The Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3, Part 3

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 18, 2015

Filed under: Retrospectives 175 comments

So the themes and premise of Fallout 3 are wrong. And the setting is wrong. So now we have to get by on the strength of the relationships in the game. That’s too bad, since…

The people of the wasteland are idiots.

Why did you build this tower of rusty metal when there are perfectly comfy houses and a brick building in view of your front gates?

The town of Megaton is built around a single puddle of irradiated water and an un-detonated nuke. There is no food, no source of water, and no valuable resources. There’s a water purifier in town, although it’s not clear what water it purifies. Maybe it turns their raw sewage directly back into drinking waterVaults MUST do this to be able to operate for so long, so clearly this technology must exist in this world.? If so, then it’s more useful than Dad’s stupid gizmo. It works, it’s conveniently located, it’s smaller, it’s not filled with supermutants, and it doesn’t require any further super-science to make it work. Also it doesn’t seem to be at risk of exploding or releasing massive levels of radiation, which is a problem Dad’s machine has.

For some reason, only one old guy in town knows how the dang thing worksAnd given that you can wander into town and repair the thing for him, he must not be terribly good at his job.. I guess everyone else in town is too busy with their non-existent jobs to take part in maintaining the only machine keeping them from dying of thirst?

In the real world, cities exist for a reason. They’re near rivers or farmland or valuable natural resources. They’re often on hills or in places that are easy to defend from attack. They’re along the coast, or on roads between major cities to facilitate and profit from the mutual trade. Megaton is built in a filthy crater and there’s no reason these people couldn’t improve their lot in life by moving their homes a hundred meters in any direction. Or maybe move into the perfectly good abandoned town directly adjacent to their home. Megaton has no reason to exist, except some writer thought living around a still-live nuke was a very “Fallout” thingAnd to be fair: It would be, if the town itself had SOME justification for being there..

Despite huddling around the bomb and radiation water all day, nobody in town seems to have any problems with radiation sickness, cholera, or dehydration. Nobody is worried about water. In fact, they don’t seem to notice or care when their water pipes leak water all over the place.

And this is the first town you run into, when you would expect the writers to establish the stakes and motivate you to action. This is where you should look at the plight of the people and say, “My gosh! I’ve got to do something about this water shortage!” But these people already have two machines that can give them water: Their existing purifier, and Mr. Handy. And Mr. Handy is actually better: It doesn’t require energy or expertise to run, it’s totally portable, and it can generate clean, radiation-free water at a steady rate.

The only problem these people have is the bomb and the radioactive puddle in the center of town, and the only reason it’s a problem is because – in the vast expanse of the Capital Wasteland – they chose to build their town in this crater.

Dad has spent his entire life trying to solve a problem these people don’t seem to have.

This is because…

Dad is a big dumb idiot.

Dad even wears a lab coat around the house! He must be an AMAZING scientist.

So Dad wants to turn the Jefferson Memorial into a giant water purifier. This will let him purify the entire Potomac. I guess we need to do some pretty serious hand-waving here, since 200 years of no rain would mean there’s no water, anywhere, ever. But whatever. There’s no rain, but the water also hasn’t dried up. Sigh. Fine.

The important thing is that nobody aside from raidersI’m not even gonna ask where THEY get food and water, given that they outnumber everybody else by like 10:1. and Rivet City lives near the Potomac. So who would this help? Are people going to walk all the way from Megaton and haul back buckets of water from the Potomac? Dad acts like he’s helping everyone in the wasteland, but at the very best he’s helping Rivet City, super mutants, and raiders. And if we’re just trying to help Rivet City then why didn’t he, you know, build the device in Rivet City?

But Shamus, are you forgetting that Rivet City isn’t terribly old, and it probably didn’t really blossom into an important location until after Dad had already begun Project Purity?

Ok, you got me there. Maybe Dad didn’t build it in Rivet City because Rivet City didn’t seem terribly important. However, that just means that Dad built his purifier in a place where the clean water wouldn’t benefit anyone. He was ignoring settlements and trying to clean water at inhospitable locations where nobody could live. No matter how you bend, twist, or interpret the lore, Dad built his project where it wouldn’t do anybody any good, even if it worked.

In an audio log he says that the device only works in small batches, but can’t handle large volumes. Which means this isn’t a science problem, it’s an engineering one. And what sort of plan is this that “small batches of water” is useless? Is a “small batch” still drinkable? Wouldn’t that have some utility? Wouldn’t pumping out a steady stream of clean drinkable water be a pretty good outcome? Why do we need to clean the entire river?

Is Dad doing all of this for the sake of triumphalism? Is he doing this for the glory and not humanity?

But whatever. The Jefferson Memorial it is.

The Jefferson Memorial. because huge stone monuments are somehow better locations for purifying water than any of the other ruins around D.C.

So then Dad says he needs a GECK – the Garden of Eden Creation Kit – to make his water purifier work.

I’m not going to make a fuss over the change in the nature and purpose of the GECK. Yes, it was portrayed differently in Fallout 2. But I’m not going to haggle over retcons and lore changes. That’s another debate entirely.

The problem is that using a GECK to make his machine work makes Dad an asshole and a horrible scientist. Nobody in this world grows food. If we throw up our hands and say they’re still somehow living off of boxes of prepackaged cereal 200 years after the bombs fell, then we at LEAST have to concede that those sorts of things are getting hard to find these days, yes? Sooner or later, we will run out of boxes of 200 year old cookies or whatever.

So given that people seem to have enough water to survive, and Dad’s purifier can make slightly more, it’s outrageous to take a device that could CREATE FOOD that we presumably need and instead use it to make a bunch of clean water in the Potomac where it’s not terribly useful.

And just to be a jerk: What is the point of making pure, clean, drinkable water and then dumping it back into the irradiated riverbed of the Potomac? Wouldn’t we need to clean the riverbed as well? No? Fine. Whatever.

In any case, Dad must be a monumentally bad scientist. He’s got a purifier that only makes “small batches” of water, and to make it work on a larger scale he decides to use a magic matter re-arranger.

Don’t get me started on the criminal artistic vandalism the developers perpetrated with their horrible green color filter, or I’ll end up complaining for another 7,000 words.

Also, Dad is a great example of how thin the characterization is in this game. There’s no flavor to his dialog. You never have a “Hanging out with Garrus” kind of conversation where Dad geeks out about obscure science facts that he finds interesting. He doesn’t have any funny quirks, or personality tics. He doesn’t have a fondness for dumb jokes, or a series of stories about a crazy associate, or have witty observations on the places he’s visited. He’s not cynical, hot-tempered, closely guarded, absent-minded, a gambler, suffering from OCD, a collector of old-world comics, a singer, or anything else that might give his dialog some tiny spark of life or texture. He’s just “a nice guy” in the most generic way possible: He delivers exposition in a friendly voice.

Nearly everyone in Fallout 3 is like this. Their only personality trait is their tone of voice, and they don’t seem to have any life outside of explaining things to you.

It’s clear the writers intend Dad to be a Good Guy, and intend you to help your DadIn the first game it’s assumed you’re helping your own vault, and can do so at the expense of the rest of the wasteland. But in this game your goal is to help the entire wasteland, so there’s not a lot of room for non-altruistic roleplaying.. The game has this stupid karma system, but it’s undercut by the fact that an evil character wouldn’t do ANY of these quests, and the main quest most of all. If the game is going to be written in such a way that you’re obliged to be a good guy, then it would be best to spend more of the voice acting budget on richer conversations built around that idea. Instead, the game wastes precious resources letting you be “evil” by complaining about helping people, but then doing it anyway.

On top of this, Dad’s supposed goodness is all in his delivery and his supposed altruism. If you look at his behavior, he’s not actually a very nice guy. In fact…

Dad might also be evil.

Dad. Hey dad. Open the door. I got this. I totally got this. It’s not even a big deal.

So the Enclave shows up and tries to take control of the water purifier. Dad resists. Col. Autumn shoots one of Dad’s assistants to show he means business. So then Dad BLOWS UP AND IRRADIATES HIS PURIFIER rather than let it fall into the hands of his enemy.

Let’s look at this another way. Let’s just accept the supposition that Dad really is trying to do something great for the world, and judge his actions from there:

Let’s imagine Dad is Dr. Jonas Salk. Let’s imagine he’s in the middle of inventing the Polio vaccine. Then some… I dunno… NazisIn this context, when we say “Nazi” we mean, “some unambiguously evil force” that we will – for the purposes of this argument – assume it’s okay to kill without shame or guilt. or whatever show up. Clearly evil, bad, dudes. So Dr. Salk blows up his lab and himself, taking the cure with him, rather than letting the cure be used by his enemy. Out of the flames he screams, “I’d rather NOBODY get the cure than allow Nazis to be protected against polio!”

