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Part 07: The Back of the Book
The back of this behemoth of a book has three additional chapters, the first of which is called “Ending it All”. Flanked by a “Spoiler Alert!”, this tells you how to obtain all the endings in the game. Yes, every single one of them. Following that are the Appendices – all 22 of them. Without resorting to some nasty Spoilers, I can reveal that every type of Collectible, Unique Weapon, Fat Man, MiniNuke, and other advantageous item that doesn’t “randomly” appear is listed. However, instead of simply flagging them, every special item has its own number, Zone, precise location, and description of its hiding place. This way you can additionally refer to the Tour of the Wasteland Chapter for more information on finding the exact items you’re looking for. Naturally, all the Xbox 360 Achievements are listed too, complete with any relevant tactical advice.
If you’re thinking of bagging the Limited Edition guide, with its hardback cover, biggest map poster, and one-inch thick spine, you’re in for an extra treat. Firstly, there are dozens of art pieces, along with narratives by the team, in a section dubbed “Post-Game, Post-Apocalyptic Musings”. Whether you’re after information on how V.A.T.S. was created, the team members’ favorite locations, and some weird and wonderful scrapped ideas, this is the chapter to turn to. Exclusive art drips from every page, including some great sketches, early designs, and other oddities.
The goodies continue in the final section called “Tall Tales from the Capital Wasteland”. Not only do you receive Bethesda’s top tips for preventing certain death (which includes some tactical advice you never thought possible), but there’s the unwrapping of some delicious Easter Eggs, too! Next up are a half-dozen “Wasteland Wanderers”; a few of the hundreds of player characters that Bethesda team members employed during their playthroughs. Each has their own (usually disgusting, despicable, and always socially-awkward) story to tell, whether it’s the lament of Davey “Comet” MacDonald (who overly relied on Chems and booze), or Porkchops the Fish Lady, searching for her giant teddy bear and honing her A3-21 Energy Weapon talents at the same time.
All of this is wrapped up by an Afterword typed out by Moira Brown personally, exclusive to the guide.
Thanks for reading this Blog, and thanks to Bethesda for all their help. Please let us know what you thought of the guide by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This concludes your Fallout 3 author blog.
Part 06: Tour of the Capital Wasteland: Overview
In an attempt to craft the most valuable guide imaginable, we went kinda crazy with this section. Clocking in at over 200 pages (just over two-fifths of the total pages in the Limited Edition guide), the Tour of the Capital Wasteland was to serve two main purposes: 1: To allow you to instantly locate an area you’re needing help with, and 2: To reveal the items available, so you can judge whether a sortie is worth the risk of possible (and almost always grisly) death. This took around two months of hard graft to achieve, but the results were definitely worth it: You have a complete atlas of the entire game world at your fingertips.
Written with the map poster in mind (although all the poster maps also appear inside the guide too), the Tour begins with explanations on the information each location has to offer. To start with, if the location is featured in a Main, Miscellaneous, or Freeform Quest, this is noted. Then comes the Threat Level (rated from one to five), so you can quickly ascertain whether to bring a 10mm Pistol, or a hulking great Follower armed to the teeth with a Minigun and a bad attitude. Then comes a Faction flag; showing you which Wasteland group controls this area; especially useful as you can bring preferred killing equipment to the expedition. Services are flagged for each location, too; so you can instantly know whether you’ll find a Healer, Repairer, or Trader. Next up are possible dangers (aside from the regular enemies); such as the types of traps to watch out for. Finally, the type and number of Collectibles the location has is shown, as well as more “miscellaneous” information; like whether you can find a Follower, sizable ammo caches, Perks, Radio Signals, and even a place to live in.
Delve a little deeper, and there’s information on the dozens of Mini-Encounters that you might run into. Following that, the entire Wasteland is subdivided into nine sprawling Zones. Each Zone gets an Overview (which shows the Collectibles present in the entire area, as well as Primary and Secondary locations). Every single location can be found by either tracing the Latitude/Longitude on the Map Poster, or by its own Zone number. Naturally, the overview map looks just like the one on your Pip-Boy, so you can easily spot where you are. Once the overview is out of the way, you can dig into each specific area. Let’s take the church in the screenshot as an example.
This is the eighth Primary location in Zone 1, so it is flagged as location 1.08. Instantly locatable on a map, there’s a list of assets, and a biography of any inhabitant living at the location (in this case, no one important enough is around). If the area has a likelihood of an enemy encounter, it is listed here, too. Then comes general and succinct tactical advice for the location, along with any Freeform Quests. Freeform Quests are smaller and optional tasks, usually taking place at one or two locations, and every single one of them is shown during this chapter.
