Fallout 3 EP21: Guy Fawkes Day

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 13, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 145 comments

Link (YouTube)

We talked a bit about the Bethesda art style, which is kind of like discussing the flavor of a glass of room-temperature water. For comparison, here is the art style of the original supermutants:


This idea of an NPC lollygagging behind the player comes up way too often in games. It basically a kind of escort mission. I have no idea how this keeps happening. Yes, I’m sure once you’ve cleared the area you can use the in-game “wait” feature to get the slowpoke to catch up, but it’s still silly. What playtester looked at this sequence and said, “Yeah. Takes Fawkes about twenty minutes to walk across a couple of rooms. That seems about right. Ship it.”

On the other hand, Rutskarn brought up an interesting question and I don’t think we gave it enough time. What do we think about locking lore behind skill gates? I think we’re mostly talking about character skill here, not player skill. We’re talking about mechanics that require you to have a certain level or distribution of stats and skillpoints to reach audio logs, codex entries, lore books, etc.

I stand by what I said in the episode, that we shouldn’t need to pass a skill check to get critical info that explains core story concepts or covers plot holes. That stuff should be hard to miss. But when we’re talking about flavor text, extra exposition, and backstory, is it okay if not all characters can reach it? Is lore a reward like any other? Or – since lore is for the player and not the character – or should it be treated differently than loot and money? I’m interested to hear what people think of this.


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145 thoughts on “Fallout 3 EP21: Guy Fawkes Day

  1. X2-Eliah says:

    I’m not keen on restricting lore.. I’m very much a lore-nut in the games I invest myself in, and I really do want to get to know asmuch as possible of the world and setting as I play; if It starts to require me to build a specifically made character just to unlock all of the things, then I’m not happy at all.

    Now, don’t get me wrong – hiding *some* details where it makes sense is acceptable. Just like you hide some better weapons, or better lockpicks, you can hide some interesting angle in an event of some or other importance. What should not happen, however, is hiding a whole area of lore behind something that only a specific character build can pass… Like, we know dishonored had whales and magic and magic whales. If you would have to had rank 2 Blink *and* rank 2 jump to get to the only bit in game that explains that whales=leviathans=magic=related_to_Outsider, with this info bein nowhere else, then that would outright suck.

    So, um.. Hiding lore stuff is okay so long as it is in measured amounts and does not detract from a good overview even if missing those bits.

    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

      Yeah, locking it away isn’t good. Just making it obscure but still available, okay. (Yes, I’m still harping on) Guild Wars 2 handles a LOT of lore transmission in ways that are.. different. There’s some books, but they’re not very long. There’s a LOT of conversations happening between NPCs just out on the street and environment, some of which are lore, some of which are mundane, and some of which are just hysterically funny. And reading tombstones and monuments gives you a quite a bit as well. No bits are absolutely essential to comprehension, but together they end up making a much clearer picture of the world and it’s state, and there’s enough chaff mixed in that it’s not always possible to tell right up front the difference between something that’s important and not important.

    2. Adam Fuller says:

      I think locking lore can be ok when you lock it away from only a small subset of builds. To use a fallout example, if you are playing a really low intelligence character, I have no problem with sections of lore being unobtainable. But an average character should be able to access pretty much everything.

      1. Thomas says:

        If you can use lore, I like the idea of skilled characters who ace themselves in learning about other cultures/people. Maybe not so much in Fallout games but I think it’s quite cool to be playing a doctor character who learns a load of extra detail about illness x or a charisma character who knows everyones secrets. Fallout is the wrong type of interactivity maybe.

        It’s got to be well written though and truly bonus content that doesn’t matter if you don’t know it. And you’ve got to establish it from the beginning and do it consistently so people know the tradeoffs.

        1. Thomas says:

          For specifics, KotoR2 and Planescape:Torment locked away information behind skill gates, but part of the fun of choosing a wisdom character over a combat character was collecting all the extra information and in those games you’re sort of agreeing to trade off harder combat for more lore and general dialogue options

          1. Felblood says:

            I think part of the reason that this worked in torment was that investigating the lore wasn’t just something for the player, but a major part of The Nameless One’s journey, to figure out who he is, where he is, and what he ought to do about it.

            In a game that is principally about exploration and investigation, it just makes sense for getting more lore and clues to be a reward for success in different areas. However, if your game makes it possible to just punch all your problems to death, then the combat monster’s player should be given some means to understand who he is punching, and what problem this is intended to solve.

            All Builds Must Be Valid!

            –even if not equal in all respects.

      2. vyndallis says:

        I think that, to a certain extent, lore should be a reward. A good example would be the Survivalist Caches in Honest Hearts. They gave interesting information, and you had to hunt around for them. However, they weren’t necessary to understand the story. The only lore that should be hidden is worldbuilding. You should never, ever, hide lore that fixes plotholes. Lore should be hidden, but shouldn’t require character skills that the average midlevel character wouldn’t have.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          It’s odd you choose that particular example. The revelation of the actions of the survivalist and his role in the world turns out to be very relevant and important to what’s going on in Honest Hearts, not so much in relation to the plot, but in the setting.

          Without spoiling too much, religion and superstition were major themes in Honest Hearts, and the survivalist journals are more or less the true creation story for one of the tribes in Zion Valley. You hear the bastardized version of this myth literally as soon as you encounter these folks, yet possessing this critical knowledge- literally, having it recorded in your Pip-Boy or physically in your possession, and with physical evidence literally lying in wait to be shown at your leisure, you can never bring up this thematically-critical and highly-relevant data. I guess the Courier just found it boring or something.

          That’s not nearly the worst instance of forcing characterization or denying reasonable courses of action in Honest Hearts, but I’m inclined towards charity for Honest Hearts for not sucking massive shaft in every way like Dead Money did.

    3. Eric says:


      Here’s the thing. The basics to understand the plot without significant holes or missing pieces are necessary, and it’s the job of the writers and designers to ensure that the information is made obvious enough that there should only be ambiguity or room for concern where intentional. The logic of the story, motivations of characters and so on should be clear UNLESS it is important to the plot that they be hidden or mysterious somehow.

      Extra lore, however, such as the history of the game world, interesting nuggets, details on technology and science, secondary motivations, all that kind of stuff, can and should be hidden. Rewarding, fascinating lore is enough of a benefit for many players to focus on non-combat skills or exploration of the world over the “fast path” because he/she may get a more fulfilling experience as a result of investing more into the game; the players who explore want to be able to find things that make it worthwhile (NOT just boring randomly generated loot, hack designers of the world).

      The first Fallout was the PERFECT example of this. It had tons of lore details on the world which were extremely interesting and ONLY available to more intelligent characters. On a basic level you had your directions from the Overseer: find the Water Chip, stop The Master’s army. With those dead-simple directions you could theoretically complete the game in only a few minutes provided you knew where to go and what to do. But Fallout makes optional knowledge and questing so valuable as to be basically be mandatory, because it wisely links your exploration of the world to plot progress and lore/background. This is a BRILLIANT move which has so rarely been copied that it’s kind of amazing to me, especially as it’d be perfect for a modern sandbox game.

      One of the most memorable encounters of the game, talking to the supercomputer in The Glow, is off limits to anyone but a near-genius, and the greatest details require a maxed-out intelligence score. Considering the stringent character system, you really have to commit to that path – and the rewards of greater knowledge and appreciation of the game world are worthwhile. Other characters will get other rewards – there are plenty of situations where you can find special loot, or only complete certain quests with certain skills.

