Revelations are for Other People

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for companion quests in The Outer Worlds.

There’s a lot going on in this existential hellscape we call reality, so let’s do what we do and talk about made-up worlds with made-up horrible problems for a while

Butch:

OK, so I brokered peace on Monarch, as I’m sure you did. Then, I remembered I’m playing this game, and regretted it. This is going to go badly, isn’t it? The load screen was all “Will the depravity continue???” Great. Tricked again.

Then trucked back and sold the gas to Lilya and got another job. Talked her into giving me more money. Boom.

Had Parvati ask me to get her soap. Agonized over which soap. Even tried to search Junlei’s office to figure out what smell she liked. Gave up. Got rose. Roses are nice.

Got a quest from Felix, finally.

Still wondering when Ellie will chime in with a quest. She still hasn’t. This is making me wonder HOW DID YOU FINISH THIS SO FAST IT’S BIGGER THAN I THOUGHT WHAT’S WITH YOU.

Not bad. Off to Scylla to mop up Vicar Max and Felix next.

I’m going to regret brokering peace, aren’t I? And, when I do, I’ll wonder on themes, won’t I?

Feminina:

Actually, peace is the right call, or at least not obviously the wrong call. At least, I never ended up regretting my decision. Remember “the depravity continues” is the Board’s take on things. If they don’t like it, I probably do! I felt worse about “outlaw rebels forced to return by heroic stranger!”

And I don’t know, man, I guess I just plowed through it. I was playing an hour, hour and a half every single night for quite a while, and that adds up.

Also, Parvati never asked me to get her soap, so I guess I missed a few things. That adds up too.

Ellie will say something when you can move on to another region. The final region!

Butch:

Really? I got back and she was all “I want to ask out Junlei….here on the ship….but I stink and I need help….”

Final….region….

Feminina:

Oh right… That sounds vaguely familiar. I guess I definitely didn’t agonize over it, though. I probably just gave her some random thing I’d looted somewhere and forgot about it.

“Oh yeah, I have some lye-and-rancid-tallow concoction I got out of a marauder’s pocket, here you go.”

Butch:

No, dude, you had to buy it from Gladys at Groundbreaker. She has “rose-ish,” “apple cinnamon” and “refurbished spaceship.”

I picked Rose-ish. Gave it to her….and now she wants dinner! A casserole from Stellar Bay and a drink from….wait for it….Cascadia. I tire of Cascadia. I’ve gotten in and gotten out twice already. Jeez, game.

I will do it for love.

Speaking of love, ADA talking dirty to SAM was hilarious. Even my damn ship won’t LOOOOVVVVE MEEEEEE.

So played some more and finished up Vicar Max and I have questions.

I could ask several questions, but my brain is tired from family stuff so I’ll just ask all my questions with:

The fuck was with that quest?

Feminina:

Oh man! I totally didn’t buy soap from Gladys! I must have missed the end of Parvati’s story. Damn. Well, you tell me how it goes.

But–I definitely did not have any open quests on my list for her. Was this one of those ones that wasn’t actually a formal quest on your log, you just had to remember to do it on your own? I think I noticed that a couple of other times, that someone asked me to do something but I didn’t have text about it. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I mean, I kind of hate it, because I missed some story. On the other hand, maybe kind of props for putting something in there that the PLAYER has to actually, personally care about enough to remember to do. Especially if it’s about personal relationships with other characters. Like, how important are your companions’ requests to you, really? Hm.

And yeah… Vicar Max’s thing was… Yeah. I may have mentioned before that when I was done with it my main reaction was “huh?”

So. Let’s try to make something of it, because that’s how we do.

It was interesting that his ‘futuristic’ religion based entirely on logic and reason and so on ended up, basically, in an old school vision quest: take some drugs and hallucinate your way to enlightenment! (Which, fine if it works for you. Some very interesting things can be realized/worked through in an altered state of consciousness, I’m told.)

So we had this clash of very modern, logical, “let’s reason this out purely from the numbers” thinking with very old, “we get weird brain effects this way, let’s work with that” thinking. As much as to say, maybe, that neither is actually any better than the other at getting at the Ultimate Truth?

It was also interesting that the vision was Max’s mother, being disappointed that he’d chosen to spend his life in the pursuit of Truth. Perhaps also saying that you’re not going to find it, and getting too hung up on the quest means you’re going to miss a lot of good stuff along the way?

Since she wasn’t actually meant to be the spirit of his mother, presumably this is what he subconsciously wants/needs his mother to say, in order to reach a state of peace with himself: so maybe it’s that he decided he’s not going to find what he wants in the church, and needs to pay more attention to the rest of his life.

It was definitely odd, though. Hallucinations/intoxication are always interesting in games…how they present it mechanically and visually.

Butch:

Nah, dude, this was a quest. “Kiss the sun” or something or other. Has a name and everything. And steps. Like, back to Cascadia steps.

Well, the player has to personally care because I got the quest by talking to her in the ship. I went back after brokering peace, and chatted everyone up (as one does) hoping to smooch (as one didn’t). The thing was, it wasn’t an obvious “Hey, captain, can we talk?” or ADA all “Parvati is acting weird” or any other hint that she had something to say. She was there minding her business and I came up all “Hey,” and she was all “Oh! Hey! Uh….can I ask you something?” Boom. Quest.

Yes, “huh?” was a reaction one could have had to the Vicar Max thing…..

As for your attempt to make something of it: I….guess? But what in the world was it doing here, in this game? It just reeks of that temptation writers have when building a world to cram a religion of the world into it whether it makes sense in the story or not. This game HAS a theme, the idea of freedom vs. security, the little guy vs. the big corporation and how it all fits together, etc. That’s the theme, it’s all over the game, and it’s good. Really, really good. Why the need to chuck in something about logic vs. mysticism with a character so bluntly there to BE RELIGIOUS that his name is fucking “Vicar Max” and he’s reading a damn book on the character selection screen?

And good for him wanting to do more with his life, but making a player think about “getting too hung up ON THE QUEST that they miss something along the way” (emphasis mine) would’ve been a pretty damn good thing to make the PLAYER think. These questions, this quest, might have (and I say MIGHT) worked had it been directed at the player, if WE were the ones thinking on fucking quests (which is about as gamey as it gets, right?). As it was, it was Max’s quest, Max’s mother, Max coming to a conclusion. I was watching it. Watching a vision quest isn’t as impactful as actually having one. I, the player, wasn’t thinking about these things. I was watching Max do it, and, at the end, I could pat him on the head say “Glad you’re happy” and pocket some bits. That lacked oomph. That took me out of having to think about anything.

But Yup. Altered consciousness scenes always interesting. Games need more of them. Given this game has no nudity, no dress balls and no group hugs (yet), I’ll take what I can get.

Feminina:

Aw, man!!! There was a whole quest I missed? Siiiigh. I did go talk to everyone for a while, and then I gave up because they never seemed to have anything new to say. I guess I gave up too soon.

And my poor Parvati! Her quest for love was never resolved!–apparently. Assuming you end up resolving it.

Well, you tell me how it goes.

As for Vicar Max…that’s a good point about the major theme being corporations and ordinary people. And on those lines, remember that this religion IS corporate. It presents itself as being about pure logic or whatever, but it also explicitly serves the interests of the Board/the corporations. Maybe the whole Vicar Max story is meant to be kind of looking at how in this particular set-up, the corporations want to control EVERYTHING, including your soul. And so the issue of getting caught up in following the rules and not paying attention to your own life is in fact related to the theme, because whose rules was he following if not those of the Board that approved the religion he practices?

Maybe they’re trying to show how different people in very different walks of life all come back to the fundamental question of ‘how do we relate to the Board,’ and from there perhaps ‘WHY is relating to the Board the single constant theme of our lives?’

Butch:

You so missed it. It’s called “Don’t Bite the Sun” (the quest that is), which I know cuz I GOT TO PLAY JUST NOW more later.

Oh right….I forgot it was a board centric religion. That got lost. Hmm.

Though…if it was…then what DO we read about him trying to live up to his parents? Is he the kid who wants to get ahead and go to the Ivy league school and become employee of the month and CEO and win his parents’ respect by being all traditionally successful? Was this the game saying that you gotta be you? Because, if it was, that’s the first time this game has really expressed an opinion on what “you gotta do”

It’s never a good sign when we talk about a quest and practically every sentence ends with a question mark.

