Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fallout: Can't We All Just Get Along? Also, a Gift to Fallout Fans [UPDATE 1]

If you take a look at my gamertag on the right nav, you'll note that my picture is now the famous Vault Boy from the Fallout series.

It's safe to say I like Fallout. A lot. Enough that, back in college, I wrote and subsequently managed a pencil-and-paper version of Fallout (and doing so earned me my only entry in a Wiki that I'm aware of.) I didn't start with Fallout; its predecessor, Wasteland, was one of my favorite computer games growing up. The post-apocalyptic setting, the open environment, the different quests, the involving storyline - the game really was the first of its kind. It was the first C-RPG I actually completed, playing through all the way to the end. I participated in (and moderated) discussions about Wasteland on Prodigy back in 1990 and 1991, where Brian Fargo was an active and transparent member of the community.

My first real "short story" was post-apocalyptic, as was my first novel. I have an entire bookshelf devoted to PA fiction, and studied it in college for honors credit. Working on the Fallout PnP game was my first real introduction to game writing, and to the power of what a community could accomplish together. It's safe to say that my involvement with Wasteland and eventually Fallout had an extremely profound impact on my life.

I even signed up for the now-canceled Fallout d20 project from Glutton Creeper Games. I did my part, the check cleared, and that was that. Some projects just weren't meant to be.

So when the first Fallout RPG (sorry, I don't count Tactics) in nine years is announced - that would be Fallout 3 - I got interested. And excited. And even more interested when it wasn't Interplay or Black Isle behind it, but Bethesda, who I knew best for Oblivion and the original Terminator FPS.

They started teasing it at E3 last year, and this year we got a teaser trailer with Ron Perlman's voice and a look at a nuked-out Washington, D.C. and a member of the Brotherhood of Steel strutting around. And then the magazine previews began, and the fans starting going nuts.

Not Jericho nuts, this was more of a frenzy of "what the fuck?"

Fallout fans (and I consider myself a member of this group) are some of the most passionate, driven and vocal online communities. They never hesitated to let me know what was wrong with the Fallout PnP game, and their input helped make it better. But one middling (Tactics) and one awful (Brotherhood of Steel) game later, and they aren't really a trusting lot. I signed on to Duck and Cover (one of the two major Fallout communities, No Mutants Allowed being the other) in the early days of the Fallout d20 game to tell them to "wait and see" before calling the game bad.

I've been following the Fallout 3 discussion on fallout 3: a post-nuclear blog, which is doing an excellent job of capturing the various interviews and nuggets of information around the web and allowing fans to respond. One of the two reasons I'm writing this post is to suggest once more to my fellow fans that we need to take the same "wait and see" approach to Fallout 3. I've read some pretty terrible things online from the community - intentionally making a mod like "Hot Coffee" in an attempt to get the game banned being one of the more egregious - but we seriously need to wait and see.

Which isn't to villanize the community at all - their voice needs to be heard. But it's better heard if delivered calmly. I offer as evidence the Jericho community's reaction to their show being canceled. They didn't cry "CBS is raping the franchise!" They organized, presented their point of view (NUTS!), and got the network to reverse their decision. Most importantly, they were positive in their approach and the appropriate people responded to that.

I share many of the communities' concerns about the game. It's set in the East - awesome. Did it have to be the Brotherhood of Steel and super-mutants? Nuke-tossing grenade launcher? Ugh. My biggest complaint (and one that probably won't be changed) is the lack of turn-based combat, or even something turn-like (see: Tactics.)

First-person point of view, I don't care about. Some of the other things sound downright awesome. The idea of integrating character creation into the story of your character's early life is fucking awesome. And the graphics, if they can pull off half of what we've seen in early screenshots, are going to rock my socks.

But I've been fooled by early looks at video games before. It's more than a year before the game comes out, so again, I'm going to go back to "wait and see." I suspect we've seen only a fraction of what Fallout 3 is going to be, and I have a feeling that it's not too late for them to make some changes if necessary (like, say, the look of the super-mutants.) To put it more bluntly: some of the fans need to chill out. If it comes time, organize and be positive about it. Use what happened with Jericho as an example of how to get something done with an online community And for fuck's sake, stop using the term "rape" to describe what Bethesda or anyone else is doing to Fallout. The number of times that term is thrown around would make one wonder what kinds of Freudian things are going through our (the communities') subconscious.

The thing is, I've been through this before. Fallout was "inspired by" Wasteland. But it was a different game, and a lot of the things that the community is saying about Fallout 3 (some deserved, some not in my opinion) were things I was thinking about Fallout when it came out. When I held the box in my hand and read it, my first thought was: "this isn't goddamned Wasteland. How could they even put that on the box?"

And it wasn't Wasteland. It was something new, with its own awesomeness and its own problems. Oh, were there problems. The grinding parts of Fallout 1, facing rats and ants. Woe to you, player, if you created a character other than a brawler your first time through, and even then you could count on reloading once or twice. Or Fallout 2, rushed out the door so quickly it was (and still is) almost unplayable without a massive patch. But I adapted, and love Fallout for what it is, flaws and all. Will Fallout 3 be the same? I'll wait and see.

At any rate, here's the real point of this post. I've been toying on and off with the idea of an RPG that's user-created and user-edited. Kind of like Wikipedia, but for a game system. What could the community come up with for a PnP if turned loose on a system and a setting, with the same degree of responsibility and the ability to edit in Wikipedia?

So, fellow Fallout fans, I contacted my friend Ausir who runs the Vault. Although I've toyed with the idea of working on a new version of the Fallout PnP, unless it was a paying gig I couldn't justify the time. Mercenary I know, but them's the shakes these days. So I turned over all my PnP materials to Ausir to convert to a Wiki, and the result is this: the Fallout PnP game Wiki, completely open-source and available to the fans to edit, take apart, restructure, correct, and change as they see fit. It's not complete yet, and Ausir has some materials I don't have, but I encourage everyone to check it out.

Additionally, as I have been asked for these on several occasions, I zipped up the last version of the document I worked on along with all other Fallout PnP-related items I could find and uploaded them to my website. Get that file here. Ausir promises me that a larger, updated .zip with more materials will be available on the Wiki soon, at which point I'll either mirror that file or simply take mine down (but I'll update when I do.)

The resources in this .zip:

  • Fallout PnP "Unlimited" (a never-released, partially completed revision) .doc format
  • Psionics rules, .doc format
  • Great Wastes sourcebook, .doc format
  • The Enclave 2.0 sourcebook, .PDF format
  • Tribes sourcebook, .PDF format
  • Waterworld total conversion, .txt format
Have at it, guys. Do me, and us, proud.

Update: I talked with Ausir a little bit about Fallout 3, and he mentioned that a lot of people online would be OK with it being called Fallout X, where "X" is something other than "3." Kind of like how Heroes of Might and Magic isn't Might and Magic 10, because it's slightly different than Might and Magic. And kind of how Fallout: Tactics wasn't Fallout 3 because it's a different kind of game.

I'm not 100% convinced such a move would be the right thing to do (after all, technology has changed a bit between Might and Magic 1 and Might and Magic 8), but it's one worth considering.

I'll update with the new .zip file later.

1 comment:

Briosafreak said...

Interesting post, i''l get back to it later, I'm 120 kms away from home now. Thanks for the link!