Fallout 4 EP17: Cereal Killer

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 7, 2016

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 188 comments

Link (YouTube)

So the hunt to find Kellog is broken. But it’s broken in a REALLY ANNOYING WAY, which is that it has various contradictory excuses sprinkled around the world, and taken in isolation they seem to address one fault or another. So you point out plot hole A, but then an apologist claims this is explained by excuse B. But then you point out that excuse B doesn’t make sense because of contradiction C, and then someone ELSE points out that C is maybe justified by theory D. This seems to solve the problem, until you realize that D doesn’t work with B, and thus you end up arguing in circles forever. Most importantly, there never comes a time where you can map out what happened and why. You’re forever concocting and dismissing theories.

This is annoying if – like me – one of your coping mechanisms for plot holes is to simply document them. But the complexity of the brokenness makes such a task impossible. Every excuse is supported by broken excuses which are supported by broken excuses, leading out into this endless fractal of stupidity and frustration. It’s like the Mandelbrot set, but for bad ideas instead of numbers.

So to get anywhere in this analysis, we need to spoil the big twist of the game. That’s not bad, since the twist is both obvious and nonsensical. Here goes:

Shaun is now 80 years old.

This is OBVIOUS, because the game showed you being re-frozen after the kidnapping. Most players realize RIGHT AWAY that some probably-significant interval of time has passed. But then your character is stupidly railroaded into looking for a “baby”, despite the fact that they really ought to know better. And even if they don’t, the PLAYER knows better and thus we get frustrated waiting for our character to catch up to what we already know. This can work if the writer has a strong pre-built protagonist like Geralt or Adam Jensen, but even then it requires a fine touch to avoid annoying the player. But in a game with a quasi-blank-slate protagonist like this one, having our avatar spend most of the game oblivious to something we figured out in the first five minutes is pretty much the kiss of death for tension, immersion, and roleplaying. Instead of working to unravel a mystery, we spend the entire running time waiting for our character to pull their head out of their ass so we can get on with things.

This is also NONSENSE, because everything else in the gameworld contradicts this. And here is where we get caught arguing in circles:

Plot hole A: Kellog hasn’t aged a single day in the last 80 years.

Excuse B: He’s part machine and so he doesn’t age.

Contradiction C: So if the Institute has CURED AGING, why is Shaun OLD and about to DIE?

Theory D: Maybe they didn’t actually cure aging as such. Maybe the Kellog we meet is just a synth based on the Kellog we saw at the start of the game?

But then we meet Shaun and he talks about Kellog like he’s a single person and not a series of synths. And since old-Shaun obviously despises Kellog so much, why would he continue to make synth copies of him? And if he’s a synth then what’s the difference between Kellog and a Courser?

Let’s do another one:

Plot hole A: Kellog was in town with a ten-year-old version of Shaun “a while ago”. That should have been decades ago!

Excuse B: Nick is a syth. Maybe he remembers back that far?

Contradiction C: You’d think Nick – being a detective and all – would note details like this. “We’re looking for a kid and our suspect left town 60 years ago.” He talks to Ellie about “the Kellog case” like it’s something she would remember, not some ancient cold case from before she was born. And other people seem to remember Kellog as well, and nobody has reclaimed or re-purposed the house, which would certainly happen if it stood empty for any length of time.

Theory D: Maybe the ten year old Shaun is a synth and was here more recently?

Contradiction E: But why? Why would the institute send Kellog to Diamond city with a child robot clone of their aging leader?

Theory F: Well, maybe this is all part of Shaun’s plan (or Kellog’s plan?) for you to pick up the trail and hunt him down?

But why? Why have us follow such a convoluted trail? How would that advance ANYONE’S goals?

Last one:

Plot hole A: Kellog moved out of town “a while ago”. It’s long enough that people have noticed he’s “gone”, and not just “out of town for a couple of days”. Yet he departed recently enough that a dog is able to pick up his scent across a vast swath of wilderness.

Excuse B: Well maybe something about radiation and smells? Or maybe Dogmeat is slightly mutated to have super-smelling? Or…

Rebuttal C: Just… no. Also shut up. There has to be an upper limit on the amount bullshit we’re required to invent in order to patch a plot that is obviously broken in multiple places.

What we end up with is a world where all of the various characters are engaged in a massive conspiracy to obscure the obvious “twist”, so that the game will be able to “surprise” you with it later.

Surprise! That thing you thought was true but everyone acted in nonsensical ways to pretend it wasn’t true… IS ACTUALLY TRUE! DUN DUN DUN!

Dear Bethesda, please hire a writer. You have the budget, and this is disgraceful.


From The Archives:

188 thoughts on “Fallout 4 EP17: Cereal Killer

  1. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Technically Fallout 4 has three story DLC. Far Harbor and Nuka World are the big ones (at least I hope Nuka World is big) but Automatron also had a basic plot ending in an encounter with the Mechanist and a new HQ for your character that turns out to be far less sweet than you’d expect at first glance.

    Though the most glaring problem with the HQ could be easily fixed with a little modding. You can only build on two or three tiles in the vast useless room. I assume this was to allow them the render budget to make this set piece look fancy for the climax and not have it break as soon as console players started trying to add stuff. Looking forward to a mod for this.

    Smaller problems include all those robots hammering away on terminals in the control room that continue operating after the Mechanist leaves and do nothing. They probably use up a lot of said render budget. You could just have those things blow up and disappear in the climax so you can build stuff. But no.

    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

      Yeah, why do robots have to type anyway? Wouldn’t they sensibly be able to speak the same protocol as the ubiquitous terminals on some handy belly button port or something?

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        The proper term is “sonjaculation.”

        1. tmtvl says:


          I played that DLC yesterday, so this was a nice coincidence.

        2. Writiosity says:

          The difference being that this was written by competent writers at a competent studio.

    2. Incunabulum says:

      There’s been a mod for that since *hours* after The Mechanist was released.

      For PC anyway.

      1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        Thanks. Will definitely get this for my Nuka World run.

  2. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Separately, I also feel guilty in Bethesda games and some others about selling all my junk to a merchant with no other customers who was probably trying to make money, not accumulate more junk.

    They can solve this a couple of ways. First, by having your merchants act like sleazy used car dealers. Bethesda likes that option. Second, by having foot traffic in the story. And Bethesda’s engine is set up to allow foot traffic. You can have a bunch of randomly generated nameless NPCs cycle through these stores. I’m pretty sure that the “More populated Skyrim Cities” mod does something like this.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Separately, I also feel guilty in Bethesda games and some others about selling all my junk to a merchant with no other customers who was probably trying to make money, not accumulate more junk.


      I see why they set things up this way. Sure, it doesn’t make a lot of sense me to sell a bunch of pistols to the doctor and not buy any healing items.

      But could you imagine how the game would work if you COULDN’T barter your random vendor trash to every merchant in the game? Now if I want to buy stimpacks, I have to go sell my surplus guns to a gun dealer, my surplus armor to a clothing merchant, etc., slowly trading it all for cash, then taking the cash and finding a doctor to sell you stimpacks. It’s much more straightforward to just say “this gun here is worth exactly 20 caps to everyone in the wasteland, so we can eliminate the middle man and just trade it directly to the doctor.” And if I can trade guns to the doctor just like they were cash to buy things, it stands to reason I can also just trade them for caps if I want – if the doctor’s going to accept the pistol in lieu of 20 caps for barter, why would a straight sale be any different to him?

      Like any game with a huge “vendor trash loot” mechanic, they have to trade off expedience for some degree of realism.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        I could be relatively easy to resolve by simply having a slew of merchant-type-specific pricing tables. A gun’s worth 20 caps to sell to anyone except a gun merchant, who’ll give 50 for it. The gun merchant will also sell it for 150 when some random other bod will only let it go for 200.

        (I’d also be inclined to keep a second, unrevealed merchant store of caps for those specialized merchants, so they can keep buying more stuff that’s in their line of business for a while, even when the trash fund is exhausted. If you’ve got a multiplayer situation and are actually tracking the economy, that store of funds gets rebuilt when they sell from their line of goods, and only spills over into the trash fund when it’s “full”. Any trash the merchant sells goes directly to the trash fund (which also works for line of business transactions.)

        1. Incunabulum says:

          That would solve an *immersion* problem while creating a larger (from Bethesda’s perspective) *player inconvenience* problem.

          They (and the mainstream players) simply do not want to have to bother with that. Its not hitting a button and having something awesome happen, its just making the world more realistic.

          They are not about realistic anymore, realistic doesn’t sell as well. They are about your player ‘doing cool shit and posting it on Youtube’.

          1. galacticplumber says:

            I would be all for it if it weren’t for one simple fact. You’re getting a small bump in verisimilitude in exchange for what is likely several more loading screens per trip and a significant amount of extra mental effort. Why several extra loading screens? Because it’s not uncommon at all for specialized merchants to be far away from each other rather than near each other. You often aren’t just walking a few feet to each dealer like some glorious bazaar. You’re fast traveling and then walking a few feet. Oh and remember how ammo and medical supplies were the only really low weight to value things common to get in bulk? Now you’re main sources of stored value trade to less people in an ugly bottleneck. And no merchants don’t get higher cap capacities or better wares by having huge amounts of business or goods flow through them. That would be realism that’s actually beneficial to the gameplay loop. We can’t have that. Keep in mind new vegas was still my favorite. I just think that having this kind of economy is unilaterally not the problem with any game in the series.

            1. Paulo Caetano says:

              The deal killer for me is not the mental effort, but the waste of time.

              I’d very much prefer a user-selectable set of options that let you choose anywhere between “Press one button and sell all junk right where you are, without having to go to a merchant” and “Visit each special-purpose merchant to sell each kind of junk, and no fast travel allowed”.

              I’d always go for the first option. My time is limited, and I don’t play the games for their exciting inventory management.

            2. Decius says:

              You can have the verisimilitude and the convienece by having a specialized “stuff” buyer that buys everything for caps, has a large number of caps and/or letters of credit recognized by locals, and a story of buying all the junk, cleaning it up and sorting it, then selling to local vendors.

              At least, you can have all the verisimilitude that the gameplay will allow. It still gets weird when you want to liquidate the collective personal property of dozens of people who made a living murdering other people.

