New Vegas Blues

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Fallout: New Vegas is one of my favorite games ever. But I didn’t have it installed on this computer, as I found the idea of reinstalling all the mods daunting. And I had other games to play, besides: what’s more important, playing FNV for the tenth time, or my entire backlog at least once?

Well, that came to an end last week. I just couldn’t stand not playing any longer, and rolled up a new character, with the idea of going straight into one of the DLC, Old World Blues. That’s kinda crazy, as it’s meant for higher-level characters. But I was going to do it any ways. Rolled up a high luck energy weapons user, and off I went.

And this was fun. I got all the mods going, and had a relatively stable time! (Usually only had one crash per night! Basically a miracle.) But this game isn’t perfect, as no game is. And I have to make some observations/complaints/questions:

  • Why is the character creator so off from what actually comes out? I mean how does this

become this?

  • Invisible walls are crap. It’s one thing to put them in places where you normally couldn’t get to anyways, but to block perfectly normal paths, just to not let players get a good look at the world, or take a shortcut.
  • The game world is kinda small. I know this is just a game thing, especially when it had to take consoles into consideration, but when you’re doing a real-world location, the lack of scale is a little off-putting. I mean, I’m pretty sure you can walk (not run) from Sloan to the Strip faster in-game than doing the same drive (at desert freeway speeds) in real life.
  • I wish there were more places to use the more flavorful perks. And more stat dialog checks. Those are fun.
  • Everybody says the one good thing about FO4/F76 is that the gunplay is better than NV. I don’t get this. Gunplay seems great to me, and what I’ve seen of the Bethesda games looks positively unfun, like Bioshock Infinite.

Blapril 2020 Results

Looks like I did it. Did 37 posts between Mar 29 and May 9 (inclusive). Including 30 posts in the actual month of April, one every day. Even if some of those were posted the last minute (I think one literally).

Not only were my posts frequent, but they were varied. Some were even about things other than video games! But all of it was about stuff I cared about, which is the important thing I think. That’s the point of this blog, after all: it’s my sounding-board to the world. And some other people read it, so that’s nice too.

Now, what for the future of the blog? I don’t know. Not just because I don’t know the future. But what will I care about sufficient to write about? I mean, there’s stuff I get heated about, but I’m not going to write about. I still haven’t done my Picard review, after all, and I’m still mad about that show. I do hope, though, that it won’t die, again. It’s not like I don’t have a lot of free time, even at work, to at least think of stuff to write about. So, we’ll see.

What Do I Want In a Game’s Story?

Yesterday ESO made a news post that deals with how they came up with the story for the new expansion. One bit really got my gears moving (highlighting the part that stuck out to me):

“It all starts with the Creative Director, Lead Designer, and myself. They provide guidance as to the type of story they want to see (political, Daedric, Dragons) and the kinds of places they want to go in the world (Elsweyr, Western Skyrim, whatever). Then, I start creating short pitches, exploring the kinds of themes and plots that might be fun and exciting and could only take place at the intersection of those initial ideas.”

-Bill Slavicsek, ESO’s Lead Writer

As you can tell from the top picture, I have my preferences.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to like smaller-scale stories in my RPG’s (much like Syp). Sure, there’s room for the big, world-saving stuff. But in general, I like to focus on the more local problems in games. This is why I love side-quests so much: the quests are almost always about whatever is bothering the local npc’s at the time. Sure, the world might be ending, but what about the dingos after my baby?

Politics is usually bigger-scale than that, but not necessarily by a whole lot, in RPG terms at least. But those are the stories that I want, myself. I look at my favorite games, and my favorite parts of other games. Deus Ex? That’s all about politics (and even throwing some real-world stuff in there, too). Fallout: New Vegas? You’re just voting for who’s going to run Hoover Dam, in essence. Witcher 3‘s best parts were about all the political infighting (and outfighting); I really wish the world-hopping and -saving were entirely excised. And the second game didn’t have any of that mumbo-jumbo. Heck, I thought the politics parts of the Star Wars prequels were the good parts, not boring at all.

Basically, I don’t like existential threats. I’ve long been of the opinion that, if a fictional antagonist is an existential threat to the protagonist (or their goals), then an equally weighty solution is necessary. Basically, a BS villain requires BS to take care of them.

My favorite (most hated) example is Eureka Seven AO, the sequel to 2005’s Eureka Seven. It’s a mecha anime that starts out as a monster-of-the-week show: nothing special, but I still liked it. But at one point a new villain comes in. This villain just shreks everything; not a step above the previous monsters, but a skyscraper. This continues for several episodes, until the show basically gives the protagonist a literal Plot Gun: the only way to resolve the threat is to erase it from the story entirely (and I’m not talking about a self-aware Deadpool way).

