Fallout 3:
The Power of the Atom

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Dec 16, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 78 comments

This post contains spoilers for a side-quest. (No main plot spoilers.) Odds are that this will be the first quest you encounter in the wasteland.

The town of Megaton, which is built inside of a steep crater. An undetonated <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man">Fat Man</a> sits at the very bottom, and nobody knows what to do with it.
The town of Megaton, which is built inside of a steep crater. An undetonated Fat Man sits at the very bottom, and nobody knows what to do with it.
This is not the worst quest in the game. But from a writing standpoint the dialog suffers from an almost criminal lack of ambition, and as someone who would love to write this sort of stuff I found the missed opportunity to be endlessly frustrating. And since Pete Hines won’t return my phone calls, I’m afraid you must bear the brunt of my ravings.

As you enter the town of Megaton – a town built around an undetonated atomic bomb – you’re approached by two NPCs. The first is the mayor, who will pay you to disarm the bomb. The second is a shady character named Burke, who will pay you to set off the bomb and destroy the entire town. If you do as the mayor asks, you’ll be given a house in town. If you do as Burke asks…

So… he wants me to blow up a city of people because it’s not <strong>scenic</strong> enough?
So… he wants me to blow up a city of people because it’s not scenic enough?

The man who wants you to destroy the town is Alistair Tenpenny, a wealthy old man who wants the town gone because it’s a “blight on the landscape”. His instructions are very explicit. He wants the town gone, and you’re not to warn the residents, because he wants them all to die as well.

Megaton is one of the largest most successful towns on the map. It represents a major concentration of human survivors. Alistair doesn’t want to take it over, or steal from it, or rule it, or enslave it. He wants to get rid of it because it’s ugly. Remember that this is a post apocalyptic wasteland we’re talking about. Everything is ugly.

This is a “burgeoning urban landscape”? Apparently Alistair’s biggest concern in this ruined world is a shabby city he can’t even see from his penthouse balcony. Stipulated: The visuals in this game are amazing.
This is a “burgeoning urban landscape”? Apparently Alistair’s biggest concern in this ruined world is a shabby city he can’t even see from his penthouse balcony. Stipulated: The visuals in this game are amazing.

I can see where this mission came from. A designer thought that blowing up a whole city would be a great thing to allow the player to do. I agree. It gives them tremendous power over the gameworld. Take a whole town off the map. Note that this isn’t just a generic town, made to be destroyed. It’s full of named NPC’s, detailed buildings, one of several on-ramps for the main quest, and a smattering of sidequests. I can’t think of another game that allows a player to obliterate this much of the gameworld in a single act. (When I say “gameworld”, I’m not just talking about scenery. I’m talking about the content that exists in Megaton. They have given us a huge playground, and have given us the freedom to do whatever we like, including destroying the place.)

It’s an awesome concept for a mission, but the dialog is perfunctory and the premise is laughable. Tenpenny has no real motivation for doing this. The reasons given are nonsense.

Worst urban renewal EVER.
Worst urban renewal EVER.

Given the ostensibly extreme scarcity of basic resources (not that anyone ever mentions having trouble finding food) then it would be crucial for people to pool their productivity and resources via trade. In which case nuking your closest neighbor would impoverish you. That’s one less place producing… well, nobody ever produces anything, but if they did, then nuking them would stop that from happening, and there would be that much less stuff to trade for. There would still be the same number of raiders, but now raiders that depended on raiding the resources Megaton never produced in the first place will have to find a new town to raid for nonexistent supplies. And Tenpenny Towers is by far the next closest and richest target. This was the wost thing Alistair Tenpenny could have done to himself, short of nuking his own town. (I’ll cover the messed-up economy in a later post. It would be fine to simply glaze over this sort of thing, but the quests constantly go out of their way to draw our attention to it.)

Like I said, I know this is sour grapes on my part. I love writing. I would be overjoyed if someday someone let me take a crack at writing a mission like this. Maybe most people don’t care about this sort of thing, but it irritates me to madness to see such an opportunity squandered. If someone came to me with this premise: “There is a guy who wants to nuke a town. Write it.” I would be giddy with excitement. Imagine the directions you could go with a character like that. What possible motives he might have, what goals. What sort of machinations might he be engaged in. Imagine how he might try to sell those goals to the player. Villains – particularly smart, articulate villains with a concrete agenda and limited resources – are some of the most compelling characters you could ever hope to write. The chance to let a player talk to a guy like this and have them try to have them sell the player on joining their cause is something great.

But instead we have this same villain we’ve met a thousand times before. Mr. clueless cardboard asshole, who aspires to nothing more than being a destructive jerk. This plan doesn’t even make sense. The entire landscape is a ruined wasteland, and he wants to get rid of megaton – a speck on his horizon – because it’s “ugly”. Is a smoking irradiated crater really going to look that much better? Can you even tell the difference from atop Tenpenny Towers? (Answer: No.)

The crime here isn’t that the quest is bad, it’s that it’s lazy and squanders so much potential. The conversation with Tenpenny could be this great reward, a chance to define a character and tell a story. Instead it’s just another stupid task to perform in exchange for money and experience points.

