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Failing Survival Mode

In the spirit of re-experiencing another foremost example of a released virtual world game, I decided to give Fallout 4 another spin, this time with the newly-released survival mode.   I wrote a bit about my adventures. 

I awoke in a sleeping bag in Concord, next to the dead raider I had found there earlier.  I had learned (cheated: I read it off the wiki) there might be a Railway Rifle to be found far to the southeast, and I always wanted one of those.   I set off immediately, ignoring a mild thirst.  Following the roads, I avoided a ghoul infestation near an abandoned rail station and met a convoy lead by Lucas, an armor dealer.  I traded almost everything I had, including our wedding rings, for a "champion" piece of left arm armor that would boost my strength and endurance.  I decided to opt for a "safety in numbers" approach and joined their convoy, just so long as we were going in the same direction, selling anything I found along the way to Lucas.  That worked well enough until they walked straight into a super mutant occupied camp and I bit it to a plasma grenade.  If it didn't get me, the suicider mutant probably would have.
So much for "safety in numbers."
I awoke in a sleeping bag in Concord, next to the dead raider I had found there earlier.  I decided to head up to Tenpines Bluff and see if I could help the settlers there that Preston told me about.  Winding my way east, I cleaned out a small bandit nest under a satellite dish, narrowly avoiding getting blown up by a molerat rigged with explosives.  Further east, I saw what looked like an easy score in a junkyard protected by three emaciated-looking mongrels.  Easy pickings, I figured.  A mongrel tore my throat out.

I awoke in a sleeping bag in Concord, next to the dead raider I had found there earlier.   I decided to head up to Tenpines Bluff and help out the settlers there that Preston had told me about.  I wound my way north into a robotics disposal ground.  There, I was able to reactivate an old combat robot that could be directed to head to one of many pre-war forts.  Seemed like a good way to travel to any of those locations with an escort to take out my enemies... but it turns out the buggy old thing soon found ME to be enemy!  Good thing the self destruct function still worked.  I met with the settlers at Tenpines Bluff who directed me to a raider problem at the Corvega factory to the south.  It was dark, and I was tired, thirsty, and hungry, but there was no available bed to be found at the settlers' encampment.  In the dark, I spied the lights of a Gunner base on a decaying suspension bridge, and figured a bed could be found there if I could clear it out.  I managed to take down the turret guarding the entrance, but a Gunner sentry took me down with two laser shots to the head.
I awoke in a sleeping bag in Concord, next to the dead raider I had found there earlier.  I was feeling careless.  Lets just head straight for where that railray rifle was I heard about, as the crow flies, and kill anything that gets in my way.  This tactic had an unexpected dividend of finding me a nice little encampment with sleeping bags.  I took an hour nap, then I cleared out a nearby rinkydink shack with a few bugs in it.  So far, so good.  I proceeded directly through a trainyard infested with ghouls.  I took down several, but they overwhelmed me in the end.

I awoke at the campsite I had taken an hour nap at.  I proceeded into the nearby train yard and tore the ghouls apart at range with my powerful shotgun, which was MUCH more effective than a .38 caliber pipe pistol at this sort of thing.  The loot was paltry, I continued the southeast in search of the trash yard with the railway rifle.  I soon encountered a rotten trash pit, but not the one I was looking for.  There, a single settler was fending off a dozen molerats that had charged out of the trash, and I lent a hand.  When the fight was over, the grateful lass gave me 50 bottlecaps.  As I proceeded further towards my destination, I found another potential rest stop in the middle of the night in the form of a boathouse.  As I fumbled through the dark, past a surprisingly nice looking white picket fence, I nearly stepped upon a bloated brahmin corpse that many giant mosquitos were feeding upon.  The mutated bugs turned their attention to me.  I think I heard a molerat, along with the sound of a land mine being primed, before the blast hit.  I rest in pieces.
With Fallout 4's survival mode, I find myself in a similar catch22 I face with Minecraft's hardcore mode.  I enjoy the added challenge and the significance the mode adds, but limited saving access is such a drag on making  any progress in the game that it might be better to turn it off.  It also rankles that armor is pretty much useless; the main tactic to bear in mind in survival mode is don't get hit, your hit points might as well not exist when a mongrel can kill you in one hit.  However, I tried playing my old level 46 character who was not in survival mode and it was still pretty boring because the enemies, even your garden variety raider, had giant tanks of hit points and it took forever to kill them!  I considered modding the game to set up an ideal balance, but that disables achievements, and that's no good either.  I seem to be surprisingly good at finding rocks and hard places.

