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Welcome Back to the West
By oneshotstop
Posted on 08/01/16
The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...


oblivion437 oblivion437's Blog
The Last Guardian Goes Gold
Posted on Sunday, October 23 2016 @ 18:45:52 PST

Shuhei Yoshida sent out a tweet confirming that The Last Guardian has gone gold.  In other news a species of birds that oink, weigh about seven hundred pounds, have four legs with cloven hooves, snouts and curly tails have been discovered in and around the Minato Ward of Tokyo.  The best experts from Tokyo have assured this news desk that these two events are completely unrelated.

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Why Fallout 4 is Terrible Part 2: Writing
Posted on Monday, September 26 2016 @ 14:17:20 PST

    Fallout 4's writing, its use of it as a context for play and for informing design, is incredibly difficult to analyze quickly.  A thorough breakdown of every failing in its writing, from retcons to plot holes to broken characterization to a setting which makes very little sense on even mild scrutiny and everything in between, could go on practically forever.  The failures in Fallout 4's writing aren't isolated; they weave together, producing additional problems in how the broken individual bits relate to a larger, even more disjointed whole.  The preceding paragraph is a sufficient identification of the kind of problems it has but it lacks the flavor and depth of actual description.  For those interested, I warn the following section is of rather unwonted length.
    Writing in Fallout 4 is generally bad.  It's not that it's poor in prose styling (it is poor in prose styling but that's largely irrelevant) but that it is incoherent and lacks a solid grasp on the medium, its setting, its genre, or what theme - if any - that is meant to drive the game.  The writing, in this respect, reflects every other aspect of the game.  It's a cornucopia of tropes, flowing over with a variety that lacks any coherent center that drives it in some direction.  The ingredients are there but they don't get mixed properly and the result is devoid of composition.  It shouldn't be controversial to say that the writing of Bethesda's two Fallout games is way off the tone of the others.  Where Fallout 1, 2, and New Vegas (hereafter collectively refered to as 'the old school') use black comedy to leaven an otherwise incredibly bleak experience, Fallout 3 and 4 use slapstick and random gags to disguise a lack of any real meaning in the endless, repetitive, badly designed violence that drives their games.  Because that's all their Fallout games are at the end of the day.  They're parades of violence with the barest of pretexts stitched on to hide it.  This is one of the most bitter contrasts between 3 and 4 and the old school.  In the old school the violence was a natural product of the loss of civilization, law and order, and the low opportunity costs for violent or otherwise criminal behavior.  It happened because circumstances both encouraged it and were more permissive of it so its manifestations were logical products of that.  The player was invited to think about it and what it implied about the human condition.  This in turn was a means to the end of making the setting and the game more grounded and realistic amid all the ray gun science fiction.  In Fallout 3 and 4 the violence is an end in itself.  They can reiterate 'war never changes' until they're blue in the face but they've never once indicated the slightest grasp of its meaning.
    Fallout 4 opens in one of the most hilariously wrongheaded ways imaginable.  It starts before the war.  It depicts the pre-war world as a kind of wonderland of high-tech 50s nostalgia.  Right out of the starting gate everything is wrong.  The tone is wrong.  Pre-war America was a Hellhole.  This was continuously established across all previous games, in any and every way that America just before the bombs fell ever came up it was always reinforced that it was a place that had gone as far as it could, had degraded into a totalitarian nightmare of brainwashing, resource shortages, perpetual war, cultural stagnation and blind lurching toward nuclear brinkmanship.  Further, the wallowing in 50s nostalgia is fundamentally off.  Fallout was never about the 50s.  Nor was it about 50s American values.  It was about the kind of future that Americans of the 50s imagined, looked forward to, and believed in.  It set about showing how utterly rotten that future would actually be.  It's a deconstruction of a set of ideas, not a critique or satire of a specific historical period.  Bethesda never understood that nor the difference between the two.  Anyhow, during this tone-deaf introduction that plays havoc with the setting (we'll get back to that, dear reader!) we're introduced to our spouse, son, and robot butler.  Of the three the robot butler has all the charisma and none of the drawbacks, mostly because Stephen Russell does Yeoman work with bad material.  The son looks like a cheap doll and the spouse has no chemistry with the protagonist.  Then vault tec rep (that's actually his name, he doesn't have an actual name, you see, it's supposed to be symbolic somehow) shows up, you allocate your stats (they kind of don't matter) and pick a name for your character, then you stand around, console your kid, hear the bad news about the war finally going fully hot, run to the nearby vault, watching a nuclear explosion go off as you descend the elevator, sit through one of those needlessly elongated loading screens, inside the vault you're manipulated into getting turned a human popsicle in a cryopod, you wake up some unspecified time later, can't do anything but watch as your spouse gets shot for no good reason while two mysterious jerks in hazard suits abduct your son and Keythe Farley ominously growls, "at least we have the backup," and then you get frozen again.  Then you wake up again, this time the pod opens, and the game finally starts proper, with the player having to kill about a dozen radroaches to get out of the Vault and from there you can pick up the plot thread or ignore it.  The sandbox is open now.
