The Institute – Fallout 4

Content of the article: "The Institute – Fallout 4"

Hi, long time lurker, had to make an account to post this. Played and loved Fallout 4 since release, but I was always bothered by some of the gaps and inconsistencies in the writing. For me the biggest was the Institute, which, as a new and interesting faction I felt was undercooked. So just to finally get it off my chest I wanted to put my own version of what I personally would have liked the Institute to have been but without radically changing the story as it is. Opinions welcome. All spoilers unmarked because I have no idea how to do the thing :/


The Institute’s internal organisation isn’t bad but just untidy, with terminology being a bit unclear. So here's a clearer delineation of power:

Tier 1: Division Director. Runs the operations of their individual division and is responsible for the scientists working there. Has the autonomy to select most research projects without the need to consult Tiers 2 or 3.
Tier 2: The Directorate. The main deliberative body for the Institute—roughly analogous to a legislature, but also blends executive functions. Each seat is occupied by one of the four division directors. Operates via consensus because of its small size. Major Institute-wide projects like the 'phase 3' reactor come from this level as it requires cross-division collaboration.
Tier 3: The Chair(wo)man. Effectively the chief executive or pseudo-president of the Institute. Responsible for the organisation as a whole, and possesses some extra powers to help grease decision-making or break a stalemate. This is the position occupied by Shaun/Father. I changed the title from ‘Director’ to differentiate him from the other directors beneath him and to imply seniority.


Again, more clarity needed so here goes:

Advanced Systems: Least problematic division, to be honest. Deals with applied/theoretical physics, energy, teleportation (by far the Institute’s coolest asset), and high-concept R&D. The child synth, however, makes absolutely no sense at this stage so just . . . get rid of that.
I also think that this would be where the player gets their useable goodies, depending on game progress. Examples:
1. Relay grenades.
2. Institute X-01 power armour, but only after the destruction of the Brotherhood. Prior to this they believed they didn't need it, but the effectiveness of the Brotherhood's knights and paladins in power armour, even against coursers, changed their view.
3. Weapons. This is a personal bugbear. So, prior to completion of 'Mass Fusion' the Institute's laser weapons should be weaker than standard because of their energy problems. Madison Li could explain that this is from a deliberate downgrade as part of energy-saving (enraging the SRB and contributing to the implied rift between the two divisions). Post-beryllium agitator their laser weapons should then outclass the standard and we should also start seeing Institute plasma weapons (superior to standard plasma weapons) in the hands of coursers to show that they've overcome their energy limitations.

Bioscience: Deals with medicine, food supply, genetics, botany etc. All that stuff is fine with the exception of their pointless FEV lab. So over the course of the game it needs to be changed into their aquaculture lab that Holdren was musing about on a terminal. Also make use of the synth gorillas by explaining their purpose is ecosystem repair. They’re currently in high-concept form but note that the idea is to get synth animals to mimic now-extinct species to help re-terraform earth into a liveable state.

Systems Regulation Bureau: Formerly Synth Retention. I get it, ‘SRB’ sounds cool and has deliberate echoes of ‘KGB’, so, fine, keep the acronym. But make it more broad than just synths for God’s sake.
To me the SRB was always the security arm of the Institute, responsible for confronting both internal and external threats. Keep all the cloak and dagger stuff, keep the mass-surveillance of the Commonwealth, even keep the synth hunting, but go further. Show terminal records that prove the Institute’s been neutralising small threats all over the Commonwealth before they turn into bigger threats. Nip-it-in-the-bud mentality to security, even if it’s thankless and goes unnoticed by the wider world—and provides a neat contrast to the Brotherhood’s overt you-are-being-rescued tactics with their vertibirds.
1. Assassinating raider bosses before they could combine several gangs into one. Political warfare to influence politics in Diamond City or Goodneighbour away from tyrannical or self-destructive ends (means changing the Mayor McDonough backstory to one of synth replacement after the ghoul pogrom, which the Institute would consider an inefficient act of bigotry necessitating direct control of policymaking for a time).
2. Infiltration of more militarily-organised groups like the Gunners or the Minutemen to control them. Explain that the Minutemen's collapse created a power vacuum in the Commonwealth that the Institute disliked due to the massive spike in raider violence, affecting surface operations.
3. Maintaining the surface informant network like Trashcan Carla and the other caravaneers, supplemented by their inspired crow-synths.
4. Surface technology recovery and scientist recruitment.
5. Constantly monitoring Commonwealth leaders for ‘resurrect the CPG’ potential (suspended indefinitely after the first CPG failed and the Institute got the blame).
6. Super mutant culling (see below: Endgame).
7. Being the operations nerve centre in the Institute’s war against the Brotherhood of Steel.

