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It doesn't sound like a particularly fun task, but someone had to do it: speedrun every single Fallout game in less than two hours. Speedrunner tomatoanus (tomato anus, geddit?) has managed to do so in 1:37 (one hour and 37 minutes), and you can watch them do so in the video embedded below.
The run tackled each game consecutively without a break, which for most non-speedrunning players, would probably take around six months of playtime. Tomatoanus has earned the number one spot in the Fallout Anthology speedrun.com leaderboard, but they're also the first to give it a red hot go.
Check out the video below:
The worst thing about Fallout 1.5: Resurrection using the old amnesia plot is that the main character never has to explain why, on the run from mysterious ghouls, he/she opted to seek solace in a cave so infested with mutant critters that even the people in the nearby town apologise for it. But that s OK. Punching and stabbing a few rats and mole rats and scorpions is a fine reminder that this isn t your modern, fancy, VATS-enabled Fallout 3 or 4, but the far more brutal original.
Resurrection is a Czech-made mod, ten years in the making and two and a half years in the translating. It s a Fallout 2 mod easily installed over the top of any copy, from GOG to Steam to the original set between the first two games, and with an installer that packs in a few handy features such as support for high-res, unlimited saves, and mousewheel. They don t make the experience feel all that much more modern, but they smooth out a few annoyances.
What awaits past the old interface and annoying starter dungeon is a great new Fallout adventure that keeps very true to the originals, while still putting its own stamp on things. The action takes place around Albuquerque and a few other smaller settlements such as corrupt Rat City, and all of them have quests and characters. Tonally, it s something of a mix between the first two games, settlements are in better condition and more characters are around, as in Fallout 2, but minus most of the silly stuff that divided the fanbase.
There s a real sense of threat in wandering around: that sense of being unwelcome anywhere, with everyone you meet thirsty for blood or caps. How you handle them is, as ever, up to you. The areas aren t densely packed with characters, but those you meet offer plenty of potential for missions and ways to stab people in the back, as well as acts of bastardry such as persuading a poverty-stricken girl prostitution is her best way of making a few caps and then running off afterwards instead of paying her. Even in a tough world, that s a dick move. Literally, and figuratively.
Calling Resurrection tough isn't simply just recognition of its '90s lineage, when RPGs didn t hold your hand. This is a Fallout game for Fallout fans, and it pulls no punches. To give just one example, while Fallout 2 didn t particularly mind you walking across the whole map (handy for the 15-minute speed-run) and fleeing enemy encounters, Resurrection quickly throws you against a gang of angry ghouls who can take you out with their high-powered rifle before you get close to the exit marker. Get past those, and the game s not averse to encounters where you start off surrounded by wild dogs. In short, rushing this one isn t a great idea in as much as you can rush a game promising around 25 hours of content.
Not that you d want to, anyway. Resurrection does a good job of not just setting a story in the old Fallout universe, but understanding its appeal, flow, and general maturity level when dealing with the darker side. Fallout itself occasionally took things a touch too far, such as the porn star options in the second game, while here it s part and parcel of a brutal world where the meek have inherited slightly less than jack shit.
Given the new setting, it s easy to forget that this is even a mod. Really, the only major things it lacks are the close-up animated portraits for key characters, since those would have been too much of a headache to model and implement. You get around 80 maps, just in case you thought any corners were cut here. This is very much a modding labour of love, and one well worth checking out if you re a fan of the original games. If you haven t played those, you re better off doing that first, and not just because they re classics for a reason and well worth playing.
They also offer a smoother introduction to 90s-level-difficulty nuclear wastelands without expecting too much know-how on your part. As long as you ve taken advantage of the manual that comes with most purchasable copies of the originals, anyway. For longer-term fans, especially those disappointed that we never got the cancelled Van Buren (parts of its story, yes, but not the traditional Fallout style), this is as close to a proper third instalment as you re ever going to play.
Fallout 1.5: Resurrection is out now and can be downloaded here.
