Fallout 2: Take me down to Vault City where the grass is green and the girls are pretty

(This is part of my journey going checking out Fallout 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

v1Welcome to Vault City! This is a jarring shift to what we’ve seen in the game so far; Vault City is “pristine” with nice streets, a greeting office, razor wire, automated turrets, guards, and what looks like an outdoor holding cell. So I’m guessing that its good looks come at the expense of freedom. We shall see.

Curiously, no one is actually inside the greeting office. So I decide to greet myself by lockpicking the desk and lockers and grabbing the goodies within (including a geiger counter!).

v2A lady is crying in a tent nearby, and after hearing her literal sob story, I get a better picture of what Vault City is about. It purports to be a free town, but it locks up its people for just about any offense, lives on a slave system, and bows to the omnipresent guards. Gonna have to fix this, I see. And get her her husband back.

In a shack, I bump into Ed — the guy who sold Vic the Vault 13 water flask. I interrogate Ed about its origins, but receive a list of a half-dozen potential towns as answer. However, Ed does mention that Vault City sits on a vault and that its computer might tell me where Vault 13 is. I guess I’ll stick around then!

v3I pick up a couple of other quests — to get radiation medicine for a sick guy, a plow for a farming family — and then head into the bar. In a stroke of luck, the bartender Cassidy is extremely disgruntled with the higher-ups of Vault City and totally willing to leave his job to join my crew. Despite his admission of a bad heart condition, I’m scarcely going to turn down another party member. We swap weapons, so I have his sawed-off shotgun and he gets my trusty pistol. Let’s do this!

v4I find the local trader and procure a plow for the farmers (for a whopping $800, ouch). After that, I go on a bit of a shopping spree, picking up metal armor and a ton of ammo in exchange for the random goods I’ve been hauling around. This is great; now I have a shotgun as a primary weapon and a Desert Eagle as a backup. Sulik is going to stick with the sledgehammer, while Vic gets my old leather armor and half the pistol ammo and Cassidy gets the other half. I feel like I’m finally in charge of a fighting force. Of course, it’s going to take a lot to keep this unit rolling in ammo, but that’s a problem for another day.

v5Actually, where I was at before wasn’t Vault City proper, but merely its courtyard. To get into the real place, I’m going to need citizenship papers or a day pass. I strut into the customs office and deal with a toadie wearing the iconic vault jumpsuit. He’s willing to sell me forged papers for $200, but I think I have a better idea. I talk to his boss and use my awesome speech skill to run circles around him, eventually netting me a free day pass.

Most Irregular is my middle name. It’s time to head into a vault and see what we can see…

The Secret World: Give me a bike to ride and an achievement to steer her by

Some juicy info on the future of The Secret World on the official forums today as we begin our undoubtedly long, long wait for the next adventure zone. If we can’t progress the story, then giving us other objectives is a good second, I suppose. Here are my thoughts on the revelations, all of which will be coming to the game *next week.* I am so stoked.

Penthouse mini-dungeon

I don’t run dungeons as much as I used to, and even if I did, the Orochi boss fight wasn’t a thrill-a-second experience that I’d want to be doing it on an even harder mode. Thanks but pass.

Sprint customization

Up until now, The Secret World has not had mounts (apart from a single snowmobiling mission), but that looks to change soon. Funcom’s actually going to be giving us a choice of staying on foot with added visual flair or using a mount overlay (although all of the speed boosts will remain the same). Then there will be show-off mounts and two more ranks of speed boosts (up to 150%).

I am *all* for getting around these zones more quickly and in style, so this is definitely a big addition to the game. We haven’t heard about any specific vehicles, other than the motorcycle and what is hinted at being a Back to the Future II-style hoverboard (yay hoverboard!), but that’s a good start at least. The devs promise that vehicles will be just as responsive as running (in terms of turning and strafing, I presume), so they really are just an overlay.

Whenever this arrives, Funcom will be selling a $20 pack that comes with a new mission to get a motorcycle from Moose, a nitro boost, and sprint VI. Sure, I’ll pony up for that. I’d love for it to be account-wise like the mission packs, please.

Anyway, this is just terrific stuff.

