Fallout 4's User Interface Is Truly Terrible

You’ll spend a lot of Fallout 4 fighting irradiated super mutants, giant killer cockroaches, and deadly cyborgs. You’ll spend just as much time fighting the game’s awful user interface.

The fact that Fallout 4 has cumbersome, counterintuitive menus won’t come as a surprise to anyone who played Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. In most ways, the new game uses the same interface as its predecessors, with the same problems carried over more or less intact. In other ways, the game’s creators have tried to streamline various systems and menus in order to make them more appealing and user friendly… but they’ve mostly just made things more confusing.

I really like Fallout 4—I’ve played an ungodly number of hours over the last couple of weeks, and my feelings on the game mostly line up with Patricia’s review. It’s a good game. Still, there’s almost certainly something to be gained from taking a closer look at the many ways the menus and interfaces fail to perform even their basic presumed functions.

This article is based on the PC version of the game. In the interest of space, I’ve focused only on the controller interface, though I gather that the mouse & keyboard setup is just as confusing, if not more so. Ready? Let’s get going.

The Pip-Boy

Let’s start with the Pip-Boy. God. The fucking Pip-Boy.

The Pip-Boy is a chunky portable computer that your character wears on his or her wrist. It’s how you keep track of everything in the game, from quests to navigation to inventory to radio stations. Like most things in Fallout 4, it is amazingly counterintuitive and difficult to use.

Look at that screenshot up there. The Pip-Boy interface is just completely fucked from the very start, because it uses screen space so inefficiently. Look at this (actually fairly generous) illustration:

A couple of readers have noted that you can press the back button to zoom in on the Pip-Boy, which increases the screen size a touch.

Even with the zoom, however, there’s still a huge amount of dead space:

The Pip-Boy is hobbled out of the gate by Bethesda’s desire to present it as an in-game “thing,” a screen within a screen. I’m a fan of games that take this approach, but not when it’s done so ineffectually, and not when it’s so ugly and hard to read. With a different, full-screen UI, Fallout 4 could convey so much more information so much more cleanly than it does.

In addition to the tiny screen size, the font is an awful Apple IIe approximation, and the screen is slightly curved. And how about this: Your Pip-Boy doesn’t consistently tell you what time it is. The thing is basically the biggest, most iconic watch in video games, and it only functions as a watch for about half the time.

When you pull up your Pip-Boy, you see what your character would see in real life. You’ve got a few tabs to flip through—Inventory, Character Status, and the confusingly named “Data” among them.

Let’s look at what information is displayed at the bottom of each screen.

Status: Three Things

A numerical display of your current and max hit points, a bar indicating your level progress, and a numerical display of your current and max action points.

Inventory: Three Things

A numerical display of the weight you’re carrying, a numerical display of the number of caps you have, indicated by a caps logo, and a non-numerical health bar that matches the one on your in-game HUD.

Data: Two Things

The in-game date and time. Finally, the time! On the third tab.

Map: Three Things

The in-game date, the time, and the name of the region where you’re currently standing.

Radio: Zero Things

Just nothing at all. Couldn’t the time have fit here? Whatever, I guess.

Looking at the bottom of each page, it’s striking how inconsistently the Pip-Boy presents information. The time thing sticks out the most to me—why doesn’t the time display on every tab?—but there’s also the fact that health is represented two different ways (numeric and graphical) on two separate pages, XP is never presented numerically, and caps are denoted with an odd “C” logo.

I could spend another ten paragraphs talking about all the other ways the Pip-Boy is messed up. It’s a pain to actually use and navigate, and it isn’t always clear how to get into some of the nestled menus. (Take the “miscellaneous” quests tab shown in the screenshot up top. I think of that submenu as where sidequests go to die.) You use the triggers to cycle through the main menus, but can’t cycle “around the end” and quickly get to the other side, so you’ll often stall out and have to backtrack across every tab. You use the D-pad or thumbstick to move up and down in a given menu, but also use them to move left and right... through submenus.

And then there’s the map.

The Map (Oh Man)

Fallout 4 is defined by its huge, well-crafted open world. Any open world game relies significantly on its map, and Fallout 4’s map is… just really spectacularly not good.

Like everything else in the Pip-Boy interface, the map is crammed onto a tiny screen. Everything looks small and indistinct. Icons all smush together in populated areas and become unreadable at a glance. The map is also the only thing in Fallout 4 to give you an in-game “mouse” cursor that you move around with your thumbstick. It’s an approach that I very much support in theory, but in practice here the mouse arrow moves too slowly and can be hard to keep track of.

When you first open up the map, you’ll probably want to zoom in. You can do that with a thumbstick, but here’s the thing—if you zoom in on your Pip-Boy’s map immediately after opening it, it always zooms in on your cursor, not your character. That usually means you zoom to the point that you can no longer see where your character is standing.

Often it’ll go so far away from my character that I’ll lose track of where I was. That’s in part because if you zoom in too much, everything in the monochrome map looks the same.

Then there’s the Local Map. The local map is intended to give you a better sense of your immediate surroundings, but it’s just as much of a mess in Fallout 4 as it’s been in past games. In a given area, the local map will usually look something like this:

It’s basically a satellite photo, which is a neat idea in theory, but in practice it’s just weird. It’s way too hard to tell what anything is or where you can even walk. The icons for doors and other objects blend into the background and can be hard to see. I’ll often identify where I’m supposed to go on the local map, but be unable to figure out how to get there. Is that a wall, or a floor? Is that door on this level, or the next?

The Stealth Interface

When you’re sneaking in Fallout 4, a great big sign appears in the middle of your screen that says [ HIDDEN ]. It appears right in the middle of your screen, in huge text that is really ugly and distracting.

Considering how large the sneaking text is, it does a pretty poor job of communicating information. Did you know, for instance, that the brackets around the word HIDDEN actually indicate how hidden you are? The closer they pull to your character, the less hidden you are. I think… (checks)… yeah, that’s correct.

So many games have solved this problem in so many other, better ways. I don’t understand why Bethesda doesn’t just use one of several tried-and-true solutions, e.g. a small icon in the corner of the screen could clearly indicate when you’d entered stealth, and could grow darker when you’re better hidden and brighter when you’re more visible. I understand that they want to make information available to you without requiring you to look at the corner of the screen, but there are so many more elegant ways to do that.

Instead I have this ridiculous eyesore that dominates the screen anytime I’m in stealth, which, given that I play a stealth character, is pretty much all the time. I don’t get it.

Dialogue

In her review, Patricia laid out some solid arguments for why Fallout 4’s dialogue system doesn’t quite work. I agree with a lot of what she wrote, and will add my gripe that, like a lot of other things in this game, the dialogue interface withholds far too much information.

As with a lot of Fallout 4’s menu troubles, the main issue is consistency. You have four options in a given conversation, which correspond with the four face buttons. But while the four options are usually consistent, sometimes they aren’t.

Often, you’ve got questions on the top, a sarcastic or harsh response to the left, a bland affirmative/good guy response to the bottom, and a negative/“no” response to the right. But so, so many conversations play out differently.

When you pick a given option, you don’t know exactly what your character is going to say. This was never a problem for me in the Mass Effect games, but it annoys the hell out of me in Fallout 4. The reason for that, I think, is that Fallout 4 doesn’t always make it clear to me which “type” of option I’m choosing, so on top of my uncertainty of what my character will say, I’m not sure whether the dialogue option I’m choosing is simply conversational, or whether it is an action that’ll trigger a branch in the story.

Even the language is weird and inconsistent. Take the example above. We’ve got four options:

- What newspaper? - Not my business - Hate newspapers - Support news

The first two are presented as things your character might actually say. The second two, “Hate newspapers” and “Support news,” feel more like abstract stances—they begin with the verbs “hate” and “support” and seem like actions you’re telling your character to take, rather than words you’re telling your character to say.

It’s a fine point of distinction, but there are so many small inconsistencies like that in Fallout 4. When combined, they contribute to an overarching sense that the information presented to you is untrustworthy.

I play a high-charisma character, meaning that I’m often given special dialogue options that I can try. They’re color coded, depending on how easy they’ll be to pull off. The color coding is, surprise, confusing.

