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Fallout 3 Mods

Mod Projects for Fallout 3
(Level design, 3D art, game design, scripting)


This page details the various mods I have released for Fallout 3 - from the extraordinarily popular 'Weapon Mod Kits' to smaller, simpler mods like 'Nightvision Goggles (Powered)' and 'Household Water Purifier'.

Weapon Mod Kits Contents

- Summary
- Screenshots
- Download links
- Design process
- Design post-mortem

Nightvision Goggles (Powered) Contents

- Summary
- Download links

Household Water Purifier Contents

- Summary
- Download links

Weapon Mod Kits Summary

Weapon Mod Kits (WMK) for Fallout 3 is probably the most popular mod I have ever released for any game. Within 24 hours of release it ranked as the 3rd highest-rated Fallout 3 mod available on Fallout 3 Nexus - which I understand is the most popular Fallout 3 mod-indexing site on the Internet. (See the Fallout 3 Nexus Top 50 - later to be Top 100 - list here.) One week later, WMK reached the number one spot: the highest-rated mod available on Fallout 3 Nexus. (At the time of writing the top few spots are volatile, but WMK remains 'neck and neck' close to number one, if not at number one outright).

WMK also caught the attention of Fallout 3's developers at Bethesda Softworks, as reported on their Bethesda Blog website. But what is Weapon Mod Kits all about?

'Weapon Mod Kits' allows the player to modify weapons in Fallout 3 with various attachments or adjustments: Auto-Fire Mechanisms, Extended Magazines, Laser Sights, Scopes and Silencers. These attachments are found in the game world in the form of the titular Weapon Mod Kits. To modify their weapons with these Kits, the player takes them to one of a number of 'Weapon Modification Workbenches' placed around the game world.

The majority of the art assets used in this mod are largely based on assets from the base game - only with some 'remixing' performed by me. Some assets are based on items from the base game that were retextured or otherwise modified by other members of the modding community (see the WMK readme for full credits). WMK is/was primarily a game design project (along with a fair bit of scripting and some level-design related work).

Included on this page (in this order), are some promo images I made for the mod, download links, a summary of my thoughts and processes while designing and building the mod, and a design post-mortem on the project.

Weapon Mod Kits Screenshots

Weapon Mod Kits Download Links

Download #1: Fallout 3 Nexus
Download #2: Planet Fallout

Weapon Mod Kits Design Process

My original inspiration for WMK came from how much I enjoyed the weapon attachment system in the game 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R.' - where the player could attach modular pieces like silencers, scopes and grenade launchers to various weapons in the game. Upon seeing how the unmodified game of Fallout 3 featured a couple of variants of one or two specific weapons differentiated by the presence or absence of (for example) a silencer - but not in a systematic fashion - I thought I could bring a similar gameplay mechanic to Fallout 3.

That was the key idea: the creation of a weapon modification system that would add some more depth to the game, while meshing comfortably with the existing game systems. I wanted it to just feel like a matter of course that the player could tinker with their weapons in different ways; a believable extension on the scavenged, makeshift aesthetic of the Fallout game world.

I can't deny a certain 'coolness' factor influencing my choices on what modifications would be available: I started by thinking about what would look cool, and what would be fun and feel satisfying to use. This is a game, right? A game should be fun, of course. I solidified my choices by then thinking about what would create noticeable - but not overpowering or otherwise unbalancing - changes in the feel of a weapon, and which modifications would create effects that were noticeably different from one another. I didn't think there would be much point in creating two different modifications that both effectively increased the accuracy of a weapon, for example.

A couple of other factors influenced the choice of Mod Kits and how they would be implemented. One was that I decided to do what I could to only use assets already included in the game to depict the modified weapons (so for example an Assault Rifle modified to have a scope would use the scope from the Sniper Rifle). This was both to save myself development time by avoiding making too many new assets, and to reinforce the scavenger aesthetic of Fallout 3: I thought it fitting that the modified weapons looked like they used parts scavenged from other weapons found in the game.

Another factor was that I decided to limit the maximum number of applicable modifications per weapon to four. This was partially due to a technical issue (which I will go into in more detail further below), partially to streamline - rather than dilute - the mod, and partially a balance issue: to avoid too many of the weapons receiving a huge number of modifications while others only received one or two.

