Fallout 4 EP14: Why Would They Do That?

By Shamus
on Jun 30, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

101 comments


Link (YouTube)

I think Fallout 4 wouldn’t be nearly so infuriating if the dialog didn’t keep making promises that the writer never intended to keep. It makes it sound like wall-painter guy has stories to tell, but he’s just a nonsense fetch quest. You meet a big bad guy who wants to talk, but the conversation is dumb and pointless because my character isn’t allowed to ask any interesting questions. You meet people with pre-war memories, or strange backstories, or in odd situations, which makes it seem like they’re designed specifically to deliver exposition and stories. But no. It’s just another bland NPC who wants to give you caps to kill a bunch of crap.

In most games, the designer will use a story to hook you into doing a quest. In this game I kept doing quests, hoping to find a story somewhere.

I was usually disappointed.


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Final Fantasy X Part 4: Death and Other Puzzles

By Shamus
on Jun 30, 2016
Filed under:
FFX

84 comments

Yuna, Lulu, Wakka, Kimari, and Tidus board the boat to begin Yuna’s pilgrimage. Their home of Besaid Island was there to show us Spira in its idealized state. It was there to build empathy and an emotional connection to this world. Our next stop is the island of Kilika, where that connection will pay off. Now that we sort of care about Spira, the storyteller will show us the brutality of Sin. As the ship approaches, Sin strikes the island.

The people of Kilika have built their houses out of wooden sticks. Out on the water. With rickety walkways between them.

Come on, guys.  Even if Sin wasn`t a problem, aren`t you worried about storms? Waves? HIGH TIDE?!

Come on, guys. Even if Sin wasn`t a problem, aren`t you worried about storms? Waves? HIGH TIDE?!

But of course they built on the water because it makes for a pretty good show when Sin huffs and puffs and blows their house down. Kilika is the Red Shirt of towns in Spira. Half the town snuffs it, and by the time our heroes arrive the whole place is filled with mourners and smashed huts.

When the party arrives, Yuna volunteers to perform the “sending”. Apparently summoners have a secondary duty. When they’re not on their way to fight Sin, they’re in charge of performing funerals.

And funerals in this world are important, because death in the world of Spira is completely bonkers. A summoner has to do a little dance to guide the spirits of the dead to the Farplane. (Which is apparently an off-brand afterlife.) If she doesn’t do this, then the spirits will linger, grow angry, and eventually turn into fiends. As the sending is performed, little rainbow firefly sparkles come out of the departed and drift into the skyWhat would happen if you did a sending indoors? Would the pyreflies bunch up at the ceiling like cigarette smoke? “Oh man. Looks like someone did a sending in here. Open a window, man.”.

Continue reading »

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Fallout 4 EP13: I NEED This Mole Meat!

By Shamus
on Jun 29, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

167 comments


Link (YouTube)

How do I get into Diamond City? Charm my way past the gate guards? Sneak in through the sewer? Bribe my way in? Lockpick the back entrance? Wear a guard disguise and walk in? Make friends with a resident and enter the city as their guest? Pay a sketchy half-crazed ghoul with a persecution complex to build a bomb to blow a hole in the wall? Hack a terminal to make a bot go haywire and create a distraction? Get hired as a caravan guard and enter with the rest of the group when they reach the city?

Oh, sorry. Those are things you’d put in a Fallout game like New Vegas or the 2D Fallouts. But THIS is a Bethesda game, which means the only way in is through a nonsensical, scripted, non-branching, completely banal dialog / cutscene where the rules are made up and your choices don’t matter.

The Fallout 4 developers could’ve tried to put some light roleplaying into their alleged roleplaying game and handled entering Diamond City the way Obsidian handled entering New Vegas. But instead they just copied the same sophomoric approach they used for entering the Citadel back in Fallout 3: A stilted, awkwardly framed dialog that can’t decide if it wants to be cinema or interactive so it decides to split the difference and fail at both.

Having the four-choice “I have no idea what I’m about to say” dialog wheel is directly at odds with their idiotic no-choice plot. And both of those ideas are at odds with the concept of “roleplaying game”. And none of this is helped by their fully voiced pre-war protagonist who never seems interested or curious about the world around them or about connecting with people who have pre-war memories to find out what’s happened in the last 210 yearsSpoiler: Nothing. Nothing has happened. After the bombs fell, people crawled out the the rubble and then sat around shooting each other until you showed up with the plot..

It’s not that the various designers weren’t on the same page, it’s like they were deliberately working against one another.


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Patreon: Year Two

By Shamus
on Jun 29, 2016
Filed under:
Personal

107 comments

Like I said this time last year, now that I get most of my income from Patreon, I feel the need to do a little accountability / disclosure. As of right now, just over 400 people are donating every month to keep this site goingNote that not all supporters are part of the Patreon. There are a small handful of people who prefer to use PayPal.. It seems good to talk about how things are going, what I’m planning, and how I think I’ve done.

