Fallout: Talking Time

Last time on Athena’s Quest for the Best, we hit the climax of the game when we collected our sick power armor. I would say it’s all downhill from here, but the rest of the game is when we get to use our sick power armor, so can’t complain about that. Anyways, yes, there’s the vault to save, mutants to kill, all that. There’s a lot of lives that are riding on our dear Athena! The Vault wants us to slay the mutants so they don’t hunt down and kill everyone we know and love. The Brotherhood is aware of them mustering an army to take over the rest of the wasteland, are possibly the only force around with the power to stop them, but need us to find out more about the mutants before they’ll be able to act. Athena is the crux of so many destinies right now. We should go take care of them.

Instead, we just head off to the Hub. Our pockets are full of loot, and we’ve got a need for cash.

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On the way there, we come across someone. Patrick the Celt. A wanderer. He roams the wastes collecting Gaelic remnants, songs, stories, and histories, as a way of keeping his old family heritage alive. Athena chats with him for a bit, and he sings us an old Celtic song. She passes some time with him in that, then the two groups make their separate ways.

Then we continue on to the Hub, and start hitting up the stores there. Which introduces us to a weird facet of the Fallout economy. Namely, that the currency of the land, bottlecaps? Not necessarily the most efficient means of trading now. After our adventures in the Glow, we are full of equipment that we can sell for thousands of caps a piece. But we can only select caps in groups of a maximum of 999 at a time, making trying to move tons of caps between inventories while selling an onerous process. Also, none of the merchants carry more than two thousand in caps, meaning we’re not able to sell our heavy equipment outright. Most players, by this point in the game, trade in guns rather than in caps. So like breaking a twenty with a store, except you’re breaking a sniper rifle for like eight shotguns. I’m more a fan of using drugs as a replacement for currency because they don’t weigh anything, but either way, in a lot of situations, it’s more efficient to just trade for either the stuff you need or at least stuff you can trade for other stuff later than it is to actually make cash.

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Not in this case though. The Brotherhood doctors need caps for their services, and won’t take anything else in trade. So we sell off a fraction of our inventory and completely wipe out all the caps from all the merchants in the Hub, and pick up a few lesser guns and drugs while we’re at it.

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But then Athena’s pockets get completely full while we’re picking up miscellaneous guns and goods for selling later. We need to clear out some space. Athena chows down on the eleven pounds of fruit I’ve been holding onto for whatever reason, then washes that down by drinking seven bottles of Nuka-Cola in a row. Now we can fit more guns in her pockets. Priorities.

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This has adverse reactions on her health, as you might expect. She’s now addicted to Nuka-Cola. She’ll experience a negative impact to her stats until she drinks another Nuka-Cola. This could be an irritation, but Athena proceeds to quit Nuka-Cola cold turkey until her body stops craving it.

On our way back to the Brotherhood, a particularly sneaky Radscorpion attempts to stealth its way up on us.

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This doesn’t go very well for it.

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Anyways, we make it back to the Brotherhood, and head down to the doctor. After our little reverse shopping spree, we’ve got enough caps for all the surgeries we haven’t taken yet. The recovery time for this takes weeks upon weeks. During which, once again, the mutant menace advances. The more in-game time we take, the deeper they come into human civilization, the more people they capture for their sick purposes, the more damage they do. Many lives probably ended in the time it’s taken us to recover from our completely elective surgeries.

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Now Playing: One Small Step for Man

Yeah, let’s come round back on this.

For the summary, years, years ago, I set myself on a quest to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of doing, all my games. Every single games that’s part of my collection. Group them by console generation, tackle them sequentially, don’t stop until either they’re beat or I am.

At first it went smoothly. Although I still have some older games either I forgot about at the time (basically my whole Game Boy library) or picked up after the fact, the first several console generations fell quickly. Then I’ve been stuck in the seventh console generation for what feels like ages. But I am near the end of it. In an attempt to keep myself honest moving forward, I’m making it public. Potentially opening up myself to shame but not really because I am magnificent and so don’t have to worry about that.

Last time, I moaned about not making nearly as much progress as I thought. Since then, I’ve changed the way I play games. Got more of a solid schedule to it, less just playing whatever I feel like. Also, I don’t have as much games going at once, and for the time being at least, I’m not working classic games outside of the project series I’m picking up into the rotation. I think it’s had success in moving me forwards. I’ve knocked off several titles in the short month-plus since the last time we’ve done this. Makes me hopeful I might actually get through this generation of the quest in less time than even I predicted this year. Yep, quite a turnaround from the last time we checked in. Let’s get into that.

