Underlore

The typewriter's a gun. Show'em some steel.

It’s not “just a game.”

A great friend recently bought me Fallout New Vegas. (Thank you!) I have been playing it and modding it. I encountered a problem which lead to the following conversations.

I assume the best of intentions as a rule, especially when dealing with friends, so keep that in mind when deducing my tone.

“You shouldn’t use too many mods.”

fallout me

Fallout Brandon, sans glasses. Finding them was my first meta-quest.

My mods for fallout, and when available, for other games, are all bullshit removal or the implementation of obvious solutions. A game ultimately is a contrived set of problems that were created to be enjoyable to solve. Which is another way of saying: A game is a simulated world adapted to the human mind. But sometimes, like a precocious child taking a complacent multiple choice test, a correct answer is known which is not among the presented options. This happens constantly in my culture, perhaps throughout life.

Those situations where the option is not given for good reasons are, for this context, ignored. The choice is to ignore your solution and go find the sanctioned one but that’s not how my brain works. My brain simply parses whatever is stopping me from implementing my original solution as additional problems in need of solution. In the context of games that means modding.

The vast majority of games are horrendously inflexible from the perspective of a non-coder. How that came to be is a separate issue. But in cases where they aren’t, as is the case with Fallout, I mod around arbitrary limits. I play games as solution simulators more than training tools. The fundamental flow direction is opposite in my case.

In a training context one changes themselves to suit the setting or situation. This leads to a feeling of achievement and pride. That’s great for those that enjoy it and I say have at. But that’s not how I play games. My motivations and personal context while relevant, are off topic. I want the game to adapt to me instead. (The best game in the universe to me is a lucid dream, just to have some idea what I mean generally. Sidenote: If consciousness is a recursive waste as is explored in Blindsight then a lucid dream is the ultimate expression of consciousness. Thus in a sense, I play games to be more conscious.)

In the case of fallout III and new vegas the mods I have chosen so far are as follows. Each of these things was arbitrarily denied or omitted. Intentionally or not isn’t relevant. Thus I’ve enabled things like using cookware for scrap metal. Or parlaying repair skill into basic gunsmithing. Or being able to bottle water. Or telling the robot with a weapon’s grade laser to cook things. Or being able to take down crucified people. Or bypassing an unrealistic lockpicking minigame. Or putting random burnt car stuff in cars. Or making it so if I shoot someone in the face at a range of 1 foot it kills them. Or being able to wear masks and glasses at the same time. Or making it so a fork or a tube of super glue doesn’t weigh a pound. Etc etc etc.

The game would have rapidly driven me away, as so many others have, had modding been unavailable. The walls were just too obvious and petty. Telling me not to mod a game is in effect telling me not to play it. The only games I don’t mod are the games that are already so much in line with me as to not need it badly enough to run me off. (As is the case with S.P.A.Z.)

SPAZ is one of my all time favorite games for a variety of reasons, but the most important one is a distinct and noticeable tolerance for automated solutions. While this makes a game boring and “too easy” for some, for me it means freedom from invisible walls and arbitrary limits. If I take my role seriously in the game universe, if I think what would I as I am do in this situation, I would not make things harder for myself I’d make them easier.

Spaz2

The computer is a better shot than I am.
So let it control the guns.

Here is a screenshot of my fleet configuration in SPAZ. You’ll notice a theme. if you know the game. Cannons & turrets. Why turrets? Because they can be configured to aim and fire automatically. This in addition to the fact that when you are controlling one ship the other three automatically go on auto pilot and behave generally like body guards. From enemy detection to wreckage salvaging the process only requires that I move the fleet into range.

To me this was not boring. I’ve played this game well over 400 hours. Steam alone has logged over 300. If you click on the image you’ll see my “achievements” post.

What started the rant was difficulty modifing my “perks” which are character facets in the fallout system. If unspending this perk proved impossible I’ll have been forced to restart, that’s how important the configuration fidelity is to me. That also shows that challenge opposition, as a kind of laziness, isn’t why I play the way I do. (The mod author has created a wildly complex alternate world of options, when all I want is the ability to build a basic robot to haul things, like the real world Big Dog robot.) BigDog Overview (Updated March 2010)

VTM: Bloodlines Me

VTM: Bloodlines Me

Had I been forced to restart I’ll have no doubt stopped playing for like a year, or however long it took for me to lose attachment to my current version of me. But in the case of New Vegas that version was the first one, so he’s especially important. This attachment is what I did to VTM bloodlines, though obviously I had no options with regard to character customization.

