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The Foxhole QuickViews / Metro Exodus [2019 -- 4A]
« Last post by Starfox on May 26, 2020, 07:49:07 PM »
Before reviewing the last opus of the Metro franchise, I realized that I never reviewed or even really talked about the other two previous games, Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light. The horrible truth is, I played all these games and I'm not a huge fan. I liked Metro 2033 enough, it was innovative in its approach (for the time) and there was a good story supporting it but, the way this story was delivered was not optimal for me. Metro Last Light was even worse. the story was still OK but the way it was told gave me the constant impression to be in an horrible subpar horror movie. Sorry to say (because I know that's going to be some kind of heresy to some), but I played each of those games once and shelved them without regret (I just played them recently again in their "redux" version as a refresher course to prepare for Metro Exodus and I didn't enjoy them more now that I did all those years ago). For me the reason is mainly coupled to the storytelling.

The story that is undoubtedly there in Metro Exodus but once again without any real effort on the storytelling side. True conversation are non-existent and Artyom, being still his consistently silent self, just sit there swallowing what other characters have to say, without any way to engage in real interaction (aside from the occasional drinking or playing the guitar which he does, perfectly quietly). That doesn't really change from the previous opuses, sure, but considering the amount of lines present in this game -- except Artyom all other characters have a lot to say -- I think the "bare minimum" aspect of the character interaction preserved in Exodus is a shame. Especially as Artyom as a central character in the books from which the games originate is far from being silent.

4A also tried to give more insight into the characters composing the Sparta (as after all the whole gang embark in a journey to find a new home). To that Effect, they created the train, Aurora, and intermission time aboard it. Between missions one can take some leisure time around the train and get to know the crew a bit like the good old Normandy of Mass Effect. Well that would be nice if it was handled correctly. Unfortunately, everything is done so that the player jumps the gun and go from mission to mission without stopping on the way. The inability of 4A to retain the player and get them interested in what is going on around them is symptomatic of the problem of the game on a pure storytelling level. In brief, the guys at 4A have put a lot of effort into some optional although important storytelling moments, unfortunately these won't work for 80% of players, first because Artyom is mute and doesn't participate in any conversation whatsoever which doesn't incentivize players to partake in the various conversations and second because the player is "rushed" into getting off the train and go kick some more mutant ass as fast as possible. Example, after the first big area, Artyom wake up aboard the train and the first character tell him "The Colonel wants to see you", OK, message received, don't need more than that, really. But then you get to a scene with most of the crew assembled and if you stay there is some interesting character revealing background conversations going on, unfortunately before it all starts, one of Artyom's mates tells him "The colonel wants to see you", just in case he was deaf the first time around. That has a perverse effect on the player because being told -- twice -- that the colonel wants to see them imlpart a sense of urgency so in most cases you won't stay to listen to the whole discussion, you'll go see the Colonel that after a speech instructs you to look at the map and there you go; because once you're in the map, there are only two choices, either you back out or you start the mission. And why would you back out? You're there so you may as well start. This is the perfect setup so the player ignores and just bypass everything going on in the train. And believe me, that may sound silly explained that way but I can guarantee that most players getting into the game for the first time, and because they probably also played the two previous opuses that were pretty much a succession of missions with no intermission, will just do that, bypass the train, the lore and jump into the next mission. If there is one area where Metro Exodus fails the most, it's possibly this one.

Not to say that Metro Exodus doesn't bring some nice things to the table, because it does. Among them is most obviously a gameplay that happens outside the metro. To be precise one is confronted to the closed atmosphere of the two first game twice, once at the beginning and once near the end of the game (and a little bit at mid point but it's more like the D6 silo area of Metro 2033. Aside these few occurrences it's open space time with varied enough environments (frozen tundra, desert, nice wooden area...) that makes you forget easily that you are in a Metro game; heck most of the time one doesn't even need a gas mask -- but when one does, one really does. Myself, I certainly welcomed the change of pace even though the fans of the series were not all equally impressed (it's fine, as I already stated, I'm not a fan). The term "open world" though, is debatable for Metro Exodus. There are two areas in the game that certainly qualify (by that I mean that one can explore and do things in whatever order one wishes) while the rest of the game is either on rails or close to it (meaning one gets one route to go with little to no leeway).