For larger settlements, such as Megaton, every single location within town is revealed, the type of Terminal and Locked Doors are shown (so you know whether your Skills are good enough to allow you access), and more importantly still, every location that needs it gets its own map. Maps have waypoints labeled on them so you know where every major occurrence is. With well over 150 “interior” maps (that aren’t on the poster), it took a team of four map makers around three months to finish them all, and they look superb. Naturally, they’re all extremely detailed (down to computers on tables, floor tiles, and debris piles), and are a great way to learn the topography of a location without blindly trekking through increasingly hostile corridors without any knowledge of how vast an area is.
Around a third of the Tour showcases the labyrinth of the D.C. Metro Area itself. A massive series of locations that join the exterior Wasteland via dozens of snaking underground tunnels, finding your way around here is almost impossible without an “underground” map. Fortunately, there is one, so you can figure out the quickest routes between major areas. Naturally, each underground location gets its own map, too. There are 11 D.C. Metro areas to witness too; whether it’s the somber gloom of Arlington Cemetery, or the awe-inspiring Mall and Capitol Building, these get a meticulous going-over, too.
Whether you’re out on a jaunt and want to find some specific enemies to slaughter, you’re out to grab every single particular type of collectible, or you’re encroaching an area that looks foreboding, this chapter can be dipped into and skipped across in a multitude of ways. Whatever you’re doing, and wherever you’re going, try utilizing the Tour to get there and back with a greater chance of living than you thought possible!
Come back on launch day (Tuesday 28th October), where we finish off this blog in style with some extra-cool Appendices, and Limited Edition content information.
Part 05: Main and Miscellaneous Quests: Chapter Overviews
Much of this book (196 pages, in fact) is taken up with a thorough and meticulous exploration of the Main and Miscellaneous Quests you can begin at any point during your adventure. Segmented into dozens of logical parts, the strategy guide has some key advantages for getting the most (or just the very basic facts) from any point in the game, whether you’re exploring the basement of Tenpenny Tower, or searching for your father and finding out more about your upbringing, and his plans for the future. Expect copious amounts of advice throughout these chapters, which includes the following elements:
Firstly, these two chapters of the guide are easily flipped to, as there’s an intuitive “tab” system on the side of the book, so you can locate a chapter in a second. Then, we’ve assumed you want to either “dip in” to a specific part of a Quest you’re having difficulties with (or want to find out more information about), or you’re content to read through an entire Quest to figure out all ways to complete it. Either way of reading the guide is simple to achieve: Firstly, the top-right of each page has the section of the Main Quest, or the specific Miscellaneous Quest named, along with specific Vault-Boy iconography. The first page has a complete overview of your course of action, with the main settlements flagged so you can easily cross-reference them with the guide’s poster map. There’s even a small mini-map showing the major location where most (but not all) of the Quest’s action takes place in.
Perhaps the coolest element of these chapters is the Quest Flowchart. For every part of the Main Quest, and every Miscellaneous Quest, there’s a plotted-out series of boxes and arrows, in one of three colors (white, red, and green). White boxes refer to Objectives you’ve unlocked (or yet to unlock) on your Pip-Boy. Red boxes indicate actions you need to attempt, and green boxes reveal the rewards you receive if the action is successful. As every major path variant is showcased in these flowcharts, and you can easily figure out your next course of action without wading through pages of text. Main and Optional paths are shown in this flowchart, along with the characters you need to interact with, the locations to visit, any recommended Skills and Items you might want to use, possible enemies to encounter, and whether your path has a particular Karmic influence. More often than not, checking these flowcharts gives you enough encouragement to continue playing the game with minimal interruptions.
Naturally, after the Flowchart is a highly-detailed Walkthrough, too. There are captioned screenshots dotted throughout, along with text designed to inform and entertain. We hone in on every specific detail, with objective flags in the text so you know which part of the Quest you’re reading about. There are also icons showing every major item you can pick up, and box-outs showing particular Statistics, Skills, and Perks to employ at every critical point. Again, Karmic choices are flagged in the text too, and there’s the obligatory notes, tips, cautions, and spoilers to try to ensure you don’t die, and also don’t accidentally read a section with game-changing information in it! We even went as far as noting when computers, holotapes, and other information sources provide pertinent (or simply flavorful) information. “Exhaustive” is a great description to apply to these chapters. “Exhausted” is a great description of my mental state after writing these chapters.
So, every gameplay path is catered for, every eventuality is noted, all possible rewards are flagged, and there’s help aplenty – not just to see you through the adventure, but to point to hundreds of possibilities you may not have even thought about. No wonder these chapters took two and a half months to write….
