What Really Excites Me the Most About Fallout 4

Fallout 4 Box Art

Continuing my pattern here of trying to shoehorn in a post on Fallout 4 every week, today I want to talk about the aspect of the game that excites me the most. The easy answer is player freedom. That’s not it. The buzzword answer is the customization and crafting. That’s not it either. And the PC-turned-Console answer is the prospect of mods later on. That’s partially true – it could be the case by this time next year.

What I’m really the most excited about is the world that Bethesda is crafting for us. Not just from a visual standpoint – although I am looking forward to playing a Fallout game that doesn’t look super dated. What I mean really relates to every aspect of the game. Bethesda has an incredible knack for making these super expansive worlds still feel real. It’s all the little details that they put into the game. From the writing of the dialogue, to the way it’s delivered by the actors, to the very foundation of the world itself; they’re all so well done.

Fallout New Vegas The Strip

The writing is probably the easiest to point to. Dialogue trees and conversations play an incredibly important role in playing through any Bethesda RPG. From getting extra rewards upon quest completion, to getting out of some sticky situations, using your Speech skill matters a whole bunch. And it’s in those conversations that you probably will see the strength in the writing first. It’s pretty difficult to go through a Bethesda game without talking with a bunch of people. But the writing extends a lot further than that. If you’ve played a Fallout game, especially the Bethesda ones, you know that there’s a massive amount of flavor text in the terminals scattered about the wasteland. Add in the bunches of holotape notes that also appear and you get a good sense about the sheer amount of writing that goes into these games.

The next step then is the voicing of that writing. All of those conversations that are integral in the Bethesda RPG experience are all voiced. Granted, the player character hasn’t every been voiced prior to this year’s game, but still. The variety in the different characters in the games is staggering, even if they do use a relatively small voice acting pool. What always strikes me though is the amount of big names they’re able to snag for a role or two. In Oblivion it was Patrick Stewart, Fallout 3 had Liam Neeson, Fallout: New Vegas has Matthew Perry – it goes on. For Fallout 4, we don’t know a ton about the cast, other than Ron Perlman reprising his role as narrator; along with the player character actor and actress – Brian T. Delaney and Courtenay Taylor. Regardless of the celebrity status of the actors, they always do a great job bringing each character to life.

Fallout 4 Concept Bomb

Which really all ties into what I think has always been Bethesda strength. That’s making these worlds all tie in together and feel real. It’s more than just making the characters feel real through good writing and voice acting. It’s more than just putting little details in the houses to make them feel real. It’s much deeper than that. The best way that I’ve really been able to dive into this is by looking at the timelines that they’ve created for Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Granted Fallout was initially created by Black Isle Studios, but still, Bethesda isn’t exactly bad at this either. Just look at the two timelines for the games – you’ll see details that impact the games, but that won’t show up in actual gameplay, possibly ever. The Elder Scrolls timeline details the creation myths for each race, along with helping set the stage for each game. Fallout‘s timeline details out exactly what happened in the timeline after it split from our own – from the end of WWII on to the Great War. Little details like that just make everything feel like is has history behind it. And that’s really what has me super pumped for Fallout 4 – not only do we get another chance to fill in some blanks in the timeline, but this is the first time we’ve headed to Boston. That means that we’re probably guaranteed to learn a whole bunch more about that region – which also means a whole lot more writing and creating on Bethesda’s part.

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World Building and How to Best Go About It

One thing that has been on my mind a lot lately as I go back and play though the Fable series as well as Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2 is just how important it is to craft a thoroughly believable world that you play in. There are different ways that developers go about creating these worlds, I think that the base elements are pretty much the same regardless of the game.

One thing I want to touch quickly on – I think I would be remiss to mention the role that game manuals play in world building. Of course, with manuals all but extinct at this point, developers have to adjust a little bit. In the old days, a developer would put the backstory for the setting, characters, enemies and lore all in the manual – at this point, all that information has to be added in the actual game, at least it does to ensure a rich world to explore.

Borderlands

Which brings me to a couple examples I have, from a few different genres too. First, I want to look at the Borderlands series. I think it’s a good place to look at how a developer can take a slow burn approach to building the world. Looking at the first game, most of the extra information that helps create a fully fleshed out world lives in the quest cards that you get for all of the quests, there is very little in the way of cutscenes or dialogue. That changes a little bit in the second game – the bulk of the extra info still comes in the quest cards, but they definitely added more cutscenes and dialogue to help flesh out the main storyline. As it extends to world building, the lack of dialogue in the first game can be somewhat written off as Pandora being an incredibly hostile planet, while most of the dialogue in the sequel takes place in Sanctuary, which is a (relatively) safe location. If you dig a little deeper into the quest cards, you can find a much more detailed world than first glance might show. I don’t know if it’s the most effective manner to build a world, but it does work – I think the Pandora is one of the more unique settings in gaming, with a really unique universe to tell a bunch of stories in.

Oblivion

Next, I want to look at the Elder Scrolls series, specifically Oblivion and Skyrim. Since the franchise has been going on for a number of years, the backstory for these two games is incredibly in depth, going back years through a number of games. Looking at them as stand alone games, the strength of the writing and dialogue helps make the towns feel much more alive, and each character has a life that is easily observed. That in and of itself helps make the world of Cyrodil or Skyrim an incredibly in depth place to explore. But going beyond that, Bethesda has always put tons of extra information in the games – each book is fully written, with a bunch of variation in tone, length and topic; each unique item has a backstory, the alchemy ingredients that exist in the world have multiple properties, and a lifespan out in the world where they regrow after being picked. That detail is something that I’m glad that Bethesda has extended to the Fallout world too.

Halo 3

Finally, I want to look at the Halo series. I want to look here because shooters in general tend to have the “weakest” worlds to explore – just based around the confines of the game mechanics. But with that said, Halo has always had a very in-depth universe to explore, with tons of little details, from each shell casing from the shotgun having a brand name printed on it; to the details on the Warthog’s dashboard. Going beyond that – the early games came with really well thought out manuals – each going into surprising depth on each weapon, enemy, vehicle and piece of technology in the universe. The later games build on that with extra incentives through special editions, or the terminals in-game.

I think ultimately, there really isn’t a perfect way to go about creating the worlds that players get to explore. The most important thing is that the players can immerse themselves into the universe.