Fallout 4 EP42: Double-Dinged

By Shamus
on Sep 30, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

76 comments


Link (YouTube)

Due to what I can only assume is an editing error, Josh has accidentally put the audio from our eventual Mandkind Divided series on the footage for Fallout 4. I’m going to talk to Rutskarn and Chris about their flagrant efforts to make the show topical and relevant instead of focusing on their mandate of beating a dead horse.

Rutskarn calls the proliferation of flavors of Nuka-Cola “the most Bethesda thing in the game”. Allowing for the fact that somehow every part of the game is the most Bethesda part of the game, I have to agree. The further we get from D-day, the greater the variety of pre-war sodas. It’s like anti-worldbuilding. Instead of rounding out the world with detail and depth, they latch onto a few key elements and intensify them, hyper-flanderizing the entire setting in the process.

Q: 210 years after the world was consumed in nuclear fire, what kind of society would emerge from the ashes? What kind of challenges would they face and what kind of conflicts would arise from these challenges?

A: Uh… I bet they would drink a lot of pre-war soda!

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From the Archives:

  1. tmtvl says:

    Considering applications like Clementine and Amarok have access to libraries of lyrics, there must be some decent sites out there?

    DuckDuckGo always recommends MetroLyrics if that one has lyrics available, so I guess people like that site.

  2. Honestly, this game involves more caffeinated drinks than my own life does.

    Now excuse me while I go put a 2/3-finished can of Monster in the fridge and grab one of the 7 remaining bottles of pop I got with the pizza I ordered yesterday entirely so I could avoid finishing off any of the 5 12-packs of pop I have in ANOTHER fridge…maybe I’ll have some coffee later, or maybe finish off that bottle of Gold Leaf Unsweetened Tea I’ve got in that first fridge.

  3. MichaelGC says:

    There’s a whole new soda in the Far Harbor DLC. It’s called ‘Vim’, and comes in four different variants! I can’t bring myself to drink one, myself: in the UK ‘Vim’ is a well-known brand of bleach and bleach-based broducts. I mean products. So … yeucch.

  4. MrGuy says:

    I’ll go as far as saying I didn’t mind Nuka Cola Quantum in FO3. It was SUPPOSED to be a “special” item, like Crystal Pepsi (god I’m old!). They made it clearly an experiment, and had a reason it would be rare. It was “remarkable” in the sense it had its own advertising campaign, it was in limited supply, and people were excited about it. It even had the clever subplot that it was horribly dangerous and the company was covering it up.

    Honestly, the whole Nuka Cola Quantum thing felt very Fallout in the best sense to me. It was clever, not super intrusive, and a nice reward if you found one (action points? yes please!)

    The real problem to me is that it “worked” in FO3, and Bethesda is incapable of understanding WHY it worked. It didn’t work because people wanted more cola flavors. It worked because it was rare, clever, and had a story around it. It was a little local twist on something that was part of the setting that was done for a reason and (I’ll argue) done pretty well. It was mostly off to the side – you could play most of a game without really noticing the quantums.

    But pulling the same trick again with MORE special sodas, jumping up and down yelling “look at me!” doesn’t add to the effect – it kills it. Bethesda is just so afraid you’ll miss the joke that they can take one of the few things they did well in FO3 and kill it because they just can’t have nice things.

  5. MrGuy says:

    So, I assume Chris is a “backup dancer” in the sense that he’s the guy they reluctantly call if all the people who actually can dance get sick or horribly injured?

  6. Kelerak says:

    So, what exactly is the definition of a Bethesda thing in the context of “the most Bethesda thing to do”? Is it world-building in areas that don’t need it and completely disregarding everything else?

    • Rutskarn says:

      Bethesda has a really bad habit of making things “iconic.” They rarely create something new when they can take something that already exists, or that they’ve just come up with, and abusively overexpose it.

