The Power of the Legion

2020-11-16 - Reading time: 11 minutes

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As a long time fan of Watch Dogs 2, I observed the initial concept and trailer for Watch Dogs: Legion roll out with a feeling of trepidation.

They'd dropped the number '3' from the title, first off. Perhaps a trivial change, but for the paranoid, this was an ominous sign that things were changing.

And indeed they were.

Gone was a specific lead character. There was a big push towards the idea that you could "take control of anyone". And it seemed like there was an overall less 'realistic' feel: digital-cyber-anarchists in pig masks, skull masks. Lots of masks. And it looked like it took place in a less relatable, less contemporary world, instead set further into the dystopian future.

While I welcomed the change of venue to the UK, everything else I was seeing just wasn't clicking with me.

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I felt like this would likely be where me and the Watch_Dogs™ franchise would part ways... I was all about WD2's wonderful alternate-yet-familiar world of late 2010s San Francisco, with it's terrific energy thanks to the rebel/ASCII pop art designs, and surprisingly compelling personalities. Not to mention it felt very relatable to today's world. Slightly more advanced than today, but not unrecognizably so. Just twenty minutes into the future, you could say. 😏

And it strongly looked as if Legion was poised to throw away most of what appealed to me. So I stopped following the news about it, and decided all the indicators suggested this wasn't going to be for me.

Then it launched...

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Between the gameplay footage coming out, the absolutely brutal 2020 US election, and the frustrating additional delay of the much awaited Cyberpunk 2077 until mid-December, I found myself weak and incapable of holding onto the money in my virtual wallet.

So... how'd it go? Well, I just finished it last night. The "Ubisoft Connect" launcher informs me I've put in 49 hours so far. (For comparison, I've put a mere 60 hours into Watch Dogs 2. Or so it says. Feels like more.)

But did I like it?

Well, if the nearly 50 hours didn't suggest it, I'll spell it out: YES. Watch Dogs: Legion was definitely worth it.

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The procedural/every-man rallied citizen gimmick that I was so skeptical about was actually a rather bold creative decision with a wonderful message about the power of the people. I don't really want to see it return in future entries, but it worked here way better than I'd have ever expected. I didn't notice similar voices. I'm sure the dupes were there but it was varied enough where it didn't stand out. The variation and people, backstories, and relationships (!) it generates is rather impressive. (Though sometimes procedural generation can get you into trouble. 😏)

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But it also held it back the narrative back in some ways: everyone calls you "DedSec" -- a weak, but workable solution to recording lines without the near impossible task of referring to your procedurally generated name personally. Most of the time it sounded like it was referring to you as a representative of the group, but once or twice it just felt awkward. Not a game breaker, though. Not by a long shot. 

The cinematics felt like a bit of a downgrade from Watch Dogs 2. Possibly this was due to the procedural nature of your current player character. The nuance of performance previously infused into Marcus and his San Fran DedSec friends is reduced a bit here. Again, forgivable considering the technological circumstances. They're still generally quite good.

Even if the cinematics don't always measure up, don't even get me started on the absolute beauty and insane level of detail of London captured here. This might be the biggest advancement over WD2, and even that game still looks fantastic.

Quite often, especially with raytracing enabled, Watch Dogs: Legion is capable of looking almost photorealistic.

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Another... well... I'm hesitant to call it a down side, as it's merely the side effect of the gimmick.

But I'm kind of bummed that MY Legion experience isn't everyone elses. It was just for me. Everyone playing this game is (with some exceptions) going to have a different vision of which DedSec member was there in the final act.

For instance, my main DedSec crew was composed of:

  • Wanda Baker: a 60+ assassin who's looking for one last great thrill before hanging up her guns,
  • Theresa Green: a tough as nails, mid-40s punk rock MILF hacker with mohawk,
  • and Saeed Rahmanzai: a dreadlocked AR-glasses clad young drone expert (who got less play as the team got better with drone control)

There were a dozen others on the team, but once things really got rolling, they were pretty much just not much more than background noise...

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For me, Wanda, Theresa, and Saeed ARE the saviors of London.