      Every play-style should feel valid and validated, without being identical or requiring the same skills; focusing on speech, intelligence etc. and rewarding it with things people playing that path should appreciate is smart game design, not bad.

      Bethesda’s failure comes down to awful writing, awful design and lack of any coherent story, plot or setting to begin with. Fallout is such a brilliantly designed, near-perfect RPG that Bethesda sully its legacy with their awkward fumbling and nega-design; it is insulting to the games themselves, the people who made them, and the fans of the series.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Disagreed. There is, imo, a big difference between not pushing lore upon player who don’t care about it, and locking the lore away from most players who *do* want to get it. The example you cited, with most of the lore locked only to characters with high intelligence? I have three words about that: OH HELL NO.

        On a related note, why is it the EVERY SINGLE TIME a gaming mechanic is discussed that seems absolutely abhorrent to me, one of the two original fallouts is inescapably cited as the influence for that? I mean, seriously – I keep hearing ridiculously stupid gaming paradigms that all seem to have stemmed, or been present, in Fallout, and people go nuts about praising them. I am very close to a point of unconditionally despising the original Fallout purely because of what it has done to gaming.

        1. Khizan says:

          It wasn’t so bad in Fallout 1/2 because intelligence generated skill points and so most builds that weren’t intentionally stupid had a pretty decent score.

          Add in the ability to get a +1 stat boost and pop mentats for a temporary +2, and most every character who didn’t purposefully tank their intelligence could hit an 8 of 10 fairly trivially. Landing an easy temporary 10/10 took a rather small initial investment.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Play-tes-ter?What kind of an imaginary thing are you talking about Shamoose?

    1. Mintskittle says:

      Oh, I know! It’s the people who buy it on launch day. Maybe we’ll include all the people who played the game before the first patch. That’s totally what it is.

      1. MrGuy says:

        No, no, no, no.

        They’re those people Valve has that makes all their games late.

  3. zob says:

    Considering people rarely read the lore that’s out in the open (ME codex, AssCreed, Dishonored), locking/hiding lore behind anything sounds like a self defeating idea.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      To be fair, ME’s codex is as much out-of-game as it can get. It’s not an in-game item you examine, it’s not even a plaque or a book or a poster on some wall, it’s literally a self-contained menu that you use when not playing. That.. that disencourages reading for those players who like to immerse themselves in the game. Well, at least that’s how I saw it.

      Edit: (Also, I just thought that ME’s codex was extremely bland, dry and boring)

      1. anaphysik says:

        Actually, to me ME1’s Codex seemed pretty clearly to be space-Encarta, much the same way Avina was an in-world source of Citadel-approved infodumps.

        (Specifically, I think the ME1 Codex took a Systems-Alliance-approved feel, IIRC.)

        1. MrGuy says:

          This has been Rosanne, your guide to the world of facts.

        2. StashAugustine says:

          ME2 Codex explicitly lies about the events of the first game, so I would say in-universe. The Codex had some interesting things, and occasionally good lines. “Until the invention of gunpowder, the leading cause of krogan fatalities was “eaten by predator.” Afterwards, it was “death by gunshot.””

        3. Duneyrr says:

          Dude. I saw the word “Encarta” and immediately the memories of playing Mindmaze on my super-fast, shiny new Pentium II came flooding back. That game rocked.

          1. Thomas says:

            You could set it to highest difficulty, randomly press options until you got through a door and your score would be high enough to win the game by the end of the first level =D

      2. Karthik says:

        It also got quite inaccurate (and inconsistent) as they kept moving the gameplay towards the action movie style. By the end, everything the codex said about space engagements might well have been a joke.

    2. Khizan says:

      The problem with a lot of the lore is that there’s SO MUCH of it and it’s in dungeons.

      I’m playing Skyrim for the first time now, and while on one hand, I would like to read all these books, I am finding like 4 goddamned books per room, and I’d really prefer to go back to raining lightning and hellfire on my enemies.a

      FO3/NV did this in a way, too. I’d be traipsing through a dungeon, and then stop, read 5 log entries on the terminal, repeat.

      1. Shamus says:

        Do you wanna go in the room? I think you’re telling me you want to be next in the room.

        I kid. Perhaps I’m giving away my grammatical ineptitude, but the way I wrote it sounds more correct to my ear. I’ve always had a hard time with “whom”.

        EDIT: Yes, this was a response to another post from another thread. Such are the dangers of responding from the admin queue and clicking The Wrong Thing.

        1. anaphysik says:

          (I’m so confused by this post :S Sounds like it’s an orphaned post brought about (/somehow/) by Shamus responding to a comment that no longer exists? Other possibility is that Khizan editing something out of their post?)

        2. BeardedDork says:

          This comment makes way more sense in the context of a different conversation from a different post.

          1. MrGuy says:

            Really? What’s not to like about Harold? Sure, there’s a little fanservice in including him in the game, but I thought he was well handled and interesting.

            I loved the little easter egg of Oasis. New art, some not-terribly lore, and it’s great they didn’t ram it down your throat.

            1. Josh says:

              Really, the Ikko-Ikki weren’t in a very good position to begin with. It’s not surprising they’re falling apart now.

              1. Starkos says:

                I have fond memories of you dragging a dead drug dealer through the streets of Hengsha.

                  1. newdarkcloud says:

                    Y’know. I think if KAI-SAR had an army of ninja bees, he’d be more likely to beat the NCR.

              2. Patrick says:

                Is everyone responding to posts in the wrong threads, or is this a bug?

                Edit: Or just very well may be a joke that I’m too thick to get. Nevermind.

                1. IronCore says:

                  It started as a posting flub and has turned into everybody jumping on the clever bandwagon.

              3. Nick says:

                You have to remember that they didn’t intend the Bioshock series to go so negative, so they’re not being sarcastic at this point

                1. tzeneth says:

                  But that’s just it. Cannibalism IS a legitimate answer to the food concerns of Dunwall!

        3. Hieronymus says:

          Is it wrong that I feel proud to have been partially (barely) responsible for this? >:)

          1. Shamus says:

            Yeah but you have to remember those 80’s anime were made before they had the digital tools they have today. So it’s kind of an apples-to-hand grenades comparison.

            1. Syal says:

              Now I want to see a resource-management game with the Taken showing up at random intervals to tell you how many resources you have.

              There are forty-three cows and pigs in the pen!”

              1. MrGuy says:

                Look, I get that they want everyone to be able to take part in the core mechnaics and all, but I feel like the crafting mechanic abilities need to match up at least a little with the racial traits. Really? A Tauren or a Worgen can embroider delicate fabric just as well as a human or a night elf with the same level of practice? How does that make sense?

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Some of those books date back to Daggerfall and personally I really, really like how many there, I’m pretty sure I haven’t read them all of them but I think I read most, at least the definite majority that were in Morrowind. What I really like about them is that it’s never, or at least extremely rarely, necessary to read them for the maingame (though they sometimes often certain clues) so they are an optional way to immerse yourself in the greater lore and culture of the land. And there is a great variety of them, you can find historical records and fiction, you can find poetry, you can find folk tales, anecdotes, riddles, parables, religious and scientific treaties… people have been inspired to create entire mods based on something they read in one or another book. I think the sheer amount and variety of text does a lot to flesh out the world.

        Also, the books don’t weight that much, you can grab them and take them with you to read later.

