Overhaulout Part 11: The Ugly Factory

By Rutskarn
on Jan 5, 2018
Filed under:
Video Games

The internet quakes with hatred for Little Lamplight, but besides a few dismissive complaints about flashbang logistics I’ve not heard anyone talk about Vault 87. This leads me to a small and admittedly contestable digression about how modern Fallout games are discussed by their fanbases. My survey methodology consists of Reading Too Many Internet Comments, so feel free to rebut with your own and be sure to include an appropriately scornful reaction gif.

By now I think I’ve read an equal amount of straightforwardly fannish discussions of Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I’m excluding here discussions about which one is better, or fun conversations co-opted into a dominance battle by salty New Vegas fans, or even nuanced goods-and-bads critical shakedowns. Basically, I’m just talking about low-key conversations where someone brings up either game and it sets off a chain of people complimenting it. Said positive discussions about Fallout 3 focus around two subjects:

  • The extemporaneous experience of playing the game (“I loved just roaming the Wasteland, dog at my side, gun in my hand, picking my nose, full bowl of cereal, she hadn’t left me yet, exploring ruins…”)
  • A dozen or so “hit” quests, character, or locations (“Remember the Vault with the Garys? Moira? Megaton? Paradise Falls? North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe?”)

Whereas the New Vegas conversations focus far less on the extemporaneous experience, but cover a much larger area of the written and planned content, to the point where I can’t say confidently that I’ve never read a discussion of almost any quest or character.

Assuming you buy any of my ad hoc sampling salad, you’ve got two faction-coded inferences to choose from: “A lot of Fallout 3‘s content isn’t very interesting” and “Obsidian’s bad at creating an experience that transcends its content.” I’d actually hedge somewhere in the middle, but for obvious reasons that first idea’s more relevant to this project, and I’ll follow it up with this one:

Nobody talks positively about Vault 87 because it’s nowhere near as good or interesting as it should be.

I’m not saying most people didn’t like it. I’m saying it left, at best, a very faintly positive impression, and considering this is the part of the game where we a.) get the GECK b.) find out where babies Super Mutants come from c.) meet one of the game’s better companions and d.) are captured by the Enclave in a let’s say unexpected twist that kicks off the whole last chapter, it’s telling that none of this gets brought up except by way of grousing about the latter part.

So how do we fix this section?

What if I told you we already have?

Problem 1: Nobody Cares Where the Super Mutants are Coming From

Because the origin of the super mutants wasn’t a mystery, at least not in any functional or classical sense. It’s something the player didn’t know, but it’s not something they had much call to think about or pursue before stumbling into this section. The reaction is “Oh, huh,” when it probably should be, “Of course!”

99% of players had no substantive experience with the first games and therefore didn’t think of super mutants as being much different from brahmin or radscorpions. The small percentage of players who knew and cared that there shouldn’t be FEV mutants on the East Coast weren’t waiting around for a big reveal any more than they were waiting to find out where the roasted iguanas and scorpions were coming from. A mystery based on an esoteric inconsistency which passes for a groanworthy IMDB goof doesn’t really satisfy anybody.

A classical mystery has three componentsSource.: a question that the setting establishes to be baffling, a series of clues that may lead a keen investigator to the truth, and a reveal that connects these clues together. We’re pretty much 1 for 3, and it’s the last one, which in isolation leaves by far the least impact on an audience. You can raise questions you never answer, but it’s pointless to answer questions nobody asked.

Besides that, there’s no actual payoff to finding the mutant spawning grounds. Super mutants are treated like a nuisance by most of the game’s communities, and the few that seem afraid of them never wish: “Boy, if only someone figured out where these were coming from!” Which is just as well, because as this game would have it there basically is no point to finding out where they come from. You can’t directly do anything to meaningfully slow down super mutant production, which, considering we’re very near what’s supposed to be the end of this videogame, seems pointlessly fussy.

We’ve already supplied most of what’s missing. In the fight for GNR the Brotherhood introduced a two-pronged mystery regarding the super mutants: a.) they seem to come from nowhere and breed endlessly, which is strange, and b.) they’re weirdly accurate in hitting the most vulnerable and consequential targets in efforts to rebuild the Wasteland. We present clues as (at various times and places) players see mutants either hitting enemies of the Enclave or occupying territories just before or after the Enclave swoops in (as in Project Purity, which in our version sneakily implies Enclave and mutants were cohabitating there at some point). Finally, we have the payoff : by the evidence of terminals, exhibits, Enclave folding chairs, and finally a reveal on the final level of the Vault, players learn that rage-filled but mind-controllable Super Mutants are being bred by the Encalve using a combination of leftover FEV virus and radiation from a modified GECK systemBecause the GECK is a suitcase full of magical technology, remember? As I said in the very beginning: I am not here to save the True Lore, I’m here to work with what we’ve got.. The Enclave has used them to disrupt and destabilize the Wasteland so that no other civilizations or support systems take root, ensuring a lack of military rivals, resistance networks, or alternative means of survival for a vast soon-to-be-suborned population. The final stage of their plan? Figure out how to poison the already-radioactive waterways and drive whole communities, begging, to Enclave manufacturing centers. Little hidden note on a terminal: this has included buying out water merchants and staking a huge sum of caps for someone to blow up the biggest source of purified water, Megaton.