Yellow means you have the best shot of a successful Charisma roll, and red is hardest. That’s easy to keep track of. But in the middle there’s this sort of… dark yellow/orange color? Or maybe it’s a gradient? It’s awfully close to yellow, and makes it difficult for me to tell how hard the actual roll is going to be, particularly given that you usually only see one charisma option at a time (the pic above is a rare occurrence) and therefore have nothing to compare it with.

To get all three colors together, I had to combine two separate screenshots:

Why go with orange and yellow? Why pick a mid-color that’s so similar to one of the colors on the end? Why not go blue, yellow, red? In the end I guess it doesn’t matter, since when most people blow a charisma roll, they just reload a save and try again until they get it. (Maybe put on that Newsboy cap to increase your odds.)

Finally, there’s the issue of what kind of dialogue window you’re looking at. When a collection of dialogue options pops up, you’re either given a series of topics that you can cycle through and address one by one, or you’re presented with a junction in the conversation where you can make one choice, which moves the conversation forward and locks off the other conversational options. Some of those choices have next to no tangible impact; some mean the difference between reaching a mutual understanding and immediately engaging in gunplay.

The game never tells you which kind of dialogue tree you’re looking at, though. So, so many times I’ve picked one response and found the conversation moving forward when I thought I’d be able to explore the other options as well.

All of those dialogue interface problems combine to make the player feel substantially removed from the dialogue. Each time I’m not sure what my character is going to say, or whether or not I’m about to pass a point of no return in a conversation, I feel a little bit more removed from my protagonist.

Crafting And Settlement Management

There are so many things wrong with Fallout 4’s crafting interface that I almost don’t know where to begin. Actually, I do—let’s begin with how you begin.

When you enter one of your settlements, it’d be safe to assume you have to walk up to the red workbench to start crafting. You press A to enter the crafting menu, at which point you’re actually free to walk all around your settlement, placing objects wherever you want.

It actually took me a surprising amount of time just to figure out that simple fact. That’s largely because Fallout 4 does essentially nothing to explain any of this to the player and in no way lays out its interface elements or even the bare fundamentals of crafting. Given how often Fallout 4 simply fails to explain basic functions (like sitting, or VATs), it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but still. Wow.

Back to my first time crafting. I spent a dispiriting stretch standing in front of the red bench, cycling through crafting options, unsure what I was doing wrong. I’m sure part of that is on me for being thick (and for not watching any of Bethesda’s pre-release videos on crafting), but it’s mostly on the interface.

Here’s what you see when you first open the crafting interface:

At first, I simply assumed I didn’t have the materials to make a bed. I didn’t know what to make of this:

It says Bed (4), which seems like it means that I can make four beds. Though, who knows—maybe it means that I have four beds in storage? Or already have four built somewhere on the premises? I couldn’t make a bed, so… why? The materials I need are displayed in fraction form, which isn’t entirely unclear once you know what it means (I have 61 steel and only need 4, etc.), but the first time I crafted something I didn’t quite get it.

Then there’s the “Requires” tab, which in this case is accompanied by… the outline of Vault Boy. What does that mean? Does it require me to have at least one settler in my settlement? Is that the icon for some ability I don’t have? I had no idea.

Turns out, that just means that the requirement to build that object is… you. I guess? Like, it requires a single player to move the object around and place it. I’m actually still kind of vague on what that means. (Update: A reader tells me it means it requires a settler to use it, but doesn’t actually have anything to do with crafting requirements.) This is a case of the game providing too much information and leaving the player wondering if they’re missing some crucial requirement that doesn’t actually exist.

Once I figured out that I was actually supposed to walk around my settlement and lay out objects in the real world, I was able to start crafting, but things didn’t get any simpler. For starters, there’s the fact that buttons do different things depending on what menu you’re in and where you’re standing.

To enter the crafting menu, you hit A at the crafting table… or hold down the “back” button on your controller. Crafting requires you to navigate several nestled horizontal menus, moving deeper with A and pulling back out with B. However… if you press A or B while pointing at an object you’ve just crafted, you’ll either pick it up and start moving it (A) or try to place it in storage (B).

When I craft something, I usually want to back out of the nestled menu and return to where I can choose something totally new to make. Immediately after crafting something, your reticle is lined up with the thing you crafted. It’s completely natural to press B, which instead of backing out of your current submenu, will bring up this dialogue box:

It’s obnoxious to be constantly interrupted with pop-up menus that are being triggered because I was selecting something or other in the world.

Then there’s settlement management, which could probably have its own whole section. Basically, this...

...is weird in so many ways. It gives me a bunch of numbers. Some of those numbers are straightforward, others are more confusing. It shows me “happiness” and an up arrow, but what does that mean? It shows me “size” with a bar, not a number, which doesn’t indicate to me whether there’s a maximum size, or an ideal size, or what?

I could probably spend ten more paragraphs on the crafting and settlement management system, but I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, at every turn the crafting and settlement UI withholds crucial information, mixes up controller inputs, and conveys information in ways that are inconsistent and confusing. (For example: How long did it take you to figure out how to connect power lines to things? Or to assign a settler to a particular task?)

The Perk Upgrade Screen

When you level up in Fallout 4, it works slightly differently than it did in Fallout 3. Instead of increasing numerical skills, you customize your character from a huge perk tree. In practice, it’s not all that different from the previous system, and it almost feels as though the same stats that drove Fallout 3 are driving Fallout 4.

Like so many things in Fallout 4, the perk tree is difficult to parse and confusingly laid out. Like the simplified dialogue system, it’s another case of Bethesda trying to make one of Fallout 3’s systems more approachable and instead just making it more confusing.

There’s a lot more inconsistency, for starters. When you start out, you’ll pick your SPECIAL skills numerically. You’ll have a Strength of 7, an Agility of 8, a Charisma of 4, and so on. But when you go to the perk tree, the numbers have been swapped out with stars. Instead of a collection of numerical scores, you’ll see this:

Quick: What’s my Charisma score? How long does it take you to count those stars? I bet it takes you a little while. Did you have fun counting the stars? I bet you did not.

Once you begin scrolling down from the SPECIAL stats to the actual perks, it just keeps getting more confusing. For starters, it’s never made clear that you can buy any unlocked perk at any time—I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who initially thought that perks worked like a tree, and that you had to max out the first perk before moving down to the second, then the third.

Additionally, there’s the fact that you can hit the right shoulder button for “next rank.” The idea is that you’ll be able to preview the later perks you can’t afford yet, to get a sense of whether the perk is worth investing in. But the on-screen text—“next rank”—is confusing, and at first I thought I was actually buying upgrades.

Meanwhile, you can check your SPECIAL and perks in your Pip-Boy, and that screen looks like this:

Once again, the tiny size of the Pip-Boy screen means that important information is regularly getting cut off, but even so this would be easier to scan than the graphical perks tree… if not for the fact that it actually offers too much information, and presents it confusingly.

Notice in this screenshot how “Action Girl” (a perk) is placed right next to perks like “Astoundingly Awesome 3,” “Astoundingly Awesome 5,” “Barbarian,” and “Covert Operations.” Those are minor perks that I picked up from books I found lying around the wasteland, but here they’re just thrown into a menu alongside my more potent character perks. Why these two things aren’t at least divided on this page into “books” and “perks” is beyond me.

VATS And Combat

The VATS combat system has always been a little bit weird in Bethesda’s 3D Fallout games. Surprise, surprise… it’s still weird in Fallout 4.

Most issues with VATS are minor things that all add up to something bigger. Let’s start with the numbers. We see a big 25 on the head there and a 51 on the body, along with what looks like a health bar. What does the 51 mean? Fallout veterans know it indicates the percentage chance you have to hit the part in question, but that’s not actually communicated all that well. There’s a missing percent sign, and a new player would be just lost looking at this. What are the numbers? What are the little health bars? Are they related? What’s going on?

Once you choose a target in VATS, you hit the trigger button to select where you want to shoot, then the A button to accept your choices and move you into action. But when you choose how you want to spend your action points, it doesn’t tell you what order you’ve picked your shot:

Which one’s first? Which one’s second? Your enemies are still shooting you in slow-mo, so you better figure it out and get a move on.

