Fallout 76: Still Not Worth It

Fall­out 76 has been out for over a year now.  Before it was released, I played it dur­ing the beta peri­od.  Dur­ing that week-long play “test” I deter­mined that there was no con­ceiv­able improve­ment that they could make that would ren­der the game worth the pur­chase price and ser­vice cost.  This past week­end has been a “free” week­end — dur­ing which I played the game again. That opin­ion has not changed.

Fall­out 76 was in a state that should have pre­vent­ed it’s release when it was released.  Bethes­da took a lot on the chin for that, and, at least par­tial­ly, has owned that.  The fact that Fall­out 76 still sol­diers on per­plex­es me a lit­tle.  There must be at least a few peo­ple who enjoy it, I sup­pose.  That-all-said, play­ing it this week­end … I think I encoun­tered 2 … maybe 3 peo­ple… not what I look for in a mul­ti­play­er experience.

At this point, Fall­out 76 has released their update with peo­ple… oth­er peo­ple, that is NPC peo­ple… in the game.  Does this improve the game.  In short, “no.”

Bethesda’s PASS is No Longer Valid

Many lit­tle things are wrong with Fall­out 76.  Still.  You can still get stuck on lit­tle bits of ter­rain (espe­cial­ly in a fire­fight).  It still takes ages to go between the “world” and an indoor “pri­vate” space.  Inter­ac­tions with NPCs are still freak­ish­ly awk­ward (dou­bly so now that some of them have faces).

For many of it’s titles, Bethes­da got a “pass” from gamers.  The games they pro­duced were so over-the-top com­plex that some bugs were expect­ed.  A strong mod­ding com­mu­ni­ty often fixed many of the bugs by them­selves (<insert game name>-unofficial-patch).  This is not an excuse, but an exam­ple of how tru­ly the com­mu­ni­ty loved the games.

No Replay Value

One thing that struck me as I was play­ing was the utter lack of replay val­ue.  One large por­tion of the val­ue propo­si­tion of a Bethes­da game is that I’d be play­ing it 10 or 15 years lat­er — and what the incred­i­ble com­mu­ni­ty of mod­ders would have come up with by then.

The good games… the real­ly good games … like Obliv­ion and Half Life are more like tech demos of what’s pos­si­ble than games.  From their sand­box­es come all kinds of things.  Con­tri­bu­tions from the com­mu­ni­ty … to the com­mu­ni­ty.  This has an out­sized val­ue that com­pen­sates for the bug­gi­ness of the games Bethes­da releases.

There is no such com­pen­sa­tion in Fall­out 76.  In fact, when it becomes unprof­itable to run the Fall­out 76 servers, there will be no more Fall­out 76.  I would use this moment to point out that new con­tent was released this year for Half Life.  Think about that.

Not Really Caring is the Problem

Both in my orig­i­nal play test and in this week­end’s play test, not real­ly car­ing is an issue.  It’s dif­fi­cult to press on when you don’t care.  If a game is “not fun” then why am I play­ing it (even for free)?

The wak­ing up in the vault has­n’t changed.  It’s some­what dis­ap­point­ing to me.  Yes, it guides you to tables of things you need and pro­vides a cou­ple of data dumps on ter­mi­nals, but there seems to be tonnes of loot … almost too much to car­ry out … but none of it that you can take.

Imme­di­ate­ly after leav­ing the vault, now you meet the first two “new” NPCs.  They think there is some “trea­sure” in the vault (in fact, con­sid­er­ing the piles of junk in the vault, there real­ly is “trea­sure” … but…).  They’re from out of state.  After you just tell them that there’s noth­ing, they relent and “offer” (in the most clunky data-dump way pos­si­ble) to tell you things.

While that intro­duc­tion to NPCs isn’t great by any mea­sure, it goes down­hill from there.  As short jog lat­er, we find “The Way­ward” which intro­duces our first quest with NPCs — to deal with oth­er both­er­some NPCs at the lum­ber mill.  Now, I’m start­ing to care less about this review, nev­er mind Fall­out 76, so I won’t go into great detail about this quest, except that it’s option­al parts involve a speech quest that you could­n’t pos­si­bly pass at this lev­el and/or a mon­ster that is eas­i­ly 3 or 4 times your lev­el.  And then an obvi­ous solu­tion (you find a record­ing with a pass­word) does­n’t lead to a dia­log option to use the pass­word to gain access to the area.

… and so anoth­er death and anoth­er long walk back.