    Let's talk about this introduction.  Before we get to the heavy part, let's just talk about pacing.  Fallout 4's intro has terrible pacing.  It wastes a great deal of the player's time.  The old school got the job done quickly.  Fallout 1 took all of two minutes of Overseer briefing plus a small cave to get the player out into the wild doing their thing.  The cave is an applied lesson in what the player would have learned from reading the manual, which was expected and customary back in the '90s.  Fallout 2 had the Temple of Trials which was, admittedly, overlong compared to Fallout 1' s intro, especially in view that the game dates to a time when players were expected to fully read the manual before so much as inserting the disc into the drive.  A further problem with it is that it affected the flow of experience and equipment upgrades for the early game.  It still has better pacing than Fallout 3 or 4.  Then New Vegas takes about the same amount of time as 1, and what's more important is that it doesn't really 'gate' player activity.  As soon as the player leaves Doc Mitchell's office, all the breaks are off.  It's possible to break almost the entire narrative sequence in under an hour.  Fallout 4, at about the hour mark, will have you just leaving the Vault for the first time.  There are other problems with the introduction.  Problems which make it an incoherent mess and suggest possible plot threads or branches which got arbitrarily cut off for no good reason.  First, the depiction of the pre-war world.  It's completely at odds with everything established about the setting.  Second, despite staring straight at a nuclear blast, the character's vision is in no way affected (staring directly at a blast at that distance would result in severe - potentially permanent - retinal damage) and neither the heat nor the gamma radiation (which both travel at the speed of light) apparently affected anyone standing on the platform.  Third, the timing of all the events is beyond suspect.  Everything happens conveniently right on top of each other, with no hitches, surprises or sudden left turns.  It's almost as if it were a crude facsimile of a real memory designed by someone who had only vague data about how a nuclear blast happens and designed it to trick someone into thinking they were someone they were not.  There are two reasonable explanations as to why this is the case.  Either the writers are terrible or the main character is a synth and this pre-war experience is a carefully stylized illusion as a form of programming to set up expected behavior.  If the former is the case then the writers are just bad and that's that.  If the latter then they bit off more than they could chew and wrote a pretentious, sniveling, nihilistic waste of the player's time.  This most likely means it was a possible outcome of the player's personal story but got dropped at some point with chunks of the material left in.  The result is an incoherent mess.  The intro makes little sense and is flatly at odds with established background, while the player character's identity is suspect.  It's the worst of both worlds because Bethesda's attempts at ambiguity always tend to go this way.  They try to make a situation complex and difficult but just end in making it stupid, as were the cases with Sierra Petrovita, Tenpenny Tower and the novitiate priest in Fallout 3.  Another possibility worth considering is that the entire pre-war background setup may have been some kind of late addition to the script.  The only references to it after the prologue that come to mind were all in the E3 presentation.  The protagonist never makes much in the way of mention of, say, prewar trips to Fenway, commonplace knowledge from before the war which is now lost or even personal knowledge of their professions that might be relevant.  The lawyer wife sits through a condescending lecture on elementary Latin that she herself could have given being a lawyer, the combat veteran husband has to take terrible tactical advice from incompetent fools who destroyed their own organization through sheer ineptitude.  It insults the character and the player alike.
    So, having escaped the vault our protagonist is told to head home by the user interface.  When they get there, a conversation with Codsworth (which doesn't make a lot of sense) leads them to Concord, a setpiece, and five of the stupidest characters ever written.  So they're trapped inside the museum of history by a group of raiders (it's not clear why such a large group of raiders felt the need to harass five dispossessed nobodies, nor is it ever made clear what they were doing in Concord other than waiting to get shot and mauled by wild animals) and can't leave the way they came.  Instead, they want the player to activate a suit of power armor that's been conveniently sitting up there on the roof for 210 years, next to a vertibird which crashed into the roof (and existed 210 years ago, we'll get to that later) and in order to do this the player must use a completely non-extraordinary set of skills to retrieve a fusion core to power the suit (which was never necessary before) and use a similarly non-extraordinary set of skills to activate and use the suit.  We know all these skills are not extraordinary because we see random NPCs using them all the time.  So their sitting around and waiting for the player to miracle along and solve all their problems for them really doesn't add up.  The player is also expected to believe that no one else with the same basic survival skills that everyone else seems to have has ever happened upon this spot, in 210 years, and got the bright idea of making off with the suit and minigun.  This entire scene is a bunch of big stretches, is what I'm getting at.  Anyhow, the suit is activated, minigun pulled, bad guys fried, a Death Claw pops up and the player has to likely burn through the remaining Minigun ammo and some other ammo besides to get the job done.  The Deathclaw pops out of the underworks of Concord but it's not clear, on further inspection, how the Deathclaw (which is about the size of a grizzly bear) got down there in the first place, what it was doing down there, or why it did what it did so suddenly.  The party of random misfits makes off to Sanctuary Hills (what's left of your old home) and in gratitude for saving their hides and finding them a safe place to live instead of running them off what is still technically the player's property the player is rewarded with the obligation to house, feed and protect them.  This involves some 'go kill some random nameless people' quests and of course interacting with the game's awful inventory and building interfaces.  Other than XP there's not much in the way of substantive benefit and the whole thing is ultimately a big, meaningless, distraction.  It doesn't advance the plot at all, nor does it really help shape the player's relationship with the setting any better, and it introduces the obvious question 'if any random jerk can come along and do this, why is this place such a Hellhole?' and it feels like something slapped together after installing New Vegas' Real Time Settler mod with less actual design work than that mod has, but I'll wait until discussing Far Harbor to actually accuse Bethesda of plagiarism.  The player can not engage, can forge ahead with the plot, can get involved at least enough to get some directions on where to go next.  The next stop is Diamond City, which feels like equal parts bad ideas and wasted opportunities on careful examination but it seems this is a good place to put the plot inquiry on hold.  The problem with trying to dissect the flaws in Fallout 4's writing is that a similarly painstaking and verbose approach is needed, from the player's arrival in Diamond City to the various endings.  There's simply no way around it and by the time it's done it would be longer than an average novel.  As I'm not making any money doing this and my desire to enjoy my leisure time still exceeds my contempt for Bethesda I'll not go any further.  Tune in next time for even more recondite complaints!

