Post-Photography Project Development

INITIAL DISCUSSIONS

As the lectures on the post-photographic module continued, I was increasing my knowledge on the idea of what a post-photographer could be, from a theoretical and a practical view. Paul Smith’s lectures showed visual examples of photographers through history producing photographs that challenged the boundaries of the current practice. Acknowledging the frame of the photograph and how this can both make and limit the practice of the photographer. From the most simple editing technique such as cropping, which can be done when taking the photograph and when editing afterwards, the photographer can have a dramatic impact on what the images says to the audience. In addition to this, the development of digital technology offers a huge range of different process to photographers, and has allowed them to create images that wouldn’t be possible in the analogue world.

In my previous studies I acknowledged that the photographer has such an important role when producing visual material, and this responsibility manifests itself in different ways. The Phonar (Photography and Narrative) module explored photographic practices where the process was more collaborative between photographer and subject. The subject felt powerful and free to have a say on how their story was told by the photographer, which is very different to practices such as traditional documentary, where the photographer had to make an informed decision on what photograph could represent a concept as large as a war. These images are what we often describe as iconic, because they attempt to describe so much in one frame. In contrast the collaborative projects often focus on the smallest details in order to tell a detailed story about the subject themselves. There is a tension between these two approaches, because each attempts to achieve what the other could not. There is no real way to tell which approach is ‘better’ because often these images have been produced for very different outcomes.

In the lectures from Spencer, we approached the practice of photography from a theoretical perspective, considering the flaws behind the the practice and how this could affect the work we make as photographers. To begin with, the ontology of photography as discussed by Andre Bazin stated that the human species has a such a strong desire to produce the most realistic and accurate representation of themselves possible. If they can achieve this realistic visual replication, then humans need no longer fear death. For death itself is split into two elements of disappearance, the physical body disappearing from the world, and the visual evidence of that body disappearing too. Bazin described the loss of this evidential, visual memory as the Second Spiritual Death. Bazin also worked to separate photography from the other arts, commenting that despite photography achieving the most accurate representation of man, that the presence of man in the process was missing. According to Bazin, the artist or craftsman is lost in the practice of photography, this view is very similar to the ideas of Walter Benjamin, who discussed the loss of aura and originality in the practice of photography, as it can produce multiple copies of the same material.

In addition to the ontology of photography, there is the idea of photography representing the truth, which is a concept I have explored previously in my photographic studies in relation to photojournalism and manipulation. However this discussion changes with a theoretical approach, with the introduction of the term naive realism, which describes the tendency of the viewer and even photographer to believe that photographs represent the truth. The photographer believes that they are capturing the truth of what they see and the viewer believes the representation that the photographer presents them with. The limitations of the single frame are discussed often in the context of photography, so why do we still put so much faith in the practice of photography to produce truth, when reality itself is so complicated? According to Plato, reality is split into the realm of physical forms and objects and the realm of spiritual forms, which are eternal and perfect. Physical objects are those we can identify as occupying the same physical space as us, like the sofa that I’m sitting on writing this blog post. Spiritual forms are the elements we can’t see, but that we believe that be in force in the world, such as love, hate and trust. We can’t prove what these forms are but they are universally accepted in the world, the most common evidence of this is the creation of words in each language to describe them. When you consider how complicated reality actually is, can photography hope to try and represent it visually in one frame?

These discussions can lead to a very pessimistic view of photography, however I would argue that if the photographer accepts these notions and reflects on them in their work, then photography can be a practice that comments on reality, rather than trying to represent it. The key idea the photographer absolutely HAS to accept, is that the images they produce are not likely to be received in the way that they intended. The meaning will differ depending on who is looking and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Different viewers can build and extend the original meaning of the images and perhaps link them to discussions the photographer never thought of. There is the danger of course, that the images will be read in a completely different way than the photographer intended, which could be potentially damaging, to the subject or the subject matter. Therefore we come back to the responsibility of the photographer, to have an understanding of their practice.

When considering all the lecture material in relation to my own practice, I feel that it embodies much of the ideas I have explored in previous projects. For example for the Phonar module, I attempted to create a post-photographic portrait by reverse assembling the metadata scattered across the Internet from one individual, in order to demonstrate how much information we willingly give to the Internet. For my degree show project, I attempted to challenge the representation, the Internet and the photographic portrait again but this time taking portraits of people and exhibiting them as binary code. This represents the fluidity of information on the Internet and the idea that people are being increasingly viewed as information and statistics, rather than real people. My work aims to comment on current issues, it aims to be the inspiration behind a discussion, an experiment to see how people react. This experimentation with the photographic practice could be combined with the notion of the post-photographer, to produce work that is interesting but also informed by cultural theory.

 

DECIDING SUBJECT MATTER

As my field of study has changed from my BA, from photography to communication, culture and media, it is likely that my projects will shift to engage with different ideas. There is an idea that I am becoming increasingly aware of due to both my own personal engagement and from an academic approach, which is the gaming industry and community, most specifically the genre of story games. There are more and more games being released yearly, that have captivated players with the stories that they tell.

With developing technology, the games themselves have become sophisticated pieces of storytelling media, with which the user can engage and have a power over how the story progresses. This power can vary from game to game: with structured campaigns that require the player to move through the game in a specific linear way and open world games that allow the player to explore the environment at their own pace, choosing the engage with the main storyline when they wish to advance with the plot. Aside from story-based games there are games that pursue different objectives such as direct competition between players or encouraging them to build communities. The dynamic of the game does have an impact on what sort of experience the player will have: First Person Shooters (FPS) encourage the player to move through the environment, target and neutralise hostiles, whereas adventure video games encourage the player to engage with the characters and environment in order to find out more about the main storyline. Different game dynamics often share objectives, such as moving through the environment in order to find objects; in a FPS that object would be ammunition or a new gun whereas in adventure games the object is likely to be a piece of information that helps develop the detail of the storyline. The main purpose of the game however is to be enjoyable when played, to encourage the player to come back and play the game multiple times and perhaps then buy other games from a particular franchise or company. As games are situated in the entertainment industry they are made to appeal to the public, however there is no denying that games are becoming significantly more important in a cultural context.

In the module Open and Social media I am also considering gaming, examining how the game Fallout 4 encourages the player to engage with possible future cultural issues. The game features the invention of a synthetic human (synth) which is effectively an artificial human, made to replicate an organic human in every way possible. The most advanced synths appear to have a personality, their own sense of humour, their own likes and dislikes, therefore they appear to actually be human. Different factions within the game have differing opinions on the synthetic human, one believing them to be nothing but property, one believing all the synths should be destroyed and one believing the synths should be liberated and have a chance for an independent life. The player has to make a decision to ally with one of these factions, as there is conflict between all of them. This means the player must make their own decision on what they think synthetic humans actually are and whether they should be considered as property, dangerous/unethical technology or independent beings. However the fact that Fallout 4 is a FPS shooter is a problematic element as in the same time the player might be thinking about important cultural questions about civil rights, the game could spawn multiple enemies that the player has to kill, effectively reducing the other characters in the game (often human) to targets that need to be eliminating. When the player has to think about whether an artificial life could be considered as important as a human one, it seems incredibly counter-productive to dehumanise the existing humans in the game. As my definition of the post-photographer was built using the knowledge I had built up around the post-digital publication through the Open and Social Media module, I decided it could be interesting to produce a photographic response that would link to this module. This would also give me the opportunity to include photographic work in my response to the Open and Social Media module. However instead of concentrating on the synthetic human in my photographic project, I wanted to focus on the game experience itself, how my character moved through the Fallout 4 environment and created my own version of the story through my actions and decisions.

