Water reflects the sky

| Tuesday, January 5, 2016

That's not the sky.

More like Brotherhood of Jerks

| Friday, December 11, 2015
Dear games where I am not playing someone in an army,

Please stop recruiting me into your army.

Thank you,
Person playing a game based primarily on wandering the wasteland with one or two companions

P.S. You're jerks and you have the worst HR department ever. Where do I even start? Let's see... First off, I am already working with a rival organization: the Minutemen. Maybe you aren't enemies, but the one time I brought one of your people there, he started talking smack about them. So either A) he's a jerk and you look bad or b) you don't like my crew, or c) both.

It's definitely both. You see, you're jerks. You show up in your flying ship of death and what are your first words? Are you here to liberate us? Will you share life-saving technology to purify water and grow food? Will you at least offer to kill raiders, like I have been as a part of the Minutemen? Nope, you yell at everyone to not interfere. Great PR.

When I wander into a few of your people getting overrun by ghouls and save them, they go on some paranoid rant about civilians. Sorry, weren't you guys begging for help? And did you never hear of the radical invention of "indoors"? That's right, go inside and the ghouls will just walk on by. They are incredibly stupid. Shoot them from the windows or the roof. Really guys? Really? And somehow I'm the civilian in danger.

I killed a deathclaw about five minutes after leaving my vault. Well, it could have been five minutes, but I had to talk to a robot and find a dog and talk to some annoying meth head. Point being, I am awesome and you are not.

Anyway, back to your terrible HR department. I am a wanderer. My home was nuked. I sometimes help people establish settlements, but I don't settle. I wander and shoot things. I wear a very fine suit under this power armor. Did I mention that I killed a deathclaw? I used the power armor to do it.

I do my own thing. It's the whole reason for my existence. Literally. I exist to wander around, sometimes alone, sometimes with companions who are more or less annoying. For example, the last Minuteman used to be my sidekick. But he kept wanting to have "that conversation" even though we'd totally had that conversation and I said no so stop asking that why I leave you at The Castle, okay, Preston!? Anyway I'm super happy with Piper. She thinks I can make stuff from junk, which I can. That wasn't innuendo, but boy does she sound happy in the morning. After I've been sleeping the entire time. Uh.

So, I wander and that tends to mean wandering where I want to go, or maybe where I just happen to end up. That's pretty much the exact opposite of following orders. Even if I did the exact opposite of your orders I'd still be predictable, which I am not. So stop pretending that I have to follow your orders. I can build by own giant airship with more airships on it. I once made one from legos. But it was a watership and it had planes. But whatever, you don't even know what that is anymore.

I have some standards. For example, don't ask me to get food from settlers "by any means". That's what raiders do. I sometimes get paid to kill raiders. Or I do it for fun. Then I take their stuff. Where do you think I got the materials for these fancy weapons that I use to kill raiders? Yea, I'm like a Catch-22 that broke the cycle and is spiraling upward into greater and greater ability to kill you. I have more nukes than what you found in that fort that I helped you capture from the super mutants.

So I'm wondering, when you claim that you are here to liberate the Commonwealth, who are you liberating it from? The Institute is scary, but it does not control it. Same with the raiders. The Minutemen are the closest to a controlling power and really they're just some tiny settlements that let me use their old tires to make guns. Supposedly I'm a general, but I haven't led shit since we captured The Castle.

I can only conclude that you're not here to liberate, but to "liberate". You make up some false enemy, or inflate a real one, as an excuse to swoop in and seize power. Well I won't stand for it!

Maybe a little bit. I could use a backup suit of power armor for Piper. So I'll do some of your missions. But I will draw the line at some point. Like not doing your stupid side missions. I did one of them and I was already bored. I walked it, shot a lot of mutants, took their stuff, and left. It's exactly what I normally do, but somehow when you ask me to do it it sounds boring. Maybe it's because you're a bunch of uncharistmatic, overly-aggressive zealots. Me, I wear a nice suit with a bonus to charisma, I only shoot when necessary, and I'm not so much zealous as adventurous.