Does that seem like a good guy thing to you? That actually sounds kind of evil to me. Maybe not “Nazi evil”, but definitely straying pretty dang far from the sort of hippocratic oath idealism that we expect from our medical heroes.

But Dad’s position is actually worse, here. Nazis could take the cure and use it to save Nazi lives, which might ultimately get Good Guys killed. But Dad’s purifier is this entire building, and it apparently can’t be moved. The only thing it can do is clean the PotomacI’ll discuss the FEV virus later. In any case, Dad doesn’t know about that.. There is literally nothing these guys could do with it that would make things worse for the people of the capital wasteland. The worst thing the Enclave could do is just NOT turn it on. And since it didn’t work anyway… uh?

Did Dad just kill himself to keep his life’s work from falling into the hands of people trying to fix it?

Hey Dad, maybe they’ll get it working and turn it on, and your dumb project will pay off. Maybe they’ll study it and use it to build other water purifiers elsewhere, and pull humanity back from the brink. Maybe Col. Autumn is so mean because his people are dying of thirst and he’s just scared and desperate. Maybe we can get some help and boot these clowns out later? Maybe you should find out what the stakes are before you blow up yourself and your life’s work.

No! I’d rather the whole world die of thirst rather than someone take credit for my overambitious boondoggle!

I’m not going to say for sure that Dad was evil. But he was either evil, or a moron. One or the otherAnd to be fair: Plausibly a little of both..

But he’s not the only idiot in this wasteland. We’ll talk about some of the other dummies next time.



[1] Vaults MUST do this to be able to operate for so long, so clearly this technology must exist in this world.

[2] And given that you can wander into town and repair the thing for him, he must not be terribly good at his job.

[3] And to be fair: It would be, if the town itself had SOME justification for being there.

[4] I’m not even gonna ask where THEY get food and water, given that they outnumber everybody else by like 10:1.

[5] In the first game it’s assumed you’re helping your own vault, and can do so at the expense of the rest of the wasteland. But in this game your goal is to help the entire wasteland, so there’s not a lot of room for non-altruistic roleplaying.

[6] In this context, when we say “Nazi” we mean, “some unambiguously evil force” that we will – for the purposes of this argument – assume it’s okay to kill without shame or guilt.

[7] I’ll discuss the FEV virus later. In any case, Dad doesn’t know about that.

[8] And to be fair: Plausibly a little of both.

From The Archives:

175 thoughts on “The Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3, Part 3

  1. Matt Downie says:

    I remember walking across the wasteland with Dad. Whenever a giant rad-scorpion turned up, he’d charge towards it and try to punch it to death. I’d say he was a moron.

    1. Tuck says:

      Did he ever succeed? Or did he die doing this? His moronity is somewhat predicated on these questions.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Even if he succeeded,he would still be a moron,unless he was equipped with a power glove he was proficient with.Plot armor does not make one smart.

      2. Sorites says:

        He had the Bethesda immortality, so…yeah, eventually.

        1. Merkel says:

          You know, if Bethesda is going to keep just one thing from F:NV in F4, I hope it’s that no one is immortal. It’s a poor DM who can’t react to his players killing off a plot-centric NPC.

          Of course I hope they learned a lot more than that (ie. world-building, strong characters, factions mattering more than karma, less railroading), but…

          1. IFS says:

            Well since they’ve already announced that Dogmeat will be immortal this doesn’t seem likely to me, though if we’re lucky it’ll only be companions that are immortal but I’m not holding my breath.

            1. Merkel says:

              Oh, I don’t mind immortal companions (provided they are only immortal in companion mode), at least until they can program AI with some sense of self-preservation.

              1. IFS says:

                Immortal companions are fine, I actually like when they can die (like in NV hardcore mode for instance) and hopefully its toggleable in FO4, but Bethesda doesn’t have a great track record as far as giving out immortality to every other nobody so far.

                1. Mintskittle says:

                  I can only imagine this:


                  is the thinking behind Bethesda handing out immortality to any NPC even remotely tied to a quest.

                  1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                    I love that Dodger is always chewing. Always.

                    And its a shame the father can’t die before he’s supposed to (and there’s no way to save him.) That’s an eventuality they could have easily handled any number of ways.

    2. Nicholas Hayes says:

      I think this is conclusive evidence. Also he couldn’t figure out the backdoor in the VR suite he was trapped in, which was just a trial and error thing

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Although in his partial defense, he was a doggy by that stage. “Hmm, I must activate – in, er, some fashion – this cinder block,” is probably not the first thing which would occur to the canine mind. (Nor indeed the player’s mind, if I’m anything to go by…)

    3. MrGuy says:

      What I love is that he’d always do this while uttering pacifist quotes (so we all know Dad usually hates violence because Good Guy!). But the quotes are all intended for human enemies.

      So, Dad goes off after a Giant Radscorpion crying “You forced me to do this!”

      1. AileTheAlien says:

        Further proof that dad’s an idiot, and nobody wanted to make him a rich character. Even having the same number of combat taunts, but split them up into three groups would be better. i.e. Taunts for “good humanoids”, “evil humanoids”, “critters and robots”. Have two or three in each group, for a total of like, a dozen, and like another dozen grunts recorded. Even at Liam Neeson budget, that should be doable – half an hour in the audio booth with Mr. Neeson after doing all the important dialog. I bet he’d even have some fun with it, instead of all the long, drawn-out dumbass dialog he’s been recording all day.

    4. Tim Keating says:

      Not as bad as whats-her-name, Sydney, in the National Archive, who would charge in and attack a bunch of fairly dangerous robots WITHOUT the benefit of plot immunity. Ye gods and little fishes the AI in that game was bad.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    For the sake of argument,lets assume that fallout thing about irradiated water is true,and that the ground cannot be irradiated.Now,why are we building this purifier thingy in the middle of the river,where it is huge,and you cannot possibly hope to get all of the river through your purification process?Why arent we building it near the spring?

    1. Phill says:

      Building it at the spring wouldn’t help. Rivers get bigger and wider as you go downstream because other water courses merge with them, and from the additional general runoff from the surrounding terrain. So if you build a purifier way upstream, then yay, you’ve got pure water at that point. But by the point downstream where the river has twice the flow volume, half the water will be contaminated water that’s come in to the river downstream of your purifier.

      Now I know applying logic to this water purifier is a nonsensical idea, but you’d most likely want to build it at the point at which it could just about cope with purifiying all the water flowing past. That would give you a river of pure water, use the maximum capacity of the purifier, and probably give you the best possible distance downstream where the water was still safe to use before the amount of new contamination becomes too large.

      1. Aanok says:

        The Jefferson Memorial is really close to the Atlantic. Which means it’s purging radiation from what’s basically salt water, which is completely useless for drinking or for growing crops.
        Even assuming it also acted as a desalinization plant, dumping the clean, pure water back into the ocean would make everything completely pointless once again.
        Because of this and of your observations, dad’s plan only makes sense if you pump the clean water into a reservoir and distribute it with an aqueduct. Which, ironically, I think would be really hard for Rivet City to build without some substantial help from somebody with more extensive infrastructural capabilities. Like the Enclave.

        1. MrGuy says:

          Actually, I could sort of buy the Tidal Basin as the BEST place to store a massive quantity of fresh water in the DC area.

          The basin is largely man-made, and is separated from the Potomac and Washington Channel (a ship canal that re-joins the Potomac where it joins the Anacostia river in south DC) by floodgates. So there’s a fresh-water river at each end. That’s not to say it’s necessarily fresh water – the water is brought in from the Potomac at high tide, so there’s at least some salt in there, but it’s not seawater.

          And if the gates happen to be either operable or “stuck” in the correct position, the basin is an isolated and fairly large reservoir.

          If the gates are operable, and the Potomac actually does still have some flow, and still gets some tidal backup from the ocean (all facts not in evidence), it’s actually possible that this is a near-perfect setup – grab water at high tide from the Potomac (using the Potomac gate) that is somewhat salty and very irradiated, isolate it, purify it, then distribute it using gravity pressure via Washington Channel, possibly digging some small distribution channels off it to feed more of DC. You might need to wall off Washington Channel from the Potomac (and maybe the Anacostia) to make it work (not sure if there are existing locks that do this for you).

          Assuming that a.) Bethesda was well acquainted with the engineering details of the basin when they made the game and b.) chose the location based on them may be giving them too much credit. But it’s less crazy of a choice than it seems (or than anyone refers to in-game).

          1. Tim Keating says:

            I think they chose that because it was an area that was close to them that had recognizable landmarks.

        2. AileTheAlien says:

          If the plant operated as desalination, then it could clean up the radioactive particles, too. Although I guess we’re still going on the magic “not particles” radiation…God damn, the plot in Fallout 3 isn’t so much full of holes, as it is a giant mess of entangled contrivances, where occasionally, little bits make sense. Ugh.