              1. Ardyvee says:

                Actually, why can’t we delegate this to our followers? It’s something that I’ve been waiting for a while now. I do understand that weight limits serve as a way to set the pace for the game (loot until fool, go back home, sell and quest stuff, go back out), but it seems odd, specially with games such as Fallout and TES that we can’t ask this to our followers. Specially when Fast Travel is a thing. Torchlight did it, and the second one even let you buy potions. It meant you could just take a second to get rid of any junk you might have and continue adventuring because that’s the fun thing.

        2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          I seriously like your idea. So I’m going to honor you the way we honor the Spoiler Warning cast.

          “I could be relatively easy”
          -Peter H. Coffin, 2016

          If Peter is offended, I apologize. This is more a joke about our running fan community gag and our backhanded ways of showing affection than it is about pointing out a typo.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I wasn’t even referring to the “selling guns to clothing vendors” problem. I was just referring to the problem of merchants having a trade deficit with you. They want to sell stuff to you for money, not buy stuff from you.

        1. MrGuy says:

          Right. I get that. My thought on it is that it’s a natural outgrowth of same trade-verisimilitude-for-expedience decision to let you sell anything to anyone, regardless of whether they’d realistically want that or not.

          There’s no real reason for a doctor to want burned books. There’s also no reason he’d have 100 caps on hand to pay for them. But it’s a ton easier for your inventory management to let you offload at least a little of your hoard to every merchant that you meet, rather than petulantly only allowing certain specialists to have the means and desire to buy.

          1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

            Especially in survival mode.

            I hadn’t quite thought of it that way but its so obvious now that you point it out. Its all the same design decision.

            1. I think Skyrim did it better, in that merchants mostly bought stuff related to what they themselves marketed until you leveled up Speech high enough to get the perk that let you sell anything to anyone, presumably because you were skilled enough to persuade them to buy it anyway.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                From a verisimilitude standpoint, I always liked to sell stuff to the Khajiit caravans in Skyrim. Their wandering made them seem more willing to accept random loot, as they’d have more places to sell it.

                I think Fallout 3 has folks like this wandering about the Wasteland. Does Fallout 4?

                1. There’s Carla and Doc Whats-his-name, but those are the only two I’ve seen.

          2. Loonyyy says:

            It’s true, but it’s a bit messed up when it’s relatively easy to get all of a merchant’s money selling them stuff they don’t need, that’s essentially junk. It doesn’t ruin the game, but there are other limitations that are still imposed like vendor currency limits.

            Just having a bonus is neat, The Witcher 3 does that, as do some other games, but The Witcher 3 also has the problem where all the vendors are miles away from each other. Combining it with the system of the lootbox being everywhere helps with that, but then that’s not great for immersion/survival mode etc.

            Just adding a little more traffic can help, because all of these games have this same problem. I sell a bunch of trash to a vendor, take all their money, and then I walk away, forget that I’ve visited that recently (Game time wise) and check on them again. They still have no money, they have a bunch of trash level loot, and they sell better stuff, and nobody else ever seems to visit them.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        What bugs me is that they try for this half assed approach of merchants having limited funds,but then allowing you to sell everything to everyone.Do one or the other.Preferably,make it so that everyone can buy everything,with unlimited budget,but if you really want “realism” make it so that only specific people want to buy specific items,and in limited quantities.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          Alternatively, they could have a single merchant somewhere with sufficiently hefty cash reserves. It should be possible to cook up a character concept wacky/psychotic enough to want all of the things and have all of the money to hoard them. With the current fast travel system, getting to this weirdo wouldn’t be an outrageous hassle.

          Oh, wait. They did this exact thing before — in Morrowind.

        2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          It could be that they want you to at least put some thought into either 1) Conserving what you carry, or 2) Making rounds.

          I generally download a richer merchants mod and I find that its never terribly long before I start to have more money than the game probably intended. Not that it stops me from downloading richer merchant mods.

          1. galacticplumber says:

            I very quickly get more money than the game likely intended NORMALLY. Early areas in fallout games are veritable honey pots of easy value. To put this in perspective literally the only things I’ve ever lacked enough money to get in early fallout 3 were house upgrades, and unique stuff like blueprints. Everything else comes easily and in fairly real quantities.

      4. djw says:

        I am ready for games to get rid of the infinite bag of loot holding and let us get on with our lives without having to pick up every damn piece of trash to sell later.

        I liked the way Witcher 1 did this. You had N slots on your outfit where you could fit weapons (where N varied from outfit to outfit, but was always <4). You also had a small amount of room in your backpack for junk, but no where near enough room to pick up more than a pittance.

        If you could haul it back to a merchant then you could sell it, but there really was no point in making multiple trips.

        In Witcher 1 stuff would stay on the floor forever, if I recall correctly, so if you have severe OCD you can still make many many trips, but this was enough of a hassle that I did not bother (and I usually do have loot OCD). IMO a decay mechanism to represent looters picking stuff up after you leave would be a good way to solve this, and make your computer work faster, just so long as plot critical items don’t decay.

    2. krellen says:

      You aren’t the merchants’ customer. You’re their supplier. Who else is out there murderhoboing to gather up all the random crap they sell to everyone else?

      1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        This is a good point. And we see caravans. There could be a network of traders that help vendors sell off the stuff thats wrong for their store and buy the stuff that is right for it.

        Would be nice if we were in any way privy to that, especially in this game where we can have our own vendors in our settlements.

        Probably makes extra sense in locations where there are a variety of vendor types.

        Also if there was any game where they should restrict resale by type for each merchant, it would be this one since it would make creating your own settlement based strip malls that much more rewarding.

      2. Shamus says:

        I love thinking of it this way, which is completely ruined by the fact that your character always gets a (totally needless) like of dialog to initiate shopping:

        “I’ve got a few minutes to browse.”

        “Lemme see what you’ve got.”

        “Sure. I’ll take a look. Maybe pick something out.”


        1. djw says:

          That line of dialogue is worse than useless. It makes me want to shoot the merchant every time I stupidly waste 15 seconds of my life saying “I’ve got time to browse”.

          Get me the damn store interface!

          1. I desperately want the thing from Dragon Age: Inquisition where you can just click on the storefront to immediately go to trade interface without having to interact with the friggin trader. ZOMG.

            I actually got to a point in my most recent playthrough where I’d wind up selling my thousands of rounds of ammo and vast piles of chems in order to BUY UP ALL OF THEIR JUNK FOR MY SETTLEMENTS. Talk about getting weird game dissonance. I’m used to selling off junk in order to buy ammo and heals, NOT the other way around.

            I eventually started putting general trader merchants in my settlements so I had a ready-on-hand source of replenishing junk that I didn’t have to go loot and haul around. Pick up the “find extra ammo in containers” perks and you very soon have a basically infinite source of cash. Never loot coffee cups again.

  3. slipshod says:

    The moment that completely ended the game for me was when, during the foray into Kellogg’s mind via the Memory Den device, Kellogg remarks something to the effect of, “maybe this was the old man’s plan all along,” to indicate that Shaun set him up to be killed by the protagonist because he/she would seek revenge for his/her dead spouse.

    Pause. At the time of said killing/kidnapping, Shaun was a baby. Commence utter breakdown of plot.

    Or, I guess, if Kellogg’s comment was strictly in reference to his rooming with synth-Shaun in Diamond City, maybe the real Shaun would have been old enough to orchestrate it. Still.

    1. James Porter says:

      I think it’s the latter, but I thought there was another line from that scene that did come before stealing Shaun. Something like “The old man never told me why I was doing this, ah well” but I couldn’t find it.

      1. slipshod says:

        Think I found it: “I never knew why we didn’t just refreeze the rest of them, but we had our orders. I guess the old man didn’t want so many loose ends.”

        Even worse than I remembered.

        1. James Porter says:

          Yeah thats it! That screams a rewrite to me, personally. I wonder if the Father stuff came later, and the institute had just a normal old guy leader.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            It would have to be a different old guy of course because Father was a baby in that scene.

            1. I should feel bad for not noticing this, but I totally didn’t listen to anything Kellogg said during that entire scene. So I don’t.

            2. Fists says:

              Oh wow, I didn’t catch that either. It’s easy enough to write it off as being about some other guy but I think it’s pretty clear who the person writing the line was referring to. Not to mention why scientists would be against loose ends, unless the institute has always been pure evil.

              1. Fists says:

                Actually, Kellogg also refers to him living in diamond city with the kid as “part of the old man’s plan”, maybe the best explanation is actually that Father isn’t your son Shaun, he’s just some obscenely sadistic old bastard who stole and murdered your kid because he wanted an arch-nemesis.

                We’ve all been played for fools.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  So thats another instance of the game cheating, referring to two different directors as “the old man”

                  And you’re in Kellogg’s memories too at the time. At no point does he think “And there he is, the director as a baby” in the cryo scene nor does he think “I always found it weird that the old man would have me drag around a robot child duplicate.” If he’s been working for the Institute that long, its unlikely that he doesn’t know.

                  1. slipshod says:

                    Honestly, I doubt the game is referring to two different people; Bethesda just can’t write (or comes up with set pieces prior to the story and forces the writers to create a plot around them).

                    1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

                      Yeah. I was trying to be generous but you’re right. It is more likely that they forgot. Though the only way I can see them forgetting in this situation is if they hadn’t originally planned this twist. Maybe this was just supposed to be a married couple or the baby was going to be used for something else. Then when they decided to go with Shaun is The Father, they forgot to rewrite this scene.

              2. Wide And Nerdy says:

                I only just caught it too, because in the scene where you get that exposition, you still don’t know anything about Shaun and his real age. Though everybody in the universe called the “Shaun has aged” twist and probably most people also assumed that Shaun would turn out to be a villain* we might not have specifically called that Shaun was the 60 year old director (I don’t know why people are saying 80 here. Shaun refers to being taken 60 years ago IIRC and his chronological age would be something north of 210, so 80 doesn’t work in any case).

                *I assumed that Shaun would have been turned into some science experiment by the institute or possibly a merc or the right hand man. So at least the “he’s the guy in charge” part of the twist surprised me.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      For me it was the whole Memory Den sequence plain and simple. It’s a useless, purposeless godawful blind application of tropes that fail to create any empathy for the character and break any flow the game might have by trapping the player in a sequence of boring, non-interactive scenes that add nothing interesting to either the gameplay or the lore and what little information the PC needs might have been as well handed to them on a piece of paper or a reading on a computer terminal.

