Overhaulout Part One: New Game

By Rutskarn
on Aug 2, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

EDIT: Not sure how I managed to turn comments off. Fixed!

If someone hasn’t already heard that Fallout 3‘s story stinks, they probably don’t care—and they don’t really have to,

It doesn’t matter if you can line up all the ways the game’s characters were thin, the plot didn’t make much sense, and the choices were odd and insubstantial. A fan of the game might listen, might even end up agreeing. They’ll nod, shrug, and admit that yeah, it sure wasn’t Shakespeare. Congratulations! You’ve successfully argued that the story of Fallout 3 is bad. But thought it might seem self-evident, you haven’t actually made an argument that the bad story made the game much worse to play, and that a good story would have made them like it even more. The fan is a fan for a reason. They didn’t hallucinate a better storyline than existed, they were just satisfied with the moral choices and combat and exploration and worldbuilding that they got. If they didn’t really notice or care that the economy didn’t make sense, how can you effectively argue that the game would have been more worthy if it did?

At the end of the day, the only sensible thing to do is accept the disagreement, allow people to enjoy things, and move on. And instead of doing all that, I’m rewriting Fallout 3.

Actually, mostly just the big parts. And of those big parts, as little as possible.

Art pictured is concept art from the game. As best as I can tell, all of it`s the work of the late Adam Adamowicz<b>.</b>
Art pictured is concept art from the game. As best as I can tell, all of it's the work of the late Adam Adamowicz.

The goal here is simple: I’m trying to address the idea that a different approach to characters, storylines, and setpieces would have made F3 even more enjoyable. That some of the game’s largess was wasted on dead wood, and some of its best story features were underdeveloped and neglected.  That there was more fun that we never got to have.

This exercise is most certainly not about:

  • Reinventing the game to make it “mine,” or “real Fallout.” I’m not going to question the game’s grand design. If Bethesda decided early on they wanted super mutants, the mean fascist Enclave as villains, the brave virtuous Brotherhood of Steel as heroes, and the GECK as a deus ex machina that helps purify DC’s water supply, then I’m going to overrule the OG Fallout lore-keepers and keep all that in my treatment. If I was making my own game, I probably wouldn’t have a good side the player has to join and a bad side the player has to fight. But I have made my “own” games, and none of them were as successful as bootleg Fallout 3 mouthwash. As much as possible, I’m going to trust in the building blocks Bethesda chose to use; where my treatment varies will have more to do with mortar and the arrangement.
  • Suggest any alterations or improvements to the game’s engine, mechanics, or world map. I think Megaton is a little silly, it’s uninspired for the charm perks to be exclusively heterosexual, and Speech shouldn’t involve a die roll. But I’m not going to touch these decisions. Mostly, this is because if I start changing the whole game it’ll become decreasingly possible to say if my alterations are improving anything. It’s easy to imagine an ideal version of a game that doesn’t exist, and claiming that this fake game would be better than a real one is even less useful than just asking you to imagine different writing.
  • Proving I’m “better” than Bethesda’s writers. Firstly, I have absolutely no guarantee that you or anyone else will agree that my treatment works better. I’m throwing this out there as a thought exercise, no triumphant flourish, no filled-out application letter. Even if you do think you like my version better, please remember that I’m not only editing an existing draft, I haven’t had to preserve its merits through dozens of editing sessions, discussions with corporate, distillations through dialogue writers, encounters with scripters (“It turns out that whenever an NPC says ‘goodbye’ in a wistful voice, the game crashes on Windows XP?”), and voice-acting sessions. In short, writing for games is hard. Writing this series is easy.

So what am I trying to accomplish? Mostly, these goals:

  • Involve players more actively in their journey. We don’t need a hundred-branched story where a choice of omelette in Act One changes the entire course of history. But at the same time, the player should never feel like a tourist—a passive participant in a one-size-fits-all narrative. Choices should be presented during the main quest not because they offer diverse branches and replay-fodder, but because they invite the player to consider the world’s struggles, question, and moral conflicts from a personal perspective.
  • Adjust the tempo and attitude of certain sections. Whenever a section is too long, or too awkward, or gives an NPC all the important lines while nailing the player to the ground, I’ll propose adjustments.
  • Add depth to the game’s central characters. This is key. I won’t be inventing any characters of my own, nor will I make drastic alterations. I will do my best to preserve the soul and narrative relevance of each NPC. But whenever I find a villain nonspecifically cold and imposing and antagonistic, or an ally blandly supportive and passionate and altruistic, I’ll try to add something a little more substantial than an idiosyncratic mode of speech or recognizable voice actor. Internal conflicts, relatable motivations, or some intriguing feature of origin all help to make flat characters memorable.
  • Ground actions as firmly as possible in reason. The player should always have a satisfying answer to the question, “Why was this done by an NPC?” and an even better answer to “Why must I do this?” Care must be taken not to rely on the power of a quest arrow to motivate a player. It’s true that real people aren’t always reasonable, but people do always do things for reason, and stories should establish these reasons well—even, and in fact particularly, when this reason is “because the character isn’t too bright.”
  • Respect the game’s themes. Because games are stronger when they have ideas, and when they remember and revisit those ideas. The first and last scene should share more than just a reference to the same piece of scripture; they should provide a question and an answer.

This last point brings me to my first hurdle. I want to do my best to preserve and reinforce the existing main theme of Fallout 3‘s storyline. Which is, what exactly? “People should be helped?” That’s your father’s driving motivation, and the main quest obliges it to be yours, but considering the rest of the game is happy to present you opportunities to screw over your fellow man and have the time of your life doing it? The game’s freedom is absolutely an asset, but it stands at odds with any one-dimensionally moralist reading of its central theme. You could instead argue the game’s about legacy, since everything you do is to honor your father and complete his work. Then again, this isn’t something that’s explored or discussed; it’s just an implicit assumption the game makes of you, backed up by the dancing of the quest arrow and trickle of XP. Besides, your mother’s barely mentioned after she dies giving birth to you in the first scene. “Legacy” isn’t something the game’s really interested in exploring, it’s just a hazy emotional hook to keep you following the main quest. Well, what about sacrifice? Your mother dies giving birth to you, you and your father die in the service of the purifier…but what reflection is made on these sacrifices, in word or in action? How do these sacrifices really relate to the rest of the story? Just because they happen a few times doesn’t mean the game is really about them.

If we’re going to identify a central theme, it should be something that allows for multiple kinds of characters and informs your actions from the beginning to the end. I think the best we can do is:

It is Good for the powerful to give strength to the weak.

Why would it be Good for your father have the means to make water clean on a grand scale? Because he would give it freely, putting the thirsty beyond his or anyone else’s power to exploit. Why would it be Bad for the Enclave have the water purifier? Because they could use that to extort those in need. Why do you want it once your father’s out of the picture? Because you are Good, and wish to use your strength over the Enclave to grant strength to others; because you are Bad, and wish to use your strength over the Enclave to take their leverage over other human beings for yourself.I acknowledge an objectivist position that using one’s strength to get what one can from others is not evil, and would ask that we refrain from a bottomless argument about this in the comments. All I’m really asking you to acknowledge is that Fallout’s karma system DOES contain the straightforward notion that altruism is good and predatory self-interest isn’t.

