Monthly Archives: April 2009

Review: Fallout 3: The Pitt

Bethesda Softworks have been responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed RPG videogames of all time. Both Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion rank amongst my favourite games, and have taken up more of my time then I care to admit.

Unfortunately, Bethesda have been known to drop the ball from time to time. Such as when they produced and published the abysmal Star Trek strategy game Legacy. Or when they rushed Fallout 3: The Pitt to release.

The Pitt 1The Pitt

The Pitt is the second downloadable content for Fallout 3. It allows your character to travel to the ruins of  Pittsberg, which in post-apocalypse has a booming steel industry manned by slave labour. Like Operation Anchorage, you loose most of your equipment. Who’d have thought that slavers don’t like heavily armed killing machines walking around in their settlement? Fortunately you are quickly launched into the plot and rearmed, with the rather cool auto-axe (think a cross between a chainsaw and an axe).

From here, you are once again on a rather linear quest chain. It’s not as bad as Operation Anchorage, with various different activities popping up, including an all too brief trip to an Oblivion-style arena. The plot is thankfully more involving then Operation Anchorage, with nice twists and some interesting moral choices, but again, I found myself wishing it was longer. The newly added weapons aren’t quite as good as those on Anchorage, but they focus more on melee and defence.

The Pitt 3What lets The Pitt down is the fact that it was rushed to release. Bethesda had already delayed it by a month to ensure completion, but this clearly wasn’t enough time. On the day of release, the add-on was causing major problems for users who bought it. Despite a quick fix and re-release by Bethesda, many bugs remained. During my playtime, The Pitt caused my Xbox to crash four times and corrupted my save file. Not the most positive of gameplay experiences.

My only other quibble with the add-on is the map design. Both The Pitt and Operation Anchorage have had quite small maps. Bethesda have got round this in two different ways – in Anchorage, it was to use few texture variations and lots of cliffs to block long views. In The Pitt, the map cointains a great number of levels, with endless stairs, ramps and gangways connecting them. It is far too easy to get lost in this network of rooms.

The Pitt 2Despite the addition of an Ammo Press which converts any ammo into any other ammo, I can’t see myself revisiting The Pitt any time soon. The add-on is certainly not worth the money as long as there are still some nasty bugs showing up, and is disappointingly short.

Fallout 3’s third downloadable addon, Broken Steel, which sees the player resolve the conflict between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Outcast Brotherhood, is due out on the 5th of May, again retailing for 800 MS points.

Why Old School Is Bad For RPGs…and Good For Gamers

There has been a furore of late within the RPG Blogging community regarding “Old School” gaming.
The definition of “old school” remains vague, and everyone seems to have their own variation – be it homebrewed systems based on the Blue Box D&D, original World of Darkness, legacy GURPS or even classic Cthulhu. I’m not going to quibble over definitions however – for the sake of ease lets just take “Old School” to mean any game system that is still being played despite being replaced by a newer products or abandoned by it’s publisher, or any game which seeks to emulate such products (ie Pathfinder).

My recent survey regarding the age and length of gaming careers of RPG gamers, places the average RPG gamer in their mid 30s with more then 20 years of gaming experience. The respondents in their 20s were in a distinct minority.
On the other hand, Project Daedalus – a sociological survey of MMO players – places the average age of MMORPG players between 18 and 28 with 24% of surveyed males and 15% of females aged between 18 and 22. 23% of males and 27% of females were aged between 22 and 28.
Now, the numbers here aren’t very scientific, but this does suggest that I’m on the money. The average age of RPG players is continuing to rise and they aren’t being replaced by a younger generation because us young whipper-snappers tend to play MMOs instead.

This is a bad thing. As gamers get older and older, two things start to happen: we die and other interests take over. It also gets harder for younger people to get into the game if the perception of RPG gaming changes to it being an ‘old peoples’ game.

So what does thing have to do with Old School?

