Tag Archive: Fallout 4


Year of the…Blank

Tag, 

Although January was a fairly active month – in terms of social activity, there has not been much worth of pen and ink (or its 21st century equivalent). So that’s why the lack of blog posts. There’s been the usual gaming sessions, pub quizzes, work stuff (plus trips to Swansea and Bristol) and random activities that comprise of 21st century living. But other than going to Bristol (city centre rather than one of the suburbs), there has actually been nothing “new” to enjoy. Is that the theme for 2017? Take comfort in the familiar?

Something I did manage to do in both Bristol and Swansea was to visit the board game shops. I know, other folk in new places will make a beeline for the cultural sights, others the pubs, me – the board game shops. My lack of general life aside, I enjoyed my trip to both stores: The Gamers Emporium (High Street Swansea) and Excelsior Games (Bond Street Bristol). Both stores had play areas, bigger than those in Leisure Games but that’s not exactly difficult – no offence guys. And the stores were tastefully arranged showing the stock (sealed and opened). I felt compelled to make purchases in both of them (Eldritch Horror expansion Signs of Carcosa and Boss Monster 2 + some card sleeves) cos you have to support these businesses otherwise they’ll become something pointless like nail bars or tanning salons.

So looking ahead to February and beyond, there isn’t much more to note at present other than the usual run of birthdays and weekly activities. There’s the possibility of heading off to Dublin later in the month with work, might even be the day before my birthday. I’ve been trying to think of stuff to do either on the momentous day or that weekend but so far, I’ve drawn a complete blank. Well, that’s not true, there have been many ideas but all of them rejected for…well, pretty good reasons actually. If I don’t get something in diaries soon, it’ll be a re-run of last year’s couch fest. 

I think the vague plans I was formulating to head to Boston in late March are postponed – cash flow is an issue at the moment. The collapse in the pound has hit my finances too. I hadn’t noticed until January just how much more money I was haemorrhaging from my monthly stipend. I think these things are going to bear much closer scrutiny for the time being. It’s incredible how the newspapers aren’t screaming about this phenomenon but considering the political affinities of said papers, it’s not all that surprising. Put it this way, any dreams of home-ownership have receded even further away. Unless I can get a mortgage on a cardboard box around the back of Waterloo station.

Lastly, if you [happen to] read back through the reams and reams of material appended to this blog, you’ll see that I have a tendency to name years, sometimes after things that have happened to me, occasionally in response to other events. I’ve narrowed down 2016 to several possibilities before I settle on one: is the Year of Death – in response to the celebrity bloodbath? The Year of the Achilles – after my damn ankle issues for most of the year? The Year of the Sole Survivor – after enjoying Fallout 4 so much? The Year of Mitteleuropa – after my trips to Berlin, Austria and Slovakia? Or perhaps the Year of Stupid Decisions? I don’t think the latter requires any explanation. Comments on the back of a postcard please.

 

Advertisements

High Priest of Babylon

Nihao, 

I had a blog entry written on Friday ready for posting but it – in part – was overtaken by events and was not exactly Shakespeare in its quality. Wasn’t exactly Janet and John either, they’re more coherent. So I’ve erased it and decided to put some different thoughts on the screen.

Quick lowdown from the weekend then. 2/10 – could have been way better. Thanks to Spanish quince jelly leaking all over the fridge (not mine, I add), my Saturday afternoon was spent attending to that mess, then just deep cleaned the wretched thing. It sapped my will to do anything else, particularly as I stank of bleach and mysterious fridge scents. Tried to get in on some GTA fun but had a tantrum at some really, really bad luck on a mission where everything that could have gone wrong, did. So resigned myself to more cleaning, Fallout 4 and making a huge bowl of chilli.

Speaking of that horribly immersive, addictive game, I finally tried the Vault-Tec Workshop add-on by making my way down to Vault 88. I have enjoyed building up settlements (even if they end up kinda homogenous) but trying to build up a vault is horribly time consuming and it’s difficult to measure how much I’m actually going to bother doing it properly. There’s no tutorial (except for a couple of lesser features) which is needed when it comes to connecting the Vault together, especially multiple floors/levels. There’s no labelling as to the various bits and pieces of the Vault and how they might work which again a tutorial might cover but the in-game descriptive text is lacking. Whilst the additional odds and sods that come with the workshop are fun, the execution of the main idea is weak and flawed. Side comment – was the ghoul in charge of the Vault voiced by the same actress who voiced Tavion in Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy? Because that’s all I could hear when I played. 

Sunday…started with such promise but descended into the usual quagmire. The extra hour in bed was welcome and I think that was the highlight of the day. I was on a promise y’see, something really good but because fate was in the power of other human beings, BIG FAT LETDOWN. Was still fuming on Monday. After a miserable in the orifice [sic], I went home with the specific goal of trying to feel better; other priorities rescinded. I remembered the pack of Belgian Waffles I had so bought some Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce and just indulged in a calorie fest. Certainly it was more fattening than my actual dinner (Wild Mushroom Ravioli from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range @ 357 calories). And I have to admit, it did work. Well that and stupidjerkfacegirl having her last day in our team. Good riddance. 

Changing tack – occasionally, I might watch the WhatCultureGaming vlogs on YouTube. There was one about the hardest achievements to get in video games and the mission from the original GTA mission where you have to assassinate the US President was on the list. Something in the commentary about you’re guaranteed to fail. I admit it is a doozy but I’ve beaten it at least twice. Unlike the modern incarnations where player characters can soak up bullets like raindrops, the original GTA was a “one shot and you’re dead” type game although if you found body armour, you could absorb three bullets before the one fatal one took you down. That said, bullets could be dodged as their trajectory was rather slow.

Why is that relevant? The mission in GTA is for the Rastas in Vice City where they say that the High Priest of Babylon is in the city and you’re to take him out. It’s only when you approach the motorcade when you realise it’s the President surrounded by several of his machine gun toting secret service agents. As soon as you get near, all weapons fire and unless you have an inkling of what’s going on. And failed missions (unless you saved) cannot be attempted a second time so revisiting this is rather difficult as well as time consuming.