One final note: Watching the nuke go off is amazing. The screenshot I have above doesn’t begin to do it justice. Do not miss this sequence. Even if you’re playing as a good character, set off the nuke and restore the game. The dialog may be insultingly shallow, but it’s worth doing just for the light show.


From The Archives:

78 thoughts on “Fallout 3:
The Power of the Atom

  1. hewhosaysfish says:

    Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic/forgiving here, but is is possible that this character has motivations (e.g. wiping out a neighbouring town so that *his* town can grab some land/natural resources/trade routes/whatever and that all this talk of blights on the landscape is sophistry on his part?

    Also, how do you detnonate the nuke from a distance? Do you pretend to accept the deal to defuse it in order to get close, or can anyone just wander up to it ?

  2. Illiterate says:

    Any hint, at all, that maybe his motivations are ones he doesn’t wish to share? Or does everything appear to just be *that* shallow?

  3. JKjoker says:

    Well, at least he gave you a reason as stupid as it might be, in Mass Effect the bad guys refuse to give it to you and just say “your puny human brain couldn’t understand it”

  4. InsanePsychic says:

    If I may correct you on one thing, I seem to remember Tenpenny saying that he wanted Burke to tell the citizens to clear out before detonating the bomb.

    And no, his motivations are that shallow. Tenpenny Towers is supposed to be this secure tower, where people can live, if they are able to pay the exorbitant price of the apartments.

  5. Zanfib says:

    It’s better if you destroy Megaton at night, Shamus.

  6. Kevin says:

    “I am Alistair Tenpenny, and I want you to destroy Megaton!… Why? Uh… I hadn’t really… uh… look, does it matter? I’ve got money… no. Okay, okay. Um… well, the sushi there isn’t as good as it is over in Daisycutter…. Oh! And you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays! How ’bout that?… What do you mean ‘that’s not good enough?’ How about this… blow it up because you can.… Heh heh. I thought that’d getcha…. Um… will you take a check?”

  7. Few typos in the last sentence: my => may; worht => worth.

    Also, I definitely agree with Zanfib. It looks amazing at night.

  8. The voice acting is particular bad too, not just the dialog. That woman who wants to write a book in megaton was so annoying that I actually turned the voice acting off and enjoyed the game a lot more after that point!

  9. UtopiaV1 says:

    Is this Tenpenny guy ‘mentally unstable’, or mad with power in any way? I always find it amusing when the villains are so evil they do stuff simply because they can (I’m like that in Mass Effect)!

    Also, do no games designers get the concept of a dirty bomb? I thought these things had a radius of twenty square miles or so, and that’s just the blast wave! World in Conflict did this as well, the nuke looked spectacular but no-one dies of continued radiation exposure. Maybe that sort of thing is just TOO horrible…

  10. Utopia, the bomb is pretty week, the equivalent of about five thousand tons of TNT.

    We are talking about a fat boy fission weapon, not a fusion weapon.

    And, it is a ground burst, not an air burst.

    These days they are allocated as tactical nukes.

  11. LintMan says:

    Yes, it’s a PHENOMENALLY stupid reason for Megaton to be blown up, but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the writer’s intent.

    Making my way to find Tenpenny, the man who tried to blow up Megaton and who was sending paid assassins after me, I imagined some cackling mastermind with a grand plan. Instead, I found an affable old man, not pure evil but so self centered that no one else really matters. He didn’t like the blight of Megaton, and so: “Why, that wonderful Mr Burke offered to take care of that for me – he’s such a go-getter!” Burke didn’t evacuate the town first like he asked? “Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs!”. And Tenpenny was OK with letting the nasty ghouls live in his tower – if you could get some of the residents to agree to it – he just didn’t want to hear the complaints.

    To me, it’s pretty apparent from all this that Tenpenny didn’t order the hit on you, Burke did, but it also seems pretty clear that Tenpenny wouldn’t lift a finger to stop it, either.

    This is real characterization, with an unexpected twist. If I had actually destroyed Megaton and then found out *that* was the reason why, I would have been honestly embarassed.

    The sheer senselessness and irony of it all fits right in with F3’s theme. Some of the writing in Fallout3 could be better, but personally I think this piece was some pretty good stuff.

  12. Avilan the Grey says:

    Well… I have played through the beginning 5 times (to test character concepts) and I have never blown the place up (even when I tried out an evil character, I didn’t play “nuts” and the “evil” option in this quest is just too evil).
    Anyway since we already spoil Megaton sidequests:
    I have never gotten the keys to the house from the sheriff, because he is always dead. I find it most rewarding to talk to Burke, deny his request, rat him out, see Burke murder the sheriff to resist arrest, kill Burke and gain the sheriffs gun and ammo, and Burkes sexy shades and hat :P
    (The sheriffs son will give you the key to the house)

  13. John says:

    micro-spoiler warning
    Another bit of wasted potential was the Church of the Atom tie in. This group worships the nuke, and there is mention that they’ll be unhappy if it’s defused, but I couldn’t find a single dialog option that affects the plot in any substantive way.

