So the themes and premise of Fallout 3 are wrong. And the setting is wrong. So now we have to get by on the strength of the relationships in the game. That’s too bad, since…
The people of the wasteland are idiots.
The town of Megaton is built around a single puddle of irradiated water and an un-detonated nuke. There is no food, no source of water, and no valuable resources. There’s a water purifier in town, although it’s not clear what water it purifies. Maybe it turns their raw sewage directly back into drinking waterVaults MUST do this to be able to operate for so long, so clearly this technology must exist in this world.? If so, then it’s more useful than Dad’s stupid gizmo. It works, it’s conveniently located, it’s smaller, it’s not filled with supermutants, and it doesn’t require any further super-science to make it work. Also it doesn’t seem to be at risk of exploding or releasing massive levels of radiation, which is a problem Dad’s machine has.
For some reason, only one old guy in town knows how the dang thing worksAnd given that you can wander into town and repair the thing for him, he must not be terribly good at his job.. I guess everyone else in town is too busy with their non-existent jobs to take part in maintaining the only machine keeping them from dying of thirst?
In the real world, cities exist for a reason. They’re near rivers or farmland or valuable natural resources. They’re often on hills or in places that are easy to defend from attack. They’re along the coast, or on roads between major cities to facilitate and profit from the mutual trade. Megaton is built in a filthy crater and there’s no reason these people couldn’t improve their lot in life by moving their homes a hundred meters in any direction. Or maybe move into the perfectly good abandoned town directly adjacent to their home. Megaton has no reason to exist, except some writer thought living around a still-live nuke was a very “Fallout” thingAnd to be fair: It would be, if the town itself had SOME justification for being there..
Despite huddling around the bomb and radiation water all day, nobody in town seems to have any problems with radiation sickness, cholera, or dehydration. Nobody is worried about water. In fact, they don’t seem to notice or care when their water pipes leak water all over the place.
And this is the first town you run into, when you would expect the writers to establish the stakes and motivate you to action. This is where you should look at the plight of the people and say, “My gosh! I’ve got to do something about this water shortage!” But these people already have two machines that can give them water: Their existing purifier, and Mr. Handy. And Mr. Handy is actually better: It doesn’t require energy or expertise to run, it’s totally portable, and it can generate clean, radiation-free water at a steady rate.
The only problem these people have is the bomb and the radioactive puddle in the center of town, and the only reason it’s a problem is because – in the vast expanse of the Capital Wasteland – they chose to build their town in this crater.
Dad has spent his entire life trying to solve a problem these people don’t seem to have.
This is because…
Dad is a big dumb idiot.
So Dad wants to turn the Jefferson Memorial into a giant water purifier. This will let him purify the entire Potomac. I guess we need to do some pretty serious hand-waving here, since 200 years of no rain would mean there’s no water, anywhere, ever. But whatever. There’s no rain, but the water also hasn’t dried up. Sigh. Fine.
The important thing is that nobody aside from raidersI’m not even gonna ask where THEY get food and water, given that they outnumber everybody else by like 10:1. and Rivet City lives near the Potomac. So who would this help? Are people going to walk all the way from Megaton and haul back buckets of water from the Potomac? Dad acts like he’s helping everyone in the wasteland, but at the very best he’s helping Rivet City, super mutants, and raiders. And if we’re just trying to help Rivet City then why didn’t he, you know, build the device in Rivet City?
But Shamus, are you forgetting that Rivet City isn’t terribly old, and it probably didn’t really blossom into an important location until after Dad had already begun Project Purity?
Ok, you got me there. Maybe Dad didn’t build it in Rivet City because Rivet City didn’t seem terribly important. However, that just means that Dad built his purifier in a place where the clean water wouldn’t benefit anyone. He was ignoring settlements and trying to clean water at inhospitable locations where nobody could live. No matter how you bend, twist, or interpret the lore, Dad built his project where it wouldn’t do anybody any good, even if it worked.
In an audio log he says that the device only works in small batches, but can’t handle large volumes. Which means this isn’t a science problem, it’s an engineering one. And what sort of plan is this that “small batches of water” is useless? Is a “small batch” still drinkable? Wouldn’t that have some utility? Wouldn’t pumping out a steady stream of clean drinkable water be a pretty good outcome? Why do we need to clean the entire river?
Is Dad doing all of this for the sake of triumphalism? Is he doing this for the glory and not humanity?
But whatever. The Jefferson Memorial it is.
So then Dad says he needs a GECK – the Garden of Eden Creation Kit – to make his water purifier work.
I’m not going to make a fuss over the change in the nature and purpose of the GECK. Yes, it was portrayed differently in Fallout 2. But I’m not going to haggle over retcons and lore changes. That’s another debate entirely.
The problem is that using a GECK to make his machine work makes Dad an asshole and a horrible scientist. Nobody in this world grows food. If we throw up our hands and say they’re still somehow living off of boxes of prepackaged cereal 200 years after the bombs fell, then we at LEAST have to concede that those sorts of things are getting hard to find these days, yes? Sooner or later, we will run out of boxes of 200 year old cookies or whatever.
So given that people seem to have enough water to survive, and Dad’s purifier can make slightly more, it’s outrageous to take a device that could CREATE FOOD that we presumably need and instead use it to make a bunch of clean water in the Potomac where it’s not terribly useful.