As I recall, the trick is rocket launchers and flame throwers. The former to hit the motorcade, the latter to mop up the agents. Because bullets and missiles move slowly to give players a sporting chance to avoid them, I found the best way was to approach from the south, line up to where you know the motorcade is, fire the rocket launcher and chase it. By the time you’re detected, the missile will explode against the motorcade and get the President, hopefully taking out agents in the splash damage. Then leg it away, quickly switching to the flamethrower and firing backwards indiscriminately. Agents are wearing body armour too but it’s useless against the flame thrower. You get paid…a lot of money for that mission (so having as many multipliers on as possible is highly advisable). If successful, is often enough to give you the cash to finish the level and the game.

Beige Skies?

A dull-looking October Wednesday where there is zero sky, just cloud. A bunch of really dull autumnal fashions on display (this season is beige, apparently) as well as pavements covered in leaves. At least in Lambeth – Westminster is a little more organised though most of the brown and gold little buggers are remaining steadfastly stuck to their progenitors. 

How was your weekend? Mine blessedly began on Thursday this week as I felt the need to take an extra day off. Given the activities and tasks required for Saturday and Sunday, having more time to deal with shopping, cleaning, cooking and stress reduction. Played a bit of Fallout, progressing my latest game. Although I hadn’t noticed that the final three expansion packs had failed to install, instead were awaiting manual intervention. So once I did that, began to update my settlements with the latest items, current favourite being the Nuka Cola mixer which makes all those crappy bottles suddenly worth their weight in caps.

Disappointment of board games Wednesday – played a game of King of Tokyo and NOBODY DIED! How can you play a game when nobody is clawing anyone else to death in an attempt to take control of the Japanese capital. Such a passive game – ugh. I was the only one really trying to do damage to other players. Damn wussy types. I’m not going to let the others forget that either. We also had a game of (American) Ticket to Ride, Paul won – I would have had I ended the game earlier but I was trying to farm tickets and not having a great deal of luck getting good routes to score the most points. In the three turns Paul snuck in with a cheap victory, he played two-fifteen points which enabled him to win the game by eight points. You can see my folly; hubris being the precursor to nemesis.

And we were also playing a game of Spaceteam which is a mobile game which Marcin introduced me to. Although the damn game is unstable with four players (at least on my home router), we did ultimately manage to get several sessions in. If you don’t know it, it’s a co-op game for between 2-8 players where the premise is that we are on a spaceship trying to outrun what looks like a supernova and in the fine tradition of Star Trek technobabble, have to work together to control the space ship out of danger. Buttons, switchers, levers and sliders need to be pushed but the instructions will pop up not only on your phone but on those of other people. So the game quickly dissolves into a shouty, brawling mess as people holler commands and those who cannot differentiate between two sets of verbal instructions flounder. Great fun.

Just to mention a thank-you to Star Trek Timelines for not hosting an event last weekend by listening to feedback from us fans. They’ve been event heavy recently with something going on every weekend for the past couple of months. Some of the events are really time intensive and for a light-touch game, is something you just don’t want to keep committing to.

So Friday, met a friend for lunch (tapas), went shopping for Raclette cheese and other odds and sods, cleaned the house, more F4. I heartily recommend Selfridge’s Ratatouille chutney. I had a grim feeling that it was going to be another of my bad-choice impulse purchases but actually it was really, really good. Especially on the Raclette. Oxford Street wasn’t too bad in terms of crowds. Only one surge of anger walking down Regent’s Street towards the bus stop. Usual issue – family of five all walking side by side on a narrow pavement at pall-bearer pace.

Saturday was Raclette day – went very well though was totally drained by the end of it. And most of Sunday was quiet, some low-level activities until time for the Steak House quiz prize. I enjoyed the soup, the fishcake and the Tiramisu for dessert. Food was good, liquor was excellent and the restaurant ambience was better than the first time – no squabbling middle aged couples. Two of the table had a strop and refused to pay the full share of the tip (one of the “free” bowls of fries worth £3.75 was delivered late which meant a £15 shortfall). So I made that up myself. I declined to join the others in a pub afterwards; not because of the strop but my ankle was on fire (really need to see a doctor) and I went home to lie on my bed for three hours. Then I shuffled under the duvet.

Final thought for the day. I never saw the appeal of the band/group Yes. I don’t hate them, I don’t have anything against them but their appeal is something that I struggle with. Still, Rick Wakeman was always good on the various TV shows that he appeared on in the 80s and 90s. Why I chose to say/type that, I just don’t know. Call it brain-fart of the day, number one. Not a bad start to a Wednesday.

Viva Forever

Last week saw some of the most typical British summer weather possible. Temperatures fell to “do I dare turn on the radiator” levels and then rose to “break out the fans”. And there was of course, an entire day of rain which although inconvenient, did at least wash a lot of the tree pollen into the gutter. By the weekend though, the pollen was back and with reinforcements. Had to (reluctantly) break back into my antihistamines in order to keep on top of the hay fever. Still, things will only get worse – sleepless nights, noisy weekends (because of the free parking on Rita Road) and insects galore. But there’ll be irritating, patronising weather reporters gushing forth with all sorts of positive adjectives about the weather for the next three months (Carol Kirkwood is top of the list of annoying). I demand an alternate weather forecast for the cynical, the nihilists and the vampires amongst us.
Tuesday’s quiz: came third (with our 2 point deduction for winning). Guffed up a lot in the second half and I’m deeply ashamed to say that I answered correctly a question on the Spice Girls. Couldn’t touch alcohol though, drank way, way too much on Monday morning and came into work feeling rougher than sandpaper wrapped in barbed wire. So stuck to the lemonade…

Wednesday Games: We finally broke out the Cities expansion pack to 7 Wonders and played three of games (made soft-shell tacos to accompany) with the new packs. I didn’t get a look in at the two new wonders (Petra & Byzantium) personally but Paul got Petra. Brendan won two of the games and I won one by falling back on the “putting all eggs in one science basket” approach. The “black cards” proved very useful in being able to acquire resources for free – in the game I won, I only bothered with three stone and one papyrus total + commerce & black card buildings. Think luck rather than skill had a large hand in it however. We didn’t play with the Leaders expansion so we don’t know how the two would interact but I guess that’s next on the list of things to try. Then Babel.

