Friday, March 4, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas: The Shakezy Chronicles - Part 3: Coming Unglued.

Welcome to Part 3 of this ongoing series detailing the life and times of everyone's favorite wastelander, Shakezy.

When we last left our brave hero, he was on his way to the town of Primm.

Why? Well, because that is the nearest city, and the men who had capped me and left me for dead in the desert were said to have passed through there.

Upon arriving in Primm, it was pretty clear that the city had seen better days. By that I mean that things seem a little
more crappy than usual for a post-apocalyptic wasteland town. The city was divided in two by a highway which was serving as a kind of natural border for the two opposing forces in the town.

On one side of the highway the NCR, the "good guys", and on the other side (the bigger side) were some random bandit buttholes. Being the fine upstanding hero of the people that I am, I quite naturally decided to offer my not insubstantial services to the NCR.

The NCR are clearly the good guys, but in the wasteland nothing is perfect. From what I've heard of them, while they have good democratic intentions sometimes things get sloppy and bureaucratic. And in the end, like all good strong nations, it comes down to join us or die for them too. But they try, and that's more than you can say for most of the political forces out here.

I walked into the tent of the leader of the NCR outpost here in Primm. He must have some lousy soldiers, since they let a random stranger, armed to the teeth, wander into their commander's tent with nary a word of protest or alarm.

The commander gave me a quick and grim rundown of what has been going on in Primm. Basically, the local prison was overrun by our old friends the Powder Gangers and that destabilized the region, allowing Primm to fall into random rear-oriented bandit hands.

The short and long of it: It is up to me to 1) find a new sheriff to instill law and order in Primm and 2) go to the prison, talk it out with the Gangers, and see what I can do about settling that situation down.

Those were my official orders, but I made it my first order of business to clean up the streets of Primm, brutal wasteland justice style. While the NCR were willing to help out when the time was right, I knew that the people of Primm needed more immediate relief. And so, like an Aleve liquid gel-cap of justice, I set out to relieve the aching back of the Primm citizenry from the oppressive joint pain of the arthritice-like anal cavity bandits.

That analogy stretched paper thin, I set out into the night towards the crazy bandit side of town. Right at the border, an NCR trooper stood watch. I told him I was crossing over, and he wished me good luck. I thanked him and set out.

Two feet from his guard station, a heard that awful beeping noise under my feet. I closed my eyes tightly and braced myself for the impact, which easily put me on my back and hamburgerized my legs all over again.

Discouraged, and more than a little annoyed, I crawled over to the guard.

"What the crap?" I asked, bluntly. He just stared blankly at me and shrugged his shoulders. "Why wouldn't you tell me about that mine that you set up? For that matter, why even set up a mine there? Who is that going to hit, just three feet from your damn guard post?" I further implored, but there would be no answer. He was clearly too busy standing around and doing nothing.

Luckily, I had a doctor's bag that I had stolen from the good Doc back in Goodsprings. I used that to put my legs back in legging shape, and, with one last nasty look shot towards the stupid NCR guard, I set back out across the borderline.

This time I made it ten feet before I heard that all too familiar beeping noise. I let out a curse almost as loud as the ensuing explosion and crawled my way back over to the guard, rage in my eyes.

"DUDE!?" I asked, somewhat annoyed at this point in all honesty.

Still that same blank stare, and this time he added another good luck about crossing the border, for flavor.

I pulled out a single barrel shotgun I had scavenged off of a dead Powder Ganger earlier and used it to perform surprise dental surgery on the guard. That task done, and another doctor's bag (my last) applied, I once more went back over the borderline.

Success! This time there were no beeps.

By this time it was the dead of night, and darker than a black bear's tympanic membrane (I grew up in the Southwest and I'm also a scientist, so my similes get to be as nonsensical as they are technical). I was able to use the cover of darkness to easily get the jump on my bandit foes and dispatch them as easily and brutally as could be.

I also bumped my head a lot and walked full force into a couple of brick walls. The wasteland in the dark is a harsh mistress indeed.