The endgame (two flavors like in the previous games, good or bad) is decided by how one plays the game and some decisions one takes. Fortunately it is very much less confusing than Metro Last Light was. Obtaining the good ending in Metro Last Light was near impossible unless you knew exactly what to do and what to not do. In Metro Exodus, it's just a matter of common sense. For example, when an enemy give up and surrender you don't brutally murder him if you want the good ending. You can knock them out though -- which was impossible in Metro Last Light and created some confusion (why in Hell would you leave an enemy alive, untied and conscious just on the vague promise that he will be good?) -- so you can be reasonably sure they won't pose an ulterior threat. In general the rules of a good ending are simple: don't kill people who are not actively trying to kill you, don't murder the innocent, spare the guys who surrender... etc. Like the previous games, Metro Exodus is very big on stealth. So avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. Of course the choice is your. You can go all guns blazing (although dead on confrontation are deadly, they may be fun) and kill everyone in sight, if you don't mind getting the bad ending.

Among the interesting changes in gameplay is that one can mod weapons on the spot thanks to the invaluable backpack. Artyom is still limited to two main weapons and one special (the Tihar, signature weapon of the two first games, and later a new surprise weapon called Helsing -- and if you know who Helsing is, you know what kind of weapon I'm talking about) but those weapons, including the special ones, can be modded at anytime by deploying the backpack and working on them. Of course this is a process putting Artyom at risk so not to be done encircled by a pack of enemies. The mods themselves come attached to many weapons that can be found in the world or taken from enemies and Artyom just needs to pick the mods for himself so they are stored into the convenient backpack. One thing to know is that when you drop a weapon (to exchange it for another for example) you have to recover the mods from the weapon you just dropped or they'll be lost. Mods includes barrels, magazines, sights, supressors, stocks... and on, each providing its own benefits and disadvantages.

Weapons are acquired definitely as soon as one picks one. However, unlike mods, changing weapons require Artyom either to find another one in the field or to go back to the Aurora. The backpack is some sort of portable workbench with some limitations. Artyom can mod his weapon (provided he has gathered relevant mods) and he can also manufacture very basic ammo (like the balls for the Tihar) and some important aid like medkits or filters for the gas mask. For everything else a true workbench is required (they can be found in diverse locations across each area -- although they can become very scarce depending on the difficulty level one chooses) and that "everything else" includes manufacturing more evolved ammo and grenades, modifying your armor and gas mask (special mods for these can be found in the field) and most notably cleaning weapons.

Cleaning weapons is new to the series. It requires a workbench and an awful lot of chemicals (depending on your difficulty setting, the amount of chemicals required for cleaning and the speed at which your gun degrades may vary -- the Ranger Hardcore difficulty, the one I used (don't ask, I had my reasons), being the most punitive. What does happen if you don't clean your gun (or if you pick up a dirty gun, which may occur)? It's not really different from systems featured in games like Fallout 3 and New Vegas. You let your gun degrade too much and you start experiencing difficulties like overheating, failure to feed, up to the point where your gun will require a manual reload after each shot. My advice? Try at least to always keep one of your weapons relatively clean so you have a backup if the worst happens during a fight. Why do I say that? Because there's no way to actually assess exactly the state of cleanliness of your guns, aside from the visual clue that may sometime be not very helpful. The only way to see if your gun is really about to break or is still OK is to find a workbench.

Another new feature of the game is a New Game+ mode that is amazingly complete. One can replay the game at any level of difficulty (of course being a "plus" mode you get back all the weapons and mods you had when finishing the previous run -- if you select the correct option on the Game+ management page -- after the intro/tutorial part of the game) and if Ranger Hardcore was too easy for you there's a number of options allowing you to up the difficulty even more, like giving armor to all of your opponents, having the days and nights lasting real time... etc.

On the technical side of things, Metro Exodus is demanding, not demanding like Metro 2033 was on its release, but still. Depending on your system, especially graphic drivers both nVidia and AMD, you may experience some issues. The game simply gives at time the impression that it "wants" to crash. My take is that for achieving the effect they desired, the team at 4A pushed away some development guidelines and left to both nVidia and AMD the task to catch up by tuning their drivers so the game won't crash, or freeze, or lockup your whole computer. In exchange what you get is a good looking game with a superabundance of particles effects (try shooting in the sand, you'll see what I mean). However, beside the particles and weather effects, the textures and models are okay enough without being jaw dropping. The final ensemble is several notches above the previous Metro games, for sure, but not necessarily above the current competition.

