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Saturday, September 17, 2016

How I Would Make a Horror Game

Hey, what's up. I wanted to do something a little different this time. There's a fair amount of horror games out there and not too many I would really recommend in any sense. That's mostly due to the fact that I'm not a horror fan, which may seem weird since I'm writing this. However, I haven't written anything in a while so this is a good exercise for me.
I traded in my copy of Mankind Divided and got two games, one of which was Alien Isolation. I've been playing it since this morning and it got me thinking about the horror genre. Personally I'm not a fan of horror for a very basic reason of not liking being scared. Unfortunately that limits the amount of games I can play as a lot of games, while not being a focused horror game, will add or borrow elements from the genre itself. Kind of like the Scarecrow mission from the first Batman Arkham game. The very basis of horror is to invoke a feeling of dread or fright in a person which would enhance the game for a player. While some games sometimes fail in making a genuinely frightening moment often times it has more to do with the mechanics of the game rather than graphics or anything else like that. These are just a few ideas I would take into creating my own horror game, if I was so inclined to do so.

1. You have weapons but they're not viable.
One of the biggest problems I have is being completely powerless in a game. While it does make sense in a horror game it also makes no sense at all. For every gamer there has been that moment where the immersion is broken. An invisible wall, invincible enemy you're supposed to fail at defeating or just a situation where you could have used common sense to solve a problem. You can't honestly tell me you wouldn't try and fight back against a horrific creature trying to kill you. Now you probably don't have access to a sword, gun or any other conventional means of weaponry. But hey, wood exists and its pretty sturdy. Why not hit that unspeakable horror over the... head (?) with it. The makeshift weaponry should have an effect though not a significant one. Like in stealth games the weapon itself should only be truly useful when you've got a jump on the creature and even then just a minor one at best. You should be able to swing away in an attempt to keep these creatures at bay but of course wood breaks and you're left defenseless. I think Silent Hill 2 would be the best example of this in the harder difficulties. Sure you can get some pretty decent and useful weapons but early on you're just left to use whatever you can.

2. The option of choices.
Alright so, bad news: the monster is pissed. Your table leg splintered over it's head and now its chasing you down. What do you do? I personally like that in Isolation you're able to craft certain tools and materials. So as you're running and hiding you're picking up things to attack, subvert or defend against the monster and these tools should make you feel accomplished. Using a flashbang to temporarily stun the creature or a molotov to send it running away in pain is a great idea. Ultimately the monster WILL come back but you now know this particular monster has a weakness to fire and you have a good few minutes to scavenge and complete your goals therefore prolonging your death. You could also completely avoid the creature. If you're good enough, stealthy enough and even smart enough that creature won't even know you're in the shadows. Its kind of like how in Dishonored you can go through the entire game without killing anyone. While that is a feat in itself, going through the game without being noticed once or knocking out a single guard is also something to behold. Games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne reward players for being skillful though on a subtle level. Defeating a horrific boss using only you're puny fists? That's a great accomplishment. You won't get anything for it but you did something no one else is going to be able to replicate immediately and that's pretty awesome. My horror shouldn't be able to immediately find me or have any scripted "Ah it found you because the script said it would!" moments.

3. Ya, no 'sanity' meter.
You're in the shadows creeping around the monster and kind of having fun messing with it. It hasn't even seen you yet and you're halfway through the game! But you know, it would be a shame if that art designer's work went unappreciated. Might as well get a peek at what the monster really looks like... I'm going to say this right now and never take it back. Any game that has a mechanic that punishes you for looking at the creature already failed at their job. Sure if the enemy has a specific ability to do that? Fine. The basilisk in Harry Potter makes sense because it's stare is deadly. Medusa? Her sight can turn others to stone when looked directly at. But anything else? Look I get this is a horrific monster and peering into the maw of this thing is going to shatter your fragile conceptions of your place in the universe but other than that I should have no problem ATTEMPTING to comprehend it. If Cthulhu came to Earth at this very moment and perched himself directly above humanity for all to see people would be rightfully shocked. But as a person who loves science I would be one of those brave few to stare right into his eyes. To go into a ship and try and communicate with him. Sure he might try and destroy us but we at least ATTEMPTED. Why is my character such a baby they can't even see the creature without soiling themselves? I get that its scary but if I've been through the game and now am at the halfway point or clocked in a few hours of staring into that monster's sparkling tender stare you'd think I'd be used to it. The character heavily breathing? Perfect. We are now conveyed that this character is afraid. It builds up tension but I, as a player, can ignore it if I so choose. It has little to no bearing on me as a person. My point is a game's ascetics and mechanics should seek to enhance the gameplay instead of hamper it. And if your reasoning is that the monster doesn't look frightening enough, then you've already failed. Horror is subjective. If a person was born without the ability to feel fear or turned into some sort of Batman-esque figure then that is their own thing. Adding in arbitrary mechanics doesn't make the game feel or play better. On the contrary.

