Monday, 4 August 2014

Fallout - Part 1

A good while ago I did a thing about Batman, took 3 or 4 posts but I quite liked it, so here we go again. This time Fallout...

War. War never changes. The dulcet tones of Ron Perlman open each of the Fallout game to date, emphasising you are entering a desolate game world. But what about Fallout itself, does Fallout ever change. Well let's start at the very beginning.

Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game (1997) (PC/Mac)

Slightly pointlessly long title. From this point I shall call her Fallout.

9 years prior to the release of Fallout, Interplay had released Wasteland, in which a team of Desert Rangers, the remnant of the US Army, explored a post apocalyptic world, examining what remained of civilisation, including the city of Las Vegas, but more about that much later.

The game was a critical success and was due to spawn 2 sequels, one by Interplay and one by the games publishers Electronic Arts. As time went by the EA effort became it's own standalone title 'Fountain of Dreams' and the Interplay sequel, initially titled 'Meantime' fell by the wayside and was never completed. However, what wasn't completed gave the groundings for an all new franchise to be born, that franchise being... Fallout. Whoo big reveal...

Fallout itself was set in post apocalyptic 2161 version of the west coast of America. The bombs dropped years previously after an escalating war between the US and China primarily over the last of the planets natural resources. Some people survived above, some like you survived in large subterranean fallout shelters known as vaults. you start off snug and tucked up nicely in Vault 13. You get a choice of 3 characters or a create your own option who is then approached by the Vault Overseer as the water system has developed a problem and predictably you're he only the person thinks can fix it.

So after a (decent for the time) bit of cut scene action you're out and making your way to the wasteland. Controlling a character only known as 'The Vault Dweller'. If that's to be mysterious or to save programming in lookups for the name in loads of dialogue I'll let you decide.

The game took a pseudo-isomeric view with mouse clicks guiding the player round the screen, and the camera moved via arrow keys.

Each of the characters available for selection in the game set up has a different approach, you can have a diplomat who will try and talk his way out of situations through to a brute who will strike first and then forget to ask questions later as he's too dense for that.

Fallout graded the character using a system known as S.P.E.C.I.A.L. This system, still in place in the modern titles, determines the 7 basic attributes the character has:

- Strength
- Perception
- Endurance
- Charisma
- Intelligence
- Agility
- Luck

These then determine a set of sub skills, which level up with the character through the distribution of skill points.
A theme through each of the titles is some of the skills could be improved outside of levelling, you can find books in the wasteland which when read put skill levels up.

This way of levelling and character development wasn't unique at the time, in fact the title was due to initially use the table top GURPS system, however this idea was dropped and SPECIAL was developed in house by Chris Taylor, Jessie Heinig and Tim Cain.

Once you're out of the vault one think is certain, at some point you're going to have to fight. Combat could be initiated by the payer or aggressive characters would attack when the player was close enough. You'll start off with rats, but enemies do get bigger and tougher.

Here lays one thing I was never a big fan of (same for Fallout 2), the combat was entirely turn based, something I never got on with. You could launch attacks until you run out of points, then you stood there and took the retaliation and repeat. Dull, dull, dull. I never liked stuff like Final Fantasy for the same reason.

That's the primary reason to this day, I've never finished Fallout, or Fallout 2. I started playing through each game again for this very (series of) post (s) which were going to be for keyboardwarriors.co.uk before turning up here, so I knew what I was talking about, and found I still can't get on with that style of combat.

It's probably me.

Fallout is generally considered to be excellent, and ignoring the combat it's hard to argue with that. The multiple approaches to puzzles, the interactivity of the NPCs you meet all work well and it was a sign of better things to come. Such as:

Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game (1998) (PC/MAC)

Dropping the stupid subtitle like it's hot? If only...

All of the key features from above return, multi solution puzzles, interactivity, Ron Perlman, Turn Based Combat (GAH), excellent story, SPECIAL, character development. Can't go far wrong can you?

This time you play as a descendant of the character from the first game called (for the same reason I assume) 'The Chosen One'. It's now 2241 and the 'Vault Dweller' founded village of Arroyo, Oregon is suffering a drought. The player character is sent forth into the world to find a GECK (Garden of Eden Creation Kit) to end the environmental woes of the village forever. First stop? Vault 13 from the first game, but not much luck there... so the fun begins...