Feminina:

Well, I don’t know if the game is saying “you gotta be you,” as much as it’s saying “do whatever you want, but whatever the established rules you might try to follow, they can’t really be trusted to be all-knowing guides.”

“Do whatever you want” kind of being the approach of most choice-filled games…and this one maybe a little better than most at pointing out to us that the results of our actions might not be exactly what we expected. We try to do the ‘right’ thing, but it’s not clear what that is, and things might well not turn out how we imagined.

If we’re following some set of rules for how we play games (and, I guess, we could just sum them up as “try to be nice and help everyone, loot everything, and look for love in all the places”), maybe it’s telling us “your guidelines aren’t infallible either.”

Butch:

Well….I’ll take that, I suppose. But it sure would’ve been punchier had they made this about the player and not the least likable NPC. I really did come out of it all “Uh…yeah. Good for you, dude. Moving on.”

Not the best game inspired introspection.

And now I’m annoyed at the damn game. I went to talk to a guy for Felix only to be told I had to talk to someone on Groundbreaker. Oooookaaaay. Went to groundbreaker only to be told I had to go to Edgewater. Grumble. But whatever, cuz Nyoka had her deal there. Did Nyoka’s deal….and now I have to go BACK TO SCYLLA where I started.

Serious grumble.

This is made worse by not being able to fast travel between planets without going to the ship.

How did you finish this game?

But Nyoka….the two dead people who basically ran away from “freedom” only to find something that sucked just as badly and died for it. That was nicely done. Freedom is something games (and reality) seem to praise, but this game is turning it all around. The free folks kinda have shitty lives. The freest people are the Kevins (which may well be true in many games). I like that. It’s doing it in a non preachy way, too, like, “It’s not that they SHOULD be following the rules, they’re making their choices, but free often comes with boiled rapt for dinner every night…..”

Feminina:

Yeah…there really was a lot of running back and forth later in the game. “Oh boy, back to Scylla…yay, back to Edgewater…woohoo, back to the Groundbreaker…”

I initially liked that people kind of doled out their quests, so I really only had one or two people at a time that I was working on something for, but by the end I wished everyone would have just told me stuff all at once, so I could knock of multiple quests at once, because I did get to the point that I was going back somewhere just to talk to one person for one person’s story, or whatever. Which as you say, was made more tiresome by the fact that you have to go back to the ship every time to travel between worlds.

Of course, the flip side of that is, it was super easy to pop back to places and do the one thing for the one person. I’m not sure that I really WANTED, at this point in the game, to have every quest point lead to a brand new, unexplored location.

I’m not sure what the middle ground would be, between the two points of “ho-hum, this boring place again” and “oh sweet Naked Zeus, not another map full of monsters and randits to fight through so I can talk to one person.”

Butch:

I’d ask for “OK, Nyoka has to go do this shit here on Edgewater….let’s do the REST OF THE FUCKING QUEST right here on Edgewater.” Trucking Felix way the fuck out to that place JUST to have ONE conversation before getting back on the ship? I can think of more efficient ways of doing that, even when the person you’re meeting is all holed up. There really is a lack of focus right now. Felix wants me on Edgewater, Nyoka wants to go back to Scylla where I just was….TWICE….and Parvati wants me on Monarch, and, watch, as soon as I get her her drinks and her casserole she’ll be all “Oh, and can we snag some shit on Edgewater? I know you were just there, but Junlei would LOVE this thing I left there…..”

So no, I do not need to slog through more mantiqueens to end companion quests…wait…after I go to Scylla I have to kill a mantiqueen…..which isn’t on Scylla.

Sigh.

Get on with it, game.

How did you finish this?

Feminina:

1-2 hours every single night for a month.

Also, we shouldn’t shortchange Nyoka–I forgot to respond to your comment about finding her friends, but yes, it was an interesting twist that they ran off to be free and wound up dying in squalor.

So many times, in this game, rebellion against the system doesn’t yield any better results than just going along with the system. Which also doesn’t yield good results, to be clear. You’re kind of screwed no matter what.

Butch:

You must have missed stuff. Because dude, I am PLAYING here, and you’ve been finished for weeks and I still have whole areas I haven’t seen. But the only thing I’ve fond that you haven’t is Parvati!

You must’ve played more than two hours a night. Time, after all, has no meaning.

Feminina:

That is possible. It might have been six hours a night. There’s really no way to be sure.

Butch:

It might have been six nights an hour. These days, who knows?

A note on my Dad

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Yesterday, my father lost a courageous battle with an aggressive form of lymphoma. I knew it was coming, but I still can’t get my head around the fact he’s gone. He was larger than life his whole life, just the way he wanted to be.

I still remember him getting me hooked on games by buying me a Commodore 64 and Jumpman Junior back in 1981. We got this magazine, and he’d tirelessly copy games, in basic, out of the magazine so I could play them. He was that kind of dad.

He loved his family, and one of the great joys in his life is how my brother and I were willing to share out lives with his. He fondly remembers going to Belgium with me and Mrs. McP and Femmy and Mr. O so many years ago. Back in high school, we’d have these big overnight parties with all my friends from camp in this big room over the garage. He’d joke around with everyone, and that energy, that friendship, brought him such joy. I know two of those friends follow this blog. Please know that I will be forever grateful for the joy you brought to his life.

I love you Dad, and I miss you so much already. I’ll see you again. After all, I still owe you that rack of ribs I promised.

Just save me some of the good whiskey.

Clinging to Friday

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

Got nothing. But it’s Friday, so we can derail somehow, right? RIGHT?

I’ll play later. Probably.

Hopefully.

We now live in a world where tequila and prescription medications are a mouse click away, but toilet paper is hard to come by. Now THERE’S a NEW SENTENCE. Probably. Maybe not.

Ten years ago, if, say, Bethesda set a video game in our reality, everyone would’ve been all “C’mon…..”

Feminina:

We would have refused to play that game because it was too soul-crushing.

Butch:

I have to go order more tequila.

Feminina:

Pretty much always be ordering more tequila. It’s a good basic principle.

Butch:

I also just ordered a variety of gourmet meats and seafoods.

Which you likely would skip. But hey! Tequila!

Feminina:

I would skip them. But that would only make the tequila more effective!

Butch:

It’s like one big spiral of happiness. Or a chemical that makes you forget that you’re in an existentialist hellscape!

Either or.

Feminina:

Both and! We CAN have it all!

Butch:

WE SO CAN!

Now I’m prepping my grocery delivery, that I won’t have delivered until Monday or Tuesday, which will get me through the Monday thereafter.

Confused? ME, TOO! And I’m the one who has to remember what the fuck I’m cooking!

Feminina:

What a wonderful, magical dystopian hellscape of a world this is!

It’s gonna be great, and we’re gonna love it. Particularly the booze.

I may have ordered a 48-pack of Snickers bars. Because sugar is also an important chemical, and it seemed like a reasonable decision when I clicked ‘buy’.

Butch:

Dear God…..three T SHIRTS!!!!!! THREE!!!!!!

It’s so Friday! IT SO IS!!!!!

Feminina:

Somehow, we managed to salvage Friday!

And if we can do that… You know, I suddenly have a feeling of hope. I think…I think maybe everything’s going to be OK!

Hahahahahahaha. We’re doomed. But it’s going to be a delightful, booze-and-sugar-flavored doom. We’re gonna love it.

Butch:

What is this hope of which you speak? Does it come in a bottle? Can I have it delivered?

Feminina:

It does! And you can!

For that is the magical hellscape in which we live.

Butch:

Does it taste like tequila? Does it taste like snickers?

Feminina:

It does. It does indeed.

It is so, so delicious.

Although maybe not both those tastes at the same time.

Although maybe, I don’t know. Snickers margarita? I’d try it at this point.

Butch:

I so would.

I dug out an old issue of bon appetit that was dedicated to Mexico. It has margaritas. It also has tequila mojitos, tequila cosmopolitans (which I think might just become Mrs. McP’s new favorite thing in the universe), tequila tropical punch and, I’m not kidding here, frozen limes filled with tequila (when you just can’t be bothered with juice and ice cuz fuck it).

Let’s try them all! Twice!

Feminina:

Let’s!

I keep hearing about ‘Zoom cocktail parties.’ We should do that.

