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HJIM Part I: Fallout 3: New Vegas

August 16, 2010

Holy Jesus, I’m back! (Part 1)

It’s all up there, really. I have, for the past few weeks, been surprisingly busy (any sniggering coworkers can sod off now). A new dawn has arrived, and I am back to fill you in on the minutiae of my life since the start of the month. Let’s start with the big things: my partner in crime has returned from her sojurn in Sydney, lots of Dragon Age 2 news has come out (which I will cover later), I’ve started to play through the set of steam games I bought during the summer sale, and Fallout 3: New Vegas moves inexorably closer to release.

Fallout (and Fallout 2) were made by Black Isle, a deliciously talented team from Interplay – the minds behind the superlative Planescape: Torment and the somewhat less than superlative Icewind Dale series. When Interplay was acquired by a group of insane Frenchmen – followed shortly by the founder leaving (only to be replaced by someone almost as criminally insane as the Dragon Age 2 design team) – the writing was on the wall. Interplay folded in 2004 and, from the ashes, the Black Isle team, with a pinch of the (also defunct) Troika team, formed Obsidian Entertainment – one of the last true bastions of real RPG development. Meanwhile, Bethesda (makers of Morrowind and Oblivion) picked up the Fallout license and came back a year later with Fallout 3, one of the best titles of 2008.

Fallout 3 had the usual Bethesda game hallmarks: underwhelming tech, somewhat shonky writing*, a massive world, and awesome modding tools (with which a plethora of nude, furry, anime, or a combination thereof, mods were made). And you know what? It was great. Oblivion, also, was great, and since Fallout 3 is effectively Oblivion with guns, it all makes sense. They both needed a bit of community help to iron out the chinks (and/or turn everyone into naked, anthropomorphic, foxes). Still, I have probably sank more time in those two games than I’d ever like to admit, making it all the more sexcellent that they farmed out Fallout 3.5 to Obsidian.

Obsidian has a bit of a troubled track record. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, their first big title, was full of bugs, and apparently had a good 60% of the story (including the ending) chainsawed off a few days before release (blame the publishers). Neverwinter Nights 2, had an all-new (buggy) engine and a bunch of game-breaking issues. It did have solid writing and an expansion pack which was so far in advance of any RPG for the prior 7 years, in terms of story & characterization, that I forgave everything. They followed it up with an unworthy expansion that I won’t even name (I asked Chris Avellone about the atrocity when I met him – he feigned ignorance, but I sensed the guilt). Recently, they put out Alpha Protocol, which, despite being utterly broken, unbalanced and weirdly short (blame the publishers), truly pushed the boundaries of conventional RPG mechanics, and some damn good writing to boot. It’s almost like there’s a pattern here.

Anyway, they’ve been given Fallout 3 and were told to make a full-length, standalone expansion pack, with the bonus of having the original guys behind the best things in Fallout 1 & 2 making it. It’s a match made in heaven, and I can’t wait for it to come out. So . . . why am I talking about it? Well, why are you reading my blog? Actually, no, I do have some interesting things to talk about – and that is the marketing campaign in Japan!

Something that came as a surprise to me (and, no doubt, you), is that Fallout 3 did amazingly well in Japan (maybe it strikes close to home). No, really, it’s on this crazy moon language website listing the top 10 rpgs (Warning: this site contains tentacles). Not only have they been marketing it hard, but in a frankly more interesting way than they have anywhere else. Here’s the advert they’re going with:

Now, because I don’t speak Japanese in the slightest, we have to go off second hand information (in this case, some guy named “Samurai Sanders” on the Somethingawful Forums). He tells us that the signs are saying:

“I want a main character who can do something other than destroy evil.”

“When did games become something to watch?”

“If I can’t change the story, playing more than once is a waste of time.”

“Just provide a stage, and after that, freedom!”

“It’s too convenient that the enemies are weak when you are weak.”

Despite the fact that (at least) points 3 and 5 are probably lies (especially 5, Oblivion had an interesting feature where once you had reached level 20, suddenly all the bandits that lived in caves, eating rats and demanding 10 gold from you in creaky voices, were wearing full suits of armour made of pure gold). I also realize that (despite not being a mathemagician) there are more than 5 signs, but I can blame Samurai Sanders for that. However, I have to say, the advert is pretty cool. It’s obviously targeting Final Fantasy (and I guess it applies to Dragon Effect Age 2). I wish RPG developers (or even just the people marketing them) would actually care about the things mentioned here – adopting a couple of those points would seriously improve the genre. Oh well. Two months and one week to go before we find out if it’s true! I’ll leave you with some more amazing Japanese Fallout 3 antics.

*Bethesda actually used to have some excellent writers – but since Oblivion, they decided to go the standard route of “get rid of all this pesky text” in exchange for “let’s voice all 500 people in this game with these two voice actors, oh we’ll throw in three lines spoken by Patrick Stewart as well”.

From → Games, News

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