A Bit Late For Leipzig

Enclave Soldier

There’s a lot of catching up to do by this blog regarding Fallout 3 in Leipzig, so let’s start, with the help of NMA’s Leipzig news coverage.

First the spoiler heavy UGO Gamesblog Vault 106 walkthrough:

In no time I had my task: deliver a letter from a Megaton denizen to her relatives in Arefu, a nearby settlement built in the middle of a raised section of the DC highway. And so I was off, setting my waypoint on my pipboy and heading straight for it. A few giant moles and rabid dogs pestered me along the way, but for the most part, things were going smooth, until…

Until I got distracted. You’re a man with purpose, and suddenly something pings on your map, and you just have to check it out. The phenomenon happened all the time in Morrowind and Oblivion (and even in Fallout 1 and 2), so it’s not a big shock that it happened. I was just more surprised as to how easy it was for the game to take me off course.

What drew my attention was a sign pointing to a nearby fallout shelter. Not Vault 101, mind you…I was quite a ways from my old home. No, this was Vault 106. I made my way into a cave dug into a large cliff and quickly discovered the telltale massive vault door. A switch in front of it blinked expectantly and, much to my surprise, the vault door clanged open the moment I touched it, gears and levers sliding out of place like the day it was built.

Next up is Gamespot:

We encountered some new enemies after leaving the house: huge insects such as the bloatfly, as well as new armoured human characters called raiders. We used the VATS system (see previous coverage) to take out most of the enemies that we came across, and then played around with stealing more of the things that were left behind. One of the raiders was wearing a hockey mask for protection, and we were able to remove it from the dead body and wear it ourselves. You can press the left bumper to switch to a third-person view, and you can then use the right analog stick to tilt around your character to check out the view from the front.

After making it through the Meresti Trainyard and its abandoned train wrecks, we came across the outskirts of a small settlement. The problem was that it was protected, and we were immediately shot at by a sniper upon entering. We spun around and tried to use the VATS system to hone in on the sniper, but we couldn’t see them, and they’d soon incapacitated us via our arms and legs. When we reloaded the game, we decided to head back and check out the school that was not too far from the starting bunker. The building had been torn apart, but a number of books and chalkboards remained complete, with writing from children and teachers. Underneath the school, a small dungeon with a number of raiders awaited, and we were able to pick up a sawed-off shotgun as a reward for heading inside.

And now MTV Multiplayer Blog:

During press demos, I like to try things I don’t think the developers are expecting. So when I stepped my character out of the vault and fumbled with the buttons on my Xbox 360 controller, I wasn’t just reacquainting myself with the mechanics of a game I hadn’t played since a pre-E3 event in June. I was also trying to find surprises. Hitting the 360 controller’s back button, I got my wish. Tapping the button brings up the option to make time pass more quickly. I jumped the game’s clock 12 hours. I would roam the D.C. outskirts at night. I bet the E3 gamers didn’t do that either![…]

I chose a different path, a path that left me securing my very own house in Megaton with my very own robot butler. I could get a haircut from this butler. Or I could get amusement. That’s what I selected, and he/she/it told me a joke. It was about two electrons walking into a bar. One saying it lost an electron. The other asking: “Are you sure?” Response: “I’m positive.”

I asked my robot butler to tell me another joke. The robot butler replied: “My humor emitter ray needs recharging.”

And finnally GameSpy:

Killing enemies in Fallout 3 is very satisfying, and not just because of the finely blended real-time first-person shooting and the tactics-heavy strategy of the VATS system. It’s also fun because of all the loot. You’ll literally strip your victims down to their underwear when you loot their armor, steal their guns, and empty their pockets of valuable bottlecaps, the currency of the wasteland.

The itemization abounds, with many different kinds of food (like delicious dog meat, squirrel-on-a-stick, and Fancy Lads snack cakes), drink (dirty water, Nuka Cola, all kinds of booze), weapons, armor, and drugs. You may want to indulge in some recreational drug abuse to fight off the effects of radiation or to give yourself a little performance-enhancing boost, but the dangers of addiction are very real.

Again thanks to NMA.