Just like photography in the gaming environment the player ‘sees’ through a frame, however in gaming the camera becomes the only way through which the player experiences the world. This virtual reality can only be seen through playing the game unlike reality, which the photographer sees before choosing to frame it. This conscious choice to frame the scene happens less in video games, as the player is often confronted with other choices such as where to go, when to shoot etc. There are games that do involve a conscious moment where the character frames the scene, one is called Fatal Frame an Indonesian horror game. The player has to take pictures of spirits to damage and destroy them, ‘framing’ the spirits is fatal to them.

Another game is Outlast where the protagonist is an investigative journalist. The character has a video camera, which the player can use to record important moments in the game as evidence, however the camera is also used in the scarier portions of the game where the night-mode of the camera is used to see in the dark.

In the game Fallout 4, which my project will be examining there is a choice to play in First Person Mode or Third Person Mode. First Person mode is as if you are seeing through the eyes of the character, whereas third person mode is effectively you following your character through the environment. For players used to playing shooter-type games, the First Person mode will be more natural to them as it is generally considered to be easier and more accurate to shoot. The third person mode would be better for people used to playing typical story-type games, or adventure games that include some elements of combat such as Tomb Raider.

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First Person Mode

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Third Person Mode

For the purpose of my project, I will experience the Fallout 4 environment through the First Person Mode as it makes what I see and what my character sees exactly the same. The distance between me and my character is reduced and I feel that it is my story as well as my character.

Overall I feel that choosing gaming for my post-photography project will allow me to explore themes I haven’t yet explored in my own photographic practice, whilst still engaging with similar themes that I have explored before. The use of the game Fallout 4 for my project could be considered as me using appropriated material, which is an approach I have often taken in my most recent projects. However whilst my two previous projects have used appropriated material to make a comment on how much information users give to the Internet, in this project I will be using appropriated material to comment on how virtual reality has become similar to actuality.

 

THE PROJECT

As explored in the previous section, I will be examining Fallout 4 and the experience of the player in creating and shaping their own unique story. This story is their journey from moving through the gaming environment, to progressing in the storyline, even to levelling up and getting stronger as a character. My project will be exploring the sophisticated storytelling capability of modern video games and how virtual reality is becoming ever closer to reality. Although there will be some obvious differences, like the fact that Fallout 4 is set in a post-apocalyptic future, the basic elements in the gaming experience are becoming closer to reality. Despite the addition of radiated beings, synthetic humans and robotic devices, the landscape and the buildings in the Fallout 4 environment are recognisable and similar to that of my reality. My response to the assignment will link to the idea of naive realism, where the viewer and the photographer believe that a photograph can represent the entirety of reality. Combining the idea of naive realism and the developing sophistication of virtual reality, my project will aim to try and fool the viewer into thinking that the virtual reality of Fallout 4 could actually be reality. The project will be built of of shots of the screen from when my character is moving through the Fallout 4 environment. These images will be made in the locations that are the most important in the game, where my character has had to make certain choices and complete questionable actions. My photographs will be a play on naive realism, because they will try and make virtual reality seem like reality, commenting on the idea that viewers often believe what they see. If I present these images in a manner that references traditional artistic photography, then these images could be perceived depicting reality.

My project will hopefully link with the ongoing debate over whether video games can be considered as art. As I will explore in my project, the environment created by game designers are often so close to reality that the eye could potentially be fooled. There is so much detail put into tricky aspects such as water, clouds, wind and elements like the character interacting with the environment. The talent and craftsmanship of these game designers have been praised by many, and some artists have used games as a basis for producing their own imagery, just as photographers use reality to create their own work. However aside from the graphics and game design, the actual games themselves and the stories that they tell are also being debated over. Games such as Life is Strange and The Last of Us have created and told such detailed and emotional stories, that have been likened to the cinematic art. In the latest game Quantum Break, there are 25 minute cut scenes where live action is used to portray the shifting storyline, before the game play begins again. The live action characters are the same ones that are in the gameplay, allowing the player to engage with an incredibly advanced story, that when viewed can be seen as a movie-type experience. Then there are the people who make art from video games, more and more artists are using the game environment to make their own pictures, often through screen shots of the game when they are playing. However when someone has created the environment you are photographing, there could be issues with the ownership of that art, as the game designer could easily claim that the content within the image was theirs because they created the environment in the first place. This is the approach I want to take when creating my images, because it allows me to make a personalised series of images that relate directly to my character and my story. I will also be bringing the conscious framing from photography into my gameplay experience, when deciding which moments to take pictures of.

 

MAKING THE IMAGES

As I play games on my Xbox One, I don’t have the same advantage that PC Users have to be able to take a screenshot. I attempted to take a screenshot on the Xbox One of Fallout 4, but it only captured a picture of the menu screen, because the game interpreted my action as a reason to pause the game. I quickly realised I needed to either adopt a PC set up and replay the game to get to the point I was at, or find a new way of capturing images from the gameplay using my Xbox. Replaying the game on PC wasn’t really an option for me, as I wouldn’t be able to afford a whole new gaming set up and I wouldn’t be able to remember the order in which I discovered the Fallout 4 world, what I said in each conversation, what perks I chose first etc. There would be no way I could follow exactly the same journey, therefore I had to find another way to produce imagery. I decided that because I was bringing the nature of photography into the gaming environment, that it could be a really interesting idea to actually use my camera and take photographs of the screen. I would be interacting with the virtual reality just like I would be if I was photographing reality. However as I would if I was photographing reality I needed to make sure that I adjusted my camera settings to suit the content that I was photographing. I needed a shutter speed that was slightly slower than I would use normally, to make sure that my images wouldn’t show the frame rate of the game, which produces a distorted image. I also needed to make sure I was photographing the screen from straight on, not above or below, which would also change the appearance. I found that a particular spot on the sofa in the living room would provide me with this good angle, so I always shot and played from there in order to keep my images looking consistent. I also had to think about the lighting conditions in the living room when I was photographing, making sure that no sunlight was on the screen. If I was photographing in the evening, the artificial lighting would make the images have a slightly yellow hue, and often it meant the images would be too dark or grainy. I therefore tried to shoot all the images in periods of daylight, between sunrise and sunset, to try and replicate the same lighting for each image. Therefore the only variation in the lighting conditions of the images, would be when the times of day and the weather changed in the virtual reality of the game.

So I started taking photographs of the screen when playing, and uploaded them to my computer. Immediately I was met with my first design decision, my character observes the environment like I would observe reality through a set of eyes, however because I am playing a game that involves shooting, travelling to different locations, keeping track of my health – there were various different icons on the screen. I had to decide whether to keep them in the image, or whether to crop the whole image smaller so that they weren’t there. There is also a pointer in the middle of the screen, with which the player can interact with the environment, if you put the pointer over an item you can pick it up, when you are shooting that pointer becomes your aim. I needed to decide whether to keep the pointer in the image as well, or whether to take steps and Photoshop this element out.