Butch:

We should. For the company, anyway. Cocktail wise, it would be me making components and measuring and shaking and all that, Mr. O being “Uh…..I’m just gonna go get another beer” and you all “I have no idea what the hell I’m drinking but I’m getting drunk so who cares?”

Just like old times.

Feminina:

Ah…that sounds nice. Just like old times, indeed.

And the great thing is, no one will have to be the designated driver! Looking on the bright side, that’s me.

Obviously, the bright side involves booze.

Butch:

Hey, yeah! We can ALL get drunk! We haven’t done that since all we could afford was senator’s club!

Yet another reason to never, ever leave the house.

Feminina:

Never ever ever.

Butch:

I’m now live chatting with the liquor store……

Best. Day. In. A. Long. Time.

Feminina:

What a time to be alive, man. Give the liquor store my best.

Leader, or Booze? Choose Carefully

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the Iconoclast storyline on Monarch in The Outer Worlds

Butch:

I actually did a lot last night, but I’ve been fighting with kids about homework all fucking day. Fuck this.

Anyway….

Didn’t see having to kill Graham. Or, not having to kill Graham, but having to kill Graham to get peace, which is what I did and what you probably did.

That’s what I did. I’m up to having to go to talk to Zora and Sanjar about peace.

Got the module, talked to Sanjar, went back to Cascadia (which was ALSO a get in get out deal), talked to Sanjar, talked to Zora, killed Graham.

I’m still not entirely sure how Graham fits into the themes of the game. That even people who look like they’re trying to help you are just selfish, self centered assholes? Maybe? Or was this just another case of a game that takes place in an alternate place feeling the need to add the theology of that place and barfing some religio-babble into the game? I’m sorta leaning towards the first one, but then, how does Zora fit in?

I don’t know. They obviously wanted Graham to have some DEEP SHIT attached to him, maybe even making us think we just martyred him or something, but I don’t know. Seems like another case of a game thinking “It’s deep cuz RELIGION, man! RELIGION!”

What’s your take?

Feminina:

I felt like Graham was the idealist. A messed-up, flawed idealist who let bandits into his city to murder everyone, but still an idealist. A guy who, himself, maybe fell prey to the idea that “it’s deep cuz RELIGION, man!” He was clearly in love with his own philosophy, to the point that he was neglecting practical issues (like not letting tons of people be murdered, or making sure the people who weren’t murdered had food). I think in a way it’s saying that the Board with its ideals of corporate excellence and progress is clearly not great at taking care of people, but swinging around and adopting some alternative idealism is not the answer.

Maybe the answer is not in deep ideals, it’s in just doing the work in front of us right now, whether that’s fighting mantiqueens or using corpses to grow vegetables, or collecting supplies for a group of people.

Which does make one wonder, is the game completely amoral? Does it actually have any position on what’s the ‘right’ thing to do as a ‘good person’? And being a video game where you can make various choices…maybe it doesn’t. As most games that let you choose to be good or bad don’t, really.

Arguably, it genuinely doesn’t suggest that it’s any better to fight and kill the cannibals than to lure someone else back for them to eat. I mean, I know what I chose, but that was my choice. The game doesn’t take a position.

Anyway, yes, I too killed Graham to put Zora in power, because I wanted to broker peace between Zora and Sanjar. The amusing thing was that I killed him, then absently looted some stuff nearby (as one does after a fight) and then a bunch of iconoclasts came running in shooting and I had a huge battle and in the end Zora was dead and all the Iconoclasts hated me so I was left having to sneak out of town. And I thought “damn, that went badly! Maybe if I kill him more quickly so they don’t notice he’s dead until Zora has time to talk to them and convince them it’s cool?”

So I reloaded and killed him again and then stood there tensely, waiting, and everyone went about their business and no one said a damn thing about it. So it appears that the first time, they really didn’t care about Graham being dead, they were just mad I stole those bottles of purpleberry wine from the bar. I have to salute those priorities.

Butch:

HA! That’s kinda funny. But wait….you killed him before the BIG TALK? I went in after talking to Sanjar, Zora pulled me aside and we talked, we went up, BIG TALK, we tried to get Graham to stand down and accept things, he refused, he pulled a gun, gunplay ensued, we killed him.

You had no BIG TALK?

As for his idealism, well, yes, but there was also the suggestion that he a) let everyone die because he wanted to be the man everyone followed and b) he is only running things the way he is because he feels guilty. Zora pretty much accused him of being selfish, not wanting what’s best for his people, but what was best for his psyche. Even Graham was all “This is a place to get a fresh start, I needed a fresh start” and you and Zora call him on it, all “This is about YOUR fresh start?” So yes, he’s an idealist, but just as selfish as everyone else, and just as insecure.

It’s interesting that he was set up as the disorganized leader with Zora propping him up as the practical one, and now we’re in a situation where Sanjar (the inspirational doofus) is going to be propped up by Zora. Has anything really changed?

True, it doesn’t take a position, but I’m OK with that in a choice based game. Games are at their best when they make the player reflect on why they did what they did. Being completely neutral allows for some Socratic moralization on the part of the game: “Well, WHY did you do that? How did that make you feel?” Once the game steps in all “this is the RIGHT thing,” then a) it influences player choice and b) doesn’t really let you think about why you did what you did.

Feminina:

Oh no, we had the Big Talk. Twice, since I reloaded to try killing him without getting into a fight with the entire town.

Butch:

Oh, OK. It wasn’t one of those “HA! I shall randomly kill you to exploit the game” deals.

I still like the idea of “Kill my leader, but hands off my booze!”

Art imitating life, really.

Feminina:

Indeed. Especially in these trying times. They made the right choice.

I mean, seriously, which loss would have a more crushing effect on the morale of the nation right now: our leader, or our booze supply? It’s not even a question.

Butch:

Not a question at all.

Which reminds me, I need to order more booze. LOTS more booze.

Feminina:

And, contemplating the relative value of leaders and booze and returning for a moment to the more intellectual discussion with which we began the day–maybe the whole bit with Graham is meant to be one of a series of moments that casts doubt on the whole concept of ‘leader’ as a role that is really meaningful.

We kind of looked at that a few days ago, with the discussion of how it’s easier to see Lilya at Sublight as a ‘strong leader’ than it is Adelaide, because Lilya’s got a bunch of guns at her command, but does that really say anything about how GOOD she is at leading people? How likely the people she leads are to have happy, productive lives?

And every leader we’ve met has been similarly flawed and unlikely, and maybe the game’s take on it is simply that leaders in general are not all they’re cracked up to be, and we shouldn’t rely on them.

An interesting counterpoint would be, well, aren’t we, the PC, a leader, with companions who express how glad they are to be on our team, with us as the captain?

And this is true. But it’s not as if our goal is to wake up all the Hope colonists and rule them–we just want to wake them up and, presumably, let them live their own lives.

Leaders: really think hard about how they compare to booze, before signing up with one.

Butch:

Sorry. We were doing so well. Then there were children.

Sigh.

At least I have toilet paper. And booze.

Feminina:

That sums up so many disasters.

Loot I Shall Never Have

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Cascadia in The Outer Worlds

Butch:

Got to Cascadia, spent WAAAAY too long trying to find a science weapon, putzed around the Rizzo lab, laughed when Felix talked down some protector robots by making them think we were too stupid to be worth killing, killed shit, stole gas, trucked down towards the crashed spaceship.

Not sure I have much wisdom about Rizzo’s. I kinda got in, got out. I might have missed some shit in Cascadia, but the place seemed kinda dead. Do you have wisdom?

Here’s some wisdom I wil share: This game is easy. It’s even easier now that I have discovered the badassness of companion abilities. You lead with Nyoka screaming and shooting the shit out of everything, everything gets better, fast.

But it’s STILL very easy. I left Cascadia, moved towards the spaceship, and there, in the road, were two maniqueens. Nyoka says “That way’s suicide. If you know another way, no shame in taking it.” I thought “Well, that’s usually a game saying ‘go around,’ but I wasted too much time looking for that weapon and lord knows when I’ll play again, so I’m fighting.” So I fought, and killed them both totally dead without needing any healing. On normal. And then realized that I put on different armor to do a tech check and forgot to change back and I was still in wimpy armor!

When a game is all “this is suicide,” and you still win no problem in wimpy armor, something is up.

