Hines and Trade Shows

Fallout fans at PAX2008/Photo Zacbond

Fallout fans at PAX2008/Photo Zacbond

Talking to Videogaming247:

Bethesda’s Peter Hines has admitted that showing RPGs like Fallout 3 at tradeshows like E3 and Games Convention can be a frustrating business.

“Sometimes, yeah,” he told VG247, when asked if showing such a large game to people in such a short space of time was problematic.[…]

Fallout 3 did come under some fire after E3, where journalists were allowed to play the game for 30 minutes.

“You play the game and you see what you think,” Hines said previously on the matter.

“At E3 we let people play the game for a half hour, and if in a half hour you can make up your mind one way or the other, OK. I don’t really get into judging the rightness or wrongness of it. I just give people a chance to play it and they draw their own conclusions.”

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Pete Hines Shrugs Negativity

screenshot Tanhauser/NMA

screenshot Tanhauser/NMA

Speaking to Videogaming247 Hines shrugged of a few post E3 negative comments:

“Everybody has their reasons why they do or don’t like something, so it’s not really for me to say, ‘That’s a good reason not to like it,’ or, ‘That’s not a good reason not to like it,’” said Hines when asked if some negativity surrounding the game after the show surprised him.

“You play the game and you see what you think. At E3 we let people play the game for a half hour, and if in a half hour you can make up your mind one way or the other, OK. I don’t really get into judging the rightness or wrongness of it. I just give people a chance to play it and they draw their own conclusions.”

Best PS3 G 2 PSU

Fallout 3 won the Best PS3 Game award at PSU:

Edging out some very stiff competition (seriously, we debated this one for hours on end), Bethesda’s Fallout 3 nabs our crown for Best PS3 game of E3 2008. Featuring some of the most intricately designed visuals we’ve seen to date, this post-apocalyptic epic not only looks the business, but offers an incredibly vast, captivating gameplay experience explored through its bleak, open-ended wastelands of North America. With an intuitive combat system, dozens of classes to master, not to mention the inclusion of two viewpoints and gameplay styles to suit your own personal preference, Fallout 3 is the one game to watch out for when it finally hits stores, appropriately enough, this fall.

It seems that was a rather controversial decision, just read the comments on that page. Spotted on the BGFO3 Forum.

The Escapist Zero Punctuation : The E3 Trailer Park

In the middle of the video Yahtzee talks a bit about Fallout 3 and Bethesda games. A bit NSFW though. I giggled.

Ricardo “socrates200x” Gonzalez shares his views about the video:

I don’t know. I mean, V.A.T.S. did get knocked down from “groovy pants” to “pants”, which I guess is better than “no pants at all”. I have to reserve judgment on his judgment until I get some clarification on the extents of this pants continuum.

Pete Hines On Making Babies

Jonathan Zungre from Ripten.

Jonathan Zungre from Ripten.

A large interview with Pete Hines showed up at Ripten:

Zungre: Well, one thing I noticed when we saw the trailer, which was amazing by the way, hilarious…

Pete Hines: Thanks.

Zungre: …was what the announcer said when he was talking to little Sally. “Hey little Sally, you can find that special someone in the vault” and repopulate the earth and it shows the babies popping out. And she’s all unsettled. But does that play a part in the game? What’s the sexual tone of the game?

Pete Hines: It’s pretty mild, we don’t go overboard. We focused more on the violence and the struggle to survive in this world, as opposed to people trying to make a living as porn stars or whatever. It’s 200 years after the war and the world is not doing well. Humanity is not making a comeback, they’re barely hanging on. So it’s more about survival, as opposed to whackity-schmackity jokey stuff.

Zungre: Okay, so you’re not going overboard with the satirical.

Pete Hines: No that was really more designed to be like, you’re watching it as if it was made pre-war. They make a commercial where they don’t even know, they don’t even realize that that’s not appropriate and the dad and the daughter, you know, exchanging that really uncomfortable glance, as Dad’s thinking about his little girl and her repopulating the planet.

Zungre: Did you have a hand in creating that trailer?

Peter Hines: I did actually. I had this idea and I was talking with Todd and Emil Pagliarulo, who is our lead designer, in his office and I was like, “I want to do our trailer and I want to do a live action thing.” And I talked to the ad firm and they were like, “we love that idea, can you write it up?”

Zungre: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Peter Hines: So I wrote up the whole thing for it and they went and said, “uh, what you proposed would be awesome and it’d cost a bazillion dollars.”

Zungre: (laughs).