Thursday and Friday were pretty quiet, uneventful days. The sort where at work, time stops and each minute is played out over an hour. With us being firmly in the Referendum purdah period, there is something of a slow-down all around. Couple that with the local election purdah period and it adds to an extended period of freezing out all announcements in case one side cries foul. Whilst important to the running of a free and fair election process, it’s nonetheless frustrating for those in the centre. Regardless of the result, 24th June to 21st July will be a manic period.

Saturday. The plan was to go out and shop, spending the high street vouchers that have been sat in my rucksack for two months unspent. Nothing special that needed buying, just wanted to see what (if anything) there was that I needed. Maybe. Or just go to HMV and get something there. I also tried a new walk into the west end, walking from home to Chelsea Bridge and then picking up the Sloane Square/Sloane Street route north. It took a surprisingly long time to get to Chelsea Bridge, probably because I was trying to finish the latest DS9 novel (Force & Motion, bit of a slog) and the main route down does not parallel the river, rather it’s off by about 15 degrees which means a substantive course correction at some point. Anyway, the reason for that little bit of pedantry was that I was about an hour into the walk when I realised I’d left the damn vouchers at home. 

But it was all good exercise, I guess. Walked the entire length of Oxford Street, finding absolutely nothing I wanted except the usual comic book pick up from FP. Went home, called in at Waitrose for a few odds and sods, bought a scratchcard, won £100, gloated, went home.

Sunday: given my abject failure the previous day, I tried again but over to E15 this time, returning to the scene of…well, many crimes. It was another largely unsuccessful trip (some days I spend like a drunken sailor, other days I’m more tight-fisted than Scrooge McDuck) but did see the new Loading Bar which had popped up on West Ham Lane having heard about it from Brendan. As they were not allowed to remove completely the former name “Princess of Wales”, they’ve rearranged the lettering to read “Secret Weapon”. Different although I’m sure there’s one or two klutz-types who will blunder past without putting two and two together. Still, begs the question why the name of the pub cannot change? No different to Jolly Gardner’s/Zeitgeist in Vauxhall. Ho-hum.

General Gaming: This weekend saw Star Trek Timelines do another event: the Ferengi Traditionalists have hired Frank Hollinger (from a Fistful of Datas) and Chekov Clayton (whatever the TOS one was with the shootout at the OK Corral) to do some of their schemes but it’s going horribly wrong for them. At time of writing, the event isn’t quite closed but I’m hovering around the 10,000 place mark. (Post Script – published on Wednesday 8th, finished at 11,000-ish) never had a Data character before the event so those missions where the presence of an android was necessary would have been useful.

I started a new game of Fallout – just to play through to see the Brotherhood of Steel ending. Bypassing most of the secondary quests except the really quick ones. And not building up settlements unless absolutely necessary (i.e. Sanctuary Hills). I’m saying no more, except that I might do a Survival Mode play through. Looks way more stress inducing.

End of the (Rail)Road

Fallout 4.  

Ten days of solid game play – that’s 240 hours folks and I’ve finally finished the game, throwing in my lot with the Railroad. I also used the bank holiday weekend to complete the Far Harbor DLC beforehand and I ended up uniting the factions. I don’t think those are spoilers but if they are: tough. Dr Do(o)m asked me what am I going to do next. I replied, after mentioning there’ll be more DLC on its way, that I intended to reclaim my life. But if I play the game again, I will go straight for the main quest, ignore the radiant quests and concentrate entirely on one faction, probably the Brotherhood of Steel as it feels/appears that their way of winning the game is different from all the others who have more linked objectives. 

I have to give full credit to the writers and the voice actors – I’d long made my mind up to side with the Railroad for when the game would diverge into the end-phase but the characters in the Institute were amazingly persuasive. I found myself sympathising with their goals. What tvtropes would call “well-intentioned extremists”, it was only when Father called for the extermination of someone as casually as you would order breakfast that any potential wavering on the issue dissolved into the ether. At least with the way I played through the game, it could be different for other endings/paths.  

On the subject of the Railroad ending – and here be (probable) spoilers – having brought down the other antagonists, they revert to their primary mission of helping and saving synths. With that sort of power and general good-will behind them, it’s very hard to believe that they wouldn’t move into a more political role for the Commonwealth. Granted, the last time it was attempted, it ended badly for all concerned. That said, there is a large, brand-new crater in the ground in what is downtown Boston which could cause…some ill feeling. Especially as it’s probably going to be a great place for Mirelurks to breed. But RPGs seldom do much of a post-game, that’s what sequels (and DLC) are all about.

Interest in the game never waned, except when the game crashed (and of course it’d been ages since the last autosave) or Minutemen radiant quests would keep spawning, despite trying to avoid Bisto Gravy [sic] in Sanctuary Hills. I think this is again kudos to the creative team at Bethesda who kept the Commonwealth a challenging place to inhabit, visually very appealing with a very wide range of activities, characters and quests. With multiple options for success or failure on individual quests, it would encourage players to ultimately revisit the game to try something different in each quest, as well as with the different factions.

Room for improvement? Sure. Of course games are limited by size constraints and the energies of the designers in trying to cram in as much as humanly possible but what I’d principally like to see are improvements over time. The game is played over days, weeks and months (you start in October 2283, I finished in August 2284). But nothing seems to change and I’m not talking about the weather/seasons. Take Sanctuary Hills for example. When you visit this settlement between quests or to help the Minutemen (assuming Bisto Gravy isn’t moved), the prefab houses are still in the same languid state of repair with tiles missing, holes in the roof, debris on the floor etc. What I feel should happen is that as you build resource stockpiles in workshops from either looting or from your Scavenging Stations, settlements with existing structures should be repaired/maintained over time so that they don’t look the same as they did five minutes after the atomic blast. The large hole in the ground at Coastal Cottage should be filled in so that the land can be built on. The roof at Taffington Boathouse should be fixed (and the dead cow buried). Put succinctly, the rough edges of settlements should be smoothed over. 

