This blog will spoil some parts of a mission halfway through the main story of Fallout 4. If you haven't made it there you may not want to continue reading. I was about 60 hours into Fallout 4. I had mainly been focussing on side quests, exploration the Commeonwealth looking for weird locations, collectibles, guns and equipment. But the time had come to progress the main story a little, partially because I wanted to progress the Brotherhood of Steel questline (they're intertwined), and this is where I came across the first truly rage quit level frustration I'd had with the game. It's an open world RPG from Bethesda so you expect some issues and you tend to save often. But nothing could prepare me for The Molecular Level, and more specifically it's final section where you build a fancy device to teleport you into the Institute.
I spent hours, not collecting the materials needed for the four pieces of the device or the generators needed to power it. No I spent hours placing them in various combinations in the hopes to trigger the next part of the quest. Playing on Xbox One and choosing the Brotherhood of Steel as my partner in teleportation - thus I built it at the Boston Airport site. For some reason even if there was enough power I couldn't get the platform to power up. Well, first I could get the platform and emitter to connect as I needed to scrap the rug underneath (never assemble IKEA furniture on a rug). Turns out I had to store all the items and place them in this order platform, emitter, generators, control console, relay dish. Then I first needed to connect the generators (6 medium sized ones) to eachother and the emitter, until finally I connected the control console and the relay dish. Voilá. Any other sequence and it wouldn't work. Freeform building is nice and all, but if it's part of the main questline it needs to work with quest triggers regardless of the order in which you build things (otherwise you need to inform the player exactly in what order you need to build it). There was no indication of what I was doing wrong in game, and quite frankly I'm clueless as to how this ever made it through testing. I'm guessing the testers were so efficient in the rules for building and how triggers work that they didn't notice just how horrible the user experience is and the level of frustration it will cause. Of course, you may be lucky and nail the sequence first time. Or some of this may be specific to the faction you go with or the location you build on (with the Minutemen I assume you've got plenty of choice). I realise it's difficult to test all conditions, but making sure quest objectives are trigger and marked as cleared properly is such a fundamental thing that Bethesda need to be called out on it. And I should perhaps add that Fallout 4 remains my personal Game of the Year for 2015 in spite of the Molecular Level.
Finally, Ingram. Stop fiddling with the Relay Dish for heaven's sake!
We've all had it happen to us. A game we've enjoyed is being taken offline, servers shut down. Perhaps it's just the online portion of a game and we're still able to enjoy the singleplayer, but these days with a lot of online games and free-to-play offerings servers shutting down means you'll never get to experience that game ever again. It's all to do with cost, of course. Popular games that earn their creators a lot of money will likely sustain themselves for years and years, and most likely you'll grow tired before the servers shut. But every now and then there's that game that for some reason didn't take off, but that you quite enjoy.
I've been playing a highly addictive spirit battler on PS Vita called Destiny of Spirits where you summon, collect and battle with various spirits that you upgrade and trade. It's fairly simple, yet surprisingly deep and as it uses the built-in GPS there are system that lets you hunt spirits as you travel and different continents and regions offers different spirits. It's a great time sink and the friction that's there is kind of a relief as it hinders you from spending too much time on it. Given the limited install base of PS Vita it hasn't been easy achieving a sustainable player base, and the game also doesn't incentivise purchases enough. You can buy premium coins that can be used in various ways, but ultimately I think most players have spent little or no real money in the game.
It feels a bit disappointing that Sony are pulling the plug just over a year after launch (June 30 is the last day), especially given how well the PlayStation division is doing as of late, but ultimately PS Vita isn't a great platform for free-to-play as you need a bigger install base. I'd love to see Destiny of Spirits or something similar on smartphone though - fingers crossed that will happen, but for now I'm trying to conquer the final areas on the Destiny of Spirits battlefield before our time with the game is up.
