Going Down, Fallout-Style

Hey, boys and girls. It’s that time again. What time? Fallout time.

So last time, we had a bit of an abbreviated session where we decided we want some sick power armor and now we’re in a hole in the ground in an irradiated hellscape.

But it’s not just any hole in the ground! This is the West-Tek Weapons Research Facility, which we don’t know yet but sorry, I’m bad at spoilers. Otherwise known as the Glow. Because it’s so irradiated, that things glow here. Athena popped some pills, so she’s probably alright. Or is she? Find out below!

Yeah, she’s alright. Sorry. I’m bad at spoilers.

I’m also bad at screenshots too, because looking things over again, I didn’t take enough. So I’m just going to have to do the writer thing here, and paint you all some pictures with my words.

Outside the giant hole in the ground, there’s a dead loser. I’m not kidding. The game actually calls the poor sap that. Inside, we find corpses all over the place. Some of which look like they’ve been here a while. Some of which not so much. There’s a lot of corpses that look out of place here. Some people that are obviously from the outside world. It seems the Brotherhood have been sending their random wannabe joiners out here for a while. Probably not been getting many back.

Athena’s going to turn that right on its head.

So, there are four main dangers here. The first, and the most obvious, is the radiation. This is the only place in the game where we have to worry about radiation, but it is a doozy here. Athena’s endurance is on the low side, so even making it here without being struck with radiation poisoning takes some doing. Much less hanging around here. I brought just a bit over the bare minimum needed to get through here, but any drug is going to lose its effect with time, Rad-X included.

Luckily, time proceeds really slowly when we’re dungeon diving. As long as we don’t do anything stupid, we’ll be fine. Granted, Athena’s a night person, and it’s daylight out, so the chances of us doing something stupid have increased, but she’s still much smarter than the average bear, so trust me, we’ll be fine.

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The second danger is that the first floor is littered with traps. Dogmeat and Athena both have enough skill with traps to detect when they’re near, but not enough to do anything about them. Especially because Dogmeat never stops blasted moving around! We trip quite a few as we make our way around the giant gaping hole in the center of the facility.

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As you might expect from a weapons research facility, the Glow is loot heaven. We’re just scratching the surface on the first floor, but already we collect some high tech equipment, some bullets, and some skill-boosting books. Athena’s tempted to read them right now, but that would be one of those stupid things we talked about earlier. I’m a night person too, and I’m playing this game at night, so my intelligence is heightened. I’m able to avoid the temptation.

There’s a dead Brotherhood of Steel member near a computer terminal, in full power armor. Athena gets excited, but no. It’s seals aren’t sound, and it’s let in so much radiation it killed the person inside of it already. It’s probably a deathtrap. A sick, sick deathtrap. The brother is carrying two things of interest. A yellow keycard, and a holodisc in which he recorded his last moments. With the holodisc, we could go back to the Brotherhood and prove we made it in and out of the Glow, as required for initiation. I mean, we could do that, if you missed what I said earlier about loot heaven. This is probably the best place to get cool stuff in the game, outside of maybe the Brotherhood themselves. A lot of the very best stuff is going to be useless to Athena, because you guys tagged her small guns skills in the beginning and I want to respect that instead of turning her into a mini-gun toting she-warrior anyway. But there’s still a handful of very important things I want to pick up here.

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The holodisc itself details a rather grisly scene for the poor fellow who held it. A contingent of Brotherhood folks were investigating this place. Had no trouble with the first two levels of the facility, but tripped some security sensors on the third, and had to fight their way out through a bunch of battle bots. This poor fellow was separated from the rest of his crew, noticed his armor was no longer air tight and thus no longer radiation-proof, and succumbed. Not pleasant.

But hey, what say we just wander into the same danger he fell to, eh? The terminal next to him has some access to the power controls of the facility, but the primary power is non-operable and we leave the emergence power alone. It’s at least powering the elevators, which we use the keycard he was carrying to access. The doors were electrified, because apparently just not opening isn’t enough to keep people out, but the keycard takes care of that. We head down to the second level.

