Fallout 76 on trajectory to be free to play by Christmas?

$34.99 on Amazon

Well I’ve been able to put a few hours into the game, and I can already say that finding people is super scarce, and when you do basically they are too busy doing quests and stuff at such a higher level they basically avoid someone like me at level 5.  With no NPC’s or real ‘vibe’ to the world other than isolation and loneliness people then tend to be, well isolated.

I never really played WoW that much, I found it was drowning in too many people that you couldn’t get 5 minutes alone without people bugging you.  And oddly enough the absolute isolation is unreal.

Looking that we are going to start the second week of retail release now, and the game is discounted from $60 to $35 at the moment doesn’t bode well at all.  The reviews came in over the weekend, and it was universally panned as an ‘avoid’ which means death for something that relies on the multiplayer part.

Really?

And then people are pointing out that not only does 76 re-use all the assets from Fallout 4 (which really doesn’t bug me that much) but that Fallout really is a twist on Oblivion

I found this tidbit on ‘It’s a Gundam

Although I did try to do this with NV onto Oblivion and really had no luck, but re-purposing engines to do different things isn’t all that un heard of.  There is that DooM mod where you can mow the lawn, or even add in the QuakeWorld multiplayer after all.

One thing is for sure, Fallout 76 is in major trouble.  I’ve read all too many times that after 40-60 hours that there is basically nothing left to do, and people that are enjoying it are leaving as they are ‘done’ which again does not bode well for an online game.

If Bethesda isn’t in crisis mode trying to make ’76 more WoW like, then they will have burnt through a lot of community good will, as they slide into Oblivion.  While so many people are decrying the engine, I think the real faults lie in the lack of engagement, which then lets people stare at the assets and then the whole dated look of Fallout 4 really becomes apparent.

Looking back, Fallout 3 was a break out game, and I thought it was an excellent transformation of the isometric world to an engaging 3d game.  The story was… well, not the best, I accidentally stumbled onto ‘dad’ pretty quickly and ended it far too early which initially made it feel cheap and boring, not until I saw the strategy guide, and was amazed that there was so much in there, so I set about exploring and finding more enjoyment in the environment, lore and interactions.

New Vegas had so much in common, both development team wise, and atmosphere from the original Fallout it was an incredible follow up to Fallout 3, however too many people were too critical of the tech & timeline that they had been given and focused on defects that were frankly out of Obsidian’s hands.  It’s a shame that the best one had the worst reviews, and destroyed the people making it.

Fallout 4 returned to the 3 story, expect it was the parent seeking their child, and the twist that their child was now elderly really wasn’t all that surprising at all.  Cutting down NPC interaction was a major problem, as it felt so much on rails.  There was nothing to really do to step outside of yes/no trees with groups, you couldn’t ‘sort of side’ with someone, or disagree.. And then there was the minutemen and their constant nagging that was the worst.  Even cheating and putting 100 turrets into a settlement did nothing to save it, I saw the super mutants fall from the sky in the middle and proceed to attack.  What good is perimeter defenses when your opponents are apparently airborne?

I was so bored by Fallout 4, I can’t even remember if I finished the story.  It really wasn’t all that engaging.

And now we enter ’76 which again I knew was going to be strange with no NPC’s which meant no connection with the world at all.  But as I’d mentioned that the number of people playing this online is going to sharply crash that if you wanted to experience this aspect you better be quick.  And after more game play, I can safely say it doesn’t matter.

It’s now $35, and this won’t save it.  I expect more $5 discounts per week, if not steeper, then before the holidays some kind of rebalance to encourage micro transactions, and ’76 becoming a Freemium game, with it eventually being shuttered some time mid ’19 unless something amazing happens content wise between here & there.

They never should have launched @ $60 that’s for sure, and looking at the assets this really ought to have been a DLC / addon for Fallout 4 for perhaps $10-20 and I doubt itd have had anywhere near the massive backlash.

The real shame is that once the servers go dark that this will be the end.  I don’t think Bethesda ‘gets’ that the ability to self host is why Minecraft/Quake etc were so incredibly popular in their heyday.  And more importantly why that they will be continued to be played for years (decades) to come.