Now, obviously not all bbeg’s in fiction are this extreme. But I am constantly being asked to believe the people that started out pretty normal are supposed to be fighting entire armies, empires, or gods, by the end of the story. Even in sci-fi. This just strains my suspension of disbelief. Such stories can still be entertaining in themselves (being awesome is awesome!), but they have a harder hill to climb in terms of story, for me.

Now, what would I want, if I were one of the bigwigs at Zenimax, choosing the story for a new expansion? I’d just focus on what the preview quest hinted at. Not the stuff with the witches and vampires (that could still be a part), but on the political enmity between western and eastern Skyrim. Why doesn’t the Jarl of Solitude recognize the Skald-King as legitimate? What would it take to get him on-side? Or is he a jerk who’s planning on taking over the whole place (Skyrim, not Tamriel)? What about the civilians: what are their attitudes toward the whole situation? That’s what I want to see.

Unboxing Some Plastic

“This might look bad, but it’s alchemy! It’ll be fine.”

I used to collect a lot of anime figures. I just like collecting things that look nice, and anime stuff is just one of those things. This is the same reason I try to buy physical, at least with console games – they look nice on the shelf, after all. (Rarely bought pre-owned games at Gamestop unless they had the original case, because of that.) About three or so years ago, I stopped. Don’t know why, just lost interest. That was OK, because I had gacha games that could use those funds instead.

And so it went, until last weekend. I was browsing Twitter, and saw someone with a Breath of the Wild Zelda figure (the Nendoroid one). I just had to get one. So I go to the usual places, and look for her. Eventually I did, but not before seeing some other stuff I just had to have. Again, Nendos, so they’re relatively cheap, especially pre-owned (“used” just sounds so wrong in this context). Only trouble, these came from Japan. And with the corona going around scaring everyone, planes aren’t flying near so much. But DHL ships internationally still, and, while expensive, they are wicked-fast – shipped out Thursday morning, got to my door Friday afternoon. So, let’s take a look:

You always get an Amichan picture when you order from Amiami, which changes every month.
They always use so much packaging – sometimes these things can be rather fragile.

And there they are. You’ll notice there isn’t a Zelda – she’s sold out from Amiami, and the other Japanese sites I looked at.

They think it don’t be like this, but it do.

So I tried something I wouldn’t normally do: went to an American site. Turns out Tokyo Otaku Mode actually had some. The usual problem with American sites is that they are more expensive, and they have limited stock with big delays. To illustrate: the Zelda nendo I wanted came out in January, but TOM is only getting it this month. But because of that, they still had a few preorders open. So hurray for me.

Anyhow, these aren’t meant to be mint-in-box. They’re meant to be looked at! In the open air! (In fact, keeping them in the box long-term is generally bad.) I have a shelf for this stuff, and they’re going up on it.

Even the individual pieces on the already-put-together figure have plastic protection.
She must really like you to offer her burger like that…
I’m no photographer, especially with a phone camera.
The greater context…all blurry-like.

And thus ends Blapril 2020. Missed the last few days, but that’s OK, because I got all of April. And, I didn’t feel like it. It feels good to have accomplished something, even if it is something minor like writing a stupid blog post every day. I didn’t have the excuse of lockdown, but I did have a bunch of time, regardless. And I was able to break out into doing some different things.

My Bartle Test

Always one to feed the data collecting monsters, I decided to take a little test. This is the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, which makes an attempt to categorize gamers according to the picture above. It’s an old test, designed to classify MUD gamers. But it still holds up, as it’s so basic. It’s also short, which is nice.

And I think it’s pretty accurate. I’m always one who takes it easy, trying to go at my own pace. I don’t care about competitive parts of multiplayer games at all. If I ever even bother with pvp, it’s usually to get some reward (or do some exploration – like Cyrodil in ESO) that can only be done in pvp modes. But I don’t really care so much if I don’t get some shiny if it will be a pain to get. Just walking around, that’s good stuff though. Especially if it uncovers some lore or other cool thing.

Crusader Kings II: AAR Part 5

When we last left of, King Ulitis had died immediately after starting a war for Bryansk, the last of the Romuvan holy sites. While he started out as “The Wise,” apparently he got worse as time went on. I mean, look at that epitaph. So, now we have King Prusas; and, as noted above, he’s a great military leader. He isn’t too bad in the other areas either, but his martial is through the roof. Which is funny, because he’s a fatty. I guess he’s more of a general than a fighter.

Taking advantage of his skills, he starts a war again, for Bryansk (when a ruler dies, any wars they started over personal claims end). This is going along swimmingly, when someone sneaks a snake into his bed and kills him. Should have checked under the sheets there. He lasted a couple weeks over a year. Next up is another fellow named Nomedas. He, however, is a bit of a loser.

