Eurogamer

Sex. Speedrunning. Not two things you expect to hear in the same sentence - and yet here I am, writing an article about it.

Speedrunner tomatoanus, who you may remember from his world record Fallout anthology speedrun (and his rather colourful username), has returned with yet another wacky video. Not content with whizzing through Fallout 1, 2, 3, New Vegas and 4 in under 90 minutes, tomatoanus' latest speedrun is all about sex. Specifically, getting it as fast as possible. Like a night out in Magaluf.

Similar to his other world record speedruns, tomatoanus played through the games considered by the community to be the "main" titles in the Fallout series, with the goal being to have sex in each game as quickly as possible. This apparently has its own unofficial category, called a "sex%" run, and has already been attempted by a number of speedrunners in Fallout 4 (check out these ones by Jinjenia and Duchys).

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Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game

There's been plenty of negativity surrounding the Fallout series as of late - so today it's time to focus on something rather more hopeful. Following in the footsteps of other remake mods like Fallout New California, one modding team is using Fallout 4 to give Fallout 2 a rad-ical makeover.

Fallout 4: Project Arroyo, named after the tribal village in Fallout 2, was publicly announced on Reddit back in December. Some commenters were sceptical as to whether the project would get off the ground - but earlier today the team shared more information and several screenshots to give us our first look.

"Fallout 2 became my favourite Fallout game when I began playing it," team member DoctWhite stated on Reddit. "The branching questlines, dynamic stories, and the immersive universe all called my name, however there was one problem for me. That is the game's isometric and outdated gameplay.

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Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Folks who bought Fallout 76 last year can now grab ye olde Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics for free. Finally, your Fallout 76 purchase will get you a good game (several, even). The giveaway is the latest part of Bethesda’s ongoing apology tour over the multiplayer survive ’em up’s shonkiness. Unlike the trifling amount of virtuacash offered in apology for the 175 edition’s garbage bag (Bethesda do plan to replace the bags), this is available to folks who have any edition. All Fallout 76 editions were wonky enough to merit apology gifts. All of it. The whole thing. Not that Bethesda call it an apology gift, of course.

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Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game

Anyone that has logged into Fallout 76 in 2018 will get the original Fallout, Fallout 2 and the combat-focused Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel for free next month, Bethesda has announced.

Players will get the games as part of the Fallout Classic Collection, and should be able to claim them in early January. The collection was initially available as a pre-order bonus for Fallout 76.

Bethesda didn't specify where you'll be able to play the games but I presume it'll be through the developer's own launcher, rather than via Steam. 

The games have been available for free before, and they only cost pocket change each but, hey, we're not going to say no. If you're a fan of RPGs then they're still worth playing, even 15-20 years after they were first released. You can read a couple of retrospectves on them here and here.

Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game

Fallout 2 turned 20 years old yesterday.

Black Isle Studios' turn-based, open-world post-apocalyptic role-playing game came out on 30th September 1998 to rave reviews and it is now considered one of the greatest RPGs of the era.

Fallout 2 is set in 2241. The town of Arroyo is under threat from a drought, and it's up to you to venture out into the wasteland to retrieve a Garden of Eden Creation Kit to save the day. It is an understatement to say things do not go well.

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Mass Effect

In 1992 Microprose released Rex Nebular & the Cosmic Gender Bender, an adventure game set on a world where a "gender war" had killed off all the men. The remaining women separated themselves from the rest of the galaxy, hid their planet, and perpetuated their species thanks to the Gender Bender, a device that instantly but non-permanently transformed women into men and vice versa. What does the game do with that setup and the questions it raises? It makes jokes about how men leave the toilet seat up and women don't know what torque wrenches are.

We've come a long way since then. In 2007's Mass Effect the Asari are a monogender alien species coded as women, and they don't hide themselves away refusing to learn how wrenches work. On the surface they seem like stereotypical blue space babes, but they're also a matriarchal society that plays a central role in the politics of the series. One of the Asari, Liara T'Soni, is a potential love interest for the player-character regardless of their gender—which, at the time, was controversial. Imperfect as they were, Mass Effect and its sequels felt like they were dealing with gender and sexuality in a way that's much more common to science fiction outside of games.

If your space opera novel about aliens gives them three genders readers accept it, because of course alien societies would have different ideas about sex. By the same token in cyberpunk novels where people can have laser eyes it's easier for readers to accept gender transitioning as commonplace. When we think about the future we do so by taking modern norms and simply pushing them a bit, and that includes our modern ideas about sexuality and gender.

How soon is now? 

...it may be a game about body horror giant robots and cosmic mysteries and post-reality hellscapes, but all the emotions in the game are very real

Heather Robertson

Extreme Meatpunks Forever is many things. It's a contender for best videogame name ever for starters. It's also an episodic visual novel about friends on the run in the Hellzone, which happens to include an Atari-style arcade action game where those characters climb into mechs that look like skinless monsters to fight fascists. Creator Heather Robertson (who also worked on Genderwrecked) describes it like this: "Extreme Meatpunks Forever is a serialized visual novel/mech brawler about four gay disasters beating up neonazis in giant robots made of meat."

Three episodes into the series, its heroes the Sundown Meatpunks are sleeping rough, missing their home, squabbling with each other, and shopping for protein bars in a convenience store called Blood Station where the clerk has static for a face. There's plenty of surrealness at play, but there's truth in it as well.

"It's about growing up queer in a small town," explains Robertson, "about feeling at odds with your own body, about feeling broken and trying to make a community with other broken people. Sure it may be a game about body horror giant robots and cosmic mysteries and post-reality hellscapes, but all the emotions in the game are very real—things that either I or someone very close to me have experienced."

Each of the Meatpunks has an alter ego they embody when they climb into their mech, when they become the raw and bleeding version of themselves who has to fight back. Lianna becomes Crash Queen, Cass becomes All Or Nothing, Sam becomes Roots Among Ash, and Brad becomes Ultra Brad. (We all know someone like Brad, I think.) Having mechs is one of the things that unites them. The other is, as Robertson puts it, that they are all "queer disasters". 