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It’s Done when It’s Done

It’s an old discussion on the video gaming interbutts, talking about lengths of games and how important that is to their overall quality. The discussion has changed somewhat, what with the indie scene becoming a pretty big thing and production of mainstream games growing in scope and resources, but talk of this has been around for pretty much as long as I’ve been a cognizant part of the sphere. Even now, people will decry games for being too short, games will use their epic scale and 100+ hour playtimes as selling points, and longer games are generally considered superior to shorter ones.

From a market-based perspective, I can see a lot of why that is. With the mainstream publishers putting their games out there for $60 a pop, which equates to several hours of work for most people, I can understand how people would be seeking a certain level of value for their investment, and for those who use playtime as a measure of value, well, it’s not a bad measure at all.

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And yet. Time doesn’t really seem to be a great indicator of the quality of experience. I was struck by some of the recent games I’ve been playing. Final Fantasy XII, where, although I still enjoyed it more than I expected, I was still hit with the impression that it was built with developmental efficiency in mind. Like, given the legendary development difficulties in the game, they ended up trying to get the maximum amount of playtime out of the resources they had available. Led to large gulfs of time between notable gameplay experiences, probably one of the biggest weaknesses in the game. On the other hand, Prince of Persia Sands of Time was a very compact experience. It would have been easy for them to stretch that game out, see some more variations on established iterations between the platforming segments, puzzles, what not in order to stretch it out. But they didn’t. Combat aside, most features that come up only appear a handful of times at most. It feels like a game in which they had all their ideas in a list, highlighted the good ones and only used those, and as soon as they ran out of the good ideas they capped it off and called it done. It’s a very deliberate, satisfying experience throughout, and feels like it’s constantly refreshing and bringing up new concepts. It’s not a long game, but most of it is very well designed, missing a lot of the flaws that drag a lot of it down.

Most pieces of media out there have constraints as to how long they’re supposed to be. Most novels are going to shoot for around 80,000 words. Movies are around two hours in length. Comic arcs get around six issues of 21 pages each to tell their story. Television shows have to fit story arcs into episodes of 30 minutes or an hour each, or if they’re telling an overarching tale, they still have to match that to the length of the run or season. And yet what if your story doesn’t fit the mold, exactly? You have to cut it down or stretch it out to fit into the timeframe you’re looking at, but both ends of those have negative repercussions on the quality of the work. Video games are one of the few story telling mediums where it’s largely acceptable for the work to be just as long as it needs to be. When it’s done, it can be done, it doesn’t have to meet any artificial timeline in order to be produced. We should be taking advantage of that. Many do. Yet even then, there’s a push to make things longer and longer, get more of that time value out of it, regardless of what it does to the quality. And when there’s backlash against that, I feel like it is ignored.

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I think part of it all comes down to one’s style of play. The video games medium has grown into a very diverse one. Yes, even with all the clone games and ripoffs coming out. Yes, I know 2018 seems to be the year of the Battle Royale mimics, but there’s more than just that out there. Trust me. The medium has something to offer for any of a variety of personality types and playstyles. However you like to game, there’s plenty out there for you. In my case, I maintain a collection. Once I acquire a game, it becomes part of the collective. I’ll generally buy games when I can get them on the cheap years after they come out, and I’ll play them for the first time months or years after I get them. At the same time, all those games are a part of my life, and I’ll always come back to old games somewhere down the line. I cycle through them. So the whole value proposition is quite a bit different for me. Cost doesn’t matter to my enjoyment of it, because I generally work on a different framework disconnected from the price. Playtime is not so important, because I’ll play games multiple times over during the course of my life.

I’ve seen people on Steam logging thousands of hours into multiplayer games. I enjoy plenty of the 40-100 hour epics myself. Yet there’s also a big place in my heart for the games that can confidently present themselves as a concise experience. Those Sands of Times, those Shadow of the Colossus’s, those Superhots, the endless amounts of quality games checking in at single-digit hours. I’ve gained a special appreciation for short games as part of this quest I’m on to beat all the games I’ve owned, where they serve to counteract the lag I start to feel when I get bogged down in this sea of RPGs I’ve built for myself, but even beyond that, they form a very important part of the gaming sphere. There are definitely places for those epic games. There are tons of great games that will take you 70+ hours to get through, and more power to them. But let’s hold some respect for the games that deliver in short form. If a game can boil itself down to what it does best, and deliver that while resisting the temptation to weaken itself by taking on hours that don’t fit, that is something to be valued.