Oh man, I bet I can get some copper from this telephone. Do you have any more psycho? I've been making psychojet and that stuff is so great. It's like the best of both worlds plus the third one and it's so great. Where the hell am I melting down these dinner trays to get aluminum? I have a campfire and a hammer.

Inventory Management

| Tuesday, December 1, 2015
I've been spoiled by World of Warcraft. Or more accurately, I've been spoiled by its openness to addons. I can customize my UI many ways: rearrange bars, change hotkeys, and most importantly: organize my bags. Everything is nicely sorted into gear sets, consumables, trade goods (by type), quests, trash, and so on. My auction addon gives a decent idea of what things are worth, too.

So when I complain about inventory management in Fallout 4, and Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim, and Oblivion, that's where I'm coming from. These games have terrible inventory management.

To begin: Miscellaneous. I've said before that this is a ridiculous 'category'. Some of these are crafting items. Some are vendor trash. Some are quest items, possibly for quests you don't even have.

On the first point: If a game has a crafting system that uses particular crafting materials, then those crafting materials should have their own tab. If there are multiple crafting types, then the materials for each should be able to be sorted or filtered.

Fallout 4 brings another level to this: materials within materials. Junk, once useless vendor trash, is now a source of rare crafting materials. Gun mods need nuclear material, turrets need circuits, electricity for your settlements (you do like indoor lighting, yes?) require copper. I've developed the habit of buying junk from vendors to get these materials. But which junk? Some junk gives steel, which is trivial to get. Some junk gives copper or oil, which are trickier. Yet, there is no way to filter by the type of sub-material in junk.

While we're at it, why not have a cost/weight display? I'm so often overloaded with items and stick the excessively weighty and non-valuable items in boxes to rot. I run the math in my head, but why not build it in? It's tiresome to wonder whether the 38 cap weapon for 3.9 weight is worthwhile, it's so close to 10/1 after all, but how close? Better than 54/5.2?

I give up! I have enough caps. I'll just pick up stuff that is worth my time. If it's not at least 100 caps, just don't even show it to me. Unless it's a junk item I need. Or a crafting material; I'm still leveling, after all.

Thanks, Piper, I can do something with this. No, Preston, this is not just junk. Maybe that's why your Minutemen fell apart, you didn't see the value in desk fans and dinner trays. Or maybe it's that you never stop asking people if you can have "that conversation". We had that conversation and I said I wasn't interested. Sexual harassment is not cool; not even in the post-apocalyptic future. I'm the man frozen in time since the future 50s, not you.

Where are you?

| Tuesday, November 3, 2015
That is an excellent question that you left in a comment two months ago, Kring. I am not particularly anywhere. This blog has been mostly about my thoughts on WoW, with other non-MMO games sprinkled in because I can't always write posts that people care about. Lately I've not played much WoW, by which I seem to mean nearly a year. The rest of this post is pretty much going to be me complaining about Warlords of Draenor.

I have been playing WoW again, but only because it is free. Thanks to the token things, I can buy game time with gold. Gold is something I have. So I am playing, but rather half-heartedly.

In vanilla I often heard raid or die. That was, of course, stupid. There was plenty to do beside raiding. There were an abundance of quests. Leveling took a while, so it's not as if everyone had a dozen 60s. That is a slight exaggeration, I only have a paladin, two rogues, warlock, priest, and a death knight at 100. That's only 6 max-level characters. It's not the most I've ever had, but it's partly because I very much do not want any more. I barely play the ones I have.

The unfortunate situation is that WoD is pretty much garrisons, raiding, and LFR. And also Tanaan, which you need for oil for your garrison and gear so you can skip LFR. I don't find garrisons very rewarding.

Garrisons aren't much fun for me at max level. I enjoyed building it up. Then it becomes a static ore-printer. Occasionally I'll run through the garden and mine, set up another couple days of work orders, and then stop caring again for a week. I'll set up follower missions somewhat regularly, since they're mostly just "click button, wait to collect gold".

Raiding isn't really in the cards for me. My tendency to want to be prepared for everything, while useful at work, makes raiding far more stressful than it needs to be. Throw in a touch of social anxiety and I'm out of the raiding game for the foreseeable future.