      1. Sadly it’s also *the best exposition delivery in the game*. Does it fit the gameplay style? No, but for an “in his own words” type of storytelling it’s pretty competent, and it has emotional delivery that the rest of the main plot lacks or does so badly it’s downright bizarre.

        It’s roughly equivalent to listening to a series of holotapes to find out about what happened, it’s just all squodged together without any breaks. But you can also skip past most of it, thank goodness.

    3. htmlbanjo says:

      What bums me out is what keeps getting said over and over: there’s so many interesting ways to fix all this, and they constantly back off right before a billion interesting things could happen.

      Maybe Kellogg was the first Courser. Maybe he’s a synth with the memories of the original Kellogg, similar to Nick. Something about him going through some constant cycle where he keeps re-kidnapping the synth Shaun. Like maybe Father’s punishing him in some Promethean fashion, and he (Father)’s decided now that he’s dying, he wants to allow your character to end the cycle. It’d be selfish, but way less ridiculous-selfish than what we actually get.

      E.g., what really destroyed it for me, is the scene on the roof of C.I.T. where he comments that letting you out was an experiment of sorts. I get that Vault Tek scientists were all morally bankrupt, but he acts like he simultaneously cares and just sort of lets you out on whimsical curiosity now that he’s dying. Father-Shaun makes James from F3 look amazing by comparison, and there’s a guy that left you to get killed by the overseer because he got the itch to work on his old experiment again.

      Bethesda just can’t seem to do MacGuffins right. Like they start you off saying you’re looking for the Ark of the Covenant, and you get to the final level, and it’s just Toht’s face melting off for no reason, no Ark or any explanation. Later you find a terminal that explains it was hot out that day.

  4. Adrian Burt says:

    We should give this game a Goldun Riter award.

    1. AJax says:

      Highly in favor of.

      And no, the dull companions doesn’t mean Bethesda have improved their writing considering just how utterly horrible some of it is in this game. In case someone brings that up as a defense.

  5. Gruhunchously says:

    I was under the impression that this game was supposed to have a better story than Fallout 3. At least Fallout 3 had the decency to wait until the half-way mark before it fractured and fell to pieces. Who are these writers at Bethesda, and why is it so difficult for them to meet the baseline of competence at RPG storytelling?

    1. James Porter says:

      I gotta say, looking back with the sensitivities I have now, Fallout 3 actually may be worse than I remember it being. It’s like when Rutskarn talked about rethinking the vampire quest, and how its not actually that good (Like seriously? The moral is that we should respect cannibals because it’s a metaphor for being gay? what?). Or how they are completely unable to deal with issues of sex without being gross. I mean Oblivion is this weird sexless boring land, but Fallout 3 feels really juvenile. And just how it treats nuclear war as something cool and awesome, like blowing up Megaton, Liberty Prime chucking nukes, ect.

      I agree with a lot of the issues with Fallout 4, but at least those are only structural issues. Things don’t make sense because they didn’t come together right, instead of mishandling sensitive details that may be just actual offensive, and not just offensive to the original Fallouts. Like I kinda don’t blame Japan for removing the option to blow up Megaton now.

      Course I am talking more about the world and tone, but I think it’s relevant.

      1. MrGuy says:

        I take the opposite perspective.

        Fallout 3’s greatest sin, to me, is the lack of a convincing hook to hang their plot on. Dad disappeared, and I guess I should find him, and maybe help him with his nonsensical machine maybe?

        The rest of FO3, to me, is not bad in relation. I don’t like what they did with the BoS, but at least they make sense in this world for this plot. The relationship between the BoS, the Enclave, and scientists working with the purifier may be kind of dumb, but it’s at least consistent. It doesn’t cheat. Everyone knows their role and, for the most part, plays is relatively straight for the main quest. We’ve hashed out multiple times on this site why the idea of the purifier makes no sense in this world, but all the in-game factions seem to agree it’s a big deal and behave accordingly. For example, the BoS was in to help the purifier from day one, but then abandoned it because most of the scientists left after James left, but still believe it’s a Big Deal and are totally up for recapturing it once you convince them it can work now.

        Fallout 4 is the opposite. It has a very straightforward hook from the jump – find your missing son. And as a way to string a game together, it’s a lot stronger as motivation than anything you get in FO3.

        But the game cheats like crazy about the main plot. It’s not that the factions have goals that we disagree make sense (a la “the purifier is super important”). It’s that they’re not given strong goals at all (except for the Railroad, and they’re really only defined by their opposition to another group). Major elements of the main plot don’t line up, and major factions flip flop on what’s important and what they stand for in ways that the game can’t bother to explain. Some of it is to protect their “big reveal” (as Shamus points out here), but some of it really feels like they just never bothered to try to give their major factions a consistent point of view.

        I prefer FO3’s consistent plot with a weak motivation over FO4’s strong motivation driving us through a mismash plot that won’t even play by its own rules.

        Regarding Arefu, agree it was very weak (probably because it was trying so hard to be deep and didn’t know how to do it well), but I’d argue the sidequests/locations in both games are a mixed bag. Anndale was a fun creepy town, the Republic of Dave felt exactly like a crazy Fallout 1/2 location, I even sort of thought Oasis was interesting (how do you deal with “would you please kill me” as a somewhat reasonable request?) FO4 has its own better and worse ideasm though to me it feels like there are less interesting locations (probably because they wanted the settlements to be a big part of the world).

        1. Incunabulum says:

          I believe that FO4 makes FO3 look better retroactively.

          1. I don’t stop there; I’ve said before that Fallout 4 makes every Bethesda RPG look better in retrospect…except maybe Battlespire, though.

  6. Chris Davies says:

    So you guys are about 4 hours in to the game now, and that’s all it has taken to encounter enough jank to realise that the plot has more holes than swiss cheese. Granted, I think all of you have played the game before, but I only played through this stuff once and most of the things you’re saying also occurred to me.

    The thing that baffles me though is, why is it that Fallout 4 with its incredibly laughable plotline has somehow persuaded a larger percentage of its audience to follow through with the plot from start to finish than New Vegas? I’m basing this on the steam achievements delta between people who earned the most common achievement (i.e. they actually started the game they bought) and people who earned one of the achievements for ending it.

    For myself, I abandoned the game probably about 75% of the way through. I really didn’t find anything about the game particularly engaging, and I was finding myself increasingly impatient sitting in the load screens, and eventually decided I had better things to do with my time. I think it’s fair to say that the plot is garbage, and really is only a thin veneer over the core game of shooting things and melting down their loot for needed components. Surely people who enjoy this game aren’t in it for the plot, while people who enjoy New Vegas are vastly more likely to be. For all the stick they’re given (and probably deserve) for the horrible writing, do Bethesda fundamentally understand something about what makes a game engaging that I just don’t understand or appreciate?

    1. Kalil says:

      As someone who quite liked FO:NV but never completed it, my answer would be that “there’s so much interesting to do in NV that it’s easy to get sidetracked until you lose track of/interest in the main plot”. I never got particularly far in the main quest, despite clocking well over a hundred hours into the game. They succeeded wildly at creating a world that’s fun to explore and play around in, which can’t help but detract from plot completion, however well written it is.

      1. Tizzy says:

        I’d say it’s one of the strengths of NV’s writing. It sets it up so that there is a clear exposition of the stakes and a good reason why your involvement can make a difference.

        But at no point does it force your hand in getting involved. If it makes sense for your character, you can elect to sit on the sidelines. It will not diminish the sense of impending doom baked into the setting. But at no point will you feel like the game is berating you for not moving ahead.

        It took me years before I went back and finished the game. I was perfectly fine will just exploring around.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Another factor is that NV is an older game. This may seem counterintuitive at first but I’m willing to bet the percentage of people who have beaten the game went down over the years, and this is probably true of other, especially AAA, titles. There’s a big initial rush of people who buy the game on release (or even before), many of whom launch it immediately and play through it quickly…. and then as the price drops and/or the game goes on following sales a lot of people will grab it because it’s a known title that they’d kinda want to play eventually. Often the game will join an extensive backlog. There are also people who have played through the game either on a loaned copy, somebody else’s Steam account/console or (most commonly I assume) pirated, bought it some time later and never bothered to finish it again.

    2. Andy_Panthro says:

      For me, the New Vegas plot finished with killing Benny. After that, I accidentally started a fight with Caesar and killed a hundred legion dudes, and then I felt like I’d kinda finished the game. I really struggled with the motivation to finish the main quest after that (but I did manage it, even if there were a few very buggy moments in the NCR path).

      1. MrGuy says:

        It is a little weird to fear “OMG, what will happen when the Legion attack the dam?” when I’m mowing down battalions of them single handed. I mean, if the NCR can’t handle these guys, how will they possible hold the dam without me?

        But then you get the counter that, if you go the other way, you’re mowing down NCR troops just as easily. How could they ever hope to stop the legion?

        It’s a battle of redshirts vs. stormtroopers.

    3. Destrustor says:

      I never officially finished the game.
      I sided with the minutemen, and when I met Shaun and he offered me to join him I flatly said “no” over and over, on the logic that all these settlements I’d built needed me more than my well-off, estranged, safe son.
      We parted on mostly-amicable ways, but then the institute attacked the castle, and everyone wanted to blow up the institute and forced me into that quest.
      I decided that turn of events made no sense for anyone involved, and the decision to kill my son ran counter to everything my character had done up to that point, and ended my game there.
      In my headcanon, my character stopped pursuing Shaun to focus on rebuilding humanity the only way he knew how, and the institute kept doing whatever they did in the shadows. Maybe that meeting even set up the foundations of a possible peace or whatever.

      Kind of sad that the only way I could have a satisfying conclusion to that game was to give up 90% of the way through and fanfic the rest into something decent.

  7. Couscous says:

    I feel guilty selling junk to merchants because I should be hoarding it all in case I need it instead of converting the junk into caps.

    1. Axe Armor says:

      I’ve managed to avoid that guilty feeling by literally never selling junk. Or armor. Or guns. Even the pipe guns. I had a trunk full of pipe guns, because WHAT IF I NEED THEM. That’s a different kind of guilt though; more of a “what am I doing with my life” guilt.

      Anyway, because of that I was really poor until I started selling drugs.

      1. About the only things I sell for cash are ammo and chems. I generally don’t have storage space for weapons or armor I’m not wearing.

