Wednesday, March 30, 2016

At First I Was Afraid...

Fallout 4's newly revamped survival mode is currently in open beta, and last night I gave it a try.  Yes, I was petrified.

First, let's talk expectations versus reality.  People keep referring to this as "survival mode", but I find that to be a bit of a misnomer.  It's true that the game changes a LOT, more than when you bump the game up from Normal to Hard.  It's also true that changing to Survival will dramatically change the way that you play the game.  When I heard a game "mode", I think of something Iron Man mode, where the game ends when you die.  Or, something like in Diablo 3, where you can play in Campaign Mode, or Adventure Mode.  Fallout 4's Survival setting is sort of in between a difficulty setting and a game mode.  As a result of this sort of technical misunderstanding, I had some hopes for this that were not exactly fulfilled.

I was hoping that I could start a new game and immediately set out on my survival adventure.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  You still start the game in the same place, which means you have to go through all of the pre-wasteland stuff, which is not affected by the new setting at all.  After that, I found that the start of the game is actually a horrible place to start survival mode anyway, due to settlements not yet being unlocked and there being no beds in which to sleep.  (This is necessary in survival mode, for....survival.  Also for saving the game.)

So it was a bit of a disappointment that I had no easy, direct way of starting a new playthrough in Survival.  It seems my choices are to start a new game normally, play for a few hours to get the first settlement unlocked, and then turn on survival mode from there.  Or, load up one of my hard saves that's in mid-game and start from there.  Since I was eager to get into actually playing around with the new setting, I opted to load one of my hard saves.  My character was at level 45 in the one that I chose.

I was in Sanctuary, which was perfect.  So without further ado, I turned on Survival.  And then my legs immediately broke.  Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little bit.  First, I was informed that I was over-encumbered.  The weight I was carrying ballooned from around 300 pounds to almost 2,000 pounds.  Ouch.  Since ammo has weight in Survival, that was the main source of all those extra pounds.  I started to unload it all into containers.  (That's when my legs actually broke.  Carrying too much for too long cripples them.)

Using logic, I decided that the best way to keep my carry weight under control was to choose two weapons that I would carry with me, and keep the ammo for those two weapons while dumping all the rest into containers.  This worked very well, and I was able to move freely once more after doing this.  I unloaded a few other things, too, so that I could actually pick some things up during my adventures.  I kept my 10MM pistol, and my .50 gauge sniper rifle.  I knew that I would need plenty of food, so I kept most of that.  After about 20 minutes of inventory management, the game informed me that I was dehydrated.  It took two bottles of purified water to rectify this, and it was then that I realized that water was going to be the most precious commodity now, since I only had about 20 bottles in my inventory.  Also, as an amusing note, alcohol does nothing to help dehydration.  I had plenty of that, and it did me no good.  Except to make me addicted to it.  So I dumped all of that, too.

After hydrating, I took a nap in my bed.  Upon waking, I was informed that I was now dehydrated.

Well, shit.

Two more bottles of water later, and I set out on my first adventure.  While I was doing my inventory management, I received a message about a settlement that was under attack.  Knowing that these are somewhat time sensitive, I decided to tackle it first.  I opened up my map and had a look at where the settlement was located.  Ah, yes.  On the complete opposite side of the map.

Have I mentioned yet that fast travel is disabled in Survival?

Well, shit.

Undeterred, I set out on my first adventure!  Things went very well at first.  Since the markers for enemies showing up on the compass are disabled, I took it slow and careful, crouching in sneak mode the entire way.  I first ran into some Bloodbugs, and dispatched them quite easily.  This first encounter showed me how much the dynamic of the game changes in Survival.  Charging into a pack of creatures with guns blazing is a stupid idea for a lot of reasons.  Obviously, ammo is scarce, so you don't want to waste bullets.  You take much more damage, so it's a better idea to keep your distance.  Getting the 2X damage bonus for sneak attacks is SUPER useful.  Taking damage comes with the chance that you'll catch some sort of disease.  Healing is much more difficult to do, since the regeneration provided by stimpaks is much, much slower.  And sometimes, it's just a better idea to RUN AWAY rather than fighting, depending on the circumstances.  All of this, in addition to not being able to see the red dots on my compass that tell me where things are, led me to freaking the fuck out any time my sneak meter changed from HIDDEN to CAUTION.