      3. guy says:

        Skyrim books are just too long, and the interface isn’t great. It also doesn’t help that a lot of them are parts of a set and don’t show up in order.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Gee, “too long” (meaning, some 7-10 paragraphs of text. Seriously, that’s “long” now? How do you even manage to get through life, I wonder?) and ‘parts of a set’. Almost like, you know, REAL BOOKS WOULD BE. But, nah, let’s all stick to, say, Dishonored-style “books”: three paragraphs with two sentences each is plenty enough, thank you. God forbid the game gives me an option to actually read something, oh noes.

          1. Cupcaeks says:

            Really? Was that tone really necessary? I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying, but there’s no need to be an ass about it. Within the context of the game, those books do run on the long side, especially if you’d prefer to get back into the meat of the action. If you want to know why most people don’t read those books, ‘too long’ is probably the number one reason. Stopping to read 7-10 paragraphs of text can throw off the flow and pacing of a game, which isn’t really a problem in open-world affairs like Skyrim, but in a game like Dishonored or Thief it’s definitely something to consider. Books and notes in notes in the latter were brief in comparison to the what was in the Elder Scrolls games, but they almost always correlated with you’re current objectives, however tangentially, and they still managed to build up their respective worlds in interesting ways. Longer isn’t necessarily better, and I don’t think you can really compare the two approaches. Both have the ultimate aim of world building, true, but the books of TES games have always been about providing a convincing culture and history to immerse yourself in, whereas in more directed games like Dishonored, Deus Ex, Thief, and the like, books tend to be more about providing context and commentary to your actions. Both approaches have their merits, but I don’t think Dishonored and company would be served any better by the TES approach, and vice versa.

            1. X2-Eliah says:

              Yeah, except the thing is, those books are all optional. You are essentially arguing on favour of less, dumbed down content for the written lore. I disagree with that stance; Skyrim’s books are NOT ‘too long’.

              If you really prefer to not spend them time on them and get into the meat of the action asap, then just ignore them and keep on swinging that battleaxe. Read the also-present quest notes (which are short and tight, yes), if that’s the optimum length. But no, as soon as you suggest shortening the existing books, by saying they are ‘too long’, in a TES game, then I can’t help but disagree.

              1. Bearded Dork says:

                On the play-through before the one I’m on now, I resolved that I was going to read all of the books.
                I stopped halfway through Bleakfalls Barrow when I realized I was spending more time reading than playing. Taken individually, no the books are not too long. However if you are trying to read more than a few then yes they are definitely a combination of too long and not well enough written to make reading them in funny fonts on a screen not intended for the purpose worth while.

              2. Cupcaeks says:

                Nowhere did I ever suggest shortening the existing books and I fail to see how I’m arguing for ‘dumbing down’, when all I’ve done is state why I think most people don’t read lore in a conversation about why people don’t read lore.

                The TES approach works for a game like Skyrim where you set your own pace. The tone of your post seems to imply that because the books in Dishonored and other games are shorter that it somehow makes them inferior. I’m arguing that those books are about the right length for the pacing of those particular types of games while still maintaining compelling world building. I even stated that both approaches work within their respective games. Where are you getting that I’m advocating shortening and ‘dumbing down’?

          2. bloodsquirrel says:

            A) I don’t particularly like reading a lot of text off of a TV screen, or even a computer monitor when it’s done in the style that games tend to put in their codices. It becomes a literal eyesore after a while, so it’s best kept short.

            B) Having to read too much text breaks the game’s pacing. If I’m consistently breaking for 5-10 minutes to read books while exploring a dungeon, I’m going to start forgetting what I was doing, what drawers I’ve checked, where the way forward is, etc. I’m going to lose the mood I was in.

            Reading the right amount of text at the right time can help a game’s pacing, of course, which is why developers need to understand pacing in general.

            C) Video game writers don’t have the best track record with compelling prose in the first place, and in particular have a problem with undue verbosity.

            1. StashAugustine says:

              Perhaps it should be that picking up a book saves it in your library at home, where you can read it? I tend to binge on reading, rather than take 5 minutes out of my busy schedule of murder to sit down and read history.

              1. X2-Eliah says:

                You know, it *is* a very lightweight item that you *pick up*. You can just, idk, close the book, finish your adventure, go to your house with its library, and then start reading stuff…

                Seriously. Nobody is forcing you to read while in mid-dungeon. Nobody is forcing you to drop the book instantly. Reading is a CHOICE, with regard to both IF and WHEN and WHERE.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Except its not a lightweight item.It has some weight.Now it doesnt matter when the dungeon is small,and you find just a couple of books,and you are near a hub.But when you are in a big dungeon,with plethora of loot,and literal libraries lying around,and the closest hub being ten minutes or so away,you are forced to choose between lore,loot or time.You either pick more loot,used to improve your equipment,pick more lore to read once you reach the hub,pick up both and end up prolonging that 10 minute trek to a full hour slog,or stop doing everything while you read the lore in your inventory.And that is not a very good choice.

                  Now compare that to a game where every book you open gets immediately copied in your log.You can just pick up lore,log it for later,then throw it away to make room for more loot.Later,when you get to your house,you can open your log and just read at your own leisure.

                  Not to mention that once you do acquire a huge library of books,with a log having all of them in one place,it gets much easier to continuously read from one chapter to the next,without the need to unnecessarily scout your inventory for the next part of the story to read.How is that a bad thing?How is giving your players a more convenient way to access all the lore theyve found a bad thing?

          3. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “and “˜parts of a set'. Almost like, you know, REAL BOOKS WOULD BE.”

            Oh yeah,I remember reading lord of the rings.Man those were the days when every chapter was in 2,3 books.Reading 5-7 pages,and then opening a new book,those were the days.Not like these books today where you have multiple chapters all in one book!The travesty!

            1. X2-Eliah says:

              And there I thought that ‘too long’ was a big issue…

          4. guy says:

            The books are long enough to be flow-breaking and irritating to a guy who has read the entire Wheel of Time series more than once . Though they might just feel longer by virtue of not being very good.

        2. Just Passing Through says:

          While we are on the subject of Skyrim’s books, does anyone know of a mod that lets you skip the annoying opening and closing animations when just picking up a book?

      4. X2-Eliah says:

        On a constructive note, if you are interested in the Elder Scrolls’ books, this site can be a godsend: http://www.imperial-library.info/ It’s basically a library of all in-game books (and notes) that you can read at your leisure in a normal, regular text format.

        1. Phantom Hoover says:

          Fair warning, though: delving too deep into that site will take you into the weirdest depths of Kirkbridian lore. You may not come back the same.

          1. X2-Eliah says:

            No joke. The amount of hidden messages and hints is just staggering. Not to mention stuff like that letter from the future that afaik wasn’t exactly obtainable in morrowind or something..

    3. ehlijen says:

      I think making info a reward for effort would help encourage people to read it.

      If the info’s just lying there, no one can be bothered. But if you had to fight a miniboss or pick lot’s of locks, it better be interesting because players want their reward.

      1. BeardedDork says:

        I do world building in my pen and paper rpgs this way. I found that players never read the packet I give them, but they remember every scrap of information they dig up on their own.

  4. Paul Spooner says:

    I’d prefer lore be useful to both the player and the character!

    But, if the lore is an extrinsic reward (useful only to the player) then it doesn’t seem fair to require intrinsic state to access it. Just like it feels odd to pay real money (extrinsic state) for in-game behavior (intrinsic reward).