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On the second level, we find robots. And also traps that we notice but can’t do anything about so we just endured them, but robots. Not just any robots. These are the same types of robots that cut the Brotherhood apart. Security robots. Deathbots. They might have lasers or something. And if the Brotherhood in their sick power armor couldn’t stand up to them, what chance does Athena in her lame metal spiky punk armor, Tycho in his leather armor, and Dogmeat in her no armor stand?

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Planescape: Torment-The Sum of its Parts

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Planescape: Torment is the worst best game I’ve ever played. Yes. You read that right.

Planescape: Torment is a great game! The writing is as deep as it got in video games of the time, and still holds up very well today. It does a great job of exploring the world and making you a true part of it. It has some of the most creative story beats you’ll see in video games, and they’ve got enough layers to them that they really drive things and make sense, rather than just being one-off good ideas like many stories will use. This game has some of the most interesting ‘just walk around and talk to people’ gameplay I’ve ever seen. So many people put it on their ‘best of’ lists all the time, and it definitely deserves its place there.

Planescape: Torment is a horrible game! Navigating the world is a pain that involves a lot of staring at the screen as your guys slowly walk around. The interface is crazy clumsy, the battle system is physically painful, the visuals often make it not so obvious what you’re looking at, and you’re really not given the tools to deal with what’s placed in front of you. The inventory system is horrendous, to boot. Lots of people put it all over their ‘best of’ lists. Have they ever played the game?

Both these things are true. I love Planescape’s writing, story, characterization, and dialogue. Those were very good. I hated having to actually play the game, however.

Usually with great games, you find that they’ve got great gameplay, and a middling story. Sometimes, you can find a game that’s great both to play and get absorbed in. Planescape: Torment seems to fall into a somewhat rarer category, that of a game with a fantastic story, but gameplay that’s not up to snuff.

I could go on for ages on both the qualities and flaws of Planescape: Torment. But let’s not. The former, you can find most anywhere on the internet. The latter won’t do much good for the discussion. They’re there. You can trust me on that. No need to talk about it.

Instead, let’s talk of the results of that.

In my experience, the game didn’t rise above the sum of its parts. And part of me hated myself for that. It’s an honestly great game! Why did I dread playing it so much?

In fact, the story, the plot beats, the handling of characterization, they’re the type of things that usually would have resonated with me very strongly. And they did. They hit the right notes with me. If this game had a different interface, I’d be singing it’s praises right there with everything else.

But playing the game was frustrating to me. And that tamped the whole experience down. Every plot bit I enjoyed, I had to keep in mind what it took to get there, that it was sandwiched between bits where I was just staring at the game in wonderment at how much of a pain it was to navigate through it. The bits where I was thinking through problems and fulfilling personal quests and dialoguing my way through challenges were all fantastic! That was exactly what I was hoping for in this game! But I always had to deal with random encounters and enemy filled dungeons and just general walking around a whole bunch of other things to get there. Those feelings mixed. The negative bits the gameplay left in me tore down the value of the great things the story did. I started losing impact of the story beats. I still recognized them as great, but they didn’t connect with me as much as they should. My hate of the gameplay dragged down my love of the plot, and my overall impressions of the game were a lot more negative than they were positive. I almost didn’t even finish it. Given the types of games I’ve been through in my quest, that’s really saying something. I even finished Fur Fighters! And Fur Fighters is dog scat! Why was I able to finish such crap, with no high points to speak of, yet I almost gave up on something as great as Planescape: Torment.

We often treat gameplay and story as if they’re two separate elements. Depending on the genre, the balance of importance between them can shift. The story can add a lot, can add so much to a game. It can elevate something with middling gameplay into something truly special. In recent years, the indie side of the industry has been exploring whether a good story can utilize a minimal amount of gameplay to enhance itself, and whatever your opinions on the environmental narrative scene, it has led to some interesting experiences at least. But it can’t make up for actively poor gameplay. If the gameplay drags the experience down, it will take the story with it. That interaction, however it takes place, is key to a game, and if it’s not working, neither is the experience.

Of course, that’s just my experience with Planescape.

Now, to be fair, it’s possible that it was better in its heyday, and just hasn’t aged well. I doubt that, but I wasn’t much of a PC gamer in the late 90’s so my metric may well be off.