Oh yeah, and there should be a big fat button that says “no new super mutants” which blows up an important doohickey. You don’t even have to make it do something to the gameworld right now. There’s plenty of super mutants out there, after all. Just, like, add a five-second card to the end slideshow saying “Ya done kilt the super mutants and everyone danced joyfully.” The game does already let you tattle to Elder Lyons, but that comes off as an afterthought and is, I’d argue, much less satisfying than doing it yourself.

Anyway, hopefully our big reveal has left at least a few players stunned and disoriented. Now, let’s talk about the worst part of this section, which is where it leaves players stunned and disoriented.

Problem 2: Bangnabbit

The Enclave captures the player in a cutscene. I’ll allow it, but as this scene plays out in the published game there are several significant problems

Firstly: flashbangs are a weapon that doesn’t exist in the main game and which the player has no access to, factors which any good GM knows will spike the horseshit-o-meter of any self-respecting player. It’s an even weirder choice because flashbangs exist in other videogames, so the player knows set of rules, which is that flashbangs are not insurmountable. If this were Counter-Strike there’d be a thousand ways to deal with a flashbang or see it coming, which means the Counter-Strike player wearing power armor who gets stunned and subdued through inch-thick steel plate is left pulling a face at the screen. If we were really going to go with Unbeatable Nonlethal Cutscene Weapon, it probably would have been better to invent some kind of Super Turbo Capture Beam–or, I don’t know, some kind of Mesmetron.

Lastly, this is stupid because sooner or later the player’s going to realize the Enclave had no method of getting into Vault 87. Or, and this is almost much worse, they had an unspecified and probably unsatisfying way, like a magic anti-radiation pill that’s never seen again or a secret tunnel or a bunch of unpaid interns hopping off a Vertibird with extra-thick radiation suits and an armful of stun grenades. When you get past the lukewarm “Oh no! I’ve been rumbled” reaction this entire sequence was contrived for, nothing about how the Enclave found and followed the player to steal their prize feels earned or fair. If this were the tabletop, players would be scowling on their way out the door and blow your phone up at 3AM with sudden fiercely-pointed questions. It doesn’t matter if you can invent a justification in the intervening week: they’re still gonna be mad.

Guess what? We’ve already fixed this too. The player came up to this level and found out the Enclave runs the facility, so when they get to the elevator that goes back to the main area, and knockout gas filters in as the intercom barks instructions for apprehension, they’ll smack their heads. “Oh, of course! This is an Enclave facility!” By the time they knew this it was already too late, so they won’t feel they were railroaded into making a bad decision by the main plot and a fine line is struck between “player is captured in a cutscene,” “capture does not come out of nowhere and is properly foreshadowed,” and “player was allowed to act logically and sensibly.”

NEXT TIME: RAVIN’ FAWKES AND RAVEN ROCKS

Footnotes:

[1] Source.

[2] Because the GECK is a suitcase full of magical technology, remember? As I said in the very beginning: I am not here to save the True Lore, I’m here to work with what we’ve got.


Comments (89)

From the Archives:

  1. Christopher says:

    Nice! As a non-FO3 player I don’t have a ton of meaningful contributions to make here, but I like your take on it and the justifications for your choices. I feel somewhat like I’m learning a helpful method of writing.

    A classical mystery has three components[1]:

    lol

  2. crossbrainedfool says:

    Second paragraph under Problem 1: shouldn’t that be FEV on the east coast? FEV on the west coast is no surprise.

  3. Jabrwock says:

    Flash-bang-esq effect in power armour without too much change required: I would have gone with the player being frozen in place and screen fizzles out, some kind of indicator of the power armour shutting down. Throwaway line from capturing forces about “yes! the kill-code worked!”

    Cue later musing by the Brotherhood that this might be a vulnerability in the power armour they didn’t know about, and warrants further investigation. Turns out it was baked into the power source, and only works at short range (so Enclave can’t just blanked the Citadel with the signal). It was designed to allow capture of stolen suits of armour. Scribes quickly come up with countermeasure so it won’t work again.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Alternately, the kill-code is a manufacturer’s emergency once-time code (or couple of codes), which is unique to each set of power armor. (or the helmet, or whichever piece is the main one controlling everything else) They used tricks, bribes, and force, to find out which one you’re wearing, and get the secret code to shut down *your* suit. Have a few sentences scattered around the quest-texts, hidden areas, and locker numbers, for anywhere that holds power armor in the game, or mini-quests that lead to the armor. Something like “I heard shipment 23 of 20XX had a set of armor stolen and hidden in a radioactive pit. Give me 10k caps, and I’ll tell you where it is.”, or “Power armor s.n. 461-R8” on the locker beside one of the sets, would work. Large, expensive, or security-focused things safes, door-locks, or automobiles have manufacturer’s codes, “skeleton-keys”, or “cop keys” in the real world, so this feels plausible for me.