What is this Game, Anyways

Why is Fall­out 76 an online mul­ti­play­er game, any­ways.  At best, it’s a game to play with friends … like Bor­der­lands or the new Just Cause.  There is lit­er­al­ly no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it being an online-serv­er game.  Can thou­sands of peo­ple occu­py the same serv­er?  No.  Does the econ­o­my of the game require large num­bers of peo­ple?  No.  In fact that would break it.

When you look at mas­sive online game design … and I’m talk­ing about the EVE’s or the WOW’s… you have a game design that is mas­sive­ly mul­ti­play­er from the get-go.  Oth­er online humans are not rare and the rea­sons to fight them are not uncom­mon.  Would EVE work as a non-online game?  No.  Not even close.  Would WOW?  Well… not like it is, for sure.  It would be more like a Bethes­da game.

Part of my the­sis in this sec­tion is that like any oth­er “engi­neer­ing” deci­sion, there are trade­offs to being mas­sive­ly online.  An online game is nec­es­sar­i­ly more grindy (espe­cial­ly at the low­er lev­els) than an offline one — you need this to have a sane econ­o­my.  In Fall­out 76, you can see this in the fact that ven­dors sell you back items at 40x the val­ue that they buy them (not say 2x or 1.5x).

Anoth­er sta­ple of online games is encoun­ters that require a group.  Fall­out 76 seems to try this every so often, but it also fails hard.  It wants to say that you can do this on your own.  This state­ment is in con­flict with the need for group activ­i­ties.  This might not be so hard if there were dozens of play­ers queu­ing up around tough encoun­ters, but this is not my expe­ri­ence (on a week­end when lots of new peo­ple should be attempt­ing these lev­el 1 quests).

In the end, I would advise Bethes­da to look at the “Bor­der­lands” mod­el — muti­play­er local servers with match­mak­ing.  They can even save on run­ning servers as “Steam” will hap­pi­ly do that for them.


I’m not buy­ing it.  I’m not even that inter­est­ed in try­ing to max­i­mize my week­end play­ing time.  Pri­ma­ry com­plaints are:

  • It should­n’t be an online game: 
    • The econ­o­my is very grindy
    • There aren’t enough people
    • The game is still not designed to be an online game
  • It’s still seri­ous­ly buggy
  • The writ­ing is still bad (even for Bethes­da’s standards)
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Advertising to a Post Consumerist

Deter­min­ing what I real­ly want is hard.  Adver­tis­ing tries every day and fails mis­er­ably.  It’s even hard for me and thus down­right impos­si­ble for my close fam­i­ly and friends.  Occa­sion­al­ly, my fam­i­ly mem­bers will make an unusu­al­ly inspired choice.  Some­times this amounts to an item that I did­n’t know I want­ed but actu­al­ly real­ly need.  Oth­er times this amounts to some­thing for which I’ve been pin­ing for some time (either overt­ly or uncon­scious­ly).  Maybe they got it just to shut me up…

Watson on Jeopardy

Wat­son on Jeopardy

A fair ques­tion would be: Do my fam­i­ly and close friends “get” me more than Google and oth­er deep-think­ing data­bas­es of the Inter­webs?  This empir­i­cal evi­dence would sug­gest that they do.  A win for per­son­al rela­tion­ships over deep data, I suppose.

In a sim­i­lar vein, I get real­ly annoyed with most adver­tis­ing.  I would go so far to say that most adver­tis­ing makes me feel empa­thy embar­rass­ment for the cre­ator or object of the adver­tise­ment.  Regard­less of how I feel, though, adver­tis­ing takes up time and resources for lit­tle prac­ti­cal use, in my case.

How do I find myself in this sit­u­a­tion?  I don’t want what “peo­ple” appar­ent­ly want.  I say, “appar­ent­ly” because I def­i­nite­ly don’t under­stand what peo­ple want and the evi­dence, giv­en by adver­tise­ments direct­ed at me, is that I’m expect­ed to want some­thing else.  There may have been a time when I shared some wants with the mass­es, but they have def­i­nite­ly left me some time ago.

Personal Luxury Submarine

Per­son­al Lux­u­ry Submarine

My wants tend you come from two schemas: the prac­ti­cal and the mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal.  In prac­ti­cal things, I eas­i­ly show my diver­gence from the norm.  I don’t want a “new” car.  I research the crap out of most pur­chas­es.  Most of my pur­chas­es prob­a­bly rep­re­sent a long tail process where I fer­ret out a fair­ly unique prod­uct from a rel­a­tive­ly unique ven­dor.  In many cas­es, right­ly or wrong­ly, I con­clude that doing it myself is the answer.