Also, I just hate the Infinity Engine, which this game was built in. We’ve talked about this before. Lots of people love those games. Baldur’s Gate et al were rather popular. So my opinion may not be universal. And I don’t understand it. I can see why a lot of people like a lot of things I don’t, but this is one I just don’t see the value with. The Infinity Engine just doesn’t work for me. So yeah, there may be a bit of that there.

But my opinion is reality for me. It may not be shared, but it’s what I have to deal with. And what I have to deal with is that Planescape is really not as good as it should have been. Because it’s a pain to play.

Now Playing: The Return

It feels like time for another one of these. Life’s crashing down, but it’s still good to keep in mind how much I’m moving forward. So for those of you who are new here, or aren’t given to remember random minutia about internet stranger’s lives, I’m on a quest. An embarrassingly long time ago, I made the decision to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of, all the games I own, progressing through them grouped roughly by their console generation. Because this was the generation I started being able to make my own purchasing decisions, and the console generation I most filled out in the years following when more powerful consoles came along, I have been stuck in the PS2/GameCube/Xbox on…uh… Original for ages. Like, family members have been born and grown to the point that they can now have weird rambling conversations about cookies with me since I started this era. I have been stuck for far longer than I expected on this console generation. But I am in sight of the end. In fact, it’s my New Year’s Resolution to have this generation conquered by the end of this year. So, let’s take a look at how far I’ve come since our last update.

The Recently Conquered

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

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Last time I covered this, I had positive things to say about it. I’m going to have to walk that back now. Urrrrrrrrrrrrgh did this game outlast my patience for it. Multiple times, I tried to convince myself to quit this game. Maybe I should have. That was a good 50 hours of my life I wasn’t really enjoying. I wouldn’t have bothered, if I hadn’t made it my quest to beat all my games. But can you put a price on overcoming a challenge? Is there any value worth it to you to be less than you actually are? No, I dominated this game like I dominate all things. And I feel good about that.

This is one of the worst games I’ve played as part of this quest. And given that that’s a list that includes Fur Fighters, you know that’s saying something. I appreciate creativity, I appreciate going outside the box, I appreciate the unusual. But there needs to be some direction to it. The combat system in Star Ocean is a bunch of bad ideas thrown at a wall that don’t really mesh together. The plot devolves until it’s the same thing. Everything about Star Ocean is bad, and the plot is handled so badly that it’s twist, which could be something really interesting handled by someone more competent, ends up making the whole series less worthwhile. I didn’t like it.

Looking at opinion bits online, you run into a lot of people who love this game, and you run into a lot of people like me who thought it was absolute dreck. You don’t run into many people in the middle. And you know, it occurs to me that there’s some things that are designed like that. They appeal to the niche. I don’t know who the niche for this is, people who like complicated combat systems full of features but with simple controls and don’t mind a random happenings plot that has troubles paying off? In any case, the more something is designed for a narrow niche, in general, the less it’s going to appeal to people outside of that. This one doesn’t just target the JRPG fans, it targets JRPG fans with a specific itch. I didn’t have that, but the people who do seem to appreciate it.

Simpsons Hit and Run

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This is a game that should be bad, designed in a way that it could be good, but ends up falling somewhere in between. It’s a lot better than you’d expect a random licensed game to be. Still not great. The engine is solid. Could be great. Definitely competent designers behind it. But they didn’t manage a lot of flaws that really dragged the experience down. Limited load zones, bad pathfindings, reuse of linear designs, artificial difficulty, and really poor final challenges were about the worst of it.

I didn’t actually see the ending on this one. I got to the final mission and struggled through all it’s stupid bullhonky over and over again until the game froze up. I didn’t overpower it, but I did endure longer than it did. That’s a victory on its own.

Devil May Cry

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I deliberately did poorly enough to unlock the easy mode, and played it on that. The internet says that means I was playing it wrong. The internet takes that very personally. Because if I play the game wrong that completely invalidates everyone else’s experience. Well, screw everyone else, I had a much better time playing it on easy than I ever did on normal difficulty. Look. I play my fair share of hard games. I’ve beat Dark Souls, Zelda 2, classic Shin Megami Tensei, the original run of Trauma Center, all sorts of things. Sometimes I play games on hard. Sometimes I play them on easy. It really depends on the game. Some games, I just have a better time going up against something on a lower level, and that ended up being Devil May Cry. Sure, maybe my experience was less ‘pure’ but I had a better time with the easier control scheme and weaker enemies. Some games I like to push me to the edge. Some games, I appreciate being the big man.

