Posts Tagged ‘ games ’

Fallout: New Vegas-A Review (WITH SPOILERS!!!)

So I finished Fallout: New Vegas.

My verdict?

It’s okay.

Not great, at least by the standards of what came before, but it does the job.

For this installment Bethesda takes the players back to the West Coast or at least as close as they dare without retreading the steps of the Vault Dweller (Fallout) and The Chosen One (Fallout 2).

The Good: The wasteland is far more colorful, the characters are more engaging and even if your not playing in hardcore mode, it’s will remain challenging for most players through out. And for fans of the franchise (I’m taking Fallout and Fallout 2 devotees), the call backs and references to earlier games abound.

The Interesting: You have faction based reputation, so as you play you build up your reputation (good or bad) with a vast variety of factions. Towns, governments, gangs and movements all form an opinion of you depending on how your actions affect them. Like I said above the Mojave Wasteland is far more colorful, with red rock lined canyons, actual trees and even snow caped mountains.  And there is more variety of critters as well, which makes for more interesting combat.

The Bad: (HERE BE SPOILERS!) Here is where things take a downturn, especially if your a fan of Fallout 3. The storyline fails to immerse you the way past games did. While the story in Fallout 3 literally kicked you out of the womb here you wake up after being shot in head. Fine you want to get revenge on the SOB who did it, but besides that, what happens in the wasteland is of little concern to you. In Fallout 3, the world seemed to revolve on your every move, your actions either sung or vilified by Three Dog on the radio.  Not so in this game. In fact, it seems that whatever you do, you have very little real impact on the game.

Not only that, but you will see the twist a mile away.  It suffers from the inevitable sandbox shrinkage far to early in the game (when you realize that the game world is not as big as you thought it was). The reputation system is a bit broken as well, as doing things that are beneficial for some factions will still garner you a loss of karma/reputation with them. It even has the annoying feature of telling you you failed quests you didn’t even knew you were a part off. And you suffer from ending fatigue (as I did while playing Morrowind) because while you know how the game is going to end, you have to run around and do a bunch of quests that simply streech the game play further.

This game is then an adequate continuation of the Fallout franchise, but one I consider could have been delivered via DLC rather than packaging in an entire new game. Lets see how New Vegas own DLC packs deal with the flaws above, and I hope that Bethesda has not abandoned the East Coast completel

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Countdown to New Vegas

If you been hiding under a rock somewhere, you might not know that Fallout: New Vegas comes out tomorrow.

Fallout 3 exceeded all my expectations and this installment promises to be better.

See you on the wasteland!

Gaming: The Power of a Good Story

Games, games are changing.

Yes the graphics are always improving and the physics engines both imitate and subvert reality in many outstanding ways but now we have something more….

Story.

At the dawn of video games, there wasn’t much space in cartridges or floppy disks for stories.  Most developers didn’t bother, but as the first decade of gaming progressed (that’s the 80’s for you youngsters, yeah the ones wearing the John Hughes’ movie wardrobe), RPGs crossed over to home computers and PCs, which meant stretching the hardware to accommodate story beyond “here be aliens, shoot them!” explanation of the earlier frantic gaming mechanic.

Most of said story remained buried in the manuals with the game itself providing more shooting, spells swinging and sword bashing than complicated plot points.

Not anymore.

Somewhere around the turn of the century a combination of more powerful machines and graphic cards, game worlds could be rendered in glorious 3D (as opposed to the chunky polygons of the century before) and with plenty of space in both hard drives and disks (CDs, then DVDs and now Blu-Ray) they could inject great soundtracks, thousands of lines of spoken dialogue by dozens of highly skilled voice actors (and not a few celebrity cameos).

Which still leaves one thing….

Story!

The best games in the last few years, specially in the Console/PC RPG market, not only have stunning visuals and fast paced action but powerful story lines.  You don’t simply want to blast your enemies into pink (or green or blue, whatever) mist, but you want to known what your father was working on, who is behind the abduction of of human colonies and why your family was slaughtered while you were spared.

Story matters.

Story makes the difference.

The age of true interactive entertainment is here.

——-

And to show you what I mean, here is a bit of epic writing that turns the Mass Effect franchise into something more than alien fodder blasting or Space Opera Light:

Next on my reading list

That is, what  book do I buy next?

Do I go the U/F route with the new release of Kelly Meding’s As I Lie Dead?

I recently read Changes and it was good, as was Meding’s first book, Three Days to Dead. Maybe it will kick start the stalled Revision/Revising on my on U/F tittle.

On the other hand I pulled an all-nighter just to finish Sanderson’s second book of the Mistborn trilogy, The Well of Ascension, I haven’t done that in years which should tell you how good the book is (review to be posted soon on SuD) so getting The Hero of Ages should cure my epic fantasy itch.

