Culling The Tide - Fallout 4 Quest Mod

What is Culling The Tide?

Culling The Tide is a quest mod for Fallout 4 that I built in a month. The main function of Culling The Tide was as a test and experiment to hone my quest/narrative design skills as such much of the quest was built into pre-existing locations and lore from those locations. I reached a form of content-complete in a month, however I believe many aspects of the project needed to be reworked as such the mod has not been released yet.

What Did I Work On For Culling The Tide?

As mentioned above Culling The Tide was started as a design test, as well as a experiment to hone my quest and narrative design skills. The project reached its current point in about a month the goal to reach content-complete by that point. I was successful, however much needed to be cut. I swung too wide and the project became too ambitious quickly. I honed in on many of the projects failings after some reflection and decided to rework the project with those ideas in mind.

Quest Designer
My main focus while working on the project was quest design and dialogue. I used the creation of Culling The Tide to familiarize myself with as many of the tools and elements of Creation Kit as I could, because while I had used it before I hadn’t created a quest with as many moving parts. I built each section of the quest from scenes and dialogue, to objectives, terminal entries, logs, and other writing elements that you would associate with a narrative and quest designer.

Level Designer
I did not do a massive amount of level work for this project due to the fact that I used only existing Fallout 4 locations to create the quest. I did however make multiple minor changes to several of the locations you visit during the quest to build both visual storytelling elements and quest progression elements into the scenes. I also spiced up one or two of the encounters as well.

What Did I Learn from Culling The Tide?

  1. BALANCE AMBITION WITH EXECUTION – Unlike many other projects I worked on Culling The Tide did not initially begin over-scoped in-fact the scope was very focused on several interactions with the two main NPCs, however due a number of pivots and delays resulted in getting a little more bloated. Some of this is due to the fact that once I had reached a certain point I felt that the quest was feeling a little dull, so felt the need to send the player to a new dungeon and thus several rewrites occurred to get the player to that dungeon in a somewhat natural way. This bloating then caused me to have to cut certain aspects of the new rewrites for time. I believe the start of the quest to be one of the defining issues with the project, however that decision didn’t necessarily cause the bloating. It was my thought process that the quest needed to be more excited. I decided that the quest was too dull before I had even finished it. What I should have done was complete the duller version of the quest and see how it flows, see if there is a more natural way to introduce conflict and engagement in the existing quest and if there wasn’t I could work on the rewrites at that point having already created the framework for a proper quest already.
  2. CHARACTERS DEFINE DIALOGUE, NOT THE REVERSE – Over the course of the development of the quest I encountered multiple stages in which I needed something to happen for the quest to progress, so I had to write a scene with my two characters that would result in that outcome, however there was a few instances, when I think the situation would not have occurred given the personalities and characterizations I created for the character. The shining example of this issue is the first scene. I decided that it would be good to have the player be stopped in the lobby and barked at through the intercom, that’s in keeping with Dr. Martin Reed’s cautious character, however I decided that Dr. Reed didn’t know that Dr. Hartman had sent out the broadcast. This minor decision caused one of the more bloated scenes in the quest many branching paths that all result in different situations, but the outcome is pretty much all the same. This harkens back to “Balance Ambition With Execution” because I chose to use the characters in a written scenario, instead of writing the scenario for the characters the scene resulting in an enormous amount more work with very little gain for the quest as a whole. TL;DR I experienced and now understand why you always write scenes for your characters.

Quest Gameplay - Content Design

I used the Creation Kit engine to build this quest using only assets and tools provided in the engine. I used the quest system, dialogue system, level tools, and other CK tools. The quest is designed to be discovered when you get close enough to Nahant.

Tools Used / Learned

  • Creation Kit
  • Microsoft Excel

Skills Used / Learned

  • Dialogue Writing
  • FO4 Quest Creation

Terminal Entries - Quest Design / Narrative Design

In one of many repurposed rooms I added a completely custom terminal that includes logs and journal entries that helped add depth to the narrative. The terminal also has other functions like unlocking the terminal behind the desk and downloading logs.

Tools Used / Learned

  • Creation Kit

Skills Used / Learned

  • Narrative Design
  • FO4 Terminal Creation

Excel Workbook (First Draft)

Quest Logs

Terminal Entries