      • Jabrwock says:

        I think it would feel a little too coincidental, especially if the player picked up their armour from somewhere seemingly unrelated, or on their own.

        Although could find out there was a spy at the Citadel who told the Enclave the serial number from your suit. That might work.

        • Tom says:

          Perhaps a more organic way to introduce that to the story would be to just have it as an actual mechanic that the more technically-minded player can discover and use: let them have ways to find or figure out the manufacturer killcodes/killphrases for robots and power armour, or hack into them remotely via short-range radio link, and so avoid a fight – super-difficult ways that don’t always work unless you’ve got high stats, of course – then the realisation at the reveal will be totally natural: “Oh, crap – these guys must have got the code to MY armour!” (this also raises the interesting prospect of players not wearing power armour possibly escaping the effect…) Alternatively, to make it more of a rare, luck based effect to be savoured, have large serial numbers emblazoned on the casings of robots and armour, and fragments of lists of killcodes corresponding to those to be found lying around here and there – every now and then, someone who’s found such a code might just be lucky enough to encounter one of the devices it works on…

          Imagine if you’ve got used to hearing a satisfying little electronic chirp or trite, pre-recorded message whenever you remotely disable some bad guy’s armour (“Unregistered occupant detected. Locking limb joints, activating military police tracking beacon…”), and the subsequent horror of hearing it go off inside your own helmet…

      • default_ex says:

        Actually your idea of “manufacturer codes” and “cop keys” lead me toward an actual real world thing that would have worked. I had to deal with a car that had a failing Passlock II system and learned of one massive flaw in that so called “anti-theft” system. If you try to start the car enough times with a key that fits, turns but isn’t recognized as the correct key: it will start. In my case I had the correct key but it failed in such a way as to no longer be capable of recognizing that (even after several repairs to the system that should have fixed it). Along the way to trying to fix it I learned of one other thing. A startup procedure that would work with nothing more than a screwdriver. No Hollywood hotwire, just jamming it in, turning and waiting for specific time periods allowed it to start with a freaking flat-head screwdriver.

        The point being. The game could have forced you into power armor if you didn’t already own a set just for the “run into radioactive room and get the GECK” sequence. You pop out and they initiate the Powerarmorlock II override procedure to shut down your armor and cause it to incapacitate you. I doubt many players would have felt forced if given an adequate line of BS as to why they needed power armor and couldn’t just run in and grab it. Especially if coupled with a special script to make sure you died if you didn’t equip power armor in that room.

        • Tom says:

          You wouldn’t even need a sneaky little script like that; just find a plausible reason in-game to have a door that will only open to people wearing power armour. Security scanner, “uniform must be worn beyond this point,” job done. Heck, they already did something like that in the real game to force you into wearing a vault jumpsuit when you go into the virtual reality bit.

    • RichardW says:

      Don’t they have arc grenades / mines in Fallout 3? A couple of those zapping you would be a good way of both rendering the player immobile and disabling any suit systems they’re wearing. Unless I’m remembering wrong. In which case, Fallout 3 should’ve had arc grenades.

      • Ciennas says:

        Pulse grenades don’t work that way in game, and there’s no guarantee that the player’s using powered armor.

        This really was clumsy brute forcing the issue.

        A simple fix could have involved showing up with literal overwhelmong force- endless numbers of goons pouring out of the walls- unless the player goes with Autumn.

        Or, since they’re cheating anyway, have Perlman start narrating in his best Morgan Freeman impersonation, as a very short slideshow starts playing.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Possible idea: have a protracted sequence of escalating threats. First the warning, then the flashbang, then knockout gas, then a power-armour disabler, then finally a plot-locked door and group of invulnerable guys with Mesmertrons. Something like that, anyway.

      There’s a way to resist each one (up untill the very last) and it doesn’t change the plot in any way – you get captured regardless..
      …but getting to the final stage before being disabled unlocks an acheivement. Both lampshading and something for players to strive for/to pit their wits against.
      A recognition that you forced the DM to cheat could well be something in and of itself.

    • NoneCallMeTim says:

      That is based on the idea that *everyone* is wearing power armour at that point. Not always the case.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Seeing how modern flashbangs are designed to assault both the eyes and ears,its not that far fetched that a future flashbang would have an emp component as well,one that would shut down a power armor for a bit*.

      *Leaving out the fact that military tech made for fighting during a nuclear exchange usually is shielded against such a thing,which can be hand waved in a number of ways due to 200 years have passed.

      • EMP’s don’t normally shut electronic systems down “for a bit”. They fry them utterly (and, in the case of a coronal mass ejection, which is effectively like an EMP but not quite the same, can even cause them to explode)–the only way to get them working again is to take out all the electronic components and replace them.

