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Fallout 76: A Guide to a Bloodied Build

Posted in howto, video game by commorancy on March 3, 2021

It seems a lot of people don’t really understand how to manage a Bloodied character build in Fallout 76. It’s not terribly hard once you understand the details. Let’s explore.

Bloodied Weapons

There are many different types of legendary weapons and armor in Fallout 76, but none really more rare than Bloodied weapons. In fact, there are a number of relatively rare spawning legendary items in the game including Unyielding Armor and Bloodied weapons. Just visit Purveyor Murmrgh at the Rusty Pick and roll your chances to find out. You’ll find that it’s quite rare to roll a Bloodied weapon or get a piece of Unyielding armor. The most common armor received from the Purveyor are Assassin’s, Bolstering and Zealot’s, with the most common ranged weapons being the Zealot’s Gatling Laser and Zealot’s Laser Pistol.

What exactly is a Bloodied weapon? This legendary weapon effect increases damage of the weapon as the player’s health decreases. To get the most out of this legendary weapon effect, you must keep your as health low as possible. Unfortunately, Fallout 76’s developers didn’t offer the player a way to manage the character’s health directly. Instead, the player must find substances in the world to keep the player’s health low.

Combat?

One might initially think that combat is the way to do this, but no. Well, it is one way, but it’s not the most optimal way. There are easier ways to do this, but it will take just a little effort to find the necessary items to manage a low-health character situation.

Toxic Goo

There are few items within Fallout 76 that confer a substantial amount of health reduction on the player. One of these mechanisms is radiation. As radiation increases, health points (HP) decrease. By keeping radiation of the character high, the HP always remains low no matter what foods or medicines are consumed. In fact, this game mechanic is really the only mechanic that functionally works to keep your character’s health at a specified level.

One foodstuff item that can impart a boatload of radiation onto the player rapidly is Toxic Goo. This consumable is found primarily at one location in Fallout 76. That location is WestTek Research Center in the Savage Divide. This consumable adds 125 radiation points per vial consumed (more if you suffer from Radworms). It also does it even with the Lead Belly card in place, which means you can leave the Lead Belly card on while still consuming and taking 125 rads per vial. It takes about 3-5 vials (depending on your HP bar length), to get HP under 60. Don’t take too much or else your character will die.

To obtain Toxic Goo, head to WestTek Research Center, which houses a lot of super mutants. You’ll want to enter through the back door of the building. Going in through the front is pointless unless you really like mowing down lots of super mutants to get to the large cylindrical vats of goo in the back. If you enter through the rear of the building, the vats are right there. On the outside of the rear of the building, there are about 5 super mutants, a turret and a dog. Once inside, you only have to clear out one or two dogs and about 5 super mutants to get to the vats. If you have the Sneak card, you might even be able to get away with only one or two kills and then sneak your way up to the vat and grab a bunch of goo and fast travel out of there.

You’re also going to need the perk card Traveling Pharmacy or the backpack equivalent perk to reduce the weight of aid items. This will reduce Toxic Goo weight so you can carry a bunch with you. I usually stock up and carry about 150 of them at a time. When I get down to about 20, I head over and fill up again.

Under 60 HP?

Keeping your character’s health under 60 is the magic number for a Bloodied build. Over 60 and you don’t reap the rewards of a Bloodied weapon or Unyielding armor. Though, you can still reduce your health more and gain a few more damage points. This number exists for several reasons. A Bloodied build is a bit more complicated than simply drinking Toxic Goo and grabbing a Bloodied Gatling Gun. While that will work, you’ll want to also outfit your character with some damage and radiation resistance to avoid mucking with this build. This number is also optimal for keeping most creatures from one-shotting you instantly. Though, recently, Bethesda has given a major buff to too many enemies in the game and too many enemies can one-shot your player, regardless of either’s level, depending on their attack method.

Armoring up for Bloodied Build

Note, there is no Bloodied legendary effect on armor. This effect only exists for weapons. There are several armor effects which work well with a Bloodied build, including Unyielding and Bolstering armor. Sentinel armor formerly existed in Fallout 76, but was removed and replaced with a crappy equivalent.

Sentinel armor formerly afforded 100% protection while standing still (effectively god mode armor), but this legendary armor effect was removed from the game. Sentinel armor was a fan favorite for a Bloodied build for the first 12 months of the game’s existence until Bethesda did away with Sentinel as a primary effect. Bethesda’s developers replaced and updated a tertiary Sentinel effect equivalent, which is literally worthless (75% chance to reduce damage by 15% while standing still). Not only does it reduce damage resistance down to a max of 15%, it will only offer that protection 75% of the time… which with Fallout 76’s developer math will actually occur less than 10% of the time. Worse, you won’t even know if the effect is working or not. There’s no notification to the player if the legendary armor’s effect has actually worked. Worthless.