There are many ways to look upon video games. Is it perhaps throwaway entertainment that is simply good fun for the time being or is it something more substantial that deserves to be preserved for the ages. Perhaps it's both. And perhaps we shouldn't be too upset that some games simply run their course and disappear. Nevertheless it's a little disheartening when it happens to a game you've spent some serious time on.
Games: Dragon Age: Inquisition was my personal game of the year, and I spent around 100 hours taking down all the dragons, finishing my Inquisition and mopping most of the side content Bioware offered up in this expansive game. Highly recommended. But enjoying a Bioware RPG is hardly surprising - instead the games that truly surprised me in 2014 were Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Two games I wasn't expecting to enjoy quite as much as I did.
Shows: No GDC this year for me. But E3 was spectacular and Gamescom was also a lot of fun. A particularly remember the interview I did with SCEE president Jim Ryan, and in retrospect the meetings at Crytek's booth held a lot of significance (as we later learned of the troubles the company was dealing with at the time). As far as Gamescom goes I remember interviewing British industry legends Peter Molyneux and David Braben back-to-back and being blown away by Michel Ancel's Wild.
News: Making an hour long livestream each Friday covering the news of the week was a welcome new feature in my work week - and a nice way of sorting through the headlines covered in the previous five days. Something we'll surely continue in 2015.
New-Gen: 2014 was the year when I fully transitioned from old-gen to new-gen. I've barely touched my PS3 and Xbox 360 since the start of the year and there's no looking back.
TV: For my part True Detective was the show of 2014. I've tried to get into many shows this year most recently Marco Polo. But where Marco failed True Detective succeeded. It completely changed my feelings about Matthew McConaughey.
Family: Getting Sherlock. My little family got a small but feisty addition this year as we added Yorkshire Terrier Sherlock to our pack. I'm glad to say he's now house trained and for the most part a good boy.
It's that time of the year. More titles than there's time to play and with that there is a sense of guilt. I still haven't booted up Destiny as there has been more pressing concerns on my table. The game is downloaded sitting on my hard drive. Maybe this weekend. Then again I'll probably once again have more pressing matters - playing a couple of games for review and slowly edging my way towards 100 gold medals in Defense Grid 2. Lately, Pix the Cat has been my go to "just one more try" game. That's a PS Plus title and those are really adding to the backlog - I always make it a point to download at least the Vita and PS4 titles every month and I always pick up the Xbox One titles on Games with Gold. But I have to admit most remain shamefully underplayed - just like the Steam library (although mine is very small compared to colleagues of mine).
And I want to go back to Shadow of Mordor to mess with some end game stuff. tidy up a few trophies, etc. And I should really play Alien: Isolation, although I have a feeling I will hate myself for jumping into that one. With a new Civilization and the annual threat of Football Manager coming up in the next weeks things are going to get a lot worse. As always autumn is the best and worst of times for any gamer trying to keep up with all the major releases.
I'm just back from my summer vacation. Vacation as in caring for a 10 week old puppy 24/7 that is. It's not the most exciting of times in the games industry with E3 over and done with and a laughable release schedule for the month of July (seriously, it's completely empty). Then again Gamescom is just six weeks ahead and E3 help remind us that in spite of numerous high profile delays the end of 2014 should still offer plenty. In fact, the Destiny beta will help fill any void in July and there's always the backlog of games to work off. I know I've got a bunch of PS Plus and Games with Gold titles I need to work off. I think Trine 2: The Complete Story and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood are first in line. And don't mention my Steam backlog...
It's really rather weird how instead of spreading releases more evenly to avoid congestion it's as if the lower amount of AAA releases means they are even more concentrated to the dark months of the year. September and onwards is going to be mental.
Back on subject, E3 was great this year - perhaps not the showfloor (there's really nothing to fill the showfloor void as the numbers of AAA games continues to drop) - but there was a definite positive vibe about the place. The conferences were all great (perhaps with the exception of EA that was a bit odd). VR certainly stands out as the "next big thing", even if noone should think it will replace traditional gaming (and that's not the idea anyway), the indie scene looks more vibrant than ever, while steampunk and the Victorian age is the new black.