Wasteland 2?

Wasteland looks pretty colorful and cartoony (characters, colors and story) for a spiritual ancestor of Fallout. Looking at the Kickstarter page, the pitch art for the Wasteland 2 (while nice looking) sort of clashes with the so clearly expressed sentiment to stay true to the original. On the other hand, I don't mind when a different style is used, as long as the designs are intact. On the other hand, Wasteland 2 has an opportunity to be graphically distinct from "brown brown black gray brown" and "brown gray brown brown black". I guess Borderlands is a bit more lighthearted stylistically, but I've never played it. Last Armageddon has one of the best settings of any post apocalyptic game I think, but now I'm derailing.

Anyways, I decided to draw some of the characters from Wastelands. A lot of the robots are just nonsense, but I decided to struggle with what I was given and not change them too much towards what I'd like to see. The game actually uses the same portraits for different encounters, so there's some room for doing variation once the base has been established.

Wasteland concepts

Wiki page with ref
Mobygames page ... Dang, I forgot to do VAX and the Scorpion tank. Maybe later.

Edit: I doodled some more while watching a nicely produced Wasteland Let's Play. Here I've used the 4 head tall figures from Wasteland's overhead view (people have more normal proportions on the encounter portraits though), but changed the perspective from what appears to be a sort of top down cavalier projection to a typical isometric one.

Isometric wasteland mockup

Wasteland certainly has components of what we now consider a typical post-apocalyptic game, but it also have this... atmosphere of 18-19th century type story telling. At one point in the game, the player's party enters a garden with giant wondrous fruits and vegetables. Apparently someone has made canoes out of giant banana skids. I could almost see Alice, Dorothy or (Beanstalk) Jack stumbling into such a place. This made me add the giant mushrooms wrecking the asphalt. There's also a type of haphazard, carefree quality to the storytelling which makes me think of older stories rather than our modern, formalistic 3-act, moralizing ones. Vengeful baby with gun!

I drew some random figures on the map just to see what happened visually. In Wasteland, encounters rarely show up as figures on the overhead map, which is understandable since it's a lot of work to animate 400 different enemies and NPCs. Persistent figures also brings up a lot of problems like, guys getting stuck, blocking each other, shooting at walls during combat, permanent corpses, yadda yadda. Though... I wouldn't mind seeing an X-COM version using the Wasteland setting. There's the Ranger Center trying to discover technology, random hostiles, mutants, and robot bad guys with their own bases.


Toxic said...

Awesome ! ^0^

CrookedBee said...

Brian Fargo approves:


Arne said...


I must admit that I know next to nothing about the game. Gonna watch a Let's Play before Mr. Sandman tugs too heavily on my little lids.

-=Y=- said...

great, another update!
when will be next one? :D

Arne said...

How about... in a few minutes?

Arne said...

This Wasteland Let's Play is rather well done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvYcu5qaO-s

Arne said...

Mirroring a comment that I made elsewhere regarding the merits and dangers of "wacky humor":

It's a tricky balance, for sure. In a wacky cartoon, everyone's alright in the next scene, and the whole setting feels like "pretend". There are one-time gags with no lasting consequences.

For example,
The player runs into a village which is starving. Giant broccoli is growing there for comical effect, and perhaps the game cracks a joke (breaking the fourth wall) about no one liking broccoli - they'd rather starve. It's never mentioned again. The player is left to wonder how realistic this scenario is, or if there's some puzzle later on involving the broccoli.

Compared to,
The player stumbles upon a village that, while not starving, still suffers from some kind of malnutrition. Aha, it appears that the only thing they know how to grow is giant broccoli! The writer can research what kind of effect eating only broccoli would have on a person, and provide a realistic portrayal. The player could walk around in the broccoli forest, and perhaps be sent on a quest to acquire some giant vegetable (seeds) to compliment the nutritional needs of the villagers. This way, the giant broccoli, while absurd, might still feel like it's a part of a living world and not just a gag. Perhaps parallels to the Irish potato famine could also be drawn. Broccoli trees could also appear elsewhere in the game, perhaps being used in some "get over the abyss" puzzle or whatever, further justifying their position as a citizen of the game world.

Thinking about it, giant broccoli is kind of post apocalyptic... looking almost like mushroom clouds. Perhaps there's a poster for a movie somewhere, saying "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Broccoli", showing an ominous towering broccoli, though this would almost break the fourth wall.

