Why I’m not worried about Fallout 4

Every day that goes by without an official Fallout 4 announcement is just another day of doom and gloom for the legions of fans. Me? I’m not worried.

I’m a huge Fallout fan – take ten seconds to browse my articles if you’re not sure – and I’m very excited for the prospect of Fallout 4. So are millions of other fans, many of whom are writhing at the looming five-year anniversary of the last installment, Fallout: New Vegas. This was exacerbated by Bethesda announcing their first-ever E3 press event in June, 2015, sending fans of both Fallout and The Elder Scrolls into a frenzy of speculation.

Making all of this much, much worse are the bloggers trying to make money off of this hype. A few times a week there’s a new article or video posted about “Fallout 4 News” or “Fallout 4 Announcement Date?!” These people don’t know any more than you or I, but they do make money off of ad revenue from the desperate fans looking for any scrap of hope. (For the record, I don’t make money from this blog; in fact, it costs me money. You’re welcome.)

There are two things that I personally believe:

Major work hasn’t started on Fallout 4‘s gameplay.

It’s a good thing they haven’t started yet.

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Actual facts relevant to Fallout 4

The best and most likely people to make the game are all busy.  For all my criticism of Fallout: New Vegas, it was still a great game and Bethesda Softworks would be wise to put Chris AvelloneJ.E. Sawyer, and the rest of the Obsidian crew back in charge of 4.  However, they’ve been busy with their just-released, self-published Pillars of Eternity.  They’ll be working on some updates and support, no doubt, and probably can’t start a major new project until at least this summer.

OK, what if Obsidian isn’t tapped to work on 4?  Bethesda Game Studios, creators of Fallout 3, would be the next choice.  Really, they would be the only other choice, as such a valuable franchise with dedicated fans wouldn’t be trusted to an unfamiliar studio.  Even if Obsidian is tapped there would likely be heavy technical support from the experienced engine-creators at Bethesda.

Bethesda Game Studios doesn’t appear to have any public projects and they haven’t had a major release since 2012 with the Skyrim expansions.  However, (speculation, here) I think some of the Elder Scrolls-seasoned Bethesda staff, especially the designers, have been transferred to ZeniMax Online to work on The Elder Scrolls Online.  There isn’t much evidence of this out there, but ZeniMax Online is in Maryland along with Bethesda, so why not pull over all that experience with the exact universe the game is set in?

At this point The Elder Scrolls Online probably isn’t enough to keep all of the Bethesda people busy, especially the core technical teams.  I think that if any work has started on Fallout 4, it’s mostly technical work on the engine.  Little or no story, probably not even much art, just getting things to look pretty and be functional for the story writers and artists to fill out.

Bethesda will make Fallout 4 – they must make Fallout 4.  Fallout is an undeniably successful game franchise.  Anyone who really thinks that they may never make 4 doesn’t understand basic capitalism (and probably needs to chill out in general):  if you can make money, you must make money.  A half-assed 4 will still make money, and a really good 4 will make a whole lot of money, so if corporate overlord ZeniMax Media has the capacity to do it – and nothing else will be more profitable – then the company’s investors will demand that it be made.  (And if you have US$300 million to toss around, you can have a say in their decisions, too!)

Fallout: New Vegas was rushed, and it affected the game’s quality.  Time and personnel constraints rushed the development of New Vegas in ways that affected the gameplay, especially compared to Fallout 3.  The limited urban sprawl of New Vegas (especially for an area that was supposed to be spared many direct nuclear hits), many re-used assets from 3, serious launch bugs (back to Goodsprings!), inconsistent faction interactions, and minimal engine upgrades often distracted from the game’s ambitiously expansive plot and many gameplay improvements.

It takes a long time to make ambitious open-world games.  Fallout 3 took four years to develop.  New Vegas, re-using a lot from 3, took less than two years.  Skyrim took around three years.  Each of these games were announced to the public a year before release.

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Be at peace until you hear “War…”

Be honest with yourself:  no amount of internet grief is going to make Fallout 4 arrive any faster.  Remember the following and you can be at peace like me:

The more time they take with Fallout 4, the better the game it will be.  Do you really want them to rush 4?  Personally, I want them to take all the time they reasonably need to make a top-notch game worthy of the franchise.  Plus, any new engine will take time to get right.

Even if they do announce 4 at E3, it will still be a year until release.  You think you’re anxious now?  Wait until they actually show the game.  Do you really want to spend a whole year in torture?

INRUIOBB:  It’s Not Real Until It’s On BethBlog.  Make this your mantra.  Ignore all the shitty blogs trying to make a buck off of your fandom.  There is but One True Blog.

