Game Journal – Fallout Shelter

Title: Fallout Shelter

Designer/Developer: Bethesda

Platforms: iOS, Android

Platform Tested: Android

Release Date: August 13, 2015 – Android

Game Location: Your Local App Market



Fallout Shelter is a widely popular mobile game in which the player takes on the role of a vault administrator from the popular Fallout series.  Gameplay mainly consists of players building and maintaining their vault.  Gathering resources, fighting fires, defending the vault from enemies, and exploring the wasteland are all parts of the experience.  If you are looking for a mobile version of the popular console games, you have come to the wrong place.  This game is mobile, thru and thru, and rightfully so.


The gameplay is not meant to be something the player actively engages, or so it seems.  Periodic check backs are more than enough to keep the game flowing.  As a matter of fact, if the player decides to sit and stare at the screen they will be introduced to the fine art of waiting.  Unless you are attempting to achieve a Zen like state, it’s probably best to collect your resources and pocked your device for another 10 minutes.  If you do decide to zone out on the screen however, Fallout Shelter does not force the player to sit idle for hours, or DAYS at a time.  The longest the player will be waiting to do something is minutes at most.  Many players and reviewers alike, have criticized the game for being slow, boring, and monotonous.  To them I say, QQ moar, it is a mobile game.  I don’t disagree that the game definitely has some pacing issues, but from a design point of view it hits the mobile game mark perfectly.  The controls are simple, the pace is not hectic and allows for periodic play sessions throughout the day, the gameplay is forgiving, and it has a well thought-out monetary system.  On top of that, it is MOBILE, and it’s FREE.  I find it hard to complain about something that was handed to me for absolutely nothing, but that might just be me.



This first image shows the game as the player will typically see it.  The layout of the players vault is shown and the selected room is denoted by the green brackets in the corners (as seen on the far right lower room).  Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-58-27The top of the screen shows the player information about their vault.  From left to right, the amount of Dwellers (people) they have in the vault, the dweller happiness, electricity, food, water, caps, and level up selection icon.  The bottom of the screen holds most of the player interaction options.  Again from left to right, the clipboard shows stats about the currently selected room, the camera allows the player to take a screenshot, the room name, SPECIAL indicator, room production rate, next production time, rush button, and the main option button.

Other screens allow the player to select individual dwellers to see their stats and their current actions. This particular dweller is out exploring the wasteland for gear and caps. The player can also opt to see all of the dwellers they have in a sort of roster list.  It displays the dwellers name, level, SPECIAL, happiness, current work status, and what their job is.

Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-58-30 Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-56-46



The strategies in this game are very simple and yet somewhat unintuitive at the same time. Here are a few examples of strategies that will aid you while you are playing.

  • Complete challenges often.
    • Challenges give caps, but they can also provide the user with a lunch pail. The lunch pail can have many strong and rare items in it which can greatly benefit the player. Completing challenges eliminates them from the challenge board and allows new challenges to be drawn up. The more you complete, the higher your chances are of getting a challenge that rewards a lunch pail.
  • Stack characters in rooms during hazards.
    • When a fire breaks out or radroaches start invading your compound don’t just let the dwellers who are in the room handle it. Max out the number of dwellers in that area to help eliminate the problem as quickly as possible. You can also cycle out low health Dwellers with others to prevent unnecessary death and resurrection cost.
  • Don’t rush if the risk is over 40%.
    • It seems as if the percent calculations for rushing production are not completely fair. If possible avoid every using rush when the percent is over 40%. It is almost guaranteed to fail. That being said, a really good time to rush is right after a standard production cycle. The risk percent drops and the player can usually get a two for one bonus on production.
  • Assign dwellers to their best suited task.
    • Use the SPECIAL meters to gauge the players best task. If they have more strength than any other stat, then they should be manning the power generators. Each room has a letter identifier that shows what it requires to function. Pick the best characters for each room and you will be producing more resources faster. This can greatly ease the difficult of managing the systems of the game.
  • Build out not down
    • Before you proceed to dig your way down, you should focus on building as far horizontally as you possibly can. If you place similar rooms next to each other, they will merge into larger versions of themselves, increasing the amount of workers allowed in the room and increasing the productivity of the facility. If you caps permit, you should try merging level one facilities when placing them. Just make sure that you have the room maxed out before you expand. NOTE: In order for rooms to merge they must also be the same level. You cannot merge a level 1 kitchen with a level 2 kitchen, if they are adjacent and you make them both level 2, they will merge.
    • You should always have at least one person out exploring the wasteland. This is a very effective way of getting gear and caps. Just be aware, the Dweller who is exploring takes half the time they spent exploring to return. If they were out for an hour, they will take 30 minutes to return. Once they start facing enemies they can’t kill, it is typically a good idea to turn around. Otherwise you will be paying to revive them, which is never fun.