        1. I’m pretty much the exact opposite. I spend a ton of time playing New Vegas and I probably spent about 10 minutes earlier maxing the condition of 7 or 8 armors/pre-war outfits that I’m never going to use simply because I didn’t have perfect-condition versions of them already.

      2. GloatingSwine says:

        I didn’t sell anything in Fallout 3 or 4 because there’s nothing good to buy.

        There’s literally one item in F4 worth purchasing, Overseer’s Guardian. Nothing else. Fallout 3 was even lighter on things worth buying, you buy the house stuff from Moira and what else do you need money for ever?

        1. Ammo so you keep from getting loaded down with random loot.

          Wait, you’re talking about CAPS…uh, a symbol to show how badly you’ve broken the economy?

          Link related: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=510841419

          I should point out that my highest amount so far in that game is 140% of that figure.

          1. GloatingSwine says:

            Who needs to buy ammo?

            I mean apart from people who didn’t realise that automatic weapons are pointless and broken?

            By the midgame of F4, even on old Survival where everything had double health and took half damage, I was wandering round with thousands and thousands of rounds of every ammo type and one or two shotting everything with a .38 hunting rifle anyway because stealth is captain broken. (Wear shadowed armour and have sneak skill/books and as long as you’re in any shadow at all, even the shadow of a single tree ten metres away in broad daylight, and you are invisible and getting a ridiculous attack multiplier on every hit)

  8. James Porter says:

    So I’ve been playing a bit ahead of you guys(mainly cause I’m actually enjoying Fallout 4 for the first time, but also because I want to be a part of the discussion) But that infinite loading bug is really making this hard on me. I’ve been playing on survival, so a quick reboot will send me like 30 mins. and halfway across the map ago, and its not fun! Like I just did the Silver Shroud and loved it, but man it wasn’t fun when it stalled on me when I went back to Goodneighbor.

    Anyway, since we are at the part where we care a lot about Kellogg, I can’t wait for the discussion about how nothing about him makes sense, and how it is really weird that he is from the NCR. That last detail I really want to hear a discussion about, since it feels like it should be this big important detail, since Bethesda must know that there is a divide in the fanbase between the original games and Fallout 3. What I kind of wanted, weirdly enough, is to see Bethesda’s take on making those two sides get along. But as it is, it feels like an oddly specific detail that goes nowhere, and kind of feels a little patronizing. Not really, but I can’t think of a better word. Him being from the west doesn’t really inform his character that much, he could have technically been from anywhere and it would have been just as relevant.

    1. James Porter says:

      Oh, and Mumbles forgot about the Preston Garvey Impersonator… he isn’t a synth, but his is pretty funny

    2. They did an update like 2 days ago where it’s now supposed to give you a save file if you exit the game, so you SHOULD be able to continue from where you just were even on Survival now.

      1. James Porter says:

        That should be the case, but its not. See the actual update adds something called an “Exitsave” that deletes itself after the game starts up again. The thing is, you only get an Exitsave if you quit to the main menu, just closing out of the game doesn’t work. It seems to be more designed so you can leave the game and do something, without creating the checkpoint a bed would.

        I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t make an Exitsave if you have to task manager the game closed from infinite loading. The feature is a step in the right direction though.

    3. Fists says:

      Your game is hanging on loading screens between areas? Mine was doing that a lot then I went into event viewer (A windows tool, should be able to find it in start bar search or control panel) and found a “DistributedCOM error” that was coinciding with the crash, I did some googling about the error and seem to have fixed it by finding the CLSID and APPID in regedit and changing their permissions. Might be worth looking into.

  9. JackDaDipper says:

    A cereal killer? Is Kellogg partners with screw Kai Leng? Are they going to come out together and form some kind of moronic assassin version of the Mega Powers?

  10. Artur CalDazar says:

    Regarding Kellog not aging, the Institute hasn’t cured, but has a damned effective treatment for aging, Shaun just doesnt like it because its not real humanity, but somehow the synths are even though…
    Wow, Shamus has a point here. A lot of this swings back into the hazy treatment of the past, things feel (from the way people refer to them and the way the majority of people would assume thing to play out as a result) like they happened not long ago but are lifetimes old, and the reverse as well.

    Is the Plot Hole Shuffle better or worse than everything instantly being absurd? It feels better at the time.

    The synth related quest mumbles mentions that is about replacing people is a quest I really like. It shows the Institutes attitudes/motive and general interaction with people, shows how the synths they use feel about their role, and it’s just interesting.

    1. stratigo says:

      Shawn is such a giant human supremecist that he’s denied longevity to his people.

      His computer explains it if you read it. Not sure if shamus ever did. It’s shoddy patch to justify why the institute doesn’t make their members immortal, and it makes Shawn into an even bigger jackass.

    2. Writiosity says:

      Just a shame you can’t do anything about those synths you find. In one case there are two guys and one actually tells you he’s a synth and asks for your help killing the real one. In the other case, they just fight until one dies, at which point… nothing. You can’t ask them about it, they don’t talk about it, they just wander off into the wastes.

      It’s like it never happened, and that’s REALLY bad storytelling right there. Show me this interesting thing, then just wave it away like it never happened. Thanks, Beth. As Shamus and others have mentioned, they keep teetering on the edge of something interesting, then back away before it can happen.

  11. ehlijen says:

    I think Josh went out the wrong door (onto the roof) and that’s why he missed the trigger spot.

    1. James Porter says:

      I think you are right! But then I must ask “Why is there a door to the roof? I never found anything up there”

      1. Gruhunchously says:

        It’s a superfluous door that the the quest doesn’t register as an exit to trigger it’s next stage. One gets the impression that the writers, NPC scripters, and level designers never spoke to each other beyond what was absolutely necessary.

        1. MrGuy says:

          I’d agree that’s the likely reason, but it doesn’t explain it completely to me. The problem is deeper than “going out the wrong door misses the event.” It’s that “going out the wrong door triggers some things and not others.”

          Done properly, there should be one “now we’re going to Kellog’s house!” event trigger in the game. Nick’s movement and dialogue should both cue off that same event – once we’re going to Kellog’s house, Nick should start moving towards there, and dropping his “Kellog’s house is over this way” patter.

          But that’s NOT what happens. For some reason, Nick MOVING to Kellog’s house requires you to walk through one specific door. But Nick TALKING ABOUT going to Kellog’s house just requires you to go outside. Different parts of Nick’s behavior trigger in different ways.

          That’s extremely slopping programming. There shouldn’t be two different triggers, and this video shows exactly the reason why – it shouldn’t be possible for Nick’s dialogue and actions to get out of sync like this. It’s even arguably harder to do it this way than to do it the right way.

          This is much less “the level designer and the scripter didn’t talk” and more “we thought it was a good idea to script dialogue and action for the same quest in two different ways by two different people who didn’t talk.”

          1. ehlijen says:

            I don’t think either door is the trigger. I think there is a spot on the map just outside the ground floor door that triggers the next bit of Nick moving as soon as the player moves into it (Nick started jabbering again before Josh entered the door to go back inside).

            Likely this is so that Nick doesn’t run off until the player attention has returned to the screen after the loading screen, but due to the fact that the location is in that little hallway, won’t naturally occur if the player happens to use the other door and approach Nick from a different direction.

            I was actually trying to tell Josh through the screen to just walk into the little hallway when it became obvious Nick was stuck in the video, but I agree that it was an oversight not to account for the other door when designing this trigger.

            1. Pax says:

              Agreed. Nick’s dialogue is probably set by the quest state – a lot of stuff in these game is controlled by which step of the quest you’re on, even invisible quests – and the trigger volume set up outside his front door is how he knows to start walking. Even if you run to his front door before he gets there and out into the alley, Nick is always standing that same place, and you load looking at him. They’re trying to control the players eye, which is admittedly hard sometimes, and in this case they were dumb and didn’t lock down all their options.

            2. Chris Davies says:

              Incidentally, that’s almost certainly why Nick’s door is recessed in a pointless alley, so you’re forced to walk through the trigger volume.

              I guess no one remembered they put a back door in the place, and by the time QA noticed it was too far down the issue list for anyone to care.

    2. lurkey says:

      Yeah, I quit through the roof door too and got the same problem. And then later I came back to Nick’s office, ignored him and Piper, grabbed his detective quest and soon realized I cannot draw my weapon anymore and the only way to fix it was to turn in the main quest to Nick. Oh, and if you leave Fort Cereal after mini-nuking Kellog in the face not via elevator, BoS’s big entrance doesn’t trigger either.

      If writers, scripters and level designers did talk to each other, I imagine it was in hurrs and durrs.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Ha, yes, that’s fun to do, isn’t it? I tried it for the first time just yesterday, and it took two mininukes at point-blank range in VATS to finish him off. First one only took 75% of his health! – I mean, I know I’m abusing the VATS crazy damage reduction, but I don’t know what is his excuse.

  12. Somniorum says:

    Please put the pompadour on Valentine.

    Please tell me it’s possible to put the pompadour on Valentine, and then put the pompadour on Valentine. I dearly want to see what he looks like with tall-hair.

    1. I don’t think you can actually put Nick in different clothes.

      1. Scourge says:

        Everyone can.

        On the PC version you just gotta go to their inventory, give them the new outfit, and press T.
        Viola. They equip it, and armor.

        1. Chris Davies says:

          Nah, valentine is special. Since he has a unique model, he can only wear his default clothes. I suspect Strong is the same, but I never picked him up as a companion.

          1. GloatingSwine says:

            You can get special armour bits for Strong. There’s usually one or two lying around a supermutant dungeon.

  13. Hermocrates says:

    Well, Akavir is pretty mysterious.