Yet... they're not. They're just folks I recruited along the way, and I got attached to them. My imagination filled in the blanks and made them more interesting.

The game is structured in such a way that I can do that, and the story won't step on my imagination's toes.

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One other major difference from Watch Dogs 2: there's a lot of streamlining of the gameplay present.

Many hacks from prior entries are gone. The character skill upgrades are greatly reduced. But you also get certain skills out of the box (like remote controlling vehicles, for example).

Where Watch Dogs 2 had a wealth of various, interesting upgrades, Legion's options are much more... shall we say, focused... to a handful of weapon, accessory, and drone hack upgrades. Many of the more interesting skills are locked behind specific recruit classes with unique abilities. This is likely why the skill tree was minimized. It gives more value to recruiting the individuals. All the really cool tricks went to them. The "beekeeper" comes to mind, with a cloud of robotic attack bees... the "living statue" guy... the hypnotic "magician"... and so on.

I never got around to checking them out, unfortunately. I locked in my core team pretty fast.

This will likely be something I'll be willing to explore on subsequent playthroughs. (There's a perma-death mode, too!)

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As for the core skills shared by the team, once you realize the spider-bot lets you take down unaware people from a distance, safely, and with ease, it's really the only accessory you'll care about. It kind of makes the game too easy. Nobody is forcing you to use it, of course: most missions have multiple open ended ways to accomplish tasks.

But blimey, it feels silly to NOT use it.

Also important: the drone/turret hijack and betrayal hack skills. Get a drone specialist early on to get access to these quickly, but with enough points in your skills and everyone can do them. (Sorry, Saeed. Thanks for your service.)

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Overall, Watch Dogs: Legion is a pretty damned cool experiment. Despite all odds, it largely succeeds in pulling off the trick of it's central gimmick while still delivering an engrossing (yet ultimately predictable -- spoiler!) story.

While it hasn't dethroned Watch Dogs 2 as my favorite in the series (it's going to take a LOT to do that, admittedly) it certainly holds it's own as a solid, enjoyable entry in the series.

4/5


Hacking Reality to Save the Princess

2020-09-13 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Came across this over on Hacker News this morning and left a brief thought on it over there (that I'm sure has been ripped to shreds by now). (EDIT: Not so much. But we did reach similar endpoints. Thanks, guys!)

Long story short, even shorter: player manipulates and aligns glitches to basically rewrite the code's stack to force the game ending sequence to execute. Goes from title screen to prince rescued in ~3 minutes.

From a hacker perspective, this kind of thing is -- 😘👌 -- excellent. Even if the player didn't consciously decide to manipulate the stack but happened to stumble onto a combination to make it work, it's still super cool to break it down, which is what this video does.



Originally this post was a reflection on the ethics of this kind of thing being considered a 'world record', and how I'd rather see them split this out into it's own category.

Instead of investigating first, I just vomited out all my thoughts and feelings without actually seeing how the world decided to handle this. I ran on an assumption. And it was wrong.

Because they DO break it out by category:

Here's how they break it down -- and they are NOT fucking around:

100%

Beat the game, entering and completing every stage and Hammer Bros. fight.

  • Time starts on pressing Start on the title screen.
  • Time ends on entering the door after defeating Bowser.

This category includes:

  • All action stages (numbered stages, fortresses, airships, plants, hands...)
  • All overworld Hammer Bros. (including their Boomerang, Fire and Sledge Bros. variations)

Important notes:

  • Do not forget the Fire Bros. behind the rock in world 2, the two plants in world 7 and the three hands in world 8!
  • If you accidentally transform some Hammer Bros. into a coinship, you must either beat the coinship or die on purpose during the coinship to transform it back into Hammer Bros. and then defeat them.
  • Mushroom houses, card games, roulette games and overworld pipes are allowed but not required.

Banned emulators: ZSNES (any version), SNES9x 1.4x

Any% Warpelss

Beat the game as quickly as possible without using any wrong warps or warp whistles. Warp whistles may be collected but not used.

Time starts on pressing Start on the title screen.
Time ends on entering the door after defeating Bowser.

