Vault dwellers are not born. They are made -- by you. And judging from what Bethesda has shared so far, it looks like Fallout's character creation is getting a major facelift.
As always, you will pick SPECIAL stats that end up determining your skills and proficiency out in the field. Each of these stats will have its own skill tree, which you can see in full below:
It's a beauty, huh? Reminds me of Fallout Shelter a bit, which is probably intentional.
In any case, the higher a particular SPECIAL stat is, the more the tree associated with it will unlock. So a strength of 10 will give you a lot of strength-related Perks to pick from. You get 28 SPECIAL points to start out with, if you want to start plotting out your character now. Bethesda claims that not only will levelling in Fallout 4 be faster than before, the game will also feature no level cap. Great!
It was our goal that all the Perks be balanced amongst each other, regardless of if they required a 1 or a 10. The higher the SPECIAL requirement, the more focused or exotic the Perk was for that playstyle. Take for example the Agility 1 Perk Gunslinger (20% more damage with pistols), and the Agility 10 Perk Gun Fu (your 2nd target in V.A.T.S. takes 25% more damage regardless of weapon).
What's important is that each of these Perks is actually a mini Perk tree*, with multiple ranks that also do new things. Gun Fu above allows even more damage the more targets you select, increasing to instant Critical Shots. Gunslinger has ranks that up the range of pistols, add a chance to disarm enemies, and even instant limb crippling shots.
These additional ranks do require your character to be a higher level. This allows us to make some powerful Perk ranks that reward your investment in a certain SPECIAL as well as that individual Perk. It also allows us to fold Perks we liked from previous games into Perk ranks in this new system. For example, the Fallout 3 perk Paralyzing Palm (paralyse enemies through hand-to-hand), now becomes the Rank 5 Perk for Iron Fist. But you need to have chosen the previous 4 ranks of Iron Fist and be level 46. We also pushed old Perks to do new things at higher ranks. Strong Back doesn't just up the amount you can carry; higher ranks of it allow you to fast-travel while encumbered or even run while encumbered at the cost of Action Points.
With each SPECIAL having 10 Perks, there are 70 base Perks. With Perk ranks, it increases that number to over 270. That number also includes a top-level Training perk for each SPECIAL, so that you can essentially skip a regular Perk and raise a SPECIAL by 1. This gives you the benefit of the new SPECIAL value, and allows access to higher Perks in future levels.
Not only that, but comics out in the wild will also grant you Perks -- and there are 100 in all, waiting to be found:
Funnily enough, out of the ones Bethesda has discussed so far, the Perk I'm most excited about...isn't new. I have spent so many hours in Bethesda games dragging my character slowly across the map because I refused to put down useful gear. Good to know that, thanks to a returning Perk, I might not have to deal with that stuff -- at least, if I make my character in a specific way.
A lot of you have noticed this already, but the new system also gets rid of Skills. Many of the things that Skills allowed you to do are still present, they have just been absorbed by Perks instead. It's a system that Bethesda hopes will simplify things.
The previous Skill system had some confusing parts and ended up spreading your choices too thin. Some of you had questions like: "What's better, the Charisma SPECIAL, or the Speech Skill? Why are assault rifles in Small Guns?" Additionally many Perks simply raised associated Skills. The Gun Nut Perk in Fallout 3 increased two separate Skills. In Fallout 4, the ranks of Gun Nut act as gates for modifying and crafting weapons. Sneak was a skill in Fallout 3, and you simply increased its value. In Fallout 4 Sneak becomes a Perk that not only makes you harder to detect, but wraps in previous perks like Silent Running and Light Step into its ranks. By wrapping these systems together, it keeps the emphasis on your SPECIALs and the level-up choices more rewarding.
Most of this stuff sounds good to me, but obviously it remains to be seen how it will actually feel in my hands. For now, you can head over to the official Bethesda website and read more about how Fallout 4's character creation is changing here.
Or, you can hear Todd Howard himself explain it in the video below. I'd say it's worth watching just to see all the cool little flourishes that your Pip Boy will have...there are so many animations in there now! Cute.