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      On the other hand skill/stat gates are somewhat reflective of roleplaying the character that you created. A lot of the allure of playing a low int character in the original Fallout was that the game recognized that the character was simply too dumb to understand a lot of these information, for that matter most NPCs recognized it too and didn’t bother explaining all the difficult stuff to you, or you weren’t smart enough to ask the right question that would be obvious to someone versed in the subject. It enforces the division between player knowledge and character knowledge, which can be a major issue for many roleplaying groups.

      Of course, like I said, in the original Fallout low intelligence fundamentally redefined your character, not just locked out several dialogue options in a few conversations.

  5. anaphysik says:

    Restricting lore behind skill gates makes a lot more sense if the skills involved are those expressly about understanding lore. ;p

  6. JPH says:

    I agree that Bethesda’s art style is boring, but your argument would have carried more weight if that super mutant screenshot wasn’t also boring.

    1. gragsmash says:

      Also worth noting that that is a hand-drawn character used in dialog. The super mutant sprites were scary and green, but not super-distinct from the current incarnation

      1. Even better, it looks like they were stop-motion models.

        It makes me want to see a Fallout game as done by Aardman.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      *gasp* Boring? No no no, can’t you see how IMPRESSIVE and ARTISTIC the skin texturing is? And those sweet totally-not-steampunk goggles? That’s PURE and RAW ART right there!!!

      1. Tom says:

        Did steampunk even exist when those goggles were rendered?

        1. Deadpool says:

          At the very latest, Steampunk started about 13 years before Fallout…

        2. X2-Eliah says:

          Yes. I know wikipedia is not a good reference and whatever, but it is a breaf recap of info that’s relevant to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk
          Summary: term originated in 1980s, but is used to describe literary works from 50s/60s as well (becuase they basically were steampunk without knowing what their ‘style’ was called yet).

    3. Even says:

      It’s still a lot better than the permanent-grimace wielding super mutants of Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Marcus is the only one in the whole mess who has a sane looking default expression.

      1. WJS says:

        Agreed. To be honest, the picture doesn’t really look all that different from Fallout 3 supermutants; the two most obvious differences being that he doesn’t look angry like the FO3 ones always do, and he hasn’t just finished oiling himself up.

  7. Lee says:

    I consider lore to be a reward for the player, and think it makes sense for it to be a reward for something. It could be a reward for exploring, or a reward for emphasizing noncombat skills, or whatever.

    I’ve never been averse to looking things up on wikis, so it doesn’t bother me that hiding lore might prevent my character from seeing it: I, the player, can always look it up somewhere else.

    That said, I think that there should be a strong relation between how important information is and how obvious it is: stuff without which the player would be completely lost should be where everyone can see it (dialog for relevant quests, perhaps), stuff that helps the universe make sense or alleviates “fridge logic” problems can be a little off the beaten path (accessible to the people who care about it, but not in the way of those who don’t), and random tidbits about the setting’s history that aren’t tied to the plot at all can be wherever you please.

    1. Jingleman says:

      I like your point but I interpret it differently. Because I, the player, can look up the lore on a wiki or forum or whatever, I’ve generally considered lore in-game to be a reward for the character. I can look it up any way I want, but the character can only find it the one way.

      So, as a matter of role-playing, I consider it totally fine, even interesting, if lore is inaccessible to certain character builds. What sort of information the character would have access to, or would be interested in, can have a lot of influence over the character’s motivations and choices going forward. Thus, a high-intelligence character can play very differently from a melee fighter – not only because they approach conflict differently, but also because they are often be working from different information about the world, which leads to different viewpoints.

  8. MrGuy says:

    Holy compression artifacts, Batman!

    I know the old episodes are just 480p, but at least for me this is by far the most pixellated hard-to-watch episode even of the FO3 re-posts. Is this just me?

    1. I had the same problem with a Dishonored video. It turns out that for some reason, my settings at YouTube were futzed. You might need to click through to YT and make sure you’re not set to view the lowest resolution by default. I’m not saying what Shame did to his site a few days ago in the interests of SCIENCE! is to blame, but they did happen at the same time…

  9. MrGuy says:

    Also, I like Josh’s noble attempt there to become addicted to Rad-X.

    1. In Fallout 1, Rad-Away was addictive. That still makes no sense to me.

      “I’m not not-glowing enough! More, MORE, I say!”

      1. Din Adn? says:

        Well, anything that cleans radiation out of your system has to be doing some pretty funky stuff [At least, I think it does? Not really up to scratch on my medicine or nuclear physics], so there’s probably a bit of wiggle-room. Maybe whatever was used to make it is mildly psychoactive in addition to whatever else it does. Maybe it’s just so rugged that your body can’t handle going from none in your system to a bunch in your system for a while then none again.
        I can’t remember if the pre-war society in the original Fallout was using small-scale reactors for power in everyday appliances, or if that was introduced in one of the later games. If it was, then it makes sense that rad-away would have seen at least some use before the war, and creating a non-addictive version would have been on people’s agenda. If it wasn’t, though, then rad-away might have been seen more as a contingency or military thing, and been good enough ‘as-is’.

        Dunno. It’s not actually a thing that’s had definitive statements made about it [I think], so all we can really do is talk about it. It mightn’t even have had that much thought put into it. It does seem like more of a thing you need for radiation to not be completely lethal rather than a thing that is first and foremost part of the background.

      2. Don't Boba Frett says:

        Yeah, but you can become addicted to cough medicine and not have a cough. There could obviously be addictive stuff in a drug designed to keep radiation at bay.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Why?You can get addicted to anything given you get too much of it.

        1. Why not Rad-X, then? Or stimpaks? Or Sugar Bombs? As for “too much of it,” remember that Cuftbert became addicted to booze after ONE drink.

          The game tends to concentrate on things that create physical addiction, which at least makes some kind of sense. Psychological addictions are left up to the player (i.e. collecting something or eating other people). Besides, making Rad-X addictive stands out as being the only remedy/cure that HAS an addiction in the original Fallout.

          F3 had a Hydra addiction potential, though that one was decried by Rutskarn.

          1. Sorry, I meant Rad-Away at the end, there.

            It begs the question, “if this is addictive, why not everything?”

            1. Huh. And the page put my comment down here for some reason rather than as a reply to myself above.

              More like “Weirdpress,” am I right?

              Edit: And upon making THIS comment, the one above is back where it should be. This is reaching new levels of WTF.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well because its a game.Obviously you cannot get physically addicted to alcohol just from one beer.And you can get physically addicted to anything from a big enough quantity*.But in a video game,realism is better left stretched.But why not stimpack,and yes rad-x?I have no clue.Personally,Id give addiction to both,since stimpacks are essentially painkillers.

            *Note that in some cases big enough quantity would require months or even years of ingesting just that substance.

        2. Syal says:

          Except stimpaks.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            No,I meant in real world.

            In fact not being able to get addicted to stimpacks is much weirder than getting addicted to anything else.

    2. Deadfast says:

      While noble, it was entirely hopeless. He already got addicted to Med-X the previous episode. Then again, maybe he missed it. After all he did get addicted to Psycho 3 seconds later!

      1. MrGuy says:

        Rad-X != Med-X

        It WAS hopeless, but for a different reason, which is that Rad-X is non-addicitive in FO3.

        1. Deadfast says:

          Bah, clearly it is the same thing in my mind!

  10. Keeshhound says:

    Related to the question of how lore should be delivered, apparently Vault-tek (well, their sister corp West-tek) was at least partially responsible for the creation of Super Mutants via FEV testing;


    As I recall, most of that information is buried in The Glow, which while not a skill check, per say, is not a particularly easy place to get to.

