Tag Archives: video games

The Hearthstone Tavern Brawl RNG Scale

This is probably going to devolve into a rant with no actual point(hint: it did not), but damn if I’m not tired of every Tavern Brawl being “Hey, let’s make the game so random you can’t plan for anything, and there’s basically no strategy whatsoever! HAHA TURN ONE RAGNAROS, THAT’S SO FUN!” We don’t need that level of randomness. For fudge’s sake we’re playing a card game, there’s enough RNG burned into the core gameplay already.

Don’t worry, I found a point to make, now I just need to get there, and it’s not going to be “Every Brawl should be Top 2 so there’s a serious metagame and many different levels of thinking.” I admit I liked that one, but really I liked reading about the meta and how it shifted more than actually playing it.

Why do we play Hearthstone?

Answering this simple question is the secret to good design in both set construction and Tavern Brawls. Unfortunately, this question has few simple answers, and I say few because it’s a little different for everyone. For example, I play Hearthstone for two main reasons. One, I enjoy the Warcraft universe, and especially enjoy the way Hearthstone manages to both incorporate elements from that universe and place its own whimsical spin on them. I think the phrase “keeping with the fantasy” has been thrown around alot when talking about the Legion class changes, and that also applies to Hearthstone. My other reason for playing is to satisfy my need for competition. I played Magic: The Gathering for about 20 years, and used to do a fair amount of traveling to play in big events. My life now doesn’t really have room for that sort of stuff, and Magic Online is a money pit, so I play Hearthstone.

The point is, no one’s answer to our simple query will be simple at all, at least not if they thought about it for more than a few moments. But our collective answers all share something in common, even if we don’t include it in our answers. I didn’t even include it in my own, because its not how we consciously think about how we enjoy games, but that reason to play is there. It’s the same reason why people watch television, or read books, or gamble- the idea that we are watching something awesome unfold and we don’t have the full story, there are just enough hints to make it interesting.

Is It That Simple?

Um, yeah, pretty much. We may curse RNGesus for how stupid the Firelord can be, or how Arcane Missiles might as well read “Deal all the damage exactly where your opponent needs it,” but the reality is that if we didn’t want randomness in our games, we would all be playing chess.

But how much is too much before we begin to lose agency over the ability to actually win the game? There’s a very fuzzy line that we don’t want to cross, and it so happens that it’s the least fuzzy when you examine the various Tavern Brawls.

If one were to quantify the amount of randomness in every Tavern Brawl and list them in order, one could accurately determine where their Goldilocks area is, where it’s not too much, not too little, but just right.

And hey! Look at that, a list from least to most depicting my own quantification of the RNG in Tavern Brawls, summarized because many Brawls are similar in nature. It’s almost like I’m trying to make a point here.

  1. Top 2
  2. Premade games (Showdown at BRM, Boombot v. Annoy-o-Tron)
  3. Base Game Rule Changes (It’s Raining Mana, Heart of the Sunwell)
  4. Decks Assemble
  5. Game Actions Trigger RNG (Idols of Azeroth, The Masked Ball)
  6. No, Really, They Trigger RNG (Who’s the Boss Now?)
  7. The RNG Swingset (Yogg Tryouts, Too Many Portals)
  8. Might As Well Flip Coins (Shiftcon, Randomonium)

The Brawls that stand alone, like Decks Assemble, are unique enough in terms of the RNG they generate that they warrant their own spot on the scale. Sitting at one end, the least RNG possible since you only have two cards in your deck and a hero power, and at the other end, the Brawls where you just play the best stuff you have each turn with minimal planning.

Personally, I sit somewhere between three and five. I want a little more than just a game rule change, but less than not knowing what five minions my opponent Unstable Portaled for. The occasional six or seven is fine if done right. The Servant of Yogg-Saron Tryouts was actually amazing, and I would play that Brawl a bunch again because the games didn’t feel super slow like Portals/Idols and I never felt like the game was over until it was, but really the fun behind that Brawl is an entirely different article.

