Friday, June 10, 2011

10 Cool Things You (Might) Not Know About "Fallout" - Part 1


The Fallout games are full of great story, characters, and gameplay moments.  Some of them hilarious, some of them tragic, and yet all of them give you another piece of just how deep the story is.  And, unless you're really paying extremely close attention to every detail or have played the other Fallout games, it can be pretty easy to miss pretty big pieces of how it all comes together.  So for those out there who want to learn more about the Fallout Universe (or even if you may already know and want to refresh your trivia knowledge), I have compiled a list of 10 things that I think are some of the important -- and also very cool -- parts of the Fallout storyline.  This is the first half of that list.  Hope you enjoy! :)


1) THE WORLD OF FALLOUT:

"This is Junktown. Nice place to live, as long as you stay on our good side."
        - Kalnor, Fallout 1

 This one you may already know, but you'd be surprised how many don't realize this subtlety: that the Fallout world exists in an alternate timeline that split away from our own real history sometime after World War II.  In the Fallout timeline, their entire world continued to be based on the American culture of the 1950's, although they were even more technologically advanced in many ways.  They have atomic-powered cars or even artificial intelligent robots, but everything has that "clunky" look to it the way that 1950's and 1960's appliances and vehicles had.   In describing the world, the Fallout developers quote it as "what would have happened if the 1950's sci-fi vision of The Worlds of Tomorrow had fully played out".  In their universe the cold war never really ended, and that "bomb-shelter-in-your-backyard" fear of a nuclear threat led right up to World War III when it really did happen.  And in the end you have this mishmash of a brutal post-apocalyptic wasteland alongside America's golden age.  And that's the beauty of it... it's all the charm of the 1950's combined with the dark humored spin off of 1950's Cold War paranoia.
  That, my friends, is why Fallout is one of my favorites.



2) WHY THE WAR:

"War. War never changes."

                    - Narrator



You hear throughout all of the Fallout games that there was a "Great War" against China in 2077, after a 20 year fight over Earth's last dwindling resources of Oil and Uranium.  While this seems a bit far-fetched to see the story's "resource war" from our own modern standards, it makes much more sense after you understand the whole alternate-history of Fallout.  In their world, the microprocessor was never discovered, and that's the key.  They did continue to move technology forward without our modern digital electronics, but they did so at a larger disadvantage.  See, one of the miracles of microprocessor was that it requires only a very small voltage to do its job.  In comparison, the electronics of the Fallout world are 1950's style vacuum tubes, bulky computer towers, and machines that take up a whole building.  These also demanded an insane amount of power to function.  Long story short, they blew through the natural resources exponentially faster than we would.  That's why oil piplines would later cause China to invade Alaska and the United States to annex Canada.  That's why everything came apart so quickly on a world-wide scale at the end.

No power, no world.



3) GOOD OL' HAROLD:


"Be kind to the Smoothskins.  One saved the world once.  'Course, they broke it to start with."
          - Harold, Fallout 2


Harold is one of the only characters that appears in nearly everyone Fallout game.  He first appeared in Fallout 1 in the town known as "The Hub", would later aid the main character in Fallout 2 near the Poseidon Oil Power Plant, and again in Fallout 3 in the mysterious area known as "Oasis".  Originally part of Vault 29, he later found his way to the "Hub" outside of what was once Los Angeles.  After supermutant attacks began to increase in that area, Harold and a group of Hub adventurers along with a doctor named Richard Grey tracked the mutant population to the remains of an old military base known as Mariposa.  Attacked by groups of supermutants, the group retreated to the lower levels of the base and stumbled on the Army's lost, dark secret: the "Forced Evolutionary Virus" (known as F.E.V.) originally created before the war to create the Army's perfect super-soldier.  Instead the FEV had turned many of the illegal test-subjects in supermutant monsters.  In the process of retreating, Richard Grey and Harold fell into one of the F.E.V. vats.  Later, Harold would awaken in the desert, completely confused and finding himself mutating into a ghoul-like creature. Richard Grey, on the other hand, would be completely mutated into an abomination-like monster and later be known as "The Master", and would terrorize most of Southern California with his Supermutant Army.  Harold continued to retain his humanity, along with the suprise of a tree branch somehow growing out of his head, which he said called itself "Bob".  This would continue into Fallout 3, when the Vault-Dweller find that Harold's "tree branch" was now much more... well, if you haven't played it yet, it's one of the classic moments of Fallout 3.