The two images below show the two different options I had available to me, the first one features all the elements of the gameplay including the compass and health points whereas the second one is cropped to remove those elements and Photoshopped in order to remove the green pointer.

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After considering both of the images, I decided that the second version would suit the ideology behind my project. If I am trying to replicate and reference reality in my images in order to try and fool my audience, I should make sure that the images don’t have these obvious gameplay elements, as this would give it away immediately. Although I am expecting the audience to realise that these images aren’t actually of reality, that there are some details that are slightly different, I don’t want them to realise straightaway. I want the audience to look carefully at the images to be able to pick out the details that don’t compare to their reality, in order to see that these images are of a virtual reality. If the audience don’t look carefully and just glance at the images, I want there to be a possibility that they could believe that the images are of reality.

Once I had the right aesthetic and design to my images, I began a series of shoots in the Fallout 4 virtual environment. These shoots varied in nature, in one session of gameplay I would aim to retrace the steps my character made, beginning from Vault 111 and following what the main storyline was for my version, but in other sessions of gameplay I simply roamed the environment freely, capturing the moments of that gameplay session that I felt was important to my character. I steadily built up a catalogue of images that depicted both important locations in the game in relation to the story and important moments that I experienced in relation to my discussions of Fallout 4 in my Open and Social module. Interestingly enough, most of the images, if not all of them depict a scene where I would have just killed a human, super mutant, synth or wasteland creature, making each image depict a sort of virtual graveyard. Despite the beauty of this virtual environment and the important moral questions the game asks the player, the fact that this game is still a FPS could perhaps detract from the moral gameplay experience. Contact sheets of all the images I created after a series of shoots can be seen below.

ContactSheet-001 ContactSheet-002 ContactSheet-003 ContactSheet-004 ContactSheet-005 ContactSheet-006 ContactSheet-007 ContactSheet-008 ContactSheet-009

Because this project has generated so many images, I had in mind that I wanted to create a photobook or zine type publication, as I didn’t want to have to narrow all of these images down to a number below ten (which is what I might have to do if I was presenting these images as a series of prints). These images are made in a consistent manner and would suit being presented in a consistent style as well, meaning a photobook would suit the project as these images could be presented in a linear consistent manner. However I identified that this number of images would most likely be too much and I had already acknowledged that some of the images weren’t as strong as the others. With this in mind, I started to identify which images were the most important in the series, in relation to the moments in the story they referenced. These images depict the vault, my character’s old house, the Red Rocket, the museum of freedom, Diamond City, The Castle, The Railroad HQ, Virgil’s cave, the teleporter I built in Sanctuary, Bunker Hill, the site of the Institute (after it is destroyed) and the destroyed Prydwen, which was the HQ of the Brotherhood of Steel. These locations mark important moments in the storyline where my I had direction of my character to make certain decisions as to where the storyline progresses. These moments happened in a particular order, which would most likely be different when compared to another player, therefore I had to remember and establish that order in which I completed the storyline and position the photographs accordingly.

THIS NEXT SECTION CONTAINS FALLOUT 4 SPOILERS!!!

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Vault 111 – where my character took refuge when the bombs fell, joined by her husband Nate and her baby Shaun. However the inhabitants of this Vault were actually tricked into an experiment in cryogenic freezing. My character and her family were frozen for around 100 years before the vault was manually overridden, allowing a group of people to open the chamber with my character’s husband and baby. The group stole the baby Shaun and shot the husband Nate, before refreezing my character for a period of time. My character awakes when the cryogenic chamber stops working, to discover the dead bodies of everyone else in the Vault. My character escapes the vault and begins the adventure to try and find where Shaun has been taken to.

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Sanctuary – the images depicts where my character’s old house was, my character returns to find the household robot Codsworth trying to keep up his cleaning duties. Codsworth seems affected by the radiation, but informs my character that 210 years have passed since the nuclear attack on America. Codsworth tells my character to start the search for Shaun in the nearest town Concorde, but warns that there are people who did survive the nuclear attack who could be potentially dangerous.

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The Red Rocket – this truck stop is on the way to Sanctuary, it is here that our character meets the first companion of the game, a dog named Dogmeat. The Red Rocket also provides our character with a potential base, as there are various work benches that allow the opportunity for weapon/armour development and the ability to cook food for health points. Dogmeat now accompanies my character through the game and helps defend against enemies, as well as being able to hold items.

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The Museum of Freedom – in the city of Concord, our character meets the first faction of the game known as the Minute Men. Our character saves the last known Minute Man and the group of people he his protecting from radars and a Deathclaw. The last Minute Men, Preston Garvey tells our character about the faction which has nearly died out, their ethos is to help anyone and everyone that needs help, with the hope that they can build a huge support network. It is through Preston Garvey and the other members in the group that our character finds out Diamond City would be the best place to visit next in order to find Shaun.

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Diamond City – this is a developed settlement, made up of humans (there are no synths, ghouls or super mutants allowed here). Here my character meets Piper, the editor of a newspaper that comments on the many disappearances of people. Piper explains that an organisation known as the Institute is rumoured to be kidnapping people before replacing them with artificial copies. After Piper my character meets Nick Valentine, an early model synthetic human, which the residents accepted into their community after he saved the Mayor’s daughter. Valentine is a detective and begins to help with the search to find Shaun, directing my character to go after one of the kidnappers who they are able to identify as Kellogg.

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The Castle – My character builds a strong tie with the faction known as the Minute Men, with Preston Garvey suggesting that my character becomes the new General and leader. In order to fully re-establish the Minute Men in the Fallout 4 world, Preston recommends that my character helps retake the old HQ of the Minute Men, known as the Castle. This was one of the most important moments in my play through of the game as I worked really hard to defeat a really strong enemy, the Mirelurk Queen. I didn’t have very good weapons and my armour wasn’t very good so I needed many tries to defeat the Mirelurk Queen. Once I finally did, I got a real sense of achievement, although my character didn’t really benefit from this win, as a player I felt accomplished.

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Virgil’s Cave – when my character finds Kellogg we manage to find out that he does know about Shaun and that Shaun is indeed with the Institute. However before we can find out more, Kellogg turns hostile and my character has to kill him, to avoid being killed. We salvage important parts from Kellogg’s body, finding that he has synthetic technology in his body, which has allowed him to live longer. In Goodneigher we analyse this hardware that was embedded in his brain to find out more about the Institute, my character learns that a scientist named Brian Virgil actually left the Institute. My character travels into the Glowing Sea (an area full of radiation where the nuclear bomb was dropped) in order to find him. When my character finds Virgil we discover that he is a Super Mutant, which allows him to live safely in the glowing sea. Virgil is sympathetic when he hears about the kidnapping of Shaun and gives my character a schematic to make a teleporter, which is the only way into the Institute.