Achievement vendor

The surprise of the announcement (at least to me), there will be a special vendor who will offer rewards based on the number of achievement points. Up until now, I’ve ignored achievements because apart from a select few tied to specific rewards, they were mostly empty numbers. Now those numbers have a purpose, so I might have to go back through the game and start collecting them (depending on how good these rewards are, of course).

WildStar: Waving goodbye to Wilderrun

robot1When giant robot corpses litter the landscape, perhaps it’s time to question why you want to colonize a planet that’s killed them. Just a thought.

robot2Last night I put my final touches on exploring and questing through Wilderrun in WildStar. It’s been a long trip through it, although not an entirely unpleasant one. I fully expected to be annoyed by the jungley biome, but apart from the lack of several taxi paths, it was actually quite fun to traverse and especially explore. I don’t think any in-game mount is going to top scooting around on WildStar’s hoverboard, especially when I launch off a high point and do that double-kick move in mid-air.

I haven’t felt particularly rushed to get through this zone, either. I think I’m at 42 or 43, so level 50 is definitely in sight, but the endgame for me will probably be doing contracts, working on my house, and maybe doing dailies while I ponder an alt — so no hurry to get there. Actually, with the last big patch’s change to challenges, I’ve kind of gotten hooked on doing those. There were a few spots in Wilderrun where I’d come across two or three good challenges in an area with desirable rewards, so I’d just hang around there, do those, and grind mobs while I waited for the timer on them to reset. And that, boys and girls, is the story of how Syp got a fish pump for his zen pond.

I do kind of wish I had been faithful in leveling up my cooking skill, which still sits at 1. Most fights I come out pretty OK, with my bots and shields taking most of the damage, but once in a while I’ll get thumped and then have to watch my health slowly regenerate. Sure, I could buy food from the vendors, but it’s kind of expensive and I’m a penny-pincher in this game. There is SO MUCH to spend money on in WildStar: Housing items, outfit dyes, resurrecting on the spot, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever have enough plat to get a single CREDD — at least not any time soon.

Maybe if I ever do level up my Esper, I’ll focus more on crafting and cooking with her. I’ve always meant to get back to being an architect and designing a truly awesome housing plot, instead of a ramshackle collection of the junk I’ve found.

One other thing I’ve been doing is working on tweaking a nice shotgun build. I really like what I have now, but sometimes I want a more mobile fighting style that uses bolt caster to great effect. Let me tell you, I’ve fallen in love with the repairbot as one of my two (assaultbot is usually my other). It not only does a bit of nice damage, but its constant shield regen on me is a literal lifesaver.

Fallout 2: Putzing around in the wilderness

(This is part of my journey going checking out Fallout 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The votes are in, and two-thirds of you elected to see me continue my adventures in Fallout 2 for my retro gaming project. So be it!

Before I head to Vault City and continue my GECK quest, I thought it would be interesting to spend a session wandering around in the wilderness to see if I could trigger any of the special encounters (especially as I have my outdoorsman perk to help with that).

her1Ah, here we go! I bump into a hermit. Who promptly tells me — in his weird way — that he wants to be left alone. Well, okidoki then! In a subsequent encounter, I see him fighting off wild dogs. Should I help? I’m tempted to blow him off the way he did to me, but nah, I’m a nice guy. Four dead dogs, you’re welcome Mr. Hermit!

As an aside, “I Hermit” would be a great follow-up to “I Robot.”

her2In another encounter, Vic gets mauled into a corpseburger by deathclaws. Here I am running away from the fight like the utter coward that I am.

her3Many, many, many reloads and generic encounters later, and I finally trigger my first true special encounter: a dead whale that went splat all over the landscape. For those not in the know, this is a reference to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which a whale pops into being a mile or two above a planet, has a lot of thoughts, and then dies brutally once it lands.

The neat thing is that once you get a special encounter, a location pops up on your map so that you can revisit it if so desired.

But that’s really it: An hour of random wanderings and only one good special encounter. Sorry folks, thought there’d be more! As far as I can suss out, these encounters are influenced by your luck skill. The outdoorsman perk gives you more encounters, the option to skip some, and perhaps more of a chance for a special as well.

10 things I still miss from City of Heroes

cohAs time marches on, the distance between us and City of Heroes’ closure grows ever-greater. However, the memories linger, and today I felt like making a list of 10 things I still miss about that game.

