Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Is Tesla Innovative?

Posted in botch, business, technologies by commorancy on July 16, 2021

I’ve been confronted with this very question many times on Social Media, specifically Twitter. Many people who own Tesla vehicles vehemently insistent that Elon Musk and Tesla’s products are innovative. But, is Tesla really innovative? In short, no. Let’s explore why.

Innovation

via Oxford Dictionary

As a first step, we need to define the word, innovation. As you can see from its definition from Oxford Dictionary, it is defined as ‘a new method, idea, product, etc’.

The difficulty with this definition is that it doesn’t go deep enough to explain what the word new actually means in this definition’s context. This definition assumes the reader will understand the subtle, but important distinction of using the word ‘new’ in this definition.

Many people will, unfortunately, conclude that ‘new’ means ‘brand new’ as in a ‘just manufactured’ new model car. Simply because something is brand spankin’ new doesn’t make it innovative. However, a ‘brand new’ car model might contain some innovative elements, but the technology behind a car’s functional design may not be innovative or new at all… contrary to Oxford’s complicated use of the word ‘new’. As an example, both random cars in general and specifically electric vehicles are not new. In fact, mass produced cars have been the norm since 1901 and electric cars have been prototyped since the 1830s. While those electric prototypes weren’t truly cars in the mass produced sense, they were functional prototypes which showed that the electric vehicle technology is possible, functional and, most importantly, feasible.

You might then be thinking that Tesla was the first to create mass produced electric cars. Again, you’d be wrong. In fact, the first mass produced electric car was General Motor’s EV1, produced in 1996. The EV1 appeared 12 years before the first electric vehicle rolled off the assembly line at Tesla… and Tesla’s cars appeared 178 years after the first electric car prototype appeared. That’s a long time… definitely not ‘new’.

Electric vehicle technology was not at all new when Tesla decided to roll out its all electric vehicles. The only claim to fame that Tesla can profess is that they were able to sort-of Apple-ize their car in such a way that it warps the minds of buyers into believing it is ‘the best thing since sliced bread’. Ultimately, that defines an excellent sales strategy… what Elon Musk is actually known for.

To Tesla’s credit, they were the first viable luxury class vehicle to also claim the electric vehicle moniker. That claim doesn’t necessarily make the vehicle innovative. It makes Tesla’s sales and marketing team innovative in that they can make electric vehicle technology ‘sexy’ for the well-to-do crowd. Before Tesla, luxury car brands mostly avoided making electric vehicles. Even then, being able to successfully market and sell a product doesn’t make that product innovative. It simply means you’re good at selling things.

For example, Steve Jobs was the master at selling Apple products. To be fair, Steve Jobs didn’t really have to do much in the way of hard sells. When Jobs was at the helm, many of Apple’s early products were indeed innovative. If you need an example of innovation, Steve Jobs’s products mostly epitomize it.

Tesla, on the other hand, absconded with several key things to produce its Tesla electric vehicles: 1) Luxury car designs (which already existed), 2) electric vehicles (which already existed) and 3) standard off-the-shelf battery technology (which already existed). None of these three ideas were new in 2008. That Tesla successfully married these things together isn’t considered true innovation. It’s considered incremental innovation. Taking already existing pieces and putting them together to make a successful ‘new’ product is common in many industries. This is incremental in that these things already existed and it was only a matter of time before someone put them together in a cohesive way. Is that innovation? No. Why? If Tesla hadn’t done it, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Bentley or another luxury brand would have at some point. Though, Tesla’s early claim to fame wasn’t even luxury, it was sports cars. However, Tesla has dropped the sports car idea in lieu of being a luxury brand.

Product Innovation Types

I’ll circle back around to the above, but let’s take a break here to understand the two primary types of innovation.

The first type of innovation is breakthrough innovation. This rare type of innovation offers a concept the world has never seen and usually results in a paradigm shift. Example: The Wright Brother’s first flight which brought about the paradigm shift into commercial aviation… a whole new industry emerged as a result.

The second type of innovation is incremental innovation. This much more common type of innovation takes existing ideas and marries them into a single new product. Example: The iPhone.

Some might consider both the iPad and the iPhone as breakthrough innovation. Instead, the first Apple computer would be considered breakthrough innovation and ultimately what, in part, lead to the iPhone and iPad. However and to be fair, both the iPad and iPhone products are technically incremental innovation. Prior to the iPad, there had been several tablet style computers (e.g., GRiD and even the Apple Newton) that, for whatever reason, never really took off. Handheld PDAs were actually a form of tablet. Cell phones were very popular long before the iPhone arrived. The iPhone, like the Tesla, successfully married three concepts: a computer, the cell phone and PDA into what became the smartphone.

However, even though incremental, both the iPhone and the iPad were responsible for a technological computing paradigm shift. The primary innovation seen in these devices was not from the marriage of existing technology, but from the speed, size, weight, high res screen and functionality that the devices offered… particularly when combined with the app store and a reasonable price tag. It’s much more convenient and fast to grab a tablet to quickly search the web than sitting down at a desk and powering up a desktop computer. It is the internal functions and features and flexibility that set these devices well apart from their earlier computer brethren which offered slower computing experiences at higher prices.

Steve Jobs was a master at miniaturizing computers into much smaller versions with reasonable price tags and which included high end features. This strategy is what set Apple, then NeXT, then Apple again… apart from the rest of their competitors. That was with Steve Jobs at the helm. Since Job’s passing, Apple is still attempting to ride Steve Jobs’s coattails, but those coattails are getting raggedy at this point. If Apple doesn’t come up with something truly breakthrough innovative in the next few years, they’re likely to begin losing sales in larger and larger quantities. Even more than this, another upstart company in similar Tesla form will step in front of Apple and usurp the industry. A business cannot keep selling the same devices over and over and expect success to continue. Apple needs another paradigm shift device to keep its success streak going. I digress.

Tesla’s Innovation

Circling back around to Tesla, we should now be able to better understand why what Tesla includes in its vehicles, while luxurious and technologically interesting, is nothing actually very new. It’s new in the sense of being recently manufactured, yes, but the technology itself is old from an innovation sense. In other words, Tesla had no hand in that technology’s development. An example, Tesla’s choice to place a large touch screen panel in the middle of the dashboard, while interesting, is simply considered luxury as touch screen flat panels are not technologically new. What about the all electric car itself? It’s not new either. Remember the 1830s? Remember the EV1? Not new.

What about the battery that powers the car? That battery technology is not new either. Technologically, it’s simply a standard lithium-ion battery built large enough to support operating a motor vehicle. Tesla didn’t design that technology either. Tesla might have had a hand in requesting the battery’s size, weight and power requirements, but that’s not innovation… that’s manufacturing requirements. The lithium-ion battery technology was created and produced much, much earlier in the 1980s. In fact, Akira Yoshino holds the 1983 patent for what is effectively the lithium-ion battery technology still being produced today… yes, even what’s being used in the Tesla.

You may be asking, “So what is innovative about the Tesla?” That’s a good question. Not very much to be honest. The car body’s design is at least proprietary, but functionally utilitarian just as most car bodies produced today are. The pop out door handles might be considered somewhat innovative, but these are born out of luxury, not out of necessity. They look cool, but don’t really serve a truly functional purpose. In this sense, while the handles might be considered innovative, they’re incremental and don’t serve a true purpose other than for aesthetics. The same statement of aesthetics can be said of a lot of both the interior and exterior of the Tesla. Functionally, the Tesla vehicles are cars.

The Tesla cars are designed to give the owner a luxury driving experience both inside and out. The all electric drive train helps reinforce that luxury function due to its torque, performance and acceleration power. Even the charging stations were built out of sales necessity, not out of innovation. You can’t exactly sell many electric vehicles if you can’t charge them easily. The proliferation of the recharge stations was, as I just said, born of necessity. Yes, this infrastructure is important to all future electric vehicles. However, Tesla built them coast to coast to ensure that Tesla owners could at least make a trip cross country without running out of power.

All of what Tesla has built I actually consider ‘smoke and mirrors’ or the ‘Hollywood Effect’. These luxury inclusions are intended to make the buyer feel better about the high purchase price. That the car acts like a highly paid butler, helping do a lot for the driver while on the road is what buyers see and feel. It’s that very luxury experience and those visual seemingly high-tech aesthetics that lure would be buyers into the brand. Buying a car from Tesla is like buying a new iPhone. It gives buyer that same endorphin rush, being able to say you have one. It’s also affords bragging rights because it’s a car brand that is relatively infrequently encountered and, at least according to Tesla buyers, is highly enviable.

People tend to buy Tesla for the same reason they buy and consume Cristal or Dom Perignon. They purchase these expensive brands not because they’re exceptional quality products, but because they afford a certain level of bragging rights because the item can be afforded. As a side note, Cristal and Dom Perignon are decent sparkling wines, but they are not worth the price tag based solely on taste alone. There are much less expensive Champagne and sparkling wines that are equal or better in taste. I’ll let you make of that statement what you will when it comes to Tesla.

Driver Assist

This leads us into the assisted driving feature. This feature is not innovative either. Driving assistance has been available on cars as far back as 2003 with the IPAS feature available on the Toyota Prius and Lexus models. This feature automatically parallel and reverse parks the vehicle. While this is not true assisted driving while on the road, the IPAS would definitely drive the vehicle into the parking space hands-free. IPAS was an important first step in proving that computer assisted driving could work.

Other driving systems which have contributed towards fully assisted driving is lane change detection, collision avoidance, traction control, distance detection, automatic braking and the backup-camera.

Tesla has taken all of these prior computerized driving innovations and, yet again, combined them into a computerized assisted driving. This technology is markedly different from full autonomous self-driving. Assisted driving utilizes all of the above detection systems to allow the driver to remove hands from the wheel, but not remove the driver from the driver’s seat. The driver must still watch the road and make sure the car’s detection systems do not go awry when the driver must be willing to reassert manual control. Because these limited detection systems aren’t fail proof, a driver is still required to take control over the vehicle should the system fail to detect a specific condition that a driver can see and avoid.

Self-Driving Vehicles

Tesla doesn’t presently offer a fully computerized autonomous self-driving vehicle for its consumers. Only driver assist mode is available. Self-driving vehicles do not require a driver. Self-driving autonomous vehicles have an advanced computer system and radar system mounted on the roof. These vehicles are continually scanning for all manner of conditions constantly. The computer is constantly able to correct for any conditions which arise or at least which have been programmed. Self-driving vehicles are substantially less prone to errors than assisted driving, primarily because of Google’s self-driving vehicle efforts. Self-driving types of vehicles do not need a driver sitting the driver’s seat, unlike assisted driving vehicles which still require a driver.

One might think that Google invented this technology. However, one would be wrong. Self-driving vehicles were introduced in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair using a system that required road modification to keep the vehicle situated.

Google was able to, in 2009, adapt this prior concept by using the then computer, current radar technologies and detection systems to allow the car to function autonomously without the need to modify the road itself. However, even though Google was able to create cars that do function properly and autonomously, this technology has yet to be manufactured into consumer grade vehicles…. mostly out of fear that it will fail in unexplained ways. That and that driving laws (and insurance policies) have not yet caught up to the idea of autonomous driver-free vehicles. For example, if there’s no driver and an autonomous car injures or kills someone, who’s at fault? Laws are slowly catching up, but this question still remains.

Tesla and Driver Assist

Let’s circle back around. The reason Google’s autonomous driving technology, now called Waymo, is mentioned in this article is that it began one year after Tesla began operations in 2008, long before Tesla began including assisted driving in their vehicles. Tesla, once again, adopted an already existing technology into their vehicle designs, likely based in part on Google’s successful autonomous vehicles. They didn’t design this mode. They simply adapted an already existing technology design to be useful in a more limited fashion. Again, this isn’t breakthrough innovation, it’s incremental innovation. There is no paradigm shift involved. It’s a utilitarian luxury inclusion in an attempt to allow Tesla to prove how modern and luxurious their vehicles are compared to other luxury brands. Basically, it’s yet another ‘feather in their cap’.

Innovation is Innovation

Unfortunately, no. It’s far, far easier to adapt existing technologies into a design than it is to build a new idea from scratch. For this reason, nothing of what Tesla has built is truly groundbreaking or ‘breakthrough’ in design. More than this, Tesla is a car. A car is a car is a car.

The point in a car is to transport you from point A to point B and back. You can buy a car that’s $5,000 to perform this function or you can buy a car that’s over a $1 million. Both perform this same basic task. The difference in price is the luxury. Do you want to do this task in a thinly walled, loud, tiny bucket of a car or do you want to do it with every creature comfort using top speed? Comfort and performance are the primary differences in price.

With Tesla, there’s nothing truly innovative included in their cars. Luxurious? Check. Performant? Check. Bells and Whistles? Check. Miles per gallon? Whoops.

Distance Driving

One of the great things about gasoline powered vehicles is the ability to travel great distances without stopping too frequently. When you do need to stop, the existing gas station infrastructure is practically every place where you might travel. Granted, there are some dead stretches of roads were you might need to plan your car’s fillups accordingly, else you might be stranded. For the vast majority of roads in the United States, finding a gas station is quick and easy.

With the Tesla, finding recharge stations fare far worse. While the charging infrastructure is improving and growing around the country, it’s still much more limited than gas stations. That means that when distance driving in a Tesla, it’s even more important to plan your travel routes to ensure you can charge your vehicle all along the way.

You have a Model 3 and you say it charges to 100% in about an hour? Sure, but only if you happen to find a V3 Supercharger. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Superchargers available are V2 chargers or older. Even then, the amount of kilowatts of power available to charge your Tesla may be artificially constrainted. The V3 chargers offer up to 250 kW. The V2 chargers offer around 150 kW. Many random chargers you find (not Tesla branded) may only offer between 6 and 20 kW. Considering that 20 is only a fraction of 250, you’ll spend a whole lot of time sitting at that charger waiting on your Model 3 to charge up. It’s great that Tesla has built the faster V3 charger, but you can’t bank on finding these when you need one most. With gas stations, you can at least get some kind of gas and fill up the tank in minutes. With a Tesla, you could be sitting at a charging station for hours waiting to get to 50%.

Around 60 minute charge times sound great for the Model 3, but only when the infrastructure is there to support it. Currently, the V3 chargers are still not the norm.

What does all of the above mean for distance driving? It means that for long distance road trips while in a Tesla, you’ll need to not only plan each charger stop carefully, you’ll need spend time locating the fastest chargers you can find. This allows you to calculate the amount of time it requires to charge your car to 100% at that charger. If you don’t properly plan for where and how long, you could spend way more time at places than you think.

Run out of charge in the middle of nowhere? With services like triple-A, you won’t find them coming to top up your charge. Oh, no. They’ll come grab your prized Tesla, place it on a flatbed and then you’ll be riding in that tow truck to the nearest charge station… which could be hundreds of miles and one very large tow cost away. Once you get there, you’ll be sitting waiting for the charge to complete… and/or attempting to find a motel. Costly. Even with Tesla’s included roadside assistance, don’t expect miracles and you may even be required to pay for that tow.

If you had been driving a hybrid, triple-A could have given you a few gallons to get you to the nearest station to fill up… and then you’d have been on your way quickly.

What are the charge costs?

Honestly, if you have to ask this question, then a Tesla is probably not the right car to buy. However, for the curious, it’s still worth a deeper dive. Unlike gasoline prices which are clearly and conspicuously visible with large price signs towering high above the gas station, neither Superchargers nor standard electric chargers give you this visibility.

In fact, to find out what it will cost to charge your vehicle, you’ll have to visit the recharger and begin poking your way through the touch screen. There are some apps and web sites you can pick a charger location and review its then electric rate, but you might not want to bank on that if you’re planning a trip. Instead, because electric prices can vary dramatically during seasons and demand, you’ll need to check the pricing just before you reach the charger or, better, directly on the charger when you reach it.

Unlike gas stations which allow you to shop around for the best price, chargers don’t really offer that convenience. You pay what you pay.

For a Supercharger, the prices are based on how the energy is doled out to your car. The two methods are kilowatts or kilowatt-hours. Whichever rate system you choose, the energy will work out to the same cost in the end.

If you choose to charge per minute, it is $0.26 per minute above 60 kW. Under 60 kW, it is only $0.13. If you charge by kWh, it is $0.28 per kWh drawn from the charger.

https://www.motorbiscuit.com/how-much-does-it-cost-tesla-supercharger/

In case you’re wondering… No, it is not free to charge up your Tesla. However, Tesla does sometimes offer free limited time charging incentives at Superchargers when attempting to up quarter sales. You’ll need to discuss these kinds of incentives with Tesla before you sign on the dotted line.

Superchargers and Battery Wear

Battery technologies are finicky. It’s well known that the faster you charge a battery, the faster it wears out. Yes, this goes for Tesla car batteries. What that means is that while visiting a V3 Supercharger is convenient for topping up your battery quickly, it’s not so great on the battery itself. The more you visit these fast charge ports, the quicker your car battery may need to be replaced. This means you should temper your exuberance for fast chargers and utilize much slower overnight charging whenever possible.

How much is a replacement battery pack? Well, let’s hope you bought the extended warranty because here’s where things get really pricey. Obviously, under warranty, there will be no cost. If the warranty has expired or if you have bought a used Tesla without a warranty, you’re on your own. The cost to replace a battery pack can range from $3,000 to over $13,000 sans labor. If you’re considering buying a used Tesla, you should confirm if any existing warranty is transferable to the new owner and confirm how much is left. You shouldn’t confirm this with the seller as they can tell you anything. Instead, confirm this information with Tesla directly by calling and asking.

If no warranty is available, you should contact a third party warranty company (i.e., CarShield) and discuss whether the battery is a covered part under that warranty before you buy the car. Being required to spend $16,000 after buying a used Tesla (or any electric car) is not really a pleasant surprise. You’ll want to make sure you can acquire some kind of warranty that covers that battery part as soon as you buy that Tesla.

Commuter Vehicle

Let’s discuss a situation where Tesla does function decently enough. A Tesla is a reasonable, if not somewhat costly commuter vehicle. It’s great to get around town, drive to work, run errands, pick up the kids and take them to soccer practice. For long distance driving, owning a Tesla is unnecessarily more complicated, particularly if you choose to tour remote areas of the country without access to charge stations. All of this complication can be easily avoided by choosing a gas vehicle or a gas hybrid. As a commuter vehicle, a Tesla is an okay choice. However, I’d suggest there are plenty of other vehicles, gas, hybrid and even hybrid / electric, that suffice for commuting. Many of these choices are not nearly as costly as the purchase of a Tesla. But, of course, you won’t get all of the Tesla niceties with those other vehicles.

A Green Company?

With the recent trend toward companies seeking to being green and offering green technologies, it’s funny (odd) that Tesla chose not to be very green. There are a number of problems that prevent Tesla from being a green all around company. By green, let me define that.

I know, you might thinking, “How can an all-electric vehicle not be green?” Bear with me.

A Green company is a company that implements processes to reduce waste, to offer more compostable materials in packaging and implement processes to reduce its own waste and offer designs which help reduce carbon emissions and other environmental pollutants. Apple is a good example of this. Apple moved from using plastic packaging materials to paper materials which compost more fully. Though, even Apple isn’t all that green considering the eWaste afforded by Apple’s insistence at replacing iPhones every single year.

One might further think, “Well, isn’t Tesla green by using batteries instead of gasoline?” You would think that would be true, wouldn’t you? Let’s examine.

What about those Li-On batteries? The secret involving these batteries is that to manufacture that one battery, it produces 74% more emissions than a standard car does. Once the battery is manufactured, the consumption of greenhouse gasses drops to zero for that specific battery, but the manufacturing of each battery is very dirty. I guess Tesla car buyers don’t really care much about how much of a carbon footprint was required to build that luxury Tesla? It gets worse.

Power Grids derive most of their energy from fossil fuel sources. Up to a max 20% of all grid energy generated is from clean renewables such as Solar, Wind and Water. Nuclear energy further makes up another 20%. The remaining ~60% is still generated from fossil fuel sources including coal, natural gas and burning petroleum products. That means that every time you plug your Tesla into a grid charger, at least 60% of that energy consumed is contributing to greenhouse gasses.

Your Tesla doesn’t have a tailpipe, but it grows one while your Tesla is charging from the grid.

Tesla and the Power Grid

With both California and Texas now experiencing regular power problems due to various politically motivated reasons, it is also becoming obvious that the aging United States power grid infrastructure is in need of a major overhaul. For every plug-in electric car sold (not just Tesla), this puts another car onto the grid to suck even more energy. As more and more all electric cars are manufactured and sold, that only means even more added load to that aging power grid. Tesla is a heavy contributor to this problem due to its much faster (denser) powered requirements for fast charging.