      When they designed Fallout 3, they took EVERYTHING iconic about those first two games, took them out of their established context and environment, and expanded them to fill the entire game universe. The Brotherhood of Steel. Super mutants. Nuka Cola. The Enclave. Deathclaws. Iguanas. Scorpions. Vault-Tec. Robots. 50s aesthetic. Stuff we’re already tired of seeing gets even more screen time with even less interesting content or backstory. Even when they do cool stuff, like the weird vaults in Fallout 3, it’s at the expense of coming up with something genuinely new and challenging.

      That’s not to say they never innovate, but it feels like their second resort. They’d prefer to take existing mediocre-to-kind-of-cool ideas and blow them up bigger and bigger each entry.

      • Decius says:

        “50’s aesthetic” wasn’t even really in the three PC Fallout franchise games. It was more “50’s aesthetic-inspired prewar aesthetic”, followed by “everybody rebuilt in their own way”.

        Shady sands had adobe construction, while the nearby raiders managed to have a brick-and-mortar building. Junktown had a shanty casino, The Hub, Adytown, and the Cathedral all had ‘modern’ appearances, and the BoS bunker was all about “These guys have their shit together.”, right down to how they tried to kill off/discourage new applicants but were willing to take one that proved themself.

        Also, essentially nonlinear plot done well.

      • GnollQueen says:

        I Agree with this statement. The only reason i feel that the elder scrolls games do better is that they have far far more lore to mess with.

        Although they still mess it up: See the Glenmoril Coven turned from a sort of neutral group who will cure your Lycanthropy and Vampirism for a price into always chaotic evil foes in skyrim. i am still pissed off about that even if it is minor and almost nobody else cares.

        • MrGuy says:

          See, that’s where I have trouble with this argument. Because (as Ruts’ TES series describes incredibly well), Bethesda made their bones on not giving much of a care about established lore.

          TES, for most of its history, was about experimenting with new mechanics, factions, and ideas, and they didn’t generally feel the need to painstakingly preserve every little bit of context. Morrowind is nothing like Daggerfall, and Oblivion is nothing like Morrowind. Skyrim is really the first game in the series that feels relatively similar to its predecessor (and, as Ruts opined at the end of the TES series, it’s worrying that they might hit a rut and stay in what seems to be a popular place to be).

          But Bethesda’s treatment of the Fallout franchise feels a lot different than their treatment of their own original IP. In TES, they’d ignore massive cliffhangers and introduce new stuff we’ve never heard of all the time. With Fallout, they tried their damndest to NOT innovate and keep all the “Fallout Stuff” sacrosanct. The did it badly, and I think their evaluation of what made Fallout, well, Fallout was very very wrong. But it looks like they made a clumsy attempt to respect Fallout’s established lore, mechanics, items, and enemies, rather than throw them away and make more. TES has traditionally had no such scruples.

          I’m honestly puzzled why the two franchises differ so much.

          I wonder if it’s because Fallout was acquired IP – they paid a lot of money for it, so they didn’t want to risk “alientating fans” and wasting their money, in a way that they weren’t concerned wit their own IP…

          • Henson says:

            There was a LOT of concern from fans in 2008 about feeling alienated from the New Fallout. Simply the fact that it was going to be a 3D shooter raised a lot of ire. I can’t say for certain whether these concerns shaped Bethesda’s approach…but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

            • Munkki says:

              Alternatively – you can scratch the enclave and 50’s aesthetic off that list and still have something that covers most of the content in Fallout 1. (I never got 2 to work properly so I haven’t had the chance to play it very far.) It’s a small game – that time limit does a really good job of making it feel like you’re passing up the chance to explore an open world rather than hitting literally every location on the map as you go through the story.

              So if you don’t make at least some of those things a focus of your game, why buy the IP at all?

          • GnollQueen says:

            Well ok i’m going to admit that the Glenmoril Coven thing is a very very odd pet peeve of mine and i most probably shouldn’t have mentioned them in my comment. But i sort of stand by what i said. In game play and in tone and sort of in lore they differ but i feel like at least the main plots of each game build off of each other.

