102: Gaming's Fringe Cults

'"Now, we're mostly evangelists of recreating the original Fallout experience. We try to convince the media and publishers that there is a viable niche market for Fallout-like games that has been under-serviced for years.'
"Acting as a non-profit, grass-roots PR and marketing campaign for the better part of a decade speaks to a zeal not often observed outside of holy crusades and message board flame wars. What is it about Fallout that inspires people to continually sing its praises?"
Joe Blancato tracks the mythologies of three internet cults spawned by three successful (or not) games.

Gaming's Fringe Cults

I'm surprised this forum hasn't erupted again into an argument over just what and how the new Fallout should be made. I had a number of questions for the people Joe Blancato interviewed. Hopefully they will be dropping by here or Joe can answer some of them?

I'd be curious how the moderators and admins of No Mutants Allowed would go about re-creating the original Fallout experience. The experience is so much more than just the actual design elements of the game. When I played the game it blew me away, it did. But I am no longer the person I once was, so much of that experience was who I was then, what my expectations were from a game and what the general game market was. All these can never be recaptured by another game, ever. You could re-make the game, using the same script, voices and design system, just a shiny new exterior, and I don't believe the game would do well. The industry has moved on, the field is more varied... How would they deal with the console market, the hard-core, and casual markets, etc?

I'm not looking to start a flame war I'd just like to see how they would meet these challenges. Moving on, I was excited to see that there was a Freespace MOD community that I had no idea about. I greatly miss the long dead space fighter sim. Freespace 2 was very much it's swan song. That fact that Volition opened it up to amateurs and that vibrant community has sprung up around it warms my heart, plus I'm dowloading it now from the site mentioned!

Believe it or not, the guys at NMA are apparently pleased with Joe's story, and have agreed to not cripple our forums in the name of all that is holy and right. I'm more than a little displeased by this.

I'm sure, though, Joe can hook you up with some answers when he gets back to the office tomorrow.

Funny you should ask, falselogic. That was actually an interview question that didn't make its way into the article. Lemme check with the NMA guys to see if they don't mind me reproducing it here. Stay tuned.

The guys at NMA have always liked the Escapist, despite the mistakes in Black Isle to Bethesda.

falselogic:
I'd be curious how the moderators and admins of No Mutants Allowed would go about re-creating the original Fallout experience. The experience is so much more than just the actual design elements of the game. When I played the game it blew me away, it did. But I am no longer the person I once was, so much of that experience was who I was then, what my expectations were from a game and what the general game market was. All these can never be recaptured by another game, ever. You could re-make the game, using the same script, voices and design system, just a shiny new exterior, and I don't believe the game would do well. The industry has moved on, the field is more varied... How would they deal with the console market, the hard-core, and casual markets, etc?

Recreating an exact experience is nonsense, if you ask me, and if you try to attain such a goal you'll end up with failure. That can't be helped, and it'd be silly to ask any developer to offer the exact same experience as we collectively had 10 years ago. It just can't be done.

Someone once told me Fallout and PS:T were flukes, they could only exist because no one higher up was interfering yet they had the backing and logistics of a major company. Rare, indeed.

As for "the industry has moved on," it has and it hasn't. It's not that much different. For instance, Cain once said about Fallout's combat: "It also showed how popular and fun turn-based combat could be, when everyone else was going with real-time or pause-based combat." That's no different now, everyone else is going with real-time or pause-based, only this time so is Fallout.

So if anything has changed it's that the unique situation behind Fallout can't be reproduced. Not because the people aren't there, but because the companies have closed ranks, and even a proclaimed independant like Bethesda joins those ranks. Only Blizzard remains, I guess, with their hearty sod off to the, as CVG put it, "'big new feature' kind of showmanship." How to do something like that for Fallout? I'll post the answers we gave to Joe's questions below.

And what about the market? The market is only a problem when you make it one. I'm sure Bethesda's Fallout 3 has the potential to outsell the Fallout 3 BIS was working on, but BIS didn't need to sell a million copies just to break even. The base investment cost of the license and ludicrous expenses like their PR department (including a community manager who doesn't really do anything, from what I can tell) or hiring Liam Neeson are choices Bethesda made, and only because of those choices do they have to compete in three markets to so much as break even. That's not inherent of today's gaming market, but I'll admit it's predominant, and it will have to collapse in on itself someday. These high-risk high-profit ventures are a way to instable base for an industry. Heck, you don't see any other industry doing it.

Joe: What would you like to see in a sequel?