Hines on Pacifism and SPECIAL

I’ve been a bit busy in the last few days, and somehow forgot to post about Guardian games blog posting the second part of an interview with Pete Hines based on questions from fans:

Will weapons require a minimum Strength? Or only a minimum in its governing attribute? (Perception = Energy, Endurance = Big, Agility = Small).

Weapons do not check for minimum stat values, you can use any weapon you want, the skill/stat just makes you better or worse with the weapon.

How will Attributes be weighted in regards to the Skills they govern? If you want to max out your Big Guns or Speech skills, but don’t spend the SPECIAL pts bumping up Endurance and Charisma, how effective will those skills be? Would a 100% skill level in Speech be ineffective if you only had a Charisma of 4, etc?

They provide a boost or bonus to the skills they govern. I don’t think we’ll get more specific than that as far as exactly how they integrate with Skills. If you put extra points into a SPECIAL, it’ll help those Skills beyond what level they’re currently at. If you spend all your time leveling up a Skill to a very high level, it’s safe to say you’ll be very effective at using those skills outside of what the governing SPECIAL is.[…]

In Fallout 1, there were only three key locations that you needed to visit to complete the game – The Cathedral, Military Base and Necropolis (the last one being optional, actually) . These places could be done in any order, creating Fallout’s exceptional nonlinearity. Is Fallout 3’s main quest structured in similar fashion?

Hmm, parts of it are, parts of it aren’t. There are several large sections of the main quest that you can actually skip if you do things right.

Specific body parts cannot be targeted when fighting with melee weapons or in hand to hand combat. What is the reason behind this decision? Does melee/HtH fighting offer something else to compensate?

We tried many ways of doing melee with VATS, and having messed a lot with “missing” in melee, it just felt really bad. So once we changed VATS melee to “always hit”, assuming you are in range, the body part selection became a bit unbalancing, so now it’s a “whole body attack”, but you still do end up hitting a specific body part when you swing, but it’s based on what you actually contact with, as opposed to what you aim at. This avoids the “always punch in the head” problem, whereas with guns, we can balance out certain body parts with hit percentages, like the head.

Charisma influenced the speech skill, NPC’s responses and how many followers you could have. Since Fallout 3 allows only two followers, has Charisma’s role expanded to some other region?

Even though you have only one follower, having a higher Charisma definitely helps in Speech challenges and successfully using special dialog options you have when talking to folks. Also it’s very helpful in bartering with people.

Can you tag Medicine, Repair and Barter, and focusing on those skills, still be able to complete the game?

Sure. We recently had someone play through the game and finish it while only killing one thing very early in the game…a Radroach. I’m not saying I recommend everyone run out and try to play the game as a pacifist, but if you want to give it a try, it has been done.

If you want to know more about the inyards of the game, or want to understand a bit more about the changes in this game when compared to the classic fallout RPGs than this interview is mandatory reading.

Spotted at NMA.

Videogamer Fallout 3 Day

Megaton doors opening

Megaton doors opening

A pretty detailed and filled with spoilers preview at Videogamer:

We know we’ve played something great, perhaps even something special, when we find ourselves thinking about it when we’re not playing it. When we find ourselves wishing we were playing it while we’re sat on the underground, or browsing the internet, or listening to our editor prattle on about Geometry Wars 2. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it reminds us of the power video games hold over us, how entrancing the spell they cast really can be. It happened again recently, and the game was Fallout 3.

It seems ridiculous to have to form some kind of informed opinion based on a two hour toe-dip into Bethesda’s stunning post-apocalyptic world, given the gargantuan nature of this sci-fi RPG, but that’s what we’re paid to do, so here goes. Haters be quiet – Fallout 3 is shaping up to one of the best games of 2008, and, fingers crossed, could be one of the best RPGs ever.

Amoral, subversive and pulp. It sounds like we’re describing a particularly bad kind of orange juice, but it’s actually the three words our new previews editor Neon Kelly came up with when we asked him to sum up the Fallout series, a series that a lot of PC gamers still care a great deal about.

