Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wasteland: Little Greece

I forgot to point out that when I indulged in the graphic text violence last time, I had backed up my game prior to that, and restored to that backup afterwards.  So our heroine has not, in fact, butchered a bunch of children.  Which brings me to something probably worth mentioning if you're planning on playing this: saving the game.

The way this works is a little different to other games, and can get you into trouble if you're not aware of how it works.  The game does save when you tell it to Save, of course.  But it also saves at other times, specifically, when you use the Radio to get a promotion, and when it asks you "Enter new location?", and you say yes.  So if you want to mess around and then reload, or you do something stupid like get the "Desert Dust" disease too far from a doctor to save yourself, you might find yourself in situation where you're just going to quit the game and never reload it.  There's one nasty section later, where you find can find your entire party infected with a disease, ejected from the map, thus forcing a map change and obviously saving the game, and then placed into the river on the main map, which takes you down river, taking damage at every step.  Since you never regain hitpoints while you're diseased, and the usual method of escaping the river is to fall unconscious from damage and then wake up on the shore...  I'm guessing that was probably one part which forced countless ragequits, since it's a fair way in, and who wants to restart the game at that point?

With that out of the way, let's look at our next destination.  Quartz is ordinarily a boring little town which has little going for it besides it's comparatively friendly community.  However, recently that has changed with some new residents in town.

Let's gather a bit more information at Scott's Bar, where we gave that delightful little meal of a Visa card to our friend Head Crusher.  Wandering around doesn't yield a great deal of information, but we do manage to overhear one little bit of gossip.

"mayor and other hostages held by the gang."
So, gang problems, eh?  Hardly surprising that such a poorly defended town has fallen prey to some unpleasant types.  But that doesn't mean that they deserve their lot.  We should try to help.  Over by the jukebox, we run into some friendly types listening to some high quality music.

Reach for the sky!
Bizarrely, one of the idiots had a tattoo of some information: "GEN QUART THANA TOES".  Helpfully, we recieve a flash of insight that the general headquarters must use the password "Thanatos".  Apparently we're facing a gang who loves rocking out to hair metal while reading the Greek classics.

Elsewhere in the bar, we see various things, such as a barmaid who wanders around serving people, apparently named Ellen, and find various writings, including a strange one, "URABUTLN", and a strange old man who likes asking riddles and taking free drinks.

Same to you, buddy!
Aha!  Now the weird message makes sense.  You are a beauty, Ellen!

Or harder, depending on how you feel about sexual harassment lawsuits.
Yeah, you bet I do!  Uh, what was I supposed to do again?
On entering the hotel room we find, not Ellen wearing nothing but a smile, but her daughter Laurie.

What we're supposed to do is tell Laurie all about how we picked up her mother.
After being told of the exchange between Ellen and ourselves, Laurie gives us a big pile of saleable weapons, and tells us a few details of the gang.  Apparently, they are camped out in the Courthouse with the mayor and the other captives.  The password they use is "Muerte", an update of the "Thanatos" password used previously.

Why we're being considered as trustworthy figures just because we have the ability to flirt with some barmaid, I'm not sure.  But in this particular case, they're lucky and haven't managed to give the entire resistance (consisting of two or three people) away to the gang's leadership.

Next time, we'll tackle the Courthouse, and find out just who is behind all this naughty, Greek classic inspired behaviour.  For now, antio!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Wasteland: The Burial of the Dead

Last time, I promised to speak of the issue with violence in Wasteland.  First, though, I'll show a mistake that can be made while doing the visa card quest, which will serve as a demonstration for later.

If you approach the wrong tent and tell them "caterpillar", and this is really easy to do since they're not labelled, something interesting happens.

We've seen what happens if we tell it to the Atchisons, so let's try the others.  First the Santa Fe clan:

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
No feedback besides that, and you can't enter the tent regardless of how many times you say it.  So next is the Topekans.

Has it begun to sprout?
When you do so, you're placed in the centre of the tent as so:

Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed it's bed?
It gets worse:

A woman drew her long black hair out tight

And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled and beat their wings
After a day of killing women, children, and even a baby, who wants some loot?  Maybe even some tea and crumpets?  Yes, you read correctly, I just butchered a tent full of men, women and children.  Not pictured were also the clan elders, presumably elderly men.  Yes, they did attack first, and the baby was firing a pistol at me (try saying that in a court of law), but it's still a bit sickening.