At the center of town was a casino/hotel thing, serving as the bandit's base of operation. I steeled myself, made like a whale and breached the doors to the building, guns at the ready. As I had expected, the inside was full of butthole bandits. What I hadn't expected was to find that the defining characteristic of the hemorrhoidal-hollow bandits is a near total blindness. Even as my armor clanked away, I easily got the sneak on the bandits inside and dispatched them one by one, either through gun fire or the sudden donation of live dynamite to their pockets.

I also stole everything in sight, including the things secured by lock-safes and computers, but that goes without saying at this point. The hero needs to get paid, after all.

In the kitchen of the joint I came across a man bound and gagged (in the hostage sense, not the sexy sense). Naturally, I untied him and talked him up a bit. He was, apparently, the former deputy of the town, and he would help me get a sheriff. Great! I needed one of those.

"But," he quickly added, sensing my happiness, "first you have to get me out of here."

While I was a little annoyed at his holding out on me like this, I could also see how he'd want to get free from his hostage takers as soon as possible. So I told him to stay put, and went into the main room of the building to confront the bandit boss. Confront him I did, from across the room, with a little greeting I like to call "live dynamite". A fight broke out instantly, but in short order I emerged victorious.

Unfortunately, space in my pockets was getting extremely tight, and I had to start leaving the spoils of my victories behind. This will not due for long.

At any rate, I went back to Deputy Beagle (for that was his name) and escorted him out of the building. Once outside, he took on the queerest attitude and insisted that he had actually helped me fend off the bandits and that I owed him some gratitude. Furthermore, rather than actually help me find a sheriff, he actually gave me ANOTHER task to do for him before he would help.

My vision turned red, bile started rising in my throat, and my eyes began to twitch involuntarily. In the dead of the dark Primm night I let out a primal scream right in Deputy Beagle's stupid face. He just stared blankly until I finished, then turned and went off on his own way into the night. I made sure to pick his pockets clean the moment his back was turned.

I was tired of this place, tired of this town, oh my my, oh hell yes, you've got to put on that party... Where was I?

Ah yes... I needed a pack mule. One of Beagle's friends in a casino told me about a broken robot he had in his house that I could have if I could fix it. Me, being the super scientist that I am, did just that.

Meet ED-E. Deadly, sexy, and can carry my stuff all day long.

With my inventory squared away, I set out towards the prison. No doubt I would get there, some douche in charge would give me a bunch of stuff to do before he would decide to cooperate with me, and eventually everything would sort itself out.

I waved as I approached the gate guard to the prison. He stepped forward to talk to me, but before he got a word out ED-E whirred into life and put a hot laser blast right into his mouth.

"WTF, ED-E!?!" I yelled out, taken aback by my new companion's unprompted murder.

But there was no time for ED-E to beep out an answer, as the prison instantly exploded into activity. Alarms went off, guards climbed towers, men came charging out of buildings carrying guns and knives. We had kicked a hornets nest.

I sighed, grabbed a set of prison keys off of the newly ashified guard, and entered the prison proper. As I opened the gate, I shook my head towards ED-E.

"We are going to talk about this later."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas: The Shakezy Chronicles - Part 2: My Legs!

Welcome to Part 2 of my ongoing series of New Vegas: The Shakezy Chronicles!

When we last left our hero he had just finished taking his first few steps after being brought back to life by the kindly Doc Mitchell.

Doc got me on my feet, gave me a few essential supplies, and herded me towards the door. Among the things Doc gave me were an ugly Vault suit (think grown man space onesey), and a Pip-Boy armband.

The Pip-Boy keeps a detailed tab on my inventory and vital statistics. More importantly, my Pip-Boy allows me to enter VATS mode, wherein I can be much more effective and strategic in combat situations. But more on that later.

Before Doc could get me out of the door, I stalled and asked if I could use the bathroom. Being the kindly gent that he is, he nodded in assent. Doc walked back into his sitting room, to sit some more I guess, and was soon out of sight.