            The Situation in Daggerfall is built off the fact that the fake emperor was bad at his job. Large parts of Morrowind tie into Dwemer lore that Daggerfall Introduced. In Oblivion a daedric prince in the spotlight and they where brought up to main plot importance by Morrwind (and Battlespire) In Oblivion it is very well telegraphed that the empire will fall. Lets make a story about the empire falling in one of its bigst parts. Lets go with skyrim.

            Admittedly they hit upon a snag in skyrim: Their lore says that the nords are part elemental. Except that Elementals where sort of retconed into a type of daedra a wile ago so we cant use that. and like this Thu’um and these Graybeards sound cool and have been in the lore sense redgaurd! we cant just remove them! Acualy they sound so cool lets make it not a nord only thing. ummm dragons lets go with dragons those are cool.

            Like this comments getting a little long but bethesda keeps a lot more than they change lore wise in every game. except i guess daggerfall. You know the bards collage and how it feels weird and tacked on? Well that’s because basically the entire section of the Pocket guide to the empire 1st edition (you got it with redgaurd) about Solitude is dedicated to the Bards collage and olaff one eye. And the Part about windhelm says that it was the capital of the first empire so lets have the anti-empire faction stationed there. And that it guards the border pass with Morrowind so lets give it a large Dunmer underclass.

            Like Fallout 3 feels to me like they didn’t feel right about just setting their story on the west cost where all the other lore stuff happens they can bounce off of but don’t really know what to do with just starting with a new slate. so they clone giant chunks of west coast lore (The Brothhood, The Enclave, Caps, Super Mutants) and tried to glue them together with new lore and it fails. And then they tried to do the Elder scrolls thing and spin off the idea of the institute because it was basically the only new detail they added to a part of the world you don’t go to in game.

          • Christopher says:

            I wonder if it’s because Fallout was acquired IP – they paid a lot of money for it, so they didn’t want to risk “alientating fans” and wasting their money, in a way that they weren’t concerned wit their own IP…

            I don’t actually have any idea, but this whole conversation makes it sound like a Star Wars 7 situation. Not wanting to step on any toes or introduce unfamiliar elements, all the old stuff is there, and everything is based on something from the old movies. I helped someone design an NPC for a kickstarter reward earlier this year, and practically all my designs were in some way based on the characters already in the game because those were the original framework I had for what would fit and I didn’t want to show my own tastes into that.

          • potatoejenkins says:

            So, I may be completely wrong about this but: When it comes to TES, they have a plan. It’s their baby, they know what goes and what not. The lore looks confusing, is confusing, but it’s built on solid ground and not on flashy gimmicks and pop-culture jokes. Every game is about the world, the player character just happens to play a role in it.

            Bethesda’s Fallout is a game jam. A weave of call-backs, references, iconography and wacky jokes. They tried to do their own thing with the synths, but they have no solid ground to build on, not like with TES. So they stumble around and make their way hand over hand along a rope of “things that are kinda Fallout-y”. They focus every game on the player character because there is no world worth telling a story about.
            And what there is has an expiry date. TES will forever be TES, Fallout stops being Fallout the moment they step away from “post apocalyptic wasteland”.

            Edit: I’m trying my best to find something in Bethesda-Fallout that comes even close to concepts like CHIM. There isn’t even any sort of religion in Fallout anymore aside from small cults and or – surprise – Lovecraft easter eggs.

      • Matt Downie says:

        You left out ‘bottlecaps’.

  7. potatoejenkins says:

    The game is still nice though. I run enb out of habit and to get the best out of weather mods, but the vanilla game does not really need it. It’s very pretty.

    And the Institute theme is on point. Very … science-y and detached from the rest of the soundtrack.

  8. Sunshine says:

    On the other hand, between 3 and 4, New Vegas added Nuka-Cola Victory and Quartz, so this isn’t entirely a Fallout 4 thing.

    (Apologies if you already covered that.)

    I think that the ballooning of Nuka-Cola and Vault-Tec might have much to do with branding. They’re distintive brands within their universe and memorable iconograpy, so it works to build on their brands for branding Bethesda’s Fallout franchising. (Also, they’re is a good fit for in-character promotions, like Mann Co. in TF2.)

