Overhaulout Part 6: Purity of Purpose

By Rutskarn
on Oct 6, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

The player’s found Dr. Li and discovered that James stopped by for a brief visit. By now they should realize he was trying to give the wasteland a supply of free, pure water, and they’ve seen repeated confirmations of his reason why: if water is allowed to remain a resource possessed by individual parties, it inevitably becomes a tool of control. James was chastised by his experiences trying to work with individual communities and will never forget the pain and bloodshed he inadvertently caused.

But there’s a lot that hasn’t come into focus about James: his present motivations and feelings, for example, which are ultimately what are responsible for the player’s predicament. Finding him will bring closure to this act both practically and emotionally. As Dr. Li explains, the only problem is:

He said he needed to review our old power generators! Of course I told him the site had been infested with super mutants since we left, that there weren’t any ghosts in that building worth dying for, but he never listens.

I told him not to come back. I don’t need to sit up here in my chair waiting to see if he’ll live or die. I’m sorry to say it, but I buried his bones a long time ago.

A move in the dark

The player is told that James probably used one of the old access tunnels to the facility. They’re “well hidden,” and Dr. Li knows no-one has used them in decades. It’s recommended the player take the same route to avoid having to fight or sneak through the dangerous main entrance.

Unfortunately, as the player comes within a few blocks of the secret tunnel, there’s a loud nuke-style earth-shaking explosion. The player reaches the quest marker to find a caved-in building.

This creates an element of mystery, to say nothing of paranoia. James makes his way through a secret tunnel and a few days later, it’s blown to pieces? Was James caught? Who would have the knowledge and intent and munitions to perform that kind of detonation? The player discovers that they have an enemy they haven’t seen, who hasn’t seen them, but who has already acted against their family’s interests.

 Notes from Project Purity

Once the player is actually cleaning house in Project Purity, they’re going to be finding signs of reasonably recent habitation.Although, with how forgiving the world decorating is, it’s surprisingly hard to differentiate “someone was here yesterday” from “someone was here 20 years ago” from “someone was here 200 years ago.” The best we can really do is establish campsites—generators hooked up to computers, cigarettes lying everywhere—which wouldn’t make sense for pre-war or even long-term occupation, and thus would have to date after the abandonment by your parents. The computers contain two kinds of notes: those dated about twenty years ago and those dated a few years ago. The two different kinds of notes hit on varying topics:

20 YEARS AGO:

  • “This might be promising! EDIT: Didn’t work.”
  • “James and Catherine are having second thoughts. Dr. Li wants to proceed or scale down.”
  • “Those super mutants are NOT going away and we keep having to shoot them and this feels like a bad trend.”

~5 YEARS AGO:

  • “This might be promising! EDIT: What were they even trying to do here?”
  • “These Wasteland ‘genius’ inventors can’t document a project to save their lives. We’re completely lost.”
  • “We’ll revisit it with our A team after they finish up their project. Mean time, keep an eye on the place. Anyone tries to get in or out, make a note of it.”
  • “What happened to my crate full of electronic parts? I needed that. Did one of those mouth-breathers take it? Oh, never mind.”

The player can find a gore bag stuffed with electronic parts. By this point, shrewd players should be wondering how someone managed to conduct research here while it was infested with super mutants. Whoever it was, it seems likely they were also responsible for blowing up your dad’s secret tunnel.

In the center of the purifier the player finds notes from James planning to break into a nearby Vault. “Our generators are sufficient! I have to take the risk. If Braun really is still alive, he may be the only man who can help us.”

That Creepy Vault

The only change we’re going to make to Vault 112 is the backstory. It’s productive for our story and our theme for us to discuss the idea that power can turn the well-intentioned into tyrants.

We will establish, in the virtual terminal containing Braun’s histories, that the simulated reality network of Vault 112 was in no way falsely advertised or conceived. It was in fact a post-war paradise created out of explicit goodwill: Braun wanted to provide an eternally novel and deprivation-free environment where his residents would live forever without pain. All citizens would retain their memories, forms, and personalities entirely. Unsure whether people would adapt well to this new world,  knowing he’d be unable to leave it and make changes, he provided himself admin abilities that would let him restructure his environment and moderate residents.

As the early days unfolded, Braun exercised his powers only in a measured, structured, and rigorously transparent way. He positioned himself as the local judge and lawkeeper: after all, not everyone adapted well to the sudden freedom and anarchy of a simulation. Many of the problems that arose from this experimental civilization were bizarre and unprecedented. Braun had to make a lot of snap judgments, some of which came off as arbitrary, all of which antagonized somebody. People began to bear grudges against him, and since there was no other power source to appeal to, those grudges festered. Braun’s paradise quickly took on a painfully sour character, and his self-image as benign monarch began to droop. Months of being the “bad guy” every time he had to fix a problem ate at him. He considered a jury system, but for some reason he found himself uneasy with the idea of ceding his administrative powers to the uninformed and potentially biased views of his fellow citizens.  So he kept on the way he always had, but the guilt began to fester.

Eventually he realized for his own sanity he couldn’t internalize every complaint made against him. In fact—he gradually came to understand—the trick was to consider arguments against his decisions strictly rationally, without letting his emotions come into it. Living up to this idea produced mixed results: he was sleeping a little better, and finding himself less constantly troubled, but the more detached he seemed to grow from the consequences of his judgments—the less sympathetic and contrite he sounded—the more demanding and infuriated his constituents became. He set down hard rules on how long he’d listen to appeals. They were not observed. When people refused to leave, ultimately he’d suspend their voices or teleport them away a short distance.

