Raider Time in Fallout Chapter 5!

Last time, on our adventures through the world of Fallout, you guys decided to take our dear, innocent Athena, who has never faced off against anything more fearsome than a giant bug, who has never even fired her weapon at another person, who knows next to nothing about the world outside her Vault, and throw her against a gang of amoral killers and plunderers, each of whom would just as soon slit her throat as talk to her. I hope you all are proud of yourselves.

I know I am! So let’s talk tactics, first. No, not Fallout Tactics. Please, let’s not talk about that one. Battlefield tactics. No, not the EA series. Just… look at this.

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That how the Khan’s base is set up. Most of those tents hold one to two raiders apiece. There’s one raider guarding the front entrance, and two guarding the rear. There’s another seven raiders inside, including Garl, by far the toughest of the lot. Also inside are the two enslaved women we’re coming here to rescue. Most of the raiders are armed with spears, but there’s plenty of gunslingers in their crew. The weapon of choice for the distance combatants is the .44 caliber Desert Eagle, a weapon with more range and punch than the 10mm guns Ian and Athena are wielding. All the raiders are wearing leather armor, the next step up from the leather jackets we’re bearing, save for Garl who’s outfitted in the positively daunting metal armor.

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So in other words, we are desperately outnumbered, completely outgunned, and totally out-armored.

First order of business is preparation. I split the stimpaks we have between Ian and I. Honestly, I’m more worried about Ian’s chances of survival more than I am my own or the two slaves. Dude’s a good shot, but he’s a tactical doofus. I really hope we’re not going to need six stimpaks each, because if it gets to the point that Ian’s spending all his turns healing instead of fighting, we’re pretty doomed, but we have them, just in case. Going in, I’m expecting that we’ll be relying pretty heavily on Athena’s SMG. Using burst fire is a great way to make things dead quick, although it only works well at close range and will eat through ammo like crazy. Getting mobbed is an absolute no go, we need to be able to keep the amount of people within firing range to a reasonable level in order to make it through.

We arrive there at night, by design. Everyone’s going to be missing more in the dark, but as Athena’s perception rises at night, she’s going to fare better than most. Garl had said in no uncertain terms not to come back after last time. I’m not sure if that means the Khans are going to be aggressive on sight, but we don’t risk it, in any case. Athena moves along the edges of the camp, and circles around to the rear entrance of the building. If possible, I want to take out remote groups a few at a time, and the people in the back are the most vulnerable. Athena sneaks around the corner, tucks in between the building and the nearby outhouse, then takes careful aim with her weapon. Knowing that this is the last moment in which she’ll be in control before the shots fired draw the entire horde upon them, devolving the camp into a maelstrom of complete madness, she carefully draws a bead on the nearest guard, slows her breathing, calms her mind, and…

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freaking. Misses. Ian, who I’m sure scoffs at her a little bit, steps up to the plate and nails the guard with two shots in a row like a freakin’ pro. The two raiders approach, and two of the raiders inside hear the sounds of fighting and come out, but Athena and Ian gun down the first two before they come near. One of the new raiders has a gun and fires on our duo, but misses. Athena misses her return fire. Ian aims at the gunwoman and scores a critical hit to the groin, taking her out of the fight for the moment. Athena continues her missing spree, but Ian scores hits on both of the raiders and ends them.

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A Fallout Intermission

Hey guys, guess what?  We’re going to be at Level 3 in our Fallout run pretty soon!  That means we’re going to be getting our first perk.  And guess what else?  I’m going to be needing some audience participation for that, too.

So here’s the deal.  Every three levels, we’ll get to add a perk to our character.  Perks are, basically, permanent bonuses.  We have to meet prerequisites for them, so we don’t get to just choose any of the ones the game has to offer, but we should always have a decent selection to pick from.  Our potential list will grow every time we get a new one, as well.

