Friday, June 29, 2012

Fallout New Vegas Mod: GQ Convenience Items

Fallout: New Vegas Mod - GQ Convenience Items
This is the New Vegas version of our Fallout 3 mod GQ Conveniences.

--Download (version: July 1st, 2012)--
Alternate Download Link

* Added July 1st - Weapon Mod Kits in the Sell Menu.
--Requires the New Vegas Script Extender (NVSE)--

GQ Convenience Items is a compilation of various utilities to make playing Fallout: New Vegas more convenient. They are essentially cheat items. Most of them are geared toward time-saving.
This mod has NO dependencies -- not even FalloutNV.ESM -- so it can be put anywhere in your load order. Since there is nothing in it that needs to be merged with anything else, if you are making a Merged Patch or Bashed Patch, you can position this mod underneath them to be excluded from Merging or Bashing.

You will need to use the console command "player.additem <FormID> 1" to add the items that trigger or toggle the utilities:

xx00080b Bullet Time 25%
xx000808 Grab Items
xx00081a Light Amplification
xx00080d Move Keys to Storage
xx00080c Repair Items
xx000809 Sell Items
xx00080a Store Items

Equipping this item toggles 25% Bullet Time -- the game moves at 1/4 speed for everyone, including you. The AI can calculate combat moves much more quickly and accurately than you in regular x1.0 time. By slowing the game to 1/4 time, it puts you approximately at the same competence level as the AI. If you are in melee, for example, you can react to blocks or enemy movement at a reasonable speed, and can now more feasibly take advantage of any superior reach afforded by your weapon (or react to the AI backing away from your short reach weapon).

Known Issue:
  • If you are in Bullet Time and enter VATS, after a VATS sequence time will be reset to 1.0 by the VATS system. But the Bullet Time script does not know that. When you next toggle Bullet Time, it will just reset Bullet Time to 1.0. You need to toggle it a second time to restart Bullet Time.
Equipping this item will cause a script to grab:
  • All inventory items lying around
  • All items in containers that do not have a "Key Only" lock.
  • All inventory items from dead creatures.
It affects a one cell radius. For interiors, this will typically be the entire interior.

Known Issues:
  • It WILL take items even if it would be stealing. There is no reliable test in the GECK or NVSE to detect if it would be stealing to take an item. However, you will suffer no Karma loss.
  •  It can grab things from locked containers and even if you cannot pick the lock. However, it should reliably detect when a container is locked with "Key Only" and cannot be lockpicked.
  • It can grab things behind doors that are "Key Only". This could possibly break quests.
  • Sometimes the game will not register that you have taken an item or emptied a container, even if the item is gone from the game world. If you equip the Grab Item to run the script again, you will get a duplicate of everything and get another set of items from the containers. To properly update the game, make a clean save (not overwriting an old save), and reload that save game from the main menu, then reload it again in-game.
  • Sometimes it will not grab some or all items. You can try reloading (as above) to refresh the game.
This item toggles a light amplification effect which increases ambient lighting, thus allowing you to see better in the dark. Unlike almost all "night vision" mods, there is no monotone shading involved. Everything is simply brighter. See the screenshots below for a comparison.

Light Amplification - before

Light Amplification - after

Equipping this item destroys all the keys you have (even quest-item keys), and reproduces them inside the container accessed by the Storage item (see below). This is meant as a way to drop keys since you cannot normally do that. When you pick up a key, you no longer have the option of lockpicking the associated lock, and therefore you cannot gain any XP from opening the lock.

Equipping this item opens the Repair Menu that you normally get when you ask a merchant if they can repair your items. The proxy character who is handling the repair will have a repair skill equal to your current Repair skill.
This is meant to be an alternative to using items for repair. Instead of accumulating items to repair your gear, and trying to remember what repairs what, you can use this to repair your gear at any time. In general, it will cost more than repairing with items because of the repair formula, which always gives you (5% + (15% of your repair skill)), in addition to a small fraction of the condition of both the item being repaired and the item used for the repair. However, you can repair in small increments instead of sacrificing an entire item to do so.

Equipping this item opens a special Barter Menu.