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The Rail Road – between finding out about the teleporter and making the teleporter, my character comes across the faction known as the Rail Road, after following the Freedom Trail to find an old church. The Rail Road HQ is down in the basement, after a mission with Rail Road member Deacon, we are accepted into joining them. My character learns that the Institute is responsible for the invention and creation of synthetic humans, however they only view them as their property. The Rail Road believe that because synthetic humans have been created to be so close to real humans, that they do have independent feelings and personalities and therefore they have a chance at living life away from the Institute. In addition to this, the perception of the Institute as the synths being their property, is very similar to that of slavery. The Rail Road seeks our help in liberating the synthetic humans that want freedom within the Institute, asking my character to make contact with their inside man in the Institute if my character manages to make it in.

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The Teleporter in Sanctuary – as a player, you can choose where you build the teleporter and which faction you choose to help you. I didn’t want to pledge allegiance to either the Rail Road or the Brotherhood of Steel, which have very different ideologies. I decided to go back to my home town Sanctuary and ask Sturges (a member of the Minute Men) to help me get into the Institute. I do manage to get into the Institute, where I find a synthetic version of Shaun. The real Shaun is actually 60 years old, my character was frozen for longer than we realised. The real Shaun is known within the Institute as Father and he is director of the Institute, as well as being the subject DNA of all the synthetic humans. It was his DNA, safe within the Vault and free from radiation, which was why he was kidnapped. Father asks my character to align with the ideology of the Institute, to try and see that they are improving mankind by making a new version.

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The battle of Bunker Hill – this was the moment where I had to decide which faction I was going to ally with, Father sent me to try and recapture some escaped synthetic humans from Bunker Hill. However the Brotherhood of Steel also learned about the escaped synths and had the aim of destroying them all, the Rail Road were responsible for the escape of the synths in the first place and wanted to protect them from both the Institute and the Brotherhood. I decided to protect the synthetic humans from the Brotherhood of Steel, which made me enemies with them. I was still allied with the Institute,  in order to to help my main allies ,the Rail Road who were attempting put together a plan to liberate all of the synthetic humans in one go.

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The Destroyed Prydwen – Following Bunker Hill, my character became enemies with the Brotherhood of Steel, who attempted to eliminate the Rail Road by attacking their HQ. This prompts the Rail Road to want to destroy the Brotherhood, the Institute also want the Brotherhood removed because of their interference with the Institute’s technology. Although I didn’t really want a violent solution, it seemed that the story had escalated too far to not remove the Brotherhood, as they continue to attack my character and the other factions. The two images above depict the wreck of the airship known as the Prydwen, which is where the Brotherhood were based. My character placed explosives in the airship before escaping and detonating them, the ruin of the Prydwen remains explorable in the site where it crashed. Although I interacted with the Brotherhood of Steel before this moment in the storyline, I felt that the ruins of the Prydwen really represent the hard choices I had to make as a player.

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The ruins of the Institute – following the removal of the Brotherhood,my character continues to do tasks for the Institute while the Rail Road puts their plan into place. One of these tasks involves fixing and restarting a nuclear generator, which would help the Institute power their research in new ways and new scales. The Rail Road’s plan is to target this nuclear reactor and to blow the Institute up, after rescuing all of the humans and synths that want evacuation. This plan is put into action, the Rail Road is teleported into the Institute and they begin evacuating synths and other humans. My character goes to find Shaun, but he is on his deathbed because of a terminal cancer, Shaun is disappointed in my character but explains how my character can disable the synthetic humans that are attacking anyone who is trying to escape. My character then comes across a synthetic boy who looks like a 10-year-old Shaun, who believes that he is my character’s human son. As a player, I chose to take this synthetic version of Shaun and all of the Rail Road leave the Institute. My character is teleported to a rooftop overlooking the site where the Institute is underground and presented with a button to detonate the Institute. The image above is part of the crater where the Institute used to be, a site filled with radiation that is similar to that of the Glowing Sea, where the original nuclear bombs were dropped. It is here that you realise this play through of the game, simply replicates the war that created this post-apocalyptic environment in the first place – as the title sequence states ‘War Never Changes’.

These images resemble the main moments in the storyline, these are fixed and will appear in the order that can be seen above. The rest of the images I sorted and sequenced to fit around these main points in the story, the other images represent free play and travelling between the important locations. The sequence of the images can be seen below.

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OUTPUT

With the images and the sequence decided upon, I needed to decide on the output. I had already identified that I wanted to create a photo book because of the number of important photographs that make up this series of images. Although the total of images exceeds the 10-15 specified by the brief, I feel it would be detrimental to the narrative of the project, if I didn’t include all of the images. This journey is a complex and detailed account, which is specific to my play-through of the game Fallout 4. In order to establish my complete investment in the game and the storyline, I feel I have to feature the entire visual story. I chose to make a digital photo-book online with the creator Blurb. I recorded a preview of the book and downloaded a PDF for people to be able to view offline at their leisure.

One of the last decisions for the project was the title. I had a few ideas, which can be seen below:

  • Lily
  • Charmer
  • Lily of the Commonwealth
  • Charmer of the Commonwealth
  • Commonwealth Lily
  • Commonwealth Charmer
  • Commonwealth

Lily was the name I chose my character from the beginning of the game, when I also chose what I gender I was going to play as, what she was going to look like and what strengths she had. From the beginning I chose to work on the elements such as charisma and luck, which would make sure that my character can persuade other characters she meets to bend to her will. This choice to go for charisma informed the decision behind the second title: Charmer, which was the code name I selected when joining the Railroad. I decided to use the reference to my game strategy when choosing the name Charmer, as my character was charming her way through the game environment. The fictional world that the Fallout 4 game is set in, in the former State of Massachusetts, however it is known only in the game as the Commonwealth. Therefore I started playing around with combinations of the character names and the name of the game world to try and make a good title.

My final decision was to choose ‘Commonwealth’, as it refers specifically to the environment that is depicted in the landscapes. I was able to get a really good image of a flower in the wasteland, I might have included the name Lily and used it to refer to my character in the wasteland. However this implies that my character is much better than the other characters, my character is definitely not perfect and is effectively a mass murderer, so I felt trying to liken her to a perfect flower would be false advertising. The title ‘Commonwealth’ was short, succinct, effective and relevant and worked really well for the minimalistic appearance I wanted to achieve, in order to try and convince the viewer that the landscapes are actually real.

Lastly, I decided to make the cover for the photo book a blue that references what is known as ‘Vault-Tech Blue’. Vault-Tech is the company that made the Vault in which my character was protected from the nuclear bombs and is the first place my character sees when beginning her journey through the post-apocalyptic environment. Therefore I felt that featuring this specific colour of blue would help frame the journey from start to finish. In addition to this, the colour palette in many of the images appears to be blue, therefore the cover sets the tone and there is a consistent colour theme throughout the images.

