Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Problems I've Noticed with Fallout 4

Up-front disclaimer: I don't actually own a copy of the game, and I haven't played it through any other means.  I have, however, been watching two LPers on YouTube (Vechs and ArchmageMelek, both of whom you should totally subscribe to) who are playing through it, so everything in this post is based on observations I've made from their videos.

Narrative Dissonance

Vechs very neatly spelled this one out in a rant in one of his episodes.  I'll link you to the episode with a timestamp just before the rant, but I'll also paraphrase here in case you can't be bothered to click a link and listen to it directly.

Basically, the main character's motivation to be out there in the wastelands doing anything at all is because they're looking for their son.  Seems kind of urgent, doesn't it?  Main character's son was kidnapped, main character desperately wants to find him, and is ready to go on a murderous rampage to make that happen.

But wait, fifteen minutes into the game, all this side content and settlement management and stuff gets thrown at you.  So suddenly it's "gotta find my kidnapped son at all costs" with a side of "...on my own schedule as I dick around with side quests and helping random people".  You see, despite the game having a day/night cycle, no story time actually passes unless you're out there doing the main quest line.  To be fair, though, very few RPGs include any sort of time pressure on the player.  When they do, it's typically only on a specific section of the game.  For a story like this one that implies a sense of urgency, though, the game conveys zero sense of urgency to the player.

While looking for your kidnapped son and trying to bring those who did it to justice is a perfectly fine story plot, it just doesn't work with the only kind of RPG Bethesda knows how to make: the open world.

Lack of Direction

Skyrim had this problem as well.  The player is simply given zero motivation to continue with the story, because after doing anything, you can go anywhere in the game world and do anything else.  The game actually incentivizes this in that dicking about in the game world ignoring the story and doing side quests will get you lots of experience and items.  This means your character gets a nice power boost, and whenever you do decide to return to the main story, it'll be easier than perhaps they originally intended.

Bethesda, in claiming that Western RPGs are so much better than Japanese RPGs, holds their games' lack of direction up on a pedestal and claims it as one of the reasons why they're better.  Maybe you just suck at telling a story that draws the player in, and are creating open worlds to try and mask that fact?  JRPGs might give the player less choice in the development of their characters, but their stories are absolutely on point.

JRPGs also use music to help draw the player in, which is sorely lacking in Bethesda's open world RPG formula.  You could put any music you want to it, to the point that Fallout 4 offers the player several in-game radio stations to listen to.  You're not going to be able to say things like "oh man, the theme song for the Glowing Sea is so amazing" because it has no theme song.

Choice is an Illusion

Another reason that Bethesda touts when claiming that Western RPGs are so much better than Japanese RPGs is that, when you play one of their RPGs, you can level your character up however you want, and choose a play style that fits you.  From a gameplay perspective, that's totally fine.  I've played the original Dungeon Siege, where your characters level up according to how you use them, and it's a totally viable facet of game design.

Except when the game is blatantly designed for one specific playstyle, as ArchmageMelek is slowly beginning to realize in his melee-only, no power armor playthrough.

Very early in Fallout 4, your character is given a complete set of power armor and a minigun, and immediately sent into an encounter that's basically impossible otherwise.  If you're trying to play melee-only, or avoid using power armor, you're kinda boned.  Okay, whatever, just equip it for that one encounter and then abandon it afterwards, right?  Well, later on in the game, you encounter all sorts of areas, whether on the main quest line or not, that are also basically impossible for a melee-only character.  Also, there's the Glowing Sea, which is a giant radioactive area that power armor gives you a hefty resistance to.  The main quest line sends you through it.  Not going through it is not an option.  So much for choice.

Required Settlement Micromanagement

One of the side plot points in Fallout 4 is that the people are trying to band together and survive in this post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Managing the vast majority of this is entirely on the player, and while you initially start with just one settlement, that number balloons as you play the game.  It's a turnoff to me, because I don't find those portions of the videos I'm watching to be very engaging.  If I were to actually play the game, I'd want some sort of mod to enable macromanagement instead, where I can just hit a button and the settlement's defenses get upgraded, or more living quarters get built, or bigger, better farms get planted, or whatever.  I'd make my own bases in the obtainable yet unpopulated Red Rocket "gas" stations strewn throughout the game.

You could just ignore the settlement management entirely.  The game gives you that freedom.  But it's so tied into the gameplay that you'll encounter it whether you want to or not.  I'd be fine with it being an optional gameplay element that gives extra bonuses or whatever, with very few if any downsides, but having to manage all that?  No thanks.


Don't get me wrong, Fallout 4 looks like a great game.  In terms of RPGs and levelling up and getting new abilities and equipment, there's a lot to do.  I'm sure that if I had the game I could very easily lose several hours of my life to it per gameplay session.  If you can get past its gaping flaws, perhaps using mods to assist in this, you could have a good time.  So long as that good time is with firearms and power armor, because the game isn't designed to be played any other way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Since I got the Super Famicom cartridge of Chrono Trigger at Nekocon, and modified my Super Nintendo's cartridge slot so I could actually play it, I've been, well, playing it.

I suppose this is more of a progress report than a "session post" like I did for Rogue Galaxy and a couple other games, seeing as how I haven't mentioned any gameplay details prior to this.