4) THE VOICES OF FALLOUT:

"You know, people always ask me, "Mr. New Vegas is there a Mrs. New Vegas?" Of Course I'm married... I'm married to YOU."
  - Wayne Newton as Mr. New Vegas

You probably know quite a few famous voices in the newer Fallout games.  Ron Perlman as the Narrator (since Fallout 1, I might add), Mathew Perry as New Vegas' "Benny", and people like Liam Neeson as your father in Fallout 3.  But did you know the other Fallout games featured a lot of big-namers as well?  Did you know that in Fallout 1, Richard Dean Anderson (McGuyver, Stargate SG1) was the voice of Mayor Darkwater in Junktown or that Tony Shaloub (Monk, Galaxy Quest) was the tribal leader "Aridoch" who would later go on to create the New California Republic?   Or how about Fallout 2, where Jeffrey Jones (Principal Rooney in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") was President of the New United States and part of the Enclave?  Or that the voice of "Hakunin" was Dwight Schultz from "The A-Team" and Star Trek's Lt. Barclay?  And even Fallout Tactics features Kurtwood Smith (the Dad on "That 70's Show") and also an absolutely priceless R. Lee Ermey playing a General of the Brotherhood of Steel, not unlike his yelling drill-sergeant role on "Full Metal Jacket".
  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Go IMDB it.  It's a riot.




5) VAULT-TEC'S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET:

  "Sally, in the Vault, you might meet that special someone, just as you would on the surface, and in a few short years, you and your fellow vault dwellers will repopulate our great country!"
        - Vault-Tec Spokesperson to a very uncomfortable-looking Father and his Daughter

You likely already knew that the very story-prominent "vaults" in the Fallout world -- originally looking like government-created safehouses to protect its people from nuclear war -- were actually created as social-experiments to allow the government to ultimate study different scenarios of human isolation and reintegration into the wasteland after a nuclear attack.  But did you know just how deep the twisted experiments went?
  The government-funded VaultTec corporation did numerous, and often brutal and immoral experiments on the vault-dwellers that they led to believe they were saving.  Some of the experiments were less-dramatic... take for example the famous Vault 101 that was simply designed to never open again, or the similar legendary Vault 13 that was designed to stay closed were it not for the controller chip in its water-recycling system failing.  Vault 87 in Washinton D.C. would bombard its unknowing inhabitants with the F.E.V. virus to study their changes.  Vault 112 would keep its victims in a virtual-reality simulator where later one of the professors would develop a twisted God-complex and run simulations whereby he could watch the Vault-Dwellers die over and over.  Particularly brutal were the stories of Vault 12 which was designed to have the vault door not close and cause the dwellers to be bombarded by radiation and later become the ghoul-city known as "Necropolis" in the remains of Barstow, California...or Vault 3 which would see the peaceful inhabitants leave the vault, only to be massacred by a raider group known as "The Fiends" outside of New Vegas.  In most cases, each experiment failed miserably, and the sickest irony?  All of these were designed to be studied by scientists who were well-protected in Cheyenne Mountain's own
"Vault Zero" who were later killed by their own corrupted Vault-controlling A.I.  In other words, the experiments indeed went on as the government had planned... only in the end no one was left to watch it.



6) HUMOR AMONGST THE HORROR:

"It's a chupacabra I tells em, but nooooo, they say. Too many holes, and the holes are full o' bullets. Well, then I says that means we gots a chupacabra with an automatic weapon! And thats when they get reaaal quiet, cuz they knows how serious a predicament we are in."
       - No-Bark, Fallout: New Vegas

One of the great things about Fallout, has always been its dark-humored approach to telling a story.  Inside jokes and real-world cultural references are always sprinkled throughout the stories.  The newer Fallout games feature humor like a New Vegas gang of 70-year-old ladies attacking you wielding rolling pins (a tribute to Monty Python's "Hell's Grannies" sketch), or Fallout 3's city of Megaton which finds a religious group paying homage to an unexploded nuclear bomb (a play off of the movie "Beneath the Planet of the Apes").
  Did you know the "Mentats" drug that makes you smarter in the games is a direct reference to the human-computer Mentats in Frank Herbert's "Dune" series?

Yeah, I was halfway through Fallout 3 before I did the face-palm "oh DUH!" moment.