I was inspired to pick this up at the time I did by a discussion I came across, referring to this game specifically and questioning how much of your enjoyment of a game comes from playing it in its prime. That had me thinking. Because of this quest, I think I’m almost as immersed in games of this era as it’s possible to be, but even so, I don’t get the full context of this being so different from everything else available at the time. It’s like John Carter of Mars, a lot of what it developed was absorbed into the rest of the medium to the point that what was once original about it became kind of standard, so by the time it comes around again the audience just yawns. It always has felt a bit less than spectacular to me, but I’ve been playing this after I’ve already played games like Bayonetta that take the formula so much farther. Players who played it back in it’s prime enjoy it because they’ve got those good memories of it. But is a game that relies on those memories still a good game? Is it impossible to enjoy some games without those memories?

Evolution Worlds

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This is one of the most disappointing games I’ve played in recent memory. I used to really enjoy it! When I was however old I was when this was new, I played it through several times. This is one of the few games I’ve had where I’ve started a new run as soon as I was done with my first. This time around, though, it just became a clear picture of why people turned against JRPGs so hard at the end of this generation. It felt like I basically just pressed ‘A’ for twenty hours, then called it done. Turn-based combat, without much complexity to it, and a plot I had a hard time caring about, just wasn’t good times.

Bonus Round: Super Mario World 2-Yoshi’s Island

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I love how you can re-buy virtual copies of old games now. I stupidly sold my SNES and games when I left for college, and hadn’t been able to get a new version of this one until I got my Wii U and could access a virtual console it was actually on.

I got my original copy of this game as a gift a couple of days after a major turning point in my life. I played this so much as a kid. As a child, it never reminded me of that point, but coming back to it now reminds me so much of that singular moment. Memory’s a weird thing.

Now Playing

Final Fantasy XII

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Here’s a counterpoint to the Devil May Cry question. I played this when it was new, and didn’t like it. I’ve never gotten far into it before, just really didn’t like the mechanics. It’s a 3d system, but to fight I just select an option and wait? Wasn’t for me.

Now though, years after its original release, now that I’ve played more games that use a similar battle system like Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic, etc., I’m enjoying this game a lot more. I’m enjoying it a lot more out of its original context than I did within it.

Planescape: Torment – Still

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I’ve progressed on this since our last check-in, but still don’t think I’m close to beating it. It’s not grabbing me yet. It’s getting close, but I think I’m still just barely out of the rough beginning, so I only find myself playing it every once in a while. I hate everything about the Baldur’s Gate engine. It’s a pain to move around and it’s a pain to fight. I think I’m coming to the end of the rough parts. It’s been a while since the game’s forced me into combat, and I no longer have to walk through every single area to get to where I’m going. The plot and well-written sidequests are moving at a faster pace, and you know, I’m seeing signs of the brilliance everyone else says is there. I still need it to sell me on it, but I’m finding I’m looking forward to when it does.

The Soon to Fall

Valkyrie Profile 2

Shadow of the Colossus

Psychonauts

Beyond Good and Evil

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaake Eaterrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Mortal Kombat Armageddon

Soul Calibur II

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

X-Men Legends

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

Snap Judgments: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and measures of fun in general I guess

Years ago, I was listening to a podcast, and the casters were asked something along the lines of “What’s the worst thing a game designer can do?”  They came to the conclusion that the worst thing was to make a game that’s not fun.  I took issue with that.  I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a lot of ways to get value out of an experience.  With video games, fun is the most common thing, but a game that’s not fun can still be worthwhile.  Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is a perfect example to that.

