Written and Developed by Christopher Means
Magnifco Agricola plays a significant role in the setting of Fallout: Lonestar, so let’s get into more conceptual reasoning than anyone ever asked for. This also seemed as good a time as any to touch on the importance of food.
Concept & Reasoning
Let's Talk About Scarcity
Scarcity is a hallmark of the post-apocalyptic genre, but it’s something Fallout vacillates on throughout the series. Fallout 3 was about the need for potable water in the wasteland, but only as the general motivator for the larger narrative. There are few occasions where the impact of water scarcity is expressed.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Action was at the heart of Fallout 3, and this kind of nuance would be difficult to express with that kind of focus. A constant sense of suffering in the wasteland would diminish the fun of Fallout. If you're a fan of the post-apocalypse, then you've probably read Cormac Mccarthy's The Road, or you're like me and watched the excellent film adaptation when Netflix recommended it. I hoped for some sweet, post-apoc inspiration, but what I got was a horrifying and bleak sense of dread. There's a part of me that stupidly likes the idea of living in the world of Fallout. Every part of me recoils in terror at living in the world of The Road. One is a fun pop sci-fi romp of juxtaposition, humor, and horror. The other is a nihilism-inducing walk through Mccarthy's not-too flattering view of humanity. (Fun Fact: The inspiration for The Road came to him while he was visiting El Paso. So we're in good company, but it does say something weird about El Paso.)
So the purpose of scarcity in Fallout is to motivate characters and the plot, not to soak the player in the hopelessness of a doomed existence. For Fallout: Lonestar, we need something to be at the heart of conflict. Even when there are more complex issues at play, something base and simple needs to be at it's core. All of human drama, no matter how complicated, is built over visceral motivations: Jealousy, insecurity, fear, despair, boredom... hunger.
AND HUNGER can go on forever
In a harsh environment, you've got a matter of days before you die of dehydration. Depending on your level of activity, you might make it as long as a month without food. In a state of famine, Lonestar could go on with limited food, but with constant tension and desperate, unstable elements. Plenty of drama and conflict without having to sending players into therapy.
Food in the wasteland
Water was the scarce resource in Fallout 3 as electricity was in Fallout: New Vegas, but food has been generally overlooked in the series. Less contaminated settings, like New Vegas and the Commonwealth, feature active farming. This is great for those areas where food scarcity isn’t the primary motivator for conflict. It could be argued that the larger world narrative of Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4 were far more hopeful because people had options for how to survive. That stability was part of the stakes involved in those stories.
For us, food is what's at stake, because it's finite. While the water in DC was especially contaminated, even in the present day, we’re actually pretty good at filtering contaminants from water. This isn’t true for all contaminants or for all countries, but the world of Fallout is filled with bursts of magical pop sci-fi advancement. In Fallout 3 they find a way to filter the water in DC. Water is less dire because, on the whole, it's only contaminated, it isn’t consumed.
Food, on the other hand, is consumed and the … output … is a total transformation of the edible foodstuff. Best case scenario, it might be used as fertilizer for the creation of new food. So if you can’t grow anything new, existing food becomes a finite commodity. Communities will have to survive on a fixed amount of pre-war food scavenged from ruins. Without renewable sources, Lonestar is living on borrowed time.
Capitalism doesn’t get a lot of good press in Fallout. Unregulated corporations are the major contributor to the nuclear holocaust. Fallout businesses are nearly all corrupt and they add to the greater Fallout pre-war gestalt that ends with the Great War. So while not directly the villains per se, businesses like Vault-tec, for example, while certainly evil in their own right, but swam in the slipstream of bigger fish. Given our example, Vault-tec's bigger fish was nuclear war. Likewise, if starvation is our antagonist, it also needs a pre-war forebear with which to identify and add context.
Those keeping up with the current events of agriculture will likely notice the not-particularly-subtle analog to goliath agrochemical corporation Monsanto Company. This is a rare moment when the reference subject for your hyperbolic Fallout corporation actually needs to be toned down to be believable as fiction. Monsanto is connected to so many random, often nefarious and harmful things that it starts to feel oddly contrived. Things like polystyrene, bovine growth hormones, DDTs, PCBs, Agent Orange, biopiracy, the Manhattan Project, Celebrex, and Terminator Seeds. They’ve made useful things like LEDs and laundry detergent, but many times as a happy accident of trying to develop chemicals that kill things more efficiently. A fact that we would ruthlessly exploit for humorous effect, meaning, pun intended, Monsanto is fertile ground for an evil Fallout corporate analog.
Fallout: Lonestar would be the farthest departure from the jingoistic American Fallout focus we know and love. The Pass is so close to Mexico that it’s impossible to give up the opportunity to learn more about the fate of our southern neighbor.
