What I'm Doing Right Now

Monday, March 28, 2011

The King Of Limbs: Now Out!

It's been a little closer to five years since the release of In Rainbows. And now The King Of Limbs is out, today. I'm rather pleased with The King of Limbs, and I think it's their best album since OK Computer. They definitely deserve a front page in Rolling Stone. Anyways, in honor of the release, here's the digital download of the entire album!

EDIT: I'll put up the download link tommorow.

1. "Bloom"  
2. "Morning Mr Magpie"  
3. "Little by Little"  
4. "Feral"  
5. "Lotus Flower"  
6. "Codex"  
7. "Give Up the Ghost"  
8. "Separator"           

The Underground Gamers: Criticizing of New Vegas

The excellent now-defunct website, The Underground Gamers (note: I hear they're going to start a new wordpress), have given an interesting criticism of Fallout: New Vegas and its faction / reputation system. This is quite a good observation: a lot of fans were divided by said reputation system, written by the supervising writer, Caesar Leon..

"And now this brings me to New Vegas's rep system. First of all, this is completely ridiculous. It forces you to replay repetitive parts of the game mindlessly until you finally go through the achievements. And the ways you can get vilified by them are ridiculous. You want a good reputation with the Boomers? You go out and, by accident, kill one of their guys. Fast travel to their base, everybody wants your head on a platter. If you steal a broken, empty whiskey bottle that has red text instead of green or blue text over it, everybody wants to slit your throat. Factions can make you suffer for no apparent reason. Why Obsidian and Bethesda did this decision is beyond me. The faction ideas? Great. Reputation? Horrible. The karma system between good, neutral, and evil was epic enough in Fallout 3, but now pointless ideas between numerous opposing teams and private military companies just adds to the stupidity.

Of course it's too late to change that now.

And the idea of having to disguise yourself to gain entry is ridiculous. Say you disguise yourself as a part of the NCR, complete a difficult mission on low ammunition and stimpacks, and exhaustively return to The Fort, you forget to take off your armor disguise. The second you get there, everybody begins opening fire. At times this was so frustrating, I think I had an internal aneurysm."

Surprisingly, you can agree on many standpoints on what he says. I personally got frustrated by how stupid the AI could be at not recognizing you when you travel back, or the number of ways you could become vilified by another community.

On an alternative perspective, Dwight Wilson of MMO Crosswords wrote a controversial piece that raged the entire gaming community, gave him a negative reputation, saying that the reputation system is the only thing that ever helped the game:

"And yet, the only Obsidian actually managed to help get right in the abysmal piece of junk that is Fallout: New Vegas is the reputation system. If I hate one faction, I just shoot a member and they scowl at me every time I pass. Yeah, great idea, but at least another series of communities enjoy my decisions!"

This part, however, is what made everybody so angry.

"And everybody Obsidian and Bethesda ever hired are complete dicks. They promise us another game, that's even better than the last, then the idiots at Bethesda hire people who's job is supposed to work on the game, but they're too busy fucking the system until it lags like a bitch. Everybody at Bethesda is dull and don't have one clue about how to make a game. At all!"

Not only is Wilson taking a dig at someone he's ALREADY RANTED ABOUT, he's rude, ignorant, and a COMPLETE FUCKING JERK. What the hell is wrong with him? He takes stabs at intelligent, decent people who clearly have experience. And even if they don't have experience, so what? That's like saying: "Oh, Halo's awesome, but if they weren't such morons it would be better!" It's a completely unexpected, rude, and stupid argument. Christ, he just rants on.

 Found this thanks to Alley of Infinite Angles, many thanks to the Alley.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Radio Gaming Sanctuary - Dual Interview with Elinor Bass and I

The excellent European gaming radio station, Radio Gaming Sanctuary, did a an awesome dual interview with Elinor Bass and yours truly. It's very detailed, interesting, and complex. The differing answers might interest you. Thank you Finnick McCarthy.


RG: What was the inspiration for an Online Fallout game?

Alec (me): The idea came from the fact that good RPG creators were able to spawn similarly good MMORPGs. There's been some serious discussions about that, but considering how much of a juggernaut online play is becoming..
Elinor: They basically decided to join the bandwagon. So they made the decision.

RG: About Fallout 4: Will the range of weaponry vary more, or will it still stick to the primary weapons that 3 and New Vegas kept?

A: Well, that all depends. We have no right to reveal anything: but they will vary. Energy weapons, assault rifles, pistols, old hunting rifles, you know, the usual Fallout weapons, but we're thinking about adding different properties and varieties.
E: It's still going to be an apocalypse, it's still going to be a barren wasteland, just some new tweaks to it. V.A.T.S. will be turning as well, that's a given.

RG: So, will quests still have a variety in either upcoming game?