At some tipping point, there will be too many cars charging for the grid to handle. The formerly off-peak hours in the wee morning hours will become the peak hours because that’s when all of the cars will be charging. Eventually, all of these charging electric cars will be drawing more current than homes draw in the middle of the day. This will be compounded by Tesla’s ever more ravenous need to speed charging up. Right now, the V3 chargers pull 250 kW. The V4 chargers will likely want to pull 500kW. V5 chargers maybe 1000kW?

When will this need-for-speed end? This is the same problem that Internet Services faced in the early 2000s. The infrastructure wasn’t designed for 10GB to every home. It still isn’t. That’s why broadband services still don’t offer 10GB home speeds. They barely offer 1GB.. and even if you do buy such a link, they don’t guarantee those speeds (read the fine print).

The point is that the more data that can be pulled in an ever shorter amount of time, the more problems it causes for the ISP over that very short time. The same for energy generation. The more energy consumed over an ever shorter amount of time, the more energy that must be generated to keep up with that load. There is a tipping point where energy generators won’t be able to keep up.

Is Tesla working with the energy generation companies? Highly unlikely. Tesla is most likely designing in a bubble of their own making. Tesla’s engineers assume that energy generation is a problem that the electric companies need to solve. Yet, energy generation has finite limits. Limits that, once reached, cannot be exceeded without expensive additional capacity… capacity that the energy companies must pay to build, not Tesla. Capacity that takes time to build and won’t come online quickly (read years). Capacity costs that will be handed down to consumers in the form of even more rate increases. Yes, all of those Tesla vehicles consuming energy will end up being the source of higher energy rate increases. Thanks, Elon!

It’s highly unlikely that Tesla knows exactly where those energy generation limits are and they probably don’t want to know. It’s also the reason many recharge stations limit power consumption draw current to around 6-10 kW max. Those limits are intentional and are likely not to be lifted any time soon. If Tesla can manage to get even a handful of V3 Superchargers set up around the United States, I’d be surprised. Even then, these rechargers may be artificially limited to significantly less than the 250 kW required for that 60 minute rapid charge in a Model 3. Power companies may simply not be able to provide that charge rate for perhaps hundreds or thousands of rechargers.

Hope meets Reality

The difficulty is that Tesla intends to build these ever faster rechargers, but then may not be able to actually get them functional in the wild due to the overly rapid amount of energy they can consume. This is where reality meets design… all for Tesla to attempt to get close to the 5-8 minutes it takes to fill up a tank of gas. Yes, let’s completely stress our aging power grid infrastructure to the breaking point all for the sake of trying to charge a bunch of Teslas in 5 minutes? Smart. /s

Instead of producing ever faster and faster rechargers, Tesla should be researching and innovating better battery technologies to reduce power consumption and improve driving distance through those improved batteries. How about hiring battery engineers to solve this difficult problem rather than taking the easy route by simply sucking down ever more energy faster from an already overloaded power grid?

With better batteries, instead of Tesla contributing to the problem of global warming by forcing ever more energy generation faster, they could be innovating to reduce this dilemma by making more efficient and faster charging batteries using lower power consumption rates. Building better and more efficient batteries? That’s innovation. Faster recharging by overburdening infrastructure? That’s callous and reckless… all in the name of capitalism. I guess as long as Tesla can make its sales numbers and Wall Street remains happy, it doesn’t matter how non-green Tesla really is.

Pollution

One thing I’ve not yet fully discussed is, you guessed it, pollution. This aspect is part of being a green company. Yet, instead of trying to make Teslas charge faster and drive farther by innovating improved battery technologies, Tesla builds the low-hanging fruit of faster 250 kW rechargers to improve the speed of battery charging by consuming ever more grid energy faster.

Let’s understand the ramification of this. The faster the batteries charge, the more power must be generated at that point in time to handle the load. The more power generated, the more concentration of pollutants that go into the air to support that generation. That doesn’t say ‘green company’. It says callous, reckless, careless, dirty company in it for the money, not for helping the planet.

Overtaxing the power grid is a recipe for disaster, if only from a climate change perspective. There are plenty of other ways to look at this, but this one is the biggest problem against what Tesla is doing. It’s also, again not innovative. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Renewables

Energy sources like Wind, Solar and Water are great generation alternatives. But, they’re not always feasible. Texas is a very good example of how these renewables can fail. The mass array of Wind Turbines in North Texas and the panhandle were found to be easily damaged by both freezing temperatures and excessive winds. Clearly, these expensive turbines need to be weather proofed and managed accordingly.

For example, to avoid the freezing conditions, the motors needed heaters to keep them from freezing up. It’s not like some of the energy generated from these turbines couldn’t be used and stored locally to keep heaters operating. Additionally, high wind detectors could move the blades into a neutral position so there’s less of a chance of high wind damage. Because Texas apparently didn’t implement either of these two mitigation strategies, that left a large amount of these wind turbines damaged and out of commission. This fact meant the Texas power grid was unable to serve the entire state enough energy… thus, blackouts.

Solar, on the other hand, requires a large amount of land to “farm.” What that means is that land needs to be allocated to set up large amounts of solar panel arrays. Last time I looked, land wasn’t cheap and neither are those solar panels. This means a high amount of expense to draw in solar energy.

Unlike wind, which can potentially blow 24 by 7, if you can get 5-6 hours of solid sunlight in a day, that’s the best you can hope for. This means that a solar panel can only capture a fraction of the amount of energy that a 24 / 7 wind turbine can continuously capture and provide.

Water energy can also be harnessed, but only using large dam systems. This means, once again, specific land and water requirements. For example, the Hoover dam provides about 458,333 kW continuous, which is enough continuous power to operate around 1,559 V3 Superchargers concurrently, taking into account a 15% power loss due to transmission lines and transformers. This also assumes that dam’s power is dedicated to that purpose alone. Hint: it isn’t. Only a fraction of that power would be allowed to be used for that purpose, which means far fewer Superchargers. That power is also combined with other power generation types, which makes up the full power grid supply.

The point here is that renewables, while great at capturing limited amounts of energy, are not yet ready to take over for fossil fuel energy generation. In fact, the lion’s share of energy generation is still produced by burning coal, natural gas and petroleum… all of which significantly impact and pollute the environment.

Dangerous

One thing I’ve not yet discussed is the dangers of owning an electric vehicle. One danger that might not seem apparent is its battery. These lithium-ion batteries can become severe fire hazards once breached. If that Tesla lands in an accident and the battery ruptures, it’s almost assured to turn into a Car-B-Cue. If you’re pinned in the vehicle during that Car-B-Cue, it could turn out horrific. Lithium-ion fires are incredibly dangerous. Though, while gasoline is also highly flammable, a gas tank is much less likely to rupture and catch fire in an accident.

Innovation Circle

To come full circle, it’s now much easier to understand why Tesla is less an innovative car company and more of a sales and marketing gimmick. After all, you could buy plenty of other luxury car brands offering sometimes better bells and whistles. Luxury car brands have been around for years. Tesla is relatively new car company, having started in 2008. It’s just that Tesla has built its brand based on it having “sexy” technology that other brands didn’t have, but have since acquired.

Both gas and hybrid vehicles offer better distance and more readily accessible infrastructure to get you back onto the road when low on fuel. It is this feature that is still a primary motivator for most car buyers. Trying to finagle where and how to charge an electric vehicle can be a real challenge, particularly if you live in a condo or apartment and not a home. It’s worse if you choose to live in the boonies.

Where does Tesla stand?

The question remains, what does a Tesla vehicle do well? As a short distance commuter car, it’s perfectly fine for that purpose. It’s a bit pricey for that use case, but it functions fine. The convenience of being able to plug it in when you get home is appealing, assuming you have a recharge port installed at home. If you are forced to leave it in a random parking lot to charge overnight, that’s not so convenient. How do you get home from there? Walk? Uber? It kinda defeats the purpose of owning an expensive Tesla.

When purchasing a Tesla, you have to consider these dilemmas. What’s the problem with living in a condo or apartment? Many complexes have no intention of setting up rechargers, thus this forces you to leave your car at a parking lot charger perhaps blocks away. If the complex offers garages with 110v circuits, you can use these to charge, but extremely slowly. This means that to own a Tesla, certain things need to line up perfectly to make owning a Tesla convenient. Otherwise, it’s an expensive hassle.

Innovation isn’t just about the product itself, it’s how the product gets used in a wide array of use cases. If the product’s design fails to account for even basic ownership cases, the design wasn’t innovative enough. That’s where the Tesla sits today. That’s why Tesla is still considered niche car and is not generally useful across-the-board.

Calling Tesla and, by extension, Elon, innovative gives that company and Elon way too much credit. Elon’s claim to fame is that he picked a business that happened to receive a lightning strike. This is mostly because he’s an excellent sales person. Some people can sell pretty much anything they are handed. Elon is one of those people. While he’s an excellent salesman, he’s not so much of an excellent innovator. Slapping together a bunch of existing off-the-shelf technologies shouldn’t be considered innovative, particularly when you forget to take into account too many ownership cases where the final product is inconvenient to own and operate.

Home Use

The kind of buyer who can afford to buy into a Tesla is typically affluent enough to afford a home. For these people, more convenience is afforded owning a Tesla. Not only can you spend the money to install a home charging port that charges at whatever rate you can afford, homeowners can choose to park and charge their vehicles at will. This is important to understand.

Homeowners with acreage, can also choose to set up such renewable energy sources as wind turbines and solar panels. These energy generation systems can offset some of the power consumed while charging up an electric vehicle.

About renewables, one residential based wind turbine may produce a maximum of 10 kW of energy during optimal conditions. That’s about the same amount of energy provided by most third-party non-Tesla recharge ports found on parking lots. While it may take 60 minutes to charge a Model 3 using a V3 250 kW recharge port, at 10 kw or 4% of that 250 kW charge rate, it would take many hours to charge. In fact, at that much slower recharge rate, it might take 8-16 hours to fully charge.

To offset that, you would need to buy and install multiple wind turbines to increase the energy generated. Wind turbines are not at all cheap to buy or erect. Having enough land to line them up may be even more of a problem. In other words, you’d probably spend way more than the cost of your Tesla just to build enough infrastructure to support charging that car in anything close to timely. Is it worth it? Depends on the person.

To even approach the 250 kW level of charge rate, you have to rely on the power grid or install a diesel or natural gas generator. However, installing a fossil fuel generator is no better or cheaper than using the power grid.

As I said above, a Tesla grows a tailpipe the moment it begins recharging from fossil fuel sources.

Is a Tesla vehicle worth it?

As a car for car’s sake, it’s fine. It does its job well. It’ll get you from place to place. It has all of the standard amenities needed, such as heating and air conditioning and it keeps you out of the rain. It has luxury bells and whistles also, such as the touch screen panel and assisted driving.

Everyone must decide for themselves what they consider whether a product is “worth it”. Owning specific cars is mostly a subjective experience. Does it feel right when sitting in the driver’s seat? Is it comfortable? Can you see easily out of the windows? Do the mirrors offer safe views all around the vehicle? As a driver, only you can sit in a car an decide if the car is the correct fit for you and your family.

I’ve personally sat in cars that while they appeared roomy from the outside, caused my knees to bang up against the dash or door frame or other areas upon entry, exit or while driving. It’s no fun exiting a vehicle to scraped knees or banged up shins.

Car buying is an experience that can only be described as trying to find a glove that fits. Once you find the right glove, the deal is done. I would never buy a car based on brand alone. I buy cars that fit all manner of criteria, including comfort, budget, safety, warranty, reviews and cost for maintenance. Nothing’s worse than taking your car to the dealer only to be slapped with a $1000 fee each and every time.

I’m not saying that owning a Tesla isn’t “worth it”. It may well be “worth it” for specific reasons. It’s just that the one reason to own a Tesla should not be innovation. The car truly offers few innovative features. Another reason is its alleged zero carbon footprint. Yes, it has a zero carbon footprint as long as you never charge it. Can’t do that and have a functional car. As soon as it begins charging from the power grid, the car is no greener than a gas powered car. Because a Tesla must charge for hours at slower recharge rates, that’s way longer than most 2-4 hour daily commutes to and from work in a gas powered vehicle.

Simply because you don’t see the pollution going into the air out of your car doesn’t mean it’s not happening while that car sits in your garage charging.

Product Innovation

As I said above, you shouldn’t buy a Tesla because you think it’s innovative. It’s not. However, it goes beyond this. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a car because it was “innovative.” I choose cars based on other more important criteria, such as gas mileage, comfort, warranty, performance, ease of maintenance and other functional criteria. This typically means I’m also not brand loyal. I find the car that fits what I need in the budget that I can afford. That could be a Ford, Chevy, Toyota or whatever car that works best. Every model year yields new cars that offer different features.

Tesla believes that they can craft a brand like Apple, with brand loyal fans also like Apple. Apple is a unique beast. Their brand loyalty goes very, very deep. These brand loyal folks will buy whatever Apple releases, regardless of whether it’s the best value. Likewise, Tesla hopes to build their company based on this same type of year-over-year brand loyalty. Except there’s one problem: who buys a new car every year?

However, Tesla has not proven itself to be an innovative car company. They can make cars, true enough. But, are those cars truly innovative? Not really. Even Apple’s product innovation has come to a standstill. The latest iPad, for example, removed the TouchID home button in favor of FaceID simply to remove the home button from the bezel. So then, along comes COVID-19 and thwarts FaceID by wearing a simple mask. TouchID is a better COVID alternative because you don’t need to cover your fingertips. FaceID seems like a great idea until it isn’t.

Tesla needs to consider more breakthrough innovation and less incremental innovation. Hire people with the chops to build superior battery technology. Hire people who can design and build more efficient drive motors. Hire people to figure out how to embed solar panels into the paint so you can have both an aesthetically pleasing paint job and charge your car while sitting or driving in the sun.

There are plenty of ways to recapture small amounts of energy, such as wind, solar and regenerative braking to extend the driving distance. These don’t need to fully charge the battery, but instead are used to extend the charge of the battery and add distance. Heck, why not install a simple generator that uses gasoline, propane or even natural gas? This generator doesn’t need to charge the battery to 100%. Again, it is simply used to extend the range to get more miles from the car. These are just a few simple, but profound improvement ideas. There are plenty more ideas that can be explored to make the Tesla cars, not just technologically luxurious, but truly innovative.

These more breakthrough innovative designs are missing from the Tesla. These are ideas that would make a Tesla car much more functional in all areas of driving, not simply commute driving. In fact, I’d like to see Tesla build a gasoline powered vehicle. Stop relying on electric and take the dive into building cars based on all fuel types. Does Cadillac keep its car line artificially limited to one type of motor? No. How about Bentley? How about Porsche or Lamborghini? No. These car companies innovate by not artificially constraining themselves to a single type of technology. This gives those car companies an edge that allows them to install whatever technology is best for a specific model vehicle. That Tesla is artificially constraining itself to electric only is a questionable, self-limiting business decision.

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Game Review: Days Gone

Posted in botch, reviews, video game by commorancy on June 20, 2021

This former Sony PS4 exclusive game (now also available on Windows), while sporting only the rare fun game mechanic, is hands-down one of the worst single-player games I have ever played. It’s not bad in the same exact way as Fallout 76, but it is definitely the absolute worst game of its kind. Days Gone needs to begone. Let’s explore.

What’s wrong with Days Gone?

That’s a good question. Let’s dive deep into this Sony Interactive / Bend Studio disaster. It’s funny. You would think that Sony could put together good games… especially considering that they seem to keep hiring large ghost developers behind the scenes to put these games together. Well, you’d be wrong. Let’s take a look at Ghost of Tsushima to understand where Day’s Gone goes so horribly astray. Even though Ghost of Tsushima would be released not quite one year after Days Gone, they both share similar problems. Both games must have also been in development during the same time frame.

While Ghost of Tsushima could have been a good game, it copied way too much of Assassin’s Creed for its own good and didn’t do it very well. Though, both Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima are very pretty games, looking beautiful can only take a game so far. The blowing reeds and flower petal particles in Ghost of Tsushima are wondrous to behold, same for the Oregon mountainous landscape in Days Gone. It’s the game’s mechanics which undermine all of that beauty. Why would I want to play Assassin’s Creed set in feudal Japan when it’s not even written by Ubisoft? Yeah, so there’s that. Regardless, the problems that plague Ghost of Tsushima are the same problems that also plague Days Gone, except Days Gone is even worse than Ghost of Tsushima by an order of magnitude.

With Days Gone, the problems start right from the beginning. First, the game steals the hero’s bike away from him. An unnecessary start to this disaster. If that were the only problem, I could live with it. Second, the sole point to stealing the motorcycle is in giving the player a way to spend time rebuilding the bike… a completely unnecessary included mechanic. That’s the least of the problems with the bike in this game, however. It’s perfectly fine to allow us to rebuild the bike to our own whims and on our own time, but the stolen bike storyline was entirely unnecessary.

Even More Bike Problems

The motorcycle given in concession to the stolen bike is crap by comparison. This crap bike requires the game player to grind, grind, grind for money to repair and enhance the bike. That means heading out to do all of the missions in the game. Except we then run afoul of all of the insipid bike mechanics.

Gasoline UsageStupid Mechanic #1

That this bike mechanic exists is entirely insipid. Real world motorcycles get between 35-40 miles per gallon on average. That means a full 6 gallon tank of gas should see a motorcycle go around 240 miles. In Days Gone, a full tank of gas lasts about 5 minutes of driving, or maybe 3-5 miles. The game literally forces you to stop and gas up about every 5-10 minutes of play. It’s an incredibly time wasting game mechanic. I get that the game wanted to add some measure of realism around requiring gasoline, but this mechanic is overkill and overly burdensome on the player.

If you’re planning on adding this level of burden to the player, then at least have the decency to allow us to disable requiring gasoline as a game option. Grand Theft Auto isn’t that stupid. Why not follow GTA’s formula which doesn’t require gas at all? Gassing up the motorcycle constantly is not only repetitive, it’s insanely stupid. If you’re going to include a gassing up mechanic, at least make it realistic enough that you can drive from one side of the map to the other and back on a single tank. This problem is the first in the tip of this game’s cracking iceberg. Oh yes, it does get worse.

Paying for GasStupid Mechanic #2

When you’re out and about running around, gassing up every few minutes, you can find gas canisters and gas pumps which offer infinite free gas. You just pump and go. However, when you finally meet up with the various factions, these factions require that you pay for gas. Why would you ever do that? Just drive a little bit up the road and find a gas can in the back of a truck that will completely fill the tank. It’s the complete opposite of how this mechanic should have been designed. You should be required to pay for gas at pumps and get free gas with the factions.

RepairsStupid Mechanic #3

Motorcycles don’t just randomly fall apart as you ride them. Yet, in this game, they do. Hopping over the most insignificant little ramp immediately causes damage to the bike. Meaning, by the time you land, the bike already needs 15-30% repair work for each and every little bump. See, I told you that it gets worse.

Further, as you get clothes-lined or snipered by road side ambushes, the bike’s damage level immediately goes from 100% to 0%. There’s no chance of seeing less damage from an ambush. The bike’s repair level is always at 0% after an ambush of any kind. It’s like the bike is some kind of child’s toy made of plastic or something. This tiresome repair mechanic combined with the constant tank refilling makes the bike more of a hassle than a help.

Worse, it takes at least 10 pieces of scrap, probably more, to repair the bike from 0% to 100%. Looking for scrap in this game is also pain in the ass… finding two pieces here, one piece there, cracking open hoods of cars in among a bunch of ghouls. Anyway, you can drive around when the bike is 20% repaired, but that means one tiny little bump and you’re back at 0% again. Both the gas refilling mechanic and the repair mechanic combine to make the entire bike worthless and clinch the disaster that is this game. You could probably walk to locations faster than riding a bike, were it not for the ghouls.

Ghouls and Apocalypse

Here’s where we finally get into the Days Gone story, such that it isn’t. Basically, the world has undergone an apocalypse. A virus has been released that has turned many people into zombies, not unlike the ghouls in Fallout 76. The ghouls are pretty much ripped straight out of Fallout, lunging attacks, screaming and all. It’s like the developers said, “Fuck it, let’s just steal the Feral Ghouls right from Fallout”. So, that’s what they did. While Fallout 76 has modified the Ghouls to be able to run like the Bionic Man at supersonic speeds, the Ghouls in Days Gone remain at least a bit less superhuman than that. That doesn’t make them any better.

The point is, it’s basically an apocalyptic world pretty much like Fallout. Instead of radiation being the culprit, it’s a virus. Regardless, the power plants don’t work, towns are abandoned, ghouls roam the land and the story attempts to unfold what went on and why the ghouls act as they do. It’s a very weak story designed only to give the hero character motivation to find his girlfriend after they get separated.

He also has a brother who loses an arm to burn damage because of other threats across the land. Of course, the world wouldn’t be complete without some deranged faction with loony toons followers, which seems to indicate the first stage of the virus. The second stage of the virus is the ghouls who have no mental capacity other than instinct to kill only. The third stage of the virus is when the ghoul turns into an albino version and gains significant strength. There is a fourth stage of the virus when it turns a ghoul into a hulking brute beast. Not sure how that happens, but the hero encounters one as a boss. If there are further stages, and there probably are, I’ve not yet played far enough in to encounter them.

