Category Archives: Video Games

Games played on a computer or console, including handhelds.

I’m back!

Finally somewhat recovered from my awesome weekend in L.A. with the Overkill crew. I had so much fun! I met a lot of the crew, who were all super nice and clearly love what they do. I also really enjoyed hanging out with the other winners and look forward to playing with them in the future.

I actually had dinner about 250 feet away from the Bethesda announcement, and I saw some awesome cosplay afterwards, too. (I wish I could have gotten a better picture, but my phone was running out of battery.)

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Saturday night was the party, which was a blast. I met a couple of the voice actors, who were very gracious and cheerfully let me take selfies with them. It was weird and awesome to hear Chains’ voice actor just talking; he’s my husband’s favorite character, so I hear the in-game voice lines a LOT. Dallas’ voice actor was really nice. I do wish we’d been able to hang out more with them, but the party was pretty loud and very busy.

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Sunday we had dinner with the head of the studio, the art director, and the music composer, which was fun. The head of the studio (I think he’s the head? His name is Almir) was very busy, which makes sense because they’ve got two booths at E3 and who knows how much other stuff going on, so he left right after dinner. We were at Dave and Buster’s, so we played some of the games and then went to see Jurassic World with the art director, Karl, and the composer, Simon. That was pretty fun, too. I also met the weapons guy, Pär, and he shared a tidbit about my favorite in-game gun. We had to leave really quickly, since our car was there, but I would have loved to stay and just hang out.

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Overall, it was a great experience and I really appreciate it. I would also highly recommend Payday 2; it’s a great game, especially to play with friends. There are a few things I would have changed about the weekend, but the main one was that it was so busy and over so fast! It would have been great to have more time to just talk to people. The other thing I wish was that I could have brought my friends, but even so, I had such a great time and made new friends, so I’m definitely not complaining!

I’ll be in LA next weekend…

Unfortunately, I won’t be at E3. But I will be doing video game stuff.

Back in March, my favorite co-op game, Payday 2, had a Spring Break event, and part of the event was the chance for 10 players to win a trip to LA to meet the developers if you entered on Twitter with a specific hashtag. Yesterday I got a message from their Twitter account saying that they wanted me to follow them so they could send me a message, with the same hashtag. Turns out, I won one of the trips!

Saturday night, they’re having a concert at House of Blues, and Sunday is dinner with the developers. I have to admit I’m both excited and nervous. I’ve never been to LA, and I’ll be pretty much on my own. I mean, I’m sure there will be handlers, but I have no idea what to expect. The concert is likely to feature the music of Simon Viklund, who composes all the music for the game; he’s very talented and it should be fun. But I tend toward social anxiety, so this is really taking me out of my comfort zone.

But as one of my friends pointed out, it’ll be an adventure!

More thoughts on Fallout 4

I intend to play some more Tale of Two Wastelands (a mod that combines FO3 and F:NV) today, but before that I wanted to mention that there are going to be some killer mods made for FO4. I have an idea for one already, although obviously it will require much more information as well as familiarity with the engine and learning how to mod.

Speaking of the engine, I suspect FO4 will have a new engine, or at least a significantly updated one. Even on Skyrim, the Creation engine was showing its age. (I have to admit I kind of hope they keep Havok physics, just because they’re /hilarious/.)

As excited as I am, I can’t pretend there won’t be bugs. Of course there will be. I also fully admit that pre-ordering is probably foolish, given that within a month the biggest bugs will (maybe) be patched, but I think anyone who has a game series that they love like this will understand. My husband plays Dark Souls, so he’s had the same thing happen; in fact, he pre-ordered DS2 for PS3 because it was only out on consoles for the first few months or so, then bought the game again when it came to PC, so at least I won’t have to do that!

I am immensely excited, obviously. On the one hand, I want time to go quickly until E3 so I can find out more! On the other hand, I kind of savor this time, where there are so many possibilities that letting imagination run wild is not only accepted, but expected. Soon enough, we’ll know more, and we’ll all have opinions on what we do know, some of them quite strong. I’m trying not to become entrenched in any of my positions, because whether or not I like what they reveal, like voiced protagonist or forced gender, my opinion won’t change what we’ll actually get.

Yes, forced gender for the main quest is one of the rumors going around. I can’t see that happening, since it’s a big departure from the other games, both Fallout and Bethesda as a whole. Obviously it’s a possibility, but it seems unlikely. Voiced protagonist is another rumor that seems unlikely to me, again because neither the Fallout series or other Bethesda RPGs have done that; the “blank slate” main character is a significant part of the story.

