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New Year's first dev quote round up

Ausir January 2, 2011 User blog:Ausir

Here's another roundup of developer quotes from various forums and Formspring in the last two weeks.

Mostly J.E. Sawyer, of course, as usual. Here's Josh's portion of the roundup, with lots of interesting stuff for gun nuts, among other things:

NCR people:

Kimball is a war hawk as are Moore and Oliver. Hsu is a much more sympathetic person and diplomatic officer (most notably when dealing with the Kings in Freeside). As such, he doesn't really fit into Kimball's front line operations.

Ambassador Crocker is also a person who relies more in diplomacy than violence:

Yes, which is why he is removed from his position if you follow his suggestion to ask Hsu for a diplomatic resolution. Colonel Moore is quite petty.

Patch balancing:

Balance issues work both ways. We raised the damage and lowered the ammo requirements on several Energy Weapons because they were too weak, lowered the damage on sniper rifles because they were too strong. Removing exploits and improving weak content are part of the same goal: making the game suitably challenging and rewarding to the player. Without challenge, rewards are meaningless. Exploits reduce challenge to the point of being trivial, so addressing them, whether in single player or a multi-player game, is important.

Weapon skills and balancing:

I've explained why the F1/F2 approach was flawed several times in the past, but I'll do it again here: F1 and F2 had phased obsolescence designed into their weapon skill system, but the player wasn't let in on it that design goal at all. The player was "supposed" to use Small Guns, then use Big Guns, then use Energy Weapons, but there's not much in the descriptions of those skills that would indicate a) how powerful those weapons are relative to each other b ) where those items are distributed in the world. So if you set off from Vault 13 for the first time thinking that you might find an Energy Weapon somewhere in the first few hours, you're dead wrong. If you made the terrible mistake of tagging Energy Weapons from the get-go on your first playthrough, you'll likely get nothing out of it for a long while. This essentially punishes players for "guessing wrong".

There are a few ways to address this: 1) keep that scaled skill/weapon progression and staged distribution of weapon types, but tell the player about it. This is problematic because it's the only set of skills that works like that in the game and it also limits the player's options rather than opening them up. 2) get rid of the scaled progression and staged distribution and try to make viable energy weapons throughout the course of the game. 2) is what I tried to do for F:NV, but there were a few problems. First, DT is extremely punishing to laser weapons and, unlike shotguns, there was no antidote to the problem prior to the latest patch. DPS and high accuracy could not make up for the dramatic effect of DT on lasers. Now, of course, all energy weapon ammo types (other than flamer fuel) have increasing amounts of DT bypass in addition to increased damage. Second, distribution in the early game was poor prior to the patch. It was very hard to find any decent Energy Weapons and/or ammo. With the patch, Bright Followers all along the early areas and into REPCONN HQ have leveled lists of energy weapons, so you find more ammo and better weapons much earlier. And finally, I didn't make plasma weapons do enough damage and had them consume too much ammo. Their high capacity was not a good trade-off. So now they do a lot of damage, especially the plasma pistol and rifle, and some of them consume less ammo than they used to.

I fully admit that energy weapons were not competitive with guns (with a few exceptions, like the laser RCW, gauss rifle, and plasma caster) before the patch. With the patch, I think they're certainly competitive from a combat perspective, but they are more expensive to maintain. Right out of the gates, a .357 Magnum revolver is doing 26 DAM compared to a plasma pistol's 33 (which is also negating 2 DT by default). That pistol also holds 16 shots and reloads in about second. The revolver holds six shots and is a looping reload. Add OC ammo into the equation and you're doing 41 DAM while negating 5 DT. The .357 Magnum can hold HP, doing 45 DAM, but only if the target has no armor. And you still have the looping reload to contend with. Both are great weapons. I can see someone preferring one over the other, and that is more than good -- that's awesome. But I really don't think one is a piece of junk and the other is awesome in comparison. You can take the Cowboy perk to help improve .357 Magnum revolver/cowboy repeater DAM, but that's at the cost of a perk, and there are obviously good/great EW perks that the player can take as well.