    1. guy says:

      The Glow was a pre-req for Power Armor and entering the Brotherhood Of Steel bunker. It’s a bit difficult to get into, but it’s arguably main quest territory.

      Granted, given the terrifying limited quantity of Rad-X in the game, I expect a lot of people went into the crater, grabbed the quest item, and proceeded to GTFO. The whole thing was like six levels deep and Rad-X was literally mandatory to survive getting to the first level and back.

      1. Keeshhound says:

        Right, that’s what I meant. There’s no hard lock on the data tapes containing the information, but they’re in hard-to-reach locations that don’t encourage exploration. Of course there was also a chess-obsessed AI in the basement, who spat out exposition if your INT was high enough, so I guess there was some skill gates too.

        1. MrGuy says:

          Which was actually devious. If you play chess with it, you lose like 12 hours and quite possibly won’t have time to get out before you die.

          The only winning move is not to play.

  11. The Rocketeer says:

    I’ve thought about this problem so, so much. I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

    I will say that there are things I do like about it. Roleplaying is most fun when your character does things that a different character would or could not not do. In point of fact, that is the definition of roleplaying. If your character has invested time in skills concerning access or information, it would certainly feel like a waste if you never went anywhere or learned anything you couldn’t have otherwise. The idea that information without a tangible impact on the game isn’t valuable to the character is only true if you aren’t attributing some kind of personality to your character.

    Which is fine, too. The only thing that grants any reward value is the goal of the player. Knowledge may not benefit the character, but neither does money or guns if you don’t want to buy or shoot anything. The latter is different from the former, however, in that they are often useful in obtaining other things and accomplishing other goals.

    That might be worth looking into. Here we are asking whether we should treat lore differently since it doesn’t have a real value in the game. I think the actual problem is that lore doesn’t have a real value in the game. Unless you’re roleplaying a character that really does value trivia for its own sake, real effort should be put into making the knowledge the character possesses as useful as any of their other assets. To be fair, it often already is; there are plenty of quests that hinge upon gaining information of some sort.

    On the other hand, not all knowledge needs to have a value or purpose, or even be interesting. Bent Tin Cans are purposeless junk, but their presence adds to the world anyway. And of course some player somewhere collects them for no particular reason.

    Come to think of it, I think it’s handy to think of interesting but shiftless lore as occupying the same place in the world as those odd knickknacks people like to collect. Having Nevada’s one and only Evil Gnome in my house doesn’t really benefit my character, but I’m still glad I have it, and I didn’t mind having to fight some weird lizards to get it.

  12. Abnaxis says:

    I’m of two minds…

    On the one hand, there are times when I like working for lore. There’s something satisfying about finding a little piece of world-building tucked away in a corner while obsessively exploring/hacking/lockpicking everywhere. On the other hand…I have been re-playing Planescape: Torment since inXile started the new Torment Kickstarter, and while PS:T is a great game, it still annoys the crap out of me that you HAVE to be a mage if you want a decent build without getting locked out of 90% of the story.

    The only way I see around this conundrum is to provide skill gates that are accessible via multiple skills, so thief/rogue/mage builds all get their shot. But then, why put the gate there in the first place if every character can bypass it? Is it better if you just make the player think they bypassed the obstacle through smart character optimization, even if they could access the lore regardless of build? What value does the skill gate add?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      All excellent points… you’ve seemed to answer all of your questions already. If you are merely interested in “content” (cutscenes, lore, story) then why entangle it with a game at all? If the skill gate doesn’t obstruct access, then then there is no point except to “tie” the two to each other and create an association in the player’s mind between “playing the game” and “being entertained”. So, essentially, “lore dispensers” are another skinner box technique to keep you “playing” the game long after the game itself has lost its appeal. Personally, I find the practice revolting.

      The only justification would be if the lore meant something in-game to the character (instead of just to the player) but this is hard to implement and even harder to balance. And even then, it turns the game into a puzzle, since content is non-renewable… unless we teach the computer to come up with convincing, interesting, balanced, game-integrated, parametric lore.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I’m…not really following what you say here. Are you being facetious?

        What I’m talking about is this–many games allow different builds and playstyles. Take (for example) a game in the same vein as Deus Ex, where we hypothetically have to stop a BBEG from blowing up downtown with a bomb. We could: A) Sneak past the terrorists, B) Fight through the terrorists, or C) Talk the terrorists down. In general, [A] will yield the least plot followed by [B], with [C] giving the richest storytelling experience.

        My gut says it’s preferable for you to be able to access the same story content (or even better, equal-quality-but-different-context story content) no matter how you choose to play. Just because I like mowing down terrorists gansta style shouldn’t mean I miss out on the good bits of content. However, if you get the same quality lore no matter whether you sneak, fight, or talk, why have the respective skill gates to begin with? Why not put lore dispensers out in the open? How much value does it add to make people feel like they earned their story by linking it to their chosen playstyle regardless of playstyle, rather than giving it away by default? Can it even really be done, or will people just see through it? (I know I sometimes rolled my eyes when I saw a safe in Fallout 3 that could either be lockpicked or hacked at a terminal–how the hell was that lock designed?)

        This is not even remotely conceptually related to a Skinner box, or using lore as a gameplay mechanism. I have no idea what left field you’re coming out of.

        1. So… what do you want? Lore that’s freely available, yet a challenge, but not too much of a challenge because missing it sucks?

          Some games put lore that was related to the game in easy-to-miss places. I suppose that’s a skill (OCD exploration, noticing things), but not one that’s tied to your stats.

          Other than that, I’m not sure what it is exactly you want out of the experience and/or challenge.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            I take “lore” to mean “the state and history of the world existing up to the point that the player takes control of the character”.
            It appears Abnaxis takes “lore” to mean “the state and history of the world once the player is done controlling the character”.
            If so, our disagreement can be traced to our differing definition of terms (which is why it’s important to define terms (see “definition of game” discussion) when trying to make a value judgement).

            I’d like the prior state of the world (that doesn’t directly affect the game play) to be accessable outside of the mechanics (about which I do not know Abnaxis’ oppinion). Abnaxis appears to want different in-game outcomes to be accessible by different means (which I agree is a good thing to shoot for, if you are going to have “content consumption” a part of the game in the first place (which I think is a bad idea… but that’s another discussion)).

          2. Sydney says:

            I agree with Abnaxis here. Basically, my argument has two steps:

            One: The lore should be available to all builds. But therefore,

            Two: There isn’t any point in requiring skill checks, since every build should be able to pass one of the skill checks anyway. Imagine a room with a locked door, a breakable wall, and a vent you can crawl through; if every character has a way in (and this argument depends on the premise that every character must have a way in), why not just unlock the door and save us all the hassle.

            If something’s going to be available to everyone the way I’d like it to be, there’s no need for skill checks at all, since they’d function only to lock jacks-of-all-trades out of lore.

            1. Syal says:

              I’d rather have different bits of lore for all three of those options.

              Like, the vent would get you an overheard conversation about what happened to a previous bigshot in the group, picking the lock would get you a file on a former operation this group performed, and breaking down the wall would get you a fight with members of another group you didn’t know were involved with this group before.

              And maybe you learn the other stuff farther down the line, or maybe you don’t, depending on how important to the plot it is.

            2. Felblood says:

              I don’t think I understand what you are trying to say. I can see two possible interpretations:

              1) Are you saying: If any character can overcome the challenge, why have a challenge at all?