The Twitch Desktop App, Reviewed by Someone Who Doesn’t Care About Twitch

So Twitch’s Desktop App has joined my computer as the fifth in an increasingly difficult to manage amount of games clients on my PC. Now, I don’t really care about Twitch. Nothing personal. If you enjoy it, more power to you. I’m just not much for the whole livestreaming deal. I love let’s plays. Don’t care for livestreaming. Figure that out.

So why did I pick up the app? The games, man. Apparently Twitch sells games. Been doing that for less than a year. And, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, they started giving you a monthly bundle of games. I remember hearing some noise when Amazon made the acquisition of Twitch a while back, but I think I speak on behalf of the entire video games community when I say that giving me, specifically, new games is a good way to ingratiate yourself to everybody.

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And, you know, it’s a legit set of games. I don’t know about you, but when I found out about it, I was completely expecting it to be a bunch of garbage games. I mean, the free TV you get off Amazon Prime seems to be getting weaker every year, I was expecting the games to be the same way. But no. Sure, I already owned like half the games I’ve picked up through this arrangement on other platforms, but you can take that as an indication of the selection’s quality. Your main man has some discriminating tastes. You seem to get a bit of a mix of games, from the somewhat older mainstream releases to the creative indie title to the niche and relatively unknown left field games. Some of them are still filling gaps in the collection. I’m still kicking myself that I missed out on Mr. Shifty from not realizing I could claim games through this service the first month it was available, and although High Hell is not one I had ever thought would make its way to my collection, now that it’s there I’m having a he…..ck of a good time with it.

Of course, this is a new client on offer, joining the likes of GOG Galaxy and Uplay and Origin and the juggernaut of Steam. As far as I can tell, the Twitch Desktop App has only been around since last August, less than a year going. So, what’s it actually like?

Pretty featureless, in all. Which, granted, I’m sure it’s made more for the livestreaming than necessarily the gaming, right now. Maybe that matters to you. As I mentioned before, I don’t care. It still seems to be a work in progress. In the few weeks I’ve been playing around with it, it’s been updated three times, so I’m guessing it’s still seeing a fair bit of development. But really, it will install games on your computer and let you play them. That’s about it.

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Installation works fine. Speed seems relatively comparable to the big boy clients. You don’t have the ability to pause downloads, however. That’s not a problem for me with the small games, the indie titles, or the classics from yesteryear. It’s going to limit its utility for the modern AAA releases, though. At least for me. When I’m downloading a 60 GB game to my computer, well, I live in one of those places where you can actually see the stars at night, so on the flip side, internet speed isn’t the greatest. It takes a while. And I’m not really willing to completely dedicate my internet use to one thing over the next 14 hours. I stop large downloads when I need to do something on the internet, then start them up again when I’m occupied with something else. Wouldn’t be able to do that on Twitch.

The game’s shop is about as bare bones as you can get. The selection isn’t great. Around 200 games, which sounds like a lot, but when you start looking for that one specific game you’re craving, it’s going to seem all too small. The selection is so small there’s not any way to sort through them. They just give you a list of games in roughly alphabetical order, and leave it to you to find what you’re looking for. No organizing by genre, no search function, nada. For whatever reason, they don’t even display prices on the shop screen either. You have to click through to the game’s page to find out what they’re offering it for. Or if Twitch is even selling it at all; some games only sell add-ons through Twitch, to get the full game, you have to buy from another site.

For that matter, you can’t buy games through the client itself. You click the shop button, it just opens the window in your browser. You can’t claim your Amazon Prime goodies through the client either. All browser-based.

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One thing that I think is unique about the Twitch App is that it’s got a dedicated area for managing mods. Only for a handful of games, seemingly, and only for the selection of mods that are uploaded to Twitch, but you don’t need the games to be in your Twitch library to enjoy this benefit. Twitch pretty easily picked up a couple of games I had installed through Steam, and I can seemingly integrate mods simply enough through this service. I’m not really a big mod gamer, but I still found this rather interesting.

Playing the game… you’re just playing the game. Twitch has no overlay here. Which is fine, most services don’t, I think Steam’s a little unique in that regard. I was surprised by this, I would have expected Twitch to provide some streaming features, or at least easy screenshot functionality, but hey, for all I know they do and I just haven’t found it yet.

