Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Have They Done to You?

Okay, I don't want to knock Herculine's inaugural post from the most recent spot; but I have to ask this:

Why do you people hate your companions?

This isn't a rant-y post - I'm genuinely curious.

Since I first added the auto-heal/player heal/ask the player to heal code to RR a year plus ago, I've had a steady stream of people complain; and the later NCCS code, though not as advanced, is no exception.

People don't like that companions heal themselves. They don't like that they ask the player to heal them. They don't like that the companions heal fully and automatically when you sleep/wait. They want companions kill-able.

Really: what in the holy fuck have my companions done to engender such hatred? Did they rape your parents? Burn down your orphanage? Have they been kicking puppies while I wasn't looking?

I mean, okay; I know Maeva is into that sort of thing... but most of the companions are good boys and girls and just want to protect your hide and carry your junk.

If you want disposable henchmen, wouldn't something like Enclave Commander be more appropriate? Faceless minions, et al?

Now, call me crazy; but I'm not keen on non-essential companions. I don't like a character I put thirty or forty hours' work into getting her rather nice posterior ventilated because the game engine decided to bug on me.

Is it unrealistic? Sure, but we're talking about a game that takes place two hundred years in the future; after a nuclear war; full of mutants and zombies; in a world where the 1950's - McCarthyism and all - never ended. I think we've long since passed the point of getting to argue for high realism...


  1. EUREKA! That's it! Why didn't I think of it sooner!?

    Companions with in-depth back-stories, custom-personalized dialog and custom quests that won't survive their first battle because they're non-essential!

    I'm writin' this down soz I don't forget...

  2. I'd love to take that as pure irony and snark... but I know that somewhere, someone is thinking how wonderful that would be.

    It makes me die a little inside, knowing that.

  3. I care about the companions that I aquire during play, despite the fact that I aquire a large number of them. The bulk of them are RR system based. Umm, correction: with the addition of Herculine's Scouts, about 90% of them are RR based (95%?). Most of the non-RR companions can have the essential toggle worked via dialogue. At the risk of hurting both your brains, I prefer my companions to be "non-essential personel".

    Why? A few reasons, I think. One would be having a certain level of immersion. Asking for realism in a game setting such as Fallout is oxymoronic at best, but its how I like to play. Another reason is just the sheer number of possible companions available to me, again, mostly from the RR system. It is highly unlikely that I will run out of companions during a playthrough. Having said that, I now sound like a cold-hearted S.O.B. and contradicted my earlier "caring" statement.

    Finally, though, with the chance my character's friends and loved ones could die in game, I tend to go out of my way to take better care of them. I keep my stock of stimpacks high, monitor their health, ammo supply and equipment status. I hand out better weapons and armour. I try to set up combats so that they won't be subjected to "friendly fire" from me, and if I see them being overwhelmed, I rush off to help. I am using the Doctor of the Wastes mod, so even if I can't get to someone in time, I have a chance to ressusitate them. I even tell companions to stay behind or send them home while I scout ahead to see if its safe.

    Most people would balk at having to do so much "baby sitting", but I consider it part of my character's responsiblities with having companions.

  4. @Sean:

    Thanks for that insight. I suppose that with the proper selection of mods installed, non-essential companions could indeed add to the feeling of immersion without making the player seem like a "cold-hearted S.O.B." after all.

    But most players don't present us with that kind of an explanation; instead it's just like: "Why can't we kills 'em? We wants to kills 'em!" and thus we react to these things the way that we do.

  5. When I first decided to have most of my companions be non-essential, I actually openned the GECK and figured out how to do it myself. I did a plug-in for everyone in the RR Vault, Nos' additional companions, NeilUK's characters and the two Terminator companions from the Cybernetic Dawn mod. It never crossed my mind to ask either Nos or NeilUK to do it for me.

    Guess that makes me a freak :D

  6. I guess I have a different perspective on the whole essential thing.

    I've logged a lot of hours into FO3. A lot.

    Like, nearly a thousand hours. A solid seven to eight hundred of that was in the pursuit of fixing the myriad companion flaws that existed in the game itself, and the RR Companions Vault. This was... version 1.3 of the base game, I'd guess when I started.