Ok then. Curiously there’s a picture of Pete with Brother None from GameBanshee and NMA in there.

No Cryolator, A Few Misses At MTV Multiplayer

Behemoth

Behemoth

More Fallout 3 talk at MTV Multiplayer blog:

Howard dropped some other bits of info for me. I asked him about novel weapons and the obligatory tactical clichés like melee and range weapons. He mentioned that they removed one tried-and-true video game offensive technique: freezing. It didn’t play very well. We talked about the game’s 500-something endings and he confirmed that they are generated by the game, which assembles a quick sequence of scenes that correspond to a handful of key choices players will be forced to make along the way. We talked about music and he regaled me with examples of licensed 40s music that sounds amazing, like a sad-sounding song called “Happy Time” sung by Bing Crosby’s brother Bob. Said Howard: “He kind of sound like his brother but there’s some remorse — I hear that in him.” Gamers can also anticipate listening to singer Roy Brown’s “Butcher Pete” which is about a serial killer but is also a euphemism for sex and is, according to Howard, “really fast, peppy song and the refrain is: He’s chopping up all the women’s meat.”

The last thing I wanted to ask Howard about before wrapping up the interview was the name of the game’s first town, Megaton. It can be blown up. It’s the result of a bombing. Surely the town’s name is related to all that. But if “Fallout 3″ isn’t secretly political, could we at least assume that the town’s name is secretly a reference to the gaming message-board meme about “Megatons,” which are over-hyped announcements? Nope, Howard told me.

Clearly I kept seeing things in “Fallout 3″ that weren’t there.

If you read the article you’ll agree with that last sentence. Thanks Incognito.

E3 Hands On At TGR

Post Apoc town

Capitol City

Fallout 3 preview at The Games Reviews:

Perhaps the only thing better than actually playing Fallout 3 was watching everyone else do it. Looking at the ten or so consoles around the room, I was struck by how no two people were doing the same thing. One soul had headed straight for Megaton, found out some more of his character’s backstory, and immediately set off for the next objective. Another player was simply wandering the world blasting raiders and looking for loot. Still another soul had wandered to Megaton, shot the sheriff, and was now being pursued by an angry mob of citizens who were demanding his head. Hines took a particular joy watching this poor chap as he was chased across the map by gun toting and bottle wielding townsfolk. I suppose even in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, some people just don’t take kindly to folks who shoot the only existing authority figure in cold blood. Also, since the sheriff was a figure important to the story, Hines hinted that now the poor soul who slaughtered him would have to work that much harder to get the missions necessary to advance the plot.

Still, with a game this massive, engrossing, and fun, who needs objectives? You could just wander the wastelands, Dogmeat by my side, snapping pretend pictures of former DC landmarks. We can see the postcards now, “Greetings from the smoking hole that used to be the White House!”

And Yet More Awards

Jeff Green

Jeff Green

Fallout 3 won the GameDaily’s Best of E3 award:

Going into E3, this was one of our most anticipated games of 2008. Leaving E3, it’s now at the top of the list. Fallout 3 is in the very capable hands of Bethesda Softworks, the team behind The Elder Scrolls series, and the ways the developers have evolved the Oblivion engine and mechanics are nothing short of spectacular. From the gorgeous environments and countless side missions to the deep character customization, Fallout 3 looks to build on everything you loved about Oblivion and take the experience to the next sci-fi level.[…]

* Pros:
o No other game combines this level of RPG depth with an engine this refined or gameplay this diverse
o The attention to immersive environmental detail that gamers loved about BioShock is cranked to 11

* Cons:
o 30 minutes is far too short a time to truly grasp a game this deep, even if it did whet our appetites in a big way
o Will the game rely too heavily on turn-based targeting, or can Bethesda balance the more action-oriented “run and gun” gameplay to make that option more feasible?

The game also won the Best RPG at E3 award at 1Up:

Fallout 3 grabbed our attention immediately with its breathtaking vista across a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. It won us over when we picked up the controls and found we could choose at will between run-and-gun, and carefully planned tactical combat, yet neither felt unbalanced. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder after all.

Also at 1Up Jeff Green placed the game in his list of best games at E3:

There’s not a lot I can add to the boatloads of coverage this game has been getting, other than to say that my gameplay experience put my mind somewhat at rest as to how the turn-based combat was going to play out in this game. Before this, I appreciated, in theory, the ambition that Bethesda had to translate Fallout 1 and 2’s combat system to a first-person, real-time game, but I couldn’t imagine how they’d do it.

