Fallout 4: Radio made the wasteland star


One of the joyous benefits of having a newborn in the house is that it reintroduces you to hours that you previously were ignorant to, mostly due to being in deep slumber. Three a.m.? It’s amazing! And a perfect time to put in a little Fallout 4 gaming while bouncing a kid on your lap.

As the world’s pokiest gamer, I’ve yet to get past Concord, instead spending my time looking around, uncovering all the secrets I can, and stocking up on gear and ammo. I was pretty amused to discover a good old-fashioned speak-easy (was the Fallout alternative universe still under prohibition?). Amazing that after 200 years, that skeleton is still balancing a cigar in his mouth with aplomb.


What is this I don’t even.

A headless skeleton in a tub (the skull was in the toilet nearby) with machete-wielding manniquins standing over him. I kept expecting them to attack, but no dice.

Anyway, probably one of my favorite features of Fallout 4 is — without a doubt — the in-game radio station. You start out with two, one is classical music (pass) and one is a 50s-era station called Diamond City Radio. There are more, but I haven’t encountered any yet.

If you don’t have a radio station on, the default game soundtrack plays, but I gotta say that the experience is a lot more immersive by tuning into DCR while I’m crawling through sewers and scavenging old houses. The old timey songs are spot-on for the retro futuristic setting and the DJ — a nervous, halting, adorkable guy — keeps making me smile. Along with Dogmeat, he’s my constant companion, keeping me from feeling too alone in the wild.

I even got a kick when he mentioned that people had been seeing a person wearing a Vault 111 jumpsuit in the area, which is me!

The whole in-game radio feature is a staple of open world sandboxes such as Grand Theft Auto but hasn’t really made its way into MMOs. At least I can’t think of any that have official in-game radio stations (some unofficial ones, like with The Secret World, exist and are run live by players). The problem with adding such a feature is immediately obvious and two-fold:

  1. A majority of MMOs are fantasy and how does radio broadcasts work in that setting? It doesn’t, really.
  2. You’re still spending way more time in MMOs than you would an open-world single-player title, so any radio station would need to have an even larger body of music and voice work.

Still, it’d be pretty cool to have that option, especially if the devs could slip in in-game announcements as part of the DJ patter. Holiday event going on? DJ promotes it as part of the ‘cast! Or the radio station could highlight the community, special housing projects, or rile players up for some PvP. Lots of possibilities.

I wonder if developers have ever considered it. If done right, it could be pretty stinking awesome.


4 thoughts on “Fallout 4: Radio made the wasteland star

  1. Rowan November 16, 2015 / 8:02 pm

    I could totally see (hear?) Wildstar doing something like that.

  2. Chaos All Enliven (@Aquarion) November 16, 2015 / 9:45 pm

    Later on there’s a 50s-esque radio plays station, custom written for the game, which is great, and reminded me a lot of the Halloween mission in TSW involving radio, and made me wish (in TSW) for a radio station that played those all the time. You get the device at the end of that mission that plays all the stations, but you can’t use it while actually adventuring, which is sad.

  3. Sylow November 17, 2015 / 6:41 am

    I agree that the Halloween stuff of the Broadcast mission was a bit unwieldy. But on the positive, all those episodes are also available on YouTube. (They are public domain by now, i think, else FC wouldn’t have used them. ) That’s actually the best way of listening to them, as you thus are able to pause them and also can avoid other players making a lot of noise next to you, so you would miss something.

    On the general thing of such radio stations in games, it’s complicated. While i don’t have Fallout 4 yet (doesn’t fit into my gaming schedule within this year), i have played through Fallout 3, which had the same system. And while the whole thing was cool for quite a while, in the end i switched the radio off and supplied my own music, as i grew tired of the selection. The library necessary for this to work would have to be immense, with similar costs attached. Thus i think that player operated radio stations are really the best solution for everybody. Due to the nature of those small webstations (among others being run by private persons), they can keep costs under control, while a similar service provided by a gaming company would have much higher costs, licenses and all legal nonsense being the big deal.

    I still remember the special event in Anarchy Online, when a life concert of the band “All American Rejects” was broadcasted to some in-game showstage screens. Due to the SF settings, these screens existed and made sense, they were used to display a lot of stuff, advertisements for in-game but also real products, advertisements for in-game organisations, the equivalent of guilds, etc. Anyway, the show from “All American Rejects” was advetised a lot, but then hours before the show the bands management realized that a broadcast in a MMO would not be a national but an international show and pulled a lot of levers to get IP-restriction on the broadcast. While some crafty people still watched it outside of the US, it also left some players in the US in front of black screens. Quite clearly FunCom has learned the lesson from that, they never again did such a show.

    Mind, you, even for the private stations there are some costs and a number of regulations to follow to be allowed to run those stations. I wasn’t aware of a lot of that hassle till my girl started DJ-ing on RFG, one of TSWs radio stations,but the people make sure that the regulations are not violated and thus are able to privately finance the station. For sure the other (much longer running) radio station GSP, which already was there for Anarchy Online but also connects to TSW also follows these regulations, for the third now existing station i have my doubts and for those independent DJs who broadcast once a while on an open schedule i simply have no idea if they stick to regulation or just “pirate and go”.

    Anyway, after all this text, the essential part is that no MMO could ever provide (or afford) a library of sufficient size to make such radio stations on their own. But the community not only can do that, they also have people ready and eager to do so. This is so much part of some games community that it’d be contraproductive if the game tried to take over and provide that by itself again. Actual potential for improvements i’d rather see in making those stations accessible for new players. All the stations advertise their shows on channels in game, but at the moment then getting to actually listen requires several steps outside of the game.

    The game already allows hyperlinks to be posted on chat, so possible improvements, each with advantages and disadvantages, would be:
    1. Have an in-game MP3 player (including saved library) and if you click a link on a MP3-stream in game, it gets added to the library and it starts to play.
    2. If a hyperlink contains a MP3-stream, start the music player installed on the PC to play this stream.

    Next to that, after this huge wall of text, i still think that player-run radio stations are the way to go for any multiplayer game. (Hey, even Elite Dangerous has a player operated radio station. )

  4. Dobablo November 20, 2015 / 5:11 pm

    It might be a fun event to do for a week sometime. That should be a manageable scale.
    The manikins should move when you aren’t looking at them.

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