If we look at the Fallout Bible, Fallout 3 (Van Buren) design docs, or transcriptions of Josh Sawyer’s nutrition-starved lunatic ravings (You're just too fit. Eat like, an entire pie in one sitting so I can feel better about myself.) we can interpret a similar desire to explore the global aspects of Fallout, such as the Resource Wars, before Bethesda’s acquisition of the franchise. I like this idea because it infers that it wasn’t America alone that blew up the world, or China for that matter. It was the world as a whole throwing their collective furniture onto a bonfire that would burn this mother down. Mexico, like the United States, would be given the full Fallout treatment. There’s no better way to do that than to give them an influential villainous corporation of their own.
"Nutrition for a world on the grow"
Propaganda is one of the best tools in the environmental narrative of Fallout. We learn so much from billboards and posters. It's great. We see Vault-tec using the apple pie, stars 'n stripes American dream to sell the idea that locking yourself away in a vault isn't just smart, but patriotic. Somehow. Chryslus Motors rides the wave of futurism to highlight how unbelievably advanced their vehicles are, and that's juxtaposed neatly against Chryslus cars detonating violently around the wasteland. These are the cynical, engineered corporate personalities that make these companies compelling characters in the Fallout universe.
Magnifico's corporate personality was inspired by the young-adult oriented advertising tactics that rose in response to the Baby Boom. Similar to current trends in advertising, the focus was on drowning the target demographic in blandishments that marked the entire group as "youthful", "energetic", or "savvy" (for a modern analog, think "You're worth it"). The best representation of this, at least that I've seen, is a 1957 advertising pitch from the magazine Redbook.
Magnifico paints itself as a god-like specter of goodwill lending a helping hand to everyone. Suddenly, they're responsible for providing the building blocks for what makes you, and by extension America, great! The sheer scope of its influence in the marketplace lends an insidiousness to Magnifico's marketing. They're fucking everywhere. They're giving little Jimmy the nutrition he needs to grow up big and strong. They're helping Jane find that special man in her life with cosmetics. Advances in vitamin supplements are giving Johnny the confidence he needs to hit that home run and then ask Ruth the big dance. Mom can't believe she can bake with fresh strawberries in the winter! Thank the AGROS line of year-round fruits and vegetables. Boy, the lawn sure looks great ever since Dad starting using Whip-It! brand weed repellent. And so on, you get the picture. Magnifico isn't Big Brother, it's your big brother! And they deserve your gratitude.
The other side of the coin for a proper Fallout corporation is how they deal with their inevitable abject failure at the expense of the consumer. The dark humor of Fallout is often strongest in how companies fuck people over and then how they try to hide it. More often than not, these companies do try to hide it and then make it worse. Official responses are as you'd expect. Denial, victim blaming, goalpost shifting, etc. The difference with Magnifico is that it isn't answerable to America.
They're an outsider. An international company based in a foreign country. Unlike Chryslus, Vault-tec, or Nuka-Cola, Magnifico doesn't have to pretend to care about "America". They're more focused on "The energetic new generation" or "The modern woman" who could be anyone, anywhere. They might make the occasional mention of "patriotic Americans" to sell laundry detergent, but when the caustic viscus sludge hits the industrial outflow pump, they're not going to put valuable time and energy into dealing with the backlash. Their long, foreign roots are too deeply embedded in American manufacturing to ever truly suffer from their mistakes on an international level.
This is all heavy stuff, but it's setup for a payoff, I promise. Because Magnifico doesn't ignore its mistakes, but those mistakes are handled by the woefully understaffed, underfunded, under-educated Public Relations Division. For every chemical spill, unintended hair growth, or unusually flammable urination, a response is written and action is taken by the cheapest spin team money can buy. The no-fucks-given hubris of a corporate conglomerate combined with the utter incompetence of a team of professionals trying in vain to polish the company image... well, it's gold.
AND It’s not all bad… just mostly
On the plus side, Magnifico Agricola is a renowned manufacturer of food preservatives. Which is what's keeping food in the wasteland “fresh” to this day.
Magnifco and the Fallout timeline
It’s always been a huge priority of mine that nothing in Fallout: Lonestar conflict, or infer conflicts, with the official Fallout continuity. For as long as it’s unofficial, can only add to the world, but it can’t alter what’s already there. It’s the line I drew in the sand to keep it from being fan fiction.
This made fitting it into the chronology of Fallout difficult, but certainly do-able. Some events listed below are address after the timeline.
Magnifico founded by pharmaceutical veteran Francis John Wilderotter in Mexico City, Mexico.
Magnifico scientist Constantine Ramsen develops the sweetener compound glucospertine (fictional) while attempting to create a more powerful insecticide.
During a time when local jurisdictions had most of the responsibility for environmental regulations, the town of “Magnifico” is founded, funded, and incorporated by Magnifico Agricola, east of El Paso, TX. Formed to provide a low-tax, liberal regulatory environment within the United States.