    I see what you did there, Rutskarn (・´з`・)

  14. Duoae says:

    I don’t want to argue with you (and I know you don’t want to argue with me) but this is how I put the story together (It’s still nonsensical!):

    – Kellogg (original) picks up baby Shaun and re-freezes you.
    – You get out and find dogmeat.
    – You leave dogmeat at Sanctuary
    – You find Nick and then the house where Kellogg has recently stayed with 10yr old Synth Shaun (since synth Shaun is a carrot to dangle in front of you)
    – Dogmeat magically shows up despite you not having seen him in over 40 hours of exploring the game world and leads you to Kellogg over miles of wasteland
    – You kill Kellogg and take his memory enhancer
    – Looking at the memory enhancer you see that Kellogg was a cyborg (remember when they were cool?)
    – You kill a special synth to get into the Institute
    – You get into the institute and find that a) you were looking for 10 yr old synth shaun; b) real Shaun is 80yrs old and about to die, c) Kellogg was given enhancements that prolong human life but which are considered highly unstable and unethical by the institute scientists (they say most subjects died during the procedures) so no one else has them; d) The institute had no reason to kill your husband or re-freeze you as apparently it wasn’t necessary to kill Shaun, just do a scan or some blood samples on him; e) Shaun is a sadistic old man who unfroze you ‘just because he wanted to see what you would do’ and made 10 yr old synth Shaun for the same reason; f) The Institute has no reason to make synths and send them out into the world; g) The synth that went crazy in Diamond city was likely one that had been reprogrammed by the Railroad who, according to the Institute, do not perfectly reprogramme their minds so they are prone to failure and wild extremes (also see the raider boss); h) Synths want to be free and have institute scientists helping them (I say scientists because the main helper is 18 or so and the Railroad has been around for a long time and so have other synths like Nick!) i) Nick’s presence and origin is never explained; j) Piper was right – the Mayor *is* a synth but has no reason to be a synth other than mayoring Diamond city – also, hilarity, he wants to be a special synth but is too fat; k) The Institute has been actively removing any larger political structures in the wasteland for a long time – again for no reason other than they didn’t control them.; L) The institute got and experimented on countless people with the FEV to make local super mutants who apparently can’t reproduce but there are thousands of them. The experiment had no purpose except to see if intelligence could be retained and was stopped because the lead scientist refused to do any further ethical treatment and decided to semi-blow up the lab – causing himself to become a smart super mutant (Not super smart but still quite a lot better than normal super mutants); m) Dr. Lee from Fallout 3 is in the institute (no idea how she made contact when she arrived or got inside!) and is wasting her time with them because she’s not appreciated by anyone…

    You know… that’s a lot to dump on one location and at a single time.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Didn’t Dr. Lee get approached by someone from the Institute in Fallout 3? Pretty sure you catch the tail end of their conversation the first time you get to Rivet City.

  15. modus0 says:

    Kellogg doesn’t age due to the cybernetic implants The Institute placed in him.

    And Bethesda’s writers probably forgot about that when deciding what to do with Real Shaun.

    Kellogg was in Diamond City recently, with 10-year-old Synth Shaun, on orders of Father, so you could track Kellogg down. Why? Because Real Shaun apparently hates the mercenary for murdering one of his parents and has decided that Kellogg’s usefulness is just about done.

    So, as part of his experiment to see how his remaining parent would fare in the wasteland, and what the wasteland would do to them, he engineered things ahead of time so that his parent would learn about, chase down, and almost certainly kill Kellogg or be killed by Kellogg.

    1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

      They probably did, but then they remembered at some point and threw a half hearted explanation into Shaun’s personal terminal “I wish we hadn’t discontinued that research, because I could really use it now” or something to that effect.

      Also, if you say “there has to be a way” Shaun makes a vague mention that there are lengths he could go to “but the cost” or something like that. But I’m guessing they wrote that interaction before they realized what a plot hole it was to have Kellogg’s life extended.

  16. silver Harloe says:

    Really not sure Rutskarn milked the cereal puns enough

    1. Cardigan says:

      There is a cold, stygian pit in Tartarus for you. I guess you could say it’s your… punishment?

  17. Andy says:

    Um, Theory D and Theory F of the second example are the actual truth of the game as written. Ruts is correct. The kid Shaun synth from Special K’s memory, and Nick’s recollection, is the very same one you meet when you enter Instituteland. They were hanging out in DC not THAT long ago (weeks maybe? Not long enough ago that Kellogg has completed his task of killing Virgil) as bait to lure you. And Shaun is the one who lets you out of stasis in the first place, so, yeah, it’s his plan.

    Kellogg even comments in his memories that he figured out it was an elaborate bait setup for “our friend from the Vault.”

    Shaun gets rid of Kellogg (who he doesn’t like), and gets you to the institute so he can set you up as his replacement. Sounds like goals get achieved to me.

    Edit: When does Virgil escape the institute? Given that this PROBABLY happens at pretty close to the end of the DC synth-Shaun hangout ruse (the courser hands him Virgil’s dossier, and leaves with the robokid), if we knew that we’d be able to nail down the chronology of Kellogg being in DC. Is this something that can be gleaned from ingame terminals or something?

    Edit Dos: From a terminal in the institute:

    Entered By: Virgil.B”

    so we know he was still in the Institute eight months before FO4 begins (2287.10.23), thus Kellogg and Synth-kid Shaun were in DC a MAXIMUM of 8 months ago.

    1. Shamus says:

      Like I said, each excuse leads only to more plot holes:

      Shaun came up with a plan to have his parent quietly released from the Vault into a hostile wasteland, about which they know NOTHING. If this was ACTUALLY Shaun’s plan, why wasn’t there a backpack of weapons, meds, and a map to Kellog just outside your cryo-chamber? Shit, why didn’t Shaun just have the Coursers kill Kellog? This is an insane move and it makes no sense.

      Okay, but somehow Shaun just KNEW his parent was going to be an unstoppable killing machine and wasn’t going to curl up and die the moment they got to Sanctuary. He knew that the sole survivor would remember the attack, they would remember Kellog specifically, that they would have the strength and determination to adapt and survive in the wasteland, and that they would be too stupid to conclude that the kidnapping could have been decades or centuries ago. Like everyone else, Shaun has read the script.

      But even if we allow all of that, there’s still the problem that tracking Kellog down is total nonsense that Shaun couldn’t possibly have predicted.

      “Okay. So Mom will pick up Kellog’s trail at Diamond City. Kellog will probably smoke several of his cigars on the way to Fort Hagan. Maybe mom will discover his preference for the brand, and maybe she’ll make friends with a dog that can smell them days/weeks/months later, and then maybe she can find his lair, and maybe after almost a century of remorseless murder Kellog will lose a fight to my mom even though he’s surrounded by synths, he’s in a fortified position, and he knows she’s coming.”

      The more you try to make sense of the story, the more senseless it becomes.

      1. Andy says:

        Can’t deny that it’s utterly insane and unlikely nonsense! I agree it’s horsecrap and there are a million better ways Shaunfather could have done it. I think I was just trying to point out that there are actual explanations the game tries to give.

        So it’s CONFIRMED insanity, rather than speculated insanity :)

        (I’m also a person who DIDN’T read the script, and the twist actually got me to a degree. I didn’t immediately think “BS, I bet it’s been way longer and i’m not looking for a baby.” Lack of genre savvy? Subpar intellect? Dunno.)

      2. Vect says:

        The in-game excuse of Shaun doing all of this as a weird “Social Experiment” of sorts is also pretty dumb. Something about how he wanted to send his parent on a wild goose chase to see what would happen because he’s old and sentimental.

        Also, I think Shaun’s only 60 and not 80.

        1. MrGuy says:

          See, here’s the thing. “This is all the plot of a crazy person!” is the ultimate get out of jail free card for a writer. It can, in theory, explain away almost any writing flaw as “Yeah, that really SHOULDN’T have worked! Can you believe Shaun was foolish enough to take that risk of his whole plan falling apart that way?” The writers can literally blame their shortcomings on a character. We’re not the ones with a nonsensical plot. It’s Shaun’s fault!

          And somehow, they still manage to mess it up. The “track him by his cigars” problem was the bridge too far for me. It’s something that should never have worked. And it’s the single most obvious weak spot in “Shaun’s” plan – having successfully pointed you at Kellog, you’re going to need to find where Kellog is.

          And, the thing is, given the get out of jail free card, they had so much lattitude to throw a contrivance in here. Hell, Shaun could have gone around having synths planting “a little too convenient” diary logs from Kellog on terminals throughout the commonwealth to lead you down the garden path (“Diamond City isn’t safe for me with the boy anymore. I’m going to the Combat Zone to meet up with a contact who says he knows a safe place,” followed by an entry in the Combat Zone reading “Me and Zeke are taking the boy to Goodneighbor…” until they’re ready to actually get you to Kellog’s hideout. Or he could plant various “helpful strangers” to tell you “he went thataway.” Or plant a list of “good spots to hole up” in Kellog’s house with the right place on it, buried somewhere in the middle.

          But no. Someone saw how successful the Arkham games are, and decided that the reason just MUST be the “track someone by a chemical trail in detective mode” mechanic, and thought “I gotta get me some of that in my Fallout.”

      3. Fists says:

        You forgot the most important thing to leave in the care package, a huge pile of steel and “Workshop” zoning so mom can grind some levels.

        Off topic: Why on earth did I just spell mum with an ‘o’, damn American media.

      4. Wide And Nerdy says:

        It makes slightly more sense for Shaun to assume that if its the male Sole Survivor as he’s a war veteran (and the Vault Tec computers would have mention of that since thats why he was picked.) I think its pretty reasonable to assume someone with war experience would have a good shot at adapting.

        Still doesn’t explain why he thought SS would be badass enough to take down elite cyber merc Kellogg who has probably a hundred years of wasteland survival and combat experience by now.

      5. Duoae says:

        Wait, the counter point to “the story makes no sense but is presented this way” is “but it makes no sense”?

        I mean, you guys did FO3 and thoroughly dissected the problems with the water purifier nonsense. We’re talking about Bethesda writers here. Why is this impossible?

        Father’s plan makes no sense and his justifications make no sense. Same as all the other plot points in FO4. But that is just how Bethesda presents them – so they are “true” and not “excuses” in the sense that this is what the writers at Bethesda wrote for us…

        The only thing that made sense to me is that Shaun is just as nonsensical and evil as the rest of the institute – that’s why I shot a dying man on his deathbed.

        1. Shamus says:

          When I say “excuse” I’m just talking about an in-game justification for something. I called them “excuses” because in some cases (like when it turns out that finding Kellog was Shaun’s plan all along) they feel like they were tacked-on later.

          It’s really frustrating because I WANT the story to make sense. When something seems to be a plot-hole, it bugs me. But then I find an explanation, and I get excited. But then it turns into disappointment when I realize it’s only made things worse.

          1. Duoae says:

            Ah, okay. Fair enough. I do feel that trying to make sense of the senseless is just going to result in a migraine, though.