Well, Dungeons & Dragons, love it or loath it, is one of the most popular RPGs in the world and the best supported by a country mile. In my FLGS the only other games which comes close to the amount of shelf space D&D takes up is Call of Cthulhu and World of Darkness. If people pick up an RPG book because they think it sounds like fun, it’s probably going to be D&D and it’s inevitably going to be 4e rather then the legacy systems.
John Smith with his newly purchased set of core rule books and WOTC branded dice set will need some help trying to get friends together, writing a campaign and even just playing for the first time. He’s probably going to turn to existing communities for advice.

And he’s going to find quite a lot of blog posts and even businesses rubbishing 4e. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion and no-one should be evangelising about 4e if they don’t like it, however we as a community have to recognise that 4e is the single best tool we have to get people into RPG gaming.

The drive to make 4e old school and the debate around it is not going to help. It’s only going to confuse new players and alienate them from more established players.

When someone looks advice on 4e on the internet, they should be finding a helpful and supporting community. A community which helps them hone their skills, find players and provides a bridge into other systems. Not companies producing a product based on the fact that they don’t like the Dragonborn as a race.

That is why I believe that the old school debate, the forthcoming “old school 4e” products and the whining about 4e in general are bad for RPG gaming – they are helping to turn new players away.

But (and this is a big but)…the old school movement is amazing for established players.

The old school movement is doing a lot for gamer choice.

It’s amazing that games that are 30 years old are not only still being played, but being promoted and attracting new players. You don’t like one version of a game? You can pick up the books for a different version of the same game for half the price.

So, that’s that. There isn’t a good and bad side to this debate. Moral of the story: don’t rubbish 4e, we need it because it helps get people into gaming. But don’t rubbish old school either, because it gives us way more choice.

Recipe: Potato, Vegetable & Feta Bake

This is a very simple, very versatile dish. It can be used as a main course or a side dish, and has gone down well every time I’ve made it (and I’ve made it a lot). This recipe serves 4 people or 2 with plenty of leftovers – to scale down, just use a smaller dish and reduce the amounts of ingredients.

Ingredients:
6 large potatoes (peel them as you go along so you don’t end up wasting potatoes you don’t use)
3 Courgettes (Zucchini), 1 Aubergine (Eggplant) or 4 leeks
1 pack of feta cheese or feta-style cheese
400ml Vegetable stock
Mint, Salt, Pepper to season

Method:

1. Find a large casserole dish. I use the same large pyrex dish that I used for my feta, leek and spinach pie. Drip in a little oil and rub it around so the dish is very lightly greased. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

2. Wash your potatoes if you haven’t already. Peel them and then slice them into rough disks. Be careful with your knife – the blade can sometimes slip on the wet potato. Spread the potato discs in a layer one disk thick in the dish.

3. Take which every vegetable you have chosen and wash it. For courgettes, slice them into disks and spread on top of the potatoes. For leeks rough-chop them and scatter them on top of the potatoes. For aubergine, slice it and spread it over the potatoes.

4. Take half the block of feta, crumble it over the potato and vegetable. Sprinkle a bit of mint, salt and pepper over it to season.

5. Repeat step 2. Then repeat step 3 and step 4.

6. Finally, add one last layer of potatoes on the top. Drizzle a little bit of oil on top so it crisps up and sprinkle some more mint. Pour two-thirds of the vegetable stock over the dish.

7. Place the dish in the oven for ±30mins. At this point take it out and add the rest of the stock to this dish. This stops it from drying out.

8. Cook for another ±30mins. The dish is ready when you can push a table knife through all the layers of potato without resistance.

Serve on it’s own, or accompanying roast meat, steak, burgers or anything you can think of really. Remember to refrigerate the leftovers, otherwise they dry out. Recommend a full-bodied red wine or a dark ale to drink.

Let me know if you try this out – it’s one of my favourite dishes and I love letting people know about it.