For the mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal, see Per­son­al Lux­u­ry Sub­ma­rine.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

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Factorio Nuclear Reactor Thoughts

Factorio Nuclear Reactors

Fac­to­rio Nuclear Reactors

Fac­to­rio Nuclear Reac­tors are a new pow­er source in Fac­to­rio 0.15.  For those that have played Fac­to­rio, late game setups have includ­ed either thou­sands of steam engines or tens of thou­sands of solar pan­els.  This ends up tak­ing both sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tion and sig­nif­i­cant game world space.  While mass pro­duc­tion is part of the game, the space tak­en by the pow­er sys­tem often dwarfs by orders of mag­ni­tude the oth­er game activity.

With 2 off­shore pumps,20 steam boil­ers, and 40 steam engines, and a big belt of coal you can get neigh 60 megawatts. As you can see on the left, here, It’s a pret­ty large set­up. It’s enough, gen­er­al­ly, for the first stage of the game… upto mak­ing all the potions, but it starts get­ting dicey at that point. You cer­tain­ly want to also be using coal for smelt­ing as this will not pro­vide that lev­el of power.

Factorio Max 2 Pump Steam Setup

Fac­to­rio Max 2 Pump Steam Setup

A sim­i­lar set­up with Solar Pan­els would already be sev­er­al times larg­er (and would con­sume bat­ter­ies and steel to a much greater extent).

My sim­ple Fac­to­rio Nuclear Reac­tor set­up (shown above) pro­vides 40 MW with one Reac­tor, 160 MW with two, 280 MW with three and 480 MW with four Reac­tors con­fig­ured.  I rec­om­mend shoot­ing for the two reac­tor set­up to start because the bonus­es are just so high.

But… I’m jump­ing ahead of myself.  You need to get there from the start of your game.  You can’t even mine Ura­ni­um until you have a source of Sul­fu­ric Acid.

In the last few attempts at 0.15 Fac­to­rio, I’ve found that one trick is to start min­ing ura­ni­um as soon as you have Sul­phuric Acid.  There is often a patch that will be cov­ered by one or two min­ers near your spawn and I run that into a chest. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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The Social Inequity of Keurig and Other Cartridge Systems

I’ve been try­ing to decide what it is that so annoys me about the Keurig and oth­er Car­tridge Sys­tems.  At first, one could eas­i­ly decry the Keurig for envi­ron­men­tal waste.  Giv­en their mar­ket, how­ev­er, it was inevitable that they would mit­i­gate this prob­lem.  Too many crunchy-gra­nola types like their fan­cy cof­fee or tea.

Social Coffee

Social Cof­fee

The prob­lem with Keurig has been hov­er­ing around the periph­ery of my  mind for ages… just out of reach.  I saw a car­tridge based bread mak­er for sale in a fly­er some time ago, and still draw upon it as an exam­ple of what is wrong with soci­ety.  I see restau­rants serv­ing Keurig and I fur­ther decry the demise of life as we know it.

But what is wrong here.  At first blush, it seems to be a solu­tion look­ing for a prob­lem.  It’s cer­tain­ly not dif­fi­cult to make cof­fee.  Even the dif­fer­ence between mak­ing bread, oper­at­ing a tra­di­tion­al bread-mak­er and using the car­tridge-based bread mak­er are not that large.

Car­tridge based cof­fee sys­tems were becom­ing pop­u­lar in offices more than 10 years ago.  If any­thing, Keurig took it’s sweet time to appear as a con­sumer prod­uct.  Even before that, cof­fee machines man­u­fac­tured swill to order.  If any­thing, the car­tridge-based sys­tems should be hailed as a step up from those efforts.

If you haven’t yet guess from the title, my the­sis is that the real cost is social, not envi­ron­men­tal.  Cof­fee is a social bev­er­age.  If I put on a pot of cof­fee, I am pro­vid­ing a ser­vice to the rest of the office while ful­fill­ing my own need.  From the pot, I can pour sev­er­al cups of cof­fee and enjoy a moment with oth­er peo­ple shar­ing cof­fee.  Even those who drink tea are com­ing to the same area.  I don’t live in Eng­land, but I sus­pect some bet­ter work estab­lish­ments must have a com­mu­nal pot of tea around.

