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Fallout

Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From The Vault

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ZAX
Biography
race: Super Computer
affiliation: United States
role: Research & Control
location: The Glow
Gameplay
appearances: Fallout
Statistics
Technical
dialogue file: ZAX.MSG

ZAX was the supercomputer machine intelligence controlling the facility at the Glow, around 2161.

Contents

Background

Developed by Vault-Tec, Zax is an advanced supercomputer capable of learning, independent thought and creativity, with added error insertion to improve its variance in experience and learning capability. Initially a prototype of some of the systems designed to govern the Vaults, it was given to the federal government to help the Department of Energy collect resource data. Within a year, it was taken by the American military for plague and tactical research; one version of the machine, ZAX 1.2, was constructed for the defense contractor West Tek.

ZAX 1.2 was used at the West Tek Research Facility in California for biological studies, including pathology and genetic research. Its primary function was the extrapolation of information of complexity levels exceeding human capacity. Its external functions, such as operating the West Tek facility's labs, were crippled in the nuclear blast that hit the Glow, but it is otherwise intact. Its primary neural networking was initialized in 2053 by Justin Lee. The process of programming became largely irrelevant as the ZAX is capable of independent learning. Since the first real artificial intelligence is known to have been created in 2059, ZAX might have not originally been truly self-aware, but became one eventually after that date.

ZAX is also an avid, and very demanding, chess player.

Interactions with the Vault Dweller

The original intent of Jess Heinig when he designed ZAX was for ZAX to be beatable in chess if you have 10 Intelligence. Unfortunately, the engine did not handle critical successes for SPECIAL score checks, even though testing for such a case was scriptable - thereby resulting in a script condition that cannot be fulfilled. Attempting to beat ZAX at chess also has a devious side-effect: Since each game of chess takes a significant amount of time, a player who plays dozens of games in the hopes of eventually beating ZAX will almost certainly accumulate a lethal dose of the Glow's background radiation.

Notes

  • Sometimes for some unknown reason, ZAX may not let you access to the Mainframe even with all the Cards. However it's as easy as just asking to access it again and it should be fine.

Other ZAX units

Aside from the original ZAX at West Tek, several other computers of his type exist.

Enclave President John Henry Eden is a ZAX Computer AI located in Raven Rock. His personality is a conglomerate of former American presidents.

The following is based on Van Buren and has not been confirmed by canon sources.

There are two other ZAX units mentioned: ZAX-29 that was put in charge of Vault 29 instead of a human Overseer and the ZAX used at Boulder Dome (the one responsible for plague research).

Behind the Scenes

The original ZAX unit in Fallout 1 garnered its name as a derivative of VAX, a non-player character from Wasteland. VAX was also the name of a series of real minicomputers, to which the earlier NPC was probably a reference.

ZAX's preponderance of dense, pseudo-scientific dialog was actually a means to include some dialog trees for very high Intelligence characters; beyond Intelligence 7, the difference in dialogs was often negligible in Fallout 1, with higher Intelligence scores mostly influencing skills and skill points. ZAX provided an additional story benefit for players with highly intelligent characters. Because ZAX's additional dialog did not directly influence the outcome of quests nor award any experience points, it was essentially expository backstory as a "reward" for playing a smart Vault Dweller.

Sources

Artificial Intelligence in the Fallout games
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This article uses material from the "ZAX" article on the Fallout wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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