Content of the article: "Okay, work is slow and I’ve got Fallout on the brain, so screw it. I’m going to attempt so explain how V.A.T.S works from the real world perspective. Warning, it’s kinda long."
So, first off, I’m going to state elements of the mechanic and what will be discussed that I think are purely for the gameplay aspect and do not have a lore explanation(like how your character can carry three hundred pounds without a backpack or any of it showing on the character. It’s just a game). Apologies for the formatting as I’m on my phone currently.
1.) The big one, the time freeze upon activation. I believe with the engine the game was created in and the limitations they had, rendering and using it in real time would have just been too taxing, and most likely very annoying to code. Especially if the player were to switch between first and third person perspective while it was activated, or trying to keep track of enemies that ran in and out of its range in real time. I believe this is actually supported by Fallout 4’s changing it to just a SLOWED time perspective. It took a pretty big technological advancement and even more familiarity with the engine to figure out how to get it to move at all. It’s also just easier for the player to use in general, as it lets you plan an attack( or one of my favorite things , just scan the area. I love doing that.)
2.) I will discuss the compass at one point, and the ticks it gives to show NPCs. I believe the color of said ticks is ,again, just for the players convenience( I actually have modded the red ticks out in the past, changing them all to green. Pretty from for a more hardcore play style if you haven’t tried it.)
Also, this is not meant to be an explanation of the exact details of the technology, but a “working understanding” of it. So let’s begin.
I think the biggest thing to point out is what the “A” in V.A.T.S stands for, and that is “ASSISTED”. It’s my interpretation that that means it simply HELPS you in choosing your targets, I do not believe it aims for you. I have heard arguments that the Glove paired with the Pip-Boy has some type of neurological stimulation that affects muscle control. I believe this is debunked simply by there being variants across the games that do not use the glove, and some models are so simple that they require only a latching mechanism like the one seen in F04 (as opposed to the MK 3 used in 3 and Vegas that is implied to be difficult to remove without proper tools, for example see the entire Anchorage plot.) I also do not believe that the user sees the calculations and percentages like in the game, this being just another gameplay convenience, but that everything is represented on the Pip-Boy screen. This would mean it would most likely not be used as a snap reflex when caught unaware, but more realistically when the user has time or is using it upon unaware enemies and trying to find out who is the optimal target to take down first. (Much how like in the real word chugging soda will do nothing to stop the blood loss from the deranged cannibal who just stabbed you, yet in game it heals you.) Now to get to my point about this section of the post, I believe that V.A.T.S is……just math. It’s a probability calculator. Now, on to how and what it calculates.
Despite the 50s aesthetic, Fallout is still set far into the future, and has aspects such as Teleportation, Robot servants, laser and Plasma weaponry that somehow doesn’t kill the user immediately despite how hot plasma would be if weaponized to that extent. No, beyond the old school transistor radios and blocky PCs, I think we can all agree on the simple fact that the technology in Fallout is SIGNIFICANTLY more advanced than ours, and thus their versions of the same technology we have would be far more capable and better at what it’s intended to do. I believe the Pip-Boy uses two things to calculate your hit chance. Some form of sonar or 3D scanning, and it’s connection to your biological data. Let’s begin with the Sonar/3D scan.
If you activate your local map, you’ll realize very quickly that the sections that are unexplored are grayed out. That’s most likely because the Pip-Boy is actively scanning and saving the data it receives of your surroundings, down to the details of the shape of rubble protruding from walls. That, in my opinion, proves it is capable of scanning an environment to retrieve data of physical objects. I think that’s the first step in its calculations. What’s around me? Step two would be identification of potential targets, and that I believe is simply motion sensing, though a much more advanced form. Possibly using metrics of how big an object is( like how a bird probably won’t set off your motion sensing porch lights) or it’s velocity, or most likely a mixture of the two(which would be why you can shoot grenades out of the air, though realistically by the time you made your choice it would have already landed, taking into account how it most likely does not actually alter the perception of time.) It could also track these objects in real time, and display them on your Pip-Boy’s compass, alerting you to nearby objects it (accurately) deems as living mobile creatures. It would even translate to them standing still using its scanning capability, the same way it keeps your map data. It has designated this mass as a potential target, and continues to do so once that masses motion ceases. Now step three. Is there any object of substantial size BETWEEN me and the target that would designate it a non viable target? For instance you can still aim at someone in FO3 if they crouch behind the dividers on the highways, despite you not being able to see their full body physically. You still “see”the outline, which to me says the Pip-Boy has analyzed the size of the target vs its cover and still deems it viable.
Now for part two, your personal biometric data. Take for example an Apple Watch telling your your pulse and heart rate, or a Pulse Oximeter that hospitals use(that little thing they clip on your finger to make sure you’re getting enough oxygen.) It’s possible in our less advanced world to get accurate medical data through physical contact, so I believe the Pip-Boy has that capability cranked up to 11. It can read the status of radiation, breaks and fractures in your body, your health and injuries overall, it can even tell if you have a concussion or are under the effects of toxins and poisons. It’s safe to assume it can read pretty much anything that would be relative to your performance in COMBAT. How capable are you of physical strenuous activity right now? How steady is your hand?(For instance, if you break your leg it knows, but your accuracy is unaffected in V.A.T.S. Break your arm, though? Much less likely to control a gun or swing a knife with real precision, and thus that percentage to hit decreases.)
I believe it combines these two data pools. The surrounding environment and potential targets within it, and your own physical capability and any injuries relative to the weapon you would be controlling. As an explanation for increased accuracy with higher skills, think about actually practicing a skill. For anyone who’s into firearms, I sure you noticed that over time, your muscles learned. How to pull the trigger smoothly, where best to shoulder and grip the gun for stability. I’m sure if you pay attention, you’ll notice your muscles even relax more, as the muscle memory sets in. Your body is less tense. If it can detect broken bones, there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t sense the small vibrations from an unpracticed hand, which would most definitely effect your aim.
So in conclusion that is what I think V.A.T.S ACTUALLY IS. It’s a probability calculator that the wearer uses to judge what target to engage, based on its predicted likelihood of you landing your shot. It’s your personal targeting assistant.
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