"Science fiction is an interpretation of the present, through the lens of the future," Robertson says. "When a science fiction book talks about minority groups in the future, or specifically avoids talking about minority groups, it's a political statement. 'You will be/you will not be allowed into the future.' The first category, of largely avoiding queer issues, may even come from a good place: that the author wants to include people like them in the future but isn't quite sure how to do more good than harm so they leave it as a side issue. Representation in science fiction isn't just about who can see themselves in a fantasy. It's about who can see themselves in the future."

In an interview with The Paris Review five years back, sometimes science-fiction author Warren Ellis made the case that the genre has always been more of a way of saying things about the time it's written in than about predicting the future. "Science fiction is social fiction", he said. "That’s the line from Mary Shelley through H. G. Wells and Aldous Huxley and George Orwell to the politically committed writers of the sixties and seventies. It's about using speculation as a tool with which to examine the contemporary condition."

I get the impression Heather Robertson's ideas about science fiction are similar. Her story of queer outcasts being hassled by fascists and failed by the police is a contemporary story dramatized by being pushed ahead of us in time. "If science fiction is an interpretation of the present through the lens of the future," she says, "it only makes sense that people take it as a chance to stake their claim on the future, and to say: 'I may not make it here, but someone like me will.' Queerness is unstoppable. It is resilient, unkillable. The future is made of love."

Do androids dream of electric sex? 

When people online are talking shop about the idiosyncrasies of their vaginas based on the manufacturer and the inherent quirks therein, it feels pretty cyber.

Sophia Park

Subserial Network is a game about a future where humans are long gone, and androids called synthetics who have personalities based on those lost humans try to build a society of their own, inspired by what's left of humanity—which is mainly the internet as it existed in the 1990s. You play a synthetic and see the world through web browsers, email and chat clients, even a music player reminiscent of WinAmp.

It's your job to sift through the digital creations of synthetics, their fanfic pages and proto-blogs, hunting for those who deviate. Some synthetics have begun modifying themselves, adding serial ports so they can interface in new ways, which is seen as a threat by others.

It's a story about the future, but as with all of these games there are parallels to modern concerns. "I think pursuing a highly stigmatised body modification because there’s a very firm idea of the sacredness of the body and what that body is supposed to do is just a good story in itself," says director Sophia Park, who was also responsible for Localhost. "But look, it’s happening every day. When people online are talking shop about the idiosyncrasies of their vaginas based on the manufacturer and the inherent quirks therein, it feels pretty cyber. I think being aware that there are people living that life right now, let alone the past, you know, fifty years, or whatever, is pretty cool."

In some ways it's a very personal game. "I directed the project and led the story, yeah? And the ideas first came once I started pursuing sexual reassignment surgery. And most of the game was written after I actually did it. So. It’s not about that, but it is? But it’s not. But it is." Park says that she doesn't want players to see Subserial Network as "a trans game" but as a game about characters you can find a common ground with rather than feeling excluded by your differences. "We try to take the metaphor and mess it around, recontextualize each and every element of our life experiences until it’s in a space where you don’t feel that. You feel like you can relate. And then you can understand your trans friends better, even if you don’t know why you do."

One of the Geocities-looking web pages in Subserial Network contains an interview with a synthetic who, in an attempt to understand what it means to be human, has been experimenting with sex. There's humor to it, an android with reconfigurable limbs trying to figure out what all these bits do, but also a sense that maybe by going beyond what someone with more traditional human parts could do they're actually discovering useful things about themselves. 

"In Subserial Network, we extrapolate some of our experiences into a world where your entire body can be reconfigured, where you can live, entirely, online, and where you for some reason are asked to be what you just aren’t. And I think within that premise you can explain or explore a lot of things that you might feel you presently can’t," says Park. She hopes that, in doing so, people can reach "resolution, conclusion, understanding, empathy" without necessarily feeling like her game is simply making a statement about a group of people and nothing more.

In one of Subserial Network's most affecting moments, a synthetic describes finding an old magazine with a photo of the human she was based on inside it. There's a face there that she recognizes as her own, but it belongs to someone separated from her by years, someone she both is and isn't. It's haunting, even divorced of subtext.

When Park describes science fiction she talks about how it focuses on 'the new thing', "a technology or a scientific concept that is elaborately explained and the story hinges on the changes this new thing inflicts on the world. It’s a thing you’ll see in, like, Black Mirror episodes or what have you. There’s always a new thing—and the new thing has narrative consequences, and it influences the worldbuilding, and it recontextualizes narratives and genres and maybe lets us understand something better today.

"Science fiction shares a lot with horror—the new thing is instead abject, and it’s terrifying, and no one explains it. It points backwards, and society has to reconvene after the new thing is put away. But these two things are often related. Are trans people more horror or science fiction? People tend to act like we are some abject thing, or some new science experiment that redefines gender and human society. But the new thing is just the new thing, right?"

This big broken machine 

The characters came out gay and they have different gender identities because it's my actual environment. I don't live in a space opera but I do live in this kind of context.

Jordi de Paco

The Red Strings Club is probably the best game I've played all year. It's three cyberpunk stories surgically attached as if by a back-alley street doc: one about a hacker, one about a bartender, and one about an android who bio-sculpts cybernetic implants. Together these three characters have the potential to bring down a corporation planning to brainwash the world by doing away with sadness, but also potentially eradicating free will and the motivation to improve our lives and those of others. The Red Strings Club interrogates the ideas we have about unhappiness (like, is it really a motivation for creativity or is that a myth we use to justify how unfairly society rewards artists?), and also questions the smaller ways we're responsible for manipulating people's emotions every day.

At the same time, The Red Strings Club presents queerness as an ordinary part of its near-future setting. Two of the main characters are gay and in a loving relationship together, and one of the secondary cast is a transgender woman. The android character is genderless and that's used as a vehicle for asking questions about the concept and its value. As Jordi de Paco, director, writer, and programmer at indie studio Deconstructeam explains, these themes weren't an intentional addition.

"Because we ourselves on the development team define ourselves as queer I just created the characters as my environment, like my friends and the kind of lives we lead", he says. "In Gods Will Be Watching, our previous game, I kind of I wasn't that aware I could do other stuff with videogames. I was just making what videogames do, with a white male protagonist and their friends. With The Red Strings Club I wanted to make more personal stuff. Suddenly, it came out naturally. The characters came out gay and they have different gender identities because it's my actual environment. I don't live in a space opera but I do live in this kind of context."

