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News for Friday, May 28, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 23:40

"Yes, that's it," said the Hatter with a sigh: "It's always SLAM DUNK-time, and we've not time to polish the releases between the whiles."

With Alpha Protocol being Obsidian's last released title before New Vegas, its release and reception is bound to be of some interest to those considering buying Fallout: New Vegas. And well, it's not pretty. Get your review roundups at GameBanshee, which contains reviews like Eurogamer 7/10 and 5/10, whose thoughts can be quickly summed up as "something has gone awfully wrong for Alpha Protocol." (for reference, be sure to also read the much more positive 8.4/10 GamesMaster review)

Far be it for me to ascribe universal competence to videogame reviewers, and on my personal scale there are certainly sites I'm more interested to hear from than these. I have already noted fans of the game accusing the reviewers of an unfair bias, and failing to see how the same reviewers that praise Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 can burn Alpha Protocol to cinders. I recognize the disjointed feeling of "are they talking about the same game I played?", but I can't comment yet (I do have the game, but no time to really play it yet).

Nor should we forget that Alpha Protocol is in its nature a different animal than New Vegas. Its intentions on the "RPG scale" were meant to veer more clearly towards stealth and combat, and criticism in those areas are not directly relevant, other than criticism of choppy execution.
Besides, those of us who have followed the project for a longer time know how messy its production cycle has been. An earlier design, by Vampire: Bloodlines' and currently Zombie RPG writer Brian Mitsoda, was completely scrapped, so completely that Mitsoda could simply say he has "nothing" to do with the current game's design. Even as a stable version formed under Chris Avellone's direction, the release date still had to be pushed back from October 2009 to May/June 2010. That is after being announced with an early 2009 release in March 2008. All of this points to a very poorly managed project.

Yet with all the delays, when Eurogamer says "Alpha Protocol feels like a B-team effort", I can't bat an eyelash at it. It's just not surprising. This is the crux of the matter. Alpha Protocol was a game twice-delayed (at least), yet even the more positive GamesMaster review cited above lovingly calls it "a technical turkey". Mild when compared to this quotation from a 6/10 VideoGamer review:
Then there are the technical issues; the plethora of graphical mishaps, animation blunders and odd design choices. The frame rate is of particular concern, which drops into oblivion during pivotal moments of a mission. Textures pop in left, right and centre and portals frequently appear in doors and walls, revealing a glimpse at the strange world outside of the developer's jurisdiction. AI is disturbingly last-gen too, especially for a game that relies so heavily on stealth. Enemies often won't notice you're stood right in front of them, and are completely oblivious to the likes of grenades. I honestly think Metal Gear Solid did a better job of artificial intelligence back on the PSone.

Little things annoyed me too, like the awkward position of the camera, which follows Thorton around too closely and at too high an angle. It's a strange criticism to make, but I was always concerned that I couldn't see his feet, which for some reason made me feel uncomfortable. Thorton's sneak animation is comical too, and appears as if he's wandering around trying to conceal an erection. Alpha Protocol generally lacks the polish of a game that's been in development as long as it has. A few people have used the phrase 'rough around the edges' to describe the game in previews, but I'd argue that this is an understatement.
"Fnneeeeeh!" the fan will say, in his incoherent rage, "technical polish is not the developer's task, it belongs to the publisher! Both production and QA belong in their portfolio, not Obsidian's!" Too true. And normally I'd agree, blame the publisher. But this isn't the first time this has happened with an Obsidian title. Heck, this, hmmpph, "tradition" even came up on J.E. Sawyer's recent Formspring cycle:
Now, we all know that Obsidian has developed some pretty buggy games in the past, especially considered that they weren't developed from scratch (they were both sequels). Now, I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intention, so the question is : how it happened

Poor planning, poorly phased implementation of content, poor scope management in general.
And I posed the question three years ago when interviewing Kevin Saunders about NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer.
GB: While Obsidian's games are well-executed, gameplay issues seem to be one of the biggest concerns for critics - even going back to the Black Isle Studios days with titles like Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment. Do you feel this (the mechanical side of game design, so to speak) is something that needs more focus or additional player input in future games?

Kevin: That's an interesting question. Actually, most of the Mask of the Betrayer team (myself included) didn't work at Black Isle Studios. I think the problems mentioned are by no means systemic issues or Obsidian issues. The criticisms come down to a couple specific decisions and it's as simple as that.
But now, three years later, we can definitely say it's not as simple as that. Three titles in, two of which were sequels, Obsidian's batting average doesn't look that good when it comes to technical execution. There's no blaming producers for this anymore, not when SEGA pushed back the release date of Alpha Protocol multiple times, it's become kind of painfully obvious that Obsidian just sucks at project management. For comparison's sake, there were two years and four months between Alpha Protocol's announcement and its release, while there looks to be about a year and six months between announcement and release for New Vegas, though that doesn't tell us everything on comparing their total production length.

So what does that mean for us Fallout fans, looking forward to New Vegas? It pretty much just tells us what we already knew: when it comes to technical execution, Fallout: New Vegas will in all likelihood be a piece of junk. When originally announced, I kind of expected it to be a humble, quicky project, a sort of large expansion-sized project. Instead, we're overhauling SPECIAL, tweaking combat and interfaces, and adding a goodly-sized new world. Sounds pretty ambitious for a developer with a reputation for careful planning and allocating of time and resources. Sounds like a recipe for disaster in Obsidian's hands. And that's without factoring in that their publisher is Bethesda, a publishing house with a pretty poor track record, and whose Fallout 3 was no marvel when it came to technical factors such as bugs and animations.

Discuss. Let us know if you disagree and feel Obsidian will be able to deliver a technically polished game. Are the changes from Fallout 3 to New Vegas all so minor that they should manage? And if you've played it, please share your Alpha Protocol experience, what hopes and fears the game has given you vis-a-vis New Vegas.

This was an unscheduled blog-style post. Back to your regular programming soon enough.

Posted by Brother None - at 19:15

Some more gaming questions in J.E. Sawyer's Formspring, on top of the silly ones.

You lamented about the lack of serious themes in video games earlier. Why do you think the quality of writing is dependent on establishing and developing a theme? Wouldn't an entertaining plot and characters be more important for the player's enjoyment?

A lot of RPGs are long, certainly longer than the average film. If there is not some thematic thread running through all of that time and much of the dialogue, the experience as a whole can fall flat. Taken as snapshots, characters and plot elements may stand on their own, but they are essentially reduced to one-offs with very little connective tissue binding them together.

We already have plenty of examples of well-written characters in video gaming. Writing consistently entertaining dialogue requires skill, but I believe the best writing in any genre combines well-written characters with an interesting exploration of theme. Video games don't do that very often, overtly or subtextually.

"Entertainment value" and "depth" are not intrinsically linked. Many people are entertained by things that have very little depth. Some of the most popular "western" RPG characters, I would argue, have very little depth and are not connected to any consistently established theme.

So, when I'm asked if I think gamers have lowered their standards for writing, I honestly have to ask, "What standards?" From what I see and hear people discussing, those standards stop at entertaining dialogue and an interesting plot. In my opinion, that is a very low bar to reach -- and I write this fully aware that I do not write the most entertaining characters or plots. I just think that with all of the good writers in the industry, we can do much better than we have.

Is it even desirable for a game to have good writing or to consistently establish and reinforce themes? Isn't that straying too far into games-as-art as opposed to games-as-good-games?

I think of it as "content-as-something-that-isn't-worthless-garbage". If you're going to bother putting something into your game, put a little effort into conceiving it.

The best concept artists I have worked with have a *concept* behind their concept. It's goofy that I have to call this out, but a lot of artist don't. If you bother thinking about why you're making content choices -- the marks on a drawing, the words in a conversation, the choices in an advancement system -- it tends to help create the feeling of cohesion. Elements are rooted in the fictitious place and time you have created.

If it matters for visuals (and I believe it does), it matters for dialogue.

Now, we all know that Obsidian has developed some pretty buggy games in the past, especially considered that they weren't developed from scratch (they were both sequels). Now, I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intention, so the question is : how it happened

Poor planning, poorly phased implementation of content, poor scope management in general.

Regarding your criticism of subtext in games, what is your opinion on Bioshock's thematic delivery? I think most of it went over gamers' heads because a large portion was conveyed through subtext: Marxist imagery in Atlas posters, Bible smuggling, etc.

I think Bioshock did a fantastic job, personally. While I think Bioshock's game play/choice mechanics weren't super compelling (this criticism is directly mostly at the late game), I think their environments and theme were executed very well.

And while I do think there is a lot of subtext in Bioshock, there's also a lot of overt discussion of theme. It doesn't get much more overt than locking you in a bathysphere and playing a video that's a direct critique of modern American, Soviet, and Christian societies.

I think that was the right way to do it: immediately introduce the player to the central philosophical idea behind Rapture and convey many of its various strengths and shortcomings through subtext over the course of the game.

How do you feel about DLC and online content? Shouldn't a game be able to stand up on its own merits as it is sold without these things?

1) DLC is fine as long as its presentation is not jarring or irritating to the player.

2) Yes.

I'm pretty sure you won't answer this, but how do you feel about the reception Alpha Protocol received so far? I don't remember if you actually worked on it or not, though.

I worked on the CQC/martial arts system.

It is interesting that the response is so varied. Different reviewers obviously focus on different things, but I don't think I've seen anything that's an unreasonable critique.

Posted by 13pm - at 12:04

Our all-seeing vault keeper Ausir reports that EB Games Australia has offered a bonus for those who pre-orders Fallout New Vegas for XBox. It is called Classic Pack:

As you can see it offers some "classic" Fallout items like Vault 13 suit and Vault 13 canteen. Yes, classic Vault 13 suit now looks like that.

It seems like this offer has been taken down for now. Though it might appear on the other game stores soon or at least for other countries at EB Games too. And likely it will be offered for PC too as XBox audience is not too familiar with the story of the first games.

Link: Post on Obsidian Forums

Thank you again, Ausir.

News for Thursday, May 27, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 21:14

Hey, remember when people thought E-Zines were a good idea? Anyway, PCGZine has previews of several upcoming titles from the publisher Bethesda, including New Vegas, in issue #42. They put the game at 80% complete, with a 90% score in initial impressions.

From the handful of characters that we met, there was still the freshness and originality which fans of the series will be familiar with. Mr Fantastic, a narcissistic conman, made a particular impression with sarcastic retors and great believable voice acting.
By tweaking a winning formula, Fallout: New Vegas is set to be even better than its predecessor, with improved weapon customisation and a new ally control system. Its success will depend on Obsidian keeping the quality of the content high throughout the entire campaign, but with an role-playing game heritage as strong as theirs is, we doubt there's any need for any gamer to be that concerned.
For a Zine that introduces its own editors as "Probably the best game writers on the planet", that's some awkward writing right there.
In random other news, our French friends at Canard PC have a preview of New Vegas and other Bethesda published titles (is Bethesda packaging this stuff?) They usually provide interesting reads. Check out their creative cover.

Posted by Brother None - at 17:14

Rene Auberjonois tweets.

Rene's current project: doing voice work on upcoming Obsidian Entertainment computer game, Fallout: New Vegas
Auberjonois is best known for playing the role of Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and he recently voiced Karl Schäfer in Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves.

Thanks WorstUserNameEver.

EDIT: coincidentally, Bethesda producer Jason Bergman tweets.
Spent over 11 hours today in a room with no windows for VO recording. That was rough, but the results are gonna be amazing.
Thanks Lexx.

Posted by Brother None - at 17:11

Gamer's Guide to has an interview opportunity coming up for Fallout: New Vegas, and is asking for readers to submit questions.

News for Monday, May 24, 2010

Posted by Sam Ecorners - at 19:44

There's some posts on the Bethesda forums from project lead J.E. Sawyer, striving to clear the air on some recent controversies. First off, he talks about the merging of the small guns and big guns skills.

Gun chat.