Where do you sit on the RNG scale? Are you too serious for The Masked Ball, or are you not happy until you’re watching Shifter Zerus do his thing? Do you think my scale is accurate, and if not do you have your own? Let me know in the comments!

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Tips For Gamer Dads + Bonus Rant

I knew that I had at least a month off from work for paternity leave since the beginning of the year. I envisioned that time spent taking care of the baby sure, but also as a time when I could get back to my gaming roots. I wanted to hit legend in Hearthstone for the first time; I was sure I could, I just never played near enough games. I wanted to level a bunch of alts in World of Warcraft to prepare for Legion. I wanted to start going through the large virtual pile of Steam games I bought but never played.

None of that has happened.

It’s not that the time hasn’t actually been there, it has, sort of. Even taking care of a newborn leaves time to oneself when he is sleeping (like right now, for now). The problem is that when you have a 24-hour job, you can never really put your nose to the grindstone and get anything relevant done, not around the house or in the unpausable gaming world. Even if you do get a two hour chunk of time, you couldn’t expect it to happen, because you only got it because the kid slept twice as long as normal for no reason, and you play as though he will awaken in the next two minutes. When you’re playing, one eye is always on the baby monitor, but don’t stare because he somehow knows and fusses or makes noise when you do, and while I love my son, I dread looking at the monitor and seeing him stir an hour early, not because I don’t enjoy feeding him or changing him or rocking him to sleep, but because I feel somehow cheated out of an hour to myself, and when you only get, on average, about 100-120 minutes between feedings (20 minutes to feed, 30 minutes upright/burping, and who knows how many time you will put him down before he sleeps), those hours are precious. You won’t know how precious until you’re trying to finish a game of League of Legends while holding a baby and a bottle leaning against your cheek so you don’t get an AFK penalty.

I’ve contemplated finding something else to do with my time, but gaming is just a part of me. I’ve been gaming since I was four years old, I’ve never found anything to fill the hole that would leave in my life, in how I define myself and my world.

I know plenty of gamers that have children. None of them warned me about this, about how tough it would be. All they offer now that I am mired in this is the mantra that runs through my head.

“It gets better.”

I suppose it does, and I can already see signs of improvement. He sleeps slightly longer, goes down a little quicker, and I have become a little less paranoid about him waking up. I’ve developed something of a method to my gaming that helps balance my life, and I’d like to share a few tips to all you future gamer dads out there, so you avoid the mistakes I’ve made, and help balance your own life.

1. The Pause Button Is Your Friend

This seems obvious, but paramount to everything. Until you’re comfortable and familiar with the baby’s routine, don’t bother playing anything you can’t walk away from or pause at a moment’s notice. Even if your baby is sleeping during the day, your partner will probably need your help with something because you’re both falling incredibly behind on everything you used to do around the house, and baby ‘stuff’ is literally everywhere. I only play games that I can’t get up from at night when both my wife and son are asleep, and even then only right after a feeding when I’m sure he will stay down.

Be warned, even pausable games often demand relatively long sessions to garner anything beyond superficial enjoyment. Stuff like The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind for example, aren’t really that fun if you can’t become immersed in the world your character is wandering around in. Diablo III is a great example of something you can play without feeling frustrated about stopping. You can log in, get halfway through a Greater Rift, log out because you’re needed, and nothing is lost or gained really. I admit that I will have to switch from playing hardcore to softcore in future seasons, but that’s really the only change.

2. The One-Armed Gamer

There will be times when your kid just wants to sleep while you hold him. He won’t make a peep while you have him, but instantly wakes up when put in his crib. For these not-so-uncommon times, finding a game you can play with one hand is invaluable for passing the time. Hearthstone is by far the best game for these occasions. You only use the mouse to play, and games are short and mostly individually meaningless, so if your situation changes and you DO need to get up, it’s not a big deal.

The other option is to map more buttons to your mouse so you can play something like World of Warcraft. Sure, you aren’t going to be an Arena Master playing like that, but if you need to farm resources, its a simple matter of mapping a mount and your jump to two buttons. Even if you have the most basic mouse, if it has a scroll wheel that’s three ‘buttons’ you can use to get some farming done.