Fallout 76

Downloading…

I’m torn on this one.  Unless you have been living in a cave, you’d have heard that the launch of Fallout 76 has been…. well a spectacular disaster.

Launching at a full AAA price of $60 to what is apparently an empty world didn’t help things at all.

That said, I’ve liked Fallout for a long while, and yes I really did like the Bethesda treatment for Fallout 3.  And then we got New Vegas which was nothing short of amazing.  Sadly Obsidian, the team behind New Vegas that comprised many of the original Fallout team were punished in reviews with faults based on the aging gamebryo engine that Bethesda loves so much.  Which is sad as their bonus payment & future were tied to the metacritic score, which Bethesda tied a rock around their neck.

Fallout 4 was disappointing as it removed so much of the RPG elements, making the game boring, as it just lacked depth.  Which really is an unfortunate direction.  And the overall story/twist was so utterly predictable it was disappointing that you as the player were not expected to ‘get it’ right away.

And now here we are, Fallout 76, where they decided to remove all the NPC’s all together.  Which leads me to the following problem.

Fallout 76 is going to crash and burn, and as soon as the ‘next big thing’ launches nobody is going to play it.  So this is basically my only opportunity to play it with other people online.  The full price was certainly too much, and with the incredibly poor reception its had over the last week, it is already reduced in price by 33%.

Fallout 76 on the Bethesda store

Obviously this doesn’t bode well for the future of the game, but out of morbid curiosity I’m going to give it a try.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be full of disappointment and failure.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone to really try it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in another week the price was further reduced to $30 USD, with some time before Christmas for a further reduction to $20.  But by then will there be anyone left to play the game with?

The size of the game is overwhelming, I’m currently living in a small village in Hong Kong (yes it’s not all big city) the only internet options were 6MB DSL, or a 4G cellphone connection.  The 4G is much faster, however the WiFi bridge adapter I have is only 802.11a compatible so that is why I’m getting such a poor download speed.  It’s been downloading all night, and I’m too impatient to not at least write down my thoughts at the moment.

I should probably just break down, get a capture card, some tripods and lights and just make crappy YouTube videos.  I’ve been looking at numbers and I’m almost thinking that videos get further reach.  Not that I care too much, otherwise Id have done it ages ago, although it’s probably just me being lazy as video work is a lot of work, while quickly banging this out on a keyboard only takes a few minutes.  And I’ll have to get graphics, license music and use something to make snazy effects and stuff. Ugh sounds suspiciously like a lot of hard work.

After about 12 hours to download my junky machine would just launch Fallout 76 to a blank screen and then exit with no error code, or hint of a message.  Apparently going onto the forums it turns out that the ancient video card with 512MB of graphics RAM is just not enough, and Fallout 76 requires 2GB of video memory.  Unlike prior versions of Fallout, there is no pre-game tuning, instead you are thrown into the game with whatever settings are pre-defined.

I for one am not too amused with the black screen, and sudden close with not even a hint to the user. But the whole thing is apparently a rush job, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

I copied the downloaded game to a better machine via USB drive, and for most of the day I had this fun error:

NoRegionPing

The “No Region Ping” which either means that there are no servers up, or perhaps a firewall issue.  I later found out that UPnP was disabled on the Huawei E5785 which may have also been the source of issues (although turning it on, and immediately rebooting didn’t change a thing so I don’t know for certain).

After a bit of fighting and I finally got the game to launch using my ‘pro’ laptop that has a GPU.

I have to say that the engine does look a lot better than the Fallout 4 one, especially going outside into the forest.  Maybe it’s the vibrant colours, a nice change from the bleak/dreary games of old.

The texture pop is quite noticeable, it feels like borderlands type flat shading style until it pops the correct texture.  I’m playing from SSD which I had thought would help alleviate such issues, but seeing it made no difference, I just moved it to the disk instead.