Unyielding and Bolstering are the armor legendary effects of choice for a Bloodied build. These effects operate 100% of the time as you would expect of any legendary effect. How can you call something a legendary effect when it only works no more than 75% of the time? Why even add something that crappy to the game? Simply just get rid of it from the game entirely. I digress.

Unyielding works not only by having damage resistance (limited to the armor piece worn), but by increasing all SPECIAL stats (except Endurance) by up to +3 for each piece of armor worn. This means that you can gain up to +15 to every SPECIAL stat if you wear a full set of Unyielding (two arms, two legs and chest piece). Why is this important? Because you’ll get a permanent +15 buff to strength, perception, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck so long as you maintain low health. You can raise up Endurance in other ways, but not with Unyielding armor. If you happen to find 5 pieces of Unyielding Marine armor, you can really get your damage resistance up there.

Bolstering armor, on the other hand, doesn’t buff any SPECIAL stats, but it does increase damage resistance the lower your health. By keeping your health low, whatever armor type you are wearing will see a buff to damage resistance and hopefully keep your character alive even up against large foes. In this case, you won’t necessarily need to wear Marine armor to get a higher amount of damage resistance. Though, wearing Bolstering Marine armor wouldn’t hurt.

Personally, I prefer Unyielding armor because of the +15 extra charisma points means I don’t need to worry about putting on the Hard Bargain card to get the best buy and sell prices at vendors. Unfortunately, any extra points cannot be used to place more perk cards on the stack. Only applying a Legendary SPECIAL card and ranking this card up will afford extra points for card use, but that means you’ll need your character to be at least level 200 to have enough spare slots and enough perk coins to spend. You can mix and match Bolstering and Unyielding in whatever proportions work best for your character.

Damage Resistance

Because a Bloodied build requires keeping health low, that means your character is constantly vulnerable to certain types of attacks, like Suicider Super Mutants whose mini nuke can easily kill your character in one hit. Additionally, being hit by the Scorchbeast Queen or Wendigo Colossus or even just a plain old Wendigo can probably take your character out with one hit. For this reason, Bloodied builds will want to combine with Sneak and other sneaky features to remain hidden while attacking. Not only does this keep you at distance from your enemies, it affords you 2x or more bonus damage from attacking while hidden.

Brahmin Milk

One trick to maintain to a Bloodied build at just the right amount of health is Brahmin Milk. Before this consumable came along, there was no way to tweak your health in small amounts easily. This consumable is the only foodstuff in the game that not only increases health, it simultaneously removes a small amount of radiation. This means you can nudge your health up by a tiny amount while reducing rads. I believe each Brahmin Milk adds about 8 HP and removes an equivalent amount of radiation. Best of all, drinking Brahmin Milk has no chance of removing mutations from your character. This means you can combine Toxic Goo and Brahmin Milk even with characters below 30 and run a Bloodied build.

Unlike Radaway which affords a chance to remove a mutation without having a maxed Starched Genes card in place, drinking Brahmin Milk doesn’t do this. Though, without a maxed Starched Genes card, you can still gain more mutations. Here’s where wearing Unyielding armor becomes a major benefit.

Milking a Brahmin is entirely dependent on your character’s luck. With the +15 buff to luck while wearing Unyielding armor, you are guaranteed to get at least one milk every time. Typically, you’ll get 3 or more. Wearing Unyielding armor, I have occasionally received 5 milks from all 9 of the Brahmin in Flatwood… that’s 45 milks! With the additional 3 Brahmins now at the Wayward, that adds a possibility of 15 more milks for a possible total of 60. Typically, I pick up no less than 30 milks, and with Unyielding + Low Health, there’s zero chance of seeing that kicking behavior from the Brahmin, meaning you failed to milk it.

To carry this much milk around, you’ll need to have the Good with Salt perk card. This card reduces food spoilage by 90%. This means you can carry around a lot of Brahmin milk for a long time, though Toxic Goo doesn’t expire.

Perk Cards

As mentioned above, there are a number of perk cards you’ll want to consider while keeping rads high and health low.

Low Health + Unyielding:

  1. (I) Nerd Rage — While below 20% Health, gain 40 Damage Resist, 20% damage and 15% AP regen (3 star)
  2. (A) Dead Man Sprinting — Sprint 20% faster at increased AP cost when your health is below 50% (3 star)
  3. (L) Serendipity — While below 35% health, gain a 45% chance to avoid damage (3 star)
  4. (E) Lifegiver — Gain a total of +45 to your maximum Health. (4 star)
  5. (L) Last Laugh — You drop a live grenade from your inventory when you die. (1 star)
  6. (A) Evasive — Each AGI point adds +3 Damage and Energy Resist (Max 45). [No Power Armor] (3 star)

High Radiation:

  1. (E) Radicool — The greater your rads, the greater your strength! (+5 Max) (1 star)
  2. (E) Ghoulish — Radiation now regenerates even more of your lost Health! (3 star) (only somewhat effective)

More Damage:

  1. (A) Adrenaline
  2. (I) Nerd Rage
  3. (P) Rifle, (A) Pistol, (S) Melee, (S) Heavy Gun and/or (S) Shotgun damage multiplier cards
  4. (L) Better Criticals
  5. (L) Bloody Mess
  6. (I) Demolition Expert
  7. (C) Tenderizer

Damage Evasion:

  1. (E) Rad Resistant — +40 Radiation Resistance (4 star)
  2. (E) Nocturnal Fortitude — Gain +40 to Max Health between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m (2 star)
  3. (E) Ironclad — Gain 50 Damage and Energy Resistance while not wearing Power Armor (5 star)
  4. (E) Fireproof — Take 45% less damage from explosions and flame attacks (3 star)

Sneaky + Bloodied + Unyielding:

  1. (A) Sneak — You are 75% harder to detect while sneaking.
  2. (A) Covert Operative or (A) Ninja — Ranged or Melee sneak attacks do 2.5x normal damage (3 star)
  3. With Unyielding, take advantage of ALL luck cards to gain better chances to repair armor, weapons, better VATS chances and better critical damage. Too many Luck cards to list here, but take advantage when wearing Unyielding.

Cards and Armor to avoid:

  1. (A) Born Survivor — Falling below 40% health will automatically use a Stimpak, once every 20s. (wastes Stimpaks)
  2. (E) Sun Kissed — Slowly / Quickly regen radiation damage between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (ensure teammates DO NOT share this one).
  3. (Legendary Perk Card) What Rads? — X Rad Resist, restore X Rads per second. (like Sunkissed, avoid)
  4. (Legendary Armor) Life Saving armor — This armor, like its sister card Born Survivor above, wastes Stimpaks.

Other Legendary Effects

Another legendary weapon effect that’s extremely useful in low health situations is Vampire’s. This legendary effect gains a brief amount of health regeneration per bullet. This effect is particularly pronounced with high fire rate weapons.

Weapons such as the Minigun, Gatling Laser, Gatling Gun and most other automatic weapons work exceedingly well with Vampire’s. It also works reasonably well with fast melee weapons, such as small knives and a Vampire’s Mr. Handy Buzz Blade. The best weapons, however, for the Vampire’s effect are shotguns. Because shotguns spew out up to 30 pieces of shot at a time, each piece of shot offers a regeneration effect, with up to 30 pieces acting like consuming a Stimpak. With a high fire rate shotgun, you can maintain your health even while being struck by gun fire or by melee attacks even from larger creatures like the Mirelurk Queen’s acid spray. Some consider these high fire rate Vampire’s weapons god mode weapons. However, you have to be cautious because while it does keep your health high, you can still be staggered which can then open you up to attacks.

Nuke Zones and High Radiation Areas

If you’re in a Nuke Zone, you’ll need to wear Starched Genes at max level and wear some form of high radiation resist armor (Chinese, HazMat, Power Armor or Diving Suit). If you don’t rely on Speed Demon (see bugs below), you can wear Power Armor. However, you’ll want to drink a radaway to keep your rads at a lower level, but also leave your health low. Don’t drink food or take stimpaks, though. Eating or drinking any HP increasing foods, will halt your bloodied build. If you lose any health, drink water only. This will increase health by only a little and allow you to maintain a Bloodied build. Also, remove any cards like Dromedary, Good Doggy and Slow Metabolizer that yield more HP for food eaten while in a radiation zone.

Putting It All Together

Toxic Goo increases radiation by +125 for each vial consumed. Each Brahmin milk decreases radiation and increases health by about 8. These two together allow you to maintain your character’s health just below 60. You can keep it lower than this if you prefer, but this combination of foodstuffs is the only way I’ve found to achieve and maintain consistently high rads and low health at a specific level.

Weapons that boost your abilities at this low health include Vampire’s and, of course, Bloodied. Armor like Unyielding and Bolstering enhance the Bloodied build to allow this build to be maintained without constantly dying, particularly in combination with the above listed perk cards and properly configured legendary armor.

Finally, a low health Bloodied build works best with a sneaky sniper build which doubles the damage level of the weapon and maintains a distance from the enemy.

Bugs

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning various bugs in Fallout 76 when maintaining a Bloodied build.

  1. When your character falls in battle and respawns, your character’s health resets to a default value of between 70 and 80 HP. This is frustrating if you’re trying to keep your health at or below 60. The game forces this reset upon respawn… which leads to the next bug…
  2. Toxic Goo fails to work for approximately 1 to 3 minutes after respawning or logging into a server. This means that if you were in a heated battle and you want to get back to it quickly, you can’t lower your health until Toxic Goo begins working. This can be particularly problematic if your character has become overencumbered as a result of respawning with higher HP when combined with losing strength buffs from wearing Unyielding armor.
  3. Some world servers load your character in with HP and Rads different (and higher) from how you last logged out. This is similar to bug #1 above. You may need to wait for Toxic Goo to work to apply the +125 rads to lower your health and begin playing.
  4. While not exactly related to this build, it can affect your Bloodied build. Many players rely on the Speed Demon mutation to increase reload speed and to run faster. Wearing Power Armor breaks this mutation. If you enter any Power Armor set, Speed Demon stops working while in it and for a time after exiting. The game will eventually correct itself after a couple of fast travels. The takeaway is, don’t use Power Armor if you rely on Speed Demon for faster weapon reloads. Instead, opt for the Cave Diving suit, Chinese Armor or a HazMat suit to avoid radiation damage in nuke zones and avoid broken mutations… and rely on being a sneaky sniper to remain far away from enemies and still do maximum damage.

