Emil Thinks We’re All Crack Addicts

Bigguns is looking for the groin shot.

Bigguns is looking for the groin shot.

Emil made an appearance at the BGS forums to defend his baby.  Some interesting comments in there about the inspiration for V.A.T.S. and the implementation.  Here’s one quote that tickled my funny bone:

It certainly wasn’t the case that we came up with a concept, put it into the game, and said, “There it is! It’s perfect” The road from paper design to implementation was loooonngg…. So regardless of what the paper design was, for us, that’s always just the beginning. The one thing you have to realize is that anything can look good on paper. Anything. In a written doc, you can justify your arguments, tighten any logic errors, dot your i’s and cross your t’s… but if you get it into the game, and it sucks (and it often does!) you have to change it. Most of the “bad’ games I’ve played are bad not because they’ve been crappy ideas, but because they haven’t been properly executed. It’s as if the developers were so blinded by the the awesomeness of their ideas on paper, they couldn’t accept that those same ideas just did not translate into fun gameplay. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and every developer has at one point or another, myself included.

Laughing with me yet?  Maybe sometime soon.  He also goes on to say that V.A.T.S. will please everyone, really!

We designed the combat balance with V.A.T.S. use in mind. Trust me, those who say they won’t use it will. If there’s one thing we learned throughout development it’s that people use V.A.T.S. It just feels natural, and the camera playbacks are a kind of visual crack. So V.A.T.S. is one part tactical, one part pure visceral entertainment. Chances are at least one of those elements will appeal to you, and you’ll end up using V.A.T.S.

And of course, later in the conversation, the sore subject of groin shots reared its ugly head.

Quick answers — no groin shots because it took long enough for us to get the other body parts balanced. And we were afraid the groin shots would instantly change the tone to “goofy” — so they didn’t make the cut.

Yes, it seems groin shots were the tipping point on the goof-o-meter.  Truly a fine line between the comedic and the dramatic that the designers had to walk.  Steel be with them in that endeavor.

Chime in over here.

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X-Play Fallout 3 Special

If you’re like me, you probably can’t even find G4TV on your television dial and luckily for us the good people at G4 know this.  They’ve posted up their Fallout 3 X-Play special on the internets for all to see.  Included is some great footage of Rivet City and commentary from Todd, Pete, Istvan and my personal favorite Emil (do moar interviews, plz).

When Emil Speaks An Angel Gets Some Wings and a Beard

Emil Pagliarulo

Emil Pagliarulo

And Emil Pagliarulo decided to reply to an impromptu interview on the Bethesda Games Fallout 3 forum:

Can you target cars in VATS to explode?

Emil: No, you can’t. We actually experimented with that for a while, but found that the “battlefield” got so littered with “explodable” objects that you ended up having too many targets to cycle through, or the the camera would autozoom onto a car instead of the target you wanted, etc. So, like a lot of things, we started off that way, played the game and realized it didn’t work, and changed it.

Does stealing cost less -karma then murder?

Emil: Yes, definitely. I find that’s how I maintain my “Neutral” karma level with my current character (crazy Raider-looking girl named Fahrenheit) — I’ll generally be nice to people (which earns good karma), and then rip them off blind (which earns bad karma). If I were to go around murdering people, I’d jump pretty quickly down to “Evil.”

Can an evil character make a redeeming decision and become good and vice versa? (and it makes sense)

Emil:Yes! That became one of our big goals, actually — redemption. There are ways a completely good character can turn evil, but that’s easy — just go on a killing spree. But there are also ways for a completely evil character to turn good. You can complete quests in an obviously “good” way, donate money to a church, give purified water to a better, etc. etc. So yeah, we definitely support that.

I had one character who was totally evil. I blew up Megaton, went on a killing spree… and then Dogmeat taught me how to love. Role-playing FTW!

Every time Emil speaks on the forum there is much rejoicing in the Elves community and the Brotherhood groupies. Ausir isn’t very pleased with the last answer though. Thanks Incognito for the heads up.

Four Emilic Pages At Gamasutra

Howard and Pagliarulo/Image Game Golem

Gamasutra brings us four pages of chit chat with Emil Pagliarulo:

In development for four years and subject to the vocal scrutiny of longtime series fans all along the way, Fallout 3 must both live up to Black Isle’s classic 1997 PC RPG Fallout as well as differentiate it from Bethesda’s own classic PC RPG setting, The Elder Scrolls.