A: There's still an infinite possibility that you'll do differently. Fallout is all about choice: you can do what you want, when you want. The quests, no matter how small or how game-changing, will still affect everything else you do in the game. Factions will continue to play an important part in both games, but the quests will be more massive. It seems that's what the fans enjoy, and it's the infinite angles of play they have that helps improve an otherwise excellent experience.
E: And we want to continue to improve on the sense of freedom, you know? These two are going to be some of the most ambitious Fallout games of all time. When you try and compare the upcoming Four to the majorly successful Fallout Three, you wonder 'oh my god, is it going to be better?' Online is going to be a massive change of pace from the lonely journey you take in the Wastelands, because there will be others to be forced to share it with, or help share with it.

RG: What's your plans for level cap?

E: In the last Fallout, which was New Vegas, the cap was at thirty. That's a huge debate at the Bethesda and Interplay studios, respectively for Fallout 4 and Online. We're wondering, "should we just keep it at 30, or do we max it up and just make the player go from a weakling to the next Jesus?"
A: Precisely. Fallout 3 was a level cap of 20 because you wanted to keep a focused balance between all-powerful and strong. We were kind of questionable about being Level 30 in New Vegas, where you go from wasting magazine after magazine on NCR troopers, to the point where you can just look at them and they die on the spot. But New Vegas was more difficult.

RG: What would be an inspiration for the idea of choosing different factions in New Vegas?

A: Different scripts and story progression.
E: Exactly. You have four different choices in New Vegas' plotline, which increases replay value after you've finished the first faction's playthrough.
A: Right on the spot. Another inspiration was, believe it or not, guilds from MMOs. We did some of that stuff in other games we were involved in, and fans seemed to really enjoy the choices, so when the idea of having factions sent through, we instantly wanted a part in it. I mean, we didn't want players to go through the NCR story and then put the controller down saying, "Who cares?"
RG: There's been a lot of people I've talked to who just stop playing single player because they finished the storyline.
E: They don't know what they're missing out on. Possible achievements and game rewards, you name it.
A: Achievements were just made to give more replay value to a game.
RG: You should post that on your gaming blog, Alec.
E: Don't rub it in.

RG: What's your personal favorite Fallout games?
E: The first two. You always have to credit the original for making awesome sequels.
A: I'm hoping Fallout 4 will be the greatest, but my money's on three right now. So many memories...

RG: What's the best feature in the Fallout games?
A: Three things. One is the side quests, obviously. The variety and different storylines for each of the quests gives them variety and reason to play, not to mention being rewarding. Take the Blood Ties quest with the family, and the various Paradise Falls quests you have with the slaves. Second, the story progression. Fallout 3's script was quite an awesome adventure. From getting the G.E.C.K. to fighting with the Brotherhood of Steel against the Enclave, to the epic scene of escaping Raven Rock, your journey for a cure in the mutation-littered Pittsburgh, or even fighting aliens in Mothership Zeta, they were all very unique in Fallout 3, and New Vegas didn't disappoint either, with the fight from Hoover Dam to deciding on who you want to take sides with. And lastly, the radio. Listening to Galaxy News Radio and Radio New Vegas were really soothing throughout the Wastelands.

E: Oh yeah, I highly agree with Alec's opinion on quests. They are quite diverse. But another thing I enjoyed about the Fallout games was interactions with perks, traits, and customization, giving you a sense of survival. Like weight of weapons, armor, and need for water, need for medical health, constant need to repair weapons, and the state your armor protection is in. Survival is more unique in Fallout.
RG: Did Alec ever write a review of Fallout 3 on his blog?
A: I just put up my blog this year, but I reviewed New Vegas. I'm going to review Fallout Three in an extended review sometime in April.

RG: One last thing: any tips for those new to the Wasteland?
A: Stay alive.
B: Don't do drugs.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Hunger Games: The Hunger Games Review

Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games
Book No: 1
Available in: Mass Market Paperback, Paperback, Kindle
Estimated Price: $12.25 [Buy and Save at Amazon]
No. of Pages: 384


Very rarely does an actual generation come along and bring a book that tops the financial and critical highs. For the older days, there was The Lord of the Rings, Charles Dickens books, and Stephen King books. This generation has seen quite a lot more. Infamously popular books like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (you could call it The Girl With series, I suppose) will come around imported from other countries. Same thing goes for The Hangman's Daughter. However, despite how popular books have become this generation, partly due to the eBook rage, there could be one that really stood out for both children and adults: The Hunger Games.

Now describing Hunger Games would be a lot more easier than summarizing it, so here's the main structure of the series (along with the self-titled book here): Katniss Everdeen, along with her family of her mother and Primrose Everdeen (both named after plants, it is cheesy), live in District 12, a roaring capitol district home to woods that are oozing wealth and an underground market area in a sci-fi setting. Every year, in order to salvage control over the districts, the Capitol has to make children compete in the Hunger Games. Each children is at least chosen once. Your name is chosen in a slip of paper once at 12, when you become elligible. At thirteen, twice. Fourteen, three times, etc. In all 12 districts (there were originally 13, but District 13 was bombed), this rule applies. You can also enter your name in for a tesserae, which will enter your name slip in several more times each one. Katniss, the protagonist of course, has her name entered in 20 times. In each district, one girl and one boy are chosen, so it's a 24-member free-for-all. Last one standing wins.