Then there’s the issue of the new “Critical” option, which displays as a bar at the bottom of VATS and can be manually triggered to unleash a powerful critical strike. The game never really explains how that works.

I spent my first 20 or so hours in Fallout 4 ignoring this feature because I simply didn’t know what it was. I finally started executing critical strikes by hitting X after my character began the animation to take a shot in VATS—meaning that I select the target with the right trigger, then execute with A, then quickly trigger my critical strike with X. The VATS screen does so little to communicate any of that. In fact, I’m still not quite sure if I’m doing it right.

Two Good Things

I’ve been pretty negative in this post, because, well, Fallout 4 deserves it. This game’s user interface is wretched. With that said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least tip my hat to one interface tweak that’s a clear-cut improvement over Fallout 3: The item shortcut interface.

Back in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, we had to select items from any of the eight possible directions on the D-pad. That meant that we’d have to assign some poor weapon or item to, say, the upper-left diagonal on the D-pad, which made selecting it a crapshoot.

The new system restricts items to the four cardinal D-pad directions but lets you cycle out through three layers on each side. Big improvement. Good job, Bethesda!

I’d also like to give a big high-five for this:

Bethesda’s PC games always (I believe?) include the quit-to-desktop option right from the in-game menu. They don’t make me quit to the main menu before quitting to desktop, a decision that obeys The Ten Commandments of Video Game Menus and therefore makes me happy.


I’ve left so many things out of this post: Character creation and customization. Waypoints and navigation. Weapon upgrading. Power armor upgrading. Merchants and trading. Understanding what food does. Changing your UI or Pip-Boy text color. Finding your way around while inside a building. Quests that have multiple objectives. Every single thing about computer terminals. And on, and on, and on.

Last week, writer Zak McClendon published an article for Wired titled “Fallout 4 is full of bugs, but fixing them could ruin it.” The headline didn’t sell me, but the article itself is thoughtful and well-reasoned. McClendon argues that Bethesda’s relatively small team size—compared with other studios making similarly ambitious AAA games—is what allows them to focus on creativity and expression in their games, while also being what necessarily limits how polished those games are when they ship. He writes:

I simply don’t think it’s feasible to make a Bethesda game that’s polished in the same way other AAA games are. That requires focus and formalization, and Bethesda excels at the opposite. So why try to fix this at all? If you’ve built a studio that works, making games your audience loves, why not slowly grow that success in a truly sustainable way, instead of risking it to keep pace with the rest of the industry? As developers, they’re in an enviable place—making epic games at a human scale.

I agree with a lot of McClendon’s points, broadly: I think that the weird jankiness of Bethesda’s games is indeed likely a byproduct of the creative culture that allows their games to be so distinctly appealing. I’d even say that on one level, the lack of polish contributes to the games’ appeal… as long as quests aren’t bugging out and blocking you from making progress, or anything game-breaking like that.

Fallout 4 is a big bag of cats that’s often charming in its crustiness. All the same, I draw a line between bugs—floating enemies, followers clipping through doors, etc.—and poor UX, menu, and interface design. The disastrous state of Fallout 4’s menus and interfaces is a problem that stands apart from more general questions of polish and presents a huge barrier for entry for what is otherwise a broadly appealing game.

The fact that I’m able to deal with all of it in order to play (and enjoy!) the game is a testament to just how good Fallout 4 is at the things it does well. All the same, it’s frustrating to watch such a fascinating game make itself so difficult to actually use.


Comments

    WAHHH WAHH...

    Thats kind of the point, its not as terrible as you make it out, its supposed to be a bit off its designed to be helpful, but not hand holding-ly helpful, it displays the vital info you need while fitting with the aesthetic, and leaving a bit to the imagination.
    Its one of the reasons the fallout games are so good, there clunky and rough because the world is clunky and rough.

    i imagine playing in a 50's themes post apocalyptic world using a fully functioning Samsung note 4 with true ergo designed menu's would detract from the fact that the world has gone to shit, but there still a guy in his basement post end of world making apps.

    Last edited 24/11/15 12:11 pm

      "Its one of the reasons the fallout games are so good, there clunky and rough because the world is clunky and rough."

      Agreed, I think there's something to this.

      The articles more than valid in its point though of the useful screenspace vs the bullshit. Why not pull the pipboys screen right up close like they did previously? Hell, I changed the FOV on the pc version, now I get LESS view of the goddamn thing. I can't get my phone to sync with the game for some reason *sigh* so I can't use that either. It's still useable on the screen but it's annoying how small the viewable portion is even on standard settings.

        You can zoom there is a function in game to "zoom"/move your pipboy closer to your face just press V (default on PC).

          I did, once you edit the FOV it doesn't zoom enough still. They borked some of the aspects of the PC version, they needed a FOV slider :\

            There's 4 FOV modification lines in the multiple .ini files, 2 that cover first person and 3rd person views, and then there is 2 that cover menu FOV's, i played with them all till i found the best of all worlds, mines pretty good now.
            i think a FOV slider would be all or nothing, so not really necessary.

              A fov slider would be far better than having to modify .ini files, I did the .ini modification however you shouldn't *have* to do this. That's the entire point. An FOV slider *is* absolutely necessary as modifying the file is *not* something everyone can either do, or is comfortable with doing. It's not really acceptable to have to modify a file to get that setting.

              That's like saying "You got a car, it's an awesome car, btw, they blocked off 30 degrees of your windshield due to the car next to it being slower. You have to now modify that car manually to be able to see all 90 degrees of your windshield despite the fact we should've done it for you..."

                there's some real precious people on kotaku, go buy the console version if you don't like fiddling, the best thing about the PC versions of these games is the ability to modify what ever the hell you like.

                i love the not even remotely relevant car analogies, a better analogy would be that you bought a car that had no windscreen and then decided you wanted one, so you have to locate purchase and install said windscreen, then bitched about it.

                  The best thing about the pc version may be the fiddling but simple options like FOV shouldn't be left out, unfortunately, it's not me reacting in a precious way man, you're up and down this thread being kinda precious to anyone voicing anything less than a glowing love for Fallout 4... may I recommend a chill pill?

                  @weresmurf
                  Your not being precious?
                  You said you couldn't zoom, i gave you some info that would help.
                  you said that didn't work, i offered another solution that helped me with the exact same issue, you down voted my comment, then complain that you shouldn't have to do that....

                  As for my comments if you take a real look, ive attempted to help people a couple of times, admitted there are issues with the vagueness and that the game has problems, its just the menu's are not one of them.

                  No Im not? Neither method worked, it'd be great if Bethesda did a proper FOV slider fixing that issue so the pipboy would scale correctly? How is that precious?

                  How the hell is it being precious to want a finished product?

                  This game is a wonderful game that is hampered by the fact that it is made for consoles and it completely unfinished. It's bad enough that you're pulling out this elitist pc gamer shit. But to use it as a way to apologise for not making the game run properly on Pc in the first place? Jesus man. What the actual fuck?

                  Out of curiosity, how is it not finished?

                  I look at this whole thing in a very simple way - from the characters point of view. They've just been unfrozen from being a 200 year old icypole, and thrust into a world thats kinda different to the one that they were in only, to them, 10 minutes earlier.

                  I think some people are missing the point that for the Sole Survivor, most of this hasnt come with an Idiots Guide to the Post Apocalypse, and is going to be confusing at the start.

                  The interface for the most part does a pretty good job of conveying that sort of confusion.

                  @grunt unfinished in the sense it has console level options for the most part. No keyboard binding options and no FOV slider for a start. If you want to rebind the keyboard you have to go into a config file and redo it there, same for the FOV slider. While it's achievable through an obtuse, annoying, time consuming process, why should it have to be done there? Having to mod a game to get simple, everyday functionality out of it is a disgrace.

                  Last edited 24/11/15 3:12 pm

                  @weresmurf fair enough, I can see that. As I dont generally care to rebind all that often, really only doing it when something is seriously jarring, it never really registered.