In 1997, I played the original Fallout. Like the games that followed it, Fallout had Small Guns, Big Guns, and Energy Weapons. In F1, the gun skills were designed for phased obsolescence. If you tagged Big Guns or Energy Weapons early on, you would not be able to gain much, if any, benefit from it for a long time. Even back then, I thought this was problematic. Before playing the game, players could not know how content would limit the applicability of weapons. Ultimately, it came down to three weapons: the minigun, rocket launcher, and flamer. Large, with heavy ammo, and either burst or AoE only. In Fallout 3, the list of Big Guns was expanded to include the fat man, rock-it launcher, and gatling laser. In most situations, these weapons were all still at least mid-power at their weakest. In talking to people in person and online, and in reading online commentary, I found that people were also still unclear on what marked the clear division between Small Guns and Big Guns (and even Energy Weapons, in the case of the Gatling Laser). Certainly the UI could be improved to help with this (something we have already done for F:NV), but it conceptually was a sticking point.

When I was looking at Big Guns for F:NV, I considered that the list of weapons was small compared to any other weapon category and several of the weapons arguably belonged (or at least could be easily categorized) elsewhere. Moving the Big Guns to different weapon skills and dissolving the Big Guns skill would allow weapons like the minigun to remain as a powerful top tier weapon without needing to invent low-tier "Big Guns" that might further confuse the dividing line. Coming up with a wide power spectrum of Guns, Energy Weapons, and Explosives would not be hard at all. Since our skill point economy is more frugal (I'll delve into this another time) and since we do have Strength requirements on weapons (resulting in increased sway for firearms and a decreased rate of fire for melee/unarmed), where you invest your skill points and SPECIAL points is still pretty important. A fully upgraded minigun wielded by a character with high Guns and high Strength cuts down rooms of people like a scythe, even at relatively long range. In the hands of an unskilled, low Strength character, it sprays a lot of bullets all over the place.

The exact categorization of weapons in F:NV isn't rooted in the logic of transferable skills from real life, but it's arguable they never were previously, either (missile launcher/flamer/minigun, for example). The categorizations have more to do with being clear and consistent with definitions. It follows this basic pattern:

* Does it explode? It's an Explosive.
* Does it use Small Energy Cells, Microfusion Cells, or other energy ammo? It's an Energy Weapon.
* Does it use conventional bullets of some flavor as ammo? It's a Gun.

So while it's accurate to say that Big Guns no longer exists as a category, it's not accurate to say that Big Guns and Small Guns were combined. The weapons in Big Guns were divided among the other weapon skills.

I know not everyone will be happy with this re-organization, but those are the reasons for the change. I hope the reasons are clear, even if you disagree with the decision. Thanks.
Another pair of posts addresses in this thread the transphobia question.
Before being dipped in the vats, Tabitha was a female human. She continues to self-identify as female. Descriptions of her as being "in drag" are not accurate; FEV transforms female humans in the same way as male humans, leaving their appearance very similar.
Tabitha certainly has personality problems, but they don't have anything to do with gender identity.
EDIT: another comment from Sawyer on Something Awful reveals flamers count as energy weapons.
Also, weapons using flamer fuel as ammo are classified as Energy Weapons, mostly for overall balance in the lineup.

News for Sunday, May 23, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 16:07

A few more interesting Qs on Formspring aimed at Fallout: New Vegas project lead J.E. Sawyer.

Do you think that the view of video games as low art, or not art at all, might stem from the fact that despite being mass-produced, their media value is entirely Cult as opposed to traditional art which is non-mass produced with high exhibition value?

When a person classifies something as art (or not art) of any grade, the reasons are arbitrary. I don't find any value in speculating on the source of those reasons or attempting to argue against them.

Ultimately, I would rather spend my time making something new that a another person may or may not consider art than argue with them about why they definitely should consider what I've made before to be art.

Every Obsidian game has some kind of Reputation or Influence system. What makes that heavily abstracted, numerical system preferable to, say, tracking specific statements or actions that can have a more concrete effect on a relationship?

I don't think these sorts of systems need to be used for every character and group. In some cases, the number of inputs is so small, and their impact so large, that using quest variables makes more sense. Abstracted, finely granular systems make the most sense when the player has a lot of ways to influence a character's or group's opinions. If a character speaks to you often, or if you have many opportunities to perform actions that can influence the character's opinion in small ways, using a reputation/influence score is easier, more flexible, and generally less of a headache.

Connecting to the reputation/influence question, Obsidian's games always had a visible feedback, e.g. the '+1 reputation with XXX' pop-up in Alpha Protocol. Some would argue that this breaks immersion, what's your opinion about it?

People have different expectations of feedback clarity/immersion. Because character/faction influence often builds over time and cannot show immediate results, letting the player know when small increments are being made is a way for the game to indicate that yes, something changed based on what you just did.

Health bars can also break immersion, but being able to see health bars helps the player make tactical decisions. Some players would rather see the health bars and lose the immersion. Others would rather lose the health bars and retain the immersion.

Because I believe that game play should be the primary focus of a game, I will always push for more clarity/certainty if the mechanics of the game are inscrutable to the player.
Meanwhile, New Vegas senior designer Chris Avellone tweets.
Lunch with Tim Cain and old Black Isle folks. Got to see an iPad in action. Beef Curry super spicy is indeed suuuuuper spicy.
Would've liked to be a fly on the wall with that one.

Posted by Tagaziel - at 12:00

Lexx has been kind enough to provide us with scans and a summary of the German Gamestar preview of Fallout: New Vegas:

One of our users at FalloutNow! provided us with new New Vegas stuff.

In the comming up GameStar is a new 8 pages big New Vegas preview with some new images and a lot new information:

New information (many spoilers!):
- Vault 21 is an underground vault and lies under New Vegas.
- The NCR has lost contact to the west and is demoralized and underequipped due to the war with Caesar's Legion.
- Caesar's Legion dominates New Vegas.
- The NCR was fighting hard against the Brotherhood of Steel for Hoover Dam. The NCR has won this battle, barely.
- The NCR troops at McCarren Airport lost the contact to Hoover Dam as well.
- The main task of the courier has been to deliver a package to Primm. Then he got ambushed...
- The small and big weapons skills are merged into one weapon skill.
- Every weapon that made some asplozions before (like the rocket launcher or FatMan), are now in the skill category Explosives.
- Repcon, a former rocket factory, is supposedly inhabited by ghouls. As of late, explosions can be heard from there all the time.
- Craig Boon, one of the possible companions, will attack the player, if he sides with the Caesar's Legion.
- The orbital laser Archimedes 2 can only be used once a day.
- New monster: Cacadores, they look like bloatflies with shiny / colourful wings.
- Something like Bobbleheads will be in New Vegas as well and it will boost players stats. What it will be exactly isn't known yet.

Thanks Lexx!

News for Friday, May 21, 2010

Posted by 13pm - at 19:29

Russian magazine "PС Igry" (PC Games) previews Fallout New Vegas. Preview is badly written, but still there are some bits of new information:

- There is a skill "Survival" that determines how many HP will be recovered from eating and drinking. Also, it allows you to cook at the campfire.
- Regular geckos run like penguins and are easy to kill.

There are some new pictures also: rough black and white armor sketches and one more helmet sketch (one part of it has already been posted in PC Gamer preview).

Also, there's yet another picture of Dinky the Dinosaur, but now with one interesting detail - a Poseidon Energy sign.

For those who read Russian or just want to take a look at the article layout, the links to the scans are available at Ru.NMA newspost.

Thanks Incognito!

News for Thursday, May 20, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 14:51

It never takes long for someone to play up something in Fallout for controversy, but this is an angle I didn't see coming. Border House has a concerned opinion piece on Tabitha, who I just thought was eye-roll-inducing silly if not outright ridiculous, but the author feels it is insulting if not outright discriminatory.

Herein lies the first problem. It is a jarring image, and I can’t imagine for a second that that wasn’t intentional. Essentially, they’ve made this character be transgender for shock value, or because they wanted to play it for laughs. Haha, aren’t those transgender people absolutely hilarious?

This sort of attitude is bad enough at the best of times, but sad to say, this is not the best of times. Making the transgender character be a super mutant is not at all subtle. It paints an image of transwomen as brutish, ugly freaks who you can spot a mile off. You can put a pig in lipstick, but it’s still a a pig. Or a super mutant. Or a man.
He emailed Matt "I don't envy you your job" Grandstaff about this and he replied, though not satisfactorily as far as the author is concerned.
I talked with team members from Fallout: New Vegas and they provided this explanation. I hope this addresses your concerns…

“Female humans who undergo transformation into Super Mutants effectively lose any externally apparent biological sex characteristics associated with being female. I.e. they are indistinguishable from male humans who have undergone the same transformation. Arguably all Super Mutants are monogender even if they retain some vestigial biological sex characteristics since said characteristics no longer have any social or biological meaning in Super Mutant society — and because most of them lose all memory of their former lives. Tabitha wears a wig and glasses not because she is transgender, but because she has psychological identity problems that are rooted in her extensive use of Stealth Boys – a drug used in the universe of Fallout.”

Thanks for sharing your feedback.
Stealth Boys are a drug?

Posted by Brother None - at 14:43

The Fallout Bike is pretty badass.

Posted by Brother None - at 14:38

Gamespot is polling readers for their most anticipated game of E3. When Bethesda posted about it, Fallout: New Vegas was 4th, it now seems to be 3rd behind Crysis 2 and Gears of War 3. Be sure to vote!

And be sure to note that of all those titles, only the Last Guardian is (more or less depending on its Ico-connection) a fresh IP, the rest are all sequels and franchise games. Wow, game industry,

Posted by Brother None - at 14:31

J.E. Sawyer sure likes his shiny 2.0 toy, and has been busily answering questions in the last 2 days. Let's get to it.

How do publishers and developers interact in the world of game design? Is it usual for publishing companies to get residuals, or are they usually just funded and compensated for development?

Publishers take the majority of profits. Developers are paid on a milestone basis with some bonuses or royalties (usually) negotiated into the contract, but said bonuses/royalties are usually contingent on some strict criteria (shipped on time, 85%+ rated, X million units sold, etc.).

In the 11 years I've been in the industry, I've received one royalty check for one game: Icewind Dale. Some very successful companies have a lot of bonuses and royalties flying around, but they are the exception.

As a "hardcore" RPG developer, Obsidian could make a mint releasing budget hardcore RPGs on Steam that focus more on story than graphics and take less development time or resources. Does this interest you at all?

Story vs. graphics isn't actually an antagonistic relationship in my opinion. I don't think I've ever had an experience during development where I've thought, "If only this game could get by with lower fidelity graphics, then I could tell the story I really want to tell."

What lower budget titles offer to developers and publishers is lower loss potential. If a project "only" costs $1-3 million to make, even if it sells zero copies, the publisher is only out $1-3 million. Compared to the operating project budget of most publishers, that's relatively minor.

Lower loss potential can possibly be negotiated into "wacky game idea time". So if you want to make a game that has really niche or experimental game play, a non-traditional setting/set of characters, etc., a lower budget game is probably the place you're going to do it -- if anywhere.

As a side note, I am not primarily interested in telling stories. I am a game designer and my primary interest is in making games. I always want the stories in the games I work on to be good, but that is secondary to ensuring that the game play is enjoyable. If I were fundamentally concerned with telling stories, I would become a writer.

So you've made it pretty clear that you're more interested in developing games than writing the stories in those games, despite your company's reputation. Do you at all resent that so many people keep focusing on Obsidian's writing?

Not at all, but I think people should have higher standards for game play. Slapping "RPG" on a game should not give it a free pass for clumsy or poorly balanced mechanics. Additionally, I believe that an RPG with a "great story" that does not mechanically work well with player choice might as well not be an RPG.

A lot of RPG designers fixate on telling the player a story instead of giving players tools to make *their* stories unique and reactive.

