Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Bleak World of Fallout

A decade ago, Morrowind made me realize how far graphics had come when I found myself pausing between quests to stand on the top of a mountain and watch the sunrise. This is particularly important because I'm not otherwise a graphically-oriented person. Earlier this year, when some Redditor asked the community what game they'd most like to see remade with today's graphics and the top-voted answer was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), I was surprised--not because someone would want to remake KOTOR but because I already thought of the game as existing in the era of "today's graphics." The idea that it's not good enough for a large group of players just astonishes me. Then again, if graphic development had stopped with Ultima Underworld in 1992, I don't think I'd be bothered; I'm into RPGs for the mechanics, not the visuals. Nonetheless, I can still recognize beauty when I see it, and that sunrise in Morrowind was just beautiful.

I found a similar moment a couple of days ago in Fallout 4. I was in Salem, Massachusetts, the town in which Chester Bolingbroke actually lives. Although Fallout's Salem doesn't look much like the real Salem (among other things, the in-game Salem has only one witch museum), it was still lovely by post-apocalyptic standards. I found myself down on a beach listening to the waves and watching the eastern sky light up. There didn't seem to be a single object representing the sun as in Morrowind, but it was still nice. Peaceful. Beautiful...

Whap. At first, I didn't notice it--I was too intent on the sky. But then it came again. Whap. Whap. Whapwhapwhapwhapwhap. I noticed with alarm that my radiation level was rising dramatically, and before I could react, I was dead. Some jackass belonging to the Children of Atom had wandered over from a nearby commune and fried me with a gamma gun. As I sat there and looked at the reloading screen, I thought, what a perfect encapsulation of the Fallout universe. Forget that you're in a post-apocalyptic wasteland for even a moment, and you're dead.

An overwhelming sense of bleakness overcame me, and when the game finally came back up, I didn't want to keep playing. I was at once depressed and disgusted at the relentless violence of the universe. It's an absurd statement, I know--computer RPGs are, if nothing else, primarily about violence. Every RPG character reaches the winning screen after trekking through the blood of thousands. We hand-wave it by saying they were all "evil," but note that they're not the ones marching through the doors of our dungeons with small arsenals on their backs. (RPG players believe in some kind of reverse Castle Doctrine in which we can enter any building we want, and it's your fault if you turn violent in response.) My Fallout 4 character is Level 56 and has killed...let's see...1,076 people. Can you imagine how thoroughly traumatized a real-life solider would be with that kind of body count? I don't care if you make "good" or "evil" role-playing choices in quests and dialogue--either way, you're role-playing a sociopath.

Like its predecessor, I find Fallout 4 addictive but not fun. Its universe makes me feel uncomfortable. Dirty. I hate the radiation mechanic more than anything--especially because those annoying clicks often come up when I can't see any reason for it. That's part of the world, I guess--everything is so poisoned that sometimes you just start taking rads because screw you, you live in a wasteland. I don't like killing human raiders instead of orcs, or injecting myself with chemicals instead of drinking potions. I don't like role-playing the real world.

Yes, I know, Fallout isn't the real world. Its timeline diverged from the real world sometime after World War II. Somehow they got complex artificial intelligence without a microprocessor, fusion reactors but no flat-screen televisions, drugs that improve physical and mental performance but no wireless technology beyond the radio. The bombs fell in 2077 after a war with China and humanity has become a scavenging society. Somehow, 200 years later, pre-war packaged food is still both widely available and still good to eat. People wear pre-war clothes and use pre-war toilets; except for a few nods to agriculture, no one seems to have built or made anything new. I'm not sure whether we're supposed to regard all weapons and ammunition as all pre-war (New Vegas and the other games seem to diverge on this point), but either way there's plenty of them.

What's insidious about the Fallout universe is that the pre-war world was in some ways much worse than the post-war world. You piece this together mostly through the pre-war logs kept on computer terminals. Vault-Tec sold safety to its customers but then scheduled each vault for some cruel physical or psychological experiment. (The mystery remains: To what end? Since vaults wouldn't be populated except in the case of a nuclear war, what did they hope to do with the results when civilization no longer remained?) Every business seems to have been actively defrauding both the public and the government while subjecting its own employees to armed security robots and machine gun turrets. Employees were consumed with petty inter-office rivalries and extramarital affairs. The government was full of incompetent, immoral megalomaniacs. Store robots gunned down shoplifters. Corporations and governments experimented on unwilling human subjects. Hazardous waste was dumped everywhere from reservoirs to random basements. Desks of random businesses, even schools, were full of weapons and ammunition. And on top of all this corruption, everything had a shiny, smiley, patriotic, self-consciously polite veneer.

Yes, I know: hurr, durr, how is that different from the real world? While of course I see analogs--caricaturization of the real world is really Fallout's entire raison d'etre--I'm not quite that cynical. We have lots of bad but we also have lots of good; Fallout's pre-war world seems to be all bad. "This civilization deserved nuclear apocalypse," the game wants us to believe.

Not that the post-war world is any better. "War...war never changes," we hear repeatedly, but what the game really seems to believe is that governments and people never change. Every time more than 6 people come together, corruption seems to follow. None of the major factions is unequivocally "good." The Brotherhood of Steel, with its knights and paladins, sounds like an organization concerned with justice and protection--until you get to know them and find out that they just care about the preservation of technology. The Enclave represents the worst of the pre-war government. The New California Republic sounds like a good thing, but at times it seems more interested in control than justice, and its president is a total jerk. Even the Minutemen, the supposed heroes of Fallout 4, seem to have more deserters than dedicated soldiers.

Every time you run across some bastion of civilization, like a small city, it almost always turns out to have a dark secret, a dictatorial government, or a sharp divide between rich and poor--sometimes all three. If the city in question seems too clean or the people too well-dressed, you might as well start shooting them right away. They're cannibals or Terminators or something worse.

Of course, Fallout 4 lets you set up your own communities--little agrarian plots of 2, 5, 20 people who work in harmony. Such small societies seem to be the only ones worth saving in the Fallout games. The only good government is small government; the only bonds you can trust are familial ones. And everyone has a gun. A libertarian paradise? Maybe, but I'm the unequivocal master of all of these little communes. I have the sole, unchallenged right to decide everything from the physical layout to where people sleep to what clothes they wear to what jobs they do. I can force them to give me all their stuff. I can send people from one place to another at my whim. Displease me, and you'll be the sole resident of some inner-city ghetto with a single stalk of corn. People rise and sleep under the protection of the turrets I've built. I'm basically Chairman Mao. (That a game with such a mechanic is set in "The Commonwealth" is surely no accident.) And yet these places are only viable societies in the landscape. People flock to them when they hear my radio beacon. 

(Spoilers after this point for Fallout 3 and beyond.)

I haven't played Fallout or Fallout 2, so my only experience has been with the last three games, but its notable how little progress gets made. "Victory" in Fallout 3 means a relatively small area has somewhat cleaner water. Fallout: New Vegas has a number of potential endings, but all they really come down to is one faction--none of whom are particularly better than the others--controlling New Vegas. Even if you kill the leaders of the major factions, nothing really changes. I don't know how Fallout 4 is going to end, but at best it feels like it's going to solve a personal mystery for my character and not necessarily make the Commonwealth a better world. In fact, note that the instigating event of all three games is personal--in sharp contrast to most RPGs where an external threat precedes the rise of the Hero. In the Fallout world, the protagonist isn't "called upon" to save the world--he injects himself into a world that, for good or ill, is already humming along.

So what is Fallout's real philosophy? Libertarianism? Socialism? Benevolent authoritarianism? No underlying philosophy at all except the world sucks and only the individual matters? (I guess that would be anarchism.) I'm not sure, but all of them run contrary to my own beliefs and make playing Fallout vaguely uncomfortable. Never before have I run across a game series that fills me with this palpable background angst even as I enjoy some of the game mechanics.

I don't know if civilization as we know it will some day end in fire. I had a middle school teacher--who in retrospect should have been institutionalized--who seemed sure of it. "Simple math," he called it: now that humanity has the capability to destroy itself, every year there is a small but non-zero probability that it will do so, and the cumulative probability eventually reaches 100%. Even if he's right, and 90% of the world dies in a nuclear war, I like to think the remaining 10% will come together, vow to learn from past mistakes, and rebuild. If 200 years later, they're fending off raiders, trading in bottle caps, and eating Cheetos and Spam, I'm going to be awfully disappointed. 

****
 
A few more thoughts on Fallout 4 aside from the topical theme:
 
1. It's a good game, probably better than Fallout 3, but in everything but graphics, it falls short of New Vegas. I don't understand why Bethesda can't get that players want complex role-playing choices, multiple quest paths, and deep faction immersion. You'd think of all of the stuff that goes into developing an open-world video game, these things would be the easiest to do well.

2. On the subject of graphics, I've been reading a lot of postings that opine that they "suck" because Bethesda is still using blah-blah-blah technology instead of upgrading to yadda-yadda-yadda technology featured in Go Screw Yourself: You Nitpicking Jackass. People posting this kind of nonsense have a memory of about 2 years. To all readers: if Fallout 4's graphics aren't good enough for you, I'm not even sure what you're doing on my blog.

3. I did something I rarely do and gave my character my real name, which is not all that uncommon. I nearly fell out of my chair when my little house robot addressed me, in the spoken dialogue, by my actual name. Apparently, the programmers recorded audio for around a thousand common names. Unfortunately, they only did it for this one character, and the rest of the game hasn't even referenced my name in text.

4. The economy is the most broken of any Fallout game I've played so far. I literally cannot think of a single thing to buy except some of the upgrades to my little communes that cost money. Ammunition and stimpaks are both far too plentiful. Drugs are everywhere. I have like 80 shots of jet, 150 of Rad-X.
 
5. But maybe #4 is a consequence of the way I play. Since you can't repack ammo like in New Vegas, I feel like I have to carry around a weapon for every potential type of ammo. I suppose a better approach would be to favor a smaller set of weapons, sell unneeded ammo of other types, and buy the ammo you really want.
 
6. Aluminum! Adhesive! Oil! Screws!
 
7. Because of #5 and #6, I spend almost the entire game on the edge of being over-encumbered. I've invested in several related perks and strength, but even after returning to a workbench and unloading all the junk, I have maybe 25 pounds free.

8. Partly because of #7, I need all the strength I can get. I thus walk around in a Grognak costume that makes me look half-naked.