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Bennett Foddy is the guy who made QWOP.  Do you know QWOP?  Good, that will give you good standing for the rest of this post.  Getting Over It is an homage to what Foddy calls B games (amateur releases made from public domain or ripped assets generally created more for the experience of creating than to actually make a good game) in general and Sexy Hiking in particular.  In this game, you control a man stuck in a cauldron, or more accurately, that head of that man’s yosimite hammer, dragging, throwing, and pushing him up a mountain.  It is brutal.  It controls very differently from nearly anything you’ve played before, the physics are nonintuitive and feel a bit random, the obstacles are design to take advantage of the limits of your abilities, and at any point, it’s possible to fall off the mountain, setting yourself back possibly to the very beginning of the game.  All the while you have Bennett Foddy himself narrating about this game or game design in general, and offering encouragement when you have some particularly bad falls.

It is not a fun game.  It is deliberately not a fun game.  In fact, whereas other of Foddy’s past games, QWOP as an excellent example, also had very nonintuitive and painful control schemes, you could pull some fun out of learning to utilize them.  I don’t think you can with Getting Over It.  It is designed to not be fun.  And yet, you go on the internet, you can find lots of people who are loving it.  It’s even been put up for awards.

That’s because the game is designed around one particular thing: frustration.  Every part of it is built to deliver that frustration.  And then it goes even further.  It examines frustration.  It makes you feel a feeling, than holds the mirror up to you and talks about it.  It navel-gazes at it.  It is clear that a lot of thought and intent in this game went into dealing and dealing with that frustration.

This would be the type of game that, much like with environmental narratives and the typical ‘art game’ is going to cause a lot of division when people are discussing it.  You’d pretty much have to appreciate both a game that derives its delivered fulfillment from something very atypical and a game that is way navel-gazey about it’s subject matter.  I think it does help a lot that the creator is really clear and up front that this game is not for everyone, rather than what’s expected from a whole lot of creators.  In all the advertising for the game, he says that this is made for a certain type of person, and even in the opening narrative he says you have to be in a certain type of mood to enjoy it.

I wasn’t in that mood when I played it.  In fact, I only gave it twenty minutes before deciding it wasn’t for me right now and sending it back to the abyss of my Steam list.  I do appreciate that it’s out there.  And it did get me thinking about the nature of games once again, which I guess was it’s intended purpose.  It wasn’t fun for me in the least.  But it did deliver a worthwhile experience, for what I gave to it.

Night of the Living Fallout

So last time… actually, you know what? You remember last time. I know you do. Let’s not worry about the usual intro here.

What? Ok, there’s that guy, over there. He doesn’t remember what happened last time. Do you believe it? What a jerk. But yeah, I guess we need to include him to. So here’s for that guy. Last time on Athena and the Lost Souls, our master thief had finally discovered her most solid lead as to the location of the water chip yet. The Water Merchants in the Hub suspected that the folks of nearby The Necropolis, which is sure to be a friendly and happy place, had their own source of water and most probably would have a water chip of some kind around. In pursuit of salvation for her people, Athena treks all day across the waste until she crosses some ruined signs from an ancient age claiming she’s entering Bakersfield, California.

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It’s a little worse for wear. But she’s here. The Necropolis.

Immediately on entering town, Athena notes that there’s no life to be seen and the stench of death pervades the air. Just like the modern Bakersfield, California that we all know, am I right? (Seriously, am I right in saying that? I’ve never been to Bakersfield.) She does spot a group of locals in the distance, and approaches them.

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There’s something a little off there. They’re not very talkative. But they are very ugly. And punchy.

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Not that they do anything, though. The ghoul beats its fists limply against Athena’s metal armor.

Athena’s gun does slightly more damage than that. Blows it away in a single shot. In fact, Athena and Tycho mop up that whole group before Dogmeat even gets close enough to attach. No problem.

There’s another group of these feral ghouls a bit further up north. They’re stronger. Not strong enough to pose a problem, but strong enough that it takes more than one hit to bring them down. So, you know, Athena has to spend a bit more ammo dealing with them. That’s about it.

Then we run into a problem. See, the place we entered town? Completely surrounded by debris. Athena tries going to the north. Can’t get anywhere. She tries going to the west. Nothing doing. East and south only lead out of town. In fact, the only options available to her are to leave and… no.

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Athena finds a manhole cover, leading into the sewers, that looks like it was used recently and begins to wonder if saving the lives of everyone she’s ever known or loved is really all that worth it. I mean, sure, on the one hand, that’s thousands of lives lost in a horrible tragedy if she doesn’t secure that water chip. On the other hand, there’s poop down there.