The ghoul mechanic works okay as an enemy, but it’s also way too much like the ghouls in Fallout. Couldn’t they come up with something new? The ghouls are only a small part of this game’s problems.

Quests and Map Markers

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, literally. The game has you traipse all over the map using that weak ass bike for each and every quest. Noooo, the quests can’t possibly unfold close in proximity. The game literally has you go to one side of the map, perform a quest, then drive all the way across to the other side for the next one. This constant and incessant yo-yo movement is tiresome and highly annoying, particularly when you’re constantly required to refill and repair the bike halfway across the map each and every time.

There is no efficiency in layout of the quests on the map. It’s super annoying and yet becomes completely predictable. This means you’ll need to drive by a refill station at the halfway point before completing the trip to the quest marker… every single time.

There’s no fun to be had with this mechanic. It’s simply becomes tiresome after the third time doing it. Repetitive? Oh, yes. Fun? No way. This game is certainly on its way to being one of the worst games ever.

Ghoul Hordes

Here’s another game mechanic that seems to have been added just to see if it could be done technically. Sure, there’s a story element that weakly ties into the hordes. Additionally, the hordes seem mostly to have been included to also inconvenience the player. There are literal times where the horde goes right over your bike which is parked somewhere away from you. When you want to go back to your bike, you can’t because the horde is right there.

Let me also state that, in general, hordes are basically unkillable under most circumstances. What I mean is that for a player to attempt to attack a horde means certain death. There are so many ghouls in a horde, you simply don’t have enough bullets or melee damage to kill every single one. The only thing you can do is hide in the bushes and wait for them to walk by… slowly… which is like watching paint dry. You can’t do anything else while waiting on a horde. Yet another insipid game mechanic.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a way to defeat a horde as I’ve done it. You must do it at a location where the horde can’t get to you, like on top of a small cliff where only your bike can reach. So long as the ghouls can’t climb up, you’re safe. You can stand on the edge, craft and rain molotovs down onto them. Molotovs are actually the best way to handle ghoul hordes in this game… and these are the easiest grenade-style weapons to make. Unfortunately, ghouls are very agile and can amass in very large numbers quickly and silently. Don’t take a horde on unless you know they can’t get to you.

With that said, hordes are an unnecessary inclusion. I get why they were added, but they’re mostly a nuisance since there’s no general means of taking them out. Taking out a horde requires a very specific set of circumstances which don’t occur often… unless you explicitly know how to plan for it.

Motorcycle Chases

Inevitably, you’ll run into one of the many poorly designed motorcycle chase routines in the game. In fact, these seem to happen about every 5th quest. You’ll arrive at a quest marker and a random motorcycle will speed by requiring you to chase and “subdue” them. Oh no, you can’t kill the biker. You must keep them alive.

Worse, though, is that your gun holds perhaps 10 shots and you’re limited to which guns you can use while on a bike. Oh, but you’re not just chasing one bike, you’re chasing 3 bikers: a primary biker you need to subdue and two random bullet sponge bikers riding just behind. These bullet sponge bikers were included simply to waste bullets. By the time you get those two gone, you’ve already wasted half of the ammo in your gun. This means you have maybe 3-5 bullets left to attempt to stop the fleeing primary biker… not enough to actually do the job.

If the game mechanic only had you chase ONE biker, you would have well enough ammo to do the job. Instead, the game forces you to waste ammo on unnecessary random bullet sponge bikers that honestly make no sense being there.

This chase routine wouldn’t be so bad if there were ways to carry more ammo with you on the bike, but you can’t. All the ammo you carry on your character is all of the ammo you have for that gun. Because there are limited guns you can use while on a motorcycle, once you are out of ammo, the whole thing is done. Without ammo, you cannot subdue the biker without trying to ram him off the road, which is next to impossible on the crap bike they’ve given you. If you could swing your melee bat at him or his bike, you could easily subdue him. The game doesn’t let you use this weapon while on a bike.

Here’s where the game gets its crap reputation and why Days Gone is one of the worst games I have ever played. If, as a developer, you’re requiring us to use a bike, then damn well let us carry as much ammo as we please. Why 10 pieces only? Ammo doesn’t weigh much and even if it does, you could store it on the bike somewhere. You might have to stop to reload, but you could then continue. Unfortunately, the game offers the player no such mechanic. Once you’re out of ammo, you’re pretty effectively forced to abandon the chase and try to buy ammo, find some in a cop car or attempt to locate ammo at some other place. This means you simply can’t finish that quest. It also means you’re going to be redoing that quest over and over and over until you can find just the right set of circumstances to get that dumbass on the bike to stop. Why the game developers didn’t allow us to use all of our weapons, including the melee weapons (which can be used one handed), I have no idea.

One last thing about this chase is that the game refuses to let you go faster than the bike ahead. The game always keeps the biker ahead of your bike regardless of how fast you are traveling. This makes it almost impossible to straddle along side the biker to knock him off. Oh, and guns? Yeah, the primary biker gets to carry not only pistols, but shotguns and molotovs… something the game doesn’t allow the player to do.

Again, nothing fun about these chase scenarios… at all. Simply tedium and frustration only.

Factions

Here’s where the game takes a U turn. There are three factions which you can “join”. By “join”, I mean become a mercenary for. Ultimately, you’re only in it to take quests, fetch things and kill intruders. These quests earn you reputation points and money with each of the factions. Though, why you’d want to be friends with these factions, I’ve no idea. All three of them are run by stupid, insensitive schmucks. None of them understand the gravity of what’s going on out in the world, nor do they really care to know. As long as they have the fence that blocks out the ghouls, they’re happy. All three of the factions really make no sense being there in the way that they are.

It’s actually one of the dumbest game mechanics I’ve seen in an apocalyptic game… especially considering that all three factions are nearly identically configured. Other than in a video game, how could that ever happen?

Ultimately, the factions are only there to dole out quests for the player and offer up money to buy crap.

Disappearing Quests

Here’s another mechanic that always makes me angry every time I see it in a game. You’ll be playing along and something randomly comes along and kills the player’s character. With this game, not only is there an incredibly LONG reload time waiting for the entire game to almost completely reload, once it does reload the quest you were on has completely disappeared along with any enemies who were there.

Worse, these are apparently one-time quests which appear once, but don’t appear again… so you can’t retry. This is true of the roadside ambushes. When they appear, you have one chance to subdue the attackers. If they kill the player, that mini-quest is long gone and won’t appear again… so no vengeance in this game. This situation is entirely frustrating to the point where I want to break the game disk in half. Thankfully, it’s a digital copy and that’s not possible. Though, I most certainly have considered deleting the game from my console several times. For whatever reason, I keep coming back to it in hopes that it might get better. It never does.

Fun in the Game

There are a few places in this game where I have had at least a minimal amount of fun. Though, it has nothing to do with that crap ass bike, the rail quests or any other story progression. The one and only one fun element is taking out the ghoul nests. These are side quests that are solely designed to enable fast travel to points beyond the nest site. However, these activities are probably the most fun thing to do in this game world. The reason is, there are no artificial constraints forced onto the player, like the bike chase artificial weapon constraints that sap all of the fun out of what could have been great fun.

Because clearing out the nests is entirely an open world side quest, you can use whatever weapons you want, choose whatever tactics you like and do it as you see fit. The developers don’t stand in your way by having you do it in some very artificial and unusual way. With all of the primary quests, it’s all so rail based. Each of those primary quests are so artificially constrained, so in-your-face and so unnecessarily burdensome, the player must fully play by the developer’s rail-based rules to complete it. You can’t venture off of your bike and choose to do it your own way, otherwise the game will detect that and fail the quest.

With many of the side quests, there are few, if any constraints on how you to achieve your goal. If you wish to be sneaky, that’s your choice. If you want to lure the ghouls into a specific spot and take them all out with a bomb, go for it. It’s all left entirely up to the player. It’s these open world tactics that make this game fun. It’s also the artificially constrained main quests that make the game repetitive and tedious.

Game developers need to learn that open world games without any play constraints are way more fun than rail-based quests. Such quests, in the case of this game, force the gamer into artificially constrained play methods to complete that quest… such as being forced to craft and throw a molotov, but you cannot use any other weapons. While molotovs have a place and a use, they are not always useful for every situation. Let the player determine the best strategy to employ for quest closure. Don’t force the use of a strategy onto the player as it makes no sense and saps the fun out of allowing the player to choose their play style.

Enforcing a specific play strategy onto a player is best left up to a game’s tutorials. Tutorials are designed to show the player how to use a molotov or a pistol or a sniper rifle. This is the one and only one place where artificial constraints can be used. Players understand that tutorials are designed to teach how to use a specific game mechanic. However, once in a open game world, those constraints need to disappear. When they reappear as part of a primary quest, the quest becomes more about fighting the constraints and less about actually completing the quest.

Open world games need to remain open world 100% of the time, not whenever is convenient for the developer. That developers seem to think we want to play under super-artificial constraints is both stupid and asinine. We don’t.

Side Quests vs Main Quests

If side quests can offer fully open play, thus allowing the gamer to choose his or her strategy, then why are the main quests so constrained? It’s a valid question… one that game developers need to pose internally to their team. If the game can offer fully unconstrained questing with side quests, then it can also offer fully unconstrained questing with the main story quests.

For example, the NERO quests require eavesdropping only. You can’t engage the enemy at all and you cannot be spotted. Why? This is insipid. There is absolutely no reason why I can’t choose to engage this enemy and take out those who get in my way. If I can take out random ghouls all over the place, I can take out the NERO guards as I see fit. Again, insipid.

Yet, when you go to burn the nests (side quest), you can choose exactly how you want to do this quest, though you will have to use molotovs to burn the nests. But, if you choose to take out every single ghoul, that’s your choice. How you choose to take them out is also your choice. You can sneaky-sneak up behind them and use your boot knife or you can pull out your favorite pistol and gun them down. You can even stand on a ridge and sniper them. Again, your choice.

With NERO agents, you’re given some weak story context about them wearing Kevlar. Hello, Kevlar doesn’t cover every exposed portion of their body. This is a virus laden apocalypse, their Kevlar is probably damaged. Yet, no. The game prevents pulling out the weapon to even try. Kevlar also can’t stop damage from grenade or fire based weapons.

If side quests can offer the flexibility of choice for how to complete them, then the main quests need to also offer this same level of flexibility. As I said, these main quests are too artificially constrained to specific tasks and objectives, deciding for the gamer in advance how to complete it. For the main quests, there is only one correct path, all other paths lead to failure.

Repetitive

With all of the above stated, the game is highly repetitive, main or side quests. Once you do about 10 quests of any form, you’ll find yourself repeating them over and over… such as burning nests. This activity is always the same, the only thing that varies is where the nests are located, which locating them can sometimes be the only challenge. Being an errand-boy is also one that becomes repetitive. Indeed, you’ll even find yourself performing similar quests in the same town multiple times. Yes, it gets old.

Most games which offer quests do have a repetitive nature, but Days Gone is overly repetitive. Not only do all of the enemies look identical, they are identical, particularly the ghouls. To make money in this game, for example, you have to hunt ghouls or animals and collect meat or souvenirs. These items can be sold to faction merchants for credit in that particular faction.

This money can be then used to buy weapons, supplies and bike parts depending on which of the 3 factions you visit. Once you embark on the chore of hunting ghouls, it’s very, very repetitive and not much in the way of fun. The ghouls themselves have specific attack types which are easily avoided once you understand their inane strategy. The same can be said of most enemies in the game, not just ghouls.

The one type of attack that you cannot avoid is being clothes-lined or sniper ambushed. By the time you see either, they’ve already pulled the bike out from under you and sent it to 0% repair land. Again, these ambushes are both predictable and identical each and every time. The part that isn’t predictable is where the ambush is located. The game randomly spawns them in trees or in places you can’t see. Because there’s no warning system, it can be almost impossible to avoid being ambushed. Yes, there are flashing question marks on the map (?), but these sometimes appear without any warning.

Gas and Missions

This game is also, unfortunately, terribly inconsistent with gas usage while in missions. Some missions don’t use any gas at all. Some rely on the gas that’s in your tank and will run it out. You have no idea which mission uses gas and which doesn’t… that is until after the mission starts. This is probably one of the most ridiculous inconsistencies in this game.

Either all missions need to use gas or none need to use it. Having some require it and some not and not knowing which is which makes me again want to break the game disk in half.

This inconsistency is probably one of the more egregious problems in this game and is a serious enough problem that has made me want to rage quit this turd of a game several times. Gas isn’t something you can find easily or quickly. If you’re going to toss me into a bike chase to take down some random NPC, then you damned well better make sure gas isn’t consumed during the chase.

If gas were readily available all over the place in this game or if you could carry extra gas in a can on your bike, I wouldn’t rail so hard against this problem. However, gas is very difficult to quickly find in this game. It’s even more ridiculous that you also can’t carry spare gas on your bike. It’s worse that you can’t drive more than about 2-5 minutes before the tank is empty… that’s just overly stupid.

Again, if you’re setting me up for a chase, then the gas consumption needs to halt for the duration of the chase. There’s simply no time to take a detour to stop and fill the bike up in the middle of the chase. That just doesn’t work. Attempting to locate gas during a bike chase will end that chase in failure. It’s the same problem as running out of ammo. You can’t carry spare ammo with you or on your bike. You’re forced to go to a merchant or hunt for a cop car and spend time cracking it open to raid the trunk. Ammo is another item that’s not easily found simply lying about. It can only be found in very specific locations throughout the game and it takes way too much time to find it. Invariably, the chase will take you in some direction no where near a gas pump or any ammo.

Overall

This game is trite and cliché. The play value is crap. The quests are uninspired. The game is repetitive and insipid. The game is not thoughtfully designed for either functionality or fun. There’s really very little redeeming about Days Gone other than its very pretty rendering engine. I feel sorry for the graphics and map designers. They spent a lot of time and effort to make the game seem very realistic. Unfortunately, the game mechanic designers completely failed the graphics guys. The game’s mechanics are horrible, insipid, repetitive and, at times, unplayable. The story is even worse to the point of being unengaging. Why should we care about these people, Bend?

Graphics: 9.5 out of 10
Audio: 8.5 out of 10
Combat: 3.5 out of 10
Bike Combat: 2.5 out of 10
Main Story Quests: 2.5 out of 10
Side Quests: 7 out of 10
Overall: 1.5 out of 10

Recommendation: Rent only. Do not buy this absolute turd of a game.

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COVID-19: Fact vs Fiction

Posted in botch, business by commorancy on February 24, 2021

Detective work is an art, not a science. However, Dr. Sanjay Gupta attempts to be all things to all people, yet fails at being a journalist or a detective. He definitely shouldn’t quit his medical day job, that’s for sure. Let’s explore.

Fact vs Fiction

Sanjay Gupta hosts a CNN podcast that purports to separate fact from fiction when it comes to matters all things medical. However, in his CNN podcast on February 24th, 2021, this podcast does everything except separate fact from fiction.

On this episode, Sanjay Gupta speaks to random person Peter Daszak, a rando with a British accent (which Sanjay seems think lends his words some credibility) who purports to be some level of official on a mission for the World Health Organization. We’ll circle back around to Peter Daszak’s involvement in this shortly. This person claims to have visited Wuhan and then spouts all sorts of rhetoric as to the origins of COVID-19. As this podcast progresses, this guest digs an ever deeper and deeper hole about the wet market origins with Sanjay capping it with question similar to, “Does this rule out COVID-19 having begun in a lab” (paraphrased).

I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Daszak makes a bunch of statements about the wet market as having been the possible origin, but then always qualifying his statements as “coulda”, “woulda” and “shoulda”. For example, he claims that the markets had a lot of frozen meat. I’m sure it did. Yet, none of that meat tested positive. In fact, in every case where he mentions a type of meat, none of it tested positive for COVID-19. Then he later mentions other additional wet markets where some people might have visited as a possible origin. Yet, no mention of testing or of any positive outcomes from those wet markets. Deflection at its finest. Let’s continue, shall we?

“See only what you want to see”

This is where fiction trumps fact. In fact, it seems as this podcast progresses, Sanjay and Daszak both heavily wish to see the wet market as the origin, yet even having over 900 samples from the original Wuhan wet market with none testing positive for COVID-19, that logically and clearly says that the wet market wasn’t the origin. If you want to believe science here, the science of zero COVID-19 samples in any of the food tells us that the wet market was definitively not the origin… at least, not by food.

Because people tend to congregate in markets en-masse to buy their groceries, it may have been an origin only because of a human-to-human transmission super-spreader event.

Of course, both Sanjay and Daszak espouse “follow the science”, yet there is no science at all involved in direct detective work. Science may be utilized as a tool in detective work, but using science as a detective tool has failed to uncover the wet market as a food origin. If any wet market in China had been an origin for COVID-19, at least some food samples should show positive somewhere. Yet, they don’t.

Sanjay and Daszak seem to be in this podcast to sway minds through disinformation, not actual information. Actual information shows proof. Daszak clearly has none, but then there’s subtext for his motives (more on that below). That lack of proof means that this podcast is attempting to spread disinformation by pointing fingers towards the wet market and away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

China’s Agenda

China wants to be let off of the hook for the spread of COVID-19. They want this so badly that they’re willing to do or say anything to make that a reality. China doesn’t care about lying or disinformation. In fact, they’re more than happy and willing to see credible “western” medical scientists put their reputations on the line to tow China’s “we’re innocent” line. China is not innocent in the spread of COVID-19, but then neither are other countries.

It’s unmistakable. COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China. It didn’t begin in Singapore or Italy or South America or anywhere else in the world. It began in Wuhan, China. It’s also clear that we have no proof that it began in wet market food… which means that it likely began via human-to-human transmission… which means there is a patient zero.

Patient Zero

Where is patient zero? As a professional medical scientist, THIS is the question Dr. Gupta should be asking. Instead, he’s asking questions about the wet market in an attempt to pin this firmly on animal to human transmission via food. Yet, when all of the samples from that wet market are scientifically tested, nothing confirms that the virus began at the market… or at least it didn’t begin via consumption of a tainted animal purchased at the market. If COVID-19 began in a wet market, it began because of a human super-spreader event.

We already know exactly how transmissible this virus is. We also know that it can live on surfaces, sometimes for days. This means that COVID-19 could easily have begun by patient zero visiting a wet market… which is a common practice for buying food in China.

Again, where is patient zero? We already know the Wuhan Institute of Virology had both been studying and housing animals infected with a variant of SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19). The lab workers had been tending to the animals, including cleanup of their feces and urine. There is some question as to whether the WIV’s safety procedures had been properly followed prior to the release of COVID-19 in early December 2019.

On the one hand, you have a wet market of animals, none of which have tested positive for COVID-19. On the other, you have the Wuhan Institute of Virology which houses animals known to test positive for COVID-19. I’ll let you do the math here.

While Sanjay and Daszak are adamant that it “must” have started in the wet market, Ocham’s Razor disagrees. The simplest answer is that COVID-19 got out of the lab. Let’s understand how.

Lab Release?

Around the time that COVID-19 (or at least an unknown illness) began to show in China in early December, a lab assistant went missing from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Her name was Huang Yanling. The lab director, Shi Zhengli, has continually disavowed that the virus escaped from her lab. Yet, this missing lab assistant has never been accounted for. It has been assumed that Ms. Yanling was actually patient zero. Through that supposition, she may have been the person who first became infected, spread it around Wuhan in a super-spreader event and then may have died from it… with her body having been burned.

Ocham’s Razor asks, “Why?” Because she (along with others in the lab) worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology tending to the infected animals. But then, she vanishes without a trace? Is she alive or dead? No one seems to know and Shi Zhengli shrugs this disappearance off as normal.

When you’re dealing with an outbreak like COVID-19, you can’t discount missing lab assistants from the equation. Yet, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Anthony Fauci seem to ignore this logic and conclusion jump right over to the diversion of the wet market… which, again, has effectively been proven not to have been the cause of the outbreak.

Again, on the one hand, we have no proof that any wet market animal has tested positive (science). On the other hand, we have a missing lab assistant from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with no explanation of their whereabouts (detective work). Sure, it seems circumstantial, but no one has done an official investigation. Not the WHO, not the CDC, not China and not the United States.

Like a magician who wants your eyes staring at his right hand while his left does the switcharoo so you don’t see how the trick is done, the WHO, China, the U.S. and the worldwide medical community want you looking at the wet market while a young lab assistant, Huang Yanling, disappears from a lab housing COVID-19 infected bats. Yeah, if that’s not misdirection at its finest, I don’t know what is.