This doesn’t seem like it’s far from what Fallout 3‘s already going for, although if so we’ve already put it more clearly here than the game ever does. But just because we’ve pegged it to the game’s central choice doesn’t mean we can put the theme in storage again, oh no. Every major NPC, town, quest, and component of backstory should in some way come back to this idea. This should be far from the only theme, but in a small way, every playsession should contain dialogue and choices that speak to the player’s final actions in the game.

Enough prep work. Let’s roll those developer logos and hit “New Game.”

Ron Perlman’s Exquisite Intro

Blah blah the bombs dropped blah blah vaults blah blah you’re in one. It’s ruled by a powerful overseer, and nobody knows how bad things really are out there because nobody ever enters and nobody ever leaves.

Thank you, Mr. Perlman. Always an honor.


Vault 101: Lair of the Overseer

So riddle me this: we just spent all that time listening to Ron Perlman exposit that we live in a Vault where people have cozy if tightly-controlled prepackaged lives safe from a radioactive wasteland outside. Having established this quite economically, how much time do we actually need to spend establishing the culture and day-to-day life of the Vault we’re about to leave semi-permanently? Does it have to be, say, the unskippable first hour of your replayable RPG…especially when it barely does anything to introduce the precipitating incident, your father’s departure? As it stands, his vanishing fails to qualify even as a mystery. It’s too random; there’s nothing to wonder about because we clearly have none of the necessary clues.

Let’s try this. Why don’t we have Mr. Perlman explain that the player a.) grew up in a super-clean fancyland which has b.) no accessible exit and c.) a tyrannical overseer, and see if we can’t just jump-start right to the good stuff from there? Does the player not have enough information to cut right to scenarios more relevant and interesting than “childhood bully wants pastry” and “standardized testing is stressful”? It’d be one thing if we were setting up an idyllic contrast to the real, vital struggles of the Wasteland, but considering that in the current draft the player goes from “flunking a test” to “murdering people with a baseball bat” without much of an arc or adjustment period I’d argue we’re not losing anything by skipping to the drama.

I’m gonna cash in a “total rewrite” chip here. Let’s go out on a limb together and give the player a resonant, modestly tense scene that gives our father tangible motivation for suddenly removing himself from the vault.

Vault citizenship registration renewal form: choose face, gender, name. Details on screen show you’ve got a mother (deceased) and a father who’s the “chief doctor” of the Vault.  Your own work duty is presently “unassigned.”

“Aptitude test” lets players “grade” themselves on the SPECIAL system. High stats marked up as “assets” to “municipal authority.” Low stats are “leverage.” Then the game begins.

You’re awoken by the sound of a distant alarm, and then a hammering on the door from somewhere nearby. First objective: investigate. Player learns mouselook, movement keys, how to “use” the door controls.

Your door leads to one end of a very nice-looking foyer. All along the wall are chemistry experiments and computer terminals. There are windows, through which you see alarms flashing and heavily-armed security bots stomping on patrol. The hammering has stopped, however, and through the door at the end of the foyer you can hear the sounds of urgent conversation.

You find through the door a doctor’s office. Blood trails from the entrance to an operating table, on which a man is laid with a medical bot standing next to him. A man in a lab coat who the interface identifies as “Dad” says, “Go to the hall closet, get my spare stimpacks. If we don’t neutralize the plasma residue in his wound his lungs are going to burst.”

Your responses read:

Dad, it’s after Curfew. What’s going on?

Did you not see the Overseer’s bots out there? We’re harboring a fugitive!

Stimpacks, hall closet. I’ll be back.

The first two options mostly exist to contextualize the scene; by presenting these as possible reactions, we understand these reactions to be reasonable and appropriate. If we choose to be just a little less than instantly helpful, we acknowledge that it is unusual for a patient to be brought in after a “curfew” enforced by the vault’s authority. We may also express concern at the idea of harboring a “fugitive,” which establishes that the Overseer is probably the man responsible for the fellow’s injuries and that it’s bad news to help someone like that. Expressing this much doubt will lead your dad to calmly assert that, “I cannot decide what the Overseer does. I can decide what I do, and I’ve decided to treat this man without condition.”

Once he has the stimpacks, he says, as he examines the man, that he heard over the PA system that a citizen was trying to modify the water tanks to give his family more than the rationed amount, and that he’d been hit by a security robot. Once again, you have the option of expressing serious concerns about trying to save someone the Overseer wouldn’t want treated. Your father continues to assert that he doesn’t choose who he helps—that he will give his gift to anyone who comes to him for aid, not just the “right” people. As the Overseer’s robots come to the door and demand to know the status of the fugitive, you are told to administer drugs to the man using the computer terminal while your father stalls for a few moment’s time. The computer allows you to administer treatment (and “cure” the man, at the expense of what looks to be expensive medicine), stabilize the man with a general drug, or allow the man to die where he sits. In other words, you’re being asked to decide how seriously you take your father’s ideals.

As your treatment concludes, the doors open. The Overseer enters with his bots and briefly berates your father for healing a “poor citizen,” asserting that a doctor is only “useful” if he “maintains the public good.” Your father’s reaction makes it clear whose “good” he is really being asked to serve; that he is being used as an asset of control. In a display of control, both you and he are asked to return to the rest of the apartment and leave the Overseer alone with the wounded man in the doctor’s office. You have the option, before finding your way back, of speaking briefly with the Overseer and his bots, who will happily provide their perspective on the role of specialists in a tightly-organized society.

When you rejoin your father, he seems faraway. You may discuss your choice with him, contemplate the fate of the wounded man, and wonder aloud about the fate of the vault. It’s clear that your father has reached some kind of decision.

The next morning, he’s gone.


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[1] I acknowledge an objectivist position that using one’s strength to get what one can from others is not evil, and would ask that we refrain from a bottomless argument about this in the comments. All I’m really asking you to acknowledge is that Fallout’s karma system DOES contain the straightforward notion that altruism is good and predatory self-interest isn’t.

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From the Archives:

  1. Hal says:

    Does it make a difference if the man on the table lives or dies? Or would the Overseer have him killed regardless?

    • Rutskarn says:

      I’ll get into this point next post, but it’s probably not going to make a HUGE branching difference. Players should have time to adjust to the game’s conflict before indelibly changing their fates.

      • Hal says:

        Oh, sure. But I imagine the different outcomes would reveal something about the character if the Overseer or your father, or maybe how law and order get handled in the Vault, not that this guy becomes some crucial NPC down the line.

        • Awetugiw says:

          It also reveals a lot about the world if the overseer kills the guy. A vault like this is supposed to me a more or less closed system, which makes both life and resources immensely valuable (because it is very hard to replace either).

          This means that in a realistic (insofar as a fallout game can be realistic) game, the guy’s crime is very severe (because resources are valuable) but he is unlikely to be killed (because life is valuable). And if for some reason the overseer does decides that he must be killed to set an example, then the execution would be public, because that’s how you set an example.

          In a game with cartoon villains, on the other hand, the overseer is likely to kill the guy simply in order to show that he is a villain.