Brother None: The same thing I saw in the originals, but evolved. Fallout was designed as a pen and paper emulation with a 50s post-apocalyptic retro-future setting folded around it. Those design constraints really aren't that constricting, and there's a lot of room for improvement from the original Fallouts, in combat, but also in quest solution paths.

Fallout needs and deserves to evolve after 10 years. I just don't want that evolution to be ill thought out, because that would be exactly the opposite of how Fallout was originally designed. Don't make it real-time "just because", make design decisions that make sense within the original design, and you can make a game that's modern, evolved, great ánd loyal to the originals to boot. Kind of like Batman Begins to the original Batman.

Silencer: Definitely, at least what I saw in the first game. I want sunburnt wasteland. I want bottle caps. I want to be sure that once in the game, I will find something new round each street corner. I want the game to present tasks to me that will amount to quite more than dispatching enemies and taking their loot, and that will reward me and affect the game world in more ways than just increasing my Guild Rating or whatchacallit. I want to see a game where I can start out and develop my character in ANY way possible, the only limitation being my design and no artificial "monks can't use armour etc." constraints.

I want to see something that is a reasonable and integral extension to that was originally conceived and introduced to us in 1997, because there's a lot of good design that can be based upon.

Brother None made a good comparison to the Batman movies. I would also like to point out, that while Terminator 3 had occasionally taken a humorous jab at the original, it also had preserved a key element of the setting, namely Arnold. And time travel. And Skynet. And... Even though obviously there was a world of difference to the 80s movies.

But no female cyborgs, please.

Sander: A game that keeps the primary design goals of the original game, its humour, its canon and its feel.

That's not to say that I want a rehash of Fallout, but it does mean that there are many things that I feel are essential to a Fallout game that they cannot drop. Things like the combat system, the art style, the viewpoint (at least when in combat) and the free-roaming style, with many choices and appropriate consequences, were all part of the essential, basic design of the game.

And, of course, I want the sequel to be a good and fun game to play.

Thanks to Joe and the gentlemen (women?) at NMA for the responses!. I didn't think that the folks at NMA wanted a complete re-hash of the game but I wanted to be sure. As Brother None said it would be an exercise in futility, both the players and the market and industry are too different. I agree with the statement that FO and PS:T were flukes made possible by the state of the industry of the time. I also agree that with the major publishers and design houses such a state coming about is not going to happen. Perhaps a smaller publisher or a indie house might be able to put something like it out.

For myself, I would accept any game steeped in the mythos created by the first and second games. The problem with this though is that I don't know how much mythos is actually there. My impression then and when I play again today is that the game paints on a very large canvas and its all mostly background and line work, the player's imagination filled in the rest. Designers can't use what is only in the individual gamer's head. It seems like Fallout is largely a lose-lose situation.

In response to Sander's comments, What were the primary design goals of the original game? How do designers re-create feel? How much different can a game be from it's original when you want it to still have the same combat system and viewpoint? I don't think 3rd person view was an original primary design goal. It was more a constraint of the systems at the time, a compromise between designers ideals and technology.

Just throwing some thoughts out there. Thank you guys for your responses. I hope to keep the discussion going here.

falselogic:
For myself, I would accept any game steeped in the mythos created by the first and second games. The problem with this though is that I don't know how much mythos is actually there. My impression then and when I play again today is that the game paints on a very large canvas and its all mostly background and line work, the player's imagination filled in the rest. Designers can't use what is only in the individual gamer's head. It seems like Fallout is largely a lose-lose situation.

In response to Sander's comments, What were the primary design goals of the original game? How do designers re-create feel? How much different can a game be from it's original when you want it to still have the same combat system and viewpoint? I don't think 3rd person view was an original primary design goal. It was more a constraint of the systems at the time, a compromise between designers ideals and technology.

I can't answer for Sander, but I think a lot of your remarks are covered in two NMA articles;
The history of Fallout is a look at statements made by Fallout key developers during and after the dev cycle. It can be summarized by a pen and paper emulation (original Project GURPS) with the retro-50s post-apocalyptic setting folded around it.
Fallout; who is it for despite it's propagandistic title spends most of its time drawing parallels between Fallout 1 and 3. If you're concerned about mythos, you might want to read the paragraph under "Unique look of the world"

I have some mutagen lying around...if all else fails, we can always pour goop down on all bethesda employees.
Or...toss them into 'the glow'.

awwww. my favorite game of all time (1+2, that is). *still dreaming about Fallout 3*

 

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