The End

Image made by Fred Zelleny

Image made by Fred Zelleny

This is the last post, today the game was released in Europe, it’s time for me to stop updating the blog.

I wanted to thank Killzig, Ausir, Morbus, 4too, blinzla, brothernone, docconrad, droveri,lithal, Role Player, osiris1975, rilom, s001, Desslock, Gstaff, Mr. Happy, Mr. Teatime, Gimli, Cameron Sorden, zippydsmilee, Defonten, Amasius, Tigranes, all the people that gave me good tips for the changes of templates, the flamers on Meebo for giving me a few good laughs, all the nice people I met from around the world on Meebo, the few Bethsoft people that gave me some words of encouragement or pointed out mistakes on the blogposts.

Well thank you too, this was a fun ride. I’ll keep checking Meebo to talk with you folks, and the email account, from now on you can find me on Planet Fallout.

Have fun in the Wasteland.

Interview with Desslock

I did an interview with Desslock, the PC Gamer columnist, for Planet Fallout, talking about the past, present and future of Fallout 3, here’s a snippet:

PF:You went there and came up with a column in PC Gamer, the famous “Memo to Bethesda”. In it you gave five tips for Bethsoft not to screw up Fallout 3. Now that you’ve played the game let’s get back to those tips. Did they got the combat right?

Desslock: Yes, the combat is great, in my opinion – it’s repetitive, and over-the-top violent (necks are apparently very brittle after the apocalypse), but it’s consistently rewarding. I’m very pleased with VATS.

PF:But no kicking rats in the groin now, though…

Desslock: One of the bigger disappointments is that there’s no targeting of body parts in melee combat at all, apparently for balance reasons. Melee combat definitely gets short shrift in general, and there’s far too much ammo lying around compared to the other Fallouts, although the change in locale somewhat justifies that.

PF:“Don’t use Oblivion’s difficulty scaling”. Did they hear you out? Are you pleased with the solutions they found?

Desslock: It’s much better. MUCH better. But not perfect. The important thing is that it feels much more natural now, and very much like what you’d encounter in other RPGs. You still encounter stronger creatures/opponents later in the game, but by that point you’re exploring further out in the wilderness or encountering enemies like the Enclave, so that makes more sense. I also like that, regardless of when you travel to certain areas, you’ll run into the types of creatures you expect, which may be higher/lower level than you (e.g. Super Mutants in D.C., ghouls in the underground).

It’s always a pleasure to talk to an old CRPGs fan like him.

Fallout 180

Excellent exercise at the Brainy Gamer:

Some ardent defenders of the Fallout series – let’s call them Fallout traditionalists – have a beef with Fallout 3 and the RPG they fear it will be: non-isometric, non-turn-based, sans dialogue trees, simplified (i.e. dumbed down) SPECIAL system, and a distinct lack of the offbeat, self-referential Fallout vibe. Such a game, say the traditionalists, may be perfectly suitable for gamers who prefer 3-D action RPGs like Oblivion. But it’s just not Fallout. So don’t call it Fallout.

My students have been playing Fallout 1 and 2 for a couple of weeks, preparing for the release of Fallout 3. They are an unexpected mix of gamers: a small handful of RPG veterans, a large majority of relatively casual gamers (mostly sports games and shooters), and a few with almost no experience playing video games at all. Quite a challenge for a teacher who expected to be met by a small legion of hardcore D&Ders with a possible cosplayer or LARPer thrown in. Fortunately, they’re all terrific guys willing to try anything I throw at them.

So when I handed them Fallout (half played the original, half the sequel) with no instructions or special preparation, they struggled. A lot.

What goes on next is really worth a read.

Blinzler Special

Bethsoft forum regular and Planet Fallout editor Blinzler brings us two articles in preparation for the release of the game, first Things You Should Know Before You Head Out:

Fallout 3 is filled with a host of creatures, most of them severely mutated, and plenty of which see humans as a welcome addition to their daily nutritional intake. Below you will find a small list and some information I could collect so far. Maybe it will help you on your travels into the wasteland.

And later he brought us People,Places,Groups:

Fallout 3 is a Sandbox game, throwing the player (character) out into a large, open world with quite a bit of freedom to explore and do as he pleases. Using everyone and their mother’s favorite comparison, it might even be better then Oblivion’s freedom, as Fallout 3 actually allows for different and more finely-tuned approaches to solving a given problem.
To give you some guidance on this path, here’s a few details we’ve glimpsed so far, put together for ease of reading.I’ve tried to keep the spoilers themselves to a minimum, but if you want to experience the game with the innocence of a Vault Dweller freshly emerging from the underground, you should in all honesty skip the read. For the rest, this is meant to serve as a quick introduction to what is to come.

