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Skyrim Without Skyrats

April 2, 2015

A few years ago, while playing Dead Rising, I realized that I could “complete” the game, and even get a reasonably good grade on the ending, simply by playing for six hours without triggering the event that unleashed the zombies into the mall.

That probably wasn’t intentional.

Similarly to Dead Rising, Skyrim has a trigger event that sets dragons loose upon the world, and it happens pretty early in the main plot.  At first, it’s actually pretty neat – you fight one pretty wimpy dragon, then dragons start showing up on occasion when you use fast travel to go places or when you’re running across the landscape, they start showing up more often and you start seeing tougher dragons… there’s a real sense of urgency and danger.

Then it gets annoying, because you can’t go 5 minutes without tripping on another scaly tail.

As an example, there was a point where I was working on trade skills – forgive me my sins – and I was regularly using fast travel to go between Whiterun and the Mage’s college at Winterhold.  If you’ve never played the game, don’t worry about the particulars, just think of them as points A and B.

Every single time I traveled to point B, then, I would have a dragon drop down on me and all the college mages would run around shouting “ERMAGAHD IT’S A DRAGON KILL IT” or similar things.

And I would kill it, and this would leave a big ol’ dragon skeleton in the courtyard of the mage’s college, and then I would do the same thing all over again the next time I needed to make the trip.

I have to assume that the college janitors got really tired of cleaning up dragon bits.  The mages never got tired of running around screaming.

So avoiding the trigger that sets off dragons has made a second play-through much more enjoyable.  I don’t have to worry about getting jumped when I travel, I can take on side quests without the sense that, somewhere, a dragon is burning a small village to the ground, and it really changes the scale of the game from EPIC FANTASY to a personal adventure.

Eventually I’ll probably go back to the first town and talk to the guy who kicks the main storyline quest into full gear.  That can wait a while, though.


April 1, 2015

So, it being the first day of the month and all, I went to the bank to get some cash on the way home from work.

The ATM was down. Well, it was working, but it had a big “not able to dispense cash” warning message on the main menu.

So I went inside. There were three windows open, nobody waiting in line, and the cashier at the nearest window waved me over to her and said, perkily, “What can I do for you today?”

And, without thinking too hard about it, I answered “well, the ATM was out of money, so I figured I’d come in and” (vaguely waving at the row of windows) “see the Ts”.

And there was a moment where time more or less stopped, and I realized a few things:

  1. I had just vaguely gestured at all three women at chest height.
  2. The one directly in front of me was a good 15 to 20 years younger than me and more than likely had only ever heard “ATM” as a word and not an acronym.
  3. She was wearing a rather low-cut blouse.  Not, you know, a V-neck, but a scoop neck with a generous scoop.
  4. The perky smile had vanished like a hard-shaken Etch-a-Sketch.

And the moment lingered, and I think she correctly interpreted the look of panic on my face, and she laughed and said “you know, I don’t think many people know that T stands for Teller”, and the world started moving at regular speed again and she cheerfully took my account information and gave me some money and said that she’d have someone look at the ATM and wished me a pleasant evening.

Definitely need to work on that phrasing, tho.

So, I finished Skyrim

March 30, 2015

Killed the Big Dang Dragon, saved the world, fulfilled my destiny as the Chosen One, brought balance to the Force, all that good stuff.  Took 68 hours, which I understand is a pretty quick run by Elder Scrolls standards.

To be honest, a good 10 hours of that was spent working on the Ultimate Set of Badarse Dragon Killing Armor and Weapons, which meant that the final boss fight was literally a 30 second affair.  Really a little embarrassing, but uniquely satisfying…

…and now I’m sorely tempted to dive right back in from the initial carriage ride into Helgen, ignore the main quest, and try a completely different play-style.  I’m going to add a couple of quality of life mods this time, though – I stuck to purely visual changes for my first run.




I Can Stop Playing Music Games Now

March 23, 2015

…because I’m almost certainly never going to out-do this:


Sadistic Music Factory is the “Boss Fight” of Project Diva ƒ, and in keeping with series tradition it’s yet another super-high-BPM cosMo@暴走P song.  It was also the last song keeping me from getting a “Great” or better on all songs on Hard difficulty.

Great requires a score of 90% or better, and I kept getting 89.x, where X was at one point 9.  That was also the run where I had my best combo, a 264-note monster, and not getting the Great on that run had me *this* close to giving up for the day.