Even though The Red Strings Club developed its themes naturally, it's not been any less immune to criticism from the kind of people who use the word "forced" to describe any representation of characters different to them (which seems like every single person who uses the word "forced" on the internet). On the whole, de Paco was pleased by the response to their game. On the whole.

"With The Red Strings Club the big majority of feedback is really good and they're thankful the game made them feel things," he says, "and it happened that the bad feedback of The Red Strings Club feels like good feedback too. It's basically a lot of people complaining about it being 'a game full of fat chicks and faggots' and having 'a political agenda' and trying to 'force them through their throats' and everything."

Another response was less expected. Waypoint published an article critical of the way The Red Strings Club depicted one of its characters—who had an unhealthy obsession with a transgender woman—using her 'deadname', the name she no longer goes by. "We didn't feel like it was healthy criticism," he says, "like, 'Hey, guys, be careful with this because some people may be having conflicted emotions', we are really open to that kind of feedback. We have reasons to want to depict the reality of deadnaming in the game, we explained that on a follow-up article on Waypoint, but we were called 'cheap' and 'gross' and we 'sabotaged our vision'. It felt too harsh for us since that was not intentional at all. I understand that intention is not everything that counts, but being called out because of transphobia feels really, really tough, especially for us."

In spite of that, de Paco says he wouldn't change anything about his game if he was to make it over today. "I prefer to make it this way, because after experiencing putting a game out there with not that much that's personal in it and making something that's personal, I don't think I'd want to go back to making regular games. I really enjoy the way you can connect with the audience. Even the harsh feedback is something that makes you grow personally and it's interesting to expose yourself. I think that it's something that we have to offer that big companies don't have, so why limit that kind of potential we have? We really can explore these kind of experiences. If we cannot compete with big companies in technical issues maybe we can compete in feelings and being flawed and kinky or whatever we want to be."

Love in the time of rad sickness 

Fallout 2 was the first game to depict same-sex marriage, and some of the later Fallout games embraced a similarly forward-thinking attitude. Fallout: New Vegas in particular included characters from a spectrum of sexualities, including Veronica, Arcade, Whiskey Rose, and Christine. And then there was the Think Tank, from the Old World Blues expansion.

Writer Chris Avellone, who worked on both Fallout 2 and New Vegas, explains. "In terms of game stories and sexuality, when we were doing Fallout: New Vegas—Old World Blues, the twisted view of sexuality of the Think Tank Brains was intended as symptomatic of their psychological problems—but it was repressing them that was causing at least two of them serious emotional issues." Those characters were brains floating in jars, a homage to old school B-movies, who had over many years grown disdainful of biology and forgotten much about how it worked. Their ideas about sex were idiosyncratic, to say the least.

"One of them was obsessed and aroused by the biology of the human form—she was turned on by a character blinking, yawning, chewing, etcetera—even though the others found the human form repulsive, to put it lightly. And another was a chronic masturbator, which he hid from the others. The player can champion both so they don't feel ashamed of these feelings anymore during the end sequence—and they'll side with the player if the player helps them." The message was plain. As Avellone puts it, "it's OK to be you, just don’t hurt anyone while you're being you."

Ultimately, we felt it was the relationship in the context of Morgan's condition that was important, not Morgan's gender.

Chris Avellone

Avellone also worked on the 2017 version of Prey, a game that let players choose the sex of its amnesiac protagonist, Morgan Yu. Whether you explore Talos Space Station as a man or a woman, when you meet fellow crew member Mikhaila Ilyushin you discover she had a relationship with Morgan in the past, which you've since forgotten. 

Initially, Morgan had been conceived of as a man, and as Avellone says, "I suggested that Morgan, as a result of what’s happening on Talos and the disconnects and being unaware of his previous connections to others, could have his condition highlighted by being unaware of his past relationships with others". When the decision was made to allow Morgan to be played as a woman, they decided not to alter Mikhaila's role as your ex. "I think we simply asked, 'why would we?' So we didn't and left it in. Ultimately, we felt it was the relationship in the context of Morgan's condition that was important, not Morgan's gender."

Avellone's been in the videogame industry for a long time, with credits going back as far as 1996. Back then, he says, "sexuality in games was something of a taboo", something he believes is changing. As he puts it, "there’s been a shift in games over time to portray sexuality in games and show the range of sexuality in the game space."

And that's a positive trend. Like all of these developers, Avellone sees value in the genre's ability normalize things, to say that if we're going to accept interstellar travel and robots we may as well accept gay and transgender people. He brings up Iain M. Banks' novels in the Culture series as an example. "While one could argue that the way those subjects are treated in the books are sideline subjects, I think it gains a certain strength in that it's 'simply the way it is,' so much so there’s no reason to underscore it or exaggerate it because it’s simply the norm in the galactic society Banks created."

And although none of these developers think predicting the future is science fiction's main job, Park does give a shout-out to Mass Effect's vision of the 22nd century. "One thing Mass Effect did really well was in the casual bisexuality of the trilogy", she says. "I think that’s what the future looks like; everyone’s a little more fluid on the Kinsey scale, the determinative social role of human sexuality collapses, but the original architecture more or less stays up."

Whether it's acting as a weathervane for what's to come or drawing back a curtain on an aspect of the present, science fiction can use its distance from our lives to open us up to ideas we may not have considered, including ideas about gender and sexuality. Whether they're videogames, books, movies, or TV shows, our stories about the future could stand to be a bit ahead of their time.

The first three episodes of Extreme Meatpunks Forever are available on itch.io, as is Genderwrecked. Subserial Network is currently available to Humble Monthly subscribers. The Red Strings Club is on everything.

PC Gamer

Fallout isn't set in in our hypothetical future, but the future of another timeline—one in which culturally America never left the 1950s and technologically the world went down a path heavy on the vacuum tubes and without color TV. Each new game has added to that alternate history, and sometimes rewritten bits of it, and no doubt Fallout 76 will add and revise even more. The trailer suggests a starting date of October 27, 2102, which is much earlier in the timeline than any of the previous games. It's 59 years before even the original Fallout, and 185 years before Fallout 4. 

Below is a timeline of the major events in Fallout's alternate history as it exists right now. While there have been references to events going back as far as the 17th century in the games (like the alien abductions in Fallout 3's Mothership Zeta expansion), the broad sweep of history in the Fallout universe resembles ours right up to the end of World War 2. It's only after 1947, when transistors were popularized in our world but not that of Fallout, that divergence begins, and only in the 1960s that those differences becomes significant.