          1. ? says:

            Project Purity as a desalination plant would fit in a smarter game. It would provide fresh water for future settlements around Citadel (since Brotherhood was involved in it’s creation) in downtown Washington and valuable salt necessary for food preservation (since smarter game would include some agriculture and trade). Then the problem could be “we can’t remove radiation from the product, mothball this place” until Daddy gets his breakthrough.

          2. Decius says:

            Well, strictly speaking radiation is particles. And waves. At the same time. So they got it half-right.

            1. Phill says:

              Radioactive particles, in the sense of radioactive contamination, are particles; we are talking essentially about small dust particles of radioactive substances. The radioactive particles *they* emit (alpha, beta, gamma rays) are subatomic particles and the particle/wave nature becomes relevant. But each individual subatomic particle is only around for a very short time. Or at least, is only energetic enough to count as a radioactive particle for a very short time. They don’t hang around causing trouble; they move around, ionise stuff, do their damage and fade away.

              When people talk about an area being irradiated (in the sense of becoming a source of radioactivity) that is talking purely about the fine dust of plutonium, uranium, or whatever radioactive substance caused the explosion. So if you are talking about cleaning up the radiatiactive contamination in water / in the soil, that dust is what is being talked about.

              1. WJS says:

                And we’re talking about a large body of water, so these particles are in the waves. :P

      2. Ivan says:

        Wait a second… so if I understand this correctly…

        It hasn’t rained for 200 years (already means that the river should be empty, all the ground water should have leaked out by now but whatever we’ll pretend it hasn’t).

        Radiation does not “stick” to the ground (no reason why this shouldn’t be the case but ok).

        Radiation does “stick” to water (that’s all well and good, but they do understand that rivers move… right?)

        There is literally no reason why this problem should even exist. Like I said, rivers flow and the water has to come from somewhere, this is grade school, hell, this is kindergarten. If the riverbed is not irradiated then where is the source of the radiation? It’s not the atmosphere, there’s no rain. Obviously this has to be point source pollution, in which case just find the source and remove it. Depending on the speed of the river water, the problem could be cleaned up in a matter of days. There is no reason at all to spend so much time and resources on an enormous water purifier that doesn’t even work.

        1. Jabrwock says:

          Was there ever an in-game mention of no rain? Or is everyone just assuming because no matter how much time you spend it doesn’t rain in-game?

          1. Ivan says:

            Idk, I never actually played it.

            But Shamus said it so it must be true. Right guys?

            1. zherok says:

              So far as I recall, it doesn’t rain in the isometric Fallout games either, and they’re overwhelming filled with rather flat, arid looking land (even with the little farm plots and the like.)

              The lack of rain seems more a consequence of not really having weather effects rather than a suggestion that it doesn’t rain altogether.

              1. somebody says:

                it rains in the Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hears DLC in random times.

                1. WJS says:

                  The code for rain is still in FO3 – some mods enable it. It does make me wonder how late in production they decided to not have weather, since they apparently went to the effort of porting the entire weather system over from Oblivion, they just didn’t use it.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why was megaton built around a nuke anyway?They arent using its core for power,they arent religiously worshiping it,they arent charging tourists to gawk at it,they arent researching it.So what is the point of that nuke?Aside from being a bait for one of the stupidest “moral” choices.

    1. Nentuaby says:

      The undetonated nuke was at the bottom of a very steep crater left by a properly exploded sibling. They took to the crater walls for shelter and the nuke was an unfortunate side effect.

      I’m not sure how a crater constitutes “shelter”, but at least there was *some* kind of explanation for that one.

      1. I vaguely remember talking to an NPC about the radiation storms (or just bad storms) that used to sweep the wasteland, so hiding in a depression of some sort makes some sense. Of course, while DC is fairly flat, it’s not completely so, and I’d think there’d be other valleys without nukes in them.

        Ooh, I know. Megaton was founded by Vault-Tec employees! Now it all makes sense… :)

        1. AileTheAlien says:

          So like, would the nearby houses, office buildings, and schools not have protected from these storms? Because there’s a lot of those near Megaton. Ugh. Why didn’t they just move the fun gadget-y bits of Megaton into the nearby parts of the map? Like, the map is littered with tonnes of forgettable, stupid, nearly-empty regions, and then they put all of the fleshed-out towns right beside each other, in ways that make no sense, and introduce plot holes, and crazy moon logic.

          Like, how did Megaton’s settlers not randomly stumble into the nearby vault, and beg for shelter in/near there? I mean, at a minimum, your home vault should have had a little trading post at their gate, and an NPC that explains how they nowadays make trade with Megaton, but didn’t have the capacity to just let those people move in, which is why Megaton was founded.

          So…many…stupid things…in Fallout 3!

          1. kerin says:

            That’s kind of the thing… they DID try to get inside. That’s why there are all those skeletons next to “LET US IN” signs and such. The reason the vault didn’t trade with them was the Nobody Ever Leaves mandate explained in the intro.

            Of course, one of the previous overseers broke that rule, but it’s in a clandestine and secret way.

      2. MrGuy says:

        They refer to the crater providing initial shelter, and then the survivors scavenging the remains of what’s implied to be Dulles Airport for materials to build the town on top of it (it’s why there are several aircraft sections hanging 50 feet in the air all over town, because that DEFINITELY makes sense as a Thing They Could Do and A Thing That Would Be Totaly Safe).

        They built in the crater because the crater was already “home.”

        Shamus’ point of “Why wouldn’t they live in the adjacent town?” has a related point of “why scavenge from the airport and not the town?” to which there is no satisfactory answer.

        1. Jabrwock says:

          Why scavenge the airfield and not the town? I’m guessing that they had two reasons.

          1) reality – airport would have a lot of flat scrap metal. Hangars, shed, drums, etc. Easy to dismantle and transport. Town is cinderblock, wood, plaster, etc. Not easy to scavenge. Could settle in the airport, but the crater provided a convenient shelter against the storms following the war, and was defensible against raiders. Easier to import materials to build up rather than trying to start afresh at the airport.

          2) marketing – somebody watched Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and liked the idea of a town built in an airplane graveyard.

          1. There’s also probably a few more caches of supplies in the form of packaged food, the occasional luxury item, clothes and other things from luggage, weapons (from airport security and any military personnel moving through the area), etc.

            Later on, there’s better access to plumbing and electrical gear, tools, and so forth.

            1. Jabrwock says:

              That too. Tool sheds, maintenance equipment. Supplies, etc.

              Houses are full of furniture.

          2. Tmacnt08 says:

            Easy to defend against raiders? They would’ve had the low-ground because they’d be inside a crater and the walls and what not would not have been built yet though, right?

            1. MrDrSirLord1337 says:

              And they wouldn’t even need to defend against the raiders if they had taken over town not the crater because thats the only source of raiders near them, and raiders tend to only attack stuff that is near them.
              I mean are the raiders at the superduper mart bothering anyone? No because they are too lazy to walk to the nearest settlement.

              In fact the only people in the entire fallout series that have ever bothered to attack something that wasn’t directly ajasent to them were the Encalve, Cesars Legion, and the player character.

      3. Tim Keating says:

        Actually, not true. They WERE worshipping it, at least some of them.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      I shan’t pretend this reeeeaaaally answers the question, but there are them as do worship it in some fashion:

      1. MrGuy says:

        What’s not explained is whether the cult precedes the founding of Megaton (and contributed to the choice of site), or came to be after Megaton was already founded (by people who decided to stop worrying and love the bomb).

        1. MichaelGC says:

          They were there beforehand, and apparently helped build the town – which they’d have refused to do if moving the bomb had been on the cards.

          Not that I had the faintest idea that was the case before reading the citations at the bottom of that wiki article…

          1. MichaelGC says:

            Oops, it wasn’t that wiki article, it was a different one:


            Note to self: it may be worth reà«valuating how you choose to spend your free time.

        2. Jabrwock says:

          Hard to say. The town obviously isn’t run as a theocracy. The church is closest to the bomb, but it’s possible they took the building over after more were built and people could live further away.

          The idea of Megaton makes sense if you consider the radiation storms, and the fact that the town is well fortified against raiders. It’s a scavengers’ version of Shady Sands.

          However, “what do they eat” breaks things, because the town didn’t expand out to become a fortification surrounded by farmers, a shelter against raids.

          1. krellen says:

            I don’t remember seeing any “radiation storms” in Fallout 3.

            1. Jabrwock says:

              The locals mention that’s why the town was originally founded. The crashed aircraft & bomb made a large crater that provided a natural shelter from the dust storms during the fallout after the war.

              The town slowly grew up around it after that.