And last but not least there is David Weber’s Honor Harrington series.  A Short Victorious War would certainly put me in a space warfare kind of mood which is the perfect mood to be in when you’re writing the outline(s) for your own space sci-fi trilogy (yes, my head is that big, I’m not surprised you noticed).

Any suggestions?

——

Talking epic sci-fi as well as media premiere’s (Kelly’s book as well as the subject of the clip below debut today!) I leave you with this video from Starcraft 2-Wings of Liberty.

Awesom Sauce!

Things I learned about RPGs over the years.

 

I’ve learned a few rules…why are you looking me like that? Okay, rules is a bit strong, if not inaccurate. Maybe lessons I picked up? Working suggestions? Useful bullet points? Whatever! Here is a list of things I sort of remember from my many years of playing RPGs and mastering a few (just a tad). In no particular order (other than the one given, like you really care either way)

1. Every gamer is a min-maxer: Each and every ONE OF THEM. Even the scrawny kid in the corner who is waiting for his thespian moment. Oh, woe it be to the Master who goes anywhere his one combo, stat or item he has hanged his characters hopes and fears on. Somebody called the waaaaaambulance please! Also known as “all players all whiny little children”.

Oh, a mirror, for me? Thank you! And don’t get me started on the munchkins . Yes, I have that mirror right here. Why do you ask?

2. Strip all publish adventures of treasure: Every single copper piece, +1 sword or other form of treasure must go. Then carefully build the treasure with all the misery love of a pre-Xmas Eve Ebenezer Scrooge. It is the only way to avoid Monty Hauling , which invariably leads to a dead campaign because the PC ascended to godhood by the end of the first encounter, or you drop a red dragon on their heads which leads to a TPK (Total Party Kill for you noobs!)

3. Don’t mess with the established monsters: Sure you can fiddle with them a little, but go too far and you will NEVER live down that one time, fifteen years ago when you decided to drop a “special” on them. Never…EVER!

4. When you utter the words, “Hey aren’t you playing X?” or “Here I have an NPC ready for you”, or “How about playing Y race cause I really need one in my game”, it translates in the players mind thus (Cue Admiral Akbar voice) “IT’S A TRAP!”

5. The Rule of Inverse Book Rule Carry: Lets say your current system has, oh I don’t know, 10 books so far (it’s just a number, yes I know they have like 30 out, or 177, just go with it, okay!). If you bring all 10, by the end of the night you will discover that you brought 9 to many. Bring only one and, of course, you brought 9 too few. Never fails.

6. The Inverse Square Rule of GM Loving/Slavish Detail: The more you time you spend on something, a weapon, an NPC or a map (or some such) the less likely the Players will care about it, react to it or bother to use it. However they will spend hours try to gang-bang the no name wench behind the bar, then once she gets knocked up they will want you to research (i.e. make shit up on the spot) the whole courtship/marriage ritual/ceremony whatever of the Old Kingdom of Aerdy just so they can slap a ring on the bitch and then leave her and her unborn child behind to loot another dungeon.

7. “You all meet at the local inn.” It’s old, cliched, kind of stupid and boring. It also FUCKING WORKS!

8. Ask for a character background, you may get a paragraph if you’re lucky. Ignore the player that handed you a freaking bible of a backstory and they will go on, and on, and on, and….yeah…..

9. As the GM is the master of time and space, which means if you give 3 days for the PCs to recover, hop across the planes, save their uber-wizard friend from the Pit of Hell and be back to face down the Apocalypse and the PCs say, “Not going to happen Bob”. Don’t be surprised if they didn’t also rescue Dorothy from Oz and reversed Global Warming while they were at it.

10. Celebrate PC ingenuity: If they found a cool way to kill your uber-monster of the week, reward them, don’t whine about how it was too easy. Also clever and unexpected solutions to problems (in and out of combat) are what players live for, so don’t be a spoil sport about it.

11. Oh and a final note, NO CLUE IS OBVIOUS FOR THE CLUELESS: What is obvious to you is not obvious to your players, remember rule #6.

PC vs. Consoles: The Upgrade Wars

My first console was a Atari 2600, my second an Xbox.

Yeah, you read that right, from 2-bit to 32-bit.

So what did I use in the intervening 20+ years?

Computers.

First there was the C-64 which lasted about 8 years, then a Compag 486 that lasted all of 3 years or so, then a HP Pentium one which lasted about as long, a Pentium II which lasted about 3 and now my current machine which lasted about 3, and really only used it for a year’s worth of gaming.

Seeing a pattern here?

No.

One word.

Upgrades.

Constant, expensive and infuriating upgrades. That’s the real advantage of a console over a PC. Yes, you can spend about $2000.00 (U.S.)  for the fastest Alienware, which will be completely obsolete a day and an hour and a half after booting it up for the first time.

Why is that? It’s the nature of the beast.