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It's (Semi) Official: Bioware is Dead
Posted on Tuesday, September 13 2016 @ 17:25:28 PST

Today, at EA's website, an announcement by Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, declared that Bioware, Maxis, and their mobile division will be merged into a single entity called 'EA Worldwide'.  This announcement, just six months in advance of Andromeda's release, on the heels of the closure of their official forums, with the nigh-impossibility of finding accurate statistics on the sales of Dragon Age: Inquisition, can only mean one thing.  Bioware is done.

You can read the eulogy major announcement here.

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Why Fallout 4 Is Terrible Part 1: Technology
Posted on Tuesday, September 6 2016 @ 11:24:11 PST

"Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi ch'intrate" --Dante Alighieri
    This is not really a review of Fallout 4  so much as it is a post-mortem of the game's launch, support cycle, DLC cycle and current state n...   read more...

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Rumor: Trademark Filed for Fallout New Orleans
Posted on Monday, August 15 2016 @ 12:27:25 PST

The ever-diligent Fallout subreddit picked up a short article from Australian game blog Press Start, titled rather simply 'Fallout New Orleans Trademarked'.  In it, the post links to a seemingly above board trademark filing with the info...   read more...

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Metroid 2 Fan Remake AM2R Releases on Metroid Anniversary (Update)
Posted on Saturday, August 6 2016 @ 18:42:10 PST

Today, August 6, 2016, sees the first version release of 'Another Metroid 2 Remake' version 1.  It's a free remake of the Gameboy classic on PC which incorporates some features from later 2D Metroids for smoother control.


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Metroid Is Officially 30 Today
Posted on Saturday, August 6 2016 @ 11:31:52 PST

On August 6, 1986, the first Metroid released for the Famicom.  30 years have passed, and it's been a bumpy ride, but it's definitely a series with many solid entries.  The good ones, including Retro's wonderful Prime trilogy, a...   read more...

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The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Bethesda Game Studios Part 2
Posted on Wednesday, July 13 2016 @ 17:39:00 PST

I honestly wish I didn't have cause to write this post.  I've given Bethesda a very hard time in my comments on this site and elsewhere for their lack of originality, my genuine and severe dislike of their approach to design, and their i...   read more...

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The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Bethesda Game Studios
Posted on Sunday, July 10 2016 @ 20:14:31 PST

I've not reviewed Fallout 4, yet, and I might get around to it some day.  Until then I'm most likely going to chuck gravel at Bethesda's increasingly crack-brained approach to design and technology.  Today is for technology.

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System Shock Remaster Hits Funding Goal
Posted on Saturday, July 9 2016 @ 10:01:09 PST

On Saturday, July 9, Nightdive Studios' Kickstarter for a System Shock remake reached its funding goal.  The goal was reached with 19 days to spare and additional funding now goes to stretch goals.

Nightdive is perhaps best kn...  

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