4. The fewer, the better.
On a personal level I love the first Alien movie and its the best horror movie I've seen. Atmospheric, tense, horrifying, gripping. Its THE horror movie I put all others to standard. Also Elen Ripley is a badass character who evolves throughout the story, turning from a scared woman into a badass Valkyrie who casually shoots off a one liner as she punts the unspeakable horror to certain doom. Aliens on the other hand? Its an action movie. I really hate when people say Aliens was "A good horror movie." because it isn't. A horror movie that is. First of all everyone is far too prepared for what is inevitably coming. Too many guns, too many muscles, too much macho. Also while I'm at it, too many characters. I'm going to be clear and say that every single person in that movie acted fantastically but the movie itself checks off just about every cardinal sin when it comes to the horror genre. While I'm at it, too many aliens. Sure the alien is awesome but having more of them presents a problem that can only be solved by subverting the expectations and having them come out victorious or making them be ineffectual. Predator is the perfect reasoning behind this. Sure the Predator is badass and super deadly but the movie its in completely screws over the creature. It gets some decent kills but ultimately it can't fend against a few dudes in a jungle with some pretty basic weaponry and is ultimately defeated by it's own hubris. While having multiple monsters isn't a terrible idea, having one ultimate monster is the best idea. While the other minor monsters don't have to be cannon fodder, this one monster stands above the rest. Its the ultimate goal, your one fear. While the others are nibbling at your heels, your attention is put squarely on this one monster. Think Pyramid head from Silent Hill. Whenever it comes around its an event. What is it going to do now? How will we fend against this?

I know this was a pretty short list but I really liked the idea. With all the game makers around maybe I could make a game like this or someone else could. In any case I hope I enlightened you in someway.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Windows 10's Newest Update (and General Windows 10 Talk)

The latest version of Windows 10 arrived about a week ago and so far, it has been a very great experience. A lot of my former issues that plagued my brand new laptop that came with Windows 10 have now been fixed.

A few of the errors I encountered (also encountered on other computers) were the Microsoft apps and taskbar seeming to cease operating until a restart and various notification area icons disappearing (volume, battery, network, etc.). All of these and more have now been fixed in the newest update.

With that said, there still needs some work to be done and some things need to be undone.

Windows Update
Still, Windows 10 forces your standard users into Windows Update. The updates can be held off, but they cannot be disabled.

Microsoft deserves praise in the area of Windows Update for a few reasons. One such is if you have ever had to recently do a clean install of Windows 7, you know how long updates can take downloading from the internet and installing to your machine.

A personal anecdote, I was setting up a computer for someone and installing a clean copy of Windows 7 on the machine on a Friday. I left the computer on and allowed it to download and install updates over the weekend. Monday morning and I come into the office and it is still downloading and installing updates. Unbelievable.

The updates are sometimes necessary to ensure that you are receiving the right amount of protection for your machine. Microsoft patches vulnerabilities and/or creates ways that make it more difficult to be exploited. Without updates, you leave your machine exposed to the world and vulnerable to anyone on the net who wants your information and has a little know-how in hacking. Windows 10 offered a new way to download and install updates by allowing PC's to "talk" to one another over the network. If my PC is fully up to date and you are installing a brand new copy of Windows 10 that has been sitting for over a year, your PC would normally take a very long time to finish the update process. However, thanks to the new feature in Windows 10, your PC will talk to mine and mine will allow yours to borrow updates to decrease the amount of time and energy your PC puts into getting it all from the net. Wise also in case Microsoft servers ever are to go down yet you still need a critical update.

In the very early days of Windows 10 (more like early months), my PC, at the time, was continually trying to download a driver update for my touch screen laptop. The driver temporarily broke the touch screen, in that it wouldn't work until I removed the driver update and rebooted the computer. Only issue then was that Windows tried to download the update again to the PC. I repeated this process a few times before finally just disconnecting myself from the net.

I asked for help on Microsoft's official forum but received advice from professional Microsoft employees along the lines of "remove the update and reboot", which obviously was not correcting the problem. No further help was given at the time. In the next few days, I simply decided to go without a touch screen and just let it update the wrong driver. To my surprise, it didn't install the wrong update again. That issue never happened again on any Windows 10 PC I have used either.

There is a reason why the updates are now forced. Microsoft wants uniformity between users to make support easier for themselves and those who work in IT. It is difficult to walk into a building and have to use 3-4 different techniques because not everyone is on the same page, rather, same operating system or update.

An additional problem was that most users were not doing updates as they should have been which caused a lot of issues. Issues that average users faced meant that Microsoft was going to take the fall as these people would just assume that Microsoft was not doing their job to protect their computers, which is not true at all. You simply need to manually run or allow your computer to automatically download and install the latest updates to make sure everything is running fine.

To remedy these issues, Microsoft simply forced everyone (except if running Professional, etc.) to automatically install and download updates.

An issue that Microsoft still needs to look into is when to update. Microsoft was smart enough to think ahead and allow the computer to intelligently determine when you would not be using your PC and use that time to download and install updates. Sounds great on the surface but in this internet day and age, many of us use our computers on an hourly basis for various things. Some of us even use into make a living for us and never have free time away from the PC. So when does it install an update? Likely at an inconvenient time for us. You can check YouTube right now and see people being interrupted while playing a game, writing a spreadsheet, etc. by a Windows Update rebooting their computer in the midst of the work/game they are already engaged in.