9. I like that there's no level cap. I'm otherwise ambivalent about the changes to the skill and perks system. I tend to alternate between giving myself an extra point in one of the SPECIAL variables and one of the skills.

10. While I can understand the appeal of the occasional Piper, I'm more of a Cait man. Not that the game actually makes you choose. I started the game with low charisma but managed to get into a romance with Cait by eating some grape mentats. Is it immoral if you roofie yourself?
  
Yes, Fallout 4 is responsible for my not having posted on my regular list since Sunday. I'm working on a second Disciples of Steel outing now, probably for posting this coming Sunday. To avoid spoilers for both Fallout 4 and Star Wars, I'm probably going to be staying off the Internet until then.

187 comments:

  1. On the subject of Fallout's politics, I think I would say that the series tries its best to avoid making any kind of political statement. The alternate history thing is really just an aesthetic more than anything. In fact, I'd say it's pretty sound judgement for any kind of huge-budget video game (or action movie or whatever) to try to stay away from anything vaguely political.

    Since you mentioned it, lets take a look at Star Wars—what are the politics there? The rebels are supposed to be the good guys, right? Well what kind of government are they proposing after the war? They haven't thought that far ahead, of course, and we don't want them to because all we care about is spaceships and lightsabers. The new movie (I have tickets tonight!) actually had to go to great lengths to avoid any politics again, by assuming that the bad guys aren't actually all gone, even though the original trilogy and expanded universe made it pretty clear that the Rebels won. In fact, in the expanded universe, we can see that the Rebels fall into internal conflict as soon as the enemy that unites them is out of the picture. Okay, enough of the Star Wars tangent...

    Anyway, I'm gonna say that the world of Fallout is about as fantastic as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Forgotten Realms, or what have you. The alternate history and stuff is just an aesthetic (call it nuclearpunk), and the politics of the different factions are only there to generate conflict to move the narrative along. The Fallout universe is really about survival in a ridiculously and humorously bad situation. It's very Kafka-esque.

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    1. Very interesting post. This equal-distance every-governing-body-is-corrupt vantage does read libertarian but perhaps not intentionally so. Let me put it this way: not more or less libertarian than almost all videogames. It's politics borne out of game mechanics, because this is the history of these sorts of games and they replicate this subtext in unthinking designer choices. Only few games seem to me to be designed with conscious political statements in mind, like the dour Bioshock Infinite, in which... every side in a civil rights clash is wrong and corrupt and terrible and the protagonist is terrible and everything will be terrible forever.

      As to rpgs in particular there are certain assumptions built in very basic gameplay system, like progression and powering up with levels and equipment. That idea of killing beings, taking their stuff and rising in level is very capitalist in essence, esp. when killing is read as a symbolic 'overcoming adversity' rather than literal murder. If it's murder you're playing an irredeamable psychopath - yet most players realize this isn't what they're doing because otherwise they'd turn the game off in disgust. If, however, the killing is read (more potently, I suggest) as symbolic overcoming of adversity / cleaning up / imposing order on chaos, then we have a powerful capitalist metaphor, one which is enforced by all other western media. One which is comfortable to indulge in because it's normalized. It's cool to rise in level and get all the things.

      This concept brought to starker relief because of the modernist setting in games like Fallout, but it's the same in a fantasy rpg, where a group of self-determined autocrats goes around pacifying the natives, taking their stuff, follwing a higher calling to defeat the big Foozle at the end. It's as if Foozle didn't exist it would be necessary to invent him.

      The conceit there is that the natives are naturally evil and demonstratably so (there is magic that detects evil, and gods exist, so morality is objective) but even that can only help suspend disbelief to a certain extent. The reason we go along with it is because we know this isn't about the killing per se, this is about overcoming 'the weak' to become strong, the strongest. That's a normative narrative.

      This is why I enjoy playing something like Fallout 4, esp. with my girlfriend at the helm who likes videogames a lot but didn't grow up with them, because it's interesting to see what the value of a life is to her in a videogame where you have to kill a thousand raiders with *headshots that decapitate them* just to get from one end of the gameworld to the other. Turns out that although she doesn't enjoy the violence as an end in itself, she has no problem with blowing up a thousand heads to get what she wants. In her real life she's a classical/modern dancer, and by god if she could blow up a thousand ballerina heads to get where she wants to be, she would.

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    2. You both make some excellent comments that I want to mull over before responding in more detail. For now, let me just say that Helm, I rather hope you mean "in a computer game" in that last sentence.

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    3. Yes... yes of course. In a 'computer game'. That's what I meant.

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    4. I'd disagree that Fallout and Fallout 2 don't try to make political statements. They skewer both Scientology and George Bush/Dan Quayle overtly. The whole 50's science fiction aesthetic of the series satires 50's and 60's in general and owes a lot to the movie Dr. Strangelove.

      The later games in the series tend to be more even-handed in their social commentary IMHO. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends mostly on the person who is playing the game.

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    5. Fallout does an excellent job of making clear that raiders are human garbage, but listening to the very well-scripted comments from the Brotherhood of Steel always makes me remember how easily we can fall back on the psychological safety of always imagining ourselves to be "the good guy" as we pursue our own purposes (either violently or through other means).

      Trump is a prime (idiotic) example. To him: Christian is good, America is good, Capitalism is good. Therefore, capitalist American Christians should just work together to drive out everyone else and "make America great again". If you replace American with German, then you have the message of a German politician from the 1930s.

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    6. Have you read the 25 point plan of the National Socialist Party? Not pro-capitalist by any stretch of the imagination.

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    7. Well, they we're only anti-capitalist if you were jewish..

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    8. No, they were anti-capitalist period. Does any of this sound vaguely laissez-faire?:
      10.The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all. Consequently we demand:

      11.Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of debt (interest)-slavery.

      13.We demand the nationalisation of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
      14.We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
      15.We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.

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    9. The rise of the third reich was marked by populist, worker-friendly rhetoric especially in the beginning. Hence the 'socialist' part of National Socialist. The Soviet Union wasn't quick to denounce Nazism and Fascism (much the opposite, actually) and enter the war because on the face of it Germany wasn't trying something that different from them. Even on the issue of anti-semitism, based only on the rhetoric before the war you would see a wide anti-semetic sentiment in communist countries as well. Nazism wasn't capitalist but that doesn't mean totalitarianism cannot work just fine within a capitalist framework. Anyway, this is veering off topic.

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    10. Oh I agree that you can have a fairly repressive government with a free-market-ish economy. Witness Singapore, for example. But the notion that the Nazis were "right wing," meaning that they were pro-capitalist or pro-free market, is just nonsense. Business owners were at the mercy of the political leaders...the government did not own the means of production but it certainly controlled it, using the business owners as their intermediaries. The book "Vampire Economy" by Gunter Reimann does a good job describing this phenomenon.

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    11. Well, someone has to have control over producers, don't they? Either that or have drugs, prostitutes and firearms being freely available everywhere in your anarchist paradise.

      As for Singapore having a rather laissez-faire market... well... not really. Every MNC on that little island is required by law to have, at least one, parliamentary member to be an honorary director on their board (fully paid for by said MNC with voting rights apropos of the position). On top of that, all public-related services (communications, transportation, energy, water & most medical service providers) are privatized but still owned by the state. It's actually very close to the ideal state of communism, where human beings are very much less than ideal creatures to be full-conformists.

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    12. Well, producers can control the means of production, and indirectly consumers who determine the viability of said producers. Not everything need be owned or directed by the state (in fact, some would say very little should be). The wide availability of drugs, firearms, and drugs does not an anarchy make. The widespread regulation of such activities is largely a 20th century phenomenon. One can easily imagine a largely socialist country not regulating those areas and still maintaining control of most production in the hands of the state. Witness the lax treatment of prostitution in (some) democratic socialist European companies.

      As for Singapore, you'll note I said "free-market-ish." Singapore is not purely laissez-faire, but the government only owns 7% of total domestic capitalization. As for the requirement that a board member be a member of parliament - do you happen to have a cite for that? I couldn't find anything about that law. And how can something be both privatized and owned by the state? That strikes me as a contradiction. Once the state's share of capitalization is the majority stake, it's no longer purely private.

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    13. From what I know of Singapore, I would hypothesize that having a member of parliament on the board is probably not legally required, merely the only practical way to get permits for any business large enough to have a board of directors in the first place...

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    14. Almost exactly what Perkins said. I probably said too much about that country's governance already. Wouldn't want to get sued for it.

      Wide availability of drugs, firearms, and drugs does not an anarchy make, true. But anarchy makes availability of drugs, firearms, and drugs wide.

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    15. Anarchy (in the political sense) doesn't necessitate disorder/lawlessness. The fallout world contains large tracts of lawlessness, which do have a high supply of vice and violence.

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    16. I should have known better than to make any reference to the Nazi party. Those of you who pointed out that the Nazis weren't capitalists are, of course, correct but that is irrelevant. My point was intended to be that "making the country great again" by eliminating the people who are different in some way is insane.

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    17. I don't really think you can create fictions in such worlds WITHOUT making some kind of political statement, even one in absence. Fallout may not indicate what specific type of government it supports, but it definitely shows which kind it DOESN'T support--namely, any government of any substantial size. The series also seems convinced that differing philosophies are only resolvable through violence. There is otherwise no way to progress through the games, and no matter how high your charisma or speechcraft skills, you can't bring difering factions to the negotiating table. At least Skyrim allowed for that (albeit clumsily).

      I think Helm has a point that RPGs are naturally libertarian. Any other overriding philosophy drastically changes the nature of the game. The hero has to take the role of some kind of objectivist uberman or he can't really progress along normal RPG lines.

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  2. It will be interesting to see what you think of fallout 1&2.

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  3. "I don't understand why Bethesda can't get that players want complex role-playing choices, multiple quest paths, and deep faction immersion."

    Unfortunately, I don't think that's quite the case. While it's certainly my biggest nock against Fallout 4, I imagine it was an approach derived from extensive focus-testing with the precise goal of attracting more players. And it's hard to argue with the results, at least from the publisher's standpoint: http://fortune.com/2015/11/16/fallout4-is-quiet-best-seller/

    I suspect RPG enthusiasts are not big fans of these changes, but Fallout still has a long way to go before it reaches the streamlined simplification of the Mass Effect series. Plus, we're bound to get more expansions/side-releases, so hopefully one of them will follow more closely in the footsteps of New Vegas!

