Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: A Fallout 3 Post

Warning! Vaguely rambling nerd rant ahead!

Anyone visiting here knows I love Fallout 3.  In 2008/2009  THE most enjoyable gaming experience I had.  Indeed, it soaked up almost as much of my time as this year’s Dragon Age, perhaps more since I paid for more of the DLC for Fallout 3 then I have for Dragon Age.  This year, after an Easter visit to the Washington D.C. area the desire to play the game stuck me once again.  After arriving home I eventually dug out my DVD and reinstalled on my PC running Windows 7 (having ditched the clunky Vista this year).  Things went smoothly, I took a deep breath and reinstalled the Games For Windows Live client, and even purchased Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta since I had yet to play either of those DLC packs.  Once everything was installed and patched I loaded up the game and, on arriving at the main menu, clicked New Game.  Despite having played the opening section of Fallout 3 a number of times I couldn’t quite shake the tingle of anticipation and the wash of nostalgia as I remembered that first step from Vault to Wasteland.  The loading screen popped and then blackness.

I stared blinking at the nothingness on my screen and waited…and waited.  I’m sure it was bare minutes but it felt longer when, with a sigh, I mashed CTRL-ALT-DEL (as an experienced PC Gamer an act that is near reflex, can be done in the dark, and requires only one hand) and popped open the task manager.  The “Not Responding” sitting next to Fallout 3 seemed to mock me.  I ended the task.  I tried again.  Same results.  With trepidation I opened up Firefox and began to delve into the muck and mire of the gaming forums.  Turns out Fallout 3 does not support Windows 7 at all. Indeed Bethesda doesn’t seem inclined, or are at least silent, on whether it ever fill.  As game at least a year old the development process is over and patching the game can’t be a priority.  The first sentence means that whatever problems I have I won’t get any help from Bethesda.  Digging deeper into forums I find a host of other problems, not all related to Windows 7 (if that is even the root of my problem), crashes and other bugs mostly on variety of systems powerful, moderate, and mediocre.  I manage to track down a couple a threads about the Fallout 3 Black Screen of Death and perform those arcane incantations and ritual sacrifices (disabling an odd video codec, updating GFWL, reinstalling, uninstalling over video codecs, etc., etc., etc.) that requires.  Nothing works.  I haven’t quite given up, a copy of gparted, a Vista install disc, and a cavernous second hard drive stare at me even now…though I hope those will only be a last ditch effort.

I am fully understanding of the complexities of PC Gaming.  OS, processor, motherboard, graphics card, and sound card are, absent RAM and hard drive, the 5 main components of a computer.  Just those five components creates a staggering number of possible hardware configurations.  No studio can plan for every possible permutation of PC thus no PC Game is perfect.  The possibilities are just too great.  But developers typically try to roll out the broadest, and most stable game they can (at least in an ideal world).   Amidst the cacophony of praise heaped upon Fallout 3 I see little mention of it’s monumental failure at stability.  The game is just about 18 months old now so it isn’t exactly fresh in peoples’ minds, but the marketing machine trundles forward thanks to continuing development of Fallout: New Vegas over at ObsidianFallout: New Vegas will be using the same game engine as Fallout 3 New Vegas is being developed by a developer whose catalog of games, while certainly entertaining, are among some of the less stable in recent memory; Neverwinter Nights 2 in particular was not the most polished of creations.  So to say I’m worried, as a PC Gamer, as to exactly how stable Fallout: New Vegas will be is probably something of an understatement.

None of that is really helps with the $100 worth of software (game plus dlc) that is sitting more-or-less useless on my hard drive.   To make my issue more bizarre are the other forum-goers claiming that Fallout 3 is working just fine on Windows 7 for them.  Now I know that Windows 7 is relatively new but according to the most recent Steam Hardware Survey (an unknown sample size, unfortunately) 24% of participants are running Windows 7 64-bit, combined with 32-bit Windows 7 brings the total to 35%; just 3% behind Windows XP and 12% more then Windows Vista.  Furthermore, according to netmarketshare Windows 7 has climbed just past the 10% in overall OS market share, trailing the older Vista by only about 5.75% (again, XP still dominates amongst windows users).  I know that most games don’t get patches 18 months (Diablo II being the most notable exception) out but that doesn’t make the pill any easier to swallow.

I still hold out a barely glimmering hope that I will get Fallout 3 working again but this has so far been a painful embittering experience and the only thing that keeps me tied to the PC is my burning hatred for console controls.

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