But the Keurig would have me self­ish­ly make my own cup of cof­fee — to not share with any­one.  The time it takes the Keurig to brew, while short, pre­cludes the inter­ac­tion over the fresh hot bev­er­age as I will move on after get­ting my cup of joe — not want­i­ng to appear lazy by wait­ing for a cowork­er’s cup to brew.  Most impor­tant­ly, Keurig denies me the sim­ple plea­sure of mak­ing a pot of cof­fee for oth­er people.

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Seats, Feet and Righteous Indignation — Judgemental Treatment of Others is Unjust

I haven’t been com­pelled to write some­thing in awhile, but this pic­ture and the accom­pa­ny­ing sto­ry at the star moti­vat­ed me. From the arti­cle, it seems it’s gone quite viral.  It seems top­i­cal in ref­er­ence to my last arti­cle “Life is not Fair.”  Here we have a woman (the arti­cle fur­ther points out a “white” woman) impos­ing her views on shared eti­quette on a man (the arti­cle points out a man of non-white skin) with right­eous indig­na­tion.  This is ever-so-exact­ly the type of Fair­ness Nazi that I was annoyed with.

Feet On Her Seat, Righteous Indignation

Feet On Her Seat, Right­eous Indignation

To both inform and save you from the details, the arti­cle and atten­dant viral video, so a young man with his feet on the seat of a appar­ent­ly most­ly emp­ty sub­way car in Toron­to.  Enter a woman who sees this and decides to “teach him a les­son” by sit­ting on his feet.  Then this all esca­lates.  He push­es, she press­es the pan­ic stop for the train, secu­ri­ty comes.  Enter­tain­ment for the mass­es and appar­ent­ly val­i­da­tion of right­eous indig­na­tion and judge­ment for some who view it.

It’s not that she may not have a point (she may).  It’s also not that the pow­er dynam­ic maybe skewed (it may).  There’s a prin­ci­ple here.  Tak­ing from my Chris­t­ian back­ground (and I“m not well versed enough to know how ubiq­ui­tous this con­cept is, but I choose to believe that it is shared), Jesus teach­es that it is not our place to judge. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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Life is not Fair

Life is Not Fair

Life is Not Fair

Humans have a strong sense of fair­ness. To be fair is to be in bal­ance with one’s fel­low humans. Like any met­ric involv­ing humans, how­ev­er, fair­ness suf­fers from hav­ing too much just as much as hav­ing too little.

To lit­tle real fair­ness exists in the world at large. Protests, vio­lence, injury and death mark the chasm between black and white, rich and poor, man and woman, priv­i­leged and com­mon. It can accu­rate­ly be said that life, tak­en in aggre­gate, is more unfair now than at any time in human history.

But this arti­cle aims to talk about the issue of too much fair­ness or being fair when it is uncalled-for.  This is the point where peo­ple look at their fel­low human and want to take an action to make things incre­men­tal­ly more fair between them.  Said this way, it seems like meddling.

In defense of my the­sis, I’m not writ­ing about a protest to change a com­pa­ny’s poli­cies towards groups of peo­ple.  We must protest for fair­ness among large groups of peo­ple.  It is fun­da­men­tal to our health as a soci­ety that we con­tin­ue to cor­rect these issues.  Rather I’m con­sid­er­ing the urge, in humans, to change sin­gu­lar oth­er humans’ behav­ior. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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Day Break Mill: Searching for Red Fife Wheat…

Day Break Mill

Day Break Mill

I’ve been search­ing online for places to buy Red Fife flour and my search lead me to the page of Day Break Mill.  I imme­di­ate­ly hit the “con­tact us” but­ton so that I could deter­mine where they were.  While I get the pic­ture: it’s in Saskatchewan, still.. did some­one think this was a good con­fig­u­ra­tion for the google widget?

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SlowCooker: Pulled Pork: Sauce Made of Sauces.

Pulled Pork Almost Done

Pulled Pork Almost Done

I was leaf­ing through recipe ideas the oth­er day and came across Pulled Pork for the Slow­Cook­er.  The slow­cook­er is great for soups and stews and I always enjoy find­ing anoth­er recipe for it.  Pulled pork is tra­di­tion­al­ly a south­ern bar­beque dish where an oth­er­wise tough cut of pork is slow­ly cooked in var­i­ous juices until ten­der and then ripped apart or “pulled.”

In our case, we had a pork loin (not nor­mal­ly a can­di­date) that was mod­er­ate­ly freez­er burnt (per­fect).  The long cook­ing and hydra­tion of the sauce com­pen­sat­ed per­fect­ly for the freez­er burn. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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Truthiness: of Rights and Wrongs

Truthiness feels good

Truthi­ness feels good!