But my play time confirmed that they are approximating it quite well indeed (or at least as well as ½ an hour can do)…and I suspect that those who think they’re going to run-and-gun through this game will think twice once they get their hands on it too. Oh, and the game is looking great. Complain however much you want about anything else—but Bethesda’s art team has got the look of this game down cold.

Another Half An Hour With Fallout 3

Before the alarming E3: Why Fallout 3 could be a nightmare for fans of Fallout 1 & 2GamersGlobal brought us their Half an hour with Fallout 3:

In the RPGs Fallout and Fallout 2 as in the tactic game Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, you had a certain amount of Action Points (AP) which you expended to move or fire a weapon. Spending more APs in a turn for aiming let you chose a body part to shoot at — which always decreased the to-hit-chance but dealt special damage to the opponent, with successful head-shots dealing massive damage and stunning the enemy, sometimes killing him instantly (exploding head). But in the current version of the Action-RPG Fallout 3 is, V.A.T.S. rather feels like a cheat mode. There are three reasons for this: First, you can queue up several shots, with big body parts costing less APs than, let’s say, the head. But we always could queue up at least two shots, and mostly three, thereby doubling or tripling our to-hit chance. Second, regardless of what body part you hit in V.A.T.S. mode, the opponent will die. We killed a Super Mutant by shooting his leg with a pistol. Third, the APs regenerate far too quickly, we never activated the V.A.T.S. mode in our half-hour of play without being able to use it. So instead of using this mode a couple of times each hour like you would a high-level spell in Oblivion, we were basically using it for every single fight, making things too easy for our liking (playing on “normal” mode). Apart from using basic shooter skills like dodging, taking cover and not running into a group of superior opponents, we couldn’t find any tactics involved. As long as you don’t consider picking the body part with the highest to-hit probability as tactics.[…]

So from this experience, from our talking to Pete Hines and from everything else we’ve learned so far about Fallout 3, we’d say that if you look for a return to the world of Fallout, or if you’d like to play an Action-RPG not closely resembling, but still similar to Oblivion (with another setting, of course), Fallout 3 is one of the games to watch for you this Fall. We think the wit, the cynicism, the fun will be there, again. But Bethesda will have to tweak the V.A.T.S. system to make it less powerful, or its “reload time” longer — otherwise, experienced gamers will feel like cheating most of the time.

If, on the other hand, you played Interplay’s predecessor RPGs mainly because you liked the turn-based, tactical fighting, you’ll definitely be disappointed. Because there’s a lot of fighting, but much less tactics than in various tactical shooters…

Fallout 3: E3 Awards and Opinions

IGN gave Fallout 3 his Best of E3 Award:

While I knew that Bethesda could deliver in terms of story and convincing world creation, the big unknown for me has always been the actual gameplay. Fortunately, I got to play through a good bit of the game at the show and I was really impressed with the overall feel of the game. I was particularly happy to see how well the turn-based VATS combat worked. I was worried that the pause and play nature of the system would interrupt the flow of the game, but it really only served to make the game feel more tactical and heighten its cinematic appeal.

— Steve Butts, Executive Editor, IGN PC Team

It’s either pause and play or TB, Steve. You can’t have it both ways. And it’s actually “a glorified aimed-shot mode”.

Fallout 3 continues to impress with an engrossing story, great visuals, and a compelling mix of gameplay styles. It is predominantly a Western role-playing game similar to Oblivion (with guns). But you could choose to play it like a run-and-gun first-person shooter, if that’s more your style. V.A.T.S., the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, adds turn-based strategy elements. However you slice it, Fallout 3 looks like it will deliver one of the largest adventures in gaming this year. The post-apocalyptic world Bethesda has created is an intriguing dystopia we can’t wait to explore. There were several standout games at this year’s show. But none of them seem to offer the freedom and unique vision of Fallout 3.

— Daemon Hatfield, Associate Editor, IGN Nintendo Team

Nintendo? Anyway that Oblivion with Guns talk isn’t good news, but for Bethsoft the fact that they also won Best RPG, Best XBox Game and Best PS3 game and a few other runner up citations is good news.

Still at E3 the Bethblog brings us some other awards:

In other online coverage, Fallout 3 has pulled down a few more E3 awards. Here’s a rundown:

  • GameSpy honored Fallout 3 as the Xbox 360 and PS3 Game of Show. The game was also was named the Game of Show Overall Runner-Up.
  • GamePro has their awards up, where they awarded the game with a E3 2008 Silver Award.
  • Planet Xbox 360 awarded the game their Best of Show honor.
  • GameDaily listed the game among their Best of Xbox 360 here.
  • At Gamezone, there’s a Top Ten Games of E3 list where Fallout 3 makes the list at the #2 spot.
  • Scrawlfx declares Fallout 3 their Game of Show.

