Fallout Shelter (Bethesda Softworks)


Yesterday (6/15), Bethesda Softworks announced — and released — Fallout Shelter for iOS. Being a fan of the Fallout games, I downloaded and started playing it, and was immediately struck by the similarities between it and my proposed design for Frasgird.

Like Frasgird, you are in charge of a single community — an underground “vault” intended to survive a post-apocalyptic world. You start out with just a few rooms — for producing power, water, and food, all essential resources — and a small number of individual characters. Your goal is to grow the community — adding rooms and people — while keeping your resources at sustainable levels and while keeping your people happy. You can send individual characters out to roam the wastelands, then eventually call them back to the vault, brings “caps” (currency) and occasional other items (outfits and weapons). The game keeps running even when you close it down, which is a handy way of making progress rather than sitting and watching.

There are, however, a number of ways in which Shelter differs significantly from Frasgird (as currently envisioned).

First, it’s played at a much lower level. You start with a dozen or so inhabitants of the vault, each with his or her own name, set of characteristics (SPECIAL: strength, perception, endurance charisma, intelligence, agility, luck), and level (1 up to at least 48). The rooms you build need one or more characters in them to make them produce; each type of room responds better to a specific SPECIAL characteristic, so you will find yourself moving individuals from room to room depending upon the production you need. Likewise, each character can be equipped with an outfit and with a weapon. You have to explicitly ‘harvest’ power, water, food, etc., when it’s produced.

Second, there is no ‘trading’ aspect per se — no other vaults, settlements, cities, etc. You can sell extra outfits and weapons for caps, but that’s about it.

Third, there is likewise no diplomacy, no interactions with outside entities (beyond raiders who occasionally attack, and uncontrolled interactions with other beings out in the wilderlands).

Fourth — well, it’s unclear when you have ‘won’ the game. You can just keep expanding the vault and attracting new people, all while trying to keep resource production sufficiently high, but there doesn’t appear to be a “you won!” moment in the game.

All that said, Shelter is an addictive game, useful to look at for both inspiration and for pitfalls. In some of my programming so far, I had considered having the player control how many people are assigned to each plot development. Having played Shelter for a while, my inclination is to make that allocation as automatic and intelligent as I can. Likewise, I want to avoid or minimize the “uh-oh, I don’t have enough food [or other resource]” panic. I’d prefer that the player be able to think ahead in terms of a series of goals, plan out the structures needed for the next goal, then contract out for the goods required to accomplish that.

Filed Under: Game DesignMainOther Games

About the Author

Webster has been doing game design since 1980, but only has one actual published game to his credit -- Sundog: Frozen Legacy (Apple II, 1984; Atari ST, 1985). This is his second.

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