Combat is atrocious.  Stepping outside of the vault you encounter these small robots, the “liberator MK 0” that are almost impossible to hit.  When combat isn’t happening I can swing my fists of rage around like no tomorrow.  Once I encounter the robots I’m lucky to get a single swing for every 50+ mouse clicks.  The enemies move so fast that running away isn’t an option either.  I had better luck on herding one group of robots to fight another group of ticks, once I had tried to venture out a little further.

And speaking of opponents it seems that they just spawn on top of you.  I made it to some lighthouse to have 3 feral ghouls spawn in front of me, mauling me in seconds.  Not that clicking the mouse button to attack frantically would have done anything.

The game world does feel incredibly vast, and also seemingly incredibly lonely as well.  After going through the online menu there was only 3 other people on the server I’m on.  It’s probably all ready far too late to run into users, as I think the downfall of Fallout 76 is pretty much complete.

So yeah after an hour playing the game feels incredibly lonely and isolated.  But I have to admit, that after a nuclear war I’d imagine things would be lonely and isolated.  I think the part where Bethesda has really made a critical error is that the NPC’s that they put so much love into the past gave people an emotional attachment to the game, and that the prior fallouts, and all the endless elder scrolls are teeming with life.  And ’76 instead presents a vast wasteland.  Maybe it’s just too true to the source material.

SimLife for Windows

Sim Life on Crossover for OS X

Continuing in my eventual goal to get all the Maxis games (Sim City, Sim Earth) for Windows 3.0 I just acquired Sim Life.

Although the box that I have is the ‘Classics’ version, it actually does support Windows 3.0 as specified on the box.  The requirements were again massive for the era, but pitiful for today requiring an 80386 processor, and 4MB of RAM, and a VGA display!

Unlike Sim City, the UI in Sim Life prevents you from moving MID child windows under the title bar, making playing on modern machines much more tolerable.  My copy arrived with 3 low density 3 1/2″ diskettes, and a 204 page manual, making for a very hefty learning curve, along with a more involved experience then something casual, say Spore.

There is no doubt about how there is a great deal of overlap between Sim Earth and Sim Life, although the timescale is certainly more geared to life, unlike Sim Earth’s geological timescale, and even with these 3 programs it certainly feels like the save files should have been able to be transfered at some point, that the genesis of Spore is here with moving from geological to biological then to human lifetime scales.  Although with so many things to change and get involved in, I really have to wonder if dumbing down Spore was the ‘right thing’ to do, to make it more accessible, however there is no doubt that the space portion of Spore was terrible with only a single ship to command, which made growing an empire of any size once the Grox has been encountered impossible.

Having a modern display does make the sense of the planet feel laughably small, but it’s a game, not a real life simulation, and as such expected to execute on 16Mhz machines.  That said running on Crossover (Wine) on my Xeon it is incredibly snappy.  One nice touch is that Sim Life is able to detect sound properly and it’ll run silently on Windows 3.0, but with 3.1 with configured audio & MIDI drivers, it’ll play (annoying) sounds, and the occasional MIDI track.

The included catalogue for this game didn’t have any prices so I don’t know what the retail price was at the time.  And I have to admit, short of collecting old games for Windows 3.0 there is probably little value here compared to the far more relatable Sim City for Windows.

VGA display

Also it just goes to say that although it scales nicer for the UI on a VGA display, comparing my Apple Cinema display to VGA really makes for a claustrophobic experience.

Unless you are a diehard fan, I’d say that you’d get more out of the much flawed spore.  Although if you want to see how incredibly more detailed the older games were, you’ll certainly love this one!

So I picked up a couple Super Impulse Tiny Arcade machines

Warm glow of the LCD panel.

What is this, an arcade for ants?

I saw these at a local Toys R Us, and picked a few up.  They were selling for $200 HKD which is about $25 USD.  They are SUPER tiny, and yet very cool to actually play with.  They feature a single game on each cab, and luckily there is no coin slot, just a player 1 button.   As a bonus the marque does light up, which is why I wanted to do a dark/night picture of the machine.