    One of my beefs with the game was the anemic speech/intelligence/charisma impact on quests. There were a few quests that you can skip with high speech, and a few places where you can make cheaper bribes, but I was disappointed in how there were very few situations where speech would change the nature of the quest resolution (I can’t remember the details of the Arefu quests…)

  14. Kilmor says:

    @Stephen M: A ground burst in a crater, no less. Also its a 200yr old bomb, they could use the excuse of half-life of the material inside, blah blah blah, barely enough to actually detonate, tacyons stuck on the main deflector dish, etc.
    The cars blowing up when you shoot them though, i find this absolutely ridiculous.

    I kind of liked this quest. The ridiculousness of it really makes you a rat bastard for blowing it up, and probably the goal was to definitely make you feel bad for doing so, for such a petty reason.

    If there were some other more logical reason to blow the town up, you wouldn’t feel bad for doing so. If the town was actually a seed of slavery and corruption, you’d probably get good karma for nuking it, and not feel bad in the slightest.

  15. Rick C says:

    Post-Kelo, and the game setting is waaaay post-Kelo, all they would need to do to get rid of Megaton, if it’s a blight on the landscape, is find a developer who wants to build a shopping mall and take it via eminent domain. Think outside the box!

  16. Icey says:

    I’m more interested in the fact that none of Megaton’s residents would even bat an eye at you rigging the bomb, even in broad daylight and right next to the Church of the Atom preacher (whom of all people should notice that you’re tinkering with the centerpiece of his ‘religion’).

    Also, if the residents don’t give a damn, why doesn’t Burke save himself the trouble and rig the bomb himself? Goodness knows he just sits around in the bar all day. No good with explosives? He should procure himself some Mentats ;)

    Yes, I know it’s all set up so the player can do it but it doesn’t mean I can’t nitpick :p

  17. Avilan the Grey says:

    I think Burke fancies himself one of those guys that doesn’t get his own hands dirty. Hence the suit…

  18. Stephen says:

    This quest is representative of the entire game, and the reason the game sold millions of copies. It’s the same reason Armageddon is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time: a shallow, terribly-written story used as a thin excuse for pretty explosions. Bethesda didn’t have the ambition or talent to make anything more, and why should they bother? Their laziness rakes in millions of dollars. As with Michael Bay’s success, I blame the consumers. I’d like to believe most of them are preteens, but sadly I know that’s not the case.

  19. apotheos says:

    I have vague recollections of it being mention intermittently in the game, but I have specific memories of one enclave of human children complaining at length about the lack of food and the necessity to eat cave mold.

    So scarcity of resources does get some lip service. And the Karma-boost stations of starving dehydrated vagrants at least puts some manner of face to it.

  20. Avilan the Grey says:

    #17 Stephen: Or we could stop insulting those who like the game and just conclude that some people like this game, and there is nothing wrong with them for doing so. If you don’t like it, don’t play it, and don’t let it annoy you that people with different taste than you enjoys the game.
    Shamus apparently enjoys playing it despite it’s faults (he said so), and I like it too.

  21. Icey says:

    @ #16 Avilan – True, ‘man in a suit’ is really all you can say about Burke. A complex man he’s not. Probably a good thing, since his voice grates on me almost as much as his lines do :D

  22. Avilan the Grey says:

    #20 Icey
    He dies soon enough though…

  23. I didn’t even really think about the “justification” for blowing up the town being bad because it’s not something I would do with my character (I don’t really care about the explosion being cool, either).

    I agree with LintMan, however, that they actually intended that quest to be ludicrous all the way around. I mean, WHO BUILDS A TOWN AROUND AN UNDETONATED ATOMIC BOMB?!

    I think a lot of the irony in the game is intentional–there’s just too much of it for it *not* to be intentional. Half the characters in the game act like the war was a minor inconvenience and its business as usual–even though it happened 200 years ago and things certainly haven’t gotten better since then!

    One of the biggest problems *I* have with the game is that they purposefully set it 200 years after the war, yet the landscape and most of the characters look and act like it was a year or two ago, tops. The juxtaposition is just too weird. Heck, you’ve got *frame houses* that are *still standing*–they look like they were burned down yesterday!

    I’m sorry, but if you’ve actually ever seen a town that was abandoned 200 years ago, you know that there’s basically nothing left. NOTHING–you’re lucky if you can even see the building foundations. Even concrete buildings should be utterly collapsed and virtually unrecognizable.

  24. Icey says:

    @ #22 Jennifer – I agree; I think the world is beautifully rendered and the wasteland exploring does suck you in rather well BUT it would make a whole lot more sense if it were set just a few years after the bombs fell.

  25. Krellen says:

    @Icey #15:
    The dogma of the Children of the Atom is that they want to be destroyed in nuclear fire. So it doesn’t surprise me that the preacher says nothing about you rigging it.

  26. Avilan the Grey says:

    #23 and #24: (Jennifer and Icey)

    Parts of this is that there are hints, small hints, that there was some cleaning up and salvaging going on after the hit, before it plummeted into a complete wasteland (there is at least one place that is still marked, with old signs falling apart, as “Extra high radiation, cleaning up in progress”.
    I took that as a sign that right after the bomb, the remnants of the US gov. tried to do something about it before it all went to…

    (Besides, wooden houses can stand unattended for 20-40 years as long as the roof is more or less intact. This goes double if they are in an environment where it does hardly rain anymore, like the DC wasteland. You can probably tripple those years, at least. If the roof falls, then the rest of the building with likely collapse within a few years).