          • Or you could be making the point that resources are valuable but people aren’t unless they’re cooperative and obedient. If the Overseer’s hold on the Vault is tenuous, a public execution could be too dangerous to contemplate–it might cause a riot.

            What might be more interesting would be to have the Overseer say something like “take him down to the water plant and make it look like an accident”.

            • Awetugiw says:

              That’s not impossible, and if the writer sets the stage correctly it could work. Barring significant explanation, however, it does not seem likely to me.

              According to the Fallout wiki, a typical vault is supposed to hold 1000 people. (The number of people actually represented in the game is far smaller still, of course, for practical reasons.) If we’re very, very generous, this would give a working age population of around 800 people. This is a large enough group of people that you can absorb a few losses. So the overseer can afford to have somebody “suffer an accident.”

              However, this population is not large enough for such “accidents” to be common. The overseer cannot kill a lot of people without running out of workers. So if you are the overseer, who would you use your precious “accident quota” on: political opponents or random thieves? Unless there is a good reason to assume otherwise, my money is on only the opponents suffering tragic deaths.

              So I would be surprised if the overseer were to kill this thief. The overseer killing (or trying to kill) dad would be much more understandable, however.

              Having said that, it is, of course, possible to come up with reasons for the overseer to kill the poor guy. A few examples:
              – The above reasoning assumes that labor is relatively scarce in the vault. If there is a lot of unemployment (which isn’t unlikely, considering that the Fallout universe has advanced robotics) then the value of human lives from the overseers point of view diminishes greatly, thus making if more affordable to kill people.
              – The reason the thief had to steal water could be that the overseer reduced his water rations as a punishment for opposing him. Then killing the thief could be rationalized as killing him for being an opponent of the overseer, as opposed to for being a thief.
              – The overseer might be too unstable to know or care that his murders are threatening the vault.
              – The overseer could kill the thief not as a goal in itself, but as a way to punish dad.

              If the overseer kills the thief without any such reason being presented, however, my first assumption would be that the game is operating under cartoon morality. (Which, I must stress, is not necessarily a bad thing.)

              • Don’t forget that you also find out later that your Mom and Dad both left this vault and returned, so the idea of this Vault being sealed since the war is pure nonsense. The population is neither irreplaceable nor self-contained.

                When you have what is effectively a tiny king, ALL offenses against his orders are political offenses.

                The original Vault isn’t a big part of the story, though, so it kind of depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. But very detailed locations are also kind of a Bethesda specialty, and this IS the intro to the game. If you remember what’s coming, some details about why Dad decided to go to THIS vault would be useful.

                You could also have the scenario come up briefly when you meet Dad again later, with:

                “I realized you were your own person now and could take care of yourself” for the “evil” option vs

                “I realized that my continued presence could only endanger you since I could no longer tolerate the Overseer’s actions” if you chose the “good” option

                • Awetugiw says:

                  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the vault being a sealed environment is “pure nonsense.” Yes, we later learn that mom and dad were from outside the vault. But IIRC this is presented as a shocking revelation, not a common occurrence.

                  So while there is some contact with the outside world (also including some trade with Megaton), I don’t think that this contact is very relevant from a population perspective.

          • TheJungerLudendorff says:

            But a public execution would involve so much paperwork!

    • BlueHorus says:

      It’d be awesome if the Overseer killed him regardless – it could make the Evil choice have more meaning. In one sense, all you achieved by being Good was wasted medicine.

      Thus a lot of the Evil choices in the games into ‘why bother being good in a world this bad’ or ‘I want to but it’s just a waste in this situation’, rather than F03’s original ‘Hurt people just because! LOL!’.

      Related point:
      This is an awesome idea for a series. Looking forward to more.

      Your take on Little Lamplight should be good :D.

      • Falterfire says:

        The trick here is in deciding what you want the implicit message of the work to be – If ‘good’ choices regularly lead to bad results that hurt you down the line, the story will start to develop a theme of “doing the right thing is stupid”, whether that was your original goal or not.

        Especially since this is the games very first choice, I’d be leery of punishing the player for choosing the good karma option unless you want the player to take away that altruism is a Bad Idea.

        I want to be clear that I’m not saying that your version doesn’t make sense – it does follow naturally from the setup we’re given – but I think leaving the fate ambiguous will help maintain themes down the line even if it makes this single scene less powerful.

        • Kita-Ysabell says:

          The implications of how a game responds to a player’s “good” actions definitely falls along a scale of optimism and pessimism, and the “right” response for any game depends on the tone it’s trying to set. I have yet to hear anyone fault Bloodborne for having characters’ side stories end in tragedy despite the players’ actions, but that’s exactly the sort of shit that would not fly in, say, Mass Effect, and one of the things that is intensely frustrating about the transition from Dragon Age: Origins to DA:II– in Origins, you could fix things, but in II, no matter how hard you try to pick the best options, things just keep getting worse.

          That said, I think a balance that would work well in this situation, and which I would personally find quite satisfying, would be that, rather than giving the player character stuff (to add to their strength) to reward them for “good” actions, “good” actions required that the player (inevitably the powerful) sacrifice that stuff (strength) to make things better (for the weak). Instead of getting stuff as a reward, you get to see things be less terrible.

          Like, in this case, maybe you come back to the vault on down the line, and the guy’s family don’t necessarily regard you differently, because that was a long time ago in a room far from their eyes. But maybe the community regards them differently. If the man was left for the Overseer to kill, he’s remembered as a hero of the revolution, but if not? He was no one, and the truth about his death was buried. Or maybe it’s mostly reflected in the follow-up dialogue with your father. If you let him die, there’s a lingering sense that maybe he left not in spite of you, but because he felt you were beyond his reach. And when you meet him again, maybe there’s one line, maybe he remembers, and wonders why you bothered to come after him, when the two of you have become so different.

          Granted, this is probably the most difficult from a writing and programming standpoint. You have to keep track of things that do or don’t pay off, and account for them in some way. And hell, maybe it sounds trite. But I still say it’s the most satisfying option, and the most thematically relevant.

          Now that there is a theme.

          • Thanatos Crows says:

            Also on top of getting to see things turn for the better it might work to have the player rewarded down the line for their good (altruist) choices and immediately for the evil (selfish) ones. Back that up by making supplies matter more than they presently do in the game and you can run into some actual emergent grayness of character. This, I feel, would back up the theme beautifully, as it would highlight the part where it’s the powerful giving their strenght to the weak. Maybe you’re not always powerful enough. Maybe some characters would have to resort to ends justifying the means at points and getting to hear about it. But never being forced into it by the writer. They’d just have to weigh in what they’ve got and make the call. Do they have what it takes to make it harder on themselves to better things for others.

      • This is an interesting notion and would be very valuable if you’re thematically trying to highlight the difference between principles and expediency. It would need a callback, later, though, because the Overseer does, eventually, get overthrown, and you CAN come back to the Vault later in the story, so if the man’s family was there and reacted hatefully toward you for not trying to save him, that would be a good callback for the “evil” choice. And if they offer you assistance/resources/cool stuff for at least TRYING to help him, that would be a good callback for the “good” choice.

        It wouldn’t be a game-steering choice, but it would have some significance and mean that you could argue reasonably for either option as the “right” one for a given character.