A summary of the project, the video and the PDF can be viewed HERE

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The Institute [SPOILERS]

The Institute are the organisation that were responsible for the kidnap of your son Shaun. The story of Fallout 4 is built around the idea that you are searching for him to try and get him back, as you move further through the story, you gradually find out more about the Institute. It is common knowledge in the Commonwealth, that the Institute created and is responsible for their creation of the synthetic human or synth. The people of the Commonwealth all have something to say about the Institute, but no one seems to know where the Institute is actually located, this unknown element appears to heighten the fear the Institute hold over the Commonwealth, as no one really knows the true extent of their power. Many of the Commonwealth reject the idea of the Institute and the synthetic humans, with many synths being destroyed or driven away from human settlements. The organisation known as the Railroad has dedicated their time to liberating synths that want freedom and breaking down barriers between the synths and the other members of the Commonwealth. However the latter is difficult to accomplish considering the Railroad themselves have to keep their organisation as covert as possible to avoid being attacked by the Brotherhood of Steel and/or the Institute.

 

Kellogg

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Kellogg is the Institute’s man on the surface, who carries out missions for them that needs a human touch. Although Kellogg himself is not 100% human, he has elements of the synthetic humans inside him, which prolong his life and make him stronger. When you were in Vault 111, you saw Kellogg kill your husband (or wife depending on which gender character you chose to play as) and kidnap Shaun. Therefore as soon as you know where Kellogg is hiding, you choose to seek him out for answers. Unfortunately Kellogg doesn’t want to give up the Institute and you end up having to kill him, taking the synthetic brain implant from his body and take it to the settlement Goodneighboor to have his memories analysed. It is through this action that you hear about Dr Brian Virgil, a scientist who escaped from the Institute. However you don’t know if Virgil is still alive, as the Institute sent a courser after him (coursers are effectively the Institute’s version of assassins or special forces).

 

Dr Brian Virgil

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If you dare venture into the glowing sea, you might make it far enough to find Dr Brian Virgil. The top picture shows him as you would first meet him, a slightly intimidating visage and just as unwilling to talk means you have to do some careful persuading to get him to trust you. If you succeed then Virgil tells confirms suspicions that the Institute is using teleportation to travel in and out of their base. He then provides you with a set of plans, which in the right hands will enable a teleportation device to be built, that can lock onto to the Institute’s signal and enable passage into the organisation. Virgil gives you this information on the promise that you retrieve an experimental serum he was developing when he worked in the Bioscience Division in the Institute. Virgil doesn’t make his opinions on the synths clear and equally he doesn’t let you know why he left the Institute – this is something you have to find out for yourself when you visit the Institute. The image below depicts Virgil after he has taken the experimental serum, if you manage to retrieve it from the Institute, proving that Virgil was making progress in his work before he felt he had to leave. When visiting the Institute, you can find a holotape in the room with the experimental serum that details how Virgil was working on a project about a virus called ‘FEV’, this project was increasingly taken out of his control and was being developed in a way that he felt was highly unethical and irresponsible. For this reason, he decided to leave the Institute at great personal risk to himself. Dr Brian Virgil is a good reminder when you are in the Institute, that the organisation is and will be hiding a lot of information with you, so can you really trust them?

 

Liam Binet/Patriot


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Liam Binet is the Railroad’s man on the inside, who is responsible for the escape of lots of Institute synths, the Railroad refer to him as Patriot. If you choose to inform the Railroad about your venture into the Institute, they will request that you make contact with Liam Binet and deliver him a message. This message prompts Liam to arrange a meeting with you, he introduces you to another synth Z1-14 and the three of you conspire a plan to evacuate not just one, but thirteen synths at the same time. Liam requires you to get some information for him, which prompts another side mission where you have to make your way through a laboratory. Liam appears to really care about getting the synths to safety, however he is very reluctant about the idea of anyone getting hurt. For this reason, you have to tread carefully around him and not tell him anything that might make him think synths or humans are in danger. It is unclear whether Liam is a synth himself, as there are other humans working in the Institute. If he is a synth, this would explain why he is so keen on getting the others to freedom. If he is a human, then his motives are completely selfless and he is risking a lot for a individuals that are not even of the same species or kind as him.

Z1-14

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Z1-14 is Liam Binet’s synth ally in the Institute, he is responsible for communicating messages to the other synths in order for them to escape. The Railroad asks you to see whether Z1-14 can arrange for all the synths to be evacuated from the Institute, not just the thirteen agreed on in the plan with Liam Binet. Z1-14 asks around the synths and confirms that a large number of them would fight for their freedom, however there is a real possibility some of the synths might get destroyed, even with the help the Railroad promises to offer. This is a piece of information that you should think carefully about in terms of telling Liam Binet, as he doesn’t agree with the idea of violence and could back out of the plan and alert the Institute. If you work with z1-14, you can secure that the synths will have an adequate amount of weaponry to take on oppositional forces when the time comes to evacuate. Because z1-14 is a synth, it is understandable that he wants himself and the other synths to have a chance at freedom. It is worth noting that he seems to only have a minor role in the Institute, appearing only to be tending to the plants on the main floor. Perhaps if he had a higher station in the organisation then his opinions might be a little different, it seems that as of now Z1-14 doesn’t have much to lose by engaging with Liam Binet and the Railroad.

 

Dr Madison Li


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Dr Madison Li is a scientist working in the Institute, however before she found the Institute she used to work for the Brotherhood of Steel (BOS). Elder Maxson explains that she left her project and that the Brotherhood need her back in order to get the project back on track. However the full details about the project are not obvious, Maxson only tells you that it is something to do with nuclear process possibly nuclear weaponry. The Brotherhood sets you a mission to persuade Dr Li to leave the Institute and rejoin the Brotherhood. I didn’t really get an opportunity to back out of this mission, as I accidentally spoke to Dr Li before I realised that she was the one the BOS wants. Although I tried to select the least persuading options in the conversation, Dr Li decides to return to the BOS. I haven’t seen any immediate impact from this mission, but I imagine that the BOS will be a lot more powerful if Dr Li does help them develop a nuclear weapon. The thought of the Brotherhood possessing nuclear weaponry is very unsettling, since it was nuclear annihilations that caused the war in the first place.

 

Father/Shaun

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This is where the story gets slightly confusing – when you teleport into the Institute, you come across a small boy who you believe to be Shaun. However the boy doesn’t appear to recognise you and becomes visibly distressed, calling out for ‘Father’ to come and help him. An elderly man appears and reads out a code, which appears to shut shaun down. It is then that you realise that the version of Shaun you were trying to talk to is actually a synth. The elderly man, is the individual who is known as ‘Father’ – and he is actually your son. He explains that when he was originally kidnapped from the vault, we were refrozen for another 60 years, so weirdly your son is actually physically older than you now. Father/Shaun is the head of the Institute and he explains that he was taken because the Institute needed DNA that was free from radiation in order to make the synthetic humans. Father is named so because all the synthetic humans are made using DNA, therefore technically they are all his children. You learn that you were released from the Vault for two reasons: Father wanted to see whether you would survive in your attempt to find him and he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Shaun is entering the last stages of his life and wanted you to find the Institute so that you could take over from his as the leader of the Institute. Naturally Father is invested in the work of the Institute and views the synthetic humans as the property of the Institute. Therefore when any synthetic human escapes from the Institute, he feels he has the right to send coursers after them and eliminate any members of the Commonwealth that seek to prevent him taking the synths back. When talking to the Railroad, there are links made between the ideology of Father and that of slavery – these synths are being labelled as property, not individual beings with rights of their own. Father gives you the opportunity to be in charge of the Institute and as a player this allows you to either take down the Institute from the inside, or take your place as the leader and eliminate all the other forces such as the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel.