        As far as I can tell, the only known way to protect electronics from an EMP (as opposed to other forms of magnetic interference) is to put them inside a Faraday cage, which also kind of makes it impossible for you to USE them.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Its not the electromagnetic force itself that fries electronics,its the current it induces thats dangerous to sensitive parts of it(usually microchips).Thats why computers are more susceptible to nearby lightning strikes than old radios.And there are multiple ways to protect from this.Making wires that can withstand stronger currents,using strong surge protectors inside them where they arent usually needed,etc.

          Not to mention that a power armor is a closed system,almost like a vehicle*,so it already is a faraday cage.

          *Or exactly like a vehicle in fallout 4.

          • ehlijen says:

            Isn’t one of the set facts of the Fallout universe that integrated (semiconductor) circuits haven’t been invented? I was given to understand that that’s why everything is vacuum tube chic.

            Vacuum tubes do indeed only temporarily shut down from EMP blasts, as I understand it. But hat would mean that EMP weapons should be virtually worthless in Fallout, so…I don’t know?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Good point.I totally forgot about that.

              Although,there are emp grenades that damage and stun robots,so you can say that one of those stuns a power armor.

              • Pax says:

                It isn’t that they weren’t invented, it’s that they weren’t invented until much later, practically just before the war so that only the cutting edge and hi tech stuff should utilize them.

          • default_ex says:

            Modern electronics have this problem solved already but it does require soldering to fix a damaged device. Contrary to popular belief the solution is not “replace all circuits”. It’s usually just a couple of dirt cheap circuits that both draw exactly the amount of power your device needs from the wall or battery and provide a RF-shield effect. Sometimes it’s achieved like in the Xbox360 and PS3 with actual physical cages. Sometimes it’s achieved with magnetic fields generated by ferrite peppered around the circuit board. Other times it’s achieved simply by having the feed circuitry set up in such a way that it will fail in such a way as to stop completing the source to ground circuit before the damage can occur elsewhere. The end result is always the same though, a very common voltage regulator gets toasted and possibly the capacitors within it’s immediate path.

            The monitor I am using has had these circuits replaced in it 4 times from being too close to lightning strikes and on the same desk I do a lot of electronics work on. For anyone working on electronics, EMPs are a fact of life, we learn to love these protection circuits even if they burn our fingertips desoldering them when they fail.

        • Jabrwock says:

          Depends on the circuit design. It’s like protecting against static, ground fault, etc. If you design it right, you can have “easy” pathways for the discharge that can trip circuit breakers (or blow protection circuits), protecting the rest of the device. They’re not guaranteed, but if you have actual breakers, or redundancy built in, the system can recover after a shock.

  4. Olivier FAURE says:

    I dunno, I think this capture sequence would still annoy me.

    There were a lot of scenes like this in Batman Arkham Knight, where after you just beat up like 500 heavily armed, heavily armored goons, you get captured / let a hostage be recaptured / let the villain escape / etc because of some other reason outside your control (Joker toxin, Scarecrow toxin, Robin gets captured offscreen by like 3 people, etc).

    Similarly, The Last of Us taught me that I had nothing to fear from any amount of zombies or raiders carrying AK-47s, but I was always extremely nervous whenever I squeezed through a tight corridor / climbed onto an offscreen ledge, since I knew those could lead me to a fateful “now-you’re-permanently-wounded-or-captured” cutscene.

    • Rutskarn says:

      Yeah, I don’t think I’d write a fiat capture myself; just that this is the best way to write one. If I was doing a redesign outside the purview of this exercise I think I’d have the player assault Raven Rock for different reasons.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I felt Last of Us was pretty clever/fair because unless you’re playing at a low difficulty, Joel is ALWAYS under threat of getting his ass beat. So the scene where, for example, the guy kicks him off a ladder and then starts to drown him seems like something that could plausibly have happened.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        That’s sort of a fundamental problem with all linear games with a story though. Of course you have nothing to fear from enemies in the ‘normal’ game world, because the worst they can do is set you back to the last checkpoint. Whereas an enemy in a story progressing cutscene can do anything the developers wants them to, including the permanent injury or death of a character.

        Unless you’re actually willing/ able to make the story change based on the player’s performance. And while that’s an interesting idea, I don’t think it’s something I would want. On paper, it sounds like a good way enhance immersion by synergizing story and gameplay, but in practice I think it would mostly cause frustration , and would only encourage players to try and exploit the artifice of the game system to make the story go in a direction they wanted.

        Basically, if Joel or Ellie could actually get permanently injured or killed in gameplay, I’m all but certain most players would refuse to accept it and reload a previous save on their own. Even if the game was about to end anyway.If you stopped them from doing that, they would probably rage quit or plough on to the end, significantly less engaged in the experience.

        Remember when Hellblade: Senua’s sacrifice (falsely) claimed that dying too many times would cause the game to end prematurely with no chance to continue? That unnerved a lot of people, but also made them angry and frustrated. It also made any death that felt unfair or unexpected sting that much harder; the nasty kind of sting, not the fun kind. It’s not a perfect example, but it does highlight that tying the player’s ingame capability to real consequences is a dicey prospect that’s well beyond the scope of most developers.