                  Like a lot of other things, to me its a problem that doesnt really effect all that many people. Like people complaining that the newest mobile phone doesnt have a SD slot, or removable battery when they havent touched either for 2 generations of phones. Its a problem because people want it to be, not because it is.

                  Having said that, I'm not saying its NOT an issue, as there are people who do want to rebind everything to a personal level, but for the most part, the problem is more that its not an option rather than its something game breaking. Its a QoL issue, nothing more.

                  Whats there does work, and doesnt take THAT much getting used to. Most annoying thing I've found on PC so far is needing to go and hit Enter every now and then, when everything else is over on the left of the keyboard. Boo hoo to me :(

                Totally agree @weresmurf
                A FOV slider omission is an oversight that I'm sure will be patched in at a later date.
                The outcry from the community that this was left out is pretty loud.
                @dnr - I modified my .ini files (*very* limited experience in dabbling with that type of thing) got it to work fairly well, but restored the backup .ini file. For no other reason than I was uncomfortable in tinkering under the hood.*

                *there is a mod (Fallout 4 tweaker made by Bilago.) that has a snazzy interface that does all the .ini changes for you with a few simple clicks

                More to the point @Grunt, for instance my good mate is left handed, the controls in Fallout 3 are terrible to him. He uses his mouse in his left hand and kb in his right by option, but would prefer to rebind when he can. The current layout is not particularly left handed friendly for instance, while not the bulk of gamers issue, its still an issue. (i.e. Just because it doesn't affect everyone doesn't mean its still not of a concern).

        To connect your phone to the game.
        Go to your settings and enable the pipboy app in the settings.
        Then save and reset your game.
        Once back in the game you can use the app on the phone to search for the local connected device and sync up. It should work now.

          Yep, done that a hundred times, just won't work for me for some reason.

            Check if your PC has the firewall enabled. That was my issue.

      there clunky and rough because the world is clunky and rough.

      But they're not. They're clunky and rough because they heavily prioritise the engine rather than the assets. It's why the animations, interfaces, etc in Fallout and Elder Scrolls games always look gross. Some parts of Fallout 4 are on par with the original Half-Life. They don't do it because they're trying to make a crappy UI for a crappy world, they just sacrifice polish on those areas to increase the scope of the world and the amount of detail.
      For instance when you start the game and everyone is running around, they all use the weak path finding and standard running animations. It's not a custom made scene like pretty much any other game would use it's just a series of generic commands being issued to the standard actor assets. When you use the Pip-Boy it's not built to be a modern interface it's built to be a computer within a computer.
      It doesn't make the games bad or anything it just makes it really weird when you play it next to something more modern. It's one of the few areas that the series pen and paper RPG roots still show. What you see is an approximation of what's going on and it's all about giving you as many options as possible.

        But they're not. They're clunky and rough because they heavily prioritise the engine rather than the assets. It's why the animations, interfaces, etc in Fallout and Elder Scrolls games always look gross. Some parts of Fallout 4 are on par with the original Half-Life. They don't do it because they're trying to make a crappy UI for a crappy world, they just sacrifice polish on those areas to increase the scope of the world and the amount of detail.

        IMO that proves my point, the game is rough by design and that only adds to how good the game is, it adds a gritty roughness to the overall aesthetic weather that's by mistake or on purpose it works and makes it better because it blends perfectly with the overall theme.

          I would say it's rough by lack of design and it doesn't need to be. You could make something gritty and rough intentionally and get a much better result. It's like the terrible controls in early Resident Evil games. You can say they add to the atmosphere but it's not simply a case of choosing between terrible atmosphere building controls and good atmosphere breaking controls. You can make a game that puts in-character limitations on the player that build atmosphere without skimping on the design.

          Also while it may help sync a player to the world a little it also hurts that objective a little in the process if you don't do it right. I mean using a Pip-Boy that works like a real Pip-Boy is great, but when you make using a Pip-Boy terrible it begs the question of why the hell anyone uses these things?

          Last edited 24/11/15 1:13 pm

            And in this case i see the "lack of design" as better, why over complicate something when it works so well?

            The current system is simple, its not frustrating and does what it needs to, its not over engineered and i like that, i admit its a little vague but as someone that has played every fallout game i find its kind of self explanatory.

              The current system changes which button does what seemingly randomly. Why are E, Tab, R, Enter, and left mouse all do the same thing, but only sometimes? Why when they don't do the ting, do they sometimes do the opposite, or something totally different?
              Why the hell does a mouse and keyboard interface ever use the arrow keys?
              Why does a PC interface have a console "quick menu" that is actually much slower to use on a keyboard?
              Why does escape sometimes back out of menus and sometimes pause the game? Why is it so hard to know when it will do either of those?
              That's just the buttons. That's before we even get into how hard it is to know if you have something, can craft something, or if you meet the requirements to craft it in the first place.

              It's like the whole thing was designed by small teams independently of each other and then put together at the end.

                Amen.
                The button context thing shits me to no end. Sometimes I end up with a menu over a menu because I used the wrong exit menu button for one meny and it opened the other one.
                Also - why can I press 'M' to open the map from gameplay, but the same button doesn't close it? If it's a quick pipboy tab selector, why doesn't it work in the pipboy?

                The buttons do the same thing in every interface except workshop mode. It's not "sometimes", it's just one thing where the buttons are different, and the buttons are different there because the UI requires both world navigation and menu navigation simultaneously.

                I assume your second question isn't worded correctly because it sounds absurd at face value. Why would a mouse/keyboard interface use arrow keys? Because keys are part of the keyboard. Most interfaces allow the use of arrow keys What kind of question is that?

                The quick menu isn't for "consoles", it's for controllers. Controllers that you can use to play the game on PC. If you're using mouse/keyboard, the only time you need to interact with the quick menu is when you're favouriting something into a new slot. You'd have to do that whether it was a pop up menu like it is, or an action bar along the bottom like many RPG games. Other than that you never need to use it, you just press the number on your keyboard corresponding to the slot you put the item in.

                Escape only backs out of menus in workshop mode. At all other times it pauses the game. refer to the first answer above.

                It's not hard at all to know if you have or can craft something. To know if you have something you go to your inventory and find it in the list. Default sort is alphabetical, it's not rocket science. You know if you can craft something because the colour of the item in the crafting list is bright green if you can craft it and dark green if you can't. It couldn't be any simpler to understand.

                  You saved me having to type all of that out thanks :D

                  Put your hands on the keyboard and mouse like you are playing pretty much any game made in the last 15 years. Now use the mouse to look, the WASD keys for movement, and the arrow keys for menu management. All at the same time. Is this reasonable? Are you actually defending this design decision when you have a perfectly capable set of controls on the mouse?

                  What you're telling me is that everything I said is correct but because you have figured out the contexts that it isn't terrible design. That's kind of nuts, man. I don't know if you feel like this very popular game that I also like very much requires its honour defended or something, but surely you can admit that it isn't perfect. The controls are strange as hell and aren't at all intuitive or ergonomic.

                  @pokedad There are a lot of controls in workshop mode, it's not really feasible that you're going to be able to use all of them with only one hand on the keyboard. I'm not defending anything, I'm just pointing out that a lot of your complaints are based on mistaken information. For example, yes, there is a perfectly capable set of controls on the mouse, and they're all already bound to other things in workshop mode. They're not just sitting there unused, which is why extra key bindings on the keyboard are needed.

                  I'm not telling you the things you said are correct, I'm telling you that on several issues you're mistaken. A lot of the information you missed was shown in tutorial pop ups the first time you undertook activities or has extensive entries in the help menu. That you weren't aware isn't necessarily an indicator of bad UI design (though it sometimes can be), it may simply be that you weren't paying attention when they gave you the information in the first place.

                  Of course the game isn't perfect. I agree with some of the complaints in the article, the map in particular is awkward to use and could have been made much better. I do think it's reasonable to defend the game against specific accusations that aren't true, though. If you'd said Fallout 4 was stupid because it was all in monochrome I'd be similarly pointing out that the issue there is most likely on your end (bad monitor, corrupt video drivers, whatever) and not a fault in the game itself.