A rumor I hope /is/ true, and which seems like it easily could be, is an October release date, or at least a fourth quarter release date. Previous FO games have released in October, and the “20% off merch” code for pre-ordering on the Bethesda site expires October 31, 2015. Most of the non-FO Bethesda games, particularly RPGs, have released in fourth quarter, and it makes a lot more sense to release FO4 before the holiday (read: lots of money exchanging hands for goods!) season.

One of the things I’m sure will be in the game, however, is The Institute (and, of course, Replicants). I’m very curious how that will work; I keep thinking of the Decemberists song “When The War Came”. Although that’s obviously not about this war or MIT, I wonder if the people inside the Institute were put in a similar situation.

“We made our oath to Vavilov
We’d not betray the solanum
The acres of asteraceae
To our own pangs of starvation”

To explain:

There is a seed bank down in the basement of a stodgy, old Russian building that had not only Vavilov’s 220,000 seeds, but another 150,000 from other collectors. During the Siege of St. Petersburg in 1941 [also known as the siege of Leningrad], the staff locked themselves in the building. They didn’t know where Vavilov, their leader, was, but they were so dedicated to the mission that they shared to collect and conserve the world’s food diversity that they locked themselves in to protect the seeds both from the Nazis and from starving people in their own streets who wanted to find grain or potatoes of any kind and eat them.

Over a series of months in 1942 and 1943, a dozen of the scientists starved to death while guarding those seeds. One of them said it was hard to wake up, it was hard to get on your feet and put on your clothes in the morning, but no, it was not hard to protect the seeds once you had your wits about you. Saving those seeds for future generations and helping the world recover after war was more important than a single person’s comfort.

(Source: http://www.splendidtable.org/story/how-nikolay-vavilov-the-seed-collector-who-tried-to-end-famine-died-of-starvation)

So I’m curious how the Institute dealt with the privations of war. I’m assuming that they had their own Vault or other shelter, at least for the administrators and professors. It’ll be interesting to see.

Fallout 4!!! Some trailer analysis and impressions.

I’m sure by now most people who care have heard that Fallout 4 has been announced. There’s a trailer at http://fallout4.com, as well as preorder links. I wanted to talk about some of my impressions of the trailer, since that’s all we have as far as info at the moment.

I love the new song. “It’s All Over But The Crying” by the Ink Spots. Very appropriate. And welcome back, Ron Perlman! The flashback moments are interesting, and I hope we get to see more along those lines. Dogmeat is different; he’s not an Australian shepherd, but a German shepherd, and he doesn’t have heterochromia as far as I can tell. He’s clearly sniffing the ground, presumably looking for the PC, and when he noses the remains of the mobile, it’s so sad. The little touches of the Blast Radius game and the Nuka-Cola truck were nice, by the way. The flashback that shows the Vertibird is nice, and by the way, I really like that there’s more color so far. Much as I love Fallout 3, I had to get Fellout to get rid of the excess green. When the people run to the fallout shelter, there’s some soldiers in Brotherhood Power Armor, which makes me wonder when the split happened and how the Enclave got their armor, and why they look so different. I also noticed that there’s more variation in body types; I noticed a heavier-set woman and a very thin woman in the crowd there.

War never changes.

So we’ll be dealing with Vault 111 as well as the Institute, first mentioned in Fallout 3. I wonder why it looks like the Vault Dweller is coming /up/ out of the vault? Later on it does look like there’s a door that opens down, which is unusual. Then there’s the Bunker Hill monument; Old Ironsides retrofitted with rockets (?); the Memory Den, which I’ve seen speculation is related to the Replicants (also mentioned in Fallout 3 in the quest “The Replicated Man”), which looks a little like a scene from Blade Runner to me; the brief shot of the farmhouse built on the skeleton of a high-tension power line tower; and a shot that some people have said is mutants, and some have said is one mutant and one person in power armor, which isn’t too far-fetched given that Fawkes was one of the available companions in FO3. An unusually-designed and -colored Protectron — is this the new design? Looks like the background is a shipping harbor, which makes sense, but it also looks like there might be some brick buildings back there too.

A Mirelurk on the beach, and the background reminds me of a carnival but is more likely some sort of settlement. Dogmeat running under an overpass, with the Red Rocket gas station logo on the billboard. Yay, a Deathclaw. A Vertibird in front of satellite dishes. Ghouls who hate shopping carts and grocery stores as usual, but damn they move fast! They look different, too. Presumably Fenway Park, with the door that opens vertically and the baseball statue in front. An Eyebot in front of “Swatter’s Custom Baseball Bat Store” going by a really nice-looking settlement (given the setting), with “Diamond City Surplus”, “Power Noodles”, and “Chem-I-Care”, which are presumably stores. I notice the Swatter’s logo bat has nails pounded into it, and it looks like the guy out front is wearing a baseball uniform. The settlement appears to have plenty of power, since there’s neon-type signs and power lines going to several of the buildings. Looking at the background, this has to be either right outside or, more likely, inside Fenway, because I can see the banks of lights that are typical of baseball fields. It makes sense, because a semi-enclosed area would be more likely to have a high survival rate, and the businesses seem to be baseball-themed. Nice touch with the chem store being there.