Cortana
Microsoft has been trying to play catch up with Apple and Google who each have been implementing and improving their voice assistants in their various OSes and hardware with Cortana.

Apple's Siri was revolutionary when it first came on the scene a few years ago. Ever since then, she's gotten a few more features to help users use her for better things. A short while later, Google stepped on the scene with Google Now.

Google Now took a different approach than Siri, in that Siri was designed to be your assistant in many ways in a personal way. Google Now focused on productivity and accomplishing a goal and less on being your personal assistant to make you feel good. Each have their strong suits and pros and cons to one another.

Fast forward a few years later to when Microsoft announces their chosen champion, Cortana. They boasted many features for Cortana that would seem to infuse Siri and Google Now, while implementing other features. One thing Cortana also had going for it was the use of an already popular brand name now being used in the real world.

Today, Cortana has moved from mobile phones to our desks on our PCs and then finally to our living rooms via our Xbox One.

Focusing just a moment on the desktop Windows 10 Cortana, people expected a lot and didn't get what they fully wanted upon first release.

Cortana came with a lot of expectations such as being able to listen for "Hey Cortana" and respond accordingly to your request. PCs that upgraded from Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 had difficulty getting their microphones to be compatible with Cortana. Weird enough, my newest laptop came with Windows 10 pre-installed and it too had issues using my microphone.

This all changed when the newest Windows 10 update came along. Not sure about 8.1, 8, and 7 machines, but my PC is now able to use Cortana almost flawlessly. Cortana responds immediately any time I say "Hey Cortana". Cortana actually gets results now, whereas before there was always a server issue.

However...Cortana still has issues that need to be worked out.

For me, I am curious why Cortana requires my location to be on all the time in order to use her. If you disable location services completely or disallow Cortana from using them, Cortana ceases to work and you are forced to use Windows' default search without a voice assistant.

I already use Siri for Weather information or simply check online in Bing or the Weather Channel. I rarely ever use Cortana for things like this that use location so it puzzles me why Cortana absolutely, 100%, positively needs my location to work.

With growing cries for privacy among people, I would think that Microsoft would also take these into consideration as well. People are aware that the NSA and other government bodies, not even just the U.S., but all over the world are listening in on us and watching our moves. Some of us do not want to have location services on, especially on our PCs that contain lots of vital and sensitive information.

Microsoft needs to rethink aspects like this, not only of Cortana, but in all of its products, especially in Windows 10. I hope that future updates address these issues.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress made to Cortana in the latest Windows 10 update.

The Start Menu
We are all thankful to have the Start Menu back. Even better is that Microsoft incorporated both the Start Menu and Windows 8 and 8.1's Start Screen so that people who liked either could have a choice While I think many of us would agree that we would have liked the Start Menu to remained the same as it has since, well, the beginning of the Start Menu (with menus, subcategories, and the like), I think we can all say that the return of the Start Menu is still good, especially for those lacking or not enjoying using touch screen devices.

However, Microsoft's newest update brought a fairly big change to it by simplifying the menu. This can be seen as good or bad, depending on how you liked the initial Start Menu brought back in the earlier Windows 10 release.

One positive thing is that it eliminate the need for an additional click to get to your installed programs.

It made the Power, Settings, File Explorer, and profile picture smaller and without text, by default, which I can see as being confusing for some of the users I support.

There should be an easy way for people to log off and there should be more clear signs about how to shut down.

The icons used are fairly universal nowadays, but they still can be confusing to users who are not very computer illiterate. That said, it would be wise if Microsoft could revert to using icons and names together.

Settings
Microsoft still has issues in this area and has since Day 1 of Windows 10.

Ever since the early days of Windows, the OS has categorized all of its various OS settings in one nice little place called Control Panel. Many of us are familiar with it and it's very useful for customizing your computer to your needs.

Windows 10 flipped this by introducing Settings, a new app that handles more settings for the OS. Only problem is that some of the stuff that is missing from Control Panel has been moved, without notice, to Settings. Other settings are shared between Settings and Control Panel and some settings will take you to Control Panel from Settings and vice versa which can become very confusing after some time, even for users, like myself, who are fairly familiar with the OS.

It seems that Microsoft prefers using these app tiles more than having desktop app icons like they have in the past. Understandable that a company wants to move their product into a new era, but there needs to be some help and guidance along the way. A forceful change makes it difficult for us to learn the new ways they want to introduce us to.

What I believe should happen is that Control Panel and Settings share the same settings in a duplicate manner and Microsoft provide non-intrusive ways to guide users away from Control Panel to Settings, as it seems they want to begin moving everything there, eventually.

I put emphasis on the word "non-intrusive" because Microsoft, as well as many other companies, have a nasty habit of annoying users when they are trying to be helpful. Putting up annoying notifications to remind users about Settings every time they open Control Panel would be counter productive. Whereas, maybe a one time message upon opening Control Panel (with the option to have it open again on next open or never appear again) to inform users of Settings would be a better, non-intrusive way to guide users into Settings and gradually move them away from Control Panel.