So, with the requirements being that the weapon modifications looked cool, changed the behaviour of a weapon in noticeable ways that were both different from one another and not overpowering in some way, could mostly be made using existing assets, and allowed me to limit the maximum number of modifications per weapon to four (without compromising the believability of the system) I decided on the following Mod Kits:

- Auto-Fire Mechanism: Adds full-auto firing capability to most guns that do not have it otherwise (also increases weapon spread by around 50%). This is the only modification that does not have a visual effect on the weapon it is applied to (the concept being that the internals of the weapon are being modified here, rather than something being attached to the weapon). Firing a weapon that is normally semi-automatic in full-auto was 'cool' enough to stand on its own, I thought. I decided that this Mod Kit was only to be applicable to weapons that were not already automatic (of course), and looked like they could support such a feature (an 'automatic' bolt-action rifle wouldn't work, for example). I also excluded the Sniper Rifle, as making it fully automatic would be counter-productive when using the weapon in its intended role. The accuracy reduction factor was brought in during beta-testing to balance the benefits of the modification, when it was found that the Combat Shotgun in particular was made very powerful when given full-auto capability.

- Extended Magazine/Clip: Doubles magazine/clip capacity. This was the simplest Mod Kit to conceive and design. The player can fire a weapon for longer before having to reload it, which is satisfying, and the visual of a weapon with a larger than usual magazine was one that I liked. It was to be applied to every weapon that looked as if it could support it (virtually everything; only weapons that don't use magazines - such as revolvers - were excluded).

- Laser Sight: Increases accuracy (reduces weapon spread by around 33%). A laser sighting beam projecting from a weapon is an appealing visual, and having the modification make a weapon more accurate is an attractive benefit. This was again to be applied to all weapons that looked like they could support it (and receive a significant benefit from it - shotguns were excluded for this reason). The only weapons that were excluded besides shotguns were weapons that appeared too small to support a Laser Sight without it interfering with its operation, or were accurate enough (from a game statistics point of view) already that a Laser Sight would provide negligible benefit.

- Scope: Can use scope to sight targets, increases range by 30%. A scope was an obvious choice for a visually-oriented modification to a weapon that had a satisfying benefit: making it easier to shoot at targets that are further away. Along with the increased zoom offered by the scope, I decided to give the rounds fired by the weapon increased range. This is not precisely realistic, of course; it was intended to provide a more concrete benefit to the Mod Kit (but one that was still in-keeping with the idea of increasing the weapon's ranged combat capability). The only weapons that were excluded from being able to receive scopes were ones that were either too small or would not receive much, if any, benefit from a scope (of the telescopic variety). This mainly includes smaller handguns and shotguns.

- Silencer: Makes weapon silent, decreases damage (by around 10%). Another easy choice: silencers are iconic in visuals and in their (movie/game version of reality) use. The damage decrease was intended as a balance against the (potentially substantial) benefit of being able to fire a weapon without enemies being able to hear it, and also has some basis in reality (as many silencers can reduce the 'performance' of a bullet fired through it). The only weapons that were excluded from being able to receive silencers were the shotguns - and this was largely because the shotgun designs included in the game did not look as if they could easily support silencers.

The technical issue mentioned above (that contributed to my decision to limit the maximum number of applicable modifications per weapon to four) was due to more-or-less inescapable mathematics. Each successive Mod Kit that could be applied to a weapon exponentially increased the number of variants of that weapon that were required (to cater for all the potential combinations of different modifications).

1 Mod Kit(s) = 2 variants
2 Mod Kit(s) = 4 variants
3 Mod Kit(s) = 8 variants
4 Mod Kit(s) = 16 variants

Each weapon variant required its own mesh, numerous new entities added to the WMK plugin file via the GECK construction set, and scripting work. Before I started production on WMK I identified this as an obvious point where careless design could create an overwhelming workload for myself - and so it contributed to the 'maximum-of-four-modifications-per-weapon' decision.

Up to sixteen variants per weapon was still a significant workload - not to mention a breeding ground for mistakes due to the tedious/repetitive nature of dealing with many subtle but unique variants on a range of 'models' (not the 3D kind of model). I devoted a fair amount of time to developing systems that would simplify and streamline my workload, and reduce the chance of making mistakes. The simplest, most effective and most useful system was a common naming convention to be used across all parts of the mod (behind the scenes, at least). Everything that required a name to identify it would have 'WMK' as a prefix, and all names relating to modified weapons would have a suffix containing a set of initials (in alphabetical order) identifying the relevant modifications:

AF = Auto-Fire Mechanism
EC = Extended Clip/Magazine
LS = Laser Sight
SC = Scope
SI = Silencer

So the database entry for a 10mm Pistol modified with an extended magazine and a silencer would be named 'WMKweap10mmpistolECSI', for example.

Prior to starting production I had also decided to only give the 'Small Guns' class of weapons in Fallout 3 the 'WMK treatment' for WMK version 1.0 - with the assumption being that the remaining weapons in the game would be developed in later versions of the mod. I chose 'Small Guns' as they most closely resembled the types of real-world weapons players would be more likely to be familiar with. The use of 'modifications' similar to the ones planned for WMK on these real-world weapons was also well-documented and would likely be familiar to most players.