The closest area of scrutiny for those expectations is likely the game’s prose, and so for the first time in the studio’s history, it assigned the title of lead writer — a duty Pagliarulo considers parallel to his role as lead designer.

During the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Pagliarulo sat down with Gamasutra to discuss Fallout 3‘s lengthy development process, which will culminate in an October 28 release for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3; his challenges in finding the right tone for the game; his thoughts on video game writing; and how his early days at now-defunct Looking Glass Studios were “like a crash course in good game design.”

Spotted at NMA. It’s a bit long but got me interested until the end.

Joystiq Fallout 3 Special

Fallout 3 booth at PAX/Picture Joystiq

Fallout 3 booth at PAX/Picture Joystiq

Joystiq also played Fallout 3 at PAX, and has an interesting piece to prove it. Here’s a snippet from some quick notes at the end:

  • On the topic of sex. “We haven’t pushed the limits with sex,” said Pagliarulo. “We found that the whole adult content thing, we knew we’d have crazy over-the-top violence and have kids in the game, and dealing with attacking them.” Pagliarulo cited Mass Effect as a game where it was important to the story. In Fallout 3, he said, he didn’t want to make sex “a joke and cheesy,” much like excessive profanity (a lot was cut out, apparently). “The closest you come to any of that is renting a room and [a woman] sleeps next to you. It’s implication.” That happens for either gender.
  • There are characters you can infer are gay. “We don’t make a big deal out of it,” he said. “To us, they’re people.”
  • Here’s an SAT analogy. Computers : Fallout 3 :: Books : Oblivion.
  • For more, check out our interview with Executive Producer Todd Howard.

Again thanks to Incognito.

Fallout 3: Emil Clears Things Up With More Detail

Clear shot at the Super Mutant Behemoth

Pretty relevant post from Emil Pagliarulo, this one clears several issues of importance:

What was said recently, by both Todd and me, is that in real-time, skill affects chance to hit less than it used to. This change was made after extensive playtesting. Why? Most everyone found it annoying that you’d have your crosshair over an enemy, and your bullets would go completely wide. So we dialed the accuracy penalty back so it would feel good in real-time. Two things, however — 1.) it’s still not completely pinpoint accurate, unless your skill is really high. So accuracy is still affected, just less than it used to be. Again, it felt better this way, after loads of testing 2.) your damage output is affected with increased skill, so in run and gun, putting points into, say, Small Guns, will certainly improve your combat effectiveness when you use an assault rifle. Etc. etc.

Another thing to consider is that in V.A.T.S., it’s different. It’s much more of a numbers game. It’s all character skill. Your percentage numbers to hit are going to increase as your skill increases. So yeah, putting points into weapons skills is pretty damn important to your survival, whether you prefer run-and-gun or V.A.T.S.

Now, to answer the lingering misconception that you can just somehow blow everything in the game away with the Fatman. Look, the Fatman shows great in demos and movies because it packs a big punch and is visually impressive. And yeah, it’s very powerful when you use it in the game. That said, you’ve got to remember a few things: 1.) The Fatman is huge, so it weighs a lot. Carry it around, and it means you can carry less of other stuff. Your choice. 2.) The Fatman shells aren’t exactly littered around the Wasteland. They’re a valuable resource WHEN you find them (hell, the same is true of the Fatman itself). So you’ve got to use them wisely. 3.) Try using the Fatman indoors and you’re more likely to kill yourself than anyone else. In all of my playthroughs of the game, I’ve only used the Fatman a small handful of times… usually to kill a Behemoth or take out a concentrated group of opponents.

And last but not least, the original topic of this thread. Are Charisma/Speech characters gimped? Not by a long shot. There are tons of speech options in the game. I can’t even count how many quests and situations can be bypassed/modified/overcome by using the Speech skill. It’s incredibly valuable. In fact, with my most recent character, I’m not concentrating on Speech, and boy there are times I wish I had. It’s a completely viable play style.

So I hope this answers some of your questions. It’s always a pleasure to surf the forums and see such lively debate… and most of the time I just hang back and watch you guys discuss/ponder (as it should be). But in this case, I’m happy to clear up some misinformation.

You can read the full post here, thanks Incognito.