In any case, our little Athena’s growing up.  She’s starting to learn things out in the wasteland.  As this is part of the character creation, I’d like your help in figuring out how Athena is going to better herself.

Our choices this next level up are going to be:

Awareness, which lets us see a targets hit points, equipped weapon, and remaining ammo just by looking at them.  It’s a really handy utility perk, and I like having it to help with decision making in battles.

Earlier Sequence, which is a really hokey way of saying that our turn will come up earlier.  Athena’s really perceptive, so her sequence is really early anyways and this would have limited overall utility, but picking this would ensure that outside of the combat initiator, almost nobody gets to move before Athena does.

Night Vision.  So this is an interesting one.  By description, this just brightens up the screen when we’re in dark areas, and I have never in my life chosen this perk, because I know where the brightness knob is on my monitor.  However, as I’m reading up on it now, the Fallout wiki reports that it also provides an increase to accuracy to counteract the ranged penalty for fighting in a dark area.  Don’t know why the game doesn’t bother to mention that.  Given that Athena’s a Night Person, and as such, I’m going to be fighting at night whenever I get the option, that bonus is pretty attractive, if true.

With Presence, NPCs will be more slightly more inclined to like Athena even before she starts talking to them.  So it will make our Athena even more like the real Athena.

Quick Pockets reduces the cost for accessing our inventory in the middle of combat by 1.  I believe it usually costs 4 AP, so this will drop it from there.  Accessing our inventory lets us change our equipment, reload, heal as much as we want, and use things we don’t have at the ready.  The further we go in the game, the more I’ll be opening up the inventory to pop a couple of stimpaks at a time.  Frankly, I’ve always found this to be the most useful of the perks you have access to at level 3.

Right now, our world map is largely black, because Athena doesn’t know where much of anything is. It’s revealed as we travel. If we picked Scout as our perk, we’d be able to reveal more of the map as we travel, as Athena would be able to say farther in the distance.  Could be useful if you find yourself getting lost on the map, but I’ve played the game enough that I know my way around.  This would have a minimal impact on my play.

Smooth Talker would allow Athena to use dialogue options that require a little more intelligence than she has.  However, Athena already has a genius level intellect.  Her intelligence does go down during the day, so this could keep people from realizing that she only truly wakes up after she has a cup or eight of coffee, but even at her worst, she’s smarter than your average wastelander.

So yeah, there’s our options!  In what ways shall Athena improve?  Her destiny is in your hands!  Vote in the comments!

 

You See Ed. Fallout Chapter 2!

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So when all’s said and done, here’s our guy. Well, girl. See, I really like the idea of naming the character after my fellow webcrawlers, and Athena both called dibs and did a pretty good job of selling me on the glory that is Athena. So we’ll we’re going to be Athena. Sorry, LightningEllen. I am going to do my best not to drag her name through the mud. But, then again, that’s really going to be up to you guys, isn’t it?

I took the liberty of setting her stats based largely on the skills you folk chose. Since you guys made the strong tactical decision of just being born better than everyone else, we ended up with a lot of stat points to play with, here. Yes, we’re Gifted. That’s going to make us slightly weaker at the very beginning of the game, as our increase in stats doesn’t make up for the decrease in skills, but we’ll catch up.

Red Metal had a great idea of maxing out her Agility. Agility’s one of the most useful stats in the game, determining how many action points you get per turn, and your natural armor class i.e. how hard it is for Athena here to end up pummeled. I only set it to 9, however, rather than the max of 10. There’s a reason for this. A reason that’s not going to come to fruition for a long time, at which point I am going to forget to mention that’s why I did this so you won’t know how smart I am, but there’s a reason for it nonetheless. How about you guys just go ahead and think I’m really smart right now.