Bethesda has done some great things with the Fallout franchise, but no matter how much you may like modern Fallout, there's no denying that it is not the Fallout of old. For those of you who miss that old isometric experience, Fallout 1.5: Resurrection, a Fallout 2 mod set between the events of Fallout 1 and 2 hence the name might be just the thing.
Resurrection takes place in New Mexico, east of the future NCR territory, with all new locations, characters, and organizations. Geographically, it's roughly the same size as the original Fallout, but features a much greater number of quests to complete. It also promises a darker experience than the relatively light-hearted Fallout 2.
As big fans of Fallout, we've tried to take the best from all of the classic Fallout games. Easter eggs and jokes, with which Fallout 2 was literally overfilled, have been folded into the background, the developers say. Instead, the great atmosphere of decadence and hopelessness enjoyed by so many in the first Fallout game returns. The world is still chaotic, with only a few, small, independent communities connected by tenuous trade relations. The wasteland is an unfriendly place where law is on the side of whoever has the biggest gun.
The setup is trite you wake up in a cave with amnesia and, beginning with only the most basic of supplies, must discover who you are and how you ended up in such a state but it can't be any worse than that ridiculous Temple of Trials that kicked off Fallout 2. It's also free, which is a big plus, although you will need a full install of Fallout 2 to use it.
The Czech version of Fallout 1.5: Resurrection was actually released in October 2013, but the English translation only became available today. I haven't tried it yet (I am working here, you know) but you better believe I'm going to. More information and download links are available at resurrection.cz.
Yes, Fallout 4 is dominating the agenda this week, but the previous Fallout games still exist, you know. Most have already bought the original isometric Fallouts at a heavily reduced price, but if you haven't, then here's a good deal: Bundle Stars is selling all Fallout games for just over US$20.
The bundle includes the original Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas with all associated DLC. You end up saving around forty bucks, but also probably four years of your life, so proceed with care.
As we mentioned a few months ago, Bethesda is making the most of this renewed attention on the Fallout franchise with its Fallout Anthology, a collection of nearly every Fallout game ever. It came out a few days ago in the US, but it's also now available over here.
Unfortunately, Game (which I think is the only official retailer for it) is reporting that the Anthology is sold out, though some people appear to be reselling it for more than twice as much ( 95 versus 40) on Amazon.
Of course, the standout feature of the Fallout Anthology is that the storage case looks like a mini-nuke, with what Bethesda describes as an "audible bomb sound" (Department of Redundancy Department?).
There's also a handy gap ready for Fallout 4. I guess you'll have to buy a new nuke when they bring out Fallout 5.
Once, the early Fallout RPGs were available on GOG. Then Bethesda and Interplay had a big fight, and Bethesda gained full rights to the Fallout series. Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics all promptly disappeared from GOG and Steam, and then—months later—returned to Steam only. That was it for the epic saga of The Company Who Owned A Thing. Until today.
GOG and Bethesda have finally struck a deal, and the Fallout games are back in DRM-free form on the distribution service. Also, GOG is now selling a number of other Bethesda-owned classics—all DRM free. Two of these new old games are being made available digitally for the very first time.
Here's what's now available:
A number of deals are also available throughout the next week. Purchase all three Elder Scrolls games, and you'll get a 33% discount. Purchase all three Id games, and you'll get a 33% discount. Purchase all three Fallout games, and you'll get a 66% discount. Finally, purchase any of the above games and you'll get The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall for free.
The Fallout Anthology, announced by Bethesda today at QuakeCon, is literally the bomb: It's a collection of nearly every Fallout game ever released, wrapped up in a swanky Fat Man mini-nuke package "with audible bomb sound."
The Anthology includes Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, and Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition. The only one missing is Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, the 2004 console exclusive that nobody really cares about anyway. And because Fallout 4 is just a few months away, the bomb box has an extra slot inside for the Fallout 4 game disc you're inevitably going to buy if you're buying this.
Bethesda said on Twitter that the Fallout Anthology will be released in North America on September 29 and on October 2 in Europe, while Pete Hines tweeted separately that it will sell for $50. He also warned that quantities will be limited, although again, there are no details.
Fallout Anthology will retail for $49.99. Stores should be making it available soon. Check your retailer of choice.