The latest update has yet to bring about a change to Settings or Control Panel, as far as I can see except a few minor bug fixes for specific hardware.


All in all, Windows 10 is getting better than the nightmare it once was. Microsoft continues to learn their lesson and hopefully will make fewer mistakes in the future. I look forward to future releases and more features that the company has in store for its OS and the users who use it. It will certainly be an interesting journey for Microsoft's last PC OS as we continue on.

If I were to guess, I would say that we will begin seeing major updates during the summer time for Windows 10 throughout the coming years. I believe next year we will see the official name "Windows 10.1" with a major user interface overhaul compared to what we received this year. Perhaps a new look to the Start Menu? Or, hopefully, some changes that won't upset users too much and will genuinely take their opinions into consideration.

What do you guys think of Windows 10, so far?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Xbox One Review - 7/10

To be honest, given how I'm not a person who is able to get review copies of games I either cover a game when it comes out spending a few hours grinding through the game to the point where I feel I've got a decent enough grasp of the game or get an indie game which most people wouldn't know about and therefore would have significantly less coverage. On the few occasions where I post a review of some kind about a game that is older or has been out for some time its usually because I feel the game is exceptionally terrible and I need to highlight to others to stay away from this game... or I just feel bored and like I've not accomplished anything in some time and reviews like this take about five minutes or so to write. Magic broken, I suppose.
Anyways, Deus Ex: Mankind divided is the fourth game in the series of Deus Ex. I'm not counting The Fall because that was apparently a really terrible game that was mobile then ported to PC and still remained terrible because I like to keep the good or decent parts of a series in tact. Yes, even Invisible War was a better game... however debatable that is. More importantly this game is the sequel to the well received Human Revolution game in which the game takes off relatively shortly from and features the same main character via Adam ("I never asked for this") Jensen. I personally liked the game despite its sometimes major flaws.

The Good:
Game looks good. Not a surprise. Next! Alright, maybe I should talk about this a bit. The previous game featured very stylized graphics where orange was a prominent color to the point where if someone were afraid of the color they would have died around the opening of the game due to cardiac arrest. All joking aside the game looked really good and still holds up now after about five years albeit with very ceramic/abnormally shiny looking character models. This game is even more impressive looking and ditches the orange everything look. The world looks more real and less like a Blade Runner game where the main designer cut someone off halfway when they explained how orange and blue are complimenting colors. There's also a diversity of character models in which before you saw very generic looking NPCs now each one has their own unique style in some fashion most notably the augmented. I was often struck by how beautiful some of the augments looked to the point where I would just stare and gawk at the level of detail and intricacies of the designs.
The story takes a nicer turn in that Adam is not like some messiah figure but just a random guy caught up in a thing. I've always hated chosen one stories and, while the original game wasn't that, it felt really close to it. See Human Revolution and Mankind Divided take place some time before the very first game in a prequel status. The augmented are looked down upon and generally seen as a very thin allegory to racism in which they are treated as second class by most at best. In the original game, while I believe there was some of those racist overtones, the game featured a bevy of augmented characters that blurred the line between augmented and robotic where very little of humanity remained of them both mentally and physically. In Adam's time most augmented people only have a few parts rather than being fully augmented. This is because most people's bodies reject augments and require upkeep and chemicals to continue functioning somewhat normally. In Human Revolution they treated Adam with awe and reverence since he was a near fully augmented human being who didn't reject his augmentations at all. So it was like a chosen one story in various ways which kind of bored me. Apart from a single line of dialogue you can completely miss (at least that I've found) there's little to no mention of this. I like this because the story feels more grounded in the sense we're just another part of this world instead of basically reading a bible of sorts detailing mythical figures.
The AI has also been upgraded. There was so many points in the game that I hid from being attacked and preferred stealth as an extremely viable option. The problem with the previous game was when you were found out it really only paid off to go guns blazing until all your attackers were stains on the floor. Enemies are smarter and more realistic in this game, usually staying on alert even when you're supposed to be in the clear. Throw an object in the direction of two enemies and, usually, one enemy will stay behind while another investigates to cover them. Speaking of cover, enemies actively use it and move around as to not be bullet sponges or mindless zombies that only know how to shoot. They try to flank you when their numbers are greater and work together. If you're facing a single enemy they usually like to stay in cover whereas in a group one or more will come at you while another puts the pressure of constant fire on you. There are also more types of enemies that in the first game, albeit not significantly. You've really got to watch your back when facing down the police because they have these armored mech suits that not only soak up damage but also can dish it back out. They were by far my most difficult challenges in the game, apart from my desire to go through a completely no death gameplay... which I will unfortunately have to talk about later down below.