I’m also going to talk a tiny bit about personal finances. This is usually taboo in our culture, but then our culture hasn’t adapted to a world where individuals make their living via crowdsourced donations.

Still, if you don’t want to read a bunch of personal stuff about money, give this post a pass.

So let’s start with the bad news…

Continue reading »


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Ruts vs. Battlespire CH13: My Dinner with Daedré

By Rutskarn
on Jun 28, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

43 comments

As part of their invasion of the Battlespire, the daedric armies have apparently deployed tactical questgivers to several locations. Some of their quests have been brief, but eventful. I’ll be happy to get back to a sane and healthy model of interpersonal relations wherein I go around killing and fetching on behalf of standoffish strangers.

After all, I like to keep things professional.

I know what you`re thinking, but it`s Casual Friday. Gold tips on my bullhorns are permissible.
I know what you're thinking, but it's Casual Friday. Gold tips on my bullhorns are permissible.

Continue reading »

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This Dumb Industry: What is E3 For?

By Shamus
on Jun 28, 2016
Filed under:
Column

92 comments

Usually these columns are a space where I want to make a point. I’ve typically got an axe to grind, so I build up supporting arguments and then tie them all together at the end with some sort of conclusion. But this column is more a series of observations and open-ended questions.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo happened a couple of weeks ago. Like last year, the various companies allowed Twitch to stream their press conferences, and Twitch in turn allowed the unwashed masses (that’s us) to re-broadcast the stream with our own commentary. Josh, Jarenth, Campster, and I watched the streams and gave our own live reactions to the show. The embedded videos below are the archived versions of each press conference, which have been uploaded to YouTube to give everyone the illusion of permanence. It all adds up to nine glorious hours of entertainmentAssuming you’re entertained by people interrupting each other over Old News..

So while you drink in the white-knuckle excitement of watching us watch an audience watch trailers, let me ask a stupid question:

What is E3 for?

Obvious, right? E3 is where companies go to market their products. DUH, Shamus!

Except, market to whom? And does it actually work?

Continue reading »

2020202012There are now 92 comments. Almost a hundred!



Diecast #156: Steam Summer Sale, Witcher 3, Mailbag

By Shamus
on Jun 27, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

170 comments

This Diecast was recorded mere hours ago. Thanks to Issac for the quick turnaround time.


Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


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Shamus Plays LOTRO #18: Tall Tales from Short People!

By Shamus
on Jun 26, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

23 comments

I’m in the town of Scary and I’m talking to Wilcome Tunnelly, who is doing a shockingly bad job at enticing me to work for him.

It`s a BEAUTIFUL day to suffer fools.

It`s a BEAUTIFUL day to suffer fools.

“My sister Pansy is a good sort, but she can be rather excitable.”, he explains. “When she gets an idea in her head, it stays there, no matter how silly it might be, and before you know it, she’s convinced half the Shire that it’s true.”

“So… your problem is that half the Shire is idiots?”

“No!”, he objects, pauses, and then furrows his brow. “Well, maybe. Probably, I guess. But the point is that she thinks…”

“Yes?”

Wilcome looks slightly embarrassed, “Well, maybe you’d better just ask her about it yourself.”

So now I have to track down his sister. But let me give you the tour of Scary first.

Continue reading »


20323 comments. Highly cototient!



Fallout 4 EP12: Baseball VATS

By Shamus
on Jun 24, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

119 comments


Link (YouTube)

Let’s talk about our “breaking and entering” mechanics.

Lockpicking

Lockpicking works. It’s just interesting enough to make for a fun mini-game, but it’s brief enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s bringing your dungeon crawl to a halt. I enjoy it in Skyrim, I enjoy in in Fallout, and even after picking thousands of locks I’m still not sick of it.

The only problem, which I mentioned in this episode, is that for the most part it’s all just more trash to loot and sell. You’ll loot 9 chests of ammo, weapons, and junk. Then the 10th chest will be protected by a lock. Is it worth all those perk points to get one more chest worth of stuff? Not really. I’ve played as a master lockpicker and I’ve played as characters with no points in lockpicking, and aside from the nagging annoyance of leaving a chest behind, you can’t tell the difference at all. You never think, “Wow! I sure do have lots of rare resources. Glad I spent those lockpicking points!” And you also never find yourself in the position of, “Man, I am so starved for resources. If only I’d put points into lockpicking!”

The whole thing is kind of weak and gutless. You can hear the game designer wringing their hands and saying, “But what if players miss out on things? What if they have a different experience from the norm? What if there’s something they want to do it and they can’t because of their build? We have to save them from themselves! We must make all the choices shallow and painless!”

Ugh.

Terminal Hacking

The hacking game never really worked for me. I like the idea of the puzzle, but the individual rounds are too short and too governed by luck to to reach a proper solution. Sometimes you’ll spend your first two clicks and not get any hints that give you meaningful progress. Yes, you can hunt around in the garbage characters for brackets to help you, but it’s still a crapshoot. Worse, the game actually becomes easier and more interesting when it supposedly gets harder. The clues for long words are far more useful than the clues for short words.