Emil, Some Giant Ants and a Shiskebab

Weapons

Weapons-Shiskebab On Top

On a discussion about the GameSpot UK article Lead Designer Emil Pagliarulo left a couple of comments:

Any crippling or disabling of body parts (like the antennae to frenzy the ants) can be done in real-time as well as V.A.T.S. So if a guy’s charging me in real time and I shoot at his leg, I could cripple him to slow him down. I could shoot an ant’s antennae to frenzy him, shoot a Super Mutant’s arm in the hope that he drops his weapon, etc.

I’ve found V.A.T.S. to be better for this stuff simply because the paused screen makes things much less hectic. But you can absolutely do it in real-time as well.[…]

I’ve got to admit, I find it pretty funny when people hear some stuff and freak out, assuming we’ve someone injected Oblivion-esque magic into Fallout 3. We do some interesting things with technology, sure — Rock-It Launcher, Mesmetron (whatever that may be…), Shiskebab — but it’s all pretty well grounded in science/science fiction and, more importantly, the Fallout universe.

David Talks To Emil

Emil Pagliarulo

David Wildgoose made an interview with Emil Pagliarulo some time ago for OXM. It came up a bit short, so now he placed the entire content on his blog:

DW: Why did you guys want to make a new Fallout?

EP: It was one of those wish list things. We were talking about what we want to do if we could get a licence, “Oh, this could be cool, this would be great”, and we realised Fallout was top of that list.

DW: What else was on that list?

EP: I think Todd and I had wanted to make a Batman game forever. I think we talked about Bladerunner at some point. Bethesda makes the Terminator games so I’m sure that came up. But for me it was Fallout. For some reason when Fallout hit the list it was like a pipe dream, it wouldn’t happen, you know? And then [when Interplay auctioned off its licenses] it was like “Oh wow!” We just jumped on it.

DW: So would you have made a post-apocalyptic RPG even without Fallout?

EP: No, it wasn’t like we were going to make a post-apocalyptic RPG and then Fallout came along. We were going to make Fallout or something else.[…]

EP: You know obviously when I first came here Todd and I talked about the Thief stuff and how much of that stuff did we wanted to find its way into Oblivion. I mean the real issue of making good a stealth game like Thief or Splinter Cell is that you know these are linear games with one core gameplay mechanic, and that is sneaking. And you know when you work on a stealth game, you realise how tightly designed stealth gameplay has to be. In a game where you’re a fighter swinging in with a sword or where you have a gun, a lot of times the environment doesn’t make a difference. But for sneaking, the environment is half the gameplay. Back in the Thief days the game designers were also the level designers, they were creating the gameplay in the space they were building because they were so interdependent. Now that’s not really the case.

But that said, I think there’s a level of tension you get with stealth gameplay that you don’t get with anything else. So we started with Oblivion and the stealth system in Fallout is actually a lot more robust than the stealth system in Oblivion. A lot of that has to do with the enemy AI and the different search states that they have. In Oblivion you’re either detected or hidden, now there are stages in between and you’ll know when to be cautious. In Fallout people can be actively searching for you, they’ll actually do the Thief thing and you’ll hear “Where are you? I hear something” and there’s that level of tension there that you didn’t have in Oblivion. You know I was just playing the [Supermart area] fighting the raiders and it’s like a lot of times in Fallout, the feeling is so desperate and you feel like you’re struggling for survival and when you’re sneaking you really feel like “Oh god, don’t find me, please don’t find me”. You’d get that occasionally in Oblivion I think, but for me it actually works better in a post-apocalyptic setting than I thought it would. In Fallout it’s more like the stealth stuff complements your regular gameplay, but it’s definitely a viable approach.

The Definitive Story On Level Scaling

Car explodes with a nuclear mushroom, Supermutants close by

Car explodes with a nuclear mushroom, Supermutants close by

A couple of posts by Emil Pagliarulo to end all doubts about level scaling, first this one:

This has been mentioned several times in past threads and interviews, but for those who missed it:

— Yes, there is a variation of level scaling used to control the difficulty of the main quest, so you can proceed through the game’s main story at any time and have a good deal of it (not all) be balanced for to your level and abilities.