        I find that good and evil choices are not as significant to the player as “right” and “wrong” choices. If the game marks something as “good” but it still feels like the WRONG choice for a “good” character (or any character), the game is going to give you a little unsatisfying jolt. Too many of these, and you just stop caring and you’re just clicking the option to fill the meter.

        To me, all “evil for the lulz!” options feel WRONG. I don’t really mind that they EXIST. If you want to play a hilarious psychopath, fine, but they almost never make any dang sense. And if you’re going to have Hilarious Psychopath choices, then Hilarious Psychopath as a characterization needs to make sense for the game OVERALL.

        • Also one thing that games mostly don’t do is to allow you to react to NPC reactions by saying, in essence, “you’re shitting me with this reaction, right?” They tend to treat the NPC reaction to what you did as if the NPC is, by default, right. They put the player on the defensive where either the NPC gets the last word or the PC has to sooth down the NPC.

          There’s a world of difference between “I will now justify what I did” and “why the heck do I need to justify this? Your reaction makes no sense.”

          • Viktor says:

            I feel like a system of reactions that goes: “Explain myself” “I am like unto a God why should I explain myself” and “WTF this is basic why do you need it explained” is a pretty solid list for interacting with NPCs in these games.

        • BlueHorus says:

          I find that good and evil choices are not as significant to the player as “right” and “wrong” choices.

          Have to agree so much with this. Creating an apocalyptic setting with so much potential for moral complexity and then imposing a binary good/evil system on top…just defeats the point.
          Particuarly when what’s designated Good or Evil seems massively arbitary (Shamus’s article on the Tenpenny Tower/Roy Phillips situation is a great example of this).
          I’m pretty sure ‘Good’ & ‘Evil’ in F03 were just Three Dog’s personal preferences.

          I’m really glad most games have moved away from such a simplistic system.

          • Dork Angel says:

            You almost want a 4 way option like the old D&D alignment system. Keep the Lawful/chaos bit but replace good/evil with selfish/altruistic. The skill is in making each choice valid to that viewpoint. Few people are deliberately evil without requiring some sort of good sounding justification for their choice. 1) He broke the rules, it’s his own fault. 2) The rules aren’t fair I should help him. 3) I can’t waste this expensive medicine on a criminal but I will comfort him while he dies. 4) If there’s a way to save him I must use it regardless of the cost.

            Witcher 3 was good at making you chose between tough choices where the right one might have bad consequences. If you’re always making the “good” choice to get a “good” outcome, you’re not actually making the choice because it’s good, your making it because it’s advantageous.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Witcher is also good because it does not have universal morality.Your choices impact stuff,but only the people who have a way of knowing about them are able to comment on them.

              • Scourge says:

                Why not go with the original Fallout 1 and 2 idea of Karma? Karma in general and of course Karma in various places too.

                Instead of going with good and evil that give Karma, you could go along the lines of “Being altruistic gives good Karma and some people think better of you.”

                Like, you help people. You found someone out in the wasteland and he was wounded. So you fix him up with some stimpacks and help with the broken leg.
                That already gives you good Karma.

                Then later you stumble upon a a farming village or something and hey, its Mister Broken legs. Now the disposition of the whole village is Friendly.

                On the other hand, if you don’t help him, or worse rob him and don’t kill him, the village may start off as less friendly.

                Of course if you kill him then the village is neutral because, hey, they don’t magically know it was you that killed Broken legs. They might even send you out to find him because his wife/Daughter/whatever is worried.

                As for the Good and Bad Karma in general, word gets around.

                A Raider camp will think worse of you for having good Karma.
                Mercs that will do anything for money will think badly of you and Mercs that generally accept “Feel good” missions think better of you.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even if the man ends up dead regardless of what you do,the choice could still make an impact on how the others treat you later.Even if minor,the difference between the overseer saying to you “You were just following orders.I respect a person who follows orders.But just remember whose orders you are following.” and “I am glad that you decided to defy your fathers wishes and do what is right” would still be impactful enough.

      • Dork Angel says:

        If you really want to mess with them, on their return to the vault have a few people missing and explain there was an accident of some sort and there wasn’t enough medicine to save them all. Some of the dwellers could blame you for using it, while his family could quietly thank you.

  2. Viktor says:

    One change, I’d make it so that you get any medicine you don’t use on the man. So you retrieve, say, 2xStimpacks, 1xBuffout, and 1xMed-X for your father and have to give up all of it to heal him completely, just the Buffout and Med-X to keep him alive, or you keep it all and let him die. It’s a bit of a game-vs-player question, but it fits the Bethesda style.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Awesome. So there’s several choices:
      1) Don’t withdraw the medicine, leave it in the inventory.
      2) Withdraw the medicine and use in on the guy (some or all).
      3) Withdraw the medicine and don’t use it on the guy, keep it for yourself (some or all).
      4) a combination of 2) and 3).

      Coupled with Nick-B (below)’s idea of making it really clear that there just isn’t enough medicine to go around, and you’ve got a really good way of letting the player express their character.

    • djw says:

      Nice. That Buffout can make a big difference early game when hitpoints are low.

      Good should be its own reward. I dislike it when video games reward good behavior with swag.

      • Echo Tango says:

        The player shouldn’t be immediately rewarded with valuable goods (“swag”), but the player should be able to reasonably expect a chance at some future positive outcome. For example, if the player chooses to help Poor Old Man early in the game, they won’t be expecting any big reward (he’s a money-less old man), but it should at least be possible that that man will be important later on. He could be friends with someone who will give you more favorable trade prices, or know the location of some buried cache, on top of the likelihood that he’s just a poor old man.

        Alternately, the game could have some scenes play differently based on the player character’s Karma score. For example, the chance of being attacked by strong enemies (with no loot) could go up with a low karma, because that’s the type of crapsack world the player has chosen to live in. Players choosing to play “good” could have slightly more favorable random encounters. It feels sort of game-y the way I described it, but a game can’t possibly simulate the full outcomes of minor choices, and this type of behavior is based on social norms and smaller actions – larger “evils” are covered by laws, which are much easier to encode into a videogame. For example, guards can arrest the player character for theft, and it feels reasonably realistic, because that’s the most likely outcome for theft.

        • djw says:

          Well, imagine in *real life* that you notice an old lady fall down the stairs. Nobody else is around to help her, and she has not been able to get up.

          You are on your way to an important meeting and if you stop to help her you will be late. There are negative consequences to being late.

          Do you:

          A) Stop to help her because she might give you a reward?

          B) Stop to help her because there is a small chance that she will play an important roll later in your life?

          C) Ignore her and go to your meeting (because you are evil?)

          D) Stop and help her because it is the right thing to do?

          • Echo Tango says:

            Your assumption is that the consequences for being late are harsh and rigid, and that helping the old woman takes a large amount of time. In the real world you would help her, and explain to your co-workers why you were late. Alternately, you would help her, and only lose 30 seconds of your time. If you actually got punished for your good deed, you would then live with the punishment.

            • djw says:

              Well, yes, you would help her. Whether or not you suffer consequences would depend upon your co-workers, of course, but you can probably come up with a scenario where being late is bad regardless (missed a flight for instance).