I truly can’t handle it when bullshit is thrown in my face over and over, and that’s what games do when they railroad me away from my solutions via invisible walls in favor of make-work. “I’m sorry player, this tent flap has a moderately difficult lock on it, you need to have 46,000 in lock smitheryness to even attempt picking it, and no you CAN’T use your knife to cut a new flap, because I said so.”

A game with sledge hammers (magic tech or not) and literal fire axes should not ever make an impenetrable wooden door or impregnable window. A game with ruins and crumbling brick half houses and said sledge hammers should not even have normal walls that are impenetrable. But I realize Geo-Mod is asking a lot. So I tell myself that it would be too risky for my character (demolitions can be dangerous, I could crush myself or end up suffocated) or that I did, went inside, and found nothing of interest. Imagined context can create effective emotional workarounds.

All these invisible walls and arbitrarily denied solutions: It’s literally being told “get back in line” by the devs. And like the right wing, the irony is that they’d call you a lazy cheater for hacking/modding your way around it when in point of fact the same argument fits them perfectly: Too lazy to redo the story, too lazy to code the option, cheating with magic fabric and invisible walls.

“When I want your opinion on what’s fun, I’ll give it to you!” ~99.999999% of mainstream game devs. Which I why I don’t play that percentage of games. The more a game lets me do what I would do, build what I want to build, in an interesting setting, the more I enjoy it.

What I hate in the context of subjective entertainment is of paramount importance, regardless of the argumentum ad populum of sales goals. I hate devs anyway (insert ipl rant here), and I hate authority anyway, and I hate being forced, and I hate being commanded, and I hate being manipulated and I hate being given ultimatums and I hate being told to want something different, and this one type of event, encountering a bullshit restriction, manages to invoke all of that hate simultaneously.

And it’s such a shame because the game obviously has worlds of potential. No doubt I’ll be playing it off and on for the rest of my life, but whether or not I’m playing it in a week really critically depended on being able to recover that perk. Fortunately I was able to thanks to Finland :)

My character isn’t like most. Most others are an arbitrary dynamic key which you fashion almost solely for the purpose of opening the game’s gigantic, elaborate, and beautiful lock. You’re as happy to play a female mage as you are to play a male fighter. You shape your ‘build’ based on the lock. Your goal is partly pride in your clever key construction, which is undermined by altering the lock too much.

I extract fun in a completely different way. If I wanted to win I’d just download a save or give myself 20 levels. If I want a “challenge” I’ll do something real. But in point of fact I don’t want a challenge. I think being alive is challenging too much already. Complaint about life being too easy is wildly narcissistic to me. Climbing a rock isn’t an achievement, it’s a hobby. Hobbies are fine but they are inherently self centered. To what degree that’s a good or bad thing is a separate issue.

What I’m doing when I play is placing myself in a world with different options. Like I did in bloodlines, I’m trying to take it seriously and be honest about what I would do and see how the game world reacts. When the game stops me from doing what I would do, I mod it. If I can’t mod it I try to find a way around it justified by other context.

I’m not playing the game for some sense of victory over adversity or some kind of trophy to gloat over. I’m exploring, sand boxing, and tinkering. I’m simulating. Today for example I spent 15 minutes playing with tin cans and the bb gun. (I eventually started using a 10mm pistol. Turns out bottles can’t be broken. They just get an awesome bullet hole decal.)

Besides, It’s single player. Nothing I do in game annoys anyone else, and you’re free to play how you want.

“It’s just a game.”

This trivialization scold is as self centered as it is contradictory. If it’s “just a game” then I’m even more justified in disregarding competitive achievement and rule obedience for the purposes of pride.

It’s like competition is the only thing some process as meaningful. Would you tell Mozart it’s just music? I’m playing fallout to create an emotion in myself the same way he played music to create an emotion in himself but because I can’t show it off, or sell it, because it doesn’t make me an alpha male, it’s trivial to so many.

That way of thinking is profoundly corporate. And wrong. The profit motive is not the end all be all of human endeavor. To believe otherwise shows very little real respect for the humanity of things. They tolerate it true, but they treat it as ultimately secondary. Like comments about not having time to game as if gaming can only and should only occur after your money making is complete.

http://underlore.com/bait-and-switch/ <—<read this

Don’t let the white effect turn you into a savage robot as you age. The point of life is enjoying living, not being a slave to either your whims at the expense of life, or life at the expense of whims.

