Someone contacted me a while ago in order to get access to their old forum account in order to take a trip down memory lane. The forum has been dead for a long time but it's kept private and is mostly there as a digital archive of a different age of the internet. It was founded in 2005 and so at this stage it's going way back.

Today I had a message from them asking to delete the account and so I obliged. I vaguely wonder why but I also understand that everyone has different approaches to their digital past. They also commented that the forum should have been deleted long ago because it's a "ghost town". That's the bit that perplexes me.

It's an archive. Technically it can still be contributed to but I don't expect any further content to be added. I keep it around because it was something we created together and it doesn't feel right to wipe out other people's past without consulting them. Possibly most importantly it's a private archive. Search engines can't index it, new accounts can only be created with admin approval, and so it's just sort of a time capsule.

There's very few forums left online from the time period this one was active in and that's what makes it special to me. The notion that it being inactive is why it should be deleted confuses me. It takes up barely any resources on my webserver, and as it's private even if someone said something as an awkward teenager it's not visible to the wider world.

When these things happen I immediately delete their accounts, as requested. I'm not interested in arguing the toss with them. If they want to delete their content they can. It's theirs after all.

That said if the logic is "it's inactive and therefore should be deleted" then so many things would be lost to the ages. A whole load of podcasts I've enjoyed, webcomics, and other projects would just be gone.

Partly perhaps for me it's because there's something amazing about preserving the mundane. We know the history of great kings from human history but we're scrabbling in the dirt to try to figure out what the lives of the majority of people looked like during those eras. Our forum wasn't big or important to the wider world but it was somewhere many of us visited daily. Relationships were formed (and failed!), joy and sadness was shared, and it all happened during a formative era for the modern internet. The forum predates YouTube. It predates Reddit. It predates modern social media.

Teletext was a mundane part of everyday life in the '90s. These days we've got projects gathering old VHS tapes to try to salvage teletext data from them to try to preserve a small part of what was. Our forum has become part of that sort of thing and I think that's kinda magical.

I probably have a database backup somewhere should it one day be required but it mostly just irks me that people want to carve chunks out of it. It wasn't a hotbed of extremism or something like that - it was mostly chat about the pop culture of the day.

Then again lots of people don't preserve their photos long term. Once they get a new phone they abandon the old stuff. I don't understand that at all but it seems to be fairly normal. I love that I have photos of myself as an awkward teenager with too much neck!

I've ranted about how overrated I think Super Mario 64 is before but today I was watching a video and I think it finally clicked what it is that gets me about it.

The year was 1997, I suspect, and by this point I'd played plenty of games. They'd all been cheaper than the cartridge-based SM64. This game was seriously pricey and I was fortunate enough to have it bought for me (although I did buy the console myself).

There's 120 objectives in the game split across 15 worlds, 16 if we count the overworld and its small secret areas that contain some of them. Effectively there's seven per level.

Remember that famous adage - "Always leave them wanting more"?

SM64 gives no fucks about that. It will have you trekking around those levels until you know them so well that there's absolutely no mystique left. Every time I see pictures or footage of most of the levels my brain instinctively recoils from the boredom.

That isn't to say the levels are terrible - not at all. They're pretty good. Unfortunately they massively outstay their novelty. Many of them change slightly between objectives but they're generally small changes that don't really impact things that much.

By comparison Super Mario Galaxy mixes its worlds up frequently. Areas are sometimes reused but mostly things are shuffled around so that the areas feel fresh and novel.

This may also speak to my utter hatred of backtracking. If I'm going to endure boredom it'd better be for work or someone else's benefit. It has no place in my entertainment choices. If I have to see the same area of a game repeatedly the designers need to:

  1. Have a really good reason
  2. Work very, very hard to keep it interesting
I don't recall ever getting bored of the hub world of SMG. Over time things in it would change and the distances between things were short. The hub world of SMG2 wasn't as good but it was even smaller and so didn't involve an extended stay.

SM64 on the other had has the player traipsing back and forth to get to other levels. It's a slog. As a result I'd rather get the current level polished off and be done with it.