I've also prepared another example of this in Highpool.  You might recall that I mentioned that most of the actions you can take there involve destroying people's lives.  So, we head into Highpool, and discover from a young boy, Bobby, that his dog got "sick", and he hid it in a cave to keep it safe.

Let's check that out, I'm sure it can't end in tragedy.  We're down in the cave now, when suddenly...

My friend, blood shaking my heart
The poor doggy, having been infected with rabies jumps out.  It needs to be put down, no argument from me.  However, on returning to the surface:

The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
No repercussions for this one.  This is another fight started by the NPC, and since he has no ranged weapons and won't move around the battlefield, he can easily be run past.  So it's not actually a completely bad situation, if you think the dog needs to be put down, and you don't mind simply breaking poor Bobby's heart and having a bit of inconvenience whenever you want to use the cheap doctor in town.

Another thing that can be done in Highpool is to wander around on the slippery rocks in the creek.  Do it enough, and sooner or later you'll fall over, prompting laughter from the children in town.  Doesn't that just make your blood boil?  So teach them a lesson!

By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Oddly, the children disappear when butchered.  There are around four sets of children who laugh at you, and when you kill the last one, another child appears.

Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Killing this one causes a strange figure to appear: The Red Ryder!  Now, I'm a bit young to remember this one, and I've never seen A Christmas Story.  He's armed with the Red Ryder BB Gun with the compass in the stock, but that's not enough to stop me.

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
However, killing the Red Ryder has a drastic effect on Highpool itself.

In our empty rooms
The buildings become inaccessible, removing the cheapest doctor in the game.  Still, it's really not much of a penalty, and if you can stand to do it, you get some great flavour text in return.  I'm guessing this is one of those "He was dead all along!" twists, and Highpool was actually lost in the war, along with the children.  Though, one of the kids is described as a mutant, so perhaps not.  Still, it's my favourite theory.

Now, I read something interesting a few years back which I've been unable to find again.  It was one of the lead guys who worked on the game writing in to a site which detailed all the atrocities varied players had committed in the game.  He was shocked, and said something like "I thought Rangers were supposed to be the good guys!"

Now, I'm certainly not criticising for the content of the game in the slightest.  I always try to do the right thing in games, though this one does force a bit of petty theft to some degree.  So this is the first time in many, many years that I've seen this side of the game, despite playing it at least once every couple of years.  However, you have to realise that if you allow the players to commit atrocities, and even reward them with loot, experience, and interesting flavour text, naturally most of them are going to want to do these things.

I have no problem with games that allow sociopathic actions, and I have no problem with gamers who want to do these things in the game, even though it doesn't appeal to me, as long as that's where it stays.  Of course, it does, because games don't make psychopaths, genes and upbringing do.  But it seems to be a bit disingenuous to allow terrible things with little or no consequence, and then throw your hands up in shock when people go Lord of the Flies.

Of course, the fellow may have been tongue in cheek when he said it.  In which case, carry on Mr. Game Designer.  Though I know I don't have many readers, it'd be great to hear what people think about this topic.  So if you're going to comment on any post, make it this one.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wasteland: On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe

This time, I decided to head to the Rail Nomads and see what they were about.  It seems that three clans, the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe clans had found an ancient train and travelled about the rail system, pulled by oxen.  When they came to a place they liked, they would set up their great tents for a time.  Immediately on entering the camp, we were accosted by a man calling himself the Brakeman.  Paragraphs, as always, here.

Do you hear that whistle down the line?
I figure that it's engine number forty-nine.
She's the only one that'll sound that way.
Although I had decided to accept the job, something was a little off, so I decided to ask around a little about the clans and the brakeman.  I met the Engineer, a friendly and seemingly trustworthy man, if a little closed-minded.  He mentioned his distrust of both the Brakeman and the Topekans.  Apparently, the Brakeman would frequently dabble in arcane matters, even daring to suggest that the nomads pull their train via an engine, rather than the correct and traditional method of oxen, which would surely bring down the wrath of the gods.

On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

There was also a hobo oracle, who would offer prophecy when given alcohol to drink.  I'm sceptical, but if nothing else, it'll make the poor man happy for a few hours.  Having no alternative if I wanted to find out more, I headed to Quartz.  Entering Scott's Bar, I was greeted by the liveliest sight I had seen in the Wasteland.  The Ranger Centre came alive only during training and drills, Rockpool was peaceful, the Agricultural Centre too concerned with it's problems, and most of the nomads stayed inside their guarded tents.

