Helping players help themselves: diegetic hints

A short article about game UX issues that have been on my mind (somewhat succinctly, as it was originally written for Twitter).

Game designers spend a lot of time tuning the difficulty of combat and puzzles, but what about the narrative or campaign?  Obtuse campaigns can be frustrating, while others “hand-hold” – rob players of gratification – if the golden path is too obvious.  How can design balance these issues?

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Everyone’s War: Backstory and engagement in Fallout 4

A month or two after Fallout 4 launched I started my second character and something immediately bothered me: the male and female player characters have different backgrounds.  This has been criticized for falling short of gender neutrality and for practical reasons – the character’s skills and knowledge – but my big issues are with the character’s emotional journey. Continue reading Everyone’s War: Backstory and engagement in Fallout 4

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.

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Rude awakening: Why Fallout: New Vegas felt incomplete

The Fallout series of role-playing video games have been well-received and popular since Fallout was released in 1997 as “America’s first choice in post-nuclear simulation.” Post-apocalyptic video games have been numerous, yet the Fallout games stand out for their immersion and complexity. Fallout has managed to transcend the traditional combat- and leveling-focused RPGs to satisfy players on a much deeper level.

At least, the Fallout games transcended the typical genre offering until Fallout: New Vegas. Never before has a canonical, major release Fallout game received such hedged reviews from fans and critics. Yet, New Vegas seemed to have all the ingredients of a stellar Fallout game: an expansive world, factions to meet, choices to make, and excellent casting, all centered around a sweeping and nuanced regional conflict. Why, then, did it feel incomplete? There was something missing from New Vegas that, as players and critics have remarked, makes it feel more like a really big Fallout 3 expansion rather than a Fallout game in its own right.

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Fallout’s Vault Boy meets hi-fi marketing

Maxell never existed in the alternate Fallout universe.  instead, the people that would have run their marketing ended up working for Vault-Tec.

(Maxell man from the web, isolated in Photoshop and Live Traced in Illustrator.  head splatter from a Fallout 3 screen shot, Live Traced in Illustrator.  Vault Boy hand traced in Illustrator from a 161×127 “Bloody Mess” perk image.)