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Gaming: Modding Fallout 3

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Wikipedia fact: "Fallout 3 takes place in the year 2277, 36 years after the setting of Fallout 2 and 200 years after the nuclear war between the United States and China that devastated the game's world in an alternate post-World War II timeline."

When Interplay sold the rights to Fallout I was sceptical that Bethesda would be able to create something that did justice to a classic series that I adore. In a way I was technically correct because Fallout 3 isn’t really a great Fallout game, lacking a lot of the key elements that made me love the originals. However, it is a great Bethesda RPG and I’ve had no trouble divorcing the game from Interplay’s originals and being able to enjoy it as a game in its own right. It’s from playing Fallout 3 that I’ve finally been able to understand just what it is people like about Bethesda’s other games like Morrowind and Oblivion, two games which I’ve never been able to get into.

After playing through the game twice on Xbox 360 and earning all 1,000 gamerscore available in the base game I now have the game of the year edition with all the DLC, and by the time I’m done with this third playthrough I’ll probably have spent upwards of 200 hours playing the game.

The reason I went with the PC GotY edition (aside from it being much cheaper than buying the DLC separately) was for one thing: mods. A common opinion expressed about Oblivion was that the mod community really transformed the game for the better and I’ve been looking forward to seeing what they’ve done with Fallout 3.  So here is a round-up of all the mods I’m currently running, along with screenshots (when applicable, and those with an image will usually have several more on the download page) and links to download them:

Fallout Mod Manager:

Fallout Mod Manager

Download linkhttp://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=640

What it does – Fallout Mod Manager manages the mods for Fallout, putting them in the best order and providing a simple interface for arranging, activating and disabling them. It also has the side effect of removing the Securom disc check so you don’t have to keep the disc inserted.

Why I have it – As with any game, running a lot of mods does occasionally introduce compatibility errors. If you have multiple mods accessing the same thing they could interfere with one another, meaning you might have to disable some or alter the load order. The FMM does a lot of that for you (it seems capable of detecting when certain mods need to be loaded before others) and makes the bits you need to do yourself very simple indeed. Looking at the image above, it automatically assigned the main Enhanced Weather file (right at the bottom of the list) as the sixth file to be loaded because it needs to be loaded before Fellout, without any setting from me.

That it avoids the disc check is an added bonus, because when I’ve fully installed a PC game I dislike having to switch discs just to play them, especially when the Securom adds maybe ten seconds to the load time.

Green World:

Green World

It's worth clicking the download link below and checking out the screenshots because they really are nice.

Donwnload Link – http://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=2456

What it does – Green World is a tiny (4KB) mod that makes a huge change to the world,  switching most of the game’s dead trees for the flourishing versions found in places like Oasis, as well as adding grass.

Why I have it – There seem to be two trains of thought for why Bethesda’s wasteland is devoid of vegetation. The first is that Bethesda are dumb, emulating the appearance of the original games (which were set in a dry, barren region, although there were still signs of farming) without considering that after 200 years all life would likely be extinct if there wasn’t any vegetation to support the food chain. The second is that it was a stylistic choice, that a flourishing wasteland isn’t exactly desolate and goes against the mood they were aiming for, and that the barren wasteland also taps into the series’ theme of being based on ’50s ideas of a post-apocalyptic wasteland rather than going with the science (which also explains why a huge plot element is about removing radiation from water, which doesn’t retain radiation).

The reason I have the mod is really rather simple though: it just looks nicer than the pure browns and greys of the Capital Wasteland, even if it does mean the Oasis quest makes very little sense now. I really like seeing the world filled with trees (though not grass, as my slow PC really can’t handle it). It also has the bonus of making Three Dog sound like an idiot when he asks his listeners if they’ve ever seen a real tree, suggesting his experiments with Jet have damaged him more than he realises.

Fellout:

Fellout

On the left is the game without the mod, on the right is the exact same location with Fellout running. As with Green World, it's worth checking out the screenshots through the link.

Download Linkhttp://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=2672

What it does – Removes the pervasive green tint from the world, as well as reworking the HDR lighting for interiors. Also optionally makes night time much darker.

Why I have it – Much like Green World, it just looks nicer to have blue skies. If you follow the download link and look at the images tab there’s not one picture where removing the tint doesn’t improve things (in my opinion, at least), and I don’t think it’s in any way immersion breaking to not have everything covered in a sickly green glow.

Fallout Street Lights and Fallout Street Lights – Wasteland:

Street Lights

It isn't easy to find a good screenshot when the whole point of the mod is to create little pools of light in the darkness. Follow the link below for some larger images that do a better job.