— Pete Hines (@DCDeacon) July 23, 2015
This is clearly a package aimed at die-hard fans and collectors, but it's not a bad way for complete newcomers to leap into the series with both feet either. The cost of the Anthology isn't all that terribly much more than buying the games separately on Steam, after all, and Steam doesn't give you a nuclear warhead you can set on your shelf.
A closer look at the Fallout Anthology is up on the Bethesda Blog. Keep your eyes open for more of our coverage of QuakeCon 2015, which is underway now and runs until July 26.
Welcome to our retrospective on the Fallout RPGs (sorry, Fallout Tactics!) released on PC (so long, Brotherhood of Steel). Here you'll find articles on each of the Fallout games, from the original through to Fallout: New Vegas.
Maaaaaaaybe. You ll think of me. When you are all alone…
To me, that opening music has always been more fitting for the Fallout series than its better known growl of War. War never changes. It speaks so much more to what the games are, and their underlying horror—of being just a regular person suddenly ripped from at least a relatively comfortable home and thrown out into a brutal wasteland of murderers, rapists, drug-addicts and radioactive mutant horrors both friendly and hostile. There may be companions to meet along the way, but fundamentally you re always the outsider—alone, a wanderer, trapped right on the razor s edge between the old world s mistakes and the new one s salvation.
That s something that always drew me to the series, that as bleak as it is—and it can get very bleak—there s always a chance. It s one of only a couple of games I can think of where you can defeat the evil mastermind by persuading him that his plan just isn t going to work, at which point he agrees to drop it. It s also possible to make the world a better place through careful choices and acts of compassion, such as helping to form the New California Republic and turn the technology hoarding Brotherhood of Steel into something more than just armour-plated douchebags. At the same time though, Fallout isn t afraid of saying that sometimes, shit just happens, with the most famous example being its ending. Having mastered the wasteland, retrieved the Water Chip that your safe and secure Vault needs to continue hiding from the world, and stopped an army of supermutants… your reward is to be disowned by your former life and cast back out into the sun. As the song pointedly goes, Maybe the one who is waiting for you. Will prove untrue. Then what will you do?
As with most RPGs though, it s the journey rather than the destination that dominates. Personally, I prefer the world of Fallout 2, with civilised locations like New Reno and more feel of the world having rebuilt itself rather than stagnating in a world of rust and dirt, but there s no arguing that the first one isn t memorable. 50s paranoia met 90s isometric graphics in a world not simply dented as beaten within an inch of its life. It s a place full of locations with names like Junktown and Boneyard and Necropolis —dusty, hard places for hard people who grew up around radioactive scorpions and whole districts that glow in the dark. It s also one built around freedom, with many ways around problems depending on choice and character build, with Fallout pioneering those now almost expected what happened next cards before the credits rolled.
Mechanically, Fallout spent most of its development intended to show off Steve Jackson s GURPS system, though feuding over the amount of violence it contained led to that being switched for Interplay s homebrew SPECIAL system, where SPECIAL stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck—the core stats that were combined with special perks and skills either chosen or earned. Amongst Fallout s most eye-opening tweaks was the ability to create a character barely able of conscious thought, limited to dialogue like wawa and annoying the living piss out of every NPC who has to talk to you.
The violence isn t all that extreme by modern standards, but it was edgy at the time.
As you d expect, the level of violence isn t all that extreme by modern standards, but it was edgy at the time—the two most memorable being a Bloody Mess perk that specifically gave enemies the goriest deaths possible (as well as altering the ending so that after their exile, the hero silently guns down the Overseer and leaves their bisected body desperately scrabbling at the door back to safety) and targeted shots. In practice, these weren t usually needed, but there was still nothing else quite like actively shooting an enemy in the balls.