So Metro Exodus appears to me as a mix bag. On a pure gameplay level it is very much enjoyable and I would lie if I said I didn't have fun with it (hence the blue smiley). On a storytelling level though, it sometimes falls flat on its face due in part to the reasons I mentioned above. It's like if 4A wanted to turn their semi-RPG franchise into a proper RPG one but didn't had a clue as to how. But that's something I've come to expect from this developer, I certainly didn't play their games for the way the story is told. If I want a deep and powerful story strongly delivered I go play... yep you guess it; Witcher 3. And if I just want a proper RPG with dialogues, choices and all that... I can think of a large list of games that are not Metro. Suffice to say that 4A could have done something really neat with the story and characters interactions in Metro Exodus and they missed the mark.
2
The Foxhole QuickViews / Void Bastards [2019 -- Blue Manchu]
« Last post by Doc_Brown on May 13, 2020, 12:38:31 AM »
One of my favorite experiences in System Shock 2 has to do with researching enemies.  Completing this research grants you bonus damage against those enemy types, and you conduct it with the use of chemicals.  There are too many chemicals to just carry around with you, however, so each storage room has a manifest you can take.  Whenever the need arises, you check the manifests to figure out which level of the ship you need to revisit, weighing the pros and cons of the threats you’ll have to face along the way.

Void Bastards offers hints of this experience, just never to as satisfying a degree as System Shock 2.  Part of that is undoubtedly due to the more lighthearted aesthetic, which deliberately invokes the look of a comic book (complete with XIII-like onomatopoeia to clue you in to what enemies are nearby).  While a game like this doesn’t have to take a more serious and scary tone, it certainly helps.  I doubt Firaxis’ XCOM series, for instance, would be nearly as successful if they played it for laughs.

Perhaps a more fitting comparison, at least to games in my own collection, would be The Swindle.  Both have a cartoon-y look about them, both rely heavily on random generation, both feature permadeath with an infinite supply of replacement characters.  And yet, of the two, I’d still have to give the edge to The Swindle for building to an actual climax.  Void Bastards sends you on one collect-a-thon after another, and then it just… ends.  They don’t even bother to tell you you’ve reached the final MacGuffin.

I don’t mean to come down so harshly on the game.  I find roguelikes to be compellingly addictive, and Void Bastards is no exception--I could not stop playing until I reached the end.  But the game doesn’t feel like it does any one thing particularly well.  The combat is serviceable, and you can sometimes sneak past enemies, but I wouldn’t call it either a great shooter or a great sneaker (in the latter case, System Shock 2 had the advantage of being made with Thief’s Dark Engine, which was literally built for stealth).

In the end, once I’d finished my playthrough I really felt I’d seen everything the game had to offer.  I dabbled in a few of the challenge modes, even tried starting a bog standard new game, but I just didn’t feel the urge to keep playing.  Granted, those challenge modes ended in surprisingly quick deaths (for what it’s worth, I never died during my original run, which was on normal difficulty), but once through really seems to be the ideal.  If you see it on sale, I’d recommend it for a momentary distraction, if nothing else.
3
Woo, migraine hangover. Love 'em. 46 years of this shit and counting. So of course I had to stay awake to deal with various people. Typical.

Oh, hang on! I was just notified that there's a game on my Steam wishlist that's on sale. How novel. See, Steam decides that, hey, everyone's stuck at home in lockdown, why don't we NOT put on a sale? Make the homebound bastards pay full price for everything!

I'm just bitter.

Doesn't matter, because I am still screwing around with Skyrim. Actually, I just managed to port my race mod over to SE, so that's something. Problem is, the ECE mod (think Racemenu, but with slightly different sliders and better organization of categories) doesn't work so well with SE. At least, I haven't gotten it to work right. So I took the opportunity to mess with Racemenu...

This is the example character in Oldrim, using ECE:



And this is the character with similar values in SE, but using Racemenu:



I had to tweak sliders to approximate the Oldrim version, and I don't think I quite got it. (Getting the nose dialed in was a damned nightmare, btw.) Some things are different, but I think the spirit is there, anyway. She does look more pissed off than before, which is a plus. The mouth is too wide, too.

But working with the Racemenu nose sliders is a bit more...detailed. I'm still tweaking a bit, so further updates on that as events warrant. ::)

Anyway, same skin tones, etc., but under drastically different lighting conditions, not to mention the difference in games. I'm not sure I like the new one, but there's not rush on getting it done.