 How about how the televisions in Fallout feature the name-brand of "Radiation King" which is the same television Homer Simpson watched as a child in "The Simpsons"?

  Your constant canine companion of the Fallout games was "Dogmeat", a tribute to both the classic post-apocalyptic film "A Boy and His Dog" which featured Don Johnson's canine companion of the same name, and also the dog being a blue heeler, a complete parody of Mel Gibson's dog in  "The Road Warrior".  In fact, Mad Max has a ton of references throughout every game...  "Little Lamplight's" front guard in FO3 is a total spoof of the Gyrocaptain's son in "Beyond Thunderdome" (Daahd! Weah dead meat, Daahd!) as is his deliberately misspelled pronunciation of you appearing "humungus" (a play off of the spelling of Lord Humungus, the main baddie from "The Road Warrior"). If you look close, you'll see every leather armor or slave armor being almost a total replica of the outfits in the Mad Max movies.

  Particular favorite easter-egg jokes I loved from the Fallout games:

  • In Fallout 3, you meet Dr.Zimmer's android bodyguard named "Armitage", a total cyberpunk tribute to William Gibson's "Neuromancer" novel.  Similarly, the escaping android trying to be masquerade as a human and evade capture in Rivet City is a brilliantly-played tribute to "Blade Runner" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" by Phillip K. Dick.
  • Fallout 2 has a hilarious parody of "Back to the Future" where if you become a slaver, the victims will sometimes shriek "Run for it, Marty!!" when they take off running.  Another great random encounter has you coming across a stone portal called the "Guardian of Forever", which is a direct reference to the Joan Collins/Edith Keeler fan-favorite Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever".
  • Fallout 2 also has you stumbling onto a particularly funny sight: the body of a dead whale laying alongside a broken pot of  flowers... this is of course a hilarious tribute to Douglas Adam's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", where the ship's improbability drive turns two incoming nuclear missiles into a whale and a pot of flowers which fall to their deaths as they contemplate the meaning of life.
  • In FO1, after Officer Kenny dies in the Hub battle, your character yells the South Park famous line "They killed Kenny! Those bastards!" :)
  • In Fallout Tactics, one of the many silly moments find you coming across a group of wastelanders running around on pretend horses and being followed by servants banging coconuts together, a Monty Python reference that's impossible to miss and we have all come to love.


  And that, my friends, brings us to the end of Part 1 of our list.  Stay tuned for Part 2 just around the corner!  There's lots more to come! ;)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh Nostalgia, You Nutty-Nut!

















Okay, this is probably cheating that I'm doing this, but my first real post isn't directly post-apocalytic related.

 I know, right?  

But a piece of news popped in today that I have to mention. And those of you who knew me from "The Online Gamers Anthology" will totally follow why I'm doing this.  You see, I am -- as are many of our P.A. community -- a complete freak for gaming nostalgia.  And today, my friends, EA finally snapped out of their funk they've been in for the last 15 years and said this on Joystiq.com:

"EA and Bioware have announced the launch of a new website (and Twitter account) dedicated to the 'heritage' of the Ultima series. UltimaForever.com is billed as 'a celebration of all things Ultima' and will be expanding over time to look back at the 31 year old series. To celebrate the launch, EA is offering a free download of Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar.

Also, in addition to Ultima Underworld 1 and 2 now being available on GoG.com, EA advises players to 'stay tuned for more information about additional re-mastered Ultima titles in the future.' In the meantime, you can grab your free download of Ultima 4 from right here on Joystiq. Note that you'll need to download and set up DOSBox in order to run it, unless you're somehow reading this from 1985. "



  Ultima IV was, in my opinion, on the top 5 list of greatest RPG's ever, and would be the definitive game that would later launch the game development careers of most of the big-devs of today.  For them to release this for free is great news.  It's an absolute gem.  And the mention that there will be more remastered Ultima titles (c'mon Ultima 7!!)  makes my whole year.  You have to understand... EA hasn't done much with these titles for YEARS.  So, if there is a silver lining to the economy-slump these last few years, maybe it was that someone at EA finally realized how silly it was that they all but nearly-buried one of the greatest game series of all time.
  Or maybe it was an accident, and one of the execs happened to slip an on old dusty box of "The Bards Tale" and figured the Ultima box behind it was taking up too much shelf space in the vault.  But I digress.

Now will someone please re-release "Wasteland"?!