What does it take to create a spooky side story for Fallout 4? We catch up with modder Anthony Piraino to find out
Mod-maker Anthony Piraino tells us about his love for tinkering with Fallout 4, and writing dark storylines there.
Fallout 76 is fast approaching, and with it, Bethesda is poised to redefine its post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, thanks to a thriving modding scene, the series’ fourth instalment has mutated and survived, much like we’re hoping to in 76. From expanded settlements to exceptional weapons, mods can vastly extend your stay in the Wastleland after you’ve combed every corner of its vast open world. Among the best is The Lost Vault, created by Anthony Piraino, also known as Spiffyskytrooper.
This narrative-driven dungeon offers something distinctly different – an atmospheric, disturbing escapade through the labyrinthine halls of an abandoned vault. “When I first started the project, I actually had no intention of finishing it,” recalls Piraino. “I had already begun working out details for a story, but I never really intended for the mod to become what it is today, I was just trying to teach myself Fallout 4’s Creation Kit.” As it turns out, this 18-year-old Canadian modder has serious skills when it comes to creating creepy environments. On approaching the entrance to Vault 117, you’re greeted with a wooden sign plastered with the pleading words, ‘Please, we have children’, and it doesn’t get any less unsettling once you go inside. The Lost Vault is a sprawling underground facility where the lighting is sparse and the ghouls plentiful. You navigate through the darkened, distinctly bleak areas of the vault using the light from your trusty Pip-Boy, fighting off hordes of mutants, while slowly uncovering snippets that form the story of the vault’s unfortunate inhabitants.
Gimme (Fallout) shelter
The Lost Vault’s dark storyline fits in perfectly with the Fallout universe, and is made with such attention to detail and respect for the source material that you could easily believe that it was resurrected from Bethesda’s cutting room floor. “I think the primary aspect of the vault’s creation was ensuring it was realistic and believable, and most importantly lore-friendly,” explains Piraino. “I’ve always had an issue with how small many Vaults are in the Fallout universe, especially when it doesn’t hint at more to explore behind locked doors and barricaded hallways. I found myself completing one section, only to be feverishly starting another. I think that’s what may give it the labyrinth effect. I tried to think of everything, tried to make it as big and expansive as possible. If I’m being completely honest, I thought about making certain areas like the residential section way bigger than it ended up being!”
While wandering through Vault 117 is an undeniably unnerving experience, Piraino was careful not to rely on the kind of cheesy jump scares and clichéd plots that are so commonly called upon when creators are trying to give their audience the heebie-jeebies. “I enjoy horror when there’s a little more thought behind it,” says Piraino. “I enjoy dark, gritty plots, where the disturbing story is used as the horror device. I find it
“I enjoy horror when there’s a little more thought behind it”
to be a lot more effective at making me feel uncomfortable and uneasy.”
Piraino has created mods for many games, – there are 132 releases currently sitting in his mod vault. His other most notable work is also for Fallout 4, including ReGrowth Overhaul, which transforms the wasteland into a lush, green, vegetation-filled world, and Dustbowl Overhaul, which delivers the desert vibe of Fallout: New Vegas. A personal favourite of Piraino’s is his Minuteman Watchtowers mod, “I really enjoy this one since it adds locations to explore in the middle of nowhere,” explains Piraino. “While I found Fallout 4’s world encapsulating, I find it hard to be interested in straying from the roads to go explore the wilderness, and I think Minuteman Watchtowers helps remedy this.”
Fancy making a mod of your own? Having been in the modding game for four years now, Piraino has some reassuring advice. “Just give it a shot,” he says. “If you have an idea, and you’re dedicated to making it a reality, download the toolkit and other required programs, and give it your all. The modding community is probably one of the best that I know, with many helpful authors and users willing to help newcomers.”
Creating mods is hard and time-consuming graft, but it’s also very rewarding, as Piraino explains: “I think the most enjoyable part of creating mods is seeing it all come together and work in-game, and when you release it to the community for feedback. It’s always awesome to see people enjoying something that you came up with.” He is currently working on new Fallout projects, and if they can deliver the same intrigue and seamless blending with the Fallout universe as The Lost Vault, our time roaming Fallout 4’s Wasteland is far from over.
Work on The Lost Vault began in April 2016 and was completed just over two years later.
The Lost Vault is a mod that’s definitely worth playing with the lights out and headphones on.
Vault 117 got its name via a community poll; it bears the same number as the cut vault from Fallout 4 that was originally located between the Jamaica Plain and Andrew Station.
Some of Piraino’s favourite things are world-ending scenarios, ’50s culture, and sci-fi.
Piraino’s next mod, Icepick Overhaul – also for Fallout 4, is looking rather… cool