            It’d be lovely if Bethesda put any sort of effort into their scripts since oblivion (I don’t remember that one being so excruciatingly bad!) but it only seems like they’ve gotten worse over the years.

            Next release will just be characters saying what happened to them but none of their experiences will tally – sorry of like the warp in the west.

            1. Fists says:

              I think oblivion got by because every questline was basically insulated from the rest of the game, rather than joining them all at the hip. Plus the setting (Healthy, longstanding civilization) is lower maintenance than wasteland. The stupidity is still there though, people still doubting the oblivion crisis while there’s a portal spilling daedra all over their front lawn.

            2. modus0 says:

              I do feel that trying to make sense of the senseless is just going to result in a migraine, though.

              Hmmm, I wonder if this is the cause of Shamus’s migraine issue…

        2. Pax says:

          That’s funny, I shot a dying man on his deathbed because I wanted his unique lab coat. Ah well, the apple, falling from trees, not much distance, etc….

          1. Duoae says:

            Haha. Well, costumes in this game peaked for me early on. Especially given that it’s difficult to get matching armour sets of the higher end gear without farming enemies and because the bonuses from the legendary system become useless after around level 25.

      6. Writiosity says:

        Alas, this is what happens when you give a copy of the script to everyone in the game/movie/book/whatever. No one and nothing needs to make sense because they’re all privy to info you’re not. Terrible writers are often guilty of this heh.

      7. Are we sure Reginald Cuftbert didn’t come up with this plan? It sounds like one of his….

      8. GloatingSwine says:

        It all makes me think that during writing the reveal was supposed to be that the player was actually a synth, because all the problems with timeline go away then, and there can be a reason for the breadcrumb trail back to the Institute (they’re testing a new way to infiltrate Synths rather than murder and replace but want to recall them to see how it worked), for why Father was so sure you would survive the wasteland (because you are an unstoppable killing machine), for why Codsworth is alone at Sanctuary and hasn’t run out of fuel in 200 years (because the Institute cleared it out as part of the experiment and left him there as your handler, he’s actually new), and makes the player care about the core “what to do with the Institute” conflict because it’s directly relevant to them.

        But half the internet guessed that before the game was out and so they scrambled to change it despite that making everything much much stupider.

        It’s the same mistake DC made in the ’90s with Monarch. They set up this new villain with loads of hints that it was actually Captain Atom, then everyone guessed it was going to be Captain Atom and they wanted it to be a surprise so they changed it at the last minute so it was Hawk and literally none of the buildup made sense any more and it was a disaster (even by the standards of ’90s comics).

    2. Pax says:

      The only other evidence of Kellogg in the wasteland, as far as I know, is a recording of him threatening University Point prior to it being wiped out by synths. That was two years prior. I don’t believe any of Virgil’s antics are dated.

      To throw wacky theories after other wacky theories, in addition to Kellogg being set up by Father to get taken down by you (why he thought his pre-war parents could take down a merc with like 80 years of field experience, I’m not sure), I’ve seen suggestions that Dogmeat is actually a synth dog, which is why he both is healthy-looking and able to lead you directly to Kellogg.

      edit: (ah, ninja’d on several points by the man himself)

      1. Andy says:

        Also there’s theory that the CROWS are all synths and institute spies (which is why they still look unmutated). There are NPCs that definitely are of that opinion.

        1. guy says:

          There’s a terminal entry mentioning that they made crow synths, too.

          1. Cardigan says:

            I like this theory because it is dumb. It is so dumb that I can believe the Institute actually did it.

  18. Phantos says:

    They wanted to make Nick a SMRT detective, and the only way they could think to do that was to make the mystery stupidly obvious.

    Bethesda doesn’t know how to write intelligent dialogue. They only know how to make different levels of idiot. So they just made Nick the smartest dumbass in the Commonwealth.

  19. Andrew says:

    Surely it’s “Mandelbrot”, not “Mandelbot”?

    1. Shamus says:

      Fixed, although with all the synths in the game it kind of made for an appealing unintentional pun.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        I’ve been trying to work out if Nick’s the master and, if so, who is the apprentice.

        Excuse B: Nick is a syth.

        1. Fists says:

          You’re the apprentice, you’re the only one with the power to destroy him (literally).

  20. Gen 1 synths (basically terminators) with carbon like shell/skin (by the looks of it most Gen 1s has lost most of their shell, rudimentary AI.
    Gen 2 synths (basically the same as Gen 1) with a rubber like skin, rudimentary AI.
    Gen 2.5 synths (basically the same as Gen 2) with a real personality based/aided AI.
    Cyborgs was at some stage worked on, Kellog is the only known one? Institute abandoned this project similar to how the FEV research was later abandoned.
    Gen 3 synths are built on the molecular/atomic level, designed and template based AI.

    I’m guessing that the scientists at the institute was hoping to put their personality/transfer their personality to a Gen 3 body and thus gain relative immortality and radiation resistance (the chip would help wit the transfer). A Typical Gen 3 synth is probably unable to reproduce (as a security/control measure most likely), and because of this Gen 3’s probably age much slower visually and probably do not age much physically otherwise.

    Kellog started as a human but became machine (very little human left in him) if not physically then at least mentally.
    Nick started as a machine (Gen 2.5 synth failed prototype?) but became more human than Kellog.
    Curie (a companion NPC) is a robot that could get a Gen 3 synth body but seems to not change.

    Also Josh triggering the “what is diamond city” dialog was probably a scripting bug, that line should (IMO) only occur if the player find Nick before having discovered or even been told about diamond city.

    My guess is that Bethesda write the whole plot story, then break it up into chunks, then allow the player to experience parts of those chunks out of order. So you get silly thins like Piper magically writing a paper while not working at the press.
    Bethesda could have instead let her little sister “do all the work” which would fit their dynamic more as big sis is the unreliably “tough gal” while the little sister is the sensible one that runs the press and stuff.
    They could have gone deeper with the relationship between the two sisters, they do cover it a little but only from Piper’s side, what’s missing is dialog options with the little sister.

    The complexity of a Bethesda game is their own downfall sometimes.

  21. Fists says:

    The first two can be explained with one small piece of head canon, just after Shaun was taken from the cryo chamber the institute mook carrying him tripped over a broom and threw him headlong into a wall. Everyone at the institute felt sorry for him growing up with that brain damage so they humour him and tell him he’s the boss of the place to keep him happy.

    I don’t think you’ll find anything that contradicts the idea of Shaun being mentally incompetent, and plenty of stuff that supports it.

    1. So he’s Penultimo from Tropico, just played incredibly straight?

  22. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Here’s an incredibly dumb thing in this episode that you missed; Nick says that Kellogg’s old house is in a part of Diamond City that the security forces don’t really visit.


    1. MrGuy says:

      Yes! I noticed that line too. It’s literally up the conspicuous (and ONLY) set of stairs right outside my office, at the end of a long exposed platform that’s highly visible to one and all. It’s not a dangerous part of town.

      The explanation for this in my head (which may be giving them too much credit) was that the original idea was for Kellog’s place to be deep in the interior of the stadium, behind a locked gate or two, far away from the action. For example, in what might have been one of the bathrooms back when Fenway Park was an active stadium (trust me – they’re harder to find than you’d think), or maybe in one of the locker rooms or some other “player’s only” part of the stadium that’s deliberately kept “separate” from the part of the park fans visit. Then they found in playtesting it took too long to get there from Nick’s office, or Nick kept getting stuck along the way, and decided to move Kellog’s house to somewhere more convenient but didn’t bother changing the dialogue.

      Sounds great in my head until I realize that my explanation would involve Bethesda doing playtesting, and then I laugh at myself for such an implausible theory.

      1. Fists says:

        Also, nearly directly above security. They could probably hear when flushed the toilet.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I think the problem is that somewhere someone lost the concept of things being scaled down for videogames (either due to technical limitations or for simple practicality). We sorta accept that the nameless NPC working the field represents a larger population of farmers going about their business, that the five people, two of whom are holding signs, are “an angry crowd” and a dozen or so soldiers are “an army”. Except here someone is both using the scaling and treating the scaled down content literally. So on the one hand there are “parts of town”, on the other the said town can all be squeezed into a stadium, a large part of which is flooded and which still has ample space for a market, a public square and other amenities.

  23. Targetshopper says:

    There is at least one explanation as to why one person thinks another is a synth. In Goodneighbor there is an NPC who talks about his brother (I think?) who always drank, did chems, and treated his family like crap. But he comes back from the wasteland one day to be a model citizen, and that “just isn’t like him”.

    1. Pax says:

      That’s the father at Warwick Farm. It’s messed up, because I found that place before I went to the Institute, and I had pretty much the same conversation with his daughter. She mentioned how he used to drink and be abusive, but how after a super mutant attack (I think?) he straightened up. She then asked me if I thought it was possible for people to change, and I said sure. Heartwarming moment.

      And then I get to the Institute and find out he was replaced by a synth. Oops.

      1. Cardigan says:

        I really liked that whole situation because it sort of subverted the whole ‘evil clone replacement’ trope, and I actually felt like I was making a complex moral choice in deciding to whether to tell the daughter or not. I mean, it was facilitated in the context of Fallout 4, so it wasn’t all that complex, but I sort of blew it up into a big moment for the character I was playing. So hats off to whomever wrote that whole scenario.

  24. KidneyChris says:

    I know the show is called “Spoiler Warning”, but did you have to put the big reveal *before* the fold in the article (in a bold font)? I was trying to finish the game before watching the show to avoid spoilers, but I couldn’t really miss that one scrolling down the blog’s main page :-(

    I then managed to spoil the “but he was 10 the last time I saw him” twist by scrolling to the bottom of the comments, but that was my own stupid fault for skim-reading as I scrolled :-)

    Guess I may as well watch the series now. Odd way to boost viewer numbers ;-)

  25. Gethsemani says:

    So Shaun’s plan makes no sense, but on my first playthrough I somehow got the feeling that it was sort of the point. Your son, who was taken from you when he was still an infant and has no idea what kind of person you are, decides to save you from the inevitable breakdown of the cryogenic system that is keeping you in suspended animation and give you a chance to find him/survive in the wasteland. Considering the consistently schizophrenic writing of the Institute (are they a well-intentioned shadow organization, a bunch of isolated crazy scientists or pseduo-fascists justifying their murdering with scientific progress? No idea and the writers can’t seem to be consistent about it either) it made sense to me that Father was actually a borderline delusional old man, who got the idea that maybe the parent he never met and who could well be a traumatized, genocidal war veteran could actually be a great successor to him… You know, as opposed to any of the hundreds of scientists that he work with every day and who actually understand the Institute, its’ purpose and the world surrounding it.