After dispatching the Bloodbugs, I continued on my way until I encountered a small camp of Gunners.  I picked them off one at a time with my silenced sniper rifle, taking advantage of the 2X damage bonus from the sneak attacks before destroying their turret with my pistol.  I then raided their supplies, leaving everything behind except the ammo, food, and the precious, precious single bottle of purified water.  A little further on, I stumbled across a trio of people, two of which were accusing the third of being a synth.  Given the new dangers of the world, I was much more inclined to use diplomacy to resolve the issue, which I managed to do successfully.

I then reached another one of my settlements, and had traveled about a third of the way towards my destination.  This was about 30 to 45 minutes of gameplay.  Tense, engaging gameplay.  All of which would have been nullified and nonexistent had I been playing the game normally and merely fast traveled to the settlement that was under attack.  I was starting to see the appeal of this new feature.  I used one of the beds in the settlement, drank two bottles of purified water, ate some food, and then set out once again.  I soon reached a small neighborhood, and one of the houses had a bomb shelter, though it was more of a cellar.  There was a single ghoul inside, and it managed to sneak up on me.  It was the first time that Fallout has made me scream for quite a while, due to the added lethality that enemies now possess.  I dispatched the ghoul and found a few more bottles of precious water.  There was also a barrel of radioactive waste in the cellar, because we all have one of those, right?  In any case, I stacked up a few rads and used a RadAway.  Oh, right.  RadAway wrecks your immune system and makes you more likely to contract a disease.

Well, shit.

I was actually sort of disappointed by this, because I was hoping for something out of Oregon Trail's book, where you just sometimes randomly contract a silly and amusing illness.  That didn't happen to me.  In fact, I didn't catch any kind of diseases during my few hours of playing Survival.  I don't think that you can just randomly contract something, which I think is a bit of a shame.  I would like that to happen.  Instead, I think it mostly happens from eating uncooked or old food, and to a lesser extent from being injured by enemies.  I think that I would like the diseases to play a more integral part in Survival.  It is an irradiated wasteland, after all.

Moving along, I soon arrived at a very large lake.  The quickest route to the settlement was straight across it, but there was no way I was going to swim through irradiated waters.  I would rack up a ton of rads, and then have to injure my immune system even more with another RadAway.  I had to go around.  I chose to go to the right.  That would prove to be a big mistake.

Near this lake was a neighborhood that was mostly flooded, and getting through it required either going through a marsh (lots of water and thus lots of rads), or through the neighborhood itself.  The ground was flooded (so lots of water and thus lots of rads), but there were platforms on the roofs of the buildings that would allow me to get across.  Simple enough.  I start making my way across, using the platforms to traverse the rooftops.  Things are going well.  Then, suddenly I hear a splash, followed by a whine.  Then I get a message that my companion needed to be healed, and that if I abandoned them, they would return home.  Dogmeat had fallen off of the fucking roof.

Well, shit.

I find a place to make my way down to the ground level, trying to stay out of the deepest of the water so that I didn't stack up a lot of rads, and start looking for him.  A ghoul appeared around a corner, and I quickly dispatched it with my pistol.  This then informed the other ghouls that it was time to wake up and have their murder-breakfast, and I started to get swarmed by the things.  I backpedaled my way between the buildings, trying to get out of the close quarters, while popping off shots at the pursuing ghouls.  I killed about 6 or 7 of them and, seeing that there were no more pursuing me, I turned around to run properly out of the area.  And two ghouls were right behind me, and proceeded to rip off my limbs.  Ouch.

Thus ended my first foray into Fallout 4's new survival mode.  I can totally see the appeal of it.  I don't usually go for things like this, and this is certainly one of the exceptions.  Perhaps it's because I love the Fallout games so much?  It's far from perfect, but there's so much potential here.  Sadly, I think that it will be left up to the modding community to do something worthwhile with this.  I just don't feel like this mode works with the entirety of the Fallout 4 campaign.  It certainly doesn't work with the first 1 or 2 hours of the game.  I think that there should be a separate starting point for people who want to play survival.  I think it should be a mode that is offered AFTER the completion of the main story in the game, not as a mode that can be turned on from the start.  (I more firmly believe this after seeing that after activating survival, and then de-activating it, you cannot activate survival ever again on that save.)  I also think that the main story quests should not be included at all.  It should be more like a roguelike, where the focus is on survival and traversing the wasteland, and the main questline will distract and take away from that.