As far as the language barrier goes, I do pop the occasional thing into Google Translate, mostly to make sure I'm selecting the right dialogue choice, equipping the right item, or using the right tech.  But generally I've played the game enough (and, oddly enough, learned enough katakana/hiragana) that I don't have to lean on Google Translate all the time.  There will be another post, eventually, covering some of the things I've noticed about both the Ted Woolsey and Tom Slattery translations of the game, but for now, this is all you'll hear about the language shenanigans.  I'm going to continue using terms from the Ted Woolsey translation for the most part, since that's what I'm used to.

So, where am I in the game?  I just got the Masamune repaired, and gave it to Frog in the scene you get when you go to the Magic Cave.  Immediately GTFO'd to The End of Time so Spekkio could teach him magic, and then I went back to 65000000 BC to prepare for grinding up both Frog's and Marle's tech points.

If you know my usual first playthrough thing by now, then nothing's different.  Crono, Ayla, Robo, and Lucca have all their techs already.  Frog and Marle, as I just mentioned, are about to fill out their respective tech lists.

One thing I'm doing differently this time, however, is the use of glitches.  After having found out how easy the fade-out menu glitch is to use, and therefore how easy it is to activate the save anywhere glitch, I've generally been activating save anywhere whenever possible.  I used save anywhere to skip the scene with Tata in the Denadoro Mountains, just for the lulz.  But generally, I have save anywhere active just for convenience.

If you don't know about these glitches, I'll explain them now.  When you trigger a room transition, normally the room you were in fades out and the next room fades in.  During the fade-out time, you can actually move your characters around, and more importantly, bring up the menu.  If you bring up the menu during the fade-out, and then close it, the fade-out restarts.  If you keep moving and opening/closing the menu, you can cover distance.  This can be used to skip various things throughout the game, by triggering the room transition while standing on an event trigger.

Here, though, we're using it to step onto a save point.  When the room transition happens while you're standing on a save point, the game doesn't clear the flag that says "the player is standing on a save point", and it then thinks you're always standing on a save point.  This is the save anywhere glitch.  It will stay active until you enter a room that contains a save point, where the game realizes that you're no longer standing on a save point.

The Denadoro Mountains scene skip involves using the save anywhere glitch to save in a specific spot, then soft reset (press L+R+Start+Select) and reload the save, and in the process, you clip through some terrain and end up on a higher level than you were on before you saved.  This is done from the screen that has the chest that contains Robo's Mirage Hand, which is probably my single-most missed weapon in the entire game because it doesn't even really look like you could leave the previous screen in any manner other than going up the ladder.  Going up the ladder triggers the scene with Tata, during which you have to press A to get through dialogue and then fight some stuff that you have to burn before you can deal any real amount of damage.  Sure, the scene with Tata and the fight thereafter isn't a very long sequence, but this is typically used in speed runs, where you want to save all the time you possibly can.

Anyway, like I said before the glitch explanation, I'm in 65000000 BC with just Frog's and Marle's tech points left to obtain before I really dig into the story so I can get Magus and begin the long grind to level 99.  I have the save anywhere glitch active, courtesy of the save point at the end of the Reptite Lair.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I'm Free!

So, the past few months, there was something I had to do nearly every day that took a good portion of my time.  As of a couple days ago, I no longer need to do this thing, and as a result I have a lot more free time.  Maybe I can use this free time to get a job and end my society-perceived uselessness?  Dunno.

Anyway, the thing I had to do was take care of the dog.  She had bladder cancer and had to be let outside on a very regular basis or she'd end up going in the house.  My days were basically: get up, take care of dog until mom gets home, small bit of free time until dinner, eat dinner, free time until I go to sleep around 2-4AM.  It wasn't the majority of the time it took, but it was significant, and it kinda drained on me.

Now that the dog had to be put down (mom never said what led to them taking the dog to have her put down, I never asked, it happened while I was asleep), I have these hours of free time back again.

I mean, sure, it's sad the dog's gone.  I'll accept that.  However, thinking logically, which is what I do, taking care of her was a burden and now that burden is gone.

So basically, fuck you, I'm going out for lunch now that I can.  This Visa gift card isn't going to spend itself.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The AGDQ Problem

For whatever reason, I've never been terribly interested in most of AGDQ.  Last year, I watched some of it, but when SGDQ came around, it was absolutely full of speedruns that I wanted to watch, to the point that I had to sacrifice watching some of them so that I could get sleep to watch others.

I don't understand why this is, but I'm not here to debate on the subject.  What I'm here to do is, illustrate what I intend to watch.  Hopefully when SGDQ 2016 rolls around, I'll remember to do the same, and we can compare.

  • None.  Will probably watch Kirby 64 once the runs are chopped up and posted on YouTube.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • The Simpsons arcade game
  • Half-Life 2
  • Portal 2 co-op
  • Alien Swarm co-op
  • The entire 2D Mario Block
  • The entire Awful Games Done Quick block, which extends into Thursday
  • The entire Awful Games Done Quick block, continued
  • Secret of Mana
  • The entire TAS Block
  • Super Metroid
  • None.  Currently just the finale is scheduled to take place on Sunday, which doesn't contain any actual gameplay.  SGDQ's was a quick "thank you to everyone who ran games and everyone who donated, it's over now, bye" and then they stopped streaming, so that's about what I expect this finale to be.
That still includes a lot of good entertainment and leaves me plenty of time for sleep, but...  a certain title I like a lot is decidedly missing...