In other news far more important than anything you're doing lately, I had to buy an external bluray/dvd drive because, ha ha, genius that I am, the only BDR/DVD drive I have is an internal drive in my old computer...and I think it finally died. If I needed something off a BDR, I'd simply fire up the old computer. But since that's no longer an option, I'm stuck with a bunch of BDRs with no way to get at whatever's on them. Thus the external drive.

That in itself is a tale worthy of a few eddas, but simply told: tried Amazon, they wanted about a hundred bucks -- would've been cheaper, but this gold-digging whore of a state demands retailers tack on sales tax to online purchases -- and they'd deliver...well, sometime in May, or thereabouts. Whenever. Guess that slow boat from China is REALLY slow. (The drive was a company I'd never heard of, and I do believe it's made in China. So the joke works.)

Best Buy, however, said that, hey, you're pretty close, so we'll ship one to you pretty quick, how's that? $85, free shipping. Comes in today.

So if I want it to be delivered now, I need to take a nap. That's how it usually works: as soon as my head hits the pillow, the doorbell rings.

EDIT

So I finally got ECE working in SE. Yay.


Now that's what I mean. The character is the same as the first pic. ECE's meshes are just...better. And I don't mean to dump on Racemenu, as it does some things better than ECE; the tattoo/warpaint overlay feature, for example, is incredible. If you want tats on your ECE character, you have to add them directly to the skin texture itself. I think. At least, that's how I did it.

(I hear that the Racemenu guys are working to add ECE's morphs/sliders into the next version. That'd be nice to have.)

So I guess the next thing is getting my armory mod into SE. That's a LOT of stuff to convert...maybe it's time for a housecleaning, so to speak.

(Random side note: my "lair" isn't navmeshed. NPCs won't enter at all. While I like it that way, it wasn't intentional.)
4
bobdog's Mini-Reviews Corner / Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Last post by bobdog on April 20, 2020, 02:25:53 PM »
The highly addictive game of Carcassonne is an equal mix of Tetris, Risk and Settlers of Catan. You can play online or solo (and add up to 5 additional bots with different play styles) and games run around 10-15 minutes max.

After an initial tile is placed, 72 tiles are then distributed randomly to players once per turn. Players must then place the tile, ideally benefiting themselves at the cost of harming their opponent. Once tiles are placed, players may then have the option to claim a road, city, field or church. All successive tiles placed that enlarge each of those objects adds to your final point count, with cities getting 2 points per tile, roads and fields getting 1 point per tile, and churches getting up to 9 points total for all touching tiles.

Gameplay has some strategy to develop long-term options, but it all depends on the luck of the draw, and how your opponents play off your tiles. For example, you might place a few tiles to develop a slightly larger city and only need one more tile to complete it, but then an opponent adds a tile that now requires you to add 2-3 more tiles to finish it. If you do somehow manage to do so, you’ll score huge points, but otherwise, you might just be wasting your time in the final count.

This is easily a game you can just open up and play for a short break, and now I’m seeing tiles in my dreams! 9.0 out of 10
5
bobdog's Mini-Reviews Corner / Carcassonne – November 2017 [Score: 9.0]
« Last post by bobdog on April 20, 2020, 02:22:14 PM »
The highly addictive game of Carcassonne is an equal mix of Tetris, Risk and Settlers of Catan. You can play online or solo (and add up to 5 additional bots with different play styles) and games run around 10-15 minutes max.

After an initial tile is placed, 72 tiles are then distributed randomly to players once per turn. Players must then place the tile, ideally benefiting themselves at the cost of harming their opponent. Once tiles are placed, players may then have the option to claim a road, city, field or church. All successive tiles placed that enlarge each of those objects adds to your final point count, with cities getting 2 points per tile, roads and fields getting 1 point per tile, and churches getting up to 9 points total for all touching tiles.

Gameplay has some strategy to develop long-term options, but it all depends on the luck of the draw, and how your opponents play off your tiles. For example, you might place a few tiles to develop a slightly larger city and only need one more tile to complete it, but then an opponent adds a tile that now requires you to add 2-3 more tiles to finish it. If you do somehow manage to do so, you’ll score huge points, but otherwise, you might just be wasting your time in the final count.