When defining an RPG, what about abstracted mechanics? IMO, a greater degree of abstraction that explicitly expresses or rewards a player's choices should be part of the definition, would you agree or disagree?

Agree, and I think it can apply to any/all aspects of game play: conversation choices, skill choices, weapon choices, etc.

If have two weapons available to me, make them tactically different, then present me with situations where their tactical differences matter. If I make a strategic decision to invest in one skill/faction/"alignment" over another, be sure to reward me for my choice and also remind me what I am missing out on because of that same choice.

You seemed to dismiss the idea of working on smaller-budget titles. As a video game designer, do you view big projects with corporate backing and a marketing campaign to be more prestigious, more fun, or just more lucrative? Does it make a better game?

The only reason I dismiss it is because I don't think publishers are interested in it. I would certainly work on a small budget title if that's what a publisher/Obsidian wanted. This has not happened as far as I know.

Brian Mitsoda says that he thinks that certain companies have undeserved reputations for good writing and even though good gameplay is more important it'd be nice if they tried to live up to them. Do you think gamers have lowered standards w/r/t writing?

After decades of industry evolution, our subject matter and thematic delivery are still juvenile. Count the number of games that have established and reinforced a consistent theme through subtext. In the rare case when a game story has a clearly discernible theme, it is delivered with the subtlety of a claw hammer to the skull.

I don't see many gamers noticing this, much less complaining about it.

News for Sunday, May 16, 2010

Posted by Dude101 - at 23:46

Postworld is a project we have been watching very carefully. Since we originally reported on it, it has moved from a Crysis mod into a stand alone game based on the Unity3d engine. It now looks to be a Fallout inspired game, as opposed to a remake, although the team have stated they wish to deliver a working tech-demo of the game before they make any decisions on the setting. Eye candy:



You can follow the development of this project on the Postworld blog, or the thread here on NMA.

Posted by Dude101 - at 16:01

The Party Orders add-on for [(sfall v2.0) Fallout 2 v1.02 US] by pelicano has been progressively getting better and better. This mod allows the player more control over their party followers in Fallout 2, and it is compatible with every mod out there. With the use of SFall, pelicano has hot linked some very useful keyboard commands:

This is just a little script add-on that will allow the player to give common orders to party members on the 'fly', using keyboard hotkeys, in any given moment outside combat mode.

The following orders are currently implemented:

- Heal yourself ([F] key): Any party member injured with more that 10 hit points of damage will attempt to heal her/himself. If heavily injured s/he'll use a super stimpak. If s/he doesn't carry any or if s/he's under 75% total hitpoints s/he'll attempt to heal the wounds using her/his medic skills (first aid or doctor, whichever is higher). Finally, if s/he's still injured s/he will use any stimpak s/he may have. In combat mode only (super) stimpaks will be used. Only a healing order per turn.

- Holster weapons ([H] key): Any armed party member will put her/his weapon away immediately.

- Regroup party ([R] key): Any party member away more than 2 hexes from the PC will regroup next to the PC

- Loot bodies ([G] key): The party member with the most carry capacity will go and try to loot the corpses near her/him and the PC. s/he will pick up any item near bodies (up to 3 hexes) as well. If the loot bodies hotkey [G] is pressed again while a party member is looting, this will cancel the loot order, calling back the party member. If the dude PC is looting (following [T] order) when the [G] order is issued the PC will cancel the looting and the NPC will continue, if s/he is able.

- PC pick up nearby items ([T] key): Uppon pressing the T key your PC will pick up from the ground nearby items (in a 3 hex radius). Used only for convinience. The dude PC will stop picking up stuff whenever combat starts, s/he can't carry more stuff or there are no more items to pick up.

- Scatter party ([X] key): Party members within 5 hex radius from the PC will run 4-6 tiles away, causing the party to spread out. NPCs with the default distance settings to follow_close will run back almost immediately, though. Also, don't expect cleverness from NPCs, specially if the destination is blocked.

- PC loot bodies ([T] key): The dude PC will attemp to loot bodies automatically as the NPCs. Only one member of the party (NPC or dude) may loot bodies at a time. Using this order while an NPC is already looting will cause the callback of the NPC, the dude PC resuming the looting if s/he is able. To stop the dude and cancel the order, press again [T].

Thread on NMA

In other modding news .Pixote. has released 300+ peices of Tactic artwork in Fallout 2 FRM, which makes for a very good modding resource.

News for Saturday, May 15, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 15:36

We've seen these pass by in game magazines and Game Informer (in lower resolution), but now a German website Gamersglobal chucked up three screens in better resolution. Return, o ye glorious facestrap!

Thanks FalloutNow! and ZombieSupaStar.

EDIT: J.E. Sawyer wrote a comment about the Super Mutant's head on the Obsidian forum:
The Super Mutant heads were remodeled and the body texture was mirrored so the artist could devote more space to the head texture.

Posted by Khan FurSainty - at 9:48

Fallout makes #13 on the reader-voted best video game series of all time list in the Guinness Book of Records, behind such luminous titles as Halo and Call of Duty.

News for Friday, May 14, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 17:33

When originality fails, there's always sequels. When there aren't enough sequels, there's always franchise revivals. Everyone loves it (except "purists" and "PC gamers").

PC gamers will list off if you let them some of the best games ever and Fallout 2 will always be mentioned. While purists of the franchise will say Fallout 3 is “Oblivion with guns”, the general public has embraced the title. Bethesda mixed apocalyptic humor of the best variety with gun play and the thrill of exploring the truly unknown. The game ends up being as deep as an Oblivion while not turning off those afraid of RPG titles. PC gamers still may want to set the world on fire but most gamers are satisfied with the revival of this franchise. This fall though PC gamers may get their wish as the remains of Interplay return to develop Fallout: New Vegas.
Used to be just the purists were a hive mind entity, now so are PC gamers. Poor guys.

News for Thursday, May 13, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 22:33

We've seen the image dozens of times, and it popped up again in the Collector's Edition, but here it is, the official box art, with a front free of any mention of Obsidian.

Thanks PSDaniel.

Posted by Brother None - at 17:54

The Bitbag is the only English-language Fallout: New Vegas preview I could spot that we hadn't posted already. It seems to keep to a strict one-sentence-per-picture ratio, really.

Now in the spirit of the sites wishes, and keeping our posts more journalistic, I’m going to run down the list for you. Lets break this down. The game takes place in the Mojave Desert, and of course the city that hides within, Vegas. I’m almost sure that this game will have many gambling mechanics, but as for the moment no details concerning that have been released. One can only hope we’ll see people jumping out of windows, or committing mass suicides over the potential debts that can be acquired.
Other than that, the New Vegas previews are going international, as the preview show moved through Europe recently. Google Translate helps us get through the Dutch Inside Gamer.
In this instance, our speech-skill came in handy. At the local radio station the PC managed to convincingly pit the two groups of mutants against one another. Of course, the small remaining rabble left after the slaughter would still soon die, by your bullets.

Posted by Brother None - at 17:40

Bethesda is offering the chance to send in questions for a community Q&A. It's basically a Facebook/Twitter Q&A but if you have neither you may submit your questions in the comment section of the linked blog post. Twitter @Fallout, including #newvegasqa. Facebook via the Facebook Fallout page.

Posted by Brother None - at 17:36

And by of all time we basically mean of the past 10 years. And wow, the PC gaming industry is doing great! About 50% of the top-20 has been made in the past 4 years! Amazing proof of incline! PC Gamer held an epic survey.

2. Fallout 3
Release: 2008
Last year: New entry
Finding every little precious gaming moment. If you didn't overturn every rock, you didn't know what you might be missing.
Robert Chennault

Must eat congressman's brain.
Ossie Spears

Fallout 3 provided an experience that is so unique to the video game medium: I created my own experiences and stories.
Michael Kenyon

It's like the Mad Max movies, without the vehicles.
Matt Beggs

All the different ways you could go about each quest, all the ways you could build your character, and all the great mods for the game. Everything in this wonderful game just made me want more.
Walker Summers

Posted by Captain Frankie - at 15:36

Deathend is a free to play 2D browser based game, set in a post-nuclear world (think Mad Max or Fallout). You can play as a member of one of the four different human groups, or even (gasp!) as a member of one of the four mutant groups!

It's a simple game, but still fun...

Click here... VaultBoy!

News for Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 21:30

Mark Morgan's remastered Fallouts OST project is no longer available for download on the Aural Network website, but our mirror is alive and kicking (and it's available elsewhere). No explanation is offered though people are free to come to their own, rather obvious conclusions.

But while the download is gone now, it might not be so forever. Reading comments from "Aural Network" in its own comments section, it seems that they are looking to cooperate with Bethesda for a rerelease, and if said publishing is permitted, the release will be in lossless format (like FLAC) and would be non-mixed (which I assume means free of the current cross-fading issues).

It will be available soon. I want to cooperate with Bethesda for official publishing.
Please, be patient and thank you!
Yes. I think i will prepare the Lossless Version.
Thank for comment.
I think the lossless will be non-mixed. We will see…
Thank you for your comment.
We'll have to wait and see if Bethesda is willing.

Posted by Tagaziel - at 9:17

CD-Action, a Polish games magazine, has published a single page preview on Fallout: New Vegas. No new information is presented (most of it is a rehash of every other press release), but one new screenshot (a supermutant storming Novac) and bits and pieces of two others are included.

Fact: New Vegas supermutants not only have more detailed faces, some of them feature the good ol' "keep-your-face-on" straps.

Strengthened by talents from id Software, in the last week of April Bethesda invited journalists from across the world to France for a presentation of four productions that are being created in her studios. Bosses and members of teams working on Fallout: New Vegas, Rage, Brink and Hunted: The Demon's Forge, gave everything they had during their half-an-hour long presentations to convince journalists charmed by the near-Paris Chateau de Montvillargenne that their productions will soon conquer the market. You've got to admit: at least oneof them has huge chances for it.
Fact: Obsidian Entertainment is not a game studio belonging to Bethesda, CD-Action. Neither is inXile or Splash Damage. It's generally a good idea to do your research before publishing a preview.

Fact: Obsidian Entertainment has people who worked on previous Fallouts, who work now on Fallout: New Vegas. It's in good taste to actually mention that.

News for Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Posted by Starwars - at 17:08

Press release.

Fallout: New VegasTM Collector's Edition to be Available Worldwide
May 11, 2010 (London, UK) – Bethesda Softworks®, a ZeniMax® Media company, today announced the Fallout®: New Vegas™ collector’s edition (CE) for Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and Games for Windows.

In addition to including the highly anticipated game, this premium version of Fallout: New Vegas also includes the game-inspired items below:

♠ “Lucky 7” poker chips. Each of the seven poker chips was designed to represent chips from the major casinos found on the New Vegas strip and throughout the Mojave Wasteland.

♠ A fully customised Fallout: New Vegas deck of cards. Each card in the pack has been uniquely illustrated to depict characters and factions found within the game. Use the cards to play poker, blackjack or Caravan, an original card game that was created by Obsidian especially for Fallout: New Vegas!

♠ A recreation of the game’s highly coveted “Lucky 38” platinum chip.

♠ A hardcover graphic novel “All Roads”, that tells the story of some of the characters and events that lead up to Fallout: New Vegas. “All Roads” was written by Chris Avellone, the game’s creative director, and created in conjunction with Dark Horse Comics.

♠ ‘The Making of Fallout: New Vegas’ DVD. This documentary DVD will contain exclusive video content, including interviews with the developers in which they take you from concept to creation and discuss topics such as story, setting, legacy of the Fallout franchise and more.

“We’re offering this very cool collector’s edition to give fans the opportunity to own some of the items that they’ll discover while playing Fallout: New Vegas,” said Pete Hines, vice president of PR and marketing. “We are also expanding their experience with the game by including a top-notch graphic novel worthy of the Fallout name and a DVD that gives them a behind-the-scenes look at how the game was created.”

