We test da game

It is time to talk about Bethesda. It is having a rough week and not wrongfully so. Yet the application of exposure is something we do need to talk about. We see headlines like ‘Publishers like Bethesda Should Accompany Sony in Skipping E3 2019’; it is time to do a little more than merely disagree. Another review, the one from Eurogamer made a real effort to keep it clean and academically and that should be appreciated. With: “Bethesda’s attempt at Fallout multiplayer is, like so many of the series’ vaults, a failed experiment.” Those who played the Fallout games will know that this is a jab at Vaultec and that is fine. You see, the short and sweet of it is that we can look at Bethesda and think Nintendo; we can consider that Vault 76 is the Bethesda version of the WiiU and guess what? Out of those ashes the Nintendo Switch was born and it is a massive success, as such Bethesda can do the same, get a similar solution. Now, that does not stop the immediate, and it might not be immediately fixed, is that so bad? The fact is that Bethesda has never been a real ‘more of the same‘ company and we have applauded them for it and this time, we get to wait a little longer. Guess what, Ubisoft made us wait 9 months for Watchdogs (2012/2013) and the end result was still flimsy, Bethesda can outdo that achievement (effortlessly) whilst sleeping. Even as we see articles like ‘9 Ways Bethesda Can Fix Fallout 76‘, we see the impact of some people that have an axe to grind, merely because their expectations were smashed and that is fine. You should have seen me rant in the direction of France (specifically Yves Guillemot for screwing up the AC Franchise to the extent that they had done), we all have axes to grind and it comes with the field of gaming, emotions will run high. It is all linked to the complex mind and the necessity to play. We value that downtime like the hall passes we get on powernaps in the office on Monday morning, isn’t that what the Monday morning is for? When I looked at the list of 9 (at WhatCulture) there were parts we can optionally agree with and some we might not. You see, fast travel is a nice way to exploit glitches and the soul of Vault 76 might be the survival of you, as such the option “There’s not really any reason for the game to charge for fast travel, so it’s simply an unnecessary annoyance. It can be easily patched out of the game without upsetting its balance, and so it should be done” might be rejected, and focus on another stage. I very much felt like agreeing to ‘Add an Offline Mode‘, as this has been the core of everyone, to play offline, or online in solo, singular and lonely mode, optionally merely with the additional path to invite friends.

There I would go with ‘United we Stand, Lonely we Quest‘. I have friends (merely a few mind you) and I got unnerved way too much as they got into my line of fire. You see a marksman needs a clear field and when you get in my way you will get a bullet in the back of your head to remind the others not to get in my fucking way (I apologise for my applied use of French here). In a stage where an opponent needs to cross the 800-400 meter range so he/she can effectively open fire on me, my friends better not screw up my stats, I fought hard to have a decent accuracy rating, so one idiot getting in my way in whichever way is not my choice of acceptance, and people catch on quick, they kept out of my way and whichever enemy got too close was made permanently redundant (and they went down with satisfying graphics) . This is why I never cared for the Olympics, I absolutely love that the winner is heralded, yet why are the others allowed to live? (Sorry, I do have a weird sense of humour)

So back to that list as the previous part was linked to this. You see, I disagree with: “With the inclusion of an offline mode, though, Bethesda could also add in accessibility options for players to toggle the punishment factor of the survival elements“, I disagree here, if Vault 76 is about survival, having an impact and penalty is important, it also prepares you to not run into situations as most gung-ho players tend to do, survival is something else, it is cautious and tends to be slow. There is no greater sense of achievement as wiping out all life in a village and until the last person remains alive, these NPC’s had no idea what he was up against, which is a little wink at the Oblivion ‘Whodunit?‘ mission. In his list of 9 I failed to see a true link for greatness. There are valid points in there and some should be considered fast. Yet the bigger picture I miss is not what I saw, it is what I missed. In my view (apart from the bug fixing) which will take time and Bethesda is on it, I want to give a few points of my own.

