Entropic Crusader

Home of sci-fi and fantasy author, Benjamin Matthews
Any ol’ iron.

Rivet City! Neat concept, but it has issues. Of course it has issues, it’s a community holed up in a rusting metal aircraft carrier. Harkness raises a valid point when you talk to him: that it’s a safe location because there’s effectively only a single way in. This is true. But that also means you’re trapped in there, making a siege trivially easy to win, given they should have massive food issues inside. And a metal aircraft carrier isn’t the best place to try growing things.

There are ways around this, of course. Because radiation shouldn’t actually be a problem, it’d be possible to use the flight deck for growing food. Yes, it’d be a lot of work transporting soil up there, and all the associated logistical hassles in general, but it should be doable. And it’d be safe as you like, unless the Enclave show up in magical Vertibirds… which they wouldn’t.

Hell, you might as well create a lift of some sort to hoist things up while you’re about it. They’ve already invested in a large swing bridge, so putting that extra effort into a lift system for easily hauling supplies up seems like an excellent plan. Have the hoist near the bridge so supplies can be taken straight up, job sorted.

The hydroponics bay is a nice idea, but unlikely to support the entire community. Not without severe supply problems, anyway. And since they apparently trade fresh food with other settlements in return for other goods, they’d have an even bigger problem on their hands. The water issue is the biggest of all since, as previously noted, hydroponics requires a lot of water, and the salt water of the Potomac wouldn’t do the job (we’ll come back to this later…).

All in all, this is the least problematic location to my mind, at least as it’s presented in the game world. Bethesda put some thought into the all-important question of how they survive, but it certainly has some issues that would prevent it being a successful settlement.

All decked-out.

Rivet City is an excellent example of Bethesda’s core principals in action; come up with half a dozen awesome locations, no matter how silly, plonk them down in areas roughly evenly spaced to allow the player to reach any of them with minimal fuss, then stuff them with loot / shops / posed skeletons / teddy bear tableaux / whatever.

They didn’t bother thinking all that much about how these locations might connect to each other, or how they’d survive in this world, or how they’d procure food and water. These things aren’t really important to Bethesda, as I noted in the first part; they focus wholly on the player and giving them lots of random crap to explore and loot. Trouble is, a boring and nonsensical world is also going to be boring to explore.

All in all, I think this is probably the least outright offensive location in the wastes. It can work with a little tweaking, and there’s a lot going for it. Just build out some wooden planters on the deck for growing food, supplement this with trade (via Canterbury or similar), and you’re pretty good to go. Though again, this poses the same question as Megaton: what do they have to trade? Perhaps scientific knowledge and know-how rather than physical goods?

Additionally, some proper guard towers and turrets might not go amiss either, given all the Super Muties who seem to be interested in nothing more than eating everyone they come across. I’ll get to them later. One other possibility exists: fortify the entire area. There are plentiful structures and ruins nearby, all of which can be used for snipers and lookouts, plus concrete and metals for building walls and barricades. So how about making the carrier the main city / hub, but with farmland and defence towers and the like on the mainland, surrounded by walls?

Area #1 of interest. This whole section of land could be part of a sizeable town.

We could remove some of the collapsed buildings and replace them with rubble walls to enclose our settlement. Some of the people wandering around this area will be able to fill the player in on this; charges were set around the outer buildings to collapse them, then the rubble dragged to build walls / fortifications.

This has a secondary benefit of ensuring there are no tall buildings too close to town for attackers to potentially use to mount an assault from an elevated position. The inner skyscrapers closer to the centre would remain, giving our people their own vantage points (not to mention blocking line of sight to the wider world; performance is important, after all, which is certainly a possible problem with my Tenpenny Tower ideas).

Anacostia Crossing Metro Station is also right inside the town’s limits, so let’s do something with that. If you head inside you’ll find it’s just a basic Raider haunt… because of course it is. So first things first, they’re gone. Instead, we’ll have guards from Rivet City down there ensuring no undesirables from other stations find their way in.