Fallout was a revelation for the RPG market—not just a great game (and of course, spiritual successor to the much older Wasteland), but a post-apocalyptic playhouse. Originally it enforced a time-limit that got in the way of the action, but that was patched out (Fallout 2 pretended to have one too, but didn t), and otherwise the freedom of the game is best summed up by the fact that you could spend hundreds of hours on it… or if you know where you re going early on, you can conquer the whole thing in a handful of minutes. The freedom is then further helped by the depth of the world simulation—it s not Ultima VII, but it s pretty good, allowing for super-special-bastard techniques like pumping a character full of healthkits. When they wear off, they deal damage. Hit them with enough and it takes them out—the easy first step in an Agent 47 calibre killing.
Oddly, despite its prominence as an RPG classic, Fallout wasn t a particularly successful game—Bethesda s Fallout 3 was the first time the series really sold. All who played it though knew they d touched something special, with the fanbase quickly becoming one of gaming s most voracious. Going back to it now, well, a few issues make it a bit more challenging to play—the clunky combat, the terrible AI (even at the time, Interplay was warning prospective players Don t give Ian the Uzi. We mean it… ) and the other early learning steps of a new series based on a whole new way of making RPGs all take their toll. The world is also a good deal more simplistic than any of the games that followed, feeling more of an echo of them than a progenitor.
It remains a classic for good reason though, and the start of something great. With Fallout 2, the designers got to jump back in with both feet, and while its development was both rushed and torturous, most would agree the effort was worth it. It was a very different game in many ways, save of course one. Because war… war never changes.
By Richard Cobbett.
Let me tell you the story of a town called New Reno. Isolated and protected from the worst of the Great War by its mountains, it rose from the wasteland like a phoenix addicted to a deadly drug. Folks called it the capital of sin and whores, safe for tourists only while their pockets jangled with precious bottle caps. At least, that's how it was before you arrived.
While I enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas, the actual town of New Vegas—to be more exact, the Strip—was a bitter disappointment. You spend a good third of the game waiting to get into this fabled gambling utopia, only for the gates to finally open and reveal four deserted casinos squatting amongst post-apocalyptic debris. No texture, no threat, no soul. Not so in New Reno.
The New Reno of Fallout 2 is one of the most hideous, squalid hives you'll ever visit, but in the best possible way. Its corruption feels appropriate, and in true Fallout style, it's something you can exploit as easily as you can resist. You can join any of the four crime families, quickly work your way up through the ranks, and become a Made Man: at the expense of being shot at if you wander into other families' turf. And those are just some of your options. What matters is that if you can make it in New Reno, you can make it anywhere in the Wasteland, and all you have to lose is your soul. Fair trade, right?
Fallout 2 remains a divisive RPG, even among the series' notoriously rabid fans. It's much sillier than its predecessor, with references to everything from Monty Python to Star Trek largely dropped at random. Its handling of things like sex is either more mature or more mature, depending on your sense of humor. If you're a female character for instance, your first encounter with one potential party member—a kid named Myron—involves him trying to slip you a mickey. And then, most likely, you kicking his scabby balls up through his mouth.
The part most people remember though (if only because there can't be a single player who didn't try it) is the sleazy porn studio in bad old New Reno—the place where you can temporarily put aside your quest and (cough) make your star rise. You don't get to see any low-resolution hanky-panky, but you do get a special Reputation bonus, as well as a porn name that will haunt you for the rest of your quest. Dick Mountenjoy? Rodd Rokks? How about Ebineezer Screws or Arnold Swollenmember? All are actual choices that people in the street will start shouting at you—as are Lucy Loose, Pokeahotass, and Dominatrish for less-than-ladylike ladies.
It's actually a relatively small area, but that doesn't matter. Not only is there a lot to do and see, it's an incredibly reactive little piece of design. As a female character for instance, expect to take lots of sugar boobs and hey baby crap. Do a porn movie and most guys love you, but the hookers sniff and spit—as opposed to salivating over a male stud. Become a Made Man as either gender, though, and the guards who previously gave you trouble suddenly can't wait to suck up. Little, dynamic details like these do more for making a world feel real than a thousand carefully coded AI routines.
F2's real genius, though, is that there's no assumption that you have to win every fight or see every possibility. Sure, if you come to New Reno sporting stolen power armor, you'll be a force to be reckoned with. More likely, however, you'll arrive as just another schlub, easily put down if you go around starting fights with the wrong people. Not being the ultimate badass changes everything. What little power and influence you accumulate in New Reno is earned, and it's more meaningful because of it. And that's just the start.