Fallout: New Vegas, the follow-up to Fallout® 3 – the 2008 Game of the Year – brings this beloved franchise to a location only Fallout could do justice: Vegas. Fallout: New Vegas takes all the action, humour, and post-apocalyptic grime and grit of this legendary series, and raises the stakes. Published by Bethesda Softworks, Fallout: New Vegas is currently under development at Obsidian Entertainment and is slated for a autumn 2010 release.

The limited collector’s edition will be available for pre-order at participating retailers throughout Europe in the weeks to come. For more information on Fallout: New Vegas, visit

Posted by Brother None - at 13:20

Here are the scans of the Game Informer Fallout: New Vegas preview mentioned earlier, with all-new screenshots and information.

Thanks MKSaibot.

News for Monday, May 10, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 19:41

Composer Mark Morgan contacted us to inform us his "Vault Archives" remastering project for the Fallout songs he composed is now done, and they are available for free over on Aural Network. There's four titles that can be streamed, and the whole album of 24 tracks is available for download and non-commercial use.

Link: NMA mirror.

EDIT: it looks like the download link has been (temporarily?) disabled on Aural Network. Use the NMA mirror to grab the full album.

Posted by Brother None - at 16:48

We're all waiting for more from Game Informer's preview of Fallout: New Vegas, but meanwhile, here's a screenshot they'd tagged along a newsbit weeks ago, only no one noticed.

Thanks Ausir.

Posted by Brother None - at 11:53's Wesley Yin-Poole has a pretty solid interview with Obsidian's Chris Avellone.

Q: You were working on a Fallout 3 that didn't happen, called Project Van Buren. Are there any ideas or mechanics you had in place for that game that we'll see in Fallout: New Vegas?

CA: We thought we would but actually it ended up not being the case. If you ever read any of the Van Buren documents you might recognise certain titles for groups, like Caesar's Legion. But what they actually became in New Vegas was far divorced from anything they were planned for in Van Buren. So it's actually taken kind of an interesting spin. That five year break, I think you just end up having new design ideas. You're like, well you know actually it would be more interesting if they went this way. So I mean Van Buren was a good testing ground for some of that stuff, but New Vegas is basically a brand new game.

Q: Why New Vegas? Why that part of the world?

CA: We were given the parameters for like, just do something on the Western side of the world, go off and do your own thing. We were like, okay. So then we were like, what's a signature city that's comparable to Washington DC but in the west? We asked people independently and Vegas just kept coming up all the time. We were like, okay well you know that is a cool signature city. But at the same time, it turns out people in different departments got excited about it for different reasons. An example would be the artists got really excited about it because that's one city where you can play around with the architecture within almost every city block and go, hey here's a theme for this casino and we can go fucking crazy with it because it's Vegas. Like, here's a signage we can use. Here are the different colours we can use. Here are the lighting schemes we can use. When you walk down the strip in Vegas in real life, all those signature casinos like the Luxor have these really cool themes. And the artists were like, oh this would be fun to do. And we were like, okay let's just take that energy and momentum and just make a fun location.
Of less interest, MCV talked with Pete Hines on sales expectations for New Vegas.
Fallout 3 debuted at No.1 in the ELSPA/GfK Chart-Track All Formats charts and managed to shift 4.7m copies worldwide in its first week.

It also outsold the combined sales of all previous Fallout games in just two days.

“Based on what we’re seeing so far from the response at retail and from gamers, we expect New Vegas to do even better than Fallout 3,” said Bethesda’s global VP of PR and marketing Pete Hines.

Posted by Brother None - at 11:49

It's been a long weekend, time for some more Fallout: New Vegas previews. Game Revolution.

If sci-fi movies, alternate-history tales, post-Apocalyptic stories and other forms of speculative fiction have taught us nothing else about the dystopian future, they've clued us in to this much: Never be the courier-guy. Being the courier-guy sucks donkey balls. Oh sure, it seems like a free-wheeling, make-your-own schedule sort of gig as long as you make the delivery more or less on time... but there's always some kinda shit-deluxe catch—stored data going bad and dangerous in your head, or big, Illuminatoid meta-conspiracies that you're the last to find out about... or, much more often, mundane packs of garden-variety goons out to cap you, take your package and leave you for dead. The much-awaited Fallout: New Vegas stays on point with this cautionary message and simply promises more of what makes the Fallout series such gamer-crack, while offering players a thorough tour of a splinter-universe, Las-Vegas-and-environs that went straight from Rat-Pack to Tac-Nuke.

click to enlargeIt's gratifying enough that the Fallout series has, in terms of setting, circled back to its fictionalized West Coast(-ish) roots; now add the fact that Obsidian was founded by some of the same folks who made the original Fallout games of yore... and the post-Apocalypse never looked so promising. So it came to pass that I spent a few days with Obsidian and Bethesda (in the real-world, pre-Apocalyptic Las Vegas we have come to know in this timeline) for an in-depth look at how Sin City has fared after The Big One.
PlayStation Future.
Weapons – With double the number of weapons found in Fallout 3, you’ll have more than enough new and exciting ways to deal with the threats of the wasteland and the locals. In addition, you’ll get to mess around with the new weapons configuration system that lets you tinker with your toys and see the modifications you make in real time.

In a huge, open world with unlimited options you can see the sights, choose sides, or go it alone. Peacemaker or Hard Case, House Rules, or the Wild Card – it’s all in how you play the game. Although Fallout: New Vegas is, strictly speaking, a spin-off rather than a full sequel, fans of the series should find plenty to get excited about here - Fallout: New Vegas is looking like it could be one of the very best Fallout games yet. Although a precise release date has yet to be set, it’s currently scheduled for an Autumn 2010 release in Europe and North America.
Next on the agenda is to speak to the Prospector's Saloon owner Trudy and, entering the bar, we interrupt a dispute between her and gang member Joe Cobb. It seems he is looking for a man named Ringo who Trudy has been harbouring and, unless she tells him where Ringo is, Cobb will bring his Powder Gang and wreak havoc on the town. Trudy stands firm and after Cobb leaves we find Ringo hiding - a little creepily if we're being honest - in the ladies bathroom and he implores us to help him sort out the bullying Cobb gang. As always in Fallout, you have a choice. Do you ignore Ringo and move along, help him out or, if you fancy being a complete bastard, find Cobb and help him lay waste to the town? For the purposes of the demonstration, Avellone chooses to help Ringo and we set about trying to round up some troops to help us. It's here that the aforementioned skill tags come into play for the first time. For example, we need some explosives for the task at hand but local expert Easy Pete will not help you out unless you have the explosives tag which, luckily, we do. It's a similar affair at the local store and, because of our bartering tag, we persuade the store keeper to kit out our town defenders with weapons and armour.

Posted by jero cvmi - at 10:11

When all the websites are currently stuck at 10, Bethesda's fairly irrational love of magazines continues as it seems Game Informer has more than that.

13 new unreleased screenshots.
Includes first shots of the Strip and first look at Caesar's Legion Soldiers

6 new sets of outfits

A man named Craig Boone who's wife was kidnapped can be a follower.

Blackjack, Slot Machines, Poker and Roulette are some of the games you can play. (The luck skill plays a big part in how good you are at gambling.)

3 different types of currency. Caps, NCR dollars, Legion money (it also states CL uses coins as well, for what I'm not sure but probably at the casinos.) You will get better deals depending what kind of currency is used in different parts. (There is also an exchange rate between the three)

Mad Max Outfit!

C4 explosives that include a detonator (You can also reverse pickpocket C4), Machetes, Razors, a gun that looks similar to a SMG and... Boxing Gloves?!

Vault 21 - a vault where all conflicts were decided through gambling.

New reload animations that reflect exactly how many bullets you are putting in your gun.

Companions have side quest.

There is a illusive man named Mr. House that runs the city. He plays a role also in why Vegas wasn't bombed in the great war which you will learn more about as you play through.
There is more material in a later forum post.
Ok I just got done reading the article

And I can say im disappointed & some of you will be too and then some of you will be even more excited about the game. So read at your own risk, this is purely based on just New Vegas itself the article did read & show other things about the game . . .

The Strip

What it is in a nuttshell, a very well ran place that was very much uneffected by anything (More so then some of you probably would think). Vegas is very much the complete opposite of a sh!t hole and I will say there was nothing that I read or saw that reminded me of New Reno (So for some thats good & some that sucks). The Strip screenshots only showed one Casino from what I could tell and it looked like a very normal nothing special Casino that you would see in a nice 1950's Casino. The wall's very plain, the room bright and no wear & tear of any kind so to speak of in the Casino not that there should be much if any on The Strip you would just haft to see the screenshots yourself. The other screenshots showed off colorful lighted buildings like The Lucky 38, Vault 21 (Vault 21 is a Casino) and I mean there was 0 wear & tear on anything so to speak of.

Every Casino is not just a reskin of the other one far as gambling goes, looks like each Casino will play Blackjack a little differently etc far as numbers and cards goes which is a good thing.

Who run's The Strip etc?

This is the part I am disappointed about, who run's the Vegas?

Robots, robot police run & keep Vegas under raps controlled by a character inspired by Howard Hughes that lives in The Lucky 38. Lucky 38 is a place no one in the game has seen anyone get into since they care remember and no one has seen the Howard Hughes character himself go figure. When I say "controlled", I mean this guy run's everything and controls everything and is also the reason New Vegas was not hit by a blast. Which I thought the mob organized that deal out but I guess not . . .

Mobsters or Families it does not look like run The Strip or any Casino's so to speak of. Funnily id probably feel safer in New Vegas then I would in Las Vegas judging from the screenshots & from the look of it. Every Casino, every place in Vegas will have its own kind of personality (It sounds like for the most part) and there is a rat pack era place in New Vegas called The Tops with Frank Sinatra tunes etc. That is all wonderful & the style of Vegas is about what I was hoping for for the most part I guess.

So . . .

Do not expect too many things Fallout in New Vegas, the entire place is ran by a scientist inspired by Howard Hughes. Your not going to see much drama with between other Casino's doutfuly from what I read, the place seemed about as boring as ever. Regardless of what will end up being in New Vegas, I know for a Fact that its nothing like New Reno other then gambling & the drugs that will be in (Drugs is part of Vegas). Of course there will be fun places to go on The Strip like The Tops etc you might find a gangster in there hah who know's we'll hafta see.

Now from here on this is coming even more so from my own opinion, I do not want any developer or person reading this to get offended about what im about to write Thanks.

Obsidian is ethier on some heck of a deadline or just getting lazy, they could put & do a lot more with New Vegas then a guy who lives in a tower (Lucky 38) who controls robot police. Of course there is going to be quest in New Vegas, Side quest & all that jazz etc but where are the gangsters here? Did Howard Hughes already come in & buy them out I guess and everything went corporate already or what?

All I am getting at is, there was 0 focus on anything that had to do with mobsters or families that run anything at all. Some people are tired of the gangsters & gangster towns in Fallout games and then some people like myself love it. Again this is just off my own opinion, there might even be famalies/gangster's who operate a Casino or two but it sure did not mention any of that. It was very much set on one guy who run's Vegas and it just had a very corprate feel to it all added with marshal law enforced by robot police (Serously).
Thats another thing you cannot carry gun's at least inside the casino they went into. There was someone who you could get a concealed weapon from though, there character had a high sneak skill and got in the place with a pistol. It mentions the bartender having a riot shotgun that you do not want to mess with :]

Ok and here we go Mr. House while in control of everything it does not sound like he personaly has his hands inside of any Casino's. I forgot about reading this, a faction called the Chairmen run the particular casino they were in and the faction is pretty strong & you do not want to mess with them.

One another thing cool is the floor manager will give you drinks and comp you a room if your doing good at the casino.