I also think that if part of the game at least is getting the Commonwealth back on its feet, at least if you play as the Minutemen, then further industries _could_ be developed. Grow razorgrain and then build a (wind)mill to turn it into flour. Use the flour and build a bakery to create food. I know – game limitations but it’d bring the Minutemen back into the game. Securing settlements and storming the Castle is really the only thing they do. As well as handing out unsolicited radiant quests.

And my other change would be at the Ironworks where the Forged keep respawning. Every time you go to the Slog (and the tarberries are worth it if you like making things at the chemistry bench), there’s invariably a caravan that wanders by, starts a battle which all the settlers from the Slog emerge and fight some really tough, nasty enemies. This can occasionally spill over to the Hub City Auto Wreckers which you feel compelled to resolve.

Glad to have finished the game but sad to leave behind – at least for a while – such an engrossing experience. But I do need to reclaim my life, get out more, achieve more etc. Still, it’s been a great two months. Now when’s the holodeck version coming out?

Kalends May

Once again folks, another week off of work, another week of blog-writing (and other regular activities) going to hell. Structure is nice and all but I do prefer the anarchy of free time. Which is why retirement will be great – apart from the fact that thanks to the Baby Boomers, I’m going to be at least 68. As Joey put it last night, we’re going to have to introduce the “Logan’s Run Law”.
Catch-up then:

1. Madrid: It’s not true what they say, the rain in Spain does not fall mainly on the plain. It falls on Madrid almost the entire time I was there. And it was so heavy that I swear a large wooden boat passed me by on the Grand Via containing two of every animal. So I went out on Sunday morning on Iberia – another airline where you have to pay for the food. €4 for a soft drink – sheesh. And I read last week that BA are considering, at least on the low budget routes, scrapping the freebies. Dear BA – DON’T!

Anyway, hotel Emperador on the Grand Via was very nice, good room, old-world fixtures and fittings, great breakfasts. The only two points of contention were that (1) the room was just too damn hot, even with the air con on and the window open & (2) the hotel was full of retired British people complaining that they couldn’t get a full English breakfast. Brits abroad – this is why would never stay at a resort. And the rain deterred from going to the rooftop terrace, bar and pool.

The city – I arrived on Sunday, left Tuesday night. Just enough time to see a few odds and sods, get appallingly drunk in some little bar, get soaking wet and buy some new togs. There was also a shop called House Art which seemed to sell all sorts of nick-nacks, hand crafted stuff, some of which were really ornate and looked fantastic. I didn’t venture in to buy as I could have walked out with a suitcase load of items as so much of it was cheap. My favourite piece was this granite pyramid, about the size of a fist which was a mere €10. The reflection of sunlight on the surface gave it a glow all of its own. And there were some pieces of petrified wood carefully painted with ornate, fractal designs. Something which you just don’t see here.

Did not get to see Guernica – thought it was at the Prado, not the museum down the road and after three hours of gawping at various biblical scenes, that was enough art for a year. But Madrid is not a place which has instantly recognisable landmarks, those are saved for other parts of Spain. Still, there were plenty of good walking opportunities, places to stop and sample the local fare and just generally take it easy. Would I go back? Maybe, but there are other places I’d like to see first. And definitely more in winter when it’s cooler.

2. Fallout 4: Despite 8 days and 8 hours of play in my second game, I’m still nowhere near finished. In fact, I’ve only just made it into the Institute so anyone who has completed the game will know how much longer there is to go. Why has it taken so long? Mostly my habit of roaming the map, walking between destinations rather than constantly “fast travelling” and completing every side/sub mission going for all the factions as well as the NPCs and picking up all the loot. I think my inventory between linked workshops rivals any major supermarket at this point. And Bethesda have cruelly released their DLC Far Harbour which means more play time is needed. But I did finish the Automata DLC and several of my settlements have robots running around on guard duty. Though Ada looks really scary with a skull now stapled to her head (don’t ask).

3. Made some slight progress on Star Trek timelines but blew a bunch of Dilithium (from the +100 per day cheap purchase) trying to get some premium characters so going to have to take my time rebuilding that. However, I do like the addition of the new daily Dabo wheel and the shuttle mission enhancements. Top character is currently Simon Tarses at level 64 (It’s because he’s the only common/uncommon character with a half-way decent medical rating for the Admiral Riker missions). Garak and Picard are close behind. Didn’t get all the badges in the recent outer space AdVenture Capitali$t challenge, was shy of one. And I’m eagerly awaiting the Egyptian version of Marble Age as I’ve been replaying that on my iPad a bit, particularly on the plane and at the airport to/from Madrid.

4. Week off: main objective was two-fold. Try and finish F4 (fail) and to give my feet a chance to recover from sustained abuse (success). No other major tasks or chores to have undertaken this time, a veritable week of self-indulgence. Frankly, the main highlight was the bowling on Thursday where I scored my best game ever at 163, utterly crushing Herr Schaller. Played three games and I won two of them, the third game on the last frame when I scored two strikes and a spare to snatch victory. Secret of my success? Getting really angry first although I cannot recall why. Alcohol helped because as we all know, chemically speaking alcohol _is_ a solution. There was also the monthly Griffin Games on the Sunday, played the usual stuff, nowt new. Lunch was amazing – a toad in the hole the size of a tractor wheel.

5. Mr B told me last week that Betrayal at the House on the Hill is getting its first expansion pack (why do I fall for board game expansion packs and balk at video game expansions most of the time?) and I finally got around to looking at it through Boardgamegeek today. Certainly has potential though could be tricky getting stuck in the roof when there are nasties roaming the house trying to get ya. Unless there’s a super-fun happy slide to use; though that didn’t work out in Treehouse of Horror III. Or was it IV? 

6. Also in the “upcoming game list” – Plague Inc. the board game is now on Kickstarter and although they’ve clearly met their goal, you can still support the project. I personally hope that they have made the board bigger so it looks less crowded. Looks like the planned/proposed release date is in November.