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    1. Maybe along way to go before it reaches the depths of Mass Effect, but compared to the source material this is a lofty fall. I will probably buy it in a year or so when its heavily discounted, but after Fallout 3 i wont pay full price for this bastardization. At the same time I do realize its just a game and im fairly sure its fun for what it is but godda**t it they coulda done so much better after acquiring such a legendary IP.

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    2. I actually look forward to a (distant) replay of FO4 now that I know the basic structure. I suspect there are more role-playing opportunities than it seems initially, but the game almost forces the novice player along a specific path. I think FNV made it much clearer that you had options, and it presented all the factions to you before you really had to choose.

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    3. Oh, and Radek, you're probably right. The more limited RPG elements might be a calculated marketing decision rather than just ignorance on Bethesda's part.

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    4. I've noticed the same pattern in simulation games, and I've even had discussions with game designers that pretty much confirm it. Back when using a computer was primarily done by people who had a good head for numbers and complicated systems, complex simulations and RPGs could capture a substantial portion of the market.

      Now that virtually everybody uses a computer at least once a day... well... Complex games are a niche market at this point.

      Personally, I'd think a good solution would be to design the complex game, and pair it with an option to take a middle-of-the-road path through the complexity automatically. The games that do this tend to be quite popular because they're easy to pick up, but then can be replayed with more customization once they're understood.

      But since the majority of players, at this point, are "casual" gamers who don't really want to expend large amounts of careful thought on a game, well... Why even design the complex side of the game in the first place if most of your customers won't appreciate it.

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    5. That's exactly what Football Manager does - and it's at least partly responsible for its success.

      The player can control every aspect of the club (essentially filling all the real life roles associated with running a football club) or delegate absolutely everything (which means you are merely spectating an AI controlled football team).

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    6. That's the notorious OMT (One More Turn) Syndrome that is inflicted upon all Civilization players.

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    7. You have some major faction choice decisions in the game. I do know that some people (not me) complained that New Vegas was too confusing, but they probably find real life extremely confusing also.

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  4. *SPOILERS*

    Some of the reasons you mention in this post was why I thought the part where you delve through the memories of Kellogg was one of the best parts of the game. Here is some typical mid-level henchman that all of a sudden you find out had a back story, personal motivations for doing what he does, and actually made me feel ever so slightly sorry that I killed someone in a video game (even if he did kill my wife and kidnap my son), something that is pretty rare.

    With regards to #6, I did read one headline that described it "Fallout 4, one man's quest for survival as he scours the wasteland for duct tape."

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  5. I like to imagine that the population count was extremely low for most of the 200 years since the nukes fell. I can't cite evidence, but I believe this was hinted at in previous Fallout games.

    It's only in recent decades that human began to crawl out shelters and caves. It helps explain why there is so much useful stuff just lying around still.

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    1. What it doesn't explain is why there are so many "raiders." Their population exceeds the number of peaceful citizens. What are they raiding for? Random buildings are full of caps, chems, and food!

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    2. But it was largely the same with bandits in Skyrim, wasn't it?

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    3. "Raiders" are "people who make their living by robbing and killing other people instead of trying to create a larger society by farming and scavenging the wreckage for useful stuff." Several encounters in the Commonwealth (spoiler) such as Quincy, University Point, Libertalia or the Castle, show how the universe (or the Institute) seems to conspire against every effort to bring peace or solidarity to the world, and how even the few with good intentions can be defeated by circumstances.

      It is without a doubt a bleak world. Some of the most affecting encounters are the notes and terminal messages left behind by previous survivors, or even the skeletons posed where disaster overtook them. It's not a world of permanent successes. All you can do as a Vault Dweller, Sole Survivor, or blank-slate Courier is bring tardy justice to the brutal, or a little all-too-temporary order to what remains a blasted wasteland.

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    4. Some raiders generate industry via slaves, but there are definitely an unsupportable number of raiders in fallout.

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    5. It's actually a balanced eco-system. See, in our real world, you'd need about 100 antelopes to 1 lion.

      So, here in Fallout, you'd need 1,000,000,000 raiders to 1 child.

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  6. I had a similar discussion with my son, only it was in regards to Borderlands. We both love the game but it's little more than Diablo in a wild west sci I setting. And loot. LOTS OF LEWTS.
    My son was working under the assumption we playe as the good guys, sving the towns from bandits. But I asked him how the game started. "We were met by a robot who told us to kill bandits and so we did. Without ever asking why. Or even pausing at all. We strolled in to Fyrestone an just started murdering people. For all we knew, the bandits were the townspeople."
    He sat silently for a moment and agreed with me.
    Then we continued murdering the locals because WE WANTED THE LEWTS!!1!

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    1. There's a quest in Skyrim involving the retrieval of X number of some pendants. The problem is, it doesn't get deleted from your objectives list even when you complete the quest. The only way to get it to go away is to kill the person who gave it to you in the first place.

      I think about that poor bastard's lifeless corpse whenever I start to complain that a game doesn't offer enough role-playing opportunities.

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    2. Is that just a bug, though, or is that the intended outcome? If it's a bug, then it's accidental role-playing at best.

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    3. Maybe there was just a line missing
      "Oh... Actually, I don't want them anymore. Pendants, pshh.. So passé."

      But on the topic of treating NPCs as persons, there was one character on U7 Serpent Isle roster that I spent considerable time to find out if there was any way to help the poor creature. Not finding any solution, combed even through gamefiles with hex editor if I had missed anything. Was IIRC first time I felt compassion for CRPG character.

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    4. @crpgaddict: Skyrim Community Patch probably fixes this. All Bethesda Games has one. They tend ot fix a ton of mods. The Fallout 4 one likely won't start until the Creation Kit comes out.

      Its part of the Skyrim STEP Overhaul I talk about below.

      http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/19/?

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    5. I just started Deus Ex Human Revolution. In the first level you are fighting terrorists. In one room one of them killed a hostage and is arguing with two others who are mad that he did it because they think it was wrong and in another instance some are talking about their families.

      Those are just the mooks, the guys who in any other game would just be the 'bad' guys. Those two conversations were awesome and lend a lot of weight to the non lethal options.

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    6. Yeah, that's what you feel when you're first playing it... until you realize that non-lethal option is THE only option you should ever take if you really want any XP.

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    7. I non-lethal in every game I can. Because who wants blood on their ninja outfit

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  7. I like posts of yours like these. It puts all of your other posts into a certain perspective that gives a greater strength.

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  8. Hi Chester. Really wonderful reading, congratulations. I shared at my Facebook. Maybe I never thought so deeply through my in-game experiences.

    "To all readers: if Fallout 4's graphics aren't good enough for you, I'm not even sure what you're doing on my blog."

    Genius :)

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  9. You haven't played fallout 1 or 2?!?!?!?!?!?!

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    1. Now im not sure what im doing on your CRPG blog! :)

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    2. Before I started this project, I wasn't really a CRPG addict. I just thought I was. I instead was an addict of about 6 games that I played over and over. It's because of this blog that I've become as experienced as I am with RPGs, but it was too late for FO 1 or 2. Now they're on a list, and I have to wait until I get to them naturally.

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    3. My comment was in good fun of course. I thoroughly enjoy the blog. Admittedly I found this place about a two years into your journey so I probably missed that part.

      Anyhow, im really looking forward to your takes on those two. I often wonder how I would view some of the games I played as a kid/teen that really blew my mind back then. Some tend to generally hold up overall ( Ultimas/ Might and Magic come to mind .. my first CRPG experience was playing Ultima 4 on a Tandy 1000 at the tender age of eight; a mixed blessing as nothing seems to hold a candle to it to this day). But I do wonder how much naivety and lack of of maturity influenced my early favorites.

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    4. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesDecember 18, 2015 at 12:56 PM

      I recommend Fallout 1 and 2: They are quite fun, have good humor, quests and characters, and the interface and navigation are a lot more convenient than in most of these old C.R.P.G.s without sacrificing any depth. You should not wait, as it is 1,400 games away and will probably take decades to see on this blog.

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    5. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesDecember 18, 2015 at 12:59 PM

      Also, have you played Bloodnet? That is a surprisingly excellent, mostly forgotten R.P.G. that will not come out for about 800 games. I recommend playing it, rather than waiting 20 years.

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    6. Bloodnet is interesting, and slightly fun - but I'd argue that it's not the greatest RPG by Chester's standards. From what I recall, the combat system is a touch broken, isn't it? (Something about an early weapon being so incredibly overpowered that you never had cause to upgrade from it?)

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    7. I remember that when Fallout and BG came out they were considered by a many as a revival of the dying CRPG genre. Chet's master game list seems to confirm this: the amount of titles goes down after 94 or so. So maybe there's some hope of actually reaching 97 during our life time.

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  10. Hey Chester, have you tried "The Long Dark" ? It's a survival game which has some Rpg elements. I think you would find it very interesting. It also takes place in a post apocalyptic world but with no surviving humans.

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    1. No, I hadn't heard about that one. I just read the Wikipedia description. It sounds pretty bleak.

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    2. Oh, you're gonna luuurve Underrail...

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  11. Hah, great post.

    "I don't like killing human raiders instead of orcs, or injecting myself with chemicals instead of drinking potions."

    Funny, my wife asked the other week about "hey, what's that Fallout game everyone is talking about?" and I answered exactly this. That it was Skyrim, but you're killing radiated zombie-like humans with guns instead of undead skeletons with swords, but I would never play it because for some odd reason the Fallout "skin" of the game evokes zero interest and indeed gives me a "dirty" feel like you said, while the Skyrim "skin" embraces me in fantasy and marvel.

    I would say "go figure" and "we all have our individual preferences about what makes us dream", but it made me think, as I believe in non-violence, would consider myself a pacifist, am strongly against guns, avoid tank/missile/guns toys for my (little) boy and encourage him to play non-violent/aggressive role-playing with his figures, but yet I'm in awe with a +3 Darksteel two-handed battle axe of Slaying for my knight. So how does that make sense? And I realized that the fantasy setting is not just cosmetic, it has deeper implications in the way it dehumanizes violence by transposing it in an universe far remote from our reality - this dehumanization and enstrangment of the violence actually makes it possible to wave it as a "game mechanic". A kind of voluntary but necessary "suspension of disbelief" type of mental twist. , Probably related to the same issue, I also tend prefer more high-fantasy oriented RPGs as opposed to "realistic" medieval ones like the Witcher, which have less appeal to me.

