Archive for September, 2009

Give Divine Divinity a try

September 29, 2009

I picked up a opy of the RPG game Divine Divinity for $3 at Goodwill. I have now sunk way too much time into it. It is a little gem of an RPG with a musical score that is simply gorgeous. If you can find it cheap, play it. Best of all, it seems to get along pretty well with Vista.

One tip: The manual is OK, but doesn’t have enough detail. For example, you encounter dozens of food and drink items in the game and they have differing effects on your character. Fortunately fans of the game have written a number of excellent walkthroughs and FAQs that can be found with Google searches.

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Thoughts on raising the level cap in Fallout 3.

September 12, 2009

While it was a good thing to bust the level cap with the Broken Steel DLC and add some tougher enemies, it does have some downsides. Here are a few I see:

1. It makes a lot of the perks irrelevant. Perks like “Gun Nut” that added five points each or Repair and Small Guns are not as important when you have 30 levels to raise all your stats to the max. They mattered a lot when you only had 20 levels and had to think through how to get them most out of your stats by level 20.

2. You companions now die a lot. If you hook up with Jericho, for example, early in the game, he will be woefully over-matched late game by the new hard-core enemies. You basically have to tell him to wait behind while you fight the Feral Ghoul Reaver or Albino Rad Scorpion. This is made worse by the fact that your companions, by and large, won’t retreat when getting beat. They fight until they die.

3. The tougher enemies will demolish any NPC they come across. For example, the roving traders like Crow and Doc Hoff will be slaughtered if they come across an Albino Scorpion in the wastelands. Worse, since none of the non-companion NPCs can heal themselves, if they somehow survive an encounter — they will have little health left for the next enemy they stumble across. They may be killed by a Bloat Fly.

4. As you hit the higher levels, the mix of enemies slides overwhelmingly to the most powerful ones. You wander a bit, fight an Albino Rad Scorpion. Go a bit further, and then fight another one. Etc. The lack of a mix of enemies makes combat repetitive.

5. Lower level enemies become bugs to be swatted. Raiders barely scratch your armor. Oblivion gave them more powerful weapons and armor as the character leveled. It wasn’t a perfect way to solve the problem, but it had promise. While the condition of the raider’s armor and weapons does seem to improve as you go through the game, their best gear is no mach for a level 30 player in power armor and armed with Vengeance. How about letting the late-game raiders grab some better gear? Or, perhaps create some sort of half-mutated raider hybrid that has higher stats.

6. As with any game that involves money, you soon run out of things to buy and start piling up mountains of cash. A level 30 character can amass hundreds of thousands of caps and have thousands of stimpacks, ammo, and chems.

Some ideas for fixes:

1. Allow companions to flee if their health drops below a certain point. Or, permit them to use a stimpack DURING the battle.

2. Allow NPCs like traders the option to heal over time or use stimpacks. It makes no sense for Doc Hoff to have stimpacks for sale in his inventory and be wandering the wastelands with little health remaining.

3. Vary the enemies more late in the game. Also, certain respawn spots for enemies become so reliable that you know in advance how many raiders or mutants will be at a given spot and their weapons. One option could be to rotate the enemies a bit, so maybe the spot with raiders today has a pack of vicious dogs next week.

4. Allow the player to have some very expensive goodies they can buy late in the game that become available once you hit level 30 and have a pile of caps. For example, why not let me buy a suite at Tenpenny Tower once the owner is dead. Or a cabin at Rivet City? Let me be able to buy things for it, like the items available in Megaton.

The point is to keep a reason for the player to gather up items to trade for caps. Otherwise, once you have bought everything Moira has available and have a few grand left over, there is no reason to bother to collect anything.

I don’t know what can be done with the perks dilemma. Perhaps it just needs top be left alone, as some players want to get a few key stats raised early in the game. Perks let them do it, though they could still max the most important stats before the level 30 cap without the perks.

These are just a few thoughts on how to improve on a masterpiece of a game.

Nintendo get kudos on customer service

September 11, 2009

Sadly, mediocre tech support is common these days. Given that sad state of reality, good experiences should be highlighted. Nintendo and the Wii team are about to get some love after a positive support incident.

I bought a Wii for my grand-kids from a fellow he had it as a gift, but already owned one. The box was unopened and the price was good. However, while the Wii worked perfectly, the Wii Sports game disk did not. It crashed every time we tried to run it.

I called Wii tech support and experienced a fairly-easy to follow phone tree to get on hold for a techie. The hold time was short and the person I spoke with was both friendly and came off as knowledgeable. We tried a few common-sense things and concluded that the disk was defective. She approved the RMA and went through step-by-step how to ship the product back on Nintendo’s FedEx Account for a replacement.

No hassles. No run around. Wow!

I noted to the lady that I had already spent almost as much on games and accessories for the Wii as I had on the original system. My positive treatment was a factor in buying two more controllers the next day and deciding the Wii was going to be the main gaming console for the house.

Again, when mediocrity in tech support seems the norm these days, somebody getting it right deserves a back pat.