The Bad:
Alright so like I mentioned up before, no death playthrough is possible and grants and achievement or trophy in PlayStation's case. However this becomes infuriating given the fact that apparently if you sometimes try to relocate a body they will clip into the wall and sometimes die. This may not seem like a big deal but the easiest way to go through the no death way is to stealth and stealthing means knocking out people and moving their bodies. So its a challenge for me to both go through the game stealthily but also leaving a body because I don't want to have to possibly reload the game because this ragdoll decided, "Ya but like what if I stuck myself into a wall/door and then died... somehow?" I'm not saying its a huge deal but there's actually a mission in the game (side mission but still) that tasks you with knocking out a guy and then dragging him to a nearby storage locker to complete the mission. Also he has to remain alive. So if this clipping nonsense happens then I essentially fail the mission and have to restart and hope that it doesn't happen. I'm not sure if death by clipping effects the achievement but I don't want to go through the entire game thinking I've got the achievement in the bag only to find out that, "Oh wait, no. Remember that one guy like ten hours ago? Ya, nope. Sorry. New Game I guess?"
Speaking of new game, if you got the day one content you basically got shafted a bit. You got some extra content, sure, but when you find out that you could only redeem that content on one playthrough you're going to probably be pissed. I actually purchased a few extra Praxis Kits for about 7 bucks because I had the money and it would make the game easier. However, that's a one time purchase so if I want to replay the game I have to either reload a REALLY old save or just nut up and buy it again if I want that. That's really stupid. Sure I've been known to purchase additional microtransactions here and there but those went to my account which is to say as long as I have that account I have some semblance of those rewards. So if I purchase credits in Warframe I still have the knowledge that those credits went to something. If I got extra Cartel Coins in The Old Republic, again, that went to something. Instead of these Praxis Kits being used for one playthrough and then I've got to re-opt in if I want it again. For those of you who don't know, the Praxis Kits are basically your skill points. So I got 11 of them which means that I now get at least five entirely new skills or get to upgrade other skills further. Why doesn't that just stay on my account and get reloaded on every save? That's really stupid and I feel stupid for buying it now!
Deus Ex is an RPG through and through. RPGs predicate themselves on side missions... the good ones at least. Side missions vary but the basic point is that its an extra on top of the game that allows you to take a detour from the main quest to possibly get stronger or just take a break. The weird thing is that in this game sometimes they will actively punish you for exploring by screwing up side missions. There's this point where your abilities are broken and you need to get them repaired. The guy who repairs them tells you to get this thing to help you more. If you need any direction the best way is to get them by simply asking the mob boss. Oh ya, save before hand because if you try and deviate from the straight path the game fucks you over. Unbeknownst to me, I went through exploring the sewers and happened on the mob boss. Somehow they detected me and became hostile. "Oh shit," I thought. "Guess I'd better go back the right way." As soon as I did the game promptly yelled, "Dumbass!" by making all these guys continue to be hostile so the only way to get what I needed was to either kill them all and take it or steal it. After wisely reloading I found out by taking it the direct way this opens up even more sidequests for you. So if I took it by force I would have cut off certain points in the game. While this does make sense it actually gets worse. Another side mission tasks you with solving a reporter's murder by investigating and questioning. You have two main leads and if you don't follow each lead to their own backwards ways you're going to be fucked. One guy hates augs and probably killed her. I questioned him and then looked for evidence... only I should have looked for evidence and THEN questioned him because he refused to talk to me after I had the evidence I needed! The other suspect has info detailing he was not the culprit however I thought he was going to attack me so I knocked him out... which was apparently the WRONG move! The mission finished and no one was caught because the game just decided, "Closure? NAH!" My point is you NEED to save before EVERY. SINGLE. SIDE MISSION or else you risk being totally screwed over for the rest of the game. Keeping in mind all the side content I've purchased is non transferrable so double fucked.

The Meh:
So, spoilers, I haven't finished the game. Regardless if it's "This is so good let it never end!" or I'm just bad I haven't gotten to the end or to any boss for that matter. But apparently at the end of the game it ends on a cliff hanger. I'm personally against this practice in any form seeing as how a series could just straight up end with some loose ends and the fans would have no way of finding out the conclusion. At the very worst the developers have decided to make it part of what I can only presume would be DLC which is complete garbage. On the best end I would see this as a thematic choice which, while I can approve of a content creator making the story they want, it just kind of screws over the fans. It doesn't detract from the game being good but it also doesn't add to it. It just basically means I'm going to drag my feet as much as possible before the ending.

Final conclusion, the game is heavily flawed but good. I personally wouldn't recommend the full game price but honestly if you like Deus Ex then more of it really isn't all that bad. Its definitely not the best and definitely not the worst.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fallout 4 Complete: Xbox One Review - 9/10

Alright. So since the last of the DLC for Fallout 4 has been released I thought I'd make my own little review on how the full game is. This might seem like a waste of my time but usually I've found a lot of people like to buy the full finished product once its been released like with the Skyrim Legendary Edition. It definitely sounds like a good idea. You've got all the content that was promised so you can play the game at your leisure without having to wait for some content only to find out you're overleveled for it, possibly ruining your experience. This review is going to cover all the aspects of the game so this will basically be an entirely new review unto itself as if the game was just released.