We’re pumping Intelligence so that we can say smart things about videogames boost our skill points per level back up to normal levels and compensate for the lowered rate we see from being gifted. It also plays into our good talking to people skills, as a higher intelligence opens up more dialogue options. Fun fact, if you have an intelligence of 3 or less, you are not smart enough to hold a normal conversation with people. Makes playing the game a totally different experience. Perception, we’re boosting because I took Mishka’s ‘combat skills’ suggestion as a seconding of Athena’s ‘small guns’ suggestion, so we’re rolling with that. Perception impacts a lot of things, but the most important is our accuracy with ranged weapons, so we’ll need that to, you know, actually hit our enemies. Of course, we’re a Night Person, so our Perception and Intelligence are never actually going to be at 8. They’ll be at 7 during the day, and 9 at night. So when we have the choice, we’re going to want to wait to fight and level up at night, because we’ll get better bonuses then.

Strength theoretically isn’t all that useful since we’re never going to not be shooting people in a fight, but all weapons have a minimum strength requirement or else Athena will be shooting like a stormtrooper.  For small guns, it hits out at 5. Otherwise, the only thing it will impact is how much we can carry. Charisma doesn’t have very many impacts this game, vaguely affecting disposition and prices, but I still figured that since we’re going to be using our speech quite a bit, it’s still handy to have high. I couldn’t bear to have a third stat at 8, so I left it one point short. I left our Endurance subpar, because we need a weakness somewhere to give enemies a chance, and shunted it into Luck. Endurance determines your rate of healing over time, but since we’re a skilled doctor, it’s not so important, your resistances to things you’ll only see a few times in the game, and your hit points. Luck does exactly what it always does every single game it comes up.

So where does this leave us? Athena’s going to be walking out into the wild, rabid wasteland (seriously, they don’t even have Dragon Age out there) able to handle conflicts in a variety of ways. It’s not always going to be the case that we’ll have to the option both to fight and talk our way through, but one of those two will almost always come into play. With our doctor skills, we’ll be able to recover from anything we find on the wastes that doesn’t kill us outright. This is a solid set of skills you’ve started us out with.

And here I was worried that everyone was going to jerk me around by picking Gambling, Outdoorsman, and Throwing for your tagged skills and leaving me with nothing viable to do.

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War Never Changes. Let’s Play Fallout!

War never changes.

Ages ago, they had the War to End All Wars. That was supposed to be the end of it. With that one, we as a species were supposed to end it wiser, safer, saner. With that, we knew the horrors of war, we knew what it did to people, and we knew we wanted no more of it.

Not even thirty years later, we did it again. Ironic, isn’t it? War never changes.

Our species grew with time. We grew in numbers, and we grew in technology. We were smarter, living better lives. You’d think we’d be above it all, after all that. But war never changes. As we grew, so too did our needs. There wasn’t enough to go around. It got to the point where we were making war for the same resource we were consuming in war.

War never changes, but war changes people. Three quarters of the way through the 21st century, October 21st, 2077, war changed the world forever. We don’t know how launched the first bombs. Or who launched the last bombs. Maybe it wasn’t even man at all. Maybe this was the act of an angry God, hitting the reset button on a humanity who by that point was just making war to get what they needed to sustain their war. Whoever it was, it doesn’t really matter by that point. That war came to an end, along with the rest of the world. Nuclear bombs impacting all over the place, both the blasts and the fallout changing it forever, scarring the world in ways few would survive.


At least, that’s what I’ve been told. To be honest, we don’t really know what’s out there. Whether there is anything out there. War never changes, but war hasn’t hit us, these past 84 years. My grandparents were some of the lucky few to make it into a vault. Vault 13, specifically. In Southern California, if that matters to anyone. Safe from the blasts, completely isolated from the outside world, or whatever’s left of it. Here, we had internal conflicts, but things were relatively peaceful. My grandparents lived out the rest of their lives here. My parents were born here, and have lived out their entire lives in the safety of the vault. That was the plan for me as well.