I have been watching Sips' Skyrim playthrough fondly and that, combined with my own 530 hours of experience with that game, cause me to judge Skyrim a better game than Fallout 4 overall.  Part of the appeal is cosmetic, as the bleak post-apocalyptic landscape is just plain less pleasing to the eye than the vitality of the fantasy backdrop; Skyrim has clean lines and epic vision, Fallout 4 has desolation and murk.  However, most of the improvement is in the gameplay:
  • Skyrim has a magic system, along with a whole other resource, mana, to consider.  Fallout 4 has modifiable guns and ammo.
  • Skyrim has a shouting mechanic, albeit one somewhat vestigial with the magic system.  Fallout 4 has power armor that you can't use much because of limited fuel.
  • Skyrim has a skill system with level advancement tied to actually using the skills.  Fallout 4 has all of its advancement behind a very standard experience point system. 
  • Skyrim has dragons.  Dragons!  Fallout 4 has vertibirds, a kind of helicopter.
Granted, Fallout 4 has been generally improved all around in a plethora of little ways.  For example, the armor system makes better sense and supports multiple damage types.  The greatest improvement of Fallout 4 is surely the settlement system, which does more for the virtual world aspect of the engine than anything in Skyrim, and it gets better with every DLC. 

I would love to see something like the settlement mechanic in Skyrim's upcoming remastering, but it's probably going to be limited to a graphics update.  That's funny: despite the age difference, I think Skyrim already looks better than Fallout 4 does.

My Adventures In Slacker Game Development Continue:

I learned only a little over this weekend, but it was enough to give me a headache, assuming that's not the last vestiges of my cold.

While I was playing Fallout 4, I set my watch to go off in 30 minutes.  When that happened, it was time to save off the game and go back to practicing game development.  I stuck to this reasonably consistently, even more so when I learned Fallout 4 will "exit save" a temporary save file if I quit it in survival mode.  Time spent practicing development was similarly limited because after awhile I lose focus and need to rest my brain.  Hey, it's getting me to take some of free time and invest it, that's what's important.

I have decided that learning the IDE fundamentals is probably where I need to be right now.  My past dabbling with object oriented languages have left me with some ingrained coding skills that do not need to be unlearned, but I still feel as though I do not quite know where to apply them in the Unity IDE, to which I am relatively new.  It seems that, the more I learn, the more I know how much I have left to learn before I'm in danger of completing any games of my own.  At least I am gaining a greater appreciation for the power of the engine as I become more familiar with it.

Yet, I now believe that the main problem I have is not really with the tools I am using.  Rather, it is a lack of clear vision as to exactly what I want to make.

I narrowed it down to creating an RPG engine with escapism as the primary priority behind its design: not graphics, not loot grinding, but aspects which enhance escapism.  This is the appeal of a virtual world: it is a program that instructs the computer to create somewhere to escape to.  That's why the fidelity of the virtual world gets the main developmental focus.

Now, as for what to actually design and code, there are still innumerable possible avenues to pursue.  As such, I still have essentially decided nothing.  However, I am limited by my resources, and that may be a blessing in its ability to focus my endeavors.  That's why I am looking at implementing 2D tilemap engines instead of using the elaborate 3D terrains Unity does already.  It does not feel feasible to me to one-man an elaborate 3D game... well, except Banished and Warshift proved it can be done.  Still, a texture on a 3D model is technically a 2D graphic, lets master those first.  Besides, 2D gives me greater abstraction, room for the players' imaginations.

If it wasn't for the fact that GML is no match for C#, I might as well go back to GameMaker, which is 2D-centric and designed to be much more accessible to the lone indie looking to one-man it.  You only need look at Risk of Rain, Gunpoint, or Undertale to see that.  In fact, I'd say Undertale worked so well because it harnessed what GameMaker was built to do so well, everything from timelines to rooms.  But the thing I am planning will require some pretty advanced coding, and coding in GML really toads the wet sprocket, the IDE is lightyears behind Monodevelop or Visual Studio integration for Unity, so I think I'll see how well Unity can do 2D instead... Prison Architect, Rimworld, and the Caves of Qud Unity port didn't turn out so bad.

I am moderately content: this weekend was spent much more productively than the last.  Shame it was over so fast.


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