This game really does have me confused about difficulty. As you know, I am not a fan of hard. I’m certainly not a fan of hard for the sake of hard, or hard that messes with narrative momentum, so I’m not faulting this game being inherently easy. That said, this is EASY. It’s almost getting to the point where combat is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, busy work. After last night, blowing through two maniqueens after Nyoka was all “This is suicide,” I basically will look at enemies and not care. Blow ’em away! Move on. Or, if I do care, it will be along the lines of “Really, game, this is wasting my time making me kill all these guys.”

That’s almost too far the other way. It makes too much of the game not matter. I haven’t changed my inventory in ages, haven’t used a consumable in ages, don’t even know (or care) what 90% of the consumables even do.

But then, I can’t complain about narrative momentum being interrupted by dying. That I can’t.

I am conflicted.

And yes, yes, I could turn up the difficulty. That is an option. And yes, I know that in the really hard mode all this food and empty houses with beds matter because you have to eat and sleep and if I was playing on that mode I’d be thrilled to find empty houses with beds. Yes. Sure. But it sill says on the options screen that normal is the intended difficulty. I’m playing how the developers want me to play. They WANT it to be this easy, to have so much of the game not matter.

It’s almost like the stuff I was talking about with the NBA game, only moreso. In that, I wondered why they made a mode that so many players wouldn’t care about. Here, they made all these stats and consumables and empty houses that probably matter in a mode that a) few people will play and b) the developers OVERTLY TELL YOU isn’t the way they WANT you to play! “Here, here’s a bunch of stuff we spent forever giving you the option to care about, now please don’t care” is a very strange choice.

I dunno. Whole game is weird when it comes to how hard it is, how hard it wants to be and how hard it feels it has to be.

And what’s even weirder is that I can’t tell if I mind that it’s this easy.

Feminina:

Woohoo! Played!

Cascadia becomes relevant for a thing later. But the first time I went there, yeah, it seemed a bit empty. I mean, aside from all the things and people trying to kill me.

I did like Felix convincing the guard robots not to bother with us. Good stuff.

As for it being super easy…hm. I didn’t have quite the same experience. I mean, it wasn’t HARD, but it wasn’t laughably easy. I got killed occasionally, even just trucking around Monarch fighting mantiqueens. Not often enough to break the momentum, but often enough that I didn’t have to ponder what you’re pondering now. And I had it on Normal too. I guess you’re just more badass than me.

Oh man, that science weapon…way off up in a corner and you had to jump a lot? Yeah, I fell to my death many times getting that damn thing.

I also wasted WAY too much time looking for a science weapon on the Groundbreaker. Never did find it. Siiigh.

It’s finally nice outside…just got back from a lengthy tricycle/walk around the neighborhood with Grigio. I’m filing it under “working lunch.”

Butch:

Dude, I FINALLY did all those jumps, then a kid yelled and I got distracted and dealt with it, came back, died, forgot to save because I had been dealing with KID SHIT.

Did it again. Died a lot more times.

Did it, didn’t want to fuck around, so I did this big jump from the top deal and landed at the bottom with JUST a little bit of life. Phew, right? Cuz you just heal? Well, stupid fucking FELIX kept trying to do the SAME JUMP and missing and dying. Over, and over, and over, and OVER. I had to run around until I was at a point where he could make it JUST SO.

Took. Forever.

I’m not badass, dude. You know that. But Nyoka is. I do love her companion ability. YEAAAAAA!

A thing….later. How much more later could there be? HOW DID YOU FINISH SO FAST?????

I did find the science weapon on Groundbreaker. You had to find a note with a hint. I did, so I found it. Then promptly never used it. The science weapons in general are things I found to find them, and have been keeping them ever since because, you know, science weapons.

As one does.

Nicely done. Working lunch, indeed.

I burned a bunch of shit with my neighbor. Productive. And outside!

Feminina:

Productive! Outdoorsy! Excellent!

My companions, I think I had Felix and Vicar Max at that point, also failed to make the last jump back at one point, and fell screaming to their doom. I had been trying for so long that I just said ‘screw it, they’ll probably resurrect outside’ and left.

I mean, I WOULD have gone back and redone it if I had to in order to save their lives, but naw, after the load screen to get out of the building, they showed up just fine. I also could have just told them not to follow me the whole damn way, that would have been an option, but clearly I did not think of that at the time.

I was too busy thinking about how I was too heavily loaded to jump, so I had to offload a bunch of loot into a container, and then grab it all before I left, possibly leaving my loyal companions to bleed to death on the steely floor far beneath. It’s a complicated business being me.

Butch:

I wasn’t going to take any chances. If I had had to do all the damn jumping again I would’ve rage quit. And I wouldn’t have left them behind. Kinda cruel for this game to make you jump a lot. Jumping is not this game’s strong point.

Feminina:

Oh, after the first try I was saving after every successful jump, so if I’d had to go back, it would only have been to the jump before they died. But yeah, this was a cruel task when we’ve done little jumping in the game, and have never been that good at it.

But we survived! And so did our companions! That’s the important thing.

Butch:

And I finished a quest! You didn’t. Heh.

And got a gun that I’ll likely never use. Win!

Feminina:

You finished a quest I didn’t? Oh, the weapon from the Groundbreaker? Yeah, I never got that one. Probably never would have used it. I took those science weapons out for a while and tried using them, hoping they’d be awesome, but never could figure out the trick of actually making them do anything.

If there is a trick. I know it said increasing your Science skill made them more effective, so maybe mine just wasn’t good enough. I was very busy getting good at persuasion, hacking and lockpicking.

A Mood of General Skepticism

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

I got nothing. Was too tired yesterday after scouring the lawn for acorns.

I jest. Sorta.

How goes the hellscape?

Feminina:

Grim and hellish as usual. Well, the weather’s nice! Yours?

We started watching Unorthodox on Netflix. That’ll give you a change of pace.

Butch:

Don’t know that one. Does it have naked sorceresses?

Cuz the Witcher has naked sorceresses.

Feminina:

It does not. It’s about a woman who leaves a Hasidic community in New York City. So you see some different perspectives on life in general.

Butch:

Pfft. I’d rather have different perspectives on naked sorceresses.

You and your erudition.

Feminina:

Sometimes I like to think about people with very different problems than mine!

Too many of my real life problems have involved naked sorceresses. It hits too close to home.

Butch:

Sigh. Where do I get those kind of problems?

Feminina:

It’s not easy. You have to anger a lot of magical people.

Butch:

Great, so, like, the only people I haven’t angered. Just my luck.

Feminina:

Yup. You’re stuck with a perpetually outraged Naked Zeus instead.

Butch:

Why don’t I ever piss off the right people?

T SHIRT!!!!

Feminina:

This is the T SHIRT for our times.

Butch:

One of many. One of all too many.

Feminina:

A dark mood for dark times.

Diet for a Plague-Infested Planet

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Monarch business in The Outer Worlds

Butch:

Well, I scored a grocery delivery time for tomorrow, got Junior to take a walk, Mrs. McP cut my hair and did a pretty good job, and advanced the main story!

Not too shabby!

My GOD I am glad to have short hair again. Not sure how you do the long hair thing.

Anyway….

Was a tad disappointed in the boarst factory. This might have been my fault. I totally forgot how the disguise mechanic worked, so I rushed and did the first thing I could find to do (which was altering financial records) and got out and that ended the quest. Never did meet the guy who was running the place, and I have a feeling he would’ve had themes. As it was, I got in, got out, got paid. He was probably interesting. I’ll never know. Unless you tell me.

Then found a medallion for Nyoka and learned that things were in a different place, of course.

Gave the BOLT to Sanjar. Not what I expected.

Then through mantiqueen hell (which was a whole lot of sneaking past mantiqueens cuz fuck that noise). Then BACK to mantiqueen land for find a guy for some mercenaries. Then up to Hiram!

I felt kinda bad, cuz the mercenaries charged in and I was all “Oh, cool. You guys do it. I’ll go loot,” and they all got killed. My bad. I hope they didn’t have anything else interesting to do, cuz they’re dead.

Did Hiram, got a plot dump, turned on the switch, saw a ship crash. Hit save.

Not bad. But more a plot dump/fighty session than anything. The mercenaries were kinda interesting, how they were so corporate. They were bound by rules, but their own rules, like Kevin after taking a law class at night school. I kinda wish I had talked to them more. They were interesting. But they’re dead.