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Oneshot

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What’s this, Aether? Yet another RPG Maker-created indie adventurish game? And this one doesn’t even seem that spooky. You’ve been on a real kick with those, haven’t you, Aether?

Well, sort of. Thanks to my friend and yours, Red Metal, I had the chance to try this game out. I hadn’t heard of this game before. Knew absolutely nothing about it. Yet it ended up being the kind of thing that absolutely vibes with what I look for and enjoy about video games. This is an experience.

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In a sentence, Oneshot is a game with the art style of Cave Story set in an Undertale-esque world mired in the tone from Dark Souls’ Firelink Shrine as played through an RPG Maker puzzle adventure, with a fun and unique twist. And it all comes together, and it works, and it’s good. The game feels like something special, like a real labor of love.

So the big selling point behind Oneshot, the headlining factor that makes it stand out from the rest of the market, is that Oneshot is a game that does its best to make you believe it’s not really a game. You play as yourself, an incredibly sexy warbeast named Aether (or, you know, whoever you are, although I don’t know why you’d want to play as anyone else), who has discovered a piece of software on your computer that allows you to interact with and guide a single catperson, Niko, themselves a stranger in a dying world. You are revered as a deity in that world, much as I am in this one, while Niko turns out to be a sort of messiah, tasked with delivering a light bulb that illuminates whenever he touches it to a tower, where it will serve as the worlds new sun after the last one burned out a while ago.

This game will mess with your computer, and you’ll need to look outside the game itself to solve some of the challenges it presents you with. Puzzle solutions will wind up in your documents, on your desktop, in mysterious programs you don’t remember putting on your computer, etc. The game says in the beginning it’s best played in windowed mode, and that’s true, because sometimes you’ll need to play around with something on your computer or the game window itself to figure out something or other.

That’s the gimmick, and it’s used really creatively throughout, but rarely in a way that you’ll be lost without outside help. After you’ve got the logic of how the game works down, you can usually follow along pretty easily.

It’s not just that alone that comes into play, though, as far as the immersion factor goes. You’re constantly referred to, Niko will chat with you and you have your own dialogue options, and a few characters will bypass Niko and address you directly. If you’re into immersion, few can match this game.

Of course, all the immersion in the world doesn’t matter if the game itself isn’t good. And Oneshot is good. It’s the type of good that’s completely reliant on characterization and storytelling and a lot of things that are way more subjective than the already subjective gameplay-mechanics, so of course, your mileage may vary, but if you’re into the types of things I’ll be talking about here, you’ll probably find the game very solid as well.

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Characterization is really strong, here. Niko, the character you interact with this world through, is one of the few that’s around long enough to get any real depth to them, but he/she is quite interesting. A child, passed from a happy life into a world seeing its sunset years and tasked with being its one ray of hope, they often get overwhelmed, or don’t know how to handle the situations before them, but keep trucking on. They’re decidedly human, as well. They have very understandable desires and impulses, and though they are childlike and a catperson, they’re very relatable.

The other characters you come across are a little different. It’s clear from the outset that you and Niko are very different from the rest of them. And although you can easily find plenty of characters who go beyond the shallow level, you always get the feeling that there’s something a bit off about them. That they’re playing by a set of rules you can barely penetrate and have no hope of ever fully understanding. There’s a point to that. You and Niko both may be one of a billion in your world (unless you’re playing as me, in which case even then, you stand apart), but here, you are something completely unique. The plot takes it from there, but the ways all the characters interact with you keep hammering the point home.

There are puzzles in this game. Again, no real stumpers, even though they do require a lot of outside the box thinking. I think there was one I needed to consult a guide on, and a few I needed to get some mental distance on, take some time away and come back to, but most of the rest I just cruised through easily. It does occasionally work on cartoon physics, but when you get used to how they work, they’ll work pretty well. This would be a very individualized experience, but for me, they generally hit the sweet spot where it takes a bit of thought but not so much that you’re getting frustrated or wasting a lot of your precious gametime retracing steps over and over again.