Until recently. Our enclosed, self-sustaining vault suddenly became not so self-sustaining. Our water chip, which was a vital part of the machine that recycled and purified Vault 13’s water, broke. It couldn’t be repaired. We had no replacement. Our cisterns hold months and months of water, but we still had another 120 years before it’d be safe to leave the vault and rehabitate the world. Our water would not last. We’d need a replacement.

Ed was the first to be sent out into the world, seeking salvation. He was a hard, hard man, a survivor, and one who kept up his skills and his edge even in a world that didn’t need them anymore. He was also the single closest person to me in the entirety of Vault 13. Months passed, and we didn’t hear from him again. Then, we sent out Talius. A bit of a somber fellow, but one who was gifted, showing a high level of competence at nearly everything he did. Again, months passed, and we never heard from him again.

It’s time to send someone else out, in search of a new water chip. We only have 150 days of water left. Things are getting desperate. And now, it’s my turn.

A part of me worries. Ed was one of the baddest men I knew, and he’s still vanished, like something’s happened to him. I’ve got the skills. My life, such as it is, has prepared me far beyond the cushy, soften bodies and minds of some of my fellows, but even so, not know what’s out there, aside from that its still in the aftershocks of nuclear bombardment, it’s fearsome.

It doesn’t matter. I have to go. The overseer is not giving me a choice in the matter, however much I want one. I have to find out what’s happened to Ed. I have to save our water supply.

Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe the 84 years has been enough for most of the Fallout to pass over. Maybe the total bombardment has left whatever remains to wise, fearful, and sparse to pose any real danger. Maybe the world outside is now just as peaceful as the world inside.

War never changes.

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The Sole Eyes on Hollow Knight

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Hollow Knight. I got a demo of it. That feels somewhat clandestine. See, I had no idea I would be receiving a demo of it. It was one of the mystery things slipped into January’s Humble Monthly deal. Nobody who got the demo knew it was coming. It just snuck its way into my possession, delivered by a faceless and mysterious person with no word or forewarning. And yet, to my knowledge, the previous Humble Monthly was the only way to get your hands on it. You don’t get to play this demo. Most people don’t get to play this demo. It was only provided to a select few, through a single point of distribution, that nobody knew about.

And yet, nobody’s talking about this demo. And that’s a darn shame. I played it. It was good. I thought it was lovely. Let’s talk about why.

Hollow Knight is a Kickstarter game yet in development, as most Kickstarter games are. I could give the overview, but let’s let the developers do the work for me. From their Kickstarter page:

Channeling the styles of classic games like Metroid, Zelda 2 and Faxanadu, Hollow Knight is a 2D action adventure set in a sprawling, interconnected world.

As the enigmatic Hollow Knight, players will journey through the depths of Hallownest, a vast and ancient kingdom buried deep underground. Though long fallen to ruin after a dimly-remembered catastrophe, explorers and thieves still brave its dark roads, its caverns and towers, searching for riches and wonders.”

That… sounds completely and utterly standard, doesn’t that? A whole bunch of words that deliver little context and with descriptors that nearly any game in its genre can claim. Yeah. I’m pretty sure if you’re colorful enough, you could describe my dinner using much the same terms. Team Cherry, the developer, is a three man group, and it doesn’t seem any of them have much marketing acumen. Luckily, the demo speaks to a game beyond that weak description, so allow me to see if I can do better.

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In spite of the developer’s claim, gameplay in Hollow Knight feels nothing like Zelda 2, only a bit like Metroid, and… I’ve barely heard of Faxanadu, so what the hell, it feels exactly like Faxanadu. It plays like nothing so much as the Igavania games, though, taking clear inspiration from the likes of Symphony of the Night. Gameplay relies on a lot of the same things that Iga’s Castlevania titles did, so expect lots of interconnected platforming, zoning, and angle management.