One workaround for a broken health situation when combined with the Toxic Goo failure is to drink Brahmin Milk first. This can force a change to HP and rads and sometimes allows the Toxic Goo to begin working faster. Sometimes this workaround doesn’t work. Dirty water may also work. Carrying around dirty water isn’t as optimal for this purpose as Toxic Goo, but it may avoid the Toxic Goo failure-to-work after respawn bug, but it also means carrying and drinking a crap ton of Dirty Water to match the 125 rads you get from drinking one Toxic Goo.

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Remembering the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas

Posted in amusements, entertainment by commorancy on November 9, 2019

las-vegas-sign.jpgBack in the late 90s and into the early 00s, the Las Vegas Hilton had a Star Trek attraction called The Star Trek Experience. This attraction morphed some over the years and added new features, but its first attraction remained its most impressive. It closed in 2008. Let’s explore and remember this amazing attraction.

Star Trek at the Las Vegas Hilton

The Las Vegas Hilton was a casino and hotel not far off the strip at the south end. Down at this end of the strip and at the time you’d find hotels like the Stratosphere, the Sahara and Circus Circus. Though the Las Vegas Hilton wasn’t on the strip directly, it was not far off of it across from the Las Vegas Convention center.

To combat its off-the-strip location, it employed various marketing practices to entice would-be gamblers to head to this hotel and casino. In that effort, in 1997, it enticed Paramount to build its Star Trek Experience attraction at the hotel where it remained in operation until 2008. I actually liked this casino, not strictly because of its Star Trek area. Today, this hotel is no longer named the Las Vegas Hilton and the Star Trek Experience no longer operates there having lost its lease. The hotel was later briefly renamed the LVH and is today known as the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino and received this rename in 2014. It no longer bears the Hilton name.

However, back in the early 2000s, The Star Trek Experience was something to behold.

Star Trek Experience

This experience was like none other that I’ve visited. When you first entered the hotel where the attraction lived, the Star Trek Experience was to the left. The hotel was to the right. There was also a bar to the immediate right. In fact, the entire casino portion of the hotel around the entry way was entirely space and futuristic themed. This included everything from the carpeting, to the beams to the lighting and even the slot machines had a futuristic theme. The Hilton did up this area right and it entirely looked appropriate with its space theme.

As you entered the Star Trek Experience, the entry way consisted of basically a museum of Star Trek props, video screens running, large starships were suspended from the ceiling, including the Enterprise. As you made your way into the area, you came upon a desk. This is where you bought tickets to enter the show. When it was just the Star Trek Experience alone, you had two ticket choices: the museum alone or the museum and the experience together.

Whichever ticket you bought gave you admission to mill around the museum and look at the props and use the interactive exhibits. The museum encompassed mostly the entry way and ran up into the upper level. The Star Trek Experience had two levels. The upper level, which the museum had ramps and/or stairs to lead you to the queue line. The downstairs included various gift shops and Quark’s restaurant and bar. We’ll talk about the downstairs a bit later.

In the museum, one of the interactive exhibits was a pseudo functional replicator. Of course, it didn’t replicate anything, but the screen in the well area simulated the replication of food and drink items. It was interesting, but it was also a little bit cheesy in quality… as were many of the interactive exhibits. They really weren’t cutting edge when this museum was in operation. The museum portion of the Star Trek Experience wasn’t really the reason to go there. In fact, I found the museum portion to be of such average quality that it kind of set off warning bells that the actual experience itself might not fare much better (at least when you’re a first timer). In this case, it is very much a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover situation. The Star Trek Experience show part was well worth every cent of that ticket price… at least to me. The museum, on the other hand, was a rip-off that I wish that I could have skipped. Unfortunately, you were locked into buying both with one ticket if you wanted admission to the “show”. To me, it was just a way to boost the ticket admission price.

The Experience Itself

After you made your way to the back of the museum, there was a queue line where you would queue up for the next show. The shows ran about every 15 minutes or so. This meant you could stand in line for up to 15 minutes for the next show, assuming you were in line at less than the number they admit per show. The show itself could only house maybe 15-20 people. I don’t recall the exact number, but once they counted enough heads into the show, the line closed off to wait for the next show.

I visited the show maybe 3 or 4 times while it was open over the years and I think I had to wait one time for the next show because of the head count situation. If you had intended to visit the show at certain times of the day or on certain days, you could encounter larger crowds. If you went on some weekdays, you could breeze through the line into the next show.