  9. Keeshhound says:

    Re: “You hit like a Radroach!”

    “I’ve fought mudcrabs more fearsome than you!”

  10. Blunderbuss09 says:

    Wow … that’s a good point about the lunch-boxes.

    As for soda the most obvious thing that post-war people would do is … make their own soda. You already have Deezer robot that magically makes lemonade. There’d be a market for fruit juices or health drinks so people don’t get scurvy, and they’d stay fresh longer than raw fruit being shipped by two-headed cows. That’s why we invented canning. There’s a huge lack of entrepreneurial spirit in these games where people make their own products instead of scavenging old ones.

    And your pre-war character can blow their minds by telling them soda used to be fizzy due to this crazy thing called ‘carbonation’.

    Plus doing a crazy post-war version of the Cola Wars would be fantastic.

    • potatoejenkins says:

      Well, Nuka World adds more than 12 (?) new Nuka Cola recipes. You can mix all sorts of Nuka Cola now. With your very own Nuka Cola mixing station. Three different skins with just a bit of steel and spit. No other perk requirements.

      Yay!

      I liked Deezer. The way in which the actor delivered the lines nearly made me drink the lemonade. Just to see what happens. Though I guess I didn’t miss out not drinking the stuff.

      Covenant in and of itself wasn’t bad. The entry test was stupid, I admit. But the settlement had a wonderful creepy vibe. To advance the quest one had to actively search for clues, talk to people and one could even examine the bookshelf! It was neat.

      • Blunderbuss09 says:

        Yeah I heard of that in Nuka World. It makes sense for the theme park to do something like that but on the other hand I can’t muster the will to care.

        I liked Covenant too because it actually had people trying to figure out how to detect synths. It was refreshing to see NPCs react logically to the world around them for once or do something about the synth problem than just go ‘oh no the mean Institute is oppressing us, woe and damnation’. Plus the quandary of whether or not Stockman’s daughter was human, a replacement synth, or a freed synth.

        Also your companions talking to Deezer is hilarious.

        • potatoejenkins says:

          I wanted to rant about Nuka Cola and all the recipes with either the same or absolutely and hilariously “overpowered” effects. But … meh. *shrugs* I’ll just hop into my Nuka Cola Quantum-themed pre-war X-01 Nuka World Power Armor and stop giving a damn.

          Strong: Saying what I was thinking. Too bad he is such a waste of time in every other aspect.
          My game has to be bugged when it comes to companion/npc interaction. I had this kind of thing happen only once. Buzz was adamant about Takahashi being a chinese spy. T’was very funny though.

          I hear you can even ask Stockman about his daughter later. The Covenant guys were right in her case.

          • Blunderbuss09 says:

            I am always ready to hear rants about Fallout. It’s nice to know others are just as salty.

            As for NPC comments that’s why FluffyNinjaLlama is such a great youtube channel because she somehow – perhaps by voodoo magic or console codes – managed to capture all of the companion comments in all situations. Some of them are such gems it’s a shame you’ll never get to hear 50% of them because of the conditions.

            Yeah I checked up on that too and the fact that they got it right was great. In another game we could share this info so other settlements could use it, at a tragic cost, but oh well.

            • potatoejenkins says:

              Don’t let me get started, we would be here for the rest of the year and then some.
              The pre-war X0-1 Nuka Cola Quantum power armor is no joke. It was there as an attraction, sealed behind glas before the bombs fell. Seconds later I got the loading screen telling me about how X0-1 was developed and deployed by remnants of the US military after the great war. Yeah, Bethesda, whatever …

              It’s a nice channel. I don’t usually like watching things like this, I want to discover them for myself. And yes, I think she manages to capture these things with console comands and a lot of patience.

              I think they got it right by accident though. However, my first thought after finding out was: Did she agree to be adopted before getting her memory wiped or did he adopt her after the deed. No matter how you look at it, it’s kind of creepy.