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    1. Absolute A+ comment. This is exactly what I was trying to say in that paragraph. We know we're being fooled by the "skin" and yet the skin still matters.

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    2. I mean it works in the real world too, the "enemy" shouldn't be viewed as human, it's easier that way...

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    3. When Ghouls attack me in FO4 and they have names I just wanna hug them. I don't want to kill everything, even a raider is someone's kid, but the game gives us no choice. Even when it humanizes a monster they still attack (most of the time). I'd like to see more chances to NOT fight, but even the perks that allow you make some friends with the baddies rarely work.

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    4. Computer games in general are a form of escapism to a world with more clear cut rules. The heroic genre allows this to be even more clear cut: People need help and you save them. The Fallout world does not "push that button". You are not a knight in shining armor. But the Knights in Shining Armor (Brotherhood of Steel) are revealed to be less than heroic and single-mindedly focused on their cause at the expense of others. It invokes a complex set of sociological and psychological questions and the story is all that much more meaningful as a result. You actually HAVE a choice and the right choice is not obvious. This is just like real life, and perhaps that is why people don't like it.

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    5. I doubt this is why Chet doesn't dig the overall feels of Fallout 3 & 4 though. Sensing from what he said, to him, the means to achieve the end is as important as the end itself. Also, he is unable to displace himself enough because he felt that the Fallout world may be too close to our real world.

      I guess, for myself, being both player & DM/GM/storyteller of various table-top RPGs for all sorts of genres have conditioned me to just let go of what I myself believe in and get into the role I should play. Actors do that all the time.

      It's not like Mel Gibson is a violent SOB just because he acted as Mad Max.

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  12. I am utterly gobsmacked by the idea that the person who has probably played more different RPGs than any other person alive, has still not played Fallout 1 and 2.

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    1. I tried playing FO1 years ago but had some weird bug where the screen would go black every 30 seconds and I'd have to do something--I don't remember what--to fix it. Other people were having the same problem at the time. I guess the GOG version now is probably fixed, but now it's one of many titles that fall in the awkward space between "never played it before" and "not going to play it until it comes up legitimately on my list."

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    2. Fallout 1 and 2 are some of the most buggy RPGs in existence, so it doesn't surprise me that you had this problem even with a fully patched version. I think even the fully patched version of Fallout 2 has some game-breaking cheats available (you can avoid all combats in the game by taking advantage of them) that allow you to finish the entire game in a 15-minute speed run if you know exactly where to go.

      Despite this, they remain two of my favorite RPGs of all time because of the setting, story, and character development options.

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    3. Fallout 1 and 2 suffer from immense "euphoric recall". Sort of like trying to go back and replay Wizardry: I find it incomprehensible I spent 2 years of my childhood looking forward to playing in spare moments.

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    4. Not for me, I think they're still legitimately enjoyable, although the UI, bugs and imbalance irritates me more these days - back then you just accepted those things as part of the rpg experience.

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    5. Same for me. Also, you don't need the cheats to speed run the game in 15 minutes, just knowing where all the best weapons and armor are and how to get them is enough. Then again, it's not about speed running. It's about boxing with Mike Tyson, dabbling in pornography, peddling drugs, selling your companions away to slavers for chump change... and all that jazz.

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    6. >Fallout 1 and 2 suffer from immense "euphoric recall".

      Um, well, yes, to some degree, but I just replayed them both within the last year, and found them to be excellent. The biggest surprise for me was how short Fallout 1 was; there's just not that much to it. Fallout 2, on the other hand, is suitably huge.

      The UI is a little painful, and the graphics are quite low-res, but if you can look past those things, they're awfully good games, even now. Many of the NPCs are fully voiced and animated, which was no small feat in the 2D era. And the plots were quite complex, with many possible solutions to most problems.

      Those games spawned a billion-dollar empire for a reason.

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  13. Great post. I'm loving Fallout 4. I'm like you, not driven by graphics, so I think it's beautiful. Fallout 1 is still my favorite though.

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  14. "I know--computer RPGs are, if nothing else, primarily about violence. Every RPG character reaches the winning screen after trekking through the blood of thousands"

    Actually it's possible to complete most Fallout games without killing.

    http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Forum:Completing_Fallout_without_killing_anyone

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    1. I think this was an issue many had with Fallout 4, as opposed to earlier games in the franchise. From what I've read there don't seem to be many opportunities for problem solving outside of blowing all opposition into gibs.

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    2. Fallout 3 as well. Everything that is designed by Bethesda is designed to make you kill, kill ,kill.

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    3. Yeah you can complete a lot of NV's content without killing. The most interesting content as well, in my view.

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    4. It may be possible to complete them without killing, but only strictly in the sense that you let others do your killing for you. You can't deny that the games are fundamentally organized around combat. A pacifist run through FO3, FNV, or FO4 would be an interesting challenge but clearly not what 90% of the game is oriented towards.

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    5. For 3 & 4, your comments are accurate. For NV you can experience most of the content without you or any of your party members resorting to violence, and I believe the pacifist playthrough is purposefully being catered for. A huge amount of quests are completed via dialogue. House has to die, but from your characters PoV, it's unintentional.

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    6. I don't quite agree. I think it's great that you can solve a lot of quests through dialogue, but I wouldn't say it's the majority. Almost every area of the game has enemies who want to kill you, and if you adopt a pacifist conduct, you'll end up running and sneaking a lot. I'm not saying that's not a valid style of gameplay, but come on...there are a thousand different types weapons and several dozen weapon-related skills and perks in the game. Combat is still a primary mechanism and I think the game would be a little boring if you never engaged in it at all.

      What is starker, though, is that even a normal player goes through FNV killing far fewer PEOPLE than FO3 or FO4. I may be mis-remembering, but I don't think there are any generic, always-evil "raiders" in the game. I guess the fiends come pretty close, but even they have dialogue options in many places.

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  15. The 'relentless violence' is something New Vegas manages to avoid - or rather, it gives the player more of an opportunity to avoid. Nevada is still a perpetually unfair locale, rewarding the most extreme forms of opportunism and providing scant haven for those that wish to live more harmoniously. That said, there is just enough evidence of community to keep thing from feeling too depressing.

    As for the underlying ethos - It's certainly not pro-libertarian, although that is generally the setting, mostly because Fallout is a futuristic wild west. I think the series regularly depicts the tension between self-determination (within independent communities) and safety (within the semi-authoritarian NCR), without really having a foot in either camp. The series' theme even constrains its ability to advocate for any particular thing, because, as you say, it is endlessly cynical. People are the worst, and even if there are a few good eggs, the awful majority will screw things up for everyone in the end.

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    1. Yeah. Unlike how Chet envisions how the remaining little humanity would band up like an adorable hand-holding circle of campy campers singing "Kumbaya", there are definitely enough @$$holes to stir $hit up.

      Couple that with human tendency to exact retribution when being pushed around far enough by @$$holes to become cold-blooded avengers dishing out vigilante justice in a lawless society themselves and you will get the Fallout universe.

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    2. I agree that FNV has a different tone than the others. There's still plenty of combat, but the civilized areas seem more civilized, there are more non-combat options, and the humans are mostly organized into factions instead of a bunch of generic raiders. There was more of a focus on combat against monsters instead of people.

      A curious side-effect of this is that I was always running out of ammo in FNV, whereas there's no danger of that in FO4 since ever other thing I kill has more ammo on him than I used to kill him.

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  16. Fallout 1 and 2 are quite different. While wasteland is harsh and brutal, many bastions of civilisation are OK. Especially in Fallout 2. A lot of quest can be done in non-violent way there. Centanly, some people, like slavers, drug-makers and Enclave, are just asking to be blown off with high-caliber guns. And Vault City are a bigoted bunch, in general. But things can be improved in endings, if you pursue a good solutions.

    GOG versions of both games works fine. And I recommend installing killapp's patch over Fallout 2. http://killap.net/
    Restoraion Project is more of a mod. But Unofficial patch is a great thing to play original game without bugs left over from last official patch. Like inability to get best ending for one town and good ending for other place.

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  17. A deep post, thank you! Also some great comments! Oh, and Star Wars and Fallout 4, what a time to be alive...

    I think what you're saying is that you want "romance" in your RPG, the idea of genuinely good things or people. Of course, the "genuinely good" also sets up the "genuinely bad". But without these extremes, one might end up morally confused or driftless.
    Personally, I have shifted away recently from the "good" and "bad" kind of worldview, paradoxically when I thought about ISIS and the like. I mean, it doesn't really solve our problems to disqualify certain factions as evil and bomb them to hell. And the other side might see things the other way round.
    Maybe the "good" thing to do is not to wish that the "good" wins, but to see the "neutral" side win, i.e. the end of moral dichotomy. A bit like Kreja of KOTOR 2, before the "reveal".
    Our postmodern world has moved into that direction. Star Trek had episodes about the "good" Federation doing bad things or assimiliating other planets with its happy face. Star Wars' light and dark side seem to be interchangeable, maybe not in method but in outcome, once you delve deeper into the Star Wars universe, two sides of the same coin, so to say.
    The Fallout universe similarly redefined the New California Republic as this kind of bureaucratic monster in New Vegas.
    Our TV shows are now full of morally ambiguous heroes, or bad people who we still kind of root for, as in Breaking Bad or House of Cards, not to mention Game of Thrones.

    Didn't you also say that you haven't played Planescape:Torment yet? I guess, that's a similar universe without romance, and possibly the greatest artistic achievement in CRPGs so far. However, with each successor, Fallout 1 inches closer, a bit like Blade Runner is becoming a more important movie with each year.

    Also, I agree, the "social experiment" part of the vault system doesn't really make sense. But as with a lot of the Fallout universe (like the Fallout 1 and 2 special encountrs, for example), it's there for fun.

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    1. There are hints in Fallout 4 that Vault-Tec might have precipitated or at least known in advance about the nuclear war. It's also plain from the background of virtually every scientific research location you visit throughout the entire series that there is a definite mad-science element to the culture, that scientific ethics were left behind probably very close to the beginning of the Atomic Age of Wonders. So for Vault-Tec to use the vault system as little more than an opportunity to stage a large number of insane and cruel experiments is rather par for the course.