Not only were his stats bad to begin with, but he also is infirm. I predict a short reign, but we’ll see. However, one doesn’t need spectacular stats to win wars that were already being won, which he does, which leads to Prussia (and the Romuvan faith) gaining the last holy site. Well, second-to-last, since at some point one of them was inherited by some other kingdom. But this is definitely a start.

Nomedas decides to put all of his remaining efforts into war-fighting, and goes to town. He manages to be successful in most everything, which gains him the very appropriate title of Tenacious. However, being successful while being weak doesn’t paint any less of a target on his back, and one of his dukes challenges him to a duel. Of course Nomedas can’t accept, which isn’t a good mark on his record.

-33 vs 82 personal combat skill? I’m sure that would be fine.

Even though Nomedas is now officially a coward, he still keeps trucking on, keeps on the conquests. The world is going crazy around him, but he’s just going to be fine. Even his queen dies, and he gets a good young one – who he gets pregnant! Alas, his infirmities catch up with him, and he dies after an impressive rule of nine years as an old cripple. Maslaw is the successor.

Maslaw is a mighty man, a smart fellow, and a skilled diplomat on top of it all. He continues with the multi-generational plan to organize the Romuvan faith – conquering territory in the name of religion, regaining holy sites, all that business. He also joins the warrior lodge, as one would expect such a mighty king to do, and quickly moves up the ranks. Alas, at some point the northern (and quite powerful) duchy is either inherited by, or inherits, the kingdom of Pomerania, which not only takes off a huge chunk of the kingdom, but also loses Romuva one of the holy sites. Fortunately the territory is still run by Romuvans, which means the religion’s moral authority doesn’t take a huge hit. Poland eventually either conquers that kingdom, or inherits it, which means Prussia has Poland on three borders, and can’t just conquer the territory back.

To make matters worse, at the relatively young age of 57 Maslaw becomes infirm, a once-mighty warrior brought down to bed. But he doesn’t waste his time: he becomes a renowned poet. And he doesn’t let off leading wars, nor does he stop improving the kingdom. However, his conditions worsen, leaving him totally senile a few years later. This is of course unacceptable, and despite his incredible luck, he’s eventually assassinated by those that want the kingdom to prosper. Before Maslaw was incapacitated, he nominated a good successor in Arelis.

Tales of Zestiria: First Impressions

I’ve put in a few more hours into Tales of Zestiria, and have some thoughts about it. To put it short: mixed reaction, though mostly positive.

I’ll start with the negatives:

  • The combat system is different from other Tales Of games. Much simpler, at least with the normal attacks. It might just be that I’m playing on semi-auto, though; perhaps manual would make things more like normal? But I’m pretty sure I’ve played semi-auto in all games before this, and it wasn’t the same. (But maybe I was playing on manual this whole time, and just don’t remember.)
  • This isn’t really specific to this game, but I’m going to mention it anyways: I hate how the Select/Cancel buttons are reversed between Switch games and other games. I kept messing up when I was playing Switch games, and now that I’m coming back to the standard controller config, it’s messing me up again. I know I could remap the controls (in either case), but I’m not going to give up that easily, dammit!
  • Again, not specific to this game, but not having a screenshot button on the controller is annoying. I have no shots from the first three hours of the game. More specific to this game, the cutscene text auto-advances, so I have to have good timing with screenshots, which is harder when both of my hands are on the controller by default, and under a blanket at that, while my keyboard isn’t.
  • This is a typical jrpg pc port. Or, in other words, poorly done. It’s pretty badly optimized, and I have noticeable framerate drops, despite my good rig. Also, the ingame Vsync just plain doesn’t work – had to use the graphics card settings to get rid of some of the worst screen tearing I’ve ever experienced.
  • The localization is questionable. I really hate it when translators make the dialog more snappy. I know there are times when a straight translation doesn’t work, but you don’t need to completely rewrite 3/4 of the lines. When even a babby-tier Japanese-knower like me can tell so much is wrong, there are problems.
  • The mentor character Lailah mentions that just how everything will turn out depends entirely on the actions and choices of the hero. This implies that the player will have choice in how things proceed. However, this is a Tales Of game, which don’t exactly have a history of player agency in the story, to put it mildly. I seriously doubt that will change with this game. Not that linearity is a problem in itself, but the implication that player story agency might be present is.
  • Sorey looks really weird. I initially thought that was going to be the artsytle, but no, it’s just him. He’s got this tiny head with weird facial proportions. He looks kinda like an alien, to be honest.