I have to give an honorable mention to Faster Than Light since it requires only one hand to play, is pausable, and it’s only $10 on Steam.

3. Don’t Be That Guy On Purpose

I can’t stress this enough. Just don’t expect to realistically play League of Legends, or Overwatch, or anything that has an automatic system that punishes AFKers. Sure, maybe once in a while when your family is asleep, but the reality is that every time you play, you risk interruption, and worse, you risk both feeling shitty because you lost a game AND the other people in your game having a shitty time because you had to leave. Eventually, those auto-ban systems will catch up to you, and you probably don’t want to get suspended because you had to change a poopy diaper.

4. Expand Your Horizons

While I was still trying to find my footing and develop these methods for gaming survival, I would browse the Steam store since I was unable to do much else. I was feeling crappy about my gaming life, so I bought a few games on a whim, including Windward and Bastion. I actually got to play Windward a little, and found it refreshing and enjoyable, and I felt good about spending so little on a game I enjoyed so much.

Well, I hate to cut this short, but my son is awake, and its been an hour since I wrote a word, so I’m going to leave it here. Hope all you future gamer dads find some value in these tips, or at least walk away with the knowledge that you aren’t alone, and that it does “get better.”

 

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Hearthstone – Persisting Archetypes In Standard

If you’re wondering when my review of Whispers of the Old Gods will be, I did say I was waiting until half the set was revealed (which we just hit in the last few days), but the nerfs to several Classic/Basic staples warrants immediate attention.

Today, Hearthstone posted this article detailing long-awaited changes to many of the powerhouses of the Classic set. Some nerfs were for power level reasons (Knife Juggler), others because they enabled combos that would otherwise remain in Standard forever (Force of Nature), and still others because they restricted design space (Master of Disguise, though I’m sure no one saw that one coming).

I don’t want the tone of this article to be too negative, so let me quickly say that I am happy with the overall direction the nerfs are taking Standard. Team 5 have practically said outright that Silence was a mechanic they wish they never introduced, and I’m glad that, even for class cards, you pay a hefty price to shut another card up (or off, in some cases). Every other nerf was because the card just gave too much for it’s cost, and most of the nerfed cards still seem viable in the right decks, rather than just being auto includes in every deck that can utilize it.I’m glad they decided to nerf Force of Nature rather than Savage Roar, mostly because almost ANY change to Roar would render the card unplayable, while the change to Force of Nature is crippling, but does not damn the card to the Casual Room.

The only card I’m unhappy with is Arcane Golem. I really hated it pre-nerf, but I’m pretty sure the card is just plain shit now. If you want a 4/4 for three with a drawback I can point you to Ogre Brute and Dancing Swords, both of which saw absolutely no Constructed play outside mill decks, which as we all know aren’t real decks anyway.

But what cards were overlooked in this wave of changes? Team 5 had an amazing chance to make Classic and Basic cards the infrastructure of Standard by making changes to cards to ensure that particular archetypes will not persist year after year in a supposedly always fresh format, but a few decks appear to be poised to forever be Standard contenders.

Freeze Mage

The first deck that jumps out at me is Freeze Mage. Maybe this is what the developers want to be the Mage’s identity; a reactive hero that has excellent options for board control, sustainability, and burst. None of Freeze Mage’s primary cards were changed at all, so you can expect to face the same combination of Ice Block/Barrier, Frost Nova/Doomsayer, and a flurry of burn (and maybe an Alexstraza) to the face to end the game. Yes, Mad Scientist is leaving, but I don’t think it will change much with how much Standard appears to be slowing down since the Scientist’s best use was against aggro decks, where he just bought time. Emperor Thaurussian will eventually leave as well, but he is just a luxury, not a requirement. It remains to be seen whether decks that play for the extreme late game, like C’Thun decks, will serve to keep Freeze Mage in check, but I have my doubts.