An airship (!!!) over the statue of Paul Revere, and it looks like the buildings in this area are intact, which would be lovely… one of my favorite things to do is explore, and intact buildings means (at least in theory) more places to explore! Another Vertibird accompanying the airship, then a shot out the side of a Vertibird, again with the Red Rocket gas station logo and another person in Brotherhood Power Armor. I see ads for “Fallon’s” and “GNN”, so maybe we’ll get some more Three Dog. I’d like that, although I know not everyone liked him. Lots of seemingly intact buildings there, too… of course, Boston wouldn’t have gotten hit as hard or directly as DC, so it makes sense that the buildings are in better shape. Another building shot, and I think the shiny domed building is the legislature? (I know nothing about Boston, I picked up the earlier stuff from other people.)

Another shot of that weird vault door that opens up instead of in, and another flashback. On the other hand, it looks like there’s some larger luggage there, so maybe that’s how they got the bigger stuff down into the vault. There’s some sort of symbol on the door, something with spread wings, maybe an eagle? It’s hard to tell. No, the later shot shows for a split second that it just says “Vault 111”, right before the mushroom cloud. Hope all those people standing there have some RadAway. On the left there’s a woman with a baby, which could be the PC and his/her mother.

Dogmeat going by a different type of Nuka-Cola machine, into the garage. This Power Armor is interesting, as the leg is clearly being worked on, and the hands are gauntlets rather than gloves. I like the acknowledgement that Power Armor is HEAVY, as it’s hanging from the type of thing that is generally used to pull an engine out of a car. On the left, I also see a minigun, or at least its barrels, some ammo containers, a Vault-Boy Bobblehead, a laser rifle, and some assorted parts that could be mods for it. On the right, a Nuka-Cola poster and a comic book or magazine rack. I see a Guns ‘n’ Ammo, and possibly a Patriot’s Cookbook and a La Fantoma.

Outside, the Lone Wanderer walks up, and leaning on the chair is another type of (presumably) laser rifle, but it doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before. LW has a Pip-Boy, and the graphics here are really nice, although the arm bulges weirdly. I suppose that’s his elbow, but it doesn’t look right to me when he straightens his arm. The Pip-Boy looks like a slightly different model, with knobs on the right-hand side of the screen (if he holds his arm up in front of him) rather than the left. That vault suit is super-tight, though, and it doesn’t look right to me. We also get a glimpse of the /back/ of the Pip-Boy, which is a bit unusual. Interesting gun the LW is carrying. And… I’m really hoping the voiced line is just for show and doesn’t mean that the PC is going to be voiced. That would take a lot away from the game and make it less personal, which is something I’ve always loved about the series.

Several people have mentioned that the trailer looks like it’s engine-rendered. If that’s true, that means the in-game graphics will be comparable to the graphics in the trailer. I really hope so, even if it does mean I have to speed up construction on my gaming rig. There’s no release date yet, but based on past history, it’s likely to be in the fourth quarter of the year, anywhere from October to December. We’ll know more after E3, when Bethesda does their announcement on June 14. I’ll be watching, and probably will give my impressions on that as well.

So, that’s my quick analysis and a few impressions, now that I’ve started to breathe again after the announcement. What are your thoughts? Anything you particularly like or dislike about the trailer? Hopes for the game? There’s a lot we don’t know, but speculation is half the fun of waiting!

As the official site says… Welcome Home.

Quiet Days.

The weather turned again, rainy and cold. I’ve been snuggled up with my tablet reading, mostly. I haven’t been playing any Fallout because I installed a story mod that I really don’t like, but I wasn’t paying attention and saved over the save just before I started it. The most recent one I have is back in Dead Money, and the end of that was so frustrating that I’ve been reluctant to do it over.

Ben had a field trip to the zoo today, which I forgot about, and they weren’t back in time for his dentist appointment. It’s rescheduled for next Wednesday, which will be a total blast…. I should cancel his physical therapy, since I don’t think he’ll be in any mood for it.

Mar seems to be doing OK. I can hear him yelling at Dark Souls 2 downstairs, but that seems to be his favorite activity lately.

I’ve been reading the Stephanie Plum books, by Janet Evanovich. They’re fun and they don’t require a lot of brain power, which is exactly what I need. When the weather changes, I end up hurting. This time its not just the arthritis, but the bursitis in my right hip. It’s times like this that I wish I had insurance so I could get pain meds and cortisone shots again. Ah, the glamour of EDS. As if that’s not enough, Ben put my cane somewhere and I can’t find it. Its a nice one, as far as canes go, leopard print and adjustable height, but sometimes it’s still kind of depressing that I’m 35 and need a cane.