 

In my personal experience, I have found Father/Shaun as a character that I can’t relate to. The synths in the Institute appear to be in awe of Father and worship him, but I can’t help but think this is because they know he has the power and authority to have them destroyed if not. This poses two options: either these synths are programmed to have a devout appreciation for Father, or they recognise how valuable their life is, therefore they are taking action to protect themselves and keep themselves alive. I have chosen to ally with the Railroad, Liam Binet and Z1-14 in order to try and save any of the synths that want to be liberated as I feel they have never been given the choice to live away from the Institute. Despite my character’s personal relationship with Shaun, I don’t feel like he embodies any of my morals as a player therefore I won’t be taking his side if it comes to a fight. However I will play along for as long as it is needed for the Railroad to take action. This will also allow me to find out more about the Institute as an organisation, the ideology, the human members and the synthetic members.

The Minute Men [possible spoilers]

The Minute Men are possibly the first organisation you come across in the world of Fallout 4, as one of the first story missions leads you to save Preston Garvey and get your first suit of power armour. Their ideology is that if people need help, the Minute Men will always come to their aid. However there are only a few members of the Minute Men left after a tragic event where the old leader General Becker was killed. In this new post-war world, their ethos still remains however there is an incentive to help people in the hope that they will in turn join the Minute Men. There are a number of missions you complete for the Minute Men, including challenges like taking back a castle from the Mirelurk Queen and smaller side missions which are mainly meant for you to discover and ally to different settlements across the Commonwealth. When you help the people of these different settlements, you will have access to their workshop and they pledge their allegiance to the Minute Men.

 

Preston Garvey

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Preston Garvey is the first Minute Men character you meet, when you complete the first story mission after leaving the vault. You rescue Preston and his group of followers from the raiders and they travel to the settlement Sanctuary. After this mission Preston becomes available to be your companion and after he comes along with you on several missions, he tells you the history of the Minute Men and suggests that you become the new General as he thinks you have what it takes to be a leader. This comes with some perks, as you can summon the Minute Men to your aid at any point with the use of a flare gun and if you continue the Minute Men story missions you have the opportunity to get the General’s uniform, which offers a lot of protection from damage and radiation. Preston Garvey doesn’t make his opinion on the synthetic humans very clear, but later on in the story the Minute Men are summoned to protect a scientist that the Institute decide they want to take. This case demonstrates that the Minute Men want to stick up for the ‘little guy’ in the situation, protecting the people that might not be able to protect themselves. Whether they would still embody this ideology if a synthetic human called on their support, I don’t know but I would like to think that they would help any being in need.

 

Ronnie Shaw

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Despite Preston believing he was the only other member of the Minute Men left, we meet Ronnie Shaw later on in the story. Not only is she a veteran member of the Minute Men but she was around long before General Becker. She makes it clear that your title is something you’re going to have to earn and isn’t completely friendly with you straight away, but that’s understandable. When you help Ronnie Shaw and a few other members of the Minute Men take back the Castle from the Mirelurk Queen, I got the impression that Ronnie is in charge of this settlement. This seems like an acceptable offering for her and she seems to approve of you from the moment you defeat the Mirelurks. Again, Ronnie Shaw’s opinion on synthetic humans is not made completely clear, the only concept we can be sure about is her dedication to the Minute Men.

 

Mama Murphy

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Mama Murphy isn’t necessarily a member of the Minute Men, but she is in the group of people under Preston Garvey’s protection in the beginning story mission. She’s the character who tells you to go to Diamond City if you want to find out what happened to your missing son Shaun. Mama Murphy appears to have visions about the other characters and about the future, although you learn that these visions are induced by drugs so whether they are valid is not clear. Still as a player you might as well engage with her character to see what she has to say.

 

Sturges

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Similar with Mama Murphy, Sturges doesn’t appear to have an active role in the Minute Men as he appears to dedicate his time to making sure Sanctuary as a settlement is safe and in working order. When you are required to build the teleportation device, you are presented with a choice between the different organisations and Sturges appears to be the resident technology expert in the Minute Men organisation. It was Sturges I chose to help build the teleporter, as I wanted to try and keep a low profile about having an allegiance to the Railroad in the hope that it would mean I kept my cover for as long as possible. As far as I can see, it didn’t make that much of a difference compared to another player who chose the Railroad, but it was interesting to try. Sturges doesn’t make his views on synthetic humans known, he is just obliged to help you make the teleportation device because he is allied with the Minute Men.

 

The Minute Men seem like a set of decent people that are trying to make the post-war world a better place to live in. Protecting the settlers in the Commonwealth from the raiders, super mutants, gunners and ghouls is in my opinion, a very worthy cause, so I have completed lots of side missions in order to liberate settlements. I’ve noticed that after you stop discovering lots of new settlements, you end up defending the same settlements over and over, however you do get paid a sum of (bottle) caps each time, so if you’re running low on caps, it’s a good idea to complete these missions. In addition to this, for every mission you complete you get some more XP points, which go towards you levelling up. It is unclear what the Minute Men’s stance is on synthetic humans, but they jump at the chance of protecting a single scientist against the forces of the Institute. As this organisation is made up of lots of different people from the Commonwealth, the opinions on synths must be really varied. Some Minute Men members from the settles in the Commonwealth might have experienced the Institute kidnapping and replacing real people with synths, in which case I would expect their attitude towards synths to be adverse. If or when it comes to a battle against the Institute with the Railroad, I will use the Minute Men flares and see what side they fall on and how they react to the prospect of defending synths – so watch this space!

The Railroad [possible spoilers]

The Railroad are an underground organisation fighting for the rights and the freedom of the synthetic humans. Some of the members are liberated synths and some of them are humans, but all of them share the same ideology in relation to the synths: that they have the right to their own lives, free from their makers. To find the Railroad, you need to follow the Freedom Trail until you reach the church, go down into the basement and enter the password  to gain access to the secret base. From then on, you will be able to fast travel straight into and out of the underground base to save you from having to keep going upstairs and outside.

Desdemona

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Desdemona is the leader of the Railroad and makes all of the decisions about what the Railroad do and what their direction should be. She has been criticised by some of the other members for being too emotional to be a good leader, as she sends agents on missions that appear to hold too much of a risk compared to the payout. When you first meet her, she appears to be quite stand-offish (her agents point a gun at you on her orders) but she quickly accepts any help you have to offer and wants you to commit to the Railroad. Obviously any allegiance with the Brotherhood of Steel wouldn’t go down well if Desdemona heard about it, but she’s also not keen on the Minute men either, if you are the general of the Minute men when you start engaging with the Railroad. At some point she will ask you to either side with the Railroad or the Minute men, presumably if you chose to side with the Minute men, that would mean your allegiance with the Railroad would terminate and they might turn against you. Desdemona expects commitment from you, which includes total dedication to the Railroad and their cause.