You might ask how Freeze Mage is any different from a deck like Control Warrior, and that many of Control Warrior’s cards are also going to always be in Standard. The difference is that Freeze Mage operates on a very specific axis, while Control Warrior, as evidenced over the last two years, has undergone several different iterations. Sure, the goal is always to stabilize and then win somehow, but the cards they use to get there have changed over time, and so have their win conditions. Did you know that you can build a 26-card all Classic Freeze Mage deck? Sure, maybe you don’t want Acolyte of Pain or Azure Drake in some metas, but holy shit more than two-thirds of the deck is NEVER going to change unless flat better options come about? I hope you all like getting Fireballed a bunch of times, forever.

Ramp Druid

By this time we all know that a big part of Druid’s identity is mana ramping. They will probably have access to many ramp spells/minions in Standard, probably a great deal of them during the Fall when Standard grows to it’s maximum size.

It’s really just one card in the archetype that really bothers me – Innervate. I’ve never liked Innervate as a card because I usually don’t like cards that are many orders of magnitude more powerful in the early game than the late game. Facing down a large threat far earlier in the game than you can handle is one of the most frustrating ways to lose a game, and clearly it’s worth playing despite the risk of drawing it late since almost every Druid deck since ever plays two.

Hearthstone is a different game than Magic: The Gathering by a wide margin, but it’s hard not to think about how free mana affected Magic in its early years. Now, Magic has purged it’s professional formats of almost all fast mana, not only because it isn’t fun, but it also restricts design space. In almost every resource-driven card game ever made, the very core of gameplay revolves around slowly building resources that allows for play and counter-play, but Innervate breaks down that dynamic. Sure, Innervate costs a card, and occasionally Innervating out a card means not playing anything meaningful on the next turn, but in Hearthstone it almost doesn’t matter. If you play a fat minion early, all most opponents can do is decide which minions they want to throw away to yours, simultaneously praying to RNGesus that you don’t have any follow up because it’s those games where a Druid plays a Druid of the Claw on turn three and a Shredder on turn four that are practically unwinnable for the opponent. You simply fall too far behind too quickly while the Druid gets to make all the trading decisions every turn.

Divine Favor

Yes, Aggro Paladin had many of it’s early minions nerfed, and so not changing Divine Favor may not have any impact at all for some time, but we have to adopt a long view here since Divine Favor will ALWAYS be a part of Standard, and frankly, might be the most powerful card in all of Hearthstone behind Innervate because it circumvents one of Hearthstone’s basic tenets – players draw one card per turn.

Sure, there are many cards that draw cards out there. Acolyte of Pain, Arcane Intellect, Shield Block, the list goes on and on. But Divine Favor can  draw four OR MORE cards for three mana, and the mechanic by which it determines how many cards you draw is practically toxic because it encourages a player to dump their hand regardless of whether it’s a ‘good idea.’ Who cares if everything you played that turn got wiped out on good trades from an opponent when you refilled your entire hand and can just keep mindlessly vomiting out minions?

The very idea that a card exists that encourages players to ignore strategy and simply play as many things as possible is terrible for Hearthstone, and it may not be a problem right now, but I remember when Cancer Paladin was a thing, and I’m not taking about Secrets.

No Buffs?

For some time I expected many cards to be buffed in this wave of changes. There are plenty of crappy cards out there that have never seen serious play, but I came to see that buffs to cards will probably be very rare going forward. Any time a card is buffed, especially a Classic or Basic card, there is less of an incentive to buy more cards because that suddenly powerful card will take the place in decks of something from a newer set. If the developers have a cool new idea for a card, they can simply release it in the next set instead of buffing one of the many useless cards that already exist.

In addition to business model issues with buffs, there’s also the chance that buffing Classic cards will just create more of what almost all the nerfs were designed to remove -ubiquitous staples that would just eventually have to be nerfed. Sorry Totemic Might, maybe your destiny is somewhere down the road, but it’s going to be as the same shitty spell you are right now.

That about wraps it up for now. I’ll be back with my thoughts, and maybe a full review of every card (a big maybe) in Whispers of the Old Gods shortly before it’s release on April 26th! If you think I missed any cards you feel should be nerfed, be sure to let me know either in the comments below, on my Facebook page The Olentangy Plays, or tweet at me @NigelTheLondon

Until then, may all your Crackles be for lethal!