Next, and more importantly, this particular station actually leads you directly to the Mall. And not just anywhere in the Mall, it brings you out literally on the doorstep of the museum where the ghouls are holed up. I’ll talk about Underworld in-depth later on, but for now just remember that we have a direct line between the two settlements.

This gives us a relatively safe underground transit route where trade and commerce between two major settlements can take place. Additionally, above ground we have the Jefferson Memorial not far from the carrier.

An island of tranquillity. And farming. And animals. Okay, maybe not so tranquil.

What I’m going to do is tie these three general regions together into a fairly large and successful settlement. The carrier is the heart of the city where most people live and trade. It contains the experimental hydroponics bay (and planters up top), various shops and amenities, and is the safe house everyone will take refuge in if something really serious happens.

The area on the land surrounded by rubble walls is going to be the security hub with guards, lookouts, and snipers. The Anacostia Metro Station provides both a means of trade and an escape route if necessary in a worst-case scenario. There’ll be beds and guard stations down there which people will rotate in and out of on a rota basis, taking turns with the topside guys so everyone gets time in the fresh air.

And finally, Jefferson Memorial will be the farmland area where food and animals are grown, raised, and tended. A regular supply caravan will move the short distance back and forth to carry food and supplies in both directions, and this whole area will be equally well fortified.

Fortunately the memorial is based on an island with only one access route across an easily-defended bridge, and guard towers around the edges will give ample warning for any potential assaults from the water. Speaking of water, it’s everywhere around here, making a great spot for farming.

Actually, that’s not true at all. See, the problem with this whole set up (and with the entire central plot of the game) is that the Basin isn’t fresh water, it’s salt water. You can’t use salt water for drinking, nor can you use it for farming / irrigation. Which means that unless Dad’s purifier is also a water desalination plant, it’s a completely worthless endeavour in the first instance.

No mention is made of desalination, only purification, and this can be taken to mean the radiation since the rads are removed from the whole Basin once you complete the game and enter Broken Steel. So yeah, we have water that’s no longer radioactive… but still can’t be used because it’s salt water, not fresh. Oops.

This would actually make a really good change to the overall story of Fallout 3, and make it less insane. Since radiation isn’t a thing anyway (as mentioned previously, it should have cleared up 100+ years ago at least), if we simply change the main plot to be about water desalination instead of purification, that would work.

People are scraping by on purified water from robots like the ones you have in your player homes, or from trickles discovered underground that are then boiled, or whatever other sources. Life is hard because they don’t have access to fresh, desalinated water that can be both drunk as it is, and used for farming and / hydroponics.

So… how about we instead say that the Jefferson Memorial is the way it is now, and represents Rivet City’s scientific and engineering know-how being put to good use, but they’re working to desalinate and store fresh water? Since purifying the entire Basin is a ridiculous endeavour, given the setting, it makes a lot more sense for them to take water out, desalinate and purify it, then store it in large tanks.

What this does is give us a proper reason for Rivet City being this big, successful settlement, since they’d essentially be like the powerful (and corrupt) Water Merchants in the first Fallout. Boom! We now have a faction that controls the Spice… uh, sorry, the water that everyone else needs, which gives us nice potential for lots of conflict, both in an economic and open warfare sense.

If the desalination and purification systems are already in place and working by the time the story takes place, then we have existing problems, faction relations, and individual issues that the player can get involved with, including things that tie into other settlements.

Canterbury requires large deliveries of this clean water, for example, but maybe Rivet City has been ratcheting up the prices (perhaps too many people moving in and putting strain on available water resources; something that’s happening in my country in the real world right now) and things are getting tense between them, as just one example.

Those water caravans that start spawning once you enter the Broken Steel content would also make a lot more sense, since there’d be a functional economy with trade taking place between different settlements. Just one tweak to the existing world was all it took, and now things make a lot more sense.

It also helps to have a lead writer who gives enough of a shit to actually do some real research before he starts writing the main plotline for an expensive AAA videogame. Unfortunately, Emil Pagliarulo apparently couldn’t be bothered with that step.