You can’t, of course, please everyone, and Bethesda knows this. It also knows that, actually, if it can make a game as good as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it’ll have done it’s job. From our time with the game, Fallout 3 might even be better than Oblivion.

You may be wondering why we’re comparing Fallout 3 to Oblivion in the first place. It’s because the game could almost be Oblivion 2, or, as some journalists are calling it, Oblivion with guns. What’s certain is that it feels very similar. The trademark vistas, the dialogue system, the camera angle when you talk to NPCs, the instant teleportation to already discovered locations, it’s all there.

Simply saying Fallout 3 is Oblivion with guns doesn’t do Bethesda’s hard work justice. Fallout 3 looks better than Oblivion, even though it’s not finished.[…]

But it’s also a world with a few technical problems. We noticed a degree of texture pop up as we explored the world. The camera sometimes has a fit when in VATS slow motion mode. The third-person perspective we imagine will go largely unused. And at one point we were forced to reboot the game after we got stuck under part of a collapsed bridge – fast travel wouldn’t work because the game thought we were falling. Our hope, and our belief, is that Fallout 3 won’t be let down by any technical issues that might make it into the released code.

And Videogamer continues the coverage with some words from Pete Hines:

“I have no doubts in my mind that, at its core and for everything that it provides that Fallout is a better game than Oblivion was. For sure.”

Bethesda Softworks vice president Pete Hines was unable to confirm if its upcoming post apocalyptic RPG Fallout 3 would feature PS3 Trophy support.

“I don’t know. I can’t tell you for sure whether or not we’ll have them or not,” said Hines.

It’s a different story regarding Xbox 360 Achievements though, with Hines confirming that they are “mostly complete”.

“… we still like to mess with that stuff sometimes in late stages, just in terms of ‘yeah it’s taking a little too long to get this one’, which is why we didn’t want anybody to look at them, because I wouldn’t want you guys putting something out that we then changed and is completely different,” said Hines. “Yeah, they’re largely in there and there’s some really good ones in there… some that I rather enjoy.”

Asked about the PS3 version of the game which wasn’t available to play at the recent preview event, Hines said: “It’s coming along. We’re getting down to the final strokes on all three versions. The goal is to have all three of them be the same game, the same kind of performance on all three platforms.

“That’s the goal, that you can’t tell the difference.”

Spotted at NMA.

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.

Fallout Fries

French CanardPlus Emil Zoulou is asking for questions from fans about what he saw in the Fallout 3 demo, here’s something from NMA:

Here’s some chances to scratch out some more info from the meager offerings of this E3. First, Canardplus (who you may remember from this preview) contacted us to extend the offer to try and clarify any questions we have based on what they’ve seen:

This morning, we had the opportunity to try the 360 version of Fallout 3. The cheats weren’t enabled. So ask your vicious questions and we will try to offer some honest answers.

If you know French you can ask them here, if not place them at NMA or in this blogpost and we’ll try to translate them for you.

Meanwhile he already started answering the first batch of questions, and NMA got a (very good) translation from Vaultaire with the help of Mr.Bumble and posted them in English:

Is the gore associated with violent death logical or over-the-top?
That is the problem with E3. During the Fallout 3 Demo, Bethesda wanted to emphasize the games “adult” content and pushed the gore through the roof. During the initial demo, Peter Hines did the same: using the “Bloody Mess” trait, which makes every death really bloody, really pushed the gore over the top. Shoot someone in the foot and the entire body explodes in a fountain of blood. When actually playing it is a lot less impressive, the enemies die without too much fuss. On the other hand, the inconsistencies are apparent, like when a mini-nuke just cuts off an enemies foot.