The Good:
Alright so the game looks nice and there's definitely a lot of variety in terms of locations. The worst parts of the previous Fallout games was the fact they all took place in a lot of grimey areas and you never really got to see much of any colors that weren't a shade of rust brown. The DLC still keeps in theme with the world having gone to hell with the color pallet but adds and extra touch with a splash of color just about everywhere.
The combat is pretty decent overall. Definitely better than the previous titles. The DLC adds some new features, most notably Automatron, in the idea you can craft your own robotic companion to your desire. The idea that robots drop new parts for you to make your robot better was also a really nice touch as well.
While most people might find it a tad bit annoying, I actually do like the crafting aspects of the game. All of them in fact. Of course the weapon and armor modifications are great but the settlement building is definitely a favorite of mine. The idea you can take a place and make it your own and no two settlements are the same because you can craft yours how you like is an awesome idea. I do have some gripes with this but I'll get to that later.
The writing definitely took a turn up. Personally I loved Fallout 3's story but the whole of it fell short when you had to do anything other than the main quest. A lot of NPCs were just sort of window dressing and felt flat. On the flipside I loved the gameplay of New Vegas but the main story felt lack luster. So while I was having fun with the game itself I just kept spamming any button to get out of the dialogue and back to the game. Fallout 4 really seems like the perfect marriage. There's a lot of interesting stuff to do and combat is fun and engaging. It really felt like Skyrim in the sense I really had no desire to finish the main quest though I never felt any desire not to either. The main quest is really tragic and never cut and dry. There's no pure evil or pure good just people being people. The connection you have to the world was also something I found lacking in the previous games but really shines here. You can be as important as you want and some people fawn over you while others may just simply pass you by. It feels like the perfect union of the best aspects of 'Chosen One' stories while making the mundane also equally compelling.

The Bad:
Alright so the mods on consoles aren't really handled that well. PS4 hasn't even gotten them yet and the Xbone's kind of suck in certain aspects. Sure there's a plenty amount but the problem comes with the functionality. Some mods just stop working. Why? Who knows. I personally think it was because the modder who made it in the first place deleted it outright. This causes some problems, including annoying prompts when you are about to reenter the game or just simply are trying to load a new save if its sufficiently far back. If you're not connected to the internet sometimes the mods just won't load. Forcing you to either mess around to get the internet back on just to play with some mods or go forward and possibly just be missing content. Speaking of missing content, my game straight up crashed a few times. I suspect it was because a mod was missing and the game just couldn't handle it. And it was always the mods I actually wanted like making lockpicking and hacking easier instead of having to spend minutes on something when I wanted to go back to the actual game. I'm not entirely sure I'm sold on the whole 'mods on consoles' idea though I'm glad to see Bethesda actually tried and did something new. I'd welcome it in a new game if they fixed the functionality.
Many people give a lot of mess to Skyrim's leveling up tree but this game makes me miss it. Sure, I don't need the same exact style. Elder Scrolls is all about mysticism and looking up to the stars was definitely a nice touch. However the tree here just looks bland like it was just good enough. Though that's not my main gripe with it. The ultimate problem is when you go to level up and see all of these garbage skills you'd never want to use and you have to wait to get to a certain level to use the actually useful skills. I always try to level up my gun crafting because then I can get all the best mods, but I have to wait until like level 39 to get the final level where most of the good stuff is. The Science skill is great because you can build some awesome stuff but again has the same problem of having to be around level 40 just to get the final level for the skill. I'm also sort of disappointed with the Speech skill... again. Fallout has always been crap when it came to this. I could be at the highest level possible and have the highest level of Charisma and still fail. Then I could put on the best Charisma boosting armor... and still fail. The worst for this is the end of the Silver Shroud quest where to save a guy not only do you have to be at the highest level but you also have to take some chems to boost your Charisma up even more for only the chance to save him. And if you tried going guns blazing the VATS system would always fail you and let one of these idiots kill him with one hit so the Charisma route is the only option. I've downloaded a mod which takes care of that but its just kind of weird that you have to jump through all these hoops just to get to a thing that should be easy to do.
I personally wish all the DLC packs had the functionality of all the packs. While the first two may, Nuka World doesn't allow you to build anything in the new landscape, or so I've seen so far. You can't really fortify your main stronghold at all from what I've played so I'm kind of curious as to why. Crafting settlements is a really cool feature that could have added greatly to the pack. Instead you just have the place. I know it seems like a minor point but I was really hoping to make some awesome Automatron or maybe even do some more unique raider type stuff.

The Meh:
I found most of the companions to be kind of... meh. I do have my favorites like Curie and of course Dogmeat but just about everyone felt flat to me. I was always just sticking around with a certain companion doing stuff I knew they liked because I just wanted their perk and nothing else. While a lot of them are funny like Strong most of them fell flat for me at best and at worst they annoyed me when they disapproved of something. I did my best to get them all to like me but I forgot a lot of times that I left them in a settlement and they disapproved of one of my actions like during the main quest to get to The Institute. While it was interesting to know they were judging me even out of my party it really just became a chore later like I had to put each of them in a good settlement to where I could get their happiness up and then skip back to another one to do their's. However, apart from remembering you have really no idea where they are. No little icon to show you where your companion is so if you screw up and send them to a place you forgot about have fun checking every single settlement you've acquired for them.
As a side note there seemed to be far too many settlements that had simply no use. I know I said I liked them but if there was some more functionality to them like creating a decent hub city that would have been cool. Instead there's a limit to how much you can place in one settlement limiting your creativity. I was trying to build a massive tower at a drive in theater only to be greeted with a prompt telling me I couldn't build anymore so I had to settle for a measly three story thing. Most of the settlements I gained were just for the stupid Minutemen stuff and eventually that became such a chore I completely ignored it all in favor of not doing it whatsoever.

