Bethesda. Learn storytelling.

Discussion in 'Future Fallout Game Discussion' started by The Courier, Jul 11, 2015.

  1. The Courier

    The Courier Blain is a pain.

    Jul 9, 2011
    With all the talk lately about Fallout 4's (possibly) limited dialogue options and narrow choice I thought I'd mock up a scenario in which Bethesda's obsessive need to tell a specific linear story might actually work. First, we'll begin with what is arguably Fallout 3's biggest problem: Emotion.

    Or, rather, the lack thereof. It's not that the game doesn't try to have emotion. It does. But in a hugely half-assed way and with little regard to the player's disposition. There are a lot of issues with 3's plot. It's holier than swiss cheese, for starters. Given Oblivion and Skyrim's narratives, this seems to be genetic thing.

    However, as has been demonstrated in film hundreds upon hundreds of times, holes in logic can be easily dealt with. If you cannot engage the mind, engage the heart. Ironically, this seems to be the core of 3's mantra. And the heart is represented, unfortunately, by Dad. Or James, because he's not my dad. James represents the biggest threat to Fallout 3's core storyline and the reason is this: If I gave two shits about James I would have cared about Project Purity. If I cared about Project Purity I wouldn't have played the skeptic. They wanted this: "My Dad died for his dream! I must achieve it for him, as I am his loving son!" Instead, it was more like this: "Boo-hoo, down goes Qui-Gon Jin. What's with this thing, anyway? Who needs water? That one douche outside Megaton?" The game failed to telegraph the need for water, true. But this would not have mattered as much if ol'Daddy-poo had actually engaged me in anyway.

    The reasons he did not are manifold, but I will focus on two main reasons. Firstly, there is no time spent with him. You spend a good amount of time with him in the tutorial, which is actually a promising start. The baby stuff was sweet and the G.O.A.T. part had an amusingly familiar "Stop playing sick," routine that most are likely to connect to. However, everything falls apart ironically as the game really begins. Dad leaves. With no build up, no dramatic tension and with little in the way of why. It's just "Hey, your dad's gone and we're all being killed by the weakest enemies in the game! Run! Because it's your fault, apparently." And going forward, none of your moments with him are ever really spent bonding; just dressed up exposition dumps with some kind words thrown in. Yippee.

    Secondly, he serves no meaningful gameplay role to the player. Let's take a look at an AI partner done right: Ellie from The Last of Us. She opens pathways for you, helps you fight, keeps your awareness up in battle, aids in the storyline directly and on-screen, etc. "Dad" does none of this. The only time he ever helped me out was on the way back from Tranquility Lane in which he punched a Radscorpion out, saving my ass. That was cool. But a one-time occurrence. Because he serves no concrete role to the player, you place little value on him as a character. There is no positive feedback to him besides to move the paper-thin plot along. Hell, even Ashley in Resident Evil 4 leaves more of an impact.

    This is where Fallout 4 could shine. If they use the character's family properly and actually develop a tangible bond, it would be fairly easy to miss the Deathclaw-sized plot holes that will likely pop up. Fallout 1's plot, for instance, was hardly memorable on it's own. Cutting it down to the bare minimum, it was "Go get the Water Chip. Hey, thanks. Oh, there's some big ass green dudes wrecking shit. Do something about that." But the game leveraged it's gameplay and atmosphere perfectly, allowing the player to fill in the blanks with their heart and mind. It was engaging on some level. I accept that bethesda writes dumb games. That's fine, Spielberg directed a lot of dumb movies. But when your big dumb story has a big heart, the flaws fall under far less of a microscope. The move towards a speaking protagonist and the whole baby gimmick has me under the impression that they plan on moving in that direction. Let's hope, at some point between now and when Fallout 3 released, they looked at it's mess of a plot and came to the same conclusion. Or, well, you know, just decided to be smart. But these are the people who managed to stick both superheroes and vampires into a Fallout game, so. Yeah. (Of course, the whale and the flower pot from Hitchiker's were in Fallout 2 and so was King Arthur, so, all things considered, they probably took that insanity as canon. Not the brightest fellas.)
     
