Breaking Down The Fallout 4 Character Creation System

Discussion in 'Future Fallout Game Discussion' started by AgentBJ09, Sep 29, 2015.

  1. AgentBJ09

    AgentBJ09 Vault Dweller

    Jul 9, 2015
    The entirety of this thread OP is a blog post I've been working on since the 24th. Had to get this beast done, given what we saw and how similar to Skyrim so much of Fallout 4's character creation/building system is. Enjoy.

    As of 09/24/15, Bethesda has revealed a bit more about the upcoming Fallout 4's character progression system. The Perks most of all, which have had the Skills from the past four games rolled into them, and which now operate like rungs on a ladder, each step building on the last.

    As with my other analysis posts, I won't preface this with a recap of my history with Fallout or Bethesda. Instead, let's look at the video Bethesda has shown, and break it down bit by bit.

    00:00:11 - The first thing that draws my attention is the Health Gauge in the lower left of the Pip-Boy screen. We saw in the E3 demo video that Level 1 characters with an END of 2 start at 90 HP. (Turns out the formula is 80 + (END * 5).) It's a welcome change from Fallout 3 and New Vegas' system, where 5 END would start you with 200 Health.

    00:00:18 - As a response to Todd's statement that players spend a lot of time in Bethesda games looking at menus, "Yes, because that's how RPGs work. While much of one's time is roaming, fighting and hearing the story, the rest is looking over the critical information you need to understand in order to remain alive and achieve progression in the game." I would also point out how the games made by his company have been jokingly referred to as hoarding simulators on several occasions, and there's a reason for this. While getting new gear and trying it out is a cornerstone of the RPG genre, very frequent switching out of gear for more efficient/better condition gear is more in line with ARPGs like Victor Vran, Path of Exile, etc. Bethesda games are very well known for encouraging a mixing of these two attitudes -- keeping multiple weapons. potions and herbs you may need later while swapping out, collecting, and dumping onto merchants new and old weapons, armor, etc. -- the result of which being bloated inventories and stat sheets that sometimes need more efficient ways of browsing everything of note.

    We can thank the DarnifiedUI/SkyUI creators for making this a possibility for PC players in multiple Bethesda games, but the need for such optimization, done on the time of the users versus the developers, is most assuredly a sign of laziness regarding the PC ports. (If we recall the paid mods fiasco from April of this year, Bethesda was directly profiting from the popularity of these optimization mods. Food for thought.)

    00:00:23 - 00:00:28 - Onto the SPECIAL stats now.

    STR - Affects melee damage and ENC. / Mostly unchanged from Fallout 3 and New Vegas, though it has been confirmed that 200 ENC is the starting weight limit before any points go into STR, a 50 point bump from those games.

    PER - General awareness and accuracy in VATS. / Unchanged as of now.

    END - Starting Health, Gain Per Level, and AP loss from sprinting. / Mostly unchanged though I'd be remiss to not mention that the latter mechanic was created within the Wanderer's Edition/Project Nevada mods before it appeared in Skyrim.

    CHA - Success in persuasion chance and prices during bartering. / And here is where we get our first look at what happens with the loss of skills. We have yet to see any showcase of how Speech works in dialogue, but if we go by the "chance of success" mentioned in the stat listing, we may be seeing a repeat of the Fallout 3 system versus the skill checks of New Vegas. (Hopefully they're hidden this time.) As for Barter, this will likely follow the Oblivion to Skyrim system, where there is no haggling of prices before buying or selling, thereby making investment in Charisma via per-level stat-ups necessary to improve both this and Speech. (As we will see later, none of the CHA Perks besides Lady Killer/Black Widow affect Speech success chance; although it's possible that a Speech buff and Confirmed Bachelor/Cherchez La Femme are hidden behind the other two ranks, this begs the question of why a player is forced to take a Perk they may not want to get one, or more, that they do.)