  1. A built site needs a much bigger budget; in addition, the cost of defences should be down by at least 50%. Optionally build sites should be expanded on, so when the building budget is full, optionally expand it (for a price, or expansion mission add what would be up to 3 satellite mobile builders (one for each time a maximum budget had been reached), giving you the option to gain well over 100% of space, to optionally create an actual outpost, or perhaps link to a building, an official or community building, so that you can build something lasting. Not sure if that would be possible (software architecturally speaking), yet consider Fallout 3, who had not considered making the US Capitol their own personal space? Perhaps it is too large an example, yet that impact, like a subway station might be an awesome idea to build your own ‘town’. That was my hope when I was introduced to the intro of Vault 76, we understand why another vault is not an option, yet a failed vault (one that was not ready in time) is still an idea. Whether that idea is added as a DLC will not matter. It can even become a quest line in the game.
  2. Quests, there is (seemingly mind you) a lot missing here, as I mainly gathered from loads of reviews. My immediate idea was to add quests like ‘the Greenhouse effect‘. A mission that sets a stage where we need food to survive, aiding an NPC in setting up a greenhouse, growing vegetables and setting the stage to sell groceries to other settlers (a wink to fallout 4 Greygardens), not merely getting the entire structure up, but creating robots so that the work can be long term and automated.
    A similar quest could be created for clean water ‘the shape of aqua‘, and should not be repetitive in shape and challenges like the previously mentioned one. With these two in place, the game can give perks for outposts created. Another part for general goods stores ‘Crazy Goods‘ (a Crazy People wink). The trick is to make the challenges very different and testing, giving not merely a stage of improvement, but one with different sided challenges. It is one thing I partially missed in the past, there is a sneak preference in me, yet having a mission that is dependent on a technical skill, and perhaps one on heavy weapons/explosives and one on sneak gives a new view to how we ourselves, play that game, it is merely a thought. And it important to see that this is merely partial criticism on all this, I have not played the full game, not played to any large extent (merely a few hours at a friend’s place, as he has 4K and I do not). Even as it all looks impressive and even as it is buggy, it is still new, as well as in a new direction and that is what I love about Bethesda. I was never a rage fan, I never went beyond the first ‘the Evil within‘, yet they never stopped surprising me and they are willing to take leaps. They prove that their games are not for everyone and that is fine, the ones that do like their games tend to be extremely committed, you merely have to look at the Rage population for that part of the equation.
  1. Diversify! There are too many ‘password for terminal‘ moments in all this (I was given awareness of this, I have not tested this part). I get it that this is the operational stage of the Fallout series, yet the alternative to download terminals so that your Pip-boy can hack it (over time) gives us the need to find empty Holotapes and perhaps add the write capability to the Pip-boy (for the downloaded terminal), was that considered? How come that we cling to the ‘caps’ part, if this is the beginning, is there not a real needs for goods? Making the water, food and goods part more important and optionally also making those missions more rewarding? Then there is the option of ‘RandomWare‘. Spawn unique pieces in solo mode whenever a new game is created. So you cannot run to a place, you have to genuinely find it. For example a power armour helmet with sneak abilities (converting that item to sneak perks card perhaps), or a level 4 Rifleman card (+25% damage). This could be done for different sets and in different ways giving much more challenge and reward to the game. For example, adding 2 special parts for every S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill might give the people true incentive to find every location and if those 14 parts are scattered randomly over 200 locations, the cheat guides will take a step back requiring people to become better players, it is merely a thought to consider. Consider that you have a game where you need to get lucky. That feeling that you get with Diablo 3, when after finishing the game 10 times, you still get a legendary item you never had before, in a trait that really gives you an edge; it is a real Adrenalin rush when that happens.

These are merely three elements that could add heaps to the challenge, prestige and rewarding sensation that is currently temporary lacking in Vault 76. I use the word temporary as I have complete faith that in the end Bethesda will come through for its players, so far it has never failed them and that must be said too. With about 5000 hours in the Elder Scrolls (not online) and Fallout, I feel that I know what I am talking about, besides the part where I have been connected to games going all the way back to 1982 (CBM Vic-20).

Is there more? Yes, there is always more but is that not the main concern with every Monday morning quarterback? So far Bethesda has not disappointed me and they will get past this, or perhaps not and the next gem we truly end up desiring is the one that comes after. It is always a side we have to accept, merely because games and gaming is not science, it is an art and art will always be personal, we either embrace it, or we do not. Yet in the end, like junkies we hope that the next Rembrandt is another Nightwatch, yet the next one might be merely ‘An Old Woman Reading‘, which is still a Rembrandt mind you. So when you realise that both him and me are both from the ‘van Rijn’ family branch, yet did that branch matter? It absolutely does not and I am not related to him at all, we are two separate trees completely (implying it at times, especially in New York was heaps fun, seeing the shock in the other person alone is worth the entertaining act), giving us another form of artistic entertainment.