Is playing Fallout 3 with a controller a good experience? How will the interface be adapted to mouse/keyboard combination?
We are not big FPS aficionados, I had a lot of trouble controlling my character and aiming was really hard. VATS helped with this a lot, something I was not expecting. When confronted by a group of enemies, it seems like the most sensible solution. On the other hand, I was much better on the PC. The mouse/keyboard interface allowed for more accurate aiming. One can imagine that the RT aspect will resemble Quake 3 where the player strafes around his enemies; avoiding their shots while simultaneously emptying clips into them – totally negating the need for VATS. Like Oblivion, character skill along with line of sight plays a factor in determining to-hit success but the translation to FPS must be tempered with the next question:

If the PC version is exactly the same as the one tested for the Xbox 360) ; it is very likely that this is the case, will the interface be marred by this (interface, save/load, …)
Oh yes, I think that on the PC the interface will prove unwieldy. Bethesda has chosen to put all the menus inside the Pipboy affixed to your arm. If it is a question of immersion, the intention is commendable, ergonomically it’s an absolute disgrace: A stick to switch between 3 large menus (stats-item-data) the other to navigate within the window and all the sub menus. On top of that, the inventory is reduced to simple lists of names, a miniature picture of the item appears to the right for each item. Also, forget about the two quick items found at the bottom of your inventory (in the originals) as Turn-based is completely dispensed with. In this system, one is faced with equipping a single thing or weapon at a time.

With real time combat, Is the concept or use of Action Points ala “Turn Based” useful or even captivating?
Like I said on the 360, the VATS system is indispensable for survival. Often, melee enemies get within range very quickly and VATS allows the player to get out of tight situations. I did not feel it was over-powerful and I was often forced to close the gap to improve my chances of hitting the target. In addition, aiming for specific body parts will appeal to the jokers amongst us: Fire at a super-mutants weapon and it will fall from his grasp. Such accurate shots are difficult to reproduce in real-time mode. In practice, we find ourselves using all our APs to fire at an enemies chest not even trying for the head. APs recharge in real-time mode but don’t affect ones ability to access the inventory. It seems to me that AP could be used for so much more than aimed shots. It is a terrible blow for the tactics of combat that existed in the franchise previously.

Adaptive difficulty Yes or No (Level Scaling)
Big question. The Bethesda lot have assured us for months that level scaling; railed against by Elder Scrolls Fan; was out. Permit me to cast strong doubt on this. See: towards the end of my half hour, whilst wandering through Washington DC, I fell upon a group of three super mutants. One was equipped with a Gatling. I was level 3 and I was only equipped with light Raider armor. For weapons, I had a baseball bat and a basic 10mm pistol and an ammo-less laser piston. I switch to VATS and aim for the Gatling mutant in the hopes of making him drop his weapon. I miss and the other two mutants head straight for me. I grab my baseball bat and alternate between VATS and real-time whilst waiting for my AP to recharge. The first mutant is downed, I loot a bat with a nail in it and kill the second mutant in much the same fashion. During this some sort of mutant spider joins the fray and attacks me. I kill it with my bat. The third super mutant fell to a combination of grenade and 10mm pistol. I’m a half hour into the game, level 3 and I manage to take down three super mutants and some unidentified thing without much trouble and find myself in possession of a Gatling fun. All is good.[…]

Once again, it is not easy to get a fair idea of what Fallout 3 will be like on release. All in all, the development team has a pile a bugs of all types to fix. It is in all cases certain that this will not shine on technical merits, with empty interiors, outdated and badly used character models, “Rigor Mortis” animations..
Disassociated from the gameplay of the preceding Fallouts, Bethesda try to impose their view of an action RPG, in the same vein as Oblivion. It is impossible for me to guarantee that this will be a good fallout game, or even a good game at all…

A must read, there’s a lot more there.

Fallout 3 Preview In Orange

Dutch Pc Gameplay has a Fallout 3 preview, here in a partial translation at NMA:

On every press conference where multiple games will be presented, there is always one game that is handled in such secrecy that you get the impression that it involves the launch codes for nuclear missile launch facilities.  During the Ubidays 08 this honor fell clearly to Fallout 3, the post nuclear RPG from Bethesda (Oblivion) and long awaited sequel to the successful Fallout-series of the 90’s.

For Fallout there was no flashy stand, no large bill boards or invited booth babes but a small forgotten room in the Louvres where you could only enter with four people at once after you had undergone a thorough bodycheck en had surrender all cameras and other high tech recording equipment. (…)
During each life phase you learn something new. From crawling in your box you learn movements, and during which you find the children’s book ‘S.P.E.C.I.A.L.’ which immediately sets basic skills (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck). (…)
The real turn based game play of the originals is gone but through VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) you can stop the time to choose your actions.
This is where your perception and Agility choices come into play.