And now I’ll publish here on the blog a new piece he wrote, Reviews and Nationality:

Recently, while doing my regular round of reading various Fallout 3 related forums searching for news, bit’s of trivia and just for fun, I’ve come across some posts calling the first foreign reviews (and previews a bit earlier) unfair due to their tendency of not pointing out some things they considered “lacking” or “bad”.

Which in all fairness surprised me now – me being a foreign guy myself (as in not an American citizen) I don’t see that at all.
What’s the big deal here, if a game reviewer actually takes the time and writes down the things he or she considers wrong with the game and put’s their personal judgement to it? That’s their job after all, that is what they are supposed to do.

Good work Blinzler.

Sweepstake!

From Planet Fallout:

Attention wasteland inhabitants and please holster your weapons. Are you looking to spruce up your room in the Vault? This is your chance to win some world-stopping prizes that include a 42″ Plasma TV, Gaming PC, Xbox360, t-shirts and so much more! All you have to do is submit your entry to be automatically entered into this amazing random drawing sweepstakes. Anyone can enter and anyone can win! Just click the fancy graphic below to be on your way!

The only limitation is that you need to live in the States to participate.

Amazon.co.uk Missteps

From Planet Fallout:

Amazon.co.uk has been sending e-mails for the people that pre-ordered the Fallout 3 Special Edition with some bad news:

Dear Customer,

We wanted to give you an update on the status of your order #XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX. We are sorry to report that the release of the following item has been cancelled:

“Fallout 3 UK Collectors Edition (PC)”

This item has now been cancelled from your order and we can confirm that you have not been charged for it. Please accept our apologies for any disappointment or inconvenience caused.

If you took advantage of a promotional offer when placing this order, this cancellation may affect your order’s eligibility for that offer. If you discover this to be the case, please contact customer service so that we may investigate. You can send an e-mail to customer service from the following URL:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/tg/browse/-/502564/ref=cs_hd_cus_1

You can still pre order the game in all the stores in the UK that have the Collectors Edition. Bad Amazon.

Level Designer Diary

A new dev diary has hit the official site.  This time we’re talking level design.

Fallout 3 has been the first Bethesda Game Studios project with a dedicated level design team from the outset. With this resource, we were able to set our sights higher than ever before. We knew early on that one of our big concepts for the game was to challenge the traditional RPG divisions between towns, wilderness, and dungeon. With that mission in mind, we actively sought to blur the lines and create a world that was at once believable, unpredictable, and above all; entertaining.

It’s an interesting read, especially in light of the repeated criticisms of how tightly compressed the world feels.  Hopefully this is a topic we’ll be able to revisit once the game hits and we’ve all had a chance to judge for ourselves.

Emil Thinks We’re All Crack Addicts

Bigguns is looking for the groin shot.

Bigguns is looking for the groin shot.

Emil made an appearance at the BGS forums to defend his baby.  Some interesting comments in there about the inspiration for V.A.T.S. and the implementation.  Here’s one quote that tickled my funny bone:

It certainly wasn’t the case that we came up with a concept, put it into the game, and said, “There it is! It’s perfect” The road from paper design to implementation was loooonngg…. So regardless of what the paper design was, for us, that’s always just the beginning. The one thing you have to realize is that anything can look good on paper. Anything. In a written doc, you can justify your arguments, tighten any logic errors, dot your i’s and cross your t’s… but if you get it into the game, and it sucks (and it often does!) you have to change it. Most of the “bad’ games I’ve played are bad not because they’ve been crappy ideas, but because they haven’t been properly executed. It’s as if the developers were so blinded by the the awesomeness of their ideas on paper, they couldn’t accept that those same ideas just did not translate into fun gameplay. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and every developer has at one point or another, myself included.

Laughing with me yet?  Maybe sometime soon.  He also goes on to say that V.A.T.S. will please everyone, really!

We designed the combat balance with V.A.T.S. use in mind. Trust me, those who say they won’t use it will. If there’s one thing we learned throughout development it’s that people use V.A.T.S. It just feels natural, and the camera playbacks are a kind of visual crack. So V.A.T.S. is one part tactical, one part pure visceral entertainment. Chances are at least one of those elements will appeal to you, and you’ll end up using V.A.T.S.