Not wishing to be distracted just yet, I headed straight for the man who was most likely to be the Head Crusher.  The Head Crusher had little to say, simply sending me back to the Nomads to presumably receive my rewards.

I checked at what appeared to be the Atchison tent, and gave them my password.  The guard had little to say, simply giving me a shovel, telling me to stand on a certain point on the railroad, and walk south a certain number of steps.  I followed the instructions, and found I was expected.

After digging up the reward, which consisted of various expensive items worth selling, some thugs jumped out of hiding, forcing me to split them open with my trusty "ax".  And that was it.  What was the point of all this, I wonder?   I remember hearing somewhere that the Head Crusher eats Visa Cards, which may or may not be true.  But even if it is, why didn't he pay me himself?  Why did the conspirators try to kill me when I went to claim my reward?

Stay tuned, when next time the conspiracy becomes even darker, and we look at a few issues with violence in Wasteland.

Wasteland: Our first good deed

Food is becoming scarce in the Wasteland.  Sure, most of the inhabitants probably have small plots of land they can grow a few stunted ears of wheat for bread, or maybe a patch of grass for their sickly mutated cows.  But there is only one place in the local area that actually grows a decent amount of food, and they seem to be struggling to feed themselves, let alone the rest of the Wastes.  Let's see what we can do about that.

First, a little explanation of this area.  The Agricultural Centre seems to have been a pre-war combination of agricultural station, perhaps an agricultural research station, and a satellite facility.  Not surprisingly, the satellite dish and facility are no longer used, while the Agricultural Centre itself appears to have become a means of survival for the farmers as well as those they trade with.

Lately, however, the normally annoying rodents which plague the centre have been downright dangerous.  Huge mutant bunnies have been eating the gigantic carrots which the centre grows.  There is even talk of a Bunny Master responsible for directing the attacks of the bunnies.

We'll do a little sightseeing before we tackle the problem, though.

The 80 year old dish, still in perfect condition.  They don't make them like they used to.
The food itself is equally impressive.  Here we can see a few examples of the crops grown by the famers here.

Now that we've seen the horrors necessary for survival that are at stake here, it's time to get to work.  Somewhere around here, there has to be someone or something responsible for all this.  Ah, here we are.

Which, naturally enough, leads to:

Though you can't see it here, Harry is an extremely tough fight around the time you'd normally run into him.
The farmers are ecstatic, of course, leading to celebrations, and my rather unorthodox reward.

"rescued their major food supply."

 Here is a good example of the humour found in Wasteland.  It mainly revolves around situations where you would be taking the situation very seriously if you actually experienced it yourself, but standing outside as an observer, you can't help but be amused.

Wanna root?
Down in the cellar, we discover that it is actually the ransacked and badly damaged remains of the satellite facility below the Agricultural Centre.  There are a few nice little examples of vendor trash, i.e. useless but expensive, and if the Perception skill is used on the computer equipment, a pre-war diary!

Paragraphs can be found here.
Elsewhere in the Centre, down in the southwest corner from what appears to be a normal map exit, is a series of caves infested by more vermin.  There is little of interest here, besides more items good for selling, and more high experience fights.  If you can handle Harry, though, these fights shouldn't prove too difficult for you.

Love the colour scheme.
And that's all for the Agricultural Centre.  I've finally reached the point where my playing hasn't outrun my writing, so I haven't decided where I'll tackle next.  I've realised at this point that I do slightly regret jumping ahead slightly to get superior equipment.  It would be entirely possible to get the best melee weapon in the game at this point, but thankfully I don't feel that I'm struggling enough to do that yet.  All the same, none of the fights I've been involved in so far have actually been challenging.  Around the point that I enter Las Vegas, though, I'm going to start suffering again from being a solo character.  So it's not all bad.  Or is that good?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Wasteland: Metagame shame in the Waste

Before I forget, it seems that Wasteland 2 is apparently going to be made at last.  I assume, despite what Faran Brygo would have us believe, it's not going to run on IBM-AT.  They're taking donations via Kickstarter, so if you're the betting kind and have disposable cash, you could always be generous for some kind of mention in the game.  It's mostly over, of course, but still worth a look if that's your thing.