With a high Perception you will be better in discovering the weak points of your opponents and will increase the chances (expressed in percentages) to hit your target.
Each creature has six target zones with each zone reading your hit chance.
A shot in the leg can cripple him and a hit in the arm can disarm him or reduce the effectiveness of using his own weapon. A headshot can be fatal in one blow, cause blindness or can confuse the opponent for a long time.
How many actions you can undertake during such a VATS pauze is the number of Action Points which on their turn depend on your agility skill, the higher the skill the more Action Points[…]

We saw a nice example of the AI when our hero had to cross a camp of enemy raiders.
Confronting these openly would be equal to suicide so that was not an option.
As long as it was daytime the camp would be well guarded, but as soon as the night fell most of the raiders were snoring loudly and our hero could sneak past the guards to continue his journey.

You can read everything in Dutch on the magazine, and a bit more of the translation 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.

Fallout Sensibilities and Mannerisms At PCZone

PCZone Will Porter

There are still Fallout 3 at E3 previews showing up, you can find a new list at NMA, instead I’ll just point out to this article at CVG/PCZone, that I’ve talked about before, now you can read it in full:

Is Fallout 3 Oblivion with guns? No, not really. While it’s true that when you enter houses and watch people go about their business it instantly smacks of the last rendition of The Elder Scrolls, it seems that the old Fallout sensibilities and mannerisms are here as foundation not lip gloss.

Character S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats (luck, perception, etc) return as the base numbers for your character, for example. These can be boosted and drained by the full host of addictive stimulants present in the first games, such as strength-harbouring Buffout, the more traditional narcotic of Jet (the factory for which was technically destroyed in the earlier games, if I’m pedantic), intelligence-boosting Mentats and rage-infusing Psycho.

On top of these lie your skills (the numbers you can raise each time you level up, making you better at bartering, small guns, medicine, repair and the like), three of which you can specialise in and gain double the advance when it’s gratz-time.

While we’re on levelling, it’s important to underline that Fallout does address one of Oblivion’s biggest foibles: the fact that as you levelled up, the entire world levelled up with you.

In the wasteland, as in the original Fallout games, the further you stray the more dangerous things get – as I discovered during my lonesome trudge into the glorious north-east and was increasingly battered by the mole rats, bloatflies and Raider bases I came across.

However, enemies that lie along the plotline will be levelled to match you so that the difficulty curve is kept to Bethesda’s heel.

Whereas Oblivion hid away many of its stats, or at least let you batter away in mindless ignorance, in Fallout Bethesda have pulled the link between player experience and player statistics closer to Black Isle’s model.

As in the original games, your skill specialisations not only give you options in conversation (my medical bent would later lead a doctor to confide a patient’s medical history to me, for example), or show themselves concretely in percentage strike-probabilities during V.A.T.S. combat, but are integral to your performance – such as when I disarmed the century-old nuclear device threatening the town of Megaton, having guzzled Mentats to make me extra brainy.

Having played the game for only five hours, and with many of the hang-ups people had with Oblivion only becoming apparent after 50, I can’t be definitive about this – but in terms of building a modern game on the systems of one that’s now 10 years old, it’s hard to think of how Fallout 3 could have been tied closer to what has gone before.

A must read.

Not Fallout Oblivion After All

So says ShackNews:

“You so much as breathe, and I’m gonna fuckin’ end ya.”

The words may as well have been coming directly from Bethesda. It felt like the company was challenging me, daring me to write anything negative about their new sequel to Black Isle’s classic RPG series. I was very skeptical of whether the company could match the tone and content of the original titles. As good as Bethesda is, the bar was set very high ten years ago.

But based on what I just played–and I had free reign to explore the world at whim–I came away feeling good about the game. Fallout 3 is not Fallout 2.5, and that can be a little disappointing at first, no matter how irrational of a feeling that is. But Fallout 3 is undoubtedly shaping up to be a solid game in its own right, and one that clearly takes many significant cues from the previous titles–from the opening scene, to the wonderfully realized PIPBoy menu. Oblivion: Fallout 3 this is not.