    INT - In games prior, Intelligence raised your Skill Points per Level. Now it raises EXP gain akin to the Lessons Learned perk, if that is the correct interpretation of the stat text. While one could see this as smarter characters better understanding and growing from adversity, we not know where base EXP will remain unchanged, and this also means less intelligent characters will level slower by default. (It's times like these that the Skill Advancement system from Daggerfall becomes sorely missed.)

    AGI - And Agility, like Charisma, will handle a former skill. Sneak in this case. (AP's are now calculated this way: 60 + (AGI * 10).) Having only Agility determine stealthiness means a player is more dependent on the stat to be good at that style of gameplay. Unless we end up with the same kind of stealth system Skyrim had, where even an arrow to the head would be forgotten about after ten seconds of hiding.

    LCK - How fast the Execute Critical bar fills up from combat. This is the only concrete thing to be taken away from this description, and I'll detail more on this change in a bit.

    00:00:30 - 00:00:37 - And here we go. In order:

    • Better Criticals - 1 Rank of 3 - Critical Hits do 50% more damage. / No change from Fallout 3 and New Vegas here, but with the addition of the Execute Critical command, a high Luck character could easily exploit this perk to fight enemies multiple levels above themselves because of how fast the bar would refill from getting hits. Because of the loss of random criticals as well, sneaky characters will, I'm certain, have to invest Perk points, likely in Sneak or Ninja, to give them the same advantage of striking while hidden that they had from minute one in the games before this one.
    • Big Leagues - Rank 1 of 5 - 20% more melee damage. / Compared to Little Leaguer in Fallout 3 (+5 to Melee/Explosives), and Heave, Ho! in New Vegas (50% throwing velocity and range), this is heavily buffed.
    • Commando - Rank 1 of 5 - Automatic weapons do 20% more damage. / Multiple things of note here, not the least of which being how this is yet another damage multiplier upgrade, a trend we saw in Skyrim with the first point spent in any given skill tree. It also restricts its benefits to automatics versus affect every two-handed weapon, the second half of which we will see shortly.
    • Gun Nut - Rank 2 of 4 - Access to Level 2 weapon mods. / One of the problems I had with New Vegas, even considering the Courier's loss of skill because of the bullet he took to the brain, was how crafting worked as his Skills increased. That as he leveled, new options would instantly unlock, without any need for a blueprint, recipe or the like. One could think of said unlocks as a recovery of knowledge, him remembering what was needed for more complex ammo, food and explosive designs as time went on and his brain and body healed, but one would also think that in a world like Fallout's, many would jot down proven designs and possibly spread them around.
      • When it comes to the Vault Survivor, who is able to craft mods of many kinds within seconds of leaving the vault, and this style of Perk in particular, the concept is dashed. All it does is unlock new recipes to put to use, which could be just as easily done with caps spent on one or many weapon mods design blueprints. What's more, this Perk is not a worthwhile investment when looked at against other past and present Perks of a similar nature, mainly because it unlocks a broad tier of mods and then gives no subsequent benefit.
        • Let's take Handloader and Vigilant Recycler for counter examples. Handloader doubles the number of collected casings from ballistic weapons and unlocks ammo types that are more powerful than standard rounds, something owed to the nature of handloading versus production assembly of ammo; Vigilant Recycler does the same as Handloader for energy weapons, meaning more drained cells are recovered, and the optimized ammo that can be crafted negates many of the drawbacks that Overcharge and Max Charge bring.
        • Junk Rounds and Mad Bomber do not add any subsequent benefit from their use, but like Pyromaniac, Laser Commander, Plasma Spaz and etc., they can be put to use when roleplaying/building certain types of characters.
    • Rifleman - Rank 1 of 5 - Non-automatic rifles do 20% more damage. / A nice nod to the TV series The Rifleman I will admit; the series was around from 1958 to '63, and well worth a watch. However, unlike the Cowboy and Grunt perks from New Vegas, this one has no further benefit for other weapons. A downgrade most certainly.
    • Science! - Rank 1 of 4 - Access to Level 1 high-tech mods. / I'm willing to guess this is also a nod, this time to The Spoony One's character of Doctor Insano. The same issues that I talked about with Gun Nut apply here.
    • Toughness - Rank 1 of 5 - +10 increase to Damage Resistance. / From what I've read, the old Fallout 3 system of Damage Resistance is changing towards one in line with Skyrim, which, from my observation, is very close to what was in Diablo and other ARPGs of similar nature. We also saw evidence of this in the E3 demo while the power armor was being worked on the Vault Survivor's garage, with DMG Resist stats on the left of the screen, one each for Ballistic, Radiation and Energy, all of which could reach 300 or more. As such, this +10 Damage Resist is minuscule and can be seen more as a gateway perk than an outright valuable one, again hearkening back to Skyrim.