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    2. Have you played Fallout 2? If not, replay it again. The so-called hints you speak of was made absolutely known to the players by mid-game.

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    3. Not exactly. It is made explicit that the primary purpose of the Vaults was experimentation, as Vault-Tec was contracted by the shadowy Enclave for that purpose.

      The Enclave -and by extention Vault-Tec- accepted global nuclear war as a mathematical certainty, but they didn't start the last war, and appear to have had no special warning of it. At least, as of Fallout 2 - I haven't finished Fallout 4 yet, as I keep getting distracted hunting for duct tape.

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    4. @Gnoman - I disagree that they didn't start the war. Actually, everyone claims that nobody knows who first pushed the big red button except that every party involved had a hand in pushing forward a nuclear holocaust and that anybody who had nukes, employed them.

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  18. I noticed that my "aid" inventory was usually responsible for a lot of the weight I was carrying. Also, materials weigh less than items, so I scrap stuff in the field when I have the chance.

    /Mads

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  19. Awesome article. Minecraft was the first time I really stopped to enjoy the scenery - watching my first sunset outside my handcrafted home at the top of a mountain... kinda surreal.

    And holy crap! You're in Salem? Went up there for business last year. Had I known I would've gone questing for a meal with ya. Spent my evenings at Gulu Gulu for the beer / scene / wifi. : )

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  20. I had a similar experience with GTAV. I understood that San Andreas was a satire on American culture, but I just couldn't abide the cynicism. Everyone sucked, morality was a farce, might as well kill everyone for cash. And then you meet Trevor...

    Trevor is a real force of evil. And you get to play him. Actually, you *have* to play him. I hated that, and couldn't do it.

    Even though I appreciated everything mechanically about GTAV (and played the hell out of GTAIV - Nico B. is a very interesting character), once I got to Trevor, I realized I was no longer having fun (more like disgusted), and moved on to a different game.

    The Witcher 3, in contrast, also has a very dark, cynical world. But instead of just mocking everything, or wrapping itself in nihilism, it approaches questions of morality and politics seriously.

    Geralt, and by proxy, the player, is trying to thread a path between the lesser of many evils, and do what's right for yourself, your loved ones, and society. You frequently fail, and see the oh so tragic consequences of your failure, but you can at least try to make things right.

    GTAV and Fallout 4 don't even give you that option. You're stuck in a lousy world, and all your choices are odious, if you are even given a real choice.

    That's just not fun for me.

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    1. I also struggle with the GTA games.

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    2. I don't find that to be the case. All the Fallout games have had a "least bad" choice, and it's usually not that difficult to choose between them. New Vegas's NCR may seem somewhat arbitrary and harsh, but compared to the guys who enslave the survivors they don't crucify or burn alive, they're an easy choice for "good guys," especially if you consider they are about as organized as a culture without motor technology can be, and about as harsh as a people that have to deal with the likes of Caesar's Legion have to be.

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    3. Totally enjoyed GTA4 and the expansions. It was very RPG-like in the sense that, although you don't get to increase your "attributes", you get richer and more influential. Yet to play GTAV because of Witcher 3.

      Witcher 3 is actually pretty funny and heartwarming if you know where and how to look at. I mean, aside from the obvious ones like Trollolol, drunken hijinks with the other witchers & such, you should check out the notice boards and actually read their contents.

      Some may seem mundane until you try to visualize the situation arising from how it happened that'd make you go "WTF..."

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  21. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesDecember 18, 2015 at 12:40 PM

    Complaining that the graphics in Fallout 4 ruin the game is ridiculous: A game is defined by gameplay and story, not aesthetics. I am currently playing old adventure games like Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest and Discworld, and am having almost as much fun as I did when I was young; I often play old games from the NES, Genesis, SNES and Turbografx 16 era; I want to get Turok and Grandia 2 from GOG. Call of Duty clones and David Cage games may have good graphics, but they are repetitive and unimaginative, and no pretty pictures can disguise that.

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  22. Obdurate Hater fo Rhythm GamesDecember 18, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    I prefer light-hearted fantasy to gritty realism in every medium except books. Realism reminds me of the horrors of the world and I use the media for escapism. This is why I prefer Batman and The Flash to Breaking Bad and Law and Order; David Lynch and Steven Spielberg to Christopher Nolan and documentary filmakers; 1960s comics to modern comics; and Nintendo, Capcom, Taito, Anachronox and Deus Ex to Call of Duty, Darklands, Assassin's Creed and other games that take themselves too seriously.

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  23. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesDecember 18, 2015 at 1:21 PM

    Questions to everyone who hates Fallout 4 because of the graphics: Do you throw away all of your games every time a new generation is released; do you just refuse to play games until you get the new ones with slight graphical upgrades; do you get angry and disgusted every time you have to go on PSN, Virtual Console or Xbox Live to get an upgrade and see the old games being sold?

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    1. I am one that don't like too much the graphics of Fallout 4.

      But the reason is not what you expect: the reason is that I actually like more the graphics style of the previous Fallout games. I loved the quasi-monochromatic and bleak look of the old games, it felt more appropriate for a post-apocalypse setting.

      I prefer the older Fallout games not only for the graphics style though...

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    2. I can respect that opinion. What I can't respect is someone who claims that the graphics "suck" because they read something in a tech magazine that explains why X engine is better than Y engine, and the gamer adopts this as dogma rather than really reflecting on whether slightly less realistic shadows actually impacts their gaming experience.

      I find this happens all the time in the tech world. Dogmatic adherence to .rar instead of .zip for nerdy reasons that don't matter to 99.999% of the population. Linux worship. Mindless bans of useless programs like Microsoft Access. I have no patience for any of it.

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  24. In Lord of the Rings Online, the human campaign pretty early on has you eliminating bandit gangs. The story bits go on to explain that these are destitute people displaced by the war and by incapable leadership, who've been driven to banditry to survive. But that doesn't stop you from earning rewards from kill benchmarks, or from people complimenting you on your goodness for slaughtering thousands of humans.

    I can't remember which one, but some post-2000 RPG had people complimenting me on my amazingly bright and glowing good aura, which of course came from the destruction of thousands of people. Seems doubtful.

    It's a pretty weird mechanic, when you think about it. My mind drifts back to the movie True Lies, when Jamie Lee Curtis asks Arnold Schwarzenegger "Have you ever killed anyone?"

    "Yeah. But they were all bad."

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    1. KotOR 2 references your 'aura', maybe it was that.

      Yeah, exactly that True Lies quote.

      One thing I wonder: When you wipe out a whole bunch of raiders, what happens to their kids? Presumably in many cases, they starve to death.

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    2. Shut up! In Fallout 4, kids NEVER die!

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    3. English is not my first language so I'm sorry if something is not clear and for any mistake.
      I think it's interesting, quite surprising for an online multiplaying game, let me explain what I mean. Where you say: "The story bits go on to explain that these are destitute people displaced by the war and by incapable leadership, who've been driven to banditry to survive. But that doesn't stop you from earning rewards from kill benchmarks, or from people complimenting you on your goodness for slaughtering thousands of humans." It adds some depth to it, and some moral choices, in a time like this, when most games are just FPS and mindless garbage.. that is rare.
      About the bandits in the game. Beside the positive aspect about having them portrayed as HUMANS instead than random stuff to kill, right now in that game world they still ARE killing people to steal their stuff, raping, maybe enslaving and so on. The reasons they ended up that way may matter for some, yes it matters morally to some degree for sure (in my opinion at least), but will their victims, and their families, care about your moral problems?

      Same about communities living in the area in that game world. Unless they have some shady connections with the bandits, it's perfectly realistic that they would compliment you.
      Up to the setting, it's probably perfectly realistic to be able to get a price from the heads of the bandits (literally or not) too.

      So it's up to your character/you as a player (up to the way to see the "role playing" thing, to me it's acting a role, I think it's like that for most which started with pen and paper rpg. So it's closer to "acting", even if I prefer to have free choice in rpg and that's why I don't really like much the jcrpg games after all. Anyway I also hate all those role playing fanatics around at least in my country so I'm not going to tell anyone how he "has to roleplay" though!).
      Now trying to go back to the point after this unuseful detour.. :P

      Another point: if you have the choice to kill the bandits and you dont do it, then you choose to consider first your (or your char's) morality, keeping your hands clean..

      But there are consequences for choices of course. If you can't stop them in other ways, then the result is that you consider keeping your hands clean more important than the people they will kill next, as a matter of fact.
      Narcissist to the extreme, or maybe "just" willingly blind to consequences. ;)

      Marco - sorry no registration, but tonight I discovered this blog and it's quite interesting! I will read it again.

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  25. I am of the mindset that as long as I can tell what I'm looking at, the graphics can be Atari 2600 level and I'll still enjoy the game. Provided the game plays well, of course.

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  26. The best part about the world of Fallout is its ability to integrate all of these topics and uncertainties into a game world. There are no clear answers. The Sole Survivor is not required to be a hero on a one-way track to guaranteed victory. The point of the Minutemen was to invoke our American roots. Most Americans now think the Brotherhood of Steel represents American values: Crush what we fear, control the technology, enforce peace through violence. But that is not what the Boston Tea Party was about and the game makes that point. This is a country founded on Libertarian ideals of freedom and self-determination. The hope for that world (as in our own) lies in community, not in dependence on big government to provide for us. The Institute is a "perfect" planned society built from nothing but it still has all the same flaws; the only thing lacking is freedom. The raiders represent the complete opposite: anarchic autonomy. The point of Fallout is that the "best" road is a middle road that is not, and never will be, a clearly defined path. Heroism is defined by valor amidst uncertainty where there is no clear path. Simply doing the right thing when there is no question (as is this case in most games) is easier and thus less heroic, I believe.

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    1. You'll of course note that many ideologieis, from socialism through capitalism to various anarchisms venerate freedom and self-determination. They just have different ideas about how to get there and what precisely constitutes 'justice' on those fronts.

      New Vegas doesn't really have a 'good' ending. Of the four possible victors in the battle for New Vegas, two are portrayed as negative results, and the other two endings are left open questions.

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    2. That's because there are no permanent victories in the Wastelands...and war? War never changes.

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    3. Good points. In one sense, you can read my whole post as saying, "I don't like the setting because it's too nuanced and makes me think." See my comment far below about how I'm generally looking for something more mindless from console games.