Possibly something more cerebral later this week.

Dead Money DLC – Ending

This DLC introduced me to some very unlikable characters. Dean Domino tried to backstab me, and Father Elijah was crazy and greedy beyond reason. Anyway, here’s the rest of the story.

We left off yesterday with the PC getting everyone to their places. Then she (my character’s female) had to get to the top of the bell tower, in the north “Sunrise” (it’s “[something] Del Sol” in Spanish, but I can’t remember which one was which) section of the villas. As a side note, Sinclair, the guy who paid for this place to be built, really screwed up with the architecture in the villas. It’s probably authentic (-ish), but the “streets” are so narrow that they’re almost claustrophobic. To keep people in a good mood and willing to spend money, you need wide avenues to stroll along.

So. Suffice it to say that the place she had to get to was all the way across the villas, inevitably with more Ghost People between her and her destination. Another side note, the Ghost People are creepy and horrifying and pathetic, all at the same time, especially when you figure out what they are. Through terminal entries, you discover that the corrosive red mist that is in (some of) the streets originally came up through the ventilation system. Because it eats away at any exposed flesh, someone came up with an Auto-Doc harness system, kind of like a space suit that will give you stimpacks as needed. Great idea, but the cloud corroded the clasps shut on the suits… so the Ghost People are dead, but kept “alive” by the suits, which is why they can get back up after you “kill” them unless you dismember them.

They have a weird lurching sort of movement, which is slow enough to get away from; then they see you and they “zap” places by jumping, if they’re close enough to you. Ugh, it gives me the shivers. But if you just run past them, they take a second to figure out what’s going on, and by then at least some of them have forgotten you. I know you were meant to sneak around them, but I’m just not patient enough to sneak. Maybe if I’d been smart and installed this mod, maybe it wouldn’t have been so frustrating, but I got really tired of trying to sneak past them and ending up in the middle of a mob. (The mod, as it explains on the page, changes the Ghost People’s Perception to 1 instead of 0; a Perception of 0 means that they basically have infinite Perception, and thus are impossible to sneak past.) This was, by the way, with a Sneak of at least 75, with an extra 10 on top of it from a sneak suit.

Back to the story. So she got to the top of the bell tower and triggered the Gala, and yay, the gates are open! Run and dodge through the narrow, twisting streets of the villas and there she was, inside the casino! And there are the other three! Wait, what? Why is the screen going dark?

She wakes up and Elijah’s yapping at her (the man dearly loves to hear his own voice), and you notice that the other three aren’t in the lobby anymore. And of course, there are speakers everywhere, which make your collar freak out. After a quick exploration, you discover that there are security holograms everywhere, but they’re not too tough to sneak past, and that there are four main doors leading to the lobby, but three of them are locked. You have to turn on the power to get the security to shut down, and of course this is really complicated.

There were a couple of puzzles, and eventually at the end I just made a run for it. There was kind of a red herring in one of the terminals, about an older lady who was walking on the rafters over the casino floor. I tried that, and the holograms still saw me, but at least it was only one of them. Once the power was back on, I had the opportunity to trade chips for pre-war money, which was nice, but whatever. I also found out (at some point) that the others had been transported to wherever the casino thought was most appropriate.

I headed to the Tampico Theater (I expected gallon jugs of “orange drink” of questionable nutrition, but alas, no) to find Dean Domino, since he was a big pre-War singing star, and discovered that the jackass was going to double-cross me. He hadn’t planned on me finding the backstage key, though (and damn that heavy curtain, it was practically a wall! 😛 ), nor had he thought I’d figure out his plans. He just kept flapping those ghouly lips, though, and he didn’t know that as long as I managed to get far enough away in a certain amount of time, my collar wouldn’t go off if he died. So, since my choices were to kill him or let him shoot me, I went with self-preservation.

Next I went looking for Christine, who had a voice again, yay! It wasn’t “her” voice though; she even commented that it “sounded like she’d been chain-smoking for years”, or something to that effect. She’d been transported to the suite belonging to Vera Keyes, Sinclair’s starlet girlfriend and the model for the hologram at the fountain, because her vocal cords had been healed to sound like Vera. Apparently Dean’s plan to break into the Vault was to make Christine sound like Vera, but it got interrupted. When I confronted Dean earlier, I found out that he was blackmailing Vera to steal the treasure (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) from Sinclair; he needed her, or at least her voice, to unlock the elevator down to the Vault. When talking to Christine, you find out that Vera had some sort of terminal illness, and her vast amounts of chem usage, primarily a combination of Med-X (morphine) and Super Stimpaks, were related to managing the pain.