  27. I thought that was the entire point, though – Tenpenny made an offhand comment about Megaton being an ‘eyesore,’ and Burke took him seriously enough to actually blow the place up. The quest basically asks you if you’re petty enough to sacrifice an entire town for no reason other than a few extra caps, which is why it’s the single largest karma hit in the entire game.

    Let’s also not forget that everyone in Tenpenny Tower is delusional. Their whole shtick is that they’re the last bastion of pre-war refinement and luxury and that the rest of the wasteland needs to get off their lawn :V

    @23: Maya explains that they originally used the crater for shelter from dust storms. By the time they were able to start settling down and get rid of the bomb, the Church of Atom had sprung up and nobody wanted to piss them off.

  28. Icey says:

    @ #25 Krellen – Not if I rig it to go off perhaps, but he doesn’t react even if you decide to disarm the thing. Doesn’t excuse the other residents not caring either way though, heh.

    @ #26 Avilan – I thought the whole ‘no rain’ thing was more a technical or gameplay design decision (radioactive rainwater? needing to find shelter? I freely admit I have no idea if the rainwater would be that radioactive) than anything else.

    There are abandoned houses with wooden frames close enough to the Potomac – the humidity alone would certainly contribute to their decay. I find it unlikely they’d last over two centuries with the frames still standing.

    Sorry, strayed from the post topic slightly. Back to the quest :p

  29. clouviere says:

    @Jennifer & Icey:
    Yes, there are a litany of things that break the immersion for me as well. I am not sure where the break point is for things like that in a game, how to give the player what they need, make the game playable, and a logical story at the time. TBH, 200 years post-war I really wouldn’t have expected to find the first bit of usable kit, rats, or meds at the Super Mart, just to name one example.

    Things like that just gnaw at my mind and remind me I am playing a game designed to give me plenty of opportunities at loot and targets to neutralize.

    The facts are that if I ran a Raider outfit and we took over a Super Market, we would have stripped the place clean and cached what we couldn’t carry, killed the robot, moved the cars that could blow up away from our AO or positioned them as part of our defensive perimeter, setup OP’s (observation points) around the location and turned the place into a nice little outpost for our mutilating ravings and future operations(ops).

    Not the opposite: left all of the meds and ammo (ie, frag mines not used in the defense of our AO) in place, the robot, the cars, huddled inside walking around solo waiting to be picked off one by one, and left all the ammo and kit spread around where we couldn’t get to it if we needed it.

    But that is just me. And I don’t think that would require a whole lot of intelligence on the part of the “raiders”…I mean, these are the same cats that have their own little town and a captured Behemoth Super Mutant.


  30. Xavin says:

    Utopia(#9), Stephen M(#10), Kilmor(#14):
    A “fat-boy” bomb is a plutonium-implosion device, like the one dropped on Nagasaki. That one had a yield of 21 kilotons.

    The plutonium-239 used in such a device has a half-life of 24100 years – so the couple of hundred years it’s been lying around won’t make a difference to its yield.

    The fact that it’s a ground-burst makes it worse from a radioactive contamination point of view – even a 10kT groundburst will dig a crater 600 feet across and 170 feet deep; pretty much all of that material will be irradiated and lifted into the atmosphere by the fireball. How far down-range this fallout spreads is weather dependent, but potentially hundreds of miles.

    That said, it being in a crater to start with should shield the surrounding area (outside the original crater) from the immediate blast and thermal effects (and possibly the EMP).

    i.e. the immediate effects would be pretty much restricted to the original crater, but there’d be an awful lot of deaths from radiation sickness in the surrounding area over the next couple of months, plus a large increase in birth defects and cancers for many years.

  31. acronix says:

    The lack of NPC characterization in this quest is overwhelming on the side of BURKE. Tenpenny´s is just a selfish senile old man, and he´s probably nuts too.
    The aproach Burke takes to the PC is a “Oh, a new face! Wanna blow up the town? I´ll pay ye.” sort of dialogue. But what is more idiotic in this quest is the fact that he is looking for someone whilling to blow up the town in the town ITSELF. What the heck? Anyone with a bit of brain would look for someone from OUT town to do the job.

    To end with Burkes “great” characterization, after blowing up the town, he doesn´t have any dialogue. He just says over and over the fine work you did and how a good friend you are. Writers forgot about him:(SPOILER SPOILER)In a later quest, a bunch of ghouls kill everyone in the tower, if the player choses so. Everyone dies, except Burke, who keeps telling he same thing over and over, without noticing anyone died(/SPOILER SPOILER). Also, if you kill Tenpenny, he doesn´t give a damn.
    As I always say, writers of this game got drunk halfway of the game, or were changed by monkeys with typewriters, as Hines suggested in an interview.

  32. radio_babylon says:

    “Like I said, I know this is sour grapes on my part. I love writing. I would be overjoyed if someday someone let me take a crack at writing a mission like this.”