Katniss is not chosen, however. Her younger sister, Prim, is chosen, with a slim to none chance. However, Katniss volunteers, which you can do if you are related. This has almost never happened. That just goes to show how angry you can feel at family trust, because not even older siblings will help you, but Katniss decides to (figuratively) sacrifice herself for Prim. The boy is Peeta Mellark, who is a son of a local underground market baker. He first had a major interaction with Katniss when her family was starving and gave her fresh loaves of bread to make sure she didn't starve. It turns out later that Peeta is in love with her, furiously, but Katniss takes this as a strategy in the arena to help earn audience approval. Their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, decides this is the case.

That's basically the all-around story for this debut. This was the first time I had ever been introduced to a Suzanne Collins book, so I was outright impressed in every sense of the word. The Hunger Games is haunting. It's violent, scary, romantic, epic, suspenseful, and thought-provoking. Evil. The world of Panem is an interesting, unique experience.

One of the things you can relate to in the book is how realistic this utterly fictional book is. The dystopian districts you can relate to if you think about it. The Capitol is harshly strict about how people talk about them. Utter a single joke about them and they'll whip you until you're blind and have no feeling in your limbs. They can torture you. (Though torture doesn't vividly happen until the second book, more so in the third) They're your master, you're their puppets. Play be their rules, you may live to see daylight again tommorow.

There's a good blend of action and romance. Peeta and Katniss's staged relationship in the camera-littered arena (for Katniss, it's staged, that is) is one of the main points of the book. When Peeta's leg is horribly mangled by a sword from another opponent, Katniss does everything in her power to help, but Peeta easily comes off as the stronger, in terms of protectiveness and devotion to the other partner, and more sacrificial one, going to radical extremes to try and save her life, just narrowly killing himself in between to help her see their beloved district. And the violence, though not explicit as it is in other books, is quite expressive here. There is a violent death somewhere before the third part of the book, and a very emotional one, in fact. There's other sacrifices made by the other arena opponents as well, including a death towards the end that was vital to Katniss and Peeta's survival.

The arena is an interesting place to visualize. It's a large, temperature-controlled, outdoor arena full of caves, trees, and beach shores. There's a lot of hiding in trees, behind-rocks, and stealth involved in the strategies in the arena.

There's a large sense of humor involved in the Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta's almost innocent poking fun at their mentor, Haymitch's alcohol addiction. Silly comments about the Capitol accent. There's a dark sense of humor that powers through Hunger Games' intense, though somewhat ridiculous, storyline.

The characterization in The Hunger Games is fantastic. The psychotic, oddly hollow nature of Cato, primarily the "antagonist" in the arena. Katniss's stealthy, quickly violent techniques, but good heart of personality. Peeta's heartwarming devotion and assistance with Katniss. Even Katniss's seemingly stupid prep team have some of the best personalities in a book. This isn't a book where only the primary or main secondary characters in the book are enjoyable. The arena fighters that have an interaction with Katniss, even including her sister Prim and her hunting friend Gale (both of which are not exactly developed enough until the later books)  have distinct personalities and natures to them.

The writing. Oh my god. The descriptions in Hunger Games are boundary-smashing, they're groundbreaking in every meaning of the word. The endings of each chapter are suspenseful and full of questions, which can keep you turning the page. The close, careful, patient details put into describing the arena, Panem, and interactions with characters. The kisses between Katniss and Peeta are descriptive. Everything about the series has been written with care. The author actually means to suck you in and are devoted. Whereas I thought Collins' previous novels, like the notorious Gregor, were good, but were flawed and didn't have enough details and character development. Hunger Games is a greatly mixed bag of details and writing techniques.

Could quite possibly be one of the greatest books of this decade, and of all time. Highly recommended.

The Soda Bar - 02 Thrill of the Feel - Sons of Angels (Crush 40) Review

A good deal of you have probably never heard of Crush 40. Crush 40 is a Japanese-American band, founded in the late 90's. The guitarist, Jun Senoue, started the band, collaborating with Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli. Crush 40 isn't very public. They have never sold any songs on iTunes, there's no billboard charts at all, barely mentioned by critics in their career, if not ever. However: the band did earn popularity by collaborating music for the Sonic the Hedgehog games, in particular the Sonic Adventure series. Next thing you know, the fans for Crush 40 grew, and was on to Crush 40 like a blood-starved leech. And, after the fan base grew, Crush 40, along with vocalist Johnny Gioeli's other bands Axel Rudi Pell and Hardline, would all soon became underground smash hits. To this day, The Best of Crush 40: Super Sonic Songs (collaboration album), became one of the biggest underground albums.