All in all its a fantastic game and I'd definitely buy it again. I'll probably buy it on Steam years from now when my PC isn't absolute garbage. I do have a lot of places where I felt it failed a bit but ultimately the game is fun and I had fun and that's really all that matters.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Preorder Content Needs to Die

This is in no way my first or even my last post about preorder content or just preorders in general. To give you a quick run down: I'm not really all that for it or against it though I like the idea of rewarding people opting into basically prebuying a game. That being said, preorder content needs to die... as per my title of this article.
I've gotten some money recently, enough to continue filling my Steam library with titles I'll probably never touch again. Whatever. Its my money and I want to hit over 800 games. A while ago, like a long while ago, I wanted to get the newest Naruto game which at the time was Ultimate... blah blah 4. I can't be asked to look it up. However at the time I was unable to opt into Steam's full price preorder. Unfortunately because of that I missed out on some content that I could have gotten for free. Oh well. Now that I have money I remember seeing it on my wishlist and decided to pick it up. Of course I'm the kind of guy who wants to have it all immediately so I go to purchase the Season pass. I read on to see what I'll be getting then notice: "One of the secret techniques can't be used unless obtaining preorder content."
Now this is where I have a problem with preorder stuff. When a game specifically cuts out a part of itself and makes players unable to purchase it at a later date is awful. Its even worse when anyone who wants to buy it now has to see some message like that basically saying, "By the way, screw you for not having the future sight to see you'd want to buy this game before hand as well as not having enough money to purchase it when it was first released." Speaking as a person who goes from paycheck to paycheck paying bills yet still wanting a fulfilling gaming experience, this is the worst. The idea that a section of content is completely locked out from me is forcing me to decide whether or not I'm going to buy a game or not.
In short, I'm not. I've got money and a few other games I want to buy. If Bandai Namco feels that this particular set of content was so important to them to not release for a small fee afterwards then they don't need my 50 bucks. Instead I'll put that towards another company. Though I can say I'm grateful to the company seeing as I can now look at other games and be fully sure I didn't want to buy their product. Thanks!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Let's Fix It: No Man's Sky

So ya, No Man's Sky has been a bust. Players are trying to return it, Steam's overall review of it is mixed at best and everyone seems to be on the witch hunt for Hello Games. I posted something before on how all of this was a possibility when the game was released but from all the stuff I've been seeing I actually want to try something different. The game is... unfinished to say the least. What I'm going to do is talk about how the game can get as close as possible to what we were promised. This is less of what we can do as players rather an idea of how Hello Games can get the game closer to what we were promised as most of us cannot code and even if we could we wouldn't have access to the build of the game in the sense we could easily manipulate the assets within a sensible period of time.

1: The World
Alright, so a lot of people have been talking about how the planets they've seen are actually not as detailed or up to snuff with what was promised. One video I saw talked about how there's no real variety from the desert planets. I don't believe people have that much problem with the other planets but the easiest way would be for us to create entirely new planets and plop them in random places. Of course we'd have to make sure they wouldn't clash with other planets but the universe is apparently so large that would be a very unusual occurrence. Unfortunately the majority of these planets would have be templates, like if we started with just a ball and then added some basic stuff to it. From there we could make it so the game would give these new planets some variety but ultimately they really won't be that much closer to what everyone wanted.

2: The Creatures
Now this is where it gets tricky and will have to be one of the biggest changes and probably the second most time consuming project. There's not much variation between creatures and they all seem kind of broken or buggy to say the least. What I suggest is using a model similar to Spore in which the player base creates a few creatures and they're sent off into the world. The studio would also have to create some themselves in order to deviate from the obvious amount of phallic and sexually designed creatures or just simply add in their own twists. The studio would be in charge of making some of the more interesting creatures like the giant sand worm we say before but seems to be absent.

3: The Ships
One thing that was mentioned was these large scale space battles and the ability to choose a side between the warring factions. This is probably where we draw the line in terms of making this feature available within the few months to come. The Old Republic is doing a similar thing where they've released a new expansion but they're doing it in little bits and pieces. So these new space battles will be heavily scripted at first but eventually the code could be implemented to where the game just randomly generates some battles here and there. I've also heard that ship designs are very basic and offer little to no customization. Again, a Spore element should be implemented making it so that player creations/discoveries are a viable thing.