              In a properly balanced game, any reasonable player character should be capable of reaching all the main-quest plot points. Should we then remove all the game-play challenges from the main storyline? Why not just watch a movie, then? (I’m not down on movie watching here, it’s just not what I want from my games, especially games that allow exploration and multiple approaches.)

              2) Or are you saying that strictly numerical skill checks are a lame way to resolve a character’s abilities granting them access to content.

              In that case, I agree. The whole [choose methodology -> spend points -> select previously chosen methodology from list -> receive rewards] process is just a glorified time-sink. Game-play must be driven by intrinsic value, rather than simply a barrier between players and their rewards, be they loot, lore or more skill points.

              See Also: Spoiler Warning’s discussion of the end of Mass Effect 3.

    2. Khizan says:

      That bugged the hell out of me, too.

      So I downloaded a character editor and gave myself 25 in all stats. Now I can handle the boring combat by rightclicking it down regardless of my class, and I never miss stat-gated story option.

      There’s really no other way to play, imo. Though, I might do another playthough as Stupid McStupidson just to see how differently it plays out.

    3. Thomas says:

      You can totally survive the game with a non-wizard high-wisdom build. I played it without the patch (so the gimpy health bug) and with practically no combat points at all and I survived it because you can basically just run past all the combat (with only a few exceptions, and normally your party is strong enough for those).

      And even then, the elite build is splitting your points between wisdom and the defence one (stamina?) because once you reach 19 stamina you essentially become immortal.

      Speaking of immortal, there’s no death in the game, so any build is viable with a little bit of time.

      I always thought mage was a little bit harder than the others (even with high wisd) because it#s hard to rest in the game and you don’t get many spells to deal with threats

  13. Wraith says:

    Nice thumbnail. Totally not disturbing.

  14. In regards to SW’s comments on Fallout 3 looking “too 1950’s” or whatever, consider this passage from the Fallout Bible by Chris Avelone circa September/October of 2002:

    Rob had a comment:

    Firstly i think that your site is great and i really enjoy playing the fallout games. the reason for the e-mail is to find out when the war happened and why the cars and buildings look weird? I understand that the war was ment to have happened in the future but if so why are people dressed in 50’s stuff and doing 50’s things?

    Hey, Rob – the basic theme of the Fallout games is that the world of 2077 had a retro-50s feel when the nukes dropped – sort of a “what people in the 50s imagined the future (and post-holocaust future) would be like.” This theme translates into the “look” and the actual physics of the world (Torg-style, if you’ve ever played Torg) – so anyway, you get giant radioactive monsters, pulp science with lasers, blasters, vacuum tubes, big expensive cars with fins, Art Deco architecture, robots with brains in domes atop their heads, lots of tape reel computer machines, the whole “atomic horror” feel, and it explains the artistic style of the interface.

    So there you go.

  15. Ravens Cry says:

    Hide some of it, maybe, but never lock it away. Rewarding exploration is one thing, in fact, it’s a very good thing, but making it harder for a player to access it once they find it? You’re just hurting the people who like your game most, those who are intrigued by your world enough to hunt for these kinds of tidbits.
    While watching a friend play Fallout III, I remember being tickled pink by the Virgo II lunar module and the information about it, being rather a space nut. I also thought it rather delightful that they chose to model the design not after the widely known LM design but on the much less known Soviet LK lander. A rather inconsequential yet brilliant detail.
    Since I didn’t own the game myself, I ransacked the wiki’s to find everything I could about Project Virgo.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      But… that’s just the thing. You weren’t even playing the game, and you still enjoyed the lore. For you, the “hidden lore” wasn’t locked behind an in-game skill gate, but a real life skill gate! This is the best system in my mind. Make player rewards based on player skill, and character rewards based on character skill. Entangling the two is a recipe for frustration.

      1. Ravens Cry says:

        Actually, that was aalso my point. Put it in out of the way and interesting places (player skill) but not behind gates that say “Only this build can access this.” unless you place the same information elsewhere in a way that can be accessed some other way.
        Also, except from an artificial intelligence terms, I wouldn’t call it much of a skill check. In D&D terms it was DC 10 Knowledge: Google, and I wasn’t threatened or under stress.

      2. Jeff says:

        Make player rewards based on player skill, and character rewards based on character skill.
        I agree that this is the best way to handle it.

        It’s also the problem with FO3’s dialog system. It’s basically rewarding player action (quicksave, quickload) with a character reward (success at skill check).

  16. IronCore says:

    I think that lore that is essential to the game should be accessible by all. I have no problem with flavor lore being locked behind character skill checks. I think part of it is role play as well. Say you enter an office building where something bad has gone down. Everybody inside is dead, and automated security systems are going haywire. Pretty standard fare for a Fallout type game. If you have a character that is good with locks, computers, and generally being where he shouldn’t then he may be able to investigate the area more thoroughly than somebody who is a slab of meat with no care beyond where he’s getting his next meal, payment, and job. There is also the option of making it so all character types can get into the same background flavor lore. Just using different methods. Hacking the computer or picking the door as opposed to beating the passwords out of somebody or just kicking the door in. This is where it comes down to role play. Is your character interested in what happened or are they just there to smash and grab what they can make a quick buck on then leave? Hell, are you as a player even interested?

    I think like most things it comes down to the skill of the dev team and how they present the situation and lore. If done deftly you can reward all sorts of play styles and make them all feel like they are well rewarded.

    1. GTRichey says:

      This seems like a pretty good solution. Basically have the lore behind one skill gate that would be the ‘ideal’, but then make ways for other skills to be useful in obtaining it as well.

      For example a character with high science would simply hack the terminal. But if you place a non hostile npc in the area it opens up other opportunities. A thief might pickpocket a note with the password, a charisma/speech build could talk the npc into giving them access and even a combat based build could use force. While I don’t think any one build should be able to see the entirety of the world (because that would eliminate any replay value) I think there should be scenarios where there are multiple paths to some side material like this.

  17. Cupcaeks says:

    I’m of the mind that lore that is essential to understanding the game’s main plot line generally shouldn’t be hard to access. Now, if there’s some bit of lore that allows you to resolve some aspect of the game in a new and interesting way, I see no problem locking that behind a skill check, otherwise there would be no point in having different skills and different builds in the first place. Every other bit of non-essential lore is fair game for being locked or hidden away. If I build my character around skills specifically meant for digging up those kinds of things, I want to feel like my investment was worthwhile, since I would presumably be sacrificing competence in other areas like combat in order to do so. When it comes to games where building up your character is a central focus, I don’t want to be able to see everything there is to offer in just one run. There need to be tradeoffs, and locking away some special (but more importantly, optional) things behind specific skills seems to be a good way to provide that.

  18. X2-Eliah says:

    On the note of super mutants – I’d say if we compare the two, then we compare them on equal levels. a 2d static drawing should go up against a 2d static drawing, not a 3d model of an engine that’s renowned for not-good-character-models.

    Here’s, frex, a concept drawing of F3’s supermutants and their ‘devolution’: http://www.sghi.info/GL/img/Post.Nuclear.PC.Games/Fallout.3_concept.art/8-05.16_Super.Mutants.2_concept.art.jpg

    1. SharpeRifle says:

      Someone needs to make a Mod for the one with the cow on its back to be added ingame.

      1. Adam says:

        “SFX: Moo” has to be my favorite note ever.