Come back on Monday 27th October, where the Tour of the Capital Wasteland (over 200 pages in length) is detailed and dissected.
Part 04: Bestiary Chapter Overview
CAUTION! Some minor spoilers ahead!
Although not the largest chapter in this gargantuan-sized strategy guide, this is perhaps the one that packs the largest concentration of thoroughly enjoyable and tactical goodness. If you’re wanting to know what just rammed into you and defiled your corpse after an ill-fated Wasteland wander, this is the chapter to peruse. Basically, you’ve got all the information on every single living entity in D.C.’s smoking remains, and the surrounding area. Rest assured; there’s stats aplenty here.
But to begin with, there’s some highly detailed “canon” about the variety of Wasteland Factions that battle the irradiated hellscape for supremacy (or in the case of feral ghouls, fleshy morsels). This is the section with revelations about the government forces known as The Enclave. There’s background information on the Brotherhood of Steel, as well as an “Outcast” contingent that have been spotted in the wilds of the Wasteland. The Vault Dwellers themselves get a good going-over; then it’s back on the surface to read the raison d’etre of the Raiders, and other scum that shoot first, and ask questions after they dance on your entrails; the Talon Company Mercenaries.
There’s some rather interesting reading about Super Mutants, and how these hulking beasts have arrived at the East Coast, some background on a small Merc clan called Reilly’s Rangers, and some general information on those seeking a meager existence outside the confines of Megaton. Next up are Slavers, and the poor humans they barter with. Then come the Ghouls, and finally there’s some revelations about small pockets of the Chinese military that still survive, decades after the bombs dropped. You’ll also find out about an odd collection of folk known as The Family, and some other clandestine organizations too….
[Remember; these are the main Factions that exist here; specific settlements, and the weird, wonderful (and sometimes feral) populace inhabiting them, are detailed in future chapters.]
Now, about those stats…. The second half of the Bestiary goes into (actually rather obsessive) detail about every single beast, being, mechanoid, and mutant you can battle. I won’t list every single entity in this blog post, but I will reveal the type of information you can find (and then rely on). Among the informative statistics is the “Level” of the enemy; basically, when your character reaches this level, you can expect a preponderance of this type of foe. Then there’s “Perception”. This is the entity’s PER stat, and the higher the stat, the quicker you’re spotted, surrounded, savaged, and bludgeoned to death.
Needing to know a foe’s Health Points is always a benefit; especially as you can cross-reference this with the damage each weapon causes (that’s the big table in the Training chapter), and then work out how many 10mm Pistol shots it takes to drop a Mole Rat (the answer is five by the way, if you didn’t miss, and didn’t cause a Critical Hit). Some of the less primitive (and more bipedal) adversaries you meet have their own Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Melee Weapons, and Small Guns Skills, so we noted their precise ability values, too. Why? So you can tell how adept that a Raider carrying a Flamer is (the answer, by the way, is “reasonably” – that value is 45/100).
Next up is the Armor they wear (which you can then cross-reference with the Armor equipment table in the Training to work out how much damage they can absorb (hint; not much if you aim at an exposed head!). Then there’s information on their Primary and Secondary means of attack. For example, there are 11 Raider “variants” you might encounter. If you see one with a Hunting Rifle, you can instantly reference it in this chapter, and find out all the information about him (or her). Finally, we reveal the likely experience points for dropping each foe. For the slightly less “humanoid” entities, there’s complete information on the type of (usually disgusting) unique damage they cause, and any special notes (like whether the foe has a weak point, flees easily, or is much faster than you).
All in all, it’s essential statistical viewing, and quickly enables you to figure out how to approach – and then dominate – combat. Come back on Saturday 25th October, when we reveal how we put together the massive Main and Miscellaneous Quest chapters together.
Part 03: Training Chapter Overview
Delving a little deeper into the guide, and moving chronologically through the pages, we begin with the Training chapter. Over 40 pages are dedicated to preparation for surviving and thriving in the Capital Wasteland, and there’s an incredible amount of useful detail for both character generation, and general overall tactics. It all begins with the Primary Statistics; the seven S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes that form the basis of your avatar. As these statistics influence other skills, we reveal exactly how everything is inter-related, and the precise modifications a higher or lower statistic brings into play. Want to know what skills your Charisma influences, and by what amount? Then consult this section. Next up is a section on Derived Statistics; a set of values automatically determined when you choose your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. values. These include how much weight you can carry, your chance to inflict a critical hit, how your health is influenced, your resistance to damage, Action Points in V.A.T.S. combat, and more. Say you want the most Action Points for your takedowns; you’ll find out the statistic you need to raise, by how much, and what modifiers and Perks you can use and choose to help augment this statistic.