              1. Tmacnt08 says:

                What I don’t understand is why not just ditch the Children of the Atom and settle down at the airport? Think of all the 200 year old vending machines and airplane food! So much Nukacola! I mean all the supplies they needed would already be in place and they wouldn’t have to move it. Also take note that the Atom has a somewhat small following. It doesn’t seem to be incredibly prominent or anything. Most people in the town seem to not care about the bomb at all or talk about moving to Rivet city or some place else because of it. So I find it hard to believe they couldn’t set up a society without them. They don’t exactly tie the Megaton people together.

    3. Eruanno says:

      Well, there is the one guy who worships it, but he seems pretty crazy. Everyone else is just like “meh, nuke, whatever”.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        That sounds like Confessor Cromwell. There’s also Mother Maya, and various unnamed ‘Child of Atom’ NPCs. Plus, they also have a chapel!

        (I should probably stress again that the existence of the chapel is the only thing I had prior knowledge or memory of. Everything else comes from the wiki.)

        1. MrGuy says:

          I don’t know if it was a bug or just my “natural charm,” but the first time I set foot in the actual church (the inside area), everyone in town went hostile. Haven’t set foot in the church since…

          1. MrDrSirLord1337 says:

            I have had problems like this before in Fallout 3. Killed everyone at paradise falls on my first playthrough when the guy out the frount shot me as I walked up, just assumed they were all raders of somesort because they kept giving me “good karma”.

            I laghed so hard when I realised that they were actualy a settlement not just some dungen that was in desparate need of being looted.

            Come to think of it, I get this problem a lot in most of the games I play…

    4. Spammy says:

      I think the real answer is because there were people worshiping a nuke in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

  4. Zak McKracken says:

    Haven’t played the game (and could not watch the SW season for bunny-hopping-enhanced nausea reasons), so I might understand the fallout world wrong, but: Cleaning all the water in a large river (through whatever kind of magic) may be the best way to start removing toxic material from the environment. Downstream of the cleaning station, the banks will be washed clean of most water-solvable waste in reasonable time. Further downstream, the river will quickly turn dirty from all the stuff it picks up from the banks, but everything it does pick up is removed from where it was picked up from, so there will be some slowly-growing region along the banks which is considerably cleaner than it was before.

    …for whatever that’s worth in the Fallout universe.

    1. Kdansky says:

      I would really appreciate it if whoever plays the game during Spoiler Warning would make an effort in keeping the camera as steady as possible. I mean, if you want to produce a show that people like to watch, doesn’t it make sense to at least try to make it comfortable?

      If you don’t want people watching, then you don’t need to upload it to begin with. I find the vast majority of Spoiler Warnings completely impossible to look at.

  5. Damian says:

    I was able to ignore most of the jarring idiocies in Fallout 3 for most of the time. Fanboyism and an amazing (if stupid) world to wander in will do that. What broke me was one of the people in Rivet City who said, apparently without irony, that she “swept the floors… kept the place clean”.


    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Maybe she was using the method of that roman soldier from asterix,who takes a rest whenever he sweeps half a tile.

    2. Jabrwock says:

      Nobody ever says what she did with the stuff she swept. Maybe she just kept moving it around. :D

    3. I think you’re hitting a video game structural issue, there. To have “clean” and “dirty” areas would require double the floor textures. While I agree that helps with immersion (and there are a great many mods that do “clean up” areas), I don’t entirely fault them for that in the same way that I understand why the walls of a dungeon might look the same as the wall of an inhabited castle in a video game.

      Though F4 might be good enough to have areas that improve a bit as you “help” them. I’d like that kind of visual feedback in the same way I wanted whatever Oblivion’s town of Kvatch to stop being on fire after I’d saved it.

      1. Jabrwock says:

        True, but they already have “clean” textures. Since it’s all metal, just use the metal floors from vaults. And stop populating “clean” areas with random junk objects. Or at least put them in containers. They have garbage cans.

  6. boz says:

    The game has this stupid karma system

    It’s more of a slider. If you want good karma you use your infinite clean water resource on beggar outside city. If you want bad karma you steal the same fork multiple times.

    1. But I still maintain it’s better than Skyrim’s blah-who-cares-what-your-actions-are system. Flawed it may be, but having an NPC not willing to accompany me because I’m too “good” or “evil” is a form of feedback that acknowledges how I’m playing the game. It’s pretty rare in a lot of RPGs unless you attack someone or get caught stealing their stuff.

      1. Ofermod says:

        By the same token, though, it’s a *bit* weird that they can tell how many forks you’ve stolen, if you’ve never been caught or even considered under suspicion of grand theft fork. I guess maybe you’ve just got that fork-thief look about you after you steal enough?

        1. In a way, yes, though it’s got nothing to do with forks. It’s the fact that you’re a thief that lends to this overall air of being untrustworthy. It’s implied that you give off a certain air about you depending on your actions. Again, it’s an imperfect system, but it’s a lot better than the alternatives I’ve seen.

          Besides, it’s the guards in Skyrim and Oblivion that know exactly what you’ve stolen, how to tell your stolen fork from your purchased forks, and how much to charge you for not tossing you in jail.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I think Pillars of Eternity finally nailed it with their traits system. There are ten traits you can have a reputation for embodying* and though some of them would seem opposed to each other, earning points in one doesn’t take away from its opposite.

        To me the crowning moment came when I threatened the big bad’s men which caused them to be scared because I had a reputation for cruelty. When I asked them to throw down their weapons, they asked how they knew they could trust me, then one of the men pointed out that I also had a reputation for benevolence. My character was known to be benevolent to his friends and merciless to his enemies. How often does a game let you choose to embody a complex moral framework and then make that work in the story?

        *Aggressive, Benevolent , Clever, Cruel, Deceptive, Diplomatic, Honest, Passionate, Rational, Stoic. There’s also general faction reputations.

  7. Lame Duck says:

    I’m trying to think if there were any half decent characters in the entire game and, with the caveat that’s it’s been a long time since I played the game and even then I certainly didn’t play close to all of it, the only one I can think of was the crazy woman who ran the shop in Megaton. The one who gave you the Wasteland Survival Guide quest. She’s literally the only character that sticks in my mind as being actually worth going to see and the stupidity of her quests can be hand-waved as being a result of her insanity, which is more than most of the quests in the game get.

    So, am I doing any of the other characters in the game a disservice; is there anyone else that’s OK?

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      Fawkes seemed like a nice guy.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        I quite liked Deputy Weld, although admittedly the character wasn’t very fleshed-out. Or metalled-out.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Thinking further, I quite liked Charon (the ghoul companion) too. Although he was also not very fleshed-out. A-ha-ha-ha. Ha. *cries*

      2. MrGuy says:

        Yes. Fawkes is one of the very, very few interesting characters. It’s a shame we only encounter him late in the game, and the only real quest we do with him is a near-required quest to free him. As a companion, he’s more invincible pack mule/walking turret than interesting. It would be awesome if there were some optional loyalty quest type missions we could do with him (something F:NV got right).

        I actually liked President Eden, actually. It’s a shame that we only encounter him once – it would be cool if he was more like Caesar from F:NV, where we could encounter him multiple times and have more and more conversations with him, depending on the situation.

        It would be even cooler (and would make the main quest WAY less railroady on being “good”) if rather than just “be evil,” we had an option to side with the Enclave – we still need to fix the purifier, but now we’re sabotaging its defenses, unlocking secret packages, sabotaging the Brotherhood’s main door, etc. Factions are more interesting than “good/bad.”

        OK, I clearly just want this game to be F:NV….

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          Not being able to side with the Enclave is a major hole in the game’s design.

          It’s not like they’re worse than the other idiots we can side with. We can feed everyone in Tenpenny’s Tower to ghouls, but we can’t side with the faction that wants to bring order and clean water to the wastelands? We can go along with Eden’s plan with the FEV virus to kill everything in the wasteland, but we can’t just tell the Brotherhood of Steel “Look, your giant robot is neat and all, but I’m not really feeling the urgency to use it to attack the water purifier because you think we need to hurry up and stop the Enclave before they turn it on. I mean, what are you afraid of? That they’re going to spray us with clean wate?”.

          1. Tom says:

            That effect is sadly not entirely without precedent in earlier Fallout canon. Not being able to side with the Master (and survive) actually always struck me as rather poorly handled in the original Fallout. Aside from the glaring design error where if you blow up the Mariposa base but then for whatever reason side with the Master anyway you then get a cutscene showing you being dipped in the very base you just dropped a mountain on, miraculously restored, a key plot point is that the Master wants to dip you so badly in the first place because, as a vault dweller, you’re supposed to stand a good chance of surviving the process – and if you haven’t figured out the critical flaw in the Master’s plan, joining him could really seem like the best long-term plan to certain players. Especially if you guess or know from a previous play-through what’s going to happen when you try to go back to the vault. I really think the designers should have given you a finite, albeit very, very low, chance of surviving the dip with your mind intact and playing out the rest of the game as a super-mutant. Could have made for a real bottom-drops-out-of-your-stomach crowning moment of horror if you only figured out the flaw *after* becoming a super-mutant and enjoying it for a bit.