LFR is garbage. I've complained about it elsewhere for years. It's not much different. This time it gave me a legendary ring. It doesn't even give me a cool animal head on my back.

Tanaan is fun on a weekend when I have some time to burn. I like grabbing a few dailies and finding a group for Throne of Kil'Jaeden.

So I play a little here and there. I'll play alts, but any time it starts to be fun I remember where I'm headed: for my seventh time through Shadowmoon, followed by Terrokar. Plantland to the north is terrible as Alliance, but seemed better as Horde.

So, that's where I've been: half-heartedly playing Warlords of Draenor because it's free. Who'd have thought I'd look back and think that Pandaria was actually a pretty decent expansion: Pandas got a whole lot of story, the plot made sense, and it didn't at all build up expectations for something great, so I wasn't ever even the slightest bit disappointed. On the plus side, I like Timewalking, though I wish it had more dungeons in it.

On the plus side, I started playing Minecraft again, finally got Dragon Age 2, and tried a few strategy games: Europa Universalis IV (now with 4x the Europe!), Crusader Kings 2 (twice as much murdering of babies for minor provincial gains), and Galactic Civilizations III (I never played the earlier ones, so for all I know it's only 2.5 times as civilized).

Men Only

| Friday, January 30, 2015

Ran across this ad while using the mobile (ad-filled) browser.

Not sure the warning label was necessary.

Sniper Elite 3: Shooting Nazis with a pistol

| Thursday, January 29, 2015
This is a terrible game.

The sniping is tedious at best. If you don't want a dozen elites shooting at you, you have to carefully time shots to kill isolated enemies while some source of noise is masking your shots. For example, every 15 minutes a plane flies overhead (slight exaggeration), and in some spots it's loud enough to cover shots. Otherwise, you might get to fire one shot; the second will get you instantly spotted and located. Thankfully, every generator in the game backfires very loudly if you kick it.

I hope you like reloading (the game) often. You'll miss a lot. The ballistics are realistic, or were in the mode I played it, because it seems pretty damn pointless otherwise. The shooting range, rather than being a useful place to practice, get a feel for what the notches on the scope do, was instead a place to shoot sandbags, which conveniently did not show an impact site. Eventually you can get a gun with a high enough bullet velocity that the ballistics are somewhat negated, which makes it playable, but perhaps not worth playing.

Thankfully, what the game lacks in smooth gameplay, it makes up for by constantly interrupting it for a kill cam. It's sort of neat the first time. Then it just throws off your rhythm.

The movement is terribly awkward. You can't jump, except in very specific horizontal circumstances. You can fall, very noisily. Those three foot drops are the best security system in the game, instantly revealing the location of enemies. The terrain is terrible. Short walls may or may not be of the type that you can hop over. If there's a drop on the other side, well guess where you're going? Meanwhile, slight mismatches or inclines in terrain may require you to go all the way around. You'll learn to hate three foot gaps, and one-inch pieces of debris on the ground.

The stealth and AI are just silly. Enemies see a dead body and get worked up about it for a while, then go back to standing around. I ran into an alarm twice, in the very last mission, and it wasn't triggered by people finding corpses. Nope, only explosions are a valid reason to call in reinforcements. Meanwhile hearing someone walking behind a foot thick wall is enough for enemies to not only identify you but also tell exactly where you are. Apparently Nazi guard training puts a lot of emphasis on identifying non-Aryan footsteps. But, rocket launchers sticking up behind boxes are not at all suspicious. Oh, and all that yelling that people do when they find you: no one cares, as long as there is no gunfire. I guess Nazis are just constantly playing pranks by saying they found a dead guard, so no one believes it anymore. Perhaps the best thing is how vehicles can see you from any angle. Crew of two, one driver, one gunner facing forward: they see you, anywhere.