  11. Droid says:

    They did the same thing with Nirnroot in Skyrim. It was a collectable in Oblivion, it’s still valuable in Skyrim, it still glows like a floodlight in the night, but it has no other use than selling or brewing potions, so it’s not better than a carrot and 60 gold, or a bunch of other junk.

    And it’s not like money is a problem in Skyrim.

  12. Arctem says:

    Rutskarn’s Karma Chameleon joke made me both extremely happy and extremely upset that the others didn’t catch it.

  13. Matt Downie says:

    I just looked up the lunchboxes on the wiki. It occurred to me that I always opened them to see if there’d be something good inside, and it was always exciting because of the confetti, and I was always disappointed.

    Apparently there can be good items inside (rare collectables, fusion core). Also, the art on (the inside of?) the lunchboxes is unique, making them collectable in their own right I guess?

    • Matt Downie says:

      (Although you can’t actually pick them up so I’m not sure how you’d collect them…)

      • potatoejenkins says:

        I like the lunch boxes. They sometimes drop little robot figurines (which I could never afford in real life).

        It’s one of the things I can imagine post-war people would collect or find valuable. Simply because it’s a curiosity and weird. “Why would people make something like this before the war? How does it work? People back then were really strange.” Or because it would bring a bit of colour and levity in a post-war children’s life.

        I know nothing about Fallout Shelter but the name so I never connected these two.

      • Echo Tango says:

        My guess is that at some point you could pick them up. Maybe not in a physics-object kind of way, but like the snow globes in New Vegas, where you could put them up on a special stand, to see their cool art.

      • …You can pick up the lunchboxes once you open them. You can then use them to make Bottlecap Mines, or if you’ve added the mod that brings in items from other Fallout games, you can make a Caravan Lunch with them as well.

  14. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Fun Fallout soda story: I hate sarsaparilla. With a passion. I think it’s because Australian medical manufacturers used sarsaparilla flavouring in cough syrup throughout the 90’s, so I associate the taste of sarsaparilla with feeling sick and being fed shitty medicine by authoritative adults. So when I started finding Sunset Sarsaparilla in NV, I thought that maybe I’d roleplay a character who had a similar aversion. That lasted all of about ten minutes before I realised that it was by far the best common healing item in the game…

  15. Christopher says:

    That supermutant was using Invisible Weapon. He’s big in Dark Souls PvP.

  16. wswordsmen says:

    I would argue that it isn’t the existence of all these per-war things that kills the world building, it is the fact they are common. If there were a few dozen different types of nuka-product but only 1 or 2 of each then it would make sense, whatever corporation made them probably had more than 2 products. The fact that so many are still around is what kills it.

  17. Fists says:

    I’m pretty sure the reason they highlight lunchboxes so much in fallout 4 is because they’re trying to remind you that you can exchange your real world human money tokens for lunchboxes in Fallout: Shelter. Which is almost entertaining until the game corrupts your save file.

  18. Merlin says:

    I’ve only played FO1, 2, and 3 – no New Vegas (yet), no 4, and no DLC of any kind – so apologies if this has already been done. But would it be too on-the-nose if they made a quest involving wastelanders taking over a Nuka Cola factory, screwing up the recipe, and making a totally different product using the same old branding? After all, the original rightsholders haven’t been around for years thanks to the Great War, so there’s no one to stop them aside from your basic infinitely long conga line of raiders.

    Yeah, probably a little too on-the-nose, even for Bethesda.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I don’t think Bethesda realize that’s what they’re doing. The studio is sloppy in such a way that its every move screams “thoughtless”.

      • Adrian Burt says:

        And yet somehow every game gets massive critical praise and commercial success so to them they’re doing something right and have no reason to change their corporate culture.

        • Ciennas says:

          No, they get critical acclaim and praise, until players reach the ending. Consistently so far, both of their offerings have been labeled as fun right up until the ending when the really shoddy writing comes to bash you in the face.

          We trust them to do good. Mild irritations aside, these guys built up a lot of trust with Morrowind, and even Oblivion, much as the ending started to annoy me there.

          (Side note. Next elder scrolls game it would be pretty awesome for their to be a friendly and good aligned necromancer faction. I’m really sick of those guys always being super deep evil.)

