Game Development Reference
the triumphal counterattack. This little arc is like a scene from an action
movie, but instead of being authored by a designer, it emerged from the
interaction of game systems, soft scripts, and player choices.
The final ambush from the antlered assault rifle foe was not scripted.
His “ambush” was emergent and there was no real intent behind it in
the artificial intelligence—he just happened to be left over after the main
fight. But even though it wasn't in the mechanics, apophenically, it seemed
like this last mad survivor had laid a trap.
The antlers gave that final raider a special personality by labeling him.
He isn't just a raider; he's the weird raider with the goofy antlers. This
label makes it easier to construct a story about him. Labeling is one area
that Fallout 3 could have improved. Most characters are just nondescript
raiders. Had they had more identity—crazy doctor, bartender, master,
slave—players would have been able to construct better stories about them.
tHe goofy unDeRtone
The world of Fallout 3 has a strong undertone of goofiness: Moira's over-
whelming enthusiasm, raiders with antlered helmets, and so on. These
humorous juxtapositions are essential. Had the game been purely about
surviving in a desperate, dead world, the emotional heaviness would have
been too much for most players. Occasional absurdities lighten that emo-
Absurdity also helps justify less realistic parts of the game. For ex-
ample, Fallout 3 's goofy vision of nuclear radiation permits it to throw all
sorts of strange beasts at the player, from giant flies to 30-foot-tall human-
oid behemoths. Had the radiation been modeled realistically, none of this
would have been possible.
Finally, the unserious undertone reduces the impact of the inevitable
logical absurdities in the game's emergent stories. For example, I once
walked up behind a caravan guard and shot him three times in the back
of the head. He turned, scowled, and said, “I thought I heard something!”
Instead of feeling wrong, this moment just felt funny.
The content is ordered by both scripting and world geometry. For ex-
ample, the player must pass through the parking lot before going inside.
Once inside, he must pass through the main room before experiencing
the pharmacy. Finally, the raiders coming in the doorway are scripted to
appear only after the player has explored the pharmacy.
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