Fallout 3 and Urban Dynamics
I may not be the biggest fan of the blogosphere centering around Michael Abbott’s Brainy Gamer, but sometimes it piques ideas that I can use for later research papers. Here’s a comment I made on his review for Fallout 3 (in response to another comment about the differences between Fallout 3 and Morrowind).
I agree with your lauding Morrowind over Fallout 3. For me it’s for a different reason. Quick travel. Maybe part of the reason Fallout 3 seemed so uncaring and devoid of creativity comes down to the problems inherent in efficient transportation.
We’ve been reading Forrester’s Urban Dynamics for a game design class (it influenced the design of Sim City Classic), and one of the arguments he makes is that efficient transport (and this means the then-newish Interstate system and not how we usually mean it now: “public transit”) leads to a decay of the area in between commercial zones and higher-class residential areas linked by the Interstate.
It’s hard to care about something that you don’t have to see. Interstate systems allow most people to ignore decaying areas and thus permit them to propagate and eventually cause citywide problems that administrations have little ability to fix (here’s looking at you, Detroit).
The same thing has happened with Fallout 3 (and Oblivion). In Morrowind, every new visited area was an adventure. Do you remember the first time you trekked north for two realtime hours in order to find that Dark elf gypsy camp? Or searching for the tower of the Sorceror who was attempting to cure the Corpus disease? These experiences were sublime – frightening and beautiful at the same time.
The worlds keep getting bigger (Oblivion and Fallout 3), and so they had to include quick transport. This then allowed them to put less time into designing the areas in between the story’s key points of interest. They should probably take a cue from Rockstar (in the difference of scale between GTA: SA and GTA4): quality, not quantity, of space.