Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fallout 4 Just Won My Heart

I've been playing Fallout 4 intermittently (read: at night, after bedtime, if the house is clean) since it came out. Up until tonight my verdict was "not bad, better than Fallout 3", which I never really got into. V.A.T.S. combat is fun until it goes on too long, the world is a hoot, Dogmeat sank into the ground like fucking Artax a few times but I'm sure there's a patch coming.

But then tonight happened.

I'm looking for a detective. I find the building he's been stashed in, and I go through killing miscellaneous assholes. And I keep going. And keep going. A bit too long, honestly, but point is I find the guy and I get back out. I manage to talk down the kidnappers (after failing the first Charisma check - thanks quicksave), and we get out, away, Scott free into the night...

except Swan spawns.

This is Swan.

What the hell is Swan? I have no idea. It had nothing to do with the mission or anything else that was happening. I just know it came out of nowhere in the dead of night and started clubbing me to death.

Was I prepared for that? Hell no. I'd just been through an entire dungeon! No Stimpaks for me! No power armor! And I'm still early in the game without much to my name except a Cryolator my pal Dogmeat busted out of a safe for me. Good dog!

So I throw the Cryolator on, start running, and fire. First time I've used the gun. It lets out a puff of what I assume is cold air and causes... let's say 2% damage to the Swan. Laughable damage, I've given him an ice cream headache. Damn it Dogmeat!

Whatever, I don't have better guns. I just run around and keep firing and try to dodge the Swan's hits, which I fail at.

Screenshots stolen from Google results for "Fallout 4 Swan".
I don't have health items so I just scarf radioactive meat as fast as I can. Fuck the rads. I try V.A.T.S. but there's hardly any point, it doesn't make a difference to the damage I'm causing. I'm near death but, somehow, he is too. At least he's around 30% health. I jump into my menu for more instafood and see I've got a drug called Jet. Slows time down for 10 seconds. I jack myself up, unpause, and start firing the Cryolator as fast as I can as the bludgeon comes for my head in super slow motion...

And the Swan dies. At the literal last second the Swan keels over. I get a fancy gun and some other gear I can't even process, I'm so high on adrenaline.

I find the detective smoking in an alley, somehow restrain myself from grabbing him and shaking him screaming "Where were you?!", finish the rescue mission, and call it a night. No way I'm topping that.

Bloodborne was the last game that gave me a rush like this fight. It was totally unexpected, brutal, but it was fair and it was winnable and I won, damn it. If Fallout 4 keeps delivering moments like this I'm in 'til the end.

Roll on into the wasteland! Bring on the next super mutant! Oh God it's got a nuke wait

Friday, November 13, 2015

Let's Talk About Failure

failure, n.
1. lack of success.
2. the omission of expected or required action.

I am told that writing is hard. I read, often, that a lot of writers can't make a living wage, that they never get their work published, that they give up on their writing aspirations. That they fail.

Let's unpack that.

The first definition of failure is lack of success. If you define "success" as "making enough money to rival Stephen King", then yes, a lot of writers fail. Almost all of them, in fact.

If you define it as "making enough money to live on", then again, a lot of writers fail. But a lot of writers have second jobs, too.

If you define success as "getting published regularly", once more, a lot of writers fail. We live in a world of limited markets. We also live in a world of unprecedented self-publishing opportunities.

If you define success as "getting published once", or "making a bit of money"... a lot of writers will fail here too. But it's a lot less than the ones who failed to be Stephen King.

If you define success as "I wrote something someone else enjoyed reading", then you're looking at less failures still. Parents count here, by the way.

And if you define success as "I wrote something and enjoyed it", well, I'm sure some people manage to fail here. And at this level there's absolutely no shame in that. Go do something that does make you happy, friend.

Then there's definition two, lack of action. For writers that means missing the deadline. Not finishing the story. Giving up entirely.

Those are the dangerous fail states. They are also all curable. You can ask for an extension on the deadline, you can finish the story (or start one you like better - I know, but sometimes it is necessary), you can put the pen down for a few years and then pick it back up.

About the only way I can think of to permanently, irrevocably fail as a writer is to die before your ambitions, whatever they are, are fulfilled. And sometimes even that isn't enough. From The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, published posthumously:

"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?"

Anne Frank was definitely a writer, and she wrote something great, even if she didn't live to see the achievement.

So writers, don't worry about failure. It's not as common as you think, and it's probably not happening to you.