  26. psivamp says:

    I killed Shaun my first time through.

    The story was so bland and bad that I wasn’t paying attention to it and I just shot him in the face. I ended my first run of the game siding with the Railroad without Protagonist ever realizing that his son was old and now dead. Then when I took down the Institute, suddenly I have the option to say that child-Shaun is a robot without ever being presented with that idea before.

    1. Fists says:

      I shot him straight up too, but that was because I was trying to play into the role bethesda set out, figured I’d really be in a shoot first ask questions later mind set if it was me. I save scummed afterwards because it didn’t ‘feel’ right, there wasn’t any acknowledgement from anyone that I’d just killed the head of the institute and it just skipped ahead to the end game missions.

      1. Rutskarn says:

        Spoilers: I did exactly the same thing.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      I’m shocked that a game littered with unkillable NPCs would let you do that.

    3. Decius says:

      I shot him after the first conversation because he didn’t have any explanation for why the institute murdered all the other frozen people.

      1. Writiosity says:

        Seems reasonable to shoot him in the face the moment you meet him.


        edit: *sigh* Forgot timestamps don’t work. Skip to 41 minutes.
        edit2: So editing actually changes the embed to a link with the timestamp O_o

  27. Cardigan says:

    I made a mod for myself that maps the “SHAWWNNNN” sound clip from Heavy Rain to a key so I can spam it during conversations in this game. It’s just so fitting.

  28. MrGuy says:

    Other random dumb point re: time.

    The reason they’re able to mess with the time mechanic with Shaun’s age is because you don’t know exactly WHEN you were unfrozen, and how long you were re-frozen for.

    But this is information you really should be able to get, and should really care about. It should absolutely occur to you that you don’t know how long ago Shaun was taken, and so how old a person to look for. And it’s information that should be available, because all the pods are shown as specifically hooked up to computers. A computer would surely log an event like “hey, someone unfroze Nora Smith at 5:22 PM on Thursday June 27th 2162.” You know it. I know it. The american people know it.

    So why, even before we do much else, are we not trying to get that information? Sure, it’s not displayed directly, but surely given how much hacking you learn how to do in this game, you’d eventually pick it up and go straight back to try to find this information. Or trying to find someone who can help you get that information. Heck, I’d run straight back into the vault with Codsworth and see if he could find out for me (and strip him down to parts if I had to in order to get that information).

    Sure, I get that their Big Plot Twist would be ruined if you showed any curiosity about this. Just pointing out that not only are you inexplicably not curious, you’re inexplicitly not curious about data that not only should exist but also not be terribly hard to find.

    1. Fists says:

      That was indeed the first thing I did the first time I played the game, I found one of the terminals in the vault and went looking through it to try and find some dates or info on what happened. It told me “Everybody’s dead Dave”.

    2. Blunderbuss09 says:

      The worse thing is that the computers in the Vault do have that data!

      You can have a look at see that your character had a period of ‘severe heart palpitations’ – obviously you freaking out that your spouse is dead and Shaun was stolen – before going dormant again.

      That right there should give you the exact date but for some reason a facility designed to monitor you over 200 years doesn’t have it. And if not you should be able to find it at the Vault-Ted HQ in the city because we know that all the data is sent to them.

  29. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This is OBVIOUS, because the game showed you being re-frozen after the kidnapping.
    Instead of working to unravel a mystery, we spend the entire running time waiting for our character to pull their head out of their ass so we can get on with things.

    The best counterexample is the movie predestination.The movie is obvious practically from the start if you know anything about time travel,especially if you read that one story*.So you are just watching people slowly discovering stuff that you knew from the start.But the actors are good,so you dont mind watching them talk about stuff you already know.

    *Its a super spoiler for the movie,so if you dont want to know,dont read anything past the title in this link.

    1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

      Oh it can certainly work that way. You but in that situation, there’s still something you’re eagerly waiting to find out which is “I wonder how this character is going to react when they find out X.”

      And I’m sure you know this but just to say it, it only works with strong characters.

      Yes you can invest your own characterization in a blank slate character like your typical Fallout protagonist, but at that point, if you already know the reveal and you’re in control of the characterization, there is no suspense. So the audience definitely has to be kept in the dark in this type of game.

      But if you knew that, for example, Darth Vader was Luke’s father. If that had been revealed to you in the movie before that famous scene, you could still have the tension of eagerly anticipating Luke’s reaction. Is he going to scream (like he actually did)? Is he going to react with jaded disbelief? Compassion? Temptation?

      In fact they do get some of this type of tension out of a related reveal. We know that Luke and Leia are siblings before that information is revealed to Leia, so we can anticipate her reaction. Sadly, they didn’t pay that one off as well as they could have. It would have been interesting to see her process “Luke is your brother and Darth Vader is your father” at the same time. But the reveal was more focused on “Luke is your brother and you too have the Force.” We could have seen her struggle to embrace the positive part of that revelation.

      1. Cardigan says:

        Really good analogy, and I can’t help but feel as though Fallout 4 could be compared to… other entries in the Star Wars franchise…

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Most definitely.”Hey,X was in the originals too.Slap it in there!What?Doesnt fit?Nonsense!Just slap it in there”

        2. Philadelphus says:

          “No, Cuftbert…I am your son!”

    2. MrGuy says:

      To bring up another famous example in popular culture, the movie The Sixth Sense. The movie is famous for a hyped “wow, I didn’t see that coming!” twist.

      Edit: I’ve decided I don’t need spoiler tags on a 17 year old movie, and putting all the strike tags in is annoying. If you don’t like spoilers, feel free to stop reading here.

      For those who didn’t see the movie, the “twist” is that Bruce Willis’ character is dead the entire time. This isn’t subtle – you see him get shot and be bleeding out at the beginning of the movie. Most of his interactions are with a little kid, who is trying to deal with the fact that he sees dead people who don’t realize that they’re dead.

      You don’t see Bruce Willis die, but you don’t obviously see him recover. It’s just in the next scene, some time has passed, and he seems fine. The kid never tells him that he’s one of the dead people. You just are supposed to sort of accept he’s fine and back to normal. He sort of has interactions with other people, though they never actually have a conversation (I actually give them props for this – the scene at the restaurant with his wife is played really well for not giving away he’s not actually there). They execute the world very well to make it look like he could still be part of it, but actually isn’t. It’s revealed as a big surprise near the end of the movie that he’s been dead the whole time, and that rather than him helping the kid, the kid’s actually the one helping him.

      Personally, this movie never worked for me. Nobody “spoiled” the twist for me – I was just wondering since the first scene “wait – isn’t he supposed to be dead?” and it made me wonder about his interactions with the kid.

      On the other hand, I know quite a lot of people who suspended disbelief well enough to be genuinely surprised, even stunned, by the twist. We watched the same movie, saw the same things, but the story was good enough to pull them back from any doubts about him being alive. I’m told I’m very much in the minority for seeing through the twist.

      It’s not impossible to have a twist that you drop hints (even very unsubtle hints) about very early on, and still surprise quite a lot of people. But it matters deeply how well you handle the story around it.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I went into that movie spoiled and still enjoyed it. Even if you know the twist, there is a full, satisfying story arc of “Bruce Willis helps the kid deal with being a ghost whisperer”. It’s not just that the story is good enough to sell the twist, the story is good enough that it doesn’t need the twist.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Its Bruce Willis.Whats there not to enjoy?

        2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          Thats one of the signs of a really good twist, when the story is fun to rewatch knowing the twist, seeing what you missed the first time.

          One of the reasons Rutskarn is right in the KOTOR season when he says that your twist is worthless if you aren’t hinting at it regularly. It means you’re giving the audience a fair chance to figure it out and you’re producing a work that works after the twist. It goes from shocking reveal to dramatic irony.

        3. Fred B-C says:

          As Shamus identifies, this story cheats to hide the information. The Sixth Sense doesn’t. A good twist plays out sensibly when you know the hidden information. In the Sixth Sense, we see exactly how Willis is fooling himself into believing that he’s just having marital problems with his wife. It’s admittedly not perfect (the anniversary dinner scene in particular is a clear bit of a stretch), but it’s easily good enough.

  30. Sarachim says:

    Speaking of New Reno and prostitutes: If one of them gets hit by a stray shot from your enemies, they all join the fight on your side. There are tons of them, and while hopped up on Jet they’re surprisingly effective. I’ve had them storm the Mordino casino, kill the guards inside, and then remain in there forever. I like to think they took the place over and ran it themselves.

    1. Cardigan says:

      This is now Fallout canon.

  31. Cardigan says:

    …Shaun is Fallout 4’s Illusive Man.

    Think about it.

    – He’s a human supremacist for no adequately explained reason despite working side-by-side with those he hates (synths)
    – He’s dumb. Really dumb.
    – He turned someone into a cyborg.
    – His plans are absolutely nonsensical
    – He may or may not enjoy staring at the sun.

  32. Jeff R says:

    And there is a much better version of the plot that works just fine if they had bothered to put a little effort into it. They could have had your character realize that they have no idea how much time passed and used the dialog system to let them assume it was a little or a lot in relevant conversations, have the motivation for them be focused more on finding out why and getting revenge on Kellogg and whoever sent him if they think it was longer than post-apocalyptic life expectancy, and then drop the first-level twist when they hear about Kellogg being young and with young Shaun (and synth kid Shaun isn’t interesting enough to be worth doing, so let’s change it to synth baby Shaun here.)

    Then put in an unprompted sidequest that can be found if you’re looking for it to find out the truth, maybe a locked/hidden section of Vault 111, and branch two sets of dialog for the meetings with Kellogg and Father based on whether you’ve bothered to find out the truth before meeting them.