The games have been modified for what I’d assume is an ARM SOC, and game play is somewhat easier.  For anyone looking for the exact arcade expedience, they will be no doubt disappointed as many things like sprite animations are simply lacking in this version.

That said the controls are surprisingly very responsive, and it’s almost a treat to play, except of course that the screen is so incredibly small, the sound is faint, and it’s not hard to have your thumb in the way obscuring things.

It’s a neat novelty item, but it’s no substitute for a nice USB arcade stick & a copy of MAME, or the actual PCB & a JAMMA harness.

Open Quartz

While stumbling around, I found Open Quartz, which is to Quake as FreeDooM is to DooM, or for those who don’t know it is free assets allowing a fully redistributed game.  Although the bundled levels are actually kind of reminiscent of Q3 Arena, one of the great abilities of Quake 1 was inline total game conversions like Team Fortress.  Yes it started as a Quake mod.

So I downloaded the Open Quartz binary pak’s and went to do a quick comparison of the two:

ctf with oq assets

ctf with id assets

I should do an update for QWDOS to allow multiple clients at once for OS’s that’ll support multitasking (Windows) where you can bind the client to different ports to allow more than one to work at a time.  The line is:

NET_Init (PORT_CLIENT);

Although I guess the next best thing is to change the NET_Init code to start with the default port as a base, and if it can’t bind to it, then just increment until you get a winner.

And yes, that is the Quake World for MS-DOS port running on Windows.  I built it with Visual C++ 5.0, although using a newer linker that I pulled from masm32.com, which would work with the newer libs, well all except the ogg vorbis stuff, so I just disabled it, as I just wanted to test, and didn’t care too much about music.

So I guess the next thing to do is bundle it all together into something more convenient to the end user.

Jet Set Radio Future now at 60fps on CXBX Reloaded

JSRF title

The laptop I’m using at the moment is old, Alienware 14 P39G that is 5 years old.  The power is convinced that it can’t run over 700Mhz unless it’s on battery for some reason, then it’ll jump to 2.3Ghz just fine.  Oh well It’s otherwise not bad, just getting old.

Alienware 14 P39G

Also it’s only using the Intel GPU.  I think I need to do a fresh install of the 2018 version of Windows 10 on this thing.

Anyways so CXBX Reloaded can run many xbe’s directly so you don’t need a ROM or dashboard, but it’ll run the dashboard if you have it.  It’s really cool though as JSRF did come to Android but it won’t run on any modern versions of Android.  As far as I know it never came to PC, but being able to run the X Box version is certainly cool.

Sourcecode & nightly binary builds are currently on github:

https://github.com/Cxbx-Reloaded/Cxbx-Reloaded/

I was able to find Jet Set Radio Future (JPN Demo).7z, which I think is a playable demo, although I don’t have any controllers to test it.  But it certainly loads up just fine!

Also here is a very poorly captured video of JSRF on CXBX, You can see the laptop struggle on the main power, then able to run at 60fps on battery power…

BattleTech musings

Now that I have awesome animated GIF technology I can show off one of the greatest things to do in the 1988 BattleTech game, escaping the initial Kurita invasion with a battle mech.  While you can try to beat the 3-4 Jenners, and maybe win, it’s far far far easier to just make a dash for it.

So basically all you have to do is run south, then head west, don’t engage, just jump over rough terrain, and run!  Once outside the wall, you can flee.
Meanwhile back in 2018, people are crying that the new BattleTech is some how stacked, and the AI just cheats.  But the mechanics are pretty darned close to the real table top game, except that if you have been pushed down, you can not only get up on your next turn, but run around and fire.  Grrr…  The story in 2018 is just as laughably bad as it was in 1988, but honestly I didn’t come here for Shakespear, I wanted to see giant robots fight!  I know for many the idea of the table top game is … well outside of what people know, and the idea that you are standing in front of something with a 98% chance to hit, and you not only miss, but manage to explode while doing so is just a slice of life that is the hell that is table top gaming.

And for those who think the new game is rather ‘un-fair’, Just after I stole the Chameleon, guess what happened?