— Other areas are “tethered” to certain levels

— There are places in the Wasteland where, if you’re not careful, you’ll certainly get your ass handed to you. Best to leave and come back when you’re better equipped/more skilled. Funny — just a half hour ago, our effects artist, Grant Struthers, told me this awesome story about how he watched a Deathclaw just rip this (well armored) NPC to pieces…

— That said, if you leave an area that’s too difficult, and then return later, no you won’t find that everything has increased in level, and it’s now even tougher.

— No, Raiders won’t eventually be equipped with Power Armor.

The balance has been feeling really great, and the team is really confident that we’ve solved the level scaling issues we had in Oblivion. Yes, we identified those mistakes, and learned from them. *gasp!* smile.gif

And another comment:

I’d like to respond to your comment if I could, Mr. Teatime.

QUOTE from Mr.Teatime:
Sigh. Level 1 completes the game.

That’s bad. I imagine the big bad ass boss at the end, the uber monster, can be something that a level 2 gecko has a chance of taking down. How can anyone not call that stupid? Imagine the master like this, if you chose to combat him, or Frank Horrigan.

This is absolutely not true.

One important thing to remember about Fallout 3 is that the game uses an experience points based system of leveling; you don’t level up based on skill usage. And, you get the majority of your XP from completing quests. So on the main quest path specifically, we are much better able to determine what level you’ll be at — especially your minimum level — when you get to any specific quest.

So while we do some level scaling on the main quest, things are generally at the player’s level anyway, because we know your minimum level along that path. And even where things are scaled to control difficulty, it’s not like a Super Mutant is going to scale down to level 2 anyway. Most of the level scaling stuff we do is just to eliminate frustration at the lower levels.

So by the time you get to the end of the game, you’re going to face challenges appropriate to the level you’d naturally be at.

I hope that clears things up a bit.

He added this later:

No, even when we use some level scaling, things are “tethered” to a range of levels. So generally, if you you’re level 20 and then try to do something aimed at level 12, you’re going to own that situation. And it’s really hard to be level 5 doing something aimed at level 12, because you would have leveled up several times on the main quest by then, simply by virtue of playing it.

Fallout 3 is much better about higher levels being able to tackle lower level situations. You leveled up for a reason, and earned the right to kick some ass.

After the break another old explanation, the original one by PCGamer Desslock:

Continue reading

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.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

A reminder from Emil Pagliarulo:

For those who didn’t realize it… As was posted on our blog, what was shown on Game Trailers was just a tiny glimpse of the full trailer that will be unveiled at E3 next week.

Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…

Oh by the way RadHamster told us what song is used:

That’d be “Dear Hearts and Gentle People.”

I think it’s the Bing Crosby version, not sure though.

Full List Of Skills In Fallout 3

Finally we have the full list of Skills in Fallout 3, courtesy of Emil Pagliarulo:

Speech

Small guns
Big guns
Energy weapons
Melee combat
Unarmed
Medicine
Sneak
Lockpick
Explosives
Science
Repair
Barter

Yes, Speech is in, and Emil also said the Galaxy News Network DJ is called “Three Dogs”, different from what PSM3 was reporting.

And about the possibility to talk to a few Supermutants he had this to say:

Well, there’s only so much I can talk about, and I don’t want to turn this into a QA session, BUT… anything is possible, right? It’s a big Wasteland, after all…

Lead Designer Jumps Into The Forum

Emil Pagliarulo went to the Bethesda Games Fallout 3 forum and left a few enlightening posts, let’s start with armor in Fallout 3:

I know it’s been mentioned in some preview or other that all the apparel (armor and clothing) is a single suit. Headgear is separate. There are a LOT of apparel options, and yes, there are are some pieces of clothing that give stat boosts, so if you decide to wear clothing and not armor, you’ll still get a discernible gameplay benefit.

I’ve seen some apparel/headgear combinations I never wood have imagined (some which involve a big pre-war lady’s sunhat…)

And real time combat:

For us, balancing the combat is very much a “feel” thing. It’s something that takes a ton of playtesting (involving the entire dev team), and determining what feels right for everyone. It’s all about finding that nebulous perfect balance between player skill and character skill.

In run-and-gun, melee feels a lot like melee in Oblivion. If you connect with the weapon, you hit. There’s no die roll to determine that. But your character’s skill, as well as the condition of the weapon, determine the damage done.