Now they were furious. Not just some of them, not just half of them, all of them—even the ones he’d come to see as reasonable! They called unanimously for his authority to be removed. Braun burned, because what was he supposed to do? Go into seclusion? Give them all administrative power and watch the chaos unfold? He certainly couldn’t give them power over him, couldn’t safely relinquish his own, not now that they all irrationally hated him. And they very obviously still needed someone taking care of them.

That was it, though, wasn’t it? The problem was they couldn’t bear that idea. They couldn’t yield themselves to administration. There was no way for them to be happy in this simulation knowing there was an all-powerful being ultimately calling the shots for them. Clearly, he’d made a mistake. It’d be so much easier if they should forget their old lives, forget the artifice—forget that Braun controlled everything around them.

So he wiped their memories and reconfigured their forms to match the environment, and the relief was instant. In an moment  they blended perfectly with Braun’s fabricated world. Nobody asked him to meddle, nobody noticed when he had. He was free to make any well-intentioned changes he wanted with nobody yelling at him—with nobody even noticing. He would walk among them calmly, righting wrongs without a hiccup. People would misbehave and he’d reverse it. Then they’d misbehave again and he’d reverse it again. Then they’d misbehave and he’d reverse it again. After a long while, this repetition did grow irritating. He realized that from a practical perspective, it’d be a lot easier to simulate the learning of a lesson and remove the source of each misbehavior.

So he made little tinkering improvements. He “fixed” personality disorders. He trimmed aggression, vice, inconsiderateness, jealousies, disagreements. He made loves requited, disagreements end amicably. This happened so gradually that it took years for the obvious realization to sink in: the people in his simulation weren’t anything like who they used to be anymore. They were things he’d made. They were his projects.

Well…that was fair enough, wasn’t it? The real people would have died years ago without him. In a way, it was fitting and natural they should “die” and evolve, smoothly and without trauma, into his custom-designed virtual companions. Maybe he should feel guilty. He felt as though he should, but…what if he didn’t? Who could possibly judge him anymore?

He should have felt desperately lonely. Fact was, he’d felt lonely for decades.

More than anything, he was growing bored.

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Footnotes:

[1] Although, with how forgiving the world decorating is, it’s surprisingly hard to differentiate “someone was here yesterday” from “someone was here 20 years ago” from “someone was here 200 years ago.” The best we can really do is establish campsites—generators hooked up to computers, cigarettes lying everywhere—which wouldn’t make sense for pre-war or even long-term occupation, and thus would have to date after the abandonment by your parents.


2020201575 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Iron Aquilifer says:

    Really enjoying this project,

  2. Tizzy says:

    That last sentence really needs an ominous chord to go alongside it.

  3. Radford says:

    That section about the Vault 112 backstory is more interesting and thought-provoking than any part of the original story of the game. It has a great science fiction feel to it, exploring the consequences of technology on people and using it to explore what it means to be human. Well done.

  4. Pax says:

    On the one hand, Braun is noted as one of the top a-holes responsible for the secret experiments done in the Vaults, so him going into Vault 112 with altruistic intentions seems kind of off. But on the other hand, Braun and his involvement with Vault-tec were brought up in 3 to begin with, so screw it, change whatever you want.

    • Primogenitor says:

      I think Vault-tec makes more sense as a “mega-corp gone rogue” than “moustache-twirling villains”, and this change to Braun plays perfectly into that.

      • Pax says:

        Of course, another way to take this change is that Braun had altruistic plans for Vault 112, but Vault-tec didn’t.

        • FelBlood says:

          Interior, Vault-Tec board Room. Multiple Vault-tec execs are surrounded by shot glasses, liquor bottles and reams of papers.

          Exec #1: What about Braun? He’s clearly unstable. What say we make him a vault overseer?

          CEO: Good idea. DRINK!

          (everyone takes a shot)

          Exec #2: Okay, okay, but he’s too got to waste on a boring vault like 111. We need to really give him–give him the whole Ring of–of Gyges.

          Man in Lab Coat: What about Vault 112?

          CEO: DRI~NK!

      • Ciennas says:

        Well, what’s the most horrifying about Vault-Tec (Until Bethesda turned them into cartoon caricatures,) Is that they were all too terrifyingly plausible.

        Look at Enron in our real world. Those assholes killed hundreds and stole billions, all without the excuse of 50’s propaganda turned up to 11.

    • Tizzy says:

      Where did the vaults-dwellers-as-lab-rats motif make its debut? I could never get happy with it, I always thought it cheapened the setting.

      • Pax says:

        Fallout 2, but it was much more sensible social experiments, like what if we fill a Vault with a bunch of people of differing cultures. They were themed around different scenarios that might crop up if someone was on a generation ship trying to colonize a new world because the Enclave didn’t think the Earth was salvageable after the war at first (though this explanation was cut in the final game, I think.) Things start to get wackier after that with the joke about Vault 69, and then Bethesda went whole hog with insane murder vaults.

        • Sarfa says:

          Yeah. One of the best examples of Bethesda’s approach to this is the contrast between Vault 13 and 101.