I also seriously doubt Bethesda will do any of these things.

Consider the potential, though.

If I were to re-design this survival mode, I would set it up like this:  When you start the game, all of the settlements are unlocked.  You are plopped into one of them at random, making your starting experience different each time you play.  From there, it's up to you to go out and scavenge and find the things that you need to survive.  Build up that settlement if you'd like.  You also get random quests about settlements coming under attack.  You can choose to travel across the wasteland to save them, or let them be overrun.  All of the side quests and random encounters can remain intact.  This would solve a lot of the major problems I have with this mode.  For one, it would allow you to start a new game immediately, and get right into the whole "survival" aspect of it, without having to go through a few hours of the main story up front.  It would also make the experience much different from the main game, which is what I was hoping for in the first place.  The current survival mode is more of a reason to play Fallout 4 again.  I was hoping for something that gave me MORE of the game.  It ALMOST does it, to be fair, and I'm sure I'll spend some more time messing around with it.  It's all just a means of biding my time until the next DLC, though.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Old McDonald Had a Farm, Your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell

I was attacked by four moths at once on level 19 of the mine and died.  I was then presented with a message that I must have "hit my head pretty hard" and therefore "forgot the last 9 levels of the mine".  This was the event that prompted me to uninstall Stardew Valley from my computer.  For one thing, I didn't hit my head.  I was attacked by four mother fucking moths at once, which was pretty fucking unfair.  And two, how the fuck did I forget 9 levels of a mine, but still remember my name, where my farm is, the names of all the people in the valley, and every other task I've ever done over the last 15 hours of game play?

I'm arguing semantics, of course.  This is simply a means of offering punishment for dying in the mine, and I'm complaining about it because I don't like it.  I do not play games that punish mistakes by deleting progress, so that is why I will never play this game again.  It got me thinking, though, because this is yet another game that a vast majority of people ADORE (no, really, check the Steam reviews.  98% of them are positive), and my opinion ended up being MEH.  This has been happening more and more as time goes by, and it makes me wonder if I'm just out-growing games in general.

It may just be the result of living an adult life.  My biggest complaint about Stardew Valley, before dying in the mine, was that it took too fucking long to get anything done.  In the words of Sweet Brown, ain't nobody got time for that.  This is a direct consequence of my adult life.  I don't have that kind of time any longer.  This isn't a fault of the game, but I'm not going to speak kindly of it, either.  If I feel like I'm not getting the best use out of my exceedingly precious spare time, my interest will quickly wane.  It's exceedingly apparent that I'm in the minority here, though.  Either no one in a similar situation as me plays these types of games, or there are way more people out there with too much time on their hands than I thought.

Either way, it's difficult to have to accept the fact that I will probably never again be in a position where I can enjoy games that I cannot pick up for 30 minutes and make meaningful progress.  And thinking about this makes me feel even worse, because then I start thinking, well, at least it's not cancer, flooding, pest invasions, or any of the other real, adult problems that seem to punch me in the fucking face every day of my life.  That really doesn't help.

It's a shame, because SV is such a quaint, charming little game.  I guess in the end, it just didn't have the focus that I'd expected.  I think I would have been much more inclined to stick with it if it had focused more on the farming and less on the wandering around gathering/adventuring.  I would have liked a farming game.  But, as adult life teaches you often, you rarely get what you want.  

Monday, March 07, 2016

Mole Your Enemy

We recently had a mole in the house.  This is, quite honestly, a very strange and rare occurrence, because unlike a mouse, moles don't particularly like being inside of a house.  They eat grubs and earthworms, which they're simply not going to find indoors, even if it's a basement.  If you look up how to get ride of moles in the house, the most common answer you will find is "Open the door, they'll leave on their own."  Obviously, this isn't really an option in a basement.  I'm assuming that it came up through one of the floor drains.  I've noticed that there are quite a few mole mounds outside in the yard, so I know they've been active in the ground around our house.  One of them probably found the exit drain from the basement and followed it up.