Magnifico acquires David & Matthews Laboratories in Columbus, OH adding Dr. Carroll David and Dr. Trenton A. Matthews to their burgeoning Central Research Division.
Magnifico develops the cleaning detergent Abraxodyne while attempting to create a more efficient insecticide. (Breaking my own rule here, a bit, but Abraxo has no established manufacturer as of the time of this article. Takoma Industrial might have, it's unclear.)
It’s most successful herbicide to date, Magnifico’s “Whip-it! Weed Killer” enters the market.
By this year, the United States is divided into thirteen commonwealths, each of which encompasses several states.
Magnifico becomes first to genetically modify plant cells.
Magnifico begin field tests of genetically engineered crops.
Magnifico introduces a recombinant version of bovine growth hormone to its cattle production process.
A major earthquake takes place in Mexico City (Fallout Bible). The headquarters of Magnifico Agricola are severely damaged. Magnifco Agricola (U.S.) in El Paso, TX becomes interim headquarters for the international conglomerate.
Nuka-Cola is invented.
Breakout soft drink sensation Nuka-Cola enters into supply disputes with passion fruit farmers, the majority owned by Magnifico Agricola subsidiaries.
Magnifico Agricola omits passion fruit from the “safe list” of it’s latest variant of Whip-it! Weed Killer.
The Great Passion Fruit Famine occurs. (Breaking my rule, again, but the cause of the famine is not established.)
Seeking to protect business interests and their oil supply, the United States begins to exert increasing pressure on Mexico, citing the political instability and pollution stemming from Mexico as a threat to the United States. Various economic sanctions serve to destabilize Mexico, and the United States military enters Mexico to keep the oil refineries running and making sure oil and fuel continue to make their way north across the border at Mexico's expense. (Fallout Bible)
A television documentary revealing the withered husk of the Texas oil fields brings the oil shortage into American households and reveals how deep the energy crisis runs. (Fallout Bible)
The last manned mission to the Moon occurs.
March 5: Its borders and the first-ever national quarantine is declared. The source of the plague is unknown, but rumors persist that it is a genetically engineered weapon.
April: The Resource Wars begin. Many smaller nations go bankrupt, and Europe, dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, responds to the Middle East's rising oil prices with military action. The long drawn-out war between the European Commonwealth and the Middle East begins. (Fallout Bible)
Magnifico Agricola is contracted by the United States government to produce super-resistant crop seeds for Project Safehouse, ultimately to be included in the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (GECK).
It’s borders closed and international trade almost non-existent, severe resources shortages are predicted within the next 20 to 30 years.
Co-opting research intended for Project Safehouse, Magnifico Agricola attempts to resolve growing food shortages by introducing untested Accelerated-Growth Recombinant Organic Strain (AGROS) seeds to domestic farms.
AGROS farms are reporting 40% yields compared to unmodified crops.
Domestic farming in the United States sees unprecedented drop in viable food production. Aggressive AGROS cross-pollination is suspected by independent biologists, but their concerns are muted by legal intervention.
Resource rationing in Denver causes riots. Midwest U.S.A. and Mexico start having food shortages and can't supply Denver with the food it needs. Food riots occur. National Guard called in. (Fallout 3 Van Buren)
August: Food and energy riots begin in major cities throughout the United States. Military units begin to be deployed in cities within the United States to contain rioters, and many temporary prisons are constructed. A state of emergency is declared, and martial law soon follows. (Fallout Bible)
October 23rd: The Great War begins.
The in-game location known as Magnifico, inhabited by the tribal Magnficians, was once a town incorporated by Magnifico Agricola outside of El Paso, formed to provide a low-tax, liberal regulatory environment within the United States. As time went by, it became something of a mining town for the US research division. A micro-community complete with grocery store, park for the kids, post office, dentist, doctor, and bar. All owned and operated by Magnifico. By 2025, addressing concerns with confidentiality, researchers were mandated to take residence in Magnifico. A place where their needs could be met in a intellectually stimulating environment and where the company could keep an eye on them.
Working under the assumption that the GECK is a kit and not a matter conversion device, there is mention of seeds being provided to help post-nuclear vault dwellers restart civilization. As is the case in many government projects, Vault-tec was not the only company contracted for Project Safehouse. Naturally, Magnifico Agricola provided the resistant strain of crop seeds for the GECK, but also tried to profit off that same research. AGROS seeds, an early iteration of the variant that was included in the GECK, was used illegally by Magnifico to boost crop yields after the national quarantine. Improperly tested, the seeds would not only create lower yields, but would accidentally/on purpose cross-pollinate aggressively with competing growers. An attempt to patent and then own the competition's produce became a disaster that worsened the existing food shortage, causing riots.