All the while you’re standing in line, there are TV displays talking about various Star Trek stuff, sometimes showing excerpts from the TV show or the movies. As you move to the head of the line, there’s a monitor that talks about the safety requirements of the show itself. The museum extended down the queue line hallway which housed props and costumes from characters such as Lursa and B’ator and various Spock outfits from the then recent movies. While the museum portion was interesting enough for the first time visitor, it was simply wallpaper on subsequent visits. It wasn’t even very impressive. I can’t recall the museum updating its contents or remodeling during the entire run of The Star Trek Experience. I could be wrong about that, but that was entirely my impression of the museum area. I personally would have been just as happy to skip the museum cost entirely and jump right into line.

Once you were let into the Experience, you were led down the hall into a small blue room with an interesting lighting concept. You were asked to stand on a line. I believe there were 5 yellow stripes down the center of this rectangular blue room. This meant there would be 5 groups of people each standing on a line. Everyone was situated so that you were standing in the center of the room not touching any of the walls. If you inadvertently leaned on a wall or were touching it, one of the staff would loudly request not to do this.

Once everyone was situated on their line, we were directed to look up and forward to a screen which ran a video that began the entire Experience. Mostly, it discussed safety protocols and not leaning against walls and blah, blah, blah. It was a mostly cheesy video that really was nothing more than what the staff had already told us about standing on the lines. In the middle of the video, the lights begin to flash and there’s a bunch of audio noise as if the power is going out and the whole room plunges into darkness. And… pitch black it was. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. There was no light anywhere.

Suddenly, there’s a huge whoosh of air flow all around. It wasn’t gale force or anything, but it was a startling cold breeze that didn’t seem to come from any specific direction. Then, the floor and ceiling lights come on and… we’re now standing in the center of a transporter room. A literal round, brownish transporter room. The circular room with a circular ceiling, light in the center and all of the paint job of a Next Generation transporter room. It was uncanny. Gone was that small blue room with its yellow lines and in its place was an honest-to-goodness transporter room.

The effect was uncanny and astounding. It was the single thing that made the entire Star Trek Experience worth its price tag. I could have walked out of the Star Trek Experience right at that point and I would have felt satisfied.

But no, the show had only just begun. Two people dressed in Next Generation jumpsuits walk in and one explains that we were transported and intercepted on the Enterprise. The show proceeds on the premise that one in the crowd is related to someone on the Enterprise and that gave the whole show its “story”. As we are led from the transporter room, we are led onto the bridge. This is where the whole story derails a bit. Randoms transporting onto the Enterprise are not likely to be lead to the bridge due to the possibility of takeovers. That’s a breach of protocol. Instead, we likely would have been led to a cargo bay large enough for a crowd of our size or perhaps some place like Ten Forward. I digress.

Anyway, we are led to the bridge… and, a marvel that bridge was. This TNG Enterprise bridge set reconstruction was amazing and entirely spot on. From the wooden arch in the back to the seating just below to the helm control seats in front of the screen. The lighting was spot on, the paneling, the paint job, the leather on the seats… everything was as spot on as I could have ever imagined. It was simply an amazing bridge replica.

Because the story needs to progress, we are again lined up either around the back of the bridge or around areas where the ‘actors’ could do their thing without obstructions. The view screen begins showing a ‘transmission’ about the “heir” being transported aboard for safety and a bunch of blathering ensues between the screen and the actors. The hired actors ranged from decent to downright bad. It all depended on the show. Most of the ‘actors’ were hired due to their height and weight proportions… not so much for their acting abilities. I can guarantee you every single person wearing those TNG jumpsuits looked immaculate in them. They could have easily been an extra in any TNG episode. Everything about this part of the show was high quality. From the costumes to the communicator on their outfits to the pips. Everything was nailed perfectly. In fact, it was so perfectly designed, the show could have used one of these bridges in a pinch had they needed to film there.

The concept of the show itself was really its weak point. The story was designed to enthrall the audience, having them become active (sort of) and unwitting participants. It worked to rope the audience in, but the story was just not that great… and the next part bears this out.

As the whole bridge scene ends, we are led out of the bridge into a oversized turbolift. Once we’re suitably situated into the “turbolift”, the whole thing rocks a bit, the lights flash, there’s some sound and an announcement during the commotion and then it all subsides and the door opens. Not a terribly convincing effect here, admittedly. We’re told while all of the commotion ensues that something is firing upon the Enterprise. At this point, this is where the magic kind of dwindles a bit. As we’re led out of the turbolift, we walk down a hallway that looks more like a hallway on DS9 than the Enterprise and then into an open area, presumably a Shuttle Bay where there’s a shuttle craft parked waiting with the door open. There are also visible EXIT signs along the walk which completely break the magic and which were presumably required by law. As I said, the magic kind of ends here. The shuttle bay area wasn’t that well designed and the shuttle interior looks like a cheesy motion simulator, which it in fact is.