1961 

Captain Carl Bell of the United States Space Administration, piloting the Defiance 7, becomes the first  becomes human in space. According to the Museum of Technology in Fallout 3, "this has been constantly refuted by both the Soviet Union and China." 

1969

The USA is divided into the Thirteen Commonwealths, each comprising several of the existing states, and changes its flag. The Valiant 11 lunar lander touches down and Captains Richard Wade, Mark Garris, and Michael Hagen of the USSA become the first astronauts to walk on the surface of the moon. In 308 years time, the Valiant 11's dish will be repurposed to increase the distance over which Three Dog can play 'Butcher Pete' at people.

1992

The Sierra Army Depot changes its mission statement, becoming "Responsible for the demilitarization of stores of surplus ammunition". Eventually, it will become home to the Skynet AI as seen in Fallout 2. 

2020

The USSA commissions the creation of the Delta IX, the final model of manned moon rocket. Eventually the Delta IX rockets will be repurposed, their crew and instruments replaced by nuclear warheads. 

2037

The first Mister Handy Robots are made available to the public. 

2052

The final manned moon mission occurs in the same year that worldwide resource shortages begin. Oil prices in the Middle East rise drastically, and the European Commonwealth responds by declaring war. This escalates into a global conflict called the Resource Wars. 

2054

The European-Middle Eastern War inspires the US to begin Project Safehouse, which will lead to the creation of the Vaults. 

2059

The US increases its military presence in Alaska and establishes the Anchorage Front Line, causing tension with Canada. 

2060

The European-Middle Eastern War ends as soon as the Middle East's oil fields run out. Many countries, including the US, devote more effort to nuclear energy research. The European Commonwealth dissolves. 

2065

New York's nuclear reactor comes close to a meltdown. Construction of Vault 76 begins. 

2066

An energy crisis in China contributes to increased aggression toward the US, who refuse to export oil to them. China invades Alaska. 

2070 

Chryslus Motors debut the first fusion-powered cars. 

2072 

The US begins annexing Canada. 

2074 

US troops are deployed in China. The President walks out of trade negotiations, declaring that US oil won't be for sale or trade. 

2076

The US completes its annexing of Canada, and deploys T-51b power armor (made possible by nuclear fusion cells) in China. On July 4, Vault 76 is opened to celebrate the US tricentennial. 

2077 

On October 23 the Great War begins. As Ron Perlman puts it in the intro to Fallout 2, "The earth was nearly wiped clean of life. A great cleansing, an atomic spark struck by human hands, quickly raged out of control. Spears of nuclear fire rained from the skies. Continents were swallowed in flames and fell beneath the boiling oceans. Humanity was almost extinguished, their spirits becoming part of the background radiation that blanketed the earth." Also on this day, Nuka-Cola Quantum is released to the public.

2080 

Survivors of the Great War still living on the surface begin to notice mutation spreading, both among themselves and animals. 

2102 

The start date of Fallout 76. It's Reclamation Day, again. 

2126 

In The Hub, a group of merchants seize control of the settlement's water tower and rival merchants unite to fight them. The Great Merchant Wars begin.

2138 

Robert House awakens from cryogenesis. 

2161 

Start date of the original Fallout. 

2165 

The Vault Dweller, protagonist of Fallout, settles down and founds the settlement of Arroyo with several other exiles from Vault 13 and members of local surface tribes. 

2189 

The settlements of Shady Sands, Los Angeles, Maxson, the Hub, and Dayglow vote to combine themselves into a federation called the New California Republic. 

2228 

The ghouls of the Capital Wasteland form the Underworld. 

2231 

The Boomers settle Nellis Air Force Base.

2241 

Start date of Fallout 2. 

2255 

Caesar establishes a base for the Legion in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Pitt, a raider settlement in what was Pittsburgh, is attacked by the Brotherhood of Steel and almost the entire population is wiped out in an action called 'the Scourge'. 

2258 

Start date of Fallout 3, or at least its character creation. 

2270 

The NCR defeats the tribes based around Bullhead City in an action called the Pacification of the Mojave. 

2271 

The NCR and the Desert Rangers sign the Ranger Unification Treaty. 

2272 

Galaxy News Radio makes its first broadcast. 

2277 

Caesar's Legion moves into the Mojave, and the first Battle of Hoover Dam occurs. Boulder City is flattened, but the Legion is defeated when the NCR lure them into a trap. Caesar blames Legate Graham, and he is punished by being set on fire and thrown into the Grand Canyon. 

2281 

Start date of Fallout: New Vegas.

2287

The Quincy Massacre occurs when the Gunners attack the Commonwealth Minutemen, leaving only 20 of them alive. Start date of Fallout 4. 

2910 

The furthest event in the timeline of Fallout is a hypothetical one, but if you complete the excellent Old World Blues expansion for Fallout: New Vegas and fully upgrade Blind Diode Jefferson, the AI who has the blues, then the epilogue explains he eventually "created a symphonic counter-frequency that saved Big MT from sonic invasion in 2910. If you didn't hear about it—good."

PC Gamer

In the Fallout series, the vaults were built to protect human life from atomic bombs, providing safe underground shelter for years until the surface world was once again safe to be inhabited. At least that's what the Vault-Tec Corporation told everyone. In truth, most vaults were built to perform sinister, cruel, and occasionally funny experiments on the unsuspecting inhabitants.

There are a lot of vaults in the Fallout series. In this list, I'm only including actual vaults you can visit in the existing Fallout games on PC, and disregarding vaults only referenced in passing or those deemed non-canon by Bethesda (such as in Fallout: Tactics).

Considering the amount of evil and suffering involved in Vault-Tec's vaults, it's hard to say what makes one vault 'better' than another. I mostly based these rankings on how interesting they are to visit, how memorable they are to explore, and how interesting the lore surrounding them is. Here are the vaults from the Fallout series, ranked from worst to best.

Vault 88 (Fallout 4: Vault-Tec Workshop)

Vault 88 was never completed, but that's where you come in. Added with Fallout 4's Vault-Tec Workshop DLC, it's ostensibly a chance to let you become Overseer and perform your own experiments. 