When we realise that art is the foundation of any game you should start to realise how insane the Ubisoft claim ‘another Assassins Creed game every year‘ was. As I stated in a different blog before, it took me no more than 8 hours to create the foundation of Elder Scrolls 6 (not the one being made now), yet it is not merely the story, it is the art, the graphics (a part Ubisoft has truly mastered in all their AC games). It is the science of ‘AI’ so that the NPC’s are acting natural in the game and that part is still not perfect (in any game), there are so many parts and they all need to interact (making the Ubisoft claim much worse), because it all takes time and time will never ever bargain. It will never state that it will decrease itself in speed by 10%, it is the one constant we all face (until we die that is), making game testing crucial to success and taking into consideration that a game is finished whenever that is (the perfect CD Project Red) response to its fans. We can design and conceptionally spring the game in moments, yet it still needs to be done in the end and the visionary programmer will be worth gold at that point, yet the interactions with other parts of the game makers (graphics and sound) are still part of it all and that requires time. Bethesda’s approach to use golden oldies songs (in the fallout series) was a master move, we all (most of us at least) want those soundtracks with those old songs and they also give life to the consideration of classics, two home runs for the price of one. All parts that can be used to add to the game even more. The question becomes how to give proper positive impact to the gamer? It is a question no one can honestly state, not even the best marketeer. We can merely hope that the impact is appreciated, perhaps even loved by the gamer exposed to it. So far Bethesda has done really well and even as I was not playing them from the beginning (I started in 2001), I have so far never really been disappointed. Is that because I await the game, or perhaps I refuse to adhere to my own expectations? The second one is extremely dangerous. The moment that you start to live by your own expectations you will miss out, as I did ignoring Far Cry 3 for too long. It is an important moment even as I have raised my fist against Ubisoft for the longest of times, they got that one really right (4 and 5 a lot less so). If there is one impact for Bethesda is that they will face (deservingly) the issue that their launch day following will decline, yet I believe that they will overcome and any really great game will restore faith in the brand. Ubisoft faced that upbeat when we were introduced to AC Origin (still a true gem).

EA could face that same upbeat if they remaster (still a big if) the Mass Effect trilogy, they would have an option to fix the Andromeda parts if they are willing to go all out, but in the end, will they find the cash? It is important to look at this now; you see, most gamers cling to the old successes and so far plenty of people have seen the positive impact of a remaster, so the noise for the Mass Effect series is increasing again (and again, and again). Yet, is that enough? There is an option to set the stage for a fifth Mass Effect game, if the makers can learn to ignore the shouts for early release (aka muzzle their entire marketing division) and focus on quality, if the errors (seen in the first hour) are addressed and looked at as a challenge to make a better product, we see and we get to live through a new challenge that is a true new Mass Effect, but it implies that EA Games needs to be willing to put it all on the table and so far, they have not shown to be testicularly ready (aka they lack the balls), so why mention it? I am a gamer like all the other gamers and Mass Effect 2 is still one of the most perfect games I ever played; like everyone else I do want more of that and it is within EA to find that solution (there are millions of gamers wanting that) implying that if they get it right, it will come with millions of copies sold. Consider that Andromeda might not get that, yet link it with Mass Effect Hegemony (fictive future title) it becomes another matter altogether, especially if they are willing to change the focal point. I merely have to point at movies like: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Earth 2, where the humans are basically not the good guys to create a stage that is invigorating, creates moral ambiguity and gives consideration to other venues. A game like that would be a game changer, especially in the Mass Effect range. That same path should be considered with Bethesda. What happens if we up the game, what happens when there are real setback to the choice of becoming Railroad, Brotherhood of Steel or Institute minded? Just like we saw in New Vegas, where a direction impair another one, when direction offers options as well as impairment, we see a need to replay the gamer and that replay is actually just as exciting, providing that the missions are different and new, not merely a palate of sense (replace goods with slaves), it is a path less trodden because of the effort needed, yet the impact also implies that the game is valued up to 200% more that way.

We are all protective on what we desire and love, especially the games we embrace, it is natural to do so, yet we must be willing to be honestly critical when it does not meet our realistic expectations. As long as our expectations were realistic we will be able to do that, as such I feel no reason to joining the AOC (Active Oxhorn Critics). Here we see (via Reddit) “Seems like people hate the game despite it being good or not“, as the operative part is: “Oxhorn gets hate for actually liking Fallout 76“, it does not matter whether the expectations of Oxhorn were really low, or that he is like me, in Bethesda he trusts, all others pay cash up front. His dime, his choice. People are entitled to that part, plain and simple.

Faith is strange and fickle that way. I believe that the entire setting of the stage is not the one or the other, it is the appreciation of art, especially art that remains in transit and is still being upgraded, when the final product is a good one. We got the value for our bucks. Even if that is not the case, the price of art is what we are willing to pay for it. I have always been willing to pay $20 for any Rembrandt, yet that is the limit of my budget for an oil painting. Others pay $1200 for a pre-released No Man’s Sky, it is merely what we are willing to shell out at that moment and it is up to us to learn that we accept the choices we make. So even as some feel really bad of getting a launch day copy of Vault 76, we merely need to learn to look at the right sources informing us on what is and what is likely to be. Granted that this is difficult when a game is as large as Bethesda, or Project Red RPG’s, yet in this the success versus fail rate with these two players is so far massively in favour of the ‘I trust my maker‘ that we tend to go with the launch day part.

We win some, we lose some.

So get over it, especially as Bethesda is openly and loudly committed to fix the product, which in the end is still the biggest part we need to accept and I did mention the result after 9 months of waiting for Watchdogs 1, did I not? So let’s give them time to do the Sir Fixalot routine and await the upgraded result.

 

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