Opening Analysis: Fallout

Our very own Eric Schwarz has penned an interesting article that analyzes the opening segments of the original Fallout from Interplay, in an attempt to debunk the common belief that the game is just "too inaccessible" for younger or simply newer players. The piece is hosted both on Gamasutra and on No Mutants Allowed, so hopefully people who have problems connecting to either should still be read the article. Here's a snip:
In a game where hand-holding is almost nonexistent, tutorial pop-ups everywhere would have killed the flow of the game and would have coddled the player, leaving him/her unprepared for later on... by making the player use his/her head, not only is there a genuine feeling of learning and progress, but the player now knows to expect little help when the game gets more difficult. By modern standards, this is sacrilege, but even today, getting into Fallout is fairly easy because of the way it's set up to encourage learning. Even if the player misses out on something right now, the player is almost guaranteed to learn the fundamentals.

Once the player has dealt with the first enemies in the game just south of the Vault door, chances are he or she will be much more alert and ready for the next encounter - now that the player knows what rats are, it'll be much harder to run into them unintentionally. The player may also have noticed that going into combat mode highlights available targets, making it an effective way of spotting them in the darkness. This means that the player likely won't blunder into combat again, unless it really is his or her own fault.

More importantly, though, this combat sequence and the level design of the area actually teach the player that much of the game's combat is avoidable. The opening cave area has two caverns off to the east and west, both of them completely optional to explore, and with them, the combat within. Although the player does receive some rewards for exploring and defeating the rats, the large groups of them off the beaten path may be off-putting. If the player invested in Sneak, now's the time to try it out. This lesson about avoiding fights, especially when outmatched, will be invaluable as the game goes on and the player learns that often, running is the best solution when faced with tough odds. What's more, on subsequent plays, there's nothing to stop the player from simply rushing past the minor enemies and heading out into daylight.