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Category: Fallout 4

Fixing Fallout 4's Central Conceit Part 4

Constantly rehashing Vaults, BoS, Muties, Raiders. Their games are about as fresh as they are.

So let’s talk about Bethesda’s big problem: they simply don’t care about choice and consequence any more. They only care about money. You need look no further than their actions in recent years to understand that ever since Skyrim, they’ve realised they can basically just put no real effort in and still make millions of dollars.

Part of this lack of effort is never, ever locking content away from the player. So having Sanctuary become a no-go area after Act 1 until you advance far enough to liberate the place would be a big fat nope; that’d be locking content away.

Likewise, having the player locked out of faction content (like happens in New Vegas) is a big no-no as well. Which is why you can do basically everything for every faction in Fallout 4 until the very end. And even then, I suspect the only reason you eventually side against one faction is so Bethesda could put a pretty nuclear explosion in their promo materials.

Bethesda removed skills, simplifying the game systems and removing any sort of level cap in an effort to get people to play forever on a single character. There’s virtually no real replayability to be found in new character builds, because character builds don’t really exist any more. Every new character ends up the same because there are certain perks that are necessary for everyone. And with them being level-locked, you can’t specialise early on.

And let’s not forget the cherry perched on top of the disgusting shit cake: radiant quests, the lowest of the low when it comes to quality and fun. They’re just MMO daily grind quests except, unlike an MMO, you don’t get anything useful from them. Just more xp and items, which you can farm anywhere anyway.

Fixing Fallout 4's Central Conceit Part 4

I’m not just wasting your time. Honest.

Then there are other issues such as unique weapons not being unique, meaning every character again ends up basically identical. For example, in New Vegas every single unique variant weapon was actually unique in that it had its own model and skin and either required you to complete a quest – often locking yourself out of a unique item entirely if you went for the ‘good guy’ route, like that of Contreras – or visit a dangerous location to acquire.

Contrast with Fallout 4, where uniques are almost without exception just the base gun/weapon model with a legendary effect attached, effectively identical to how they were in 3. And for the vast majority, it’s virtually impossible to ever miss them, except by not having enough money for those stocked at shops… and money really isn’t an issue in this game anyway.

At the end of the day, I don’t expect Bethesda to change how they make games, not any more. They’ve found a formula that makes them ridiculous amounts of money, and expecting them to risk that by actually making good games is silly. When all’s said and done, Bethesda has become just another AAA factory churning out bland games lacking in creativity, same as the rest.

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As wide as the ocean, but deep as a puddle. This should be Bethesda’s motto.

And that’s depressing as all hell. But more than that, it’s sickening knowing that my favourite game franchise is in the hands of people who don’t understand or respect it, and only care about it to the extent where it makes them money. And given Bethesda is owned by Zenimax… yeah, that just compounds the issue.

New Vegas had a theme running through the whole game: let go and move on, or begin again and make the same mistakes in a never-ending cycle? Frankly, I feel it’s probably time to let go. Fallout is effectively dead, at least as far as getting anything worthwhile going forward is concerned.

Though that doesn’t mean I won’t continue criticising Bethesda or their games/stories. Letting them get away with it is worse than simply staying quiet. At least I can exercise my brain a bit. And who knows, one day I might talk about New Vegas or the originals, and dig into why they were such great games.

Compared to Bethesda’s sophomoric fare, the difference isn’t even night and day; it’s more akin to a baby following its parent around, mimicking and imitating, but never managing to understand or learn. Though even that isn’t really accurate. Because that would imply Bethesda even wants to learn. And it’s quite clear from their own actions that they do not.

The post Fixing Fallout 4’s Central Conceit Part 4 appeared first on Yurika S. Grant’s Author Site.

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Fixing Fallout 4's Central Conceit Part 3

Building a new world.

We now have an opening section that is fairly open-ended with regards to player freedom and expression, and an opening quest + faction for the player to engage with. Additionally, our spouse and child are both alive and living in Sanctuary.

With that in mind, I’ll first say this: if you’d rather have them live somewhere else, there’d be nothing stopping you. Simply move them to another settlement and manage it how you please. There’d be a quest a bit later on involving the Vault-Tec faction and your family, but that can effectively take place regardless of where they live at the time.