Weapon Mod Kits Design Post-mortem

At the time of writing, Weapon Mod Kits version 1.0 has been released for only a week, and work continues on the mod to fix issues, make balancing tweaks, and add new features. This was part of the plan: at this stage I view WMK's 'completion status' as being similar to that of games that receive significant updates after release (such as MMO games). I do envision there being a day when I'll call the mod 'complete' - but that is a way off yet.

That means that this design post-mortem really is a post-mortem of WMK's design - the initial decisions I made before and during the production of WMK version 1.0. It contains my thoughts on what worked well, and also what I think could be improved upon - what likely will be improved upon as I work on updates to the mod.

[Later Edit]: WMK has been out for several months now and remains very popular. I frequently receive suggestions from users of the mod for new types of Mod Kits I could add to WMK. What follows is something I wrote in a post on the official Bethesda Game Studios forums summarising the thinking behind the finite number of Mod Kit types in WMK, so that these users knew why I was not planning to add to the Mod Kits available:

There are a few 'rules' I came up with while designing WMK. 'Rules' makes it sound stodgy and confining, but remember this was with the intention of making it fun. I mean, why would I do otherwise? I made WMK for my own use as well, of course. ;-)

- Each modification should be 'iconic' and easily visible and identifiable when applied to a weapon. (Auto-Fire is the only one that is not visible when applied to a weapon, but I decided that firing a normally semi-auto weapon in full-auto was noticeable enough).
- Each modification should have a unique and different effect on the behaviour of the weapon it's applied to - there should be no overlapping effects.
- The idea is to create a kind of system, rather than a bunch of special-case scenarios - so as much as possible, each modification should be applicable across a wide range of weapons (across Small Guns, Big Guns and Energy Weapons). This also makes it more likely that when any given player finds a Mod Kit, it's one they'll be able to use.
- No modification should increase damage. This is partially because I can't think of an appropriately iconic, visible and universal modification that would do this, and partially because I wanted the effects of modifications to be more interesting than just a damage boost.
- No more than four applicable modifications per weapon. One reason for this is the exponential increase in weapon 'variants' required as the number of applicable modifications increases. Another reason though is one of balance: some weapons can support more modifications than others, and a cap on this helps prevent certain weapons becoming 'overpowered' compared to others due to modifications.

Obviously there are exceptions, but I think they were worthwhile. For example the silencer mod kit is currently only used on 'Small Guns' weapons - but a silencer is possibly the most iconic weapon attachment imaginable in this context; there's no way I could get away with not including it. ;-)

So with the above 'rules' (not a complete list) in mind, here are some of the commonly suggested new mod kit types, and the reasons why they're not planned:

- Can't think of an appropriate effect that doesn't overlap with another modification (already have laser sights to increase accuracy).

Rechambering to use a different calibre round
- Not a visible modification.
- Can't think of an appropriate effect that doesn't overlap with another modification.

Change in round type (incendiary, explosive, armour piercing, etc)
- Not a visible modification.
- Not really a weapon modification per se.

Various bits of 'ray gun' wizardry (reflectors, refractors, accelerators, amplifiers, modulators, etc)
- Only applicable to Energy Weapons.
- Difficult to represent visually (either at all or in a way that communicates what it does to the person looking at it).

[End of later edit]

What was successful

The base concept of WMK has proven to be a very popular - and by all accounts (including my own) - fun addition to Fallout 3. The mod adds more items for the player to search for (searching and scavenging being an enjoyable and immersive aspect of the base game), and furthermore gives the player immersive choices about how to utilise those items. The use of weapons is a large part of Fallout 3, and WMK successfully adds some more depth and player-choice to that aspect of the game.

Integration with existing game mechanics also worked well. The effect that the player character's 'Repair' skill has on various aspects of WMK complements the multiple effects the skill has on aspects of the base game - therefore providing more benefits to improving that skill, and at the same time more disadvantages to not improving that skill. The obvious example would be the effect the Repair skill has on the condition of the weapons the player modifies. If the player has a low Repair skill, they find that modifying a weapon will leave it in poor condition, even if it was originally in good condition. Conversely, a player with a high Repair skill can actually improve the condition of a weapon by modifying it.

The fact that the majority of the modifications had obvious impacts on the appearance of the weapons has proved to be effective - and well-received amongst players. It acts to reinforce the feeling of satisfaction and achievement the player feels at having found a Mod Kit and applied it to a weapon: they can see the evidence of the action they've taken. The visible modifications to the weapons also act as indicators - or reminders - of the altered aspects of the weapon. The scope sitting atop the weapon reminds the player that he/she can 'zoom in' to more easily attack that far-away target. The larger magazine reminds the player that he/she can fire for longer without having to worry about reloading. And so on.