On to the original again.  So one thing I've remembered about soloing party-designed games, since I haven't done it in a long time, is just how hard it can be.  In the long run, I find I'm usually more powerful than a party could ever be.  However, since I'm of pretty mediocre skill, and only really succeed due to sheer bloody-mindedness, I tend to struggle in the early game.  So what ends up happening is that I tend to attack the game at various angles, desperately trying to find some way "in", until I finally find an area or means of attack that is effective.  Of course, once that happens, it is probably going to be smooth sailing from there.

So it was the case here, as well.  Since setting out, I entered the peaceful and tranquil setting of Highpool.  Before the war, it was a camp for school kids.  After the war, it's become probably the only lovely place in the Wasteland, with it's pool, small creek and lush surroundings.  Perhaps the only downside to the place are all the damn kids.

There are not many in the wasteland who can claim to have seen moss.

Sure, kids are nice, as long as they stay off your damned lawn.  But there's just something creepy about these damned kids.  It's almost like someone, or something is watching over them.  They're too brazen for helpless brats who should know better than to laugh at someone carrying a big axe.

Notice the icon of the children standing on the grass there: any time you see that, it means you can enter combat with them.
Alas, I was too weak on entering Highpool to deal with any of the issues there, and most of them revolve around destroying somebody's life in any event.  There is a nice little stash to be found in the pump room, under the bed.  Interesting thing here: if your lead character possesses the Perception skill, you'll find one stash, including your first piece of armour.  If not, you'll find a different, inferior stash, whose contents I can't recall.  The pump itself requires fixing, but I lack the equipment to deal with this now.  I'll discuss Highpool further, when I return to fix the pump.

In the meantime, I wandered out, looking for an angle to improve my combat abilities.  One more than one occasion, I was faced with the all too familiar screen:

Nicely animated in the game, with ants, spiders and grubs making their homes in my skull.
Sooner or later, though, I managed to secure enough funding through petty theft to afford an "ax", and a bullet proof shirt.  Normally in games, I try not to resort to thieving, but in this case, you don't get any cash or items from random encounters, and defeating enough set encounters to equip yourself early in the game usually is too difficult unless you've already stolen a bunch of things from people.

After that, I resorted to some meta-gaming, heading up to Darwin Village, where the Black Market admits anyone who knows the password of "Cretian" (is that supposed to be a hybrid of Cretin or Cretan?), where I purchased a Kevlar suit.  This will be my armour for quite some time to come.  For the time being, the game has become far too easy, and I'm not sure I'm happy about that.  However, I have to admit to myself that, given my rather meagre spare time, I'd probably be too frustrated if I attempted to stick to the Bullet proof shirt.  So for my own sanity and will to continue, I'll just have to deal with the minor annoyance of this.

Also, I've managed a few promotions.  I forgot to screenshot the first of these proud moments, but you can see here my CO back at base, dutifully saluting me over the radio as I recieve my second promotion to Specialist.

I can't even see you, just pretend you're saluting, ok?
 If you're curious as to what sort of rank structure the Desert Rangers use, you can find it here.  I don't know much about the military, but even I find that odd.  In the game, your actual level and experience are hidden from you, so you only know your rank.  Furthermore, the ranks and levels are never documented in the game or it's manuals, so without the internet, you'd never know just how it works.

That's enough for now.  Now that the metagaming is done, I'll be able to move on to the actual contents of the game next time, including how the residents of the wastes feed themselves, and just how horrifying that is.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Title Screen/Intro

After looking at a few other blogs dealing with DOSBox, I've seen that they seem to post pictures that are only 320x200 which what DOSBox takes it's screenshots at, and they look fine.  So I'll see how I go here.

So, let's get going with our first game.

First, some basic backstory.  In 1998, a satellite is placed into orbit by the US.  The Soviets accuse the US of placing a weapons platform into orbit, forcing NATO, Western Europe, and South American puppet governments to side with the US.  In response, most other neutral countries side with the Soviets.  Shortly before becoming operational, the station sends a distress signal, and most other satellites are mysteriously destroyed.  In a panic, both sides launch their nukes, turning most of the world into a radioactive junk pile.