Unfortunately, it winds up essentially being just another settlement, albeit one with vault-themed building options and a lot of room to build. The experiments, however, are a bit on the tame side and don't leave much of an impression, letting you be a bit mean to your dwellers but not truly evil as you have them power generators by riding stationary bikes or by serving them tainted cola. It's not the Overseer experience I've always dreamed up.

Vault 111 (Fallout 4)

Cryogenics doesn't sound like a bad idea at all for surviving an atomic war underground, but only if you actually inform the vault residents about it first. Naturally, Vault-Tec didn't, instead saying the pods were for decontamination. Surprise! You're an ice cube.

Due to a short-sighted lack of supplies, the non-frozen staff eventually staged a mutiny. Over 200 years later, one frozen resident (you) awoke long enough to witness their spouse being murdered and infant son abducted. Another quick 60 or so years passed, and the resident awakened again to find themselves the sole survivor of the cryogenic experiment. Other than the kick-off to the main quest, though, there's not much reason to hang around the somewhat dull Vault 111: not when there's the settlement of Sanctuary Hills just outside.

Vault 95 (Fallout 4)

Vault-Tec set up Vault 95 as a rehab center for drug addicts, and did an admirable job carefully and thoughtfully treating its residents' addictions. Nice! Then, five years later, it popped open a secret hatch filled with a bunch of drugs just to see what would happen. Not nice!

Many of the addicts relapsed, others fought and killed one another (the Vault-Tec jerk who opened the drug hatch was killed too, at least), and it eventually became a Gunner hideout. Apart from clearing out Gunners, you can also use Vault 95 to cure your companion Cait of her Psycho addiction. Nice!

Vault 3 (Fallout: New Vegas)

Vault 3 was a control vault, scheduled to open just 20 years after the bombs fell. The residents, however, weren't eager to expose themselves to the dangers of the outside world and quite sensibly kept it locked longer than was planned. They even managed to stay indoors without everyone killing each other. Weird!

There wasn't even a sinister experiment (as far as we know) taking place within the Vault, which therefore makes it one of the more successful yet least interesting vaults in the series. After a malfunction in the vault's water system, however, the people of Vault 3 opened its door and were promptly slaughtered by a collection of drug-addled Raiders called Fiends. When you visit you'll get to exact revenge by wiping out the Fiends and freeing some of their prisoners.

Vault 34 (Fallout: New Vegas)

Vault 34 was spare on living quarters which eventually became an issue due to massive over-population. Also, Vault-Tec filled it with a ridiculous amount of weapons—and an armory door that couldn't be locked. Do you see where this is going? Riots broke out in attempt to plunder the armory, leading to damage to the vault computers, a radiation leak, and a whole lot of inhabitants being turned into ghouls. Whoops!

In addition to learning the story of the vault, there's plenty of weapons and ammo still left, making it a worthwhile visit.

Vault 19 (Fallout: New Vegas)

Red vs Blue: a war as old as time. Vault 19 was separated into red and blue sections accessible only to those with the correct color keycards, most likely as an experiment to see how the different colored teams might interact with (turn on) each other.

Unfortunately, a sulfur leak from caverns below the vault caused the inhabitants to abandon it before they could completely devolve into the violence and murder that seems to be the desired outcome of many of Vault-Tec's experiments. The vault was partially occupied later by Powder Gangers. Make nice with them and they're be perfectly friendly, or you can blow the whole place up with C-4. As with so much of Fallout: New Vegas, it's entirely your choice.

Vault 92 (Fallout 3)

Vault-Tec invited the world's most talented musicians to Vault 92, hoping not just to preserve the human race but also its musical culture and history. Ha ha! No, they really invited them to use them as unwitting test subjects for white noise experiments in an attempt to create a legion of obedient super soldiers.

Hold on to your eyebrows, because they're about to shoot up in surprise: it all went horribly, horribly wrong. The white noise eventually drove the test subjects into fits of extreme rage, which isn't a terrible side-effect if you're building super soldiers. Not so useful is the fact that they couldn't be controlled. There was eventually a mass slaughter in the vault, compounded by the collapse of a portion of the vault walls, which allowed a swarm of mirelurks to enter. Mirelurks are gross and their clicking and clawing isn't music to anyone's ears.

Vault 75 (Fallout 4)

Vault-Tec may have topped themselves for sheer evil with Vault 75. Supposedly built as a safe place for schoolchildren, the kids who took refuge there were separated from their parents upon entering, and the parents were quickly executed an incinerated. Children were tortured and tested to determine which had the 'best' genes, and at age 18 those genes were 'harvested' for the next generation in a revolting attempt to create a master race, if you will. Those not up to snuff were snuffed out like their parents. 

At some point the subjects of the tests learned what was happening and rebelled, killing the scientists and escaping. Wherever those kids wound up, it's gotta be a better place than Vault 75. The vault is now inhabited by Gunners, though the Brotherhood or Institute may show up, and while you're too late to help the long-departed children of Vault 75, you get the satisfaction of making sure the 'research' conducted here never falls into the wrong hands.

Vault 22 (Fallout: New Vegas)

Seemingly a decent vault with an admirable goal, 22 was staffed with scientists who would undertake agricultural studies and subsist on the plant life grown inside. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens with videogame scientists, they made an oopsie and a fungus meant to control pests wound up becoming pests.

The spores of the fungus infected the human population, turning them into horrible plant monsters. It's a deadly and harrowing battle through the vault as you fight these lightning-fast creatures along with giant Venus Flytraps and mantises. At least you get to blow the entire lab up to make sure they don't escape to the surface world.

Vault 15 (Fallout, Fallout 2)

One of the few vaults you can visit in two different games, Vault 15 was an experiment to see how a population comprised of a variety of cultures and backgrounds would get along when crammed into a confined space together for decades. In short: they didn't, and when the vault opened 50 years later, the dwellers split into several warring factions of raiders, plus one group that eventually form the NCR. 

Though the vault has been stripped and pillaged, it's still being fought over by a few different factions. At the very least, you can bring a little peace to the contested vault by dealing with the raiders who have been kidnapping people living at the entrance, and brokering a deal between the locals and the NCR.

Vault 81 (Fallout 4)

Entering this vault is an absolute shock because it's filled with… normal, well-adjusted people living their lives.