Does that sound like a desirable attitude for players?

A huge, desolate hub world and levels that are used so thoroughly that the question "I wonder what's around the next corner?" is easily answerable as "That thing I've seen three times on this star alone".

All that said I wonder if part of this is my particular wiring. I have an excellent spatial memory, rarely lose things, and can map things very easily (however I can't remember what it is we're doing next week despite being told ten minutes ago). Perhaps the way I experience these levels is unusual and so colours my thoughts on the matter.


We all have those half-remembered things from childhood. TV shows we saw a snippet of, perhaps a book we remember reading, or some game that we played.

I was born in December 1986 and missed out on the British microcomputer boom. That's not a lament, just a statement. Oddly enough I did play some Spectrum games growing up. Long before I knew what an emulator was someone installed one on a PC in my parents' office. I've no idea where they got a speccy emulator or the ROMs, especially as this was pre-internet. Maybe it was on the computer when they got it, maybe it was on a floppy. It's a complete mystery to me.

Regardless there were a variety of games on there. It was tricky knowing what was what. This was in the days of DOS and filenames were limited to 8.3 characters which generally would look like this:

filename.txt -> filena~1.txt

As a result filenames were short and this made the titles of the games rather cryptic until they were booted up. I didn't make notes on what was what either because, well, I was a young child.

Anyway, two games that stood out in my memory were Flunky and another one. Both were open world adventure games with fairly nice pixel art for the time. We'll get to that other one in a moment. It's worth noting that "flunky" is six characters, so that's probably why I remember it!

The second game was not so easy to locate. The problem is that I remember vague things about it but not much else. There were multiple characters to play as and it was set in a British town. Beyond that... Erm... There was a pub called The Red Lion?

Bear in mind that I didn't grow up in the 1980s, I was three years old in 1990. I wasn't aware of the culture of Spectrum games, the weird things that received computer game adaptations, and so on. I've learnt about it in recent years and it was... weird.

I found the game though. It turns out that over on the Spectrum Computing forum there's a thread on Pubs in ZX Spectrum games. Yes, really. It's quite a new thread, as it happens, and three months ago someone posted about The Red Lion!

It turns out that the game was "Everyone's A Wally" and it looks like it was quite highly rated. When it was released on tape the B-side was a song by Mike Berry which is rather catchy, as it happens. Something strange that stood out about the game though - the use of "the". Objects the characters picked up had "the" in the name. "The good insulator", "The empty bottle", and similar. Considering the limited screen real estate (256*192) it's surprising that they did things that way but charming in its own way.

You can see the game being played through here:

Way back in the heyday of forums people on forums I'd frequent would create their own and tell us about them. Sometimes they took off but mostly they didn't.

In response to one of these I created a lengthy post with bits of advice derived from my observations about what worked along with a bit of guesswork. Annoyingly there's no reasonable way to find that post - it'll probably have been on the EU PSP forums and those are long gone. There's probably some record on but realistically it's not worth the trouble.

Perhaps a bit of context is appropriate at this juncture. Forums as a medium are, for the most part, dead. There's a few kicking about but I know my favourite one, YakTribe, updated its forum software and the user experience is now truly horrendous. I'm trying to get over it to continue to contribute but it's like the site actually wants me to leave.

Something that doesn't fulfil the same role but is inexplicably popular is Discord. It seems that any given community has multiple Discord servers. The system works reasonably well and it's certainly a step up from IRC, but its linear nature doesn't lend itself to ongoing discussions. In an attempt to support this admins create countless channels. For bigger servers this is workable, although any time a discussion veers into a different area there's always someone saying "best take this over to #specificChannel". Usually when that happens I just give up. It kills the flow. If there was a WhatsApp-style quote system then the channel switch could be handled somewhat organically but at the time of writing nothing like that exists.

Now, here's where that old forum advice thing comes in. When Dave decides he wants to setup a Discord server for his thing he imagines that he'll hundreds of users. They'll want to spend lots of time there talking about countless subjects. Better get the work done now and create specific channels for each subject!