        That sort of thing is best left to roguelikes or strategy games where the most of story is already emergent.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Isnt the problem in last of us that any time zombies and weapons do any real significant damage to you,you simply reload and redo that section.Without that,they would be just as dangerous as environmental hazards.

    • SYABM says:

      In the actual game, Joel can only take on overwhelming odds with stealth and trickery. The only time he even faces people with anything like those big sticks is the last act, in the Hospital, and they will mess you up.

      As for the ambushes themselves, people in cutscenes don’t telegraph their presence like the mooks do in gameplay, so the player – and therefore Joel – doesn’t automatically “oh, a combat section! Game face on.” How much of the game involves walking around in clear areas without using Joel’s Listen skill to see if anyone’s nearby? A fair amount, really.

  5. Ander says:

    I think I’m missing the explanation for “the Enclave had no method of getting into Vault 87.” Is the last paragraph saying that the Enclave is there because they’ve been there before Little Lamplight existed? The vault isn’t actually a vault, it’s just an enclave facility? Something else?

    • Rutskarn says:

      I should have included more details in this post, but the actual explanation will come in the next section. Basically: they have an alternate route because the Vault was always intended to be a testing laboratory by Vault-Tec and, subsequently, the Enclave. Even the impenetrable radiation field is part of their design.

    • GoStu says:

      Vault 87 in the original version (not this Rutskarn-Improved Overhaulout 3) has two entrances and two entrances only:

      – The immensely-radiated near-instant-death (and treated as impassable) front door
      – The back door through Little Lamplight.

      Now, after you’re nabbed by the Enclave you can check back in on those obnoxious kids and they don’t have anything to say about a horde of dudes in Power Armour muscling through. Presumably this means the Enclave didn’t come through there. The impassable radiation though… they didn’t come through there either. So this leaves an Enclave strike force materializing out of the Inconvenience Dimension to jump you unfairly from nowhere.

      In Overhaulout (Rutskarn Special Edition) the question of “how the heck did they get here?” should have some meaningful answer. If I’m reading this right, it’s because they have some hidden third route that would have been your egress and you get captured while trying to use it.

  6. Bunkerfox says:

    SFX: Moo

    I don’t know why that little bit of the concept art made me laugh so much

    • Kazeite says:

      Speaking of which, isn’t the codpiece on that Power Armor below kinda… excessively large? :)

      • Ciennas says:

        Several explanations spring to mind:

        1) You try going outside in a suit of heavy armor meant to tank antitank rounds and see how lightly you wanna be armored in the involuntary reflex of pain and death in a strength enhancing armor.

        2) Relatedly, safe locomotion is a plus, and you don’t want to rack yourself in the nads with leg amplifiers meant to assist your lifting squad weapons singlehandedly.

        It could be extra wide to force the user to walk with the correct motion to prevent tripping or shearing or twisting your ankle.

        Or…. it extends down a fair bit too… this might have originally solved how a user uses the restroom while out and about.

        And finally, the Fallout-verse US was a parody of toxically worshipped hypermasculinity, as part of its deconstruction of 50’s values. The T-51 and combat armor originally resembled football gear.It could be intentional.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Moo I said!

  7. methermeneus says:

    I’m going to give a controversial opinion: Thank you for getting We Didn’t Start the Fire stuck in my head. I had If I Got Locked Away stuck in my head before, and an earworm you like us always preferable to one you don’t.

  8. GoStu says:

    Really looking forward to the next piece. While Vault 87 was BS in the moment, and Lamplight was full of young little nuisances, I felt like Raven Rock was one of the worst sections of the game and want to see how you change it.

    Apart from the godawful ending it feels most like a RPG session where the GM wrote a cool place, and comes up with the most contrived railroading to get you there (against your will) but then turns you loose for a little non-hostile wandering, followed by a lot of hostile gunplay. It’s all over the place and nobody’s actions seem to make a lot of sense.

    • galacticplumber says:

      It gets a relative pass from me for not being as aggressively annoying as either of the two things proceeding it.

    • tremor3258 says:

      Maybe after the run of bad decisions and fiat people were just worn out by Raven Rock.

      • galacticplumber says:

        Bad decisions, Fiat, and the game appearing to go out of its way to be annoying. Yes the rock was moderately annoying in an absolute sense. It wasn’t nearly as bad though. Upon waking up in there I wasn’t constantly insulted, roadblocked, and forced onto unwanted tangents. I wasn’t stuck in any protracted scenes, or cutscene beaten. I was fighting my way out of an enemy stronghold. It wasn’t as bad because there’s literally almost nothing you CAN screw up in that scenario so long as a few basic rules are followed.

  9. Warclam says:

    Sometimes, it briefly slips my mind what a wordsmith Rutskarn is. And then something like the [1] note happens, and I am awed anew.

  10. BlueHorus says:

    There should be a big fat button that says “no new super mutants” which blows up an important doohickey. You don’t even have to make it do something to the gameworld right now… [instead it adds] a five-second card to the end slideshow saying “Ya done kilt the super mutants and everyone danced joyfully.”