Bats and COVID-19

It’s widely agreed that COVID-19 began in bats. Which animals were housed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology? SARS-CoV-2 infected bats, of course. Captive animals don’t just clean up their feces and urine on their own. People must clean it for them. To do this, lab assistants must wear the proper hazard protection gear to avoid accidental exposure while cleaning up the animal waste. Without proper protections, transmission from animal to human can become a reality. Did the WIV fail to properly set up hazard protection? Did this lab assistant fail to wear said protective gear at all times? This lab had already been warned of improper safety procedures years before the incident.

Two State Department cables show that American embassy officials in Beijing made several visits to the research facility and sent two official warnings back to Washington in early 2018 about the lab’s inadequate safety measures. This was at a time when researchers were conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats, The Washington Post reported, citing intelligence sources.

https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/chinese-lab-checkered-safety-record-draws-scrutiny-over-covid-19

Let me put it this way… which is more likely?

  1. Someone ate an infected bat from a wet market? or..
  2. A lab assistant not following established procedures released COVID-19 from the lab via themselves?

Considering that this lab had been warned of improper safety procedures in the past, I’ll let you do the math. It’s not hard math either. Again:

  1. Are we looking at infection from a wet market, which hasn’t found a food sample with COVID-19?
  2. Are we looking at infection from a lab with known unsatisfactory safety procedures and a missing lab assistant?

Occam’s Razor is fairly clear here. So is K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). Logic dictates that it’s #2 as the source, not #1. Regardless of what people have stated, it’s fairly clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the most likely candidate. The question, why aren’t more news outlets, the government and other officials like Dr. Fauci and Sanjay Gupta looking in this direction?

Conflict of Interest

Most doctors look up to Dr. Fauci as their guide for all things COVID-19. Unfortunately, Dr. Fauci isn’t as innocent in all of this as he appears. Dr. Fauci headed up the NIH at a time when that organization helped fund the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the tune of over $700,000, perhaps more. This funding was for Gain of Function research.

It gets worse.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave.”

Who exactly is Peter Daszak? I’m happy you asked that. He runs EcoHealth Alliance, a British non-profit that, in 2018, identified the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 variants, over a year before the pandemic. Why were they able to do this? Because this British non-profit funded research through the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Where did EcoHealth Alliance get its money? From the United States government, of course. Remember that over $700,000 above? Yeah, that’s where some or all of it went.

That money was funneled from the United States NIH to EcoHealth Alliance and then apparently that money landed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology for virus research. It’s not like EcoHealth Alliance is a direct research firm. Nevermind that the Obama administration had banned the use of funds to further Gain of Function research related to viruses in 2014 to prevent this situation from unfolding. Unfortunately, that ban was lifted in 2017 by the NIH (headed by Fauci), leading to further research and perhaps directly to this pandemic. Without that money funneling through outfits like EcoHealth Alliance to such subcontractors as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the world might not be in this situation.

It takes money to operate expensive research facilities. Without that money, no facilities. Of course, the U.S. Government doesn’t want to get involved in such risky research directly or have that research on U.S. soil, which could backfire on the United States. Instead, it’s fine to funnel money through intermediates so that the United States can absolve itself of involvement through plausible deniability… even though it’s as plainly obvious as it is here. The U.S. indirectly funded research that lead directly to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Is China still at fault? Most certainly. That facility is located in China. China operates it. It is completely on China to operate such facilities responsibly and safely. However, the United States NIH cannot disavow involvement when a very large sum of money landed at that lab, helping them fund SARS-CoV-2 research and possibly leading to the virus’s release. It’s particularly worrying when considering that this research lab indirectly received funding from the NIH, headed up by Dr. Fauci at the time. Dr. Fauci had to know where that money could or would end up. Even still, the NIH could have asked how that money was to be spent by its recipients.

Plausible Deniability and Gupta’s Podcast

I have no idea how culpable or complicit Sanjay Gupta may be in this situation, but it is entirely irresponsible to host a person like Daszak by allowing them to push the wet market disinformation as the source when there has been no actual science proving the wet market’s direct food involvement.

Instead, Daszak’s culpability and possible complicity is evident by his non-profit’s funneling of money into the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which firmly places him, EcoHealth Alliance and its reputation at risk. No. He can’t risk that. So, going on a show like Dr. Sanjay Gupta lends credibility to his assertions that the wet market was the location where it began, never mind that science shows there’s no food evidence. However, a super-spreader event is definitely not out of the question. But then, the question arises, who was patient zero and where began their super-spreader event? I think we already have the answer to that question above.

For this reason, it’s important to read articles and understand the situation for yourself. Don’t take statements from people even who appear well intentioned at face value. You must dig deeper for answers to your questions.

We definitely haven’t gotten the whole answer from China or from the United States. Instead, the media, medical professionals like Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Anthony Fauci have danced around the issue. With this article, it’s clear to see why they are doing so. To put forth any other narrative about where and how the virus began puts their own careers in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, mainstream media would never pick up such an article like this because it damns not only such people like Dr. Fauci, it damns their own journalistic credibility because the United States government won’t play nice with them after such an article, citing them as “wild conspiracy theorists”.

Being labeled a “conspiracy theorist” is much the same as being accused of sexual misconduct these days. It’s enough to get you fired and labeled as a “nut job”. When, in fact, there’s nothing at all nutty about the statements. In fact, it’s just the opposite. However, even if Dr. Fauci is a “nut job”, he’ll never be openly called that because of his position within the United States government.

For this reason, it’s why we are now facing a political rift across party lines. It’s why Republicans can storm Capitol Hill and most will likely be let off for “good behavior”. Can’t have “well meaning” Republicans being held to justice for damaging property and killing people. Since when is a playing a party affiliation card now a “get out of jail free” card? It seems this, along with the above, is the state of affairs these days.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta needs to rename his podcast. It’s not about Fact or Fiction, it’s about perpetuating disinformation and lies. With Trump, we’ve already had enough lies to last a lifetime. We don’t need yet more lies being spouted from supposed medical professionals. This is why you must question everything.

Update for June 2, 2021

As of June 1, 2021, many of Dr. Fauci’s early pandemic emails from 2020 have been released based on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. From these emails, there’s much to read. Too much to really discuss here. With the release of these emails, suffice it to say that Fauci’s world is beginning to unravel. FOIA is one of those bane freedoms that people who work in the government would like to see abolished. Thankfully it exists and eventually allows unclassified government documents to be released to the public. I’d suggest reading the emails for yourself. However, as of this update, I’m at a loss to find a site that archives only the text of these emails. For now, you’ll need to visit news sites.

Searching Google for only the emails leads to what I deem ‘spearch‘, a combination of the two words spam and search. It’s when a site like Google chooses to bring garbage listings to the top of the search results rather than the search results you’re actually wanting. Google’s search panel’s AI understands exactly what you want, but instead, it intentionally usurps those results by planting garbage results, which attempts to direct you to those garbage sites with useless information for the sake of more ad revenue.

If I can find a site that simply allows reading only the email test without all of the unnecessary and extraneous garbage content, I will update this article.

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Republican Brinkmanship

Posted in botch, government by commorancy on February 13, 2021

The Republican party has a cancer within. That cancer is fairly obvious as well. You might be thinking, “Well, what is that cancer?” That’s today’s article. Let’s explore.

Democrats

Before I get into the meat of this article, let me be perfectly clear. The Democrat party isn’t a bunch of saints. Oh, no no no. These Democrat Senators and House representatives have their own fair share of problems, too. It’s just that at this very moment, the Republican party is in much more shambles than the Democrats. At least the Democrats did not urge their constituents to lay siege to Capitol Hill. The Democrat party is also at least holding onto the purpose of their platform unity and party, unlike many in the Republican party.

Note, I’m not planning on getting into the ‘right’ vs ‘left’ arguments in this article. Why? Because the cancer within the Republican party has nothing to do with ‘right’ vs ‘left’ points of view and everything to do with embracing the wrong ideology for this political party.

Republicans and Trump

The Republicans (also known as the Grand Old Party or GOP) is a party that stretches back to somewhere around 1854. Today (or at least prior to Trump’s election as President), the party’s platform primarily espoused conservative leanings and smaller government. Not all party members believe in that point of view, but most of the Republicans do.

Enter Trump in 2016. Trump is a capitalist businessman who is the child of a wealthy well-to-do real estate family. Much of his fortune was inherited from his parents. However, he has also made a mark for himself in real estate. His tactics have been mostly ruthless in his business dealings. That became fairly obvious fairly quickly once he took office as President, but it should have been obvious on his earlier TV reality show, The Apprentice… where the point was to fire those who didn’t perform. That firing action is actually a key element of the show and you could tell that Trump actually enjoyed every minute of that segment. One might even assume that Trump enjoys inflicting pain on others.

As Trump stepped into power, so began his concerted effort to win the 2020 election even in 2016. He sowed seeds of discontent and doubt surrounding the election early. His whole “mail in ballot” rhetoric began very early in his tenure as President and then he ramped it dramatically over time. It was clear that Trump intended to try and subvert the election process in some way if he could. He sowed these seeds early to let the weeds grow, and grow they did.

He gained a substantial following of people with extremist points of view… with people who wholeheartedly believe conspiratorial efforts are under foot. That, most importantly, the Democrats hold enough sway and power to actually subvert an election… never mind that the Democrat party is no more or less powerful than the Republican party. In fact, the Republican party was more powerful than the Democrat party with Trump elected, yet Donald Trump needed to pretend that the Democrat party had the upper hand so he could force lies down people’s throats.

More specifically, Trump offered a big election lie that somehow the Democrats subverted the election and managed to get Joe Biden elected by cheating. Trump tried time and time again to put forth his election rigged assertion in court. Every court that reviewed his claims dismissed the suit as meritless… yes, even from judges who were appointed by Trump himself. None of the judges would entertain that the election was “rigged”. Trump simply had no proof. However, there were a lot of statements from people who claimed to work for the election, but they were simply statements with no proof to back up the claims. They were mere accusations, or lies, if you will.

Trump’s Presidency

As Trump grows his presidency through his 4 years, he begins facing the real possibility of being a one-term president. He realizes that the populous could, in fact, choose a new candidate and force Trump out. Trump has already admitted that he’s not a good loser. Well, that’s as obvious as the day is long. To avoid his being ousted, Trump begins the election lie early… by targeting mail-in ballots. His attack on mail-in ballots is the basis for beginning the “big lie” that grew and grew over time… particularly once it was clear that Trump had lost both the popular vote and the election and the fact that COVID-19 more or less ensured mail-in ballots.

After his lie begin in earnest, Trump was relentless in perpetuating this lie every day after the election closed. Not only did he perpetuate the lie using his voice via videos, he perpetuated it on Twitter and social media and by enlisting his Republican party-mates to help him perpetuate his lie. He even enlisted his attorney to lie for him. Anyone Trump could enlist to perpetuate his lie he would manipulate and use. Trump’s lie agenda stopped at nothing to make sure his lie could reach far and wide.

This lie not only continued unabated, it grew to a point where gullible voters began believing this lie because such news services like Fox News perpetuated this lie through its very own anchors spreading false narratives. Even to this day, Trump still insists on perpetuating this election lie… an outrageous lie that is actually so absurd that anyone with half a brain can realize there’s no possible way that the election could have been rigged in the way that Trump has claimed. Trump could have at least tried to come up with an election narrative that was even marginally believable, but he didn’t. You don’t have to be a Republican or a Democrat to see the absolute absurdity in his lie.

Republican Party

The lie by itself wouldn’t have been a problem on its own. However, it’s how Trump mobilized that lie into action by extremist groups that led to the riot on Capitol Hill on January 6th.

Trump supporters would like to disconnect each linked event from one another and claim that the whole isn’t the sum of its parts. Meaning, that Trump’s connection to Qanon months earlier had nothing to do with those Qanon groups that up showed up on Capitol Hill on January 6th. Again, anyone with half a brain could figure out that these events were conclusively linked. One would not have happened without the other. It was these series of events that are all linked together and which led up to the riot on Capitol Hill.

Trump can most certainly feign ignorance over the matter, but that’s not only disingenuous, it’s an outright lie. Trump knew most certainly who Qanon was months before the election. He knew exactly what they were capable of doing… that’s the reason he invited them to Capitol Hill. That’s the reason he invited all of those extremist groups to Capitol Hill. You can’t invite extremist groups to an event and then not expect extremism to occur. That’s like hiring a clown for a party and then claiming you didn’t know the clown would act like a clown.

Speaking of parties, let’s move into the meat of this article. The Republican party has allowed and indeed perpetuated Trumps lies and cancer to infect the party. The party has even endorsed elections of people into House and Senator Republican roles who have extremist viewpoints and potential extremist affiliations. In other words, the Republican party appears to have been infiltrated by extremist groups. Yet, the Republican party turns a blind eye to all of this.

Republican Insanity

The Republican party was formerly about conservatism, smaller government and lower governmental spending. Today, the new extremist version of the Republican party is more about bearing arms to coerce people into action and tell lies that get people to mobilize. That form of extremism has no place in any political party, Democrats, Republican, Libertarian or Independent. Governing people in congress is about words, not about violent actions.

Worse, these extremist republican party members… who will remain nameless because you know who you are… are about as dumb as a brick if they think the American people (Republican or Democrat) won’t see through their failures and lies while in office.

For example, by ignoring the Impeachment trial, by failing to vote to convict, that sends a clear message, not that Donald Trump is innocent, but that the Republican party is firmly corrupt. Any elected Republican who actually believes that the extremist Republican contingent is large enough to vote to keep these sad lying sacks in office is literally delusional.

The vast majority of Americans, Republican or Democrat, do not hold extremist beliefs. They do not believe that guns and violence are the answer. Most Americans know that guns and violence aren’t an answer. Yet, you have an elected Republican official holding up his fist in solidarity towards known radicalized extremist groups who believe in conspiracies… people who are the exception, not the rule. What does that solidarity say? It doesn’t say good things. As I said, the vast majority of Americans believe in the rule of law, not in radical extremist agendas, such as attacking Capitol Hill by beating cops over the head with the American Flag or by pummeling them with fire extinguisher.

For so many duly elected Republicans to actually believe in violent extremism says that these people are literally delusional. Worse, these elected people aren’t likely to remain in office come next election… if those elected officials can even manage to remain in office that long. Few Americans want someone who’s literally loony toons representing them… particularly people who endorse violence against other Americans.

Impeachment Voting

What it comes down to is how these Republican Senators choose to vote. Their vote says all that it needs to say about those in the Republican party.

Literally, President Trump incited into action groups known to have extremist tendencies. He used ‘fighting words‘ like ‘Fight Like Hell’ which is not in any way protected speech. Inciting people into action regardless of whether you knew that it would erupt into violence, but that did is enough to exempt those words from First Amendment Rights. The sheer action caused by the utterance of the words ensures the words are not protected speech.

A number of people have tried arguing Trump’s ignorance of Q and their motives. Yet, those arguments are effectively invalid. You might not know the first time, but you would definitely know the second time. Inviting known extremist groups to a rally and then setting them loose with those words defines those words as ‘fighting words’ which are excluded from First Amendment protections.

These Republicans who wish to ignore all of the above and attempt to paint a picture of an ignoramus President is about is sincere someone running a red light camera and stating the picture is not them, when it clearly is.

We have not only the speech that President Trump let loose just minutes before the riot, but we also have images from within Capitol Hill showing the damage inflicted not only on the building grounds, but the injuries sustained to the police and the deaths which occurred. It clearly shows a sad day for America when a sitting President lets loose an extremist mob on Capitol Hill to inflict as much damage as they can.

It gets worse when the President sits idly by and does nothing to stop the mob and everything to reward them with the words, “We love you. You’re very special.” What rational President does this to his own party members?

Capitol Hill Police Involvement

Some have argued that part of this blame is on the Capitol Hill police being unprepared. To a degree, this is true. If Capitol Hill police had adequately prepared for a mob to descend on Capitol Hill, it’s entirely possible the mob wouldn’t have even breached the perimeter. Shoulda-woulda-coulda. While the police do have some culpability in not properly and adequately preparing for a mob that day, Trump shouldn’t have even held a rally that day. Yet, he did.

Trump’s sole goal was to disrupt, stop and halt the counting of the electoral college votes. He wanted the whole thing to fall apart… not that halting the vote count would have stopped Biden from taking office as the electoral college vote verification is largely a symbolic gesture.

Still, the disruption from the mob only delayed the inevitable. The vote count proceeded later into the evening after the mob had disbursed. What Trump hoped would happen, didn’t. Yet, the event occurred, terrifying members of congress, including the Vice President.

Republican Senators

What it comes down to in the ongoing impeachment trial is that many Republican Senators are treating the impeachment as if it’s a joke, that it’s not real. It is real and it’s going to go down in the history books. Additionally, those who vote against impeaching Donald Trump are likely to lose their position, not keep it.

Why? Because the American people don’t like lying, cheating, violence condoning, delusional people representing them. Any elected Republican Senator who believes that voting against impeachment will somehow curry favor with the voters will instead find themselves out of office come next election, if not sooner than that by being forced out or recalled. If you want to stay in office, they must to vote for impeachment.

Voting for impeachment means to uphold the constitution, America, disavow violence and prevent a morally bankrupt President from trashing the presidency on the way out. Voting against impeachment means that that Senator believes in selfishness, that violence is the answer and that a President can do whatever they want whenever they want. That’s not why Senators are voted into office. If you, as a Senator, cannot even do the job you were voted into office to do, then expect to be expelled… if not immediately, then at the next election.

Simply put, voting against impeachment means you are an untrustworthy Senator. If a Senator thinks that America will reward them for being untrustworthy, they’re completely delusional. America will not reward you with another term for perpetuating a baseless lie… a lie that proves that you are untrustworthy.

Make No Mistake

Republicans also seem to be under the delusional belief that they were somehow protected during the Capitol Hill riots. I can guarantee you that ANY party member would have been attacked if found: Republican or Democrat. You can’t tame a mob. If any of those mob rioters had found a sitting Senator or House member of any party, the mob members would have acted first and asked questions later. Meaning, Republican or Democrat wouldn’t have mattered to those extremists. They would have attacked any member of congress on sight if they had been able to.

Republicans seem to be under some delusional belief that those extremists were only after the Democrats. Wake up! They were after you too. Certainly they were after Mike Pence. They were after and would have attacked ANY congressional member of any party affiliation without hesitancy. That Republicans seem to think that they were somehow protected during the mob incursion is an insane point of view which is justified in their own minds, but has no basis in reality.

If you can manage to get another Republican President elected in your lifetime, you’ll be lucky. It’s going to be a very long time before much of America will trust Republicans, particularly if the majority of Republican Senators vote against impeachment. Wake up, Republicans… do what’s right before it’s too late to salvage what’s left of your shattered party. Many Americans have been wanting to do away with the two-party system. Well, this may very well be the opportunity to make that a reality.

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Rant Time: Fallout 76

Posted in botch, business, video game, video game design by commorancy on October 19, 2020

This is my final review of and rant for Fallout 76. As of the recent Fall update for Fallout 76 (Wastelanders Season 2), Bethesda has taken it upon themselves to make some very questionable and disingenuous changes to the “balance” of the game. Let’s explore just how cringeworthy this game has become.

Level above 200

If you have a character with a level above 200, you’ll probably have noticed a number of “balance” changes to the game. Formerly, the game spawned a maximum of around level 68 for most humanoid enemy characters in Fallout 76. After the most recent update, the enemy level cap has been raised to 100. Not only has this update to the enemy level changed the balance of the game for the worse, it has reduced the effectiveness of the biggest guns in Fallout 76.

In effect, Bethesda has heavily nerfed every weapon in the game so that they are incredibly ineffective against these newly updated enemies whose levels have been majorly increased for no reason.

This is not just an inconvenience, it’s sloppy and makes the game unnecessarily harder to play without a way to disable this increase in hardness. Effectively, Bethesda has broken the game. There’s no other way to say it.

Level 50 weapons

The maximum level of any weapon in Fallout 76 is 50. You simply can’t find a weapon with a higher level than 50. Some top out at level 45. Yet, Bethesda has increased most enemy levels to well over 100 in many cases (assuming the player is over level 100), thus making these level 50 weapons even more ineffective than they already were. Yes, this applies to Legendary weapons as well.

What I mean is that before this update, I could one shot most level 68 enemies in the game with a level 50 Legendary rifle. The maximum level you’d find on most enemies would be level 68. After this update, most humanoid enemies spawn at 100 which takes two, three or more shots to kill on a level 100 enemy.

By changing the max levels of spawned enemies, Bethesda has inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) nerfed every weapon in the game. These weapons are, in fact, nerfed so hard as to be almost as useful as a level 1 rifle of the same class. Many weapons can take 5-6 shots for a kill which formerly took one or two shots. This allows enemies to swarm you, thus making the game even harder for characters above level 100.

Level 200+ characters revisited

With all of the above said, let’s circle back around to a player character that’s level 200 or above. Rant on. Player character levels in Fallout 76 are effectively useless. In any other RPG, levels add strength, power and perks. In Fallout 76, it’s just a number.