Due to the nature of the game there are not a lot of dynamics that occur during gameplay.  One dynamic that is usable though is during a raid.  When a raid occurs the raiders will walk through the vault rooms sequentially.  They stop in any room that is occupied.  One simple tactic to ease the danger of a raider attack is to leave one person in each top level room, including the front door.  The raiders will stop in every room spending time there to loot and pillage.  If you move your attacking force into each room as the raiders switch rooms you can effectively force them to walk through each room twice, doubling the amount of damage you deal, which prevents them from reaching further down into the depths of your vault.


Additional Notes

This game serves its purpose as a reminder of the soon to be epic-ness of Fallout 4.


Similar Games

  • Tiny Tower
  • Tiny Tower: Vegas


Design Ideas

The gameplay itself does not inspire much in regards to design ideas but the menu system they utilized in the game does.  I have thought of a small game where the player just sends units out to retrieve items like the exploration in Fallout Shelter.  But with no real reasoning behind sending a person out the idea kind of flops.  The 2D and 3D art mix that they used in this game is inspiring though. Additionally, the menu system they created is absolutely astounding.  It gives me ideas for other similar types of menu systems.  I believe that iconic loading screens and menus help provide a sense of immersion to the player.  Using common assets like character faces, in game items, and other such things as button elements in a menu is a great way to subtlety introduce a character to an important aspect of the game without blatantly telling them “LOOK AT THIS”.

Game Journal – Papers Please

Designer/Developer: Lucas Pope
Platform: PC
Date: May 20, 2014
Game Location:

Papers Please is listed as a “dystopian document thriller”. In the game players attempt to verify immigration documents based on rules set by the governing country Arstotska. Players must race against the clock in order to earn as much money as possible. One cardinal game mechanic in Papers Please is time management. As the game progresses players are forced to deal with an increasing amount of documents forcing the player to begin dealing with not only time but space. Spatial Management quickly becomes another issue for players as the table top they are able to work on has a limited amount of space. Additionally the player begins having to deal with increasingly complex information and Data Verification. Finally, at set points throughout the game the player is forced to make decisions regarding the subversion of Arstotska by allowing insurgents through the border. This is an important decision for the player because allowing the insurgents through the checkpoint increases the player’s income significantly, but not allowing them through could put the player at risk. This is an obvious form of triangularity.

During gameplay the player receives documents from NPCs and verifies them for accuracy. After checking the data players have the ability to allow or deny the NPC access into Arstotzka. If the player finds discrepancies in the documents they are able to check them with a system that either confirms or denies that the discrepancy is legitimate. If the discrepancy is legitimate the player is furnished with additional options to either detain/deny or confirm the NPC’s identity. Eventually players are able to detain and even scan the NPCs in order to verify increasingly complex information. Players must verify the height, weight, names, serial-numbers, issuing cities, seals, countries, appearance, and much more before they can allow an NPC through the checkpoint. Additionally players are forced to take care of their family between work days. This is simply a matter of making enough money during the work day to provide their family members with shelter, food, heating, and medication. Finally players are able to upgrade the checkpoint booth in which they work which provides keyboard shortcuts to the most commonly used actions like verification and stamping.

Papers Please Gameplay
Notice the arrow that the cursor is hovering over on the right side of the screen. This arrow is the tab that allows the player to access the “Denied” and “Approved” stamps that are used on the entry visas like the one in the center of the screen. The Entry Permit to the right of the Entry Visa is an example of a supplemental document that the player must verify. On the left of the screen you can see the NPC in question. The Entry Visa has a picture on it that must match the NPC on the left, as well as the country of issue, the sex of the NPC, the issuing city, and the expiration date of the Visa. In the bottom right corner there is a small exclamation mark in a red diamond. This is the tab that allows players to enter verification mode. The bottom left corner of the screen contains (from left to right) the current in game date/time, current ID requirements, communication/recording device, Information book, and the NPC’s weight. Directly above those things is a desktop that the player can use to place documents they do not need access to. When documents are on this table they are not readable and are significantly reduced in size rendering them useless. The documents explode when they are dragged to the workstation, which is the large area in the bottom right side of the screen. The top of the screen shows the exterior of the checkpoint. The black characters are NPC’s waiting in line to enter the checkpoint booth (small brown building with the megaphones on top). The light blue characters are security guards working at the checkpoint.

• Look at obvious data first like photos before dates that require more investigation.

• Because screen space is limited certain pieces of data can be easily overlooked.
• The player must hand all documents back to the NPC before they will continue on; this can short the player time critical to getting a paycheck.
• Players are only paid for immigrants processed before 6PM game time. This can result in lost playtime if the player feels they do not have time to process an additional immigrant when the end of day is near.
• Because of the time dynamic players may feel rushed to process immigrants resulting in simple errors.
Additional Notes

Similar Games

Design Ideas