Software makes for PCs know that the next piece of graphic hardware or memory expansion is just around the corner and so they program their PC exclusive software to match. That’s what  Origin started in the 90s and everybody else jumped in. But consoles don’t work based on an accelerated upgrade curve. They are projected to be on the market for about 4 years. Which means that if you buy an Xbox or PS early enough, you will be hitting it’s prime 2 years into its prime. In order to catch up in a PC you probably have to change graphic cards every six months.

Now you do the math. Factor software costs, base hardware costs, oh and OS compatibility.

And now most of the games that once were the exclusive domain of PCs are just as good if not better in consoles; RPGs, FPS, sandbox games, air/space combat sims, you name it. And the controls are better over all. Yes, I know that nothing beats sniping with a mouse and keyboard, but I can run, strafe, lob grenades and stab you with a bayonet using my Xbox dual triggers before you can pull the trigger on that rifle.

And with online services like Xbox live, consoles are now crowding the last PC frontier, the online RPG (MMORPG).  Now the biggest hits come on the console first and later for the PC. Gone are the days of weak Arcade or PC to home ports.  In fact one of the reasons MMORPGs stay in business is that they keep their system requirements as low as possible for as long as possible so as to no alienate dedicated players who don’t have the time, money or inclination to run to the Best Buy(tm) every time the company decides to launch an upgrade. Of course they do take the risk that their graphics become outdated, but that’s a risk that the folks at Blizzard (for example) are willing to take in order to keep their 11 million subscribers.

Besides, many games these days are more about pretty shade effects, object dynamics and cinematic sequences than actual long play. Might as well buy that game and stick it into your console than to tear out the guts of your machine just to play 10-15 hours of pretty graphics. Your best friend already played the game, finished it and is already downloading the next expansion while your sitting in your bedroom floor tearing bloody clumps of hair wondering why the latest piece of Plug-and-Pray(tm) shit you bought only gives you a blank screen.

I’ll give you this much, some PC games still look pretty, but as you see the trailer below, ask yourself, why is this game PC-exclusive, when you and I both know a Xbox 360 or PS3 could do it without breaking a sweat?

Flash Fiction Friday: A Day Late and a Apocalypse Short

Haven’t done one of these in awhile and yes I am a day late (or several weeks, even a month or two if you’re into counting such things). However, I was writing a short story background for my latest RPG character and I decided to share it without you. Make of it what you will.

———-

The City fumed, screeched and stank as it always did. Winter had come early this year and with it an edge. Bill felt it in the air. He had one more package to deliver before turning in for the day. He parked his bike on an alleyway, away from the prying eyes of the MetroPol officers in the corner.

Fascist pigs.

They carried body armor and heavy assault rifles. They treated Mid-Town as if were some god forsaken occupied Third World country.  Bill”s boss was tired of covering his parking tickets and he didn’t want to give him a reason to fire him or the cops a reason to arrest him. He knocked on the metal door, “Quick Time Delivery! Package for Mr. Tom Harris!” He checked the address on the box again. Right place.

Screw this.

He left the small box on front step and turned to leave when he heard the door open but before he could say anything shock hit him in the back and everything went dark.

He opened his eyes but could not focus them, his arms and legs in metal restrains. A hooded figure stepped from the darkness into the light of a single light bulb over head. A familiar voice emanated from under the hood, “I’m sorry that I have to do this to you.”  A syringe pierced his arm, “and yes this is going to hurt.”

Fire course through Bill’s veins until the pain overwhelmed him. When he opened his eyes, he heard the same voice pushing him out of the room, “You got to get out of here, take this.” He gave Bill a  bag now loaded with something heavy and rectangular. “Run, I’ll cover you.”

“Whaaa….”

An explosion shook the building followed by flashes of light and gunfire. Bill stumbled away through a door and into the alley. He pulled the hood of his jacket over his head to ward off the cold blast of air. Heavily armed police and soldiers swarmed the building. Explosions echoed through the urban canyons. He looked up. A military helicopter hovered over the street. A second later, a large piece of concrete hit it. It maneuvered away, only to crash a block down. The street shook from the impact.

Bill ran for the safety of his apartment. There a pounding headache drove him to take a fistful of aspirin and go to sleep.

The next morning the news anchor talked about an anti-terrorist operation gone wrong, with several casualties, but no exact numbers. The network cycled handful of shaky images shot by bystanders on cellphones and digital videocams. His phone beeped. A few messages from Evelyn asking where the Hell he was, but none from his jerkass boss. He still had his job. Then he remembered his bag.

Inside he found a laptop. Once it loaded, a video came on screen. The same hooded figure from yesterday spoke directly to the camera.

“Bill, I’m sorry for what happened. I wish there had been another way. But I had no time, literally. By this time, the injections worked and you should be feeling the effects soon. I’ll explain what that means, exactly later, but for now you need to find the others. Things are deteriorating, fast. And by you,” the man in the screen pulled his hood back, “I mean me.”

Bill saw himself on screen.

Oh shit!

———

Confused?

That’s the idea.

Seen it all before?

This might give you a clue (click on the link for a hilarious review of the same):