Vault 81 was intended to find the cures for all known diseases by secretly experimenting on its inhabitants—by infecting them with those diseases. However, in a surprising twist, the Overseer of Vault 81 wasn't actually an evil prick and prevented most of the medical scientists from ever entering the vault. She then sealed off the rest of the scientists from the population permanently. The scientists were pretty good sports about it, honestly, and carried on studying diseases for the rest of their lives, and not on unwilling human subjects. Best of all, they created Curie, a very nice robot with a French accent who can accompany you on your travels.

Vault 118 (Fallout 4: Far Harbor)

Up for a murder mystery? Built under a hotel,  Vault 118 was never completed and its experiment (to house Hollywood hotshots in the lap of luxury and working class stiffs in cramped quarters) was never realized. There's still plenty of drama. A robobrain has been murdered, and when you arrive you get to play detective, question the suspects, and finally, make an accusation. It's fun, and there's some great loot to be acquired, too.

This vault and quest is a contentious one in the Fallout community, though—it bears a lot in common with a mod called Autumn Leaves for Fallout: New Vegas, which also contains a robot-themed murder mystery and a few other details that feel suspiciously similar. The modder didn't seem too bothered either way, but would like at least to be credited. As for Bethesda, it's denied copying the mod altogether.

Vault 114 (Fallout 4)

Leave it to Vault-Tec to drop the ball on their one good idea. Vault 114 was advertised to rich politicians and the wealthy elite, who would arrive to find themselves crammed into tiny apartments with shared bathrooms and at the mercy of a deranged, pantsless, Abraxo-eating Overseer named Soup Can Harry.

Unfortunately, the vault was never completed and it appears no one ever moved in. On the plus side, this is the vault where you first meet Fallout 4's best companion, robotic gumshoe Nick Valentine, and face off against gangster Skinny Malone. Plus, you get to listen to Soup Can Harry being interviewed on holotape—a definite bonus.

Vault 106 (Fallout 3)

This is pretty a unimaginative experiment by Vault-Tec standards: 10 days after the vault was sealed, psychoactive drugs were pumped into the air supply. Everyone went crazy and killed just about everyone else. So, uh, yeah. Crazy drugs make people crazy. Good work, everyone!

It's also a creepy and disturbing place to visit. While exploring you'll inhale some of the drugs still in the air and trip balls, your vision flipping between a pristine and populated vault and a rusting and ruined one. You'll imagine your father, Butch, and other residents of Vault 111 are present as well. While they're attacking you (and then vanishing when engaged) you're also being attacked by real deranged residents of Vault 106. It's a jarring and memorable experience.

Vault 12 (Fallout)

Radiation: how does it work? Vault-Tec decided to find out by herding a thousand people into Vault 12 and then making sure the door wouldn't close when the bombs fell. Sorry-not-sorry, citizens!

The results of the experiment: radiation is pretty bad for humans, as it turns out. Citizens were transformed into disfigured ghouls and glowing ones, which largely populate the vault when you arrive. The true revelation of Vault 12, however, is that not all ghouls are simply monsters. Ghouls can be good people, and despite their tragic circumstances they carry on with their lives, a tradition that has carried through the rest of the Fallout series. Many of the ghouls from Vault 12 went to the surface and eventually founded a ghoul-town on the called Necropolis.

Vault 11 (Fallout: New Vegas)

The social experiment in Vault 11 was a damn grim one. Residents were told that every year, they would have to sacrifice one resident or they would all die. You even get to visit the sacrifice chamber, where a filmstrip is shown to the unlucky lamb stressing how important their sacrifice was for the greater good—after which the walls slide open and a score of robots and turrets open fire. The actual sad truth of Vault 11 was that if the citizens had chosen to stand together and refuse the annual sacrifice, nothing bad would have happened to them.

But these are human beings we're talking about, so naturally they went with the sacrifice option, which led to other bouts of infighting, plotting, back-stabbing, and murder. In the end, only five inhabitants were left, and discovering that all the killing had been done for nothing, they considered the only 'logical' option: killing themselves. They didn't, though, because one of the five shot the other four dead. What a great group of people, huh? Of all the vaults, this one sounds like human nature was pretty accurately depicted.

Vault 8 (Fallout 2)

Vault 8 contained nearly 1,000 inhabitants and was intended to remain locked for 10 years, after which its residents would attempt to rebuild society on the surface. What went wrong? Well, nothing, really. In fact, Vault 8 was a smashing success, which shows just what can be accomplished when you don't perform a bunch of horrifying secret experiments on a bunch of people trapped underground.

Vault 8 eventually formed the foundation for Vault City, a sprawling community that was also highly successful, though its isolationist habits eventually led to its downfall. The vault itself remained mostly in good shape, however, housing an excellent medical center, plus a host of quests and characters.

Vault 101 (Fallout 3)

It's hard not to have a few fond memories of Vault 101: in Fallout 3, it's where you're born and grow up in a series of scenes that constitute the tutorial. There were so many good times: shooting your first radroach with a BB gun, watching a robot cut a cake with a buzzsaw on your birthday, passing your GOAT test, bludgeoning that asshole Butch to death with a baseball bat... and, oh yeah, realizing your shitty dad lied to you for years and then abandoned you to almost certain death. So many memories!

The ghastly truth of Vault 101 was that it was supposed to remain closed forever. It didn't, making it another of Vault-Tec's expensive failures. But the experience of beginning the game here, from the very moment of your birth to your eventual violent and dramatic escape, makes this one of the most memorable vaults in the series.

Vault 13 (Fallout, Fallout 2)

What we know about the true purpose of the vaults—the secret and diabolical social and science experiments they were constructed for—begins with Vault 13. Its purpose was to remain closed for 200 years, not to protect the inhabitants from the dangers of the surface world but to study the effects of prolonged isolation upon its residents.

When an element of its water purification system failed, Vault 13's Overseer began sending explorers out to locate a replacement. When the Vault Dweller returned the Overseer hailed him as hero but then exiled him, worried that other vault dwellers would want to leave the vault and join the outside world. The experiment in Vault 13 was to be protected even if it meant banishing its savior. The theme of hiding the truth from those who inhabit the vaults, and denying them free will under the guise of protecting them is carried on from Vault 13 through the rest of the Fallout series.

