Fallout 3: Distinctions Between VATS and RTwP


What is the V.A.T.S. system? Is it only a variation of Real Time with Pause Combat? Jay “RadHamster” Woodward disagrees, and here’s why:

One key distinction between VATS and RTwP is that VATS provides a tactical view, complete with chance-to-hit percentages, much like the aimed shot display from the original Fallout, presented in the actual game view as a HUD overlay. This isn’t just eye candy; the percentages are exactly reflecting what’s going to happen “behind the scenes.” That’s quite unlike any RTwP system I’m familiar with.

An even more fundamental distinction between VATS and a real-time-with-pause system is what happens when you leave the “pause” mode and the action resume.

In a RTwP system, when the action starts again, you’re simply back to real-time.

In VATS, when the action starts again, you’re not back to real-time. Rather, you’re in a mode where your character acts quickly, while the rest of the world is heavily slowed down. Again, the results of your actions are purely statistics-driven, based on the percentage chances that were presented in the tactical view. And again, that’s different from any RTwP system that I’m aware of.

Obviously VATS is different than taking a turn. But I can tell you, in my own entirely subjective and personal experience, that when I enter VATS, queue up some shots, and fire, it does indeed feel very much like I have chosen to “take a turn” at that moment, in the sense that the world stops and what I choose to do happens more-or-less “immediately” and in a purely stat-based fashion.

Do note that I’m not saying anything new about VATS here; I’m just contrasting the major points of distinction with RTwP. As Brio pointed out earlier, all of this detail and more can be found in the official fan interview; I recommend checking it out.

This and other issues of combat in Fallout 3 are being discussed here. What do you think?


13 thoughts on “Fallout 3: Distinctions Between VATS and RTwP

  1. VATS is something that need to be tested before it can be judged in any way. I have not been convinced either way so far.

  2. I’m sure they’re tired of explaining it. Just release a video of the demo please. It was polished enough to get nothing but rave reviews from the journos. What’s the harm in giving it over for public consumption?

  3. VATS = Pause that allows you to unleash a special move. From everything I’ve read it has to play out like Mass Effect with bullet-time. The statistics in the background are a red herring because they are always being used, in real-time or not. Actually, every game uses statistics – whether it’s just two shots=death, bullet vectors, or sometimes hit locations (headshots) there are statistics everywhere. What he’s saying is that there are dice rolls in the background, although, again, those are used in other games including FPSs which use them for bullet spread (so that not every shot goes exactly where the gun was pointing). Mass Effect uses dice in the background and I would guess Two Worlds and others do as well.

  4. wow that looks like oblivion with percentages…..

    thats a whole lot of oblivion right there…… still im excited

  5. I guess YAWN

    It’s odd that a professional game designer can’t make a distinction between what is shown and game mechanics. As mactbone says, mechanically, there is nothing special about the opponents being nerfed while you move faster, because it’s just one of many mechanical options for nerfing opponents (they could also have made them do less damage. INNOVATION), and one that’ll call for many bullet time comparisons.

    And almost all RPG used some kind of dice-roll to determine whether your attack is successful and/or how much damage it does. Fallout 3 shows it. Big friggin’ whoop.

  6. I’d still like more of an explanation than this (or video). During this “faux turn” can I duck/crouch? Can I take a stim-pak? Can I reload? Access my equipment? Switch weapons? (ex. fire once with a rifle once with a hand gun? or once with a rifle then take a stim-pak or shoot then step behind cover!) and you know, all the stuff we sort of expect?
    And most of all (for me), do I have to watch the slow-mo ‘Kiddy Kool’ Matrix like effects every time… can I turn them off? I believe after a few hours they will be pretty boring.

  7. During this “faux turn” can I duck/crouch?


    Can I take a stim-pak? Can I reload? Access my equipment?

    Don’t know about reloading, the rest nope.

    And most of all (for me), do I have to watch the slow-mo ‘Kiddy Kool’ Matrix like effects every time… can I turn them off?

    At this point nope.

    From Meebo a message to Brother None:

    It should be noted that Brother None just called Fallout 3 an RPG. He will be held to this statement.

  8. Is it really bullet time? From what I’ve read you’re just watching the bullet create some gore (that’s going to get old really fast)…

    you can’t do anything with your character during this slow down then? (besides watching bullet fly)

  9. From what I understand you’re issuing your orders and then it’s slow-mo for the enemy and sit-back-and-watch time for you when your order play out.
    And then you got those extra special movie snippets when you score a crit?

  10. What Todd Howard said:

    2. Is combat playable in the zoomed out third person (”almost iso”) perspective and how will VATS work from it, meaning – will it zoom into FP or something else? [kaos]

    I’d have to say “no”. Combat’s not really playable when you zoom the camera all the way back and point it down. You can try, but it’s not meant to be played that way, because you still have to aim at the center of the screen, and at that point, the center is the ground. It’s playable from 1st and 3rd person, but closer-in over-the-shoulder 3rd person. Regarding VATS., it does zoom in on your target, from your eyes, so I guess you’d say it is a “1st person” view. So if you’re playing in 3rd person and enter VATS, you zoom in on the target, and when you’re done, it flips back to your 3rd person view. It happens pretty fast and it’s smooth. I kind of see VATS as its own view.