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  27. I was just talking about Fallout 4 in a game-of-the-year thread on another site, and this is what I posted, ranking it at #6 out of 10:

    I've put a fairly ridiculous amount of time into this game, yet I don't feel that I've gotten as much out of it as I did out of the prior titles. Everything is so... cookie cutter and formulaic. It's more like Borderlands than Fallout, with lots of grinding, and with all the locations constantly resetting and going back to their untouched state. The named special weapons aren't actually all that special; the same stats can be generated on any item, from any Legendary creature. There just doesn't feel like there's all that much reason to explore. There's little bonus magazines, but they're so omnipresent that they don't feel that special. For all the game's size, there's not actually very much interesting to see.

    And, dear Lord, they totally butchered the dialog system. They tore the heart of the game out, and replaced it with Twitter.

    So, I've got a conundrum: I got a lot of hours out of this game, and some of them were pretty good hours, but most of it kinda sucked. It's weird how split I feel. With better dialog, more meaningful interactions, and a less bloodthirsty plot, I'd have rated it higher. There's a lot to like, but... it's just so nihilist at its core. It's repetition without meaning or (much) consequence.

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    1. I spent more hours building fences and adjusting walls than taking out raiders to ensure that those fences and walls aren't even needed in the first place.

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    2. Well, that was probably smart anyway, since they always come back. At least the stuff you build sticks around.

      I've got this theory that the Institute was messing with time travel, and something went terribly wrong. Now, the whole Commonwealth is caught up in time vortices, looping endlessly over the same few weeks. This is why there's still so much pre-war stuff left, why so little progress has been made, and why everything resets so frequently.

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    3. So THAT'S why that last group of raiders hitting Tempines Bluff look so damn familiar!

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  28. Interesting points on themes, hadn't thought of some of them.

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  29. On the topic of Fallout having no progress that's more a trait of Bwthesda's Fallout. Fallout 1 and 2 focus heavily on the rebuilding of Society.

    Fallout New Vegas also does this but not enough credit is given to the NCR. In Fallout 1 your character helps found the NCR and in Fallout 2 your character helps it expand into the massive republic that it is. The Credits in Fallout 2 even state outright that the NCR achieves almost a pre-war level of living within its core region.

    The Mojave Desert in NV is the frontier of the NCR, which is in, reality, a highly industrialized society.

    Bwthesda seems to think that, even after 200 years humanity would still look like it did a year after the bombs fell. That's why there's this jarring sense if stagnation in Fallout 3 and 4. When you gwt to Fallout 1 and 2 I'll be curious to see if some of your opinions change or not.

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    1. Is Bwthesda just a typo or some sort of snarky anti-Bethesda insult? I only ask because you use it more than once in your post, making it seem as if it's more than a simple typo, but for the life of me, I can't figure what what the potential insult there would be.

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    2. Oh no that's a typo sorry, my phone is weird

      Delete
    3. I quite like Bethesda, Morrowind being one of the best RPGs I've ever played, but I was dissapointed a little in F3, I've yet to play Fallout 4 so I can't comment on that

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    4. To me, Bethesda does enough right that I'm willing to forgive what they do wrong. But it is a bit infuriating how maddeningly close they get to greatness only to trip over (what I suspect are) the easier areas of RPG development.

      Delete
  30. "I guess that would be anarchism."

    Not the way modern "anarchists" define the term. "Anarchy" these days is little more than a slight variation on Communism, with one of their first stated goals as being the abolishing of all private property.

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    1. 'These days' you can generally divide anarchists into two camps - Anarchists from the left who take their influence from Bakunin (eg Chomsky), and Anarchists on the right who take their influence from Rothbard (eg American-style libertarians). About the only thing they agree on is 'the state is bad'.
      Leftist-anarchist thought, which has been around longer than the right wing version, is in line with a lot of communist ideology. That's not a new thing at all, and leftist-anarchism doesn't necessarily reject property rights (some do, though they are in the minority as far as I'm aware).

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    2. As Tristan says, anacho-communism was historically the main strand but I wouldn't call it a mere 'slight variation' from soviet-type socialism. People have been executed over the difference.

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    3. One important 20th century example is Spain's anarchist tradition, "culminating", if you will, in the syndicalist municipalities during the (earlier stages) of the civil war.

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  31. On the subject of graphics, one humorous review I watched described Fallout 4's graphics as something like "when you start playing you'll think it looks exactly like Fallout 3, but it really doesn't". Indeed, if you haven't played 3 or NV recently, it really does just look like more of the same, with maybe a little extra splash of color here and there (particularly in the opening bit) but if you actually go back and play a little of the older games, you'll notice that 4 really does have a lot of little improvements and updates graphically. You can certainly see a lot further into the distance, for one.

    Gameplay on the other hand is a definite step back in many areas, though once you get used to the changes it's not so bad. Not that you won't still be longing for the "old" way here and there, but you'll just get used to it and adapt, even if it meant lowering your expectations.

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    1. I really like the moments on the vertibird or standing atop a tall building when you can look across the entire city and realize that it's fully explorable. So few games guarantee that you can actually explore all those places you see in the backdrop.

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  32. I too have been wasting my time on Fallout 4. And it's fun, mostly. At least, it's addicting. Clearing areas is fun and every place you explore has a backstory that you can discover.

    And yet... at around level 50, I'm getting pretty bored of it. You figure out the formula for the areas, there's really only raiders, mutants, or ghouls in almost every location (with a small number of other sects that have less ground), and once you realize that completions don't stick you get a sense of "why bother"?

    I avoided the main quest almost entirely up to this point because I was having too much fun exploring. But now that I see the seams, I'm having a hard time convincing myself to finish the main quest.

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    1. Apparently it really IS addicting...

      https://www.rt.com/news/326272-gamer-russia-lawsuit-fallout4/

      Can't wait to try it out.

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    2. This is something I really cannot understand.

      I have seen many strong negative reviews about Fallout 4 from gamers (having a boring story, being a dumbed down experience with respect the predecessors, not being a real rpg, for having absence of real choices and consequences, too many fetch/killing quests, a badly implemented wheel dialogue, an atrocious UI, etc, etc.). But I have also seen that the majority of these critics were made by people with hundreds of gaming hours...

      How it possible for this game to be so bad and simultaneously to be so addictive? Is the majority of players masochist?

      I, for my part, have played only few hours (5-6) before stopping. I just lost interest in it (I don't know why, may be I agree with some points made by critics). I didn't force me to continue to play since I am not having fun.

      Maybe I have missed something and I will try to play it again in the future.

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    3. It's well-designed in the same way that Civ 5 is well-designed. There are many little things that make you say "just one more". You are always close to gaining a level, or finding a skill book, or getting the parts to upgrade your guns. You always have some "easy" minuteman quest to fill to get some experience and some more colonists.

      It's an easy game to start playing, but there is always a feeling of "just one more turn".

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    4. >How it possible for this game to be so bad and simultaneously to be so addictive?

      It's not so much that it's bad, it's unrewarding over the longer term. It's all short-term, transient stuff. It feels like a Skinner box, with the minimal story dressing on top, rather than any kind of effort to tell a story or illuminate the human condition or ... well do anything much beyond being a Skinner box.

      I put an appalling number of hours into it, and I took away almost nothing. There were a few cool bits, but in retrospect, it all just blends into a samey nothingness.

      It's a game with great mechanics, but no soul.

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    5. Now that I've finished FO4, I have to say that I felt the game really improved in its third act. I liked the way the main questline diverged into multiple options, none of which was an "easy" choice. You have to do some pretty brutal things to not-all-that-bad people no matter what option you choose.

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    6. >You have to do some pretty brutal things to not-all-that-bad people no matter what option you choose.

      Which is, after the dialog, my second strongest objection to the game. To finish, you have to pick a faction, and then slaughter everything that moves that isn't your faction.

      There's no compromise, no way to say, "Gee, son, Desdemona is my friend, and I'm not going to kill her." And you can't say to Desdemona, "Gee, I think the Institute could be reformed, now that I'm in charge. I don't think we need to nuke it. Destroying all that technology would be a grievous blow to humanity."

      Nope, your endgame choice boils down to 'who do I butcher in this playthrough?'

      It could have been so, so much more than that.

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    7. Well, fair enough. I still maintain that the game improves a bit towards the end. Not perfect, but better.

      Delete
    8. I dunno... to me, it seems pretty much the same all throughout. The core gameplay loop of "go somewhere, look around, kill things, take their stuff" is really, really tight. They nailed that part of the equation, and I think that's much of the addictiveness of the game.

      But the plots never make all that much sense. In fact, the backbone plot itself doesn't make any sense. (next paragraph rot13ed for major spoilers.)

      Lbhe fba fhccbfrqyl terj hc, xabjvat gung lbh jrer sebmra va gur inhyg, ohg yrsg lbh gurer. Gura, V thrff jura ur qrpvqrq ur qvqa'g arrq gur trargvp onpxhc nalzber, ur hasebmr lbh, naq whfg nonaqbarq lbh gb lbhe sngr, fbzrubj ubcvat, V tngure, gung lbh jrer tbvat gb svaq naq xvyy Xryybtt. Naq gura jura lbh fubj hc ng gur Vafgvghgr, ur gevrf gb sbby lbh jvgu n flagu cergraqvat gb or uvz, naq gura jura gung qbrfa'g tb jryy, ur nqzvgf gb orvat lbhe fba, naq abj ur jnagf gb znxr lbh gur arj urnq bs gur Vafgvghgr, jvgu mreb dhnyvsvpngvbaf be rkcrevrapr orlbaq xvyyvat Xryybtt. Gur uryy?

      That is *ludicrous*. And the plotting in the rest of the game is similarly strange. Nearly all the quests you pick up are thinly painted excuses around "okay, now go kill everything you see at this location." I guess that's okay with autogenerated quests (although I don't especially like those), but even the premade storyline quests are almost all like that as well.

      In the end, I don't feel like the Wasteland is much of a better place for me having been there. You can't compromise with anyone, you can't find peaceful solutions to anything, and you have almost zero effect on the faction(s) you're working with. All you do, start to finish, is go somewhere, kill things, and take their stuff. I'm trying, and I can't think of a single meaningful choice in the game beyond choosing what faction to back (and 3 out of 4 cases, proceeding to slaughter all the other factions.)

