Back in the days Bethesda was known for some pretty good games like The Terminator: SkyNET,The Terminator: Future Shock, The Elder Scrolls: Arena and its brilliant sequel Daggerfall. While both Terminators were made of awesome indeed , Bethseda’s focus always were The Elder Scroll games. First game of the series; Arena was pretty epic for its time but its sequel Daggerfall was and still is "a god amongst roleplaying games". The possibilities It offered were limitless and ages ahead of competition.
Bethseda got known for its gameplay immersion, and Daggerfall was the best example – it had a good selection of playable races, each with its own set of special bonuses, 18 classes and the ability to create new ones. The world they created was insane, a huge landmass [smaller version of the European continent with Northern Africa] with many nations filled with hamlets, dungeons, different people and countless joinable organizations each with their own quests. If you were lucky/unlucky enough to get infected by a wereboar, werewolf or a vampire you were in for some real schizo goodness. You could be a respected and noble knight in one country while the dreaded Vyrkhokulas the manimal or some dark lord in other. A noble hero at day could be found sacrificing maidens to demonic gods or working as a sadistic killer for the Dark Brotherhood at night. In fact the game was so epic and huge that you could play for months and never reach the main story if that was your cup of tea. And my favorite part unlike in their today’s games nudity was everywhere. From temples and households to the darkest cults. You could actually walk naked and get verbally abused by non player characters for being too obscene. Now, was this good or bad? If the game was obscene for you, you could turn on the filter. But, and only but – if the game today is selling as ESRB’s M-rated, that means the game is not intended for kids, rather adults. And we all see a lot of violence and nudity in real world, with amateur-home videos from their favorite stats ending on our kids cellphones anyways. The world changed, but it looks like gaming industry started going backwards.
Many years later we saw the arrival of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a great game for new players but a bit simple for those who played Daggerfall. Landmass was shrunk from a continent and a half to a small volcanic island with couple of factions. Nudity was nowhere to be seen and all character races got hit with a ugly stick. From something beautiful they were turned into stick figures. Still the gameplay was here, story was epic and beautiful expansions sealed the deal making it a huge success. It’s best feature, an awesome content editor received a cult following for allowing players to create literally everything they wanted. Some of the stuff like better faces, skins and textures even surpassed Bethesda’s original work.
But it looks to us that something changed for worse during the development of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Somehow they created an even smaller playfield, less factions and quests than Morrowind and don’t get me started on character models. Nudity? Not only that there was none but they actually made every single person look as ugly as humanly possible (some inhuman combos as well due to cruddy character creator). Repetitive dungeons and "hell zones" or whatever they were called combined with a lame story and even lamer ending did not help much [SPOILER: instead of you, an NPC kills the main villain] . But Bethesda saw the way to combat piracy and increase its revenue by making downloadable content of questionable quality – instead of awesome expansion packs of before. First "offense nonsense" was the horse armor pack for $2, followed by few very uninspired stories.
This is how original Fallout 3 ends. The problem with this story line was – what would happen if you were a good character that saved a certain radiation-immune mutant? For additional $10, you’ll see a different picture…
Fallout as a setting would mesh greatly with pre-Oblivion Bethesda. Huge areas, many playable races (yeah ghoul, mutant or a robot too), countless factions and of course the best parts of fallout setting; pulp references, black humor and this time 3D prostitutes. Get married, get a morale booster… enjoy the real freedom of wasteland. Instead, we got Oblivion with guns but much much worse. The game did offer a lot of gameplay for new players, but Bethseda failed to make what Bryan Singer did with X-Men or more recently, what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek – rebooting the franchise in a really big way. For that, read our 10 commandne
They just took two ALREADY DEFEATED enemy groups from previous games (Super Mutants and Enclave), placed them in here and even had the gall to sell them with their plots from previous games. Of course they somehow forgot to make powerful villain characters to lead them. Let’s not even go into having them force player into dealing with Brotherhood of Steel, futuristic do-gooder knights according to Bethesda while they were actually just a joke on stuff like religious Space Marines from Warhammer 40 000.
Wait… haven’t I defeated your faction already? I didn’t… no problems, here goes your head off, so go and thing about what you did wrong to appear in this game.