At this point and once we’re in the motion simulator, the “experience” concludes with a ride in a movie based motion simulator that sways, rocks and jerks in time to a movie. The difficulty with the “movie” is that I always found it to be blurry and not a great experience. It was filmed and I believe it actually used many from the TNG cast, but the overall story just wasn’t that great. Additionally, the simulator’s movements were overly herky jerky. If you were one with back or neck problems, you’d want to skip this last part of the ‘ride’ entirely. This part was extremely hard on even people with healthy backs. Again, Shuttle Crafts would have been designed with inertial dampeners and, in fact, you probably wouldn’t have felt much movement at all with the inertial dampeners operating, even when diving and banking and whatever other screen movements were going on. In reality, the entire rocking, swaying and jerking motions were entirely unnecessary and pointless. As I said, the magic dies pretty quickly once you get into this cheesy motion simulator ride.

If the show had ended on being transported back out at the end, that would have been something I could have found to be a befitting ending. At the end, when we exit the shuttle craft, we’re back on Earth and the room looks like a standard building interior. We are led to an elevator and are deposited to the gift shop and restaurant area below the attraction.

The entire show experience lasted perhaps 15 minutes all told, most of it being the movie at the end. The sets built and costumes used were all spot on. The actors were of average quality, many of them you could tell had been doing it for far too long. What I mean by this previous sentence is that when someone performs a script too frequently and constantly, the performance can suffer from being fresh or genuine. Instead, most of the actors seemed too rote even though they stayed fully in character. Though, the actors all being height and weight proportionate certainly made the costumes look all the better. There was certainly not a single overweight actor there. That didn’t excuse the rote performances.

Gift Shop and Restaurants

After the final elevator deposited us into the gift shop area on the lower floor, we were left to shop at various stores. I recall there may have been 3 or 4 different gift shops with Quark’s bar and restaurant being the primary food place there.

While I did eat at Quark’s once and the food was typical for a mid-high-priced American Bistro like TGI Friday’s or Chili’s, the reason to go there was simply for the ambiance and the unique menu. The bar itself did resemble Quark’s bar on DS9 without Dabo. Though, I think it would have been more appropriate to build Ten Forward over Quark’s. While the area downstairs was themed DS9, the shops themselves looked more like a mall shop than it resembled being on a futuristic ship. On the other hand, the wares being peddled ranged from cheap crap to middle of the road to high end props. It depended on the shop.

I didn’t buy much from these stores because nearly everything was way overpriced. Even Quark’s was overpriced for the type of food quality. As I said, the only reason to eat there was its atmosphere and its unique bar drinks. As for shopping, I always liked to look at everything in the shops, but look only, not to buy. Of all of the times I visited, I think I may have bought perhaps one or two small items.

Costumed Actors

In the shop area, you’d also find additional actors in various Star Trek dress. Some were dressed like Klingons, some dressed like Ferengi and some dressed like TNG officers, male and female.

As I understood it, the people working these “roles” were actually hired as actors by Paramount. In the Experience attraction itself, these people actually had speaking roles. Downstairs it was all free form. You asked questions and they would ad-lib answers in their character. Mostly it was for photo op purposes. I recall that you could only take pictures in the shop area, but I could be wrong about photography even in this area.

Photographs were entirely off limits throughout the attraction and the museum. Though, many did sneak pictures here and there.

Behind the Scenes

Later during the run of The Star Trek Experience (toward the end of its life), the show began offering a Behind the Scenes / “Making Of” ticket purchase. This was separate from and unique to the original show. Instead of going through the show like normal, in between the shows you would take a tour of the set behind the scenes while a show was in progress. You would get photo opportunities on the Bridge itself that you don’t get during the Experience show.

The behind the scenes also showed how the gimbal setup worked for the transporter effect. Basically, the entire blue room was on a gimbal / fulcrum of sorts utilizing creative lighting, sound and set movement. In about 10 to 15 seconds, the entire room (walls and ceiling) sans floor moved swiftly upwards. The “transporter set” round ceiling and walls quickly moved into place just below the now raised room. When the lights are brought up, it’s as though you’re now standing in the transporter room. The effect is uncanny and astounding. It’s even more astounding when you realize the engineering involved in getting this to work so seamlessly, quickly and silently. The behind the scenes showed a much slowed down version of it to show how the effect was achieved. Amazing engineering.

The gust of breeze was an unintended side effect of the room volume being raised up so rapidly. It wasn’t designed as part of the effect. When something that large moves that rapidly, air is displaced. Because the air movement heightened the transporter effect as a happy accident, no effort was employed to get rid of it. Even after knowing how the transporter effect was achieved, subsequent visits, at least for me, were just as mesmerizing. In fact, the entire transporter effect was the entire reason to visit The Star Trek Experience. The rest of it was all gravy. The transporter effect was worth the price of admission alone… which is why I wished they had utilized it twice. Once to start. Once to end it. The cheesy motion simulator was a big letdown after all that had come before.

