How Feature Creep And Lack Of Focus Can Ruin A Game (Featuring Fallout 4)


I am currently embroiled in an online discussion about why I don’t like Fallout 4. It’s not that I hate the game, I’ve put roughly 120 hours into it, but it doesn’t engage me as much as other games in the Bethesda oeuvre. I’ve come up with many reasons I don’t like the game over the time since it released, struggling to figure out why a game so similar, on the surface at least, to one of my favorite games of all time (Fallout: New Vegas) leaves me frustrated in the end, and oftentimes angry at the squandered potential the game represents. Is it the story? At first I thought yes, but the story being bad has never particularly bothered me before. Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3…all of these other games had terribly uninteresting stories and main quest lines, but I didn’t particularly care.

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I argued with myself for a bit that perhaps, then, it’s that the game FORCES you to participate in the main quests to unlock certain gated content (Nick Valentine as a companion, for instance) and doesn’t allow sequence breaking (for example, if you go straight to Fort Hagen after the start of the game, Kellog will simply not be there. Nor will the button to reveal his secret room in the house in Diamond City, for that matter). And while yes this annoys me greatly and saps my interest to create new characters like no other Bethesda game before, it’s not the real issue.

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Feature creep is the problem, an insidious little burr that can attack any good game and tear it down. Indeed it’s more likely to attack a good game, particularly a potentially good sequel to a good game (Fallout 3 has its detractors in recent years, but I still stand by it), because those will have a higher budget, and thus higher chance to have new things tacked on in development. Feature creep has negatively impacted every aspect of the Fallout 4 experience.

Except Far Harbor! Far Harbor was great! Maybe there’s hope yet…

But what is feature creep? Simply put it is adding onto an existing piece of software new features. It has the habit of diluting other parts of the software as manpower and funds are diverted to developing new features. When adding to an existing piece of software, this isn’t necessarily bad, though can be (see Youtube constantly attempting to add new features and reinvent its layout when old ones still need fixing) but rampant feature creep during initial development can kill a good piece of software of any kind.

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Fallout 4 has this issue in spades. Mind you, a lot of other games do as well, particularly games from major publishers right now that are all chasing a trend with every game requiring open world and RPG elements with FPS qualities and lootboxes, but we’ll look at this issue solely from the perspective of Fallout 4 for now. The core of Fallout 4 is still a good game, it has many good concepts. But it shows clear marks of development being slowed to a trickle on certain aspects once they were in a functional state and production moved to a different feature. As a result, everything feels somewhat unfinished. Some prominent examples: Settlement building (which is in a barely functional state without mods), the crafting system (development apparently ceased before the gameplay loop could be tightened to not be so tedious and repetitive), the number of weapon types (smaller than the previous two games), the dialogue system (which contains four options at any given stage of the conversation, at least two of which are always functionally identical), and so on.

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This, primarily, is why the game leaves me cold. Everything has an unpolished feel to it. It needed either more time in the oven or less features (cutting settlement building entirely and the associated radiant quests would likely have saved a lot of man hours alone) for the result to feel like a cohesive whole like New Vegas does. A game with a fraction of the budget and time in development which made do with an outdated engine and assets to accomplish great things. In theory a larger budget should accomplish more, but in practice limitations usually breed the greatest art.

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Alas, I don’t think this trend will end with Fallout 4 if the sales numbers are any indication. Fallout 5 will have an even larger budget and if the dev team isn’t careful, an even more schizophrenic design philosophy. I hope they’ll learn from their mistakes, but with the number of people who don’t see them as mistakes (particularly the publishing executives who care only about the bottom line), I may have to skip the next entry in one of my favorite franchises.

What do you guys think? Let us know down below

#How Feature Creep And Lack Of Focus Can Ruin A Game (Featuring Fallout 4)

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