And I wish I had met Clive. But I didn’t.

Missed bloggage. My bad. You can fill me in if you have more on all that.

Off to find a ship, I guess. Should I go by way of Cascadia and all the stuff that Sub Light wants me to do? Or not?

I did like that Hiram told me to go flip the switch and I was all “Wait, let me guess, after I do three more things” and he was all “No….just go flip the switch. What’s with you?” Ah, game. Playing the player. I did laugh, though.

Ooo! I know a diffference! You didn’t tell Sanjar about his performance review, did you? Cuz I did!

How’s life in the hellscape?

Feminina:

Yay short hair! I mean, for those that like that sort of thing.

I did like that–“no, just flip the switch.” And then your go out and yeah, nothing else to fight or anything, just flip the switch. Nice one, game.

I told Sanjar about his performance review. Why wouldn’t I? I like to share! Then I spun it for him in an encouraging way, like, “despite that you’re here, doing a better job than anyone could have imagined, you’ve grown so much,” and cheered him up about it. Because I like to share and make people feel good.

You’re a monster, dude! You let those poor mercenaries die?! Heh. I told them to wait while I cleared things out, and then they were puttering around guarding the place afterwards. There wasn’t a huge amount of theme, beyond “I am so much more badass than you losers.” Which I didn’t actually say, although that would have been funny.

The Boarst factory… Yeah. Hm. I went in and found the guy and talked to him. Brokered a truce between him and the Sublight lady. There was a fairly strong insinuation that he was putting human bodies into the Boarst Wurst (again with the cannibalism), and he agreed to take the corpses of Sublight victims off their hands if they left him alone to run the place. He didn’t seem completely sane (again with the link between cannibalism and insanity).

But you know, that’s what I do, just try to help people find peaceful solutions to problems, unless the people are raiders, in which case there’s no question that they must die as rapidly as possible.

Butch:

Short hair. Like me, man. Like me. I’m ME again!

I did….THE EXACT SAME THING with Sanjar.

As we do.

I did not LET the mercenaries die, they just died. I went in, and they were badass, man! They had the room cleared and were on to the next room before I fired a shot! I figured it was one of those deals games do where it was all “You did this quest, so let us take this one off your hands.” They had it under control! Until, apparently, they didn’t.

Huh. I was kinda expecting the boss to be a Dobson, just a schmuck trying to make a living selling crappy sausage, being pushed around by thuggy quasi-gangsters (which sublight so is). But he was a cannibal? Didn’t see that coming. Maybe it was supposed to be a twist on Edgewater? A tough woman, using bodies that no one would’ve missed to make food? I dunno. Maybe. I’d discuss, but I never met the guy.

Try to find a peaceful solution for all. As one does. Even the cannibals.

Feminina:

Yup. That’s how we do.

But no, the Boarst guy was much more like an actual villain. He might have been murdering his employees for sausage experiments, as well as disposing of bodies (though I agree, it was a sort of twist on Edgewater: why should all those bodies we keep accumulating go to waste?).

We could certainly have fought him and let Sublight take over his factory. But hey, then I wouldn’t have been able to use my persuasion skills!

Butch:

Interesting that the guy they put opposite sublight was really a bad guy. Yes, true, we expected a bad guy in Edgewater because plague, cannery, workers, etc., but we also expected a bad guy because the other faction was a bunch of plant growing hippies. The opposite of plant growing hippies is bad guy, right? Here, I expected a dweeb because the opposite of sublight must be dweeb, right? Sublight are goons! Even in Fallbrook it isn’t “resident” it’s “sublight thug.” Thug! Just the dudes hanging out doing Kevin banter are thugs!

So OF COURSE the guy they’re after must be a helpless dweeb, right? RIGHT?

That all got me to thinking….why don’t I like sublight? It’s all superficial. They growl a lot and swear a lot and have scars. Their methods can be a bit draconian. They do seem to want to take over shit and get rich. But then….so does everyone else in the game, even the likable ones. One could make an argument that the player does, too.

So really, I’m just judging books by covers.

Which got me thinking even deeper…..

Sublight is run by women, at least so far. Lilya, Catherine….tough women. This is the one entity that we have seen that’s run by women. It’s the one I like the least, in a game that’s tricking me into judging books by covers.

This disquiets me.

What did you think of sublight?

Feminina:

I did notice that the Sublight people are identified as Thugs even when they’re not doing anything except standing around. (Maybe that’s what they call themselves? Maybe it’s their preferred term, sort of a ‘reclaiming the derogatory names others call us’ thing? Though if so, it’s entirely in my head, since there’s no explanation of this in the game.)

And yes, they’re the ‘criminal enterprise’ here, but are they really doing anything everyone else doesn’t do?

And yes, they are apparently run by women. Lilya is particularly interesting…you’ll talk more to her later, of course. Though I don’t know if Sublight is the ONE entity that’s run by women–Junlei seems pretty solidly in charge of the Groundbreaker. This game is actually pretty good about its strong female characters. Zora, Adelaide, three out of five companions with identifiable gender (SAM superficially reads as male, but arguably this doesn’t entirely count).

Butch:

True, there are strong women, but Zora is second fiddle to Graham, Adelaide is more of a mother figure in a commune, even Junlei is pretty much at the mercy of the Board, even if she doesn’t answer to them. Sublight is the one place where a woman says jump and others say “how high?” And companions are, by definition, second fiddles. They literally do what we tell them to do. I’d also argue our female NPCs here aren’t exactly super strong. Nyoka is badass, sure, but a drunk. Parvati is a wide eyed innocent, and Ellie, though tough, is always in search of ANOTHER CAPTAIN. True, she fits into the theme of “maybe just doing your job is the way to be happy,” but still. The one, the only, true boss women in the game so far are Lilya and Catherine.

And they aren’t likable, are they?

Reclaiming the term. “No one will hurt me with ‘THUG’ anymore! I’m my own person, mom!”

Feminina:

True, Zora’s second in command, but she’s arguably a tougher and more practical, effective character than Graham. Does that say something about how even very effective, capable women tend to achieve less in society than even vague, self-centered, slightly crazy, possibly murderous men? Hm.

On that note, definitely talk to Lilya some more.

And Junlei is beleaguered by the Board, for sure, but her determination to hold them off by whatever means she can I think shows her as a strong, solid leader in a tough situation. She’s certainly as much in charge of her group/territory as Graham is of his. Or Sanjar, who is nominally in charge of Monarch but is also struggling with the Board in his own way.

Perhaps we could also talk about how the people we automatically read as “Leader” are the people in charge of the military-esque, gun-toting faction rather than the trying-to-keep-a-space-station-operational faction, or the Bureaucrat-fighting-the-Board-bureacratically faction. It’s always so much easier to take people seriously when they’re threatening violence.

Butch:

Very true. Junlei is a leader, but I didn’t see her quite that way (Adelaide, either). And I did see Sanjar as one, especially when I thought the BOLT was a weapon.

I have a feeling I’ll talk to Lilya some more.

How did you finish so fast? I’m PLAYING here! I AM!

Feminina:

I don’t know, man. I was playing a fair amount every night for a while there right after quarantine. It was like, “I have to work in the morning, but I don’t have to get up in time to commute, so I might as well play another half hour…”

Not as if there was anything else to do. Though now we’ve started watching TV instead. Maybe I’ll catch up on the Witcher.

Butch:

Witcher is fun. Though the special effects can be cheesy as can be.

But it’ll scratch the game itch until I finish. I’m trying, man!

Feminina:

Seriously, there’s no rush. We haven’t even figured out exactly what we’re doing next. Or else I forgot.

Also possible.

Butch:

But how are you staying sane without games in these troubled times? I’m BARELY staying sane WITH games!

Booze, I take it. Does your packy deliver?

And treats. You better score some flour. Stores around here are running low.

I must say, though, having a nice haircut did improve my outlook. If you ever do want to have a trim and don’t want to pay, I do recommend Mrs. McP’s services.

Feminina:

Plus, now you know that if society collapses, Mrs. McP has a lucrative career as the village barber! We’re all going to need practical skills to fall back on.

I’m screwed.

I’ve been…eating a lot of chocolate? Plus booze. I’m sure the insanity will come in time, probably a very short time, but so far the novelty of television has been able to keep it at bay even without a game.