And of course, later in the conversation, the sore subject of groin shots reared its ugly head.

Quick answers — no groin shots because it took long enough for us to get the other body parts balanced. And we were afraid the groin shots would instantly change the tone to “goofy” — so they didn’t make the cut.

Yes, it seems groin shots were the tipping point on the goof-o-meter.  Truly a fine line between the comedic and the dramatic that the designers had to walk.  Steel be with them in that endeavor.

Chime in over here.

CanardPC Hates Fallout 3

I think we’ve all suspected for a while that the fine folks at CanardPC are not huge fans of Fallout 3′s new direction.    They’ve recently rebelled against the BethSoft imposed review exclusivity by publishing a not-quite-a-review article summing up their feelings and criticisms on Fallout 3:

Even when you want to explore things and let alone the main quest for a while, it still tastes weird. Besides the cardboard sets, the feeling of emptiness suddenly goes away. Just like in Oblivion and Gothic 3, adventure awaits at every corner of the street. Literally, unfortunately. A two minute walk and you’re there! A design decision which probably has everything to do with the average attention span of the console gamer.

A similar theme from earlier reviews.

On the other hand, don’t expect to be able to convince anybody that originally does not like you. NPC reactions are determined by your Karma and even a professional liar won’t be able to convince someone who does not like him to become his partner. But have no fear: you can change your reputation just like you can switch clothes. You’re too good to obtain what you wish? Steal, kill generic NPCs (those with no name) and here you are: the incarnation of evil! But don’t worry: after three days, people forget about your deeds and you are forgiven.

Your karma is too low for a particular quest? Just kill bad guys and give water to hobos (it comes for free if you have your own house) and there you go: holier than saints. Where the first Fallout episodes where built around balancing your own desires and deciding what sacrifices you were ready to do in order to fulfil them, Bethesda sweeps this and allows you to switch styles at will. Nothing is important any more, everything becomes relative. Everything black. Everything white. No need for grey when redemption and condemnation are made so easy.

This is an interesting criticism.  I think we’ve all been a little concerned about the ‘gamey’ implementation of karma in Fallout 3 and the level of importance it has been given in NPC interactions.  It sounds like a system that was mostly broken in Fallout 2 is now completely broken in Fallout 3.  Progress!

Read the rest of his thoughts and comments at NMA.

PS – Many thanks to Xark for the header art.

Click! reviews Fallout 3

Polish gaming magazine Click! has published a review by Tymon Smektała of the PC version of Fallout 3. Here are some excerpts and a brief summary of the rest of the article:

This premiere was controversial from the very beginning – at least among those for whom Fallout is a legend. And there are lots of those, as the first two parts of the series are considered to be the absolute canon of RPGs. They set the standars when it comes to non-linear plot and freedom of gameplay. (…) A decade ago, when the graphics were relatively simple, it was enough to make up as many dialogue variants as possible to achieve impressive non-linearity. Now they also have to be recorded and shown with advanced 3D graphics. Which is why the fans of the original were afraid that the game would not meet their expectations, lose the atmosphere and destroy the franchise. Were they right?

  • The main quest is ca. 10 hour long, with additional 30-40 for the side quests
  • The most faithful fans of the series can be disappointed by the end of the story, less complex than in previous games – e.g. it doesn’t show the future fate of characters you meet throughout the game.
  • There are five difficulty levels
  • Most of the sidequests are interesting mini-adventures that succeed at avoiding typical RPG cliches, like e.g. having to kill 12 mutant moles. They are more atmospheric than the main quest.
  • Traveling between locations is boring, the random encounters are pretty rare and not very interesting. Fortunately, there’s fast travel.
  • Both main quest and side quest objectives can be achieved through a number of ways. However, they mostly depend on the player’s statistics, so mostly only one option has a chance of being successful for a given character and to know the other variants, you’d have to play the game again with a new character. Unfortunately, probably few players will.
  • The stat-based real time combat feels more natural in Fallout 3 than in Hellgate: London and Mass Effect. However, the reviewer prefers the active pause-based VATS, which is a way of pleasing both old fans of the series used to turn-based combat, and new players who expect dynamic action. Curiously, VATS seems to play better with PC controls, while on the console the real time combat seems more natural.
  • The graphics look dated. Some textures, looked from up close, are pixelized. There’s clipping and bad character animations.
  • The general technical quality is not that great. After a longer gaming session, the computer tends to freeze.
  • Access to many options requires the use of Pip-Boy 3000, which is not really handy.