              In any case, your motivation to help the old lady really has nothing to do with rewards. You do it because its the humane thing to do, and only a psychopath would consider anything else.

              • Syal says:

                but you can probably come up with a scenario where being late is bad regardless

                Wife giving birth in the backseat. Already been late multiple times and being late again for any reason gets you fired. Picking up a paycheck on a Friday evening, which if you miss you’ll miss eating until Tuesday (Monday’s a bank holiday).

                More importantly, if no one else is around to help the old lady, why is she there and why are you there?

                More more importantly, if this lady has fallen down these stairs, do you consider it a moral imperative to come back here every day and stand by them until she makes it down them safely? Drive her to the hospital if she falls, inform next of kin, install new railings, push to move her to a ground floor? How far must a non-psychopath go?

                So, E) Call an ambulance and go to your meeting.

                • djw says:

                  Is that what you would actually do?

                  If you treat the situation as a logic puzzle you can come up with all sorts of conundrums, but when push comes to shove I bet most people would skip the long chain of reasoning and just help the lady.

                  I’m not gonna ask what you would do if five old ladies fell down in front of a trolley and you could save them by pushing a fat old lady in front of them to stop the trolley.

                  • Syal says:

                    I’m trying to avoid being too acidic, but

                    only a psychopath would consider anything else.

                    is what I’m aiming at. You’ve declared it morally devoid to not help an old lady under all circumstances, and have not addressed the circumstances I provided.

                    So. To ‘help’ an old lady who has fallen down the stairs requires which of the following:

                    A) getting her back to her feet
                    B) getting medical attention
                    C) waiting for medical attention to arrive
                    D) taking steps to make sure she doesn’t fall down the stairs again

                    This moral imperative ends:

                    A) after she’s back on her feet
                    B) after someone else volunteers to help
                    C) for the day, after you pass this point in your daily routine
                    D) for the day, after altering your daily routine to put yourself in a better position to help
                    E) not until the old lady dies, years or decades from now

                    If you treat the situation as a logic puzzle you can come up with all sorts of conundrums, but when push comes to shove I bet most people would skip the long chain of reasoning and just help the lady.

                    Yes, but here it’s a logic puzzle, presented with a moral imperative.

                    • djw says:

                      I think this is a case where we would end up agreeing if we were talking in person and could gauge expressions and body language, but the internet does not allow that.

                      For what it is worth, I do think that I used the word psychopath correctly, but I can see where it might act as a barrier to the thought I was actually trying to communicate (by making it seem more extreme than intended).

                      Probably I should have just phrased it differently.

                      I do doubt that you would consider all of the above points if you were actually in the situation described though.

                    • djw says:

                      Upon perusing the wikipedia entry on psychopathy I now think that I did not use the word correctly. Live and learn. It has a much more negative connotation than I thought it did.

                • Viktor says:

                  The “Wife is giving birth” is just a Trolly Problem.

                  Fired/Missing a paycheck are reasons why you’ll suffer for helping this woman, but that doesn’t change the fundamental “helping a possibly-injured person is good, ignoring them is not good” dynamic, that just make the stakes higher.

                  “Why is no one else around to help” Fun fact, the more people who are passing a car wreck, the less likely it is that anyone stops to help or calls 911. Everyone assumes someone else will do it, and then no one does.

                  I consider it morally right to help others when you have the chance. That means help a person who has fallen, but long-term it also means voting for someone who promises to require railings on all stairways in town or contributing to charities that help elderly people move. You can’t solve every problem yourself, but you can take steps to help society fix the fundamental things that cause those problems.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                You do it because its the humane thing to do, and only a psychopath would consider anything else.

                Thats a bit too much black and white.I can think of quite a few reasons why someone would consider an alternative.A similar situation has already backfired on them,the passive bystander syndrome,being a hypochondriac afraid of catching something from a person who appears to be ill,etc,etc.

          • djw says:

            The Mage’s Guild quest line in Elder Scrolls Online has a similar dilemma at its conclusion, that I rather liked (although most people that posted about it online hated it). Spoiler tags just in case:

            The quest chain involves a series of contests and quests given to you by Sheogorath in order to recover an Arcane Sanctuary that Archmage Shalidor lost to him in a rigged bet.

            Throughout the quest line there is an elf mage lady by the name of Valaste who has been helping you to decipher clues left by Sheogorath in a series of tomes. Exposure to Sheogoraths writings renders her insane by the end of the quest line.

            You get a choice: restore Valaste to sanity, and receive basically nothing else, or allow Sheogorath to keep her, and get two free skill points instead.

            As far as I know they have never added any reward to the save Valaste choice.

            I liked this quest line because saving Valaste was very obviously the right thing to do (although on ESO message boards many people who chose the skill points tried to justify it post hoc by claiming that she was happier insane). So, do the right thing, or benefit from greed.

            This is how you really find out which direction your moral compass points.

          • Echo Tango says:

            I actually should have re-written my post, but I ran out of time, and then ran out of lunch-hour to correct my mistake. I missed the fact that I was making an implication, that many people would choose to do a “good” action, based on perceived future reward. I was actually trying to advocate for more gameplay outcomes, since your proposal limited “good” outcomes to be always devoid of future reward. Real life does not always have “good” acts go unrewarded, so making the game in that way would make the game ill-fit with the real-life world (alternate timeline?) which it is ostensibly based upon.

            I had a longer post here about what constitutes good/bad/psychopathy, but I’m deleting it since it’s off of the topic of the videogame at hand. There’s other places to argue politics / philosphy.

            • djw says:

              Yes. I like the idea of outcomes that are based naturally upon what you did.

              Whether those outcomes need to be balanced (materially or via xp) depends largely upon the type of game you are designing. In a game that aims for gritty realism the outcomes should not be balanced, because that’s not how the real world works.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Ok,if we are going to bring in the real world here:Doing a selfless good deed for someone else is still rewarding for a person.There is the “thank you” you get afterwards that releases endorphins which make you feel good for a long time,thus there is your reward.Then there are the bragging rights of “I did a good deed today” which are followed by “Congratulations!You are a good person!”.And of course,lets not forget the belief in real world karma,expecting that how you treat others is how others will end up treating you.So yeah,even if you arent expecting anything from an old lady,you are subconsciously expecting to be rewarded for your good deed,either by your body,other people,or the universe itself.

            I wonder how many people would continue doing good deeds if afterwards they were scolded by the person they helped,other people and the universe itself.

      • Nothing but an ultimate purpose is “its own reward”. Good and evil are evaluations of MEANS to an end, not ends in themselves. Without an ultimate purpose it is, in fact, impossible to evaluate whether anything is, in fact, good.

      • BlueHorus says:

        Good should be its own reward. I dislike it when video games reward good behavior with swag.

        I think that games shouldn’t reward either. Or, they should reward both equally (if they can). Make the situation purely a matter of preference or morality. Though of course in this setting/situation, that would be hard – maybe impossible – to do.

        Still, try and divorce your moral role-play from your gameplay gets my vote.