Butch:

You have many practical skills! You essentially were raised in a technologyless hellscape! You tied up horses! Badly! You told me that! You likely rustled doggies or some shit! Chopped wood! Made jonnycakes on the back of old road signs over a fire made from ol’ twigs and wagon wheels and the bones of your enemies!

All of which are far more practical than….I dunno….being able to decorate a cake.

You’ll be fine.

Feminina:

You can cook, though. It’s not just frosting a cake.

And dude, that wasn’t me who tied up the horse badly. I just ate of its flesh in the aftermath.

But yeah, I guess I can forage for firewood and pick berries and stuff.

We should probably be ordering some ‘living off the land’ books for our area, in case we do need to start figuring out which trees we can eat. I mean, just knowing what we have to do to acorns to make them edible could save our lives! There are a lot of oak trees out there.

Butch:

I was referring to the metaphor cake you whipped up a while back. Which I’m sure tasted amazing.

Only our blog can have the sentence “I just ate of its flesh in the aftermath” and have it be a) totally rational in context and b) not at all scary. I’m so proud of us.

Dude, I just raked and took, count ’em, FIVE wheelbarrows full of acorns off my damn yard. You find that cookbook, we’ll eat like kings! Well, kings who eat a shit ton of acorns, anyway.

And I pruned the pear tree! It’s getting leaves and blossoms and everything! I even have a couple sugar maples I could tap!

We’ll be fine.

Feminina:

YOU’LL be fine. Out there in the land of bounty! I don’t have a single oak tree. Or a pear. Or a maple.

YOU told me not to plant a forest of oak trees on the postage-stamp-sized lawn! If we starve, it’s your fault.

But I totally just went and ordered a book on edible wild plants of New England. There must be something around here we can eat. Dandelions, I know you can eat those, and they’re everywhere. Time to stop pulling them out of the yard! Let them grow until they’re big enough for salad! (Although actually it’s recommended you eat the young, new leaves, as they are more tender and less bitter.)

I looked at three different books that seemed relevant and two were backordered, so I’m clearly not the only person this has occurred to. Get your foraging handbook now!

Also, maybe my business will be ‘metaphor cakes.’ I’m sure I can come up with all kinds of ways to express things with hideous baked goods!

And that will be a growth market in the post-apocalypse. So much to express.

Butch:

If anyone can, it’s you!

Feminina:

Acorn flour, once we figure out how to make it so it won’t make everyone sick, will add the perfect touch.

Actually, even if it does make everyone sick, I can work with that…

Butch:

We might have to, man. Just got the delivery from shipt (cuz we’re doing that cuz a) COVID and b) these fucking KIDS man) and the store was pretty picked over. Frozen veggies, peanut butter, bread crumbs…fucking bread crumbs. Didn’t even try to get flour or sugar.

Did score toilet paper. Didn’t ask about kibble.

Shopper did say that Sunday and Monday are the toughest days.

I mean, we got enough to get through, but it was picked over, dude.

Acorns.

Dude…..I remembered…..I have this bookmarked:

Foraging Resources – Recipes and How-Tos

Granted, I had it bookmarked for the game and duck recipes, cuz I eat that sort of thing, but I had this BOOKMARKED!

We’re saved!

Feminina:

We’re saved! I also have a co-worker who hunts mushrooms as a side hobby. He can give us some tips.

Butch:

Some of those recipes actually sound quite good.

I have made a couple duck recipes from that site, and it’s pretty good on the duck. Not that that’s your groove.

I, however, have duck breasts, a whole duck, a pheasant and some rabbit in the freezer. For that is how I do.

Feminina:

Well, you’re saved for a while. We don’t even have a chest freezer! Or a root cellar.

We have nothing except a bunch of bread and peanut butter and pasta and oatmeal and rice and frozen berries and dried fruit and canned beans.

Sigh.

Butch:

See, you gotta get on the weird food train. Nobody buys up weird food!

I had quails stuffed with homemade cornbread the other night. They were amazing.

Feminina:

Ah, we do need to get into weird foods. We’ll all be eating those soon. Like the strange doughy things in the foreign foods aisle. They’re probably delicious.

Butch:

Heh. I gave my kids chicken Chinese dumplings from that section tonight.

They were delicious.

Feminina:

There you go!

People Should Tell Me More Things

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for companion stories in The Outer Worlds

Butch:

Hey! Did stuff!

Found the dude for Vicar Max. Didn’t see that coming at all. “Find the scholar” was the damn objective! Anyway, talked them all down, as one does. I’m a little confused. Was Max assigned to be a pastor in a prison or was he ACTUALLY in prison?

Then I found a medallion for Nyoka.

Then I went back, got Felix, and went to investigate the tossball betting place (wanted Felix cuz…tossball). We get out of the ship and he immediately is all disillusioned about Graham, which made me all “huh?” So I guess I missed the first couple episodes of HIS side quest, right? I appreciated that one dialog choice (the one I picked) was “Felix, what are you talking about?” Sums it up. Not sure what to do with that.

Solved the murder, but didn’t get a record of it. Sigh.

Then went back, got Parvati and Ellie and am now about to raid a boarst plant.

Not bad!

So we’ve talked on themes, but I think I’m seeing a pattern in the companion quest themes (maybe). Parvati’s ended, one would think, rather happily, and was happy the whole time. She never had a sense of disillusionment. Max? He had some religious thoughts and is disillusioned, Felix had some political thoughts and is disillusioned.

Maybe something the game is saying is that you shouldn’t care about the bigger picture? Corporations and religion and politics and ideals, they’ll disappoint you every time, but going about your life, going to work and coming home to someone who loves you, that’s what matters. It isn’t about being a hero or even a leader. It’s about being proud of your work and happy with the people you’re with.

Even your crew mates always thank you for the friendship. Usually, party members are all “I’m with you cuz you’re a hero/hot/I’m using you.” You get one little cutscene when they become “loyal” or some shit about friendship. Here, they don’t shut up about it. I think that’s intentional.

Themes! Actual themes!

Feminina:

The companion quests were interesting. As you say, much more about personal relationships than about grand ideals. And friendship, so many comments about the importance of friendship!

I don’t think you missed Felix’s stuff, necessarily. He talked to me about it a bit late, also, and I think maybe it’s just a weird quirk of timing. I feel like I was also puzzled why he felt so strongly about Graham, and it does make more sense in the context of his personal story, which turned up later.

So it works out, but yeah, the pacing was odd for me as well. I’m not sure if that’s a mistake, if we were supposed to do something that would have prompted Felix to start talking earlier, or if we’re actually meant to be confronted with a character who has strong feelings about something for reasons we don’t understand. I mean, that happens!

Butch:

Well, I didn’t have Felix with me at all from the point I met Graham until now, which is after I knew he was part of the massacre. Maybe if I had had him along the whole time he would’ve said more? Like “Oooo golly, I’m so glad to meet you Mr. Bryant blah blah blah.” It might be one of those FONV deals where people are going to talk if they’re there. Felix hasn’t had the chance to advance his or any other plot for a while, as he has been chillin’ at the ship eating purple berry crunch as I run with Vicar Max and Nyoka. Had I known that he had SHIT TO SAY on Monarch, I’d’ve taken him. It’s why I took Max. But whatever.

You’d’ve thought he would’ve said SOMETHING on the way to Monarch if he cared that much about Bryant. But whatever.

He has more story later? And I STILL have nothing for Ellie. That said, haven’t spent that much time with her at all.

But certainly, “It’s the little things” seems to be a theme. That’s so rare in games. Usually, it’s “choose between all these really big things.” Even in TW3, which was about family and stuff, you had to deal with MAJOR FORCES before you got to have warm cake. Not so much here.

Feminina:

Ellie will have something, don’t worry about that. It comes later, when you can travel to a new place. They seem to have really planned for you to not have everything to work on all at once–like, they assume you’ll finish Vicar Max’s story and then move on.

Though also, you do wind up going BACK to places quite a bit. But I suppose they didn’t want to waste the maps they built.

And yeah, people are not always great about indicating that they’ll be interested in something. I mean, when the moment comes that they want your attention, they’ll come ask for it, but you never know when you’re missing some thoughtful comment that someone might have made, because you didn’t realize they would have been interested in where you are/what you’re doing. But that’s kind of the hazard of games where you have multiple companions and can only keep a subset of them with you at any given time.