In fact, the transporter effect and the bridge were the two most immersive and amazing portions of the attraction. Unfortunately, everything after these two segments, the immersion begins to fall apart, almost completely falling apart while being escorted to the “shuttle bay” for the final segment. As stated above, the legally mandated lighted EXIT signs were one of the biggest immersion busters, when you’re supposed to be aboard a starship in space. Yeah, that just doesn’t work.

As part of this tour, we were also taken below the motion simulator, but we had to remain there for the duration of the entire operation of the motion simulator room. This is where the lion’s share of time was spent on this “Behind the Scenes” tour. I’d say we spent at least 8 minutes down below watching the craft rock and lurch. Because of the amount if time we had there, the tour guide was able to completely explained how this motion simulator worked. It was technically impressive, but the problem I had with this motion simulator is that it made no sense in the Star Trek universe. When riding around in a shuttle craft, the inertial dampeners would have reduced the motion of the craft so much that short of an intense blast, you wouldn’t be able to feel the motion of the craft at all no matter if it banked, dived or performed any other maneuver. In fact, the motion simulator’s motion was so sudden and so violent at times, even people with perfect backs and necks could still feel out of sorts after having ridden in this simulator. Anyone with a bad back should have completely avoided this “ride”.

I completely “got” that the attraction creators felt that need to have a “ride”, but that shuttle simulator was entirely the wrong choice for continued immersion. In fact, I don’t think this attraction even needed that “ride”. A standard movie theater modeled to look like a Holodeck would have been sufficient. They could have even had a few actors move in and through the Holodeck to “act” the final movie portion.

The Borg Invasion

Around the time the Behind The Scenes tour began (maybe a little before), the Star Trek Experience introduced a new show called the Borg Invasion. This show was even more of a letdown than the final motion simulator. In this one, you enter a room and you sit in a standard movie theater type seat. A 3D movie begins playing and the only thing that happens with this is a light motion to the seat itself. The seat cushion piece also goes up and down in addition to vibration.

The experience was, in fact, so bad compared to the original Experience that I find it hard anyone could have greenlit the idea. It was an average experience that was more akin to seeing a movie in a theater than having an experience. Even when the Borg Invasion began, the original Star Trek Experience continued to operate. You could still experience the transporter effect and visit the bridge.

The Overall Experience

The best part of the Star Trek Experience was definitely the transporter effect. It was so well done and so convincing that everything else around it pales in comparison. I do wish that they had given more thought to the story line around the show. The “being an heir to Picard” (or whomever) idea was such a stretch that it felt clumsy. Though, the sets, costumes and the primary effect were top notch. Even the downstairs shop area was particularly convincing as a set inside of DS9.

I do wish the original Star Trek Experience was still in operation somewhere. The show would need to be retooled a bit and perhaps updated for Discovery, but that transporter effect still boggles the mind as to how impressive it is (or was).

If you have visited the Star Trek Experience in the past, please recall your experience below in the comments. If you formerly worked at the Star Trek Experience, I’d like to hear from you as well. Please comment below. To avoid any copyright complications with Paramount or CBS, I am avoiding the use of any Star Trek imagery in this post. Please enjoy this post without Star Trek images.

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Analyzing the bad Mass Effect 3 ending

Posted in science fiction by commorancy on April 12, 2012

So, when you next head over to Amazon, but not right now, you will find a bunch of very negative reviews of Mass Effect 3.  Apparently, there’s somewhat of a backlash going based the last 10 minutes of Mass Effect 3.  It seems, though, that most gamers including myself have found the lead up to the ending reasonably enjoyable if not overly short. As I said in my previous article on this subject, it wasn’t until the very end where it all fell apart.  So, I’m going to analyze why this ending sucked so much.  Again, spoilers ahead so stop reading now if you want to play..

My Analysis of the Backlash

When you create a multi-part game, you have to keep in mind the goal and outcome for the final character.  Players have invested substantial time into not only the story, but in building out their own character in that universe.  At the same time, the story being built needs to slowly introduce new concepts along the way so we’re not surprised at the end by something unexpected. Unexpected is what we got from Mass Effect 3.  Unfortunately too, it was the result of an Ex Deus Machina late addition to the story at the final few minutes of the game.  In fact, the character that was introduced seemed added as afterthought, but at the same time didn’t fit at all within the concept of the game.

The Citadel Entity

This character was introduced in the final 10 minutes of the game.  I’m actually fine with introducing characters, but not immortal, unkillable, omnipotent characters.  Unfortunately, this is what we got from the entity on the Citadel.  Why is this a problem?  Omnipotent characters (characters with unlimited and extraordinary powers) can almost certainly not be defeated by an ordinary human.  However, assuming that Shepard was rebuilt from both machine and man, he might have been able to overcome his human side and fulfill that destiny.  Unfortunately, though, the game designers also decided to make this character as a spirit and immortal.  How do we know he’s immortal?  He clearly explains that he has gone through this cycle multiple times in the galaxy.  That is, wiping organics out and letting them flourish back.  How do we know he’s omnipotent?  He also admitted that he’s the one who builds the reapers… from humans! Basically, he subjugates the humans into becoming reapers to do his bidding. So, unless there’s a reaper factory out there turning humans into reapers, he’s got some severely fantastical powers.