So you have generic Enclave, Raiders, Super Mutants , and Deathclaws who are just thrown into the game without any real story reason or a major motivating force behind them. When series of Fallout 3 downloadable content packs were announced players hoped for maybe something original or fun. Like a story that expands on presence of Super Mutants in Fallout 3 and actually gives them some purpose. Or maybe instead of that reintegration of some funky Fallout enemy groups like Techno Reavers, Beastlords or Wanamingos (weird squiddly aliens).
Instead of that for 10 bucks per download we got The Virtual Chinese Commie Snuff Simulator, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with a miracle cure baby twist and now finally "Hey look – the Enclave is back". This last one literally takes the cake. The level cap is increased to 30 which was attainable in original games anyway. New perks are total garbage and instead of finishing your character’s specialization add nothing to the game. Who needs immunity to alcohol intoxication at level 28, ability to raise dead puppies, change karmic alignment from good to evil and vice verse or all stats 9 at level 30? I am sure that the ability to turn into a Super Mutant or a Ghoul would be a far more suitable reward for higher levels that these random fillers.
We will not go into the whole user-unfriendly concept of using Games For Windows Live only. Steam is a market leader in DLC-delivery and it is our take that Bethseda did a terrible mistake, regardless of $$$ offered by Microsoft in the form of MDFs [Market Developing Fund]. The delay in release of Broken Steel due to issues with Games For Windows Live only cement our position.
We still give them credit for changing the insane ending in which the main hero had to die due to his stupid father shooting and destroying protection from radiation (supposedly to defeat the bad buy who is still alive at the end anyway) and you can prance around in his coat while killing some mole rats but that is about it. If you picked up a radiation-resistant mutant that could have saved everyone, you just had to feel cheated.
In the end my final conclusion is that Bethesda is charging people for common patches as the stuff they put in the game can hardly be called content. And I ask myself are these guys for real? What the hell happened to them? Let’s hope that Fallout: Las Vegas, a game not being made by Bethseda – will actually bring some justice to the franchise. We don’t need half-baked products – we hope that Bethseda will find its mojo. Perhaps a Terminator game would do them good.
Our Ten Commandments for Bethseda – by Theo Valich
- Respect your targeted game rating. If the game is M-rated, respect that. Don’t be M-rated because you have a swear word in the game.
- Offer complete flexibility through parent controls. Enable your games to become PG-rated and unlocked to Mature through online activation [for buyers of PG-rated version]
- Unleash complete creativity. Hire a Tier A scriptwriter that excelled with his work – Tom De Santo did a fantastic piece of work with rebooting X-Men and Transformers or simply be smart and hire David Hayter. David worked on X-Men reboot and then wrote what is arguably the best story-driven interactive franchise of our times [Metal Gear Solid] and his work is worth a pot of gold. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are also on our shortlist.
- Hire a Hollywood producer known for experimenting between movies and interactive experience. There are only two names which come with our highest reccomendation: David Fincher is currently experimenting with graphics-driven non-real-life movies, and secondly the creator of worlds, Joss Weldon [Alien 4, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Titan A.E., FireFly/Serenity].
- Get all of your guys to watch a video of Michio Kaku on what is possible and what is not possible. Skew that and you have a receipt for the ultimate experience…
- Set your targets right. Create a story line spanning across several games, but don’t end every game with a cliffhanger. Go for Die Hard/Star Trek/X-Men franchise experience.
- Create a mixture between online world and off-line world experience. Hire an external team to do the MMO part of the game, and fuse the two. This is an ultimate revenue opportunity.
- Take a proven engine such as Unreal Engine 3.5 and crank it to the max. Focus on delivering ultimate gaming experience and liberate your engine programmers to create an Unreal Upgrade Engine pack – ultra-realistic version of the engine and work with Tim on selling your own engine upgrade as a part of their engine.
- Advertise your game through a non-conventional mediums. There is enough Fallout fans to purchase the game, and get non-fans to purchase the game too. Contest for putting fan’s faces into the game would also raise the spark to mainstream media too.
- Don’t betray the fans, but don’t skew the game to them. Focus on delivering on 1-9.
If you end up following these steps, you will create a company larger than Activision Blizzard. The problem is, will you take the challenge and fuse movies with gaming or will you wait for somebody else to overtake you with a different franchise?
Continued onto the next page: Image Gallery
Perks could be so much better…
It’s the Deathclaw, run for your life! Or not…
Graphics is thankfully, still on the same high level… but are we buying games for graphics?