        2. Tom says:

          I cynically suppose that it is because the most interesting characters are the hardest to write that interactions with them are kept so very rare, limited and brief, whereas the bland cardboard cut-outs are practically impossible to shake off most of the time.

    2. I liked the lady ghoul who was a girl when the bombs fell, and she’d tell you about it. Of course, I can’t remember where she is or what her name is, but at least she had an interesting story to tell.
      The stories in the Wasteland were far more interesting to me than the characters, for the most part. I loved unlocking a computer and finding diary entries, especially the one from an old refugee? camp where you could feel the writer’s desperation increase as they slowly came to realize just how bad things were.

      1. MrGuy says:

        I’m pretty sure she’s one of the lesbian ghoul ladies who run the inn in Underworld. She was interesting.

    3. Groboclown says:

      My first experience with the game was in the vault, where I first chose not to beat up that bully (whatever his name was), but encountered a glitch where I could get my fists up. I proceeded to beat up the bully, who didn’t respond at all to the “suffered serious brain injury” remarks the UI was constantly telling me. He walked into the test room with me beating his head in, and no one paid it heed.

      The game broke for me before I left the tutorial area. I then thought of every character as a cardboard cut-out, and killed everyone I met (that the game allowed me – the first kid I encountered made me so angry with the game).

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Reginald Cuftbert himself had a very similar experience with Butch!:

        With obviously the main difference being Cuftbert, being Cuftbert, was up for a set-to from the start.

    4. Liberty Prime is awesome (to listen to, at least).

      I also liked the erudite dialog for Gary. Any Gary, I don’t care which.

  8. Poor Shamus. How long is this article series going to be? At this rate he’ll have a stroke before he’s done.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      He’s finished the actual writing, and managed to survive somehow, fortunately!:

      So it’s done. 6k words on the plot of Fallout 3. Man, imagine how dangerous I’d be if I ever discussed games while they were still relevant.

  9. GGANate says:

    Ever thought of sending this to Bethesda? Might be a tad presumptuous for a critic to do so, but hell, somebody needs to tell them that they can’t write themselves out of a paper bag.

    1. Ciennas says:

      Hey, be nice and fair. They are excellent when they want to be.

      They are excellent at telling stories through environment, and they even have the skill to manipulate emotional responses with reasonable accuracy, which is a hard move to pull.

      Sure the plot here was pants, but that’s just a lack of oversight- the small bits work, and can even build up a whole image of the world.

      It’s just that when they stumble, they stumble hard. The Thieves Guild springs to mind.

      But It’s all just a slightly bad execution. They could be better. But they really do seem to try and care.

  10. Mersadeon says:

    Well to be fair, I always assumed he wanted to clean the river so that the purified water would make plants grow in the area. But I also do not know how that kind of thing works.

    1. MrGuy says:

      That’s OK. Neither does Dad. Or Bethesda.

    2. krellen says:

      I could believe this if literally ANYONE had mentioned the river basin being uninhabitable due to radiation. The topic of “why aren’t you all living by the river?” isn’t even broachable.

    3. Ofermod says:

      They’d have to have also added in a quest wherein you get dormant/hydroponically preserved/whatever seeds to plant.

      Which actually would have been an interesting plot lead-in to the second half of the game, which is actually just a remake of Harvest Moon!

      … don’t judge me because I think this game would be awesome.

      1. pdk1359 says:

        I’d play it. Post-apocalyptic farming/town-building simulation, with raiders, monsters and robots?
        You want to build a better [irrigation system, generator, machine shop, or whatever]? Talk to a guy, go to this ruin, get the thing and MacGyver a solution.
        Recruiting experts, say in limited housing and maybe with teamwork bonuses (picking up this farmer and that bartender, they can may a special kind of booze, that engineer and that gunsmith makes ammo at a better efficiency, those three siblings get along well and less drama happens with them all in town).
        So many potential radiant quests…
        Not to mention ‘Oh, no, some villain has kidnapped my townies! Never in a prior Fallout game has that been a plot point!’

  11. Slothfulcobra says:

    A lot of the game’s setting feels like a half-baked Twilight Zone episode. The town which is a bastion of life can all die in a moment! What a twist!

    They put in twist endings without working on the rest of the story first. It’s like if Darth Vader had name tag that said Skywalker, or if Bruce Willis was transparent and walked through walls, or if Hawkeye had a running gag of not being able to tell the difference between a chicken and a baby.

  12. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Bonus points: Dad decides to kill himself and his purifier instead of just letting his son do what he does best and shoot them. Seriously, Pops, if you had waited, like, ten minutes I’d have filled Autumn and his cronies with enough bullets to make them go to sleep forever and let us get back to fixing your magic water machine.

    Instead, he jumps straight to the most suicidally destructive option available. Jackass.

    1. Jabrwock says:

      I think they were implying there were a lot more Enclave members around, but yeah, from what they show it seems pretty silly that you couldn’t just shoot half of them by the time he’s done his speech.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        At that point in the game, I’m usually strong enough that the Enclave could have 1000 guys and they’d STILL stand no chance.

        1. AileTheAlien says:

          Heck, even as-is, at that point in the game, you have to fight like, 50 of their power-armor wearing mooks in a row. Like, they basically set up the main plot, so that you are forced to be that strong at that point in the story.

          1. MrGuy says:

            One of the few times where I think being captured in a cutscene might actually be appropriate.

            Rather than have you sneak around surprising and killing a few dozen Enclave soldiers in Power Armor, make it a fight you effectively can’t win (you know, like it would be in reality if the Enclave soldiers weren’t Stormtrooper-level incompetent). They take you to Dad, leave you tied up outside the main chamber, and threaten Dad and you. Dad’s blowing stuff up frees you (letting you retrieve your stuff from a nearby locker), and you have to sneak/fight your way out through greatly reduced Enclave forces.

            Suddenly, the Enclave is actually being evil, instead of just being called evil. And Dad’s move makes a slight amount of sense – he thought they were going to kill you, so he killed them first.

    2. SlothfulCobra says:

      That’s not Bethesda’s style. This isn’t your story for you to go and muck up, this is their story that you’re only allowed to play a few pre-assigned roles.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        That’s probably the biggest issue with Bethesda’s games.
        And yet, sadly, they’re still the most robust video games where you can roleplay the sort of character you want to.

  13. Mechaninja says:

    One of the things I have always found fascinating about Bethesda is their hubris.

    I have this scenario in my head where 2005/6/7 Bethesda asks applicants if they are familiar with the Fallout Bible and Van Buren and doesn’t hire them if they are.

    Ah, g**********t. I can’t keep going. Reading and talking about 2002 Fallout/Interplay stuff makes me completely aggro to this day.

  14. Jabrwock says:

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but I think it bears repeating, since you brought up Megaton’s water issues.

    I think the problem is less of ability, and more of scope. I’ll use California as the example. They have a water shortage, and tell the residents to use less water. However this has minimal impact, because the vast majority of water is used by industry, particularly farming.

    Mr Handy can crank out enough uncontaminated water for 2-3 people. Megaton, maybe enough for its population.

    But it’s nowhere near the amount needed to grow sufficient food. (Rivet City decontaminates enough surplus to run a small hydroponics setup) So irradiated water must be used, which will stunt growth.

    Project Purity will purify and keep clean an entire water basin. If you have that much clean water to fish in and use to irrigate crops, that will make a huge difference to the local population. Clean, plentiful food drops your infant mortality rate, stops growth stunting, and allows your people to move beyond subsistence farming.

    Now, on the flip side, the implementation was horrendous. Your dad has no idea that the Enclave plans to use PP to “purge” all rad-contaminated beings by using the modified FEV. So he has no reason to resist the Enclave merely controlling the purifier, unless he suspects something, which he gives no indication he does. The speech comes off as very Libertarian rather than “resist evil”. “NOOOOOO, MY PROJECT IS MINE, FILTHY G-MEN!”

    1. krellen says:

      See above: I’d buy this “purify the basin” thing if it had ever come up even once in some obscure conversation somewhere. But it doesn’t.

      (And if it was the real reason, there should be LOTS of people talking about it.)