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Hearthstone – Standard is THE Standard

The creepy cardback for preordering WotOG

The creepy cardback for preordering WotOG

I don’t get people who are angry over Team 5’s decision to introduce the Standard format. Literally every complaint has a gaping hole in it. Let’s crush a few, for fun!

“I bought these cards, and now I can’t use them!”

This argument makes no sense. Go play Wild. Those of us who enjoy Standard (everyone but you) will play Standard.

“I want to be a pro Secret Paladin player forever!”

If you want to be a professional Hearthstone player, you have to spend money to keep up. That’s the fucking business model. And at least you have it easy. If you’re any good, you don’t really have to spend that much money when a set comes out; you should have a bunch of gold and dust stockpiled. You don’t even have to get off your ass for the most part. Do you have any idea how much time and money it takes to try to become a professional Magic player? You’re spending hundreds of dollars a month on cards, and travelling hundreds of miles a WEEK to follow around the various tournament circuits, just hoping you post enough good finishes to at least break even.

“Wild will eventually be a dead format!”

Yep. That’s why they made Standard, so players don’t feel like they are on a slowly sinking ship with no where else to go.

Do you know WHY Wild, without extreme policing from the Hearthstone developers, will eventually die out? There are three main reasons. Let me hit you over the head with them.

#1 – Power Creep

Let’s say Team 5 is designing a new Hearthstone set. Every set needs some vanilla-ish creatures, to fill in the gaps, for flavor and feel reasons, and because not every card can be super complicated.

BB: “Let’s see, we need a four mana guy that has a solid body.”

YW: “Well, we made Chillwind Yeti, then in GvG we made Mechanical Yeti. What’s next?”

BB: “We really want people to want to buy packs of this new set so we keep our jobs, so we need to make this minion playable in Constructed.”

YW: “I know, let’s make it a 5/5! It will be awesome!

::NEXT YEAR::

BB: “5/5 Yeti was a hit, even if it did create confusion about what having a “yeti” means, but we have another set coming, and people need to stay excited!”

YW: “Hey, let’s make it a Dragon too!”

::NEXT YEAR::

BB: “If we don’t give it a Battlecry, people will just use the old one!”

::NEXT YEAR::

YW: “6/6!”

I think you get where this is going. Power creep stops a developer’s ability to design cards that are balanced for the game. You need to sell these cards you design, and so you always have to make the next one better than the last.

#2 – Growing the player base

Believe it or not, not everyone in the entire world plays Hearthstone, but Team 5 would really like to continue growing the player base, and really, players should want that too (but that’s another topic)!

Let’s say it’s four years in the future. There are now like a dozen expansions for Hearthstone and nine adventures. Let’s assume Team 5 somehow managed to avoid power creep from ruining the game yet, and so the meta is full of cards from all products. A new player hears about Hearthstone from his friends, and creates an account. He completes the tutorial and gets all his classes to ten. He eventually creates his own deck and ventures into Constructed, where predictably he gets his ass whooped. Undeterred, he decides that because he really likes this game, he wants to buy in and build decks like the decks he sees on ladder. He clicks on the shop, frowns, does a little math, logs off, and never comes back.

What happened? Our prospective new player realized that the chances of him getting the cards he wants in packs are incredibly low, and since he only needs a few cards from each set, most of what he gets would be dusted, but only getting 1/8th value on the VAST majority of cards would mean he needs to spend about $1000 to build the deck he wants.

#4 – Design Space

This point sorta ties into power creep in a way, but it’s more about complexity and similarities between cards, and even less tangible things like Hearthstone’s flavor and feel.

Hearthstone has a very simple layout. Hand, deck, and board. Stuff goes from deck, to hand, to board, and then eventually it goes away. This is the essence of Hearthstone, and its simplicity in game play is one of the reasons why its OK to add animations of the cards crashing into each other with voice overs. You wouldn’t want the game to be too busy. Think about what MTGO would be like if every time you tapped a mana, your lands did things, like animated or played noises. Magic already has many physically moving parts (even in the digital realm since MTGO is played using a virtual board), and so having all that extra stuff would just be distracting, confusing, and probably annoying.

