Like all Bethesda games, Fallout 4 is something I’ll play for 1,000 hours and complain about for 2,000. It’s deeply flawed but wonderful. Annoying but unique. Brilliant but stupid. The game is only about two weeks old at this point, but I’ve already begun applying mods and I doubt I’ll play the vanilla version ever again.
So let’s talk about the mods I’m running…
1. Faster Terminal Displays
Sometimes a door is locked. Sometimes to open the door you need to use a computer terminal. When you do, it’s always a multi-step process. First there’s the hacking minigame. Fine. Then you get to the “main menu”, which is often a list with only a single item in it: “Security controls”. Pointless, but fine. Then there’s another menu with only two items in it: “Door controls” and “back”. That’s really annoying, particularly when coupled with the fact that the mouse cursor is a few pixels off-center and you’re likely to accidentally hit “back”. Then the last menu will also have one option: “Open Doors”.
So the only menu option you want – indeed, the only option available – is pointlessly nested three levels deep. And every time you select something, it does a little animated scrolling. And once you’ve selected “unlock doors”, it pauses for a flow-breaking five or six seconds. I think it’s supposed to be selling how clunky and slow these terminals are. Fine, but this last step takes forever. And even if the computer is that slow for some reason, there’s nothing preventing my character from simply walking away.
It turns a two-second task into a twenty-second chore, and its amazing how grating this gets after a dozen or so terminals. I wouldn’t mind so much if the menus were filled in with some sort of worldbuilding-style dummy options, but in the vast majority of cases, they aren’t.
This mod simply makes everything go faster. You still have to go three levels deep, but at least the interface is snappy instead of slow.
2. Darker Nights
In the base game, nights are so bright that you have to check you pip-boy to tell if it’s night, or overcast. This mod makes night look like some sort of darkness-based event was taking place, as you do when the sun isn’t in the sky.
Note that this also makes sneaking easier. I’m okay with that, since sneaking is basically useless for your first 13 levels or so. Even with high agility and stealth-style armor, you make so much noise that your approach will literally rouse potential victims from sleep.
Of course, this makes things even more broken in the late-game. Once you get past the knee of the power curve – somewhere around level 20 or so(?) – you’ll basically be invisible all the time at night.
Still, I love it. It makes my base feel like a warm beacon of civilization in a dark and unforgiving wasteland.
This mod goes really well with…
3. Pip Boy Shadows
This isn’t so much a “mod” as “change a single variable in one of the config files to enable a feature that was already available in the base game”. Having said that, I can see why Bethesda left this option off. The Pip-Boy light comes from the device on your wrist, as it should. But this makes for some glitchy behavior. As you move around, your wrist will often brush close to surfaces and push the light source into the wall, which will make the shadows go crazy. At certain arm angles there will be odd lines in the shadows. Sometimes trivially small objects will get close to the light source and cast massive shadowsIn real life, if you hold a bobby pin in front of a lightbulb, the bobby pin won’t cast much of a shadow at all because the light bulb is larger than the pin. But in videogames light sources come from a single infinitely-small point in space.. Even when the behavior is correct in a technical sense, it feels confusing and glitchy.
But if I wasn’t willing to put up with glitches then I wouldn’t be playing Fallout 4, and I’d rather have the shadows.
4. Classic level up sound
When you gain a level, the game sounds like the original Fallout. Oh man. After years of conditioning, that sound feels so good.
5. All trees have leaves
“Heresy!” you cry out. “Fallout is about a desert wasteland!”
Yeah. About that.
Fallout 1 took place in the actual California desert. And even then, the game showed that people dug wells, irrigated, and grew crops. But then Bethesda had no idea how to capture the insanity and dark humor of the wasteland, so they copied all of the most superficial elements: Supermutants, radscorpions, Brotherhood of Steel, brown landscape. Fine. But then they moved the setting to the east coast, where none of those elements really made sense.
The “Brown landscape” one drives me crazy, because after 200 years of no plants, the world is dead. DEAD. EVERYTHING. IS. DEAD.
I think it works much better if we do a “Last of Us” style thing where nature simply reclaims civilization, one tree root at a time.