The game essentially plays the same, however some basic changes are made. Currency is more scarce and items cost more, encouraging scavenging. Skill values peak at 300 points not 200 and the higher levels are harder to get too. The items are more varied both by type and variations on a type (3 types of minigun?).

SPECIAL is still present and working better than before, generally everything feels like it's had a bit of a polish and upgrade. Skills can be further upgraded by reading books, although mostly in the early stages as they have a cap of 91%.

Also introduced is Jet, a drug which has got me out of tight spots in 3 and NV! Here it's a new drug sweeping through communities. New factions include the New Californian Republic (bringing people together) and the Enclave (claims to be old government, has very nice kit).

As with the first game references are made to 'pop culture' but here they're a bit more in your face. Reno in particular is OTT. Play it, you'll know the bit I'm on about.

The upgrades are welcome but clearly incremental though, graphics are very similar, sound, general feel hasn't moved on much. But it wasn't broke so they didn't need to fix it. Well maybe the combat.

Still a cracking game if you like turn based combat, worth a go.

Next time, the demise of the isometric-ness!

Headphone Traumas

I like (borderline need) to listen to music much of the time, particularly while working and running. While working it's fine, however when I run the little white (other colour variations are available) lead, bouncing around in front of me, catching on things, generally begin a nuisance, pisses me /off.
I've left it dangling in front of me, annoying. I've fed it up under my shirt (not somewhere anything deserves to go really) and it rubs and the lead then obviously has less length. I've suffered occasions where my pocket is just, ever so slightly, too far away and 20 yards in the lead is yanked out and I have 2 hours of silence and other people breathing.
While running it's also not just da toons that help, but also my phone likes to talk to me and tell me how I'm doing. Not in a freaky beginnings of skynet way, but in a MapMyRun / Nike+ kind of GPS update way. I need this as still, after years of doing this now, have little sense of pace. Without it I'll plod along thinking everything is easy and the worlds great, then realise I'm slow, panic and kill myself trying to catch up. It doesn't end well.
So, I decided to take a punt and go wireless with headphones. I started looking weeks ago and initially found things with horrible transmitter / receiver kind of things going on, wasn't a fan and definitely wasn't reasonably priced. After wading through these I came to Bluetooth ones, essentially upgraded headsets. These seemed to be the best ideas, but I couldn't decide between 2 styles (over or in ear) so I ordered quite cheap versions of both to sample.
I got:
(It's a link as I don't know how to insert an image on the app!)
I wasn't expecting much from them, as combined they cost 20 qud and generally speaking, at least with sound quality, you get what you pay for.
The ones on the right were first to arrive, and I was generally shocked. They fit nice and sound very nice. Don't get me wrong, they aren't a pair of Beats, but I have more expensive normal headphones which sound the same/worse. I did have them on when Wife Driscoll phoned me in tesco though. I can confirm they work brilliantly as a headset, but can also confirm people don't half give you some funny looks when you use it. Merthyr is not ready.
I then tried them out on the Bryn Bach Parkrun on Saturday. To be fair, couldn't fault them, comfortable, sounded good, relayed the GPS news as I went. The GPS needs fixing as my settings were lousy, but that's not the headsets fault. I ran poorly due to many reasons, not the least of which being late and having to run to the start line...
They seem to be the preferred option.
The other ones, the in-ear option, still not bad. Still better sound quality than the outlay deserved, however a bit big. I don't think I have a small head, in physical size context before you make your own jokes, but these were a good bit too big. As a result the back 'box' flapped up and down as I ran being quite annoying, but maybe not as annoying as catching a headphone lead on your hand as your run.
Also the controls are on the very same box, meaning so skip a track or answer a call, you end up reaching round the back of your head like you're participating in some kind of stupid dance. The on-your-right-ear controls of the flat headset win through there.
 
I haven't ran far with them on yet as the box bounce on the back, just inst appealing, however I may pair them with my tablet as they seem to have a bit more volume about them and the Nexus 7 is really quiet on times.
The flat ones will have a further outing this weekend as I run in the Merthyr 10k (Didn't know that existed a couple of weeks ago) where I hope to run under an hour (and preferably not come last). Half Marathon countdown well under way!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Xbox blah

Firstly... fuck you blogger app as you didn't save my last post. Ahem.

Right back onto it.