        • Echo Tango says:

          The problem is that the “evil” options are usually ones with material rewards attached to them. The game can’t easily treat them both good and evil equally, when the criminal option leaves the player character flush with cash and guns, and the goodie-two-shoes option doesn’t have stolen goods as compensation. :)

          • djw says:

            I’d like to see this balanced by some sort of punishment system that is both natural and hard to “game”.

            For instance, a valuable item is on a desk. However, there are camera’s in the room and in the hall leading into the room. It is *possible* to get in to the room and take the item without showing up in the camera. But you won’t know whether or not you managed it until much, much later. So, do you steal it and hope you didn’t get seen?

            Possibly, if you got seen in the area but NOT in the room with the valuable item then once you are finally approached by law enforcement you can talk your way out of it. However, if you have been diligently picking pockets then one of the locals might tell an officer “my wallet went missing a few days ago after he bumped into me at the store” or “my sister saw him spending a big wad of cash, even though he doesn’t have a job!”

            • winawer says:

              I like this concept, and I don’t feel it’s been explored enough. Certainly not in Fallout 3, anyway.

              Rather than having the game’s response to your decision being immmediate (“I chose the good/evil option and received X as a reward/punishment”), the game gives you nothing. Or very little, at least at first. Then much later that decision will pay off, or come back to haunt you, often in a way you could not have predicted at the time.

              Of course, there are some examples of this already. Like when you meet Fawkes in Vault 87. You help him, he helps you, then you part ways. Only much later does he reappear to fight alongside you at Raven Rock. . This resonated with me at the time, since it really was an unexpected payoff for a good deed.

    • Retsam says:

      Personally, I’m not sure I’m a fan of directly assigning gameplay outcomes to morality choices, at least not in a way that one choice becomes strictly better than another from a gameplay perspective.

      It ends up feeling like the game is punishing the player for trying to do good, which can be a valid design choice, if the game is explicitly trying to push a cynical (or a “realistic”) view, but having the main plot-line be about it being “Good for the powerful to give strength to the weak”, while the gameplay “punishes” you for giving strength to the weak… that’s going to feel like a mixed message to me.

      • Nimas says:

        To be fair, assuming you include things pointing out how *tough* doing the right thing is, it could work.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It can be balanced somewhat.You can make it so that evil deeds give you instant gratification while the good deeds give you even more things later on.A shopkeeper who is willing to give you a significant discount if you have high enough karma,an important npc who gives you a powerful item if you helped someone much earlier in the game,etc.

        Or,you can make it so that selfish acts that reward you with money give out less xp.

        • Dork Angel says:

          With obvious rewards or a Karma score there is always the temptation to game the system. I didn’t like the Mass Effect way where to get certain outcomes you ALWAYS had to take the Paragon option, even if it was stupid or had nothing to do with your desired outcome. If I want Miranda and Jack to both speak to me I need to act in a certain way in a bar where neither of them are present and know what choice I make.

    • guy says:

      I really don’t want to have the opening choice (which will set the tone for a playthrough, most likely) have a big mechanical divergence in terms of outcomes, especially given how valuable any medicine is right out of the gate. Unless the cost is trivial even by “I have my vault suit, a baseball bat, and a pistol with ten rounds” standards, players will feel forced to take the evil option.

      • Viktor says:

        I think this falls into what your view of morality is. I tend to hit the Leverage/Digger view of “Evil always has a reason. Generally a shitty, selfish reason, but every evil person is fundamentally certain that they’re justified.” This is a post-apocalyptic world: doing the right thing is difficult. That’s not a reason not to do it. Yes, the player is going to be in dangerous situations very soon, with not enough gear and unfamiliar controls. That Buffout could really come in handy. But a dude is going to die without treatment. What do you do? That, to me, is a much more interesting question than whether you want more red or blue points.

        • guy says:

          “Let the guy die” vs. “Bind quicksave and quickload to the left and right mouse buttons respectively” is not a very interesting choice, but when you’re talking medex, buffout, and two stimpacks when you maybe get two more stimpacks and a modest amount of food over the next hour, that’s the choice being offered to a lot of people and builds.

          As a basic playability issue, if there’s supposed to be multiple viable paths, one shouldn’t be hugely mechanically superior to the other. Over the longer term, you can make it work, particularly if you go with a rule that the evil options get you more stuff and the good options get you more friends and thus reduce your need for stuff, but even a little gear goes a long way that early on. It’s kind of like how in Fallout 2 you can start with melee/unarmed skill or alternately you can not do that.

          • djw says:

            Skill up melee vs skill up guns is a very different choice than keep drugs or save dying person. I don’t think that they should have anything to do with each other.

            If the melee option is much harder than the guns option then they either need to balance them better *OR* telegraph to you that you are making a difficult choice when you opt for melee.

            • Syal says:

              Other way around; Fallout 2 provides no guns until the… third dungeon, I think? Second dungeon you might get a pipe gun that deals hardly any damage and needs reloading after every shot, but melee/unarmed is the only choice for the super-early game.

              • djw says:

                I haven’t actually played Fallout 2 (although it is on my bucket list). I was going by Fallout 3 and the reference to Buffout, which is useful for any play style, but MORE useful for melee (because +3 STR).

                • guy says:

                  It’s a reference to Fallout 2’s infamous Temple Of Trials, in which you must fight your way through a monster-infested complex right after character creation, armed only with your fists and a spear. It is not pleasant for ranged characters. Not impossible; the monsters have low AP and you can swing at them, then back off and let them come to you and spend enough AP they can’t attack that turn, but that’s really time consuming and not something first-time players will necessarily figure out on their own.

  3. Nick-B says:

    That’s an interesting start. I like the idea of having the “expensive” life-saving medicine costing you personally. Show a “clinic balance” number at the top of the screen. Have it be fairly low, but show that the medicine will take a big chunk (most) of the remainder. Let good things have actual consequence to it, rather than just be “Do you punch this baby, or feed it food? Neither choice costs anything!” choices.

    Very good start. When it came to the end, my mind actually popped back into reality, showing that your own description (and justifications for choices) were so engrossing I actually was visualizing it.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Rutz did say he wasn’t going to rewrite the engine, so a big number at the top of the screen wouldn’t work. It could work if, for a small section of the game, the player could have a limited amount of money, Stim-Packs, Rad-Away, etc. The player could easily see their very limited resources, and make choices accordingly. Note that this requires somewhat tight control on the player’s inventory, so having a section like this later on in the game when the player has backpacks full of medicine wouldn’t work.

      Of course the “backpacks full of loot” problem could itself be solved, if the game didn’t allow the player character to live forever, or had quests expire. As it stands, the player is free to accumulate infinite resources using their infinite game-time, and the quest characters just sit there forever. I wouldn’t suggest this type of fix just for the loot / resources, but having NPCs act as un-aging robots who sit around forever for you to complete their quests, makes the NPCs and the world feel rather cheap and game-y to me.

      • djw says:

        Even if there is no number up top you can probably assume that people will play through the opening multiple times, especially if Rutz rewrite makes it a painless process.

        On subsequent play throughs people will know how tough the upcoming fights are and they will know how important those meds are to their ability to get through them.

        It might seem cheesy to rely on metagame knowledge like this, but to some extent that replaces the in game knowledge that your character about the game world and you (the dude or dudette sitting in front of a computer) do not have.