Vault 112 (Fallout 3)

A great way to pass the time underground is with your body in cryostasis and your mind plugged into a virtual reality simulation that creates an idyllic utopia you can happily inhabit forever. Unfortunately, this is Vault-Tec, so under the tree lined streets and white picket fences of Tranquility Lane lies a torturous and unending Hell. The Overseer, Stanislaus Braun, is a sadistic madman who uses the simulation he created to stalk and virtually murder the vault's inhabitants. Then he wipes their memories and murders them again. Repeat roughly forever.

You get to take part in the trippy simulation while being directed by Braun to torture the other residents both psychologically and physically, from making a little kid cry to straight-up stabbing everyone to death while dressed as an adolescent slasher. Freeing everyone from Braun's endless torture, though, requires killing them in the real world: ultimately an act of mercy.

Vault 21 (Fallout: New Vegas)

What happens in a tin can underneath Vegas stays in a tin can underneath Vegas, except in the case of Vault 21. Vault-Tec, in its infinite wisdom, decided to fill a vault completely with compulsive gamblers. Surprisingly, the gamblers-only society seemed to have done fairly well, all things considered, with games of chance being used to settle differences. Eventually, Robert House set his sights on a takeover of Vault 21 and did a bit of remodeling.

Vault 21 was turned into a casino and hotel, which is a far better fate than most vaults experience. The door was even appropriated into a sign for the hotel, and it's refreshing to visit a vault with actual life in it instead of just a rotting tin can of death like so many others. You can even acquire a personal and permanent hotel room there.

Vault 108 (Fallout 3)

When Fallout fans discuss the various vaults, it's never without a mention of Gary. And I'd really hoped to come find a vault that was better than Gary's, just to shake things up a little. But I'm with everyone else on this. Gary. Gary? Gary! 

Vault 108 was an experiment to determine how people function in a crisis with a lack of leadership and an overabundance of weapons. The vault was assigned an Overseer who would die of terminal cancer within months, outfitted with a heavily stocked armory, and given a malfunctioning power supply. What would happen in the vacuum of leadership when the lights went out and guns were everywhere?

We don't really know, honestly, because oddly enough a cloning chamber was included in Vault 108. That doesn't really fit in with the leadership experiment in any way that I can tell, but it does bring us to Gary. (It brings us to several Garys, actually.) Gary was a resident of 108 who was cloned multiple times, with each resulting Gary only able to speak the word "Gary" and each Gary more violent than the last Gary—at least to any non-Garys. Gary was cloned over 50 times, which was a few too many, as ultimately the only survivors of the Vault are a handful of variously numbered Garys—and they are not at all happy to meet you.

It's certainly one of the more memorable locations and encountering Gary after angry Gary is a surreal experience. Vault 108 isn't the only place Gary appears, either. Interestingly, Gary 23 somehow escaped and was found by the Brotherhood in the Operation: Anchorage expansion. They cut off his arm to remove his Pip-Boy after growing frustrated by his inability to say anything but his own name. Another Vault in Fallout 4 has a number of alphabet blocks that spell out Gary—perhaps one escaped Gary had children?

Vault 76?

We don't know much about Fallout 76 yet—while we're learning more about Fallout 76 every week, it's unclear what part the vault itself will play: as a location to collect quests, as part of a base, or even if it has its own insidious story to tell. We'll find out sometime this year: Fallout 76 will release this November with a beta period at some point prior to that.

Fallout: New Vegas - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Denis Ryan)

oldworldblues-header

Democracy is on the brink of collapse. Caesar’s Legion, the authoritarian slave state across the Colorado River, has launched a massive assault on the last, best chance for freedom in the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout. It’s a grim certainty in Old World Blues that the New California Republic will fight Caesar’s Legion: they’re the wasteland’s two superpowers, diametrically opposed ideologically, each expanding towards the other. I just thought I was better prepared. While Caesar was annihilating every ill-defended tribe to the west, I was rearming, inviting new states into the republic, and admittedly annexing a few tribes myself. With the game paused, I assess my options, reorganise my armies and ask, finally, does democracy die in 2279?

Old World Blues is a mod for Hearts of Iron IV which transports the World War II grand strategy game hundreds of years forward into the post-apocalyptic American west coast of the Fallout series. Players select a faction in the year 2275 and attempt to survive and thrive in the west coast wasteland. Structurally, it’s similar to Hearts of Iron IV, but the content and style has been transformed. Old World Blues is tremendously fun, comparable in quality to the standard Hearts of Iron IV game, and it does a terrific job of translating Fallout to grand strategy. (more…)

PC Gamer

Being evil in an RPG is no easy feat. Not only do you need the stomach for it, but developers aren't always the best at making evil choices feel as nuanced and satisfying as their morally righteous counterparts. It's rare for a game to present you with a decision so evil that it actually upsets you, but there is also an undeniable joy in being a monstrous jackass—even if your reason for detonating a dormant nuke in the middle of a small town is just for the lols.

That's why we forced some of our writers into the confession booth to finally fess up about their favorite evil decisions in PC gaming. It's some pretty dark stuff—from smothering babies to forcing someone to murder their lifelong best friend—but if you've got a kink for the chaotic, here are our picks for some of the most sinful choices we've made in games. 

Tyranny - Hush little baby 

To be fair, Tyranny is an RPG that has no real shortage of evil choices to be made—you do murder millions of people in the introduction alone, after all. But later in the story, Tyranny trades mass murder for one decision that is hauntingly terrible. See, to undo your overlord's Edicts that, like magical natural disasters, are tearing apart the land, your character must help fulfill certain contractual clauses. When you first venture to the Blade Sea, that clause is killing the last of its traitorous ruling family. At first this seems like a pretty easy task after you besiege the castle, corner the Regent Herodin and make ready to end his life. But after he is dead, the edict remains mysteriously intact. It's then revealed that there is another heir—a child born out of love between Herodin's son and the kidnapped daughter of your commander, Graven Ashe.