    1. Pax says:

      I really wish more games let you dig into option content, figure stuff out, and express player-driven character knowledge as aha moments where you tell the villains you’ve figure out their dastardly plans instead of going blindly into a “twist” you saw coming a mile away. There are not many I can think of, and most of them barely qualify, really.
      – I had a bit of this in the Dragonborn expansion for Skyrim when I met Hermaeus Mora and I was able to say, “Aha! I know who you are!” (as I had been reading books and delving into Elder Scrolls throughout my playthrough, though I imagine that dialogue option is open to everyone.)
      – The final boss of Shadowrun: Hong Kong, where I was able to say, “Aha! I did the research into you! I know your weakness and I banish you forever! Be gone!” (A true case of doing side quests and getting useful knowledge for my efforts, though it wasn’t enough to let me skip the boss fight entirely, just the last of 3 I presume.)
      Other than that? I can’t think of any… I hear STALKER has a seperate ending for if you’re paying attention, but I never played it, so I don’t know for sure…

      1. Cardigan says:

        There’s some of this in New Vegas IIRC, though I can’t remember specific examples. You’re right in that player-driven character knowledge isn’t implemented all that often. I mean, the player can often see twists before they’re coming with the character being ignorant, but I can see how the player could be blindsided if, for example, they went through all the lore/discovery flags without paying attention/figuring it out.

      2. Aspeon says:

        The old visual novel Time Hollow for the DS has an Easter Egg ending if you start the game over after beating it:

        Near the beginning of the game, the villain goes back in time and kills your parents. Replaying the game, you get the option to go confront them, and your side of the conversation goes something like “Hey, I know you! You’re about to kill my parents. Why don’t you not do that?” And then everyone lives happily ever after.

  33. Echo Tango says:

    Re: Stores and unloading junk

    I feel like in the larger settlements like Diamond City, there should be a pawn shop. The game makers are clearly comfortable having separate vendors (noodle robot, baseball bat guy) – why not make one of them a pawn broker? They could be a sleazy person with a gross voice, maybe put them near the town dump, give them zero (or just useless) inventory to sell, but a lot of cash to buy your stuff with. Then the player wouldn’t need to hop from shop to shop, looking for somebody who still has money to buy their crap with.

    Heck, you could take this shop-changing further, and make other shops only able to barter in currency or items they would sell. So, baseball bat guy will trade you his Super Deluxe Titanium Bat Mk III for the caps in your pocket, or he’ll accept a dozen lesser bats from you, but he won’t touch pistols. Make the roving traders or traders in small areas trade in everything, but only have a small selection, and a small or medium amount of caps.

    1. Pax says:

      I wish shops just wouldn’t buy your junk at all. It would sure make you care more about how many caps you’re being offered for a job. As it is, most quest givers should just say:

      “Hey, I know you go around murdering whole buildings and selling everything you find inside. If it’s not too presumptuous, would you go murder everyone in this specific building for me? I could pay you, but it’s a piddling amount compared to what you’re going to make hawking their weapons and armor anyway.”

      I definitely would like some game to try it. Of course, in a Fallout game, at least barter economy makes sense, though Bethesda’s pawn economy doesn’t bare much resemblance to one.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        It would sure make you care more about how many caps you're being offered for a job.

        First they’d have to offer you caps for a job.

        In this episode, we get a character saying “Every cap we agreed on, plus a little bonus” [100 caps received], but Josh was never promised payment. It’s a weird persistent feature of the quest design, no one offers to pay you (and as a result, the “pay me more” dialogs are simply written as “pay me”), but they’ll still pay you once you complete it.

        1. Pax says:

          That is pretty weird, yeah. People never offer to pay you, but if you ask for money, they act like you’re asking for more, when a lower number was never mentioned. And it happens EVERY TIME someone is offering you paid work.

          So if you’re playing a goody-good (or a Bethesda version of one, I guess?) that never asks for more money (Piper liked that; MacCready disliked that), there’s still this implicit understanding that you’re being paid some amount anyway. Be nice if the game bit you in the ass for your assumption at least once.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            People never offer to pay you, but if you ask for money, they act like you're asking for more, when a lower number was never mentioned.

            No, sometimes you can ask for money “I do a job, I get paid”, fail, and be told “You should be doing this for the love of science!” Then you immediately turn in the quest (because it was a fetch quest where you already had the item in inventory) and you get paid, because you always get paid.

            It’s incredibly odd how pervasive it is, the fact that payment doesn’t come up even once suggests that it was deliberately omitted. I wonder if they had some unimplemented plan for level-scaled rewards or somesuch, and didn’t want to voice-act the scaling, so they just wrote around the issue.

            Or maybe Bethesda’s writer is just trying to see how much garbage he can get away with. That would explain a lot of things.

      2. Cardigan says:

        That’s an interesting idea. Maybe NPCs would only buy food or other valuables off of you & not weapons/armor (unless they were a weapons/armor dealer)? It would put a lot more emphasis on doing side quests for extra cash, while also encouraging players to hoard resource-giving junk. Not sure how it’d actually work outside of a voluntary mod, ‘cuz I can’t see most Fallout fans really liking it.

  34. MichaelGC says:

    Josh seemed to be struggling somewhat with the ‘confirm vendor action’ minigame at the beginning, there.

    It is tricky, to be fair – not as tricky as the ‘apply carefully crafted blemishes’ minigame, but still pretty challenging. I think what they do is assign six or seven different keys to the overall ‘accept/confirm’ concept, and then as you play these six or seven randomly cycle round. Adds that bit of random spice to what would otherwise be dull, functional UI manoeuvres.

  35. Grampy_bone says:

    It’s stated quite clearly that Kellogg was recently living in Diamond City with a 10 year old Synth Shawn. It’s dumb but it’s not a plot hole.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Theory D: Maybe the ten year old Shaun is a synth and was here more recently?

      Contradiction E: But why? Why would the institute send Kellog to Diamond city with a child robot clone of their aging leader?

      Theory F: Well, maybe this is all part of Shaun's plan (or Kellog's plan?) for you to pick up the trail and hunt him down?

      But why? Why have us follow such a convoluted trail? How would that advance ANYONE'S goals?

  36. Jabrwock says:

    “That’s a stupid plot hole”

    “It’s not a plot hole.”

    “… Oh…. then I guess it’s just stupid.” :D

    So it’s 80 years later, Kellog is *still* not dead even though he should be at least 100, and the Institute is sending him out with syths that look like a 10 year old version of their leader.

    Just mess with us on the off chance we unfroze?

    I’d expect such stupidity from the Big MT, because it sounds like a joke that was funny until you built the laser robot dogs with sharks on their heads and then said it out loud, by which point it was too late… but what?

    1. Lachlan the Mad says:

      Let’s not forget that the Big MT Think Tank has a legitimate in-game excuse for their plot-convenient stupidity: They’ve been programmed to be incapable of new ideas specifically so that they won’t accidentally destroy the entire world with shiny new laser sharks.

      Damn I love Old World Blues.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        They should really do an old world blues clump of episodes in the middle of fallout 4.It would be a breath of fresh air.

      2. Blunderbuss09 says:

        Also that the bio-gel that their brains are housed in starts to deteriorate after a while and that they’ve been almost marinating themselves in mentats for all that time. Since we know that’s the exact reason why robobrains are homicidally insane that actually makes perfect sense.

  37. Philadelphus says:

    And once again, I’m completely thrown by the conversation with Myrna. “One statue of David impression, coming up” and she doesn’t bat an eye, yet she can’t complete the phrase “eyes like a hawk” (or eagle, or falcon, or…)? How could you possibly get someone in this setting who could know the first but not the second? If hawks and other raptors are extinct, I’d imagine the phrase would either survive as an idiom, or die off. Who writes this kind of stuff??

    1. NotSteve says:

      “Statue of David” impression is something I could see them getting from context. They wouldn’t know exactly what the player was referring to, but it makes sense for someone to talk about acting like a statue when told not to move. Milk cartons, on the other hand, seem completely irrelevant to missing people if you don’t know the reference.

  38. Kyte says:

    Without knowing anything else about Fallout 4 except what you’ve said so far, my instinct is that the timespan is shorter than Shaun’s age implies, because for whatever reason Shaun’s aging faster than normal.

  39. Fred B-C says:

    There’s two things about this that particularly frustrate me.

    First of all, it wouldn’t be that hard to fix at least some of the glaringly obvious issues. For example: All you’d have to do to make the character (and by extension the audience) think that it’s possible that you can get Shaun back would be to have a very clear indicator of time, like something that read that you were frozen for a mere week or month. That’d be enough for you to think there’s at least a chance. It could either be a coincidence or part of the Gambit.

    Second, it’s such a clear storyboarding issue. What’s the premise of the game? Your son is kidnapped. Okay, so everything should follow from there. At each point the writers should be thinking about what information the player is getting along this path. With that in mind it shouldn’t be hard, especially with this particular premise where your character is inherently behind the times and it’s plausible that very few people would have a lead, to make everything make sense.

  40. Blunderbuss09 says:

    I hate the ‘Kellogg is a cyborg’ thing so goddamn much.

    Firstly it’s just a cheap excuse to cover how long you’ve been frozen.

    Secondly it means that the Institute can make immortal cyborgs and it’s never brought up again. You can’t introduce something that cool and forget about it. I had the idea that maybe the Institute synths were actually cyborgs and the whole ‘Mankind Redefined’ thing meant that they wanted to make a new race of super humans or something.

    Nope. One guy is a cyborg and that’s that.

  41. Pnubis says:

    Ok A Kellogg is a cyborg so no aging B Shaun is 60 not 80 if you read Shaun’s institute terminal the cyborg project was abandoned so that’s why he’s old and dying C it’s a child synth not the real Shaun in diamond Citi

  42. Pnubis says:

    Also if you read Shaun’s terminal it says Kellogg is over a hundred plus 60 year he’s over a hundred and 60 years so yeah the story does put its self together you just have to be fucking thorough going through it

    1. Ciennas says:

      It’s a nice thought there, but no. This Kellogg is a cyborg thing is a weak after the fact spackling after somebody pointed it out about a week into crunchtime.

      If the guy who wrote this was a DM, he’d have an awesome quest hook, and then he rushes to cover plotholes as his players comment, creating more plotholes, but it’s obvious he hadn’t thought the whole thing through and just wantes to have his cool story.

      Big on momentum, short on supporting details.

      Ideally, he needs a buddy to help him coalslesce his big ideas with the setting to make it fun and consistent.

  43. Anon says:

    “Plot hole A: Kellog was in town with a ten-year-old version of Shaun “a while ago”. That should have been decades ago!”
    Was there (at that point in the main quest) anything that contradicted the possibility/revelation that the kidnapping had happened ~10 years ago?

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