Now ever since I woke up I had this nagging feeling that the entire fate of New Vegas lay with me. Technically, I didn't have much reason to think this, being only a courier who's last job was only slightly fishy, but the feeling was there nonetheless. So, being a hero out to save the known world I knew what I had to do: Steal everything in sight. I relieved Doc of some nicer civilian clothes, a bunch of medical supplies, some guns, some ammo, and all the food in his pantry. I thanked Doc before heading out the door.

Ah, the town of Goodsprings proper. Goodsprings feels kind of run down, and kind of boring in that peaceful small town kind of way. First things first, I made my way to the local watering hole to see what's up.

Being the giant beautiful cliche that it is, Goodsprings seems to be under attack by a bandit gang known as the Powder Gangers. The Powder Gangers, to their credit, don't actually want to harass the town that much, and are really just trying to get to some other criminal who is hiding out somewhere in the town. Unfortunately for them, they are the closest thing to a bad guy in this situation, and I'm a hero with an itchy trigger finger.

So I go find the jerk they are looking for. It wasn't hard, every person in the town gives up the information to me, a stranger, for no apparent reason. I guess they don't like him much either. Anyways, I find him and tell him that I'll help fight the Powder Gangers. But first he says I'll need help from the community.

I easily convince the majority of the community to help me. The crazy lady who had earlier given me a rifle for no reason jumped at the chance. The bar owner agreed to help after I fixed her radio and smooth talked her a bit. How much help a bar owner could be, I have no idea, but the criminal wanted her aid so I got it. I also enlisted the Doc to be acting medic and convinced a local shopkeep to give us all a bunch of leather armor.

I'm a really good talker.

The only holdout was a surly old prospector who refused to give us the aid of his dynamite because we didn't have the knowhow enough to use it without hurting ourselves. As a way of demonstrating just how much know I how, I planted a lit piece of dynamite in the old coot's back pocket. Turns out he was right: When the stick went off I got slightly burned on my arm. I decided to respect his wishes and not use any more dynamite for the remainder of the mission.

Then the time came for the big fight to start. The good people of Goodsprings all waited in ambush while the Powder Gangers came down the road to discuss the prisoner again with us. Suddenly, a righteous fury swelled within me, and I knew I couldn't just sit there. I gave a battle cry and jumped out of my position, firing my rifle blindly towards the baddies in the road along the way.

Within two seconds I was hit by five slugs out of various weapons. The shots didn't pierce my armor and get to my vitals, but they did send me sprawling to the ground.

Around me it was chaos. Goodsprings settlers firing in an organized line, Powder Gangers taking up positions as best they could behind rocks and shrubs, and me in the middle.

The battle was over before I got back to my feet. The citizens of Goodsprings cleaned out the 'Gangers, and I was left with nothing but an empty gun. I consulted my Pip-Boy and it turns out I didn't even get any damn experience (whatever that is), since I didn't deliver any killing blows (or many blows of the non-lethal kind, for that matter).

Demoralized, I decided that Goodsprings wasn't the place for me anymore. Like Bruce Banner, it was time to start on down the road; wind at my back, a couple people who kind of like me being sort of sad to see me go.

The road was weird.

But I knew I had to keep going, had to get to Primm. At about that time a strange beeping noise interrupted my flowing inner monologue. I looked down only to see a flashing red light buried in the dirt under my feet. A landmine! I braced myself for the impact, but the explosion still toppled me over.

It was then when I learned a most valuable lesson about landmines: They hurt like crap! When I came to I noticed that my legs had fallen off at the knees.

I felt a little stupid having to come back to the town of Goodsprings so soon after my dramatic exit, but my hamburgerized legs demanded it. I crawled my way back to Doc's place and he patched me up. For a fee this time...

The wasteland is a harsh mistress.

Stay tuned for the next installment when Shakezy cleans up the town of Primm, and repeatedly gets his legs blown off by pesky Powder Gangers and their pesky dynamite and landmines.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas: The Shakezy Chronicles - Part 1: The Rules

Welcome to Part 1 of my new ongoing series of New Vegas: The Shakezy Chronicles.

