Part 02: Meanderings and Overview
I initially received my first build of the game on May 25th, which is when all major social activity (never a major concern for a strategy guide author) was curtailed, and my trip into the Capital Wasteland began. After booting up the PC and 360 versions, I began an intensive, week-long “cursory” play-session, and spoke at length with Pete Hines and Jeff Gardiner at Bethesda about what they wanted the reader to gain from the guide. They deluged me with pile after pile of internal wiki information, and allowed me to bombard the team with a variety of questions, most of which were variations on the “yes, I just discovered this, and it’s freakin’ awesome” theme.
Workload-wise, this guide took approximately 120 days to construct (And that’s not including the sterling work of others who commenced map-making, design, corrections, approval, and printing), and my personal involvement (authoring, screenshots, and doctor visits for more blood-pressure medicine) was approximately 1,100 man-hours. No, I’m not kidding. But I do have a shockingly thorough knowledge of the game, which was great when I wrote it all down in guide form, but is now sloshing uselessly about in my brain, waiting to be forgotten about. I must have about 650 game saves. And time spent actually playing the game? I’d say around 500+ hours. This was by far the most complicated, gigantic, and madcap guide I’ve ever been involved with, and I loved every minute of it.
Once the first week of intensive gameplay was over, I realized – with a creeping sense of both excitement and horror – that I’d only grazed sections of the game, but I’d been having such an entertaining time building the custom weapons, fiddling with skill and perk combinations, finding devious methods to circumvent the “expected” strategy in a quest, and tried a few of the billions of other lunatic things you can attempt… that I didn’t mind. After some talks with the team at Bethesda (who remained steadfastly patient, enthusiastic, and helpful throughout my Wasteland odyssey) we’d already agreed on the breakdown of the strategy guide. Here’s what the final guide encompasses:
A comprehensive contents page and Foreward by Todd Howard.
A Training section where I mined the brains of designers at Bethesda, and offered meticulous advice on Attributes, Skills, Perks, the dangers of the game world, main tactical advice on V.A.T.S., information on Followers, and (naturally) a complete list of every weapon, outfit, item, Chem, Stimpak and Foodstuff in the game. I love stats, so we got a table with elements like fire-rates, ammo-clip totals, and everything the more deranged gamer needs to figure out which selecting the correct weapon to bring to a Ghoul massacre.
Next up, was a Factions and Bestiary, where the major warring forces of the game got an official back-story, and every single irradiated beast, mutation, and abomination received a thorough inspection. Can you check the health of a Super Mutant, compare it to the damage your favorite boomstick does, and then calculate how many shots it takes to kill one? Most certainly. There’s stats-aplenty.
Chapter 3 and 4 concerned the different Quests you undertake during the game, all of which are optional. These two chapters alone were large enough to be their own strategy guide, and every Karmic effect, Skill or Perk you can utilize at a pertinent point, and all the different outcomes are shown. Yes, including all the endings. Naturally, to avoid massive rage-filled forum posts, Spoilers are flagged throughout. Copious screenshots and Vault Boy iconography were used, as well as flowcharts. Oh yes, lovely, easy-to-read flowcharts showing every main route to try, and the rewards for trying for every single Quest in the game. The flowcharts (dotted throughout the chapters) take up over 30 pages on their own. Did I mention this game is big?
Then matters took a turn for the deranged, as I embarked on Tour of the Capital Wasteland. This sightseer’s guide ballooned into a 200+ page section, but includes maps of every single exploration point, and the major ammunition caches, items – and “other bits” I can’t mention – and an overview map modeled after your Pip-Boy’s. There are major and minor locations, each with a number and a coordinate to ease the cartographically limited. May I suggest a few hours’ study of the insanely dangerous and labyrinthine D.C. Interior and linking underground tunnels? These were mapped at great cost to my sanity over a period of three weeks.
Accompanying this Tour is a double-sided, movie-sized poster pinpointing every single location in the Capital Wasteland. I recommend studying it for a good 15-20 minutes to let it all soak in. I’ve never played a game with more locations that needed to be pinpointed correctly.
Tucked at the back of the book are the endings, so it’s wise to skip past those pages and gaze at the 20+ Appendices, which basically give you Achievement advice, and locations of everything even vaguely seen as “collectible”. Precise locations are shown, and a month’s worth of cross-referencing work went into all of it.
Decided to purchase the special Pre-War Collector’s Edition? Then, aside from a Hardback cover and a bigger map poster, you get an extra section packed with exclusive art, team interviews, additional team tactics, easter egg information, a half-dozen “Wasteland Wanderers” showcasing the entertaining and sometimes frightening way some of Bethesda’s team cultivated their characters, all finished off rather pleasantly by an Afterword by Moira Brown. Who’s she? Owner of the Craterside Supply, don’t you know.
Ready your coffee table for reinforcement; the Pre-War Collector’s guide clocks in at 498 pages.
Come back next time, where we reveal a little more information, and you’ll realize just how much of a job sabbatical you’ll need to take to make a dent in this behemoth of a game.