Also Fallout 3 is referred in this article about the problems of the event itself at Gamezone:

There was no enthusiasm, no energy that should be associated with the vibrant industry that brings imagination to life. This year’s show was dull to the point of boring. Yes, there were still good games to see, but altering the format, visiting their studios on media tours would have accomplished the same thing, only with deeper experiences with the games. The studio visits are more advantageous because instead of getting 25-30 minutes with a superb title like Fallout 3 in the Bethesda booth, a visit to the studios would likely mean more hands-on time, access to developers … in short, the kind of visit that means robust coverage, giving players and consumers not only a sense of the game itself, but also allowing for interview time with key developers.

All through E3 was happening I was at the beach relaxing. I’m still trying to catch up on things.

More E3 For All Tastes

NMA has a list of more Fallout 3 previews from E3, this time from Gamervision, Dose.ca, Gamer 2.0 and Totally Rad Show. It also brings news of GamingTrend getting back to Fallout 3:

* The animation system in Fallout 3 is obviously improved over Oblivion, but occasionally it seemed stilted and somewhat unnatural. Is there enough time to polish this rough edge?
* Brown is the new black. With the landscape being a desolate wasteland, how much brown, rusted brown, copper-tinted brown, and dusty brown can one person take? With only 30 minutes of gameplay, many areas already felt similar.
* A great deal of work has been put into the Gamebryo engine – the game looks beautiful and incredibly detailed, even beyond that of Oblivion. The weapons look authentic and antiqued, often held together by bandages, tape, or just beaten down like the landscape. Tires, trash, and various other debris dot the landscape. A light wind stirred the hot dust, giving a bit of life to the scene.
* You could spend a lifetime just scavenging in this game. I found items in cupboards, trash cans, on dead bodies, lying on the floor, in mailboxes, and everywhere in between.
* The control mechanics map perfectly to a controller. I didn’t feel constrained in any way by the 360 interface.
* The drive to see more is very much present. Time flew by and all I wanted to do was skip the rest of E3 and play the rest of this game. The world is compelling, and I want to see how well the Fallout world is conveyed by this new team.

In other news GamePro gave the Fallout 3 E3 Trailer the number 11 in the list of the best at E3. Also French GamePro.fr has a diferent take on what they saw:

Our Vault Dweller does not run, he walks as stiff as a piece of wood. A rigid animation which caracterizes a game which, technically, appeared as rather deceiving. The level of details of the textures clearly reminded us of Oblivion, a trip into the past since much better looking things have been released since. Impossible also not to think of the deception the Fallout fans will feel when they get out of the Vault. They, who will discover a game the general appearance of which has nothing in common with the first two episodes and who will have to adhere to this new vision of the nuclear apocalypse which has more to do with a hesitating cybernetism à la Mad Max. They also who won’t be able to ignore so much aliasing and these low res textures. However, even though Fallout 3 looks rather ugly, you only have to get away from the screen a little bit to seize this impression of greatness and this isolated look on the desolated world which surrounds you. Deception then is partially replaced by a sense of ambition. And what if Fallout 3 under its maybe deceiving appearance really offered the great, totally free, incredibly immersive and open adventure it has always promised ?

Translation by MrBumble at NMA.

Fallout 3: The Mother Of All Interviews

Very interesting and detailed interview with Todd Howard and Emil Pagliarulo at GamesRadar/PCGamer, it’s filled with spoilers though:

PCG: Do you have a rule for a bare-minimum number of ways to solve a quest?
Todd: No, we just do whatever comes naturally. We made a list initially showing the paths, so that we weren’t doing an overabundance of stealth paths versus other skills so that there was a good matrix, but if something fit in one we did it, and if it didn’t fit…
Emil: But as the game grew, just like we ended up making the game bigger, putting more stuff in, I think the quests themselves started to expand. We realized during playthroughs, you know what, there’s no talking path through this quest, or there’s no stealth path, so we went back and added that in. There are fewer quests and fewer NPCs, but probably just as much dialogue as Oblivion, just in all the variations.
Todd: It’s like when you were doing the bomb quest, and you were asking “Can I do this this way?” And so through testing we asked the same things, like “What if I kill Lucas Sims?” And ok, you have to go to the son. That kind of stuff.
Emil: We wanted to cover as many of those bases as we could.