People starting their own forums would do exactly the same thing. They'd create loads of subforums. Do you know who mostly starts lots of topics in a silent forum? Extroverts and idiots. The former are like gold dust and the latter aren't good at stimulating discussion.

The end result is 1 - 5 topics in each forum and a constant feeling of emptiness. That doesn't foster a community spirit and as a result they'd usually die on their arses.

Anyone wondering about approaches I know to work:
Create 2 - 4 sections. One off topic and the others related to broad areas of the subject materials.

If a subject comes up multiple times then it's time to start thinking about creating a new area for that - otherwise the existing area will become the de facto right place for that, often at the expense of other discussions.

The other thing to bear in mind is which tool is right for the prospective audience.

I'm not a fan of Facebook. I never have been. I was a late adopter and I don't use it to share many of the traditional things. In fact I mostly use it for hobby communities and work. Like the medium or not there has never been a more active Gorkamorka community anywhere. At the time of writing there are more than 2300 members and it's rare for a day to go by without someone posting something.

Multiple forums have existed over the years, there's several Discord servers with Gorkamorka channels, there's a subreddit, and probably other things too. None of them see more than a few words exchanged per month. Some don't see that per year.

A fresh-faced young nerd of 17 asked me:

"have you ever considered making a gorkamorka specific discord?" 
...the other day and that's what got me started on this train of thought. At the time I asked him what that would accomplish and he didn't have an answer for me. I wasn't trying to be harsh, I was basing it on the fact that I run the Gorkamorka channel on the /r/Warhammer Discord server. There are over 3000 members on there. I've probably had less than ten proper conversations about Gorkamorka on there ever. I'm also on an Ork-specific Discord server. Fewer than five Gorkamorka conversations in its channel.

Each time one creates a new space for a subject there's some filtering. Uptake isn't perfect. Any time there's an opportunity for something to be a bit too much faff then a certain percentage of users will vanish.

As a result the hypothetical best tool for the job might be much better but unless the existing userbase is crying out for a move then it's rarely worth it. Even if it is then care must be taken in rolling out the new setup so as to encourage a bit of esprit de corps.

Incidentally my favourite use of Discord has been for programming assistance related to my Twine projects. It's a medium that works well for that sort of thing as its features are richer than IRC and the persistence of conversation means one doesn't need a client running the whole time to get some context.

Next time I'm curious what that game was that someone brought in for us to play on the ignored computer in the corner of Ms. Seward's (Mrs.?) classroom: Iron Lord.

By a process of elimination it must have been the Atari ST version. The reason being that I'd used an Amiga 500 or 600 extensively and would have noticed and remembered if it was Amiga-branded. Similarly it couldn't have been an Acorn Archimedes because almost all the other computers available to us were those ARM-based wonders. In the next classroom there was one and we used it often to play things like Crystal Maze, Lemmings, Pac-Mania, and Chuck Rock. With the disks kicking about we'd have used the other machine as well if it'd been an option.

Iron Lord was released for the following platforms:

  • Acorn 32-bit 
  • Amiga
  • Amstrad CPC 
  • Atari ST 
  • Commodore 64 
  • DOS 
  • ZX Spectrum
We've eliminated the first two. The CPC, Commodore 64, and Speccy all had distinctive appearances and whilst I might not have recognised them (although weirdly I'd played Spectrum games on PC on an emulator at this point, long before I knew what an emulator was!) they were most definitely not "early '90s light grey" (unlike the Archimedes, Amiga, and Atari ST). We had Windows machines at home and I was well versed with gaming on Windows by this point so that's a non-starter.

Quod erat demonstrandum it must have been the one and only time I ever used an Atari ST. I remember the map screen, the arm-wrestling minigame, and vaguely the archery.

Now to track down a game that might have been played on a BBC Micro... but might not. Wait, no, it must have been on an Acorn Archimedes and it really was called "Asylum"! Someone brought it in, as far as I know, and I had a go on it. What a weird time it was in personal computing.