Beyond that, I see two basic ways to take this from here. First, we go with the same idea as vanilla: Shaun’s been kidnapped early on. This devolves pretty quickly into assumed empathy again and is therefore not the route I’d take, but let’s explore quickly before moving on.

So our kid has been kidnapped for whatever reason, doesn’t matter much for this particular thought exercise, it’s enough that he’s gone. Instead of killing off the spouse as well, we have them be alive and well as I’ve already discussed. What this does is allow us to offload all the ‘SHAAAAAAUN!’ stuff onto the spouse.

The player character then takes the role as defined in the previous posts, exploring and being an ambassador, while simultaneously putting in some of the detective work on finding Shaun, if they like. But the major legwork can then be handled by the spouse, who will pore over documents and reports from Valentine’s agency, and do his/her own research and so on. The player will then have the option of following up new leads or leaving them to the spouse.

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Not the Valentine I had in mind…

By doing this we separate the emotional stuff out and have the spouse character as the one getting all distraught while we, the player character, can roleplay as indifferent, not interested, equally worried, relieved, or whatever. Over the course of the game you’d be able to spend time with your spouse and learn about them, developing the necessary emotional attachment so that later, when we kill them or otherwise do something horrible, the player has reason to care.

Now for the way I’d actually handle this (again, staying within the confines of the existing game). Shaun wouldn’t have been kidnapped, as previously mentioned, and would instead be a part of the family. You spend time with them whenever you return home, pick up some quests, and get to know them. This opens up avenues of dialogue that haven’t really been explored all that much in Fallout; how civilisation recovers on a micro level, a personal level.

We could explore raising a child in the wasteland, all the additional things a parent needs to be aware of beyond the basic necessities we take for granted in our own world. New diseases, radiation’s effects on a developing child, moral decisions on how the child should be raised (pragmatic, paragon of justice, scourge of the wastes, etc.), and more.

Over the course of the game, the spouse would start developing a sickness. What sickness would that be? Why, cryo sickness, of course! Instead of the easy option (cancer, which shouldn’t even be much of a problem in a world where things like Radaway exist), we develop a new sickness specific to our characters’ story.

Given the whole idea of the Vaults was social experiments – and one or two others such as Vault 12’s radiation experiment – with the possible intention of colonising other worlds (whether or not this was Black Isle’s original idea, or whether it was a later one doesn’t matter, the idea itself is sound and can be used as a basis here), the problem of sickness arising from long-term cryo sleep would be an important one to address.

Image #3

Taking a trip to another world. Economy class would be a step UP.

By this point, maybe halfway into the game, the player should’ve grown attached enough to the spouse character to care that something bad is now happening to them. So let’s take it up another notch and have her and Shaun forcibly taken to Vault-Tec headquarters (what we currently know as the Institute).

This gives the player a new quest in which they’re properly introduced to the main antagonists, with a stake in the world in the form of the spouse they’ve grown to know and (hopefully) like over the course of 20+ hours’ of play. Additionally, for those players who don’t give a crap about the spouse, we’d have a secondary questline to allow them entry into the Institute’s base.

The Institute’s goals and motives are beyond the scope of this mini-series, so we’ll just say they’re up to something nefarious but there are also factions with other goals, and the player would be able to choose who and how to help, or not at all. The spouse and Shaun would be safe and being treated… but we could also throw in ethical dilemmas for the player to explore, such as experimental treatments administered with or without the subject’s permission.

Beyond that, you’d have the option to leave your family to their fate (if playing an unpleasant character), rescue them and bring them home to whichever settlement you consider your main base, help the Institute treat them (for a high science/medicine type), and other options besides.

I think that’s probably enough for now, you get the idea. It really isn’t that difficult to come up with interesting ways to have your game engage the player, but Bethesda either doesn’t care any more, or they’re simply not capable… perhaps both. And that’s sad, because Fallout really deserves better.

I’ll put up one last post in this mini-series, covering why I don’t think we’ll ever see a truly great Fallout game again, then we’ll be done.

The post Fixing Fallout 4’s Central Conceit Part 3 appeared first on Yurika S. Grant’s Author Site.

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