It's a hopelessly complicated situation made even more complicated by the fact that the mother, Amelia, will die to protect her child. But if the child lives, the Edict of Storms will continue. True to developer Obsidian's great storytelling lineage, there's a few different ways to handle the decision. But if you're the ruthlessly pragmatic type, you can simply kill Amelia and then smother her child in its crib. Or if you're a real monster, you can force one of your unwilling companions to do it for you, probably subjecting them to a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing. Whichever way you go about it (or however you might justify it) smothering babies isn't exactly heroic.— Steven Messner

Fallout 3 - The Big Bang

The big, obvious one from Fallout 3 is such a grand moment that it's almost impossible to resist. I blew up Megaton for two reasons: one, I wanted a nice apartment in Tenpenny Tower, where I could have a little break from the depressing nuclear post-apocalypse and chill with my robot butler. Secondly, the layout of Megaton is really annoying, and needlessly tricky to navigate compared to other locations in Fallout 3. It had to go, really. I activated the nuke and watched that baby go off. I regret nothing—it's still one of the most shocking and exciting moments from any game in the last ten years. — Samuel Roberts

Dishonored - Lust for vengeance 

Despite being an assassin, Dishonored rightly punishes wanton murder and instead encourages players to seek their vengeance through more creative means. Each kill pushes the city of Dunwall closer to complete chaos, so finding an alternative is necessary if you hope to ultimately rid the city of evil and corruption. Instead of murdering the pope, for instance, you can brand him with a mark of shame and force him to live out the rest of his life as a beggar. It's poetic justice at its finest—except in the case of Lady Boyle.

This capitalist is the financier behind many of Dishonored's villains and is rightly deserving of justice. But Dishonored's non-lethal way of dealing with her is pretty abhorrent. During the Lady Boyle's Last Party mission, Corvo can choose to simple murder Boyle (and her lookalike sisters) or instead deliver her into the hands of a creepy-ass stalker named Lord Brisby who, in addition to confessing his love for her, promises to make her disappear forever. While his suggestion is vague, it's just insidious enough to make me believe that handing Lady Boyle over is little more than human trafficking. That, by knocking her unconscious and letting Lord Brisby have her, I'd be condemning her to a life of sexual slavery at the hands of this creep. I mean, I get it, she's a terrible person and absolutely deserves punishment—but I think we can all agree that this is a bit much.— Steven Messner

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow - No questions asked  

Okay, obviously this isn’t an RPG, but I’ve pulled rank in order to include it because it’s such a juicy moral dilemma. What, dear reader, would you do if your boss ordered you to shoot someone—and only gave you a second to decide. Luckily for Steven, that’s not a situation I’m ever likely to be in. But for Sam Fisher, double-tapping a colleague is all in a day’s work. So it goes when midway through Pandora Tomorrow you step into one of those elevators with a mesh door. Suddenly you get a call from your handler, Lambert. “Fisher, we need Dahlia Tal dead. Kill her.” The elevator starts moving. “Don’t think, just do it.”

To this point as far as you’re aware Tal is an undercover agent in the Israeli secret police who’s been helping Fisher infiltrate a terrorist base, and has been portrayed as the kind of entirely sympathetic ‘goody’ NPC you expect from the series. The game barely gives you a second to make the call—I shot her, as did the guy in this video—and afterwards I remember feeling something close to actual actual shock.

If I’m being honest, there was also some exhilaration that the game had thrust such a horrendous decision on the player with zero foreshadowing. Brilliantly, at least in terms of design, if you kill Tal you don’t get any explanation as to why it was necessary. Whether or not I’d made the right decision was just about all I could think about for the rest of the game.

A quick trip to Wikia now reveals that Tal was in fact planning the ol’ switcheroo on Fisher, and had a team of snipers waiting to ambush him outside the facility. If you decide to let her live, Lambert gives you a bollocking and explains the deal with the double cross. It always disappointed me that although subsequent Splinter Cell games also came with tough decisions, none felt as startling as that murderous phone call. It’s also a pity that Pandora Tomorrow doesn’t appear to be on GoG or Steam currently. Time for a stern talk with Ubisoft.— Tim Clark

Knights of the Old Republic - Do as I command 

Playing the Dark Side in Knights of the Old Republic was way more fun, but this bit was twisted. Towards the end of the game, as you take on the mantle of the Sith and confront your party about their allegiances, things get pretty heated. The purehearted Mission Vao wants to redeem you, while her loyal wookiee friend Zaalbar is stuck in an impossible situation. He has a life debt to you, but loves Mission dearly. What's the most evil possible thing you can do, in this situation? Use Force Persuasion to convince Zaalbar to stab, strangle, or shoot Mission to death, while she shouts "It's me, Big Z! Noooo!" I don't think that's how the life debt is supposed to work.— Wes Fenlon

Planescape: Torment - I have no body and I must scream 

Planescape is full of potential bastardry, from selling your companions into slavery to, well, everything involving Deionarra. But in the Nine Hells of Baator there's an especially memorable moment. The Pillar of Skulls is where sage souls whose lies resulted in someone else's death are punished by being turned into chattering heads trapped in a column of flesh for eternity. The heads trade their knowledge for sacrifices, and know things you can't learn anywhere else. 

This is where you discover that one of your companions, a wisecracking floating skull named Morte, is an escapee of the pillar who has been trying to atone for his sin by serving you. Knowing this, you can put him back into the Pillar of Skulls in return for which it will answer one question. I don't know if shoving the first friend you make in the game back into a mass of bone and putrid flesh for eternity in trade for some information counts as Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, or Neutral Evil but whichever it is you are a dick for doing it.— Jody Macgregor

Fallout 2 - All is fair in love and war 

Fallout 2 was the first game I can recall where you could be truly evil—like, really, really evil. If you, like me, ended up sleeping with Miria (or her brother Daven), you'd be forced by her father into a shotgun marriage, straddling you with a completely useless companion. If you're truly evil, you can make the best of a bad situation and profit in the process. If you head over to The Hole or New Reno, you can pimp off your spouse for some extra caps or, if you encounter trappers, have Miria earn you some gecko skins by doing the dirty. That's probably not what her father intended to happen when he forced you to marry her.

Even worse, if you tire of any of your companions (and you don’t just let them get killed in a fight), you can sell them into slavery and be rid of them forever. ‘Losing’ Miriam to Metzger in The Den was my eventual choice, and when I happened to return to Modoc and mentioned what happened to her father, Grisham, the old geezer had a heart attack. RIP, dad, and thanks for the shotgun wedding.

— Jarred Walton

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