The plasma rifle/cowboy repeater show similar traits. The plasma rifle is doing 47 DAM to the cowboy repeater's 32. The plasma rifle holds 12 shots and reloads in a second. The cowboy repeater holds 7 (11 with mod) with a looping reload. Both have the same OC/HP ammo progression. And yes, you can upgrade your .357 Magnum rounds to JFP, but that costs a perk. You can make Max Charge ammo with just a good skill and enough ammo lying around. The cowboy repeater's certainly more accurate, and it certainly has a faster moving projectile an it's more durable. Those are all great traits, but I don't look at the two weapons and think, "Man, the plasma rifle sucks compared to the cowboy repeater." And if you want incredible accuracy, a high RoF, and can compensate for (or don't have to contend with) DT, that's why the laser rifle exists. You can also fire it 24 times before reloading, and the reload takes a second.

When you get to the mid-tier pistols, you have the .44 Magnum revolver and plasma defender. I don't need to break down their stats. You know where this is going. The plasma defender is a powerful mid-tier pistol. Post-patch, you can find them on Bright Followers in and around REPCONN HQ. It does more DAM than the .44 (while inherently negating 2 DT), holds more shots than the .44, is more accurate than the .44, and fires faster than the .44. This is a weapon that "sucks"? Really?

I'm sure there are still some weapons that need tuning, but without chalking it up to "feel", I don't get how EWs, post-patch, aren't good/competitive with Guns. If you want them to be demonstrably better than Guns across the board, rare, and only found late game -- well yeah, that's not going happen because that was never part of the goal of the design. If you'd like to mod it, that's your choice and totally fine, but my goal is still 2) above.

But you can get decent energy weapons early on by going straight to Navarro in FO2!

Practically speaking, that's only possible by meta-gaming. As I wrote, for the first time you play the game, you're just out of luck.

What's the purpose for the Tesla cannon?

EW ammo prices top out with MFCs (3 caps). ECPs are only 1 cap a piece, bulk is obviously much cheaper, and if you have a decent science skill, you can directly convert ECPs, MFCs, and SECs into each other at their respective cost ratios (1/3/2) with no loss. I.e. ECPs are no more expensive than 5mm and you do boatloads of damage with a single Tesla Cannon shot.

Why include so many Fallout 3 energy weapons?

Without incorporating F3's weapons, there would have been an extremely small number of EWs for F:NV. Yes, you can get the Plasma Defender at REPCONN if you're above 8th level. Prior to that, the best plasma handgun you can find is the Plasma Pistol. Depending on how you're playing, that can be a significant gulf.

EDIT: The Recharger Rifle is worse than the Recharger Pistol for two reasons: 1) there was no good low-end energy rifle for the start of the game 2) superior technology leads to miniaturization. The Recharger Pistol uses better tech and thus is smaller while being significantly more powerful.

Will there be more weapon balancing in future patches?

I'd appreciate it if you would make a well-reasoned critique of the weapons you still feel are out of balance.

Are the laser rifle and pistol models too big for iron sights to work?

Yes, and there wasn't enough time at the end of the project to re-work the models to support them. Sorry.

Why does the Dead Money vending machine give out .308 ammo?

The vending machines give .308 because there is a weapon that uses .308 in the DLC.

Did you work on Dead Money?

I only worked on weapons and some of the perks, but I'm glad you like the Automatic Rifle. Hopefully we found the right balance for it relative to the other weapons. For a while it was the ultimate murder machine/a little too macho.

DLC weapons balancing:

I tuned (and re-tuned for the patch) all of F:NVs weapons and all of the weapons in Dead Money. The weapons are designed to be effective in the DLC and weapons that you can find a use for in the core game. I try to avoid making weapons that are inherently superior to the best core weapons in F:NV.

The Automatic Rifle is very powerful but it has a few limitations (mag size and accuracy) that can make it less appealing in certain circumstances. A fully upgraded Holorifle does huge damage, but it is not quite as accurate as a Gauss Rifle and has a relatively slow projectile.

Why is 10mm weaker than lesser real-life calibers?

There are only two real-life "lesser" calibers in F:NV: 9mm (x19 Para) and .22LR. .357 Magnum is considered a ballistic twin to 10mm Auto in real life and only has a damage boost to offset the revolver's slow rate of fire and capacity. 9mm and .22LR weapons in F:NV both do significantly less damage than the 10mm. .44 Mag, .45-70 Gov't, and .50 Action Express (the round upon which 12.7mm is based) are all much more powerful than 10mm in even modest loadings.