But the thing that really kills the game is that it’s a literal waste of time. The fastest and most expedient way through is not to linger over the puzzle for five minutes, trying to reach a provable solution according to the rules of logic. The fastest way through these things is to open up the terminal, click on random entries until you’re about to get locked out, and then close the terminal. Repeat until the dice favor you.

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Fallout 4 EP11: Brotherhood of Steal Stuff

By Shamus
on Jun 23, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

151 comments


Link (YouTube)

To complete the thought I started to make in this episode before getting distracted:

Both Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 begin with a personal story: Benny shoots you in the head vs. the Institute steals your baby. Both use that to drag you into a larger conflict: Which faction should control Hoover Dam vs. which faction should murder the others? On a conceptual level, the segue in Fallout 4 makes more sense than the one in New Vegas. You don’t necessarily have a stake in the fight over Hoover Dam, but you continue to have a stake in the Institute because Shaun is still involved. Unfortunately, this transition from personal to large-scale happens right at the point where the whole world really starts to unravel. It’s a bit like the Mass Effect 3 ending problem: Up until now you could – if you’re feeling generous – assume that stuff will fall into place as a result of a later reveal. That somewhere down the line, all this nonsense will start to pay off and fit together.

But once we meet the Institute the game is out of places to hide the writer’s shenanigans. Once we know the Institute plans and motivations and their reasons for kidnapping Shaun, all of the cards are on the table and we can see the writer has been bluffing us the whole time.

Here in ArcJet Systems, Danse goes back and forth from interesting to incoherent:

“I’ll tag this location for sweep and retrieve.”

Oh that’s cool. We learn a little about how the Brotherhood works.

“Synths are abominations.”

This idea would be okay, but we need to hear their reasoning. Characterize them!

“Those evil corporations before the war exploited technology for their own gain!”

Dude. Isn’t that like, your entire mission statement?

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Final Fantasy X Part 3: Steam Summoner Sale

By Shamus
on Jun 23, 2016
Filed under:
FFX

136 comments

Tidus has a conversation with Rikku where he learns that Zanarkand was destroyed 1,000 years ago. He learns that there’s this religion called Yevon, and that his Zanarkand is now considered a holy place.

As if the Al Bhed haven’t been cruel enough, Rikku makes us sit through the sphere grid tutorial. I’ll talk about that hot mess in a later entry. With that out of the way, we’re done here. Never one to waste time, the writer pushes the big red button labeled “Sin shows up and magically transports our hero to another part of the world for purposes of plot convenience.” (The lettering on the button is very small.) This is not the last time they will push that particular button.

Besaid Island

Tidus, the best blitzball player in Zanarkand, washes up on shore in front of the worst blitzball players in history.

Tidus, the best blitzball player in Zanarkand, washes up on shore in front of the worst blitzball players in history.

Tidus washes up on the beach of Besaid Island. He makes friends with Wakka, who has the distinction of having the third most ridiculous haircut in the world. Tidus gets a chance to show off his extreme Blitzball prowess and Wakka – being captain of the local Blitzball team – invites him to join.

I love Besaid Island. This is actually the point where I connected with the world and decided I wanted to find out what happens next. It says something about the length of Final Fantasy games that when I came back here during the last chapter of the story, the music and scenery actually filled me with nostalgia. Usually you get nostalgia for a game you played months or years ago. Or played in a different time in your life. But this game is so long (especially for someone new to JRPGs) that I felt a sense of wonder simply returning at the end of the same play-through.

We’re a few hours in, and we’re just now being introduced to the premise of our journey:

Continue reading »

A Hundred!2016There are 136 comments here. I really hope you like reading.



Fallout 4 EP10: Romance the Danse

By Shamus
on Jun 22, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

129 comments


Link (YouTube)

Fallout 4 is a mess on a story level, but I do like to give it credit when it gets things right. While the sides don’t have properly explored motivations, they’re certainly more coherent than the Brotherhood and Enclave in Fallout 3. (And Fallout 4 lets you choose from FOUR different groups of idiots to work with!) The nonsense railroading of Fallout 4 is bad, but it’s less infuriating than Fallout 3.

And when it comes to companions it’s no contest. Fallout 4 has some genuinely good companions to take with you, and Fallout 3 has… what? That idiot mutant who wouldn’t help you out at the end of the game? I guess?

So this series is going to be negative, but peppered with awkward, backhanded compliments congratulating Bethesda for not repeating ALL of the mistakes of the past. It’s all part of the Spoiler Warning™ service. You’re welcome.

Also, I think Josh’s playtesting has proven conclusively that gravity works in this game. So that’s nice.

A Hundred!209There are 129 comments here. I really hope you like reading.




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