Something that's kind of interesting to me - I initially poured scorn on the concept of Apple's iPad. I couldn't see a good use case for me when they were new. It's now nearly a decade on and frankly... that hasn't changed.

Our household contains several tablets that we've acquired through various means and they're just sort of, well, useless to me. We sometimes use one to interface with our recording equipment for podcasts but that role is equally served by any phone with a headphone socket.

I suppose the general point being that with some technologies I think they're brilliant for me and for others not so much. Some win me over, most don't.

The world has embraced tablet computing and I'm no luddite. I'm just still not convinced. This may be because I'm part of the internet's 1%. I create content. Lots of content. Tablets aren't really conducive to that.

I currently create both images and video, program, and write. Those kinds of tasks don't really gel with a keyboard-less device, I suppose. It does make think of the phrase "I'm a lurker, not a writer" which is apparently a popular motif for underwear. How odd.

This isn't a condemnation of tablets, it's just a little introspection.

I've been playing the Battlefield series of games for a while now on a variety of platforms. I enjoyed the hell out of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on Windows, had a fairly okay time with Battlefield 3 on Windows, then dived into Battlefield 4 on Xbox 360, and now I'm onto Battlefield 1 on Xbox One X.

It's essentially mandatory at this stage to mention that Bad Company 2 is really the pinnacle of the series. That. Make that. It was an amazing game and still looks lovely today. It also had mechanics that I really enjoyed, weapons that fitted a variety of playstyles, and an expansion pack set in Vietnam.

You can view my stats for my time with Bad Company 2 here. My favoured weapons were the M1 Garand, the Type 88 LMG. Interestingly one can see it's early in my Battlefield career as my cumulative Kill/Death ratio is only 0.82 after 263 hours.

What tends to happen is that I suck most heartily for quite a while. Then I find some weapons that fit my tastes, get a feel for the maps, figure out the game mechanics, and then get (fairly) good.

For some context, here's a little table:
Bad Company 20.82263 hours
Battlefield 30.9949 hours
Battlefield 41.36247 hours
Battlefield 11.2347 hours

It's taken next to no time at all to get a positive kill/death ratio in Battlefield 1 as I'm just better at these kinds of games these days. I may not be a spritely twenty something but my reactions are plenty quick (and frankly reaction time isn't the limiting factor!).

It's only tabulating the data that has me noticing a trend. I'm writing this post because although I'm now good at BF1, I'm just sort of... done with it. I was similarly done with BF3 and it's rather impressive how close the total playtimes are. Huh.

However I wanted to provide a bit of info first to thoroughly support the notion that I've put the effort in to get to know the game. One could view these hour counts as wasted time too but I don't play these games as a hobby. They're part of actively relaxing. Trying to be productive every waking hour just results in my brain feeling like it's disintegrating. Being that it's me I try to min/max my relaxation too and so blog posts like this result.

A further bit of context - I watch a lot of Forgotten Weapons and have done for some time (Jenny interviewed Ian for her podcast last year!). I'm interested in a variety of firearms, often for their place in history. "Last ditch" weapons are a particular favourite, for example.

Coming to Battlefield 1 I had a rough idea of what to expect. What caught me off guard and still annoys me is the degree of silliness. These games have four classes whose roles vary a bit game by game. There's usually a machine gunny role, a sniper role, and an assault rifle role. Other stuff gets shuffled around but broad strokes here.

World War 1 is the setting for Battlefield 1. Assault rifles effectively weren't invented until the late stages of World War Two. Hmm.

Well we've got light machine guns, they were a thing. Ish. Sure, whatever, if you like. Similarly snipers were very much a thing. My grandfather passed the third cigarette on to his children, for example (Yep, my grandfather was a Victorian - he was born in the late 1890s).

Submachine guns then. What about them?

Basically they weren't starting to see use until 1918. Even then we're not talking vast quantities. Between 5,000 and 10,000 MP18s were issued, for example. It's a mainstay of Battlefield 1. Everyone's packing one. Well, everyone that hasn't unlocked the bloody Hellriegel, of course.