7. Another splurge in the board game shop in Finchley on Sunday: I only meant to browse but parted with…some cash, spent on a Ticket to Ride expansion, a gift for a friend (so that one is ok), the Babel expansion to 7 Wonders and the Godfather game which is a cross between Avalon and Mafia/Werewolves. In a huge box. Problem is, I have zero storage room. Looks like one in-one out now has to be extended further. I’ve been giving credence to the idea of getting rid of my old video game consoles (Megadrive, SNES, PS1) + games but that’s only a wee bit of room. I think this is a summer project, getting rid of more clutter.

No new contemplations, no earth shattering realisations. Just been a tranquil couple of weeks, long may it continue. It won’t of course, damn referendum coming up.

First the news, then the muse. This update was started two weeks ago and it’s been bumped down the priority list. 

Griffin Quiz: Not even a top 3 finish. Nasty, nasty questions asked. I was the only one eating and my teammates were eyeing up my chips avariciously. I was ready with fork in hand, just in case I needed to wield it like a trident.

Some of the gang and I were playtesting a board game version of the Plague Inc game (see blogs passim for my slow progress through the iPad version). It was being overseen by the developer/founder of Ndemic, James Vaughan. Although we were allowed to take pictures etc, I didn’t. So no teasers today. Like the video game, the board game sees you as a bacteria attempting to take down the world although global annihilation isn’t quite your goal this time. No, you’re competing against up to three other viruses to see who can score the most DNA points through mutations, wiping out countries etc.

It’s a work in progress but visually, it looks good with nice, 3D pieces, extra detail on cards and a quality map. Players of the video game will notice immediately the similarities in the board game, references etc. That said, I didn’t entirely enjoy it as much as the others. I felt the gameplay needed a bit of work as it seemed there was only one strategy you needed to pursue to victory and everything else was happenstance (i.e. the right combination of trait and event cards). Granted, I felt utterly hosed as we played as I had a lousy starting position and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to mitigate it. Also, that strategy (I won’t spoil it) gave the same reward as focussing your efforts in one particular area which meant that you didn’t really have to do much to be able to win.

I gave the game the weakest score out of the four players – whilst the game has a lot of potential, I feel it has a few more bugs to work out before publication. Would I buy it? Depends on what the game looks like after the extensive playtesting, I guess. Can’t decide just yet but there’ll be a few months to decide.

Rest of last week was fairly unremarkable though the weather saw definitely improvement. It was shorts-inside weather but not quite enough outside to want to switch to t-shirts from long-sleeves. Though there is still a tendency for the occasional chilly wind to blow in from the north. Weekend was spent on my second game/profile of Fallout 4, trying to catch up. Rather than the slow, gradual process, I made straight for downtown Boston, getting in my quicklinks with places such as Diamond City, Goodneighbor et al. I’ve probably logged 1/3 the same gametime now, own half the settlements that I did in the other game but conversely, there are several elements of progress made that I didn’t achieve in the other because I was more amateurish. And I think I’ve come across the perfect formula for building additional houses in my settlements so unhappiness should be a thing of the past. Much enjoy.

The muse bit: a two parter muse – linked by the grasshopper mind, leaping from once concept to another. 

I was thinking about a blog post on dating apps where you swipe left to disapprove/reject and right to approve; not just Tinder. But it got me thinking on an age old mental problem about an accident from the French Revolution which might have inadvertently shaped modern democracy – that of left and right wing politics.

That one first. Why are radical, reformists (with a socialist bent) called left-wingers and traditional, conservative types called right-wingers? Hopefully, you know the answer stems from the French Revolution. When the Estates General met in 1789, supporters of the King sat on the right of the speaker/president whilst the supporters of the Revolution sat on the left. It was quickly noted that those on both wings had a lot of common ground with each other and could readily identify with one another. These grouping was reported on in the media and the names stuck.

But for an accident of seating, could things be different today?

What do I mean by this? Well, it comes down to semantics really and the words “left” and “right”. Does human society and democracy naturally favour “right” over “left”? Certainly there is some evidence for this – in English, “right” can mean correct, accurate, even truthful. “Left” can have connotations of omitting or rejection – left behind, left back, left out, left on the shelf. Even the sound of the words has significance. The e in “left” is sort of flat sounding whilst the i and the gh in “right” give the word a slightly more uplifting note. It’s not in English that we can see a dichotomy; Latin gives us “sinister” and “dexter”, the former having more negative connotations, the latter more positive. French has “gauche” and “droit”, both of which have equivalents in English (though it’s adroit rather than droit). Even German has “links” and “reichts”, again with similar connotations. Perhaps this is down to the fact that 90% of the human species is right-hand dominant and this has spilled out into linguistics via religion, at least in the European family of languages.

What I’m saying is that there is a very heavy bias towards right over left and the biggest beneficiaries might well be political parties. Often the phrase “right-wing” is used as something of a negative adjective/noun when used by a left-leaning person but when used by a fellow right-winger, isn’t is possible that it’s employed knowing full well that right also means “correct”?

So imagine if you will, a world where the seating in the Estates General was reversed and that the revolutionaries sat to the right of the speaker. Would this translate into greater political dominance for the progressives over time? I think it would. Oh I grant you, taken on its own there’d be little noticeable difference but 230 years of political reporting using precisely the same terminology I feel, surely would have resonance with the public. The negative connotations of the left would now echo with and stick to the small c conservatives. This might cause a small dip in support over time or at least prove more of a challenge to persuade people of the argument.

What this means is…that I have too much time alone with my thoughts. And I’m sure someone with a degree or three has written extensively on the subject.

Anyway, back to the original premise of today’s article: swiping left and swiping right. It occurs to be that my left to right ratio is probably 15:1 and I was wondering am I being far, far too picky, finicky or just subconsciously destroying any chance of general happiness (what sort is left to your own imaginations, folks). I guess I’m kinda Sith, I do deal in absolutes. I’d give the full list of gripes but I realise how pretentious/anal that’ll make me sound. I’d like to think (or delude) that much of it is benign, for example: if someone states that they’re a huge music fan always going to gigs and concerts then it’d be a swipe-left situation, regardless of other, lesser criteria. Ditto sport.

