the quest types, but it sure as hell beats travelling through Morrowind on quest givers directions.

        (The best example of which was that time the quest giver sends you to a town literally half the game world away from your stated goal.

        I personally hated how stupid easy it was to get lost trying to track down the ‘witches’ that paralyzed those dumbass Nords. I still have a save file where I finally ditched him in one of the strongholds and never bothered to return.)

        However, it could greatly improve it with a slightly revamped quest marker system; allow the player to select how closely they want it leading them. Say, mark the ‘quest area’ or the specific building, or the specific rooms, or shut off in the final room, or whatever. Skyrim would have worked well with this; clairvoyance spells for navigating the interiors when you are ass backwards lost, but otherwise no hand holding while you’re in a ruin.

        I know there’s at least a couple of mods that delete the quest markers, but how hard would it be to make this system instead, programmy folk?

        1. Ciennas says:

          (Editing disabled, for some reason.)

          Or, Daggerfall. Wandering around the towns was a real chore. Sure, more immersive to have to ask random people if they know where ‘X’ lives, but damn was it aggravating to navigate the town.

          Which I guess enhances roleplaying as the clueless lost newcomer tourist, but blehg. Give me a general direction at least.

          (And never again that stupid halfway cross the continent trick, or that one deadric quest that says it’s ‘in a cave southwest of here’ in a peninsula frickin filled with the damn caves.)

  26. Scampi says:

    Just now I realize how amazingly satisfying it would be to have the enclave’s mobile platform to target LL (or at least the entrance…”Have fun with the muties, kids!”)

  27. Lame Duck says:

    What I find so bizarre about Little Lamplight is that any other developer would have fumbled the concept by having a bunch of lazy writing that attempted to get a cheap emotional hit based exclusively on the fact they were kids. Aggravating, confrontational assholes is such a non-obvious way to completely fuck up the idea.

    Also, the fact that you’re forced to go there for the main quest leads me to believe that Bethesda were actually proud of this place and wanted to make sure the player saw it.

  28. Chamomile says:

    No one expects a Bethesda Fallout character! His chief flaw is that he’s a moron, he’s a moron and his plans make no sense, his two, his two chief flaws are that he’s a moron and his plans make no sense and his suicide makes no sense, our three-…amongst his flaws are that he’s a moron, his plans make no sense, his suicide made no sense, it was totally unnecessary, and-I’ll come in again.

    1. Scampi says:

      Totally got me there:D now I want the fitting robe…maybe I might change my clothes to the Eulogy Jones suit…I guess it’s the closest to inquisition-wear there is in the game, since I can’t dye my regulator’s coat:D

    2. WJS says:

      Is that referring to Shamus talking about Dad? That’s exactly what I thought too.
      “OK, so Dad’s problem was – no, wait, Dad’s two problems were – actually, if you fix the three problems with Dad – OK, I got this: Among Dad’s many problems…” ← My exact thoughts at that point in the video.

  29. Sunshine says:

    I went to Little Lamplight late in my game (the main plot was practically the last thing I did) and don’t remember it being annoying. I’d taken Child At Heart earlier, though I don’t think it was ultimately much use and after talking to everyone, I went on to Vault 87 and didn’t think of LL again. It didn’t seem like a big obstacle, or particularly obnoxious.

    One thing is that they didn’t give the Paradise Falls quest. Maybe that was a bug.

  30. WJS says:

    That map in the Citadel isn’t dedicated to showing vaults. It’s just a map, like yours. The vaults weren’t on it when you walked in the room.
    Also: “Where do the kids come from?”
    Uhh… what do you expect a bunch of teens with no adult supervision are going to get up to?

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