And now for the good:

  • The scene where Sorey becomes the Shepherd is probably one of the most epic (in the true sense of the word) “taking the mantle of the hero” scenes in vidya that I’ve seen. It’s properly hyped up, for one – usually that scene just happens with little fanfare (see: Link pulls out the Master Sword in most Zelda games). But here there is a lot of buildup right from the opening narration. Not only that, but there’s a whole crisis surrounding it, with a lot of witnesses – usually this stuff happens when the hero is alone, or with his party only. The music is great for the scene. The stakes are explained (albiet in a melodramatic dialog during the middle of the crisis), and the character is properly heroic. And then resolves the crisis, everyone looking at him carrying the saved person on his shoulder (holy messianic imagery batman!). I know my explanation makes it sound rather overwrought, but trust me, it’s great (in fact, it’s the reason I wanted to make this post). I think the only similar scene that comes close (that I can recall) is Link pulling out the Master Sword in Breath of the Wild, and it’s not particularly close.
  • I actually like all the characters so far, especially the MC. Sorey is without guile, but not naive. He’s perceptive and smart, despite coming off like the foolish protagonist; but he’s not some secret genius either. He’s optimistic without being idealistic. He’s so far making the typical new hero mistakes, alongside the typical youthful male mistakes, but he’s not prideful, and is willing to own up to it. A real breath of fresh air, compared to similar jrpg protagonists (especially in the Tales Of series). Mikleo is a truly good brother character, despite the Elf/Human dynamic.
  • I really, really like the music. Even walking along a path has bombastic orchestral music. Reminds me a lot of FFXII, to be honest. Not quite that good, but with that mindset.
  • The girls are really cute. Shame they aren’t the main characters.

The world they’re building is already pretty not-good – the government is corrupt, the church is corrupt, everything is going to hell. I wonder what the big dramatic Tales Of twist is going to be. I don’t see how they’re going to pull the “angels are really the bad guys!” thing here. And they’re already hinting that the Shepherd business isn’t all it’s made out to be, so I doubt it’s going to be something along those lines (though maybe that’s how it’s going to tie into the sequel). I guess I’ll see.

It’s still technically Blapril until the 9th.

April and May

April turned out to be a more exciting month than I had anticipated. Stuff actually happened. Well, stuff to blog about, at least. Real life stuff didn’t really happen much at all. And not just because of some silly shutdown. But that aside, yah, stuff.

  • Of course we had (still technically have, I suppose) Blapril. What a good way to get back in the saddle for blogging. I made it a goal to write something – anything – every day. And look what happened:
  • Yep, actually got writing every day for a month. That calendar didn’t even look that way with Blaugust. (Part of it was because I didn’t have my blog time set to the correct time zone…) The posts might not have been of the highest quality – I’m not a writer, and I don’t actually write outlines or drafts or any of that stuff proper writers do – but they are there. I didn’t even get blogging fatigue (other sorts of mental fatigue, sure, but not from blogging). I’ll call that a win.
  • I finished a game. An actual game that has an end, and I reached it! Finished Breath of the Wild. Such a good experience, one of the best I’ve had in gaming in a long while.
How does Link always get the fish cuties?
  • I also started a couple new games: Fire Emblem Warriors, and Tales of Zestria. I beat the main story of FEW, but that’s not saying much – it’s only a few missions, actually kinda disappointing. And the side mission mode doesn’t look nearly as engaging as its equivalent in Hyrule Warriors: it doesn’t look like you unlock new weapons or characters this way, at least not without buying the DLC (which I won’t). Might be wrong about that though, haven’t looked into it. Berseria I just started, only got an hour or two so far.
  • Got back into Dragalia Lost a bit. Not sure why, maybe just hyped from the new story, event, and now FEH collaboration. But for my other “regular games,” I’ve all but given up on Princess Connect – I didn’t play during my week of vacation, and lost all momentum, and thus my motivation for playing. Granblue Fantasy is in a similar state, though at least I can read the new stories each month. ESO is basically login once a week. STO even less, if there’s no event going on.
  • I also got back into Crusader Kings II. Got the dlc, started a playthrough, started an AAR. I looked on Steam today, and I’ve played 40+ hours in the past two weeks. And it’s all been in one game. Also did a bit of Hearts of Iron IV, but that wasn’t too exciting.

As for next month, I don’t know, as usual. Of course I’m going to continue with Tales of Zestria (might blog about it, not sure). I’m looking to get another Switch game, but with shipping and logistics being what they are, I’m not sure what I’ll get. Kinda thinking Luigi’s Mansion, or maybe Xenoblade. Could do Rune Factory 4 as well. I’m thinking of taking another vacation (that was soooooooo nice), but I don’t want to eat all my vacation time on myself, before being able to visit family…but I also don’t really want to visit family either.