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You don’t even need altruistic motivations from the Institute to justify this kind of stuff. It’s in their scientific interests to have a quiet Commonwealth—all the better to experiment with—and means the University Point massacre could still be kept as an example of SRB actions having both net-positive and net-negative outcomes depending on the action.

Robotics: Honestly the synths aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The machine that builds them is better in my view but hey ho. Anyway by widening the approach of the division beyond just ‘synths’ they can include stuff like drones, ultra-efficient construction bots, and—the big one—cybernetics. The last one is important because it actually makes sense of their ‘mankind redefined’ motto, while marrying it to the Gen-3 synths with their stronger, faster, more efficient, ageless, and replaceable bodies. It also avoids the need to conduct astounding mental gymnastics to deny synth humanity—in this scenario the Institute know they’re human, and that’s exactly the point (see below: Goals).
Robotics also needs its own division director. I get that Shaun is implied to still be in charge there, but since he’s now responsible for the entire circus it makes sense that someone like Max Loken or Alan Binet officially takes control of the division and occupies the Robotics seat on the Directorate.


This was by far the most frustrating aspect of the Institute in the game. Aside from their motto we really don't fully understand what they actually want besides synths. Their motivations for replacing people seem vague and ill-thought out at best, and reading some terminals in Robotics shows that they don't like the idea of Kellogg's cybernetics either. So what's the deal? Read on.

  1. Redefine mankind. Old, feeble, humanity caused a nuclear war. The Institute want to upgrade us all, which is where the synths come in. The first stage is to upload the minds of the current generation of Institute scientists into Gen-3 bodies (which also makes use of the Nick Valentine personality upload thing that was left hanging). Stage 2 is figure out how to make the at least partially bio-engineered synths capable of breeding so that upgraded humans can replace their numbers. Stage 3 is replace all of the willing humans and (to keep the Institute’s slightly darker role in place) ‘delete’ the unwilling.

  2. Help the above by testing Gen-3 synth humanity/believability by having them infiltrate surface society to the extent that they can seamlessly replace specific individuals and continue their life as if nothing had changed. Further, the Institute is fully aware that they have created and enslaved artificial humans in the Gen-3’s, they just don’t care because of the bigger picture. They see the Gen-3’s as a means to an end and their suffering is a necessary sacrifice.

  3. Maintain the Commonwealth status quo. They would prefer a CPG-style confederation of settlements to keep things stable, but in the absence of that they’ll settle for the current situation as it still benefits their ability to operate unfettered.

  4. Destroy the Railroad and (later in-game) the Brotherhood of Steel. The former represents an obstacle to goal 1, while the latter represents an existential threat to the Institute itself.


Each division should have its own mini arc in addition to the main questline. This can then be used as an excuse to delve into deeper conversations with the division directors about both their specific goals and also the goals of the wider Institute. I also like the idea of the Institute rewarding higher intelligence players, which would be reflected in these quests. Brief outlines are as follows.

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Under the Carpet. Bioscience mini-arc. After breaking into the FEV lab the player can choose to convince Shaun to let Virgil back into the fold after he has been cured, or go along with Shaun’s plan to have him killed as a traitor/liability. Relates to drawing a line under the ‘FEV mistake’, and changing the FEV lab into the new aquaculture facility. Requires making alliances with the bioscience NPCs, who give you support before you confront Shaun—the more support you have the more likely you will be to convince him to rehabilitate Virgil. Intelligence 8+ almost always convinces the bioscience team to follow you. Below 8 carries risk of failure. Further choice of convincing the Brotherhood to extract Virgil themselves, thus convincing him to work for them, but is only available if Madison Li has returned to the Brotherhood.