The first thing I wanted to hit with my hands-on time was a load of conversations. Dialogue is half of what made Fallout so engaging–the freedom to piss off and be pissed on by any number of disgruntled apocalyptic survivors spawned most of my favorite Fallout memories.

After wandering out of the Vault, through the traditional cave–no rats to be found–and out across the wasteland, I managed to locate the town of Megaton rather quickly. Greeting me outside was a tall 50s-style robot, waving its stiff arms toward the town in greeting. Upon entering the town, Sheriff Lucas Sims gave me a gruff hello, and I engaged him in verbal combat.

The most encouraging aspect of Fallout 3’s dialogue is the number of options available. Oblivion’s simple approach to dialogue trees would not suffice here, and as a result, I often had up to five or six options at any given time. With the Sheriff, I had enough choices to easily pick a fight with him, and did so immediately. Bad idea.

After reloading the game, I had a long chat with my murderer. The dialogue engine is indeed reminiscent of Oblivion, but after noticing this, I never gave it a second thought. Instead, I was focused on learning about the town, looking for quests, and more typical Fallout goals.

It was a short demo, and an early area, and the game is not finished, so I can not judge it based on this first taste. Suffice it to say, the tone of dialogue was close, but not right on. I was entertained, but not surprised.

Overall I would say that the demo area dialogue clearly eclipsed Oblivion’s writing, but did not quite match the effectiveness of Fallout. There was certainly an edge to it all, as evidenced by the wanton use of vulgar language and themes–see the opening quote from the Sheriff. A few mildly humorous moments were produced by said vulgarity. But none of the characters caught me off guard or engaged me in the same way that Fallout did, and the voice acting was sometimes rather wooden.

There’s more, worth checking.

Playing An Hour of Fallout 3

New hands on preview at IGNXBox360:

Since it’s such a big part of the Fallout universe, listed below are all the skills and perks that were present in the June preview version of the game, with this list:

    Skills:

  • Barter: Affects Buying and Selling
  • Big Guns: Determines combat effectiveness with oversized weapons
  • Energy Weapons: Determines combat effectiveness with plasma weapons
  • Explosiveness: Determines power of mines/ effectiveness of grenades/ ease of disarming hostile mines
  • Medicine: Determines how many HP you can heal with one stimpack
  • Repair: How well weapons and apparel are maintained and increases starting condition of custom-made weapons
  • Science: Affects computer hacking skills
  • Small Guns: Determines combat effectiveness for smaller weapons
  • Sneak: It’s easier to remain undetected, steal or pick someone’s pockets; increases critical chance when attacking undetected with this skill
  • Speech: Governs how you can influence someone during dialogue and gain access to info
  • Unarmed: Determines Melee Damage
  • Perks:
  • Daddy’s Boy: Gains an additional 5 points in science and medicine skills.
  • Gun Nut: Obsessed with guns; an additional 5 points to the small guns skills and repair skills
  • Intense Training: Add a single point to any of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes
  • Lady Killer: 10% damage against female opponents, plus unique dialogue with them as well
  • Little Leaguer: 5 points of melee weapons and 5 points of explosives skill
  • Swift Learner: 10% in total experience points
  • Thief: With each rank of Thief Perk you gain an immediate 5 point bonus to sneak and lock-pick

Worth a read, a few “new” pics too. Thanks summer.