Slowly but steadily, this debut album would become the band's biggest breakthrough. This album is what earned their popularity amongst fans and underground music. This album helped earn a newfound respect for hard rock, where said genre was slowly being replaced by grunge, metal, and alternative (not to mention glam and pop). Thrill of the Feel was a devoted, all-or-nothing, to-the-core hard rock album that bands like The Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, and Rush made popular.

Now, for those who have a copy of this (and I'm sure many fans do), you'll be very confused by the cover saying 'Sons of Angels'. That was the original name for the band before a band of the same name (they had abandoned the name in previous years) took back their title, forcing them to change it to Crush 40 (note: named after Jun's favorite soda, I think). And it's a magnificent album, to the heart.

What's amazing about Thrill of the Feel is when they just go with it. Johnny Gioeli's voice is breathtaking, in every sense of the word. He sings with a mature, exceedingly crisp voice that is up to the standards up to Thom Yorke of Radiohead, or Klaus Meine of The Scorpions. Senoue is an excellent guitarist, and it shows. The guitar riffs in Thrill of the Feel, and the solo, are some of the greatest of all time. Senoue not only plays good, he plays with heart. You can tell when they're at their best. The two band members, not to mention the less spoken-of drummer Hirotsugu Homma and bassist Naoto Shibata, are truly devoted to their work.

Another good thing about this selection is its wide variety of riffs, melodies, change of tune, and tone of voice. From the hard-riffing, progressively fast beat of "Dangerous Ground", the epic sound effects and fist pumping riff in "Open Your Heart", and the almost acoustic, peaceful melody in "Watch Me Fly", there is rarely a repeated strategy used to the songs. And the instrumentals are amazing, showcasing some awesome work from Senoue himself. And Thrill of the Feel was what really kicked it off for the band. This attracted fans like a blood-starved leech once they knew about them. Tracks like "Open Your Heart", "All The Way", and the mini-epic "Open Your Heart" are constantly mixed by popular artists and the most-asked for at various concerts and tours. (Though their last show was cancelled by the Japanese disasters, but Jun's family is fine!)

Most fans also know Crush 40 by their second self-titled album, but comparing this to Crush 40 is like comparing apples to oranges. The track listing on the albums are nearly identical, but Crush 40 was more public than Thrill of the Feel (maybe it was due to the possibility that Thrill of the Feel was self-released, and Crush 40 wasn't?). The only differences are an extended intro to "Dangerous Ground", that for some reason wasn't included on the Crush 40 album, and the instrumentals are gone from their self-titled album, but replaced with two-three new tracks. So don't expect different music or mixes on the albums.

A couple of problems are still evident with the album. For starters, the bass is virutally nonexistent. Shibata's potential felt more dominated in this album by Senoue's awesome, but overpowering guitar work. The instrumentals are also far too short and not perfect by any means. The guitar and vocal work is great, but the drum work feels very thin, but this could be due to the below-average production on this album.

Thrill of the Feel is an excellent album. A superbly crafted, unique, digitally intelligent album. Sure, it's flawed, but the numerous good aspects of Thrill of the Feel totally dominate the confusing, bad aspects. (My problem's the bass, but that's another story...) It's a fantastic debut from a band that may not have Rolling Stone put them on the front page, but they've still got the underground fans to look after, don't they? 4.5 / 5, Highly Recommended

Recommended Tracks

It is hard to pick a favorite track, but I'd have to say either Open Your Heart or All The Way helps define the album more. Otherwise, the order is good.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Acapella Gamer Community and TF141 Media on Orcidea

The masterful Fallout expert, Finnish gamer Jodi "Orcidea", who is currently working at Energia Productions on the project "Iron Sky" as a project master, is featured in the similarly excellent Acapella Gamer Community's Fallout: New Vegas blow-out, he's featured right after the 'hands on' interview from TF141 Media (us, dumbass) and the Acapella Gamer Community.

I couldn't of put it simpler. Orcidea is a great gamer, he does everything and really roots out for the most obscure stuff, he really puts his effort into helping the other gamers around the world complete the quest they need help on, or find the weapon they break windows for.

Anyways, read the whole thing in 53 long, informative pages in the link above. It's not so bad, and other gamers are mentioned as well, such as Alley of Infinite Angles. Thanks for all your time, Acapella Gamers and Editors. You've helped us as well.

Did I ever tell them that was their most viewed section of the website? Ah, they'll figure it out.

