War Never Changes

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Fallout fan Carib FMJ in Iraque

On the Ten Most Meaningful Videogame Quotes of All Time at Destructoid we can find one of my favorites:

“War. War never changes.”

Even after most of the world has been turned into nuclear ash, even after the world governments have crumbled and the social infrastructure decays into anarchy, even when, after the greatest and most horrible war of all, the human race has every reason to band together in an effort to save one another from total annihilation — they don’t.

War never changes.

Fallout may be one of the most cynical, nihilistic game franchises in existence, which also makes it one of my personal favorites. Rather than half-assedly cultivating a world-weary tone through a sepia color scheme and needlessly gruff-sounding protagonists (I’m looking at you, Gears of War), the Fallout series tells the tale of some people who try to act with common decency in a world utterly lacking in it, and who are subsequently tortured and killed and exiled for their troubles. Cormac McCarthy would be proud.

In the world of Fallout you can do varying amounts of good on your quest through the Wastelands but, more often than not, your efforts can be just as easily undone by bad luck or the corruption of others. You can save the Ghouls of Necropolis from starvation, only to hear of their slaughter at the hands of Super Mutants. You can help the Brotherhood of Steel find new technology, but they’ll use it to further their war-driven, quasi-fascist agenda. And no matter how much good you do in the original Fallout — no matter how quickly you save the denizens of Vault 13 from dehydration and destroy the Super Mutant base — you will always be cast out by a hypocritical, bureaucratic Vault Overseer who claims that your heroism will make you a bad role model for the other Vault Dwellers.

Without getting into a current sociopolitical discussion, let me just say that the themes suggested in Fallout (punishment of morality in an immoral world, the hypocrisy of authority, the petty and violent nature of humankind) can be seen quite clearly even today. Wars are driven by greed, necessity, stupidity, or fear — and even after the cities have been burnt to cinders and the countryside irradiated, war will never change.

Thanks anonymous through Meebo.

Screen Savers and RPGs

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Even if Next Gen gaming is rampant, old school RPGs still have their space. Rock Paper Shotgun has a terrific interview with Vince D. Weller (nice pseudonym), indie developer of the Fallout inspired old school RPG Age of Decadence:

RPS: Okay – Influences then. What influenced your thinking about the game – and I mean, in specifics rather than generalities. In what ways did other games open your eyes, make you realise this is what games could be and why were they wonderful?Vince: Fallout – a masterpiece that redefined role-playing and set a new standard.
Planescape – reading in a game has NEVER been so much fun, and according to Avellone, never will be.
Darklands – it’s easier to list what you couldn’t do in that game than what you could do. It saddens me that a game of that caliber won’t be made again, but hey, who needs gameplay when you can look at shiny next-generation graphics? m i rite?
XCOM – The king of turn-based gameplay. If you haven’t played it, stop reading this crap and go play it right now.
And finally, Prelude to Darkness, a brilliant indie game that nobody played:

Prelude to Darkness featured an original, very detailed setting, great TB combat system, multi-solution quests, branching main quest, and many innovative design elements. That was the game that inspired me the most. It has shown me that indie projects can easily compete with and even beat “commercial” games in the gameplay and design departments.

RPS: Of the list, Fallout was the one I was sure of. Not just because of the game’s mechanics, but because what the setting brings to mind is the post-apocalypse model applied to the fantasy/medieval RPG. That is, a society that is collapsing, and has been for some time – and the player is thrown into it. Is that the impression you were aiming at? Why was this interesting to you?

Vince: Yes, I’m a Fallout fan. *waves at Bethesda* As for the other questions, yes, that is the impression we were aiming at. Why is it interesting to us? It adds another layer to the story and overall atmosphere. It makes a setting more alive as the past in post-apocalyptic games is more than a dry background. It gains shape and become an ever-present ghost of what once was. Besides, when societies collapse, it strips people from artificial restrictions of civilization and reverts them to their natural state, which is always fun to explore.[...]

Vince: I’m a big fan of the “honest and blunt” approach. An internet reader has a right to visit a game site and read “Did Oblivion really suck or what?” or “Molyneux has gotta be on drugs!”, don’t you think? Instead every journalist pretends that Oblivion was a 10/10 brilliant masterpiece, that Molyneux isn’t a lying old kook, and that Dungeon Siege wasn’t a screensaver. Then Chris Taylor says that he’s making Space Siege even simpler and everyone nods in agreement: Right on, man! It’s about time someone makes a game for the amputees. BRA-VO!And no, I don’t really care who’d think what and how my comments would affect sales. I’m making this game on a bold assumption that there are some people out there who are interested in complex games that aren’t made for retards. Btw, did I mention that I was the editor of RPG Codex for 4 years? Perhaps you’ve read my Oblivion review and other critically acclaimed articles/interviews? Now you probably understand where I’m coming from a bit better.

