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.

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Checklist of Trust

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PcZone Will Porter

Since a while the complaints about the excessive laudatory tone and lack of knowledge about the Fallout world of gaming reporters have been piling up on the Bethesda Games Fallout 3 forum. Now for those Fallout fans Bethsoft Community manager Matt “Gstaff” Grandstaff has some surprising (and quite sound) advice:

I guess I don’t have the checklist of who you trust and who don’t trust. From what I’ve seen, there have been previews written for Fallout 3 from journalists that have never played a Fallout game before (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that…it gives a different perspective), but I also know that self-proclaimed Fallout fans, like Desslock from PC Gamer and Will Porter from CVG, have had favorable things to say about the game. For Fallout fans, it certainly makes sense for these previews, as well as what Brother None and SuAside said in their previews, to carry more weight than some of the other previews out there — since it’s coming from folks that love Fallout.

You might also check out the “Tale of Two Cities” feature on NMA, where Brother None and Desslock share differing opinions regarding Fallout 3 — having both seen the game.

I hope that helps.

Sure does. A bit surprising, still some good advice.

Fallout 3: a Tale of Two Cities

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Brother None at NMA writes:

After NMA’s Fallout 3 preview, I cast about for comments from some of the media people I’ve know as Fallout fans for year (the type Desslock or Will Porter) to get some feedback on our opinions and assumptions.

Desslock eventually replied, and we got into a debate about some of the key issues surrounding our difference of opinion of this game. With Desslock’s permission, I’ve merged these e-mails into one A Tale of Two Cities article. If you’re interested in hearing some different views on the topic of Fallout 3 be sure to read it.

Some highlights:

Brother None: It’s not “the only thing” they have in common, it’s exactly the same mechanic. Ignoring the fact that BioWare’s system is just an example (I think you got bogged down on that), the point is that this is just another predictable, uninnovative RTwP system.

Desslock: I disagree – that’s like saying Fallout 1’s combat is identical to the combat in the Final Fantasy series because they both feature turn-based combat. You’re culling out details that make the systems distinct, and in Fallout 3’s case, original. Again, there’s never been an RPG that featured combat similar to Fallout 3’s, so by definition, it’s innovative.

Brother None: I think we’re asking the wrong question, tho’. Try to make a list of how two combat systems are identical and you’ll always end up with a big wad of differences, does that mean every combat system is innovative? I think the key question is (considering the above) what exactly is so innovative about this combat system? A different angle; not what are they doing that’s exactly the same, but what are they doing that’s significantly
different?

Desslock: The combination of features: real-time/stats-based (as opposed to twitch-based) combat which can be stopped in order to initiate targeted shots using action points. Sure, at some level you can point to aspects that you feel are derived from other games, but the overall package is not just “different”, it feels original.
Anyway, I think this argument is distracting from the more substantive issues of (a) whether this combat system actually works well in practice, and I think we both agree that we have reservations/questions that need to be addressed as more details are revealed by Bethesda; and (b) whether it feels like Fallout 1/2, and I think we both agree that it’s definitely different, so fans hoping for something closer to the turn-based combat of the original games are likely disappointed, while gamers who thought it would be just like Oblivion’s combat are probably pleased that it’s something different – it’s an original, hybrid combat system, which I think looks promising, although I have reservations.
Hell, Bethesda could unveil the melee combat and it’ll have “super-smash; spinning lightning attacks”, in which case I’ll agree with your “supermoves” description, and be disappointed by Bethesda’s design decision. But for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the combat system.

Jay “RadHamster” Woodward from Bethsoft also disagrees that VATS is a simple Real Time with Pause combat mode:

Any combat system that can correctly be summarized as “real time with pause” must have two fundamental characteristics:

One is that you pause combat to set up actions for your character to take. That’d be the “pause” part.

The other is what happens when you unpause.

What do you think? And remember to check the rest of the discussion, there’s a lot more in there.

Before Fallout 3 there was a One and a Two

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From NMA:

10 years ago:

Project Update: We are working on a patch for some of the various bugs, and we are building and testing the localized versions for Australia and the UK. The translated language versions are waiting on translations back from the translators (German, French and Spanish). The FAQ page has been updated, please let us know any comments. — 16 Oct 1997 @ 1545 PST

That’s…not really a meaningful day at all, but still it looks to be the day we’re closing our anniversary celebrations with a second gift from Desslock. This time, it’s a post-release interview he did for his site with Fallout 2 lead designer and producer Feargus Urquhart. A bit:

Desslock: What’s next for the Fallout series, assuming the game is at least as successful as the original game? Don’t worry, we won’t hold you to anything <grin>

Feargus Urquhart: We are kicking around ideas for Fallout 3. Nothing official yet, but we are thinking of making it using a 3D engine. I don’t want people to panic here, because it is not going to be a 1st person shooter. We are just going to use the 3D engine to display an isometric world in 3D. So people will still play the game much the same way as they are doing now in Fallout 1 and 2.