    G.E.C.K… write one. id play it. or “fix” this one. id play that too…

  33. Brandon says:

    If you can find room in your schedule to play the old classic Baldur’s Gate, you’ll read (and hear) some of the best game writing around. I’m playing it right now and, gameplay issues aside, the writing alone will cure what ails you.

  34. Derek K. says:

    @The Recursion King

    I KNOW you didn’t just slam Moira and the glorious accent doncha know.


    And yeah, GECK. Rewrite it. NMA (despite often annoying me for raving fanboiism) has done a couple really nice rewrites without the GECK. Once it’s out, I can only imagine.

  35. Cadrys says:

    In the “ooh pretty!” category we also have visiting the post-blast area. (well, maybe not so much “pretty” as “neat!”) And there is one survivor…who gets mentioned on the radio later as having moved to Undercity…

  36. krellen says:

    “Use the mod tools to fix it” is the worst argument ever. If we’re going to depend on individuals working for free to make our game for us, why are we paying Bethesda?

  37. Xavin says:


    Clearly I meant “Fat-man”, not “fat-boy”.

    Presumably I was thinking about the alternative bomb design (a gun-type device using Uranium 235), “little-boy”. Much the same argument would apply to that – the one used on Hiroshima was a 13-18 kiloton bomb, and the half-life of U235 is 700 million years.

  38. qrter says:

    I’d love to see what you’d come up with, Shamus. I don’t mean that in a nasty, calling-you-out kind of way, I’m genuinely interested what your ideas would be (in broad lines) when given the assignment “There is a guy who wants to nuke a town. Write it.”. :)

  39. ehlijen says:


    That’s the approach they took with oblivion and it won them a bunch of awards…

  40. krellen says:


    Winning awards doesn’t mean you’ve done something good. It just means you kissed up to the right people. Video Game Awards are jokes. They mean nothing.

  41. R4byde says:


    That's the approach they took with oblivion and it won them a bunch of awards…

    And as a result Oblivion is still an empty boring POS to this day. Honestly Bethesda has been going downhill ever since Zenimax bought ’em.

    EDIT: Gah! ninja’ed by thirty minutes! *blush* I need to refresh the page before replying.

  42. Roxysteve says:

    [Xavin] Agreed that the plutonium would still be viable, but the radiation from the material would certainly have caused degradation in the initiator device, probably enough to render the entire thing useless. I’m told weapons like these need servicing on a regular basis or they don’t work. If the implosion mechanism doesn’t work exactly right, the best that can be hoped for is a small bang followed by a squirt of liquid plutonium over the landscape (which would kill everyone but hardly remove the blot on the landscape).

    BTW: Didn’t I once have a discussion with you about levers?

  43. Xavin says:

    [Steve] The Terramotive Lever of Doom(TM)? Yes indeed. Happy days…

  44. Anaphyis says:

    Dialogue wasn’t a battle we wanted to pick. It is a bit old-school, but it works well for what we’re trying to do, and there were other things that were more important for us to spend time and energy on, like trying to incorporate VATS into a real world combat system and still incorporate the stats and not unbalance the game. That’s a big undertaking, and spending time from a development standpoint on the actual dialogue and the camera angle it’s being presented on – we just don’t have unlimited monkeys and typewriters.

    You just have to put everything up on the list and decide this is the stuff that’s most important for the kind of experience that we want.

    No more questions, your honor. Sometimes I think Bethesda is some kind of special ops commando for the video game industry. Oblivion obviously (pun intended) was the study how broken you release a game and still make a shitload of money thanks to all the modders with too much free time on their hands. Also, how many complete morons you can get to buy completely pointless mods (i.e. horse armor) for premium prices. I guess Fallout is the stage, where they test how completely moronic a story and how pointless the dialog system of a RPG can be and still make a shitload of money. Of course the old school gamers will hate you forever but who cares about them, they are all too old enough to spend a fortune on games anyway.

  45. Hawk says:

    So … what does nuking the town do to subsequent gameplay options? Or is it just game over after that?

  46. krellen says:

    Hawk: You lose access to a small handful of quests, if you don’t finish them before you blow up Megaton. You also don’t get to live in Megaton, which is centrally located but ugly and full of radiation, but rather get to live in Tenpenny Tower which is down in one corner of the map, with more shops and clean, unirradiated water sources (and thus healing) available to you.

    And even if you blow up Megaton right away, the major quest in the city, the Wasteland Survival Guide, is still accessible to you as the gal involved in that quest survives the blast and becomes a ghoul.

  47. ehlijen says:

    Sorry, I keep forgetting sarcasm isn’t a visible thing. I also abhor behtesda for it’s ‘why bothering with finishing our job?’ attitude.

    As for the clean water in the tennpenny tower:
    With the megaton house you get a free robot that can supply you with endless amounts of clean water and stale jokes. And you can by the ultimate med station capable of healing anything(tm). For free. Makes you wonder why everyone chooses to live in a wasteland when they have that kind of tech still working…
    Do you get similar supertech if you move in the tower? I never found out how as burke would dissappear after I think I convinced not to blow up megaton…the dialog seemed to be missing a vital line somewhere…

  48. Miral says:

    @Derek (#34):

    Whaddya mean, “when it’s out”? It’s been out for about a week already :)

  49. Rick C says:

    @44: “Also, how many complete morons you can get to buy completely pointless mods (i.e. horse armor) for premium prices.”

