Best/Worst Of Fallout Game Design

Discussion in 'General Fallout Discussion' started by TerminallyChill, Feb 18, 2018.

  1. TerminallyChill

    TerminallyChill Be excellent to each other.

    Feb 16, 2018
    What exactly makes the Fallout games good? What are their biggest flaws? Let's try our best to be as articulate as possible so that maybe one day, some aspiring game developer can learn from this thread.

    What makes Fallout good in my opinion:

    1. A universal character building system that is meaningfully customizable

    Even non-player characters in Fallout are built the same way as yours. This is great not only because it serves to level the playing field, but it makes NPCs feel more like actual other people. You can aspire to be just as powerful as the biggest badass in the game. In addition to this, the choices you make matter. If you choose to be a genius scientist, you can speak intelligently and hack computers. If instead you decide to be a grouchy survivalist, people might think you're an asshole but at least you can hunt for your food. This adds a ton of replay value to the game and gives players a unique sense of identity.

    2. Freedom to deal with situations as you please

    This may be the most important part of Fallout. In real life, you don't always feel like you can do whatever you want. Sometimes you have to put up with assholes or follow societal obligations. Not so in the wasteland! Don't like that guy's attitude? Shoot his dumb ass in the face! Want to see what's inside that military base? Sneak on in! There are numerous solutions to any one problem which you can tailor to your play style. Many games have players frequently asking "Can I do this?". Fallout is one of the few that almost always answers yes.

    3. There are consequences for your actions

    In some games, you make "decisions" only to find out later that what you did has absolutely zero effect later on. In Fallout however, you can royally screw yourself just by making minor mistakes. This is realistic because it makes you think twice about killing some guy just because you like his gun. You might find out later that he could have helped you somewhere else along the line. Maybe he belonged to a faction and now they are pissed off at you. The real icing on the cake is that this applies even to the main story line in many cases. You can easily lock yourself out of certain desirable outcomes if you aren't careful.

    4. Dark, intelligent humor

    While it's true that Fallout sometimes likes its blatant penis jokes (Old World Blues, anyone?), the comedic elements really shine when they are subtle, tragic, and cynical.

    For example, in Fallout: New Vegas, Vault 11's computer told its occupants to select someone for sacrifice every so often or it would kill them all. You initially see that this led to deadly chaotic elections and a civil war, only to later find out that the computer just wanted to congratulate everyone on their morality when they told it no.

    This kind of writing is genius and adds so much to the overall tone of the games.

    5. Huge variety of unique items, characters, quests, and locations

    One of the reasons people sink hundreds of hours into these games is the sheer volume of things to do on any given playthrough. There are countless places to explore, many populated with their own diverse cast of characters. There's always a different type of quest to complete and tons of useful items worth collecting. The best part is that a lot of the most interesting stuff is optional, meaning that you can pick and choose exactly what goals you want to pursue. This is the distinction between time wasted and time well spent.

    6. Retro-futuristic setting

    Stylistically, you can't do much better in a work of fiction than to create something that echoes the past but also nods toward what lies ahead. From communism paranoid robots to nuclear powered cars, Fallout successfully challenges technology, American values, and so much more.

    Fallout's flaws in my opinion:

    1. Difficult for beginners

    To say the Fallout titles have a steep learning curve is putting it lightly. In Fallout 2, it's more like a learning cliff. I can't tell you how many times I died to the very first enemies in the game. (Fuck you, ants.) The user interface is unintuitive and downright confusing to new players. This is an overlooked aspect by many gaming veterans since they've been playing these things since the late 90's and it comes to them as second nature. While it's not necessarily the end of the world (see what I did there), it is certainly something that can be improved upon. Many games have brilliant starting sequences that seamlessly transition even the greenest of gamers into experts by the end of the introduction.

    2. Bad inventory management

    Anyone who has tried to barter in the original Fallout knows what I'm talking about. It's a chore to say the least. Unfortunately, even the most modern, polished Fallout titles are still plagued with similar issues. Especially when it comes to dropping "essential" quest items and sorting. Console Fallout: New Vegas players wince at the mere mention of such objects as the Codac R9000 and Motor-Runner's Helmet.

    3. Technical issues

    This is by far the nit-pickiest thing on this list, it's just hard for me to come up with the shortcomings of one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time. The scope of Fallout has always been a double-edged sword. One one hand, you get a metric shitload of content. On the other hand... an imperial fuckton of bugs. Some of these actually proved to quite be entertaining, while others were soul shattering game breakers.

    I'm sure I missed some things, and maybe got a few wrong. Please let me know what you guys think about this topic.
  2. Jogre

    Jogre It's all JO'Ger now

    Oct 25, 2015
    Fallout 2 was expecting players have played Fallout 1 first.

    And to find your way around you are technically supposed to use a manual.
    • [Like] [Like] x 2
  3. TerminallyChill

    TerminallyChill Be excellent to each other.

    Feb 16, 2018
    You make a good point there with the manual. It's probably unfair to criticize a game from 1998 for its tutorials since that was just the design philosophy back then and I know countless games did it. Definitely inexcusable by today's standards though.

    As for the thing about expectations of playing the first one, while that certainly might have been the developer's motivation, I still disagree that it's good game design.

    Either way, those are both such minor flaws it hardly matters. Just wouldn't want to see the same mistakes repeated!
  4. Jogre

    Jogre It's all JO'Ger now

    Oct 25, 2015
    I mean, it depends.

    I don't think you should just excuse bad game design just because it was the standard of the time, because there are some things which are just bad decisions regardless of context(The nonsense puzzles in 90s Graphic Adventure games for instance)

    However in the case of a manual, IMO it's something that's only actually a flaw if you live in a time where reading manuals isn't the norm.

    I'd say it could actually have some advantages(Not having to be taken out of the game by having tutorials thrown at you)

    Fallout 2 really should have kept new players in mind tbh.

    And I have heard many people here complain about the difficulty curve, even people who have already played 1.
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  5. PlanHex

    PlanHex Useless layabout oTO Moderator Orderite

    Nov 4, 2007
    Actually, I'd say games from that era (mid-late 90s) are pretty forgiving when it comes to reading the manual. A lot had tooltips and such, and almost all had some kind of help-screen or reference when you press F1.
    Earlier games don't always have that, and reading the manual often seems mandatory.
    Ever tried the original X-Com without reading the manual?
    And Wasteland has the entire story in the manual, sort of.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2018
    • [Like] [Like] x 2
  6. TerminallyChill

    TerminallyChill Be excellent to each other.

    Feb 16, 2018
    I have to admit, the only reason I call reading a manual "inexcusable" today is due to the existence of this video.