You're probably not going to load 10mm Auto in a semi-auto pistol to the same level that you can load a .357 Magnum in a modern SA revolver. Not unless you want to blow the slide off, anyway. The trade-off, as always, is limited capacity and a slow reload. And the only other weapon that uses .357 Magnum is the cowboy repeater, which is a rifle (based on the 1892), where the bullet is reaching much higher velocities before exiting the barrel.

In any case, if your beef is really about .357 Mag. vs. 10mm Auto, that seems to be a pretty narrow complaint. All real-world calibers below 10mm in game do much less damage and all real-world calibers above 10mm do significantly more.

Why would gold be of value to anyone after the War?

Gold was never particularly useful in antiquity. It had (and continues to have) value because it's rare and hard to counterfeit.

In antiquity, most people were also incredibly poor. Caesar's Legion already circulates denarii and aurei but it's extremely rare to find an aureus.

Any estimation of the exclusivity of DLC?

Bethesda and Sony/Microsoft/Valve make those determinations, not Obsidian. Sorry.

What is your favorite game in the Fallout series?

Fallout.

Who designed Come Fly With Me?

A number of designers worked on it, primarily Jesse Farrell and Akil Hooper.

Why is 12.7mm, 45-70 Gov't, and 40mm grenade ammo so hard to find?

Personally I never got the impression that 40mm Grenades were hard to find, but the 12.7mm and .45-70 Gov't ammunition types weren't showing up properly at some of the merchants (most notably, Gun Runners). That has been fixed in the most recent patch.

Low Intelligence dialogue:

Why does a low INT character suddenly start talking like a caveman at Helios One, but not anywhere else?

There are a lot of perks, skills, and abilities that allow dialogue unlocks and unfortunately a few (like Low INT and Terrifying Presence) didn't have consistent coverage.

Mr. New Vegas interviews:

If Mr. New Vegas is an AI, how does he hold interviews with No-Bark and the new sheriff of Primm?

Obviously with the help of a team of talented, discreet field agents.

Bethesda influence:

So this is a rather obtuse question, but I was wondering how much influence Bethesda exerted during development? Did you have to get shitloads of things approved by them, or were they more of a exterior presence, not really considered most times?

They mostly just asked us to avoid using certain groups or subjects for a variety of reasons. Though Bethesda reviewed everything we did, it was extremely rare that they asked us to change something.

GECK patches:

Does Obsidian or Bethesda have any plans for GECK patches? It feels like the tool becomes more and more buggy with every release and nothing ever gets fixed.

GECK bugs go into the same pool as other bugs, though they might be given higher priority at times since it's what we have to use to make content. Personally, I haven't had many problems using GECK. There are a few "magic behaviors" that will (and have always, AFAIK) cause a crash, but I'm not regularly tripping over major issues.

The Legend of the Star:

Doesn't getting around 1400 caps and Pew Pew at the end of The Legend Of The Star kind of ruin the moral?

I don't think so, because the initial disappointment is what's important (and what most players appear to experience before finding Pew Pew). Also, everyone hopefully realizes that Pew Pew and those caps are quest rewards placed by game designers and obviously not the intended reward put there by the Sunset Sarsaparilla folks.

Why are 12.7mm weapons so rare?

Most high-end weapons are rare in a general sense because they only appear when you're pretty high level. And when you're high enough level for them to start appearing, only the really tough dudes are going to be using them. The 12.7mm Pistol is considered a "tier 4" weapon and the SMG is a "tier 5" weapon. You should see more of the former than the latter, and earlier in the game. Even so, only certain enemies will carry them and only the Gun Runners will regularly sell them.

And more about 12.7mm:

If 12.7mm is suppose to be like .50 A/E, than why not name it as such? Also, was the BHP chosen for the 9mm pistol out of personal preference or another reason? I gotta say it's nice seeing a dev. who's very knowledgeable about firearms and ammunition.

.50 AE is already a pretty niche cartridge and I didn't want non-gun people to be confused by .50 MG (essentially BMG) and another .50 round. It also keeps the "serious" handgun/SMG ammo in millimeters and the revolver/lever-action ammo in inches, which is nice for consistency.