    As such, I've seen a lot of needless companion deaths. It's not as bad in 1.7; but pre-1.5, they had massive problems.

    Companions would die from their own thrown grenades; they'd fall off of stuff and die from falling damage; they'd charge mobs at random.

    I remember, the first time I had hired on Dogmeat and Clover; they lived less than ten minutes due to their own stupidity.

    As well, there have been engine flaws since the days of Oblivion. NPCs can clip through the ground, and end up getting randomly killed for no reason.

    In newer versions of the game, these problems are largely unseen. Most of the stupid AI issues have been fixed; and I've learned to stop the suicidal charges via combat style alterations...

    ...but it's still there in the back of my mind; knowing that at any time the AI could have a relapse and go full retard again.

    I just consider the essential thing a hedge bet against that. Call it another of my attempts at thwarting the devs.

    Of course, it really is mostly unnecessary now. The latest iterations of my companion scripts and combat styles are so far beyond the vanilla ones that I've seen single companions take on deathclaw packs and win.

    The only recent issue with essential actually being used was in FONV; when I foolishly made my way into the deathclaw caves at like level fifteen; without heavy weaponry or power armor. One of them ended up buying it to the legendary deathclaw. Then again; so did I, so I couldn't rag on her too badly for going down.

  7. That's definately one for the Oops file...

    "Yeah, somebody put the instructions on upside down. Let's try that again."
    "Yes, this time, no oops."

  8. I assume you're talking about the grenade thing?

    Well, in the companions' defense, it wasn't that they threw the thing straight down or any such nonsense.

    The AI just... isn't good at understanding intermediate barriers; and the game has screwed up hit-boxes on solid statics. They'd throw a grenade based on straight-line to the enemy, it would clip a corner and come back at us; and the dying would commence.

    I learned to run like hell without thinking about it whenever a grenade warning indicator appeared.

    Exploding cars were another issue that called for essential tags, now that I think of it. They always had trouble with the concept that if you shoot a car eight times, it explodes. They'd unload in the general direction of an enemy; the car would burst into flame, and they'd happily go over towards the car to chase the bad guy... and promptly get kerflooied.

  9. And that brings to mind a problem that still exists:

    When I was working on my RR-free companions a little while back, I had decided to start spawning Maeva with a mess of grenades.

    We were cleaning out the exterior of the Springvale school; and they had already shot the holy living shit out of most of the raiders, except for that one straggler down in the shower room.

    He headed up as we were about to move into the wall; and the big demoness puts away her pistol, and pulls the grenades that she had thusfar opted not to use (and don't ask me how she chose that - I still haven't figured the AI out fully). She's standing at the breech, and begins flinging grenades up, through one of the holes in the wall, so that they arc down into the depression to get the guy as he's coming up towards us (but still out of direct line of sight).

    Well, one of these grenades happens to clip the aforementioned piss-poorly designed hitboxes on the wall, and bounces back.

    Maeva, of course, keeps chucking since she's only interested in removing the red tick mark on the radar; but the rest of us are hauling ass to get clear. Thankfully, it bounced far enough back that the explosion was in the rubble, and didn't make a chunky smear out of the rest of her party.

    We don't always end up that lucky.

    Reminds me, though: I still need to pass out the missile launchers just to see what the improved combat AI can do with them...

  10. Very good points in regard to explosive ordnance. I have a feeling that no matter how much improving one could do to a combat behavior package, the game engine would still find some way to screw it up. Heck, it's hard enough to get that right when it's me throwing the grenades...

  11. Yes, companions and grenades are a bad mix. I try to keep ordinance like that out of their eager, little hands. Until we have the high ground, that is. Still...

    Igniting cars make me run faster than a Behemoth with a golf club ("Ha ha! Bet me can get you to Megaton from here!). Needless to say, there are several areas on the outskirts of the downtown ruins that I stay away from. And a firefight in the collapsed car tunnel is a TPK (total party kill) almost every time. Lost Riley's Rangers in there once...

    When it comes to Maeva, I'm happiest, and safest, giving her something big with a high rate of fire, and two other companions to act as pack mules for her ammo.