Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

After an Inexcusable Hiatus…

Please forgive the recent dearth of posts. I’ve got a ton of reasons as to why nothing has been posted, but unfortunately none of them are truly good reasons. There weren’t any deaths in the family, both my computers are functioning quite nicely, and while I’ve been busy with writing for class recently, it hasn’t been to the extent that would merit ignoring my blog.

All that being said, I’ve got some interesting thoughts on the subject Fallout 3, which has consumed my gaming life for the past two weeks or so. I put in 18 hours last weekend; it was one of those things where you don’t even realize how long you’ve been playing until you look at a clock and let out an involuntary squawk when you realize how many meals you just skipped. I’ve been home over Thanksgiving break, so no gaming has occurred over the past few days. 

In place of actual gaming, however, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend of mine who attends the University of Houston. He’s a music performance major, and not usually much of a gamer. His roommate loves gaming, though, so when Fallout 3 was released my friend ended up playing it quite a bit. I really enjoyed getting a non-gamer’s perspective on everything in the game. He didn’t have previous knowledge of either the publishing studio (Bethesda Softworks) or the previously released Fallout and Fallout 2, so everything was completely fresh for him. In fact, I think the last game he put any significant amount of time into was Bioshock.

Long story short, I picked his brain over how he liked the game, what he thought of the moral dilemma’s presented, the audio element of the game (he is a music major, after all), etc etc etc. Overall, he has really enjoyed the game. One of the first things he mentioned was how much he liked getting to customize his character at the beginning of the game, picking specific attributes and skills that would impact how he played the rest of the game. Most of us are quite familiar with this system of character creation, which originated in table-top RPGs with a roll of the dice, allotting certain points to each attribute. It was completely new to him, though, and made him feel very involved and invested in the character he’d created. On the other hand, I took the whole thing for granted. To me, it wasn’t so much a gameplay element as a necessary evil that barred me from the actual game. So in a nerdy, thanksgiving-esque sort of way, I’m thankful for character creation systems that are nicely thought out and don’t pigeon-hole me into any particular sort of character.

The next thing (in terms of gameplay chronology, at least) that he commented on was the glare of the sun that you get immediately upon exiting Vault 101. When I saw it, I just nodded approvingly at the effective use of HDR lighting, whereas he’d gotten really excited at the amount of effort the developers had put into the realism of the game. Things like your eyes taking time to adjust in bright light make the game all that more immersive. Essentially, you’re trying to create a situation for the gamer called suspension of disbelief; they don’t worry about whether or not the game is likely, or even possible, they just play. In all fairness, something like that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me were I to make a game, and as a writer I can attest to how hard it can be to get all the little details correct in a project. Often the most effective way to accurately capture something is to just go do it and then record everything you’re thinking, feeling, seeing, and so forth in that moment (for example, I recently wrote a story with a scene that took place at a gun range, so I had my one of my roommates take out his 9 millimeter and walk me through the various steps of gun use, safety, cleaning, aiming, and anything else he could think of. When I used the recording I’d made of him talking to create dialogue, the result was something very believable that I likely wouldn’t have been able to craft on my own. But I digress).

When I brought up the idea of morals in the game and specifically mentioned Micky, the beggar you run into outside of Megaton, my friend laughed. He admitted that he’d mistakenly killed the guy instead of entering dialogue with the character. He did mention that he’d made it to Rivet City, though, and there’s a beggar outside of that town as well. We talked about how the game often presents situations with black and white choices – you can be good, or you can be evil – but doesn’t necessarily reward the good choice. He agreed that there was definitely a nihilistic approach to morals in the game, but said that he thought it was entirely necessary and even contributed to the sense of hopelessness and despair that the Wasteland evokes. We ended up contrasting that with the most obvious moral element of Bioshock (since that was the only other game he’d really played recently) of whether to rescue Little Sisters or to instead harvest them for Adam. The environment makes all the difference between the two games – the vast, expansive Wasteland of Fallout 3 (versus the relatively limited area covered by the underwater city of Rapture in Bioshock) makes it so that you encounter so many people, with opposing goals and actions, none of them necessarily the right or wrong side, that it becomes much harder to differentiate between good and evil (with the exception of the characters involved in the main quest – your father, the Enclave, etc). 

Finally, Mr. Music Major absolutely fell in love with the music of Fallout 3. He thoroughly enjoyed the radio stations that you can listen to, particularly Galaxy News Radio. He felt the same way about the retro-styled music as I did – it’s kinda fun, kinda sad, and constantly reminding you of what the Wasteland was once like. It is obviously a form of an alternate timeline, evidenced by the juxtaposition of futuristic elements with those that would be expected in Cold War 1950s United States. He also commented on how realistic the sound effects are, and especially enjoyed those used inside buildings. The creaking, the sound of your enemies moving around (particularly feral ghouls) both add considerably to game’s environment. On a side note, my personal favorite audio in the game is hearing super mutants arguing with each other. It’s absolutely hilarious.

While we didn’t talk about a ton that I haven’t previously covered on here, it was great to hear a non-gamer’s perspective on such a great game. He noticed and appreciated things that I took for granted, giving me a great alternate opinion on the product. I’ll probably see if I can get him to play Left 4 Dead so we can talk about that, too.


November 29, 2008 - Posted by | Gaming | , , , , , , , , , ,

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