The last member of the party, Dog/God, was transported to the kitchen of the casino’s restaurant, but there’s a gas leak and the doors won’t open! At least, not without finding the override key and going through the hotel entrance. You have to talk him down, because the room is absolutely swimming in gas and he’s about to trigger his collar, which will kill you because, well, you’re in the room full of gas. (I’m very glad for saves, because they’re not very clear that you have to talk to him NOW, and I tried to go around fixing the gas valves first. Not the best plan.) I managed to talk him down and work with him to integrate both personalities, but as a side effect, he didn’t remember most of what happened. I’m not sure what he calls himself now, either.

With everyone squared away (or blown away, DEAN), you splice together several audio tapes of Vera’s singing that you collected, so that she can “speak” the code to open up the elevator. Once down there, it’s a mess, and very tricky to get everything right, so I highly advise you save early and save often. I must have died fifteen different times, either from the character’s collar, or the security holograms, or falling off a catwalk into the Cloud/falling endlessly, or breathing the Cloud… but eventually I got there.

Right outside the Vault is a holotape (and Frederick Sinclair’s body, although I looked in the wrong place for it) to Vera, rather angry about her betrayal. Inside the Vault, however, was another letter to her on the terminal, saying that the Sierra Madre was to have been his gift to her, the Vault to protect her in case of war, but when he found out about her betrayal, he had set the Vault to trap her inside. He cautions her not to read the entry titled “Sinclair’s Personal Accounts”, which was still a trap, but set for Dean. He also explains that when he tried to set the security systems to let her out if she was indeed trapped, he couldn’t reverse the process.

Of course, right after reading this touching account, the PC is contacted by Elijah. (He’s such an ass. At one point he was complaining about how slow things were going, and I yelled out loud, “Then maybe you shouldn’t have put this stupid collar on me!” I got a funny look from Mar for that.) Anyway, the PC goads him into coming down to the Vault, which seems to take a bit of time. I put that time to good use by tossing most of my inventory, because the treasure of the Sierra Madre is a nearly obscene number of gold bars. At 35 pounds each, it’s very easy to get overburdened, and I didn’t want to let anything slow me down; my most important goal was getting out of there.

There’s a confrontation with Elijah, and then you have 60 seconds to get out… except that the short way isn’t available. You have to backtrack and get out using the same elevator you used to get in. I died at least three times in this section.

Eventually, though, I got to the elevator, and ended up back in the courtyard. This was the end of the content, but now I had free reign to explore the Villa. I didn’t explore much, though, just enough to get the snow globe. Then I went to the gate and left as fast as I could.

The tagline for the Sierra Madre Casino was “Begin Again – Let Go”, and that’s really the lesson that the PC has to take to heart. Yes, my character left a lot of gold there… but it wasn’t worth her life. Apparently there were a lot of people who didn’t understand that.

There is one post-script to this DLC, though. Once back at the abandoned bunker, you can access Elijah’s terminal and download a voice log. If you go to the 188 and find Veronica, then exhaust her dialog tree regarding Elijah (it starts with “Tell me about yourself”), when you back out of that choice, you have the option to tell her that you found him, then give her the audio log. Optionally, you can tell her you found him and have her unlock the audio log, then keep it yourself. Whoever ends up with the audio log gets a bonus to their unarmed and melee combat, and if it’s Veronica, she has a melancholy commentary about it.

This was a nerve-wracking DLC, but overall, I liked it. The casino was very art deco, which is a style I appreciate, and it was interesting finding out the other characters’ stories. In retrospect, I should have done Old World Blues first, then Dead Money, then Lonesome Road, because Christine mentions that Ulysses saved her from Elijah at the Big MT (although she simply calls him a courier; apparently she didn’t get his name), and that he had mentioned looking for another courier. It’s definitely him, because she mentions the flag he wears on his back. Additionally, some of the terminal entries mention the Big MT in regards to the suits that the Ghost People wear, and I believe Sinclair is mentioned as being connected to the experiments there, as well. Still, the story here was quite emotional, and I think it was well done.

Dead Money – Fallout: New Vegas DLC

I started Dead Money today. It’s giving me a headache, not because it’s hard, per se, but because it’s extremely tense.

The enemies are referred to as Ghost People, and they’re extremely hard to kill. They’re attracted to light and sound, so sneaking is the way to go… which is all well and good, but I hate sneaking. I think it has something to do with how easy it is to get startled in that mode, and if there’s one thing I hate more than sneaking, it’s getting startled. I could avoid that adrenaline rush for the rest of my life and be happy.