        • winawer says:

          The way I see it, the metagame knowledge that you, the player, already knows about the gameworld need not be divorced from your in-game character. It’s just that Bethesda has, bizarrely, chosen not to do it this way when it comes to Fallout.

          Take Skyrim (or New Vegas), for instance. It’s precisely because your character exists as part of the world – a prisoner caught crossing the border (or a courier shot in the head) – that it’s perfectly reasonable for them to be aware of the kind of dangers the world contains. Both in terms of hostile wildlife and potential interactions with other factions.

          This is all comes down to character creation – the Dragonborn and Courier belong in the world, and lived in it long before you took control of them. It’s you that’s discovering the world for the first time, not your in-game character.

          Compare this to the start of Fallout 3 (and Fallout 4) – in both cases your characters is introduced to the Wasteland for the first time. So in subsequent playthroughs it creates the immersion breaking scenario where your knowledge as a player is already way ahead of what your character in-game is experiencing. SHAUUUUNNN!!!

  4. Christopher says:

    Very nice.

    If there is anything that does drag the game down it is that lack of a strong central theme, and more importantly a coherent central theme.

    I still enjoyed Fallout 3, but the story felt like just fluff while I was crawling around DC.

  5. Radiosity says:

    Be interested to see where you go with your version compared to my own. (I’ve been writing something like this for a while, though I’m more focused on the world itself than the main story.)

  6. KingJosh says:

    Please make Reginald Cuftbert cannon. Please!!

  7. tremor3258 says:

    I’m really interested where this will go – especially as one of Fallout 3’s issues was assuming motivation rather than providing.

  8. Syal says:

    They didn’t hallucinate a better storyline than existed,

    He says, hallucinating and publishing a better storyline than existed.

    My only suggestion so far is make the Overseer/Dad conflict more indirect; guy was stealing water, Overseer declares he doesn’t get water anymore, guy gets appendicitis or something and Dad uses a sizable bit of water to clean him up (however that would work, maybe stimpaks are 90% water or something). More of an edge case than “I’m going to ignore the last 200 years of Overseer authority.”

    …so Final Fantasy 8 next? You know it needs it, and it might even deserve it!

    • Radiosity says:

      Heh, I’m writing a series on 7 right now, but 8 will be happening after that. It’s still my #2 FF for various reasons, but the story… yeah, it’s a mess lol

      Still, it’s a fun mess, not like the awfulness of 13’s.

  9. Christopher says:

    This is a cool exercise. I think it’s hard to do this and not come across as “I could do this better than these chumps”, even with all the caveats, but it’s also a 9 year old game from a console generation ago that was massively succesful. You’re not hurting anyone’s feelings or work here, you’re just making a really interesting second try at their story, and it’s a fun departure from the let’s plays.

    Are the images all concept art? It looks really great, like concept art usually does.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I wish the game itself looked like the cartoony / comic-book concept art, actually. Fallout 3 / New Vegas looked very brown, washed-out, and pseudo-realistic (which itself never ages well with technological improvements). However, we totally had the ability to do cell-shaded games – Fallout 3 came out 5 years after XIII, which had a toon-shader for the whole game. Just imagine if Fallout 3 had a graphical aesthetic like Borderlands[1], which came out the next year. :)

      [1] A lower-res / slightly-earlier-technologically version, but XIII was even earlier and still looked good.

  10. Paul Spooner says:

    This exercise is most certainly not about…

    I really appreciate this disclaimer, especially as I struggled with these points while doing the FFTS completion, though without explicitly articulating them. It’s heartening to see these three points (with the second shifted to be more about tone instead of mechanics when referring to purely narrative works) given up-front. For what it’s worth, I approve.
    Although, the reasons given are missing a major one that I found in myself. Leaving as much narrative as possible unaltered is presented as being for the sake of the usefulness of the exercise to the reader, but for me it was also motivated by the benefit of moderate constraint on the writer. The boundaries of the givens allow the possibility of a solution, and negate the bulk of the difficulty of paring down horizonless possibilities into concrete story beats.

    If we’re going to identify a central theme, it should be something that allows for multiple kinds of characters and informs your actions from the beginning to the end. I think the best we can do is:

    It is Good for the powerful to give strength to the weak.

    I love this as well. Identifying and maintaining a central theme is such a powerful tool. I didn’t do it nearly well enough in FFTS, and I love how this theme already delivers value in the re-done intro. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to studying how you wield the theme over the course of the series.

    [uses block-quotes for meta commentary] … [uses block-quotes for in-game dialog options]

    The inconsistency bothers me, but I’m guessing this is just trying out various styles. IIRC established usage is for meta comments. Maybe use bullet lists for dialog options enumeration?

  11. Cinebeast says:

    i didn’t know you were going to do this i love it

    Off to a strong start too. And that concept art! That stuff is amazing.

  12. Inwoods says:


    “But though(t) it might seem self-evident,”

    “Why would it be Good for your father (?) have the means to make water clean on a grand scale? “

  13. Jabrwock says:

    I love it. It give you so much more reason to leave than “omg your father left again, time to die!” story they originally had.

  14. MichaelGC says:

    I feel as though I did get something out of how long the faffing about in the vault went on the first time I played. I only had the vaguest idea of the game’s story, so when I got kicked out and everything changed there was some infinitesimal analogue of what it might have felt like for an actual vault-dweller in that situation.

    If more of the current beginning were to be retained: not sure we need a birthday party, but the bully scene could be made to more explicitly work with our main theme. So could the aptitude test – you could have it so there is more than one teacher, and how you interact with the two of them following the test determines your final posting, whether that be on the janitorial or medical staff, or to security, or the fast-track to overseership, etc. etc. Plenty of thematic opportunity there.

    Haven’t thought long and hard about this, though, as throwing it all out works absolutely fine, and the elephant in this comment is of course 🐘 replay value. However good that ‘kicked out the vault’ moment is, it’s not essential thematically, and it only really works the very first time.

    So, enough with this comment’s pointless faffing about! 😁 Very excited for this series, which doesn’t have a chance of not being interesting. (I’ll admit to a loud guffaw at “proving I’m ‘better’ than Bethesda’s writers.” I do accept all the disclaimers, there, though. As, I’m sure, so would they.)

  15. SADD1 says:

    Ruts, I can’t figure out the Mouselook and Movevement Keys on my X-Box Controller, can you help!?!

  16. Always love reading story telling analysis like this, makes me feel like I’m improving as a writer with minimal effort! Glad you’re doing it Ruts, should be a blast reading it.

  17. Mistwraithe says:

    This should be a fun series. Thanks Ruts.

  18. Jabrwock says:

    Just an FYI, I was going to chocolatehammer.org to re-read your “Clod of Cthulhu” series, but the website is nothing but “????????????????”.

  19. eaglewingz says:

    Why was this done by an NPC?

    Why must I do this?

    What do they eat?

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Writing this series is easy.

    Ah,so youre working up to the hard challenge of fixing the mess that is fallout 4.