You can read the rest here, I’m really going to miss NMA’s Fallout 10th Anniversary celebrations.

Still if you are a Fallout fan that wants some more Fallout goodness you can always play Fallout 2 again, now with Killap’s Unofficial Fallout 2 patch:

This patch has been in production for several years now and it fixes well over 800+ bugs left in the game since the official 1.02 patch. I suggest using this installer version as opposed to the manual one since the installer will do everything automatically for you. If you want to do things manually though, go ahead and grab the manual rar version. I hope you enjoy the best Fallout 2 experience yet!

Link: download Killap’s Unofficial Fallout 2 Patch (US/UK – installer).
Link: download Killap’s Unofficial Fallout 2 Patch (US/UK – manual install)

Link: download Killap’s Unofficial Fallout 2 Patch (Mac Version)

Back to the Future

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From No Mutants Allowed:

Well isn’t this funny? Unexpectedly, the material keeps on coming. Desslock, the well-known RPG guru who used to run his own RPG news site on GameSpot and now has his RPG columns on PC Gamer, once interviewed Tim Cain in 1997, prior to the release of Fallout. And today Desslock was kind enough to provide this interview to NMA.

Great find, kudos to Desslock, it will be interesting to compare this to a Todd Howard interview made after the release of Fallout 3. Some highlights:

Desslock: Fallout’s detailed tactical combat, complete with critical hits, the ability to aim at specific locations on your target, etc. has been enthusiastically received by role-playing gamers who have previewed the Fallout demo. Do you anticipate that the combat system will be substantially similar to the one previewed in the Fallout demo?

Tim Cain: Yes, we’ve primarily just been tinkering with combat balance and AI. We have added the ability to speed up NPC turns, so you don’t have to wait as long for them to take their turns. The biggest change from the demo is the addition of critical hits and misses. These are specific to the critter you are attacking and the weapon you are using, and combat becomes even more strategic when you are trying to decide whether or not to shoot with a 20% to-hit number, since the chance of critical failure is proportional to the chance of missing. On the plus side, called shots have a better chance of scoring a critical hit (making groin shots even better), but since they are tougher shots, you may critically miss more too. It’s all a balance thing.[…]

Desslock: The graphics in Fallout look fantastic so far, and have a lot of gamers excited about playing a real, live role-playing game which looks so gooood. Great work, by the way. What resolutions and color depths do you intend to support in Fallout? Do you anticipate including any special graphical features, such as dynamic lighting, etc.?

Tim Cain: Fallout is a 640×480 256-color product. We do make use of dynamic lighting and special effects such as translucency (we have a Stealth Boy device that can turn you nearly invisible) and some gorgeous color-cycled animations (one of our artists managed to make the ocean waves lap at the shore when you go to the beach).[…]

Desslock: What are two features (perhaps among many) which you believe set Fallout apart from other role-playing games?

Tim Cain: First, different characters really are different. If you make a stupid character, he will have different responses to NPCs dialog, and therefore the game will take a different spin as certain adventure seeds are denied you. Similarly, starting with low combat skills could easily get you killed in the first adventure seed that is offered, since it involves big, dangerous monsters. Likewise, take a high Luck and you may find things in the wasteland that others cannot…

Second, how you behave in the game really matters. Be a jerk, and people won’t barter with you. Save a town and become a hero in their eyes. Join the bad guys and see a different endgame (not necessarily a lose game sequence either). In other words, this is a true role-playing game, and you are responsible for your own actions.

I love the NMA presents: Fallout’s 10th anniversary feature.

Picture from DuckandCover.

Isn’t in the crater

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There are a few places where questions about Megatron have been asked, after reports like this one, from the NMA Fallout 3 demo review:

“Megaton was built in the crater of an unexploded nuclear bomb” raises the question of how an unexploded bomb would leave a crater.

Now PCGamer Desslock explains what’s up with that:

It doesn’t. The town was created around the impact crater of an unexploded bomb (which is in the center of the town) – the town isn’t IN the crater.

This game is too far away if this is all there is to talk about.

I don’t understand why Bethesda doesn’t send some notes explaining these small issues, it would really help.