In my opinion, the BHP is a timeless design and its form is quite distinctive when compared to Fallout's 10mm pistols. Also, since I knew we weren't going to implement an M1911-style .45, the BHP-based 9mm design gives an extremely similar aesthetic (so similar that a lot of people assume it IS an M1911) while fitting into the 9mm/10mm/12.7mm semi-auto handgun progression in F:NV.

RE: wildcat cartridges: I think F:NV already introduced enough niche/weird ammunition subtypes to keep the heads of non-gun people spinning for a full 100 hours of gameplay. I think wildcats go a big step beyond that. That said, Justin, Frank and I did engineer the ammo system to support a very large amount of specialty ammo types. I've seen people make 40mm buckshot and .50 MG Raufoss, so on the PC, it's very easy for modders to go nuts with .22 Cheetah or whatever other super niche stuff they want to do.

Lessons learned:

What would you say was the major lesson you took away after the development of FNV to apply (if possible) to future projects at Obsidian? Something you guys really got right, or wrong, for instance?

Use less complex scripting in quest scenarios and stage the development of quests in a more progressive fashion. I.e. start by implementing the A-priority, bare-bones, 100% solid scenario for everything first. Only after everything is in at A-priority does mad experimentation begin. The advantage to this is that if your mad experiments turn out to be completely idiotic experiments, you still have an A-priority path that, if arguably a little bland, still works as designed and isn't going to blow up in the player's face.

Starting with a scenario that is a complex Fabergé egg sets up a difficult task. If anything goes wrong, you're stuck with a non-functional scenario that's reliant on something that you can't immediately resolve. Both backing up or pushing forward can result in more problems and potentially wasted time. And if it somehow magically gets working, you really won't know how robust it is until it's tested thoroughly, which may be months away.

Hunting rifle:

Why did the Hunting Rifle go from being a pretty weak, low level weaon in Fallout 3 to a decent, mid-level weapon in New Vegas?

It did change calibers between the two games, but personally I thought the Hunting Rifle was a great weapon in F3 as long as you didn't try to use it in a firefight. I used it/Ol' Painless a lot for mid-range sniping.

In F:NV, the Hunting Rifle is positioned between the Cowboy Repeater and Trail Carbine/Sniper Rifle. The DAM difference between the CR and HR may not seem that significant, but when executing Sneak Crits, it can make a big difference, and the ability to use AP .308 ammo is also very important.

Transparency of choices:

Your opinion about transparency in game mechanics is well-known, but what is your opinion about transparency when it comes to the game's story/branching? Should choices be obviously choices or more subtle?

I think those should obviously be significant choices as well, though the effects of those choices don't need to be immediately obvious. A lot of the end states for groups and characters in F:NV are based on choices you make much earlier in the game. But something that initially seems good for a person or group may turn out to be terrible.

Why can't lakelurks fight underwater?

For whatever reason, nothing can attack while in deep water. It's something that was set up a certain way in F3 and we didn't change it.

Hunting revolver:

This has been bugging me for awhile, what's the Hunting Revolver based on? The only revolver that comes to my mind is the BFR as it's the only I can think of chambered for 45-70 Government.

It's not really based on any real-world weapon since I can't think of any double-action revolvers firing .45-70 Gov't. There may be one, but we didn't base the Hunting Revolver/Ranger Sequoia on a specific real-world revolver. The BFR is single-action and so is the Bison Bull (which is, by total coincidence, made in my hometown).

And more:

I'm aware the BFR is single action, I figured if it were based on that revolver it might have been made double action for balancing or some other reason. But why choose the 45-70 Gov't cartridge, instead of the .45 Colt?

The bullet sizes and weights are similar, but .45-70 Gov't can be loaded to much higher power than .45 LC due to the longer case.

I picked a progression of three rimmed and three rimless dual-use cartridges: .357 Magnum/.44 Magnum/.45-70 Gov't and 9mm/10mm/12.7mm (which is essentially .50 Action Express) for revolvers/lever-actions and handguns/SMGs, respectively.