    I see your argument and raise you a ‘sabotaging the machine frees the Super Mutants, instead of killing them. I mentioned it last week, but the idea goes that having Super Mutants break free from Enclave control means they regain their minds –
    (Oh, hi there, Fawkes!)
    – so instead of murderous monsters, you just have normal people who are themselves victims, in a lot of ways (but who also now find themselves big, green, tough, super-strong, and hated by normal people after years of violence).
    It’s a much more nuanced decision, like curing the Genophage (or not) in Mass Effect.

    Scratch that: three choices.
    a) Leave the Super Mutants under Enclave control. Presumably also join/work with the Enclave, unless you’re dumb.
    b) Kill all the Super Mutants by blowing up the machine entirely, robbing the Enclave of their terror weapon forever.
    C) Free all the Super Mutants from outside control, letting them decide what to do next. It’s not like they chose to be changed, after all.

    • Ciennas says:

      That would be a fun and interesting twist. Find out the source of the rage, and cure Mutants of it, even if only a few Plot mission ones, and use implication that the DC wastes might get better.

      Or not, as the player decides.

      Since Bethesda’s solution is to pack up and flee to a new region and nuke it down to bedrock anyway, where’s the harm?

  11. Ciennas says:

    Alternately, Have capturing the player be one of the Routes.

    Say, like how Eddy/Caeser invites you for a chat even if you’ve personally sabotaged every single effort he’s made to destabilize the Mojave.

    In fact, it would be interesting if they did try to ‘play nice’ and arrange a diplomatic meeting, and you either volunteer or get volunteered for the position, and they bring you back to Raven Rock to discuss terms.

    They then knock you out so you can’t tell where there new Mobile Oppression Palace is located, and you wake up in the glowy stasis field thing.

    The difference being that savvy players can knowingly walk into the belly of the beast under lots of optional circumstances, like knowing hp is on the way already, or slipping in a holdout weapon, or being able to convince those inside to defect.

    Anyone else wanna take this tangent for a sec?

    • JBC31187 says:

      Blue Horus spoke of a gauntlet of threats further up thread- knockout gas, super mutants, enclave troops, etc. The player is captured no matter what they do, but proper badassery is rewarded with an achievement. Maybe a trade-off of some kind?

      So, at the the beginning, President Eden buzzes over the intercom, congratulates you on sabotaging his plans, and makes you an offer. Disarm, stand over in that cage-like object, and you and Eden will chat face-to-face about joining the winning team. It’s completely genuine, and the player will be brought over at full health with all of their gear later on when you meet the robo president.

      If you refuse, you run the gauntlet. This ends in capture whether you’re mind-whammied or brought to zero health, stripped of your gear, and maybe even a health penalty (not too harsh because the Enclave Medics are there to stabilize you). This time, it’s Col. Autumn or his replacement, and he’s a lot less friendly. You have to hunt for your gear after you’re let go. It’s not supposed to be a punishment, just a roadblock. And maybe there’s a shortcut to a unique plasma rifle or alien blaster or something.

  12. Decius says:

    Give the enclave a secret back tunnel, and the ability to remotely lock the Little Lamplight elevator.

    Player tries to walk out, finds mysteriously that the elevator is sealed. Player finds secret back tunnel, walks through door, door closes behind player, player is in a prison cell. Enclave uses gas and EMP to disable+disarm player, which is only effective because the player is inside a trap that is very difficult to install anywhere, but the Enclave thought it prudent to have a way to catch a saboteur who attacked their FEV program.

  13. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Regarding the difference in discussing FO3 and NV, I’d agree that the latter has fewer big, over the top NPCs*, but I think part of it is that in NV the main storyline is really permeating the gameworld. Pretty much every town or hub in the game is somehow related to the NCR, the Legion or the conflict between them, even those not directly involved in the conflict will often have something to say about it (unsurprisingly). For example the King is rather worth notice, but he’s mainly involved in the conflict between the Freeside locals and the NCR newcomers. On the other hand in FO3 almost nobody in Rivet City, Arefu, Little Lamplight, Big Town, Underworld or even Republic of Dave talks about water, Brotherhood or the Enclave. In Megaton itself there is that one leaking pipes quest and that one guy who gushes about the Enclave… and that’s it. The Brotherhood have a presence you run into in the city (unless you skip GNR) but they do not become plot relevant until AFTER the Enclave show up, which is rather late into the story. Small wonder people remember all the side stuff in FO3 because the main plot does its darnest to not get in the way.

    *The brains are fairly notable but that’s DLC.