The DLC starts in the abandoned BoS bunker near Camp Forlorn Hope. As you advance, you see a bright yet fuzzy light in the distance, but when you draw near, you’re knocked out, presumably by gas. When you wake up, you’re somewhere else and you don’t have your stuff. And, oh yeah, there’s a hologram yapping at you. Eventually you figure out that you’ve been teleported to the Sierra Madre Casino, or at least to the grounds. Your supplies got left behind because they had radiation on them. And the hologram talking to you is Veronica’s beloved Elijah, ordering you to do stuff. How can he order you? Because while you were knocked out, one of his agents put a radio collar around your neck, kind of like a slave collar. He informs you that you are going into the casino after you round up a little band of people and manage to get the casino doors open. You will be scavenging for him, and if you get any ideas about killing your team members, you’ll all die; he rigged the collars to all go off if one of you dies or gets too far from the group. Oh, and the collar will detonate if you get too close or spend too much time in the area of a radio or speaker. Conveniently, though, it will beep to let you know when you’re getting close, and beep faster if it’s getting close to exploding.

Well, with no other options, off you go. The first group member you find is Dog, or, as Elijah refers to him, “the FEV reject”. He’s a nightkin, a type of super-mutant, but he’s not aggressive toward the PC. Just to add more complication, Dog has another personality, God. God is intelligent and  well-spoken but resentful toward Elijah and, as an extension, you. Balancing these personalities is a challenge.

The other interesting thing about Dog is that, when he’s the dominant personality, he will eat the limbs of the Ghost People. Since the Ghost People can… reincarnate? reanimate? get back up and start fighting, in any case, if they retain all their limbs, this trait is useful.

The second person you “recruit” is Christine. After a puzzle that involves shutting down a speaker system, you find her inside an Auto-Doc, a machine that looks like the single-person fallout shelters from Fallout 3 but which, obviously, heals you. At least, that’s the idea; this clearly didn’t go according to plan for Christine. She’s scarred and bald and mute, but with sign language you come to understand that the “bald” part was her choice. The scars are from some surgery she had, apparently at the hands of Elijah, but the muteness is because the Auto-Doc cut her vocal cords. I can only speculate that she was screaming because she was trapped, and the “solution” is pretty horrifying.

Christine was a scribe with the Brotherhood of Steel, and she communicates that she came to the Sierra Madre looking for her girlfriend. Elijah is responsible for their separation, and I’m guessing she wants to kill him. To do that, we have to get inside the casino, since he got himself trapped.

The third and final member of the group is Dean Domino. He’s been ghoulified, and doesn’t look anything like his posters, seen on loading screens. He also seems to think he’s better than everyone else, referring to the PC and the people who came to the Sierra Madre before as “tourists”. He has a similar attitude toward Dog, but when he meets Christine, he tries to chat her up. (Given what I’ve read on the wiki, this is really disgusting. Sad, because I wanted to like him.)

He also knows the history of the Sierra Madre, as he knew the man who built it, and he knows the woman the hologram over the fountain is based on.

The next thing on your quest list is to get everyone to their places to start the Grand Opening Gala. It’s a light-and-music extravaganza that taxes the power system enough that the front doors can be opened, as the locks rely on electricity.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten; I still have to get Christine to her place. More when I’ve played more.

Lonesome Road DLC [spoilers]

I finished Lonesome Road, the Fallout: New Vegas DLC, and it was surprisingly emotional. I think I saved and reloaded three times, because the final choice tree was so difficult.

The basic story is that you’re drawn to the Divide by mysterious messages, such as “Go home, Courier Six”. I think there might have been a radio broadcast, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, you go through the canyon wreckage and find a land ravaged, by what you don’t know yet. You have to get through a missile silo, but you can’t decode the military encoding. But in a nearby room, you find… ED-E the Eyebot? No, not your ED-E, but a very good replica with his own history, which is revealed through audio logs at various times. As a nice addition, you can understand his beeping to a limited extent when he “talks”.

After unlocking the station to turn the power back on, you fight your way through the missile silo against robots and find the corpses of Marked Men, who look like ghouls from both the NCR and the Legion, but wear cobbled-together armor that looks like nothing in particular. Odd, but whatever. Then you get outside, and ED-E starts talking in a deep, disapproving voice and informs you that you caused all this destruction, and you will answer for it, and a lot of rambling symbol-laden ranting, but you are also informed of three very relevant things: first, the voice taking over ED-E is a courier named Ulysses; next, that the creatures living in the Divide were once men, but have become irradiated and insane, but not entirely ghoul-like, as they can still shoot at you; and last, that there is a laser detonator that can explode the nuclear warheads that are still around, and thus when you find it, you can clear a path to Ulysses.

Yay. Smart, angry ghouls who hate and attack anyone not like them. You set off into this ruined landscape, and I have to give credit where credit is due: the landscape FEELS oppressive. It’s not the same sort of oppressive as Fallout 3, at least not to me. In that case, the landscape seemed indifferent to people, not going out of its way to either help or hinder the PC. In the Divide, it feels like the land itself hates you, like Ulysses hates you, like the Marked Men hate you. Like every turn you’re going to find a mass of concrete and rebar blocking your path, and there’s no way around, just through.