  • The merchant has no bottle caps, only no-weight "cash" items. You buy and sell at a 1:1 ratio.
    • This is meant to be a sort of clutter-clearing option. Instead of dragging loot to the store, you can now convert them to an equivalent value in no-weight items, which you can use to barter with regular merchants.
  • If you have a weapon equipped, the merchant will also have the available Weapon Mod Kits for that weapon.
    • This is a convenience to save you from waiting at a merchant to get the kit you want, or hoping to find one as loot.
    • Typically the problem of finding an appropriate kit is made worse by having various mods that add weapons and even more kits. Often, by the time you find the kit, you will already have found a significantly better weapon.
  • To simply use this item as a garbage bin, sell the merchant various objects, but don't take anything in exchange. The script clears the merchant's inventory every time you start the Barter Menu, so whatever you sell is pretty much gone for good.

Known Issues:
  • If you equip this from your Pip-Boy inventory menu instead of a hotkey, it will still work. However, after you have sold items, they will still be listed in the Pip-Boy, but in reality they have been removed. It is recommended that you DO NOT click on anything, and instead close the Pip-Boy and allow the game to refresh its information properly.

Equipping this item opens a remote container where you can store stuff.

Known Issue:
  • This does not work if you equip the item from your Pip-Boy inventory menu. You must hotkey the Storage item and use it that way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fallout New Vegas Mod Review - New Vegas Enhanced Content

ADDENDUM (2013-Apr-18) - Obviously this review from 2012 refers to an older version of the mod (v 3.0) and it has been updated since, so some / all of this may not apply. We have finished playing Fallout: New Vegas and are not reviewing any Fallout mods at this time.
Fallout: New Vegas Mod Review - New Vegas Enhanced Content (ver 3.0)

Score: +1/-3

Summary: Mod compilation.

Why Get This: One stop shop for a mash-up of various mods.

New Vegas Enhanced Content (NVEC) is a mod compilation. There are various components, mostly imported directly and most of which you can get and apply separately. They key separate components are:
  • Cosmetic enhancements - Mostly improvements to the appearance of NPCs. Optional stat and inventory changes.
  • Performance enhancement - Removes unessential static items, thereby reducing computing load and improving performance.
  • Error fixes - Most very minor, but some quite significant.
The rest of the mod is a compilation of mods. You can see the list here.
+ It's a big convenience.
- Not well curated. You get quantity but sacrifice quality. Some mods, such as Snowglobe Perks and Unique Items and Collectibles offer bonuses that are okay on their own, but combined can be unbalancing or troublesome. For example, between the two, you can get a huge movement speed boost (about +30%). On its own, this isn't a huge problem and can be a convenience in crossing long distances. The problem is that the game engine can't really keep up properly. run too fast in an exterior and you will probably see the terrain hasn't caught up in loading and processing, and you're walking on terrain textured as if it were distant terrain. And there's no telling how much game information the game engine has NOT loaded. Also, see  the screenshot below. Some mods are added that not only don't work properly but have unnecessary profanity. (The text in the upper left corner reads, "You must equip a blade before using the Grinding Wheel stupid fuck.")

NVEC Grinding Wheel

- Not well documented. You need to sift through all the mods separately to find out what's included and in some cases, how to activate it.

- Not balanced. There's just no thought to some of the inclusions, which may be those that the mod-compiler has personally added (instead of being drawn from a mod). For example, near the start of the game, you can easily pick up a 9mm handgun that has the high fire rate of a pistol, uses cheap and plentiful ammunition, has a damage splash radius, very low spread (meaning high accuracy for placed shots), AND does damage on par with an anti-materiel rifle. Even at a beginning Guns skill, you can one-shot a lot of enemies by hitting them in the head.

Helpful Tips
If you are handy with the GECK, you can selectively disable features. Otherwise you're stuck with an all-or-nothing. You can use the Console to remove some perks you don't like, but that's the extent of what you can do to remove content.

If you're not that good with the GECK and/or don't mind spending the time, I recommend you instead look through the included mods separately and add what you want on your own. Do this if you only want a few of the features you found in NVEC.

