Tag Archives: worldbuilding

Warframe Has the Best Worldbuilding In Video Games

(This article contains a discussion of the storyline of Warframe. It contains many things that some people may consider spoilers. Trust me. Read it.)

Warframe is a free-to-play online third-person sci-fi shooter by Ontario developer Digital Extremes where you control a cool, acrobatic robo-warrior in a grindy co-op game where the PR tagline is “ninjas play free”. You fight space nazis, mechanized capitalists, and a bioplague in a handful of standard mission types to get loot and level up your gear.

Warframe, written and designed by Creative Director Steve Sinclair, Lead Writer Cam Rogers, and a team of other designers and writers, is the story of a dark future set in a fallen posthuman solar empire, where the generational victims of the cruel, long-lost Orokin are in constant conflict and where solidarity and empathy are the strongest forces against an apparently-inevitable cosmic struggle borne out of the resonating echoes of exploitation and familial loss.

The Moon came back.

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How Fallout 3 Should Have Been

A screenshot of a damaged house and surroundings from Fallout 3.My wife and I have been playing Fallout 3 in parallel recently. We’d each played for a while a year or so ago, but each stopped for one reason or another. I’ve finished the main story, including the DLC that extends the game a bit further. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a really well-designed game in many respects. Unfortunately, the story and world-building is pretty lacking. Let me tell you how I would have done Fallout 3.

Some backstory on the universe. The bombs fell in 2077, in a world themed around the paleofuture of the 1950s. The original Fallout starts in 2161, 84 years after the War. At this point, the US Southwest is in ruins with most people living in fortified farming, trading, or raiding communities. Fallout 2 takes place in 2241. Most settlements in the US Southwest have been rebuilt from a combination of scraps and new materials. There’s a shiny place called Vault City with trees and clean buildings, a democratic republic in California, and two different organizations with advanced technology.

What Bethesda Did

Fallout 3 takes place across the country in the ruins of Washington, DC in 2277. 200 years after the bombs fell, many DC buildings are still standing. People live in filthy, makeshift towns made entirely of ruins and rusty scrap with litter on the floors of their houses. There are no farms in the game. The only sources of food seem to be some cave fungus, a single experimental hydroponics lab, mutant animal meat, and whatever gets scavenged from the ruins. And yet the ruins are simply full of food. Mashed potatoes, snack cakes, and canned meat sit on shelves and are no more irradiated than the water people drink.

This is hard to believe.
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Phenomenon 32 and the Cinders of Earth

I’ve been playing a game lately about exploring a place where a man-made disaster has bent the very fabric of reality itself, creating bizarre anomalies and strange creatures. I explore the abandoned remnants of cities and laboratories, scrabbling for resources and seeking answers to the nature of the disaster.

This game is so good, it’s distracted me from playing STALKER.

Jonas Kyratzes‘s new game Phenomenon 32 has a similar setting to GSC Game World‘s Chernobyl shooter: the familiar modern world, distorted by the folly of science unbounded by ethics into a place where the very rules of reality can’t be trusted. This isn’t a new premise: STALKER is indirectly based on the 1972 novel Roadside Picnic, and the seminal work for this concept is probably the “Dying Earth” series. It’s sheer coincidence that I was playing these two games at the same time, but there are several good reasons why Phenomenon 32 is winning out.
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