Shoot an Arrow - Fallout New Vegas Uber Re-Review

Title: Fallout New Vegas
Release Date: October 19th, 2010 (NTSC territories), October 22nd, 2010 (PAL territories), November 4th 2010 (SECAM territories)
Systems: Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3
Format: 1080i HD, Downloadable Content, Subtitles, No Online Capabilities
Developers / Publishers: Obsidian Entertainment, LLC / Bethesda Softworks

Everything from 2008 comes back into my head. With a pistol and a few stimpacks stuffed inside my pack, a knife at my side, and the clothes on my back, I opened the Vault, blinded by the sun. The Capitol was a desolate wasteland. Everything had been destroyed by the nuclear warfare. The sun was harsh and violent, and the gravel was cracked and sandy. The Capitol horizon was nothing but destroyed. And that was the start of one of the most extraordinary adventures of all time. Heralded as one of the single greatest role-playing games of all time, and one of the most expansive, when a series absolutely blows you away with a superb redefining of it all, the absolute swan song of the whole series, you wonder 'Will the sequel be good? Will they continue the success that it ever had? Will it, dare I say it, be BETTER?'

New Vegas is a mixed experience. On one hand, New Vegas is one hell of an adventure. New Vegas is an excellent, extraordinary one-of-a-kind experience that is sure to blow everything else away, entertain you for hundreds of hours, and pack a powerful punch that knocks out everything else in its path. On the other, New Vegas is frustrating, confusing, complex, and unspeakably, unrelentingly hard. It makes me want to pull out my spine and bash it against my game system just to calm myself, let out all the outdated anger. Now that I've helped produce the game, design it, and write it, New Vegas is a game that, despite my undying love and devotion to it, forces me to hate it all the same.

War Never Changes, though.

The story of New Vegas is complex. Enter New Vegas, a city that was spared a good deal of the nuclear fire that the East Coast of the Capitol Wasteland suffered with. This takes place in 2281, which is after Fallout 3's events. The New California Republic (NCR) had set up a military army up in Vegas after the Great War. They have to defend Hoover Dam, which is why Vegas is still supplied with electricity and fresh water. However, the NCR got tangled up with Caesar's Legion. Following Roman civilization techniques and rituals, Caesar took over the remnants in Vegas. The long-standing war against Caesar and the NCR soon progressed for Hoover Dam. Several other neutral factions, such as the Enclave, Brotherhood of Steel, the Followers of the Apocalypse, the Boomers Air Force, and tribes such as the White Glove Community soon got entangled with the war between the two factions, therefore deciding to remain neutral. Enter Mr. House, who creates the Lucky 38, which Caesar's Legion wants to take control of along with Hoover Dam.

In between the good and bad, there's always the ugly. In this case: that's you. Instead of The Lone Wanderer in Fallout 3, you play as The Courier. He was sent to deliver a platinum chip to Vegas's famous joint, The Strip. As shown in the intro, though, a couple of hitmen, one in particular, Benny, shoot you in the head and takes the chip. And your sorry ass is just barely saved at a doctor's hospital. The usual Fallout stuff comes in here: he asks you your name, you have to customize your character, pick your traits, your S.P.E.C.I.A.L., and test out a few dialogue choices. The major difference is that you don't start in a Vault, unlike the previous games. You're now hell bent for revenge, and you set off to get revenge. Eventually, however, you becomed involved in the NCR-Caesar war. Mr. House also wants to take sides with your customizable character, or you can go the independent route with an almost-creepily obedient robot Yes Man. Either way, your choices come with troubles with one faction, and advantages with another.

The story isn't as hooking as the emotional father-son journey in Fallout 3, or the adventure for water for the Vault in the first Fallout. In fact, there's a lot of plot holes to be filled. The characterization doesn't help either. The voice acting is more drab and boring this time around, they sound tedious and don't exactly care about anything. The dialogue trees aren't as interesting in Vegas as they were in Fallout 3. In fact, the characters in Fallout 3, while still being animated worse than a modern day cartoon, were likable. (I swear, Charon is the single best companion of all time, Moira's the single stupidest person I've ever heard of) And they talk more than you do, which is very overlong. I swear, you could solve a Rubix's Cube inside your head by the time they're done talking.

Next of all the problems in New Vegas, it's repetitive. It's unrelentingly hard. The Mojave wasteland has gotten a tweak since the last Fallout, where things were difficult, but not repetitive and impossible. Let me tell you this: the last missions at Hoover Dam are some of the single hardest gaming experiences I've EVER had. Now, of course, the better gamer just doesn't wander into the wasteland at a low level (smart, smart). And I took time to level up. And I still got my ass kicked hundreds of times, watched that ridiculous death screen and orchestra pop up every single time. It was unbearable at times, really.

Now comes the addition of "Hardcore Mode". This was also one of the programs we worked feverishly on, to create a survivalist dimension. In all honesty, I'm disappointed. Hardcore is supposed to add realism, a more survivalist feel to the almost cartoonish (though a bleak cartoon) Fallout series. Instead, they just amp up the enemies. And the other traits are ridiculous. You have to go through an entire sleep cycle. You suffer from loss of regular sleep, you die. You can't die from lack of sleep, just pass out eventually. And there's beds everywhere. Sleeping bags, tents, houses, hotels, and even in little buildings you'll pass by in the Wasteland. Something tells me the sleep idea was just added at the last minute (I'm a little ashamed to say that, but I gotta give criticism to my own work, right?)