The player character is actually only as powerful as the weapon level they wield. If the weapon is level 50, then the player character’s power to play the game is entirely tied to that weak ass weapon. The player’s level 250 or 300 number means nothing. It’s just a number and doesn’t at all play into the strength and power of the character. It’s a pointless number. The only number that matters is the weapon’s level.

Since the max weapon level in Fallout 76 is level 50, that means that any increase in enemy strength, enemy level and enemy HP means making the already weak level 50 weapons even weaker.

In Fallout 76, it’s the weapon’s level that matters. Because Bethesda has raised the spawn level of enemies for high level characters, it has effectively made having high level characters useless and pointless. The level 250 player character is entirely limited by those weak ass level 50 weapons, now even more than ever.

Penalizing High Level Players

Some of us have spent months (or years) leveling our characters to 200, then 250 and higher. Yet, the best that Bethesda can reward our time and effort is to weaken our weapons and turn our 250 character into a level 20 character again? Stupid.

Bethesda’s handling of the Fallout 76 franchise is not only stupid, it’s probably one of the absolute worst installments in the Fallout franchise bar none. Not only is Bethesda penalizing those of us who have spent months grinding our characters to higher levels, but it goes way beyond this.

Fallout 76 is supposed to be a prequel to Fallout 1, 2, 3, 4, New Vegas and likely 5 and the rest. Yet, so much swag has been introduced into Fallout 76 that has never appeared in the sequels, it doesn’t make any sense to be in Fallout 76. How can we have Nuka-Cola Scorched that has never appeared in Fallout 3 or 4 or any other installment?

It gets even worse. Fallout 76 ultimately doesn’t make any sense as to why it even exists in the Fallout franchise. It doesn’t add anything to the series. The Scorched don’t make any sense as they have never appeared in any sequel games. The only carryovers are the Ghouls, Super Mutants and the factions. Even the Blood Eagles don’t make sense as they have never been in any of the sequels.

Cartoonish

With every step Bethesda takes, they seem to fumble the ball every single time. Fallout 76 is a weak installment. Not only does it make no sense to even exist in the Fallout universe, its reason to exist is so shallow and laughable, this entire game is a cartoon.

It’s what someone might think a Fallout game is if they didn’t know anything and asked someone to explain it in one sentence. The premise in Fallout 76 is so weak, it’s a caricature of Fallout.

The premise of Fallout 4 was tied to a serious tone and kept the idea behind the nuclear apocalypse somber and in-check. Yet, in Fallout 76, it’s all happy-go-lucky as if the bombs dropping were a mere inconvenience.

The 24

The premise of Fallout 76 was to insert 24 real live players into a multiplayer Fallout world. Unfortunately, Bethesda’s shortsightedness got in the way of making this into a great game.

The multiplayer point to Fallout 76 is that each of the 24 people will exit the vault and begin rebuilding Appalachia. Unfortunately, there isn’t any rebuilding that is actually allowed. Sure, each of those 24 people could build a super tiny little cabin on a super tiny piece of land. As a result of this overly tiny constrained land, you can’t actually rebuild anything in Appalachia.

All other buildings remain busted, broken and dilapidated. There’s no way to fix them. Instead, the best each of those 24 players can do is build a me-camp. The only thing these me-camps do is clutter up the landscape. Worse, you can’t even build your camp near most structures as the game prevents that. This means that while the point is to rebuild, you can’t actually do it.

Worse, even if you manage to follow the main quest line through to completion and “get rid of” the Scorched virus, nothing in the landscape changes. All of the burnt, destroyed buildings and structures remain. Building a me-camp doesn’t fix or solve anything. Even then, these camps are only visible and useful so long as the user remains actively online playing. When the player logs out, so too do any structures disappear from the game.

Pointless

Ultimately, Fallout 76 is a pointless, vapid, hollow game with absolutely no reason to exist in the franchise and also has no redeeming merit, especially after this latest update. It doesn’t further the franchise in any useful, or more importantly, functional way. Any lore built is inserted in such a way as to be pointless in the end. None of the lore solves anything. In fact, we don’t learn anything in Fallout 76 that we didn’t already learn in Fallout 4.

The entire Fallout 76 game is money-grubbing exercise in futility.

Standalone Game

Bethesda needs to package up a standalone version of Fallout 76 that doesn’t require the Internet. Then, let us download our characters onto this standalone version so we can at least save all of the progress we have made with our characters. Otherwise, when Bethesda shuts down the Fallout 76 servers (and they will), any characters we have built will be lost.

Done with Fallout 76

Because Bethesda’s continually keeps screwing us players with every release, I’ve given up playing Fallout 76. This latest update is actually the last straw. I’ve tried to be patient with Bethesda. I’ve really tried… but my patience has completely worn down. Not only is the game exceedingly old (coming up on 2 years), Bethesda has honestly done nothing of note to make the game actually better or more playable. Even Fallout 1st, Bethesda’s expensive monthly for-pay subscription service, has done almost nothing to further the playablity of the game.

In fact, the only thing they’ve done is make the game worse with each and every release. Case in point, Wastelanders. The name itself tells you that it’s a waste… and it is.

Wastelanders added nothing new to the story of the game. The only thing that was added were a bunch of pointless NPCs that serve entirely as newbie tutorials… as if Fallout 76 was complex enough to even need newbie tutorials. The game is so simplistic and easy to learn that adding NPC tutorials to the engine is about as useful as teaching a driving teacher how to drive. Yeah, pointless.

The rest of the NPCs that weren’t tutorials ended up being daily quest givers asking us to do the same thing every single day over and over and over and over…. the very definition of grinding. Yet, there’s a hard-set and overly long cooldown timer that forces us to wait many, many hours to grind again.

War Never Changes, and Bethesda Doesn’t Either

Bethesda just doesn’t get its gamers or its franchise fans. Bethesda also doesn’t get why this game should exist. It also certainly doesn’t reward its long standing players for playing. Oh, no no no. Instead, it chooses to slap us in the face with each and every new release. I’m tired of dealing with those shenanigans. Gamers who’ve been playing the game for months then log in only to find that their best weapons are now only mediocre trash and have been rendered entirely pointless. Have I mentioned just how pointless this game is?

Worse, Bethesda couldn’t be bothered to actually add a compensating control by adding newer, more powerful weapons into the game. No, they couldn’t be bothered to do that. Instead, they screw our level 250 characters over and then expect us to be happy about it? Well, I’m not… hence this article.

If Fallout 76 was a great game once, it is no longer a great game today. Arguably, it never was a good game. In fact, it is probably one of the worst games to consider getting anyone as a gift. It’s not a particularly great multiplayer game, but even more than that, it’s a piss poor entry into the Fallout universe.

If anything, Fallout 76 shows us just how disconnected from the original Fallout franchise source material as a Bethesda can get. The creators of Fallout 76 really have no idea what a Fallout game is. Fallout 76 is now officially and literally the worst Fallout game in the Fallout franchise bar none. Bethesda would do well to sack Todd Howard and find someone who can actually come up with game ideas that people actually want to play and that are befitting of Fallout’s original apocalyptic premise. Perhaps with Microsoft’s 2020 acquisition of Zenimax, Todd may finally find himself on the outs. As for what Microsoft’s acquisition means to the Fallout franchise or the Elder Scrolls, look for an upcoming Randocity article.

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How to complete the Fallout 76 Legendary Run

Posted in botch, business, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on August 29, 2020

While this is intended to be a how-to guide, it also offers my take on whether or not this new rewards system is worth it. This article also serves as a review. Let’s explore.

[Updated for 9/29/2020]

The new ‘Legendary Run’ has started with a new game board. This game board is completely different from the images shown in this first Legendary Run. The rewards are similarly spaced and similar in style. However, as of the update needed to install this new ‘Legendary Run’ game board, Bethesda also made some very big (and unnecessary) changes to the game, shattering the already faltering game balance. As of this update and second legendary run, Fallout 76 is officially an unmitigated disaster. There is officially no game balance in Fallout 76.

Effectively, no matter what level you are, Bethesda has excessively nerfed ALL weapons and over-powered ALL enemies. A level 50 (max level) Bloodied Lever Action Rifle, which could pretty much one-hit and kill any enemy in the game and 3 hit and kill some of the hardest enemies (other than a Scorchbeast Queen), is now no better than a level 10 weapon of any kind. Any remaining balance that had been in Fallout 76 has been utterly destroyed by this latest update. To be honest, Bethesda has destroyed any remaining reason to play Fallout 76 in one update. There is absolutely nothing at all fun about Fallout 76 at this point… no, not even to play this updated second Legendary Run game board.

If I had even the tiniest of cravings to play this newest game board in Fallout 76, that craving has been totally and completely squashed by Bethesda’s ruining of the game balance.

The Legendary Run

What is it? As stated above, it’s a new rewards system for Fallout 76. It somewhat replaces the daily Atom rewards with a new type of currency called S.C.O.R.E. (another insipid acronym). For this article, I’m simply going to call it Score. Score points are given when you complete daily or weekly challenges.

By ‘somewhat’, I mean that the older Atom challenge system was designed as a loose, non-competitive system. You did these challenges at your leisure with no ramifications. This new system, on the other hand, sees a competition between you and a foe, forcing you to complete the game board ahead of the foe. Okay, so maybe ‘force’ is a strong word. However, it has the same effect as force because of the urgency required in keeping up with Zorbo’s game piece. Skipping a day of challenges can see you lose. Zorbo’s ship is the little teal ship where the gamer’s is a bright orange ship. See full game board image below:

TheLegendaryRun-GameBoard.-3084

What does ‘lose’ mean, exactly?

By ‘lose’, this is not yet clearly defined by Bethesda. It is currently believed that Bethesda will reset the board to start over with a new ‘season’ of The Legendary Run including all new rewards… after Doctor Zorbo (foe) reaches the final position on the game board. It has been confirmed as of September 1st that The Legendary Run ends September 8th (see image at right) at 12 noon Eastern / 9am Pacific. Additionally, not only is Bethesda offering double Score points until that time, they have added extra challenges to the board to help those who wish to get to the finish line and need a bit more effort. Still, it doesn’t absolve Bethesda from the OCD and anxiety issues that this challenge system brings.

If you haven’t completed the board, the clock is ticking on whether you will be able to complete it and get all of the remaining rewards. Remember when I said ‘force’ was too strong of a word above? Well, here is exactly where Bethesda applies the pressure. The assumption is that if you don’t complete the board by the time the foe reaches the end, you will not be able to finish the game board at all or receive any remaining rewards. You may even lose any unclaimed rewards (see CAUTION below).

For anyone not very far along, this means that to complete the board before the timer ticks down to zero, you’ll need to pay your way through the board using Atom (see the Pay to Win section below for more details) before Zorbo reaches the end and the board closes. In other words, if you’re still in Chapter 1 when reading this article, you’re going to be required to pay a LOT of Atom to fully open up the game board to the end.

CAUTION: As a warning, I strongly recommend that you claim every reward you are given. Don’t be lazy about this. Don’t leave any rewards unclaimed. Once the game board closes for the next season, you will likely not be able to go back and claim any unclaimed rewards. In fact, the board may be entirely wiped and reset losing any unclaimed rewards. Be extremely cautious as Bethesda is not likely to be forgiving about this at all.

Score Points

Score points are accumulated into a progress bar that’s either at the bottom or top of the screen depending on which screen you are in.

The Legendary Run also has a game board (see above) with individual rewards in each spot. As you progress and gain Score, your game marker moves to the next spot after you accumulate enough Score points for that specific place on the board. Each new game place increases the amount of accumulated Score it requires to move to the next game board section.

Under each game board section, you will find a specific reward. The rewards sometimes include currency like Atom, Legendary Scrip or Gold Bouillon. Other rewards include digital cosmetic items like Ghillie Suit paint jobs or Atomic Onslaught paint. You can even get consumables like Scrap Kits, Repair Kits and Perk Card packs. It also includes CAMP cosmetic items like a tree, a door or wallpaper.

Each spot on the board is already pre-marked with its reward. You only simply need to hover over the game board spot to view its reward. You can even click on it to get more details. There is no mystery involved. You know exactly what you’re getting all throughout the game board.

What I’ve LearnedThe OCD Run WARNING

Playing through and completing this game board, I’ve come to learn a few highly negative things about this system. As a result, I’m not a fan of this new system at all.

The first thing I noticed about this new system is that it is not at all forgiving. If you miss a day of challenges, you’re probably okay and can make it up. If you miss a week of challenges, you’re likely to be so far behind you can’t complete the board. Because of this primary problem, this system can easily trigger anxiety and obsessive compulsion to complete this challenge system in gamers. Gaming is supposed to be recreational, not something to become OCD over.

If you’re easily triggered by OCD, then you should completely avoid participating in this reward system. In fact, this game mechanism is so heavily tied to reinforcing obsessive compulsive behaviors, it should be outlawed in games. To me, a system like this is just as bad as for-pay mystery boxes. Hear me, Bethesda.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is not something we need to be indoctrinating into children using video games. Something like this is bad enough for adults, but training kids for obsessive compulsion early is a recipe for problems later in life. In fact, I’d suggest that a game board system like this is just as bad for children as are for-pay mystery loot systems which train those portions of the brain about gambling. Both gambling and OCD are equally damaging to growing and developing children.

I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll forgo that for now and focus on how to complete this game board. Suffice it to say, if your OCD is easily triggered, stay far away from this challenge system and focus entirely on just Fallout 76’s main activities.

How To Complete The Legendary Run

The bottom line in completing this run is not missing a day or week of challenges. You can skip one or two daily challenges per day, but you will need to complete every weekly challenge.

For example, I skipped every daily Nuclear Winter challenge (I despise that game mode and refuse to play it) and I was still able to complete the run. However, it did require hitting every weekly and as many daily challenges as I could complete. Yes, you will need to play through every daily challenge that you can. This means playing every single day’s challenges, seven days a week.

Yeah, that’s why I wrote the above warning. If you can’t commit to playing this game every single day, then you likely cannot complete the run through challenges alone.

Pay to Win

There is a way to get to the end without playing at all. You can rank up fully by paying 150 atoms for each board space. In fact, you can pay your way through the entire game board if you want. If you’re willing to run to the PlayStation, Xbox or Bethesda’s store and buy Atom, you can use that Atom to pay your way through each game board spot.

This can help you if you need to catch up. But, you can also simply avoid the daily grind and pay your way to the end.

The choices you have then are as follows:

  1. Grind your way through the daily and weekly challenges every day
  2. Pay your way through the board entirely with Atom
  3. Combine some grinding and paying some Atom to get you through to the end.

In fact, I believe most players will end up falling into category 3… which is exactly what Bethesda hopes. That means you’ll have to pay for Atom (or get it through other Atom challenges which are still available) to make your way through The Legendary Run. Though, Bethesda is also enamored with gamers who fall into category 2.

The one thing to realize about The Legendary Run is that you must forgo playing the game to solely focus on completing the challenges. This means spending most of your time working through the challenges and, you know, not playing the actual game itself. In other words, these challenges waste a LOT of time doing inconsequential things instead of completing the main quest line. This is such an unnecessary diversion, it actually undermines the game.

Design Failure

In fact, this entire challenge system runs 180º counter to what the design goals for this board were stated to be. It was claimed that this new challenge system would work in concert with gamer’s actual game play. In reality, it’s just the opposite of that. To complete this board, you have to focus on the challenge tasks 100% at the expense of all else. Many of the challenges are esoteric. You don’t naturally go looking to kill 3 Deathclaws unless it’s part of a quest line. Even then, I don’t know of a single quest line in Fallout 76 that requires you to kill 3 Deathclaws as part of the quest.

You might find yourself near Deathclaws as a result of a quest line leading you there, but you don’t need to kill them to progress the quest. The most famous of these main quests is the Enclave quest which leads you to the Abandoned Waste Dump to begin this quest line in a bunker inside of a cave, with the cave infested by Deathclaws. Naturally, Bethesda assumed you might kill those Deathclaws being in close proximity. However, you can sneaky sneak your way through that cave and avoid killing those Deathclaws entirely. You can even flat out run through the cave to the elevator and be on your way. In other words, killing these Deathclaws is not naturally part of your game play activities.

That’s just one example. There are many other such useless challenge examples, such as taking over workshops. You don’t do this as a natural part of any quest line or as a natural part of game play. If you take a workshop, it’s entirely your choice and you must go out of your way to do it. To take a workshop comes with its own game baggage, the least of which is paying for the workshop in caps, the immediate Defend Event and any PVP activities assuming you do it in a public world.

As a final example, if you never play Nuclear Winter, you are now forced to enter that game mode to do whatever is required to pick up the NW challenges. That’s the very definition of unnatural game play.

While there may be a handful of activities that are considered ‘natural gameplay’ such as chewing bubblegum or collecting water, there are just as many that require you to spend time doing things you don’t normally do.

The Legendary Run forces unnatural game play onto the gamer (in addition to the anxiety and obsessive compulsion to complete the board). You must first find out what the challenges are for that day and then explicitly spend time completeing them. I ended up spending most of my play time grinding the challenges and not progressing quest lines. The Legendary Run is not a natural game play system and diverts attention away from playing the actual game.

Atom and Rewards

Another negative about this new system is that we have lost our most basic way to gain Atom. Yes, there are spots on the board that occasionally award 150 Atom, but that’s ultimately way less than the amount of Atom we were getting before this system launched.

Before The Legendary Run, we were getting around 50 Atom for daily challenges and up to 1000 Atom for weekly challenges. At 7 days, that would be 350 + 1000 = 1350 Atom per week. With this new game board, that dropped to around 150 Atom per week. That’s way, way less Atom than we were formerly getting by completing daily and weekly challenges.

Yes, in somewhat of an exchange, we are now getting some exclusive board rewards, but at the expense of not being able to buy much stuff in the Atomic Shop.

Bethesda’s Greed

I get it. I really do. Bethesda wasn’t making enough money off of selling Atom in the digital stores. I guess they thought they were giving too much Atom away. They felt they had to cut down on the amount of Atom being given out by challenges to force more sales of Atom. As I said, I get it. Greed rules.

Unfortunately, because of Bethesda’s greed, they have now saddled everyone with a system that so highly triggers OCD in gamers and wastes so much in-game time that it’s actually a huge loss for the game.

I mean, Bethesda’s systems get worse every single time they release and The Legendary Run is no exception. This is truly one of the worst ideas that Bethesda could have implemented in Fallout 76. Not only is The Legendary Run unforgiving, not only does it completely trigger OCD, not only does it force gamers to pay real money for Atom, not only does divert the gamer away from questing and towards spending time question for Score, the rewards offered are mostly inconsequential and the run itself is completely unfulfilling.

Worse, everyone gets the SAME rewards, so they are not at all unique. I preferred shopping at the Atomic shop directly. Everyone can pick and choose the things they want, so not every gamer has the same things. When it’s all cookie cutter, there’s nothing unique about what’s being given away. Everyone who reaches a specific game board spot gets a Ghillie suit paint, big whoop. So now, everyone who completes that spot has it?

What happens when you complete the board?

Good question and one Bethesda should have solved before rolling this system out. Yet, they didn’t. When you complete the game board and there’s nothing else to be had, the daily challenges still issue Score. Score that has no place to go and nothing to win. Once you complete the game board, there’s no reason to complete the daily or weekly challenges as it’s simply a waste of time and effort.

Instead, Bethesda should have planned for this eventuality and converted the system back to the older Atom system after the board is completed. This would allow gamers to still continue to get SOMETHING after completing the game board. We did just complete the game board. Shouldn’t we get some kind of continued reward for completion? Where’s the incentive to continue? There isn’t any. Crap design in my book.

Repeat?

Will I do it again? No. It’s a waste of time and effort. It diverts away from completing game world quests. Seriously, these daily challenges can sometimes take over 2 hours to complete. That’s 2 hours I could have spent finishing up quests. That’s 2 hours I could have been having fun taking over and building workshops. That’s 2 hours I could have spent hanging out with a few friends. That’s 2 hours I could have spent building out my camp. That’s 2 hours lost to challenges that get me what, yet another Ghillie or Onslaught paint? Heck, that’s 2 hours I could have spent writing a blog article.

Yet, if you really want that Fireplace secret door, you’re going to spend a massive amount of time enduring challenges and fighting OCD compulsions.

Triggering OCD behaviors in video games is not something we should be encouraging in video games. Bethesda shouldn’t be rewarded for creating this system. They should be scolded. Better, these kinds of OCD compulsion inducing systems should be outlawed in video games for the same reason that mystery loot boxes have been outlawed by triggering gambling compulsions.

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Rant Time: Is Apple protecting our devices better than Google?

Posted in Apple, botch, business, Google, mobile devices, security by commorancy on August 20, 2020

While many people believe that Google’s App store is a far inferior store to Apple’s app store, there is also a misplaced belief that Apple’s store offers more propriety than Google’s Play store. We need to understand more about both ecosystems to better understand the answer to this article’s question. Let’s explore.