    00:00:38 - And now, onto the chart. First thing to notice is each SPECIAL stat has a zero level version of Intense Training, with ten ranks each. When I saw this video the first time, I immediately began wondering about the derived statistics of past games, I.E. the statistics that are directly affected by SPECIAL like Resistances and the like, and how much this system overhaul had impacted them. While they haven't been affected as much as I'd thought back then, let's go back to what Todd said around 00:00:28, about how your SPECIAL stats define you.

    They did, yes, but the reason they did, and what made them one of the more difficult choices a player could make in past Fallout games, was how hard they were to permanently increase once in-game. While Intense Training from Fallout 3 and New Vegas made this possible much earlier, players went into both games understanding that there was a level cap in play, so each point mattered because there were a finite number of them. The addition of these zero-level stat upgrades, and no level cap, not only cheapens the choices made before going into the Vault, but because several of the SPECIAL stats directly affect what Skills used to, it becomes a near necessity to treat SPECIAL like a mix of Perks and Skills, making Perks themselves less unique in turn.

    00:00:47 - Since the Charisma ladder is being looked at as an example, once again, down the list:

    • CHA 1 - Cap Collector - 3 Ranks - Better prices with merchants. / A reskin of the Haggling perk from Skyrim, one which makes me miss the Mercantile/Barter skill of games past.
    • CHA 2 - Lady Killer/Black Widow - 3 Ranks - 5% more damage to the opposite sex, and women are easier to persuade in dialogue. / The combat effectiveness has been halved from 3 and New Vegas, but is otherwise unchanged.
    • CHA 3 - Lone Wanderer - 3 Ranks - With no companions, 15% increase in Damage Resistance and +50 to Carry Weight. / When I saw this, I immediately thought "Nice bonuses, but if companions are immortal in this game, why would you not want at least one on your side?" Those who want to roleplay lone wanderer types will benefit greatly from this, but all the same, anyone with even a passing interest in film, western stories, or Veronica's ending in New Vegas, will realize this isn't something that comes about thanks to low Charisma, and this perk would be better presented as a level-only perk.
    • CHA 4 - Attack Dog - 3 Ranks - Dog can hold enemies, increasing your hit chance in VATS. / Useful, but as a side note, this, along with the companion commands we saw in the E3 demo, are ripped from the JIP Companions Command and Control mod for Fallout 3/New Vegas.
    • CHA 5 - Animal Friend - 3 Ranks - Aim at an animal below your level, and you may pacify it. (Further ranks unlock the ability to command the animal.) / No idea how much sense it makes to pacify a wild animal by simply pointing something lethal at it versus shooting at the area near it, but compared to the versions of this Perk from the past two games, a more substantial investment is needed to get every benefit.
    • CHA 6 - Local Leader - 2 Ranks - Establish supply lines between your workshop settlements. / Because we've seen examples of the Vault Survivor building houses and towns with junk he finds around the world, I'm left assuming this perk is in relation to settlements as a whole, not just crafting stations independent of them. That said, trade between settlements in a world that has been destroyed by atomic war yet is rebuilding (very slowly in Bethesda's version) is an essential thing compared to looting everything one needs, so like Gun Nut and Science!, we have a Perk that is actually a method of walling off a portion of gameplay independent of your avatar.
    • CHA 7 - Party Boy - 3 Ranks - No alcohol addiction. / At first I was concerned about the possibility of this Perk ladder hiding other chemical resistance perks like Chem Resistant, but on subsequent views, this Perk is likely under END 4. Otherwise, this Perk has no use.
    • CHA 8 - Inspirational - 3 Ranks - Your companion does more damage, and cannot harm you. / For melee players with gun-wielding companions, this will come in handy.
    • CHA 9 - Wasteland Whisperer - 3 Ranks - Aim at any wasteland creature below your level, and you may pacify it. / Same idea as Animal Friend above.
    • CHA 10 - Intimidation - 3 Ranks - Aim at any human below your level, and you may pacify them. / Same as above, and very useful for stopping/preventing fights.

