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Tycho / 4 hours ago

I think it’s fair to say that, on certain axes, my companion has exceeded me in his affection for Fallout.  Specifically, I would say his obsession with Jangles The Moon Monkey.  Also, uh, his bottomless appetite for chems.

I’ve tended to avoid chems in general, if I can get away with it.  Addiction as a concept is so scary to me that I don’t even entertain it in a simulation.  But, in an incredible throwback, Gabriel literally peer pressured me into using virtual drugs!  No word yet on whether I will soon need to use Jet twice just to get the same high.

I feel a lot of complicated ways about this game.  I’m enjoying the comparing notes aspect quite a bit, which I usually only get with Bioware games; Grob has been to places and decapitated people I have never even met!  That is one of the hallmarks of a broad system:

1.  Anyone can be decapitated, and
2.  Romance options for inanimate objects.

Until I can fuck the hinge of a kitchen mixer, we aren’t prioritizing the right things.

So, that stuff is all good.  I like to ante up by vaporizing an enemy’s right arm, which tends to tamp down further aggression.  But the dialogue - any dialogue, really - isn’t memorable.  Not as an interactive system, and not as content.  I’m used to my character build having broader,  clearer ramifications in this space.  This is a gruesome loss; I still remember dialogue from the older games, which were released as the primal Earth was still cooling.  It’s possible I’m not playing the right quests yet, but I haven’t seen much texture to the verbal space here.  There’s no room for expression in it, or novel interactions.  Coming off Pillars of Eternity, where there are unique dialogue trees about what you had for lunch yesterday, I miss it.

Conceptually speaking, this paragraph was designed to suggest that Fallout couldn’t continue the way it is now.  That’s plainly nonsense, though: somehow, the angular, supreme elegance of a game I played years ago has become a summer blockbuster and has brought all the boys to the yard like so many milkshakes.  I want to say the same thing about Halo, even if I like it; I don’t know if the Old Ways, historically considered to be The Best, can carry the game into the future.  It’s just a fear of mine, it might not even be based on anything; I’m just invested in these things retaining their vigor so that I can play them the rest of my life.  That’s the age we live in now.  Except I’m clearly wrong, to the tune of over a billion combines dollars between these two games.  The game is so big in some places, and so small in others.  The more I play, the harder it is to make peace with that.

(CW)TB out.

Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is the very first Fallout game I’ve ever played. I’ve talked a bit before about how these open world games tend to paralyze me. I wander around feeling like I’m missing tons of stuff. I worry that I’m missing some important thing because I went left instead of right. I used to feel like if I was not “progressing the story” I was wasting time. What I finally realized is that everytime I sit down to play, I’m progressing MY story. I stopped thinking about what the game wanted me to do and just did what I wanted to do. Now I’m having awesome adventures every night!

I also finally figured out junk. I used to be overwhelmed when I walked into a room full of stuff. My squirrel brain made me feel like I had to pick up every ashtray and manila folder. Last night things really clicked for me and I found myself behaving like an honest to God wasteland scavenger. Now I can tear through a space pushing aside newspapers and grabbing duct tape. I imagine myself weighing the tin can in my hand and then tossing it over my shoulder and reaching for the desk lamp thinking “Screws!”. Last night was also the very first time I ever picked up a piece of junk and said to myself “ooh this would look nice on that shelf in my hideout.” So that’s terrifying. Also I’m hooked on Jet.

Here’s a text message I sent to Tycho last night:

After a week or so of playing, I finally feel like I “get” Fallout now and I love it. That’s not to say some of the mechanics aren’t frustrating though. I honestly had no idea how the settlement construction stuff worked until Tycho explained it to me. I still find the building system unintuitive and unnecessarily imprecise. I don’t think the game does a very good job of explaining things like hacking or item modification. I think I get it now but I can’t shake the feeling that parts of Fallout 4 are designed with the assumption that the player has a long history with the franchise. With that said I’m still enamored with the game and the world. I think Fallout 4 starts my long history with the franchise.

Also, you should check out today’s First Fifteen for the game Stand Point. I’m not just saying that because I was so good at the game either.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 3 days ago

(I have been told that for several hours the entire post was a single, gigantic link.  I did this as a radical UI concept, to maximize the surface area of the hypertext.  Gabriel said it looked like a “broken link.”  Pearls before swine.)

I’ve never been able to get Gabriel on board for earlier Fallout games, even the first Bethesda one, and I’ve never been able to bring him along on anything contained somewhere within an Elder Scroll, so from a nuts and bolts perspective Fallout 4 was always gonna be a rough fuckin’ climb.

There are some Fallout specific things in there, certainly - or things meant to honor its legacy - but there’s a lot of generally just sort of Bethesda stuff in there.  So, so much that I tried to explain to him: “Bethesda” constitutes a coherent genre of which Skyrim and the new Fallouts are manifestations.

The main thing he had to do in order to settle into the game - by which I mean the subset of Fallout with which he, himself resonates - was to throw every idea about “proper” play in the garbage.  Open-World Paralysis Syndrome (OWPS) is real, and when you aren’t super up on some of the basic laws of a system you can feel like you’re missing even more.