Moles aren't destructive creatures, unless you don't like mounds of dirt in your yard.  They actually help to aerate the soil.  However, that doesn't mean I want one in my house.  And, as I've learned over the last few days, they are incredibly annoying creatures.  They're also very intelligent, as well.  Getting it out of the house proved to be a challenge, because there's really no bait that will work well in catching them, unlike with a mouse.  As I mentioned, moles eat grubs and earthworms.  Putting cheese or peanut butter on a trap isn't going to really get you anywhere, and no stores sell bait that attracts moles because moles aren't a common household pest problem.

I learned that we had this tiny visitor in the house one night when I was just starting to doze off in bed and heard a scream coming from the bathroom.  John was the first to see it, and after spending a few minutes trying to track it down we decided to get some traps.  This was Wednesday night.  We got three traps on Thursday evening, the humane, live-catch variety, and I set them out that night with some peanut butter on them.  I figured that was better than nothing.  We had no luck after a day, and we noticed that the mole seemed to really like taking one path along the wall past the couch.  So, we moved one of the traps against the wall in that path.  It was then, too, that we realized that it was somehow getting up into the ceiling.  I still don't know how it was doing that.  There must be a hole in the wall near the floor somewhere that I don't know about.

The really annoying part of this whole experience happened Friday and Saturday nights.  It crawled into the ceiling during the night, and it would run back and forth across the ceiling above the bed constantly, all the time, non-stop, without rest.  Back and forth.  Over and over.  In the dead of night, the noise was beyond grating.  I wanted to rip out the entire ceiling just to get it to stop.  I couldn't sleep, and I started hearing the noise even when it wasn't there.  I think that if ever I have been on the brink of insanity before, it was during this point in time.  I threw humane methods out of the window and purchased lethal traps, including old-fashioned spring traps and glue traps.  I also purchased some bait, which is designed for mice, but I figured it was worth a try.  I also purchased electric high frequency repellents that plug into the wall.

I put two glue traps in the ceiling and one in the path that it liked to take next to the couch.  This was Saturday night.  Sunday morning, I got up and the glue trap beside the couch was gone.  I looked around a bit, and found it near the door to the back room.  There was one of Buyo's toy mice stuck to it.  The -logical- explanation for this is that the mole got caught in the trap, but not entirely, dragged it with him a ways before getting itself unstuck, and the toy mouse just happened to be there in the way and got stuck as well as he was dragging it along.  It wasn't difficult to imagine, however, that the vengeful litter fucker mockingly stuck the mouse to the trap while thinking, "You'll never catch me, you fucking cunt."  I was furious.

I saw the thing not long after that, and proceeded to chase it through the house, attempting to beat it to death with my shoe.  In case you didn't know, moles are fucking fast.  I probably would have been successful if I had a lot of open space to work with.  But, obviously in the house there are couches and doors and chairs and everything else getting in my way.  I have very few opportunities to actually tray and smack the little fucker, and it was moving from cover to cover too quickly for that to be possible.  I chased after it about two or three times that day, and John chased it at least once, too.

At this point, we began to think about what else we could do.  Our next step was probably to bug bomb the back room when we were fairly certain it was back there.  It's a pretty small creature, so a bug bomb may have killed it even though those things are designed for insects.  Of course, then there would be a dead mole in the house somewhere.  Fortunately, we didn't need to worry about that, because soon after the thing ran into one of the live-catch traps.  John heard the door click shut, and we saw that the trap was wiggling.  I took it outside (after terrifying my mother with it), and let it loose far away from the house, in the middle of the golf course.  If you're waiting for some touchy story about how it looked up at me before happily going on its way, or some funny story about how it bit me in one last act of defiant cunt-fuckery before scurrying off, you're going to be disappointed.  I dumped it out of the trap, it looked around in confusion for a little while, and then burrowed into the pine needles.

The silence during the night was divine.  


Holy smokes.  The last post I wrote for this blog was on October 18, 2017.  Through the little more than  two years since, this blog has be...