      1. Jabrwock says:

        Not uninhabitable. That’s what I meant by the implementation was horrendous. The gravity of the situation and the importance of PP is not supported by the evidence we have on hand, which is that people are doing OK. Not great, but OK. Barely scraping by, needing to live near whatever water purifiers they can cobble together, struggling to grow enough food to live, let alone to justify trade between areas (they never really explain what Point Lookout, Maryland, which CAN grow crops due to being uncontaminated, needs from DC to justify shipping in food). But certainly not uninhabitable.

        The idea is that they change it from “barely survivable” to “prosperous”. But the writers couldn’t get that across in any meaningful way, so we have a “fate of the world hangs in the balance” importance to what is essentially an engineering problem.

      2. MichaelGC says:

        Dr Li apparently (I’m still wiki-ing for some baffling reason) says this at some point – not sure if it quite counts:

        The plan was to build a facility that could purify all the water in the Tidal Basin at once. No radiation, no muck, just clear water.

        1. krellen says:

          That doesn’t count, because it says nothing about WHY that would be something they’d want to do.

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            More importantly, it makes the fighting over the purifier 100% pointless. It’s going to clean all of the water in the basin regardless of who flips the switch.

            1. Jabrwock says:

              The Enclave have a nefarious plan to contaminate the water and kill off all the irradiated inhabitants of the Capital region (Fallout2’s plan, on a smaller scale? They were going to purge the entire world with modified FEV), but your dad gives no indication that he knows of this, and you don’t find out until well after your dad is dead.

              So at the time, yeah, pointless who flips the “on” switch.

              1. Bloodsquirrel says:

                Not even the Enclave. Eden wanted to do that, and the rest of the Enclave told him he was crazy. That’s why they wound up fighting in their own base. The only person who *might* use the FEV is the player.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Also the fact that we never see anyone using the river to farm anything.Just a bunch of crops here and there wouldve been enough(which is what they did in new vegas).

      1. Jabrwock says:

        Which is one of the reasons why F:NV is so much better. It’s a little touch, but it shows they at least thought about it.

        After PP does it’s thing, suddenly the BoS is handing out bottles of water. Whoopee, now people can wander away from their own purifiers. Meh. What they should have done was shown a farm being set up, irrigation being built, etc.

        They could have converted a few nearby office buildings into Rivet City hydroponics style setups, or at least started talking about doing it. While they built pipes to irrigate nearby fields or something. Showed the construction of new farms.

        Instead we get the founding of Dasani…

    3. IFS says:

      Except the Enclave doesn’t even plan to use the modified FEV, only their president wants that because he’s an insane computer, General Autumn who holds all the real authority over the Enclave troops is opposed to using the FEV (willing to bet this comes up in a later section of this series) so the fight is entirely ‘who gets to flip the switch’.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        Come to think of it, even if General Autumn had a concrete reason to take over the Jefferson Memorial, how did he hear about the fact that the project was being rebooted? Why was the Enclave only hearing about the project NOW that it was over twenty years old, instead of occupying it in the interim? Was it just a colossal blunder that caused him to try military force first instead of offering the scientists working on the project all the resources at his disposal? Would the other scientists working on the project have a reason to reject such an offer even if your Dad had some ideal of completely free water? Clearly he didn’t care THAT much about it since he dropped everything the moment you were born. Or, at least, he only cared about it insofar as it was convenient to him, which only came up again once you were old enough to take care of yourself.

        Fallout 3’s plot is like the Mandelbrot set of bad writing. No matter how far you zoom in, it’s still nonsense.

        1. MrGuy says:

          I’m willing to be that you’ve discovered the plot of Part 4 of this series….

  15. Tim Keating says:

    You mention the voice acting being the only thing that gives characters personality, which is true. But ironically, the voice casting is one of the shittiest things about the game — half the NPCs don’t have a voice that sounds anything at all like they look, at least to my eye.

    1. krellen says:

      We are ridiculously bad at associating faces with voices. Pretty much everyone that hears a voice first, upon meeting the person, thinks they don’t match their voice. It’s pretty much why Rick Astley is famous.

      1. Eskel says:

        “Video not available in your country.” I wonder if anti-rick-rolling is going to become a new meme :-D

        1. krellen says:

          Well, it’s not really a rick roll because I told you right from the start what you were clicking on. :)

          1. Daimbert says:

            For him, it’s an anti-rick-roll because he was told that if he clicked the link he’d GET Rick Astley … and then didn’t. So essentially, go to something Rick Astley and then have it suddenly appear as/turn into something else …

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Off topic:

    So these gravatar hovercards seem new.Since when have they been doing this?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      You seem to be called “g2-c49e492daba17a2ceba946e4baf2fcd2.” Is that by design? Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I suspect thats because the email I used for it has long since disappeared.I use it only for the gravatar now.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          A-ha. Thinking about it, if Star Wars was a long time ago, that’s probably the kind of name they’re having to give their droids by now.

          1. Ivan says:

            Can’t we just call him g2-d2 for short?

    2. Trix2000 says:

      Literally just noticed it since you mentioned it. Weird.

  17. SoranMBane says:

    Okay, so, looking at Project Purity’s setup… Dad’s “master plan” here was to suck up the water with those big pipes, purify it, and then… Immediately pump it back into the river to be contaminated again?


    Honestly, it would have made more sense (with that setup) to just suck the water up, purify it, and then store it in a big tank to be distributed to communities across the Wasteland rather than just dumping it back into the basin. Cleaning the whole river just would not be feasible with just a bunch of pipes, magical G.E.C.K. super-science or not. If cleaning the river was the goal, then wouldn’t you need something that closer to a dam that could catch and process all of the water at once? A dam could also have the side-benefit of providing electricity, so that would be even better. A game where everyone is fighting over a dam; gee, wouldn’t that be something…

    1. Jabrwock says:

      The Tidal Basin is supposedly a sort of man-made reservoir attached to the Potomac River.

      So if you suck the contaminated water out of the river, you could store the “clean” water in the Basin.

      I think that was the original plan, purify the Basin. That was likely the “scale” problem they were talking about.

      But then they figured that the GECK would let them “clean bomb” the whole Potomac watershed.

      1. SoranMBane says:

        But the basin would be just as irradiated as the rest of the river, and even if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter. Just look at the purifier; those are the intake and outtake pipes, right? They are right next to each other. The machine is literally just dumping the clean water back into the same contaminated water it’s drawing from. One could argue that they’re just gradually purifying the basin alone, but that would be a very slow process (especially considering how much radiation there must be in the river mud); for the immediate purposes of the Wasteland’s residents, it would still make more sense to store at least some of that water in a big cistern. I mean, unless all that water was already flash-purified by the all-powerful GECK somehow, then I guess they’re just… Purifying water that’s already been cleaned?

        And speaking of the GECK, what did that thing actually do for us, anyway? What did we need it for that couldn’t have been accomplished otherwise? This thing feels more like a vaguely-powerful magical macguffin than a lot of the literal magical macguffins we see in the Elder Scrolls games (I know more about the function of that one Elder Scroll in Skyrim‘s plot than I do about the GECK in this).

        1. Jabrwock says:

          Yes, they magic macguffin’d it. The GECK was originally just a set of blueprints discs and seed packs to detail dismantling the Vault and setting up a settlement outside (see Shady Sands in Fallout 1).

          In Fallout 2 it had quasi magic status, but that was tribal knowledge of what a GECK could do after a few generations. Basically they thought it would cure the land, instead of just detailing how to build decontamination equipment from a decommissioned Vault.

          In Fallout 3 it gained full mythical status, and incinerated it’s carrier in a full on Genesis-level Star Trek device… Which is why they wanted to supercharge it to clean all of DC.

          Considering how they just handed out bottled water afterwards, I think those out tubes might be backwash pipes for the filtration system. The facility itself might have large internal tanks to hold the water while they bottle it. Hence why it was so limited.

      2. Ivan says:

        Clean… the whole watershed… from a single point downstream of literally all of it…

        I really need to stop thinking about this thing or I’m going to have an aneurysm.

  18. Spammy says:

    I forget, is the statue still inside of the Memorial in Fallout 3? Because if so then that eliminates the possibility that The Conduit takes place in the Fallout universe, because a radio message in The Conduit has a soldier or whoever panicking about how the aliens just melted the interior.

    1. Tom says:

      Yes, it is. The central, transparent water tank is built around it, so that it can be dramatically revealed by the cloudy water (because radioactive compounds turn water cloudy in a way that looks just like solid particles any sand filter of the kind that have been made easily for thousands of years could remove, you know) turning clear when the machine is finally switched on – and that would actually be a pretty good bit of cinematic visual metaphor (albeit one approaching Bruckheimer levels of total unsubtlety) if only, at some point in the entire preceding game, they’d bothered to actually make some kind of allusion to Jefferson and had him represent something. Instead they went with the book of Revelation, which really doesn’t have any connection to Jefferson at all, or even sit well alongside him.