Back last year when the xbox one and ps4 were released, I knew I wanted to stay with the xbox brand, so I did. It took me a few months to gather up my pennies and purchase a few shiny (actually matt) xbox one, complete with my very own high res but still largely generic football title (FIFA).

Since then, I honestly have not been particularly impressed with it. Initially there were problems connecting to the internet, an update fixed them. Downloads and updates are generally HUGE and my snails pace connection really struggles (not after today bitches, FIBRE DAY!) to download anything.

Equally game quantities are not high, there are some good titles, I could just do with... more. some highlights so far...

Ryse: Son of Rome, excellent single player mode, really enjoyed to the point I was disappointed when I could see the end coming. Multiplayer seemed good, but with the lag on my piece of shit connection I could never get a game, or it'd have issues during (tomorrow...)

Rayman Legends: Wii U game originally but a good old school 2D platformer that looks very nice, yes please!

Forza: Pretty and controls well, can't ask for much more can you?

There's more too, the FIFA is decent (still not buying 15 though) but there have been disappointments in things like Murder: Soul Suspect, the Destiny beta (which my sadly deleted/not saved post was all about) which I was hoping for more from.

Prices don't help, I have probably missed a couple of good ones, but at 50+ quid a game (in GAME, please see Amazon for more realistic prices) you're not going to take a punt on some are you? 360 prices started high and then as games got older they fell, this better happen here or I'll not be happy.

Equally, while I didn't shell out the full price for my console and Kinect (gotta love a voucher code), not long after I bought it, the price dropped, then dropped again (with less hardware) which pissed me off. Microsoft largely ignored the shouts of early adopters objecting to this or requesting some kind of freebie to make up for it and just cracked on. Not the greatest at PR!

There's also a shockingly large amount of remakes of 360 (and equivalent) titles. Both Metro games are coming back out (which I kind of want), all the Halo games (which I kind of want), GTA 5. Write some new stuff!

There are games in the pipeline I want (apart from the Metro pack) such as Destiny (still), Far Cry 4, Fallout 4, so it will get better, but most of these are months away, so my big black VCR-a-like (which I think is a good look) will probably get dustier before it gets busier.

The whole snap thing was shite too Nice touch I can watch TV while playing, up for that, however having to have the xbox on whenever you want to watch TV. Stuff that, ad a deal with Scottish Power did they?

Now I mentioned Destiny above, I can't be arsed writing my previous post again, but in a shortened form, it played like a very good FPS. But I was expecting more somehow, maybe once I get into the story in the full release it'll be all good, but it didn't really feel much apart from Call of Duty, which I stopped buying 2 or 3 years ago.

I don't regret the purchase and I remain optimistic long term, but so far this generation has been a bit of a disappointment. Onwards and upwards though.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Train folk

Public transport is a very strange place, especially when you're in a routine and tend to be on the same service every day. I say service, I use Arriva so service isn't a word they're familiar with but stay with me.

Most people get into a real routine, myself included, I generally sit in the same place every day (on the way there, the way back is a nightmare) and more often than not, the same people sit around you. I occasionally vary and if someone, some... non regular is in my space it's no big deal. However, I have seen people with genuinely no idea what to do if they can't sit where they always do. Panic stricken looks the works. Got to love a routine!

For all intents you spend at least an hour sat round the same people, weekday in weekday out, but chances are you will have never have said a word to them. it's quite odd.

After a while you start noticing if people aren't there, even though you don't even know their name. For example, the guy who is the most conversational, with himself, on the whole train hasn't been on this week. I do find myself wondering why! Not that I'm overly gutted there's a nutter missing, but you notice these things.

It gets more... odd (for lack of a better word) when you pass one of these people out of context. By that I mean, not on the train. There's a moment of mutual recognition, as if, oh ait, I know him/her. Then a realisation... wait no I don't. By which time awkwardness has already occurred.

To be fair it's not always like that. Many months ago I left my bright white headphones (classy!) on the train, I was unaware of this until the following morning back on the arriva express. But before I could moan, whine or whinge a guy, who I recognised as detailed above popped his head round the seat, headphones in hand. Hero!

Still don't know his name though, but he is sat, at this moment in the carriage in front of me!

Train folk are also a very diverse bunch, yesterday for example a somewhat robust guy sat next to me who basically then squashed me against the wall of the train using nothing but the size of... him. Today? I have a Chinese student listening to Daft Punk songs while an older lady reads Dan Brown almost sat on his lap...