Thing is, these types of apps are tailor made for today’s consumer society. Like the look of someone? Swipe right. Don’t like the look of someone? Swipe left. End of consideration. Which I guess is my point, there doesn’t appear to be much consideration or I don’t think there’s much evidence to support that hypothesis. Thing is, there’s no neat and tidy answer.

These five day weeks are a killer – I prefer it when I have chance to rig the calendar to avoid the whole full-week thing. That said, I think I’ve rigged it pretty well from next week onwards…

One of the rare times direct marketing has worked on me: Games Quest sent me their weekly email which completely whetted my appetite for the new expansion pack for Talisman; Talisman Cataclysm. Not played a game yet but it is effectively set after the apocalypse…magical apocalypse that is. The game replaces the main board (and is completely compatible with all the other expansion packs) but a lot of the squares have different interactions than what you’re used to and there is a new deck to interact with as well as the generic cards. And the usual new characters (the Mutant has grabbed my attention the most), endings and spells. I think the only one I’ve yet to get a hold of is the dragon expansion and then…well let’s not think about exactly how _much_ money has been spent on this hobby. I think a meth habit would be cheaper.

AdVenture Capitali$t just released its latest event in the game – Superheroes vs Supervillains. Sorta like the New Year event, there’s an element of balance in the game. If you level up heroes, it’ll impair the villains and vice-versa. Heroes will reduce the profit amount of the villains, villains reduce the profit speed of the heroes. I suspect the designers are Spiderman fans as “Rope Slinger” and “Jareth Green” (a hybrid Bowie/Green Goblin which is pretty clever once you think about it) are by far the most powerful characters in this seven day event. Half way through and I’m only about 35% of the way to completion. That said, there’s always a trigger point where you’re just his the accelerator to max profits.

And Star Trek Timelines too has had an update with Cadet Events. Kinda like missions except only your common and uncommon characters can take part (bet you wish you hadn’t deleted them all from your inventory to make room for Queen Arachnia and Captain Proton…) and these events are only open on certain days of the week. As well as the usual bumpf, it gives you a chance to earn some free Chronitons to do more normal missions. Hopefully, the game has been made a bit more stable with this patch as it crashes with alarming frequency.

More from the world of Fallout 4:

Came across the Pickman Gallery. Worth checking out. But not as disturbing as one of the Raider hangouts where there was a massive bonfire of settlers which immediately put me in the mind of something like Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen. A truly disturbing place, second time within twelve months that a game has seriously creeped me out (the GTA V torture scene).

So rather than faffing about, I’ve made a beeline for the quests, not least as I’ve now pretty much explored the entire map (finally entered and “colonised” the south-eastern corner) and making some actual progress, joining the Railroad and getting Deacon to join me. The code to get in – not exactly a brain-buster folks. That said, I did find the magazine to allow me to build pot plants at settlements which I’m sorry to say, I’ve been doing a great deal.

Now I’m quite into the game, more bugs are popping up which can be a frustrating experience. First is when your cross-hairs disappear after talking to some NPCs at your settlements and you can no longer interact with the game environment. The only solution is to save and then immediately re-load. Second bug: interacting with companions. Sometimes when you try and talk or access their inventory, the game refuses to recognise your commands. This started to happen at the same time as the first bug. And the third bug: object placement in settlements is getting trickier the more developed they become. There’s the occasional game crash but I think that’s more “get off the Xbox and do something else”. If my Xbox was sentient, that is.

That said, still enjoying it and mentally planning my second play-through, how I’d design settlements differently, different paths through the game etc. I dunno if it’s a reflection of personal circumstance or what but I have yet to try any of the chems available in the game. Even with KOTOR where the adrenal stimulants were not addictive, I very rarely used them for a temporary boost in fights (it just never seemed worth it) and preferred to carry a bunch to sell at a vendor when I need to make cash. That said, with the Idiot Savant Perk and access to a Chemistry station, you can make drugs to your hearts content and gain experience points too. Huzzah for progress!

 

Now’s a good a time as any to talk abaht Fallout 4, not least as the damn game has successfully extracted most of my attention in the last couple of weeks. I completed the quest to recapture the Castle last night which is far enough into the game to prattle on about it. 

Having been wedded almost exclusively to the Nintendo bandwagon for the past twenty years, I have missed out playing – chiefly due to being obdurate – many of the major titles that other gamers have enjoyed. Many games I would never have played, titles like Gran Turismo, Soul Caliber, Tony Hawks, Fifa (though I did play the first on the SNES and hated it). But every once in a while, I stumble across a game, often in a series, that I try out and think “why haven’t I played this before?” Then I consider that on the N64, I didn’t like some of the sequels that came on that console (Duke Nukem, Quake) and it kinda put me off.

So why did I pick up Fallout 4? Dunno really, tough one to explain. I suppose it was the fault of the shopping vouchers (as mentioned in blogs passim) which were begging to be spent. There was nothing I wanted on the clothing or the utensil front so entertainment was the chosen option. I looked at Xbone titles in store and it was quite difficult to choose a game as there weren’t any “must have” titles on the shelves. The only game I’m truly looking forward to in the near or far future is South Park: The Fractured But Whole which is a while off. And backwards compatibility for the Xbone is painfully slow; have they released any other titles after the original flurry? I’d like to replay Red Dead Redemption and some of the other titles I have for the 360 which I hadn’t gotten around to playing just yet.

I vaguely remember the ads for Fallout 4 (but more prominently the Fallout 3 adverts) which is why it registered in my brain as well as what little I’d read up on the series. Other contenders were Evolve, Far Cry 4 & Far Cry Primeval. Had Elite Dangerous been available on hard copy, I’d have snapped it up without a second thought. Again, as mentioned in the last blog entry, I drifted towards blu-rays and the special offers as I think the last film I bought was the remake of Robocop – major let-down. Only picked one title and as I had three minutes before I had to meet the gang for bowling, I snatched the game off of the shelf, paid for it and headed up the escalator to the second floor.