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  2. Moosick

    Moosick cats

    Jul 8, 2015
    After NV and Todd Howard seemingly caring more about detail this time, I have my hopes higher. It'll either be a glorious game as enjoyable as being tossed off with a smile, or it'll be so meh it'll get 10/10s from IGN.

    honestly they could just kill the dog as part of the plot and it'd tug those heart strings hard.
     
  3. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    I think one should not get his hopes to high and use Skyrim as the current standart for Beth. I believe that is the maximum of writing you can expect from them. Which was not really that much better than Oblivion if I am honest ...
     
  4. Moosick

    Moosick cats

    Jul 8, 2015
    If Skyrim is the standard for Bethworks we are doomed.
     
  5. The Courier

    The Courier Blain is a pain.

    Jul 9, 2011
    Sadly, it was still a huge improvement from Oblivion.
     
  6. Stone Cold Robert House

    Stone Cold Robert House Mojave Rattlesnake

    Jul 6, 2015
    Depends on the perspective. If we're talking about the main quest, then Skyrim is head and shoulders above Oblivion - while the lore involved is not as interesting as Oblivion's, Skyrim has a vastly better structure and characters. But when it comes to every other questline in the game Oblivion wins and it's not even close. All the guilds in Skyrim were nothing short of awful while Oblivion's Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood are arguably the best questlines in the series, with many other minor quests also being superior. Oblivion could have focused more on characters and tackled the Daedra in a more interesting way but I'll take its writing over Skyrim's any day.


    Back to Fallout, I agree completely with what you said - Fallout 3 has no heart. You have some interesting moments, a decent outline, but no focus on what you're supposed to care about. I like to say that implementation of anything in a game is all about feeling. You have a character here who's supposed to make the player feel a specific emotion. Or you have a weapon which makes the player feel a certain way when used. Maybe an environment that should make the player feel awe or curiosity. It's all about what you're feeling and this helps connect objectives in a "I want to do this because I care about seeing the result" rather than simply "I will do this because it's the next step in the questline". You're not really led to care about any character in Fallout 3. Sure, one may say it's difficult to care about any character because they are not real, but the opposite is true: look at a game like The Walking Dead where players are impacted by simple messages like "X will remember this" because the writing is good and they're led to care about what's going on. For a more relevant example, look at Boone in New Vegas. You can pick a lot of characters for this, but I choose Boone because he's one of my favorite characters in the game and the progression of his story is superb. At first when you find him he won't open up and tell you his life story, which makes sense, since he just met you. Boone needs to see proof he can trust you, in the form of taking actions against Caesar's Legion or supporting the NCR to advance his quest. Eventually you'll come across the NCR soldiers being held prisoner in Nelson which triggers Boone to talk about the similar situation he lived with his wife, which destroyed him. You can either take the standard Ranger response and mercy kill them, or do what he couldn't and rescue them; either path triggers some fantastic dialogue and drama. The more you tag along with Boone, every now and then you'll get to know more of his past, one detail at a time. This makes you gradually care about the character, and cleverly integrates character relationships with the player's actions. That's very different than just being told you should care about a character, but not seeing anything to make you actually care.
     
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  7. Walpknut

    Walpknut Testament to the ghoul lifespan

    Dec 30, 2010
    Skyrim has a quest about investigating a murder.... if you don't follow the quest marker and actually try to do some detective work it breaks forever.

    They need to learn quest design first.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  8. zegh8578

    zegh8578 Keeper of the trout Orderite

    Mar 11, 2012
    Skyrim had a masterfully written story, which left a deep impact in the core of my soul. The dragon! That attacked, and I became: Dragonborn! And the bearded guys taught me: The Shout! Now I was truly: The Dragonborn! And I killed all the other dragons, truly becoming - The Dragonborn!
    I like how the DLC added to the story, and made it feel complete, as I discovered there was another Dragonborn! I defeat him, and so I become - The Dragonborn!
     