This is easily a game you can just open up and play for a short break, and now I’m seeing tiles in my dreams! 9.0 out of 10
6
A few years back I picked up a pair of drum sticks again...and put them back down not long after. It seems that in the years since I quit playing, my hands have gotten worse...you know: pain, nerve damage, what have you. It makes no real sense to actively pursue eventual disintegration, so I keep my association with playing on a strictly casual basis; i.e., I might bash out the snare part to Genesis' "Watcher Of The Skies" while I wait for my food to finish microwaving.

But when I decided to play again, I had the idea that I really needed to do things right this time. Before, my aptitude was...well, let's just say that "mediocre" would have been a kind description of my technical abilities. I was an okay player, but I wasn't anything special. So I picked up a book, "Stick Control: For The Snare Drummer" by George Lawrence Stone. The idea was to learn my rudiments PROPERLY.

Yeah. Then my hands started hurting like a bastard, reminding me of why I stopped playing in the first place. Pack it in, find some other way to waste my time. Collecting seashells or plotting the death of my neighbor's dog.

Anyway, this readable was based on Mr. Stone's book.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HAND CONTROL
------------
for the TRULY DESPERATE DRUMMER

by some guy who died a long time ago under mysterious circumstances and good fucking riddance


So here you are. You've screwed around with the drum for quite a while, and you thought that you were hot snot on a silver platter...but then you ran into another drummer whose skill made you realize that you were nothing more than a cold booger on a paper plate.

This is why you're here. You need guidance. This text will teach you discipline, and more importantly, that mind-numbing precision that is the hallmark of the true obsessive, i.e., the so-called "serious musician."


You will need the following:

1. Any random surface, although a drum is preferable.

2. Hands. Your own, ideally, attached to your body in the recommended manner.

3. The dedication required to do the same thing over and over again for hours at a stretch.

That's it! Next, we'll dive right into the exercises.


Practice each of these exercises 20 times each WITHOUT STOPPING.

L: Left hand
R: Right hand

1. RLRL RLRL RLRL RLRL

2. LRLR LRLR LRLR LRLR

3. RRLL RRLL RRLL RRLL

4. LLRR LLRR LLRR LLRR

5. RLRR LRLL RLRR LRLL

6. RLLR LRRL RLLR LRRL

7. RRLR LLRL RRLR LLRL

8. RLRL LRLR RLRL LRLR

9. RRRL RRRL RRRL RRRL

10. LLLR LLLR LLLR LLLR

11. RLLL RLLL RLLL RLLL

12. LRRR LRRR LRRR LRRR

13. RRRR LLLL RRRR LLLL

14. RLRL RRLL RLRL RRLL


[You stop reading as your nose begins to bleed.]


[You flip ahead a few pages and see the following note scribbled in a shaky hand, obviously written in the throes of a dementia that only musicians can truly understand:]

I found it! I found the key! The key to everything!

R_LLRRLL
R_LLRRLL
RLLRRL
RLLRLL

yabba dabba doo to the beat boo-boo!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


If you must know, the last bit is a tribute to the Don Blackman song, "Yabba Dabba Doo." The "key" in question is the snare pattern played by a young Dennis Chambers. A couple of YouTube links:

Don Blackman - Yabba Dabba Doo (1982)

GoAndPractice #41: Dennis Chambers - Don Blackman "Yabba Dabba Doo" (Wherein GoAndPractice demonstrates just what was going on.)
7
Not much, but whatever.

This is a "defiled" copy of the book, hence the object name, "Uncommon Taste (Defiled)"; it reads normally until the very end. Thus, I kept the entire text intact. So I'll omit that text here and go straight for the punchline, which requires the last section of the original book. Here you go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Uncommon Taste

by
The Gourmet

[Pages of text omitted.]

Behold, the Gourmet's signature dish - the Potage le Magnifique!

But wait. I know what you're wondering. "That's it? Is that all there is to it? What's the secret of the Gourmet?"

Do you really expect me to give away the secret to my most popular dish? Well guess what? I will! For that secret, my friends, is YOU! That's right, the Potage le Magnifique is delicious, and extraordinary. Using just the simple ingredients listed, you will create a potage that is both hearty and delicious. But in order to make the Potage le Magnifique truly magnificent, it takes the imagination of a truly inspired chef. Do you have that gift?

I have served bowls of the Potage le Magnifique that have caused grown men to weep with with joy. Can you guess what I added? Can you create... magic?

[scrawled in an unsteady hand across this page:]

Worship me Tamriel, for I have created...diarrhea??!?

