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Author Topic: An impression of Fallout 3  (Read 21037 times)
Michaël Samyn

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« on: June 17, 2010, 05:31:58 PM »

Here's a blog post on Fallout 3 in my "Treasures" series, in which I research AAA games in search of something of value to the notgames concept.
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Thomas

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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2010, 07:34:55 PM »

Nice write-up!

A question: I have heard that there is a town you can visiit in the game where there has been a plague or something. According to what I read somewhere players found it very emotional to just walk around talking to the inhabitants and explore the surroundings. Was this a location you came across and if so what was your impression of it? It just seems like a bit of notgamey moment to me.
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Michaël Samyn

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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2010, 08:45:40 PM »

I don't think I have found this town. Do you know its name? There were some references here and there to family tragedies and such. But sadly these were usually just backdrops for fedex quests, which removed a lot of their emotional potential for me. I really missed the opportunity to develop a friendship in the game. Maybe that happens later on. But then I would say the game is far too long. I've played this for about 10 hours so far, and nothing really happened.

I found the world to be very immersive. But as I've mentioned in the blog post, it immerses you in an atmosphere that is actually quite unpleasant. Which is fine for a short while, but gets far too realistic after a while. In the sense that a post-nuclear world probably is indeed very dangerous and dull most of the time.
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Thomas

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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2010, 09:51:29 PM »

Afraid I cannot remember the town nor where I read about it so cannot look it up either.

Small rant:
I was tempted to buy the game during a steam weekend sale, since I liked some aspects of the first fallout. However, after reading reviews and such it seems like they just focused on making the killing better and not improving other aspects. The first game had some really engaging moments, for example you could give advice to farmers so they grew better crops, tell local authorities about a guy selling bad food, getting evidence against mafia boss by wearing a wire and convince an AI to let you do stuff. All of these where choices and made the world feel very living because of it. The problem is that the I tried really hard to play the role of a clever scientist guy in the first game, but the game soon forced me into fighting, which mostly was boring (battles where turn based and could be reaaaallly drawn out). The first game also had all kind of annoying stuff present in older games (dead-ends, time limits). I was hoping that this game would improve upon the non-violent stuff from the old one, but it seems like they just put even more emphasis on killing stuff. It is just annoying how games cannot focus on this stuff that was present in older games, but instead even less time seems to be devoted to it. It feels as if games from 10 years ago or more contained these really glimpse of a new line for the medium, but then nobody has really put any real focus on em and just spent time on cheap and additive thrills.
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Michaël Samyn

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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2010, 09:00:02 AM »

It feels as if games from 10 years ago or more contained these really glimpse of a new line for the medium, but then nobody has really put any real focus on em and just spent time on cheap and additive thrills.

I feel the same. I've seen the transition happening. In 2003-2004, I think, there was something like a mini-crisis in the games industry. Budgets were ramping up and small developers were disappearing. In this time, publishers and developers decided to stop trying to appeal to non-gamers and put all their focus, instead, on "games for gamers". Then Nintendo came along and confused the hell out of everything with their games-for-normal-people-who-don't-play-videogames-but-do-like-playing-other-games approach. And their commercial success moved the idea of videogames as a medium of further away from reality.

But the dream is not lost. It still exist in a lot of the marketing rhetoric of videogames, and in the way that gamers think of the medium. Only the truly radical geeks think of games as competitive challenges. All the others experience videogames -even Fallout 3- as a medium. They are so used to the competitive format that it becomes transparent to them. They are so skilful that the killing and collecting doesn't stand in the way of their enjoyment of the atmosphere, the story, etc.

The funny thing is that they are often still baffled when they enjoy something interactive that isn't a game per se. I recently read a comment on Erik Svedäng's Kometen from a person who had finished the game and then complained about how it wasn't a game. But he had finished the entire game. This takes hours! You can't tell me that somebody who spends hours with something doesn't like it in some way. It feels like, to some extent, gamers may have become blind, or at least under-appreciative, to the simple pleasures of aesthetics, narrative and mood.

But only in their games. Many gamers have no problem enjoying the beauty of a painting, the mood of a song or the story in a novel. I guess it is our task to re-educate them that they can have all these things in an interactive package too, and without the sportive aspect.

Anyway, I wouldn't say that Fallout 3 focuses on killing. There's at least as much talking as there is killing. But above all, there's lots of roaming, all alone, through a devastated landscape. Which I found to be apt enough. But it would have been nicer if the interactions in the game supported this mood better (and if the experience were much shorter).
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Utforska

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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2010, 09:44:11 AM »

The funny thing is that they are often still baffled when they enjoy something interactive that isn't a game per se. I recently read a comment on Erik Svedäng's Kometen from a person who had finished the game and then complained about how it wasn't a game. But he had finished the entire game. This takes hours! You can't tell me that somebody who spends hours with something doesn't like it in some way. It feels like, to some extent, gamers may have become blind, or at least under-appreciative, to the simple pleasures of aesthetics, narrative and mood.