                  Don't you prefer it that way too? Sure, it's embarrassing to have missed something about the way the UI works but once we know, doesn't that make for a better experience? Surely that's better than to keep believing that some particular thing is broken when it's just that we missed the instructions on how to use it.

                  I can't reply to your post because the thread has too many nested replies.

                  I didn't miss anything. I know how it all works. It's not embarrassing. As I said before, it isn't that these things can't be worked around. It's that we shouldn't need to. It's poorly designed. Nowhere does the game tell you how to pick things up in world. A lot of things it explains in obtuse ways. Some things it never explains at all. The UI has a dozen or more icons it never (or poorly) explains. It shows the same information in multiple ways with no context. There's just no consistency anywhere. It's like using an early build of windows 10. The menus are just a jumble. There are games with massively complicated UIs that make sense because of attention to detail in consistency and workflow. It needs a complete overhaul. Again, I love the game. I'm in no way incapable of using the game to its fullest extent. Everything works in the way that it is not impossible to perform the required action. It's just counter intuitive and opaque in a dozen ways.

                  I just solved the menu problem waiting for the elevator. If I'm in the build menu with nothing selected, mouse wheel scrolls the menu. Left click goes forward, right goes back. Select an item to build with left click and then all the controls work the same. The need for the arrow keys is now gone. Except for the fact that in the build menu E, R, and tab all change contexts at weird times, I solved that problem in literally 90 seconds. The UI is badly designed. It's really that simple.

                  Last edited 24/11/15 4:32 pm

      Yeah, I'm only really not a fan of the dialogue option style; Frequently quicksave in conversation to figure out what the fack am even saying.
      But the rest of the UI is nice, the games engrossing. I think it helps with the whole bringing you into the fallout world perfectly.

      As someone who is playing their first Fallout game, this stuff makes the game almost impossible to play. I would say that it's lucky that I have friends who have played all the previous games, but even they got annoyed at how little things are explained.

      Nope. So much, nope.

      The UI is utterly, completely shitty from the ground up. Everything about is rotting garbage. It's so inconsistent, buggy, and confusing. It goes into minutia with things that don't matter, but completely fails to explain core concepts.

      On PC, keys change function depending on which menu you were in last. Sometimes the crafting menu won't let you walk because the walking keys are now assigned to the crafting menu, which was already bizarrely mapped to the arrow keys on the first place. Why? How does this make any sense? Why can I not use the mouse to scroll and choose menu options and use keys to place objects? How the hell do the keys just randomly reassign?

      Even if it weren't buggy (it is) and obtuse (my god it is), it never explains core concepts at any point. The game literally never tells you how to use it in any consistent way.

      I love this game, but the menus are somehow even worse than the menus in Skyrim. That's an achievement.

      Last edited 24/11/15 1:08 pm

        In workshop mode, WASD is always bound to world movement, it never navigates the workshop menus. You can't use the mouse wheel to navigate the menu because the mouse is used to position items in the world - by default it moves the current item further or closer to the player, and while holding E it moves the current item up or down. The key bindings are stable, they don't randomly reassign. If you're getting something like that it's a bug, let the developers know.

        The game tells you everything you need to know, all available in the help menu. It also gives you tutorials in the top left of the screen every time you start a new activity for the first time.

          Except when it fucks up and rebinds the WASD to workshop menus and you have to quit out and back in to fix it. Not only are the menus poorly designed, they are buggy.

          The tutorials are poorly written and neglect to explain basic mechanics. They are also not easy to find again once they have disappeared.

          I literally cannot comprehend how people are defending this garbage nightmare of terrible control design. We all agreed that the menus in Skyrim were shit. How is this game beyond reproach? I love the game. It's a great goddamn game. If not for Bloodborne, it'd be my GOTY. But it has problems. Pretending that these problems are not problems doesn't make them go away.

          Edit: The point isn't that you can't figure these things out, or that you can't find the help menus. It's that they are not designed well. It's the same with the FOV issues. It's not that they can't be worked around. It's that we shouldn't need to. this is basic level stuff that should be well within the grasp of a professional development company selling a professionally produced product.

          Last edited 24/11/15 3:25 pm

            Sorry, my first sentence was incorrect. WASD can be used to navigate the menus while you're holding shift. If you're not holding shift, they're bound to world navigation. Could it be that you're subconsciously holding shift sometimes without realising it?

            I can't speak objectively, but to me the tutorials are definitely easy to find once they're gone, they're in the help menu, sorted alphabetically.

            I also can't speak for other people but I'm not defending things that actually are broken in the game, I'm defending things that work just fine in the game but that people aren't aware of for one reason or another. There are definitely areas of the interface that aren't designed well, but I don't agree with you that the things I responded to aren't designed well.

              I just looked into it. It's because bringing up the steam overlay bugs out certain keys for no reason.

              If you bring up the overlay, tab no longer works and shift acts like it's being held on. Bringing up the overlay and getting rid of it a second time seems to fix it. It probably happened when I was looking up how powerlines worked in a wiki because it was explained so poorly in the tutorial that it's already being talked about on gaming forums all over the internet.

                What's hard about power lines? Point at one end, press the button it tells you to press, point at the other end, press the same button. I did a Google search but nothing came up about people having trouble with it, do you have any links to where these discussions are? I'm curious to see what people are saying about it.

                  It's not hard. It's just not adequately explained and the command to do it is right at the bottom of the screen and mapped to a button that doesn't otherwise get used in the building menu. You learn to do crafting using non-powered items. You learn to use E, R, tab, wasd, arrows, left and right click. Space is used to jump so you can move around easily while building. Given that everything else is made through the arrow menu, one would expect that powerlines are, too. But they aren't and now you make them using the jump button when you are looking at the right thing. It's fine once you know how it works, but it's just another design decision that makes no sense to a new user.

                  If you go to google and type "Fallout 4 conn", the first result is "Fallout 4 Connecting Power" and brings up a whole lot of results.

        I agree with you on how the keys change across menus which is just bizarre. Also found the perks menu confusing, must have taken me hours to realize I could unlock any of the perks visible. Not sure why they grey out things that can be unlocked, seems like design 101 really.

      WAHHH WAHH...
      Was.. was this crying?

      Thats kind of the point, its not as terrible as you make it out, its supposed to be a bit off its designed to be helpful, but not hand holding-ly helpful, it displays the vital info you need while fitting with the aesthetic, and leaving a bit to the imagination.

      It doesn't have to be "hand-holdingly" helpful, but it can still display the information in a better way while still keeping to the aesthetics of the "Fallout" universe. I think a mechanic similar to the one in Deus Ex Revolution would be great, where you see a video tutorial as you stumble upon each new "feature" of the game, such as crafting, sneaking, combat, etc. with an option to turn these off - they could even show vault-boy cartoons similar to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L cartoons as a tutorial. I also don't believe that "leaving a bit to the imagination" provides the full gameplay experience - I don't know how many times I've seen on Reddit a comment like "OMG I didn't know you could do that" when a game has been out for 5 years. Some poor developer wanted you to be able to do that in the first place!

      i imagine playing in a 50's themes post apocalyptic world using a fully functioning Samsung note 4 with true ergo designed menu's would detract from the fact that the world has gone to shit, but there still a guy in his basement post end of world making apps.

      That's not what we want. We want a HUD and a Pip-Boy that doesn't make us want to go and change the FOV in a hidden .ini file so that we can see more on the screen. The menus don't have to be "ergo" either, just moved around so that information is more easily accessible. I absolutely love the animations when you are using the Pip-Boy but I would prefer the option for a full-screen inventory view.

      There's a big difference between "Here, figure out how to build a settlement by yourself" and "This Pip-boy is designed to feel clunky". The latter is definitely part of Fallout. The former is just poor game design. But that said, this isn't really a Fallout game anyway. It's a fantastic game I'm having an absolute blast with and can't stop playing, but it's not Fallout. This is just post-apocalyptic Skyrim.

        You're not expected to figure out how to build a settlement by yourself, there are help menu entries, tutorial pop ups in the top left corner, and even a quest chain to guide you through the basic requirements of a settlement that triggers in Sanctuary Hills.

      A bit of clunkiness is good, but it makes too many things needlessly difficult. People have been designing text-based interfaces for a long time, and the Pipboy isn't a good example of how to do it right.