War Games. SRB mini arc. Act against the Brotherhood of Steel—plant holotapes onto their terminals to steal schematics/data, covertly assassinate paladins, sabotage power armour and weapons. If intelligence 8+ then sabotage/espionage efforts raise no alarm. Below 8 raises alarm and risk of detection/becoming enemies with the Brotherhood. Culminates in the total destruction of the Cambridge police station outpost (including a physical change in the game world by destroying the building itself) in a player-led courser raid. Can choose to double-cross the Institute and work for the Brotherhood instead as long as it is before 'Mass Fusion'. Can also choose to deliver their stolen data to the Railroad instead/inform them of your sabotage efforts. This would reflect on the Railroad endgame by allowing Glory to survive due to the faction being better prepared for a Brotherhood assault.

New Horizons. Advanced systems mini arc. Increase molecular relay range and reliability outside the Commonwealth for strike team/resource recovery operations. Would require building resources (including a fusion core for each node), and placing nodes in settlements covertly. Talk to Rosalind Orman and accept her newfangled panelling to cloak the nodes from view after the player gives her a stealth boy to reverse engineer and waits an in-game week. Intelligence 8+ allows the player to use fewer resources and even bypass certain bits with like during the USS Constitution questline. Successful completion of this questline could also give the player bonuses during the Institute assault on the Prydwen during 'Airship Down' because of the heavy use of the relay network here.

Among Us. Robotics mini arc. Several infiltration synths around the Commonwealth are deemed high-risk of exposure and the player must extract their operational data from their brains before it is lost. The synth itself is not part of their concerns, obviously. These synths are named NPCs in each of the major settlements: Diamond City, Goodneighbour, Bunker Hill, and Vault 81. If intelligence is 8+ then the synths survive to continue their missions. If it is below 8 then they have a greater chance of dying and the settlements are placed into a state of paranoia and fear about Institute control. Worst case scenario results in purges/exiles of NPCs from those settlements, who could then be found randomly wandering the wastes. Data extraction should (ideally but not necessarily) be done at night to avoid detection. Can choose to inform the Railroad and liberate the synths instead, escorting them to safehouses, eventually finding them again during 'The Battle of Bunker Hill'.

If all quests are done before Shaun nominates the player as his successor as Chair then the Directorate’s agreement will be unanimous and ‘A House Divided’ can be bypassed.


The speech broadcasted over the radio should have a material impact on the Institute’s post-game trajectory, and should give the player the option to begin changing the Institute’s outlook. Easiest way of showing this would have idle Institute NPC chatter include lines like, 'I hope we're doing the right thing by engaging with the surface again.' Or, 'There's a lot of untapped potential up on the surface. I think they should at least be given the option to upgrade themselves like we're doing.' Also, 'The Brotherhood came this close to destroying everything we're working for . . . getting the surface on side will keep us safer than even the coursers could.'

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The FEV mistake. In addition to possibly rehabilitating Virgil and changing the FEV lab to something better, the player can choose to conduct ‘correctional’ excursions to the surface to deal with the super mutant menace that they have unleashed on the Commonwealth. Prior Institute generations misguidedly pursued FEV research despite its scientific dead end, then shrugged their shoulders and teleported their failures to the surface to wreak havoc. Shaun was content to let sleeping dogs lie as long as the Institute was not threatened. The player can choose to correct this mistake once and for all, which would coincidentally be good PR. An example of this changing the world could be seen through a synth fire team taking the place of the Diamond City guards battling super mutants in the ruins just on the outskirts of the city's defenses.

Outreach. Obsolete (by Institute standards) technology should be made available to settlements if the player sides with the Institute. Better water filtration, small hydroponics units, more advanced sentry units/traps. And a special one: an emergency relay platform—basically an alarm that summons five synth soldiers to help defend against a settlement attack.
Related to this—some Institute scientists should be escorted to the surface for a period to interact with the world and gain perspective if the player wants to make the Institute see the Commonwealth as more than just a hellscape. Could either function as radiant quests or just have a scientist or two wander around the market (escorted by synths) in Diamond City/be seen fixing things around town.

I think that's everything. I don't think this would have been impossible to pull off in-game, even if it came at the cost of fewer random locations to loot (Mahkra Fishpacking Plant). Thanks for reading.

Source: reddit.com

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