What is this?
So kind of you to ask! Essentially, this is a documented blog-through of Fallout: New Vegas. Unlike the other games I've blogged through in the past (Ultima 7, Wolfenstein), this run is going to be done completely in character. Join Shakezy as he makes his way through the Mojave desert and tackles both the inspired and not so inspired game design that Fallout: New Vegas offers.

Why should you join Shakezy?
Out of the kindness of your gamer hearts, for one. For another, Shakezy is a quirky chap and I think you'll find his exploits entertaining enough for your reading pleasure.

So what are the ground rules:
I will be playing in Hardcore mode with the following mods installed:
Blackcompany Mojave Rebalance Overhaul Pack - This Tweaks the hardcore mode gameplay to make it more... Well, more hardcore. You get hungry and thirsty faster, you die faster, tough random enemy encounters are more common (but the rewards for surviving them are likewise greater). Baddies are also smarter, plus various other tweaks to make things rough for me.
Skill Based Perks - This mod automatically unlocks certain combat perks when my skills reach high enough levels. This is to help me out.
Tag Skills Improved - This gives the primary skills I pick in the character creation a little shot in the arm.
Perk Every Level - This unlocks a perk for every level I gain, instead of every 3 levels or so in the normal game.
Fellout NV - This is a graphical mod. It makes things pretty. No gameplay change.
Companion Sandbox Mode V2 - This mod is mostly cosmetic as well. It gives me the option to put my NPC companions in chill mode, where they walk around and do stuff like sit in chairs and talk to each other.

For the uninitiated, Hardcore mode changes the game in that ammo now has weight to it and is scarce, limb damage needs to be specially treated, and you have to worry about hunger and thirst. All of this is done not only to add a bit of difficulty to the experience, but to also heighten the roleplaying. Or something. Mostly it means you can't avoid crafting and drinking out of the toilet will become an unpleasant survival necessity.

Now without further ado, it is time to meet our hero: Shakezy The Courier.

Shakezy is a Mojave Courier. Think postman, only post-apocalyptic and therefore much cooler and probably a lot less efficient. He was tasked with bringing a package of... Umm... Something or other to the New Vegas Strip. Along the way he is kidnapped by a hipster in a checkered suit and a bunch of bikers. They take Shakezy's package and shoot him point blank in the face for good measure.

But it takes more than a bullet in the brain to keep this postman down! Shakezy is rescued by a robot, brought to a doctor's office in a small town and revived. It is at this point where Shakezy is given a psych evaluation to determine his stats.

I hate this. You have to answer a series of word association questions and some Rorschach tests, and the game determines what your skills ought to be. I realize they are doing the age old RPG thing where the gypsy asks you personality questions to decide what your class is... But the entire reason that works as a roleplaying class test is that the questions and answered make sense.

For instance, in the gypsy test if you are asked if you engage in a bar fight or slip out the back door, you can reasonably infer that the question decides whether you are a brawler or a sneaker. But what does it mean if the word my character associates with "Mother" is "Regret"? That goes double for the ink blot test, where none of the answers I get to choose are anything that come to my mind when I see the image.

But, I digress. Shakezy is born anew, and he only has one thing on his mind: Vengeance... And where is the nearest toilet to quench his thirst.

Stay tuned for the next installation, when Shakezy takes his first steps out into the harsh world of Fallout: New Vegas.

Note: I will have *plenty* of screenshots for this playthrough. I know there is only one in this installment, but that is only because this post was more about going over the ground rules. In my next post I will get into the game proper, and I will make a conscious effort to take screenshots whenever it makes sense to do so.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A little time off...

Two things are conspiring to bring this particular blog to a temporary halt of operations.

For one, there haven't been many crossings-over of the world of politics and gaming lately that have really caught my interest. I could probably do a write up about certain little controversies that have occurred, like the Medal of Honor team Taliban snafu and others, but those games don't matter much to me. I find myself having a hard time caring about such little events that so many gaming journalists have turned into full blown stories. I started this blog mostly because I found that gaming journalists so often stuck insipid political comments into their gaming pieces, but it happens so often that I'm bored with it. Do I still find it inappropriate (not to mention pedantic) when I read a game preview and get treated to some puerile potshot against Fox News out of nowhere? Yes, and I probably always will. I just won't write about it so much, at least for a while.