Next up are Skills. These 13 cool abilities get a thorough going-over, with stats aplenty, with tips on how to receive more skill points to allocate to these abilities, as well as an overview of every Skill. Need to know the related Statistic that helps your Lockpick skill? Then the information is presented here, as well, for ease of use. Naturally, there are related Perks to every skill, so we flag them, and let you know the Level your character needs to be at before you can add the Perk. Where appropriate, we add tips to each skill, so you can choose the ones that best benefit your Vault Dweller.
This is followed by a massive and meticulous section on Perks. Mining the Bethesda development team for information, I was able to reveal every single Perk, the character level the Perk is available, how many times (or “ranks”) the Perk can be chosen, and any other requirements needed to receive the Perk. Then comes the crazy part; there’s advice on whether this Perk is going to help you in gameplay situations, and how. Every Perk gets its own tactical advice where appropriate, so you end up choosing only the Perks that benefit your style of play, and you never waste points. Is “Commando” a better Perk than “Gunslinger”? You’ll know when you’ve digested this section! Oh, and the Perks section ends with a list of Perks you can only receive during specific Quests, which is handy.
Plotting out a plan for creating the very best Wasteland survivor continues with a section on Character development. Working closely with Bethesda, an overview of choosing the best combination of Statistics, Skills, and other allocations reveals the key choices that allow you to dominate throughout your adventure. Is Lockpick better than Science? Do clothes affect your conversations? What are the key skills you should never leave Vault 101 without? All of these are answered, along with some Character archetypes; including “The Quick-Handed Assassin” and “The Boxer”.
Once you’ve created an uber-survivor, there’s a set of general training instructions to further familiarize yourself with. What’s the difference in gameplay difficulty? How does Karma work? What’s the deal with experience points? What are the finer points of my Pip-Boy? What are all the Radio stations I can listen to? Next up is a thorough overview of V.A.T.S., revealing the best plans and tactics for all weapon types. Do I shoot my foes in the legs, or head? Which is better? What guarantees the squishiest of deaths? Then comes advice on the variety of traps you’ll encounter, how to Sneak, Steal, what to do when settlements go hostile, and the finer points of pickpocketing and scavenging. More revelations end this chapter, including advice on trading, healing, repairing, tinkering at work benches, when to stand around or sleep, armor, health, chems, and a good amount of information on Followers. This is finished off by instructions on making all the custom weapons, and the different types of collectibles to scour the irradiated landscape for. Ultimately, there’s a series of massive tables revealing all the important stats on every weapon (including the value, weight, damage, rate-of-fire, and rarity), armor (including whether the armor is powered, the weight, and effects), and item (again, with copious amounts of detail).
Simply put, the Training section alone gives you dozens of concrete and battle-tested pieces of advice on creating the ultimate wasteland survivor. Check back on Thursday 23rd October, when we break open the Bestiary….
Our friends over at the Bethesda Blog (aka, bethblog), had the awesome opportunity to interview David Hodgson aka sothothyog. Included below is a Prima favorite picture and a great interview from Bethesda:
Now that you’ve had a chance to get a little more background on the Fallout 3 Strategy Guide, check out the interview below I conducted with David Hodgson.
Fallout 3 is the 67th Strategy guide you’ve authored. How did you get into this business?
Bear in mind that my body of work includes everything from The Official Strategy Guide to Gex: Enter the Gecko, Akuji the Heartless, and Star Wars: Demolition to Half-Life 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I started off in the UK, working for some defunct video-game magazines that no one has heard of (Maximum, for example). I then fled the UK and landed a job at the part-fraternity, part-sanitarium known as GameFan magazine in 1996. During that time, I helped out with GameFan Books, wrote a guide for Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, then helped start up a magazine called Gamers’ Republic, and also wrote a well-received guide for Metal Gear Solid shortly before that venture imploded. In 2000, I decided to go freelance, and work for a “proper” strategy guide publisher, and I’ve been working on Prima guides ever since.
About how many guides do you work on in a given year?
Due to the sheer enormity of the tasks (of which Fallout 3 has been far and away the most challenging and rewarding), I’ve cut down my workload to 5-6 books, but these are usually very challenging. I’ve done anywhere from 5 to 12 in a year, but the latter almost hospitalized me.
In your blog post, you mentioned the guide’s fold-up map is massive. Can you talk about the effort that went into putting that together?
There are two terms I’d like to use here to describe this effort; “collaborative” and “deranged.”