 

Deacon

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Deacon is quite a complex character, when you first meet the Railroad he devises a plan to get you promoted from ‘tourist’, which means a volunteer citizen, to a proper Railroad agent. If you accompany Deacon on this mission, you can join the Railroad as an agent and Deacon becomes available to be your companion. When you spend more time with Deacon, he pulls you aside and tells you that he is in fact a synth and he gives you his recall code, which will give you vital information in return for a complete wipe of his memories. He advises you to only use it if necessary and even suggests that he wants the code back in case you read it out accidentally. Deacon tells you that he was one of the first synths with which a total cerebral reset was implemented, meaning he doesn’t possess any of the false memories that a normal synth would, he has no memories at all of his early life. However Deacon it turns out, consistently lies to you and it is up to you as a player to try and determine whether to persuade the truth out of him, usually by confronting him and calling him a liar. Your relationship with Deacon is quite a funny one, as you can never really know when he is telling the truth or not, I get the impression that he is testing your reaction to some important truths and therefore he has to throw some lies in there as well to protect himself. This is quite reasonable considering the people from the Commonwealth don’t have a positive view of synths as many of their population have been kidnapped and replaced by synthetic humans as an experiment.

 

Glory

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Glory is one of the liberated synths who is now fighting for the freedom of the other synths as a Railroad agent. She is not afraid of combat, something you find out when you both get sent to a mission by mistake and end up taking on some Generation 1 synths together. She doesn’t really like being questioned a lot about her past, apparently the one question nearly all the synths get asked is if they can actually remember anything about the Institute, which is who made them. She doesn’t like to be associated with the Institute as she is so clearly fighting against them, however this is understandable considering the reaction she must have got from the Commonwealth population if/when they found out she was a synth. Unlike the members of the Brotherhood of Steel who seem put out that you get promoted up their ranks straight away, Glory doesn’t seem to bear you any ill will in relation to your appointment as an agent. The Railroad seems to operate on mutual respect and dedication to their common goal and this seems like a much healthier way to run an organisation than the brutal ranking of the Brotherhood.

 

Tinker Tom

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Tinker Tom is the computer scientist of the Railroad, he is the one of the characters you can go to if you need help building the teleporter for when you want to get into the Institute. He seems a little bit crazy (and his voice really reminds me of Cat in Red Dwarf) but he always seems to get the result, he will also send you on some side missions of his own to get some surveillance technology in place around the Commonwealth. It is Tinker Tom’s efforts that puts you in touch with the Railroad’s man on the inside of the Institute who they have given the code name ‘Patriot’. Tinker Tom doesn’t really make his opinions on the synths known as much as some of the other members, which leads me to believe that he might not be one. But he still appears to be dedicated to the common goal of the Railroad.

 

Dr Carrington

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Dr Carrington is the second in command after Desdemona, but he is under the impression that he would make a better leader than her because he is capable of making the hard decisions that would mean less Railroad agents are put in what he sees as unnecessary danger. Carrington sends you on some of his own missions, which involves securing dead drops and finding out about the fate of other Railroad agents. He’s also really useful if you are vulnerable to damage, radiation and chem addiction as he will fix all three for you for some caps (the currency in Fallout 4 is bottlecaps). Despite his opinion of Desdemona, Dr Carrington seems to be totally committed to the cause of the Railroad, however he doesn’t appear to trust you from the beginning. It takes some successful persuasion efforts to start winning him over (not sure if this is because I’m a female character with some extra charisma perks) but he still seems to be slightly edgy towards you.

 

Overall the Railroad seems like an organisation that are fighting for a good cause, despite the complications associated with synthetic humans and their rights. There is a piece of dialogue, which I think occurs when you first met Desdemona, when she describes how the Institute sees synths as property. I chose the response which likens the way the Institute think to slavery, which is actually quite a good point. Although the synths are artificial, they have been constructed to replicate human life as closely as possible, which means that they appear to have (or maybe they really to have) emotions, they can express humour and they can even be sarcastic. With such a closeness to human life, these synths must be at least considered as beings capable of having a life without the Institute controlling them. Between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Railroad I have decided that the Railroad’s revolutionary ideology suits me a lot better. Yes the synths are artificial and yes my character does have kill a lot of real people in the form of raiders, so the case is naturally very complex. Why should the super mutants and the raiders be killed and the synthetic humans be left alive when they can just as equally pose a threat to the innocent citizens of the Commonwealth? Who am I to make a decision on the synthetic humans when I don’t know the full story behind them? All I can do, is to continue to negotiate my way through the world of Fallout 4 and make judgements based on the synthetic humans I encounter on my way.

The Brotherhood of Steel [possible spoilers]

The Brotherhood of Steel (BOS) is one of the organisations operating in the world of Fallout 4 and there is an opportunity to join them in order to try and find your missing son Shaun. The BOS is military in nature with a strict system of ranking to which all the members must adhere to. There are a few main characters that you interact with as you start to find out about this organisation, each can offer you an incite into how the BOS operate and what their ideology is towards the other inhabitants of the Commonwealth.

 

Scribe Haylen

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Scribe Haylen is part of the team operating under the control of Paladin Danse, she appears to be quite friendly however she does come out with some harder comments as if to try and establish a sense of toughness. If you choose to offer Paladin Danse help when you first meet him, you are introduced to both his team members at the Cambridge Police Station. When you have free time to look about the building you may find a holotape from Scribe Haylen. When played you hear Haylen questioning her place in the BOS, admitting she only joined initially for protection and that she doesn’t believe in the brutal ideology of the other members. Furthermore in conversation with Scribe Haylen, you have the chance to persuade her to talk about her attempted relationship with Knight Rhys. Haylen admits that she thought there was a mutual attraction there but that Knight Rhys valued the Brotherhood’s cause above all other aspects of his life, including romance. Scribe Haylen seems like a troubled character who has joined this organisation looking for the promise of safety, she appears to enjoy her work with technology but can’t help but question the overall ideology of the organisation.

 

Knight Rhys

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Knight Rhys doesn’t make a good first impression, far from the idea of military personal being respectful and un-bias Rhys really seems to hate your character from the moment you meet him and doesn’t make any attempt to hide it. The reason Rhys does not like you becomes clear if you choose to join the Brotherhood of Steel as Paladin Danse promotes you to the rank of Knight straight away, going against the idea of working your way up the ranks, which Rhys would almost certainly have had to do. In addition to this, there is the knowledge that Rhys had to make a choice between love and the Brotherhood and chose the Brotherhood. Therefore seeing your character flitting up the ranks would doubtlessly question the system of the organisation he has effectively given everything up for. Despite these complications Knight Rhys appears to be the model for you to follow if you want to progress in the BOS, you must put your own agendas second to the Brotherhood’s cause in order to make the Commonwealth a better place.