Even if only from a promotional point of view, presentation was very important. Obviously the more reliably I could attract someone's attention to WMK, and the faster I could communicate what it is about and impress them enough to download and try it, the better. I decided to try to achieve all those things in a single promotional image. In actual fact I made a series of images (see them all in the WMK Screenshots section above), but each image followed the same principles, and could stand on its own and represent the mod perfectly well:

A defined, simple but professional-looking format for the image establishes WMK as a disciplined, contained and complete product/entity: it establishes the 'brand'. Care was taken when capturing the background image to create an artistically effective image, with a substantial field of clear sky to serve as a kind of blank canvas for the other graphical elements that were to be used. These graphical elements - small, icon-like images of an unmodified weapon and Mod Kits that could be combined with it - were pivotal to the success of the promotional image as a whole. The imagery of using 'plus' and 'equals' symbols along with the icon-like images of weapons and Mod Kits - and the background image representing the result of that 'addition' - was both visually striking and effective at communicating what WMK is all about. Other graphic-design aspects of the image that I considered important were the colour-scheme, font and atmosphere of the background image used - all of which were consistent with the look and feel of Fallout 3. This helped to sub-consciously reinforce the idea that WMK was something that fit seamlessly into the Fallout 3 game.

The promotional images seemed to serve their purpose perfectly: the attention and popularity WMK attracted was nearly instantaneous; rather than coming after a slow build-up.

The systems I developed to make production of the mod more efficient and hopefully error-proof were successful: though the scripts working behind the scenes in WMK were complex and extensive, absolutely no scripting errors were found during beta-testing or since release.

What could be improved

The biggest part of Weapon Mod Kits version 1.0 that could be improved are the scripts that control things behind the scenes. In some ways they are cumbersome and represent a kind of 'brute-force' approach to making the mod work. To an extent this may not have been avoidable, considering the decision I made during development to avoid using the Fallout 3 Script Extender (FOSE). The only reason for this decision was that at the time it was not known whether or not FOSE would be compatible with the official Fallout 3 downloadable content (DLC) from Bethesda Softworks.

As it happened, the first piece of Fallout 3 DLC was released on the same day as Weapon Mod Kits, and it was found that (after some mild tweaking) FOSE did indeed work alongside the DLC. Work is currently underway to make WMK's back-end more efficient and easier to work with - utilising FOSE. This should dramatically reduce the time needed to add new content to the mod.

An elementary oversight was made when preparing the documentation for WMK: some assumptions were made about the base knowledge of the end-user (in regards to relatively standard - but not universal - procedures when installing Fallout 3 mods). My experience with this sort of thing in the past has of course taught me that you should never assume any knowledge on the part of the user. However - the installation instructions were missing some information, and this resulted in confusing some users.

It was not a conscious decision to omit any of this information: sometimes it's simply easy to forget that (for example) not everyone knows what a 7-zip file is, or that 'bInvalidateOlderFiles' needs to be set to '1' in the FALLOUT.INI file before any mods that incorporate new textures can be used in Fallout 3. The sorts of things that aren't directly, uniquely related to the use of WMK - but should have been in the documentation for the people who haven't installed a mod like WMK before.

In any case, the documentation was quickly updated with the relevant information.

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Nightvision Goggles (Powered) Summary

The Nightvision Goggles (Powered) - 'NVG' - mod for Fallout 3 is a small, simple mod I made to fulfil a particular aim. I wanted to add a functional pair of night-vision goggles to Fallout 3 that had a believable and immersive drawback to balance out the benefit of being able to see in the dark without giving one's position away.

This was achieved in a simple fashion: the goggles slowly drain Energy Cells (one of the ammunition types in the game) as long as they are switched on.

Nightvision Goggles (Powered) Download Links

Download #1: Fallout 3 Nexus

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Household Water Purifier Summary

The Household Water Purifier (HWP) mod is another small, simple mod for Fallout 3. A central theme in Fallout 3 is the scarcity of water that is not irradiated. Water purifiers that clean water of any harmful radiation are a part of the lore of the game's setting, but they are rare and highly prized.

HWP adds the titular Water Purifiers as (expensive) items that can be purchased for the player-ownable homes in the game. They function in a similar fashion to another item that can be purchased for the player homes: the Nuka-Cola Machines. However whereas the Nuka-Cola Machines effectively exchange normal Nuka-Cola bottles for more effective 'Ice-Cold' Nuka-Cola bottles, the Household Water Purifier exchanges bottles of 'Dirty Water' (which is irradiated) with bottles of 'Purified Water' (which is not irradiated).

Nightvision Goggles (Powered) Download Links

Download #1: Fallout 3 Nexus

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