There's an almost endless buffet of food everywhere in the Mojave. You can die from starvation, but food's unanimously cheap in vendors, and you can find them in the Wasteland. Have a problem with ammunition weight? Shoot a few rounds from the gun you hate, you'll be walking like a pro again. The most logical survival tactic, to not dehydrate, is even easy, because finding water in the Wasteland is easier than it was in Fallout 3. (That's thanks to Hoover Dam, but you already know that) Perhaps the most troubling was that you have to worry about stimpacks (first aid kits in the Fallout series), because they have to heal over time. But, you could always see a doctor, and once you get a decent amount of body armor and a level cap of around 20-25, you'll be virtually indestructible, anyways.

The shoot-and-loot engine from Fallout 3 that helped make the game memorable is still here, however. There's a lot of weapons out there in the Mojave. Energy Weapons that peel off skin with plasma and acid. Explosives that blow off limbs like crazy. Other types of automatic rifles that leave more holes than swiss cheese. Special, worth-searching-for enhanced weapons. New Vegas tries to help make the whole experience worth your while. (Personally, the All-American is my favorite. as Lincoln's Repeater was in Fallout 3) Same thing goes with armor.

Radio in Fallout 3 was another thing that helped make the experience less bleak and dark. Whether you were listening to the annoying, yet informative "a-WOOOOOOO" from Three Dog in Galaxy News Radio, playing awesome 30's - 40's songs, or the mature, soft-spoken voice of the Enclave president John Henry Eden, playing American theme songs, Fallout 3's radio was definitely a way to keep company, in its own way. Radio in New Vegas isn't exactly that special this time 'round. This time you've got the Mojave Music Radio, a channel that contains some nice songs, but there are songs that keep playing OVER AND OVER. While not as unfitting as the Enclave's US themes, they soon get so tedious after several listens that make you want to start punching your own car radio. Thankfully, the Radio New Vegas, hosted by Mr. New Vegas (who is not featured in the flesh unlike Three Dog and the president) who, like Three Dog, talks about the latest news. Unlike the Mojave Music Radio, which was Fallout 3's Enclave Radio (tedious and eye-rolling after a while), the Radio New Vegas does list some pretty good facts. Don't expect to always have it on while shooting enemies in the face.

Speaking of lonely experiences in the Wasteland, companions and NPCs return to become optional pardners in your Mojave adventures. Unlike in Fallout 3, where your karma depended on whether or not you could recruit those companions, you can just hire them if you either complete a quest for them or just promise caps. (99.9% of the time it's quests... sigh) Most of them are pretty helpful. For the Dogmeat-lovers (a dog companion in Three) a similar companion returns, Rex, a bionic dog. Real-life companion Boone (instead of Fallout 3's Charon) and super mutant Followers of the Apocalypse recruit Arcade Gannon (instead of Fallout 3's Fawkes). However, these aren't exactly memorable like the last Fallout (the RL-3 companion has some hilarious dialogue, I've laughed harder at that robot's lines than I have at Hollywood comedy in years). The companion wheel is new, you can access it to command companions what to do, instead of having to enter a dialogue session every time. A nice addition, but nothing astounding.

The breathlessly popular VATS makes a return, but there's not a lot of changes, it's still the same old system. It seems that real-time combat in New Vegas got a bit of a tune-up, so it's not as slightly questionable as it was in Three, but the third-person perspective is worse.

New Vegas can be an amazing adventure, even when all's said and done. The game's mechanics are still amazing, while adding their own unique tales. The numerous amount of side quests while surely keep you entertained for months. Another thing to enjoy about New Vegas is about just how Fallout 3 it still is. Obsidian has done a masterful job of recreating Fallout. It's the same massive, eye-catching Wasteland, while adding a western feel instead of the eastern coast feel Fallout 3 had, the same interesting, progressive story, and realism is added (with or without Hardcore). It's still a fight for survival, but there's no need to complain. There's so many good aspects about New Vegas. SO many. And yet, I just can't see giving it the same praise I did Fallout 3. When I inserted my hard work into the disk three years ago, and experienced a spectrum of awe and nostalgia when I was first blinded by the sun exiting that filthy Vault, it was just an awe-inspiring, superbly crafted adventure. New Vegas is lifeless and sterile in many places, but still an entertaining adventure, and a must-have for RPG lovers, Fallout fans, and people who enjoy a good game. Still, though, it all depends on how you viewed Fallout and your taste.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Vault - Extended Interview on Fallout: Me, Roland, and Elinor

Elinor Bass, Roland King, and I were interviewed by a columnist in the now-exhaustively famous Heart Thumpin' Games in early March of this year, basically to ask questions from the fans, about Fallout, and the future for TF141 Media. This one's pretty interesting, since they don't speak a whole lot of Fallout. Which IS kinda nice, it's becoming exhausting answering interviewer's questions about Fallout.

