This text was written by Frank Horrigan on the Bethesda Games Fallout 3 Forum in third of March 2007. Posted here so it won’t be lost when the forum topics are trimmed.
Some small, some large. Some major, some minor. Some easy, others difficult. Let’s do this, and in no particular order.
1. Make it an RPG first and foremost. No useless action elements that don’t belong. If I wanted an action game, I’d play one. Fans want an RPG, make a good one, don’t water it down. Action elements and RPG elements don’t play well together.
2. Make character skills paramount and player skills mostly unimportant. This is an RPG folks; it should be the character that matters. We shouldn’t have supposed master gunslingers missing shots because the player sucks at aiming. Likewise we shouldn’t have a character that shouldn’t even be able to walk properly, in stat terms, pulling off non-stop groin criticals because they are a Counterstrike beast.
3. No bikini armor, thong girls, cleavage armor, or babes of the wastes. This is a gritty, post-apocalyptic world where practicality matters and things aren’t nice-looking. I don’t want female armor to be any different than male armor. No cleavage, no exposed skin, none of that. It doesn’t make sense. And there shouldn’t be “smokin’ hot babes” because this is a wasteland, people aren’t going to look pretty. Don’t sell out to the pixel fetish; it isn’t gritty, just dumb.
4. No asinine tutorial. The Temple of Trials was terrible, I don’t want to fight rats or do pointless stuff for the first half hour. Make something exciting, like stepping out into the wastes for the first time a la the original.
5. Get the music right. So far you aren’t looking too good Bethesda. Fallout isn’t epic or orchestral. Maybe it was just because of the technology, but many other series haven’t fallen into the orchestral fetish. The Legend of Zelda series had MIDI music in its latest installment and still sold well. Keep it classic, keep the style. We don’t want, or need, Jeremy Soule Generic Fantasy Score #472.
6. Don’t make a terrible user interface. Oblivion has such a terrible interface, even for console players. Scrolling through 500 miscellaneous items to get to my Varla stone was just a pain. Don’t fudge up the interface for console players benefit, or at least make good one.
7. No dungeon-crawls. These are just pointless. I’m sure a ton of people love dungeon-crawling. Good for them. Fallout isn’t a dungeon-crawl though. We don’t want tons of abandoned Vaults, military bases, cities, and such loaded with mutants and raiders. Maybe a few would be alright, but not just a legion of terribly designed ones a la Oblivion.
8. No skill minigames. I could deal with well designed minigames that you never need to play to accomplish anything like Pazaak in KOTOR. That’s okay. But minigames should not have anything to do with skills whatsoever.
9. Companions need to be well done, not mindless drones. Make them more than just combat aids, make them interesting. Maybe have a story or some character. They don’t have to be Torment’s cast or Baldur’s Gate’s, but at least more interesting than the cutouts that fill the Elder Scrolls. Fallout’s characters weren’t amazing, but they had personality. Just add in some of that.
10. Dialogue needs to be very important. Fallout 3 needs dialogue to be able to do plenty. We need dialogue trees, not bland Wiki-style stuff. We need diplomacy and plenty of options to use it.
11. Dialogue needs to be well written. Make it interesting and witty if you can. No bland dialogue. Bethesda, you are untested in dialogue abilities, make us proud on your first chance at bat.
12. Turn off the hype machine. It never does any good. Spend time doing interviews with real info, not PR doublespeak. Give out videos about the gameplay and such, not the HDR, bloom, soil erosion, or whatever silly gimmick the suits need you to push. And this countdown is absolute rubbish; it may be the in thing for developers now, but you’ve made the Fallout fanbase wait for four years for any info. Don’t pull this stuff, it doesn’t help.
13. Gameplay and artistic elements first, superficial technical stuff later. Sure, graphics are nice, but they don’t make a game. And an artistically appealing game is leagues better than some pixel-heavy rubbish with terrible artistic design.
14. Outsource your humor now or get some serious help. I’m sorry, but Bethesda can’t write good humor to save their lives. They need help. A key component of Fallout was its wit and charm. Don’t be afraid to ask for help Bethesda, hiring a writer or four is money better spent than on adapting SpeedTree, Havok, and Radiant AI to Fallout.