      It’s painfully obvious that’s what they were going for; seeing the statue emerge from the murk feels like being clobbered over the head with a baseball bat with “METAPHOR” written on it – they just apparently forgot to make it a damn metaphor FOR anything.

      Ironically enough, they did heavily mythologise Lincoln in-game, but then didn’t turn the Lincoln memorial into a giant set-piece like they did with the Jefferson.

  19. Jeff says:

    The entire characterization of Dad appears to be “Look, it’s Liam Neeson!”

    1. gyfrmabrd says:

      He does have a very specific set of skills. Too bad none of them are science- or logic related…

    2. Phantos says:

      Literally no one else could be forgiven for carrying this dreck.

  20. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’m curious, is this Fallout 3 blog series out of scope for Experienced Points? I ask because I saw on Twitter that you were struggling to come up with an article for them this week and the result was a little thinner than your usual.* These Fallout articles would be great for them. They’re so well thought out. I guess the drawback is that you’d have to post the main article there? And couldn’t run it all the same week maybe? (which I would miss, sure, but if you need something for EP, I’d be fine with that).

    *I hope you don’t mind me saying that. A thin article compared to your usual standard is still high enough quality for any gaming site I’ve ever visited, its just your columns are usually even meatier. Please, I don’t mean any of this to bash you. We all have an off week and I figured the question would lead to understanding of how you pick what you put on the blog vs EP.

    1. Shamus says:

      My column target is like 1,000 to 2,000 words. This monster will be ~7,000 in length. It would just get a big tl;dr from people who aren’t familiar with my long-form work.

      Plus, I think this material is “works better” given my audience here. At the Escapist I’d have to spend a bunch more words appeasing people sneering at, “This game journo crying for attention by dumping on an awesome game”. There’s no way we could have these long exchanges where everyone explores all the “but what about THIS bit of lore?” side-topics I missed.

      It’s not that The Escapist wouldn’t want it, it’s that it just works better here. As usual, my column is my was of trying to lure the uninitiated into coming over here and reading the big stuff. :)

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Gotcha. Makes sense. In terms of quality, good as always. In terms of personal appeal, this week has been great for me. Thank you.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You could turn those words into a comic.Seeing how every picture is a thousand words,you would need only 7 panels to say it all.

  21. newdarkcloud says:

    I’m surprised Doctor Li hasn’t come up yet.

    To add one more to the “Dad was stupid evil” column, Doctor Li clearly seemed to have a little crush on dear-old-daddy. She worked on Project Purity mostly because it was his idea, and she wanted to be part of it. But when he has a child, he selfishly abandons the project and leaves a crestfallen Doctor Li to pick up the pieces.

    So she does. And in the time he was away doing nothing of note, she was busy finding ways to make FRESH, RADIATION-FREE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! However, Dad now decides after all this time he wants to try the water thing again. Knowing that Doctor Li still probably has a crush on him, he tempts her away from her “feeding everyone with healthy food” plan just to work on his nonsense.

    In other words, because of him, the wasteland has a lot of water where nobody could reasonably hope to use it at the cost of a terraforming device that could have provided fertile soil AND years of research in making priceless food.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And when he changes his mind,he does it by ditching his own child,putting them in danger.Either that,or he is incredibly poor judge of character for thinking that the overseer would treat you well.

      Oh,and once you find him again,he burdens you with all this crap.Yeah,dad is a selfish prick.

      1. Shamus says:

        And I would be fine with that if the story had just acknowledged it. Like, if your Dad was clearly driven to complete this project and it made him thoughtless, that might be something approaching a personality. But it’s like the writers didn’t realize they made the most important character in the game a dumb jerk, and wrote him like he was Thomas Edison by way of Mister Rogers.

  22. It’s really weird… I agree with almost everything Shamus has written about the plot and setting of Fallout 3. Very little of it makes sense, the characters act like imbeciles, the motivations are all over the place, the setting is filled with nonsense… And yet, I don’t remember minding any of it when I was playing. I really enjoyed the game. I never finished the main quest, but not because it didn’t make sense but because it was out of the way. And once I reached Level 20 (IIRC correctly, whatever the maximum was), I considered the game finished. Then I did the same thing two more times. Same thing with Skyrim. Finishing the main quest (or any quest for that matter) feels purely optional.

    What is wrong with me?? I realise that the plot, the characterisation, the acting, the world building are all quite bad, and yet I really enjoyed this game. Do I just have… really bad taste? Or did I just ignore these things? I mean, I know I ignored most of the plot… and I always kind of hand-waved the problems with the setting as a kind of an abstraction of the game world (FNV is a vastly better game, but their ‘realistic’ huge dorms and fields were just dull).

    Am I the only one who is seriously tempted to play F3 again after reading this rant?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      What is wrong with me??

      Im afraid you suffer from a terminal illness.Its called being human.Unfortunately,there is no cure,and you will die of it.

      Everyone has their own guilty pleasures.Stuff we know are stupid,lazy or bad,yet we enjoy them.For me,its the final destination movies(and I dont even like horror movies).I know its stupid,nonsensical and derivative,yet Ive watched all of them multiple times,and eagerly await the next one.

      1. Syal says:

        Those movies are actually really charming. You get the feeling that Fate is just a huge dork.

        “This guy dodged the death I prepared for him, so the next time he goes to the gym I’m going to rig his exercise equipment so that he’ll overstress the cables and crush himself with it.”

        “Couldn’t you just give him a heart attack?”


      2. MrDrSirLord1337 says:

        Im afraid you suffer from a terminal illness.Its called being human.Unfortunately,there is no cure,and you will die of it.

        This my be the best thing I have ever heard. though it might just be because I read it like a docter would when delivering bad news to someone they hate.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      I was enjoying the main plot up until Old Man Stupid killed himself. It actually starts off pretty well- going out of the vault for the first time and just having to start searching for your dad was cool. The plot was filled with dumb fake magi-science, but that just felt like part of the aesthetic.

      The plot just gets dumber and dumber as it goes along, though, until the final battle where I had no idea what, exactly, we needed to stop the Enclave from doing so urgently that we needed to attack the wasteland’s grand hope for the future with a giant robot. Naturally, that went so well that you had to sacrifice your life to fix it.

    3. Merkel says:

      There is a lot to be said for the mechanics of F3 (and for that matter, Skyrim). Bad story and dull/dumb characters don’t matter very much when you’re in the middle of nowhere, sniping super-mutants.

    4. Shamus says:

      Pfft. Nothing wrong with you. You played the best parts of the game and skipped the stupid parts.

      The question should be: What’s wrong with ME?

      And writing this made me want to do the Wasteland survival Guide again. Man, that was silly, absurd fun.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The question should be: What's wrong with ME?

        Well the opening scene dragged too long,and the elevators were kind of a drag.Also kaiden wasnt that interesting of a dude,and the leveling was kind of tedious and broken.The limit on your inventory was arbitrary and unnecessary,and the whole weapon/armor management needed refinement.And…oh,wait,you meant “me” as a pronoun,not as an acronym.My bad.

      2. Hmm!, there is certainly enough material.

        You could probably do an entire series covering various games, with the starting point being the questions: “Can the NPCs in this game actually survive? / How plausible is this world? / Is this world self-consistent?”

        And then just go through all the games you (Shamus) have played, which should be a fair amount by now.

        And call this series “But how do they eat?” maybe :P

        1. psivamp says:

          But can we come up with an easy metric for Shamus-plausibility of a game? Something similar to mean-time-to-crates.

      3. Alphadrop says:

        I recently replayed Wasteland Survival Guide using the Tale of Two Wastelands mod to play 3 via New Vegas to avoid all the crashing. Hitting mole rats with that splodey head stick is still stupid fun though you get the feeling Beth put most of their good ideas into that single quest chain.

      4. Ivan says:

        Clearly you just want to share your pain with the whole world like some kinda neglected supervillain.

        That’s right Shamus, you’re literally worse than Joker.

    5. Mintskittle says:

      Don’t feel bad, I had much the same experience. I’d guess we just have a much higher willing suspension of disbelief than others. OTOH, I do not wish to go back and play it. I did re-watch all of the FO3 Spoiler Warning, though.

    6. Rack says:

      I don’t personally think it’s as bad as Shamus makes out, really I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to see how access to clean fresh water for everyone would be a huge deal. There are issues (what else they could use a geck for, technical issues with the project, what the enclav would ultimately do with it) but they’re things you can gloss over.

      But the much bigger reason I was able to enjoy it is the story isn’t a huge deal. Fallout 3 is a game about exploring the wasteland, once you’re out of the Vault there’s no reason to care about any of this. At worst it’s something you drop in and out of every few hours.