Secondly, I'm effing broke. It is hard to do game reviews and be current and relevant when I can't afford to buy many games anymore. Lucky for me the last batch of must-have games like Halo: Reach, Starcraft 2, and others are all derivative drivel that don't interest me much. Still, I need to secure some income if I want to keep gaming, and consequently keep writing about gaming.

So what happens now? Well, I'm still going to post at the Stingy Hat Games blog, perhaps more than ever now. I'm getting dangerously close to a release of an alpha version of my Quake mod, so I have much to write about on that front. A side effect of discontinuing this blog is that I can unreservedly work more on my indie game developing projects. As for Conservative Gamer Bloke, I'm sure it will be back eventually. I'm too politically charged to be able to go too long without something happening that pisses me off enough to write about it, you can count on that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Elemental: War of Magic:To Buy or Not to Buy...

And why you should...
Wait for it...
Wait for it...


For those of you who have not heard, Stardock's newest game (and first game developed in-house since the critically acclaimed Galactic Civs 2) got off to a somewhat totally crappy launch when they released this week. Apparently, according to a lot of players the game is nigh unplayable with its loads of showstopping bugs. PCGamer went as far as to warn players to absolutely stay away from the game in its current state. Harsh.

Loyal fans who preordered the game and found it to be a mess took to forums everywhere to cry foul, understandably. Then the outspoken CEO of Stardock, Brad "Frogboy" Wardell, doubled down on the newly generated hate for his game/company by saying ""...please stay away from our games in the future. I consider it ready for release and if others disagree, don't buy our games."

In all fairness, Brad knows a lot of the guys over at the Q3 forums where he made the comments. His comment was directed more for them, and not so much at gamers at large. Still, it didn't look good. He later apologized, and blamed his comment on lack of sleep and frustration about how his game was being judged based on pre-day zero code. By pre-day zero code, he means that retailers broke the game's street date (again). Even so, this doesn't totally wash because, broken street date or not, the game that came in the box was still a mess.

So here we are, two days later, and every single gaming news website is absolutely piling on Brad Wardell and his game like it kicked their dogs. They do this even when most of the journalists writing haven't played the game, in its buggy form or otherwise.

But why? Why the hate? Are gaming journalists, like the ones at Rock Paper Shotgun, really all that concerned about a publisher putting out a less than finished game? Or is it something else? That is when I started reading comments from players that gleefully talked about showing Brad Wardell a thing or two because of his "backwards" and "nazi-like ideas". My ears eyes perked up upon seeing that.

A little google-ing turned up this, Brad Wardell's personal political blog. Now I understand why Brad and his games must go down in flames: It turns out that Brad is a *gasp* conservative! That's right folks, when he isn't writing about Elemental game design he is writing about how high taxes are crippling the economy, how the health care bill sucks, and how global warming is hooey.

Could it be that this is why the gaming journalists are twisting the knife so hard? Hmm...
... Yes, actually.

Okay, okay, so I can't back that up with a bunch of links. What I can say is that in my opinion, based on all of my many years of experience reading gaming journos, I can safely say that I wouldn't put it past them to do such a thing.

For my part, my reluctance to get on the hype train to any Stardock game stems from how they burned me with Demigod. Demigod, as noted earlier, had its street date broken as well. This led to rampant piracy, which led to the matchmaking servers getting swamped, which in turn made it impossible for legitimate players, like myself, to actually play the game in multiplayer (and in a game like Demigod that is kind of like having Quake 3 Arena without the multiplayer). Still, Stardock always promised to make amends and patch Demigod into a non-crap state and... Well, I'm still waiting for that to happen. The game is still a total mess, and all Stardock ever did was give me some half-assed coupons for %50 off of more Demigod so that I could trick my friends into buying the unplayable game and share my fate or something, I suppose.

