This is the Xanatos Gambit (a trope) that Rutskarn referenced in this episode. I love the notion that having Dogmeat follow a trail of months(?) old cigar butts and bloody ragsDoes Kellog somehow not own any stimpacks? Dude, sell the NUKE LAUNCHER you leave out for intruders and buy some stimpacks!” was all part of someone’s convoluted plan.
- This is a story about the world after the apocalypse. Which means the setting needs to be about the new order that arises. (Fallout 1, Fallout New Vegas.)
- But if you don’t want to devise or imagine a new society, then this should be about the last humans fighting for survival in a dying world. (Mad Max Fury Road.)
- But if you’re not going to do either of those, then don’t set the world 200 years after the cataclysm, because people can’t “scavenge” for 2 years, much less 20. And the idea that people could scavenge for two HUNDRED years? That’s a joke with no punchline.
- But if you do that for some reason, then downplay it as much as you can. For example, don’t have the main plot turn on a character who has a rare and particular BRAND of TOBACCO that he likes to smoke, because brands (and brand loyalty) are things that only arise in complex societies. And tobacco doesn’t grow in the north. How is this supposed to work? How could this be “his brand”? Is he the only one who loots this stuff from ruins!? Did he drag a shipping container of cigars with him when he began his years-long trek eastward, and we just happen to meet him when he’s down to his very last box? (Which he left behind in Diamond City anyway.)
- But if you DO have a character that smokes a rare brand of cigars, then maybe show that he hoards and treasures them as a rare pleasure. Which means he wouldn’t smoke three of them in a single hike and he wouldn’t leave a trail of them 80% unsmoked.
- Also don’t give him the same name as the most famous brand of breakfast cereal. It’s like naming your bad guy “Ron McDonald” or “John Pepsi”. It creates strange, joke-y associations that undercut the menacing tone you’re trying to present.
- But if you’re going to do all of that, then at least have the decency to make the world lighthearted, silly, playful, or goofy. Whatever you do, don’t mix this nonsense with a self-serious “They stole my baby and murdered my spouse in front of me!” plot.
- If you don’t have the basic wisdom to do that, then maybe storytelling isn’t for you. Focus on your mechanics. Keep your story simple. Limit the number of factions, don’t try to do any plot twists, and don’t have too many moving parts. Don’t break the flow of the game with too many cutscenes, keep dialog short, and don’t ever trap the player in all-dialog story sections where they have no access to the core mechanics. Dialog and exposition scenes normally cost a fortune to produce, and in a mechanics-focused game it can only frustrate them.
It is breathtaking the lengths this writer will go to in order to do the wrongest thing possible.
 Does Kellog somehow not own any stimpacks? Dude, sell the NUKE LAUNCHER you leave out for intruders and buy some stimpacks!”
Mass Effect Retrospective
A novel-sized analysis of the Mass Effect series that explains where it all went wrong. Spoiler: It was long before the ending.
The true story of three strange days in 1989, when the last months of my adolescence ran out and the first few sparks of adulthood appeared.
A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.
Final Fantasy X
A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.