          But both of their Fallouts have endings that take all that carefully built up trust and hurl it off an overpass. Railroaded into suicide, and get mocked by Ron Perlman if you show even an ounce of common sense, And choose one of a cavalcade of doofuses to rule the world, even though the most antagonistic faction has no real reason to be antagonistic at all.

          And by then it’s way too late. They’ve already got the money and they don’t want to go back and change even one iota of their precious design. (Like adding a motivation to the villain, or fixing the stupid dialogue choice system that they seem to love so much.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        My impression is, they build everything with and on great enthusiasm and promises. And then they run out of time and have to ship an unfinished product.

        It would be really interesting to know how their studio is organized and how the project lead does his/her job.

  19. Phantos says:

    It’s not that Ruts is wrong about the twelve million new Nuka Cola flavours in the new DLC.

    I just… I like it anyway. I waste half of my inventory on that stuff. Even though it makes the game way too easy, by just giving you a never-ending supply of things that heal you.

    Even though it’s not like I can taste any of it, because it’s not a brand that exists in real life.

    I have no justification for this, other than being way too into sodas.

  20. baseless_research says:

    We’re going to meet F’ther? Yay, I got some cool eggs for him!

  21. Ciennas says:

    Hey guys I got a much cooler twist than Bethesda!

    Instead of the Institute being the boogeyman, they could have made it more…. human error.

    Imagine a scenario where the Institute hasn’t been sending out synth spies or killing anybody.

    The Broken Mask incident marks a turning point in the Institute Artificial Human program. So, having seen what happened in Diamond City, they make a point of not letting the Synth’s they create leave.

    When the provisional government sets up, they send a Synth representative, because they are still rightly terrified of their neighbors, what with a seemingly endless supply of psychotic raiders knocking about.

    This goes modestly well! Their representative works well and doesn’t kill anyone, but still ends up getting blamed for everything. The Institute goes even harder on their lockdown, removing or sealing any way of accessing the Institute through conventional means.

    At some point they do start sending surreptitious supply runs and other methods of procuring supplies they simply can’t make with in house equipment. And over time, more synths get lost or leave. Inevitably, a synth speaks of their cruel masters locked away in the Institute never letting anyone leave. (Strong parallels to Veronica should ideally be drawn here.)

    These incidents create the Railroad, who make the Institute have a much more difficult time procuring basic needed supplies.

    So they turn to using Super Mutants, culled from volunteers, to go out and procure those supplies.

    Both of these actions are enough to call the Brotherhood of Steel from their home in DC, looking to slay some mad scientists and stop the spread of deadly viral weapons.

    From there, the rest of the story writes itself- by the time you arrive, you find the Institute trying desperately to keep control of a situation that has gotten wildly out of their control. No kill and replace, no spy rings, and the Coursers only exist to try and reclaim potentially dangerous rogue Synthoids, as they never recovered the body of the Broken Mask synth, so they have no idea what went wrong.

    And that’s it. You have a reasonable twist to start act 3. And then they could explain what the hell was up with slaying both your spouse and all of Vault 111.

    And the sad thing is, they wouldn’t have had to change much else. They could have created three different endings- Diplomacy, Destroy, Dope Slap (Dope Slap is a lot like diplomacy, but you get to berate everyone for being stupid.)

    Because…. real question, if the Institute wants to spy on people, why are they making kill and replace replicas? couldn’t they accomplish the same goals by just making a synth and making them awesome? Hell, look at Danse, he became the most respected badass of the Brotherhood, and he didn’t have to kill and replace anybody. He just had to show up to work one day.

  22. Mormegil says:

    One of the saddest sequences in The Road by Cormac McCarthy involves a can of coke in a post apocalyptic world. Funny to think Bethesda can take the same basic concept and turn it into a health item that isn’t even worth picking up because other, better items are even more common. In a story that’s also about a boy and his father after WW3.

    I’ve never thought about comparing The Road and Fallout 4 before despite the fact that they have some stuff in common.

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