PCG: So you tried to make it so that even if you take a few people out of the equation, the quest is still solvable?
Todd: As much as possible. It’s not always the case. You might kill someone and it will tell you “You can’t finish this quest anymore, this person has died.” Pretty much 99.9 percent of people in the game can be killed.
Emil: Yeah, even the quest-givers. They give you a quest, you blow their head off, that’s your decision. It’s simply more fun for the player where you might close off branches of the quest, but other branches are still open.
Todd: And the other answer to that question is that we don’t want players to have the expectation that they’ll be able to do every quest any style. Pretty much, Super-Duper Mart, there’s no way to talk your way through that. We get the question a lot, “Is there a non-violent path through the whole game?” No. I mean, you might be able to, I guess, but it’s not a goal.
Emil: I guess technically, because there’s a Stealth Boy, and because there’s a Protectron [security robot] in the back room of that Super-Duper Mart, if you could sneak in there and hack that computer, you could activate that Protectron, he’ll go and he’ll kick the s*** out of all of those raiders.
Todd: There are probably too many for him to kill every single one of them.
Emil: But enough to whittle them down so that science-boy could definitely get through there.

Another must read piece by Dan Stapleton.

More Fallout 3 At E3

Some more previews, most of them spotted at NMA:

Tom’s Games:

If you don’t have enough Action Points to attack using VATS you can still fight as if it were a standard first or third-person shooter. After a couple VATS fights with wild dogs we tried approaching it as a straight-forward shooter and found that it was faster and easier to take out the enemies that way.

So why use VATS when you can just run-and-gun your way through? As Executive Producer Todd Howard told us VATS ensures more critical hits and allows some strategic choices like deciding whether to destroy an enemy’s leg to hinder movement or their arm to make them drop their weapon. Frankly the low-level monsters we were fighting – wild dogs and fire ant warriors – didn’t pose a big enough threat or much opportunity to engage in strategy.

I loved Fallout 2 as much as the next PC gamer but some of the early fights, like when you’re beating rats to death with a stick, get a tad tedious using turn-based combat. Tedious? Actually I found them to be soul-destroyingly boring. Thankfully, this won’t be a problem with Fallout 3.

GameShark:

While we’d like to see the accuracy of real-time fire increased a bit, it’s clear that the reduced precision comes as a way of balancing use of V.A.T.S. Still, combat is full of visceral thrills. One particularly cool scene during our time with the game took place when blasting a raider at point blank range, first with a pistol and then with a baseball bat. The action slows down and shows you’re kill shot in all of its bloody glory. This is without a doubt an eye popping game and is certainly M rated. The combat looks wonderfully brutal.

Fallout 3 distinguishes itself with this inventive combat system and we’re pleasantly surprised at how well it works. Longtime adherents to the franchise shouldn’t worry that their beloved universe has been torn to shreds in some shooter, as Bethesda looks to succeed in revitalizing it with a sequel that retains the spirit of the series while introducing interesting new element. The game should be ready to roll this fall.

GamingShogun:

I was one of the purists who believed that a Fallout FPS would not be nearly as effective as the isometric games we are used to. Well, I am man enough to admit when I am wrong and I tell you now: I was wrong. During that half hour, not only did the first or third-person perspective increase immersion into the Fallout universe, it also gave the new combat system a much more approachable interface.

GayGamer:

Fruit Brute and I got a few tightly-scheduled moments with Fallout 3 last week, and the experience managed to be all I’d hoped and familiar at the same time. What’s familiar is the lore and world of Fallout, which Bethesda has managed to reproduce and elaborate upon in a way that only a company that focuses on complete world building can do. Fallout purists may still resent Bethesda’s position, but as a die-hard Fallout fan myself, I was more than satisfied.

What’s also familiar is the control scheme and general gameplay environment – if you’ve played Oblivion, you’ll find a lot of familiar elements here. That’s no surprise, of course, as we’ve known this would be both a Fallout game and a Bethesda game, but the menu system, camera, and basic control layout are all more or less the same.

PS3 Fanboy:

This will all be familiar to Fallout fans, but seeing this combat system integrated so well into a next-gen 3D game has us very excited. We came away from the game thinking that Bethesda was the perfect choice for the game. They know how to make incredible, living worlds on a huge scale and clearly know and understand the Fallout franchise inside out.

As you play Fallout 3 you’ll constantly be reminded of Oblivion, but you’ll also be experiencing something unique and new. For fans of the series, this will be set in a universe you know and love. We’re very interested in seeing more of this title — particularly the narrative and character development. The thirty minutes of hands-on we had went by far too quickly.