    • galacticplumber says:

      Or the insane madman you from T-Rex land that you can personally write essays about how crazy he is not to mention the conspiracies. Or the intelligent glowing ghouls that want to go to space. Or the poor, mean human deluded into thinking he was one of them that they duped. Or the disabled eternal old person with more stage presence than any faction leader from 3. Or Benny, dear god Benny. Or the cannibals that were upgraded from minor location gimmick to hilariously fleshed out side quest full of betrayals, unique character models, and arcs. Should I keep going? I can keep going.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Sure, however of those only the spaceghouls (also the “Super Mutant ski resort” while we’re at it, they obviously did not want to make this story about those) are not related to the main storyline. House is one of the three powers behind the main plot. Benny wants to screw over House and is involved in one of the three famiiies, as are the cannibals and dealing with the families is part of the main quest. My point wasn’t that there aren’t interesting factions or characters, but that they tend to be either be involved or affected by the central conflict and are kind of swept by it and don’t come up in isolation quite as often.

        • Gruhunchously says:

          The Super Mutants at the ski lodge are being harassed and threatened by mercenaries hired by the NCR because the financial barons and landowners back home don’t want them infesting their prospective new territory but also don’t want to get their hands dirty. It’s a demonstration of how ruthless the NCR can be when something gets in the way of their expansion, as well a look at how their society treats mutants.

          So it’s connected, in a small way at least.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Hey, remember the quest in F:NV where you programme a Protectron to be a sex worker and name it FISTO? That was pretty memorable, to me.

      I’d say the shallowness of F03’s writing – and the focus on moments over narrative – helps the characters stand out more. In F:NV it’s all carefully planned out and worked into a (YMMV) believable world: the writers at Obsidian actually asked questions like ‘but what do they eat?’
      So in F:NV there’s a cowboy-dominatrix ghoul. But, she works as a mercenary guard, because a gal’s gotta make money somehow. She’ll happily talk about her kinks, but – like a normal person – it’s just one facet of who she is.

      Now if she were in F03, she’d have an entire encounter to herself. She’d be called Madam Whiplash and live in a sex dungeon in the middle of the Wasteland, surrounded by naked slaves that worship her – and her quest would involve retrieving sex toys from a Mirelurk nest or something. Freed from constraints like ‘why haven’t the Super Mutants killed them yet?’ or trying to create a believable world, she’d get flanderized and thus be a lot more memorable.

    • GoStu says:

      That’s such a good point.

      In New Vegas, all the big players of the world have at the very least heard of all the other big players. The NCR is concerned about the Legion. The Legion respects the power of the NCR. Mr. House knows and is wary of the power of the other two, but aims to play both sides for money protection. The player character can side with any of these factions, or decide to replace House and go his own way.

      Also – the central plot elements of New Vegas, Lake Mead, and Hoover Dam (collectively, the Vegas area) a driving everyone else. Vegas makes tons of money for House. NCR wants to control the Dam and the Lake and will deal with House. The Legion wants the wealth of the Vegas area to serve as their new home. Details about the setting drive the plots of the major factions.

      Meanwhile in FO3:The Enclave is a rumour at best – the eyebots talk but nobody’s sure if anyone’s actually on the other end. The Super Mutants aren’t an organized force, they’re wandering monsters with no agenda. The Brotherhood of Steel are largely idle. The water shortage is barely noticeable; nobody except the karma-giving beggars seem to be struggling from it. Rivet City exists on its own, Megaton is a “Trade Hub” with nobody to trade with and no trading going on, and Tenpenny Tower is an inexplicable hub of money where nobody works.

  14. Sleeping Dragon says:

    The game does already let you tattle to Elder Lyons

    Let’s talk about that. You have several relevant pieces of information. You are only allowed to share one. It makes no sense on any level, it doesn’t even add to the sense of urgency, it’s just plain stupid! Whoever thought this was a good idea?!

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      But, but, that takes time away from the super cool robot fight that follows! We can’t have the player waste time with details when the next part is so awesome !!!1!

  15. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    I have to say, Vault 87 is pretty bland (regular corridors, pretty dark place, the only difference from other vaults you might have gone to is that it has super mutants in it) until the end (and I hate having companions in games so I didn’t care much about Fawkes, not that you can recruit him/her then anyway), so of course people only talk about the BS cutscene ambush. It’s the thing that sticks the most in the mind.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh yeah, and there should be a big fat button that says “no new super mutants” which blows up an important doohickey.

    If they are made with the combination of fev and geck,wouldnt you taking the geck already disrupt the process?The “turn off” button is kind of redundant after that.

    • Ciennas says:

      Huh. Nope. It would interfere with the ‘Under Control’ part.

      Presumably there’d be a bit to update the standing orders before you disconnect the mind control, and that would lead to another ding to or from the karma meter and a unique slide on the ending.

  17. DwarfWarden says:

    Not to nitpick but as someone who just got through that part of the game, they don’t capture you with a flashbang. The bomb they drop on you is some sore of taser-bomb that electrocutes you. Dumb, I know, since EMP grenades barely hurt anything that isn’t a robot and dumber still since they could have easily had those in the game as an established weapon so players wouldn’t facepalm when it gets used against them, but it’s at least incrementally better than a regular flashbang.

  18. djw says:

    Hmm, maybe instead of a cutscene capture, just send wave after wave of mooks in an area with no way out except through the mooks. Eventually, charname will die, and then instead of load screen, run the capture cut scene.