Of course all this only applies to the mornings, in the nights the shambles that is arriva crams you into the smallest space possible, then gets you home 15 mins late. Suppose the standing is good for your legs though.

They tried to make me go to rehab... and I went

Well when I say rehab, it's not for my massive drink and drug problem as I don't have the cash or the time for a massive drink and drug problem. However, I do have a consistently body falling apart problem.

Let me take you back to October 2013, the sun was shining and i was suffering, I was 11 or so miles into the Cardiff Half Marathon, all set for an easy PB, when something just felt... tight in my knee, then it felt worse than tight, then it bastard hurt. My dreams of a sub 2 hour run died along with my ability to walk properly for the next week.

Undeterred I gave it some rest time and cracked on, became pretty obvious i was doing more damage than good and off I trotted to the doctors. he referred to hospital and I waited. There followed a brief spell on crutches, pain whenever attempted exercise and months of walking like a Monty Python sketch.

It also killed of my hopes of completing an ambition by competing at the London Marathon, sorry Diabetes UK

Eventually the time came and I went to physiotherapy where I was informed my hamstring was the main issue, not letting my knee cap run straight or smooth, causing all kinds of shit to go down inside my knee. The doc still thinks there may be a slight tear to something, but it's not bothering me so... didn't happen.

Physio came and went and after being bent, pulled and twisted in many ways, they then moved me on to lower limb rehabilitation class (or something like that). Today i completed session 5 of 6 and to be fair I do feel better. I can run free of pain, not done any proper distances yet though but at the moment, but I'll happily take that.

The downsides? Well so long without real exercise has messed my cardio up. I'm probably not even a third as fit as I was at this point last year. I'm heavier, I've shot back up to pushing 13 stone from just about 12, which is also counter productive on the cardio of course. That increase is chub too as anyone who has seen me... ever will testify, there's not a muscle on me.

So what do I do? Yep yesterday I submitted my entry to the very race that killed me off last year (and I did think permanently at one point), I'm running the Cardiff Half Marathon 2014. Not for time this year, I'll obviously try my best, but I've accepted now there will be no PB (2:03), no sub 2 hour, probably not under 2:15, but baby steps and all that. my practise race is as usual the Swansea Bay 10k, where I'm targeting 58 minutes (51 last time out).

I'll be doing the charitables as usual and any sponsor money I get is going to velindre, just click www.justgiving.com/driscoll (If that works, I'm using the app and it's not great).

More to follow of course!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fibre baby!

I live in a nice area, it's quiet, the houses are decent size, most everyone is retired or has a job (even me) and the last reported crime was in 1984 when Old Man Smith from down the road was caught worrying the sheep on Winchfawr (real word). All in all it doesn't meet the stereotype of Merthyr Tydfil where people are on the sick for 6 years for having a burny fart.

However, what is limited are things like Internet speeds (less than a meg quite a bit of the time), phone signal coverage, access to a cash machine, you know the kind of thing.

Well no more fr one of those things, no I haven't bought an ATM, today my order goes in for Fibre Optic Internet! Last week, my regular forlorn visit to Superfast Cymru's website didn't produce the traditional, "Fibre Not Available" result, so I did it again just to be sure.

No longer will every xbox download take 6 weeks, no longer will I not be able to stream Netflix and YouTube at the same time (2 different people). Imagine the luxury! Imagine all you want as I won't have to.

Booya bitches!

OK, it'll be 2/3 weeks getting installed which will undoubtedly be a torturous wait, but soon, really soon, my little slice of the Tyd will be one step closer to catching up with the world!Having said that, long contract and somewhat pricey are the downsides extra 10 baps on my (well the wife's, but I'l pay the difference) bill for a nice 72mps connection.

Got a feeling it'll be worth it though.

The return

Christmas 2012, so long ago, but was the last time I wrote on here. Yep dead blog. But no longer, I am here to resurrect!

Now I've not been inactive, my wares have been on display on xboxramble.com (now defunct), thetechramble.com (now defuct), ramblemedia.com (now defunct, stop me if you spot a pattern anywhere) and most recently keyboardwarriors.co.uk (not defunct! Yay!) where my current production is focused.

However, they currently have a bit of my work to catch up on, so there's no point adding to the pile, plus there it has to be on topic, I can't just wander off the way I used too on here, so let's get this get this show back on the road!