At one point you have to go through a tunnel, and you keep hearing things skittering in the darkness, but when you turn, there’s nothing there. At least, not until you make the last turn, and suddenly you’re attacked by Tunnelers. They’re explained by Ulysses as something that lived beneath the ground, until the ground was split open by the warheads and they glimpsed the light. They’re somewhat hit-and-run fighters, but they’re also surprisingly tough. I found that the H & H Tools nailgun worked really well.

After traversing miles of this ruined, twisted terrain, you  meet Ulysses. The conversation doesn’t go well, of course, and after you kill him and the Marked Men that appear, you have to try to stop the missile launch that he started, aimed at the Mojave and specifically at the NCR. There were several options: stop the launch completely, redirect the missiles at the Legion, or redirect the missiles at both NCR and the Legion. I think there were a couple more, but they clearly weren’t important enough for me to remember them. The snag is that when you choose “stop the launch”, the consequence was that ED-E would explode. There’s an audio log that outlines that during testing, the Eyebots could break military-grade encryption, but at the cost of overloading their circuits.

This decision was very tough for me. I despise the Legion, but if I aimed the missiles there, I’d be the same as Ulysses, punishing people who had no choice about being swallowed up by the Legion. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be better to be dead than be a slave? I could go back and forth on that one, and undoubtedly there are some who feel that way, but I couldn’t do it. Obviously I wasn’t going to blow up the NCR; I disagree with some of their decisions, but overall, I approve of them much more than the Legion. Which left the option of sacrificing ED-E, who had become a “he” to me fairly quickly, with a personality and a history and had become a companion. But that was the only real choice left to me.

I wish I could replay this DLC, because it was very well done, and I know I missed some stuff. There’s an achievement if you detonate all of the warheads, which I think I missed by three, and another one to find all the posters of RALPHIE, a robot that looks similar to an Eyebot and apparently was the star of a children’s show. And I missed finding the Courier’s Mile, an area that was hit by a warhead launched in the middle of the story. It sounds really depressing, but I like getting everything out of an area. I’m considering starting a new character and using the console to level her up to 25 just to replay Lonesome Road.

The combat was fairly challenging, especially near the end when the Marked Men were using Stealth Boys. I’ve found that overall, I prefer not to use VATS when I’m playing on PC, and that was very helpful when I couldn’t use VATS on the Stealthed Marked Men. Even at the beginning, though, both the Marked Men and the Tunnelers required some strategy. Take LOTS of ammo. For close-up, the nail gun worked really well, and I found that the Sniper Rifle was my friend for dealing with enemies at a distance. The Marked Men have rocket launchers, so expect to be blown up and have limbs crippled. It says that level 25 and up is recommended, but I’d suggest your character be at the highest level you can manage before curiosity demands that you play.

Overall, it’s a very interesting and heart-wrenching DLC, and I would recommend it.

Doctor Day

As in “Day of Doctors”, not an actual doctor named Day.

We went to the pediatrician this morning, and got a referral to a rheumatologist to get a definitive diagnosis for Ben. I’m not sure why EDS falls to rheumatologists to diagnose, but it does, so within the week we should get a call to schedule an appointment.

I really like Ben’s pediatrician. She’s really good, knowledgeable, friendly but professional, and she’s not afraid to acknowledge that she doesn’t know something. We waited in the exam room for a bit, though not excessively long, and when she came in, she explained that she’d been looking up EDS because she didn’t know much about it.

We came back and hung around the house a little until the dental appointment. Mar took a nap, because neither of us slept much or well last night, and Ben snuggled with me while I edited and tested a radio mod for Fallout 3 called iPip. I finally got it working, so that was nice.

The dentist appointment was much easier than I was worried it would be, mostly because they took Ben back by himself and I didn’t have to be in the room. I gave the nurse/hygenist the EDS information I’d printed out, and she actually read it, which was nice. They used nitrous, and she said it worked really well; they put the mask on him and he asked, “What’s that funny smell?” and then just went boneless, for the most part. She mentioned the adult tooth that’s taken up residence, and explained how the process of them coming in works. Apparently, the adult teeth somehow “saw” through the roots of the baby teeth, and that’s how the baby teeth fall out. That makes sense to me, because the adult tooth Ben has is lightly serrated, but actual adult front teeth aren’t.