To sum it up, Fallout 3 is not a perfect product and people will be as divided about it after the release as before it. The malcontents will harshly criticize Bethesda for simplifying the gameplay compared to previous iterations of the series, and the PC version will require a patch or two (one is reportedly to be released on day 1). (…) The most important thing is that the makers managed to keep the mature atmosphere of the series and its most important trait – the ability to shape the story yourself. The new game begins (and ends), just like its predecessors, with the legendary words: “War, war never changes.” The same can be said about Fallout.

Fallout 3 is a game different from its great predecessor, but it doesn’t mean it’s worse. It’s just a continuation of the series adjusted to an entirely new age of interactive entertainment – fortunately, it keeps the atmosphere of the originals. Despite minor flaws, it is a strong contender for being the RPG of the year!

Pros:

  • A good recreation of Fallout’s atmosphere
  • Freedom of play
  • The VATS system

Cons:

  • Somewhat simplified gameplay compared to previous games
  • Slight technical problems

The general score is 8.75/10, broken down into several parts:

  • Gameplay – 9.25 (Playability: 9.5, Longevity: 9.5, Variety: 9, AI: 9)
  • Graphics – 8.25 (Appearance: 8.5, Animations: 8 )
  • Sound – 9.5 (Music: 9.5, Effects: 9.5)
  • Technical quality – 7.38 (Fluency: 7, Loading times: 8.5)

Gstaff succumbs to my whining!

After much begging on the part of many, many people.  Good ole Matty G’staff has come through with some new wallpapers for us culled from the recent series of ads at the D.C. metro station.  Included in the set is a striking photo of a Brotherhood Paladin standing guard in front of the Washington Monument as flags flap in the background.  See if you can spot what’s missing on the flags.

X-Play Fallout 3 Special

If you’re like me, you probably can’t even find G4TV on your television dial and luckily for us the good people at G4 know this.  They’ve posted up their Fallout 3 X-Play special on the internets for all to see.  Included is some great footage of Rivet City and commentary from Todd, Pete, Istvan and my personal favorite Emil (do moar interviews, plz).

Polish dialogue details

Grzegorz Wons, the Polish Neeson

Grzegorz Wons, the Polish Neeson

Cenega, the Polish publisher of Fallout 3 confirmed that the release date will be the same as in Western Europe – October 31. They also announced that the actor to play Dad in the Polish version will be Grzegorz Wons. Funny thing is that like Neeson, he has a Star Wars connection – he was C3PO in the version dubbed in Polish.

Aside from Poland-specific stuff, the press release says that there are 1350 pages of dialogue in the game, and 2000 pages of text overall. Over 80 actors were used for the Polish dubbing, so it can be assumed that the number is similar for the original version. The Polish edition will let you choose between original English and Polish versions.

Gamasutra Interviews Todd

Gamasutra has posted an interview with Todd Howard.  While light on Fallout 3 details the interview does go into some of Todd’s view on game design:

As a game director — and it’s not like this is the first time you’ve done this — how do you even approach something like this? It seems like such a fairly monumental task, on two fronts: one, it’s just the issue of making a game this big, but you guys have done that before. But then there’s also the issue of inheriting that IP. Not that you’re doing it alone, but it seems like a pretty substantial undertaking. How do you approach that?

TH: The good thing with Fallout is that…  from a workflow standpoint — I mean how we go about what we do — it’s similar to what we do with Elder Scrolls, where it’s very big, and it’s an established world — whether or not  we’ve established it, or somebody else. The Elder Scrolls [world] is so big that no one person can remember it all, so when we think up stuff, we have to go research it. Like, “What did it say in this book in Daggerfall?” It’s so much stuff. So we go through the same work with Fallout.

And frankly, it was a very nice change of pace for us. We were really excited to do the project. So, I think we’re kind of used to doing it; I don’t know that there’s something specific I could point to, and go, “Here’s how we go about it.”

The one thing we do is we lay out the world. One of the first things we do is draw the map, and come up with the people and places. And the rest of it comes out of that. I mean, in Fallout, we knew we wanted to have vaults.

I usually come up with — this is bizarre — the first thing I always come up with is the beginning of the game, and the interface. I don’t know why. Like, how does it start, and what’s the interface. There’s no reason for that; it’s just what goes on.

And we knew we wanted to start in the vault, and play through. I’ve always been interested in games that just start, and you play them; the character generation is part of the game. An early influence is Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

Check out the full interview over yonder.

This newsbit pilfered mercilessly from Kharn.