The plot is one of the stronger parts of the game. It’s one of those good indie-style plots, not a lot of moving parts but what is there is well done and thought provoking. I love a story that lies to you, and Oneshot is playing off your expectations from the moment it drops that title. Even with that in place, though, the story is simple enough to be relatable, and peppered with enough Earthbound-esque surreal humor to keep the dark story from going full on sad. It controls the tension, the bits you may remember from the classic Freytag’s pyramid, very well, going on a slow burn through most of the opening, reaching the climax and having a good denouement, then breaking out the intensity once you’re on the path to the true ending.

Oneshot feels like a special experience. I find myself staying vague with quite a bit of things about it, just because it’s the type of game that’s really best experienced in a vacuum, in a quiet room by yourself. I don’t think it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea. But if it’s yours, it delivers like none other. If this sounds like it’s up your alley, give it a try. I know I haven’t found much else quite like it.

Dirty Deeds in Fallout

Last time, y’all decided that our dear, sweet, lovely Athena, so new to the cruelties of the wasteland, so innocent to the horrors of life, only ever wanted to make it a better place to live, was going to be a down and dirty thief. Such a heel turn. And frankly, I’m ashamed of you all. How could you do that to her? Turn someone who so far had never done anything foul against anyone that didn’t deserve it into someone who would willingly violate the sanctity of someone’s home, take something precious and irreplaceable to them, and hand it over to someone else for nothing other than a handful of bottlecaps? I hope you all feel really bad with yourselves.
Which is to say, I actually already did this in the same session I was doing everything else last update, so I’m really glad you voted the way you did.

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But before we get to our Dirty Deeds Done Dirt ExpensivebecauseAthenadon’tcomecheap, let’s get some errands out of the way. First off, we check with Jasmine, a member of the Circle of Thieves on our way out the door. She hands us some flares and a lockpicking kit to get ready for the job ahead of us. We already have a lockpicking kit, and I don’t know what we’re supposed to do with flares given that we’re operating in the shadows now. Vendor trash, the both of them.
She also warns us not to do anything against Hightower, our little thieving target here, other than take his stuff. He’s apparently really good to the Circle of Thieves. He doesn’t know it, but he is. If he gets iced and someone with better security takes his place, they’ll be out money. So peace and discretion is the name of the day. Sort of.

We leave the circle, and start heading back towards central The Hub. On the way there, you remember the building I mentioned last time that has several toughs we’re not yet strong enough to handle? One of them sees us through a window as we pass by, and the entire group of way higher-leveled and better equipped enemies pile onto us. Uh…. that wasn’t supposed to happen.

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And look, I know I’ve had some fun getting Athena into and out of situations she’s barely specced to handle, but not this one. This one doesn’t go well. Continue reading

The Witch’s House

It’s the season for it, right? Picking up some good, spookifying tales of your medium of choice. Seems to be one of the funnest things about fall for a lot of people.

This year around, even I, who am convinced that time is an illusion created by the greeting card industry, got into the horror season. Now, I’ve had an odd relationship with the horror genre. I really can’t put my finger on why, but I just stopped feeling it. Haven’t been getting the thrill, chills, and spills that people so much enjoy about it. Even so, I wanted to revisit those feelings this year. See if I could find a hint of that point of being deliciously disturbed.

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So I picked up the Witch’s House. Freeware puzzle horror game made in RPG Maker by Fummy, officially translated into English by vgperson. “Freeware RPG Maker horror game?” I hear you ask. “Those are all over the place. What makes this one so unique.” Just hold your horses. I’m getting to that. Patience is a virtue, you know.

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Fallout Chapter 10: The Wheels of Justice

So, last time on Balls Out Fallout, we let you folks make a few choices. We’re hear to see the results of them today.

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First up, comes good old Iguana Bob. Hub street food vendor.  Runs a ‘family’ eating place in the most literal sense. As you may recall, we ran into one of his suppliers in Doc Morbid’s morgue back in Junktown, and found that not all of his ingredients are entirely kosher, and you guys decided that we need to shut his operation down. But there’s a bit of a problem here. The city is very well patrolled, and we’re in a rather public area. If we were to start anything with him, the guards would be on us in a flash. It’s pretty simple to piss Bob off to the point where he starts the fight himself, so we can just proactively defend ourselves against him which wouldn’t draw any of the po-pos here, but I promised to show you guys a neat trick involving a sack today.