Anyway, he has an appointment to get both bottom front teeth pulled next week, to make room for that rather large adult tooth. I am somewhat optimistic about his tooth moving into place well, because EDS lends itself well to teeth moving, and even if he does need braces, they should work fairly quickly, though he’ll have to wear a retainer for longer than usual. Six of one, half dozen of the other, I suppose, although it sounds like it will be less painful this way, with a shorter amount of time needed to actually move the teeth. They just require more persuasion to stay where they’re put.

By the way, if anyone is curious about EDS and the things I printed out, I can do an entry about it and about my experiences with it. Google can tell you the clinical information; how it actually impacts day-to-day living is a bit harder to understand.

In geekery news, I ordered my tablet! We came into a windfall and I ordered an off-brand tablet (Latte, for the inquiring minds) as my Mother’s Day present. It came in and it was pretty good for what I wanted, which was internet and e-book reading, although it was a little slow. Still, no big deal; I could work with it, and it was a lot easier to type on than my phone. I got up the next day and things seemed fine, but I glanced over and the screen was flashing. I unplugged it from the charger and tried to turn it on, then plugged it in and tried to turn it on, and… nope. So I returned it. I sent it back Monday and got my refund from Amazon today, which is pretty impressive to me.

One of my online friends had sent me a link for a Lenovo ThinkTab, refurbished by Lenovo, that was $9 more than the no-name tablet, with free shipping (from nomorerack.com, who I’d never ordered from before, but I trust the friend that recommended it). Even better, it’s a bigger screen, a quad core, and double the memory. The website said “we ask that you allow 10-14 working days for shipment. Although, often times, items ship much faster than this.” I certainly hope so; I’m excited to get it! Once I have it, I might attempt making a cover for it. I remember seeing a tutorial somewhere online, and it didn’t seem outside my skill level. Yes, I know, I have other projects in various stages, but this is something I can do when the weather isn’t conducive to painting. I think I have enough fabric remnants to make something nice, but I’ll have to figure out how to get some thin but sturdy flat plastic. Maybe plastic canvas? Something to think about.

More dental nonsense.

Tomorrow is the big day: Ben has an appointment with his pediatrician at which we’re going to confirm the EDS diagnosis, hopefully (she pretty much agrees, but I’m not sure she’s put it in his chart, and Mar is extremely insistent that we have it in writing, because reasons), and then we go to the pediatric dentist. She was kind of weird last time, asking why anasthetics don’t work. I don’t freakin’, know, lady, I just know it’s true. I admit I was kind of pissed that she was dismissive of my reluctance to go to the dentist. She asked something to the effect of how I feel about the dentist, and I hesitated, trying to figure out how to put my feelings into words, and she cut  me off with, “Oh, so normal then.” Uh, NO, because of the aforementioned “anasthetics don’t work” issue? When I know that going to the dentist is going to result in 3 or more days of pain, both from the procedure and from the repeated and prolonged dislocation of my jaw, I would venture to guess that my attitude toward dental procedures is not at a normal level.

Anyway, I printed out a bunch of stuff for her and highlighted the relevant parts, and some abstracts that I can’t access but she probably can, and in the process I learned that EDSers tend toward high cusps and deep fissures; in other words, our teeth are shaped in such a way as to invite cavities. That was another thing that pissed me off, the way they all acted like we just let Ben have as much sugar as he wants and never brush his teeth. It’s not like he’s sitting with the sugar container and a spoon as soon as he gets home. I got the “no sugar” lecture THREE TIMES. Again with the treating me like I’m stupid, which definitely does not do anything to endear you to me.

I found it interesting that just reading about dental procedures stressed me out to the point that I was lightheaded. Gee, no, I just have “normal” anxiety about the dentist. That’s totally normal, right? I hate the dentist, and I always have. I even have trouble watching Little Shop of Horrors, and I think I might have a lingering dislike for Steve Martin because of it, even. The worst part of dealing with Ben’s dentists (both of them have been dismissive; the first one I asked him about Ben grinding his teeth to the point where it wakes me up if he’s in the same room, and he said, “No, Mom just needs to calm down.” Twice. EXCUSE ME???) is that I don’t know a. how to make a complaint, like how to word it so I don’t get dismissed again as a “hysterical female” or the equivalent, and b. if it would make any sort of difference anyway.

So I’ve decided that, in an effort to not get stressed out thinking about tomorrow, I’m going to do a Let’s Play on a Puce Moose mod that I recently discovered. I’m going to have to restart it, because as I started it, the UPS guy showed up with a new toner cartridge for the printer and I had to print a return label for my Mother’s Day gift. Quite depressing; I got a tablet and it died less than 24 hours after I got it. Hopefully I’ll get the refund soon, because I have my eye on a Lenovo tablet instead of a no-name one. Used, obviously, to get to where we can squeak by fitting it in our budget, but I almost literally drooled when I saw the specs.

I’m off to put Ben to bed and then play my mod. It’s called The Mantis Imperative, and it looks interesting.