    Who paid for that? Gamestop was giving away coupons by the boatload.

  50. Nalano says:

    #44 –

    That's a big undertaking, and spending time from a development standpoint on the actual dialogue and the camera angle it's being presented on – we just don't have unlimited monkeys and typewriters.

    Yeah, that’s about it in a nutshell. They’d rather spend money detailing the grit on a rock instead of making their plot make sense, their characters identifiable or their dialogue intelligent.

    Monkeys. I’m sorry, but the only monkeys I see are the ones giving orders to the art and marketing departments.

    Dear god I can’t stand the wasted potential of this game. Plot holes you can lose a GM truck in, characters you’d be hard-pressed to care less about, an exploration game that doesn’t reward visiting the same place twice…

    …y’know what? Anaphyis, you have a good idea with the no-life NMA modder army. Hell, if Bethesda gave them the tools to mod the main quest, in six months we’d have a game to be proud of. We’d have to weather the hubris and the condescension of a games company that got us to pay for a game we have to design ourselves, but.

    It’s sorta like the dilemma of the teased nerd: Don’t take offense and suffer the conscience fallout of your own withered morals and insulted intelligence, or take offense and risk the peer pressure of “but what does it really matter” or “why don’t you have a sense of humor?”

  51. Jabor says:

    I can’t be bothered reading the entire comment thread to see if this has been mentioned, but why oh why would you build an entire town around an undetonated nuke without defusing it first?

  52. Lorgath says:

    Something everyone seems to forget about the Fallout series is it’s tongue-in-cheek attitude to a post-apocalypse. In the older two games, it was simply in the text with little visual effect. It’s always going to be more obvious in an FPS/RPG.

    However, having played a good portion of the game, it does seem that the serious overtones that the other two games had is slight in comparison.

    At any rate, Fallout 3 is an excellent homage to the rest of the series. It’s just as fun and just as flawed as the other two.

  53. Derek K. says:

    “Use the mod tools to fix it” is the worst argument ever. If we're going to depend on individuals working for free to make our game for us, why are we paying Bethesda?

    To make a good game, and to make the tools.

    If you accept that Fallout 3 is a bad game, then your argument makes sense. I feel that Fallout 3 is a good game, that could have been better.

    But are we saying that releasing the construction tools is a complete null? That the fact that they created a set of tools to mod the game gives them no credit at all? Also, I don’t really see anyone having made Fallout 3 prior to this. Van Buren is the closest, and look how long it took to get where it is.

    So saying “Yeah, we could do this ourselves for free, you didn’t do anything” is a bit disingenuous. No one wrote Oblivion, and no one wrote Fallout 3, prior to them being made.

  54. felblood says:

    How far is a company going to get if they produce just an engine, a script and a comprehensive set of modding tools?

    Who’s going to buy into that? As many people as bought Fallout 3? The same people who bought Fallout 3?


    See this company promised the buyer a game.

    -A particular game, with particular properties. People gave them money expecting to get the product advertised, not an engine and a poorly-written script.

    If the box does not contain what was advertised, the buyer has a legitimate complaint, even if the contents of the box are valuable or useful in their own right.

  55. Amstrad says:

    Edit: This comment wasn’t really relevant to this post..

  56. Evangel says:

    felblood, depends on if they’re selling it to gamers or to game dev studios :P

  57. Adam says:


    FO1 and 2 were well-written tongue-in-cheek where most things follows some crazy kind of logic.

    FO3 is badly-written tongue-in-cheek where they don’t even bother for crazy logic.

  58. Civilis says:

    Lorgath: I find that Fallout 3 to be in many cases more serious than it’s predecessors. I don’t remember much of Fallout 1, but I distinctly remember the odd random encounters in Fallout 2 as being utterly silly (the Monty Python gag alone) I think much of the seriousness in Fallout 3 is something you miss if you’re rushing through the game. The computer terminal outside the Germantown Police HQ had me twitching, as did the Internment Orders holotape.

    I found the writing in the game to be hit or miss, but there were definitely some hits in with the misses.

  59. J says:

    I shot Burke in the head right after he asked me to blow up the town. It’s cool that the designers gave me the freedom to do that but disappointing that there were no real consequences for that action. You would think that the sheriff would like to know why I blew a man’s brains out in the town saloon. I was expecting that there would at least be a dialog option for me to tell the sheriff about how I had foiled the plot but no such luck. It was as though the guy had never existed and I hadn’t murdered him in the saloon.

    As to the argument about the actual quality of the game; as usual, it isn’t as bad as the vocal minority would have us believe but at the same time, it isn’t a great game like most of the press claim.

  60. Dr. Mindbender says:

    This quest is retarded just like most of this game. When I first entered megaton, the sheriff approaches and blah blah blah. Then I’m able to ask about crap I’ve never even heard of, such as the bomb. I immediately know about bottle caps, without anyone explaining that it’s currency…

    The whole Tenpenny Towers is yet another example of this game playing to death the whole “sinister” 50’s look and style. yes, the original Fallout games had similar looks (mostly in loading screens) but the overall feel was more Road Warrior. FO3 is more like some demented I Love Lucy in the desert then anything. We get it Bethsoft, Fallout 1 & 2 had 50’s themes, but you still don’t need to shove it in our faces to try and prove anything. I actually hate the pipboy now that I see him for every little thing I do in this game. The Fallout franchise should have died with Interplay and Bethesda should have been able to come up with their own material like they did with The Elder Scrolls.