So it sounds like there are different faction's that run the Casino's its looking like . Mr. House is still in control of Vegas itself though and basicly as long as everyone follows by his rules its all good basicly is what the magazine says. There is also a place called Gomorrah, but all it really says is if sex and vice are what your after check the place out. What really threw me off though about the police robots is when they broke up three drunk half dressed girls flirting with some off duty NCR guys. Again The Strip is very well ran like current Vegas if not more so cause of the police robots hah.

Other then that last bit of info, again everyone should just check the mag out themselves for sure.

News for Friday, May 7, 2010

Posted by Morbus - at 23:56

MTV Multiplayer has a piece about what we actually know about the Vegas of New Vegas, which Obsidian has apparently been secretive about. Here's a snip:

A Grittier "Fallout"...If That Were Possible

The original two "Fallout" games -- especially the second -- were surprisingly grim and gritty. Prostitution, drugs, a general disdain for the human spirit… those were all fairly prevalent issues that developer, Black Isle, delivered rather well. And while "Fallout 3" certainly had its dark moments, I can't remember feeling quite the same wash of grime across the entire game.

New Vegas is looking to bring some of that dirt back into the picture. "There is a very heavy influence on drugs, and sex, and gambling and the impact that it has on people," Sawyer reveals.

"You, as a character, can participate in a lot of this stuff. You can also help bust it up if you want. The focus for that sort of stuff is in the city of New Vegas itself, rather than the larger conflict between Caesar's Legion and the New California Republic…

In New Vegas you will see a lot of things that you remember from New Reno [from 'Fallout 2'], in terms of the under-handedness and how people are used and thrown away a lot."
Link: Uncovering The Mystery Of The 'Fallout: New Vegas' Strip @ MTV Multiplayer

Posted by The Vault Dweller - at 6:03

Columnist Emily Short of GameSetWatch has done her newest entry about Fallout 3 examining the narrative and storytelling aspects. She has a lot of in-depth and critical analysis surprising for someone in the industry.

There were various flaws -- the sameyness of the setting after enough hours being a prominent one. Then there was the implausible world-building: after two hundred years, you're telling me there's still edible, unlooted food in the grocery stores?

But one forgives those things because one has to.

In any case, I couldn't help but be impressed by the degree to which my story in Fallout 3 felt like it was something unique, probably a lot different from someone else's story.

Some of that had to do with the way the player is allowed to control the features of storytelling -- pace, exposition, rate at which the backstory is uncovered. Some of it had to do with the direct control over the protagonist's choices.

Oddly, it was most often the former aspect that I found narratively meaningful, while intentional choices often let me down.

From there she goes on to give critique on the plot, environmental storytelling, gender choice, and characterization.

You find it all here.

News for Thursday, May 6, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 13:40

Gotta say the torrent slowed down surprisingly fast. Techland.

Once you get underway, there'll be twice as many weapons as in Fallout 3, including a new 9-iron golf club. This melee weapon can whack somebody's head off and send it sailing clear across the screen. Another big change will be the weapon mods, which will let you change barrel sizes for more damage, add sights for better accuracy and use specialized ammo for unique strategies. Among the new weapons we got to see, the plasma caster and grenade machinegun will probably become favorites.

New Vegas aims to generate a post-apocalyptic Western vibe, which means you'll be journeying to lots of different locations. Reputation is another new element that will change the way folks interact with you. Depending on how you craft a Reputation, by killing members of one faction and/or helping another group, certain allies and quests won't be available to you.
Avellone proceeds to show us a pistol he's augmented with a scope, barrel and larger magazine, and it looks far meaner than its vanilla counterpart. This is preparation for the first main mission, which is to protect a weird guy called Ringo who lurks in the saloon toilets. A fellow called Joe Cobb is causing trouble in the town with a gang of so-called 'powder gangers', so the bar's owner, Trudy, calls upon you to round up a gang to go tackle Cobb and his cronies. After a quick talk with Ringo, Sunny, Chet from the general store and Easy Pete (who also gives us a few sticks of dynamite thanks to a dialogue option unlocked due to our 25 point explosive skill), we're good and ready to tackle the gang. Along the way, our hero gets hold of the game's new 9-iron and enters the trusty VATs mode showing that a press of Y now initiates a specialised weapon specific move, designed to add “spice” to melee combat. This one is called 'Fore!' and is – as you'd expect – a swift, (dis)graceful golf swing to the plums of your targeted victim. Tiger Woods, eat your heart out.

Incidentally, Cobb's head went flying off in classic VATs style outside of VATs, demonstrating the dynamic kill cam which can now be triggered at any moment. Upon completing this mission for the people of Goodsprings and taking out Joe Cobb, we earn the acceptance and trust of the townsfolk. This is part of the new reputation system that has overarching consequences across all of New Vegas, so incurring the wrath of one faction will delight another and vice-versa. So when we betray the loyalty of the New California Republic by activating the Helios One plant's generator to reroute power to the Archimedes II orbital laser, only to rain florescent laser death upon the NCR troops below, they'll remember it and will potentially never trust you ever again. But then again, it is easy to slip past the facility's idiotic custodian, Fantastic (who has a “theoretical degree in physics”), and once you get to the generator, you're presented with a variety of options that have a range of consequences. Remember, just because there's a big space laser at your fingertips, you don't have to use it to kill everyone in the vicinity.
Total Playstation (thanks Duck and Cover).

Obsidian's task is daunting, sure. The relative distance both geographically and temporally between the last proper Black Isle Fallout, the tactical RPG Brotherhood of Steel and Fallout 3 meant Bethesda was able to essentially create their own continuation, sticking more to the tone and timeline of the original game while transplanting everything to the Washington DC area. In heading cross-country -- though not quite all the way -- Fallout: New Vegas has, in many ways, a much bigger hill to climb. This is hallowed ground for the Fallout faithful, a locale pregnant with nostalgic memories and more than a few bruised psyches after the series' shift to a more action-driven, Oblivion-esque style.

From the hour or so demo we got the first day we arrived in the very real Vegas for Bethesda's BFG 2010 event, it was rather evident that New Vegas was doing a valiant job of melding the two semi-disparate worlds. This was land rife with characters like The Master and the original Vault Dweller, and in a slightly timeline-bending change, New Vegas will carry on some bits and pieces of Fallout 2 despite being set only three years after the events of Fallout 3.

Posted by Brother None - at 13:27

This is starting to break me, guys. Joystiq interviews J.E. Sawyer.

Joystiq: What's your history with the Fallout franchise?

Josh Sawyer: I worked on what's called "Van Buren," which was the codename when Black Isle started to work on what would have been Fallout 3, and we had worked on it for maybe half a year, and then it was canceled because Interplay had a lot of financial problems.

Has it been a bizarre journey for you -- to have worked on the original iteration of Fallout 3 and now to be creating New Vegas, the sequel to the Fallout 3 you didn't work on -- or is it just "business as usual"?

I don't know if it's necessarily business as usual. You know, I've had a few high profile games be canceled, and so when I start working on a game at this point I'm kind of like, "I'm not confident that a game is going to ship until the manual is printed." Although, I have heard of examples where even then games have been canceled.

So, I mean, I'm really glad to be working on Fallout again. But like I said, until we get really close to the finish, I don't think I'm really going to have the same level of excitement that I had back in the early 2000s, because when I came to Black Isle, all I could think of was working on Fallout 3. So it has basically been 11 years coming to this, so I don't want to get ahead of myself until it's actually out the door.
Shacknews has an interview with Sawyer, Feargus Urquhart and Pete Hines, the "Fallout: New Vegas Makers" (errrr).
Josh Sawyer: We're trying to build on [the franchise's fictional history] a lot. One thing I do admit is kinda tricky is sometimes we take for granted [knowledge of past characters and events].

Pete Hines: That's all part of the Fallout canon, and going back there is just building on that canon but ultimately acknowledging that you are in part of the U.S. where other games did take place and there are places and things that, if you played those games, you should see and recognize. If you don't, if you don't what the NCR is, it doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the game. You still get what it's all about.

Josh Sawyer: When you go to Black Mountain, we wanted to include the chimes from the cathedral in Fallout 1. Sometimes [the references are] really overt, like, "Hey, look it's that character." Sometimes it can be as subtle as an instrument you heard in a theme that comes back.
GamePro offers a video interview with Feargus, drawing comparisons to Fallout 1/2.

And the BethBlog has its Inside the Vault article with the man of the hour, with one of the geekiest-looking photos of Sawyer I've ever seen. C'mon dude, you drive a motorcycle, up the coolness please.
What is the best part about your job? The worst part?
I really enjoy seeing people create great things. Few things make me happier than going around and showing people a cool new feature, critter, animation, icon, loading screen, or effect in the game. The worst part is definitely dealing with project cancellations.

News for Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 17:13

Just one? Yes, really. GamerZines.

The Vegas setting offers a slightly brighter outlook than Washington, as Nevada wasn't targeted as heavily as America's capital during the nuclear armageddon. There are scattered remnants of plant life in all directions of this new wasteland, which as it happens is being torn apart by two competing factions - The New Californian Republic and Caesar's Legion. Obsidian have promised that each settlement will feature a unique visual stamp in order to diversify the scenery, for instance the small town of Novac, named after a decrepit 'No Vancancy' sign, featured a giant green dinosaur flanked by a motel.
Since this is a short post anyway let me add that people have probably noticed "new" screenshots being released too. They've been seen before, but in case you missed them let me repost 'em for you. And only for you:

Posted by Brother None - at 16:43

GameSpot Video has a video interview with New Vegas project director J.E. Sawyer, talking a bit about the location, character customization and tie ins to Fallout 1 and 2, including Followers of the Apocalypse and the Gun Runners. Also whoever is the video director of GameSpot Video needs to relearn his job; not only does the interview have a lot of background noise, they actually play the trailer over it. Annoying.

Inside Gaming also provides a video interview (a lot of them lately, it seems) with Sawyer, similarly talking about the way they deal with tie-ins for older Fallout franchise players as well as Fallout 3 fans, talking about gameplay tweaks, working with Bethesda, and more. Amongst the things he talks about is how they felt they were on the right pad when they made Novac, which is "very Fallout, and very Southwest", and has that (black) humor he feels is key to the series, including how the Dinky the Dinosaur statue doubles as a sniper tower.

NowGamer has a short interview with Chris Avellone, with some good questions.

Is there any overarching Enclave-style enemy?
That’s kind of the big question – it depends how you want to approach the game. There’s a lot of different ways to approach the endgame – there’s a big war that’s about to take place between the NCR and Cesar’s Legion. Depending on which side you favour, by default the other side almost becomes your enemy. Even so, it’s not as clear-cut as that. For example you can strike out on your own, as one potential ending. It’s all dependent on your choices.

Does the game dialogue differ in tone to Fallout 3?
We’ve got a range [of tones] in NewVegas. There’s some characters you’ll encounter in the game, like Fantastic, that are humorous. But at the same time there will be moments and conversations in the game where you should not be smiling at all. We try to run the range, to have that contrast there.

Is Fallout: New Vegas linked in any way to Fallout 3?
No. You saw the distance between the two locations. It takes place three years after the events of the capital wasteland – you actually won’t see any repercussions from Fallout 3 in New Vegas, because of the distance ant the rather short timeframe.

Posted by Brother None - at 2:05

Feargus Urquhart shares some thoughts with Joystiq on New Vegas and Obsidian being a licensed-title-driven company.

What was the deciding factor for you and the rest of the Obsidian staff in electing to create Fallout: New Vegas versus an original IP for your next game?

This is different than going off and making the Iron Man 2 game. I mean this isn't a movie game. It's taking a license that, first off, we already love -- and a lot of us actually were involved in making the original Fallout games. So this is sort of just something fun to do.

I mean literally, when I was at Interplay, a lot of the reasons why I didn't leave when I probably should have left before was so I could get to make another Fallout. And so I kind of look at New Vegas as a different kind of license.