Now think about the new cultist cards in Whispers of the Old Gods. Whenever you buff your C’Thun(wherever it is), a little portal opens up on the side of the board and you briefly see him getting buffed. It’s a cool little effect, but it also serves a game-related purpose because it reminds the players of how big Captain Eyeball is, so you need to have it.

From a developer standpoint, that ‘space’, where you summon something and this little portal opens up to show what happened, is taken. In order to retain Hearthstone’s essence of simplicity in game state representation, they now cannot continue to design things of that nature, even if they were completely unrelated to each other, because you can’t summon a minion and have like nine things happen. You would lose the essence of Hearthstone.

The other side of design space is much simpler. Often times, when developing a set, there is a central synergistic mechanic, like GvG’s mechs or The Grand Tournament’s inspire. Sometimes developers like to return to an existing space because they still have great ideas using it. Now, without Standard, any new cards designed all have to be balanced against the existing cards, and without a doubt often times when exploring a design space cards are designed that, for balance reasons, cannot exist together. With a rotating format, there is no worry about those old cards. A perfect Hearthstone example for this is Goblins vs. Gnomes. I guarantee you that at some point Team 5 will want to try again at a mech-themed set, and they won’t have to balance everything around the existence of Mechwarper.

Wrap-Up

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to Standard. New decks, new cards,and a new format. To those of you who still don’t get why it wouldn’t be fun to play against Mad Scientist (a perfect example of a card that restricts design space) forever, I promise you that this is the right long-term decision for everyone. I was there when Magic created Standard, then Extended, then Legacy, then they axed Extended for Modern. Some of these formats were not well received, but now they provide a rich variety of metas, some quickly shifting and some not, that allow for players of all tastes to find a format they enjoy.

See you at the inn!

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Fallout 3 Evil Playthrough – Evil Skills Equals Evil Thrills

In my newly discovered quest to be evil for the sake of experience, I decided that being evil meant having a particular skillset to go along with it. This would help me keep that evil feeling even while doing main quest stuff, where I more or less have to do at least a few good things (Braun and his ‘chores’ excluded).

What Would Raiders Do?

These despicable assholes are my heroes.

These despicable assholes are my heroes.

Every time I hear the Three Dog public service announcement about raiders, it makes me think about why raiders do what they do. I suppose they murder people so they have more stuff than just ammo, weapons, and booze in their hideouts, even though that’s all I ever seem to find.

I decided to base my weapons of choice on raiders’ preferred ones. I already had several levels under my belt, but luckily, the only weapons I had skilled up were Small Guns and Explosives, two things raiders LOVE. However, this didn’t really feel evil enough. The real assholes always had missile launchers. I always HATED those raiders, mostly because fights with them tended to occur in open spaces where the range of a launcher could really come to bear.

I also wanted to try out melee weapons. Raiders or Super Mutants occasionally like to charge with pool cues and nail boards across open ground. I endeavored to be a little smarter about it. There’s something very evil about walking up to someone and just beating them to death with a blunt object. I also discovered later that if  you really were unhappy with someone you had recently dispatched, you could mutilate their corpse by beating on the head or limbs. No bad karma for doing so, but it was pretty gruesome!

Silver-Tongued Devil

The last place I wanted to focus on was getting people to do what I wanted without having to threaten them. Sometimes it’s fun to convince someone to do something I’ll enjoy watching. Speech is generally the best way to get this done, and it has the added bonus of sometimes extracting more caps from those who needed my services. I had already taken Lady Killer, and found I enjoyed its many small benefits.

Evil Adventures Update

I’ve been quite busy being evil. Immediately after blowing up Megaton, I travelled to it to examine the carnage. There is now a permanent fog surrounding the area. It makes landmarks tough or even impossible to see, and really gives the feeling of being in an entirely new Wasteland. Sadly it does not persist everywhere like I had hoped.