    2. WJS says:

      The “renowned for not-good-character-models” isn’t even slightly relevant when talking about super-mutants. They don’t use the same facegen system that the human characters do.

  19. Snizzlefit says:

    The only way I’ve found to kill Fawkes is to use the Gauss Rifle (when it registers the hit of course) to knock him off Tenpenny Tower. Twice in fact. Broken Steel actually increases his health even further, up to fifteen thousand according to the Wiki.

    1. Destrustor says:

      You can also sneak a live grenade in his pants. Instant-kill on anything.
      In fact, I thought that was the only way to kill him.
      I think the devs simply made him immune to actual weapon damage: Shooting him with the MIRV only takes out two notches of his health, same as shooting him with a normal fat man. His health is probably set to never get any lower. The instant-kill from falling and pants-grenading might just bypass damage entirely, allowing his death.

  20. IFS says:

    I think when it comes to hiding lore the Souls games (Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls) are a really interesting example of how to do it. Personally I really enjoy how lore works in the game, delivered primarily through item descriptions, but also through character dialogue, environmental details, and even on occasion through enemies (via the items they drop, how they behave in at least one case, and where certain types appear). The lore isn’t needed to progress through the game, or to understand what you’re doing, but it really adds a lot of interesting worldbuilding, history, and backstory for those who pay attention to it. In addition its often left somewhat open to interpretation, which makes it all the more interesting to consider and discuss the implications of various bits of it. Generally the items aren’t that hard to find, and often provide lore relating to the area they’re in, or the character they were taken from, so it feels like a natural reward to exploration.

    Granted the games don’t always do this well, Demon’s Souls in particular had some pieces of lore that were really difficult to find on your own, mostly due to the game failing to explain how world tendency worked. But overall I really enjoyed how lore worked in those games. I’m not really sure if there are other games that handle lore quite like the Souls series, but I think its an interesting approach (if one that wouldn’t work as well in most other games).

  21. Neko says:

    I think additional lore, exposition, background etc. as a reward for passing certain skill checks is a good thing.

    Why? Because if we gave all that stuff away for free, then what else can we use as rewards for having those skills at those levels? Some random loot. Perhaps the opportunity to bypass a hard fight. Having lore as a possible reward reinforces that lore and story is just as valuable (if not moreso) as random loot.

    With a lot of games glossing over story, I think it’s worthwhile to promote it as a game element whenever possible.

  22. Grudgeal says:

    Locking away lore so it’s only available to a specific character build is a no-no, even more so when the lore is required to understand what’s going on. Even when it’s justifiable, like in Planescape: Torment, it’s annoying, especially if the lore goes beyond supplementary information that isn’t needed to contextualize anything, and finding it in return unlocks more lore, conversations, and information: Losing one initial piece because it’s behind a skill gate ends up losing you much more.

    If you make it so that purely persistence on the level of the player is what reveals lore, however (like, say, with the Survivalist’s notes in FNV: Honest Hearts), it’s more tolerable. But basically telling you that you have to be so persistent as to play the game in one specific way from the get-go, just to get supplementary information, or not giving you the option to later come back with some boosted intelligence or lockpick skill and dig it up, really smarts.

    It’s also annoying when the game gets too entranced with the whole ‘involve the player’ and starts hiding away lore like it’s some kind of collectable you really have to fine-comb everything to dig up. Especially when the game keeps track on what lore you have and have not found, with that incompleteness keeping on mocking you. Like Alan Wake’s manuscripts. Or #¤#%&&¤ Alpha Protocol’s dossiers. #%%&¤%¤” those dossiers. I could never 100% Parker.

    1. Trix says:

      To be fair, what dossiers you found could have a profound effect on your gameplay – they give some valuable info sometimes on how to react to people/organizations, both in combat and out. It makes more sense to make that stuff harder to come by because intel and info are powerful tools in the sort of situation Thorton is in.

      I think there were a couple cases too (Hong Shii comes to mind, sp?) where finding all the info changed the situation, allowing for different options.

      Ultimately I don’t think that method is appropriate for most games, but I do believe it fit pretty well with the way Alpha Protocol was set up.

      1. Thomas says:

        I love it in Alpha Protocol. It’s very spy like and it makes intelligence and doing the ground work an element of actual gameplay. I think the games best with multiple playthroughs though, because you’re not really meant to understand everything on first try

  23. Even says:

    As long as it is nothing too important to the main plot, I’m okay with it. Even better if it’s something related to the skill itself. It just always carries the risk of becoming a double-edged sword, so to speak, if the writers are not careful. Coming off New Vegas DLC, the various terminals in Dead Money and Ulysses’ logs in Lonesome Road are perfect examples of this. They’re not really critical per se, but they contain some very defining history of the place or the character. You don’t need to find them to finish either DLC, but the difference in understanding the setting/location/character after reading/listening to them is just way too big to miss out. On personal level this can make or break a game sometimes. Knowing what they contain, the fact that most of them are fairly well hidden just feels so counter-intuitive to the whole story.

  24. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I dont mind locking lore with skill checks,as long as any character can get to it.So if you need science to open one door,there have to be ways to open it even if you dont have science(science boosting stuff,explosives,picks,etc).

    1. However, and this is a place some will differ, I don’t mind it if whole parts of the game are inaccessible to certain builds, ESPECIALLY when it makes sense. Skyrim (and fantasy in general) is really guilty of not doing this when it really should. My mage shouldn’t be able to ascend to the highest levels in the thieves guild. Conversely, my sword-tank shouldn’t be able to become archmage. Maybe they can do some basic missions to advance the plot, but the “you are the bestest and a winnar is you” missions for those guilds shouldn’t be possible without the appropriate skills.

      I’m also fine with that because it enhances replay value as well as verisimilitude. Of course, I’m one of those crazy people who think the Assassin’s Creed series has about as much to do with assassination as Medal of Honor has to do with crafting.

      1. WJS says:

        Um, what? I’ve never heard that particular criticism of Assassins Creed before; a number of others, sure, but “You don’t assassinate people” is one I don’t really get.

  25. Dev Null says:

    Man, I’d forgotten about those old-school super mutants; I love the C-clamps holding his armour together.

    I think its ok to lock _some_ non-plot-critical lore behind skill checks, but I’ve got a couple of caveats:

    1) It really had better be non-plot-critical,

    2) It shouldn’t be super hard in game terms to get it, if you’re not getting much in-game benefit from it, since you’re probably giving up useful in-game abilities to get the skills you took to get the lore. This is less important if it _does_ have some in-game value. (e.g., instead of fighting a tough baddie, _or_ hacking a computer to get through a door that lets you bypass him, you could hack a computer that gets you a critical bit of lore that lets you bypass him.)

    3) If its just fluff, it should be totally obvious _in advance_ what skills you’ll need to get it. Some people just skip the lore text, and thats fine. But some of us are playing the game for those little nuggets of detail. To get me halfway through the game and then say “Oh, you didn’t take six levels of Underwater Basketweaving over the last 6 hours of gameplay? No lore for you!”; thats going to piss me off.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      I don’t think skill-gated lore is really the object of having those skills, though; it’s just a lagniappe for characters that already had those skills for other reasons. Besides, proactively shaping your character for lore acquisition is a paradox.

      I mean, if you’re building your character a certain way to acquire something in particular, you probably already know what it is you’re trying to get. But if the objective in question is information, and you already know it, do you really need to get it? And build your character to do so? I mean, if there’s some benefit to acquiring it beyond knowing it, then it isn’t just lore, is it?