Now, from kind of more of a business perspective ... I know it's a big surprise to everybody that the economy hasn't been what it has been. And in some ways, as a developer, it's easier to get licensed products signed up, just because it's sort of like -- usually, when a publisher is coming to you to talk to you about a game, you know, if they are saying, "Hey, we got this license we want you to use" -- you're already like 10 steps into the process.

Posted by Brother None - at 2:02

It never ends! First, our esteemed host, Atomic Gamer.

Of course, it's not all sprawling deserts and blowing tumbleweeds, as the title also does a fantastic job of capturing the look and feel of its setting with plenty of eye-catching touches. Small towns are dripping with Old West-meets-nuclear winter touches, government installations have an affective Area 51 flavor, and Route 66-like landmarks, such as a giant dinosaur statue, keep things interesting. Additionally, a look-and-touch approach is being taken with these presentation-pushing structures littering the dilapidated landscape. That giant dino, for example, doubles as a sniper's nest, allowing squatters to sit in its mouth, take cover behind its choppers, and pick off wasteland wanderers with ease. There's also a town that hosts a rickety old wooden roller coaster as its centerpiece. And again, this is an item that can be traversed or used to complement your strategic combat options. Also, I didn't get to see these areas during my demo, but the developers are promising plenty of surprises on the Vegas strip and at Hoover Dam.
Giant Bomb (thanks Ausir).
Show of hands: who used companions in Fallout 3? I didn't. Did you? Obsidian wants you to use them in New Vegas, though. They're encouraging you to make friends by giving you the companion wheel, an easier and more immediate way to give your buddies orders about how to behave, outfit them with weapons and gear, and tell them to heal themselves. I'll be honest, I really like to lone-wolf my way through Bethesda-style open RPGs, but if you do want to enlist aid in New Vegas, it looks like the wheel will make it a lot more pleasant to do so.

The designers are going to greater lengths to give the companions personalities and back stories. The one I got to see was Raul, a feisty ghoul being held captive by a cross-dressing super mutant named Tabitha, who was herself protected by the nightkin, a stealthy breed of super mutant that can turn itself nearly invisible. Whether or not you enlist Raul's help--and he did seem quite capable with a firearm--in typical Fallout fashion, it was possible to more creatively solve the nightkin problem by using a radio broadcast to pit the super mutants against each other rather than blasting your way blindly through every last one of them.
New Vegas's developers aren't ready to talk about what they'll be doing with the city's iconic, thrill-packed Strip, but they're not above dropping a few clues. You'll certainly be able to visit it, although you'll need to earn your way in. Specific, real-world Vegas businesses aren't likely to be included -- this is supposed to be an alternate future, after all -- but judging from Fallout 3's often eerie portrayal of D.C.'s ruined landmarks, there's bound to be something you'll recognize. And we're betting some traditional Vegas pastimes will be on offer, too.
Wandering the waste.

But one real-life area they were ready to show off is Helios One, a sun-powered electricity generating facility closely modeled on the Solar One power station that's located about an hour south of Vegas. You're tasked with repairing it, but having done so, you're presented with a choice: do you give the power to the outwardly benevolent New California Republic? Or to their foes, Vegas-based slavers Caesar's Legion? Or both? Or do you keep it for yourself, turning the power station into your own personal superweapon?

Posted by Brother None - at 1:51

Nothing like getting awards before you're even finished. Fallout: New Vegas is one of dozens of candidates for the Golden Joystick One to Watch award. Vote as your conscience tells you.

Additionally, Fallout 3: Game Of The Year Edition is up for best RPG and best overall game.

News for Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Posted by Ausir - at 23:36

There's honestly no end in sight to this onslaught. Videogaming247 interviews Chris Avellone, including this apparently straight-faced question.

The game does look incredible, truth be told. I asked you in the Q&A after the demo if it was running in 60fps. You told me you were aiming for 30fps.

Avellone: I don’t actually know the framerate on consoles, but the reason it was probably running so fast is because it was on a PC here, obviously.

The actual thing we always want to shoot for though, is to try and make sure it’s at least 30 on any of the platforms we release it for, because otherwise you feel the affects when it’s playing.
Joystiq interviews Pete Hines, who was also there in Vegas.
People have criticized Fallout 3 for kind of failing as an FPS and Todd Howard said, "Oh, I can agree with that." Do you think the Obsidian guys have addressed some of those failings?

To an extent, although I don't think that they set out as an objective to, "We're going to fix this game and make it a better FPS." I think they just set out to say, based on conversations they had with a lot of the guys on the team here at Bethesda Game Studios. They can read reactions from fans and the press just as easily as anybody else. So I think they looked for places where they could improve the game – adding new options to melee weapons and VATS doesn't make it a better FPS, but it does make it a better and more fun game. So, you know, which features make it a better FPS and which ones make it a better game? I'm not sure, but I think all of them end up making it a better game and ultimately, I think at the end of the day, that's what most folks care about. There are certainly some things, if you played the game in real-time, first-person only that'll make your game more fun and more dramatic and so forth, but I think at the end of the day all of it just makes it a better game and that's the ultimate goal.
It's almost a generational gap for gamers. There are people who've never played those first games, probably even never heard of them.

There's a lot of them, and if you sort of just look at how many people played the PC version back then versus the millions upon millions of copies of Fallout 3 we sold, there's millions and millions of people who didn't play those first games.

Yeah, it's kind of staggering. Are you guys going to do anything to bridge that history gap or fill people in?

I think we're probably going to continue on the way we have, which is each game stands on its own. You don't have to have played the originals. I don't want you to have to play Fallout 3 to get Fallout: New Vegas. There will be little things that you may get that somebody else wouldn't get, but by and large we want each one to stand on its own. And we took a similar approach with the Elder Scrolls, right? We didn't assume you played Arena or Daggerfall if you went to play Oblivion. But we didn't spend a whole lot of time trying to educate you on what those previous games were about, either. We wanted Oblivion to stand on its own. There's plenty of information there for you to dive into if you want, but if you just want to play the game and experience it on its own, you totally could.

We feel like that served us pretty well and people didn't feel overwhelmed, like, "What, is there going to be a test on it?" Like, "What's with all this info? It's way more than I need." So we wanted to make sure we don't overdo it by trying to, "Oh, look at all this great stuff we've got." Like, you know what? If they really get into it, they'll find all that and educate it. We just want to focus on the game that we're making and I think we'll take the same approach on Fallout: New Vegas. We're going to tell you everything you need to know about experiencing and having fun with Fallout: New Vegas. If you played Fallout 3 and you play Fallout: New Vegas, you'll feel the continuity, you'll get some of the little hints and references in Vegas that may refer to the similar things in the world or things from past games because we love that kind of stuff. But you don't suddenly miss out on it, like, "I have no idea what's going on" because you don't know about 1 and 2. That's the difference.
Thanks The Vault.

Posted by Brother None - at 22:08

Almost forgot this in the media rush of New Vegas today; Bethesda sent out a fact sheet for the game earlier today.

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: Fall 2010
Platform: Xbox 360 / PLAYSTATION 3 systems, Games for Windows
Genre: Post Nuclear Role-Playing
Description: Welcome to Vegas. New Vegas.

It’s the kind of town where you dig your own grave prior to being shot in the head and left for dead…and that’s before things really get ugly. It’s a town of dreamers and desperados being torn apart by warring factions vying for complete control of this desert oasis. It’s a place where the right kind of person with the right kind of weaponry can really make a name for themselves, and make more than an enemy or two along the way.

As you battle your way across the heat-blasted Mojave Wasteland, the colossal Hoover Dam, and the neon drenched Vegas Strip, you’ll be introduced to a colorful cast of characters, power-hungry factions, special weapons, mutated creatures and much more. Choose sides in the upcoming war or declare “winner takes all” and crown yourself the King of New Vegas in this follow-up to the 2008 videogame of the year, Fallout 3.

Enjoy your stay.

Key Features:

• Feel the Heat in New Vegas! Not even nuclear fallout could slow the hustle of Sin City. Explore the vast expanses of the desert wastelands – from the small towns dotting the Mojave Wasteland to the bright lights of the New Vegas strip. See the Great Southwest as could only be imagined in Fallout.

• Feuding Factions, Colorful Characters and a Host of Hostiles! A war is brewing between rival factions with consequences that will change the lives of all the inhabitants of New Vegas. The choices you make will bring you into contact with countless characters, creatures, allies, and foes, and determine the final explosive outcome of this epic power struggle.

• New Systems! Enjoy new additions to Fallout: New Vegas such as a Companion Wheel that streamlines directing your companions, a Reputation System that tracks the consequences of your actions, and the aptly titled Hardcore Mode to separate the meek from the mighty. Special melee combat moves have been added to bring new meaning to the phrase “up close and personal”. Use V.A.T.S. to pause time in combat, target specific enemy body parts and queue up attacks, or get right to the action using the finely-tuned real-time combat mechanics.

• An Arsenal of Shiny New Guns! With double the amount of weapons found in Fallout 3, you’ll have more than enough new and exciting ways to deal with the threats of the wasteland and the locals. In addition, Vault-Tec engineers have devised a new weapons configuration system that lets you tinker with your toys and see the modifications you make in real time.

• Let it Ride! In a huge, open world with unlimited options you can see the sights, choose sides, or go it alone. Peacemaker or Hard Case, House Rules, or the Wild Card - it’s all in how you play the game.

Posted by ToastMan - at 21:46

There's a video interview with project director J.E. Sawyer on New Vegas. They cover their Fallout roots, karma and reputation, including the difference between pissing off minor (Goodsprings) or major (NCR) factions, weapon mods and companions.

GB: You guys at Obsidian have this background with the initial Fallout games, and this is kind of a spiritual successor to those. In the few months we got left before this game comes out, would you recommend people go out, get on Good Old Games or wherever, and kind of play the original Fallouts?

JES: I would always recommend that people play the original Fallouts, whether New Vegas is coming out or not, because I think they're really fun games.
You heard the man.

Posted by Brother None - at 21:18

What, you expected a breather? We're going under in a rip, riptide of previews. Shacknews.

One such example is the addition of a red shield icon in VATS, which lets players know that their weapon isn't all that effective against that particular foe or part.

"Weapons that have a high rate of fire, they do a lot of damage with a lot of little bullets. If you hit a target that has armor, you'll see that red shield," notes Sawyer. "You're doing a little less damage per shot, you'll want [something] a little slower firing and heavier hitting. There's also stuff like ammo subtypes, armor-piercing ammo for shotguns."

In addition, certain weapons do better against certain parts of the body, for example, ones that work better against limbs but aren't that effective against the head--a change Sawyer hopes "will sort of shift things away from head targeting [in VATS]."
How ironic. Fallout 3 fans cringe at the thought of New Vegas being farmed out to a developer that knows nothing of the cult series, so the theory goes. How many Fallout 1 and 2 fans who idolise old Black Isle Studios legends Tim Cain and Feargus Urquhart felt the same when they discovered that Bethesda was developing Fallout 3? And now the merry-go-round comes full circle as Avellone and other ex-Black Isle Studio developers find themselves returning to the world of Fallout. So, all you Bethesda-haters should be pleased, right?