The Hellriegel might as well be fictional. Do you know how many were built?


All we have are some photos of the damned thing.

But if you're playing BF1 you'd be forgiven for thinking it was the main weapon of World War 1. Both in multiplayer and campaign it's everywhere.

Similarly there's various self-loading rifles in the game for the medic class. They're mostly ridiculously obscure things as far as I can tell. No, 200 rifles do not count. In a war as big as that I cannot have that handwaved. Sorry, no.

German tanks. In the game they're all over the place. In reality there were 20. By comparison there were 150 British tanks.

Yeah, sorry, knowing that the chances of a German tank appearing were that minimal makes it very difficult to not feel like the entire game is written by morons. It isn't. They made choices that made sense for their expected player base. It was created to make money after all.

That said it's very difficult to take the game seriously when you're in the Sinai desert and find a German tank has teleported there from France. Sorry, no.

Having seen footage of the sequel, Battlefield V, I'm concerned that they're pulling similar dumb bullshit (24 Flettner Fl 282s were built, DICE. Helicopters didn't feature prominently in World War fucking Two).

I enjoy the odd obscure weapon (such as the inclusion of the damned Kolibri pistol in Battlefield 1!) but they should be fun references, not the main armaments. Once you take it too far the fourth wall breaks and the whole backdrop of the game goes with it.

Woefully esoteric

21 February 2019

Perhaps I'm odd like this but I hate Chekhov's Gun and the writing style it encourages. Cut away everything from a plot or scene until only the bare bones remains results in something substantially more lifeless.

Chekhov wrote about "promises made" to the audience and honestly - no.

Maybe it's because we now live in a world with much greater exposure to stories in a variety of mediums but things like this ruin the mystique of the plot for me. It's like watching a TV show with a "previously on" segment. They're essentially telling the audience which obscure details mattered from previous episodes - thanks for that.

I can give an example from Vatta's War (by Elizabeth Moon). There's a scene in the ship's mess where characters have a conversation about a pen knife with a hidden blade. It never comes up again - even when it might have helped save one of the character's lives.

My takeaway from this wasn't "but there was an implied promise that it'd reappear" (*cough* Chekhov) it was "these characters are having a realistic conversation and it's helping me invest in them emotionally". Of course one can argue that by doing this the knife is still serving a purpose and it is but not in the setup->payoff way that Chekhov's talking about.

My favourite thing about Mad Max: Fury Road is the worldbuilding. There's barely any expositional explanation of what's happening unless it makes sense (e.g. Nux being told what's happening outside because he's receiving a blood transfusion). We're expected to piece it together as we go along - just like real life. It's up to us to figure out which bits are important and which aren't and for me that really helps bring a setting to life.

It's something I really appreciate in slightly older films - every moment isn't crammed with content. There's space to breathe and the editing isn't as tight. I enjoy the modern style too but it's very different and conforms more to Chekhov's way of doing things.

Of course it's entirely possible to overdo this and never get on with the plot but that's where an editor should be getting involved!

I'm surprised I haven't written about Dave Morris' gamebook "Heart of Ice" before. I mean, I have, but I would have thought in the decade plus that I've been blogging here I would have covered it.

Growing up from about age seven we would leave south Wales during the nicest time of year and migrate to the north of England where the weather could be best described as "Autumnal" and the terrain "open" (read: barren). It was part of a contract to supply hunting falcons - they needed to be supplied trained during that period. I was dragged along because I was a child and couldn't be abandoned to enjoy the summer. On the plus side this is probably why I still revel in warm weather!

One of the highlights (as this was pre-internet access) was the local library. It wasn't amazing but it was substantially better than the one we had in Carmarthen even though it was smaller. Having revisited that library in the mid 2000s I'm still not sure what large sections of it were for.