Before we get into that, though, I want to make sure that Bob knows why he has this coming. Athena walks over and starts chatting him up.

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We start on what would be a really cool Soylent Green bit, but Bob shuts us up. Then he tries to justify it. He’s not the one killing people! They’re already dead! It’s environmentally friendly! Doesn’t Athena like the environment?

Athena does not in fact like the environment. This environment never stops trying to kill her and has not had the good graces to invent Dragon Age yet to make up for it. She tells him so. He stoops to threats, but does not draw his weapon yet. Athena ends the conversation.

I told you before that the burlap sack is the ultimate assassination tool. I was a little hyperbolic in that. The sack is not the ultimate assassination tool. It is half of the ultimate assassination tool. When we get the other half assembled, we are going to kill Iguana Bob in broad daylight, right in front of the police, with nobody having any idea of what happened. Continue reading

Lagging Behind on the Leading Ladies- Part 2: The Business Perspective

Overview

So. This series here. As I had mentioned, we’re going to be covering three different categories of factors that make it difficult to have a woman as your lead in a video game; business, creative, and social. Before we get to that, though, first I feel I need to do something I’m very, very, very good at. I need to talk about myself.

Specifically, I need you guys to know where I’m coming from in all this. I spend nearly all of my time being absolutely incredible, but for this one, I need to take it two steps back, and make myself credible to you all. I don’t like putting a lot of real life into this blog, except for a few isolated places, but here’s one where I feel it’s really important to know what my foundation is to contextualize your own take on the theorizing I’m about to do.

Basically, I’m not an expert on any of this. I do have enough of a professional background behind me to make what I consider to be some educated guesses, but I’ve never worked in the video games industry. So, you know, keep that in mind.

My degree’s in Business Administration. I’ve spent most of my career as a small business consultant. I’ve worked on the outskirts of the literary publishing, the fine art, and the film industries. I have and continue to periodically write or work on my graphic novel or do other creative stuff. So the above few sentences are where I get my standing on the business and creative spheres. I currently work as a case manager, which gives me a bit of a lead on the social aspects, but honestly, most of that is just going to be drawing from my years of experience watching people be assholes on the internet. Because really, that’s as much of an expert as pretty much anyone is on that side.

So there, that’s the short and quick of what I’ve got behind me pushing me towards these thoughts. You got it? Good.

One more thing I want to highlight on this little series here. The Shameful Narcissist hit it right on the head in the last post on the subject: This is a very complicated matter. The question of why we don’t see more woman-fronted video games is something that relates to the core of how we look at each other and treat each other as human beings. This is a complex matter. And we cannot apply a simple solution to it. People on both sides of the argument have been doing that as long as the argument has been there, and it hasn’t gotten anybody anywhere. That’s the big takeaway I want you to get. We cannot have a simple solution to a complex problem. There are so many factors involved in keeping men as the primary gender for video game protagonists and trying to address one single thing as the cause for it all is just wasted effort. If you want to see the type of change that leads to more female leads in games, we’ll need to start by understanding just how many branches there are in that rabbit hole.

Moreover, this is not about misogyny or any sort of acute sexism. This is not a man vs. woman thing. If there is anyone out there deliberately making choices to keep women out of games, nobody with any sort of sense is listening to them. Rather, this is more about implicit bias. This is about the assumptions society in general makes about gender and what that means. Every culture, large-scale or small, has their own set of assumptions and acts on them unconsciously in ways that trend towards whatever group is most strongly represented there. It’s not just whatever group men or whites or whatever group in power at the time does. Look at companies and industries dominated by women, or caste- or clan-based societies, and you’ll see the same thing. These unconscious biases are usually negative on both sides, which we won’t so much see here but will become more apparent when we get into the next two sectors we’re looking at. The longer that culture goes on, the more prominent those unconscious trends become, until slowly, shifts start to happen. We’re in the middle of a shift like that now, but it’s not happening quite the way a lot involved in that dumb culture war going on right now would like. We’re going to check out why.

Let’s start giving you the Business.

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