    The whole, nuking thing is a gimmick. Bethesda babbled about blowing up some city from the get go, about how this presented UlTiMaTe CoNtRoLz for teh player or some such. After that it’s more of the same. And the whole deal with the old man not liking megaton because it’s ugly or something is the lamest storyline ever made, but then what other reason could they come up with? Not food, since you trip over it in this game. Land? Nope, all that food isn’t grown, in fact what do the people even do in this game besides sell you crap and stand? I saw some guy raking dirt by their one brahmin in megaton… that was it, this one man and brahmin support the entire town I suppose. Anyways, I stopped playing after I didn’t even start the main quest but managed to solve half of it just because I entered that dream world vault were everyone is (and this is surprising) in some ideal 50’s theme world with a sinister underbelly. Suddenly, my character was talking about MORE stuff he’d never heard of. But hey, at least you can have the freedom to blow up Megaton eh?

    Eh… sorry about the rant. Long time Fallout fan, you see… Take care all!

  61. krellen says:


    All the amenities you get in the Megaton house are available to you in the Tenpenny Tower suite, including the various decoration themes. The layout of the suite makes the themes work better and feel less crowded, too.

    Yes, you get a free robot with Tenpenny as well. Perhaps the only good thing that can be said about this is “Finally, a quest whose evil path actually has better rewards!”

  62. Jeff says:

    The only bad thing about FO3 (or at least the single most glaringly obvious problem) is that they don’t seem to have had professional writers. W.T.F.

    The main story itself is plenty bad. Would it be too big a spoiler to point out that it is not in fact AT ALL difficult to filter the radioactive particulates out of water? Well, ok, a bit difficult, but not quite worth fighting over.

    Oh, by the way, your Tenpenny Tower suite is ‘worse’ than your house in one way – you have one less container. Go ahead, cout’em.

  63. Felblood says:


    Read the whole post before you reply to it.

    They didn’t just sell Fallout 3 to studios as an Engine, they sold it to players as a finished game.

    Unless it says “Some Development Required” on the box, I want my game to be finished when I take it out of the box. Not getting that is the biggest sticking point for me on a game, which is why after reading this, I won’t be getting Fallout 3.

    If you have it and you enjoy it, good for you.

    –but don’t expect me to compromise my personal principals by getting it too.

  64. Pliskin says:

    “But instead we have this same villain we've met a thousand times before. Mr. clueless cardboard asshole, who aspires to nothing more than being a destructive jerk.”

    Bethesda writing to their target audience.

    Judging from the majority of the posts on Beth’s Forum, along the lines of “WoOt I blewed up Megatron!!111one11won! How start quest now alls ded?”, I’d say the 13 – 18 yr-old Mr. clueless asshole destructive jerk demographic is fairly well represented.

  65. Dave says:

    Tenpenny is losing his mind. He is clearly senile. That is his motivation.

    The main problem with this quest is that it is too short and Bethesda is too lazy to make it a good quest. Nuking Megaton should not be as simple as taking mentats and then presto you can arm/disarm a bomb. There should have been a huge quest to get the parts of the detonator or a huge quest to get the parts to disarm the bomb.

  66. Jaimi says:

    About the person complaining that the frame houses are still standing after 200 years – I have to tell you, there are old abandoned wooden towns today that are still standing, especially in the desert. There is a town that was abandoned 150 years ago in Arkansas where I grew up that the wooden and stone houses are still standing (overgrown, broken windows, etc), but still standing.

    For the person complaining about the cars blowing up: that’s purposefully over-the-top. The cars were nuclear powered, completely irresponsible (like the Americans of Fallout before the war). I think it’s a good touch.

  67. M says:

    I really want to know why some people complain about the houses still standing. Is it really that horrible that you need to cry to some complete strangers about it? Have you even played the first 2 games? I haven’t completely but I filled in the gaps with hours of research. (literally) People did come back not too long after the great war (Vault City and others around 13 years later) and they may have turned into wanderers who went from house to house maybe keeping houses intact while they stayed. Who knows for sure? Bethesda ‘took’ the game from better hands. This was a strange addition thats for sure but we may never have the answers so just relax and enjoy (or dispise) the game

    For everyone who complains about the plot and writing I need to refer you to this website
    funny and pretty much somes up the stupidity of the story
    just dont read the part at the very end about great writing

    side note: I was halfway through the game and had turned down every offer for caps as a reward until I searched a dead ghoul and saw the full name was bottlecaps and realized my stupidity. I felt angry and embarrassed at the same time… towards a video game none the less

  68. Kazturkey says:

    Tenpenny didn’t want megaton gone. He mentioned to burke (Crazy fucker) one day how he thought it was annoying and Burke offered to take care of it.