It's not until Chris' presentation comes to an end that I realise just how misleading first impressions can be. Don't get me wrong: Fallout: New Vegas's visuals could be better than they are. But the game's strengths lie elsewhere. Wonky animations and ugly textures aren't the point; the point is that the quests and dialogue are so memorable and the game's post-apocalyptic Nevada setting is so atmospheric that all of New Vegas' imperfections melt away like the skin of a Ghoul.
In addition to Karma, Obsidian has added a faction/location based reputation system to New Vegas (similar to that in Fallout 2) which will see you treated differently depending on how you engage with people. Successfully complete lots of quests for a community and they’ll welcome you with open arms in future, maybe even treating you to perks along the way. Bear in mind though, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction – the example we saw had us helping a slacker scientist get a power station to reach maximum efficiency – under the proviso we rerouted power to the strip. When we got to the command console however we had the option to power a handful of different areas exclusively, or all of them equally. Suffice to say disobeying instructions had a knock-on effect...
Games Radar US.
New Vegas’ environment is full of landmarks to help navigate, and isn’t just Vegas – it’s the whole surrounding area. A California-Nevada border town with a famous rollercoaster (which you can run around on), a cheesy giant Dinosaur, Helios One, and the Vegas strip itself are some of the highlights. We didn’t get to see the strip, which, at the time of our demo, was “still under construction, both literally and figuratively.” We did get a few hints as to its content, though. It won’t contain any real-world casinos, but will contain properly-themed ‘50s establishments, and gambling is available both on and off the strip.
The Sixth Axes.
The locations are plentiful and varied. Primm – a small town encircled by a rollercoaster based on a real-life place. No Vac – under threat from Caesar’s Legion, home to Dinky the Dinosaur and amusingly titled due to a few letters falling off of a ‘No Vacancy’ sign. Black Mountain – a dark and dangerous place filled with mutants. There is also a location known as the Helios One Solar Energy Plant. Occupied by the New California Republic, Helios One was built during the pre-war years by Poseidon Energy (from Fallout 2) and currently isn’t fully operational. You can choose to help get it up and running and divert power to the NCR, or you can spread the power out across different locations, or you can choose to use the Archimedes II orbital laser to turn against the NCR.

Enemies will present themselves in many forms, as they always do. One of the more fun elements demonstrated was the different types of mutants and how they interact with each other. There’s the 1st Gen Mutants – Fallout 1 fans will recognise them as the Master’s Army – smart, tough and strong, and then there’s the 2nd Gen Mutants – Fallout 2 fans will recognise them from the Military Base in that game – not as strong and very stupid; the 1st Gen Mutants affectionately call them ‘Dumb Dumbs’. If you can pit one off against the other, all you need to do is sit back and watch the chaos. But you will have to keep an eye out for Night-Kins – mutants who utilise Stealth Boys.
Your journey will eventually take you to Novac, another town with a huge point of interest. In this case, it's Dinky the Dinosaur, the aforementioned T-Rex, complete with the Dino Bite gift shop and a sniper's nest inside of its mouth. This is where the developers introduce you to companions, characters who have their own storylines and will follow and fight for you; the first is Craig Boone, ex member of the New California Republic, or NCR. Not only is it good to have a buddy come along, but you can manage him or her using the Companion Wheel, examining their health, A.I. state and weapons used; you can give them weapons.

Over time, you learn that a crazy super mutant named Tabitha (essentially a dude in drag), AKA the commander of Black Mountain, holds a guy named Raul captive. So, you set off to kill everything in your path to save him; you'll run into the Nightkin, tough mutants with the power to cloak. That said, you should have acquired both the Anti-Material Rifle (a 50-caliber monster) and one of New Vegas' best weapons, the Grenade Machine Gun. This bad boy lives up to its name, as it spits grenades like an automatic rifle discharges bullets, one after the other. The mission concludes with you saving Raul and slaughtering Tabitha and her brood. And in case you ever wondered what a mutant would look like in a blonde wig and lipstick, it isn't pretty.
Games On Net.
Fallout 3 must be good. Look how well it sold. Look how many Game of the Year stickers it has on it. Look at the feeding frenzy of rampant hatred that begins if you dare to so much as casually suggest it isn’t the Supreme Being of first person RPGs.

So Fallout: New Vegas, which is by all accounts more of the same, has to be pretty decent too, right? Given my apathy towards everyone’s favourite post-apocalyptic hybrid, I confess myself as surprised as you to be answering that yes, it does look pretty damn good. Here’s why.

For one thing, they’ve cut out a lot of the waiting around. Fallout is not an action game, and you have to expect some exposition, but if you found yourself impatiently mashing the “next” button during Fallout 3’s interminable childhood sequence, you’ll be gratified by New Vegas’s approach. Apparently being dug up and patched back together after near fatal head trauma is a faster way to deliver a new character to actual gameplay than being born, growing up, having birthday parties and going to school. Who knew?

So the time between selecting “start game” and arriving at that trademark “the world is my oyster” moment is much less trying, but better than that, it’s a much more attractive sort of mollusc. I was blown away by the ruined desert landscape of Capital Wasteland – for the first ten minutes, after which I got a hankering for something different to look at. Having escaped the devastation of a ground-zero hit, New Vegas delivers a much more varied and interesting environment.

Posted by Brother None - at 19:17

A lot of the previews are showing off the New Vegas screenshots we've seen before, but Kotaku is alone in showing a full weapon mods gallery. So, with thanks to Kotaku, here's a full weapon mod gallery for the 9mm pistol, hunting rifle and cowboy repeater.

You can view all released screenshots and these weapon shots in even higher resolution on Voodoo Extreme and The Vault.

Posted by Brother None - at 18:43

MTV Multiplayer talks post-apocalyptic society with Fallout: New Vegas lead J.E. Sawyer.

"One major theme in the game is that we talk about rebuilding in the image of the old world, and whether that's valid or not. For example, the New California Republic sees themselves as the torchbearers of the republic that existed in the pre-war world. They are the voice of democracy. People have representation with them. They don't enslave people. They have laws and stuff like that.

"Whereas Caesar's Legion -- which is inspired by Rome and is led by an incredibly charismatic, cunning and intelligent guy -- is specifically emulating things from the Roman empire because their leader believes that that is the only way to bring order into such a chaotic world."

Posted by Brother None - at 18:39

Lots of new previews out there. Kotaku expands on its earlier notes.

Like the town of Primm, which sits near the California-Nevada border. It's notable for having a big roller coaster, which makes an appearance in the game. Instead of an amusement park ride, however, it served as a platform for a vicious gun battle. Obsidian showed off more of Fallout: New Vegas' arsenal, including the Caravan Gun—a double barrel shotgun—and a grenade launcher, which Obsidian described as "a hoot" to use.

From Primm, we traveled to Novac, home to Dinky the Dinosaur, the local gift shop and defensive stronghold. From Dinky's mouth, we got a far-reaching view of New Vegas' landscape, including the home to the Caesar's Legion faction. Caesar's Legion a slaving organization, Obsidian says, is one half of the game's central conflict, with the New California Republic representing the other half.
One of the most significant new gameplay mechanics in Fallout: New Vegas comes in the form of the companion wheel, which is designed for easy access to Companion Commands, including access to companion inventories and behavioral orders. If you want your companions to attack everything in sight, you can set them to be aggro. Or, on the flip side, you can have them be very docile.

From what I saw, this new radial menu system is a very easy to navigate and is much neater and quicker to access than the companion system in Fallout 3. In fact, the companions themselves will talk to you now and tell you if you've done something stupid, like arming a gun expert with a melee weapon. Companions also offer benefits to you in the form of perks, so you'll want to choose carefully when picking a buddy to go exploring with you.
New Vegas project director Josh Sawyer points out that it builds, expands, and sometimes inverts on the mechanics and expectations that Fallout 3 established. He starts with the inversion, by noting that where Fallout 3 begins with a birth and a childhood within a secure Vault, New Vegas begins with a bullet in the head and a burial in the desert. The basic premise is that the player is a courier that is targeted for his cargo and left for dead -- a "TV robot" named Victor digs you up and hauls you over to the nearby (and very "Olde West" in style) town of Goodsprings. There, your revival and convalescence at Doc Mitchell's house provide a shorter and tighter version of the Fallout 3 tutorial. Here is where you quickly use a machine to determine your SPECIAL stats (the core statistics that make up your character); here is where Doc Mitchell uses Rorschach Inkblot Tests and Word Association (one particular awesome pairing: being prompted with "Mother" and answering that with "Human Shield") to determine which skills to focus on. At this point, where Fallout 3 was the personal quest to find your abandoning father, New Vegas gives you the more immediately pressing "find out who shot you and why" quest.
Appropriate to its location, New Vegas has a Wild West, frontiersman feel. Dust devils cross your path, an old prospector called Easy Pete rocks his chair on a porch, and Trudy, the down-home saloon-owner, wants help against the bounty hunter Joe Cobb and his gang who are holding the town to ransom. This is all after you go hunting for Geckos (one of many references to Fallout 2 Obsidian is folding into the game) to learn, or re-learn, your way around the real-time, first-person combat with optional tactical pauses via VATS.

The carefully-crafted prologue ensures there's a low-level weapon for every weapon skill in the area, and conversational options for all the possible powers of persuasion in the mission to defeat (or, of course, side with) Cobb's gang. It introduces you to the new special abilities unlocked with every melee weapon in the game - a nine-iron golf club comes with a destructive blow called "Fore!" - and New Vegas' biggest new element, a reputation system.

A new entry in the Pip-Boy gives you a perk for a particular location or faction if your reputation with a faction changes. Defeat Cobb and you earn "Accepted" with Good Springs - "folks have come to accept you for your helpful nature". Ultimately, this system plays into the game's principal narrative struggle between the New Californian Republic (NCR) militia, based at McCarran, and a group of slavers called Caesar's legion. If you know Vegas, you can probably guess where you'll find their HQ. Whichever you side with, the other will be your principal enemy in the game.
We only saw the dialogue checks several times during the demo, but it appears that in certain situations, barter (and possibly other passive skills) can be used in a similar capacity to speech and you can rely on the skill you have higher points in when another doesn’t cut it. Interestingly, the game will also show how many points you have in a specific skill area versus what you need to pass the check in the dialogue tree. Seems like it will make the game less punishing for those who don’t pump points into their speech skill (fools!).
Using a varmint rifle, we watched several overgrown geckos' heads explode with a few quick shots. There's a kill cam that can be set, which slows down the final shot and makes your kills feel more cinematic, but this can be turned off if you don't like seeing limbs fly in slow motion. Sawyer said that geckos were a favorite from Fallout 2 and that there will be tougher versions to fire at later in the game. The core controls, as well as the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS), remains mostly the same, and we later found out that special skill options have been added for melee attacks. Sawyer explained that there wasn't a lot of development time for New Vegas, and because a lot of people played Fallout 3, the developers didn't want to make any drastic changes--just improvements to the existing controls. He also said that aiming should be more responsive, reactive, and predictable. To discourage players from always aiming for the head, certain weapons will be more effective against limbs. At times, a red shield icon will appear to let you know that you're dealing less damage per shot and that it might be a good idea to switch targets to conserve precious bullets.
Gameinformer shares some notes as a teaser to a preview/interview in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
“We’ve introduced a new dialog perk called terrifying presence,” says Sawyer. “It allows you to, when someone basically confronts you, instead of talking your way out of a fight you terrorize the person who’s threatening you to the point where they all run. It initiates combat, but they all run for the hills. Some guy comes up to you and says, ‘Man, you just screwed with the wrong guy,’ and you’re like, ‘I’m going to f---ing cut your head off and wear it as a hat,’ and they’re like, ‘Holy s---!’ and he freaks out and as soon as it ends he and all of his crew just run. It gives you about five seconds where they’re just running in terror from you so you can just go off on them. But it’s just one of those things where every once in a while it just comes up in conversation and you can just lay it down.”

Posted by Brother None - at 14:36

Some not uninteresting questions on J.E. Sawyer's Formspring account.

What's it like working in a field where everything you put out is scrutinized by online fan groups, many of whom will trash or ooze about the game despite its faults?

You either get used to it or you don't. Some developers never get used to it and basically shut out/write off fan feedback entirely.

Throughout my career, I have felt that it is incredibly important to read and (when possible) respond to fan feedback. It helps professionally ground you and it forces you to defend your ideas to the enduser.

The challenge I sometimes face is getting past my initial aggravation at a person's tone to ask what their underlying concern is. But if I can do that, I usually find that they are reasonable -- even if I don't think I can make them happy.

What kind of balance do you try to strike between player-driven events and plot-driven events?

Within the context of "Obsidian-style" RPGs, we tend to give the player a lot of options, but they are still designer-created events. These options can reward a player's investment or character choices, but ultimately it's just picking from a pre-defined menu.

