Finally Finished Fallout 3. I had played it last year when I first purchased the game, but over reliance on autosaves and the buggy Mothership Zeta ate my first character. A couple of weeks ago I restarted, vowing to keep myself from wandering around somehow. In the end, it was the achievements that I followed. The previous sentence should not be.
I kind of dislike Bethesda’s games because of their main plot. Not because it’s bad, but because it is at odds with the gameplay. In the games, I always end up wandering around and exploring every nook and cranny, grinding experience and becoming the best. And perhaps some time I bump into the urgent main plot, advance it a bit and then blast off. It does not translate into a coherent narrative experience. I’ll examine the Fallout 3 plot a bit, so spoilers ahoy.
The main plot revolves around the player’s father and his quest to activate a water purifier. In the beginning of the game, father leaves the vault the player grows up in, upsetting the local overseer who sends security after the player. This is quite a clumsy method to get the player out to the world, since the relationship between the player and his or her father is not explored. You have the normal Saint/Robot/Jerk-axis of dialogue, none of which that truly inspire the player to seek out dad. When the player is out of the Vault, he or she is directed to head on into a local town and ask around. At this point the game subtly offers the first secondary quests, like Moira’s Wasteland Survival Guide, which has the player running around the game world, doing stuff. Two times I have played the game to this point and in both cases I completely forgot the main plot. This happens again at Rivet City and at Citadel.
Fallout 3 feels schizophrenic. The game expects you to follow the main plot, which goes through about 10 % of the game world. The designers expect you to explore the wasteland and see its wonders. These objectives conflict with each other. Contrast this with the first Fallout. In that game, the player is looking for a water chip. He or she has only one hundred days to find it before water reserves deplete in Vault 13, the player’s home. And how does he or she find the chip? By wandering the wasteland and seeing its wonders. This made the experience more coherent.
So how would I improve Fallout 3? Here are two ways:
- Hide the main quest. The player’s dad has gone missing. That will raise a reaction by itself, and lack of direction will give a sense of mystery around the plot. Have the player uncover the information by exploring around. Instead of “So you are the one who knows something about my father”, the player should go “You know something about my father? Please tell me more! Note that this will not fix the inherent stupidity of the main plot.
- Make the main quest more open. In Space Rangers, the player must defeat the Klissans/Dominators. That’s it. To do that, he or she needs Klinator salvage for scientists to research or a good ship and military support to fight them head-on. Or then the player can just ass around, but the penalty for that is Domissan victory. Give the player a large, multiple-path quest, prefertably with a time limit. Get 10 000 caps to fund the Project Purity. Find 7 parts of a G.E.C.K.. Give the player a reason to wander the wasteland and bump into the exciting game content you have created.
In short, make the game narrativity follow the game mechanics. Give the player an in-game reason to do what you want him or her to do.