You see, as a wanderer, you can never find home. You don't have to set foot in New Reno to finish Fallout 2, but if you do, you'll eventually have to leave. As with all the other towns you visit, however, your decisions have power. Who controls the streets? What happens to the drug trade? War may never change, but the world of Fallout 2 definitely does, and the one thing you can guarantee as the final credits roll is that however low New Reno sinks into depravity, nobody there will ever forget you—the hero or villain they only knew as Arnold Swollenmember.
By Richard Cobbett
'They've done it,' I thought, the moment I stumbled out of Vault 101 and the Capital wasteland came into focus. I traced the horizon with increasing excitement. Look at the blasted trees; and the little shattered towns; and the many, many shades of brown! The world reveal shot—when you emerge from a dark corridor to a carefully poised introductory vista—is familiar now, but in 2008 it set my spine shivering and filled my head with thoughts of freedom and adventure. The fact that I exercised that freedom to drink irradiated water from toilet cisterns the world over is neither here nor there—Fallout has always had a knack for being funny and grim at the same time.
The move to polygonal 3D and a generational leap in fidelity allowed Fallout 3 do more visual world-building and humour with sight-gags and signage. This and an all-knew writers' room shifted the style of Fallout's comedy from a quirky gangland farce to a quirky satire on the utopian idealism of the '50s and '60s, and a delightfully camp one at that. Robots stomp around powered by brains in jars and housekeeping robots are repurposed as death-bot bodyguards. Meanwhile, the comfy Jetsons family unit has been shattered and scattered across the wasteland. The family dogs have formed packs and started eating the adults. The kids live in their own settlement in Little Lamplight, and exiled teens rebel alone in Big Town.
It's a bit depressing—as total societal collapse ought to be—but Fallout 3 strikes a fine balance between lonely wandering and silliness. Did you find the superhero and the supervillain warring in Cantebury Commons? The AntAgonizer leads an army of giant ants against the Mechanist's robot guards, and you can choose to side with either. Megaton's resident researcher, Moira, provides another memorable quest thread that sends you all over the wasteland to conduct field experiments. Irradiate yourself and she studies your symptoms with infectious enthusiasm—"keep up the great research, super assistant!"
Sadly Fallout 3's sidequests and secrets are more memorable than the critical path. A stone cold Liam Neeson continues Bethesda's dubious record with celebrity voice actors—unfortunate given that he's the emotional core of the story. There are some exceptional moments, however, like your entrapment in the Tranquility Lane simulation—a Stepford Wives pastiche of affluent suburban living before the bombs fell. It's inventive, dark, humourous, and recaptures a talent for weirdness that Bethesda hadn't exercised since Morrowind.
It's violent, too, thanks to the real-time-with-pause combat system that lets you melt individual bodyparts with laser pistols. The "Bloody Mess" perk is recommended. The Gamebryo engine has many shortcomings—not least when it comes to NPC faces and posture—but it can chunk an enemy into slabs of physics-enabled mulch very nicely indeed. The VATS targeting system divides opinion, but the zooming Mad Max hero shots it generates for your wastelander are great. Such scenes were relegated to your imagination in the old turn-based RPGs, but now every shuddering headshot gets its own slow-mo rotating, zooming camera dance. If you're lucky, your Lone Wanderer will form an impromptu John Wayne silhouette against the green sky before you're popped back into real-time, where a lacklustre FPS-with-dice-rolls system awaits.
If that's not to your taste, Fallout 3's shortcomings can always be corrected with mods. Remove the green smog to enjoy a much cleaner, sunnier wasteland; or install major combat overhauls that ditch VATS in favour of a deadly survivalist shooter model inspired by STALKER. Fallout 3 features some pretty horrendous monsters—Centaurs still give me chills—but you can add even more terrors with Mart's Mutant Mod, and tweak their abilities and size to provide a challenge even when you're stomping around in full Brotherhood of Steel armour. Fallout 3 was great at release, but only got better in the following years, maturing to near-perfection like a fine pre-war vintage of Nuka Cola.