4: The Multiplayer
Alright you knew this was coming and I saved it for last. This would literally be the biggest thing for the game in the sense of time consumption. I'm not entirely sure the code for the game supported multiplayer in the first place but being optimistic we're going to say that it did and work from there. It would have to be limited but not extremely restrictive. Players should have the ability to opt out of this at will and be able to play offline. For those who want to I would suggest a model similar to Warframe. In Warframe you can invite other players to a match or what have you on the fly. You add them to a group and they can vote on what mission to undertake. The limit I've seen for me is about 4 which isn't a terrible number to be honest. Warframe also allows your game to automatically connect to any party currently working on a mission and you can jump right in. In this case I would say that you can jump into a person via a planet or, at most, a galaxy wide thing. Anything more and you'd put a significant strain on connectivity. Unfortunately there would have to be some kind of invisible wall where if you stray too far from the other player you'll be notified to turn back or the group will be kicked.
On the worse end if we use the basis that the game never had any multiplayer features from the beginning and we'd have to start from scratch I would say scrap it entirely because that would take an insane amount of time to code and implement to a stable degree. Since the game has failed there's probably not any plan for DLC and the upkeep is going to be minimal at best fixing the bugs to make the game playable, though as we've seen players aren't happy so this game is on a ticking clock to make its consumers take interest in the game at all. It would be like if there was no audience for the PS3 port of Skyrim (which was one of the most broken ports of all time) so Bethesda simply scrapped working on it and the game stayed broken forever.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Metal Gear: Survive Can Work (But Probably Won't)

God that name is terrible... I mean, what is that supposed to mean? I'm not a Metal Gear aficionado, hell I've only played two of the games, but every single title actually meant something. Peace Walker was about... peace, I guess. Revengance was... stupid. Alright, so the names don't make much sense either but that name sounds so awful.
So if you didn't know, Metal Gear: Survive is Konami's attempt to use the franchise they tore from Hideo Kojima after he finished making a critically acclaimed and successful game with Phantom Pain. Ya, it doesn't make any sense to me either. But wait! There's zombies! Well I mean pseudo zombies. Except... Phantom Pain also had pseudo zombies... And these aren't those zombies from Phantom Pain soooo... Apparently this game is set in an alternate time line starting from Ground Zeroes, because Metal Gear wasn't confusing enough already. From what little we know and have seen, you will take the role of one of the soldiers from The Boss' team when the base was destroyed except they were sucked into a wormhole. Also zombies in there, somehow. I'm a firm believer in taking a game by its own merits than a trailer but at a certain point you really can't help but say, "Ya no, burn it in a garbage fire."
But... let it be known I am actually trying to make an attempt to give this game some credit. At least it isn't a stupid mobile game or pachinko machine (probably spelled that wrong but I honestly don't care enough to spend the time researching the proper spelling as I'm taking Konami's approach of phoning it in). Alright so not that much of an attempt. The game seems to be using the same engine as the last two games which makes me think this game has been in the works for a bit of time. Like they were messing around with the engine while Kojima tried to put art into video game form and got pissed because he wasn't producing any results.
As a non Metal Gear fan, in the sense my experience with the series has been only last year purchasing Metal Gear 2 and Snake Eater for my growing game collection and I only got as far as, "Wait, there's a Tony Hawk minigame in this?!" and nothing in the main game as well as only playing Revengance and Phantom Pain, I'm looking at this from non rose tinted glasses. While Phantom Pain, for all its annoyances and my criticisms, was a genuinely good game I still have no great feelings about the series.
I personally felt that the mechanics of Phantom Pain were the highlights. The crafting of guns, gaining new and better soldiers in the field, the companions you could take on missions as well as the idea of true 'Stealth is an option' gameplay as opposed to the half baked shit most games pretend to have when they use that line. Honestly the game was amazing. Not only from the standpoint I could run it on my outdated computer despite it being a recent release because the team very intelligently decided to split up the map so it could run better but the story was halfway decent and made me actually feel for the characters. Not to mention the subtle humor here and there making the game's more heavier moments not only hold more weight and gravitas but also give you a bit of a break every now and again. If Survive has these features, I'd be hard pressed not to say it could also be a great game as well.
... But its probably not going to be. Despite what everyone may say, zombie games are kind of terrible in one way or another. The best so far has to be Dying Light and even that was pretty bland in itself where only the gameplay was its best feature. Also the whole debacle of it just straight up not working on Steam after a patch that essentially broke the game making it unable for any PC player unable to play the game without having to jump through some hoops instead of the developer fixing it EASILY cuts the entire score I would have given it in half. So Dying Light gets a 4/10. Fuck you, Techland. Ya I'm still pissed I wasted 60 bucks and I can't get that back.
There's somewhat a big difficulty in explaining why zombie games really just don't work. The Left 4 Dead series is probably the best if only for the fact that the games are fun while lacking in any brevity or weight. They're just fun games and not much more. Survive has to be able to get the fun aspect down which is also a difficult concept to master. While I do like Phantom Pain it was fun for a few moments but what really kept me going was the gameplay. Basically Survive is taking the worst parts of Phantom Pain, being the Skulls missions, and making them the main portion of the game. Ya, Skulls were terrible. Fight me. They completely ruin the pacing of the game forcing you to change your tactics drastically unless you really like dying to cheap enemies. Except that sniper mission. That was pretty cool.
Basically what I'm saying is I'll need to see more of what the game has to offer other than generic zombie-esque things and also a big zombie thing that's probably a zombified Metal Gear oh shit did I ruin that awesome reveal and DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT I'M BEING SARCASTIC
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