I found Moira outside, ghoulified (I’ll let this pass since Moira is cool, but afaik, this isn’t how ghouls are made). After a brief conversation, she took off for Rivet City, and god dammit if she didn’t attract the attention of every baddie in the area. I protected her for a while because I did eventually want to complete the Wasteland Survival Guide for some extra crit, but eventually I got annoyed and just let her run off down the road.

Welp, it's up to the wife now!

Welp, it’s up to the wife now!

I also realized that I failed to pick up the Strength Bobblehead before nuking Megaton. I almost wanted to start over because I didn’t get the 20 bobblehead achievement yet, but instead I just looked at my wife and told her “It’s up to you, honey.” She’s over 10 now and hasn’t closed the door on any yet (think Raven Rock).

Eventually, I wandered back to Tenpenny, making friends with the Outcasts on the way so I could later loot everything in their fort. I had killed in cold blood from afar; it was time to do it up-close. I cut a deal with Gustav to kill Roy Phillips and his friends, and after the deed was done, Three Dog more or less made me feel terrible about it. I held all the caps I had earned up to my ears, and tried to ignore it.

That’s it for now. I’m actually farther than this, all the way up to Vault 112, but I’m going to leave how awesome Tranquility Lane can be for next time.

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Fallout 3 Evil Playthrough – The Power of the Atom

Being evil has consequences, some strange, some dramatic, but the decision to go evil has breathed new life into my Fallout 3 experience.

The Power of the Atom

After leaving the Vault I walked straight to Megaton. When Lucas Simms greeted me, I took a hard line with him, and learned my first lesson about being evil.

Nice to meet you sheriff. By the way, screw you!

Nice to meet you sheriff. By the way, screw you!

Choosing the mean response during conversation often earns a rebuke, but being a dick usually doesn’t close doors (or open others) in terms of quest progression. Still, it’s pretty hilarious to insult someone, have them speak to you angrily for a few seconds, then go back to being helpful.

I decided to leave Simms alive. I had bigger fish to fry. Mr. Burke was waiting for me at Moriarty’s.

I actually wondered if I could destroy Megaton. I usually hate making permanent decisions in video games. In most of my playthroughs of Fallout 3, the only reason I chose to destroy Raven Rock was because no matter my choice, I could not return afterward anyway. I’m also a total completionist, and blowing up Megaton might mean I would miss some skill books!

I tried to think about how blowing up Megaton would serve me. Well, to start, there was a fair amount of caps in it for me (I even passed the speech check to make my reward 1000 caps!). Getting rich early isn’t easy, and while I could steal everything in sight and slowly sell it back to vendors, it was a long and very boring process. It was evil as well, but it felt more like the Diet Coke of evil than the Surge of evil. Why should I grind hours upon hours when I could have the caps in hand just for walking over to Tenpenny Tower?

Easily the most evil soft drink ever created. I may have ruined a small child's future by constantly buying him cans of this ambrosia.

Easily the most evil soft drink ever created. I may have ruined a small child’s future by constantly buying him cans of this ambrosia.

There was also the knowledge that I would get a free suite in Tenpenny. I’ve never liked the Megaton house. It feels cramped and looks like shit no matter how it’s set up.

I admit, mostly it was the caps. It was hard to see a clear reason besides cash that justified doing the deed. Yes, I needed to justify it. I was trying to be evil, not insane. I attached the charge Mr. Burke gave me to the bomb, looked at the worshippers from the Church of the Atom, walked past The Brass Lantern, where someone was sitting at the bar eating, and left Megaton for the last time.

Instead of walking directly to Tenpenny, I headed into Springvale. I needed some extra ammo and gear to cross the wastes to my future home. I knew from chatting with Moriarty (a guy I wouldn’t mind blowing up no matter my goals) that a chick named Silver resided in a shitty house here, and that she had caps. I convinced her to give me some caps to tell Moriarty she was dead, then made it a reality with my trusty baseball bat when she turned around. I took everything of value in her home and sold it all to one of the travelling vendors outside Megaton.