By Tom Senior
Compared to the oppressive grey of the Capital Wasteland, the Mojave is positively colourful. New Vegas shares an engine with Fallout 3, but it has a very different look and feel. The bleak urban devastation of post-apocalyptic Washington DC gives way to dust, deserts, and cowboys. New Vegas itself is one of the most vibrant cities in the series, relatively unscathed by the nuclear fire that blanketed the world.
New Vegas is my favourite of the two Bethesda-era Fallout games. It was developed by RPG veterans Obsidian, of Pillars of Eternity fame, and improves many of Fallout 3 s weak points. It has companions with personalities and meaningful reasons for following you. Quests are more open-ended, with multiple ways to complete them. Hardcore mode introduces survival elements. And the Mojave is full of factions whose influence you can earn, or lose, depending on the choices you make.
It s a much deeper role-playing experience overall. Thanks to talented writers and designers like Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone, the dialogue is better and the characters are richer. But, as much as I love it, I think Fallout 3 does a better job of evoking the feeling of being in a post-apocalyptic world. In many places, the Mojave looks much like it does today: a desert. Nothing in its bright, sun-baked landscape quite matches the eeriness of bomb-blasted downtown Washington DC.
The main story in Fallout 3 is a bit of a mess, with one of the least satisfying endings in any game I ve ever played, but the central narrative of New Vegas is much stronger—and there are more interesting ways to resolve it. Taking sides has a big impact on how the story plays out, whether you fight for factions like the NCR and Caesar s Legion, or decide to stay neutral. And if you don t care about the main story, there are dozens of brilliant side quests hidden away in the wasteland.
Although the Capital Wasteland makes for a more atmospheric setting, New Vegas still has its share of interesting locations and landmarks. There s the New Vegas Strip itself; a huge, neon-lit monument to excess, whose casinos are filled with NPCs and quests. There s the backwater town of Goodsprings, which is straight out of a Spaghetti Western. And, of course, the mighty Hoover Dam, which is central to the story. Throw in a selection of brilliant cowboy-themed music and you ve got a setting with a tonne of personality that s littered with cool stuff to see and do.
New Vegas also boasts a suite of genuinely brilliant DLC, the best of which were designed by Avellone, who worked on Fallout 2 back in 1998. Lonesome Road takes you to a new area called The Divide, which has been ravaged by earthquakes. Dead Money is a Fallout-flavoured take on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Finishing the main game and all the DLC can take a hundred hours or more, making the Ultimate Edition of the game, which is often on sale on Steam, great value for money. And that s without mentioning the thousands of mods out there.
The engine is New Vegas s only real weakness. The robotic animations, low fidelity environments, and hideous-looking character models are a result of the creaky tech they inherited from Bethesda but they did their best with it. You can make it look slightly better with mods, but it s still a hard game to look at with eyes that have been spoiled by games like The Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V. But New Vegas is still a brilliant RPG despite it. Here s hoping Bethesda give Obsidian the chance to make another sequel after they ve released Fallout 4.
By Andy Kelly
Fallout 3 begins in Vault 101, an underground nuclear shelter that s been sealed away from the outside world for well over a century. When the player character reaches the age of sixteen, they tussle with a group of obnoxious delinquents calling themselves the Tunnel Snakes. They re greasers in the classic mould, with leather jackets, slicked quiffs, and bad attitudes.
This is Fallout s thing, of course. Its world is a kitschy retro-future, as predicted on the pages of pulpy 1950s science fiction. But replaying the game recently, it struck me just how little sense the Tunnel Snakes make, even in this fantastical, stylised universe.
Think about it. They re greasers—a subculture that emerged around a passion for motorcycles, hot rods, and kustoms—in a closed-off bunker of narrow tunnels, where where there are no roads or vehicles to speak of. Then there s those matching leather jackets they all wear with the intricate snake emblems on the back. Where did they get them? How did they make them?