      Then, when it moves beyond that interface, it's still horrible and clunky to use (I'm looking at the crafting interface here, and VATS). Actually putting things where you want them can be genuinely hard, and targeting a particular body part while somebody is moving is enormously difficult as the various parts slide past each other. Why is it that, playing on PC, the left mouse button is always to select something - except in crafting, where it's used to rotate? All the little irritations are one reason I spend as little time as possible messing with settlements.

      Add small irritations like the inability to break down parts for items directly in the interface and the hassles in interacting with your companion (sometimes, simply knowing where they are, as they don't show up on the radar at all). The Fallout 4 UI could be better in so many ways while retaining the look & feel of the retro pipboy interface.

      Personally I find the item selection interface to be annoying since, playing on PC, the cross layout is just incredibly unintuitive. I can see that they wanted to retain it for PC players using a controller, but couldn't they lay them out linearly for those using a keyboard and mouse? Contextual user interface design is not rocket science.

      Fundamentally, there is bad interface design to meet an aesthetic need, and bad interface design because the designer couldn't be bothered. Fallout 4 has strong elements of both.

        Actually putting things where you want them can be genuinely hard, and targeting a particular body part while somebody is moving is enormously difficult as the various parts slide past each other.

        In both cases, the mouse wheel helps. You can also hold E in workshop mode to swap the wheel to up/down mode (instead of towards/away mode) and while holding E it makes rotation slower to give you more precise positioning control.

        Add small irritations like the inability to break down parts for items directly in the interface

        You don't need to break down items for parts, the game does it automatically for you. You only need them in your inventory or in the workshop inventory. Weapons and armour that can be broken down can be broken down in weapon and armour crafting stations respectively.

        the cross layout is just incredibly unintuitive

        You only need to interact with the quick menu when you're adding new favourites. At all other times you just press the number key that corresponds to the item slot you want. I've opened the quick menu maybe 5 times ever, in around 70 hours of play.

        Last edited 24/11/15 2:50 pm

      FUCKING THANK YOU. I'm getting pretty well over human beings modern propensity towards wanting to make next to no effort in understanding or cognitively manipulating the world around them. "Just suck my dick and spoon-feed me everything" is all people want anymore. Where's the human drive to not let the machines win and turn us all into useless blobs of flesh and farts? Where's the hugemanitee?!

    When I go to the cricket I know the seats are going to be uncomfortable, there won't be enough leg room, the beer will be poor and impossibly over priced, as will the food. And getting to-and-from the ground... don't get me started!

    But man I just love the cricket, so I put up with it year-in and year-out, and always have a great time.

    Hi, I couldn't agree more. 1 Thing I will add though is that while reading this article I had the sense that maybe some of these things are about actually playing the game and discovering how they work

      Discovering how the *world* works is fun. Discovering how the *interface* works is not. Especially not when there are things that really, really need an interface (how many settlers in Sanctuary are assigned to food production? Which ones? Am I about to spend resources to build a chair, or do I have one in storage?) that don't have one at all, no matter how much discovering you do.

      Last edited 24/11/15 2:18 pm

        If you have an item in storage, when you have the samem item selected in the workshop menu it displays a number on the icon that indicates how many of that item are in storage. If there's a number, you'll place one of the items in storage. If there's no number, you'll craft a new one and place it.

          I've found that number actually represents how many of that item you can build. As in if it requires 4 steel and I have 9, it'll have a (2) next to it. I could be mistaken, but I don't place anything in storage and that's what these numbers seem to reflect. Regardless it would be nice if there was a proper menu for settler management, or perhaps if you could name settlers / give them titles as per their assignments, so that items would show which settlers were assigned to them.

            There are two numbers, see this picture (http://i.imgur.com/tfvUmmg.jpg). The red circled number is how many you have the resources to build, the blue circled number is how many of that item you have in storage.

        if you have one in storage, it will "build" that one for you first before it uses your resources

    system. the font is system iirc. and it's ugly as sin.

    A couple of things I find a little unfounded, though-

    Did you know, for instance, that the brackets around the word HIDDEN actually indicate how hidden you are?

    Yes. As long as you pay attention to it becomes obviously very quickly that the closer the brackets get the easier you are to detect, but everyone's different, so there's that.

    But when you choose how you want to spend your action points, it doesn’t tell you what order you’ve picked your shot
    Because you already picked a shot. This is reaching a bit.

      Did you know, for instance, that the brackets around the word HIDDEN actually indicate how hidden you are?

      Yeah this blew my mind. I've been playing Fallout for years, and I never knew this.

    I love how Bethesda fans embrace glaring flaws as part of the experience.

    Last edited 24/11/15 12:24 pm

    im kind of glad they never explain all the crafting systems.
    I can choose to ignore those parts of the game entirely and play fallout 4 the same as the rest of the series, or i can get into the systems and make mistakes and learn for myself how it all works.

    id have spent the 24 hours ive played so far learning all the systems instead of the game.

    granted the pip boy interface is poor, but the interface wearing the power armor (which i feel is supposed to be a main part of the game) is fantastic. i hadnt payed much attention to the lack of information issues on the bottom of the pipboy because i dont need to know the time or date. the parts that do have stuff at the bottom are in appropriate positions for their context. i dont need to know the date and time or my experience and level in the radio menu im there to listen to the radio.

    the VATS lacking the % icon is a little strange, but its not completely counter intuitive. i do seem to recall a pop up being displayed in the corner of the screen briefly explaining the percentage and critical system when first entering VATS but could be wrong.

    in all i wouldnt say the ui is terrible. its more cumbersome than anything else, and i enjoy the fact that im not lead by my hand through the optional crafting and can jump straight into the game regardless of my interest in it. when i do become accustomed to the crafting system ive learnt that myself, i get a sense of accomplishment when i finish building that house from scratch, or craft that perfect sniper rifle.

      The more I think about it, the less I think VATS needs any kind of tutorial. You don't even receive your Pipboy until you pick it up from a long dead corpse on your way out of the vault. Your character had no training in how to use it and it all becomes apparent after a little trial and error.

      It's not like Fallout 3 where your dad is there showing you how to aim with VATS with your first BB gun.

    Now I just want to be at home playing Fallout. I shouldn't have read this thread.

    You have a lot of problems that I don't.

    I love the fallout interface, it's perfectly functional to me. Fits with the theme. Dirty, functional tech. It just works!

    The dialogue system is terrible but the following made no sense to me i thought it was pretty straight forward. Yellow + Red = Orange therefor orange is inbetween?

    Yellow means you have the best shot of a successful Charisma roll, and red is hardest. That’s easy to keep track of. But in the middle there’s this sort of… dark yellow/orange color?

      I believe he means that yellow can look orange and vice versa under different lighting conditions/surroundings. It's therefore not unheard of to mistake an orange option for a yellow one, for instance, especially as you usually only ever see one charisma option at a time. Personally, I just don't understand what's so difficult about having a %-age chance of success in parens after the dialogue option.

        Ohh ok i never had that problem - im playing on a pc in a dark room. Totally agree that having a % chance of success would be great.

      This was probably the dumbest complaint in an article full of dumb complaints. Displaying the difficulty with a label (like 'easy', 'medium', 'hard' - percentage is revealing too much information) would be useful for some types of colour blindness or people with horrendously calibrated monitors, but for someone with normal eyesight there's no difficulty at all in telling the difference between yellow and orange.

        Lets be fair, once the writer (who we assume is an adult) uses the word 'gross' to describe a game UI, you didnt expect an intelligent thoughtful article, right?

        'Cept when, like me, you've changed the colour of the UI to yellow and you can no longer see that particular option in dialogue.

          Sure, that's a possibility I didn't consider. It's not the case for the article author though, who is still using the standard green interface in the screenshots above. As I mentioned, text labels would be useful, particularly in cases like yours.

      I have had zero issues telling the colours apart; for all I care they could be on a spectrum rather than a small, finite amount of colours, and I'd still get the general idea. More red = less chance of success.

      Though I do miss the ol' "%58 Chance", somehow felt more comfortable knowing the odds.

