Friday, January 5, 2018

Black Mirror - S4E1: Roko's Basilisk

The first episode of Black Mirror season 4 is quite good. It brought to mind Roko's Basilisk. Go read about the silly thing human brain's get up to. I'll be here when you get back.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

FPS: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus - More BJ For Frau Engel

Steam Sale, Wolfenstein II. Yes.

I can reasonably say I've been playing Wolfenstein as long as there's been Wolfenstein. I even played the MS-DOS port of the original 8-bit game a few times. I played Spear of Destiny, Blake Stone, etc. Wolfenstein: The New Order is almost flawless.

The New Colossus is a solidly decent game. There's more of the unexpectedly good story and character development from the previous game. This is definitely not the fungible, faceless protagonist of previous entries in the series, or even most FPS in general. Your character has thoughts, emotions, demons, loves, etc. The supporting cast of characters are dynamic and lifelike and it's definitely worth getting through the game just to see how the events played out. The ending actually felt fulfilling; moreso than in The New Order in my opinion.

About halfway through though the story jumps the shark in spectacular fashion. In the first half the protagonist is put at a significant disadvantage and you're made to wonder how it might be overcome. The way in which it is overcome is completely absurd and thankfully it is quickly put behind you. When you get to the shark jumping, groan your way through it and press on.

Combat is mostly satisfying. You get the same optional dual-wield mechanic as in The New Order though in this instance it's rare that not dual-wielding is the way to go. The way you choose which weapons are in which hands is unnecessarily clumsy on PC; I suspect it's made for console controller. As you explore you can find hidden weapon upgrade kits that allow you choose from three upgrades per weapon that are not mutually exclusive. Each weapon has an upgrade that can be toggled. For example, the machinepistol upgrade makes your rounds incendiary while dramatically reducing the rate of fire. Incendiary MP is magical against the panzerhunden but much less effective against human targets. I found triple-shot shotgun in the left hand and single-shot assault rifle in the right to be a great combination allowing effective firepower against both close and far targets.

In principle The New Colossus allows you to choose stealth over bravado the same way The New Order did. In practice you can stealthily take out the first 2-6 enemies in a stage before things go sideways, more or less regardless of your execution. If a guard finds the body of a fallen enemy they go into a heightened state, which is fantastic for gameplay. Unfortunately, you have no mechanism for moving or hiding those bodies, even given ample time. This can be quite frustrating. Doom (2016) also gave you no reliable means for stealth combat, or even space to conduct ambushes but in Doom the whole flow of the game is in high-velocity, run and gun combat. The New Colossus holds stealth combat out and then snatches it away, just when you think you've got it.

Run and gun works well and as mentioned you're mostly forced down this path. That said, most enemies have no special tactical weaknesses (less armor on the back) so few fights benefit from flanking. The super soldiers are weak in the back but it's easy to bait them into charging past you for easy back shots. Overall most fights I ended up just finding the most advantageous ambush point and waiting for the enemies to come to me. And they did... I would really like an FPS developer add an "I see the bodies of my comrades piled in this door way so maybe I should take a different route" mechanic to enemy AI. Which is a shame because many of the combat spaces are huge with multiple tiers, multiple places for cover, resupply, etc. Usually though I couldn't be bothered and just explored the space at my leisure after dispatching the majority of my foes with the stupidest possible ambush. Eventually though I decided to not pick up heavy weapons, to not ambush as much, just to keep the combat more dynamic, even on a higher difficulty setting.

After you've hit the game's shark-hurdling portion you get to choose a "contraption" that gives you a special ability. As the game progresses you get to pick up the other two. The difference between these choices basically boils down to, "to get into the next room do I crawl under, climb over, or smash through?". Regardless of your choice you still end up in the same room so the choice is somewhat illusory. It's mostly a question of what kind of entrance do you want to make to the party.

Criticisms aside, it's quite a fun game and worth a playthrough. Grab it on sale and rock out!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Cards Against Humanity Enhancements

One of my friend groups plays a fair amount of Cards Against Humanity. I've come up with some enhancements.
  1. Use a shoebox, game box top, or some other box for white card discard. It's much neater than discard piles.
  2. Use a hat or something similar to collect white card submissions. It genuinely speeds things up.
  3. Provide multiple stacks of white and black cards respectively for people to pull from. It makes it much easier for people to get their next cards and keeps the game moving.
  4. If the black card with three blanks is in your deck, pull it out permanently.
  5. When a black card with two blanks comes up, the judge draws a white card to fill in one of the blanks of their choosing. Everyone submitting two white cards slows the game down. Filling in one of the blanks with a random white card means the black cards with two blanks become unique every time they appear, rather than tedious.
  6. During the initial deal-in for each player, give them three extra white cards. Each player discards three before the game begins. This provides a funnier set of initial cards for everyone.
  7. Draw two, keep one. After each player submits their white card they must draw a replacement white card. Instead, each player should draw two white cards and discard one of the two they just drew, their choice. This reduces the accumulation of bad white cards.