In run-and-gun, ranged combat is… I dunno. I’d say it feels a lot like Deus Ex 1. Accuracy is affected by player skill and weapon condition — so if you’ve got, say, a really high Small Guns skill and a perfect condition assault rifle, your aim will be dead on. Low Small Guns and crappy assault rifle, and you’ll miss more. The skill and condition also affect the damage you’ll do.

With most ranged weapons in run-and-gun, you can also go into an aim mode, which zooms you in and increases your accuracy. With Melee and Unarmed weapons, the player will block instead of zooming in.

Based on all the feedback we’ve gotten, it feels really solid now.

Of course, V.A.T.S. is its own story completely…

I’d say for combat, I generally go 70% V.A.T.S., 30% run-and-gun (but that’s different for everyone, really).

Finally level scaling:

I’d say that:

a.) because of the issues some people had with Oblivion’s leveling
and
b.) the fact that we’ve really been focusing on the importance of overall game balance…

…this is something the dev team has come back to time and time again during our playtests, and is something we’re still tweaking. We’ve finally gotten it to a level that we feel really good about.

So basically, if you do the main quest path and adhere strictly to that, there are some areas that are set up to match your level, so you don’t get your ass handed to you unfairly while just naturally playing the game. But certain paths and locations are more difficult, by design.

It’s also the case that the farther you wander out into the Wasteland, the more you’re taking your life into your own hands if you’re not prepared. I mean, hey, a Deatchlaw’s a Deathclaw. smile.gif

And, um, yeah — no Raiders in Power Armor.

Voices and Butch on Next Gen

I already talked about the piece on Fallout 3 published in the last issue of Edge, now you can read it online on the Next Gen site:

“War never changes,” grumbles ubiquitous voiceover favorite Ron Perlman in Fallout 3’s opening cinematic. Of course, the one major bugbear among diehard fans of previous turn-based Fallout games is that war has actually changed rather substantially with the coming sequel. Thankfully, as we see more and more of the game, it seems like these detractors are misguided.[…]

“This is the Vault bully, Butch, and his little cronies,” says Hines pointing at a table of youths. “They’ll start talking about how they’re forming a gang and what they want to call their gang. He wants the sweet roll that Mrs Palmer gave me, and there are a variety of different options here. I can wuss out and give it to him, I can ask him if we can share, I can spit on it and give it to him, I can tell him to go suck his head, I can insult his mom – so we give the player a lot of choices and how Butch will react depends upon these different choices, so if I choose one of these last two options he basically gets up to fight me.”

Hines instead opts to spit on the sweet roll and offer it to Butch. “I don’t want your nerd cooties,” replies Butch. “You’re going to be sorry you did that.” The choice here, says Hines, then affects how other characters view you.[…]

As for the quality of the dialogue’s delivery, Hines emphasized that all the voice-acting, apart from Liam Neeson’s turn as your father, was temporary – a point well illustrated by the distinctly gruff tones of your mother. But if there was any area in which Bethesda risks falling down it is this – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion wasn’t a sterling demonstration of voice direction, failing to squeeze anything other than wood from Patrick Stewart or Sean Bean. Liam Neeson’s efforts here also felt a little staid. However wry or smart a script Bethesda produces, it could be jeopardized if the voice-acting doesn’t match its written standard.

That Mother’s voice is the voice of Emil Pagliarulo. You can read the rest here.

Boston, Austin and Less Hair

After opening the Inside the Vault series, there’s now a second Inside the Vault with Emil Pagliarulo:

Lately, you’ve been a bit more active on our forums, relatively speaking. How do you filter through the signal to noise?
Right now, everyone is hungry for information. Whether it’s an Oblivion fan, or a fan of the old Fallout games, or just someone who’s new to the forums and wants to know what Fallout 3 is all about — everyone has a million questions, and wants a lot of detail.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of detail I’m at liberty to give right now. So what I generally look for are discussions about issues we have addressed publicly in some capacity. I like to make sure that information – the information we’ve already released – is getting disseminated accurately. Because, you know, with all the previews and forum posts, and can be like a big game of “telephone” — information gets modified in its retelling, until you occasionally (and unfortunately) arrive at a bit of complete misinformation.

That’s the kind of stuff I look for, and like to clear up. But I also like to generally check out all the cool conversations taking place, all the debates people are having. So even when I don’t respond, I’m always lurking. Always waaatttccchhiinngggg….

Like an evil genius!