One last minor irritation, the client doesn’t actually close with you ‘X’ out of it. It just minimizes. Granted, Uplay’s the only client kind enough to close entirely when you ‘X’ out, Origin, Galaxy, and Steam all still run in the background, but it is bizarrely frustrating to me to see Twitch hanging out on my task bar at all times unless I take the extra step of exiting entirely. It’s a feature that makes very little difference whatsoever, but it’s still hitting me on a visceral level.

So yeah, that’s the Twitch Desktop App. As a client to get those monthly games you get through Amazon Prime onto your computer and let you play them, it’s perfectly fine. Missing some convenience features, but it’s totally functional. If it wants to stand on its own as a gaming client, it’s got some work to do. The developers do seem to be working on that, a little bit at a time. But it’s going to take some time to get there. I hope it does have the longevity to last, though. The closure of the Wii Shop has found my trust in marketplaces somewhat shaken, and I’d hate to see these new games I’ve been able to add to my collection get cut off from me.

The Untitled Fallout

Last time on Falling Out with Athena, we gave ourselves a scary dose of radiation in pursuit of obtaining some sick power armor. But we survived! So did Tycho and Dogmeat, in the complete and utter absence of any anti-radiation medicine. I don’t even know how that works! But here we go!

So, you might think that our first step in acquiring sick power armor is to go back to the place that has the power armor, which we just gained the right to enter. Well, you’d be wrong. The first step is to actually go back to the Hub. Because our adventures in the weapons research lab has left us with a bunch of loot. We actually end up with the entire free spending money of all the shopkeepers in the Hub after selling only a portion of what we collected. But there’s also other business here.

You remember that time that we got spotted through a window by that group that was way too high level for us? No you don’t, because that never happened. But we go to check them out, deliberately this time.

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So, I blamed this group’s weird aggro on a glitch that time. They shouldn’t have spotted us from outside the building, but they did, and attacked us as we were just passing by. As I get closer to the building, it turns out it wasn’t a glitch, so much as it was an unfortunate confluence of programming. Apparently, one of the NPCs, randomly wandering around, had meandered into their building and opened the door. The opened door set their aggro onto high alert, and bad things followed for us. They’re supposed to be after us for opening the door, but I guess random jerks invading their space instead makes them angry at us. So it wasn’t a glitch, just a weird confluence of random programming that we ended up taking the blame for.

It doesn’t matter this time, because we make them angry at us on purpose. Theoretically, we’ve been given no reason to bother. Just a bunch of weirdly aggressive make my day types who we’ve been given zero context on or reason to bother with. I mean, yes, there’s something out there that would key us into the fact that, you know, maybe these crazy violent thugs in a random building in the bad side of town have something to hide that we want in on, but we’re saving ourselves some time and skipping over the part of this sidequest where they ask us to do this thing we’re doing right now.

Last time we came across them, these guys kind of mopped the floor with us. We’ve built up plenty of levels since then, though. We have better equipment. Better armor. Better gear in general. Well, Tycho and Dogmeat don’t, but Athena does. And she takes advantage of it.

The biggest risk in this room is the guy with the combat shotgun across the way from us. He has a lot of HP, and one of the strongest small guns in the game. It’s the next level shotgun up from the model Tycho is carrying. Shot for shot, it’s still weaker than the .223 pistol Athena bears, but it has a burst fire mode that makes it truly dangerous. Get hit with a burst of that, and I’m not sure if even Athena’s new combat armor would be able to keep her from getting one-shot.

Luckily, the guy never resorts to it. Over confidence, I guess. Athena plings shots against him while Tycho, Dogmeat, and the other three thugs move around her.

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One of the thugs gets into melee range with Athena. I had discounted him, because he’s wielding spiked brass knuckles, which isn’t nearly as strong a weapon as that combat shotgun. I came to regret it, though. Dude still does some solid damage. Dogmeat’s got our back, though. Comes up, scores a few hits on him, one of which is a critical hit that knocks him to the ground. Gives us some breathing room to heal up after that.

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Punchman starts harrying Tycho, but Tycho guns him down. Athena has to heal up a bit once more, but she starts overcoming the combat shotgun guy in a battle of attrition, and the thug starts making a break for it and fleeing. Both Dogmeat and Tycho give chase, and end up slaying him on the streets. The guards are surprisingly calm about a pitched firefight spilling out right in front of them.

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Of course, this wouldn’t be us if we didn’t accidentally shoot ourselves in the middle of the fight.

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In any case, Athena mops up inside. One of the surviving guards decides to run outside, right into Tycho and Dogmeat’s loving attention. Continue reading