Anyway the Haltwhistle library had a promotional standee thingy containing books. I seem to recall it showed a gorgeously printed snake creature but that could just be a false memory. In it were a series of choose-your-own-adventure style books. I'd encountered the format previously having been introduced to the Fighting Fantasy series by a friend. The relatively complex dice mechanics and similar didn't really work for me though and so I tended to read them more for the story than anything else.

I borrowed all the books from the standee at various points but the one I kept coming back to was, unsurprisingly, Heart of Ice. It had a clear slip cover on it and I loved it. I borrowed it every summer and desperately wanted my own copy. My mother tried to track one down (she'd often visit book shops and pick books she thought I might like to encourage me to read - a success but possibly the reason I'm crap at picking books for myself) to no avail.

Years later I emailed Dave Morris and he provided both a PDF and somewhere to buy a reprint. I later contacted him about developing a game based on the book. It would have been an open source game done through a small group I was involved with but whilst I received permission things never got started on that project.

Time passed.

Then last year I thought "I'm working on my own Twine/Sugarcube game - why not take a break and port the original book? How hard can it be?"

You might think the answer would be "much harder than expected" but it wasn't. In programming terms the game is relatively simple. There's no randomness, for example. The thing that took a while was importing every passage (400+) as well as scanning and processing the artwork. As mentioned in a previous post I really don't like my Twine games to be a collection of files. If at all possible I want them self-contained and for this game that meant being clever with the choice of compression. Conveniently (the book cover and map aside) all the artwork is in black and white. Literally. There are no shades of grey whatsoever. This meant I was able to use a very limited colour palette to produce high resolution versions of the images. That matters because have you looked at a modern phone or tablet?

I wanted this stuff to look sharp! The art is gorgeous and it'd be such a shame to only have some blurry JPEGs when something better would be possible with some effort. This did mean scanning in all the artwork myself though but what the hell, why not?

Amusingly because of the way Blogger works it will look fairly muddy but trust me, in the game the illustrations look great.

I also upscaled some additional artwork where appropriate from the original artist, Russ Nicholson. You can see some of it here. Quite an iconic style and the reprinted book I mentioned earlier contained at least one extra piece so in it went too!

Something that wasn't in the original book was sound - it wasn't powered by Ultraword™after all.

If I had the right gear and unlimited time I would have liked to create soundscapes for every location but unfortunately that wasn't an option. Many players may not hear the game's sounds though so I thought it might well be wasted effort regardless. I instead included a few sounds for usability:

  • Should you be unfortunate enough to die you'll be subjected to the howling wind over snowy plains.
  • Reloading a barysal gun is surprisingly uncommon and so there's a cue for that too.
  • Being unable to purchase something due to lack of funds also has a little tone.
  • There's also a sound for opening the map. The illustration on the inside cover of the original book always felt it was lacking some sort of noise so I had to figure something out!
Finally I implemented some custom fonts to convey when certain types of character speak (usually mechanical voices - I wanted Gilgamesh to be particularly unpleasant to read. Yes, that font choice was deliberate.).

I did some bug testing (not enough as it turns out - is there such a thing as "enough bug testing"?) and then contacted Dave Morris. Better late than never, eh?

If you follow Dave's blog you'll already have seen this but it became his Christmas present to fans!

You can play the game here: 

The URL isn't very nice, I know, but I don't want to finalise things until I'm fairly confident it won't need to be changed again. Oh and saving the web page should get you everything as it's self-contained.

Right, I'm going to go turn the heating on!

I'm still paying Fallout 4. Whilst I'm enjoying it I'd quite like to reach the end because once I'm done I don't plan on ever playing through it again. Not in a bad way - I just can't see my future self sinking this much time into a single game.

I don't like ridiculously short games but equally if a game is over a certain length it's almost an immediate non-starter - assuming I know the approximate length of the game going in of course.

This has lead me to wish that Bethesda could do several things with a future Fallout game. I don't think there's any chance of them doing these things and that's pretty much why I'm writing about them. Furthermore as a player I only think I know what I want. Customers often say they want one thing but then purchasing patterns don't actually support that and I suspect the same would be true here. I'd like some of the following tried though!