Download linkshttp://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=8069 and http://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=10045

What they do – Activates many of the street lights in the game so that they light up at night, the first mod covering the DC Ruins and the second key areas of the Wasteland itself.

Why I have them – Again, it adds a nice visual touch to the wasteland, especially with the darker nights from Fellout, creating pools of light in the blackness. My PC isn’t good enough to run HDR lighting (I can’t have the glow of Nuka Cola Quantums, for example, making them very difficult to find) so I don’t have it that dark, but the lights are still a great effect.

Enhanced Weather – Rain and Snow:

Rain and Snow

Girl and dog not included.

Download link – http://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=6170

What it does – Adds rain storms and snow to the Wasteland. There’s an option to have the rain be radioactive as well.

Why I have it – Walking through the wastes and having a storm start really adds to the experience in ways I can’t explain. There have even been points where I’ve been creeping along and been genuinely startled by booming thunder, so it really is adding to the game. I didn’t go with the radioactive version even though it makes more sense considering the main story is about all water being radioactive, simply because having to spend hours in a building waiting out a rain storm didn’t seem like it would add to my enjoyment of the game. I might try it out at some point as a proper survival mode, adding in a mod that requires you to eat and drink to really make the game into a struggle against radiation, but I don’t really want it in my main playthrough.

Fast VATS:

Download linkhttp://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=1650

What it does – Removes all the slowmotion from the VATS combat. There are two variants, one that makes everybody the same speed and one that preserves Bethesda’s system of having enemies all much slower than the player.

Why I have it – For some reason Bethesda were really fond of the slowmotion in VATS, having every single shot take place slowly, tracking each bullet or missile lovingly towards its victim and following heads or limbs as they were blasted away from the corpse. It’s a little excessive and I was tired of it on the 360, so being able to make it run at realtime speeds has been very welcome.

Run Faster:

Download linkhttp://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=7618

What it does – Increases the run speed of the player and every other person/creature in the game by 25, 50 or 75%.

Why I have it – The player’s default run speed is incredibly slow and running never felt like running in the game. Increasing the speed (I went with 50% faster) doesn’t feel like turning the player into the Flash, it just makes them move like they have two functional legs. It makes all enemies faster by the same amount so it isn’t an unfair advantage, and means that when an enemy gets scared and flees (which is common with raiders) they’re difficult to catch, at least until then stop to cower behind a fence or small hill.

Karma Revamp:

Download link – http://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=839

What it does – Alters the karma values for many tasks and makes the range between good, neutral and bad much wider. There are multiple versions and optional extras.

Why I have it – The karma ranges are pretty narrow in vanilla Fallout 3, to the point that it is actually difficult to remain neutral. On my neutral playthrough I actually had to offset doing the inevitable good things with bouts of stealing just to try and maintain the balance (and ultimately failed). Reading through the descriptions on the mod page make it easy to see why it’s difficult, as not only does it only require small boosts to cross the thresholds, pretty much everything that awards karma does so in huge boosts. I opted for the Extreme pack and have found it much better, making the two extremes things to work towards rather than either of them being the default from very early on in the game.

Project Beauty:

Project Beauty

The original models are in the top image, the Project Beauty versions below.

Download linkhttp://www.fallout3nexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=6341

What it does – It’s easiest to quote the author here as it’s summed up well:

This is my attempt to change NPCS in Fallout 3. I have redesigned their facial structure to give them a more natural appearance, as well as to preserve their character as well. It removes some of the awkward skin tones, and facial structures of the Vanilla versions.

Why I have it – I think it’s fair to say that Bethesda’s character models generally look a little odd. As the above quote says there are some strange skin tones, some repeated characters and some people who just look plain weird, and this mod alters quite a lot of them. As the screenshot shows it’s not simply about making the women beautiful as there has been lots of work on fixing up the old men, the children, the raiders and more. It’s an elaborate project and in my opinion definitely seems to be for the better. There is also a Project Beauty HD version through the link that uses more detailed textures, but with my PC not being great (I’m already running the game with low textures) I didn’t give that a try.

*****

That’s my current collection then. Most of them are just aesthetic or refinements at the moment. I did look into a town expansion called Arefu Expanded that added new buildings, NPCs and quests to the small town of Arefu (most settlements in the game are a little anaemic in general), but it was so densely packed that my poor little machine couldn’t handle it.

I’d be interested in hearing what mods other people are running and why, especially if there are any neat gameplay enhancements I’ve missed or any sites other than Fallout Nexus that are good places to find them. I know there are a bunch that add weapons, new followers and things like that, but I don’t really want to do anything that’s essentially cheating by giving myself super weapons or armour of that kind of thing so I’d welcome some opinions.

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