      It's so fundamentally empty. In thinking back, the only quest in the whole game I have good memories of was the Kellogg vignette, where you found out some of his background and motivation. That was pretty good, and unfortunately singular.

      FO3 isn't widely praised, but I was pretty hooked. You were very sharply railroaded into a specific path, but it happened to be a path I liked, so I wasn't aware of the railroading. And I enjoyed the original ending, being perfectly okay with the character dying, because that was more or less how I'd played him all throughout. And, like it or hate it, it was a plot where the place ended up being better after you were done. The game world was substantially changed.

      I'm not sure that's true in the Commonwealth. Honestly, looking back, I'm not sure why I was there. Both FO3 and New Vegas left me with much more positive memories. You had to do a lot of fighting, of course, but there were peaceful solutions, too. New Vegas handled this particularly well.

      In FO4, I killed a ton of stuff, singlehandedly murdering entire legions. And that's pretty much all.

      Delete
    9. Whoa, way to spoil the game for people here, Malor.

      Delete
  33. Great discussion; I've been going through the series (though not my first time) so I'm in a good spot to comment. Just finished 2 and playing 3. Haven't played NV or 4, but from what I see, the vision of the originaL is becoming more and more muddled as time goes on, which I think may be the problem. It seems more and more tongue in cheek, and more blaise about death in ways FO1 never really was. Yes, FO1 was bleak and brutal, but it was atmospheric brutality- the nihilism was incredibly pure. There was some humor of course, and sly references to the pre-war era, but it was more subtle, and FO2 took that and really went overboard with it, in my opinion. FO2 is bigger and more complex, but a lot sillier, and takes the setting and the mood much less seriously. Bethesda took the silliness further, while keeping the bleakness, which creates a weird mood dissonance. It also adds the kind of "lonely wanderer in a strange world" feeling that they are so good at, making it even more emotionally uncomfortable to play. Though I enjoy FO3 (mostly), it is far removed from the tone of the original, which I prefer. Give me dark, unrelenting tragedy, or give me comedy, don't try to apologize for one or the other by mixing the two and trying to make it easier to swallow, it just ends up feeling disingenuous, and shows a lack of interest in the world and characters.

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    1. Having just written all that I realize those are qualms I generally have about satires, which often forgo immersion for the sake of making a point, and Fallout is arguably satire. If the satire is well made and I'm in line with the point I can usually set aside my qualms. But I don't know if Bethesda is the right group of people to be making a commentary about modern life, and I also don't know if the form they use, sandbox rpg, which is absolutely dependent on immersion, is the best way to make a point. Honestly I don't think they have a real point to make, which is even worse. I am glad they revived the series, but moreso to hear people talking about Fallout again, than b/c of the actual games, which are fun, but not all that groundbreaking (According to my experience with 3, and what I've heard of 4, though people seem to stand by NV)

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    2. Because in NV, YOU can choose to have the bleak and terrible Mad-Max like post-apocalyptic hellhole of a world to play in... or take the Wild Wasteland perk to spawn FO1 & 2's tongue-in-cheek humor.

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    3. It's not a rpg at all but you may like "Heavy Rain" if you search good stories, tragic atmospheres, interesting characters.

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    4. Both NV and Heavy Rain are games I should pick up soon, I think...

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    5. I played NV with the perk and without it and didn't really notice a difference. I'm not sure what I was supposed to be picking up on.

      Joet, I agree with the mood dissonance that you describe and also can't quite get past it.

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  34. Regarding the terrible Vault experiments, much of it can be theorized when you reach the endgame in FO2. Long story short, gur Rapynir (gur erzanagf bs gur bevtvany Tbireazrag bs HF bs N) jnf erfcbafvoyr sbe vg.

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  35. Fallout 1 and 2 are WAAAAAAAY better than Bethesda's pseudo-Fallouts. I have not played FO4 yet, but FO3 was - IMHO - boring, souless, badly written and sometimes plain stupid (ending was really dumb); on the other hand - Fallout 1 has one of the best video game plots I can think of. And it's one of the greatest cRPG's of all time - nothing like FO3 ;)

    Can't wait for your thoughts about FO1 and 2! :)

    PS Sorry all Bethesda-Fallout's fans, I don't wanna be offensive or anything, if you like FO3 - then great, but I was really disappointed by FO3 :( (and I love Daggerfall! :) )

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    1. The plot/writing are not FO3s strongest points, certainly.

      I'm pretty comfortable saying NV is a better game than FO2, FO2 took a long time to get going and was a bit of a rambling mess. FO1 was succinct and original.

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    2. FO1 was way too short. FO2 was too ambitious (for its time) with its upgraded FO1 engine. BlackIsle's FO3 (Project VanBuren) at least lived on as FO:NV in spirit and is preferred over Bethesda's FO3 by most; FPS or not.

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    3. I think Fallout 1 is a good length because of it's replay ability.

      I've been thinking about this a lot recently actually. If one never replays games then longer is better, but if you do and a game is good and has some incentive to be replayed short 20-30 hours seems like a bit of a sweet spot to me.

      Examples for me would be: Fallout because the builds play so different, Deus Ex because the same, and Chrono Trigger because of all the endings.

      Speaking of Deus Ex it is actually the game that makes me most sad about what new Fallout is because it provides a gameplay blueprint that if translated to an open world FPS in fallouts setting would be amazing.

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    4. I would like just Deus Ex, but bigger, free roaming, with more and longer side stories and more choices.. a dream.
      I liked the first two Fallout, great games, but I like more Baldur's Gate and the like. There is something I just don't like as much in the Fallout setting (compared to "cyberpunk" settings too, not only to both high&low fantasy settings).

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    5. Lots of opinions. I look forward to forming my own eventually.

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  36. I've not played Fallout 4, but will probably buy it later in the spring. My main distraction since July 2015 has been playing Elite Dangerous. Not an RPG, which is weird because I love playing CRPGs. But Elite Dangerous, and now Elite Dangerous Horizons... has me totally hooked.

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  37. Fallout Tactics has a much more positive attitude toward The Brotherhood of Steel. In fact, one of the endings shows an emergence of a relatively stable society in the midwest.

    Unfortunately I cannot get the recent steam version of FO3 to run. Something about a missing file (after running as admin and emulate w7) that was part of the Windows for Games false start. If anyone knows a work around, I'd appreciate it. Otherwise I'll wait for the GOG version, which may be awhile.

    I still have New Vegas and FO4 (eventually).

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    1. That ending requires an extremely virtuous character to merge with an advanced AI, if you let the brotherhood general merge with the AI, it results in genocide, cos he (and the brotherhood generally) is a complete racist.

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  38. Chet,

    When I play Pool of Radiance, I know that my party are mercenaries. Do we really care about Phlan and its citizens, let alone the orcs, kobolds and goblins in the slums? Would you march into the slums, not knowing that Sasha is waiting in the office with gems? It was a war between Phlan and the Boss. It's unfortunate that you could not pick a side, but that's conscription.

    The same thing happens in Secret. The miners cannot get to the gems, so the party arrives. It's silly too, since, as you point out, economics is the weak point of the Gold Box series.

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    1. Eh? Being a mercenary means you get to choose who the buyer of your service is, doesn't it?

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure exactly which of my points you're replying to, but no matter what, I think it's a measure of a good game that you can role-play your own party's motivations for completing the main quest independent of the main quest.

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  39. For me, the worst part of Fallout 4 was that retarded dialog wheel.

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    1. The choices on the wheel bother me less than having to click on an NPC multiple times to get the dialogue options. Most NPCs, when you click on them the first time, deliver some sort of stock line and then something more significant, resulting in dialogue options, on the second click. Thus, if you're not carefully clicking one, waiting for the line to finish, then a second time on every NPC, you're missing out on a lot of dialogue.

      But I agree. I don't know exactly when this "just give a couple of keywords" dialogue thing was first introduced--Dragon Age II?--but it's got to go. I want to know exactly what I'll be saying.

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    2. Thankfully, one of the first mods to come out for Fallout 4 fixed this horrible thing. But yes, it definitely needs to be burned, buried and forgotten forever.

      Delete
  40. I am going to make 2 responses. First about modding. 2nd about experiences about playing through the game.

    Bethesda games are designed to be easily modded.
    http://www.nexusmods.com/games/?

    The top 6 modded games are all Bethesda Games. FAllout 4 is 4th and the Creation Kit (mod tools) is not out until next year. Most of the mods
    so far are very small. This is the big reason to play Bethesda Games on the PC (that and running it on an SSD means 5 second load times). I run Skyrim
    with 100+ mods. You can't do this by just downloading from Steam. Below is a link to Skyrim Step. It provides information to mod tools and plans for a variety of
    overhauls. The base STEP, improves graphics and fixes bugs. In the forum there are 'PACKS' that other people have made to overhaul the game.
    These are not downloadable mod packs, but instructions on how to make them run without crashing. You have to install in a specific order, run in
    order, use tools, to merge, etc... There are some very good overhaul mods that change gameplay alot. Especially combat. I expect a page like this to come out
    for Fallout 4 when the Creation Kit comes out.

    http://wiki.step-project.com/Main_Page

    Skyrims big modding limitation was that it was only 32 bit. This limits the game to 4 GBs. So there is a limit to how much you can improve the
    graphics. Fallout 4 is 64 bit, so there is no limit. I am 41 and I don't think Fallout 4's graphics are that good. I do know that the modders
    will RADICALLY improve it when the Creation Kit comes out, then the HUGE fan base will provide instructions to make it better. The graphics are
    tuned down due to the Consoles. PCs don't have that issue. I expect modders to also overhaul the basically Beta Settlement implementation. The lack of meaning and change in the world, roleplay elements. I also
    expect mods to overhaul charactger stats to bring back the original fallout stats/skills.

    I am really hoping that mods throw more monsters at me and make them react more to gunshots. I want everything in an area running at me when I fire a shot. I don't want to go into new rooms.
    Its more fun.

    Bethesda games are really all about the modding. The make big sandbox worlds and make it highly moddable. They provide the 2nd best mod tools in the
    community (next to minecraft).

    There were alot of things I did not like about this game that I expect the modders to radically improve (if you are on a PC).



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    1. I'd probably just get the mod for a radio station that can play my own music and settlement improvement. At the moment, settler allocation and base building sucks tepid arse. A guy can walk around with a plasma rifle but can't work up a spreadsheet to keep track of who is doing what? Amirite?