Meanwhile, after seeing the world around them destroyed, a unit of US Army Engineers invade an isolated high-security prison, forcing the inmates out into the desert.  The descendants of these Engineers become the Desert Rangers, while the inmates either die or turn to raiding to survive.  Several towns, including Las Vegas survive, but are no longer the same cities and towns we love.

One of the first things you'll notice about Wasteland when you start the game and go to create your own characters is that it works from a classless system, which I suspect was unusual for the time.  There is no "Soldier" or "Engineer" classes, only a large number of skills and stats which will turn you into something along these lines if you select them carefully.

For my game, since I've played Wasteland more times than I can remember, I've chosen to go with a solo character.  This isn't ideal if you're new to the game, since the early game will be extremely difficult.  However, it does have some advantages.  Firstly, it is an extremely cheap way to play in terms of in-game finances.  You only have to buy one set of equipment.  Secondly, you don't need to decide what to do with rare equipment, especially in one or two cases where there are only one or two pieces of a particular type in the entire game.  Finally, once you get rolling, I suspect that your single character will be much more powerful than a group would be, since you're recieving all of the experience, and all of the skill checks, which have the possibility of actually raising the skill by one point on occasions where the check is successful.

Meet Nadezhda, the Russian Desert Ranger.
So much for the clumsy, heavily-laboured plot.  We move now to the clumsy, heavily-laboured hero.

What "Russian" means after living in North America for several generations amongst the descendants of US citizens, I couldn't tell you.  I suppose that Ranger Centre has a number of ethnic and cultural cliques who somehow manage to get along well.  Nationality can include US, Russian, Indian, Mexican and Chinese.  By Indian, I suspect they mean Native American, since the one Indian NPC in the game is called "Redhawk".

Nadija's stats aren't ideal, but they're decent, and most importantly, they add up to an even number, which is important, at least when you have number OCD.  As for skills, I'll be taking all of the general skills, everything relating to melee, and one or two firearms.  I won't actually be using firearms, but I'll have so many skill points that I can pretty much take as many as I want, up to the limit of 30 skills.  If you want to see the skills available to a character, you can find them in the manual here.  Probably half of them are functionally useless, since in the one or two instances you can actually use them, a stat or more useful skill can be substituted.

In my case, I'm taking all of these useless skills because I'm going to be using melee exclusively.  The reason for this is that killing an opponent nets you double experience points.  The downside is obviously that you need to close to melee range, which can be difficult against a powerful opponent who is using firearms.  Also, while a melee opponent will leave combat if it flees and you're more than one square away and not wielding firearms, a ranged opponent sometimes needs to be chased across the entire map or backed into a corner before you can finally deliver the final blow.

So, there we have the basics of Wasteland and what I'll be doing with my game.  Next time, we'll look at what the gameplay is actually like, as well as one or two of the locations in the game.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A beginning

Inspired by a few other blogs that I read that cover various games, I've decided to start my own blog.  I'm not expecting to really get many subscribers, for a few reasons.  Firstly, my writing style is pretty dry and probably dull.  I also won't be moving very fast, due to real life commitments.  And since this will just be covering games that I'm playing, with no regard for release time, genre, or anything else, it probably lacks the focus that people want from their game blogs.

The main reason I'm doing this, though, is for a nice little distraction from the hectic pace of life.  I find myself getting bored with games because I'm always getting dragged away to do something else; I'm hoping that by doing this, it will give me some focus, and give me a project that doesn't involve work or family that I can come back to whenever I need to feel productive without actually doing something truly useful.  It also gives me a chance to practise my gaming, writing, and analysis.

All that said, the thought of having readers and commenters does appeal to me; I suppose it's that vain little part of myself that I imagine most people have.  Who doesn't want someone to listen to their opinions?  I can't say that I'll be particularly heartbroken if I don't get any, though.  As I said, this is mainly for my own purposes.

Once I can get a couple of issues sorted out, mainly to do with DOSBox and screenshots, I'll get started on my first game!  If anyone reads this and can suggest the best way to get screenshots for posting on here, I'm all ears.  I know how to get screenshots in DOSBox (I'm using D-Fend Reloaded), but they're low-resolution, and not very attractive.

Also, if anyone has suggestions for the blog in general, I'm happy to consider them, whether it's games to consider playing, layout, or anything else.  I'll generally be playing older games, or those requiring low specifications, but I'll consider anything if I can get hold of it and it appeals to me.  I'm sure we'll get a feel for each other's tastes soon enough.