1. The incredible, flexible character creator

Even though it didn’t have every option on the planet, the character creator allowed players’ creativity to shine through an insane variety of costumes and looks. It was genius when you look back at it: by allowing players an agency not just in their power selection, but their very look, the game got people deeply invested in the theme of their heroes.

I loved that I could make body extreme characters, from tiny pixies to hulking masses to everything in between. I appreciated the monster options, the funny accessories, and the fun of picking out colors.

2. Getting lost in Perez Park

Sure, it’s something I hated, too, but that park and its dense, labyrinthian forest had a unique feel all to itself and was downright intimidating, especially before one got their travel power at 14.

3. New power levels

Was there anything so exciting as dinging a level where you’d get a brand-new power? It seemed unfair that those came further and further apart the higher you went, but still, it was thrilling. I’d spend hours while gaming planning out my next power picks and look forward to each of them arriving.

4. Grouping

I don’t think there was ever an MMO where I grouped as much as I did in City of Heroes. It was simply the most economic way to rake in the XP, and besides, the solo game was rather dull. Heading out with a pack of heroes to blast through instances felt epic and was a good way to show off your costume and powers.

5. Impromptu dance parties

Oh the boombox emote. And the dance emotes. Anytime a group would have to wait for someone to get there, chances are that a dance party would soon break out.

6. Costume contests

Few things brought the community together in droves than a good ol’ fashioned costume contest in Atlas Park. I loved to see the fashion on display and always thought that these community-driven events were a sign of MMO devs doing a system right. I don’t think I ever won one, but I felt that I had a couple outfits that were deserving of an award.

7. The Dark Dark Defender

I almost exclusively played controllers, but the DDD was always tempting me into being a defender. It had a pet (sorta) and so many awesome powers with cool smokey visual effects that I felt epic every time I played one. It was the one defender build that didn’t make me feel that I had to be a healbot or shieldbot but still contribute to the team at large.

8. The sounds

One of City of Heroes’ strengths that was rarely mentioned was its diverse and incredibly memorable array of sound effects, particularly with powers. Could have done without a few of them, like the force bubble whines, but such is life.

9. The sheer fun of super-jump

Everyone had his or her preferred travel power, and while I could apprciate the utility of flight or the economy of super-speed, for me it was always super-jump. It was fast enough to get me around, high enough to traverse vertical spaces, and so exhilerating to activate. WildStar’s low-gravity zones reminds me of it.

10. Paragon City

The main location of City of Heroes was as much of a personality as anything else in the game. It may have been a little bland and non-descript in places, but it cemented itself in my memory as a real place. Every zone had a distinct feel, from the prison to the caves to the run-down King’s Row. It was a cool place to explore — and protect.

Marvel Heroes: How this game finally clicked for me

wolvieI haven’t always had the best history with the Diablo genre (action-RPG?). The Diablo series has been of limited interest to me, and I’ve only dabbled in similar titles like Mythos, Torchlight, and FATE over the years. But now it looks that Marvel Heroes has done what all of the rest haven’t, which is to completely and utterly hook me.

The MMO overlay helps a lot, of course. However, my transition from casually appreciating Marvel Heroes to obsessively wanting to log in (sometimes at the expense of time spent in other games) is thanks to simply taking some extra time to learning the ins and outs of the different game modes and gear types. Finally, a strategy — a path — has been opened to me, and with that direction I feel that I have more of a purpose and can enjoy the game without feeling somewhat perpetually lost in it.

I’ll be posting some of the tips and notes I’ve been taking later on, but suffice to say that I was able to properly gear Squirrel Girl (and shift her build around a bit) so that she’s more sturdy and hitting harder. I bought my first legendary item and have been pushing hard to level her to 60 (I’m 57 at the moment) so that I can wear that top-level gear and get the XP bonus for my other characters.

Marvel Heroes really is the altaholic’s dream game. Its vast — and always growing — stable of characters aren’t just there to fiddle with, although it is quite fun to be able to switch toons out on a second’s notice. No, the big light bulb that went on for me was when I finally understood that your roster is a symbiotic support system that should be viewed as a whole — your roster is your main character, with each of the parts able to contribute to the success of the whole.