6. Remove level requirements
Ugh. It wouldn’t be a Bethesda game if the leveling system didn’t have a single, inexplicable and glaring flaw that dragged the entire experience down. Here it’s the level requirements for skills. You can’t upgrade (say) gun smithing until (say) level 7, then the next level becomes available at level 13, the next at 18, the next at 25, and so on.
This greatly homogenizes character builds. Anyone with an agility of 3 can become a stealth master, but everyone must wait until level 25 to max it outThese levels are all guesses. I don’t remember or care about the original thresholds.. Ideally, the related SPECIAL attribute should be subtracted from the level requirement. So maybe max-level gun-smithingCalled “gun nut” in the game. has a base requirement of level 25. With an intelligence of 1 you could get it at level 24, and with an intelligence of 10 you could get it at level 15.
This mod simply strips out all of the level limits. You can decide for yourself when you get things. It makes the game overall easier because some of the late-game abilities are really powerful, but I suppose you can counter this by turning up the difficulty.
I’m still waiting for a few things:
1. Upgrade-able harness armor.
In the game, you get five pieces of armor: Your limbs and your chest. These bits of armor can go over some items of clothing: The vault suit, the military fatigues, long underwear, raider harness, and a few others. I don’t know what the developers called them, but I think of these items as “harness” style clothing, since they act as a framework for the armor bits.
Other items of clothing will replace your armor. So, if you want to wear a biker outfit, you have to give up (say) your chest armor, and a business suit will replace all of your armor pieces. Fine. But for the existing harness items, only the vault suit can be upgraded.
Right now, if you put any points into armor crafting it instantly makes the vault suit so much better than the other options. I’d love to have the various harness items be upgrade-able.
2. Survival mode.
I’m looking forward to the survival mods where you have to eat and sleep, and where radiation is a pervasive hazard instead of an occasional nuisance. I spent most of my hours with Skyrim playing mods like this with fast travel turned off. It really does make the world feel scary huge. When you return to base it feels like the end of a long journey instead of a quick errand to wipe out a raider gang on the other side of the map.
I don’t expect to see anything like this soon. Mods like this take some time to develop.
3. More weather and a generally more hostile environment.
The radiation storms are a good start, although they’re so rare and so weak that they’re more about setting a mood than creating danger. There’s a mod out there now to have them give off more intense radiation, but I haven’t tried it yet. What I’d really like is more variety: Dust storms, radiation storms, more thunderstorms, maybe some windy days.
4. An interface overhaul.
Right now bartering is a massive pain in the ass. At the vary least, the default game should either not show equipped items in the barter window, or it should group them all at the top of the list. As it is, I think they’re… alphabetized? Like, why? This, coupled with the jumbo font, means you can’t see very meny items at once. So you start spamming the “sell item” button, but then the list shifts up or down unit and suddenly you’ve given your armor to the shopkeeper. Then you have to jump over to their window, find your precious item, and give it back to yourself. Then after the transaction you have to remember to open up the inventory and re-equip the item.
For extra fun: You can sell clothing you’re wearing, even if you’re wearing it underneath power armor. But if you accidentally remove an item during bartering, you can’t re-equip it while wearing power armor.
My goodness Bethesda. You people are monsters. Literally worse than Supermutants.
So have you played with modding? What are your favorites?
 In real life, if you hold a bobby pin in front of a lightbulb, the bobby pin won’t cast much of a shadow at all because the light bulb is larger than the pin. But in videogames light sources come from a single infinitely-small point in space.
 These levels are all guesses. I don’t remember or care about the original thresholds.
 Called “gun nut” in the game.
Programming Language for Games
Game developer Jon Blow is making a programming language just for games. Why is he doing this, and what will it mean for game development?
The Best of 2012
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2012.
What is Vulkan?
There's a new graphics API in town. What does that mean, and why do we need it?
Was it a Hack?
A big chunk of the internet went down in October of 2016. What happened? Was it a hack?
Good to be the King?
Which would you rather be: A king in the middle ages, or a lower-income laborer in the 21st century?