          The way the Fallout Bible had it was that Vault 13 was designed to not be opened for 200 years- to test how such long term isolation would effect a society (such as what would be on the Enclaves generation ship) and to act as something of a control for the other experiments.

          Bethesda decided to go BIGGER. So Vault 101 was designed to never be opened. This means the experiment would never end. If the experiment is designed to never end, then there will never be a moment where the testers can say “the experiment is over and this is what we have learned.” That does somewhat defeat the point of the whole exercise. But who cares- it’s like Vault 13, only bigger! And bigger is better!

      • Miguk says:

        I agree. Vault-Tec has no plausible motive for doing the experiments. They do have a very good motive for actually making vaults nice places for themselves to live in if war breaks out. This is where Fallout starts to drift into just adding whatever ideas they feel like as long as they sound cool.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Why not?What prevents vault tec from making one or two normal vaults for their emplyees to be safe in,while using the rest as experiments?

          • Miguk says:

            Nobody will go into the vaults until a nuclear war starts. What use is the research going to be after that? There’s no social experiment that would be more valuable than saving a vault full of people.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              If the whole country was destroyed,having a handful of people surviving wouldnt really change much.And if there were pockets of survivors left,having a handful of survivors more wouldnt change things much either.They were commissioned to build just a bit over 100 vaults all over the country,which is really a tiny amount for a country with millions of people.

              • galacticplumber says:

                The difference between the entire human species being inevitably extinct due to the raw lack of genetic diversity is an important one. One that any reasonable person would do all possible things in his power to prevent from being threatened.

        • BlueHorus says:

          The experimental vaults do have motive, but not for the dafter ideas. ‘What happens in a multi-cultural vault?’ makes sense. ‘Lets set up a pest control/botany lab in one, see of we can adapt plants to life in the outside’ makes sense.

          But Bethesda’s take on Vault-Tec is a bit more like Cerberus or the Umbrella Corp in terms of research goals.
          I mean, a vault where everyone’s called Gary, and they just shout their name at you while hitting you with baseball bats?
          Fill a vault with genius musicians, then play a really annoying sound over the intercom constantly so they all go nuts?
          Just pump hallucinogenic gas in through the vents to see what happens?

          • Ani-kun says:

            I wrote a post on this subject ages ago. Snipping a (large) segment out for here:

            See how New Vegas and FO2 put the Vaults into a fairly background role? Because civilisation has moved on, developed, stopped caring much about the Vaults or the pre-war world.

            This is pretty much the whole theme of New Vegas, and was really brought to the fore in Dead Money: Begin again, or let go? Let go of the old world’s mistakes and build something new (essentially the Yes Man route)? Or return to old world values and begin again, like the NCR, House, and Legion endings?

            Bethesda themselves unintentionally answer this question in both Fallout 3 and 4; they’re unable to let go, clinging to the old world, clinging to the ideas of the previous games, incapable of thinking up anything truly original or interesting themselves. Unable to simply let go and make something new.

            Now… we get to Fallout 3. And oh deary me. Still, at least Bethesda did manage to get a couple of them basically right, or… well, partly right? Maybe? They created a couple of Vaults that were basically sensible, at least.

            There are all manner of depths you can plumb when it comes to social experiments of this nature, adding in the likes of radiation experimentation on the side if we’re talking about sending people into space for extended periods of time, though those should always be very rare compared to the real meat of the matter; the social aspects of the project. Warning, incoming list:

            Command ability; how well people take orders; teamwork; solo work; segregation; forced inclusion; racial diversity, homogenisation; putting people of radically different cultural backgrounds together; paranoia; superstition; extreme positivity; extreme negativity; extreme apathy; taking away all control and responsibility; overworking people; underworking people; selecting people with congenital diseases; designing a Vault with no crematorium facilities, introducing the issue of ‘disposal’…

            Food shortages; food overabundance; having all women; having all men; having all women and only one man; the reverse of the last one; solitude; constantly being surrounded by people; populating both male and female genders with nothing but gay/lesbian people; keeping men and women firmly apart except for purposes of breeding more people; intentionally faulty equipment designed to test ingenuity under pressure; hardware designed to break after x years, forcing Vault to open early.

            And on and on and on. A lot of those I just listed off the top of my head have been explored in one way or another across the games (mostly outside of Fallout 3), but there are still many left to explore and a variety of ways you could change things up by combining them or looking at them from slightly different angles.

            So… that said, let’s see what Fallout 3’s writers came up with for this incredibly costly and time-consuming experiment…

            Vault 92:
            Super soldiers as a result of white noise? Um, okay? This one would’ve been a fine experiment if it had literally just been filling the Vault with nothing but musicians and artists while simultaneously failing to have any physically capable labourers or cooks or cleaners or similar.

            How do these people fare when faced with the reality of actually having to work instead of pursuing their creative muse? Do they get along? Do they attempt to delegate to lesser musicians they consider beneath their own ability? Do the pianists gang up on the violinists? But no. Super soldiers, because Bethesda.

            Vault 101:
            Prolonged isolation. Sound familiar? It should, because – like most of this game’s entire plot – it’s basically just a rehash of events or places or things from the previous two games made by infinitely more capable developers. Basically this is Vault 13 except without the water chip… oh wait, water comprises the whole main quest line, doesn’t it, and returning to Vault 101 later you find an unmarked quest involving… a broken water chip.