PSM3 Fallout 3 Special

Huge article with new pics at PSM3, some ideas collected by NMA:

So, the first hands-on preview of Fallout 3 is generally available, and is big. Quite a bit of it is repeating info from previous demos and explaining what the Fallout franchise is, but there’s more than just that. Some bits:

– The previewer played Fallout 3 for 3 hours and could do whatever he wanted, rather than being set on a linear demo
– Springvale appears deserted, but “the school holds an intriguing secret in its basement”
– “If you cause a ruckus near an Enclave-controlled area, these Vertibirds in and drop off reinforcements”
– “Bethesda have stated Fallout 3 has no vehicles. But evidence leads us to think there’ll be a robot horse. Madness? Well, when the game loads, retro ’50s-style adverts cycle past for things in the game. ‘Giddyup buttercup’, a robot pony for little girls. “He neighs, he trots, he loves you a lot!” says the ad. Such a huge game without any transport? Really?”
– “This one is called Galaxy News, presented by a DJ called Three Dawg and broadcast from a secure bunker in the heart of DC. Dawg reports on current events between records.”
– “You’ll also come across the Enclave; the remains of the US government who have access to incredible technology and broadcast patriotic marching band music. Their President is voiced by Malcolm “A Clockwork Orange” McDowell. He’s a major villain.”
– They list a few skills: barter, big guns, energy weapons, explosives, lockpick, medicine (determines how much stimpaks and other healing items actually heals) melee combat, repair (description only lists its usage for repairing guns), science, small guns, sneak, unarmed.
– “We left Megaton, chose a random direction (west) and walked. And it didn’t take long to find paying work. Bigtown used to be a sprawl of suburban housing, but now it’s a makeshift fortress. Walls made of debris, car shells and a single, pathetic guard watches over the entrance with a rusting hunting rifle. Inside we learn that the Supermutants – giant, violent monsters spawned from the fallout of the nuclear war – have kidnapped some of their people, including a vital medic. We agree to rescue them, but only in exchange for bottle caps, Fallout’s bizarre currency. The Supermutants, we learn, have set up a camp in a place called Germantown.”
– “Say you have five Action Points, you could fire at their head five times, or disable them by shooting at their legs. You can even aim for their gun and disarm them. When you’ve cued up your attacks, press X and the game unpauses and switches to third-person view for a better view of the action. (…)
We take the mutants down with our shotgun – a few point-blank blasts to the chest did the job – and continue onwards, fighting our way through the enemy’s defences until we reach the police station. Inside, it’s Fallout’s version of an RPG ‘dungeon’ – loot to hoard, keys to find and enemies to kill. We snuck through the station using stealth (crouch to hide yourself in shadows) and used VATS with melee weapons (police baton, sledgehammer) behind enemies to quickly and quietly dispose of them.”
– “In fact, at times it feels exactly like Oblivion in terms of mission structure and the way you navigate the world. We loved Oblivion so we aren’t complaining, but if you found Cyrodiil’s vast openness daunting or the RPG mechanics too complicated, Fallout 3 might not be the game for you. Especially since the game is ten times as customisable. You can create new weapons from scratch by scavenging for parts. For example, find an old leaf blower, combine it with a lawnmower blade and another few items and you create your own portable rocket launcher that’s able to fire any object you see in the world at high speeds; almost like a retro-fit Half-Life gravity gun.”
– “We find an elementary school crawling with raiders who’ve been trying to tunnel into Vault 101, but have failed after disturbing a nest of giant radioactive ants. We find an old sentry bot lying in a junk pile and manage to activate it, after which it becomes our personal body guard…until a Deatclaw – a monster mutated from a grizzle bear – tears it to pieces, then kills us. Later, in a moment of madness, we wander into the heart of DC, despite warnings from the developers, and get vaporized by a remote sentry gun and a gang on Enclave soldiers.”
– [Todd Howard loads up a game 70 hours in] “He was in the heart of DC and fought a group of Enclave troopers with a portable nuclear missile launcher called the Fat Man – the game’s most powerful weapon.”

A list of the skills displayed:

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

There’s more in there, for instance if you can hit someone without being detected using the Sneak skill you’ll have an automatic Critical hit; the “special services” from the loose morals ladies will give you a small boost to your health; the Vertibird that is displayed in the mag is perfect, exactly like the old ones; there’s a great retro futuristic vehicle, that unfortunately is only used for the nuclear explosions; the robot pony is just an advert, everything else seems to be speculation from the guy that wrote the thing.

And a lot more, recomended reading.

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.