      Last edited 25/11/15 2:09 am

    The only thing that I really want is when you go to barter is to breakdown the items into different categories rather than sort through one big list. Would make buying and selling a lot easier. Hopefully someone mods that in.

    Turns out I didn't realise this is incredibly easy to sort. Forget about my comment.

    Last edited 24/11/15 1:59 pm

      Can't you toggle left or right on your side of the barter screen to sort items? Weapons/Apparel/Ammo etc etc??

      Last edited 24/11/15 1:01 pm

        Did not even realise. Thanks for the heads up.

          No dramas mate.

          Enjoy your days in the Commonwealth :)

      Can already do this, where it says "inventory or my inventory" you select the arrow next to it and it filters to "amm" "weapons" "armour" "misc" and "junk"

      I believe you scroll across and it presents all the items in their categories.

    This article is based on the PC version of the game.
    The map is also the only thing in Fallout 4 to give you an in-game “mouse” cursor that you move around with your thumbstick.

    Edit: Gamepad on PC Claymore *smacks head*... sorry.

    Dialogue Issues: Get the mod that shows the complete sentence, it's a lifesaver - in fact, mods will make this game a solid 9 rather than the average 7 it currently is.

    Props to 7iger for the Blue Heeler mod, all I wanted when they announced F4 was my Bluey as a companion! :)

    Last edited 24/11/15 1:00 pm

      Actually I'm considering uninstall the dialogue mod. Long texts are overflowing and I can't read if it is a good or bad response.

        I am finding myself choosing the sarcastic options much more with the dialogue mod because you can tell if its funny sarcastic or mean sarcastic which is a nice change.

          haha yeah. Some of them is hilarious.

          I was laughing the part with Valentine plugging the brain.

          Those sarcastic options are over the roof.

    And this article is hyperbolic.

    Seriously, educate yourselves before posting rubbish that insults people's intelligence. Also, possibly refrain from pretending everyone who disagrees with you does so out of prejudice - it's almost epidemic at this point.

      I agree with almost every point made in this. I had the same issue with the crafting system and standing at the workbench not realising you could walk around. I can't stand not knowing what my character is going to say and having to guess at what the options mean (is "sarcastic" a sarcastic positive? or sarcastic negative?). I've got plenty of friends who have the same issues.

      Fallout has been my favourite game since I first played the demo in 1996. This is a great game, but needs lots of work to be what it could be.

      Just because you like a game doesn't mean there's no room for improvement.

    The interface was simply a challenge to overcome. Now that i understand it all, it's fine. Makes the experience better, in fact. Do you think if people were actually wandering the commonwealth a slick little menu would just flash up and assist them with their adventure? It's Fallout. Hardening the fuck up and venturing forth is all part of the experience!

    A disclaimer. I do not own or have played Fallout 4. I've gotten sick of Bethesda's open worlds since Skyrim. Giving a player too much choice just means they make no choice at all.

    Now, back to the article's main points. I've gotten frustrated as a whole of the lack of video game manuals. I'm an older man, and remember 100 page paper documents that use to come with the most basic of games, explaining interface, setting, back story and the like. If there was something that did not make sense on screen, you could read through the manual and almost always get an answer.

    I get that it's environmentally friendly to not have a big wad of paper with every physical game release. Electronic manuals however, can be done, and they can be done well. If anything, players have almost forgotten about the power of a good manual, and developers have flicked off that aspect because some marketing person saw it as a waste of development time.

    Nintendo though is bucking the trend. Every single game they have released for current consoles, Wii U and 3DS, contains a decent manual that you can find in a standard way. A friend of mine had a question about the interface of Dragonball Z Extreme Buttoden on 3DS, which I had not played yet. It took me a few seconds for me to point out where the manuals are for every icon. Tap an icon on the home menu, then select "manual" down the bottom of the screen. Upon knowing about the manual, he was able to solve his problem in under a minute.

    It's not that hard to do. Either polish your interface to perfection, waste money getting your video in game tutorials up to excellent level without boring the audience, or do the simple and cheap option - include a simple, easy to access digital manual with every game you create.

    TLDR: I wish more games had decent digital instruction manuals that came with the game and explained things clearly. :-S

      In case you did not know (you probably don't because you hate Bethesda), there is a complete help section that players can read about everything. Including VATS, how to position stuff in Build mode, etc. It will pop up a small explanation when you do something for the first time and refer you to read the Help section for more info.

      Players are just ignoring those help bubbles and then claim that the game is not user friendly when the "instruction manual" is literally in their hands. It's like a guy holding a dictionary and complaining that he don't understand a certain word. It's stupid.

        Well, that is some help. I just hope that help section is accessible - like appearing in an obvious place in the main menu when starting up the game, or coming up every time you pause the game.

        Ideally it would be relevant as well. You bring up the manual while crafting, and it opens at the crafting section. You are looking at VATS, and that's what is shows. The map system in the pip boy? Here you go...

        Time and again though I've found that the manual is buried deep and often does not answer basic inquiries. I'm not saying this is or is not the case for Fallout 4, but too often that is how it is. :-(

          I understand your pain :P. I recall some games that I put down after awhile and when I come back to it I have no idea what I'm doing including controls and there is no way to check since it is not available anywhere.

          The fallout 4 help is right at the menu. The moment you press ESC it appears. Which is very accessible and it has been mentioned every single article that bashes Fallout 4 for not providing enough instructions but these articles keep coming up again and again lol.

      -shrug- these days there's less effort involved in searching for a specific issue online than recovering a manual you may or may not have at hand and flicking through for an answer to a problem that may not even be outlined. I suggest the Fallout wiki - pretty much any question you could possibly ask has a detailed answer, along with further suggestions to take you from there. I don't think it's a decision based on the logistics of including a physical manual, but more of a reasonable assessment that in this day and age they're simply obsolete. We're not exactly putting our household phones on hold while we search for answers anymore.

      I'm pro-choice, too - if anything, Fallout 4 and Skyrim have presented less choice than their predecessors; I could go into ridiculous amounts of detail, but sufficed to say I cannot be 'evil' in Fallout 4, an option I rather enjoyed in the third entry. I can be a really sarcastic lone wanderer, but the minutemen will always love me. Skills have been cut and dialogue is pretty straightforward, quests mostly revolve around clearing areas of baddies, with rarely another option presented. I'm enjoying the game, but I thought it would be worth mentioning that there's no overabundance of choice which would overwhelm even the most casual gamer.

      Last edited 25/11/15 2:22 am

    There's a surprising amount of butt-hurt being thrown at this article, for reasons I assume consist of not much more than "HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE MY GOTY".

    This article is 100% spot on though. The UI isn't unusable, but most of it is designed poorly. Sure you can figure it out and continue to play the game, but you do it in the same way that you get used to a janky old door to your garage that won't open unless you lift it while having the key turned in exactly the right way - after the 50th time you've got it, but if more effort was put into considering how someone will actually be using it then it'd be clear and simple to use right from the start.

      I agree with you entirely. It's so sad to see people unable to accept that this game isn't what it could be. It's not that it's a bad game, just that there's significant room for improvement.

      I wish it was a surprising amount of butt-hurt, but it feels on par with any time anything negative is said about the franchise (and it doesn't help that the headline is so confrontational). I love that people are this passionate about games and Fallout is a series worthy of the enthusiasm it's fans have, but I wish they'd take constructive criticism a bit less personally. We can be critical of games and love them at the same time.
      Mega Man Legends and Mass Effect are two of my favourite games but I can rattle off complaints about either of them for days while still loving them. Hell, I'd say I can be super critical of them precisely because I love them. I wouldn't put that sort of thought into Kane & Lynch.

      I think the point is that a lot of people don't feel the article is 100% spot on. Some of the complaints in the article are just dumb, like not understanding why orange fits between yellow and red when indicating difficulty. His complaint about the stealth interface is purely personal, since both the current system and the system he proposed would be 'better' do the same thing with the same on-screen visibility, just skinned differently. "Hate newspapers" and "Support news" aren't directives like he assumed, there are very very few directive options in Fallout 4's dialogue options, "sarcasm" being the main offender. They're just shortened forms of "I hate newspapers" and "I support news".