  69. Athar says:

    Personnaly I got incredibly bored of being an evil character in this game, which pissed me off because I enjoy playing an evil character. But try as I might I couldn’t find any decent incentive.

    You characters father is just too nice to get your character to turn out a monster for any reason. But think about this, if your father was in fact incredibly abusive, it gives your character motivation to because a great deal of things. His constant abuse caused you to lash out at the world. Or his contant abuse made you fight to make the world a better place so as never to end up like him. You could think of others. Instead, the only two I can think of, for the actual story,is your good because thats what your dad taught you, or your a spoiled brat and you became a collosal jerk. Rubbish.

    Also as an evil character I see absolutly no incentive to help out my father once I had found him, but absolutly no reason to continue on with the main story other than, I’m bored and out of the goodness of my heart.

    Bad bad bethesda, get a better writer for starters.

  70. Zanfib says:

    Tenpenny Towers should have been a larger settlement that secured it’s riches via a monopoly on the production of some important trade good.

    If Megaton had started it’s own production of the aforementioned trade good, then that coupled with Megatons more convenient map location would have been more then enough reason for Tenpenny to desire it’s destruction.

  71. Dave says:

    I am rewriting the power of the atom quest. here is part one.


  72. Luke says:

    I agree with all the people who say that this quest is awefully written. Yes, it was amusing watching megaton explode but seriously, what’s the whole point?

    Also, those of you complaining about buildigs still standing and it’s unrealistic are retards. Who gives a rats ass about the buildings? Do you think that it wouldve looked better if there were no buildings and it was just a huge stupid wasteland? No. It wouldn’t have.

    I think fallout 3 is amazing. I love the scenery and the 50’s music to it. It adds a real serious effect upon the game. I don’t know why but when I play the game I feel quite sad. Look at this. People are either living in underground tunnels or crappy heaps of metal that are supposed to be “homes.” imagine if you were in that position. It’d be very very unfortunate.

    (sorry about going off topic. I just wanted you guys to see my perspecti e of the game.)

  73. Tom says:

    The writing is indeed very hit and miss, but there’s one thing a lot of people complain about that isn’t actually a sloppy mistake – the physics.

    It’s very true that radioactivity and, indeed, virtually all physics in the Fallout universe are completely wrong, but they’re supposed to be – it’s not set in the real world, it’s set in the world as laypeople of the 50’s imagined it was going to be, and that includes lots of misconceptions about science, particularly nuclear physics.

    Fallout runs on comic book science, not real science – I would have thought that would be obvious from the supermutants, laser beams that travel so slowly you can dodge them, rockets that can hover indefinitely without ever running out of energy or propellant, robots that can achieve sentience with just a handful of vacuum tubes, etc.

  74. Chris says:

    Although I enjoy your posts I think you’re taking analysis of game character motives a bit too far here.

    Remember this is a post-apocalyptic nuclear world. As someone not living in such a world how can you possibly try to rationalize the motives of people who do? Trying to is just foolish.

    Yes the motives of Tenpenny seem a little bit contrived but why try to understand what motivates people who live in such a world?

    You also talk about villains and say it would have been more interesting if the quest involved villains with a concrete agenda. Villains are just people who break the rules, often (but not always (eg. the Joker)) for their own gain. How could that work in a world where:
    a) There are almost no rules; and
    b) Almost nothing to gain.
    The concept of a ‘villain’ just doesn’t make sense in the Fallout world. Everybody is a villain.

    When I played that quest I just assumed Tenpenny was insane and continued on my merry way. It was a side quest. I wasn’t expecting an epic Martin Scorsese crime drama and I wasn’t disappointed when I didn’t get one.

  75. Chris: Villains are villains because they do evil things. Right and wrong don’t disappear in a Wasteland; they become far more cogent. Much of the Wasteland’s core problems in FO 1, 2 and 3 could be averted by basic human decency.

    I personally would have added that Tenpenny wanted to host a fireworks show and the nuke was going to be the grand finale. THAT would juxtapose the hard-working decent ordinary people of Megaton with the privileged city on the hill of Tenpenny. As it was, this was like amputating limbs to get rid of warts.

    @ Athar: My bad guy had a perfectly good reason to cooperate: Sheer, unmitigated self-interest. No more radiation hurting me, after all. I can kill dear old Dad after we’re done.

    But that brings up a much bigger problem: The evil choices in this game are just silly. For example: While blowing up a whole city is just too much fun as a bad guy, it’s ALSO against your self-interest. Tenpenny will still let you in, so you’re gaining reputation with someone at the cost of eliminating ANY possibility of trading with or benefitting from an entire town. Playing a smart, self-interested, manipulative sociopathic character, like Hannibal Lecter, is just not within the game parameters.

  76. davep says:

    Hi Shamus – big fan of your DM of the Rings, and have been reading your blogs. I’m struck, though, by your objection to “juvenile” sexual content (the man-whore Witcher threads), contrasted to your casual (enthusiastic?) acceptance of the nuking of an entire town. You have drawn the line elsewhere: killing kids is disturbing, and so on. If the nukes episode were “better” written, you would have been happier? In fact, you would have been happiest to be offered the job of writing some compelling dialogue for that scene? Wow – think I’d rather write the sex scenes.

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