Fallout 3 Australian Style

Weapons

There’s a large and detailed Fallout 3 preview at Gameplayer, here is a small snip:

  • You can switch between first and third person at any time.
  • The objects you can select in V.A.T.S differ per enemy. For example, when we were attacked by giant ants, we could aim to shoot for their Antenna. Without these the things lost perspective and went berko, often attacking other ants.
  • Weapons will gradually degrade and when weakened will be more likely to jam. But you can pillage other versions of the same weapon for parts to ensure you always have one at full strength.
  • You can kill someone with a teddy bear. You have to find the teddy bear, then use it as ammo, and then get real lucky. But still, we love the option…
  • You can build your own weapons from scrap you find lying around: all you need is the components, the schematics and a workbench. We heard of one involving a leaf-blower and a vacuum. Weapon, or sex toy… time will tell.
  • There are mini-games to enjoy, like lock-picking, and tuning in you Pip-boy to find radio signals which may give you directions to quests and survivors.
  • The Bloody Mess perk is in the game, as are a host of others. Pete Hines claimed that you will receive a perk every time you level up. Then later said you level up 19 times to a maximum of 20. Which means around 19 perks by out maths.
  • There’s a lot more where this came from, and I really mean a lot! Spotted at NMA.

    NZ GamePlanet Fallout 3 Feature

    From New Zealand comes the Gameplanet Fallout 3 preview, with nothing really new, but a with an effort into detailing more thoroughly what they saw, so it’s worth a look:

    Initially, this preview event had been organised to bring a large number of Australian and New Zealand media representatives in on the game, and to show some footage that had previously been provided to games distributors a few months back. Imagine our surprise when we discovered there would be an additional half an hour or so of previously unseen gameplay included! As there was no filming or picture taking permitted behind closed doors, I’ll do my best to describe what we were shown.[…]

    Just an aside – your father at one point shows you a bible passage set in a picture frame that your mother claimed as her favourite. It’s from revelations, and it’s worth repeating here: “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is a thirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Prophetic indeed, and a glimpse at Bethesda’s attempt to link casual first-time gamers with the lore of the Fallout series.

    Once you’ve completed “Baby Steps”, you are again pushed forward in time to your tenth birthday party – an event significant not only for the first shown interaction with other NPC’s within the vault, but also the acquisition of your “Pip Boy 3000”, which is provided to you by the vault overseer. You also meet the vault bully, who is discussing with other children the possibility of forming a gang called the Tunnel Snakes, and you need to make a decision as to whether you should allow him to take some confectionery provided to you by Old Lady Palmer as a birthday present.[…]

    A point about the statistics here – although you may be able to choose a certain dialogue option or end result, thus shaping your character, the outcome is also driven by your attributes and skill level. For example, conversing with someone may prompt three possible dialogue options. Next to these may appear a percentage chance to succeed, so perhaps you’d like to convince someone to give you an object – your level of persuasion might only grant you a 25% chance of success, so you may find it better to choose a different option with a higher percentage. This allows your progression to be shaped on the fly through chance as well as choice.[…]

    We’ve seen terminal hacking as a mini game in BioShock, and just like that title, hacking in Fallout 3 seemed a little basic. Essentially if you’ve played the old classic Mastermind you’ll understand – you are presented with a table of words interspersed with random characters, and you need to type in whichever word on the list you think the password is. You have five attempts, and each failed attempt will tell you how many of the letters are in the right place. After the fifth failed attempt, you are locked out of the console and can only bypass it with a key, which must be found somewhere within the vault. This forms the basis of another mission, but it is necessary as without the ability to leave Vault 101 it’d be a short game.[…]

    The next saved game consists of a battle waged in the central Washington D.C. area between the Mutants and the Brotherhood of Steel. It’s here we were introduced to the perception ability – on your HUD compass you will see a flashing red icon whenever enemies are around you. The higher your perception, the sooner this will occur. During an action scene we managed to kill several mutants, and due to this we were permitted to tag along with the Brotherhood faction to clean out some more. We picked up a weapon to replace our ageing Chinese Military Rifle from a fallen comrade – the Laser Gun – and spent some time blowing limbs from hapless zombies that strayed too close to our position.

    There’s also an interview with Pete Hines in there. Thanks anonymous through Meebo.