Banned emulators: ZSNES (any version), SNES9x 1.4x

Any% (No Wrong Warp)

Beat the game as quickly as possible without using any wrong warps.

Time starts on pressing Start on the title screen.
Time ends on entering the door after defeating Bowser.

Banned emulators: ZSNES (any version), SNES9x 1.4x

Any%

Time starts on pressing Start on the title screen.


Time ends when Mario is visible in the princess' chamber. If the game crashes, the run is invalid.


Banned platforms: Virtual Console, NESClassic, BizHawk (QuickNES core)Note that BizHawk with the NESHawk core is allowed.

And these are just the Super Mario Bros. 3 specific rule sets. Other games have different rules.

For instance, Portal has "Out of Bounds" (any and all tricks allowed), "Inbounds" (camera and portals cannot leave the map), "Glitchless" (use none of the officially recognized glitches), and "Inbounds No SLA" (Save/Load Abuse).

Even something like bloody Cookie Clicker has a whole bunch of rule sets: "1 Million Cookies", "Neverclick" (bake 1 million cookies without clicking the cookie <= 15 times), "True Neverclick" (bake 1 million cookies without clicking the cookie at all), "Hardcore" (bake 1 billion cookies without upgrades), "40 Achievements" (guess), "1 Heavenly Chip" (🙏).

Finding this out was pretty amazing. Not only were my concerns alleviated, but I've actually found a brand new level of respect for the speedrunning. :)

And I was able to salvage a lengthy post, and turn it into something positive. Everyone wins!


Slack Injection Arcade: THING!!!

2018-08-21 - Reading time: ~1 minute

Played through the first episode of the Build-based classic Blood last night. It's not great but it has some charming moments. At the time, everyone was going for the one-off jokes and pop culture references after Duke 3D set the tone for these things, and Blood was no exception! ;)


Slack Injection Arcade: The Mimic Portal Escape Run!

2018-08-19 - Reading time: ~1 minute

Watch as I cheese the hell out of Prey: Mooncrash and turn back the hands of time by exploiting unexplained game save behavior!

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/299192958


Slack Injection Arcade: Bendy and the Ink Machine

2018-04-09 - Reading time: ~1 minute


Cover Image

The Slack Injection Arcade

2018-04-03 - Reading time: 2 minutes

I've been meaning to do more Slack Injection episodes, but I just haven't gotten around to it. But I do play a lot of games. I seem to find time for that. Oof.

There's a whole world of game streaming that I never really got into -- your "Twitches" and your "YouTube Gamings" and such.

So, what the hell, right?  Over the last couple nights, I've been playing with Twitch and the always excellent OpenBroadcaster. Streamed some Far Cry 4, and, last night, my Overwatch session. And you know what? It was fun. I love to ramble and bitch, so this was a great match for me. I had no idea. ;)

Going to make an attempt to stream nightly, or a couple times a week at least. Whatever I'm currently into. Or maybe do something different now and then, like some NES/SNES classics.

I'm going to set it up so that folks can call in, including some regulars, making it almost an improvised talk show of sorts. Maybe I can line up some audio clips, like the pre-recorded shows.

I have no idea -- this is my first week playing with it. I'd like to make it something different from the million other streamers, though.  But for now, I'll just take it as it comes.

For now, add me up and follow to get notifications. I'll probably be streaming around 8 or 9pm EST, when I do, but I could strike at any time...! ;U

(Well, not at work. 😏)

https://www.twitch.tv/drfortyseven


Mini Review: DLC Quest

2013-03-21 - Reading time: 3 minutes


DLC Quest is a humorous jab at the game industry from the perspective of a retro platform game that requires the purchase of downloadable expansions to perform even the most basic functions. 

The game begins with no sound and no animation.  In fact, you aren't even able to jump or move left!  These features aren't included out of the box, of course. Instead, you are granted the privilege of purchasing these advanced gameplay features from an in-game vendor.  All of the gags you would expect to see are here, including the infamous expensive horse armor.  Thankfully, as the game reassures us early on, no ACTUAL real-life currency is involved. All transactions are conducted using coins collected inside the game.