A basic way to remove content with the GECK is to first find out what the content looks like in the game file. In the GECK, instead of loading the file, use the "Details" button to look at a listing of every entry in the mod.
If you highlight an entry and press [DEL], it will modify the file by flagging that entry as "Ignore". It is NOT deleted unless you load the file. But the game won't load it from the mod either. In this way, you can turn content on and off.
To help you find out what to delete, you can download the mod that was integrated by looking up the list here. Use the GECK Details function to look through that mod, then find it in NVEC and disable it. Make a backup in case things get messed up.

If a perk gets added that you don't want, you can look up the FormID and use the removeperk console command instead.

Why Game Companies Should Not Hire Modders

If you didn't already know, various internet forums are sometimes full of childish people and moderators who are often petty, ineffectual, or both. The Nexus group of sites, such as New Vegas Nexus, is sadly exemplary of this. Here's a snippet I got from a discussion board for one of the mods, NVEC.

New Vegas Nexus modder moderation 1

New Vegas Nexus modder moderation 2

Mods can be big and cumbersome, and often things can happen which are triggered by a mod, but not directly related to the mod. I had that happen with some Fallout 3 mods I installed, and there's nothing the modder can do to change it because it's not directly their fault. For example, too much data that the game engine has to process can result in crashes.

What often happens, however, is that people who use the mod will report the issue. And why not? As seen from the screenshots above, all the modder really had to do was say that the error, although seeming to be a direct result of installing the mod, really has nothing to do with the mod. Maybe ask if the user had inadvertently forgotten something else they did.

Instead, what the modder did was stay completely silent and just keep censoring and/or deleting comments by the user. That is so wrong for so many reasons, but the key reason it is wrong--and why modders like that aren't hireable material--is that the modder basically stuck their head in the sand. Not so much that they were pretending the problem wasn't there, but pretending that the user feedback wasn't there.
Why would they do that? Just to prevent people from getting spooked and not using their mod?
In this case, that is even more baffling since the mod is mostly an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink compilation of other people's work anyway.

And when the modder did say something about it, notice what they said--that they were basically using a right they paid Nexus for to in effect hide bad publicity about their mod. It's one thing that the modder is childish, but it's another issue when the website allows and implicitly encourages that -- and profits from it.

Although Nexus has momentum-popularity going for it (since so many mods are available from the same place), if you are tired of this sort of nonsense, you can try Mods Reloaded instead. It's not as sophisticated a website design, but all mods are checked by the site admin and there isn't the same kind of popularity contest going on there. It's precisely the popularity contest that gets people acting in strange ways.

Game development is NOT a popularity contest to get your feature incorporated in the game. In fact, it's the opposite: You must NOT have an ego about your piece of work because the realities of a shared work means sometimes it can't get used or the project has to move forward to completion and the feature will have to be dropped because it's not complete.

Modders like the one who put NVEC together are not the sort of people that should get hired at game companies. Either that, or they'd better be able to swallow their egos and actually be team players.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Orion's Gate

Fallout 3 Mod Review - The Librarian - Orion's Gate

Score: +4/-1

Summary: See new places, kill a lot of things, rescue the girl.

Why Get This: Short game with some very interesting sights. Player home.
+ It's a new game experience, just as each official DLC takes you away to a location very different from the Capital Wasteland. Each location is very different and a refreshing change from Fallout 3 -- and that's really an understatement. For this reason, however, purists may not like the non-lore feel of it.
+ Very nice final location, as well as various location in between.
+ The pacing is quite fast. No excessive time-wasting searching or running around, which is how many mods substitute combat with "puzzles".
+ Less busy outdoors compared to the Capital Wasteland where you can't run in any direction for more than 15 seconds without having to kill something.
- Very linear game with really no side trips. You just run around killing things.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Alton, IL

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Alton, IL

Score: +5/-5

Summary: New worldspace. Feels too much like the Capital Wasteland.

Why Get This: You like the Capital Wasteland post-apocalypse feel and want to explore more in that environment.

It's sad to say bad things about something when so much work has obviously gone into it, but just because a mod is big doesn't mean it's good. Just because a mod has a lot of fans doesn't mean it's good either (case in point: the severely flawed Oblivion mod Tears of the Fiend). There are basic elements of game and story design that can fail a game or mod by ruining your experience.