[there are pages torn from the back of this book]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But of course you've probably guessed that I had this book sitting by a makeshift chamber pot.
8
For the Scribo fans.

This thing was a nightmare to format in the CK.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SCRIBO:

The Myth. The Legend. The Salad Dressing.

By

Scrofulous Bonsaint

To the neophyte who first encounters it, Scribonnaise is a vile concoction designed to bring the most refined palate to its metaphorical knees and pummel it with joyous lowbrow abandon.

And yet, despite my renowned urbanity in all matters of cuisine, I am enthralled.

It is its own preservative, there is no option whatsoever to mitigate that fact. It cannot be denied. A clump of goop that is to all appearances an inanimate condiment that forms its own protective crust is an unusual substance, to put it mildly. That it suggests a form of crude sentience on the part of the stuff is best ignored if one's sanity is to be maintained, and all the better if the consumer also puts aside, with reckless disregard for intestinal integrity, the disturbing concerns over what it may be doing to his or her insides.

To say that it approaches ambrosia is missing the point entirely; it does not sit rapturously upon the tongue, nor does it even attempt to play nice with the taste buds. Those with more sophisticated sensibilities than I have described it as "a noxious blight, perhaps even a malignant cancer, upon most, if not all, of the five senses." And that is the opinion of one of its most vocal champions!

No, Scribo is not pretty in any sense of the concept: it's either clumpy or unsettlingly smooth, depending on the ambient temperature of the room; its color is an alarming shade of white; it appears to deflect all attempts to cast shadows upon it (disturbing indeed is the substance that is contemptuous of visible light!); its odor is reminiscent of a severe urinary tract infection; handling it is best approached with the aid of ebony gauntlets; by all standard rules of civilization, it should be sought out and destroyed, or, at the very least, avoided entirely!

Yet it remains the most eagerly sought-after and jealously-guarded condiment on store shelves. Shopkeepers complain that maintaining stock is difficult at best, even more so if they themselves are privy to its strange attraction...

Why? What IS that attraction? Why do its aficionados eschew the recommended serving suggestions (smeared on bread, Dwarven cogs, et al) and eat it directly from the jar?

These were questions I intended to answer once and for all when I first held one of the coveted jars in my trembling hands. I set the container carefully upon the kitchen table. Due to its infamous preservative qualities, the lid was a mere formality of packaging. The guidelines for consumption were vague: "ENJOY!" was the only instruction I could find on the jar, an ebulliently aggressive imperative designed to distract the eye from the far more subtly-fonted dire warnings and dread disclaimers elsewhere on the label.

However, the slightly quivering mass (and could I be going mad or did I detect a faint humming emanating from it?!?) resisted my hesitant attempts to breach its glossy shield. I was confounded by a condiment. So humiliating.

Consultations with those familiar with Scribo, upon being informed that I would not be sharing my prize with them, suggested with great bitterness that I stick the jar up my butt. It was only after I bought them a jar of their very own that they grudgingly agreed to share the secret of penetrating Scribo's baleful bulwark: body heat.

By cradling the jar close to one's heart for a short time the shell will melt away, resulting in a pliable substance ready for consumption, or any home improvement project that requires durable, long-lasting materials. Those who are immune to Scribo's peculiar allure -- individuals' resistance to it follows no explicable pattern whatsoever -- praise it for its tenacity when used for mending brickwork.

First I wafted its odor into my eager nostrils. After regaining consciousness, I applied burn ointment and lamented the loss of my nose hair, not to mention most of my mustache and the vision in my left eye. Although my vision eventually returned, my moustache seems to be a permanent casualty. Now I understand the warning about bringing Scribo into contact with one's mucous membranes without adequate preparation in advance. Much like a Moth priest preparing to read an Elder Scroll, Scribo requires extensive indoctrination before even the most seemingly-innocuous encounter, lest the acolyte becomes one of the many hapless, madly-tittering Scribo wrecks in the gutters of every city across Tamriel.

So I retreated to the corner of my kitchen furthest from the jar; how stupid was I to blunder into this blindly, without taking the proper precautions!

The local blacksmith was nonplussed at my request for Argonian-skin boots reinforced with pure silver hobnails; the local priestess of Mara was likewise at a loss for words when I implored her to bless the Khajiit-fur penis sheathe I would be required to don as part of the ritual that may claim my very soul.

With the blood of a Wood Elf injected directly into my eyeballs, I was ready. I began the chant:

Ya hoo foray
Da hoo doray
Scribo, Scribo make my day
...etc.