Two more tries later, everything came together and I got the very satisfying score above.  As a 40+ year-old guy, I’m not physically able to press buttons fast enough to make more than a casual attempt at most of the songs on the Extreme difficulty setting, so Hard is going to do quite nicely.

In Which, I Try Another Elder Scrolls Game

March 22, 2015


I have not had a particularly good history with the Elder Scrolls games.  The first one I tried, Arena, was so long ago that I actually had to install it from 1.2 MB 5.25″ floppies, and my experience with the game consisted of struggling through the godawful long install and then promptly being killed by the first rat I ran in to in the first dungeon.

The second one I tried was Morrowind, on the original Xbox, and I got a little further in that before I got swarmed by mudcrabs and died horribly.

It’s apparently been long enough for me to forgive both of those, because I decided to give Skyrim a try this weekend.

My first impressions were not good. The opening is dreary at best, the controls weren’t clicking, I didn’t like the character models, and I was pretty sure that this was going to be strike 3 for the Elder Scrolls… and then I decided, well, everyone talks about how amazing the mod community is for this game, maybe I’ll give the internet a chance to make this game something I want to play.

So, I found some high-res texture packs, and a new ragdoll engine, and some enhanced character models, and realized that I could use an Xbox 360 controller, and that let me put up with the game to the point where I made it through the introduction and got out into the world, at which point it pretty much hooked me good and proper.

…and then I installed enhanced water and snow effects, and hi-resolution foliage and lush grass, and reskinned versions of the first couple of towns, and a new skeletal engine, and found a way to turn off helmets and replace the standard armor textures with “high fantasy” (read: bikini armor) versions, and added environmental sounds for towns and dungeons and wilderness, and on and on and on.  I’m at the point where I probably shouldn’t go adding any more mods because they are at some point going to start fighting with each other, to be honest, but the end result is that everything UNDER the hood is the same, but the visuals and audio have been pumped up nicely.

I also get now why people get so sucked into the world.  I get that there’s a story and all that, and I should probably get on that, but in the meantime I just walked past a cave full of bandits and bandits always need killing.  I’ll get back to saving the world once that’s sorted out.


I’ll feel guilty about this once I stop giggling.

March 18, 2015

Occasionally, I find a move in a fighting game or brawler that is so insanely silly that I can’t help but try to use it at every opportunity, even if it makes little to no sense.

For example, in the second “Darkstalkers” game, there’s a Yeti character.  He has a special move where he swallows his opponent, chews a couple of times, and spits them out.  I am very bad at pulling this move off, but I can not help occasionally putting in the disc and trying to beat computer opponents by doing nothing but eating them.

I have found, in Dead or Alive 5, the latest move to make me giggle – and, true to form, I’ve been trying to use it in online matches, failing miserably, and usually getting locked into a long stun / juggle combo that winds up with me crying on the floor in defeat.

Basically, Marie Rose can, if you roll towards your opponent AND chain it into a throw at just the right time, AND he or she doesn’t swat you away like a fly, you jump onto them, wrap her legs around his or her waist, and use their chest like a pair of speed bags.

This motivated me to make another animated gif to highlight the insanity:


Side note: DoA may get a lot of flack for focusing on bounce and jiggle simulation, but that is some surprisingly neat hair physics.

The Enemy of my Enemy or something like that

March 17, 2015

I’ve watched a lot of truly irredeemable love-polygon anime over the years.  You know the sort – hapless nice guy sort of character finds himself surrounded by cute girls who are occasionally also mystical creatures or aliens but who are for some reason haplessly besotted with our resident male audience surrogate.

The Familiar of Zero isn’t ENTIRELY this, but it does have a definite love polygon thing going on in addition to all of the wars and politics and betrayal and stuff.

For the first two seasons, it’s pretty much just your garden-variety triangle, where the main character – Saito – is being fought over by two girls: Louise, a mage who can’t cast spells and whose personality is generally explosive and Siesta, a maid at the magic academy who often has to patch Saito up after he’s been whipped by Louise or give him food when she sends him to bed without supper as punishment for looking at other girls.

The third season introduces the Third Girl, which sets everything up beautifully for the One Beautiful Moment when Girls A and B suddenly realize that, while they certainly still have their differences, they now have Girl C to contend with and – for the moment – they should work together.

More below the “Read More” bit as it spoils the end of an episode in season 3:

Read more…


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