The mod isn't particularly bad, either. Overall, my feeling is that it is mediocre, just on a vast scale compared to other mods. Some of that is, obviously, personal opinion. If, for example, you are not bored of the Capital Wasteland ambiance, then this mod lets you continue in that vein, and have some new quests to do. For me, there's a sense of "nothing new to see or do".
++ It's a new worldspace to explore, especially if you have searched through the entire Capital Wasteland already.
+ There are various non-quest-related locations to explore, some of which are laid out quite interestingly.
+ Voiceovers and .BIK movie sequences.
+ Less busy outdoors compared to the Capital Wasteland where you can't run in any direction for more than 15 seconds without having to kill something.
- Quite a bit of the world is essentially cut-and-pasted from Fallout 3 and modified. For example, New Godfrey is a stripped down version of Megaton. This may or may not bother you. For me, there was too much of a sense of familiarity. I didn't download a worldspace mod to see the Capital Wasteland again. This really made me truly realize just how much effort really goes into Fallout 3, where just about every location is very different from every other. They even tried to make each trainstation in Fallout 3 have its own character even though they necessarily all look very much alike.
- Needs more polish (such as doors that can be Activated but do not open; and NPCs that have no dialogue at all when you talk to them). For a large enough worldspace that this mod is, that is a lot of work with very little return since the key aspects of the mod (world and quests) presently work without breaking -- which is more than many smaller mods can say. This made me appreciate all the grunt work that goes into Fallout 3, which is of course very much bigger.
- The story progresses in an implausible way. For example, the Underground Railroad initially distrusts you, so to let you prove yourself, they entrust you with restoring their power? Nevermind that if you were really an enemy, you now know where that is and can sabotage it? A later scene shows just how weakly the story is put together (nicely summarized by this forum post):

Vault overseer guy: "Yeah, so we were like...mistreated and starved and stuff! That's why we butcher loads of people! So join us and help us butcher more people!"

My character: "I MIGHT have been more inclined to help you if you hadn't had a guy bash my face in with a bat before stealing my stuff on two separate occasions. Learn to be diplomatic, moron, and you MIGHT actually make friends."

Vault overseer guy: "OMG! I thought you would be different! :'("

*he leaves you in an easily escapable situation instead of killing you after you said you'd fight for his enemies.*
- You are captured and stripped of gear in a couple of cutscenes. This is only because the script disarmed you. Otherwise you'd have shot back and killed all the baddies. Surely there was another way to present information or have a dialogue with the main bad guy. Instead, the storytellers decide to use one of the most annoying events in roleplaying: Automatic capture of your player character. In this case, it is made even worse by how implausible it is.
- The quests were boring enough that I didn't bother continuing past the choose-your-side scene. Mostly they were go-there-kill-that events which weren't more interesting than encountering some raiders in the Wasteland.

Skyrim Hoarders

This is why we have the Bag of Holding.

Glarthir, is, incidentally a character in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Not a hoarder. Paranoid, though.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fallout 3 Mod Review - A Trail of Crumbs

Fallout 3 Mod Review - A Trail of Crumbs

Score: +0

Summary: Adds more loot in safes and a small player home, if you visit a sequence of non-quest game locations. Official website here.

Why Get This: More loot, custom armour, and a perk.

You must really want the perk and the armour to really bother with this mod. And in a game where you are more or less invincible at level 12 or so and with access to more loot than you can haul, and new perks and toys won't really change anything, there is a certain pointlessness to this mod.

On the other hand, if you are an explorer who is bent on seeing every nook and cranny of the Fallout 3 game world, then you might as well get this mod since the perk and armour won't unbalance the game any more than the vanilla game already does, and you're visiting the affected locations anyway. Just don't expect this mod to add anything special to your experience of Fallout 3.

Fallout 3 Mod Review - The Regulators

Fallout 3 Mod Review - The Regulators

Score: +2/-2

Summary: Adds gangs of humans to kill.