So that’s the why. Typical pedantry, I know but I’ve never had a connection to the series before now and it has just never flagged up on my radar. In fact, I don’t know many other gamers who have played it; many of my friends are into other genres, titles etc. 

I assume many of you readers know the premise: starts in an alternate Earth, 2077. The zeitgeist of the 1950s never went away and influences technology and design for almost 120 years. Eventually a cold war between the USA and China blows hot with a full scale nuclear exchange oblitering global civilization. Some citizens are chosen deliberately for the Vault Programme, to live in underground cities for years, even decades as the fallout settles down. In this title, you fast forward 210 years as your character (and all the residents of the nearby town) have been put in cryo-suspension except you’re the only one to survive – well, you and your son who was thawed out early and stolen which you somehow witnessed despite the slumber. You awake to a very different world from the one you knew, one set in what was Massachusetts and is now referred to as “The Commonwealth”.

Fallout 4 is a hybrid RPG/1st Person or 3rd Person (depending on perspective) shooter which has developed its own attribute system called S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (as opposed to the more traditional GURPS. Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck are the seven categories and obtaining points in the main categories will unlock options in sub-categories. This already gives your character a very broad range of skills to learn and diversify depending on your gameplay preferences. I think that quite wisely, not too many gameplay options are directly tied into S.P.E.C.I.A.L. so you’re not restricted too much if you don’t put points in one skill over another. The Local Leader perk/sub-category is pretty essential to settlement management so shout-out to that one and Strength is crucial to carrying stuff if you’re a pack-rat or a walking arsenal. 

 Also, the game has a touch of the Sims about it in terms of Settlements. Your character is going to help rebuild civilization to some extent – to help the downtrodden masses, to provide areas of sanctuary when exploring the map, strongholds where you can sleep securely and the ability to harvest and craft goods and items for use later. Each settlement is set over a particular parcel of land – some are huge (like the Castle), some are tiny (like Hangman’s Alley). You can construct buildings to live/work in, defences, plant crops, generate electricity from crude nuclear powered generators for more advanced items and even set up shops to sell items. Also, you can customise/pimp your buildings and settlements with furniture, decorations and the like which is where “the Sims” comes into it.

Like any RPG, your character roams the land encountering people who’ll give him/her quests which vary in difficulty. It’s no spoiler to say that you start in the north-west corner of the Commonwealth and slowly spread out in terms of exploration and influence. The north of the Commonwealth is dangerous but manageable. The south which includes (what was) Boston is far more challenging with all sorts of post-atomic horrors (giant animals, mutants) and hostile survivors attacking you and generally making your life difficult. Quests are typical RPG fare: find/recover items/people, escort missions, clear out enclaves of hostiles, make something special for someone, pay someone off either cash or large quantities of raw materials/manufactured items. Not that I mind this but it would have been nice to have seen something a little different.

Also in the mix – the ability to travel with a companion who will work with you, fight with you and more importantly, carry stuff for you! There are no bottomless inventories in Fallout 4 folks, your ability to carry (and wear) items is quite compromise. Whilst S.P.E.C.I.A.L. will increase this a little, your companion will be essential as you pick through the ruins. My carrying capacity is approximately 400 at the moment, half of which is allocated to clothing and items (weapons, food/healing) so it’s hard to pick clean a location without being compromised in speed which is the penalty for overloading. 

Finally the Pip-Boy. A handheld device which allows you to manage your inventory, quest log and map and is also a short-range torch, ideal for looting the great indoors where the lights are all off. You can connect your mobile phone or tablet to the game if you download the app and run the pip-boy off of that device (battery guzzler though, plug in first) so you can play and have your inventory up simultaneously (handy with the maps and seeing when you’re almost full in inventory). A detailed menu system but occasionally you muck up controls and flip between menu categories rather than the sub-categories as you might otherwise want.

Graphics – nice. Wonderful detail on the environment and the characters and enemies are wonderfully detailed. I also like the retro look of the computers & pip-boy you interface with. Everything has a ragged look on it and makes you feel that it’s survived the apocalypse albeit quite scathed. The various weather types (sunny, foggy, light rain, heavy rain, radiation storm) are rendered very nicely and you sometimes have to suppress a shiver when it’s really chucking it down. It breaks from reality where even in the middle of December, you get 12 hours of daylight but it’s an acceptable break otherwise the game would be quite unplayable as it starts in October 2287 which is past the equinox. I haven’t seen any snow as yet…dunno if it’s yet to come or the world of Fallout 4 has done away with it altogether.

Sounds – very nice. The title theme is haunting and appropriate so full marks there. When you’re roaming the landscape, there’s nothing but silence…until you stumble into a nest of Mirelurks and then the combat music starts up in earnest. Exploring locations, buildings and settlements will also start up the soundtrack again which is often a single melody with a secondary instrument providing ambience. It’s very reflective of the solitariness of your character (and companion) as they roam the Commonwealth either trying to heal the land or just being a schmuck, killing everything and everyone in sight. There’s also two in-game permanent radio stations at the start of the game which you can listen to on the Pip Boy, one playing 1950’s type music, the other playing classical. You can build radios and jukeboxes in settlements to provide your settlers with something to listen to. There’s not all that much talking in the game, you can’t have endless chats with NPCs and they seldom interact so there’s little opportunity to eavesdrop funny conversations. That said, I’m glad more of the game is devoted to gameplay rather than speech. 

 I’ve logged almost 72 hours of gameplay time and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game. Whilst I pretty much own the northern third of the map with my settlements, I’ve only just made my first forays into downtown Boston with an outpost in Hangman’s Alley and a couple in and around the sea (now including the aforementioned Castle). In RPGs, I’m the sort of person who will pick up every single item possible, craft all the weapons and armour, upgrade all the weapons and armour etc. so a lot of my play time has been spent looting every single building I come across, picking clean each corpse I’ve cut down and then bringing it all back to base to store. Once settlements are linked, they can all access each other’s materials (craftable items and craftable foodstuffs) but NOT stored weapons & ammo, armour and crafted food. So I’ve had to designate a single settlement a hub for weapons and armour (so I can keep track of it) whilst dispersing surplus food and ammo to various settlements. Each of my settlements is mostly self-sufficient in terms of food and water though you can, once supply routes are open, keep under producing settlements supplied with surplus.