Personally, I try to push our game play in directions that allow players to create their own stories. I want people to enjoy the stories and characters Obsidian creates, but I also want our game play to be compelling and dynamic enough that player stories overshadow our meager choose-your-own-adventure plots.

Reading through someone else's story can be entertaining and satisfying, but if you get the opportunity to create your own, that adds another layer of enjoyment.

Can a game tell a complex story mostly through environment and inference on the part of the player, or are exposition dumps inevitable?

Certainly. I actually prefer this kind of storytelling, but it can be tricky to pull off. If a developer were to establish hard and fast rules for presentation in a game, I'm sure they could have a rich, complex story with minimal exposition.

I think games like Ico show that developers are capable of presenting narrative in a lot of untraditional ways. I'd like to work on a game with no dialogue -- or dialogue that's all spoken in nonsense/indecipherable language, with intonation and facial expressions being the player's only hints at what's being discussed.

News for Monday, May 3, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 22:32

A few weeks ago, Chris Taylor commented a bit on the (quality of the) screenshots of Project V13 released earlier via Duck and Cover and the Vault.

I'd like to point out those weren't even "alpha" screens, just "Proof of Concept".

The current models look different. We still want a somewhat stylized look so we can avoid the "Uncanny Valley".
Yes, proof of concept artwork is usually (and is, in our case) placeholder.

Masthead has sent us new artwork and it is far superior to the proof of concept, and I liked the POC (recognizing that it was just POC and very early) so I'm very happy.
Thanks Duck and Cover.

Posted by Brother None - at 21:37

MTV Multiplayer attended the press junket for New Vegas, and now discusses the improvements to combat from Fallout 3.

The most prominent fix during our hands-off demo was the ability to bring up a weapon's iron sights. In practice, it both steadied the weapon and increased accuracy. But more importantly, it allowed for the action to continue without engaging the VATS targeting system (which was how I handled nearly 99% of combat in "Fallout 3").
I noticed that kill cams have also changed a bit. Players now have the option to toggle how they see their deathblows on screen. Any kill can be rendered in the VATS-style killcam or trigger a brief slow-mo to let the moment sink in. Personally, I really liked the brief slow-mo because it was a bit of a visual cue to start slinging bullets at the next enemy.

News for Sunday, May 2, 2010

Posted by Sander - at 20:22

Fallout: Between Good & Evil has released several images:

In addition to this, they're also requesting some help with the mod, as they're short on programmers.
By now it’s probably obvious that we don’t update you very frequently. In this field it’s common to say that this is because we put all of our time into the actual game instead. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The productivity of many team members goes from bad to worse, which is why we’re still looking for fresh new faces (you know where to look for details), who can deal with a regular work supply. This particularly concerns programmers (as always!), but you can basically do anything as long as you put effort in.

Posted by Brother None - at 14:41

It looks like J.E. Sawyer is returning to one of his pet peeves in the SPECIAL system, namely the way armor works. Specifically, it looks like Damage Treshhold will be back.

I figure this is a good time to explain how the "red shield" (and also "HUD colored shield") works.

Imagine that there is an amount of damage that armor directly subtracts from damage... a "threshold" of damage, if you will. While a small percentage of damage may get through even the thickest armor, damage threshold can effectively neutralize a lot of small arms. Fallout 1 and 2 used numerical feedback to let the player know when their weapons weren't doing any damage. In F3 and F:NV, the player only sees enemy health meters that represent a percentage of total health rather than an exact value. This makes it difficult to tell how effective an enemy's armor is (as opposed to the target simply having a ton of health). In F:NV, the red shield appears next to a target's health meter when you hit it for damage that is equal to or less than the target's damage threshold. A HUD-colored shield appears next to the player's health meter when the player is hit for damage equal to or less than the player's damage threshold.

High RoF weapons typically have a low DAM, high DPS. E.g. 10mm SMG. Low RoF weapons are the opposite. E.g. Hunting Rifle. F:NV's Pip-Boy Weapons tab now cross-fades between DAM and DPS so the player can make more tactical choices about what weapon to use in any given circumstance. Having both of these values visible has also allowed us to revise the calculation of DAM/DPS values to be less abstract and more accurate. Using the weapons previously listed, a 10mm SMG would be best against unarmored/lightly armored targets at close range. The Hunting Rifle is ideal against armored targets at long range. But if the player wants to get fiddly with numbers, the Cowboy Repeater (mentioned in the Escapist preview) is better than either weapon against unarmored/lightly armored targets at long range since it is accurate, has a decent DAM and a better DPS than the Hunting Rifle. Add ammo subtypes and mods into the mix and there are a lot of ways to optimize the gear you carry and use.
Damage Threshold is a new value for armor. It is directly subtracted from damage. That is, it is not a percentage reduction. I'll use an example of DR vs. DT to illustrate the impact it has.

Let's say you have a weapon with a DAM of 13 and a weapon with a DAM of 45.

Against armor with 20 DR, each shot from the first weapon will do 13 - 2.6 = 10.4 damage. The second weapon will do 45 - 8 = 37 damage per shot.

Against armor with 5 DT, each shot from the first weapon will do 13 - 5 = 8 damage. The second weapon will do 45 - 5 = 40 damage per shot.

Damage Threshold has a greater impact the lower the base damage is. Damage Resistance scales universally because it is a percentile reduction.
Is it a replacement for all armor or will it be alongside DR?
We're still experimenting with the right balance of DR/DT. The engine can support and display both.

BTW, the weapons that are easily neutered by even light armor are shotguns firing buckshot.

Which is why I always carry slugs. :disguise:
Does the red shield only appear during VATS?
It appears whenever you damage a target and remains for a few seconds after.
There is a value in GECK we use for tuning that specifies a minimum percentage of damage an attack can do, regardless of DR/DT. We've adjusted it a few times and probably will continue to do so. But in all cases it has been a low percentage of an already low base value, so using something like a Varmint Rifle against high DT armor is a good way to get killed.
Thanks The Vault.

News for Saturday, May 1, 2010

Posted by Brother None - at 14:05

While posting the previews yesterday, we forgot to attach the following interviews. Apologies. Escapist has a good-sized 4-page interview with Feargus Urquhart (thanks Paul_cz).

TE: When Bethesda was doing its rounds with Fallout 3, they talked a lot about how they weren't consulting with the original Black Isle team and how they wanted to make it their Fallout, and they weren't too concerned with the past. How has that shifted now? You guys are essentially taking responsibility for the Vegas portion and extending the original Fallout 1 & 2 storylines. How has that integration worked out?

FU: It's like thinking of a Star Wars game. We could run everything by Lucas, but there's ... all these things and - you just get to know it.

For Star Wars, that's what Chris Avellone did, he's the designer for Knights of the Old Republic 2. He literally just went and read everything. I mean everything - I mean really bad junior Jedi books. I'm like "Why are you reading that?" and he says "Well, there might be something in here."

When it comes to Fallout, and what's easy for the internal team, they have all of our design documents, they have all of our materials, they have the games, they had Chris's Fallout bible, they had all this stuff. Would it have been helpful to ask five or six questions, but that would have probably been it. With us, in working on New Vegas, we just already know it, for a lot of us it was something that we created. We still go back, because it is Bethesda's Fallout, it's not Black Isle's Fallout.

We all played Fallout 3 to death. One, because we wanted to, two, because we needed to really understand it. So we really wanted to understand what they were trying to accomplish and what their vision was. And then we followed up with questions. We haven't asked a ton, but things get run by Todd Howard all the time. The amount of conflict that has existed - like "Why can't we do this?" "Well you just can't," - it's been like four things. A lot of it has to do with that they have ideas for the future and so they just don't want us to go playing with where they see their future.

This is similar to what happened with the Star Wars stuff. One of the first things we wanted to do with KOTOR was we wanted to use Alderaan and LucasFilm came back with "No." So it's a collection of that, it's the knowing and the asking of important questions and being upfront with them about everything we're doing. We over-document everything. We're like "Here." And they're like "Stop writing."
TE: Are you ready for the inevitable mixed reaction from people expecting something they aren't going to be getting?

FU: Yeah. There's going to be a couple of fan sites that will vilify us, but that's the way it is.

But Josh has done an amazing job - he's broadly looked at everything. There's going to be a lot of fun things for people to do that are distinctly different than Fallout 3. There's always going to be "there's too much this," and "there's too little this," but in general, people are just going to have fun.
Aye, I can imagine some Fallout 3 fans will be very upset that Obsidian is messing with their franchise.

IGN Video presents a video interview with J.E. Sawyer, in which he talks about the backstory, mechanics improvements and the reputation system, talking about the returning Brotherhood of Steel and Followers of the Apocalypse factions.

Posted by Brother None - at 13:59

We're going to rotate through the same info a lot now since everyone went to the same presentation. At least Joystiq is succinct..

Speaking of making people happy -- New Vegas sees the return of the karma system from its predecessor, joined by the tracking of your character's reputation among the populace and various factions, including the Brotherhood of Steel, the New California Republic and Caesar's Legion. Depending on your standing with these groups, they'll do everything from ordering hits on you to treating you like royalty when you visit them. Companion characters are also back, though this time you'll have a new "companion wheel" you can use to quickly issue them a wide variety of orders, manage their inventory and more.

Posted by Brother None - at 5:05

Together with the previews, a bunch of new to not-so-new screens have hit the web. These are the ones we haven't seen before, as far as I can tell.

Source: Voodoo Extreme Fallout: New Vegas gallery.

Posted by Brother None - at 4:57

The first previews of New Vegas are hitting the web, with IGN kicking things off.

New Vegas is still an open world role-playing game and the combination of real-time shooting and VATS (a targeting system that pauses the game and allows for a more classically RPG style of combat) has not changed. Newly added is the ability to find and equip weapon mods and specialty ammo, further tweaking and improving an arsenal that already contains twice as many weapons as Fallout 3. If that Grenade Machine Gun isn't good enough, you can always add an extra mod on it to make its rate of fire even faster. Scopes, extra clips, special ammo and more can be found for most weapons, and every change you make to the gun is reflected in its look in the game.

Some additions have been made to the flow of combat as well, making New Vegas a much more flexible and fluid looking experience. During real-time combat, new camera options have been added and the mechanics have been tweaked. You can now aim down the sights like most standard first-person shooters, and the game options can be tweaked to add in the cinematic, slow-mo kill cam previously only available through VATS. If you do bring up VATS, you'll find new options for melee targeting including special moves. No matter your battle preferences, prepare for a similar gore fest to Fallout 3. During the demo I watched as the player took an uppercut swing with a 9 Iron golf club to the face of an enemy. His head flew off in a stream of blood.
Specifically, for the serious Fallout fan, New Vegas introduces a Hardcore option from the get-go, allowing them to bypass early tutorials and live a more difficult post-nuclear life. Players opting to go hardcore will have to stave off hunger and dehydration, and will be required to visit doctors for more serious injuries. Hardcore also more harshly limits the amount of ammo one can carry, applying weight to bullets. Stimpacks won't heal instantly, but will heal over time.
Escapist Magazine.
What sets New Vegas apart from Fallout 3, aside from numerous gameplay tweaks we'll get to shortly, is its tone and setting. Fallout 3 was set in the Washington D.C. area, a part of the United States with a decidedly iconic and perhaps overly dreary tone. As a result, Fallout 3's tone was iconic and kind of dreary - a tone that fit the setting and the look of a devastated U.S. capital quite well.

New Vegas, however, is a different animal. After all, how can the destruction (and rebirth) of Las Vegas be anything but absurd? Las Vegas is the city of sin, where money is made and lost in staggering volume and where people from all over the world come to let loose. It's also located in probably the strangest part of the country, at once part of the stoic desert culture of the Southwest and the kitschy, campy culture of the Great American Interstate society, which is home to monuments like Carhenge and The World's Tallest Thermometer.