Here's another thought, of course without having read the comment you're referring to. What if that player in fact didn't really like Kometen that much? What if the player kept playing because he expected there to be some kind of symbolic reward - points, highscore, a congratulations screen, achievement badges, anything - because that's how games tend to work? And he became utterly disappointed because he didn't get that symbolic satisfaction, which he was craving for?

I mean, in most games, you actually don't get any useful reward because you perform well. Sure in some games you can win money or other actual, tangible benefits, but in most you can't. No matter how tired I am personally of mindlessly gathering points and scores, isn't it extremely interesting to see how those completely symbolic rewards can mean so much? Friendships can end because of a game of Risk! I wouldn't be surprised if there are examples of people who have been beaten up or even killed because they won some game.

These symbolic rewards are apparently a very strong drive in most humans, so it's not strange that almost all games rely on them. You can make people do almost anything by giving them points. What's interesting about Kometen is that it's almost a game in the traditional sense - you do get a symbolic reward for each painting you visit (they light up on the map). I guess the lack of obstacles and genuine challanges disqualifies it though.

I had some more thoughts on this, how to replace points with something more interesting, but I think that would be better as a separate thread...

By the way, it's funny though that someone would use "it's not a game" as a complaint. It reminds me of something I read the other day:

Quote from: Daring Fireball
Used to be, back in the early days of DF, that those complaining about the lack of comments simply were under the impression that a site without comments was not truly a “weblog”. (My stock answer at the time: “OK, then it’s not a weblog.”)
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Michaël Samyn

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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2010, 12:12:13 PM »

The problem is then, it would seem, that people go in with the wrong expectations. They are perfectly capable of enjoying a song without getting points, or seeing a movie or reading a book. So why not a videogame?

Maybe that's something we need to work on: create an awareness of other ways of enjoying interactive entertainment. Because this is not just about notgames. Many videogames contain many enjoyable elements that you don't get a symbolic reward for but that make the experience so much richer. You don't get a reward for finding a landscape beautiful, you don't get a reward for laughing at a joke that a character makes, you don't get a reward for feeling impressed when you hear the sound of a waterfall, or for realizing some truth about your own life through a story in a game. Yet, I think most people would agree that these are far more important than some stupid number in the corner of the screen.

Maybe this is step one: to make people aware of what's really important in the experience of a videogame. And then the logical step two is simply to drop the stuff that is not.
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Thomas

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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2010, 01:38:11 PM »

I think video games have come bit on the way regarding this. For example, early adventure game all had a score, something that is no longer very common. This means adventure game dropped an abstract reward to focus on what really mattered. Still there are other things left in adventure games that are sort of abstract rewards, the main things being in-your-face-puzzles and a story that have a direct goal. What I mean with the story is that almost all adventure game have a story where you are set out to accomplish a certain goal, either some detective story or a save-the-world kind of affair. I cannot come up with any graphical adventure game that does not have this kind of layout. However, you need to look no further but to Interactive Fiction, and both puzzles and goal based stories have been dropped. So it seems like there is some progress on the dropping reward front, but most (all?) is outside of the mainstream.
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Michaël Samyn

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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2010, 06:09:50 PM »

But adventure games and interactive fiction are such poor media. I love the simulation aspects of realtime 3D (or of 2D graphics in the resolution of my monitor). And the sensuality and immersion that comes with that. For me those are important reasons why I want to drop the goal/reward thing. I want to enjoy those more. And games get in the way.
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ghostwheel

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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2010, 10:56:15 AM »

Decent article but I think the whole "ninja apocalypse" idea is nonsense. You completely ignore the fact that anyone our age can clearly remember the last decade or two of the Cold War and that nuclear annihilation was a very real threat. And anyone older lived through most, if not all of the Cold War. I don't think it's a stretch to think this affected alot of people who spent any amount of time contemplating the possible outcome of such a catastrophic event. You don't need a hypothetical, invisible end-of-the-world when there is a very real one breathing down your neck.
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Michaël Samyn

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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2010, 09:58:53 AM »

It would have been great if Fallout 3 had an 80s theme instead of a 50s theme!  Grin
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ghostwheel

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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2010, 06:37:37 PM »

It would have been great if Fallout 3 had an 80s theme instead of a 50s theme!  Grin

Not 80s themed but I think Rage is going to be close enough. I'm really looking forward to that one as it's the first iD IP that isn't just another spin on the Doom formula. The world is supposed to large - lots to explore!
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