HTG: I got my first look at Online back in late 2010. Let me tell you, I was rather pleased with what they showed me. What part did you have in it?

TF141: Oh just about everything. We helped Masthead on art, weapon design, character models, and, Roland's personal favorite, level design. We've helped with animation, scripted events, and interface models. It's going to be big.

HTG: Alec, I read in your now-infamous post in your web log, that you gave quite some criticism over the fact that Fallout, an RPS, was being turned into an MMO. How do you feel about that?

TF141: Wow. I can't believe people actually read my blog. [laughs] Well, in all honesty, I've TRIED to enjoy MMOs. I took one look at World of Warcraft and, in my opinion, it's the dumbest game ever invented. I mean, games are for something truly hooking, not just for a big, random chunk of events filled with idiotic online players and ridiculously hard player vs player fights. That happens all the time, but we want Fallout to be different. But I think without Bethesda, or hell, even the fingerprints from the now-broken up Black Isle, would of helped the game's ideas skyrocket, but Masthead seems to know what they're doing. We just don't see Fallout to become an MMO.

HTG: What inspired you to become an independent game studio?

TF141: We've all enjoyed video games since the day we first played as Mario, or blasted through Green Hill as Sonic the Hedgehog. Eventually, though, one of my dreams soon became to be an excellent gaming programmer. When I first played an Elder Scrolls game, that's when it kicked off for me. For Alec, it was Sonic Adventure. For Roland, it was Halo, I believe.

TF141: So, one day, we played Fallout, and we thought, "Hey! This is really good! But we can help make it better!" We applied for Bethesda, when they signed the Fallout contract, and helped give out some designs for Elder Scrolls IV, and sure enough, there we were, working on, arguably, the most groundbreaking RPG of this decade. Well... maybe games like Mass Effect did that as well. But Fallout broke through a lot of boundaries, and defined how to make a role-playing game.

HTG: What about your airplay? I've noticed that, while you score several 'hands on' interviews and extended chats in the UK and all of Europe, you don't broadcast in the Americas. Why is that?

TF141: TF141 Media, LLC is, in its entirety, a United Kingdom studio. Our US studio is for making Project V13 ONLY. Not for broadcasting mega-hits on G4TV, not for leaking random info, just for production.

HTG: What do you think is the single greatest moment in Fallout history?

TF141: Oh my god. Well, when Bethesda gained the rights to the Fallout series, everything skyrocketed from there. Fans that were waiting for almost a decade, would not only see their favorite game brought back to life after nearly a decade, and would soon meet a brand new generation of gaming. Fallout was a game with high potential from the start, wasted by numerous less successful spin-offs and imitators, but the ambitions and high expectations that Fallout 3 had were amazing. Fans expected so much difference from the then-young 90's.

And another memorable moment was when we finally embraced the complexity of it all. All the numerous quests, the confusing level up system, the endless traveling, the incredible storyline, everything about Fallout 3 seemed to pay off in the end. And once we got into it, we instantly said to ourselves: "THIS is a winner!"

And the last could of been, yet the most saddest event, the break-up of the two companies, Interplay and Bethesda, for Fallout Online. One game, one dispute, turned into years-long battles and wars between the two. It's sad. We just want everything to die down and eventually Fallout Online, with the correct fingerprints on the package, will be the biggest Fallout game in HISTORY.

HTG: You've all worked on some of the single biggest RPGs in gaming history aside from Fallout, like the Elder Scrolls series, Mass Effect, and I heard you've worked on the expansion for Dragon Age, awakening. What do you think is crucial to making an RPG.

TF141: Reasons to keep you going. Take the numerous quests and weapons in games like Borderlands, for example. You had a REASON to complete those quests, and determination. Character creation, weapons, quests, rewards, a hooking, beyond-generic plotline, all of these can make up a good roleplaying game. Providing a player to keep on going is majorly important, and crucial to replay value.

So keep on giving. Fallout 3's numerous DLC packs with different environments were great examples to expanding horizons. Give new, fresh ideas and new, fresh gameplay out more and more, and you'll earn yourself a following, for sure. Just gotta know what's right and what's wrong.

HTG: Just how advanced do you think gaming has gone?

TF141: That's so hard to debate on. Gaming has taken a considerable step-up for various genres, and not so much for others. See, making a game is difficult, because the $60,000,000 question remains lying there: "What does the audience want?" The amount of effort that goes into games nowadays is both some of the laziest shit ever thrown, and some of the most intelligent, hard work ever done. I'm really proud of everyone at Bethesda, and at TF141 Media, for everything. I'd even thank the guys at Obsidian for New Vegas for all the improvements they made.