And just to be a jerk: What is the point of making pure, clean, drinkable water and then dumping it back into the irradiated riverbed of the Potomac? Wouldn’t we need to clean the riverbed as well? No? Fine. Whatever.
In any case, Dad must be a monumentally bad scientist. He’s got a purifier that only makes “small batches” of water, and to make it work on a larger scale he decides to use a magic matter re-arranger.
Also, Dad is a great example of how thin the characterization is in this game. There’s no flavor to his dialog. You never have a “Hanging out with Garrus” kind of conversation where Dad geeks out about obscure science facts that he finds interesting. He doesn’t have any funny quirks, or personality tics. He doesn’t have a fondness for dumb jokes, or a series of stories about a crazy associate, or have witty observations on the places he’s visited. He’s not cynical, hot-tempered, closely guarded, absent-minded, a gambler, suffering from OCD, a collector of old-world comics, a singer, or anything else that might give his dialog some tiny spark of life or texture. He’s just “a nice guy” in the most generic way possible: He delivers exposition in a friendly voice.
Nearly everyone in Fallout 3 is like this. Their only personality trait is their tone of voice, and they don’t seem to have any life outside of explaining things to you.
It’s clear the writers intend Dad to be a Good Guy, and intend you to help your DadIn the first game it’s assumed you’re helping your own vault, and can do so at the expense of the rest of the wasteland. But in this game your goal is to help the entire wasteland, so there’s not a lot of room for non-altruistic roleplaying.. The game has this stupid karma system, but it’s undercut by the fact that an evil character wouldn’t do ANY of these quests, and the main quest most of all. If the game is going to be written in such a way that you’re obliged to be a good guy, then it would be best to spend more of the voice acting budget on richer conversations built around that idea. Instead, the game wastes precious resources letting you be “evil” by complaining about helping people, but then doing it anyway.
On top of this, Dad’s supposed goodness is all in his delivery and his supposed altruism. If you look at his behavior, he’s not actually a very nice guy. In fact…
Dad might also be evil.
So the Enclave shows up and tries to take control of the water purifier. Dad resists. Col. Autumn shoots one of Dad’s assistants to show he means business. So then Dad BLOWS UP AND IRRADIATES HIS PURIFIER rather than let it fall into the hands of his enemy.
Let’s look at this another way. Let’s just accept the supposition that Dad really is trying to do something great for the world, and judge his actions from there:
Let’s imagine Dad is Dr. Jonas Salk. Let’s imagine he’s in the middle of inventing the Polio vaccine. Then some… I dunno… NazisIn this context, when we say “Nazi” we mean, “some unambiguously evil force” that we will – for the purposes of this argument – assume it’s okay to kill without shame or guilt. or whatever show up. Clearly evil, bad, dudes. So Dr. Salk blows up his lab and himself, taking the cure with him, rather than letting the cure be used by his enemy. Out of the flames he screams, “I’d rather NOBODY get the cure than allow Nazis to be protected against polio!”
Does that seem like a good guy thing to you? That actually sounds kind of evil to me. Maybe not “Nazi evil”, but definitely straying pretty dang far from the sort of hippocratic oath idealism that we expect from our medical heroes.
But Dad’s position is actually worse, here. Nazis could take the cure and use it to save Nazi lives, which might ultimately get Good Guys killed. But Dad’s purifier is this entire building, and it apparently can’t be moved. The only thing it can do is clean the PotomacI’ll discuss the FEV virus later. In any case, Dad doesn’t know about that.. There is literally nothing these guys could do with it that would make things worse for the people of the capital wasteland. The worst thing the Enclave could do is just NOT turn it on. And since it didn’t work anyway… uh?
Did Dad just kill himself to keep his life’s work from falling into the hands of people trying to fix it?
Hey Dad, maybe they’ll get it working and turn it on, and your dumb project will pay off. Maybe they’ll study it and use it to build other water purifiers elsewhere, and pull humanity back from the brink. Maybe Col. Autumn is so mean because his people are dying of thirst and he’s just scared and desperate. Maybe we can get some help and boot these clowns out later? Maybe you should find out what the stakes are before you blow up yourself and your life’s work.
No! I’d rather the whole world die of thirst rather than someone take credit for my overambitious boondoggle!
I’m not going to say for sure that Dad was evil. But he was either evil, or a moron. One or the otherAnd to be fair: Plausibly a little of both..
But he’s not the only idiot in this wasteland. We’ll talk about some of the other dummies next time.
 Vaults MUST do this to be able to operate for so long, so clearly this technology must exist in this world.
 And given that you can wander into town and repair the thing for him, he must not be terribly good at his job.
 And to be fair: It would be, if the town itself had SOME justification for being there.
 I’m not even gonna ask where THEY get food and water, given that they outnumber everybody else by like 10:1.
 In the first game it’s assumed you’re helping your own vault, and can do so at the expense of the rest of the wasteland. But in this game your goal is to help the entire wasteland, so there’s not a lot of room for non-altruistic roleplaying.
 In this context, when we say “Nazi” we mean, “some unambiguously evil force” that we will – for the purposes of this argument – assume it’s okay to kill without shame or guilt.
 I’ll discuss the FEV virus later. In any case, Dad doesn’t know about that.
 And to be fair: Plausibly a little of both.
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