      1. WJS says:

        Well yes, obviously access to clean water is a huge deal. The problem is that there’s nothing to suggest that the people of the wasteland don’t already have this. There are, what, a grand total of 3 people in the game who complain about water? Consequently, Project Purity just comes off as James Vaultdweller’s vanity project.

  23. Christopher says:

    Do you plan on talking about the DLC? I happen to live not far from Piney Point, Maryland and would love to talk about that DLC.

    1. Merkel says:

      The worst part about the “Point Lookout” DLC was that it showed that Bethesda could do a “green” wasteland if they wanted (at least visually). Imagine a world where Fallout 3 featured an overgrown DC, complete with swampy areas around the waterfront.

      1. WJS says:

        <Insert obligatory joke about the “green” filter here>

  24. Daemian Lucifer says:

    My memory is failing me,but wasnt it the ground and foods in fallout 1 and 2 that was radioactive,and not water?The magic radioactive water is the invention of 3,right?


      “The amount of radioactive materials present in water bodies decreased rapidly during the first weeks after the initial deposition because the radioactive materials decayed, were diluted or were absorbed by the surrounding soils”

      “Aquatic bodies are still being contaminated by runoff of long lived caesium-137 and strontium-90 released from contaminated soils. At present, the water and fish of rivers, open lakes and reservoirs have low levels of caesium-137 and strontium-90. However, in some “closed” lakes with no outflowing streams in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine both water and fish will remain contaminated with caesium-137 for decades to come”

      So after 200 years a river may not be that bad after all. A closed basin on the other hand would be more of an issue.

      And if you live near the coast then fetching water from the sea (or maybe laying a long tube/line to pump water in from farther out in the ocean would give relatively radiation free water.
      If you found enough plastic or similar you could create vapor traps and use the sun to desalt the water en-masse.
      If you manage to desalt about 2 liters per person for a settlement then you are golden. Showering/bathing/washing could be done using plain seawater (possibly heated).

      So Shamus is right in saying that the food is the main problem here (and The Dad was an idiot for not realizing this.)

    2. Alphadrop says:

      Yup though radiation is rarely touched on in the first two games at all.
      Only area in Fallout 1 with any real radiation issues was appropriately named The Glow. Fallout 2 did have radioactive water in Vault City’s courtyard area but that was due to a leaky atomic power plant which you can fix/blow up/crank call the Enclave.
      I did like how New Vegas largely went back to this, most of the water in the game is perfectly safe to drink provided no toxic barrels have fallen into it or it’s near leaky abandoned Vault power plants.

  25. Hector says:

    One thing which always struck me about Megaton was that they should have been shown as turning that bomb into a mini-nuke generator. They’ve already shown that Fallout tech includes some pretty hardened materials, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagining people rigging up a small reactor. It’s almost plausible in the real world, if you care about that sort of thing. It would immediately explain not only why the town was here, but also why nobody was much worried about the thing, and why they might consider the danger worthwhile. (Still wouldn’t explain why Tenpenny wanted to blow it up, but even miracles can only do so much.) That would even be a neat little feature that could make the town really “pop” against the background of game.

    “Dad” is indeed a black hole of stupidity. One of the really silly things, though, is that the big reveal of his past was too late – at that point you had probably worked out the broad strokes. I mean, you basically get the important points in Megaton, possibly from the second NPC you talk to after leaving the vault. Worse yet, the details aren’t interesting. The past here simply doesn’t matter to the game, so it’s sorta weird that Bethesda put that front-and-center in the plot.

    There’d be no problem with Bethsoft making Skyrim with Guns, a game which would downplay tight questing for action-adventure romp. It might not be a very memorable game, but it’s not a bad idea. There’s not much point to having a complex plot involving two generations of your family in such a game, though, and you at least need a decent villain.

    1. MrDrSirLord1337 says:

      Tennpenny wanted to blow up Megaton because he is an evil prick that just wants to watch everyone else suffer while making a profit.
      Thats why Bethesda put him in a realy, realy tall tower for people to throw him off.
      Just like the adoring fan, at least thats the way I see it.
      (yes Im saying the adoring fan wanted to watch people suffer while making a profit, I mean he followed you around so he could watch you kill people, and were else do you think all that loot you never got to loot went?)
      Bonus points if you reamber who Im talking about

  26. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Grammatical nitpick: Footnote #7 says “FEV Virus”, which is redundant, because FEV stands for Forced Evolutionary Virus. It’s like saying ATM Machine, or PIN Number.

  27. Sartharina says:

    Did you forget about Greyditch? Anyway… I have to disagree with the entire series here. Except dad being a moron. That’s true.

    Project Purity was always a “Pipe Dream” to improve the quality of life for everyone, and it’s a pretty significant project. Yes, the Wasteland could purify and maintain enough water to keep everyone properly hydrated… but having enough water to drink is not the same as having enough water to actually USE. The wasteland is dead and irratiated – and the survivors can survive. But that’s just it. There’s enough food produced by scrub vegetation, mutant animals, ugly fruit-things, and there’s also still plenty of non-renewable sources of pre-war food… but none of that is looking forward to the future.

    Also, the radioactive water is constantly reinforced in gameplay – There’s a big, irradiated river running through the middle of the playable map that gives you radiation exposure if you try to swim through it. The most common way to recover health is through drinking from water sources, which ALSO give radiation. The guy s outside the town just try to reinforce the situation (But were badly implemented). And… the entire world is pretty much dead, because all the water’s irradiated.

    Without Project Purity, the Wasteland is pretty much stuck in a barely-persisting state (But still persisting). There’s enough to get by, but not enough to thrive. It’s also pretty clear in the narrative that most people have actually written off the project as not worthwhile – they’re surviving well enough. But without the water, farming is extremely unproductive, and the Instant Mash and Sugarbombs won’t last forever (But they DO have a large supply that should be referenced somewhere.)

    As for Megaton… well, its reason for existing was pretty clear: The crater and natural walls made it a safe, defensible place. Springfield is large and open, and easily prey to Raider attacks – and all those houses give raiders lots of approach vector and places to hide.

    But yeah… Dad was a complete fucking moron. I fully agree with you on that point (Even if I don’t agree with any of the others).

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Grayditch is the abandoned town with the kid and the fire-ants and the ant scientist guy? I’m no doubt being rather slow, but I’m not seeing the connexion…

  28. Jokerman says:

    Why didnt they just have Liam Neeson tell you about the FEV virus, say that’s what the enclave want to do (how does he know? Who cares, baby steps.).

    It would solve so much about this stupid scene, suddenly he would be a hero who would rather let the wasteland live as they are without his pointless water rather than kill everyone born outside of a vault.

  29. Talby says:

    Your Dad in this game is a scientist who took months to fix a children’s BB gun. I think that says a lot about how supposedly smart this guy is.

  30. Nate Ayres says:

    I’m not sure if this is true but I remember something from fallout 3 story and the reason dad blew himself up and all was because the enclave was going to put FEV in the water and mutate anyone that tries to drink it. Also the water purification would help more than just the capital wasteland it would help the areas outside of the game area because it’s a river

    1. WJS says:

      But he didn’t know that Eden (not all of the Enclave) wanted to poison the wasteland. You only discover that five minutes before the final battle!

    2. WJS says:

      Also, isn’t DC pretty much coastal? What’s the point of purifying water that’s just going to end up in the Atlantic? If you were a couple hundred mile upstream, then this argument might hold water.

      1. Daniel says:

        Also, isn't DC pretty much coastal? What's the point of purifying water that's just going to end up in the Atlantic? If you were a couple hundred mile upstream, then this argument might hold water.

        DC is where vault 101 was located. DC is where “dad” lived. Project Purity was a science experiment, and I don’t know about the world of Fallout, but in the real world, scientists don’t travel around conducting each and every experiment in the exact spot where it would help the greatest downstream impact. Experiments are done to test an idea, and if it works, you can expand. Perhaps Project Purity was the same way; start in the DC area, purify the Potomac basin, expand from there.

  31. Joe says:

    “In the real world, cities exist for a reason. They're near rivers or farmland or valuable natural resources. They're often on hills or in places that are easy to defend from attack. They're along the coast, or on roads between major cities to facilitate and profit from the mutual trade.”

    This is why, if you plan on writing fiction and want to make towns and settlements seem like realistic places that sprung up organically, you should play a game of Civilization first. It will teach you much more about this kind of thing than any book or seminar would because you would be learning by doing! (aka the best way to learn)

    1. Daniel says:

      Megaton did spring up organically. For a while after the nuclear attacks, dust storms would blow across the wasteland. People would shelter from the storms in the Megaton crater. The Children of Atom were drawn there because of the bomb, so those sheltering from storms in the crater began to work with the Children or Atom. Traders then began to stop by the crater, because of the people gathered there. It sort of snowballed and got progressively bigger, until a town was built up.

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