That’s right, a Locust of all things got off a lucky shot to my weak back, and destroyed my mech, and the next shot with a machine gun, killed me as I tried to flee.  How is that for fair?

BattleTech has always been like this.

So yeah, Kids need to GTFO my lawn.

So the source code to the Macintosh port of System Shock was just released

It’s the ‘classic’ MacOS. And it requires Code Warrior 10 to build. Apparently its for the PowerPC only, although I haven’t tried to compile it yet, as I foolishly just upgraded to 10.5 on my PowerPC, which of course has no classic support.

Source code is on github, here.

It’s a nice present from Night Dive studios.  I know that many people are mad at their reboot being consumed by feature bloat, but at least they aren’t going down into obscurity.

As always, enjoy!

Links 386 Pro

Out on the course

Links 386 is one of those programs that is very easy to love to hate.  It was 1992, and PC’s were mostly being used for business, and high powered 32-bit machines were still insanely expensive.  And then Links 386 happened.  Before there was DooM, Links 386 was the ‘must have’ executive ball clacking device.  And the specs that you needed to run this game were really over the top.  At it’s heart was the Phar Lap 386 Dos extender, along with the virtual memory module.. Which most people would have to rely on.  Links 386 really needs over 8MB of RAM to run.  Yes, that is correct, in 1992 you were recommended to get 8MB (which should have been about $400-800 USD) So you can golf at your desk.  But as the name implies you also needed a 386 classed computer, although ideally you would have one of those new 486’s!  Links 386 also pushed the edge by wanting a VESA capable SVGA card that could use mode 101, 103, or 105.  Although the higher resolutions modes just ended up with logos everywhere, it really didn’t take enough advantage of the higher resolution modes.

Another interesting thing is not only does Links 386 have sound drivers (which means you need a sound card!) but it’ll do voice through the AdLib card.  Also it has a driver model, the WLZ, which I don’t know if they ever published or if people wrote additional sound drivers.

Links 386 installer

The installer is kind of cute, in that it’s flat shading is so old it’s now modern.  How’s that for crazy?

Installation is a snap, at only four diskettes.  They sold additional courses, and I only have one additional course, although oddly enough finding others online is pretty trivial.  However I had far less luck finding the program.  One nice tip to Infocom is that the courses include a score card, like the ones you would get on actual courses.  It really tied the package together.

Don’t copy that floppy!

Although for me, I really bought it for the manual.

Pebble Beach

And I have to admit it, Access Software did a great job.  Even all these years later, it looks great.  But no doubt scaling and placing all the textures is SLOW.  Incredibly slow.

Back in the 90’s I had a lowly support job, and I’d get flown all over the country to help out with issues, and it’d never fail that the regional director would have ‘issues at home’ and amazingly they’d always ask about running Links 386 Pro.  No doubt a lot of people upgraded machines, and got to brag to their buddies on how fast Links would now load.  Running at actual 386 speeds will take nearly a minute to render the screen between shots.

The DOS Extender was forever very touchy.  It took a bit of work to get around it’s issues, with the continuous conflicts with TSR’s, drivers, sound cards, video cards.. It was a nightmare of compatibility issues.  Not to mention that although Phar Lap 4.1 was DPMI compatible, it really didn’t play that nice with OS/2 or Windows.  Microsoft would later come to the rescue for this costed gamer market in the form of buying Links away from Access software, and putting out Microsoft Golf.  And much like SimCity, being able to run this under Windows make it immensely popular in the workplace, as all you needed to find were Windows drivers for your hardware, which vendors did actually support, unlike games.

It’s amazing how companies like Phar Lap, or Rational never did try to make an actual gaming platform for their extenders, leaving it all up to individuals.  My older self says that Microsoft’s rise to prominence in the 90’s was mostly due to their competitors incompetence, rather than their brilliance.

Although DOS Extenders like Phar Lap have been around since the introduction of the 80386, Links 386 Pro is the oldest one I know of.  If you like programs that try their best to bend the limits of what you can or should do, certainly check out Links 386 Pro!