  9. Battlecross

    Battlecross Banned

    Jun 17, 2015
    A lot of companies do, Skyrim and FO3's main quests are basically just excuses to get you to go places, but the main quests aren't why I play the games so after a point I ignore them entirely anyway.
     
  10. Battlecross

    Battlecross Banned

    Jun 17, 2015
    Skyrim and FO3's main quests are basically just excuses to get you to go places, but the main quests aren't why I play the games so after a point I ignore them entirely anyway.

    You haven't played past the first Walking Dead have you? The second is atrocious, as is the Telltale Game of Thrones game where they basically force you to make choices you don't want to make. You'll say fuck this guy, but the options later are like him or like him. Or they shoehorn you down a story path, etc. It's especially bad in Game of Thrones where they seem to have way less freedom with what they're doing. Spoilers ahead:

    https://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/54036/poor-writing-in-season-2
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  11. Stone Cold Robert House

    Stone Cold Robert House Mojave Rattlesnake

    Jul 6, 2015
    Indeed, I haven't played the sequel, and I'm not particularly interested in doing so, but the first one is a perfect example to the point I'm making. Of course, Fallout 4 doesn't have to invoke really intensive emotions, but it does have to make the player invested in the world. See Boone as I said above.
     
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  12. Battlecross

    Battlecross Banned

    Jun 17, 2015
    Yeah don't play it. I watched a whole playthrough and it's infuriating most of the time because choice is literally all that matters to that game and the writing botches it.
     
  13. Walpknut

    Walpknut Testament to the ghoul lifespan

    Dec 30, 2010
    Taletell "games" are all crap, the only good one was the first Walking Dead. They pretty much went downhill starting with Wolf Among Us.
     
  14. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    What did you think of "Tales of Monkey Island"?
     
  15. Walpknut

    Walpknut Testament to the ghoul lifespan

    Dec 30, 2010
    Wasn't that Lucas Arts?
     
  16. Stone Cold Robert House

    Stone Cold Robert House Mojave Rattlesnake

    Jul 6, 2015
    Telltale developed the game, LucasArts distributed it and oversaw production (approving scripts and designs, etc). You could say they collaborated though it's mostly a Telltale game.
     
  17. TorontRayne

    TorontRayne Misanthropic God of Rations Staff Member Moderator Orderite

    Apr 1, 2005
    Not only that, but the PS3 version was buggy as hell.
     
  18. Walpknut

    Walpknut Testament to the ghoul lifespan

    Dec 30, 2010
    Then I change it to Modern Telltale "games" are crap.
     
  19. ChildServices

    ChildServices Banned

    May 22, 2015
    IT IS I: DOCTOR MOOOOooooOOOBIUSSSSS
     
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  20. PossibleCabbage

    PossibleCabbage Vault 22 Survivor

    Jul 2, 2015
    I think that a lot of Bethesda's narrative problems is that they come across as an "excessively permissive GM." You know, the kind that will let their players do whatever they want, a la "you guys want to just walk into Mordor at level 1? Cool."

    So the end result of this is that you realize that it's really not worth spending your time developing NPCs as characters, since you're going to need a lot of NPCs as the party is going to wander all over the place, and while you probably have some idea about what the story is supposed to be it has to be simple enough that players aren't going to lose the plot no matter how much they wander off and the story beats have to be pretty small/self-contained. The thing the excessively permissive GM gets the most benefit out of, though, is fleshing out the world so there's something to do no matter where the PCs go, so you don't have to scramble and do something like "you come across a peddler of rare items" (this is a great time waster, most players will spend a ton of time shopping.)

    The other major player in AAA RPGs (Bioware) pretty much has the opposite problem, where the story is more or less on rails except you let the players act when they're in conversations, and you have a few potential branch points so the party feels like they actually have some input.

    Now you can have a good game with a really permissive GM or with the direct opposite, but when you get close to either extreme you have to kind of be careful whether your lack of structure or excess of structure is harming the experience itself.