            To be fair to Beth, they did at least mix things up a little bit by having this be an extended isolation experiment with an overseer who effectively ran a dictatorship the moment he got into power. It’s therefore not exactly identical to Vault 13 and potentially provides wildly different data. So yeah… a silver star to Bethesda for effort there. Doesn’t change all the other things they recycled more or less verbatim from Fallout 1 and 2, however.

            Vault 106:
            Psychoactive drugs released into the atmosphere for lulz. How exactly is this a social experiment? And how does the data retrieved from this wacky science hijinks benefit the project in any way? Admittedly, this is apparently something Beth took from the Fallout Bible – a work that isn’t exactly canon – but eh, even the original creators aren’t perfect and can come up with some strange ideas.

            Now, if they’d instead given the Vault populace a massive cache of drugs with an open policy on indulging at will, that would’ve fit the experiment to a tee, as you’re then allowing the people themselves to decide how things go; that’s the whole point.

            Would the Vault even survive if half the population are off their faces every day? Would they self-limit their use? Go wild with reckless abandon? Ration the drugs, thereby potentially creating a black market economy? Would a more relaxed (via drug use) population result in less friction? Or would withdrawal symptoms create tension and conflict? Would this result in the eventual birth of Mama Murphy?

            All kinds of interesting ideas and possibilities arise as a result of an experiment like this. All it takes is a bunch of random people, a basement full of drugs, and some time.

            Vault 108:
            This is actually an excellent example, at least initially, of a Vault experiment done right, bravo whichever writer/designer at Beth came up with it. Having everyone there be afflicted with some form of congenital disease leads to the interesting scenario of social order in the face of utterly inevitable early death.

            How does this affect life in the Vault? Do the people with least life expectancy end up with the most dangerous jobs? Are the Vault’s resources diverted to trying to find cures? Do they think up crazy and implausible ideas in their futile attempts to stave off the inevitable? Or simply accept it and enjoy what life they do have? (There’s that ‘let go’ theme again…)

            The introduction of a cloning facility kind of ruins things a bit, but it does at least leave the answers up to the people of the Vault itself, thereby avoiding false data resulting from outside interference. The Gary situation seems more like Bethesda being Bethesda and going for the ‘hilarious’ option instead of exploring something weightier, but the ingredients are certainly there for a well-thought-out Vault experiment.

            • Hector says:

              I wanted to say, basically, the same thing. Bethesda’s Vaults left a bad taste in my mouth, unfortunately.

              Vault 111 is sort of emblematic of this, since there’s no real explanation of what the point of it was. They apparently had no real plans to actually see the results of the experiment, much less any reason why they would it this way in the first place. Similarly, Bethesda only uses it as a starting point for Fallout 4 – the storytelling possibilities are completely dropped the moment you step outside. This might not seem unusual, except that for good reason Fallout 1 and 3 have specific quests or events that return you to the starting location if you take the time to do so. Fallout 2 further goes for broke by having you return to your starting location for a major story event AND sends you to the original vault (and THEN you can go back to the vault for even more story). New Vegas, of course, is the outlier since you don’t start in a vault at all.

              These quests matter, though, because they show the world changing in your absense, as well as offering storytelling or roleplaying opportunities. I like the concept behind Vault 111. But it’s annoying and kinda sad that it never goes beyond that. Additionally, as a minor pet peeve, I was further irritated by the fact that I decided to explore around the outside of it after starting Fallout 4 and ran smack dab into invisible walls, since they put it right on the map border.

          • Gerbil says:

            You have to remember, most of that stuff wasn’t intended. The Gary vault is the end result of “what if the vault had a clone machine/what if we used clones instead of conventional methods to replenish population on the generation ship”, the music vault was a study in the use of music to control moods, which obviously has pretty important ramifications on a generation ship, and the hallucinogenic gas was a security measure that failed.

            • BlueHorus says:

              If you want…those vaults seem to me like they were written backwards: player experience first, reasoning and story second. Just shoe-horn those moments in there however you can, because this game is a pick-up-and-play-able theme park, not a coherently built world.
              It’s been a while since I’ve played F03, so I can’t remember much about the specific vaults, but sod-it-that’s-good-enough seems to explain the rest of the game’s writing, so…

              YMMV as always, particuarly if you have more faith in the writers.

              • Gerbil says:

                I won’t deny that, everything Bethesda has touched has all been experience first, justification second. You can just tell that everything in Fallout 3 basically started with a “wouldn’t it be cool if” pitch and everything after that was written to allow it to exists in that world. Your judgement may vary as to how effective that method is, but if nothing else it certainly makes for cool setpieces.

        • FelBlood says:

          Interior, Bethesda Writers Room. Multiple Bethesda writers are surrounded by solo cups, wine bottles and reams of paper. It’s well after midnight.

          Writer #1: How about this? A vault that was NEVER meant to be opened!

          Writing Lead: DRINK!

    • BlueHorus says:

      Braun is noted as one of the top a-holes responsible for the secret experiments done in the Vaults, so him going into Vault 112 with altruistic intentions seems kind of off.

      Thing is, that’s a classic example of F03’s shallow, ‘sod-it-that’s-good-enough’ approach to writing and storytelling. Braun’s evil for the sole reason that the player can take the evil choice of torturing people in his simulation, and he worked for Vault-Tec because that’s a thing from Fallout 1 & 2.