    The point being that you were definitely beaten. You could still argue that the AI cheats with wave after wave of mooks, but at least they did beat you down.

    • galacticplumber says:

      Assuming the various doors still work that’s unlikely to stop a player at that point. You can easily have ninety percent or so damage resistance, hundreds of native HP, and approximately MOAR than enough healing. You can literally walk out while killing people. It doesn’t help that levelups are full heals.

      • Ciennas says:

        You could spawn special enemies for the encounter- statistically identical to where the player is, in terms of health and level, but award limited or zero xp.

        It’s one of the settings for the level editor, anyway.

        Help indicate that mowing down dudes is not useful at this point.

        • Viktor says:

          A player at this point will easily have roughly 50 lbs of misc healing items, 100+ stimpacks, and enough of each drug to kill a brahmin. Med-x, Turbo, walk to the door. Or just a Stealth Boy. In a Bethesda game, there’s no way to guarantee a win over a player no matter how broken you go. Someone will find a way.

          • galacticplumber says:

            And the vats 75% percent defense buff. Don’t forget that. On top of DR cap of 90% that I’ve TESTED vats to stack with multiplicatively.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            More to the point, if the fight is ultimately unwinnable this would cause players ridiculous frustration because of actually spent healing items, wasted ammo, gear deterioration… if we’re going to suspend (or later reset) a cutscene actually becomes superior, and if we were to reset them afterwards (say, making an excuse why player’s gear is in mint condition) than it’s just a waste of time. The endless waves of mooks only makes sense if the player has something to gain from fighting them off long enough or if they are specifically meant to do something other than fight. which would be a hard sell because the game generally did not train the player to look for options other than combat except maybe limited stealth.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              There is a middle ground you are all missing:Make the player do the fight,but disable the pipboy during it.This way theres no healing,no way to abuse drugs and other items,only a few bullets wasted,definite loss after a short while,and you are still in control during it.

              • galacticplumber says:

                Gee if only there were some kind of readily available method of accessing any healing item, chem, or weapon without opening the pipboy…. It would be really convenient if it rhymed with shot keys and was actually superior to pipboy for healing due to having no animation delay…. Yeah. Wouldn’t that be something?

        • galacticplumber says:

          Okay so instead of full healing every minute or so for free the player ONLY full heals on their on initiative when they stop to use some of their arbitrarily many healing items. Every five minutes or so at the fastest for players with ninety percent damage resistance. And they’re probably loaded down with bloodpacks that heal 20, water that heals 20, and ice cold nuka that heals 24. Oh and lets not forget all the infinitely stacking stimpaks that weigh nothing and can easily be made to heal over a hundred at a pop. Also it gets worse. We didn’t even account for combat drugs. I don’t know if med-X breaks the DR cap and cuts another forth of whatever damage is left, but I KNOW vats is an extra 75% percent off that stacks while active, jet gives you more vats, and psycho makes enemies dead even faster.

          Point? A player that is actively doing sidequests and getting the best equipment is damn near impossible to kill in anything resembling a fair fight. Much less an actual fair fight.

    • djw says:

      Well, another possibility. (Though keep in mind I haven’t played it in 9 years, so I do not remember much about the layout of vault 87).

      Phase 1: whatever happens to trigger the cutscene happens, but instead of cutscene an annoying alarm goes off.

      Phase 2: vault 87 begins to fill with radioactive water.

      Phase 2a: if player tries to leave via little lamplight they find the exit locked.

      Phase 3: they drown, or they leave through the “highly radioactive” exit.

      Regardless of the choice in phase 3, instead of dying to water or radioactivity, they just pass out, and wake up captured.

      They could overhear some random mook complaining about fishing him/her out of the water, or doing repairs on the robots that they sent in to the radioactive waste to drag him out of that.

      • galacticplumber says:

        More likely to work, but not certain assuming the door leading to radiation exit plops you out at the vault 87 map marker which was formerly just an inaccessible door. You are, in fact, capable of making that trip in and out if you have radiation spec gear, which is in the vault anyway, enough rad-X and radaway, and enough medicine skill. It’s still a BETTER idea than the combat mind. It doesn’t automatically fail to a player who did side quests for instance and is even not likely possible without them if the player didn’t spec medicine. That’s entirely reasonable mind you as the only things medicine has really direct practical value for is the scaling of stimpaks rad healing and some perks. It’s not the most dumpable skill in the game, but it certainly isn’t a powerhouse unless you’re constantly eating damage to the face.

        • djw says:

          They talk up the impassible radiation at that entrance during the game. It should not be to hard to tweak the program to actually make it impassible, no matter what gear the player has. Its “special” radiation, after all.

          Don’t get me wrong, its still railroading, but its at least using a track that was laid earlier in the game.

  19. Blake says:

    Bit of constructive criticism:
    You wrote a lot about how forgettable Vault 87 is, but didn’t give much of a reminder for everyone who forgot it.
    A short paragraph near the top quickly outlining what currently happens in Vault 87 would have made the criticisms/fixes easier to parse.

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