    With the completion of this lengthy list however, there was one aspect of the Perk system I was glad to see at the 00:01:00 mark: While Rank 1 Perks have no level requirements, 2 and higher do, so no maxing out a level 10 Perk within five levels. (For Intimidation, Level 23 must be reached before the player can incite an attack by the controlled NPC, and Level 50 must be reached before specific commands can be issued to said NPC.)

    At 00:01:09, we begin looking at other Perk ladders.

    • INT 1 - VANS - 1 Rank - Closest quest target is displayed in VATS. / Considering VATS was designed with combat in mind, this has little, if any, function to the player. (I have a feeling the actual Quest Markers are going to be as obtrusive as the ones in Skyrim.) While there was a vehicle marker on the compass at the video's start (00:00:08), this could mean a lootable vehicle or any number of other things.
    • INT 2 - Medic - 4 Ranks - Stimpacks/Rad-Away heal 40% of their respective stats. / The loss of the Medicine Skill is felt here, because this turns Stimpacks and Rad-Away into Health Packs from DOOM. Items that heal a set amount, not a variable amount based on your medicinal knowledge.
    • INT 3 - Gun Nut - 4 Ranks - Unlocks weapon mods. / As mentioned before, this Perk is a way of walling off content from players who don't invest in it, and thus far we've seen no logical, alternative methods to achieve the same ends.
    • AGI 3 - Sneak - 5 Ranks - 20% harder to detect while sneaking. / As I understand, Silent Running and other Sneak-related Perks like Light Step are lumped into this one. Because ranks are unskippable, the Perk as a whole is a worthy investment only if all the requisite benefits are indeed benefits to the person playing.
    • LCK 3 - Bloody Mess - 3 Ranks - 5% Damage increase and bloodier deaths. / Another example of a stat-less Perk that is now married to one, but is otherwise unchanged. (To this day, I've wondered how New Vegas would've changed if Bloody Mess became a trait versus left as a Perk.)

    Final Thoughts -

    My main concerns with this system are how, like Skyrim's system, it places a lot of undue stress on one character building system versus spreading it among multiple ones, how this system makes Perks less unique as upgrades for your avatar, turning some into keys that withhold aspects of the game unrelated to your avatar, and how this system as a whole pulls Fallout further away from the RPG it is supposed to be, into the realm of the FPS with RPG elements. These among other grievances character-building related.

    Let's talk system stress first. We saw this in Skyrim with the loss of Attributes, which, in the past, tied directly into the secondary attributes of the player avatar: Magicka, Encumbrance, Spell Resistance and the like, not unlike Fallout. This meant some Perks within the newly created trees, along with the three core stats, had to handle things that a completely separate system used to. (A pickpocketing perk increased encumbrance, an alteration perk increased spell resistance, an increase in Stamina increased Encumbrance, etc.) This, in turn, drove some players to grind Skills they would've never used to get Perks they wanted, either because it was hidden behind a bunch of others or, because of the structure of the game, the Skill itself was so infrequently put to use that leveling it took longer than others (Speech, Alchemy and Enchanting versus any of the combat/armor skills.)

    Keep in mind, grinding Skills to efficiently level was considered a problem in Oblivion, and in Morrowind to an extent. Yet Bethesda only reskinned the issue with Skyrim's release versus fix it by changing the character creation system as they did. Couple that with the inability to adjust the stats/skills of the ten races before, or during, the start of the game, something that was possible in Daggerfall and Arena, the loss of defined, unchangeable Birthsigns from Morrowind and Oblivion, and the loss of classes from the four games before Skyrim, and what resulted was a sloppy mess of a fifth entry in The Elder Scrolls.