      Well, maybe I’m being a bit uncharitable to the writers there…regardless, Rutskarn’s version is a hell of a lot better. Sometimes things are best improved by cutting chunks off them.

      • Miguk says:

        So much of FO3 is ripping off other works on a superficial level without understanding or caring about anything deeper. It saddens me to see how much money was put into a game written by people who were too lazy to put any thought into it.

        • Ciennas says:

          I hear this a lot here and elsewhere, but I feel like here, in Fallout 3, that that assessment was and still is largely unfair.

          I’d say this is like the inevitable shortcomings that appears when the reigns are handed off- you notice the differences, of course.

          I feel like they should have tried something more complex story wise then straight good vs evil, as they had already done straightforward good vs evil with Oblivion, and that simplistic morality was for whatever reason baked into this game at the design level.

          But. That aside, they obviously tried really hard here to at least get all the little details more or less right. You can feel it.

          Fallout 4, a game I would love to see Rutskarn turn into a sensible piece, has no such defense. They had 9 years and a blueprint and presumably New Vegas’ writing staff to communicate with in some capacity, and they still churned out a game that is mechanically fun, but story wise was….. a godawful mess.

          And they apparently admitted that’s because they weren’t trying for some reason, and were just cramming whatever they wanted in there, world consistency and branding and even basic cohesion be damned. It just had to sound cool.

          Which is why they shoehorned in HP Lovecraft, aliens, and sci fi themed magic plot devices everywhere in Fallout 4.

          But here they did make the effort, as clumsy as it could be at times. More… fumbling those spinny plates on sticks in the hand off. the plate still spins, but it wobbled a little.

          I do like coming back to 3 from time to time because of this.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            That aside, they obviously tried really hard here to at least get all the little details more or less right. You can feel it.

            The problem is where those details are.You can invest billions into the best sculptors in the world making a bunch of beautiful statues and gargoyles that youll put everywhere in your building,but if you dont make sure that the foundation and the walls of that building are well made,all that money and beauty will be lost once the building crashes down.

            Same is true for fallout 3.It doesnt matter how well you sculpt your character*,who you hire to voice act them,how you program that character to act,when all they do is dumb nonsense it will all be for naught.

            Fallout 3 tried to emulate the superficial things of 1 and 2:The supermutants,the vaults,the radiation,and it does some of those superficial things rather well.But the deeper things of those games,the tone,character motivations,reason for stuff to exist,all of those are nonexistent in this game.

            *Bethesda faces aside

          • ehlijen says:

            Bethesda didn’t have or want feedback from New Vegas’ writing staff.

            What they wanted was a game where people can load, pick a random save, go have a blast for 15 minutes and then drop the controller and get back to what they were doing. The story had to be simple, ideally delivered in small, self contained doses, and not produce much in the way of ripples so everything can be experienced in any order without needing to read to many quest logs to get back up to speed after a few days of not playing. This goal is entirely at odds with what New Vegas did.

            And it produced a game that is fun to leave installed and come back to for short bouts now and then. New Vegas isn’t as much fun to roam once you’ve done the major story. To get much out of it, it asks investment for a significant playthrough.

            Bethesda still could have done a more coherent story, but it was never going to be as complex as New Vegas because that would have run counter to the theme park Rogue-lite they wanted to make.

            • Ciennas says:

              But they could have had all that and a cohesive narrative that doesn’t frustrate me and so many others, that could stand up to the lightest scrutiny.

              One doesn’t have to preclude the other.

  5. DwarfWarden says:

    Just promise me you’ll return the G.E.C.K. to its original form from Fallout 2. You go to grab the thing and get it and it gets taken away roughly 30 seconds later, and it just gets…..plugged into Project Purity? They never explain how it works anyway other than actually saying it’s a miracle.

    For reference, in Fallout 2 the G.E.C.K. was a suitcase full of seeds of plants designed to thrive in radiation, chemicals designed to make irradiated soil fertile again, instructions for tearing the Vault apart and using the parts to build permanent settlements, and the entire Library of Congress on disc. Makes infinitely more sense than ‘hurr durr it are miracle and for some reason nobody use it’.

    • Echo Tango says:

      You could also throw in some insect eggs of species engineered to survive the new world, and help build up a full ecosystem. Not sure how you’d handle mammals or other large animals. I guess with enough genetic engineering hand-waving, you could put anything you wanted into that kit. :)

      • Disc says:

        Pre-War blueprints and/or documentation that James needs in order to get the purifier working wouldn’t be a big stretch to have as part of the infodump. It could be some forgotten knowledge or cutting edge technique or technology that wasn’t available to the public at large when the bombs hit.

        • Tom says:

          That doesn’t solve the fundamental stupidity of trying to purify an entire river then dumping the purified water straight back out into the river again, a spectacularly inefficient idea in a universe where ENERGY IS SO SCARCE THAT IT ENDED CIVILISATION. Really, if one were to analyse the underlying world-building themes (an approach F3 was never designed for, admittedly), James’ plan is absolutely exemplary of the hopelessly inefficient, simplistic, energy-guzzling, grand-scale vague gestures of old-world thinking that burnt up all the natural resources super-fast and ended that world in the first place, which in terms of overall motive, if not means (he at least tries to be moral, whereas the Enclave think nothing of mass murder) makes him literally no different from the bad guys. Just like the Enclave, he’s learned absolutely nothing from Armageddon itself and is foolishly trying to recreate all the fatal flaws of the self-destructive old world. Granted, a game with writing several orders of magnitude better than F3 could have done something with that, but the game we got doesn’t show even the slightest awareness of this irony. The whole point of the Fallout universe is that the old-world’s technology (not any-and-all technology, it must be stressed, but their particular laissez-faire, 1950s-on-steroids approach to it) was BAD for civilisation, not only ultimately ending it, but harming the subsequent proto-civilisations wherever its remnants resurfaced after the war – the vats of mutagenic goo, the homicidal naively-programmed robots, the poorly shielded nuclear reactors, the paranoid security systems, the radioactive waste dumps, the experimental vaults, the titular fallout from the war itself. The GECK (in its original incarnation – seeds, literature, and a compact, efficient power supply obviously to be used sparingly) is just about the only exception to this, finally showing a subtle, long-term solution to a problem instead of a bloated, grandiose quick-fix.

    • Ani-kun says:

      Seriously, the new version Beth introduced in 3 was ridiculous as it stands. AND would’ve been far better employed simply being activated instead of pulled apart for a pointless experiment doing something no one needs or wants. Pasting a big section from a post I once wrote on this subject:

      On the G.E.C.K.
      Since this is a Vault-specific device, I’ll talk briefly about it here before moving onto the last couple of locations, mostly because holy hell did Bethesda screw this one up. Beth’s version of the G.E.C.K. (henceforth known simply as the GECK because screw typing those periods every time) is a magical matter rearranger, totally alien to the original concept of the device. I use the term magical on purpose, because that’s effectively what it is.

      Overall, I don’t exactly take issue with the device’s mode of function in Fallout 3, we’ve seen similar tech used elsewhere, after all, most-especially the Sierra Madre’s vending machines. It’s more the lack of care and attention paid to actually explaining the major change in functionality from what we’ve already seen in the previous game.

      As the main cause of the war, not counting political tensions, was the dearth of natural resources around the globe, research into highly experimental tech of this nature would be entirely within the realm of reason.

      Sinclair had a personal vault built for Vera, and commissioned research into all manner of things via Big Mountain – including the vending machines – specifically so she (and, it has to be assumed, he) could survive the inevitable nuclear war he had already predicted. Research into this magical Beth version of the GECK is roughly similar in overall goals, just on a rather more grandiose scale.

      With the advent of micro-fusion technology, it looked like we might avert disaster… until the bombs fell. If we’d obtained that sort of tech earlier, we might well have avoided the war because most of the world’s problems would have been solved with a source of effectively infinite energy… though it’s always possible another war could’ve sprung up over who gets access to the tech. *shrug*

      Similar to the Madre’s vending machines – experimental and only ever shipped to the casino and its villa, and even then only after Sinclair allowed the Big MT scientists to use the villa as another test city, and right before the bombs fell, therefore making the tech useless anyway – this magical matter rearranger GECK could have been a super late development, too late to be of real use before the war happened.

      Know what the original GECK was? I’ll tell you what it wasn’t: a Goddamn magical matter rearranger. Originally it was simply a useful piece of pre-war tech which would’ve been helpful for kick-starting a new settlement.

      A small cold fusion reactor was included for power; a fertiliser system to deal with arid and/or irradiated soil; seeds; and various blueprints and schematics for devices and tools the people might need to build or replicate using the GECK’s on-board replicator. Again, a similar tech/principal to the Madre’s vending machines.

      Fallout 2 kind of hinted at the GECK potentially being more than this, admittedly, but Fallout 2 also went pretty far out of its way to be considerably more zany and off the wall, and not everything in that game should necessarily be treated as 100% true, canon, or even plausible. And it was also part of the plot; the Chosen looks for the GECK precisely because of the rumours and myths of the device being a magical ‘solve everything’ button.

      Consistency of setting is hugely important when creating such a large and detailed world, and the GECK’s changes in Fallout 3 fit neatly into the category I like to call ‘what the fuck were they thinking?’ If you’re going to retcon something, at the very least you should lampshade or hand wave the change in some form or fashion.

      Maybe Vault-tec could only get one or two ready, shipping those to a couple of east coast Vaults while the west coast got a reduced-functionality version of the GECK that was still useful, but didn’t include the magical matter rearranger component.

      Or maybe they barely got the thing working at all, and that single GECK we find at Vault 87 is literally the only device of its type in the world (in which case screw you, Dad, for taking it apart for such a pointless reason instead of just activating the damn thing).

      Or maybe there were two branches of Vault-tec working on two different versions of the tech, one more of a useful utility, the other an experimental and technologically advanced device. Perhaps the west coast one was for the Vaults, the east coast version was intended for a theoretical journey to another world and was never meant to be used this soon.

      Whatever the reason, changing something like this – especially something used in a previous game – needs some level of explanation, something Bethesda couldn’t be bothered to even think about, never mind add to the game or hand wave away with a terminal entry or something.

      And Vault-tec’s DC region headquarters is in Fallout 3, it wouldn’t have been hard to put a terminal in an area of the lab there with an explanation of the change. I know Beth gives basically no real craps about fans of the original games, but come on, this is basic storytelling and world building. Even Mass Effect 2 managed a cursory hand wave when the devs changed how weapon heat build-up works.

      Anyway, bit of a tangent there to moan about the GECK, but it’s important to note that Bethesda’s version of this device breaks the lore of the Fallout universe, like so much else their writers came up with, so… there you go.