Speaking of explosions: oddly ineffective. While bullets can go through thin wood, explosions are stopped dead in their tracks. Also, they use Hollywood physics, in which being more than five feet means you're maybe slightly staggered for a second. There is one circumstances in which explosions are very effective: saving. It seems that the game doesn't quite treat things as a binary "can explode" and "has exploded". Instead there is a binary "can explode" and "exploding". I blew up some exploding red barrels and found that it was a very noisy location, so I used it for some sniping. Since sniping is a terrible idea in this game, I needed to reload. I reloaded to the barrels exploding and killing me. The ones that I'd quite thoroughly blown up several minutes before.

This one time, I placed a trap. But first I needed to reload the game about an hour back, because I didn't yet know that it likes to fuck you over for using quicksave too much. I made the mistake of not knowing that I'd effectively failed a mission when I quicksaved. Turns out that "set up an ambush" actually meant "place TNT and a tripwire in the path of a halftrack, that you magically know is going to take that particular route." I figured it meant wait for him to show up and shoot him, since the game does tend to emphasize shooting people.

Not with the sniper rifle, of course. I already explained how the circumstances around the shooting make it extremely tedious. So I instead used my silenced pistol a lot. Not suppressed: this weapon was silent, except for the thwip that everyone ignores. It's not very useful beyond five feet unless you have a thing for shooting guys four times in the chest while they stagger around and everyone watches. It's essentially the stealth melee takedown for when they're already facing in your direction. However, it's still better than firing your rifle and having every guard within five miles decide to close in on your location using telepathic Nazi GPS.

The story isn't anything to write home about. You're tracking down a Nazi who is making a weapon that will turn the tide of the war: a really big tank. To make things interesting, they also made him psychotic and disloyal to Hitler. He once says that you (the sniper) and he are the same. This has no impact on gameplay, or plot. You never plant evidence against him, tell a German spy, or do anything to take advantage of your biggest threat in Africa being on the verge of starting a civil war, or getting executed for treason. Your best friend gets blown up by a tank, so then the game says that you have his blood on your hands. I'm not sure they know what that phrase means, or they're just complete assholes. It's not my fault that a tank knew exactly where he was despite being on the other side of a wall, and the bottom of a tower, and really in absolutely no position to know to shoot him. In their defense, that's pretty standard tank behavior in the game, so at least it's consistent.

Mixing stealth, sniping, and old fashioned Nazis-killing should have made this the greatest game of all time. That was not the case.

The Quick and Easy Way to Lose Gold

| Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Do you keep running into the gold cap? Are you sick of making alts just to store piles of gold? Do the GMs whisper you for advice? We've all been in this situation where we buy out the entire auction house and yet just can't seem to get rid of gold fast enough. Even cross-faction auction houses aren't much help when you're inexplicably good at being fabulously wealthy.

Thankfully, I discovered a sure-fire way to not just waste gold, but get less of it in the first place! It's very simple; just follow these steps:
1) Have an item that can be disenchanted.
2) Look at what it disenchants into: both materials and quantity.
3) Compare the item vendor price and the auction value of the enchanting materials.
4) If the materials are worth less than the vendor, disenchant it!

Now you'll have stacks and stacks of materials and you can waste tons of time posting them on the auction house, keeping you from spending time getting gold.

Not to give away all my secrets at once, but here's a pretty reliable trick to waste gold: disenchant Pandaria greens. You'll get spirit dust that sells for less than 20s each, but it uses armor that costs 10g or more. If you're really unlucky and get 7 dust, you're still destroying at least 85% of the value of the item. Even better, the market is flooded with the stuff, so good luck ever selling it.

Feel free to use this for any gold-wasting guides you want, just a bit of credit where it's due, please.

The Average Player is...

| Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Terrible, lazy, mindless, stupid...

But my guild isn't so bad. They work together and are pretty decent at the game. They're not perfect, but given how unimaginably awful the community is, it's impressive that I managed to surround myself with so many non-terrible people.

I bet you have similar experiences. I'm sure that readers of this blog are mostly in guilds that, while not always great, will typically not be described as bad. Again, it's remarkable that this blog has managed to attract so many people who are surrounded by non-terrible people, given the endless sea of horrible people.

Just look at LFR. I just want to go run something without having to coordinate too much or worry too much about mechanics and what do I get stuck with? A bunch of mindless noobs who don't listen and keep standing in the fire.
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