  21. Actual Lee says:

    Blood trails from the entrance to an operating table

    If we don’t neutralize the plasma residue

    Actually, plasma burns don’t make the wounds bloody. You fail at being better than the original writers.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The goal here is simple: I’m trying to address the idea that a different approach to characters, storylines, and setpieces would have made F3 even more enjoyable.

    Sadly,new vegas has already proven this to be untrue.The biggest fans of fallout 3 dissed new vegas hard,while those who loved new vegas werent that big fans of fallout 3 to begin with.

    • Rutskarn says:

      I’m not setting out to write New Vegas, though. I’m shooting for something much closer to Bethesda’s vision, I’m just trying to make a better go of it.

    • Zekiel says:

      Any ideas why that was?

      I fit the mold – because I hated FO3 and loved New Vegas. But that makes sense to me – FO3 has (in my opinion) rubbishy writing and a stupid karma system, both of which New Vegas massively improved on.

      But if you loved FO3 why wouldn’t you love New Vegas?

      • BlueHorus says:

        There were endless threads about which was better after F:NV came out, and a couple of the better aguments for F03 went like this:

        I don’t like being forced to go a certain way.
        – In F03, you could pick a direction from leaving the vault, and go in it until you found something to do then you did it. Periodically, dogs would spawn in and attack you, until you hit a certain level and dogs magically became extinct. Then giant scorpions would spawn in. Etc.
        – In F:NV, if you picked a random direction and just walked, you WOULD get eaten by Cazadores, or Deathclaws, or something else really powerful. You were funnelled down a road south, into a series of set-pieces that introduced the world and the factions. Going places had real consequences, up to and including death.
        – In short, different types of freedom.

        It’s more fun/takes less time to get going.
        – F03: Go to a place, see the problem, solve the problem. Leave. Go somewhere else, see their problem, and solve it however you see fit. It’s like a theme park, where you go from ride to ride and forget about the ones you’ve already been on, ‘cos they’re done now. You were The Vault Dweller, and you called the shots; it was openly, clearly a game that existed to entertain you as a player.
        – F:NV: Real effort was put into making the world believable. Farms everywhere. Hiniting at wider consequences to your actions. NCR troopers talking about ‘back home’, factions with histories and backstories that you might never learn as you played. But someone had thought about them even if you hadn’t.
        And – as a consequence – you explicitly could not get your own way all the time, because the NPCs had opinions too. You could get people killed without meaning to, be forced into compromises, lose friends. You were NOT the most important person in the Mojave, by a long shot.

        And there were others. But, wall-o’-text.

        While I personally think that F03 is a terrible fanfic compared to F:NV’s prize-winning novel, I can see that F03’s approach would appeal to some people more:
        ‘Sod this role-play nonsense, I just wanna play a game.’

        • Christopher says:

          Yeah, basically. Not everyone is looking for an RPG to simulate a tabletop setting, or even just to roleplay. I liked New Vegas just fine, but I stopped after eight hours or so because I felt like I was being funneled down South and don’t have a big knack for rping, I always just play myself. I was away from the game for a few days, lost my attachment to the characters and played something else. Comparatively, Skyrim is mindless. The writing is undoubtably worse. But I could wander wherever I wanted to right from the get-go and feel like I went on my own adventure, and I did so for hundreds of hours. The RPG aspect was way more a matter of numbers and speccing, and also completely unimportant compared to just being able to explore everywhere.

        • Zekiel says:

          Thank you – that’s a really helpful summary! The reasons for preferring FO3 do make sense (even if I don’t agree with them myself either). I like world-building and roleplaying which I guess is why New Vegas clicked with me.

  23. Akuma says:

    Oh boy.

    I’m already really enjoying this, truly the Fallout 3 well is deep and rich. Since the game’s strongest points are it’s bang bang times and looting I think you’re very correct in skipping over the growing up portion of the vault. The tutorial bits in the vault are neat because there quite interesting and can develop a basic character, but it’s unskippable and we won’t ever be coming back so it’s value is kind of low.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for Backseat Writing:

    Dad, it’s after Curfew. What’s going on?

    That is a beautiful line. It is packed with so much meaning and context in the fewest words possible.

    Did you not see the Overseer’s bots out there? We’re harboring a fugitive!

    In comparison I think this line is a little bit of a leap for the character and the player. I do agree entirely that it’s a quick shorthand to deliver information to the player, cleverly using their own character to do that, but there isn’t enough context for the character to come to this conclusion yet (The only thing we know so far is alarms and plasma wound. But if this is our first time in Sci-fi we don’t necessarily know that means he’s been shot).

    I’m picky about that as it can come off as jarring to the player, it won’t bother everybody but some people may be distracted by the question “How does my character know he’s a fugitive?”. The revelation that he’s a fugitive comes with the overseers announcement, and then the player could even exclaim to their Dad that “He’s a fugitive, why are you helping him?”

    So if we wanted to go with a context question I think something like this would work better for this scene:

    Is that Mister Anderson? Has he been shot?!

    This establishes what has “happened” (and that Plasma guns are a thing) but not how it happened, which we can later figure out by the Overseers announcement. He can also name drop the culprit so the player has no confusion over what situation they are in now.

    The only other thing I would change in this setup is how to do the medcine choice. Instead of three options on the screen, have two options, or the player can just walk over to the door and open it themselves. The engine can more then support this, and it establishes the players ability to exert their will to alter a situation.

    • Jabrwock says:

      Yeah, I agree, the fugitive comment seems a little too “expositiony”. Better to leave the circumstances up to the cutscene that follows. We can ask if he’s in trouble, since the bots and alarms indicate that some kind of breach happened, but to jump to the conclusion that the wounded guy is a fugitive seems a bit much, acting on knowledge the character doesn’t have yet. Like knowing the guy wasn’t on shift, so he shouldn’t be out after curfew, or knowing he was opposed to the Overseer, something like that.

      Could have it follow a response of “what’s going on, does he have something to do with the alarms out there”, have your father say something about why he broke curfew not being important right now, what’s important is saving his life, and THEN we realize we’re harbouring a fugitive.

  24. Genericide says:

    I’m very excited for this one! There’s always some satisfaction in “fixing” existing scripts, and the fact that you’re a writer I enjoy who’s set clear constraints and an analytical focus bodes well. It also helps that the Fallout 3 story has a lot of potential underneath all the mess.

    The note about choices not changing outcomes but inviting questions is something I can definitely get behind. I remember there was a moment in Skyrim, in the Dawnguard DLC. Companion Serana is talking about her relationship with her father, and then says “What about you? What’s your relationship with your parents?” or something similar. There were 5 or 6 diverse options that each gave a different response from Serana. That was it as far as consequences, but it was a very pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it.

    At the same time, it highlighted for me how absolutely no one else in the world had asked me about my character. On extremely rare occasions they’d ask for my opinion on something not quest-related, but I can’t think of a single one that pretended I was a human(ish) being with a life before Alduin showed up. I really wish Bethesda would do more of that, because even if it has no long-term impact it really draws you into the world and gets you thinking from an in-character perspective.

  25. guile says:

    You always come up with interesting article ideas.

    I’m glad Fallout 3 exists, but to be honest your idea already doesn’t feel like Betgesda’s Fallout because it has something to say to the player. Bethesda always seemed much more content to meander.

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