According to Fallout lore, Vault dwellers wear matching blue-and-yellow jumpsuits with the number of whichever one they happen to live in printed on them. So why are the Tunnel Snakes wearing these jackets, and where do you get a biker-style leather jacket in a place that, presumably, has limited raw materials and no means to produce them? Where did they get the leather?
Jesus, who cares? you re probably thinking to yourself. They put greasers in because it s a 50s thing, and Fallout is a riff on 50s American culture, and they needed some kind of antagonist for the player during the Vault sequence. Yeah, sure, I could suspend my disbelief—and they are pretty funny, I suppose—but, to me, they re indicative of a larger problem in game design: style over function.
Stanley Kubrick was a filmmaker known for his obsessive attention to detail. In the documentary Stanley Kubrick s Boxes , journalist Jon Ronson digs through crates of archive material from the production of the late director s films, revealing the meticulous, fastidious research that went into their creation.
Mind-bending sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrates this perfectly. Everything in the film—from those great, spinning space stations to the infamous zero-gravity toilet on Heywood Floyd s shuttle—was designed with its function in mind. Kubrick and his team thought about how these things would actually work, and their designs were informed by science and astronautics, not by what looked cool.
It looks cool" is, unfortunately, the only thought that goes into a lot of video game designs—the costumes in Assassin s Creed being a prime example. The hood is an elegant, recognisable visual link between the games, but can you imagine sprinting and climbing around the Caribbean in Kenway s elaborate pirate get-up? Or hopping across the sun-battered rooftops of Constantinople in Ezio s frilly layers?
Alta r s white robes made more sense in the first game. There were fewer layers, increasing his mobility and keeping the Middle-Eastern heat at bay, and he could blend in with those groups of robe-wearing scholars. But with every game, more bits have been added to the costumes, and now they just look over-designed. They re supposedly a secretive, underground order of hired killers, yet they all wear matching hooded uniforms and elaborate belt buckles in the shape of their logo.
There s a bit in Aliens: Colonial Marines where you discover that Weyland-Yutani have—surprise, surprise—been conducting sinister, top secret experiments in the famous derelict ship. Except all the equipment and storage crates littered around the place bear their logo. Not to mention the fact that the crashed ship would have been destroyed by the explosion at the end of Aliens along with Hadley s Hope. Gearbox tried to retcon this in some follow-up DLC, but I m not buying it. They just thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool if you got to visit the derelict? And that s where their thought process ended.
To a lot of you, this will sound like nitpicking insanity. Just play the game, idiot! Who cares about all these dumb little details? you re screaming at your monitor, red in the face. Well, I do, obviously. But beyond my own tedious appreciation for practical, considered design, it ultimately makes games better.
Ridley Scott s Alien is one of the most remarkable feats of production design in film, and still stands up to this day. Have you seen the Blu-ray? It looks beautiful, and hasn t aged a bit, despite the chunky late 70s tech and flickering CRT monitors. This is thanks not only to the directing eye of Scott and the horrifying psychosexual art of H.R. Giger, but also concept artists Chris Foss and Ron Cobb s contributions.
I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science fiction films are notorious for this, said Cobb in 1979 s The Book of Alien. I've always felt that there's another way to do it: a lot of effort should be expended toward rendering the environment of the spaceship—or whatever the fantastic setting of your story should be—as convincingly as possible, but always in the background. That way the story and the characters emerge and they become more real.
This is why 2001 and Alien still look amazing, despite being, respectively, 45 and 35 years old. The interior of the Nostromo was so believable, Giger said in Famous Monsters magazine. I hate these new-looking spacecraft. You feel like they re just built for the movie you re seeing. They don t look real. Cobb, Foss, and Scott, like Kubrick before them, thought about the practicalities of the things they were creating, and they ve become timeless as a result—something I hope to see more of in games as they slowly leave their adolescence and become a more confident, refined artform.
So maybe it doesn t matter where the Tunnel Snakes got those leather biker jackets, or if they do indeed rule. But if video games are ever going to create worlds as enduring and convincing as the films mentioned here, and countless other examples I could list, they re going to have to start thinking about their designs beyond just aesthetics and the shallow concept of cool.