Wednesday, March 04, 2009

keep mood and tone dynamic

A friend suggested that Fallout 3 is "too soulless for its own good". I have to agree. It's a great game, certainly. But the relentless dreariness works against it.

Dynamics in mood and tone are vital for any RPG, and games in general. This is particularly true for visual presentation.

Fallout 3's environmental design is really impressive, particularly due to the scope and level of detail. But it's bleak, almost without exception. That certainly fits the story and the overall tone of the game. However, too much consecutive bleakness ultimately has the same effect it would have in true life -- it drains enthusiasm and motivation.

With a game so big, there are undoubtedly factors at play which differ from player to player. If you initially focus on wandering and sidequests, as I did, then it can be a very long time before you enter Tenpenny Tower or the wooded sanctuary. For perspective, I've spent dozens of hours in the game and explored much of the world, but am hardly beyond Tenpenny in the main questline.

In any case, it's good in any RPG to offer a variety of environments with different color palettes and tones, as well as missions/quests and encounters with a variety of moods. Dynamics provide freshness, which is necessary to maintain momentum and excitement. This is one of the reasons I think color palettes and elegant designs like World of Warcraft uses are the best visual design option for the majority of games.

I still enjoy Fallout 3 (though I haven't played in a while), but the different areas and experiences of the gameworld started to blend together after a while.


  1. As you can tell from my achievements, I'm not far along in Fallout 3.

    It's funny, even this morning I played a bit and I'm always like "wow this is really gorgeous" but at the same time it's so bleak and everything looks the same.

    I recently picked up Oblivion too and though I only just emerged from the tunnels out into the world, I can already tell (plus I've seen screenshots) it's much more varied and interesting, like we'd expect.

    I guess considering Fallout 3 is post-apocalyptic, the "brown" is pretty much the generic look to things. Makes me concerned about Fallen Earth...

  2. Well at least the first DLC contains white in the game world palette - I hope that there's a more varied mix than just blankets of snow, thou.

  3. @Scott: Oblivion is much better in that regard. Not only is there a lot of lush terrain with more colors, but there's a lot of variation between the different areas (marshes, snowy mountains, rolling hills, etc). I recommend not using the quick-travel by map too much. It feels much more like a world when you walk it. Even the architecture varies from city to city.

    @David: Yeah, I bought the Anchorage DLC largely because I wanted to experience the same gameplay in a different setting, particularly out in nature.

  4. One concern I have about Oblivion that I don't (as much) have with Fallout 3 is that I will get lonely and bored and wish that it were a multi-player game. I've never met an RPG yet that was exciting and fun every moment, and that's the strength of MMORPG: during those downtimes there are plenty of conversations going on to observe and participate in. At least in Fallout 3 I expect that because of the setting and its small population of human survivors.

  5. I guess that the creators of the nuclear weapons didn't deem it necessary to add colorful rainbows to their payloads.

    Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive who likes to sign his comments because it makes them 10x more valid)

  6. @Scott: I think someone made a co-op mod for the PC version of Oblivion. I wish Bethesda would do the same for the 360 version. Even if the joining player couldn't get quest credit, as long as he could hear his friend's conversations with NPCs, it would be fun.

    Anyway, maybe if two people played Oblivion separately but were talking in an XBL party, it would be better than nothing. If I see you playing sometime, we'll try it.

    @Jason: Nuclear fallout doesn't keep plants from growing. A nuclear blast would destroy plantlife temporarily, but nature is quick to recover. And there's any number of possibilities for manmade colorful environments in the aftermath.

    I'm not saying it doesn't make sense for the majority of the game to look bleak. But there can and should be pockets of color and variety.

  7. Co-op RPGs seems like they'd be a challenge, to a point anyway. Most of them have you as a "named" character with a set story to follow. That automatically inhibits (if not outright prohibits) any coop functionality.

    I haven't tried Fable 2 yet (can't say anything I've read makes it seem appealing either) but it seems they at least made the effort of having coop but it ultimately was a failure?

    Allowing us to create our own characters means just like in MMOs the story has to be watered down and made generic to allow for coop.


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