Unfortunately, there isn't much of a "game" here.  Unlocking DLC is required in order to progress the purposely generic, but ultimately uninspired "story".  Once you get going, it's pretty much a straight path to the finish line: Collect enough coins to unlock  the next DLC pack, rinse, repeat until the credits roll.  There is no death.  In fact, there is no way to fail. In that respect, DLC Quest is, in a sense, closer to old Lucasarts adventure games.  Enemies function merely as passive roadblocks that only additional downloaded content can alleviate.

Ultimately the only real replay value is in doing speed runs, collecting coins, unlocking the DLC as fast as possible, and comparing your times against a leaderboard.  Currently the top 10 is filled with people who finished the game in 12 minutes.  I believe I spent just over twice that amount of time playing.  The recent addition of a second quest ("Live Freemium or Die") helps extend the value, but this is still a short game.

DLC Quest is a genuinely funny commentary on the state of micro-transactions and downloadable content in gaming.  It may run the joke into the ground by the end, but at roughly $3 in most digital stores, it's worth a look.  Just don't expect any sort of serious challenge.

Rating: 3/5 (Good)
Platforms: Steam ($2.99), Desura ($2.99),  XBL (80 MS points per quest), Mac App Store ($2.99)
Developer: Going Loud Studios


Retro Scans: Columbia Video Game Club

2013-02-08 - Reading time: 4 minutes
Omni, July 1983

I was flipping through some old Omni magazines (July 1983) that I'd dug up while cleaning out some boxes, and I found a treasure trove of awesome retro goodness.  So, I'm going to start scanning!  The first one is the Columbia Video Game Club, much like it's scammy cousin the Columbia House Music Club, except for video game cartridges.

At $4.95 A Game You Can't Miss. 

Take any one of these video games for only $4.95 when you join the Columbia Video Game Club and agree to buy just 2 more games at regular Club prices in the coming year.

Just look at the video games offered here... all available for home enjoyment on your Atari® Video Computer System™! They retail anywhere from $26.95 to $34.95 each, yet you can have any one for only $4.95 -- with membership in the Columbia Video Game Club!  This is an exciting new service that offers you the newest home video games on a convenient shop-at-home basis -- and at great club savings!

How the Club works: approximately every six weeks (up to 9 times a year) you will receive the Club's colorful Video Game Magazine.  It announces the Hit Game Selection...generally a brand-new arcade winner. In addition, the Magazine will picture and describe many other video games, new gadgets to upgrade your own Atari® system, helpful hints on how to improve your scores, a poster, and much more.

If you want the Hit Game Selection, you need do nothing -- it will be sent to you automatically.  If you want one of the alternate games offered -- or nothing at all -- just tell us so on the response card always provided and mail it by the date indicated.  You'll always have ten days to make your decision.  If you ever receive a game without having had ten days to decide, return it at our expense.

The game cartridges you order will be mailed and billed to you at regular Club prices -- which currently range from $24.95 to $29.95, plus shipping and handling, and appropriate sales tax.  Remember, you don't have to buy a video game every time you hear from us -- your only membership obligation is to buy as few as two games in the coming year, and you may cancel membership at any time after doing so.  If you decide to continue, you'll be eligible for our generous money-saving bonus plan.

10-Day Free Trial: we'll send complete details of the Club's operation with your introductory cartridge. If you are not satisfied for any reason whatsoever, just return everything within 10 days for a full refund and you will have no further obligation.  So mail the coupon now!

WANT STILL ONE MORE GAME for $4.95? You can have ANY TWO of these video games for only $.95 each -- if you agree to buy four more (at regular Club prices) in the coming two years! Just check box in application and enclose $9.90 for your two games.

All applications subject to review; Columbia Video Game Club reserves the right to reject any application or cancel any membership.

Columbia Video Game Club, Dept. 2CQ, 3000 North 35th Street, Terre Haute, IN 47811, 1-800-457-0866 (In Indiana call 812-466-8125 collect.)

GC18/F83


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