“Just try to enjoy it.”

How I feel isn’t a choice and if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t care so much.

Updates:

So I restarted the game knowing what the devs meant by various traits to make my character more accurate.

The results are spectacular.

22380_screenshots_2013-12-16_00001

Recovery! Once again a mod saved me, mostly.

Yes I’m wearing a space suit. Why? Because it’s a radioactive desert, and why wouldn’t I walk around in air conditioning? Anyway, how did I manage to kill Caesar fairly and accurately?

Having upgraded the bots, and the guards letting me leave assuming I’d walk straight to the tent to report, I instead went to vegas and euthanized Mr. House (I would have preferred to remove his access and keep him alive as an adviser, as dangerous as that would be) and installed my fAI on the central systems.

Then I found a mod that lets me befriend basically any NPC and turn them into companions, (I have speech of like 80 so that’s fair, plus I think with power and resources I actually could get people to listen to me) so I used that to grab a pair of mark two securitrons. That seems extremely fair to me since I now run the city/mainframe, and the story started with a securitron playing body guard, and I just activated a whole bunker full of them in the story as well.

Then I went to Caesar and got my reward, he would not let me spare Benny, so I gave him a stealth boy (the existence of which justifies my cloaking suit because making one permanently powered seems like a short order compared to d-cell sized fusion reactors), and then I vaporized Caesar’s head, and hid behind my rocket launching securitrons firing at the guards when able while Benny made his escape. I did not need to reload, he successfully made it to the door. I probably would have left him dead for realism/fairness/immersion.

Prior to that I had stealth killed as many guards as I could get away with without faction loss, (reloading in these cases justified as always by maxed luck and enhanced sensors, even if I as a player missed something my character would not have) including the team via reverse cloaked grenade pocketing at the entrance which typically disarmed companions (even ed) which explains why they didn’t go ape shit when I entered the tent with a pair of military robots that were almost too big to fit through the front flap. XD morons. Even disarmed those bots would be horrifying opponents.

Naturally, given all this, I depopulated that fucking slaver camp. I plucked a teddy bear from the ashes and returned it to a slave girl, and used the companion mod to equip her and and siri with everything they’d need to escape. (I did that to the background packmule slaves as well.)

And since I killed Caesar after his quest this time (as opposed to exploiting rock-stupid AI) I’m apparently on the independent story line and everyone is now speaking mostly like he’s dead. (Though visiting the great khan’s legion fumentari broke that a bit, he’s all like “you’re close to pissing off Caesar” and I really wanted a “Don’t worry corpses tend to stay calm, you’re going to have to find some other thug’s name to mispronounce.” type response option :P)

So now I’m roaming around, doing good and side quests and learning about the families. :)

My armor and pistol are pretty heavily upgraded now, the suit fully cloaks me when I sneak (which was already like 80) and my pistol virtually doesn’t miss, which is fair for a line of sight/energy weapon.

Sidenote: Fighting over a hydroelectric damn with pocket sized micro fusion reactors everywhere sufficiently powerful to run robots for centuries is a way bigger logical fail than anything I’ve done with mods.

This is good news for me on two fronts, firstly, I’m enjoying the shit out of that weapon when had it itself been a mod I’d have considered it cheating and not used it. (I’d be using a .50 bmg rifle no doubt.) Secondly, it means that the rest of my actions are justified even more.

I sent my securitron guards home after the Caesar kill and replaced them with a great khan and a jet addict. I figure that’s less conspicuous than the giant rolling reminder that I’m the new Mr. House. I figure the less NCR spies and others know about my bots the better. I’ll need the legion to weaken the NCR.

At which point I’d use my bots and adopt a secular version of the Genghis Khan model. Letting each city state do as it pleased so long as it obeyed some really simple rules and sent resources when asked.

As you may know I’m totally read to make a stab at running a pluralist planet/society/culture. Having fAI and a literal army of immortal robots at the start pretty much guarantees that I could co kick off a singularity with really minimal loss of life, if any assuming a non-lethal energy weapon could be devised.

This universe even has elements of transhumanism. A street doc sells implants apparently, and I already met the robot dog.

Do other people think about games like this?

Updated: December 17, 2013 — 9:28 am
Underlore © 2013