Truthi­ness.  I love this word.  It encap­su­lates all that is wrong with the Amer­i­can Reli­gious Right.  I’ve been think­ing around how to talk about this scourge and received insight from a com­mon (for me) source: The Econ­o­mist has a book review of “The Bat­tle for Yel­low­stone” by Justin Far­rell. The essence of this book, accord­ing to the review (I real­ly need to read the book), is to talk about the prob­lems with pol­i­tics in Amer­i­ca with­out actu­al­ly talk­ing about pol­i­tics in America.

It is absolute­ly true that the best ways to talk about a dif­fi­cult top­ic is by talk­ing about some­thing else entire­ly.  I’m not just talk­ing about avoid­ance (a viable strat­e­gy — a head in the sand is worth two in the bush), but about the sub­sti­tu­tion inher­ent in most good fic­tion and espe­cial­ly sci­ence fiction.

The book, accord­ing to the econ­o­mist, dis­cuss­es how each group in the vari­ety of dis­putes sur­round­ing Yel­low­stone frame their argu­ment as truth against false­hoods while they are real­ly argu­ing moral right ver­sus moral wrong.  The Wikipedia arti­cle on Truthi­ness echos this point where Col­bert (wide­ly con­sid­ered to have coined the term in com­mon usage) dis­cuss­es the way each fac­tion desires to bring it’s own facts to the polit­i­cal debate, rather than all fac­tions argu­ing the cor­rect action against an accept­ed set of facts.

I had actu­al­ly cho­sen the word Truthi­ness before I had read the Col­bert quotes and cog­i­tat­ed on how they meshed with the theme.  I’ve been cog­i­tat­ing for some time on the inap­pro­pri­ate­ness of Truthi­ness.  I see the prob­lems: that things have become com­plex enough; so far beyond most peo­ple’s edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­ence that they are eas­i­ly duped by those who would manip­u­late their views.  The prob­lem is not that some peo­ple will attempt to manip­u­late oth­er peo­ple — that will always be true.  The prob­lem is that so few peo­ple in soci­ety as a whole have any qual­i­ty of horse­hock­ey filter.

The stat­ed goal of pub­lic edu­ca­tion is to pre­pare each child for the life of a cit­i­zen.  In gen­er­al­ly avoid­ing class­es in civics, they have failed this task. The Huff­in­g­ton Post has a good primer on the sub­ject of pub­lic school pol­i­cy.

How did we get here, or more per­ti­nent­ly, how do we get out.  For good or for ill, large groups of politi­cians and vot­ers dis­trust sci­en­tists.  Has the dai­ly bar­rage of issues become to fierce for san­er heads pre­vail­ing in inves­ti­ga­tion and debate?  How did it come that argu­ing about right and wrong was not enough for some to invent new “facts” so as to be able to argue about what is truth?

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Rack of Lamb: Moroccan Spice

Moroccan Rack of Lamb on Plate

Moroc­can Rack of Lamb on Plate

A lit­tle cook­ing diver­sion: A Moroc­can Spiced Rack of Lamb.  I have some more stand-mix­er bak­ing to do, but my most recent attempt was lack-lus­ter.  More about that when I get it right.  This arti­cle is about our new year’s eve meal.  I want­ed to do some­thing fair­ly spe­cial withtout being too expen­sive.  As these “french cut” rack-of-lambs were on spe­cial, they fit the bill.

A stock attempt at lamb … rose­mary, maybe some dill, olive oil … it seemed below these won­der­ful cuts.  I spent some time talk­ing with my sis­ter about this and she google-texted me a recipe from some­where — I can’t exact­ly tell, but it sound­ed won­der­ful.  How­ev­er, it was new years eve and it want­ed pome­gran­ate juice.  I don’t keep that around.  Look­ing at the recipe, I decid­ed that the juice was used for it’s sweet­ness.  I decid­ed to sub­sti­tute “Water­loo Dark” … which is a Cana­di­an beer with a sweet almost can­dy-like taste.  I also had some “Mad Tom IPA” that I’ve been try­ing to find recipes to get rid of it in — but it has a decid­ed­ly bit­ter fin­ish, so I expect­ed it would­n’t be appro­pri­ate here.  While I don’t like Mad Tom, Musko­ka Cream Ale is the defin­i­tive Cream Ale for me. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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