Also, building up the settlements is quite enjoyable and a relaxing break from running gun battles that occur. The building menus are easy to use and there’s a wide range of options which you can use to give each settlement a bespoke flavour. Whilst most settlements consist of at least one central structure (not erasable), some have two, three or even more which you can build in and around. Sanctuary Hills is typically your second settlement (the Red Rocket Station is the first but is rather small) which is effectively the small town where you lived before the Great War and there are several houses still standing which you can clean out and refurnish as well as several wrecked houses where you can start again. Note to the novice player here: PLACE FLOORBOARDS/FOUNDATIONS FIRST, even on a pre-rendered foundation otherwise you won’t be able to build properly. Final note on settlements: each one is constrained by “size”. This isn’t how big the settlement can get, it’s how many objects the site can support – structures, furniture, shops, food items etc. So don’t build a shack and make an incredibly detailed home filled with consumer durables, large dormitories will suffice just as well with a few creature comforts. Your people will be happy if they are fed, watered, protected and have a few items tossed their way to make them happy. Shops and bars are far more effective at keeping folk content than radios, TVs and paintings.

I’m hooked. But I think that’s clear from the above. The exploring appeals to me together with collecting, crafting and building up the settlements. It’s been a slow but methodical process, sometimes getting a bit too distracted from the game’s main quests into secondary and tertiary objectives. Thing is…in most of the locations, items (and enemies) respawn so you can keep getting distracted, especially when a settlement (like the Slog) is surrounded by enemy strongholds full of goodies. Or rather, I keep getting distracted by it all. It’s also an ethereally beautiful land in which to free roam (and slay the occasional mutant) and stumble across surprises. Suspended disbelief: not much has been picked over in 200 years, nor rotted away – clearly this USA built stuff to last.

Negatives: The bloody dog. Don’t get me wrong, Dogmeat is a useful companion but sometimes he just gets in the way and won’t move. Or stand still long enough to obey orders. I haven’t tried any of the other companions as yet in fairness… Settlers nicking your Power Armor is also a nuisance though I did see on the wiki that if you just remove the power cores, they can’t get the damn thing to move which might be a plan. And falling off boats in Power Armour is a nuisance too – seeing underwater is a right doozy.

Easter Ten Pins

Easter weekend with an additional two days off to take care of some things. Didn’t quite go according to plan – oh well.

Bowling on Good Friday – WWJD? I’m sure he’d have enjoyed a drink and the chance to knock over some pins had Judea its own bowling alley. I was kinda “meh” about it. Once again, before the bowling, the situation over phones had degenerated into a war of wills over the last message sent (why people have to have the last word it something that just gets real old real quick). So I was already disengaging rapidly from wanting to go. But I dutifully headed over to Stratford albeit an hour early as I wanted to browse a few stores. The £25 high-street vouchers from work were burning a hole in my pocket y’see. I went around all the shops that the vouchers were good for, or at least that were present in Westfield and in the end, I bought Labyrinth on blu-ray (the deal was 5 blu-rays for £30 and that was the only one I liked/wanted) + a new Xbox One game, Fallout 4 which…I’m now hooked on.
The bowling itself, I finished second in both games we played. Didn’t quite break 100 but did better in the second game compared with the first. It was clearly the influence of the Root Beer float. The alley was pretty crowded being full of kids and a pretty raucous party on the next lane. Then we went over to Balans for something to eat – pretty weak menu, all things considered. I had a small mound of mashed potato topped with mozzarella cheese (weird) and broccoli. Although it was perfectly edible, it just felt like a combo you’d have with leftovers in the fridge. Should have insisted we went to the Real Greek as was the initial first impulse.

It took me a while to try out my new purchase – my other recent Xbone games have been largely left untouched, games such as The Escapists: The Walking Dead, Zombi etc and so I’m reluctant to delve in. However, I quickly found that I lost the weekend to Fallout 4 – that’s the thing with the current generation of console, the sheer amount of processing power means massive games to explore and delve in. I spent more time roaming the landscape than actually doing what I need to be doing. I’ll post some proper comments soon, once I actually do something meaningful! 

Board Gaming Monday: received an invite to board games at J & S’s in Clapham. We played Room 25 and Bohnanza, a German card game set around planting beans. It was more fun than I made it sound. It wasn’t a bad evening all in all although the weather was particularly ugly. That said, with the sun and the rain, a particularly vivid double rainbow was formed. 

  
Quiz Tuesday: Don’t know where we finished up, or rather, don’t recall (not a top 3) but it was a nasty, nasty quiz. The sorts of questions that someone found randomly on Wikipedia and thought “I’ll just ask that”. It was more guesswork than anything else. Also had a really bad pint of red lager. It was tepid and devoid of flavour. And I’ve come to enjoy red lager too. Must Try Harder.

Bowling Wednesday: twice in the space of a week, I know. This time it was with a few former colleagues and we took time off to do it. Again, back to Stratford as we like that alley. Again, came second in both games. More root beer and had an airmail cocktail: Bacardi gold, honey, lime and prosecco. Rather not bad.

Back to Work Thursday: it struck me, what an gynocracy I’m now working in when all but two desks of our allocated ration (stupid hot-desking) were occupied by the Valkyries. Doesn’t make for a great workplace however, it’s devoid of conversation (apart from when the attention-seeker squawks about nothing in particular) and only the sound of old keyboards being bashed can be heard.

 

Quick gaming news: almost at the end of the latest Adventure Capitalist special event (easter/spring). It’s had a nice little quirk, kind of in line with the Martian bonus but applicable to one row only which has helped. Finished it on my iPhone 48 hours into the event, iPad finished with a few hours to go. Star Trek Timelines has launched its first event – holodeck characters coming to life and bonuses awarded for clearing them successfully. Getting bored of clicker heroes now I’ve almost got all of the deities batting for my team. Ah well.