    3. For what else can we use AP`s while in VATS and what is the “cost” of such things in real time? Some time consuming animation perhaps? Example: if taking stimpacks or using inventory in VATS will cost AP`s – then what will it cost in RT? Besides that what else besides shooting can you pull off in VATS, and how do you balance those things with their real time counterparts? [MrHappy1991]

    The only thing you can do in VATS. is shoot, and it’s designed as just that. It’s kind of an “aimed shot” mode, so no taking stimpacks, etc. When dealing with the AP regeneration, that’s one of the big questions, even for us, as to what we set it to, and that’s going to get serious tweaking the more we play the game. It’s definitely tied to your agility, but we haven’t pinned down the range, so I don’t know if an agility of 10 gives you twice the regen rate over an agility of 1, or if it will be in the 5-10x multiple range. I’d wager closer to 2x on that one. When you’re not in VATS., attacks use up AP as well. At this stage, we’re playing the game so that the AP usage in real-time is less then the regen rate, so the end effect is that attacking in real-time slows down the regen. I imagine it will end up being close to that feel.

    4. Because so many of us still don’t understand, could you describe VATS in painstaking detail? No really, please! [Waterchip]

    I’ll try, but I worry it will raise more questions then it answers. I assume you know the basics: press a button and it stops time, you queue up shots on body parts using AP, and then press the “go” button and it executes the moves. The playback is done cinematically, sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slower – depending on if something cool happens.

    Probably better if I give you a closer look at how we approach it and view VATS. First, I don’t see it as an either-or thing. VATS is meant to be used with real-time, it’s not one or the other – they should feel like they go together. I don’t want the fans confused that this is turn-based, because it’s not. It’s a glorified aimed-shot mode, and a pretty glorious one at that. You’ll be able to use it a lot, but not constantly, because it is the most effective way to kill things. And that’s how we define it usually, it’s the most effective and entertaining way of killing something, and we break up those two parts while developing it, “effect” versus “entertainment”, or the “gameplay” versus the “playback”.

    Let’s start with the gameplay. One, you can enter VATS, whenever you want, you just may not have enough AP do take any shots yet, or enough AP to do as many shots as you’d like. The AP needed to do a shot is based on the weapon’s rate of fire; pistols can get more shots off in VATS than a hunting rifle. The camera zooms in on the target from your eyes, as VATS does a scan of the target, and you get a percentage chance to hit each body part. This accomplishes two things: 1) it just looks really cool, we even use the “combat-turn” sound from Fallout 1 here, and 2) the scan actually is detecting how much of the body part you can see to get us a good hit percentage. That hit-chance is based on how much of the body part you can see, the distance, your skill, the weapon itself, and a base body part chance we set per body part. That last thing, the base chance, is needed for us to jack up or down the hit-chance for game balance, so even if the head is X size compared to the chest, we can adjust it.

    A good example would be the antennae on the ants, they are way too small to realistically ever want to use your AP on, but we up the hit-chance on them and it just plays better. So in real-time, you almost never hit their antennae, but you can do it more in VATS. And that’s the key “behind the scenes” difference between VATS and real-time, in real-time the bullets just go-where-they-go, based on your skill, the gun, and some randomness. We don’t calculate a hit-chance and roll dice against it. In VATS, we calculate a hit-chance and roll dice. If you succeed, we send the bullet right for what you were aiming at, and if you fail, we send it off slightly, meaning it should miss, but we still let it hit whatever it hits, so you can still miss a guy’s head and end up shooting his chest.

    Ok, now the “playback,” or the entertainment part of it. Based on what is going to happen with what you chose, we select a number of camera angles and various playback shots to show you, the playback is only a few seconds. They are always pretty quick, the longer playbacks are rare, and we’re the first ones to get annoyed if something repeats itself too much as we’re playing the game. We have a VATS camera section of the editor where we make cameras and can setup almost anything we want, such as a special camera that tracks a bullet in slow motion that shoots a gun out of someone’s hand, but only if they are using a specific pistol and only on a certain enemy. Pretty much anything we want to do; we can setup quick, so expect lots of various camera shots. One of things to know about the playback is it’s not a “replay”, it’s the actual game time moving forward, so what you see is really what is happening right now. The selected cameras control how fast various things move, so most of the time, you, the player, are animating in real-time, the enemy you are shooting at is moving at one-tenth speed, and the rest of the world is paused, or updating slowly. We found just playing everything at the same speed doesn’t feel or look good at all, we had to separate the three out; you, the enemy, and the rest of the world. Another thing we stumbled into, because time is moving forward, is that while you are watching an enemy react to getting shot in this great camera angle, your character can be getting mauled by another enemy. Really frustrating early on as we played it, so we do two things now: 1) depending on the camera chosen we essentially pause the rest of the world, and 2) we have a setting that dramatically reduces the damage the player takes during such an occurrence. You probably wouldn’t notice any of these things, the playbacks just look “right”, but you’d be surprised how much tweaking goes into making a two second snippet work well.

    Hope that addresses the question, hard to answer that one. At some point in the future we’ll probably release even more info on body part damage and how that affects the gameplay, as that’s the key decision you are making in VATS – what body parts to shoot.

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