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  41. I think it's great that you give yourself a break and play a current game periodically. Why not go a little further and play one that isn't so 'on the fence' artistically and critically? You deserve to play a Souls game, a Disgaea, or even a Grand Theft Auto. Fallout 4 got decidedly mixed reviews because it's a frustratingly mixed experience.

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    1. Rock Paper Shotgun put Dark Souls at the top of their 50 best rpg list (which included many indie and pre-2000 games.) Seemed too actiony for my taste, but the more I hear the more I want to check it out.

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    2. I'm weird about this. Despite the fact that these days, most games I'd want to play are released both for the console and the PC, I regard console gaming as a much different experience than PC gaming. I thus look for different things in console games--which I play on the couch, usually at night, after a long day, when I don't really want to think--than I do in PC games.

      Since I started this blog in 2010, I haven't played any PC games that weren't part of the project. (Well, technically, I played Might & Magic X and Lords of Xulima, but I posted on both of them and stopped playing after my posts, never finishing either.) I almost regard it as "cheating" to play a PC game off-blog.

      When I play console games, I'm generally looking for something mindless, not "good." It can be mindless because it's so plot-heavy that it feels more like watching a movie, or it can be mindless because the controls are simple enough that once you master them, you can essentially play on autopilot. Either way, I'm fundamentally not the same CRPG addict when I sit down on my couch with a controller in hand.

      So as for, say, "deserving to play a Souls game," I tried Dark Souls on the console and found it far too difficult and complex for what I want out of a console experience. Meanwhile, I wouldn't play it on the PC because it would be cheating on my blog.

      I know, there's probably some room for fixing my psychology on this one.

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    3. I tried playing it Dark Souls on my PC from Steam and I encountered several video issues; so many that I just deleted it from library and having touched it since I first got it in 2013.

      I'm not sure if there's a patch for it yet but I'll be damned if I'm gonna play it in its last condition despite several attempts on my part to find a workaround.

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    4. The current version of Dark Souls: Prepare To Die edition has smoothed out most of the bugs, but the keyboard+mouse interface remains garbage, and the game is almost unplayable without a controller. Worse, it expects an Xbox 360 controller (not entirely unreasonable, given that these are the most common controllers used on PCs) and has no in-game configuration to compensate if you're using a different one.

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    5. Hmm... I'll try it out after I finish getting max levels in FO4.

      Hope it's playable now and not like the previous "I'd rather have sex with a rusty cheese-grater" version.

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    6. Having read this blog for many years now, I was inspired to keep my own list of played games. I have various sub-categories for RPGs and for the Dark Souls series, I classify them as "RPG - Action", meaning there's more of a focus on combat/action than there is RPG elements. The games certainly have RPG-lite elements (incremental character development, morality - at least in Demon's Souls and somewhat the later games, and deep story), but normally I would not think they would normally appeal to RPG gamers. I am actually very surprised that I have enjoyed them as much as I have, as I usually am not good at combat-focused games.

      I admit the combat initially turned me off, but there is a certain formula that the developers got right with the risk vs. reward system. It's one of the few games that made me hate and love them at the same time.

      I wouldn't play them on a PC due to the high degree of action, and this is coming from someone that spent thousands of hours playing quick-action shooters like Quake on the PC.

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  42. I've been hearing this 'these new-fangled games are all graphics and no gameplay' thing as long as I've been playing video games, and I've been playing them since I was very young, and like a lot of the readers of this blog, I'm not young any more.

    > I was surprised--not because someone would want to remake KOTOR but because I already thought of the game as existing in the era of "today's graphics."

    There may be some technological truth underlying this feeling of being generation gapped: If you could graph graphical quality in games you'd see a series of jaw dropping discontinuities in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. Since then there's been slow but steady advancements, as GPU power has risen, but the quantum leaps just aren't there any more - the last big one was with the introduction of normal mapping, around the time of KOTOR, and maybe that's why it feels like it's an era we're still in.

    (if you want to see the difference normal mapping made, compare a video of 2002's NWN1 to one of 2003's KOTOR - same company, very similar engines, yet NWN looks awfully like its world and people are made up of folded paper models, and KOTOR well, looks beautiful)

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    1. Exactly, I bet people who liked computer game #1 said that about computer game #2.

      KotOR feels relatively modern to me, but advances were still coming thick and fast at that point weren't they? I mean, compare it to the following year's Far Cry.

      Normal mapping eh? Very interesting. I think they're both Aurora Engine right?

      I think it's time for a new KotOR game, but I'd be disappointed if it were just A New Hope all over again. Oh wait, I'm getting my disappointments mixed up.

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    2. A BioWare employee once claimed that SW:TOR was basically KotOR 3 through 10.

      It made me hopeful for SW:TOR.

      And then I played it.

      Delete
  43. Fallout 1 & 2 and NV are the only genuine Fallout experiences. Fallout 3 was an abomination if you came from 1 & 2,haven't played 4 though.

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    1. I started with Fallout 1, and found Fallout 3 to be a perfectly genuine "Fallout" experience. Calling it an "abomination" is just nonsense.

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    2. I came from 1 & 2 (and FO:T, which was OK but not very much like the former games) and didn't find 3 a total let down, just a bit devoid of non-combat content.

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    3. I called frozen yogurt an "abomination" a couple of days ago. A friend pointed out that we live in a world of hyperbole and we no longer have any language to describe when things are really really REALLY bad.

      Delete
  44. Another Anonymous here. I got disappointed with FO3 approach to combat quickly, as in first two hours I encountered a supermutant armed with a minigun and I took him down with small firearms, just by hiding behind some thin metal obstacle repeatedly. That could have been random; in FO4 that you get a minigun in first two hours is by design.

    On the other hand, it's sort of fun to read experiences of someone who played only 3 & 4 and NV and starts to notice that NV sticks out, in terms of e.g. not having raiders as post-apo version of Skyrimesque-filler bandits.

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  45. Fallout 4 has a lot of flaws but I appreciate that they tried to give each explorable area some kind of unique flavor or story, and that they made the guns not feel like garbage anymore. In New Vegas and 3, I usually had the most fun doing a melee build, because the guns felt clunky and had terrible feedback. Fallout 4 made them a lot more satisfying - like I was playing a real FPS.

    I think the biggest thing Fallout 4 was missing was skill checks in dialogue. In Fallout 4, every single dialogue check is a charisma check. You can't, say, use your knowledge of medicine to convince someone they have the flu or something. This isn't very noticeable on the first playthrough, but on subsequent playthroughs, you start to realize how little your new build affects story and quest outcomes.

    That all being said, I still think Fallout 4 is an excellent game, and the story and writing are pretty good (for Bethesda) if you ignore the entire last third or so of the main story quests. Hopefully we get another Obsidian developed Fallout with the same engine.

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    1. That's a great point. I totally overlooked the lack of skill checks. I mean, there aren't really any "skills" in the game anymore--just perks--but even these could have generated some dialogue options.

      I agree that FO4 is a decent game; it just seems to me to be worse than FNV and perhaps even FO3. When you like a game series, it's a tough pill to see it regress even if it's still quite good.

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  46. So, what was Wasteland's political statement?

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    1. Well, it certainly wasn't positive towards the Catholic church.

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  47. It sounds like it's time to skip all they way forward to last year and play Undertale.

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  48. Speaking of graphics, Skyrim is set to get a remastered version for PC and some consoles this October, essentially porting the game to FO4's engine. Most of the changes are marginal, but there are some nice improvements there based on the limited screens I've seen.

    Of course, Skyrim still holds up quite well graphically even on its own. But it'll be nice to play through again after five years with extra purty.

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    1. If graphics are the only improvement, there's no chance in hell I'll purchase the remastered version. If I hear that the graphics have been remastered and minor changes have been made to 3 out of 957 quests, goddamn it, there goes 7 weeks.

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  49. Alright this will take a while.

    1) I saw an interview with the original designer of Fallout. Only person working on the project for the first six months. Interview was on Mattchat. I found it interesting that while most of the internet was r ranting about it not being loyal enough to the originals, he was saying he thought they should have written more of their own monsters and such, diverged from the original more. Also he didn't like the humour in 3, but said that was probably just a personal preference.

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  50. 2) I really liked 3. At the same time, I did very little of the main quest. Chasing after my Dad (who abandoned me) seemed less interesting them helping people and wandering around exploring. (Well, that is the in character reason I thought up for my preferring non-power armor and exploring).

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    1. One of the neat things about all Bethesda and Bethesda-derived games is that if you simply wander, you'll still find small quests--many of them more interesting than the main quest--wherever you go. FO3 is on the extreme of this, where something like 80% of the map is never visited as part of the main quest, and yet there's so much fun stuff there.

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    2. By the way, I felt the same way you did about the main quest. I don't have a family myself, and I just don't feel anything when I read, watch, or play fiction where the main character is primarily motivated by something family-related. FO4 has the same problem. Fortunately, both games ultimately branch into more complicated quests.

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  51. 3) I find post-apoc fiction a lot less engaging than I did a few years ago. When I was in high school and university it was one of my favorite genres. Nuclear, zombie, I read it all. My friends and I were in the first wave of people reading about and talking about the zombie apocalypse, back when the only multiplier zombie game we knew of was Urban Dead and the idea of a day by day fiction blog was innovative. These days I find it a lot more scary. The difference? Now I have a girlfriend I basically live with. Being left alone is a lot more scary now, you know? My brother's recent blog post kind of drove that home. ( https://postapocalypsereviews.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/mr-right/ if you are interested)

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    1. Yeah, once you have a career and someone to take care of, the prospect of violence and anarchy really lose their luster.

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  52. Oh, also you can set up peace between several of the factions in Fallout 4, it is just hard enough to do that most people don't notice. Not sure if that is enough to change your veiws, but thought you might like to know.

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  53. Sorry this is so incoherent and long. Final point I think. It is totally believable to me that f persevered food could last 200 years. NASA has....I think it is 30 year old meat that you can eat. You completely seal the food in thick plastic, then hit it with gamma rays for a while. Cooks away a bit of the taste and nutrition, but it is good enough for astronauts to live on. Anyway, it should be good forever as long as the plastic doesn't give out. Certain types of plastic could probably keep that long under the right conditions. A metal or plastic seal could for sure.

    Makes sense to me a society like Fallout's would irradiate their food as a marketing gimmick.

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