 

Paladin Danse

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Paladin Danse is in charge of Knight Rhys, Scribe Haylen and also your character if you choose to join the BOS. When you follow a military distress signal you come across Danse trying to fight off a pack of ghouls with other members of his team lying injured. If you help him defend Cambridge Police Station, Danse offers you to accompany him on some other missions and then eventually to join the Brotherhood. On a mission with Danse you find out his stance on synthetic humans (synths), Danse views synths as an abomination that needs to be destroyed. This might be because he mentions one of his team was previously killed by a synth, so it’s understandable why he bears a grudge. It becomes apparent then that the BOS’s objective is to eliminate the synths from the Commonwealth, and the Institute for making them regardless of whether the synths consider themselves to be independent beings or not. Still if you do join the Brotherhood, Paladin Danse personally vouches for you and you are immediately promoted to the rank of Knight, which grants you your own set of T-60 power armour. Despite his adverse view on synths, Danse appears to be a character that is free from conflict, just heavily dedicated to the cause of the BOS. If you as a player decide that you agree with his views, then he could prove to be a valuable companion, that is if you can bear to get rid of Dogmeat!

 

Elder Maxson

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If you join the Brotherhood of Steel you accompany Paladin Danse onto the giant flying airship called the Prydwen. Once aboard this ship you are debriefed by Elder Maxson, who is the leader of this division of the BOS. His view on synths are very much the same as Paladin Danse, the synths are unnatural and therefore need to be destroyed as they could pose a threat to the Brotherhood and the population of the Commonwealth. As the BOS’s aim is to act in the interest of the Commonwealth, Elder Maxson makes it the Brotherhood’s responsibility to deal with the synths and the Institute. The intentions of the Brotherhood appear to be slightly more sinister than they first appear however when Maxson gives you the mission of persuading an Institute scientist to rejoin the BOS after an argument prompted to leave her post on a research project. Maxson admits in discussion that this project was developing some sort of nuclear weapon and that the scientist is the key for getting the project back on track again. Although the BOS appear to want to protect the people of the Commonwealth, it appears as though they may be creating weaponry that will just put them in danger all over again.

 

Once you join the Brotherhood of Steel, you are effectively pledging allegiance to their cause of eliminating the Institute. The mentality of this organisation appears to be quite brutal with their goal only to destroy all synths, not to try and understand the reasons behind their creation. Although they claim to be acting in the best interest of the Commonwealth, when talking to the settlements around the Commonwealth people don’t generally remember asking the BOS for their help. They can only remember the moment when the BOS airship appeared in the Commonwealth skies, making it seem like the BOS may acting with their own interests as a priority. Once your character infiltrates the institute the BOS will increasingly put pressure on you to destroy them from the inside, persuading scientists to leave and turning against the Institutes synths in battle. If you refuse to turn again the Institute, or hurt any other the BOS members as a result, you will become an enemy of the BOS and they will aim to eliminate you along with the Institute.

In my play through of the game I have joined all organisations: the Minutemen, the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel. This is partially because I want to see what the ideology of each organisation is, and also because I want to see how each of the missions can contribute to the overall storyline. What I have learned is that each of the organisations will ask you to choose them over the others, none of them want to work together because they appear to have conflicting aims. The Brotherhood of Steel, although a powerful organisation with access to lots of weaponry and technology, resists the idea that the synths themselves could be capable of living a life without violence. Having talked to some of the synths that are in the Railroad, I have acknowledged that even if they aren’t real humans, they are capable of expressing very humanistic concepts such as sarcasm, other forms of humour and even lying for the hell of it. Not something I would expect the Institute to program unless they were attempting to create artificial life, not human weapons. I believe that the synths could integrate in society as individual human beings, away from the controlling hand of the Institute. For this reason, if I am forced to make a choice I think I will not be siding with the Brotherhood of Steel, so I can only hope I have enough armour and weapons to keep myself safe from them when I do break ties!

Fallout 4: Introduced to the game [spoilers]

[There will be spoilers to the Fallout 4 in this game in this blog post, so if you don’t want to know – stop reading!]

It’s certainly no secret to the people who know me that I am a little bit addicted to the game Fallout 4. The game came out in November 2015, however I didn’t get to play it until December when I got the game as a Christmas present. I am fairly new to the gaming scene, only recently buying an Xbox One a few months ago and my old Xbox 360 a year or so before that so this is the first Fallout game I have ever played. In fact I hadn’t really heard of Fallout before so I didn’t really know what it was about. Watching the opening titles reminded me of Call of Duty Ghosts, so I was thinking this game might be like an extended and elaborate Call of Duty campaign (apparently I didn’t really question why it was named ‘Fallout’).

I quickly learnt this game was about the Earth in the future, which seems to be heading towards destruction due to international tensions over declining resources. As the opening titles suggest, there may be a war coming. As a player you’re left with this notion and introduced to the part where you can create your own character.

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Although the voiceover in the opening sequence is male, this is the chance where you can choose to play as a female character, with the male character continuing to live on as a character in the Fallout 4 storyline.  However when I say ‘live on’ this is only for a short amount of time, as bombs fall and the family seek safety in Vault 111: an underground stronghold generously provided by the company Vault-Tec where certain eligible people can be protected from the danger above. Our characters are allowed into the vault because of the male character’s previous military service. There is another member of the family: the baby Shaun, who becomes a key part of the storyline when he is kidnapped by a man. In this scene we witness the father being shot but are unable to do anything because we are frozen in a cryogenic chamber. Now because I chose to be the female character the father dies, however if I had chosen the male protagonist it would have been the mother that got shot. Shaun is taken away and we are refrozen again, until the system apparently crashes and we awake from our chamber, find a way out of the vault and negotiate the world above in an attempt to find and rescue Shaun. We quickly find out that the world has completely changed, the wildlife has been weaponised due to radiation and the people aren’t any better with raiders, gunners and supermutants all looking to dominate the rest of the population.

The gameplay straight away encourages you to take charge of your own survival, as you have to go scavenging for food, water, weapons, ammo and armour. Pretty quickly in the story you come across your first companion, the adorable Dogmeat who can accompany you through the whole of the story if you want (and why wouldn’t you, look at his face!)

Fallout-4-Dogmeat

There’s no doubt as to why this game is so popular, the gameplay is full of tasks that you can chip away at, from salvaging buildings you come across, to the largest story missions which require more effort but allow you to glimpse who might be behind Shaun’s kidnapping. What I really like about the game is that you get lots of choice in how you want to play the game, you aren’t following a heavily structured storyline as it follows a more open world dynamic. This actually allows you to progress in the story in different ways: either doing the smaller tasks that teach you more about the post war world and mean you get to level up before tackling harder tasks or pursuing the main storyline straight away, all the way through to the end. In addition to this, you get a choice of what to say when your character is talking to other characters in the game. You get four options, each of which could facilitate a different response as quite often in the dialogue there are opportunities to threaten, persuade or bribe the other person. If you successfully persuade a character then you can gain access to information you probably wouldn’t have got any other way and you earn XP points which are beneficial if you want to level up sooner rather than later.

This freedom I think is really important for a story game as it shows that developers have put a lot of effort into actually creating a whole world, not just a set of different environments that the character just moves through. As a character you build relationships with the potential companions you meet and you become responsible for the people under your care when you ally with different settlements. There is a real sense that you belong in this world, which then makes the game more addictive and compelling because you as a gamer form an attachment with the world and it’s people. I’m really looking forward to exploring all this world has to offer and hopefully make the right choices when I progress further with the storyline.