1. A smaller game world.

As much fun as a sprawling game world is it's still too small. Y'see when it comes to worlds Bethesda doesn't make them to scale. Most developers don't. Reality is big and that's not actually all that fun to traverse. Add to that the task of detailing everywhere being immense and we're at a situation where it's either a matter of procedural generation (hard to do right) or lots of hours of work for a small army of developers (ruinously expensive and also hard).

Modern incarnations of the Gamebryo engine can at least handle tens of NPCs so the place doesn't feel quite as empty but the idea of an in-game location being a "city" is still painfully jarring. It works fine for a "settlement" but no, that's not a city. That's not even a town.

As with many things creativity is often spurred on by limitations. I wish Bethesda would embrace their limitations and try to tell a compelling and reactive story within those rather than aiming for something beyond the scope of what they can realistically realise.

2. A more reactive game world.

I'm making my way through Fallout 4's story but before I really got started I took the time to build a network of well-populated settlements. I dragged many of them kicking and screaming into civilisation. By that I mean I'd take over a settlement with people living in pathetic shacks that would in no way be suitable for the climate they live in. I'd define a perimeter to be defended and build with concrete. Proper structures that could be defended. Solid concrete walls thick enough to provide a barrier against the radiation storms that often blow in from the south west. Lighting. Water. Food.

This sort of thing is very rarely commented on in the game's story though. It's not programmed to react to my exploits most of the time. When I encountered the character of Deacon I was incredibly pleased that he was on my side on the basis of my exploits. He knew that I'd done things and should be allied with as soon as possible.

Similarly I enjoyed having the option to tell a journalist:
"You're all living in rusty shacks, killing each other, and my God, the smell..."
I'm trying to roleplay as my character and whilst she's generally a force for good I also try to remember that she's a pre-war lawyer. She is intelligent, incisive, and doesn't take any bullshit. Sometimes she will ask questions she knows the answers to in order to see what the other party thinks about the matter.

So upon being presented with Bethesda's idea of what 200 years after a nuclear war looks like I would expect her to think "Really? This is the best you could do?"

Note that this contrasts with what 200 years after the war looks like in Black Isle's Fallout universe. There they've realised that they can, in fact, build... new structures. Mind blowing.

The general point being that most of the time my character doesn't seem to be recognised by the game world. It is unaffected by her and she is unaffected by it. Companions will comment on an area but she remains silent. It's pretty immersion breaking.

Scale it down and make it react more. If I do remarkable things or establish trade networks that's a big deal. It's a big deal because everyone else seems to mostly be sitting around sulking rather than getting their shit together.

3. Stop being scared to create.

There's the headquarters of a toy company. They're a Bethesda creation (and their toy, Giddyup Buttercup is too). Well done. On a terminal one can read about possible future models of the toy that would have tie-in branding. Which companies are named? Nuka cola, Vault-Tec, and Rob-co.

Wow. Yes, obviously. Such natural fits and certainly not chosen because barely any other notable named companies exist within the canon. Would it have killed them to create some plausible tie-ins?

Similarly many of the enemies that exist in the Bethesda Fallout games have at best a very flimsy justification for being there. The same is true for various drugs found in the games. Psycho, for example, is a military drug:
A unique delivery system filled with strange and unknown chemicals of probably military origin. It is supposed to increase the combat potential of a soldier.
But of course you find it all over the place in Bethesda's games because why not?
The drug "Jet" was invented during the events of Fallout 2. You can have its creator join your party.

Fuck it though, let's ignore that and have it spread across America rather than California. We could invent a similar drug and call it something else but we didn't buy the Fallout IP not to use it.

Yeah, it's dumb, it's lazy, and it takes me out of the moment. If you need something in the game check if it already exists and could plausibly be found there. If it isn't plausible create something else to fit the bill.

In general I want a tighter experience that feels less like a load of addictive game mechanics strung together and more like a roleplaying environment. Not much point in creating a roleplaying game if the player's actions don't really matter.