Water R Us.

Tying to other locations, let’s say that fresh water shipments go to Underworld for the ghouls in return for materials scavenged from the DC ruins, plus potentially some interesting goods of a less physical nature based on knowledge, given a lot of the ghouls there are pre-war. I’ll elaborate on this when I talk about them.

Additionally, fresh water shipments make their way over to Canterbury Commons where it’s then sent on to the Pitt. The sheer volume Rivet City can output means they can supply as much as necessary (within reason, and they can set the price to whatever they like), and the robotics, mechanical knowhow, food, etc, and free trade via caravans from Canterbury Commons in return are more than valuable enough to be able to trade at this sort of level.

Let’s head back to the carrier and take a look inside now. The vessel itself is actually pretty nicely designed (albeit a pain to navigate), with a large market and commerce area, plenty of rooms for residents, facilities of one form or another, and the bridge makes for a good command centre with plentiful vantage points outside.

As the main security hub for the city is outside on the mainland, the vessel’s command deck will be more of a council chambers for the leaders to meet and discuss issues facing the settlement. Probably alongside a primary security hub that coordinates and issues commands to the stations outside and in the Metro as necessary. Harkness would then be security chief.

Looking towards the science lab, we have the hydroponics bay. Since Canterbury is likely to be the agricultural centre of the Wasteland, I’d prefer to play up the science angle here at Rivet City.

In the market for trade.

Implants like those on sale at the medical clinic in New Vegas would be procurable here. Certain technologies would also be under research, allowing for quests where the player can help or hinder these projects based on their allegiances with other factions and locations, and their own moral leanings and character build.

For example, all those schematics the player can come across in the wastes? Why not make those part of a quest to improve Rivet City’s trading goods? Some of the schematics can be for improved weapons, better manufacturing processes, that type of thing. Others will render unique weapons to the player as they do in the base game.

Or we could alternatively go another route and say that Rivet City is focused wholly on their water business, then make Canterbury the science capital, since they already have the hydroponics tech and know-how. Helping them out by scouring the Wasteland for blueprints gives them more of an edge when trading with Rivet City.

See, this is how world building works. You have an idea, then you refine that idea. Then you add in more ideas, refine those, and start tying them to the original ideas. You keep doing this until you have a functional world that makes sense. And you might throw out or alter a lot of ideas before you actually settle on the final product.

It takes time and effort, and it’s clear that Emil Pagliarulo and Bethesda’s other writers (if they have any; it seems like their game designers just come up with things on the fly and they don’t actually have a writing staff as such) don’t care all that much about it. Which begs the question of why in the hell they decided to buy the Fallout rights and make this game.


One last thing to talk about in Rivet City before we move on is the marriage quest. It’s an interesting idea, if I’m honest. Why? Simple: because (if handled better, naturally) it provides an insight into human nature. Rather than a creepy as hell quest involving drugging some guy with pheromones (though this could still be an option for less morally upstanding characters!), it’d be something along the lines of showing how humanity endures no matter how hard things get.

Even while the world burns, people meet, fall in love, get married, have kids. It’s a powerful message that people and, by extension, civilisation generally endure, that people are still people no matter the hardships they face. It’d be a nice counterpoint to the other facts of human existence, the negative ones like greed and anger and stupidity.

Now sure, if you want to play a nihilistic asshat who loves breaking everything they come across, that’s also fun and would be totally possible. But at least let’s have something a bit more weighty behind the concept of the wedding, some reason for it to exist, a message or theme to explore, whether positively or negatively.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I’ll be replacing Megaton with a new location, so next chapter will focus on Vault 101 and the opening act of the game, since those will be tied to the new settlement, then the chapter after that will introduce my Brotherhood of Steel replacement faction and their settlement.

Subscribe ToBen's Newsletter

Join Ben's newsletter to receive updates, free samples, short stories, and other goodies. Sign up now and you'll also receive his Crystal Cove Chronicles Prelude Novella.

You have Successfully Subscribed!