Arne said...

Regarding maturity - I can think of three different types of Maturity:

Maturity 1: Half-nudity, shootin' and gore. Gears of War, Mass Effect. Sex is two half-nude people hugging and... cut to black. No restraints on gore though!

Maturity 2: Difficult themes but perhaps family friendly. A French film about a crippled orphan boy who finds an old accordion on the beach of Normandy. Inside he discovers a faded name tag, but manages to track down a German soldier, now an old man, who lost the accordion during World War II. They develop a friendship, and together they struggle to repair themselves and the accordion, while doing tax declarations (to pad the man's poor pension) and reading snippets of Kant. The breakthrough comes when they find and watch an old VHS copy of Grave of the Fireflies. The ending has been taped over with Fort Boyard, so they make up their own ending. They smash the finished accordion in a fit of symbolism! But not before the old man plays a final melancholic song.

Maturity 3: The writer doesn't care what people or publishers may think. Anything can happen in the story, for effect or because it belongs. I've heard that the Berserk manga is... unashamed like that.

Wasteland might be a bit of each, but strong in type 3 I think. Some of the more open games out there are inherently, but passively of this type ("if it happens it happens"), but Wasteland actually throws the whole Rex & Bobby situation on the player, to name just one. It has no intent of bringing the situation to a moralizing conclusion either. "You could have done A or B, and look at these hard-coded outcomes, engineered to preach a certain point of view (as if part of the fabric of the universe)!"

Of course, the gruesome parts of the story telling in Wasteland is done with text, and text has a different impact than images. Nowadays games are expected to be more visual, so I don't know what kind of problems this might create in terms of self-censorship for our developer here.

One engineered moral dilemma which could be interesting to see in a game though, is the "speeding train" one. A driver-less train is heading straight for 5 busy construction workers. The player now gets the choice to derail the train, either by throwing a switch, sending the train into a sidetrack occupied by a single worker, or by knocking a fat guy onto the tracks, surely derailing the train. It's hard to make the scenario unbreakable in an interactive videogame though.

Anonymous said...

Heyy, this is nice! Already artwork for the game and we haven't yet decided if the game will be top-down or bottom-up! Personally I am in favor of the old text adventure plus illustrations approach. Your artwork fits nicely into my Wasteland universe and if Wasteland won't take it, don't throw it away because there may be more games coming out of this!

Arne said...


The artist part of me is always in conflict with the programmer/designer part. For example, in Phantasie III ('88) the characters can lose limbs in combat. That's a feature which could be interesting to have around in a post apocalyptic game, but it's hard to solve graphically with animations and stuff. Dwarf Fortress is an example of what a game can do when unrestrained by the graphical burden.

I just took a look at Fountain of Dreams. I think the bestiary lacked Wasteland's range and charm, but the near topdown city views looked nice. I think the player is OK with older low-res games cheating a bit graphically with scale and perspective, but if they see a new game with "HD" graphics doing the same thing, it feels like a deliberate design decision that's much easier to critique. Maybe it's just me though.

Isometric is a nice compromise, as it's very descriptive, showing the designs from 3 faces at the same time, and you can still cheat a bit with proportions.

I think the illustrated text adventure approach can work nicely for Wasteland 2. It's probably a bit easier to do, and you have more freedom as a designer to do special events without needing to do a lot of programming and graphics. It will also allow you to put certain things into text which would be more controversial in pictorial form.

At a scale capable of showing people (like I drew), the effect of magically appearing NPCs and enemy encounters becomes harder to swallow due to the increased place-presence. And then there's the question of what happens when explosives and big guns are used. X-COM pulled that off, but it discarded the locations after use. Wasteland has the persistence of environments and plot mechanics to worry about...

Tim Ridley said...

I really like this vision of Wasteland. It keeps the same camera and system I love from Fallout while giving it a distinct visual style that sets it apart from generic post-apoc games.

Have you considered starting a kickstarter page for any of your projects? They all sound really fun, well designed and very thought out. It depresses me that they only exist in conception! :(

Arne said...

Being a bit of a control freak (for better or worse) I think it would be nice to be funded so I can employ slaves to do my bidding. Next year or this winter I think I want to work on my MoO-clone project more seriously, doing most of the art assets so I can eventually involve a programmer. KS is one option (and having the GFX ready for a pitch would certainly help), but I don't like having people that I sort of "owe" to please.