    With this new system in Fallout 4, the stress on one system is even greater, because Perks are pulling triple duty as character enhancements that block access to other enhancements that were once separate Perks themselves, as indirect ways to gauge the value of the seven SPECIAL stats instead of the derived attributes they do affect, and as Skills themselves. With Medic alone, we see this in play, with the perk being locked behind the second level of INT and designed so as one point invested makes all medical supplies do equal healing, with the possibility of further healing potency locked behind one of the three other ranks.

    When SPECIAL, Skills and Perks are in play as separate systems, players are rarely forced to invest valuable perk points in things they don't want in service to a build they have in mind. With this new system, if you like all kinds of two-handed guns, you have to spend double the points to ensure increased effectiveness between automatics and lever-action/bolt-action rifles. Versus, say, pouring skill points into one skill that affects all weapons of a certain type, and then selecting a perk like Weapon Handling or Commando to round things off.

    The whole idea in play here feels reminiscent of Skyrim's One-Handed/Two-Handed skill trees. Of what they changed, or homogenized, compared to the Long Blade/Short Blade/Blunt/Axe skills from Daggerfall to Oblivion.

    In turn, it bears mentioning that percentage increases to abilities are useful in CRPG games like the original two Fallouts, because changes like those are directly tied to the dice rolls that determine success in the field. In a game like Fallout 4, where player skill with aiming is most often the determining factor in success in combat, along with the other mini-games of perception (lock-picking) and intelligence (hacking), percentage increases to things like damage, accuracy and the like will often go unnoticed. This is compounded further by what Bethesda themselves have said in the blog post for the new character building system: "It was our goal that all the Perks be balanced amongst each other, regardless of if they required a 1 or a 10," to which a percentage increase in damage was cited as the opening benefit of said Level 1 and 10 perks.

    Balance was hardly any issue with Perks in the past since, again, there was no demand placed on the player to purchase ones they never wanted to get ones they did. Only that their Skills/SPECIALS be high enough to let them get said Perks. The point when balance, and utility, becomes an issue are when a new system comes into use that affects, or melds, multiple gameplay and character systems. I.E., what we are being shown with Fallout 4.

    Speaking of this new system, there's a statement that Todd Howard has made on numerous occasions that leaves me with little confidence about the practicality of this character system, and with the impression that Bethesda's modding community will once again come in and make it function more efficiently: That every game they make is rebuilt, not built upon. I.E., they do not look at past games and question what worked and what didn't and then build from there. It's a destructive design mindset to say the very least for series as long lived as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. (System Shock has gone through this with Infinite, something that was gut-wrenching to me, and I do not doubt it will continue there or in other series.)

    Conclusion -

    I do not expect this Skyrim-esque system to work much better than the one we got in that game; I do expect it to continue the damning trend of bad streamlining in AAA games. A trend born with noble intentions yes, but we know what road to where is paved by them.

    Until next time...
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2016
    • [Like] [Like] x 8
  2. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Great breakdown! Really detailed! Certainly long but worth it. Great job! :)
  3. PossibleCabbage

    PossibleCabbage Vault 22 Survivor

    Jul 2, 2015
    I think the whole "SCIENCE!" as opposed to "science" to represent mad or otherwise reckless scientists predates Spoony's act significantly. Like "SCIENCE!" was a skill in a 1995 GURPS supplement, which predates Fallout itself (recall that Fallout was originally going to use the GURPS system, but that fell through.)

    It's more likely that Spoony and the perk are simply referencing the same thing.
  4. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    This is the biggest problem I have with Bethesda and that we see so often with companies, take the Witcher series as best example. Instead of expanding on the gameplay they created, they just throw it all away to make something new. Which is not better or worse ... just different in most cases.