App Protection

Certainly, iOS appears to be more resilient to malware on the surface, but is it? Google’s Android also appears way more prone to malware on its surface, but is it? We need to understand more about both of these operating systems and each OS’s overall ecosystems.

Let’s understand better how and why Apple has garnered its appearance of propriety, with “appearance” being the operative word. The first reason that Apple appears to have a better system in place is primarily because iOS doesn’t allow side loading of apps. What is side loading? Side loading is the ability for the user to load apps outside of the Android app store, for example using a USB cable or, more importantly, by downloading an ‘APK‘ file directly to your device from any web site.

While there are means and methods of side loading apps on iOS, it can only be done through Apple’s developer toolkit. You cannot perform this process directly on a phone in the wild. You can’t even do it with iTunes. If you had even wanted to side load an app, you’d have to jump through some fairly complicated hoops to make that happen on iOS. Because of this one thing, this forces you to download ALL apps from the App store.

On Android, you can not only use the App store to download apps, but more importantly, you can side load them. Side loading an app on Android does require some security setting changes, but this change is easily done in about 3 simple steps.

Does side-loading account for all of Google’s malware?

No, it doesn’t. After all, there are many who likely haven’t changed the necessary side-loading parameters and have still been hit by malware. So then, how did the malware get onto their phone? Likely, through the App store directly.

One App Store

Here we come to the second reason why propriety seems to prevail at Apple. With Apple, there is one and only one app store. With Google, there are many, too many. Google not only runs Google Play, but there are many other App stores including:

  • Amazon
  • Samsung Galaxy Apps
  • Aptoid
  • Sony Apps
  • Huawei App Store
  • F-Droid
  • GetJar
  • AppBrain
  • SlideMe
  • 1Mobile
  • Opera Mobile Store
  • Appolicious
  • NexVa
  • Kongregate
  • Appland
  • Itch.io

These stores are all independently owned and operated. This is not a complete Android app store list, but it gives you an example of how many different app stores are available for Android. This is significantly different from Apple’s iOS, which only supports one app store and that store is operated by Apple and Apple alone.

There is no such thing as a third party app store for iOS. It simply doesn’t exist.

Multiple App Stores

Because of Google’s insane choice to allow many app stores to operate simultaneously by different companies, Android users are at the mercy of each of those app store’s propriety. The difficulty is, there’s no rhyme or reason or protection afforded by many of these app stores, let alone Google Play. The secondary problem is that some of these app stores come preloaded as the primary download store on some Android devices.

Clearly, Google branded devices come shipped with Google Play set up. Amazon devices some shipped to use the Amazon app store. However, no-named brand Android devices likely come shipped with one of the above non-Google stores installed. In fact, it could even be set up to a store not in the above list… a store operated by the manufacturer of the device.

Careful with that App

The difficulty with multiple app stores is one of, you guessed it, propriety. What I mean by using this specific word ‘propriety’ is the app store’s ability to police its content for completeness, functionality and, yes, malware. In short, propriety is a company’s ability to protect its download users from malware or dangerous software.

The difficulty is that while Google might have enough money to throw at App vetting to ensure higher quality apps reach its stores, not every store in that list has the money to afford that level of commitment.

What this means for consumers is, when you use a random app store, you take your chances with malware. Multiple stores combined with side loading is nearly the sole reason why Android gets a bad rap for malware. These two things are something Apple doesn’t do in its ecosystem. For Android, it’s worse still. As a consumer of a device, you don’t really know which app store is the default on your device. Most app store manufacturers properly label their apps, but cheaper devices made by random Chinese manufacturers tend to play games with naming and might name their app store app Goggle Play or Gooogle Play or even simply Play Store. There are many ways that manufacturers of cheap phone devices can trick you into thinking that you’re getting your apps from Google’s store… when, in fact, you’re not.

Not only are there too many app stores that can provide questionable apps, Android has been licensed by so many random Chinese manufacturers (okay, so perhaps licensed isn’t necessarily the correct word here… it’s more like, ripped off). Anyway, if you buy into any of these super cheap Chinese phone brands, you have no idea where your apps are really coming from. Although, because it’s Android, you should be able to load Google’s Play store (the real thing) and use those apps instead… with should being the operative word. The device manufacturer could have instituted a block to prevent the use of the Google Play store.

However, replacing a crap store with Google Play typically takes effort on the part of the consumer… that and knowledge that they must take this step. Most consumers are oblivious to this aspect of their phone’s use and naturally assume the included app store is looking out for their phone’s well-being and their own best interest. You should never assume this, not even with Apple devices.

Apple’s App Store

Here we circle back around to Apple. We are beginning to see why Android is in the state that it’s in, but how much better is Apple’s ecosystem of devices?

A lot of people believe that because there’s only one iOS app store and because Apple is the sole operator of that store that this somehow makes Apple devices safer to use.

Security through Obscurity

This is a phrase tossed around in the security communities. What it means is that because a platform is more obscure (more exclusive and closed), that that somehow makes the platform safer to use. Security through obscurity works maybe 10% of the time. Maybe. The other 90% of the time it’s less about obscurity and more about best practices.

For example, you should never load random apps from any store. It doesn’t matter if it’s Android or Apple. If you don’t know anything about the developer, you shouldn’t trust them. Why?

App Store Approval Process

Apple’s app store approves apps for release into the store based on specific usability criteria. For example, that the developer is not including terms-of-service restricted content or features. Restricted content being whatever Apple or Google or that specific app store deems off limits within an application.

The developer must verbally or on a written form affirm that their app does not contain such restricted content when submitting it for approval. Even then, Apple may or may not be able to verify such an affirmation. Basically, developers can lie and say their app doesn’t do something that it does, in fact, do. Apple and/or Google may not be able to see the app doing it until that specific set of code in the app is triggered. In other words, the app may appear totally genuine enough to pass Apple’s and Google’s store submission criteria.

We have seen some apps which have been released into the app store as a result of such affirmations only to be pulled from the store when it is found that the developer lied about what was affirmed and stated to have not been included in the app. Apple doesn’t take kindly to lying about app features, particularly when you can see the app doing things it shouldn’t be doing.

Apple is relatively quick on removals of offending content from its app store. Google Play and other Android stores may not be quite so nimble in this process. In fact, many of the third party stores may not even police their apps at all. Once it’s in the their store, it may be there more-or-less permanently. Apple is much more active and selective with maintaining that their apps are upholding developer agreements. However, there is a limit to even Apple’s propriety.

Epic Games

This is a recent fight between Apple and Epic Games. Epic Games apparently decided to change the way it utilized in-game purchases, which has since culminated in Apple rescinding Epic Games’s license to use Apple’s developer tools. Both Apple and Google have since removed Fortnite from their respective app stores citing violation of the store’s terms.

In-app payments require that developers hand over a portion of their profits to Apple and Google. However, there are ways of circumventing that by including outside payment systems in apps. I don’t know exactly what was included by Fortnite that triggered this specific problem, but apparently Epic wasn’t satisfied by Apple’s greedy in-app payment system and decided to take a stand.

Some may think this is about consumer protection. It’s not. It’s about Apple profiteering protection. Apple cites its terms that apply equally to all developers, but in fact, this specific condition is intended to maintain Apple’s profits. Yes, it does apply to all developers (well, almost all developers… see Amazon below), but it is also a condition that is unfavorable to developers and extremely favorable to Apple’s bottom line.

Ramifications

Apple picked a fight with the wrong company in this “epic” (ahem) fight. Epic Games also happens to be the developer of the Unreal game engine. This is a very widely used game engine throughout the gaming industry. It’s probably one of THE most commonly used engines, particularly on gaming consoles.

Without access to Apple’s iOS developer tools, this engine is effectively dead on iOS (and MacOS) devices. Worse, developers who rely on Unreal to drive their own iOS games may soon find that they have to find another game engine. These Unreal engine users may wake up to find their Unreal-based game removed from Apple’s app store as a side effect of Epic Games’s removal.

If Unreal can’t be supported, then neither can the games that utilize this engine. This Epic Games fight has deep reaching ramifications for not only Apple, but also impacts every iOS device owner and every developer that uses Unreal to drive their game. If that game you love was built around Unreal, you may find that app no longer available in just a few weeks.

If you have the app downloaded onto your device, you can still use it. Bought a new Apple device? Well, don’t expect to cloud download that app again if it’s been removed. You’ll need to rely on iTunes backup and restore instead of Apple’s cloud storage… which relies on downloading the app again from the app store. If it’s been removed, the app will be unavailable. Only backing up and restoring through iTunes will recover apps you presently have on your phone device and which are no longer in Apple’s app store. Didn’t do this? Oh, well. That app is gone.

Apple’s Ramifications

Apple’s once burgeoning gaming section may soon become a ghost town. Maybe this is an exaggeration, but maybe not? Let me explain. The loss of the Unreal engine from the iOS platform is a huge blow to iOS game developers worldwide. It means game developers must either now build their own engine instead (to avoid such engine removals in the future) or rely on another gaming engine that supports iOS (at the peril of it being removed in the future).

Apple is effectively “Cutting off its nose to spite its face”. In other words, Apple has most likely done more long term damage to its own brand and products than it has done in short term damage to Epic Games. Sure, Epic’s loss of Fortnite on iOS is a big loss to Epic, but Apple’s loss of the Unreal engine is a much, much bigger problem for Apple.

If developers can no longer turn to the Unreal engine for use on iOS, then that means fewer games will be developed for iOS… at a time when iOS doesn’t need this gaming speed bump. Fewer games developed means fewer game apps in the app store. Fewer game apps means less revenue for Apple. Basically, Apple’s loss of revenue from cutting off developer access to the Unreal engine will come back to bite Apple hard in the ass.

Apple relies on that in-app revenue for its continued operation of the App store. If that revenue dries up, well so too will iOS devices while also undercutting MacOS notebook sales. It’s not just about Fortnite here. It’s about every iOS game using Unreal that also uses in-app payments legitimately. People won’t buy into a mobile platform when they can no longer find and play their favorite games, particularly if those games are on other platforms. The loss of the Unreal game engine is a big deal to Apple. Considering Apple’s paltry 10-13% mobile device market share as of 2019 (and shrinking), killing off development tools that bring revenue to the platform should be a big deal to Apple, one would think.

However, there are still other game engines that developers can use, such as Unity, BuildBox and AppGameKit. With the loss of the Unreal engine, of which many, many games are built on consoles, that means straight ports of well recognized and popular console games to iOS will become almost impossible. Very few console developers choose Unity and none use BuildBox or AppGameKit.

If Apple was hoping to pull over the bigger console titles onto iOS, they’ve just lost that opportunity by kicking Epic Games off of their platform. No console developer will spend several years porting their Unreal based game to Unity or one of the other game development kits. Without Unreal on iOS, the much larger money making console games will forever be locked out of iOS, simply because of Apple’s stupidity.

Instead of trying to work through a compromise with Epic Games over this issue, they simply pulled the plug. They’ve “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”. They’ve as I said above, “Cut off their nose to spite their face.”

Apple’s Stupidity

This is a huge blow to iOS devices and to consumers alike. Within the next year or so without Epic Games support on iOS, Apple’s gaming community is likely to dry up. Games like Fortnite can no longer come to exist on Apple’s platform because of the loss of the Unreal engine.

There is a bigger danger to using a third party game engines for iOS games. If you, as a developer, settle on a third party game engine and that engine developer has a fight with Apple thus causing their developer licenses to be rescinded, just like Epic Games, you could see your game pulled from the store or, more importantly, obsolete by the next yearly iOS release. This whole Epic fight has some serious ramifications to the gaming industry.

I guarantee that with Epic Games being pulled from the Apple platform and if this is allowed to stand going forward, Apple’s usefulness as a gaming platform will greatly diminish. Not instantly, but definitely over time. It will definitely erode confidence in iOS and MacOS as a gaming platform.

Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic, I suggest you look at this very long Wikipedia page and see the list of games produced using Unreal for consoles, specifically Unreal Engine 4. Every single one of these games had the potential of making their way to iOS or even MacOS. This hope is now lost. The loss of the Unreal engine on Apple’s ecosystem is a loss to the entirety of Apple’s devices.

If Apple had designs of getting into gaming, they summarily lost that hope in one fell swoop. What’s worse is that other game developers may follow suit and voluntarily pull their engines from Apple’s devices as well, leaving only the smallest and crappiest of game development engines available for iOS devices… firmly dragging Apple’s devices back into the stone age for gaming. The best you can hope are the silly finger swipe games that leave you bored in less than 15 minutes.

Sure, Bethesda, Ubisoft and Activision may continue to maintain their proprietary engines on iOS and MacOS for their specific games, but up-and-coming and existing Unreal console developers alike have lost any iOS portability inroads they might have seen on the horizon.

Though, I suppose this situation is a win for Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox consoles… and consoles in general.

Epic Games Ramifications

I would be remiss without discussing the ramifications to Epic Games, also. Certainly, Epic Games has lost a huge platform for both Fortnite and the Unreal engine … well, two with the additional loss of Google’s Play store. Though, I don’t think that Google has yet rescinded Epic’s developer license for Android. As a result, would-be game developers considering which engine to choose will not choose Unreal if they have eyes on iOS, MacOS or possibly Android (depending on how far Google takes this). For game developers who’ve already chosen Unreal, it’s probably too late to undo that choice. Game developers in the planning stages can reconsider which engine to choose.

Epic Games Unreal engine may not fall out of favor with the game development community. It was formerly an engine developers could rely on, more specifically for a wide range of platform support. With the loss of iOS and Android, that leaves a big hole for the Unreal engine, and Epic Games. That’s basically the loss of every mobile platform! Epic Games chose this battle by not wanting to follow Apple’s greedy rules.

Honestly, I don’t blame Epic. Amazon fought with Apple over these very same rules a long while back. Amazon chose to remove all ability to buy anything via their apps. Though, the Amazon app seems to have regained its ability to purchase junk, but I’ve no idea how they’ve worked this with Apple. Epic should cite Amazon app’s ability to purchase products using a third party payment processor. If Amazon can do this, Epic should be able to as well. It seems that even Apple isn’t following its own “all developers are equal” rules.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games CEO, should call out this incongruity in Apple’s “equal” application its app store terms and conditions. If Epic Games is violating Apple’s purchasing rules, then so is Amazon… and so is any other company who is able to offer purchases using their own third party payment processor.

However, that doesn’t leave Epic Games without problems. Without iOS and Android for not only Fortnite, that leaves a huge revenue stream hole for Epic Games. That’s the downside for Epic. That and the loss of being able to license the Unreal engine to would-be iOS and potentially, depending on how far Google takes this, Android developers.

TikTok and WeChat

Beyond Epic, there are other problems brewing at Apple. The problem with Apple’s app store is that it will accept and publish apps from any developer from any part of the world. Yes, even communist bloc countries like China and Russia.

What does this mean for you as a consumer? It could mean spying, malware and theft of your data. Apps like WeChat and TikTok originated in China. These are apps that were intentionally designed and released by Chinese people who live in China and who have no ties to the U.S. and who don’t care about data privacy, your data or anything else about you. They don’t even have to follow United States laws. They want your money and they’ll do whatever they can to get it. They don’t care if they have to step on your toes (or turn on your camera and microphone at inappropriate times) to do it.

Apple has been entirely remiss in this area of vetting apps. Can we trust apps developed and produced entirely in China or Russia? Yet, Apple has published these apps to the App store and still allows them to remain in the store. But… Epic Games, a U.S. based game developer, can’t keep their app in the store because of silly in-app purchases? It’s perfectly okay to allow apps to spy and steal data for communist bloc countries, but it’s not okay for a U.S. developer to want to use a third-party payment processor. Yeah, Apple’s priorities are entirely effed up.

Apple’s values at this point are entirely suspect. What Apple has done to Epic is retaliation. It has nothing to do with propriety or consumer safety. It has to do with ensuring Apple’s revenue remains intact. If it were about consumer safety, Apple would have not only re-reviewed WeChat and TikTok for appropriateness the moment the President called them out, they would have been removed from the store.

This is where we learn Apple is not about propriety, it’s about making money. Losing the ability to make money from Fortnite (and by extension the Unreal engine) is way bigger of a deal than allowing Tencent and ByteDance to use their respective apps to potentially spy on U.S. consumers.

Here’s where consumers get lost in the mire and murk of it all. Apple’s silly hide-everything-from-everyone ideals allow this sort of behavior from developers to fester. Developers get to hide behind Apple’s veil of secrecy and “wall of friendliness” so that apps like WeChat and TikTok can flourish without consumers being the wiser.

Yet, here we are. Chinese and Russian apps are infiltrating Apple’s store with careless abandon, some of these are taking the Internet by storm, like TikTok. ByteDance rolled the big one with TikTok and now they can roll out spying measures if they wish, assuming they haven’t already.

I look on anything coming out of China as suspect. Most products coming out of China are third rate products that fall apart as soon as you sneeze on them. Many are counterfeit or are a stolen designs from an original product created outside of China. Clearly, China’s ability to innovate is limited. Instead, Chinese engineers must reverse engineer an existing design that originated outside of China only then to build their thing based on that existing design. Copying is said to be the highest form of flattery, but in this case it’s intellectual property theft.

With products that don’t need the Internet, such as a toaster oven or a microwave or a fridge, other than their possibility of falling apart or harming you physically, they can’t steal personal data or spy on you. Like physically harming you with junk appliances from China, downloading apps from an app store can be equally harming to you. They can steal keyboard input, turn on microphones and cameras at inappropriate times, grab your photos… they can even monitor which apps you use and watch your movement around the city via GPS on your phone. There’s so much data they can collect about you, including the contacts in your phone book.

By installing one of these communist bloc apps, there’s literally a mountain of data they can learn about you from your device. Spying? That’s literally an understatement.

Apple has given the communist bloc countries carte blanche access to U.S. owned devices through iOS. Google has done the same with Android. Worse, both Apple and Google are doing absolutely NOTHING about this. Treason by U.S. companies? That’s an understatement. They not only allow these apps to be published, they’re endorsing them… and some of Apple’s and Google’s own developers may even be using these apps personally. Talk about inception.

Spying

Spying was formerly thought to be about covert operatives running around gathering intel with crude and rudimentary devices in black garb. Today, it can be done in broad daylight using every person’s very own cell phone right in their hand.

Need access to listen in on a conversation at a specific GPS point… I can just hear someone say, “Let’s see which of our apps are on devices close to that location.” Yeah, this is a real thing. Simply enable the microphone and possibly even the outward camera and BOOM, you’ve got access to immediate intel relayed instantly back to you in real-time.

Yeah, that’s the danger of social apps like TikTok and WeChat. They can be used to eavesdrop on anyone anywhere. You only need to give access to the camera and microphone and boom, they’ve got access anywhere the app owners wish.

Apple can thwart this possibility potentially, but only if they add some heavy restrictions for when and how these devices may be used. Like, for example, these devices can only be enabled when the app is the front most active app and the screen is on (i.e., the user is accessing the screen). Even then, access to these devices should always require positive confirmation to use them every single time. Without positive confirmation, these devices cannot be enabled remotely.

Otherwise, spying is already here. Nefarious apps can listen in on what you are doing without your knowledge. They may even be able to switch on the camera and stream video data back to whomever. Yeah, bad news here.

Malware

Many people think malware means software that intends to cause malicious harm to your device. It doesn’t only mean that. Malware covers a lot of territory including spyware, malicious software, ransomware and many, many other types.

Any type of software designed to subvert your device for someone else’s use is considered malware. Don’t limit your thoughts to only software that intends to erase or destroy data. It doesn’t end there. It begins there. It ends with any software of malicious intent, including any software that is designed to spy on you, steal your data, copy data from your device or attempt to get you to do things that might compromise not only your phone, but also your personal finances.

However, the days of overt malware are firmly over. Now we’re seeing a new wave of software that makes itself appear legitimate by offering seeming legitimate services, but which have malware belying that happy-go-lucky façade. It’s the software version of social engineering. They trick you in believing you’re getting a real legitimate app, but underneath, these apps are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

This is a new wave of bad news rolled into one app. No one can know the ultimate intentions of an app producer. Hopefully and trustingly, we put our faith into the developers hands to “do the right thing”, to be upstanding and give us an app that does only what it claims.

Unfortunately, we’ve moved into an era that’s now firmly gone beyond this. If you’re getting an app from a U.S. developer, you can pretty much be assured that what the app says that it does, it actually does do… and nothing beyond that. That’s a given because U.S. companies must follow U.S. laws. With apps coming from China or Russia or Cuba or Vietnam or even North Korea (don’t kid yourselves here), you have no idea what their ultimate motives for producing that app are. Worse, they are not required to follow United States laws. Yeah, and that’s the problem in a nutshell.

Apple and Google’s trusting nature

These communist countries not only see the dollar potential wrapped up in these apps, but they also see the spying potential above the dollars. Not only can they divert U.S. dollars outside of the country to fund who-knows-what, they can steal your data and spy on you, too.