      • Miguk says:

        Beth gives basically no real craps about fans of the original games

        This is it. They knew most of their customers would have never even played FO2, and they were too lazy to write a few extra words for the sake of those of us who had.

        • galacticplumber says:

          What about those of us who didn’t, but had the sense of basic diligence to google proper nouns and similar that we were pretty sure came from SOMEWHERE? Like G.E.C.K., or vault tec, or the brotherhood of steel?

          • Echo Tango says:

            You’re supposed to just turn off your brain and enjoy the explosion-simulator! :P

            • galacticplumber says:

              If all I want is wall to wall explosions I already own burnout revenge AND just cause 2. You do NOT want to throw your hat into the only being good for explosions ring. It’s populated with stuff that had much clearer focus and the better delivery that comes with it.

              • Ander says:

                I like that. Games that are just for the explosions/violence/action have had much better direction, focus, and execution. Games can be excellent about that. FO has never been excellent in that way.

            • Lisa says:

              I didn’t realise Michael Bay wrote for Bethesda. You learn something new everyday!

  6. BlueHorus says:

    So the environmental storytellling in vanilla Fallout 3 was surprisingly good (especially compared to the story storytelling); someone could have fun designing the ruins of Project Purity. A sparking electric gizmo next to a skeleton, and in another room a diary compaining about James and Catherine’s lack of safety protocols.
    A uniformed body (though the player doesn’t recognise the design yet) in a super-mutant holding cell, and hints elsewhere of an attempted coup in the last five years that was stopped. Etc.

    Also, the take on Braun’s story rocks. “I’d love to help people, but they’re just such argumentative, entitled assholes! Whatever I give them, all they do is demand more.”
    Again, it gives the ‘evil’ view of the world a comprehensible logic, which the orginal game utterly failed at. I don’t want to be in charge but I have to be, because I don’t trust you.
    Let the player find old files and audiologs about how it all went wrong: how Braun started off as a good guy. Maybe some quotes from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, rants about the State of Nature, so they have a chance to get to know him before a final confrontation.

    • Viktor says:

      I would make it part of random dialogue with the townsfolk. Have one guy off to the side who is completely cracked because of the overwrites where you can figure out some of what happened from his ranting, maybe a diary by Braun, but also have glitchiness in the ordinary townsfolk. You talk to Kelly and she mentions how Steve always used to fight with Sarah, but their marriage is much quieter now. Of course, that’s because Steve is married to Jenny, but you can’t convince Kelly of that. Maybe “No dearie, everyone is happy here. Even if you aren’t happy, you will be. That’s why it’s so nice. We wouldn’t want any unpleasantness.” You could do a lot to make it odd and creepy with very few lines.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Aye right – and one thing you could do to add to the air of “recently recent habitation,” is drop a decent energy weapon down somewhere, perhaps near one of the computer terminals. I don’t recall much about the energy weapons in FO3*, but you could make it one that the player is unlikely to have encountered up to this point unless they’d been either exploring far & wide, or reading the wiki.

      This series just goes from strength to strength. Well, it started out at max. Strength and now it’s taking all the Strength perks and hacking the config files to boost the Strength allowed-values. Similar to what Radford says up there a way, for me this little sci-fi story was more thought-provoking than the whole of the original game put together. Spine-chilling! – sci-fi plus a good dollop of horror, too…

      *I’m perhaps unwarrantedly assuming there are such things as ‘decent’ energy weapons…

      • galacticplumber says:

        I mean there ARE, but most of them aren’t really things you’ll get outside of late game or some quests.

        • Echo Tango says:

          Maybe a broken version of some good/newer-model weapon?

          • Ciennas says:

            The weapons in Fallout 3 were very clearly modeled around Oblivion’s power structure- once you acquired an SMG, you were never expected to want a 10mm pistol ever again.

            Iron->Steel->Elven->Etc became Leather->Metal->Combat->Etc.

            So the laser weapons were the entry level energy weapons. the game makes you regret bothering with them rapidly, and that’s before you get into the fucking broken cheating enemies from the DLC.

            (Fucking metro station full of Reavers- assholes could take a point blank Fatman and still need a good stabbing.)

            This was largely fixed in Fallout 4. Aside from the minigun. Actually come to think of it, they do like their not really well justified damage sponge enemies don’t they? Mirelurk Queen, sure, yeah, but random bandit in scrapmetal armor?

            New Vegas made the laser rifle my favorite, once it was fully upgraded. what was the best normal use energy weapon in F3? Gatling laser? Definitely not the laser guns.

            • ehlijen says:

              I found the lasers better than the plasma stuff; the projectiles travelled to slow and were too blobby, obscuring the target while they travelled. Really hard to aim at anything other than point blank range.

              I think the best ‘regular’ energy gun was the tri-beam laser rifle? The gatling laser was really good, but it used its own rarer ammo (and did so fast), and was heavy.

              • galacticplumber says:

                And it was technically a big gun not an energy weapon. Rap your head around that, and be glad new vegas got rid of that category. Now you get two ranged weapon types. Stuff with an energy theme and stuff without. Both taking concepts out of the old discipline almost no one picked.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The whole weapon category system makes no sense anyway.So pistols and uzis are the same category because you can hold them in one hand?Or because they use small caliber ammo?Never mind that the recoil on one is widely different than on the other.Same for rifles:shooting a sniper rifle is not the same as shooting an assault rifle,and both differ from shooting a shotgun.