    You can say about the previous systems what ever you want, but I prefer situations where they take what was good and remove what was bad and improve on that rather than just throwing the baby out with the bathwater all the time. Definitely not for games like the Witcher, The Elder Scrolls or Fallout which can look up on solid mechanics for the most part.
  5. AgentBJ09

    AgentBJ09 Vault Dweller

    Jul 9, 2015
    I've never played the GURPS Space supplement, but after looking it up, the name does match. (Can't believe I didn't consider that possibility at any time.) That said, we have had leetspeak as the basis for Speech challenges in New Vegas, and Eltonbrand in Morrowind was a pack of references to real-world basketball teams and games, so I'm leaning more towards Spoony here.

    And what's more, creating new systems with every new game means the criticism Bethesda gets about the faults of past systems will likely go unaddressed; if it is addressed, it will be done in a very poor fashion, only be written off as the next game enters development.
  6. Walpknut

    Walpknut This ghoul has seen it all

    Dec 30, 2010
    That right there, A good designer analyses and learns from his own work and the work of others, a bad designer throws everything out and just apes trends.
  7. phipboy

    phipboy Newly elected overseer

    Oct 2, 2015
    Crafting and crafting recipes requiring a certain skill level never bothered me really. It worked decently and I can always make excuses in my head why my character knew how to make certain stuff. The Gun Nut perk and Science perks however isn't a good system by the looks of it no matter how/if you obtain the blueprints.
  8. AgentBJ09

    AgentBJ09 Vault Dweller

    Jul 9, 2015
    A good design team also doesn't homogenize ideas between two unrelated IPs. Skyrim had a poorly designed Perks system that was forced, along with the core stats, to take the load of old and gone systems, and it's spilling back into Fallout, which already had a perfectly fine Perks system in place.

    Indeed; even if we looked at both Perk ladders in the same way as building skills per level, a system that did much more than simply unlock craftable items, it looks even more like a bad investment, even with how many Perks one could get in one game.
  9. Dragonborn

    Dragonborn Banned

    Oct 6, 2015
    and i would like to see you make a better game then bethesda...
  10. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Give me money, a team and time and I bet he could. Hell I could!
  11. RetroAmerica

    RetroAmerica It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Feb 18, 2014
    [/QUOTE] and i would like to see you make a better game then bethesda...[/QUOTE]

    A blind man, in a wheelchair who is paralyzed from the neck down, could make a better product than Bethesda!
  12. Walpknut

    Walpknut This ghoul has seen it all

    Dec 30, 2010
    Why do you guys even pay attention to him? Is this your first time on a forum?
    • [Like] [Like] x 2
  13. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    No it's not, but why do you have such a problem?
  14. Walpknut

    Walpknut This ghoul has seen it all

    Dec 30, 2010
    Because you contribute to spam and shit posting when you engage a troll? Because whe nyou engage them without a hint of self awareness that just tells the other trolls that they can come here and rile people up without much effort?
  15. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Yet they don't.

    And who get's riled up with trolls? Especially try hard ones like Dragonborn?
  16. generalissimofurioso

    generalissimofurioso The Hole Time Orderite

    Jun 17, 2007
    You'd be surprised.

    As with all open forums, people will swoop in and generally be terrible.

    The days when Fallout 3 was announced and released was full of trolls and smug nuggetmongers popping in to start trouble.

    Actually surprised we don't have more.

    Probably because they're too busy frothing themselves elsewhere.
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  17. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Probably frothing in Sugarbombed (not too bad a place) or Reddit Fallout (a hive of scum and villainy).
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  18. frajaq

    frajaq It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jul 23, 2015
    Considering that you can pretty easily fold skills into perks, this new character system is a pretty good idea from Bethesda (it rids of the stupid breakpoints problem from F3/NV in skills like Lockpicking/Science/Speech)
  19. generalissimofurioso

    generalissimofurioso The Hole Time Orderite

    Jun 17, 2007
    Except it still has those.

    They're just perks instead of skill points.
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  20. frajaq

    frajaq It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jul 23, 2015
    Yup! I know! It's just better this way