15. Don’t stomp on the canon. I’m not a huge fan of adhering completely to the established and I love brave new ideas, providing that they are well done, but stomping on the canon a la Tactics or PoS isn’t going to help much. You’ve got the rights to later games. At least keep Fallout 3 true to Fallout lore. Then you can go a little crazy if you want.
16. Fight the ESRB and Jack Thompson. Keep Fallout gritty. Don’t encourage stuff like child-killing, but keep it an option. Don’t remove things like “escorts”, drug-addiction, and bloody murder; they are an integral part of Fallout. Though I don’t think we really need the ability to star in a porno-flick or such. Keep it gritty, but you don’t need to go over the top.
17. Meaningful quests, not just Fed-Ex quests and “go here; kill this” stuff. Make some interesting stuff that makes sense and has some good motivation behind them.
18. Many varied options in quests with interesting outcomes for each. Make use of skills and such in dialogues. Maybe even draw on past experiences ingame to solve new problems a la Planescape: Torment.
19. Choices galore. Make them meaningful and plentiful. Don’t railroad players. Heck, allow the players to join the “enemy” if they want. Choices are freedom, not vast empty space.
20. The second part of the mantra, consequences for you actions. If you join a slaving group, people shouldn’t like you. Join a faction, you better not be able to join the opposing ones. You kill a lot, you get bounty hunters on you. Make doors open and get shut when you do things; don’t make this a “one character can do everything” game a la Oblivion.
21. Build upon things that are deemed broken and fix them, don’t just throw it out. Spears, enchanting, levitation, climbing, language skills, and crossbows/throwing weapons ring a bell? Don’t make the same mistake.
22. Don’t “dumb down” the game. Make it as complicated as you see fit. If the average fellow might have difficulty with it at first, oh well, they’ll get it, or it’s not their type of game then. I’m sure everybody who plays videogames and is the proper age for Fallout can understand it after a few minutes or hours. Don’t cave in to the type of people who didn’t understand why their weapons wouldn’t hit (even though the manual clearly explained) or couldn’t find a Mister Cosades.
23. No clear good or evil nonsense. This is a wasteland, not Mystical Fairy Elf-Land. Some people might be jerks, but they should have reasons. And charitable people as well. Look to Planescape, mayhap, and the original Fallout for some inspiration, especially the Master himself.
24. Make the game on vanilla difficulty have a little challenge. If I run into a bunch of ex-Enclave troopers at low to mid level and decide to challenge them, I should have a heck of a fight on my hands, and a heck of a reward on my hands if I can scrape together a victory through some miracles….AKA groin criticals.
25. Know that the Fallout setting/atmosphere and gameplay together made the game. With only one, there cannot be a proper Fallout sequel. Both are necessary. You need the choices, consequences, character skill importance, and such as much as the grit, bloody mess, and witty charm. Don’t ax one or both of these.
26. Make things unique, not cliche or asinine. Anthropomorphic mutant animals aren’t cool or original. We don’t need furry fan service. This is Fallout.
27. Don’t use a construction set as an excuse to release a terrible game a la Neverwinter Nights. A good game is worth far more than a silly construction set that forces the players to make their own stuff because a terrible game got made. Bugs can be fixed, but crappy writing and design is forever (familiar to anyone?).
28. Choices and consequences. They aren’t the unofficial Codex mantra for nothing. And they are important enough to warrant a second placing.
29. Fallout was a PC series first and foremost. Make it for the PC as such. Don’t sacrifice things because consoles or console gamers might not be able to handle them. I personally won’t be able to play it on the PC due to financial restrictions, but I would rather have to wait a year or two to play a fantastic game, than get a crappy game immediately.
30. The Fallout fanbase can be your best friends or your worst enemies. You’ve seen how vigorously we have debated right here, heck we’re quite notorious on the vast interweb for being spirited. But one thing we most definitely do is give loads of praise to things that deserve it, like Fallout. If Bethesda makes a worthy game, we will spread the word with a fervor no advertising campaign could try to match. But if Bethesda makes Oblivion with Guns…..just look at what happened to PoS. We’re willing to support you Bethesda….if you support us.