Why? Because Apple and Google are far too trusting and let them do it. They believe that developers will be good neighbors and not do untrustworthy things. Apple and Google are both trapped into believing that everyone will follow United States laws. Naïve! Unfortunately, that trusting nature is now being used against both Apple and Google… though, Google more than Apple by these communist countries. Google devices way outpace Apple’s devices in market share. In 2019, Apple’s devices made up just ~13% of the market, where Google’s Android devices made up a whopping 87%! Together, Apple and Google make up close to 100% of the market, with the small remaining percent running other mobile operating systems (yes, there are a few).

For Google’s saturation reason, it’s no wonder why malware authors are targeting Google over Apple. It’s a simple matter of low-hanging fruit. Google’s fractured stores and litany of device problems has led to where we are. Malware authors can have a field day with Google’s devices because they can take advantage of these tinier stores with much reduced release restrictions. It’s easy, then, for small indie developers to release malware onto Android… far too easy. It’s much more difficult to do this same thing on Apple devices. That is, until you realize exactly how developers are outwitting Apple’s far-too-trusting nature.

Once not-so-upstanding developers understand they can disguise malware underneath a legitimate service, they can then push that service out to app stores (with Apple’s blessing) and get people to use it, in similar form to TikTok. In fact, perhaps the app was even released without the malware to have the appearance of propriety (and to pass Apple’s initial scrutiny). Then, after enough momentum has been reached, the app developer can then slowly release updates containing bits of malware at a time. As far as I know, Apple doesn’t put the same level of scrutiny into app updates as it puts into new app listings. Apple’s hands off approach to updates means the author can slip bad features into updates under Apple’s and our noses and none will be the wiser.

Security Considerations

You always have to really think 🤔 about what apps you have installed and why you’ve installed them. More than that, you need to find out who specifically is developing your apps and where they are in the world. You might be surprised to find that the author doesn’t live in the country where you reside. If the author isn’t in your country of residence, they don’t have to follow your country’s laws for, well, anything.

Of course, you never know what an app author intends by writing and releasing an app. Even the money making aspect on the surface may not be the actual agenda. Hopefully, the app’s purported use case (making money) is the only reason the app exists. Unfortunately, subversion seems to be becoming more and more common in apps, particularly those that may not be developed in the same country where you reside.

For example, someone who develops an app in China doesn’t have to follow the laws of any other country than China. Meaning, if the app developer decides to include spyware, no laws will apply to that developer other than Chinese law. Even then, since they weren’t spying on Chinese citizens, they likely won’t be seen as having violated any Chinese laws… even when spying on citizens in other countries. Because the U.S. can’t apply laws to Chinese citizens, any spying that may have taken place is damage already done. The only action that can be taken is banning the app entirely from the U.S., just as Trump had wanted to do with TikTok.

Every mobile device user must remain on their toes. You can’t assume that Apple’s closed store nature will protect you from spying or data theft (all forms of malware). Apple is way too naïve for that. Instead, you must do the research yourself. Determine who develops an app you intend to install. Find out where they live in the world. If they live in a country where you do not, your local laws will not apply if the developer includes illegal activities in your place of residence. This means they can do a lot of nefarious things and never be caught at it, particularly if they live in a country like China.

If you want to safeguard your own data, don’t install apps without knowing where the author lives. No, not Android and not even on iOS devices. No, not even on… and especially not on company owned devices.

In this day and age of anyone and everyone who can design and build an app basdd anywhere in the world, we’ve firmly come to a time where our devices can be used to spy on us and those around us simply because we’ve installed a random app.

It’s now only a matter of time before government policies catch up with this technology trend and new laws begin emerging which intend to hold device owners responsible for treason when an app spies on and funnels data outside of your country of residence.

In answer to the article’s primary question. No, neither Google nor Apple is better at protecting our devices from malware. However, while the overt malware may be less common on Apple devices, Apple’s and Google’s trusting nature is now firmly subverting our devices for foreign spying activities… particularly when these apps are designed to intentionally use the camera and microphone.

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Gaming Breaking Bugs Series #1: Fallout 76

Posted in botch, business, gaming, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on August 16, 2020

With this series, I intend to start calling out video gaming’s game-breaking-bugs as I find them and boy are there a lot to report with Fallout 76. Here is report I recently filed with Bethesda. Let’s explore.

Report

Re: Enemies not dying after multiple shots.

It is truly becoming impossible to play Fallout 76. That’s not an exaggeration. I’m using various ranged weapons and it can literally take 2, 3 even sometimes 4 (or more) shots to actually kill an enemy that should die in 1 shot. This MUST be solved. Combat is intrinsic to this game. When combat doesn’t work, then the game is broken.

How this problem manifests…

It begins when you attempt to VATS shoot an enemy. It doesn’t matter where you shoot the enemy, but the head is usually the place where combat fails most often. I have a bloodied Lever Action and a bloodied Pipe Bolt Action Pistol. I’ve also had this problem occur with various melee weapons. So, it’s not limited to any specific weapon or type.

You begin by using VATS on the head using Concentrated Fire. Take the shot. The shot connects. The thud sounds. The enemy’s health bar drops to 0. Then, inexplicably, the health bar instantly recovers to full health and the enemy is alive to lunge or shoot at you. Not only that, the failed shot alerts the enemy to your presence. You can perform this action multiple times in a row to the same effect. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Ghoul, insects, a Super Mutant, dogs or a robot. This broken combat mechanic affects every weapon type and every enemy type.

To 100% reproduce this bug, sneak your way into The Whitespring Golf Club, head to the left on the upper level. Then as you come through the door, there is an enemy that spawns right near the back left window in a corner.

Once you have cleared the rest of the ghouls in that room, stand by the entry hall area and attempt to VATS shoot this specific Ghoul in the head. It may take 2, 3, 4 or more shots before it will die. Targeting the limbs or torso sometimes works around this game breaking bug, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes using a scope instead of VATS works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s one thing if the shot misses entirely, it’s completely another when the shot connects, makes a thud noise, shows a 1200 damage number also showing the enemy health bar dropping to zero and then the enemy’s health bar magically recovers fully? No, these are NOT legendary enemies.

This combat issue needs to be resolved pronto as this is literally a game breaking combat bug.

Expected Behavior

When you shoot an enemy and the bullet is recognized by the game engine as connecting, then the enemy needs to take the required amount of damage and/or die if health reaches zero. This combat bug is entirely unacceptable.

Enjoy this bug as this series has many more coming. If you have experienced this specific combat bug, please leave a comment below.

Why Fallout 76 sucks badly

Posted in botch, business, video game, video game design by commorancy on July 26, 2020

NPCsWhenever I play Fallout 76, I just want to pull my hair out. This game is so fraught with bugs, poor design, piss poor consistency and overall crap gameplay, it’s a wonder anyone wants to actually play this turd of a game at all. And, it gets worse with every release. Let’s explore this crap game in all of its crap glory.

Bugs Bethesda Won’t Fix

One of the most infuriating things about this game is its incessant bugs which Bethesda has consistently refused to fix. Some of these bugs have existed since before the release in the Beta (if you can even call one week of early play “beta testing”).

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of gameplay bugs I’ve run into with this game (in no particular order):

  1. Getting in and out of power armor breaks mutations, specifically Speed Demon. This bug persists until you log out and back in. If you use power armor at all, this mutation remains broken while both IN and OUT of power armor. This is a new regression bug and didn’t exist early in the game’s life.
  2. When playing sneaky while crouching, the game will sometimes overload the fire gun action onto the run button and fire your weapon when you attempt to run from the crouching position. This happens with any weapon. Not only does this waste ammo, you may be forced to reload your weapon, wasting time. This is an older bug and has existed for at least 6-9 months.
  3. Getting stuck in power armor. While this bug has supposedly been fixed, I have run into occasions where it is impossible to exit power armor. It clearly is not fixed. This bug has existed since Beta.
  4. Getting stuck in VATS. This is a new bug that sees you pull VATS only to find that the game won’t let you exit it, while allowing the enemies to attack you without any resistance. This is a recent bug, but existed before Wastelanders.
  5. Enemies staggering the player. This is a new bug that sees enemy stagger your player for longer amounts of time. Like getting stuck in VATS, you are unable to move or fire your weapon for up to 5-10 seconds, all while letting hordes of creatures attack and kill you. This may have been introduced in Wastelanders.
  6. Camp over budget after update. This one begins after you buy and install Atomic Shop items into your camp. After an update, Bethesda will raise the budget of SOME item(s) in your camp substantially causing your camp’s budget to go WAY over. There’s no way to know what is causing the issue or resolve it without randomly deleting camp items one by one.
  7. Toxic Goo fails to work. After your character dies and respawns, Toxic Goo doesn’t work for up to 1 minute (or longer) after a load-in or respawn. You’ll end up wasting goo after goo after goo trying to get it to work. This affects Bloodied builds.
  8. Loss of certain perks, but not all, after your character dies. Yes, I consider this a bug. There is no reason why this exists in the game. The Well Rested and Well Tuned perks disappear after the character dies and respawns. You are forced back to your camp to sleep and play an instrument again to refresh these. This is a bug that, I think, has been in the game since the start.
  9. Can’t choose respawn point after character death. This bug has been in the game since day one. Under certain conditions, if your character dies, the game will give you zero respawn points on the map. You are forced to log out and log back in… losing any dropped loot and any other benefits you may have had coming. Day 1 bug.
  10. VATS accuracy…. When the game first arrived, VATS could reach 100%. After a ‘balancing’ update, this has been visually reduced to a maximum of 95% at all times (no matter how close the enemy is to you). This is a ridiculous change. However, during this ‘rebalance’, Bethesda introduced two VATS percentages (one you see visually and one you don’t). The one you don’t see is the one that determines whether the bullet will hit. This has caused VATS to become mostly unusable, particularly when combined with bug #4 and specifically with certain weapons. It fares even worse when attempting to use the Concentrated Fire perk card.
  11. After loading into the game world, the game client runs a background process to synchronize the game to the remote game world server. This process takes at least 5-10 minutes to complete. It’s very slow. While this background process is running, you can’t craft on a workbench as the workbench stutters on and off while this synchronization process runs. This is a new bug introduced within the last 6-9 months. It existed before Wastelanders. This bug prevents using workbenches for at least 10 minutes after you’ve loaded into the game world.
  12. In-Game Music can’t be controlled with volume settings slider. A volume slider for music was introduced into the game client, but it has been selectively applied to only certain music. For example, music inside of Whitesprings, inside of Valley Galleria and with musical instruments are not covered by this volume slider. You must endure this music in the world regardless of your settings.
  13. Main Menu Music Slider settings. This one is also broken. While it does not play music on the main menu on the PS4, it does not at all work on the Xbox One. Worse, after a few minutes inside of the Atomic Shop and after the music changes, the music will begin playing at full volume in the Atomic Shop. This slider is only minimally effective at doing what it’s supposed to do.
  14. Challenges don’t work. This is an ongoing problem. If you’ve bought into Bethesda’s Fallout 76 challenge system, then that means doing whatever convoluted activities are needed to win that challenge. Some challenges require you to perform multiple activities to win the challenge. Because of these multiple activities, if one of them does not register after completion, the entire challenge fails. This is one way challenges don’t work.

    The second way challenges fail to work is if you do perform all of the actions successfully and receive a check mark, but the overall challenge doesn’t reward its bounty to you. Both of these are firmly broken. Even the newest update to the Legendary Run suffers from this same bug. You can perform everything required of the challenge and still not see the 1000 score you’re supposed to receive. Bethesda support won’t help with these failures. You’re just shit-outta-luck. Bethesda simply doesn’t support the game or gamers who are playing this game. These are Day 1 bugs.
  15. Blue Screen Crash… yes, these still exist. I regularly experience these crash-to-the-dashboard bugs about once every day or so. They are about as frequent as they were when the game was released. This is partly because of the memory issues.
  16. Level of Detail Image Rendering… this bug as existed since day one. As you approach objects, the game won’t load in the higher res texture version until you’re standing on top of the object (literally). Even then, it may take 1 minute before the higher res texture loads in. It’s a cosmetic bug, but who wants to look at blurry 8 bit textures?
  17. Fast Travel Bug — Here’s a bug that has existed since day one. You open the map and select a travel point, choose to pay the caps and then …. nothing. The map exits and you’re back in the game. You haven’t fast traveled and nothing has happened. Worse, you try again and it does the exact same thing. This bug is annoying, frustrating and shouldn’t even exist.
  18. Workshop Bug — Here’s a regression bug. This bug existed a week or so after release. It was gone for a long time, but now it’s come back in the latest update: v1.3.2.9. Under some conditions, the workshop icon reverts to the older “regular” icon. As a result, the game requires you to pay caps to travel to your owned workshop.
  19. Bethesda Math — Here’s a bug (several actually), but this one’s very very subtle with the perk cards and with damage multipliers. Bethesda sucks really hard at math and they hope that players won’t notice. Too late, we have. When Bethesda calculates damage multipliers, it rarely does so accurately. For example, a multiplier card might say “does 30% more damage”, but in reality it may calculate out 28% more or 25% more or some random value way less than 30%.

    You can see this in action after enabling damage numbers on your weapon. If you calculate out the number shown, you’ll find that the damage is far, far less than what the gun claims to offer with the damage multipliers. This is just one way that Bethesda reduces the damage level of weapons without showing that reduced damage in the weapon info panel.

    This further continues in the weapon info panel as well by not accurately calculating the damage multipliers within this panel. While some perk cards offer exact damage multipliers, many of these cards offer nebulous increases like, “does more”, “does even more”, “does substantially more” without stating any numbers. This allows Bethesda to modify these nebulous cards at their whims on each release, so you never know exactly what those nebulous cards are actually giving you. In many cases, they don’t give you anything. As for the hard number cards, it only stacks these multipliers by calculating from the gun’s base damage level. For example, if you put on cards each offering 10% damage, it will be stacked like so:

    Gun base damage = 197
    Gun + 10% damage = 197 + 19.7 = 217
    Gun + 20% damage = 217 + 19.7 = 237
    Gun + 30% damage = 237 + 19.7 = 257
    and so on…

    Basically, Bethesda calculates the value based on the current gun value + the % to be applied. It doesn’t add by stacking. If it added by stacking, 60% more damage would stack like this:

    Gun base damage = 197
    Gun + 10% damage = 197 + 19.7 = 217
    Gun + 10% more damage = 217 + 21.7 = 239
    Gun + 10% more damage = 239 + 23.9 = 263
    Gun + 10% more damage = 263 + 26.3 = 289
    Gun + 10% more damage = 289 + 28.9 = 318
    Gun + 10% more damage = 318 + 31.8 = 350
    and so on… but this is not how Bethesda does math during stacking.

    Worse, guns with +30% damage to Scorched (Zealots) or 30% damage to animals (Hunter’s) never see these percentages reflected in the gun’s damage information panel. You have no idea if the gun is actually giving you that extra % damage.

    Even worse, when you kill something with damage multipliers on, you almost never see the damage level of the gun reflected in the damage number seen on the enemy. For example, with the 257 damage listed above, if this is an Instigating rifle, it would do double damage to an enemy with full health. This means that at 2x, Instigating damage should do 514 damage to an enemy. With sneaking, it should double that to 1028. However, shooting an enemy with sneak might show way less than that damage inflicted. Damage to an enemy should reflect actual gun damage.
  20. VATS + Accuracy … this bug has been ongoing since day one, but affects some weapons more than others. For example, neither has the Tesla nor the Gauss rifle ever properly worked with VATS. Using these weapons is more likely to miss than hit. You waste so much ammo using VATS with these weapons, it’s not even worth considering. For every one shot that hits, you might have 10 that fail… even with high accuracy, even if you have the +33% VATS accuracy legendary perk, even with all of your best perk cards equipped, these electric weapons are the worst for VATS.

    Even the Pipe Bolt-Action Pistol fares poorly with VATS. This weapon when set up correctly can have an accuracy of 108, yet it acts as if it as an accuracy of 2. It misses way more often than it hits. This is a VATS problem. In fact, I find that using the scope fares way better than relying on VATS.
  21. Gauss Rifle Wind Up and Misfire — this bug has been ongoing since a week or so after release. You can press and hold the trigger to power up the Gauss, but upon release, you only hear a sad sputter and then nothing. The rifle misfires. This is the only weapon in the game that misfires. I’ve given up using the Gauss rifle entirely because of this one bug that Bethesda refuses to fix.
  22. Bullet Connects, Does 1000+ Damage, Health Wiped, Enemy Lives — this is a new bug, but I believe has existed for quite some time and is a regression from early in the game’s life. You can shoot an enemy point blank in the head, the heath bar is reduced to 0, but the enemy’s health bar goes back to full and lives to fight. This is not a legendary enemy. I’ve run into this bug with Ghouls and Robots alike. There is nothing you can do but shoot again and hope it will kill the enemy. This bug seems specific to shooting the enemy in the head, but can occur shooting any body part. Collision detection on this game is piss poor, to say the least.
  23. Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins Recipe — Here is a bug that has most definitely existed since day one and before. This recipe is supposed to exist on a piece of notebook paper sitting on a picnic table at Spruce Knob Lake, next to a blue cooler. The note paper is sitting there on the table, but it cannot be retrieved from the table. Bethesda has had this bug reported probably hundreds of times and at least twice by me since launch, yet they have still not yet fixed this very long standing bug. There are supposed to be 13 Delbert’s recipes in this game, but this one is not retrievable, leaving only 12 in the game. It’s anyone’s guess as to what this recipe offers.
  24. Backpacks — In a recent update, Bethesda decided to change how backpack skins work. Instead of selling individual backpacks as they had been formerly doing, they set it up to place skins on top of the generic backpack. In doing so, they introduced two fundamental bugs:

    1) We had to pay to reskin our already skinned backpack, using up more resources again. We had to do this for every backpack we own.

    2) The backpacks no longer sit correctly on the character’s back. Instead of sitting properly on the back, they are now embedded in the back and look crappy when wearing certain bulkier outfits. The original packs adjusted their placement on the back to accommodate outfits and the size of the pack. This new system doesn’t. It inherits the placement of the original skin and assumes that placement is correct for all packs. One of the worst cosmetic bugs in the game.

Perk Card Bugs

Under this section, I call out bugs specific to perk cards that have gone unfixed. They are just as numerous.

  1. Tenderizer — This Charisma perk card simply doesn’t work, it’s as simple as that. It’s supposed to afford an up to 7% bonus damage (3 star card) on every hit after the first, but it doesn’t do anything. Don’t bother equipping this card. I’m not certain if this card has ever worked. Day 1 bug.
  2. Concentrated Fire – This is a card that is supposed to not only allow you to target individual body parts of your enemy, it’s supposed to give bonus damage when you hit that body part. This card performs only one of its two stated perks. While it does allow you to target body parts individually, it does not offer any bonus damage. Day 1 bug.
  3. Super Duper – Lots of bugs here. This card is supposed to offer you a chance to duplicate whatever you are crafting on any crafting bench. This card has multiple problems. Its primary problem is that a 3-Star version is supposed to afford you your best chance at receiving a duplicate. However, ranking this card up to 3 does not increase your chances for a duplicate any more than using a rank 1 card. This card formerly functioned correctly for a short time after the game’s launch, but after a subsequent rebalance, it has been broken since.

    Additionally, this card is entirely selectively applied to certain crafted items and in specific amounts when it does work. For example, attempting to combine a 2 star Ammosmith with 3 star Super Duper doesn’t yield a duplicate number when crafting certain ammo on the Tinker’s Bench. For example, Ammosmith increases the Mini Nuke x3 count to x5. Yet, Super Duper doesn’t provide 10 Mini Nukes when Super Duper fires. Instead, it provides perhaps 6 Mini Nukes, not 10.

    Further, Super Duper formerly alerted us every time it fired letting us see how often it fired and how much extra we might expect. At some point during a ‘rebalance’, Bethesda stopped this every-time notification. Instead, now it only notifies us once inside the bench and once on the way out, no matter how many times it has fired. In other words, you have no way to know exactly how much extra you may have received. If you want to know, you are forced to exit the bench each time Super Duper fires so you can see exactly how many times it has fired while crafting… infuriating.

    I believe this much reduced notification change is because Bethesda reduced the frequency with which Super Duper fires (even at 3 stars) and they didn’t want people to see this lowered fire rate.

    Super Duper has also never been applied to the Brewing Station crafting bench. You can craft whatever you want on the Brewing Station and Super Duper will never duplicate it. This bug has existed since the Brewing Station was introduced. Some of these above are Day 1 bugs including this Brewing Station bug.
  4. Butcher’s Bounty / Scrounger / Cap Collector / Can Do! / Pharma Farma design change. Yes, I also consider this one a bug. Butcher’s Bounty (and the rest of these scrounging cards) formerly allowed us to search containers at any time and, most importantly, after the fact. Can Do! and Pharma Farma and some of the others still do allow after-the-fact searching, but it is now hands off with no button presses. You must look at the container with the card equipped to get the benefits. Before this change, you were forced to pressed a button. After the change, it works simply by looking at the container.