Thus, I’ve been all over the place over the past week or so, working on or accomplishing the following:

  • I purchased Cyclops with some extra Gs, mostly to get his awesome level 50 +10% XP synergy. It turns out that he’s actually kind of fun to play if you like ranged classes that attack quickly. He’s moving up on my to-do list, perhaps after I get Squirrel Girl to 60.
  • I realized that one of my most-needed purchases was more bank space. Taking advantage of the bonus G sale this past weekend, I bought three more stash tabs, bringing my total up to five plus a crafting tab (about six of my characters have their own stashes too, including Squirrel Girl). Now I am able to sort out and store all of the items I want to be saving, particularly artifacts, crafting mats, and uniques.
  • I found the cosmic shard vendor and began purchasing free fortune cards. My big score was Wolverine’s Days of Future Past costume (above), which I’m quite fond of.
  • With no specific hero that I wanted to buy in mind, I blew 350 eternity splinters on two random hero tokens. My results? Hawkeye and Colossus. Ugh. I don’t think I could have picked worse ones if I tried. Oh well, that’s how it goes. And they’re free, so there’s a limit to how much I can complain about them.
  • I’ve been faithfully donating gear to the crafting vendor and am almost at level 20 with him, after which I’ll do the same for the enchanter.
  • I mentioned that I got a legendary on SG, and she’s already leveled it to one. I also decked out her costume core and even added some razzle-dazzle sparkle effects for fun. I’m that guy in the game.
  • I also joined up with a small supergroup of bloggers and Twitter peeps — if anyone’s interested, talk to BigMikeyOcho in the game.

I do need to settle on four heroes that I’m going to level to 60 for the XP synergy bonus. Squirrel Girl and Rocket Raccoon are shoo-ins. Probably Rogue too. Don’t know past that; I’m willing to be surprised by testing out other heroes.

All in all, I feel that I’ve graduated to a new level of fun and understanding with MH, and it’s becoming my go-to game for short gaming sessions. So, so much to do — perhaps an endless amount, when you factor in all of the heroes and those coming. But better to have too much than not enough.

Building a new PC: Part 1

i5With my birthday next Sunday (only six shopping days for the public left!), my wife asked me what I wanted. And really, there was only one answer to that: I’ve been needing a new computer for some time now. I’ve had my current machine for at least four years and it’s started to cause some problems, despite giving it as much maintenance and love as I can. In particular, I’m running out of storage and have to deal with slower load times for games, not to mention that one of my CD-ROM drives has burned out.

So I got the go-ahead to get a new computer. In the past, I had the mindset of just wanting to buy some pre-built rig, either from a store or online. But everyone I’ve mentioned this to has been strongly advising me to suck it up and build my own machine — “It’s not too hard.” “It’s like building LEGOs.” “For heaven’s sake, you used to be a computer tech who built laptops, what are you scared of, scardey-cat?” OK, that last one might have been me.

Thus, building my own computer for the first time it is. I called up my brother-in-law, who does this sort of thing regularly, and we sat down for an hour to look over PC Part Picker for a good build. I don’t need a top-of-the-line anything, just a general upgrade with more storage. Since my graphics card is relatively new, I can just bring that over, and perhaps repurpose my hard drive to be a secondary one as well.

What we settled on was the following:

  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-Bit – OEM
  • Case: Corsair Carbide Series 100R Silent Edition Quiet Mid Tower Case CC-9011077-WW
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4460 LGA 1150 CPU – BX80646I54460
  • CPU Cooler: Enermax Cooling ETS-N30-TAA Black/Blue/Aluminum
  • Motherboard: ASRock H97M-ITX/ac LGA 1150 Intel H97 HDMI SATA 6G
  • Power Supply: EVGA New Version SuperNOVA 80 PLUS 750W
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB
  • SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E250B/AM)
  • RAM: G.SKILL Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDR
  • Blu-ray Drive: ASUS BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS 12X Blu-ray Internal Burner Drive with Disc Encryption – Black – Retail Box

I ordered all of the parts last night from Newegg and Amazon, so they should be arriving later this week. Until then, I need to do a lot of backups with this computer and make a list of all of my programs that I’ll need to be re-installing. Fun but scary! This will be the rig that I’ll hopefully be using for the next few years, so it’s more personal than professional.