All your other worries are fair game, though. Like your word count. Hi NaNoWriMo, I hate you so much this year!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tales of Vault 867 - Part Twelve

Well well well! It looks like the Raiders are finally coming up with some new strategies. Perhaps they'll finally become the legitimate threat they've always meant to be.

Or not.

Apparently they thought sending a stand-up comedian to the door to beg for his life would get us to open ourselves up for another raid. Which, unfortunately, it did, because my Dwellers are idiots. Fortunately so are the Raiders, and we were able to get the doors sealed again in time.

Fortunately the "comedian" turned out to be just another Wasteland lunatic, but one with an advanced understanding of water purification and our processing equipment. Ever since he got here we've had much fewer incidents with flammable molerats in the drinking water.

Unfortunately he couldn't do anything about the highly-flammable intoxicants Scumbag Owens has been storing in his hab block. It's amazing how fast full-term pregnant women can run when properly motivated.

I set up an education block in the lower levels in an attempt to raise the average I.Q. in the Vault. Our teaching staff... leaves something to be desired.

In spite of these setbacks, we've actually seen a pretty large uptick in Dwellers coming in from the Wasteland. I assume Terry's attempts to recruit for his traitor armies have just spread the word about what a well-run organization we are.

Naturally I've had them all quarantined and subjected to interrogation. The Traitor hasn't put in an appearance in months, and I'm confident his evil has finally been put to rest.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Celebrating Konami?! FemSnake For The Win

Back when Assassin's Creed: Unity was coming out I wrote a backhanded defense of the developers for not putting playable female characters in the multiplayer mode. My point was that, because of the way the game was designed, it would be a hell of a lot harder to implement a playable female character than it was in the old AC games that did have them.

Well, time has passed and Hideo Kojima sure showed me. Brianna Wu has a great write-up, but the TL;DR is that you can play as FemSnake in Metal Gear Solid 5.

FemSnake Blonde.
From the aforementioned write-up:

"She’s a prisoner you rescue on a mission, but you do get to play almost every mission as her. She can be your protagonist, and is included in many of the cutscenes. She runs Mother Base. She commands the game’s soldiers. She is fully voiced, and her acting is even more menacing than Kiefer Sutherland’s."

This is basically what I said Ubisoft would have to do to put a playable female character in Unity, and I stand by my assertion that it's a hell of a lot of work. (Kojima even has an advantage in that Big Boss/Kiefer Sutherland is practically mute throughout the whole game. Less voice acting!) But I also said it was totally doable, and Metal Gear Solid V has gone and proved it. They've also allowed you to play as different races by the same method, male and female. Hats off to Kojima and, yes, Konami for doing the right thing.

I should note that there are a few hoops you have to jump through to do this, namely actually finding a female character and extracting her to add to your Mother Base combat unit. At around the halfway point in the game I've found six female characters out of almost 600 soldiers, so yeah, this is difficult. (Extracting a female prisoner is actually worth a Playstation trophy, but I'm 99% sure I've run across at least one female soldier as well.) Also my FemSnake, a.k.a. Laughing Wallaby, sounds like a total psychopath when she pets D. Dog, but that's not that much different from Boss I guess.

You can also customize D. Dog. I've made him as Corgi as possible.
(Tangent: why the hell can't I put Quiet in something modest? You released female DLC costumes that are only usable by 1/100 of your soldiers and don't go on Quiet. Come on Konami.)

As for Ubisoft... well, Unity was a glitchy disaster at launch so, yes, their resource and time problems were real. Poor bastard developers. Happily Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, just out, is by all accounts a superior game and features a choice of male or female protagonist, so they've put one in the "win" column. Here's hoping they keep it up.

"Damn it D. Dog."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tales of Vault 867 - Part Eleven

Another day, another attempt by High Traitor Terry to take over the Vault. Fortunately our brave Dwellers were able to see the threat off with minimal losses.

I'm honestly having trouble figuring out why Terry bothers with this anymore. What can he possibly throw at us besides more Wasteland trash?

All attempts to kill sterilize discourage the fecundity of Scumbag Owens have failed. I'm starting to suspect the man intends to replace my benevolent dictatorship oversight with a patriarchal tyranny. If so, he should probably start treating his partners a little better. Jesus, Owens.

The Ninja spy remains among the cafeteria staff. He has made a friend, thus confirming that he's not simply a delusion brought on by isolation. So that's a load off.

Down below, we're dealing with yet more molerat outbreaks. I've assigned some of the Dwellers to do nothing but clear them out, before they eat our entire food store. To their credit they're approaching the new job with a positive attitude.