Still, there is no denying that Stardock has a good Turn-Based Strategy pedigree, even if I am not a fan of GalCiv myself (always seemed like an Excel Spreadsheet game to me). I figure that if anybody can do a sweet update to Warlords 3, it is Stardock. For this I am on board with the game, if maybe not for day one. The game sounds intriguing, is being built by people who know the TBS genre, and Brad Wardell is the effing man. Not to mention that the author of the Viridian Games blog (and damn good game designer in his own right) works for Stardock.

Multiplayer is coming in a patch next week, so get out there and support the game.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

System Shock 2, the FatMan, and me

Recently, an Internet reviewer that I love, admire, and mostly agree with, antisocialfatman, started a great commentated playthrough of System Shock 2. I made some comments on the vids about how certain aspects of System Shock 2 rub me the wrong way (or just plain suck), and he responded. Somewhat angrily.

Now, fair enough, I should have kept in mind that System Shock 2 is clearly one of his favorite games of all time. I know that if I was doing a playthrough tribute to one of my favorites of all time, like Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and some douche started in about how atrocious the combat is and how the level design in the sewers is mind numbingly bad, I would probably be pretty pissy too.

But that wouldn't make the criticism any less valid. The combat in VMB really is spectacularly bad, and the sewer level is a true test of the player's patience.

The fact is that I actually like System Shock 2. It isn't in my top ten list, but I consider it a damn good game. Yet it is definitely flawed in a number of areas. A lot of the flaws are a bit anachronistic to point out, to be sure. For instance, the melee combat is really dreadful, but then it still is in most first person shooters to this very day. I suppose that isn't a true anachronism, but whatevs. How about this: The graphics look like ass. Anachronistic enough for ya?

My issue of choice when I commented: The PDA/Audiolog storytelling dynamic, which I believe System Shock 2 may have pioneered, is terribad game design. It sucks in System Shock 2, it sucks in Doom 3, it sucks in Bioshock, and it is downright cringe-worthy as a storytelling device in Valve's otherwise excellent new freeware game Alien Swarm. My biggest problem with the device is how it grinds all gameplay to a halt while you listen to some non-character give his schpeel, and then probably throw in the combination to his weapon locker for good measure at the end. It is hard enough to believe that everyone in the future starts keeping a space-diary for fun, let alone that high tech security protocols allow for keeping the access info to your space-shotgun in there for anyone to get at (provided they listen to your boring dribble first).

Games, like in good film, should adhere to the old script writing rule that the audience should be shown, not told. Portal did this fantastically well. The entire story of Portal is told by the levels themselves, in the way they look, clues left behind by earlier test subjects, and little hints dropped by GLaDOS herself. This sort of charm is missing from System Shock 2 because it is too busy telling you the meat of the story through the diaries of characters that you neither know nor care anything about. 'Tis garbage, my lord!

FatMan argues that an audiolog beats a cutscene. First, I reject the premise that the storytelling accomplished from listening to a PDA can't be done in any other way than a cutscene. I mentioned Portal earlier as an example. Hell, any game that has ever had a character physically talking to your character in game has accomplished the same thing as those PDAs, and they did it without having to be nearly as contrived as finding a space diary. But even if I agree to the premise, is it even true that listening to a PDA beats watching a cutscene? At least cutscenes involve acting and actions beyond just purely spitting out dialogue.

And game designers need to realize this flaw in System Shock 2. Sure, recognize that it is a great game, but when you cannibalize ideas from it DO NOT take the PDA storytelling technique along with you. It deserves to die and rest in peace as an interesting but failed alternative storytelling technique.

The FatMan also took issue with how I called the writing sci-fi garble. To be sure, I only added that bit out of spite. Not that the writing isn't sci-fi garble, it totally is. Still, being a fan of sci-fi things, I know better than most that any book/film/show/game set on a future space station is going to be chalk full of "we need to put the neutronian flux constrictor into the sharpleton bolt tube", and System Shock 2 doesn't do it particularly badly (most of the time).

At any rate, I heard that the FatMan may be putting together a website along with HotLesbianAssassin, so I want to kiss a little ass so that maybe I can get a writing gig there.


Monday, July 26, 2010


Did I say I would put up the second part of the review?

Why did I say that? I hate this game!

Whatevs. I'll get it out, 'cuz I love you all so much.