Check the comments at RPS and Kotaku, very interesting reading.

Cranky VXSS

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Gary has a cool car

After the Inside the Vault feature last week Gary “VXSS” Noonan took some time on the Bethesda Games Fallout 3 Forum to reply to a few more questions, here is a snippet:

Is the work environment very:

None and all of the above. Everyone has their own way of working. Me, personally…. I am always cranky, whiney, and I avoid everyone unless I actually have to communicate. I save the good moods for weekends.

Whom do you work well with?

I try to work well with everyone. I can’t say it always goes well, but we go to work to make games, not friends, right? tongue.gif

Whom do you have trouble seeing eye to eye with? (And saying “Bob, he’s 8 inches taller than me” does not count as an answer here people!)

Everyone, at some point in time. Try stopping by during a beta crunch….

On the subject of beers… which one do you usualy drink and have you ever tried european ones?

Nothing beats a Guinness draft.

What’s your favorite PnP RPG?

No PnP for me. The only dice I sling are in Craps. wink.gif

What influence do/have they have/had on your work (past to present)?

Considering my previous answer, I would have to say none for $500 Alex.

What game(s), other than the Fallout games, are most influential on Fallout 3? (not ment to be loaded, many games have good things that can be adapted to other franchises)

Other than previous FO titles…. well, off the bat, I can say I got some fair inspiration from STALKER. Loved the atmosphere and desparate mood it set. And on some distant level, the environments in Gears of War laid out a nice wasted civilization feel that we were dealing with.

Fallout 3 Should Be Epic!

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MyGeekLife has a list of the most anticipated console games for 2008, and yes, you’ve guessed it, Fallout 3 is there, in number 7:

Once again Fallout 3 drops us into a post-apocalyptic United States reminiscent of its prequels, but this time the protagonist, a member of the Vault 101 fallout shelter, ventures into the wastelands in order to find his mysteriously missing father. The game thus far looks to be at least pure eye candy if nothing else displaying gorgeous cinematics and spectacular character detail and animation. Fallout 3 also appears to be maintaining familiarities with the earlier PC versions of the franchise and that’s a good thing for Fallout fans. Not too much has really been released about Fallout other than being one of this years biggest next generation console and PC games. So, keep your eyes posted for more information on Fallout 3 as its tentative Quarter 3 of 2008 release date approaches. This game should be epic!

Fallout 3: Ask Again later

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NMA reports that there’s another “most anticipated video games of 2008” list that includes Fallout 3, this time around from Reax Music Magazine:

Fallout, simply put, is one of the best CRPGs ever made. I remember my joy as a young teen as I ventured out into the wastes with little more than a few stimpacks and a shitty pistol to save Vault 13 from certain demise. This post-apocalyptic, darkly satirical masterpiece was my introduction to the genre, and holds a special place in my memory box labeled: Things You Did When You Should Have Been Studying. When I heard that Bethesda Software purchased the license to the long-defunct Fallout franchise, I nearly had a heart attack. After all, they built their empire on wizards and orcs in the popular fantasy series, The Elder Scrolls.

I was marginally happy that the Fallout series wouldn’t end on such a sour note as the terrible Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, released in 2004 to messy critical failure. However, I remain skeptical as to whether Bethesda can revive Fallout in all its previous glory, with the change in perspective from top-down isometric to first and third-person, and a switch in setting from West to East Coast. The optimistic side of me welcomes these changes because change is an inevitable part of life, but I’m wary. Will Bethesda “get it?” My Magic 8-Ball says, “Ask again later.”

Next Generation Role Playing: Epic and Visceral Edition

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As the videogame landscape changes, is the RPG betraying its tabletop roots or finding its way? This is the question made by Next Generation, and in the midst of all the opinions transcribed we can find Bethsofts Pete Hines take on this:

Player freedom and the idea of immersion are issues of which Bethesda Software, the developer of Oblivion and Fallout 3, is acutely aware. “It’s obviously something that’s had a big impact on us and the way we’ve approached our games,” says Bethesda’s vice president of marketing, Pete Hines. “Let the player create the character they want and go out and make their own choices. Go where you want, do what you want. You decide how to deal with problems and what to do next.

“But in a videogame it is at least somewhat important that you do not allow the player to break the game, either intentionally or unintentionally. So I don’t know how much we can do away with the rules, but we do the best to bend and stretch them as far as possible to allow people the most freedom possible. I don’t know how far we can stretch that freedom, but I assure you we plan to find out.” Hines suggests that much of what can make videogaming a transparent, believable experience is predicated on enabling a purer and more direct kind of roleplay, eschewing immersion-breaking mechanics like turn-based combat, and dependence on stat screens. But removing the abstraction of PnP introduces new challenges: since they rely on visual representation rather than imagination, videogames have to reconcile the disparity between a player’s desired action and his avatar’s capabilities in a way that is clear and avoids frustration.

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