You probably haven’t played Fallout enough.  Have you really played all of Fallout 3 and New Vegas?  Have you tried all the factions?  Have you played good, evil, anti-hero, and anti-villain?  How about a cowardly or anti-social character?  Have you played Fallout and Fallout 2?

Forget about “remastered” games.  Remasters are about the dumbest thing to happen to the game industry.  Do you really want them to regurgitate a game you already paid for and finished?  Wouldn’t you rather have a new game?  Respect yourself and Fallout enough to demand more of the video game industry.

Mod your way to a new world.  Make your personally “remastered” game with fan-created modifications.  The modding scene for Fallout 3 and New Vegas are still alive and well with mods of breathtaking quality and depth.  You can change just about anything, wether you want upgraded graphics and bug fixes, a harsher and more realistic game, or even totally new missions and characters.

The world is bigger than Fallout.  There have been some great games lately, so why limit yourself?  There’s even a rich selection of post-apocalyptic and survival games out there if you want to keep sharp for disaster (I strongly recommend This War of Mine – it’s very, very harsh).  And if you really are painfully pining for Fallout 4 all the time then maybe you should get away from the computer for a bit – seriously, get yourself a nice hobby.  Some day you may be pleasantly surprised to see that 4 was announced while you were out enjoying yourself.

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Why I would worry about Fallout 4

Neither Obsidian nor Bethesda Game Studios are involved.  I don’t really know why Bethesda Softworks would make this decision, but it would be a bad sign.  It’s unlikely…  I hope.

It comes out soon.  2015 would be way, way too short of a development schedule; even 2016 seems rushed.  It’s unlikely, but more likely if neither Obsidian nor BGS are developing it.

It’s some MMO.  I’ve said it before and the fan consensus is strong: Fallout and massively multiplayer just don’t mix.  It’s just not the kind of story and aesthetic that would work with hordes of players.  Some folks would like a co-op mode, but I personally wouldn’t; anything that isn’t single player takes development resources away from single player.

Thankfully, I think we’re spared a Fallout MMO for now.  That would likely be up to ZeniMax Online, which is busy with The Elder Scrolls Online.

They don’t hire me as a story consultant.  OK, I wouldn’t actually worry about it…  But it would be a good idea.  I care about good storytelling, and that’s one reason I love the Fallout franchise: it has a great history that drives great storytelling.  If you found my critique of New Vegas provocative – positively or negatively – ask to see my Fallout story writeup.  It’s not a serious plot pitch; it’s more of a writing sample and audition piece to “walk the walk” on the Fallout archetype I defined.  (Will work for collector’s editions.)

Screenshots are of heavily-modded Fallout 3.

2 thoughts on “Why I’m not worried about Fallout 4

  1. Well ok. Looks like every one of these predictions was dead-wrong. Not from any fault on your part; Bethesda really outdid themselves with a mid-June E3 announcement and release less than five months later. I don’t think anybody outside of the development group could have seen that coming.
    Now that it’s out, and has been for a few months, what’d you think? We also never got your take on Lonesome Road, which seems like it’d be the most polarizing of the expansions to you.

    1. i’d say the predictions were half-wrong – i had the timeline wrong. i thought they had a lot less staff around and would have people tied up with ESO for a lot longer, but they’ve been on a big hiring run the past few years. work on Fallout 4 definitely started a lot sooner than i’d expected.

      i’m glad i was wrong about some of those things, because i was really worried about the game’s stability with such a seemingly sudden release. however, it was actually pretty decent compared to 3 and NV; there were certainly bugs, and some really obnoxious ones (untested and buggy perks and PC input system), but it was a pretty good release given the scale of the game.

      Lonesome Road was OK, but it dragged on after a while. the map was amazing (seriously the best part) and the combat was challenging, but it was just a dreary journey in pursuit of an uninspiring villain. Ulysses was a lot like a James Bond villain: he makes long-winded, self-aggrandizing speeches about lofty goals for humanity, but in the end he’s just an antagonist threatening the world with bombs. i played Lonesome Road with a Legion-affiliated character and that Legion connection was the reason she made the journey, but if i were role-playing “me”, making the decisions that i would have made in-game, i never would have made the journey. some super intense guy that sounds like a cult leader goading me into dangerous territory? fuck that.

      there are supposed to be a lot of grey areas in the Fallout world, with many people using questionable means to achieve stability. there was clearly an intent to make Ulysses threatening but still sympathetic and grey-area, but that totally fell flat for me; he’s a bad guy. at best he’s only an attempted mass-murderer.

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