We like games that show effort, give a reason to keep playing on, and will stay true to your heart. Fallout was something different than usual. It's a standard first-person shooter and an RPG at heart, a role-playing shooter, but there's a certain feel to Fallout, the bleak universe and tongue-in-cheek, though very dark, humor that helped whip other RPGs into shape.

HTG: What about behind-the-scenes of New Vegas? What was that like?

TF141: Oh man, we nearly pissed our pants that they would start another Fallout so early. We were so excited. Working with Obsidian was good for a change. Now, making New Vegas was somewhat difficult. We thought, "okay, let's take everything from Fallout 3, add some new elements, and improve on everything. So we added new ideas to everything. As for writing New Vegas, there weren't as many moral choices on yourself that you depended on by yourself, there were moral choices to a faction you're loyal to that depended on game progression. We had to write, I shit you not, five entirely different scripts for each playthrough. It was exhausting work. Especially the end of the game, the fight for Hoover Dam.

Gameplay-wise, it was much different. The customization of weapons was really new to us, the addition of Hardcore mode, different perks, different new quests, and a new location. We were used to the desolate, yet humble Capitol Wasteland, if humble helps define how attached we've grown to the series, and everything changed when we moved, instead of near the East Coast, to the West. It felt different, but it seemed to work out.

HTG: I read Alec's interview with Gemini's Axl Long. I take it you two are friends?

Yeah, we met one another sometime during 2003, when they were making a new album. We had some stuff in common: we both liked lamb stew, we both enjoyed music, and we both enjoyed Fallout. It's pretty cool to talk to people like him.

HTG: Now that you're helping Bethesda with Fallout 4, do you feel excited about it?

TF141: We felt horrible about Fallout Online. We didn't want to help Interplay, we really wanted to stay loyal to the people who recognized our potential, but Fallout was so dear to us.

HTG: That's understandable.

TF141: But, we felt that if Fallout was to continue, we'd at least help Bethesda on their next swan song. We're worrying that if the dispute between Interplay and Bethesda continue... you know, Online and 4 may be delayed again. But we're more determined than ever for the two games, Fallout 4 and Online. We've sent Bethesda a lot of scripts, storyboards (well, I call it a gameboard - Gregg Cross), character models, environments, and weapon sketches. I'm proud of everything Bethesda's striving for. I swear, though, if Online isn't good...

HTG: I see your point. One last question: when can we expect Fallout 4?

TF141: No idea. Probably around mid or late 2012, hell, even 2013. Don't expect it to rush to stores right away, though. For now, New Vegas will keep you addicted.

Many thanks for Planet Fallout for bringing this to life on the net, and Gregg and Darrin, the brothers, as well. Without you guys, this amazing interview wouldn't of been possible.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Soda Bar - 01 - Verdicts on the Vault Dweller's Survival Guide

Very off topic here, but I'm going to take a brief break on news for Fallout Online.

You know that one quest in Fallout 3, where you had to do some crazy-ass experiments for the infamous writer in Megaton? The Wasteland Survival Guide? Well, here's what a PDF version looks like.

The Wasteland Survival Guide was worked on by the people at TF141 Media and Bethesda. We did some of the drawings (including the weapon drawings in particular) while they wrote. We first showed it off at the PAX in 2008. Right off the bat, there's a really tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about the hilarious writing and drawings that are shown compared to the bleak, dangerous wasteland. Here you go.

 The 'Adapting to the Outside' was an old drawing by me and Emil. One of the best drawings. Ever.

I think this one was Gregg's. I'll look into it.

 This might of been the original Pip-Boy design.

Yeah, this one was Pete Hines. Very humorous and realistic for the game, though that never happened. ):

This picture would eventually use the 'blend-in-with-faction-using-armor' idea in New Vegas. Me, Emil, and another dude who's name slipped past my name drew this one.

The Ranger Vault Boy was done by Alice and Elinor, the two single greatest Vault Boy artists ever.
The behemoth was done by a two dudes at Bethesda, Wanderer by Emile.

 VATS pre-drawing, anyone?

This superb "feet-by"feet comparison was done by everybody at TF141 Media. They each had a different drawing.

This one was entirely by me. Well, sans the target. That one was Emil.

 The pistol was Evan, the hunting rifle was somebody at Bethesda, the shotgun was by Nick, and the 10mm SMG was by... I think it was Finn.
 The lead weapon designer at Bethesda, the best weapon designer ever.
 I did the plasma rifle, Elinor did the laser rifle, and either Derek or Jamie did the Mesmetron (one of the best weapons ever). Me and Scott wanted to do a Tesla Cannon, but they said no.
The end of a hilarious book.

Well, that was the single most random fourty-one pages I've ever read. (Well, I'm leaving out some other pages that were either just notes and black pictures of Vault Boy by Darrin and Pierce, sorry guys)