On top of that, the game carries an atmosphere that harkens back to Dark Souls. The whole feel of the game is deliberately dour. The art is one of the best things about the experience, and it is implemented beautifully and masterfully to create that tone. It’s no coincidence that most things in the games comes in shades of grays, blacks, and muted blues, with only the rare splashes of color highlighting important things. Nor that shadows envelop almost everything aside from yourself in this game. The demo doesn’t give you much of an idea of what the world you find yourself in is like, but it is clear enough that it is at or near its end, and it has a very depressed spirit, because of it. It carries a lot of subtleties that it weaves together quite well, and the visuals and overall mood of the game are incredibly striking.

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So yeah. Gameplay of Castlevania, atmosphere of Dark Souls, all wrapped up in a cute cartoon bug shell.

Combat here feels wonderfully kinetic. I mentioned before that zoning was a big part of gameplay, and the impact of successful attacks plays a big part of it. They get everything on point there, from the brief pause upon impact, the sounds and sights of it, and the knockback achieved. It all goes together to just feel good. Not nearly as good as getting hit feels, though. Yes, I realize how strange that sounds. I can’t think of the last time I played a game where getting hit has such impact. Not that I would know, never having gotten hit by a single thing, after all. This is just what I heard. Large cracks appear from where you’re struck, the music grows mute, and the screen grows darker in response to a successful enemy attack. It adds a lot of weight to the moment, and seemed to draw me in a lot closer to what was going on with my little bug dude.

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Another thing I would have absolutely no idea about due to never ever needing it and anyone who tells you differently is a filthy liar, the game has a pretty unique method of healing. Attacking enemies fills up an healing reservoir, which you can later use to recover health after an impact. You can. Not me. You can heal yourself in the middle of a fight, but it takes some time spent motionless or defenseless, so you really have to pick and choose your moments.

The game is obviously built to be upgrading your character overall. That’s part and partial with the whole Igavania/Metroid inspired deal, after all. The demo didn’t give you the chance, but there are areas that are obviously calling for abilities that aren’t available at the start. Double jumping is the big, obvious one, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see dashing, some limited flight, and the rest of the standard offerings there. Judging from the way you open up more map abilities, I’d imagine that it’s a lot of minute unlocks that you’ll be hitting frequently. I get a certain satisfaction from unlocking things, so it’s good to me to have a ton of small ones, but I know that’s going to grate on many.

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The game is good. This is a really early version, showing a very limited area, but it does showcase solidly competent gameplay coupled with excellent visuals and atmosphere and a lot of promise. The gameworld is gorgeous and intriguing. I’d love to see more. If you could play the demo, you might to. Keep your eye out for it. I’m sure it won’t be exclusive to me and only me for long.

All up in Nintendo’s Business

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Among both the console manufacturers and video game developers in general, Nintendo stands apart. Not just in terms of their games or consoles themselves, although those are certainly a result of the way Nintendo stays askance. But rather Nintendo is just different in terms of the way the business is run; in its decisions and very culture. Sometimes, this sees them make some greatness, such as when they single-handedly pulled the entire video game industry out of the dark ages. Sometimes, this sees them make some really boneheaded decisions, such as when they decided that online gaming was just a passing fad. For like ten years.

But even with all the ups and downs this causes, it makes them a very interesting company. They intrigue the businessman part of me endlessly. Why do they do the things they do, even when it flies against all established knowledge? The fantasizing about that really appeals to the part of my brain that makes my heart skip a beat at the words “Six Sigma”. And you know, it’s been a while since I’ve done any business analysis. I think I might be jonesing.

So anyways, let’s take a look/wildly theorize at the things that make Nintendo the way they are. Now, as we’re doing this, I want to say that a lot of what I’m going to talk about next, particularly about the culture of Japanese companies, comes from things I learned from people who got their chops in the era where all the businessmen were scared Japan was soon going to dominate the world, so that might color my perspective a bit. Also, some of my classes were, like, really boring, so I may only be half-remembering some things. So, you know, don’t put any money on any of this. With that out of way, let’s dive into the business character of Nintendo.