With a throaty, ecstatic moan, I consumed the entire contents of the jar in one, sensuous "sluck" that would have been considered obscene under other circumstances. But what did I care! My entire being thrilled with the experience! I knew then that Scribo was instead a matter of spiritual enlightenment... an awakening! This is not merely an enhancement for unleavened bread, nor is it just a mundanely reliable spackle for errant nail holes in drywall, no! This is the snot of the Divines themselves, come down from Aetherius to gently sneeze the bliss of eternity's sweet ecstasy right into our mouths!

To say I was momentarily unmanned is something of an understatement.

It was time for proclaiming in a clarion voice to whatever divine entity that may be listening that yes, I EXIST, and thank you so kindly for putting my salvation in such a handy container! And while I'm at it, I'd like a crisp beverage to wash it down!

My neighbors were not sympathetic and the guards they summoned due to my shrieks of joy were not kind. Although I languished for several days in the Imperial prison, my memories of Scribo kept me sane. Even when my cellmate violated me energetically and repeatedly (and with, I must admit, great imagination), it was Scribo that whispered sweet nothings in my ear. And while Mondo Bobo was as lovingly gentle a molester as could be found amongst his particular ilk, it was Scribo that truly held my heart in its warm embrace.

I understand now the extremes of the Scribo adventure. From the shivering addicts in the city's dark corners, begging for just one drop upon their blistered tongues, to the otherwise unreachable Divines, bestowing blessings upon those leaving a jar of Scribo at their altars...

In my next volume, I will examine not only the benefits of Scribo, but also the grim consequences of neglecting its call and allowing oneself to be pulled helplessly into the spiral of madness and inevitable gruesome death of withdrawal.

Notes On The Text
-----------
- On the subject of handling Scribo: While it is best to utilize Ebony, beware to those who are wearing Daedric armor when consuming Scribo! Extensive field testing reports the bewildering possibility that Daedric items will react alarmingly when brought into contact with Scribo. Individuals wearing full suits of Daedric armor were immersed in vats of Scribo (it's best not to speculate WHY someone would even do such a thing) and 100% of the test subjects were horribly compacted to what were essentially screaming 4-inch cubes.

- Tortuous Convolvulus, the current CEO-at-large of Barffft Industries, the proud owners of Scribonnaise, is reputed to have one of these cubes on his desk as a paperweight. When asked directly about the rumors connecting Scribo, Daedric items, and the suspicious disappearance of Garrulus Vinus, the CEO of Kwamakazi Worldwide, Inc. [Barffft Industries' chief competitor in the cutthroat condiment market], he merely smiled enigmatically and had security fling the inquisitive reporter into the tasteful hedges outside Barffft's corporate headquarters.

- It is interesting to note that Barffft also markets an all-purpose industrial substance, "Stuffit!," which is to all appearances identical to Scribo; however, individuals making the claim that Scribo and Stuffit! are indeed one and the same either have mysteriously disappeared or publicly recanted their findings; while this is a frankly insidious pattern of events, who's really going to miss a few loudmouth alchemists, anyway?

- Early in the existence of Scribo, when it first began to catch on with epicurean masochists and home DIY-enthusiasts alike, an implausible sister product was introduced with the health-conscious consumer in mind; how this horrible concept made it from a misguided idea to the actual shelves is a labyrinthian tale in itself, but suffice to say that "I Can't Believe It's Not Scribo!" was a dismal failure. This led to a bit in the monologue of Emperor Uriel Septim VII's favorite jester, "Rich" Colangelo:

"And what is this stuff called 'I Can't Believe It's Not Scribo!'? Well then, what the hell is it?? You can call anything in the whole market 'I Can't Believe It's Not Scribo!' if you're stupid enough. Now you can look at the lawn furniture:

"Can't believe it's not Scribo!"

"It's lawn furniture!"

"I know! I was expecting Scribo!"

"I can't believe you're not locked up, you moron!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many thanks to the memory of Richard Jeni, whose "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" joke I borrowed for this little snippet of nonsense.
9
Okay, book one.

I wanted a fun little tableaux in my lair, so I put a torture rack in a small room and a table with various addictive substances and potions. I also had a few blood decals all over the floor, but they didn't work very well with my floors. So I removed them and said in the construction notes -- to be posted later -- that the work crew cleaned everything up. Here's a screenshot:



Anyway, the concept for the device is actually based on my dad's Inversion Table (he had severe back problems). The difference is that his device was actually a force for good. This one wasn't.