The trek to Tenpenny went quietly. I was only level two, so nothing nasty tried to stop me. The only interaction I had was killing Raiders near Fairfax, and trading with the Outcasts at Fort Independence.

At the gate to Tenpenny, a ghoul named Roy Phillips was yelling to be let into the Tower. I ignored him, mostly because I hadn’t decided whether I was killing him yet, and ascended the Tower. The weirdly normal Alistair Tenpenny and Mr. Burke were waiting for me on an east-facing balcony under the night sky. There was a briefcase on a table. I was granted the honor of pushing the button.

I wish I had saved my game before pushing that button. I didn’t know exactly where Megaton was  because it was dark, so I just sorta stared at the landscape to the northeast for a moment.

Then, BOOOOOOOOM! ::the video below is not mine. thanks str00py::

The explosion was sublime, illuminating the night  sky as a mushroom cloud rose up out of the horizon. Smoke, dust, and debris blew out from the explosion, covering a huge chunk of the wasteland in an eerie fog (actually far more than in the video). I thought about how much it looked like a pyroclastic flow from a volcano, and if anyone could survive it. A shock wave knocked all the clutter on the balcony off their resting places. Burke practically lost it, talking about the beauty of the whole thing. The Roy Batty in me was gleeful at the murderous spectacle I had unleashed.

I was taken aback by how awesome the whole experience was. Sure, it was super evil, and that was the overall goal, to get the ‘evil’ achievements, but blowing up Megaton had already plummeted my karma to as low as it could go. I had worried that once I hit very evil, I would stop doing evil things because the numbers said I didn’t need to anymore.

But now, after seeing that awesome display, I wanted to see it all. I wanted to be evil just to experience different outcomes. Evil for the sake of experience was my new goal!

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Fallout 3 Evil Playthrough

I’ve always wanted to play the bad guy in games with moral systems. In Mass Effect, I loved going renegade and punching that bitch reporter in the face. In SWTOR flash points, I loved picking the snarky response to NPCs in  group full of high-minded Jedi. Even in political board or card games, I love playing bully by waving whatever big stick I have around, threatening mutual destruction to anyone who crossed me.

But those examples are all executed to express the attitude of a Han Solo-like character, or simply because it’s an effective way to play a competitive game. It’s not easy to play a character, especially in a single-player RPG, that is completely selfish, has no regard for other beings, and will lie, cheat, and steal without needing any justification whatsoever other than doing what’s best for themselves, including just having fun.

I’ve been playing Fallout 3 for almost six years. It’s about time I finished up those achievements by doing an evil playthrough. Well, I won’t actually be getting every achievement. Those neutral karma ones are really just beyond me. I just don’t have a character I can look at that I can apply to the Fallout universe to help guide my decisions. Sure, I could just play do good things and then steal a bunch of stuff like Robin Hood, but the problem is that the only two places I can think of to steal tons of stuff are at Tenpenny Tower and the Citadel, but even there it’s sort of a grey area on whether it’s right to do that. After five years, you need character motivation to play this game, and I just don’t have it.

Evil is doable though. I knew exactly who to base my character on in terms of how to make decisions. My evil character, fresh from the Vault, is an amalgamation of several characters.

VILLIANS

  • Roy Batty from Blade Runner, a man with the emotional development of a four-year-old that was curious about the world, but also understood that the world was a sick place.
  • The Kurgan from Highlander, who always said what was on his mind, wasn’t afraid to go against norms, and above all, was uncompromising  about achieving his goals.
  • Snake Plisskin from Escape from New York, a cynical renegade who holds absolutely nothing sacred, and is willing to do anything to survive.

Looking out over the Capital Wasteland, I sensed a new world of possibilities. If I needed stimpacks from a random Scavenger but didn’t have the caps, I could just cap him and take what I wanted. When I see Roy Phillips and his gang in the subway system, I might decide I just don’t like pushy ghouls and slaughter them.

Most of all, there’s Megaton. Fuck Megaton. Never liked that town much anyway. Too sprawling and tough to navigate, and the house you can get there really sucks. I may be dropping by Moriarty’s, to pay Mr. Burke a visit, and talk business.

 

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