                  And then you get grenade launchers,which have recoil,in the same category as rocket launchers,which dont.Also ignoring that one is lobbing stuff while the other is shooting in a straight line.

                  At least with energy weapons you get pretty much the same characteristics for shooting,and its only the maintenance that differs.

                  • galacticplumber says:

                    I’m even totally fine with these weapon categories being not the most realistic in terms of actual skills necessary for use. What makes me angry is making an entire branch of the skill tree presented to the player as an option of somewhat comparable use to the others of its general kind absolute wank compared to a contemporary option for the vast majority of the experience. That they did this with TWO WHOLE WEAPON CATEGORIES is disgraceful. Why two? The only good big guns require very little weapon skill to be effective, aren’t really available in the formative early game, are just as likely to kill you as your enemy in most situations, or all of the above.

                    • Sartharina says:

                      I think they tried to make the Heavy Weapons decent for FO3, with the Flamethrower being the decent ‘entry-level’ Big Gun, followed by the Rock-It Launcher, before you start getting to the good stuff. However, they seem to have been trying to go with “Small guns are good for early game. Big Guns are good for late game. Energy Weapons are good throughout.”

                    • Syal says:

                      “They” in this case being Interplay – Big Guns (and I’m assuming the other useless one is Unarmed) was from the first game, and was equally useless there.

                    • galacticplumber says:

                      Actually no energy weapons are the other awful ranged weapon type. They begin awful and make an incredibly gradual shambling path to being mostly serviceable, not dominant, in the late game. Small guns are literally always useful, and big guns have either crap range, crap DPS compared to similarly priced options, a huge risk to the player in anything that isn’t a wide open space in a game with lots of interiors, or worst of all some combination of the above. The only big gun that does things I couldn’t do better with other weapon types in the base game is the fatman and it’s relevant literally all of five times.

                      Melee and unarmed both kill things much more efficiently than most things at close range in exchange for the inherent risks that brings. Melee is easier to get to high damage levels while unarmed has a higher ceiling and some of the most brokenly good weapons in the base game. Like the the claw that will shred basically any non-behemoth in seconds because it completely ignores armor.

            • Ani-kun says:

              This is how you can spot a terrible dev. Can’t think of a way to make new end game enemies a challenge? Just cheat! Tribals, Overlords, and others in those DLCs have special scripts attached to their weapons that do bonus damage to the player, damage that CANNOT BE MITIGATED by regular armour/DR, because it’s applied directly to the player’s HP. Talk about cheap :/

              • Ciennas says:

                Oh, beyond cheap. Giving them bullshit unblockable attacks, strike one. giving them ridiculous bullshit levels of damage resistance/health compared to any other enemy, strike two.

                Making them from reskinned versions of existing enemies, strike a billion.

                The Reavers are just Ghouls, nothing special aside from the anti-balance nonsense. Same with Albino Radscorpions, Overlords, and the Swampfolk.

                They are just there to punish the player for levelling up.

                If they had given them some new attacks or combat routines, fine.

                The Trogs are a good example of a good new enemy type- new everything, and no obvious paralels to another enemy.

                I wished they had done something different fpr the reskins AI- make them more cunning or ruthless or strange. Provide a passive buff for lesser enemies? etc etc.

                As it stands, they are not fun to fight, and they instill a sense of a DM fumbling hard to provide a challenge late on the end of a session.

                Any coder types out there no how flexible Gamebryo/Creation is for this sorta thing?

  7. Meriador says:

    Hey Rutskarn! I was wondering, where could I go to read your older stuff, like the Saga of Cahmel or Clod of Cthulu? I’m relatively new to this site (this is my first time commenting) and I’ve been loving your and Shamus’s work. With Shamus, I can go to the archive, but your old stuff is nowhere to be found. Chocolate Hammer doesn’t appear to work anymore, so is there somewhere else I could go?

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    which wouldn’t make sense for pre-war or even long-term occupation, and thus would have to date after the abandonment by your parents.

    You say that,but it wouldnt surprise me to find cigarette buts lying around in sealed bunkers.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Our generators are sufficient!

    Should that be “aren’t”?

  10. BlueHorus says:

    Of course I told him the site had been infested with super mutants since we left, that there weren’t any ghosts in that building worth dying for, but he never listens…I told him not to come back.

    I love the idea that some people don’t care for James and his quest. It adds depth to him, the people around him, and the differing good/evil choices.
    Which, of course, the vanilla game failed to do: everyone loved him and he was just super great, even when he killed himself to stop the Enclave getting hold of a broken water purifier.

    Characterising him as well-meaning but feckless, idealistic but naive, allows to the player to go against him out of more than a sense of ‘HOHOHO, I’M EVIL!’.
    People died for James and Catherine’s pipe dream (including Catherine!), long before it ever seemed like it would come to pass, and it left some of the people they met jaded.

    Dr Li : ‘I do good work here. It’s not big, and it won’t change the world, but I can show you the differences I made to these people. Lives I’ve saved. And that’s a lot more than James ever achieved with his pie-in-the-sky ‘water for everyone’ dream.”

  11. Carlo says:

    Every episode is better than the previous. I really envy the version of me from the parallel universe in which Fallout 3 written by Rutskarn is a game you can buy and play with.

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