So. My comments in yellow.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back-Crackr® Hyperextension System Manual

Model 1.1ab "The Destroyer"


Congratulations on your purchase of the Back-Crackr® Hyperextension System! This is your first momentous step on the road to your pain free future, so bask in the moment!

Seriously, bask. BASK, DAMMIT!

Good. That's enough basking. Stop it, I said.

Excellent. The first thing you need to know is how to protect yourself from injury when using the Back-Crackr® Hyperextension System. You will need these items:

1. Protective eyewear.

2. A trusted friend or cherished acquaintance.

3. An easy-to-remember safe word. [SEE: The Possible Safe Words Handbook]

4. Various emergency medical supplies.

5. Contact information for a clergy person aligned closely with your own beliefs concerning the afterlife, should one exist.

[The rest of the pages are missing for some unknown reason.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I think I just ran out of things to say, so I pulled the ol' "the rest of the pages are missing" crap. And this is its companion piece:


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Possible Safe Words Handbook

A safe word is an integral part of surviving when entering into a possibly dangerous enterprise; you and your companion should agree upon a safe word so as not to confound your imperilled existence with blank looks of non-comprehension.

A good safe word should be at odds with whatever is going on around (or inside) you; it should "pop," so to speak, breaking the mood and making your companion stop whatever horrendous thing you've convinced them to perpetrate upon your person, in order to render aid.

With that in mind, here is a list of possible safe words designed to convey the message that things just got very real for you and want certain things to stop occurring while you're still able to perform acts of excretion without expensive third-party assistance (which, needless to say, is not covered by your current insurance policy).

Remember! Keep it simple!

Pickle

Unicorn

Deek-deek

Grampus

Solenoid

Weasel

Pish-posh

Schmekel

[The list goes on.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I admit, nothing awe-inspiring...but I wasn't interested in writing anything, really. These are just offhand "accent" notes. Well. More to come later. Unfortunately.
10
Huh. Ordering that pizza netted me a code for a free 2-topping medium pizza. Gotta love Domino's. Unless you don't. And that's okay, too.

...careful...

Speak of politics and religion as you will, but beware of bringing up who you think makes the best pizza. Global annihilation.

(At this point someone will say something about pineapple. Some people just want the world to burn.)

So I figured a way around the triggered quest-thingy, nothing too strenuous. Then I progressed a bit in the Dawnguard questline, and I got to the point where I was about to enter...uh...what was that place called? Hang on.

Oh, right. The Soul Cairn.

Anyway, I was just about to embark on that part of the quest when I suddenly lost the will to go on. I mean, in a different way than my usual Slump Of Despair. Just the thought of yet again dragging Serana's snarky ass through that depressing little hellscape and THEN the mind-numbing quests that follow...

...I had to do something else. So dismissing the idea of blowing my brains out -- after all, I have a free pizza to live for -- I thought I'd engage in something far worse, in my estimation, than a messy suicide: I attempted to fix my race mod's vampirism problems.

I failed almost utterly. It was a miserable, doomed endeaver from the very beginning.

But!

I did manage to fix vampirism, which was broken in my game. I had no idea it was broken at all, really. But I fixed it. The universe owes me a medal and it shall be beautiful, or I'll kill everything.

Sadly, despite my cosmic greatness, vampirism remains broken in my race mod. So at no point will any of the Xi'an-based races be drinking deeply from the arteries of the citizens of Tamriel.

...which is perfectly okay by them. Ask one, they'll tell you.

"So I have to sorta die, then be unable to go outside during the day, and my only sustenance comes from drinking the blood of these goddamn monkeys? That's a resounding fuck off."

It doesn't make any sense for them to be vampires anyway, so I I'll just crank up their disease resistance to 100% and leave it at that. Again, it's the principle of the thing that bugs me, not the desire to play a vampire. Ultimately, I blame Bethesda.

I had intended to release the mod in the beginning, but I don't know if it'll work for anyone else. It barely works for *me*. Hopefully custom races will be easier to create in the next game...

...he said bitterly, weeping tears of blood.

I might start posting some of the readables [books] I threw together for the armory side of the mod. I didn't write that many (not like friggin' library I wrote for my Oblivion mod), but some of them are admittedly okay. I'll post one later when I'm not so tired that my eyes are crossing.
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