    However, unlike the rest of the cards, Butcher’s Bounty has some severe restrictions placed for how and when it works. It has also seen new bugs introduced. Unlike the rest of these scrounger cards, Butcher’s Bounty no longer allows after-the-fact usage.

    Butcher’s Bounty now requires that you must have killed the creature yourself to be able to search a dead creature and to activate this perk card. Even still, searching a dead animal doesn’t really yield more meat. You hear the chime, but no additional meat seems to appear on the body. You only get what was originally dropped. Butcher’s Bounty is firmly broken. This bug was introduced during the Wastelanders release.

    Additionally, Butcher’s Bounty no longer searches Bloodbugs or Ticks and will not produce any additional bounty from these creatures. There may be other creatures it also fails to search. Ticks contain Tick Blood and this ingredient is important in crafting Stimpaks. Without being able to search Ticks for Tick Blood, this means of crafting Stimpaks is lost.

    Bloodbugs offered Bloodbug meat. Unfortunately, without Butcher’s Bounty, you could rarely ever find Bloodbug meat on a dead Bloodbug. You were nearly always forced to search them with Butcher’s Bounty. Unfortunately, this is another creature whose meat is now entirely extinct. There is no way to craft Bloodbug Pepper Steak… and this now entirely useless in-game recipe is rendered worthless by this specific bug.
  5. Storm Chaser — This perk card is supposed to see you have health regeneration during rain storms. I’ve used this card multiple times in rain storms with no effect. This card is broken.

Regressions

So many of the bugs from the past are actually returning from the past. Particularly duplication bugs. I have grown exceedingly tired of the 12 and 13 year olds whose sole goal is to find some overpowered weapon and dupe the hell out of it so they can make a few caps, caps that don’t make a difference to their game play.

Instead, Bethesda needs to counter these problems by removing this problem from the game. In fact, I’d prefer if Bethesda removed vending entirely from the game. No more sales at all. What you own is yours to keep forever. If you don’t want it, scrip it, scrap it or send it to the game’s void. Nothing at all good has come from player vending. Nothing. The world is not a better place. Vending is a form of paytowin. It’s solely used as a way for players to buy their way into better weapons without having earned those weapons or armor.

The point in Fallout is to earn your weapons from your game play experience… not to buy the weapon from someone else.

Bethesda is already considering doing away with future item vending anyway. As more and more new items are introduced into the game, Bethesda is putting the no-vending restriction onto these newer items. You can’t sell them, you can’t drop them and you can’t transfer them to others. These newly introduced items are yours to keep, but not to sell.

I believe Bethesda is slowly introducing these items into the game to get players used to this new no trading concept. Then, at some point in the future, every new item in the game will be marked as player restricted. At some point, the newest great weapon will not be obtainable by buying it from another player. This change IS coming. Bethesda WILL introduce this in the future. It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. Don’t believe me? Just you wait.

Even more bugs

This next bug is one that has existed since the game’s release. The game has completely unresponsive button controls at the most inopportune times. You are forced to press a button twice, three times or more simply to get the game to respond to a button press. Infuriating. You press the button expecting VATS to trigger and it doesn’t. You press it again and again it does nothing. You press it again and it finally triggers. This multiple press issue sees the enemies getting ever closer or out of range. It’s entirely frustrating to have the perfect shot had VATS consistently worked. Instead, you’ve lost that shot because you were forced to press VATS multiple times to get it to activate, way too late to make that perfect shot.

This button press unreliability problem isn’t limited to VATS. It affects all manner of button presses from crafting, to firing your weapon to jumping to running. It doesn’t matter which button it is, they are all equally affected by this unreliability of the game’s controller input system.

I’ve never ever played a game with this amateur level of button unreliability. Never. I’ve been playing games since the Atari 2600 and this is the actual first time I’ve encountered a game with this bad of a controller interface. I cannot believe a top tier developer is putting out games with this low level of quality.

I believe this problem stems from multiple problems. I believe the game is giving priority to the back end synchronization with the server over front end input. This means that the game is willing to sacrifice controller button presses to ensure the game client is properly synchronized with the server. Ultimately, I believe this has to do with using a 20 year old engine and trying to retrofit it into a multiplayer system over the Internet. This engine was not designed for this purpose and the signature of this unreliability is in this game’s random and sporadic failure to read input from the controller.

This leaves the game with an increasingly problematic gameplay experience. This situation has only gotten worse with the game’s age. With each successive update and expansion, Bethesda keeps taxing the game engine more and more. As the game engine becomes more and more overtaxed, the controller input is given increasingly less and less polling time… to the point where button presses are entirely lost.

This problem is not a problem that should exist in a top tier game. No game should ever be released with this level of controller problems, let alone with all of the additional problems listed above.

Overpowered Enemies

With the addition of Wastelanders, the balance in the game has been lost. I do classify this as both a design failure and a bug. The human enemies that have been added into the game have not only begun overtaxing the already taxed game engine, but Bethesda has chosen to give level 15 enemies weapons that do the damage of level 98 enemies with similarly equipped armor.

A level 15 Blood Eagle with an automatic laser pistol can kill any level player (even over 200) with just handful of shots. If that’s not the very definition of overpowered, I don’t know what is. This isn’t limited to Blood Eagles, it works for Settlers and Raiders alike. All human enemies have these way overpowered weapons and overpowered armor.

Whether this was intentional design or simply janky happenstance, I’ve no idea. Bethesda has proven time and time again that they simply don’t care about the gamer. With every update, they make it increasingly harder to even play this game, let alone want to like or play it.

In fact, the joy I formerly found in playing some parts of this game is quickly evaporating with the ever mounting bugs, regressions and frustratingly poor design choices.

Atomic Shop and Camp Budget

Worse, I can no longer even build in my camp… which runs entirely counter to buying Atomic Shop items. If Bethesda wants us to buy Atomic Shop camp items, then they’ll need to understand this point of contention. We can’t buy anything for our camps that require budget if we can’t build in our camps. Camp budget maxed = no more sales!

Bethesda, however, doesn’t seem to get this fundamental concept. Bethesda relies on people buying Atom, yet no one will run out to buy Atom if there’s no camp budget available to build. It’s a Catch-22, Bethesda!

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If this game is failing, it’s because of your short sighted management of this property.

Instead of throwing in NPCs because everyone complained about the lack of them, you should have focused on fixing these long standing bugs. Instead, you focused your time adding new and unnecessary features that are further overtaxing this game’s antiquated engine which exacerbates these existing bugs at the expense of actually useful and fun gameplay.

It’s getting almost impossible to play this game at times… just as it’s getting impossible to type this article into WordPress’s editor with its incredibly bad input lag.

Bethesda needs to wise up rapidly. The Fallout 76 team needs to focus on overcoming these listed shortcomings rather than spending more time crafting unnecessary items for the Atomic Shop which fewer and fewer people can buy with the updated daily challenges no longer giving out Atom. So, let’s talk about the ‘new’ ….

Legendary Run

This is supposed to be the replacement challenge system for Fallout 76. It was promised to be an improvement to help people perform the challenges more in-line with their daily play.

In reality, what this is is a junky and janky mess of a system. Not only are the rewards some the crappiest I’ve seen in this game, they are duplicated all over the place. Need Ghillie armor for Marine Armor? How about Robot? How about Secret Service? Well, Bethesda has littered the board with so many duplicate Ghillie armors that it’s entirely pointless. How many Ghillie armor types do you think that we need? It’s stupid and pointless.

We only need one Ghillie cosmetic suit that we can wear over the top of any armor we wish. We don’t need to own the plan to craft Ghillie skins on every type of armor in existence. We only need ONE cosmetic item we’re done. So many board spaces wasted with this single skin item, the same as the Atomic Onslaught paints.

Worse, handing out these skins runs entirely counter to the way the Atomic Shop wants us to play. This point has been hammered home, oh I don’t know, since the game launched… to wear cosmetic items over the top of our armor. So now suddenly you want us to not wear cosmetics and start crafting Ghillie armor pieces instead? This game is sending us such mixed signals. Show your armor, hide your armor, don’t wear armor, do wear armor. The messaging in this game is not only a mess, it’s a disaster. No wonder everyone is always so confused by this game.

Not a Fallout Game

And here is where we come to the crux of this article. This game is not a Fallout game. It is a cartoony representation of how someone who’s never ever played a Fallout game might think a game like this works. Fallout 76 only pretends to be a Fallout game. It certainly has the skins, the weapons, the armor and the rusted environments, but the game itself is just a hollow, vapid, pointless shell. It barely even resembles Fallout. Further, its lore is so weak and so shallow in storytelling, nothing even matters.

Beyond this, Bethesda has introduced new items into the universe that have never before existed in Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 3 or Fallout 4… games with world environments and stories that exist long after Fallout 76. Games that should have seen traces of many of these new Fallout 76 items.

That’s the danger in creating a prequel… introducing new items into a world where previously existing worlds you’ve already built won’t have these items. Not seeing these items in Fallout 4, for example, means major continuity problems… yet another reason Fallout 76 is a crappy installment.

It’s not just the continuity issues that are a problem, however. It’s how weakly handled the entire world concept is. You exit the vault with the hopes of rebuilding Appalachia, yet the 24 vault dwellers who exit the vault are limited to building tiny crappy camps in remote areas of Appalachia? That’s not rebuilding, that’s junk. That’s not coming together as a team, that’s every-person-for-themselves. That’s not how rebuilding should be envisioned or handled.

In fact, after all of the quests are done and all of the smoke clears, Appalachia remains the same old decrepit place with the same old enemies roaming it and so many of the old bugs present. The presence of vault dwellers did absolutely nothing to make Appalachia, or indeed, Fallout 76 a better place. For a multiplayer game, it’s hard to believe a top tier developer like Bethesda failed so spectacularly at producing a compelling and fun experience… but here we are. Even the combat fails mostly because of all of the bugs that remain unfixed. Bleah.

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Disney to reopen amid COVID surge

Posted in amusements, botch, business, disney by commorancy on July 7, 2020

According to reports, Disney intends to reopen its parks despite the current growing COVID-19 surge. Let’s explore.

Irresponsible

Let’s understand that Disney operates its parks to comfortably sport anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 guests (on average) in the park at any one time. Though, it is stated the park is designed to hold up to 100,000 people. Though, if 100,000 people are in attendance, the lines will be massively long, the park will be intensely crowded and affords a situation that becomes ripe for COVID transmission that no amount of “planned” virus reduction measures can mitigate. In short, overcrowding and COVID-19 cannot work together.

Even at 10,000 people in the park (assuming Disney decides to self-limit), that’s still well enough people milling around that transmission will be exceedingly easy and inevitable. We already know that COVID-19 lingers on some surfaces, like metal, for several days. That means that riding a ride containing metallic surfaces, after someone infected has ridden, greatly increases your chances of getting COVID-19 through touch.

Open Air

Disneyland, Disney World and The Magic Kingdom are mostly open air environments. This means that aerosolized virus droplets can’t linger for too long, but they can land on surfaces. However, when you get inside of closed environments, such as restaurants, merchandise shops and dark rides, virus droplets can linger for quite a long time in the air (without proper ventilation)… and these droplets can also land on and infect merchandise, paper cups, utensils and particularly open condiments. It can also land on your ride’s seat cushion, handles, lap belts and the lapbar restraints.

In short, open air won’t necessarily mean your trip to Disney will be virus free. In fact, because Florida is presently having some of the highest cases in the nation, the chances of catching COVID-19 by visiting Disney World is exceedingly high… if even simply by staying in a hotel.

Trust in Disney

Disney hasn’t been the most trustworthy company in recent years. Of Disney’s reopening plans, Ron DeSantis (Governor of Florida) states:

We have to have society function. You can have society function in a way that keeps people safe. And when you have all of the different procedures that they have in place, people are going to be—it’s a safe environment. Disney, I have no doubt is going to be a safe environment.

No one, not a Governor, not a health official, not anyone can make an assertion that Disney will be a “safe environment”. The nature of amusement parks is taking risks. That’s why people attend amusement parks and ride rides. The thrill of the ride is worth the risk.

Though, there’s a big difference between being able to control the forces of inertia and being able to control an invisible virus you cannot even see. No, DeSantis is towing the line that Disney wants to hear (and that Florida’s economy needs). DeSantis wants the park open, not because it’s truly safe and virus free, but because Florida’s economic future depends on it… and in general, because tourism drives much of Florida’s income. Without tourism, portions of Florida won’t have much of a future.

DeSantis also stated the following of both Universal and Disney’s reopening plans:

I’m really impressed with what Universal’s done, and I’ve looked at Disney’s plan and it is very, very thorough.

Thorough won’t protect everyone all of the time. Disney may disinfect the park nightly, but that won’t help the interim times when perhaps thousands of people have ridden a ride or eaten at a table or sneezed on cups immediately before you arrived.

Amusement and Health

If your personal amusement is more important to you than your health and well being (and the health of those around you), then by all means head to Disney and ride the rides and indulge in the eats. If, however, you value your own health and the health of your loved ones, you should avoid visiting any amusement parks no matter what “plans” Disney or Universal may have made to help combat a virus that no one can see.

Plans have a way of unraveling, particularly when we don’t even know all of the factors which must be managed. Disney’s plans are probably, at best, 25% complete. That means that 75% of things that can happen to infect you haven’t even been addressed.

Judging the health and safety of the public is not something a governor should be doing. That should be the health department.

Pandemic Surge and Reopening

In the midst of a surging pandemic, planning to reopen a business that’s sole intent is to draw large crowds the size of Disney parks is not only reckless, it’s completely irresponsible. Large close crowds are exactly the vector for virus transmission. There is absolutely no way Disney has planned for every contingency or vector of infection… particularly because Disney can’t plan for how large the crowds may get. In fact, it’s entirely counter for Disney to turn away crowds which help drive revenue into the park. They’re not going to do this.

Turning on UVC lights every now and then or limiting attendance can only do so much. This virus is, at best, unpredictable. We already know that COVID-19 has a days-long no-symptom period when the virus makes the person heavily contagious, but the person shows no outward symptoms. It will be these very contagious carriers who will visit Disney World and Disneyland and not only carry in the virus, but they will spread it throughout the park by infecting everything they touch and the people around them. Even a simple sneeze or cough can carry the virus throughout an environment for a lengthy period of time and infect any number of people or land on surfaces which can be touched.

There is nothing Disney can do to plan for keeping their park virus free. The only way Disney can reduce or eliminate Disney parks as a source of COVID-19 infection is to test every visitor on the way into the park and deny entrance to any visitors who test infected. Even then, that’s not feasible because testing is very slow (hours) before results are back. Even then, there’s a high probability of both false positives and false negatives. Disney can’t (and more importantly, won’t) spend the time or money to do this for every visitor.

Ride Disinfection

Let’s understand the basics of how Disney could plan for ride disinfection management.

If Disney were to truly want to reduce exposure to COVID-19 on rides, every ride must close down and disinfect after every single ride. The ride cars would have to be put through a UVC light bath for approximately 5 minutes after each and every ride. This is not feasible for a park like Disney where getting riders through as fast as possible is the goal.

To further this line of reasoning, Disney would need to require reservations for all rides in advance. No lines would be present on any ride. Queue lines and queue houses must remain closed. At ride time, riders will gather and stand in a 6 foot enforced distanced line wearing masks, but of course that line couldn’t be shielded from passers by… a source of infection.

Riders are loaded onto the ride, one by one… distanced by one car between each rider. That means half as many riders per ride. At the end of the ride, the ride will pull into the station and each car must exit, one by one separately ensuring 6 foot distance between each rider.

After the car is empty, the ride is summarily closed. The car is then backed into a UVC light bath and disinfection commences for 5 minutes. Then Disney repeats for the next set of riders. Can you say, “cumbersome” and “time consuming”?

Let’s understand that even with all of these measures in place, you can still catch COVID from a rider in front of you. If the front most rider ahead of you is infected and sneezes, their droplets can carry onto you and infect you. Even if Disney enacts very strict ride disinfection measures, there’s still no guarantee you’ll walk away without COVID-19 after riding. The only way that would work is to fill the car with one party per ride. Yeah, that’s not feasible in a park the size of Disney’s.

Above all of this, operating an amusement park ride this way will ensure that very few people get to enjoy the ride in a day… way fewer than is otherwise normal for Disney. Disney is all about pushing through as many riders as possible. Performing such a thorough disinfection after every ride is entirely counter to this and will result in much lost revenue. A park can’t (and won’t) operate like this.

Restaurant Disinfection

Here’s an infection vector that’s even more difficult to manage than rides. The only way restaurants can work at Disney is to deliver your food to you directly. In fact, you should be required to order your food in the Disney app for delivery to your present phone’s location (using location tracking). All food must be delivered inside of sealed bags and the items inside the bags must only have been handled by Disney employees.

Restaurant seating becomes an issue, though. We all want to eat inside some place comfortable and air conditioned. The problem is that this type of communal seating environment cannot be controlled… not by Disney, not by anyone. If Disney wishes to use sit-down style restaurant seating, then the tables must be completely UVC disinfected after every use.

It is very doubtful that Disney has had the time to build any kind of automated system to blanket a table and UVC disinfect it. In fact, to do this, you would need to build a carousel type system with two seats back-to-back, where the seats attach to a turntable and spin around to a non-visible side. One table seating is disinfected, the other spun around to the non-visible side and is in the process of being disinfected.

Though, UVC light is caustic to humans. Any UVC light leakage would need to be strictly controlled.

It is very doubtful that Disney or Universal have taken disinfection this seriously or to this level. No company is going to invest a million or more dollars into equipping their restaurants for such a sophisticated UVC disinfection system. Instead, they’re going to rely on the use of dirty towels and bus staff to wipe down seating and tables. A towel is simply going to move the virus around, not kill it. It’s almost impossible to perform proper disinfection of tables and seats prior to seating a new party.

A new restaurant party will be lucky if a table is even properly bused after the last party has departed. If it’s a large party, 10-20, good luck with getting anything disinfected.

Merchandise Stores

The final place where Disney will need to address is merchandise. Because people want to touch and feel the things they’re about to buy, this must stop. The touchy-feely time is over. Merchandise stores must only sell like the restaurant example above. You order the merchandise you want through an app and an attendant stops by to deliver your items in a sealed bag that has only been touched by Disney employees. If you wish to return an item, you’ll have to do that through an automated returns system and by dropping the returned item into a slot at the front gate.

Disney Employees, Testing and Infection

Disney park employees, otherwise known as “Cast Members” (a cutesy moniker to be sure), must be properly tested daily prior to entering a shift. If any Disney employee tests positive, they must be sent home for a mandatory quarantine period and will not be allowed to work.

Disney employees are clearly a vector of transmission that Disney can’t control. I seriously doubt that Disney has procured enough tests to test every single “Cast Member” daily, prior to their shift. There will be a number of Disney employees who will actually become the vector of infection and transmission for COVID-19… simply being a ride loader, being a merchandise seller or by selling foods to guests. It’s inevitable. You can’t prevent “Cast Members” from transmitting COVID-19 to guests in the park. You can’t do it without daily testing. Even then, testing is only as accurate as the test type you’re using.

If Disney decides on simplistic symptom tests (i.e., temperature), then that ensures park employees will not only infect guests, they will also infect other employees. Eventually, Disney may have to close its parks again when the number of infected “Cast Members” impacts the ability of Disney to operate its parks.

Health and Safety

Disney’s only choice, particularly during this heavy resurgence, is to postpone opening of the park until later… much, much later. I get why Disney is pushing to reopen. Disney is losing money by not reopening. To them, it’s more about the money than it is about keeping you, the guest, healthy and COVID free.

You must choose to trust Disney or not. You must choose whether to visit the park or not. Only you can look at this situation and decide whether it’s worth the risk. If you believe that your risk of infection is low, then by all means head there and visit.

Having worked at an amusement park for 7 years at one point in my life, I can definitively state that no matter what measures Disney claims to be putting in place, it’s all for show. None of it will last. It’s entirely health theater. They’ll state they’re doing all of these things, but at the end of the day none of it will get done because it’s too costly, too problematic and, most of all, too time consuming for staff. Disney may put up a good show for a week so that reporters can visit and “see” the theater, but after the reporters are gone, so too will all of their theatrical “planned measures”.

If you want to put your health at risk over Disney’s health theater, then be my guest. Book a trip, stay in the hotel and indulge in all of the buffets. Make sure you get a good large dose of COVID all along the way. When you get home and the symptoms hit, you can head to the hospital right away. After that, it’s up to your body to do the work (or not).

Consider this final question. Is it really worth risking your own life AND spending $1-2k per person merely to buy yourself COVID-19? That’s an awfully expensive Disney virus.

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