Butch:

Later? New place? Back to old places?

Dude.

I’m PLAYING here, and you’re done, and Later? New place? Back to old places?

Dude!

This game, though, could’ve gotten around some of the stuff in FONV. That game, you passed something and someone was all “Huh…you know…that reminds me…” and you had to get lucky (or google it). Here, Felix really could’ve mentioned he was into Graham and wanted to shake his hand BEFORE so we knew to take him. That wouldn’t have been hard.

I think one speed bump to that is the ship isn’t really being used all that much. You really only go back to a) switch dudes (which is annoying) or b) to go somewhere else after you’ve pretty much finished up at a place and it’s time to fly. There’s no reason to go back and chat and be all “So, anyone have anything they want to do here?” I wouldn’t have even figured this out about Felix if I hadn’t switched him out because I had a feeling about another quest.

They could’ve tipped us off, here.

Who were you running with on Monarch?

Feminina:

It’s going to be great. You’re gonna love it.

But yeah, I do think they could have given us a heads-up that Felix cared about this dude. I mean, maybe I just didn’t talk to people often enough on the ship, but you’re right, there wasn’t much call to go back there, and whenever I did talk to people (absent a specific “talk to so-and-so” quest objective) they never had anything new to say after the first conversation.

I mean, we have communications technology here. Felix could have dropped us a message “hey, I hear the Graham dude is on Monarch, I’d love to meet him!” and we would have gone back to get him, but without that…not gonna happen.

On Monarch…hm. I took Vicar Max to meet Vicar Max’s dude, took Nyoka to do Nyoka’s stuff, took Felix once in a while, Ellie and Parvati occasionally…I tried to mix it up. And I did end up coming back to Monarch (it’s gonna be great, you’re gonna love it), so I had more opportunities to go around with different people.

Honestly, though, aside from this bit with Felix, I never really had the sense that I was missing some piece of someone’s background (except possibly SAM’s, because I gave up traveling with SAM because it was boring, so there could have been something there I totally missed). People will tell you when they have something they want you to do.

Butch:

I’ve lost track. Is it my turn? Time wrinkled there. Cake was made. People asked me for beverages. I looked at both Minecraft and Destiny 2. I think I played Bey Blades. I think that was today.

It’s also very confusing planning your menu out more than a week. I’m sitting here planning my delivery for Monday, which means planning things through a week from Monday, which means getting confused about what I’m making Sunday because which Sunday? WHICH SUNDAY????????

This is just getting weird, man. Weird, and confusing.

Feminina:

Cake?! I want cake!

I don’t have cake. But yeah, planning anything to do with days is so confusing. Saturday is Movie Day and Wednesday is Takeout Night. These are pretty much the only meaningful markers we have for the week.

Well, I’m trying to work on workdays, which is different from weekends. But it’s a fuzzy difference sometimes.

Butch:

Still doing takeoout? Props. I probably should. Support businesses and all. But I keep forgetting, and I don’t know if anyone is doing it out here.

Mrs. McP’s bday dinner. Thus, cake. A subtle thing that has six eggs and three cups of sugar and six oz of unsweetened chocolate and a cup and a half of chocolate chips. And mocha honey frosting.

Subtle. Delicate. Refreshing.

It’s actually called “Killer Cake.” That’s really the name of it.

My mom tore the recipe out of the newspaper back in the 80s when you could get away with shit like that.

I’m trying to find it on the internet. No luck. Even the internet knows how terrible it is for you.

It’s good cake.

Feminina:

Mmmm, sounds subtle and refreshing all right. Happy birthday to her!

Grigio’s birthday is coming up, so we’ll have cake again. Although not that good of cake.

Butch:

Better start hoarding. Tried to get some flour in the shipt cart and it’s out of stock at the grocery.

Feminina:

Damn. Everyone’s baking. I’ll put it on the list in case there’s some next store trip.

I’m more excited for the ice cream, and so far heavy cream hasn’t run out. I don’t think.

Though I heard dairies are having to dump out milk because there’s no one to process it, or something?

Society is sauntering on the edge of collapse here. We’re all just trying to stay cool and act normal.

Today in Games We Haven’t Played

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for NBA2K20?

Butch:

Nothing. Mrs. McP made me distract the kids until 715 so she could do Important Work Shit. I told her that I don’t care how important her Important Work Shit is, I’m playing today, and she can stop working and watch her kids.

We shall see.

Feminina:

People gotta play. Or, people gotta have a few damn minutes to themselves, and if that takes the form of playing, that’s what they gotta do. And work needs to recognize that people have lives at home and can’t be on the job the same way they can in an office. It’s just not physically possible.

There’s a reason people used to go to offices to get work done, after all.

Butch:

Oh, I think Mrs. McP is all too happy to talk about how important her Important Work Shit is so that I HAVE to take the kids outside and she HAS to stay downstairs. It’s amazing that the laundry is very near to where her desk is, and, Important Work Shit be damned, she always seems to get the laundry done….

I mean, shit. Yesterday, she got mad at me because I wasn’t inside keeping the kids quiet when she was on an Important Work Call. Why wasn’t I inside? Because I was out raking the yard WHICH SHE ASKED ME TO DO!

Fuck this shit.

Feminina:

I’ve read some speculation that there are going to be a lot of divorces after this is over.

Also that there will be a lot of babies born in nine months, but they will all be first-born children.

And then there are the domestic abuse concerns, so probably a bunch of people will also be murdered, but that gets pretty dark.

I think people were really not meant to spend all day, every day, in such close quarters with such a limited group of other people. We’re supposed to be out foraging or whatever! Even small bands of hunter-gatherers have more than five people in them. And aren’t stuck in one spot raking lawns and doing work calls for months on end.

Butch:

The hunter gatherer life has a lot of positives. Tempting.

Oh they will ALL be first born kids. ALL of them. People with at least one do not have the time or privacy to have another. They also know the fuck better.

I have heard that the lack of pollution is saving lives. As is the fact there are far fewer drunk drivers cuz all the bars are closed.

These are strange times.

Feminina:

Yeah, I heard less drunk driving, and fewer sports-related accidents. Though I also heard that, oddly, there are not that many fewer car accidents in general, because apparently people are driving recklessly because the roads are so empty now. Wide open spaces! Time to go fast!

Strange times indeed.

Butch:

Huh. Weird.

Everything is weird.

At least I have toilet paper.

This WILL end at some point, right?

Feminina:

It will. It has to.

This isn’t a viable approach for human society in the long term, so logic dictates it will end.

Logic. And booze. We must cling to them.

Butch:

Well….here’s something about games. An unexpected thing about games.

PS had a big ol’ sale, and Nugget likes sports games, and we have a billion hours of free time, so I got him NBA2K20. This is a basketball game. The game play is….wait for it…basketball.

Remember many moons go when I made the claim that Madden could be construed as an RPG? Sorta?

Well, this game has a “my career” mode where you are a basketball player from college through your career.

“So what?” you say. You assume this is playing basketball and collecting stats and all that. I thought that, too.

Until I was watching Nugget play…and hitting a TWENTY MINUTE cinematic cutscene. I mean, CINEMATIC. Turns out yes, you are a basketball player. You’re in college, the captain, three months from graduation. You care about social issues. Your friend gets hurt, loses his scholarship, which makes you mad, so you sit out of the second game of the NCAA tournament and get death threats and there’s social commentary, man. SOCIAL. COMMENTARY.

TWENTY DAMN MINUTES OF CINEMA! With a customizeable character!

Did I mention it’s starring Rosario Dawson as your thesis advisor and IDRIS FUCKING ELBA as your coach?

Like….WHAT?

This is an annual installment of a fucking basketball game.

I dunno, man. I’m kinda into that. Maybe it’ll make the sports gamer set interested in story games.

Seriously. I was watching all “Is that Idris Elba? No way that’s Idris Elba.” But I checked imdb and it’s Idris Elba.

NBA game.

Strange times, indeed.

Feminina:

Idris Elba? Rosario Dawson? Social commentary?

Damn, NBA2K. Way to step it up with narrative and themes. I mean, I’m still not going to play it, but…way to go being more complex than I expected.

Butch:

Dude, seriously. It was the longest cutscene I’ve ever seen. Multiple locations, obviously big sets, facial capture, focus pulls, different camera angles….it was like watching a damn movie. It really did have shit to say.