  There is a kind of clock that starts for him the same time he starts a game, it has to roost in him by the end of it, and this timer is short.  That’s not how I could do it, but it’s something I respect; he is always precisely himself, and I always assume I’m wrong.  But!  He had to say “no” to a few things just to maintain momentum.  For example, by the time he was really getting into it, he hadn’t really set up much of a town.  I don’t know if that is ever going to be a big part of the game for him, but if you ever want to feel like you’ve had a productive Tuesday, or whatever, clearing out five or six rusted cars and a big pile of tires can scoot a day over into the win column.

He’s playing it on console, which I’ve never been able to countenance; I get hives thinking about gutting a ruined grocery store with the analog stick.  I will tell you that what’s he’s playing on the PS4 looks pretty Goddamned good, though.  My machine at home does not fuck around and I was still impressed.  We I saw him clutching the PS4’s devil-yoke on the couch, I had installed a kind of pre-smirk that I had to pivot into a sort of constipation thing; I don’t know if I sold it all the way.  The trees I saw certainly looked sapped of their natural vigor.

What I saw there, graphically, I would have been perfectly happy with - which just tells me I haven’t spent enough money on this computer yet.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 5 days ago

Lightly paraphrased from the original.

There was a period of time, not even that long a period of time in the grand scheme, where a kind of collaborative back-scratching arrangement was in operation between publishers, the developers in their charge, and the enthusiast press.  It has not been dissolved utterly, but you can tell from the increasing percentage of in-line ads for not games that something key has changed.  Couple that with the fact that the real action from a promotional perspective is concentrated in a single, scruffily adorable Swede and the spine of the thing is laid bare.

For years, I could never make heads or tails of the access granted to outfits whose primary contribution is aggression either towards the creators or the users of games.  One some level, the agents of multinational brands want to be “liked,” for business reasons but also for the regular human reasons, but that couldn’t have been all of it.  I think it was mostly just inertia: these are big ships, and they’ve been moving in a certain way for a long time.  They were like British Soldiers, lining up dutifully for war against a guerilla force.

We’ll never know why or when or even if Bethesda or Ubisoft “blacklisted” Kotaku, as Kotaku claims.  You would need a team of PhDs and the Large Hadron Collider to determine precisely how little I value their claims on any topic.  Though, I can understand why a publisher might determine that an increasingly hostile outlet whose business model is “Start Shit” might not be the best time or money investment.  And you may say, “But Jerrzorz!” and that’s all you’ll get out because you’re going to look down at the floor for a second and really think about it.  Why did it ever work this way?  Why would you be obligated to spend millions of dollars on something and then place it gently on the black altar of a hivemind cult, bowing as you retreat?  The old accord is over.  Go buy your games at the store.  Do you not understand that this is literally the best thing that ever happened to you?  They don’t owe you shit, and now you don’t owe them shit.

Having been the cowering creature beneath enthusiast media’s Eye of Sauron on more than one occasion, the object of their tender ministrations, their ostensible populism and their eerily synchronized perspective, I have no sympathy for these creatures.  Which is to say, I have the same sympathy they express for those outside their cloister.  You may feel very confident that there are conversations at every publisher now, wondering to what extent they are required to eat shit from these people.

(CW)TB out.

A conversation between friends

My son Gabe is ten years old now. He is very much like me. He prefers reading to playing outside. He gives up his recess time at school to help in the library. I still remember doing the exact same thing when I was in fifth grade. Unfortunately he also got my anxiety. He has good days and bad, but recently he’s been having an especially hard time. I am able to understand what he’s going through and so I feel like I can provide some help but I also know just how hard it can be to change the way your brain works. He told me last night that they were having a discussion in class about diseases and kids were talking about the ones they were familiar with. Gabe raised his hand and brought up chronic anxiety. Many of the kids didn’t know what that even was. I asked how he handled that and he told me how he explained it to them.

He said that everyone has fears and worries. He said everyone also has a big filing cabinet in their head full of all the information they need to make themselves feel better. For example he told them that someone might worry about an earthquake but then they would find the “E” section in their filing cabinet and read all the information about the rarity of earthquakes and how being prepared can help. Then they would feel better and stop worrying about it. Gabe told the kids that people with anxiety have a filing cabinet but it’s all unorganized and papers are all over the place. These people he said can’t ever find anything they need to stop worrying. They get scared of something and then just cry and cry because they can’t feel better but they also get frustrated because they know they have the information they need to feel better but they can’t get to it.

I was sad because I knew exactly what he meant and I was also proud because that was such a fantastic explanation. He said afterwards some kids came up to him asking more questions because they really didn’t understand what it meant to have chronic anxiety and how it can be so debilitating. Lots of kids just told him to think about good stuff instead and he told me how frustrating that was. I explained that it isn’t all their fault. They honestly can’t understand how it feels. I told him how proud I was of him for talking about it with his class and how that was the best thing he could do.

I just wanted to make a post today and say that if you are hurting, you should talk to a doctor. It doesn’t matter if the hurt is in your head. It’s very likely that folks are telling you to suck it up or that other people have it worse off than you. Don’t listen to this bullshit. I didn’t get help until I was thirty years old but I am convinced it saved my life. It wasn’t until I had a very real conversation with a friend who had the same problems. He convinced me to see my doctor.

Well I’m your friend, and we are having that conversation. I know exactly how you feel and I want you to feel better. Call your doctor today.

-Gabe out

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