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The first thing in understanding what makes Nintendo tick is understanding where they’re coming from. I know this is going to blow you minds here, so hold on to the back of your skulls, but, see, Nintendo is a Japanese Corporation. And I don’t know if you realize this, but Japan has a different culture than we do in the rest.

Sorry, I might be going a little fast there. Go ahead, read that paragraph a few times, until you can wrap your head around those bombs I dropped. When you catch up, we’ll be here for you.

Let’s take a look at what that means. No matter where you are, corporations are publicly owned companies. People buy and sell stock in that company outside the control of the company itself. Stocks represent a portion of the ownership of that company with all that entails, including a share of the highest level decision making and a share of the company’s profits, delivered by means of the stock value increasing or by dividends paid out to shareholders.

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Oxenfree: A Case Study of Theming

Themes in fiction. They’re one of those things that are easy for the authors to work in, easy for the readers to detect, and they make everyone feel smarter for their inclusion. Themes are great. Just latch onto one idea, bring it up in your story a few times in a few different ways, and bam, you have an easy way of making your story go just a bit below the surface level.

Ok, so maybe it’s a little more complicated than that, but not by all that much! Given that themes are all in the eye of the reader, it can be easy to just work some themes in there accidentally. Hell, I’d been finding themes in the Saints Row series, and you know, if they had the sort of creative minds to be deliberately carrying a solid idea through than maybe they’d be able to write an ending that doesn’t suck without overriding it the next game. Moreover, themes are fun! Try finding some consistent ideas in the next story you go through, and see for yourself!

Oftentimes you see a theme, at least one implemented deliberately, the work will have something to say about it. Not always. And really, the works that don’t impose anything on their themes aren’t necessarily any worse than those that do. But what you rarely see is a work that does make a conclusion about its theme, and fits it into the greater work, but that conclusion comes entirely from the consumer. That’s a way of handling a theme that is largely unique to videogames, and even then, it’s something you’ll see rather rarely. So when Oxenfree freakin’ rocked it, I felt compelled to take a moment to recognize it.

Now, you might notice Oxenfree was released relatively recently. So I’m going to be talking about a modern game here. On Lost to the Aether. That never happens. It’s like Christmas and your birthday all put together. And we’ll be talking about some plot stuff. But I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler light. For the most part.

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So, Oxenfree has a theme of guilt and blame. It’s not like a major thing in the game, so don’t expect it to be hammering you over the head with it, but it’s a concept they return to every now and again, enough for it to gain some mental real estate. It does some minor exploring of the concept. Or rather, it guides you through it. Sometimes, stuff happens. Bad stuff. People are unwittingly involved in the bad stuff happening. Whose fault is it?

For example, in the beginning of the game, you meet your dead brother’s ex-girlfriend. She blames you for his death. You get no other information as to the circumstances. How do you react to that?

You track down your stepbrother investigating some creepy stuff. You find something strange, he wants to push it further. You end up unknowingly doing a thing because of it that triggers the inciting incident. Who’s to blame there? You for actually doing it? Your stepbrother for putting you in that situation? Nobody, because seriously, who would expect that thing to be holding evil?

Even the backstory event that set things up happened because people were forced to act with insufficient information and there ended up being some grave consequences for it. Is it the executor’s fault for doing so? The person who held the limited information for putting it in the hands of those who had to act? Nobody’s, because everyone did the best they could with what they had? One background character spends her entire life blaming herself for it and trying to deal with it. Should she have done so?

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At every stage, the story poses the questions, then lets you put in the answer. What does the narrative have to say about this concept? Entirely up to you. And that alone ends up doing some interesting things with its treatment of the theme. It turns the story from your garden variety plot to something with elements of a thought experiment. It forces you to be more introspective about the plot, to reflect and conclude on happenings there. And that is a way of storytelling that is so uniquely videogames.