But then…it was jarring. There was all this amazing cutscene, then, right coming out of it…no gameplay. A big, incomprehensible chart where you had skill points to spend an all sorts of shit and BOOM you’re back in a stat heavy sports game.

So….I’m pretty sure we’re not the target audience. If we are, they’re going to be very disappointed. So I wonder what they were thinking in terms of pleasing whoever they thought their target audience is. This cutscene alone must have cost a damn fortune, and it was only the very beginning of the story. I can’t imagine people who buy a game because they want to play basketball were too keen on sitting through a twenty minute cutscene, Idris Elba or no, before they could play more basketball. Nugget certainly wasn’t too keen. I was watching it, sure, but he was all “What is this? What’s going on?” impatiently waiting to play fucking basketball.

I dunno. Maybe I’m snobbily judging people who play sports games.

Feminina:

It is an interesting decision. A 20-minute cutscene is a bold choice in ANY game, let alone one focused on playing a sport.

And I don’t know if it’s even a matter of snobbery, to say “probably people who buy sports games buy them for the sports instead of the narrative.”

On the other hand, I suppose, just as we buy adventure games for the adventuring but also like the sense of getting to play/know a character, there’s no reason someone who’s playing the entire career of an athlete wouldn’t be buying it for the basketball but also enjoying the sense of getting to play and know the character of the athlete. That makes perfect sense. I might not be buying it FOR the story, I’m buying it for basketball, but I still like to know the person I’m spending all this time with.

We’re probably more likely than the average person to play something specifically for the story rather than for the sport, combat or whatever the primary game mechanic is, but even in our case, that’s not all we’re after. And even we’d be a bit startled by a 20-minute cutscene.

I mean, we comment when we get those cutscene-but-here’s-an-action-so-you’re-still-playing bits in some games.

Very interesting choice for basketball.

Butch:

Very interesting choice. I wish that, just for today, I was a fan of sports games so I could tell if I was annoyed or not.

Though…and I don’t know if this makes it make more sense or less, it was in an optional mode. You could just pick “Play now,” and poof, you pick an NBA team and off you go, or you could pick the mode where you draft your own team out of real NBA players, etc. So if you just turned it on and wanted to be the Celtics and play ball, you could. You can. It isn’t like, say, TLOU where you HAVE to watch that to play anything.

So, on one hand, maybe including it makes sense because you won’t really alienate the part of your audience that wants to pretend they’re the Celtics and play ball because they won’t see it. On the other hand, you’re making a scene (and probably more to come) that must’ve cost twelve metric tons of money knowing a chunk, if not a majority, of your customer base a) won’t see it and b) doesn’t WANT to see it.

It was quite a surprise to see.

Feminina:

It’s interesting, and hard to say much about given my complete lack of experience with sports games. Is this really unusual? Sort of unusual? Totally commonplace?

We’d have to recruit a sports-game-player to weigh in.

Butch:

I’d say totally unusual. I am not a sports game person, but the one thing Nugget plays almost as much as minecraft is sports. He has played a Madden game, MLB the Show (that would be baseball), the latest hockey one (played the HELL out of that), now this. The career one in hockey was just “make your face, pick your name, play a lot of hockey.” Progression through your “career” was just text and stats.

There certainly wasn’t any Idris Elba.

Feminina:

I’m happy to designate Nugget our Sports Game Correspondent. Much happier than I would be to have to play any sports games myself.

Even if they ALL had Idris Elba.

 

So Much Adventure

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Fallbrook stories in The Outer Worlds

Butch:

Well, besides my kids going even more batshit than usual, the real crisis is BOTH places I ordered hair clippers from cancelled my order because the item was no longer available.

This is going to get nuts.

Anyway, played!

Got Graham’s printer rollers, but didn’t get his video things. I told the person to get food and medicine instead, which seems like one of those times games trick you into something you could swear was the right thing and then it isn’t. Then decided to go very quickly to go rescue the Van Noys because I remembered waiting too long to rescue that dude in Roseway who wound up…..not getting rescued. “Rushing” consisted of finding a smuggler hiding in a cave, finding a science lab with gloop gun or something, and then trying to find a way across a massive canyon unsuccessfully, then saying fuck it and fast travelling back to the town to find a bridge. Then lots of raptidons. Then fighting kids. In real life. Never got to the Van Noys.

So….did you get the cartridges? Or did you get the food? I’m sorta curious what would have happened…..

Who am I kidding? You did the same thing I did. Because of course.

Feminina:

Yes, I got the food and medicine, because of course I did.

I also went hurrying of to rescue the Van Noys, and eventually found them and rescued them. It was hard work getting over there though, no doubt.

When I went back to talk to Zora, there was a kind of implication that I might not have succeeded, so maybe continue to make it a priority. But then again, it’s entirely possible it wouldn’t actually have made any difference when I got there.

I defeated the giant robot! It was easier the second time I tried, though still a bit of a slog. But it was possible to get enough of a pause that I could save mid-fight so when I died I didn’t have to start all over, and that makes a big difference.

So now I’m done.

Butch:

Played MORE!

Saved the Van Noys. Fixed the press. Then got distracted and went and found some weapon thingy for Sanjar but didn’t give it to him. Nor did I wipe the computer of his lousy job review. I figure that, with things going south between them and the iconoclasts, I’ll want leverage. You know I’m going to try to broker peace, right? Because that’s how I do.

I also picked up a murder mystery quest in Stellar Bay, and now Zora wants me to break into a place.

I STILL haven’t gotten to Fallbrook with has a bazillion things to do in it.

How the hell did you finish this game so quickly? I’m actually playing here and I’m still behind.

I also changed my mind about timing last night. I was feeling that it had been a while since we talked on themes and Weighty Choices, but now I think I’m liking the slow burn. The game took a long time to make sure we were pretty connected to Stellar Bay. I liked Sanjar. I liked the two people I fixed up (the woman who dug the guy selling animal parts). I liked the guy and his poster. Then, it took a long time to make sure we liked the iconoclasts. These are nice people. I have done things for these people.

Games are often “OK, here’s faction one, here’s faction two, pick.” That we know. That is often how Weighty Choices are set up. This game, at least here, is making sure we’re choosing between two factions we know really well and like a lot. That takes time, but it makes it a WEIGHTY CHOICE where it’s all caps.

So I forgive it taking its time.

Not only that, it’s a contrast to Edgewater. There, we THOUGHT we were getting the “OK, faction one, faction two, pick” deal, and we did, only to find out kinda sorta after the fact that it was a deeper choice than we thought (even ADA’s chiming in about how they let Hawthorne die was along those lines). Now, they’re playing with the Weighty Choice mechanic again, differently. Nicely done.

Feminina:

I deleted the report, but I read it first (of course).

And yeah, I thought this was a decent period of wandering around, getting to know people, learning more about people, figuring things out.

Obviously I also determined to negotiate peace between the factions… We’ll talk later about how we both approached it (probably exactly the same way).

Butch:

Oh most certainly. It will be. We are e’er the same.

If I ever play again. I may have had my month’s allotment just now.

Feminina:

Also, I agree that I liked the echoes of Edgewater. We’re dealing with some of the same questions, but from a slightly different angle. It’s interesting.

Like, how bad is the Board, really? Who’s really in charge? What’s the real power here?

Hm.

Butch:

I also find it kinda cool that we haven’t met the board, or, really, anyone even kinda close to the board, save for that guy on Groundbreaker. We’ve been dealing with middle management. Usually, in games like this, someone in big shiny armor/robes/car/whatever has shown up just to sneer or give a speech or something, if only briefly.

This? The Board is off there doing whatever, and we have middle management.

Nice touch.

Feminina:

Yeah. The only reason we know anything about the actual people on the Board is the Chairman Rockwell and Minister Clark posters on the load screens.

And who knows if they’re even real people, or just mythical figureheads?

Butch:

Well, you do. You finished the game.

But I’m starting to think “figurehead.” I’ve been doubting Byzantium the whole damn game.

Don’t spoil.

Feminina:

Yeah, but I’ve already forgotten.

Kidding! Probably.

Butch:

Dude, I’m trying here! I am!

Did you skip something or something? Because, despite all odds, I am playing. And I don’t think I’m even close! Fallbrook looks…..busy.

Feminina:

You are playing! You’ll get there. I won’t forget.

Fallbrook is middling busy, it’s true.