  26. Paul Spooner says:

    On the “clothes make the man” point, where changing your armor completely changes your appearance… that’s actually a great mechanic-visual coupling system. So many modern games have embraced “player customization” where you can tweak your face and body build, which has no impact at all on the game itself. At least in FO1 you could tell immediately what kind of armor you were wearing. The visuals were informed by the game state, not distracted by pointless “customization”. I’d be happy to know that anything I’m seeing on screen means something!

    1. Adam says:

      I’m not sure I understand your point. Yeah, you can see exactly what kind of armor you’re wearing, but shouldn’t you know that already, assuming you equipped it yourself? And the point they raised is not about obfuscation (obviously, the system where your sprite changes based on what you have equipped is better than one where your sprite stays the same no matter what you have) but that it’s amusing that your appearance is COMPLETELY tied to your gear. (Ironically, given the preponderance of helmets in Bethesda games, this seems to have come full circle. One character in Daedric heavy armor looks very like another, even without a face-enclosing helmet.) A much better system to employ would have been one where your head remained the same between armor suits. I can only imagine that the technical restraints of the day are what prevented them from doing this.

      For all their myriad sins, Bioware at least always understood that the customizable face of their NPCs is of paramount importance. From KotOR to Dragon Age to Mass Effect, any full-face equipment has been entirely optional.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Okay, I see you would prefer to be able to adjust your character’s appearance. What I’m saying is that I think (in most modern games) this ability is either extraneous, or absurdly limited.

        As far as I can tell, the cosmetic appearance of the character has absolutely zero effect on game mechanics, skill challenges, sucess or failure, difficulty, or any other in-game state other than the appearance of the avatar. To me, this is wasteful, it spends precious screen space, processing power, days if not months of programming, and intrinsic system complexity for absolutely no in-game effect. You’re basically dealing with the “game” re-inventing the wheel and making the player into a 3d asset modeler, and then giving them incomplete tools, and asking them to do a job that has exactly zero in-world semantic value. This is a waste of time, and extraneous to the game.

        But, if people want to customize their character, why limit it to in-game tools? Since the appearance has no effect on the game, the designers would be much better served by creating an “import model” tool and letting players run around as whatever they feel like. Big old brown cube? Sure. Exquisitely crafted reproduction of supermodels? Why not! By requiring character “customization” be performed on in-game tools, the actual range of customization is absurdly limited.

        Yes, some of the in-game tools are “really good”. Yes, some systems allow you to mod your character appearance using outside tools. And yes, appearance does mean something. I’d just like it if the people designing these “games” would take the trouble to de-couple game-state information from purely cosmetic information, and then let the player decide how they wanted that information conveyed. Making “helmet display” optional is a great example of this (as you said), but why not make armor display optional as well? Why not allow us to visualize the avatar as a bar-graph of stats instead of an animated “realistic” character? Am I the only one confused and frustrated by this?

        1. Thomas says:

          Customisable characters have huge value. For many many people they bring a large amount of attachment to the PC for free and are a valuable form of self expression.

          Shaums’ has talked a lot on this site how he enjoys spending a lot of time just on the character customisation screen.

          They don’t do anything mechanical, but viewing a game in terms of only mechanics is blocking out 50% of the picture (which is context) and customisable PCs and PCs who don’t magically change appearance between armour changes is part of that

          1. StashAugustine says:

            I enjoy spending half an hour trying to make my characters look like Mara Jade or John Wayne dependent on gender, so I’d say +1 to this. It’s something that greatly enhances my appreciation of a game, but OTOH it’s not enough to make me learn Blender.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              I’m not saying “remove the in-game tools.” But as long as “customization” is a feature, why not allow the use of external tools as well? I’ve never seen a game that allows you to do in-game tweaking, as well as import or export the model freely. The in-house artists already have the tools. All they would have to do is expose their pipeline a little bit.

              But, yeah, guilty as charged, I’m basically a native of Blender (other open source 3d graphics suites are available).

        2. The Rocketeer says:

          “Am I the only one confused and frustrated by this?”

          Definitely. It’s actually sort of bemusing.

    2. WJS says:

      That makes no sense whatsoever. If you can’t tell what armour you’re wearing from looking at your character’s entire body, why do you expect changing the head to help? It won’t but it looks really stupid. “Buy one combat armour, get a free mandatory crewcut!”

  27. IFS says:

    Well I had a decently lengthy comment about how Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls handle lore, offering it frequently as a reward for exploration while working it into the environment, item descriptions, character dialogue, enemy placement and actions, and other things. But the site seems to have swallowed it for some reason.

    Anyways the point of said post was that the souls games offer lore frequently as a reward for exploration alongside other items and such, and while the lore is completely unnecessary to understanding the game, or enjoying it, the way its structured to be open to interpretation makes it interesting to consider and discuss, putting various implications together to gain a clearer view of it. Certainly it stumbles in places with this approach and I wouldn’t recommend it for every game, but I really like how its used in the Souls games.

    1. IFS says:

      Huh, and NOW its loaded some of the comments it was hiding before, including my own. I would edit this, but its not letting me do that either.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yeah,when the site stopped remembering cookies,all sorts of weird things started happening.Mostly because of the already weird spam filter.

        But at least its not slow as hell anymore,so Im ok with it.

  28. SecretSmoke says:

    I think locking lore behind skillgates can work, so long as it isn’t necessary to get satisfaction from the story. (Notice that I didn’t say the *whole* story.) Dark Souls does this really well, a lot of the lore is flavortext on equipment. You don’t need physical stats just to read it, but you do need the skill, being in either combat, or exploration/puzzle solving thus increasing the chance that players will realize that even crappy weapons can have delicious morsels of lore (lorsels?) Plus it makes sense (on a surface level) that discovering these people’s weaponry/armor, etc would tell you something about their culture.

    *Edit* And then I read two comments up and felt silly.

  29. Thomas says:

    I like to think when the next person dies it will be largely down to Shamus’ one-man herculean ‘original fallout’ effort this episode

  30. Hmm, I wonder–how is loot and money for “the character” rather than “the player”, exactly? Does *the character* at some point express a desire or opinion regarding loot and/or money, or does it strictly exist as a mechanism to affect the player’s experience of the game? Do you mean that it at least nominally inhabits the “universe” of the character while due to lack of character reaction/interaction (like bringing it up later) the lore stuff at least appears to solely inhabit the universe of the player?

    Personally, I think the issue should depend on what sort of universe you’re having the lore inhabit. If the character never references or makes use of logs etc., then yeah, they exist solely for the benefit of the player and there’s no point in hiding them behind gates and so forth. If they do have in-universe impact, however, adding dialog options, opening paths, helping connect bits of data, then they are part of the gameplay mechanics and should partake of the same reasoning that involves any other mechanical thingy being hidden behind gates of some kind.

  31. I actually quite like the little lamplight bit. I was playing a good character so I wasn’t frustrated at the kids, and I didn’t see them as that insulting. Most of it seemed directed at each other.

    While a lot of it was a bit poorly done, I did quite like all the different stories that the kids had going between them. You can also get some free stuff by talking to people and trading things.

    Having said that, I did wonder where the children came from. I wondered whether people from bigtown dropped of their children not long after birth.

    Oh, and thanks for showing what happens when you look at the GECK. I did wonder about that.

    The way I played it, I walked behind Fawkes, using him and as a shield as I shot my way through so he didn’t get left behind.

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