Why Get This: You like running around the Wasteland. Overpowered perk after 47 missions.
- This mod adds locations which spawn NPCs to kill when you access a computer at the Regulator headquarters. The problem is, there's more than enough killing in the Capital Wasteland to go around that you really don't need a mod spawning a few here and there for you to shoot. There's a certain pointlessness and no-added-content to it.
+- The vanilla Fallout 3 locations are laid out in a much more interesting fashion than the locations added by this mod, which are really just map markers at camp-like locations that already exist in the game. More map markers can, however, make jumping to certain locations more convenient when you don't want to land  exactly in that location (because there might be enemies when you get there).
+ You can add defenses to Regulator HQ, making it a more convenient place to visit.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Game Review - Azkend, Azkend 2: The World Beneath

Game Review - Azkend and Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Score +2/-4 (Azkend), +3/-4 (Azkend 2)


A match-3 chain game, with occasional hidden object scenes. Nice but static artwork.
+ Very good artwork in background images. More so in Akzend 2, where they more frequently show the artwork, add a bit of animation, and you can review the scenes in your journal.
- /+Azkend story was not very well reflected in the gameplay. This was corrected in Azkend 2, which had a stronger correlation. For example, the "dynamite" powerup is found after you locate four sticks of dynamite in the story, and when you match them, they explode to clear tiles.
-- Too many symbols (especially in Azkend 2, where this situation happens quite early) means you frequently encounter no-moves and reshuffles. The game starts to become more chance than skill.
+- Challenging hidden object games, but you can't go back to redo them and your degree of success appears irrelevant -- you just get pushed through to the next chapter of the story.

How to install a game without Steam downloading

If you've bought a game on DVD and it has to be validated through Steam, chances are the people who put the DVD together were too lazy to tweak the installation to install from Steam. This happened to me with Fallout: New Vegas. There is an official workaround, UNLESS you have a Mac.

Installing from Disc instead of Steam
I try to install my retail game from the included disc(s), but the game begins downloading through Steam instead. What can be done?

Mac Users:
If you are using a Mac, you will not be able to install from the disc. Please double-click on the game in your Library list to begin downloading and installing the software.

Using Steam launch options to install retail games from disc

  1. Log in to Steam and click on Library.
  2. Right-click on the game, select Delete local content, and confirm.
  3. Insert the first disc into your computer.
  4. Close Steam (Steam > Exit).
  5. Press Windows Key + R to open Run
  6. In the Run window type:
    "C:\Program Files\Steam\Steam.exe" -install E:
    Replace E: with the CD/DVD drive you are installing from if is not correct.
    Replace C:\Program Files\Steam if your Steam installation is not in the default location.
  7. Press OK. Steam will launch and ask you to sign in if you do not have your password saved. Your installation should continue from the disc.

This process is only intended for retail store bought copies of Steam games (ie. Left 4 Dead, Modern Warfare 2). It will not work for backup discs of any Steam games.

install from disc instead of Steam

STEAM is Stupid

Sometimes you really have to wonder about the great disconnect between programmers and users. That, or companies really need to get better focus groups.

Now that I'm in the last stages of Fallout 3, I ordered Fallout: New Vegas (plus all the DLCs, of course) from Amazon. It came in the mail recently and I installed it.

First thing that happened was Steam installing itself. That took long enough, but then... nothing. WTF? Where's my game, dude?

After signing up on Steam (did I really need to do that?), I had to poke around a bit to figure out that I needed to select the game I bought. Even though my game came on a DVD.

Then the stupid thing hung on me.

2012-May-30 steam keeps hanging
Restarted, and finally it starts downloading. 9 GB of data. No estimated time because it STOPPED at 1.5 M for the longest time. Eventually it resumed.

2012-May-30 steam not downloading
While it was downloading, I looked through the DVD. Lo! There was Fallout: New Vegas, just sitting on the DVD. Couldn't Steam have just downloaded a patch? There was a "Play" button that wasn't greyed out. Maybe it's already installed? I clicked on the button. There was a message about starting the game. But it got stuck, because obviously it hadn't finished downloading. Why is the button even available to click on when the installation isn't complete?

I had to Google an answer on how to install FNV without Steam. First answer that came up was a Youtube on where to get a pirated copy via Torrent. Honestly, given all the runaround from Steam, that was probably the best and most convenient answer.
Ever notice how pirates who put up Torrents make things soooo easy to install, but it takes longer with an official copy? Finally, after some scrounging around, I found this on the Steam website:

install from disc instead of Steam