I wanted the power progression to be something more-or-less indisputable; no one's REALLY going to argue that .44 Magnum is less powerful than .357 Magnum in normal revolver/lever-action rifle loads. I could certainly foresee plenty of arguing about .44 Magnum and .45 LC. No one's going to argue about .44 Magnum vs. a serious modern .45-70 Gov't cartridge.

There are also aesthetics to consider. .45 LC and .44 Magnum are very similarly sized/proportioned unless you do a close comparison. .45-70 Gov't brass is huge next to .44 Magnum brass. This means the cylinders are bigger, the lever-action loading gates are bigger, and the loaded cartridges/ejected brass is very distinctive. I think it's important for players to see visual differences between equipment even when they're upgrading in the same "class".

Did Bethesda do the QA on Dead Money?

We have a small internal QA staff, but Bethesda handled/handles the majority of QA for F:NV and its DLC.

Who wrote the companions in Dead Money?

Chris Avellone wrote the Dead Money companions.

Damage from fire:

Why don't you take damage from standing on top of a fire in New Vegas? I'm not entirely sure but I think you used to take damage in Fallout 3 and I know for a fact you did in Oblivion, why not New Vegas?

It's irritating and AI doesn't deal well with it, making it more irritating.

Mr. House:

The Realpolitik analyses of the NCR and the Legion were outlined quite well by Marcus in New Vegas. But what are your ultimate thoughts on House?

He's a laissez-faire dictator. "Do whatever you want as long as you don't cross me." Mr. House doesn't care about other people and what they do as long as Vegas remains prosperous and he remains in control.

Armor types:

What was the design goal behind armor classes in FNV? In all honesty, heavy armor seems to be by a large margin the best choice to me, the movement penalty being more an annoyance than anything else compared to the advantages.

The DT system in place in F:NV means that in certain circumstances, armor with a lower DT may actually be just as effective at reducing damage as armor with higher DT -- and light/medium armor typically weighs less than comparable heavy armor.

For example, take T-45d and combat armor. DT 22 vs. DT 16. Against many pistols, SMGs, most lasers, shotguns wielded by most enemies (meaning at well below optimal condition and nowhere near 100% skill), the DAM they do is dwarfed by the DT of both armors. I.e. the benefit maxes out at 80% reduction, so it doesn't matter whether the shot is hitting T-45d or combat armor once it gets to that point. T-45d weighs more but grants +2 ST and a radiation resist bonus at the cost of -2 AG.

Against enemies that do large amounts of damage per shot (with rifles, higher end revolvers, or plasma weapons for example), heavy armor becomes increasingly important. However, those are also the enemies where being able to move quickly (to cover, or simply backwards) becomes more important since the consequences of being hit at all can be terrible.

Personally, I usually play in light/medium armor (preferably with Travel Light) with pistols or rifles because I would much rather move quickly. My 360 playthrough was completed in combat armor, reinforced mk. ii. On another playthrough I was running around in Vault 34 security armor with Travel Light and I didn't usually feel under-protected.

10mm:

'Was it a deliberate decision to make 10mm weapons very common in vaults and 9mm weapons common outside of them? It felt like 10mm weapons were more military or vault-tec issue while 9mm were civilian.

Yes. 10mm weapons seemed more "vaulty"/futuristic in my mind.

Dialogue styles:

Some people (myself included) bemoan how vague the ME-style summarized conversation wheel approach some developers use for dialogue in RPGs as opposed to having the options given to you word for word. Having used both approaches, which do you prefer?

Since both need to be localized and displayed, I'd prefer a toggled option for "Brief/Verbose". I also like the presentation style used by the upcoming Deus Ex: Human Revolution. When you highlight the "keyword" it shows the full text of the line below.

And here are two posts by Gstaff:

Crashes after the patch:

If you're getting a consistent crash, that issue is probably baked into your save. I'd suggest rolling back to a game save prior to this point being an issue.

Freezes after entering the bunker and being gassed in Dead Money:

We've discovered in the sequence where your player enters the bunker and gets gassed, having specific quest items equipped (Loyal's Detonator, Michaelangelo's Camera, Motor Runner's Helmet, Boone's Beret) can cause a freeze to occur. We're looking into this issue, but as a workaround, make sure when you start this sequence in Dead Money, do not have these quest items equipped.

As we have more information to share, we'll let you know.

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