      There's a few legitimate complaints in there, but there's also a lot of complaining about trivial things or having strange expectations of how things should work based on what happens in other unrelated games.

    Might be just my phone but is anyone else detecting the irony in an article about poor UI being poorly coded with a word wrap point twice as wide as the viewing screen?

      Good lord, I thought I was the only one thinking this.
      Getting pretty old scrolling to the right to finish reading a line...

      Ha! Was thinking the same thing.

      I would upvote you, but us phone plebs aren't given such powers here.

        Oh, but you see, that's where you are wrong! If you click on the little number beneath the comment, the upvote/downvote options will become available! :P

        On topic, this is frustrating, I agree. My only fix is to turn your phone to orient the screen into landscape mode. It's not much, but it's something, depending on the phone.

    Jeez - look, I really like fallout 4, but some people are gosh darn defensive - they're not insulting you or your family or telling you that you can't like the game. They are voicing criticism of a video game.

    Criticism I agree with, in part. The map is not good - too cluttered, too indistinct, and I dislike having to click and drag to move around on it. The "hidden" icon doesn't disturb me too much, but I wish they had explained what the moving bars were all about. And I really, really wish they could all you to sort armour by type. The crafting system was clearly designed for consoles and is a right pain to use.

    Now don't lose your head - I still think it's a great game! I would not have played it for 50+ hours if I didn't! I would not STILL be playing it if I hated it! There's so much good stuff in Fallout 4! Really, there is, but the user interface, map and crafting menus are not included, in my mind, as some of those good things.

      What do you find difficult about using the crafting system? You can navigate them with arrow keys - up and down to navigate the list, right to modify the selected item, left to exit back out to the earlier menu. I actually find it quite intuitive in that respect.

        Nah its absolutely terrible if on a pc - console i defer to others i don't play on a tv 3 meters away. For a pc tho its limiting - very limiting. Can't wait for the skyui equivalent to fix all these things

    I only want one thing more from the UI right now. Settler assignment. I want to know exactly who is assigned and to what. Then I can find the left over ones and assessing them or te-assign as necessary. Everything else - as clunky as it is- is atmosphere

      Found this a bit strange they left it out, it worked well in Fallout Shelter.

      I ended up putting hats on those I'd assigned to things.....................Yeah, that backfired pretty quickly when I next arrived to eight new hat wearing settlers moping around doing sweet fuck all.
      Get back to work before sleeping in your tiny shack full of fifty sleeping bags dammit or these Apple Melons (TM) will never ship!

        Haha, this, many times. I've been putting gasmasks on all of my guards (partly to differentiate them, but also because it looks badass when walking into a base of them), overalls/farmhand clothes on my gardeners, etc etc... Pleeeease give us a menu for this! Or at least let me name them! "Settler" could be "Gardener #04" :P

    Goddam this game creates such a polarised audience reaction - you HAVE to love it or hate it (or so internet comments would suggest)

    While I lost much of the screen on my phone (best smart glass integration ever!) I was happy it was still using a 4:3 aesthetic, along with the cathode ray green screen monitors & 50s soundtrack, it imbues fallout as I have played it! Happily 70hrs in and the UI while 'clunky' fits the style. Imagine if they had made a slick UI, more like a smartphone or modern one - There would be pitchforks & marches from the FO loyalists.

    Maybe its because I remember these things when they were prevalent (old tech) but I think its more because I have lived thru the growth of gaming from pixels the size of characters to now (and before that when it had to play out with dice & imagination) , and I just appreciate games I wish I had when I was a kid. I understand the compromises that are made in our entertainment projects, and I'm not butt hurt if things aren't exactly the way I imagined it.

    As Fallout3/NV/skyrim were big time wasters (I mean cost effective entertainment) for me, I expect to spend a lot of time in it, and I was happy to learn as I go (as the sole survivor would) and no amount of nit picking seems relevant with the amount of fun I am having - its not a perfect game, but the settlement/crafting could be a game by itself I would play

    The ONLY problem I have with the lack of hand holding (I am old, but I don't need a paper DMs Manual worth of information) is when you try to get a little knowledge online to help you out, some B@st@rd makes a comment that spoils the main storyline (I still have an unreasonable hatred for that guy - I'm sure he is an ISIS operative trying to destroy our way of life :P )

      I get that it's aesthetic and trying to ape an older art style. But still, UI is more than just the look or type font used.

      Having good flow through of interfaces - this menu always goes to this menu and then this sub menu...

      Having consistent interface options - the B button *always* returns you back one level in the menu tree...

      The sub menus for crafting, combat and inventory management stay the same and have the same layout...

      It's not that hard to do. But it takes someone who has oversight of the entire design process making sure every person is on the same page. Normally what happens it seems is one guy (or team) designs the combat system, another does the inventory management, and the two never talk to each other.

      That is not a way to get things unified or consistent. :-(

    The only real issue I have with the UI is switching between sub menus in the pip boy. It fades them out and can be hard to click on the right one, makes it annoying switching between looking at weapons to drop to save weight and looking at junk to drop to save weight.

    There's also the problems with the Settlement building, as mentioned. The amount of times I've picked things up by accident...Needs a complete re-work and re-design for PC users too, very stupid layout for keyboard/mouse. Will look for a mod that fixes it at some point.

    Last edited 24/11/15 2:30 pm

      I find keyboard navigation to be easier. W and S change the main tab, A and D change the secondary tab.

      Last edited 24/11/15 4:04 pm

        I'll have to try it...Fallout 4 isn't the best at telling you what the navigation/hotkeys are. Hell it still tells me to press enter all the time when E works. Why the hell would I move my hand to the other side of the keyboard when my finger can press E.

        Unfortunately Bethesda have never been good at getting the UI right for PC. They always focus on controllers.

    Agree the interface is crap, but Fallout is just too much fun so I don't care. I am even playing with a controller on PC because the keyboard controls are the worst I have seen in a AAA game for a very long time.

    Love the game (it's proper mintox!) and agree with half of the complaints. Especially so about settler assignment info. However the Help section under the main menu has a shite tonne of info in there for quite a few of the commentators misunderstandings.

    I thought there was a severe lack of information to start with in my first ten hours but in hindsight with the sheer amount of info under the Help menu, I'd be pretty annoyed if there were these continual pop ups providing me the info and kind of hand holding constantly. Maybe the brief messages about the Help menu weren't enough as my friends never knew it existed. Haha, silly fiends! When will their crazy adventures end?

    Fallout 4 is buggy but I'm trying to make the best of it and loving the game so far.

    Ironically, this article refuses to resize correctly on my mobile.

    Most of what you say is wrong with the game is either you not understanding, not liking Immersion (how the stats and map are actual game objects) or missing the game telling how to do something. Pay attention to the top left of your screen almost everything you didn't understand or said wasn't explained actually was... dialog could have been done better, but I haven't had any issues understanding it, they could have done better in letting you know your character was gonna be a dick or not. The only real big complaint I got out of the whole game is inventory management and settler management. it would have been nice to have a management screen on your pip boy to assign jobs or beds. In the inventory when you gather a lot of things sometime its a bit tricky to sort and make sure you are wearing the best and then remembering what is ok to trash. This is one of the best games I have ever played. This review made me think you aren't very intelligent, the way you didn't understand anything. Is this the first game you've played?

      what a condescending piece of rubbish, while I may not agree with all he said, this article is well thought out, organised, and certainly not unintelligent. Just because you dont like his views that doesnt make them rubbish, especially when he makes some perfectly valid points about design, while you just attack him as a person. Maybe its you who us unintellgent if you dont understand basic design 101

      just because he is pulling apart the UI that doesnt mean he hates the game. I personally I think it is one of the best games I have ever played but the UI is monumentally woeful. Look I like the pip boy idea but in a game this complex the UI is just not up to the task. Just like Skyrim, awesome game but a thoroughly awful UI, but made truly amazing with a few changes in SKYUI. What is so disappointing is that they completely ignored all the great things that mod had to offer and how popular it was. Sure this UI has some aspects of it but by binding themselves into the pipboy structure they have handcapped themselves.

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