The entity also states he’s living ‘in’ the Citadel, for whatever that means.  There’s nothing that says he can’t live somewhere else, though.  So, even if the Citadel structure may be destroyed, that doesn’t mean the entity will be destroyed also.

The Real Enemy

Actually, this wasn’t even discussed and should have been.  Once Shepard reaches the Citadel and begins getting the full story from the entity, it should have been clear as glass.  The reaper threat paled next to the threat that this entity poses.  If this entity is truly at the bottom of the whole reaper invasion and if he can make them at will and do it time and time again throughout eons, then nothing that Shepard can do with the Crucible will have any effect on that entity. Basically, killing the reapers was completely and utterly futile.  The entity can wait an infinite amount of time to start his task over again.  He simply needs to wait past everyone who remembers the Shepard era, rebuild the reapers (perhaps even ironically out of Shepard, Chakwas and other crew members) and have these new reapers start the cycle over.

That the writers completely failed to see the danger that this entity poses and, worse that they failed to let Shepard recognize it is a serious lack of judgement.  Any person who is military trained would have clearly spotted the danger that this entity poses, specifically after hearing this entity’s explanation.  Of course, if this entity is truly omnipotent, he could have been playing with Shepard’s mind and making him believe and do as he wished.  So, Shepard may not have been able to control his own actions against this entity.  And that’s the number one problem with using an immortal omnipotent being in any story.

This is a total cop-out method for story closure.  It means that the writers did not have enough confidence in their own abilities to write a satisfying conclusion and instead had to rely on a ‘trick’ to pull off the end.  That ‘trick’ cost them their review status on Amazon and severely damaged this franchise’s reputation, probably permanently.  EA/Bioware will be lucky if they can salvage this franchise for any use after this.

Can this be fixed?

That’s debatable.  Possibly.  However, it will take the writers to venture again into Ex Deus Machina territory to explain off the previous ending as nothing more than a mirage, illusion, dream sequence or other type of fantasy.  The one way I can even hope to see it work at all is by using the time when Shepard goes unconscious just after the ground reaper attack, but before he crawls to the portal.  That’s the time right before meeting the omnipotent immortal entity.  This could be explained off as simply as Shepard was fished from the surface of the planet in a coma and allowed to wake up.  Basically, the entire ending was simply a coma dream.  He simply fantasized it all because he wanted it to be over.

This would allow three things.  One, it will completely get rid of the immortal omnipotent entity from the story line (a totally unnecessary Ex Deus Machina character introduced way too late and without any previous setup).  Two, it allows the writers to completely regroup and come up with an actual ending that works.  It also allows EA/Bioware to continue this entire story into Mass Effect 4.  Three, even though using a ‘dream sequence’ is about as Ex Deus Machina as you can get, it does fit with ME3’s setup just enough that it could work.  The entire game kept revolving around Shepard’s dreams of chasing a boy.  So, the boy omnipotent entity could have simply been an extension of those dreams during his coma.

The trouble is, you can’t do this setup in ME3 at all.  It has to be done in ME4.  So, this will leave the fans hanging on this bad ending quite for some time before ME4 comes into existence. So, the problem is solved and Mass Effect 4 can continue.  But, how to undo the reputation issues quickly?  EA/Bioware will need to leak details of ME4 very very soon. Specifically, a video trailer to YouTube that shows Shepard waking up from his Coma, then some short dialog about what happened and an even shorter explanation that he never made it into the Citadel that gets immediately cut off by an explosion rocking the Normandy and off to work they go.

Of course, the reapers still need to be stopped as the relays are still active.  This could also lead into a very active opening for Mass Effect 4 and would allow Shepard to jump immediately into action to stop the heavy reaper invasion already in play.  So, he can’t remain in a coma very long or the Galaxy would be consumed by the huge reaper attack. They’ll need Chakwas to find a way to snap him out of it really fast. Note that this also means that the Elusive Man is still alive.

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Mass Effect 3: Stunning Graphics, Disappointing Story

Posted in video game, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on March 19, 2012

I’ve played all three of the Mass Effect games from start to finish.  I just finished Mass Effect 3 and I’d have to say I’m quite a bit disappointed by the conclusion of this trilogy.  Note, spoilers ahead so stop reading now if you haven’t played this game yet.

Story Inconsistencies Abound

So, Shepard is off saving the Galaxy at the Citadel and about to pull the kill switch on the Crucible and where is the Normandy?  Careening through Mass Effect hyperspace heading some place random.  Ok, so this part makes no sense at all.  Why would the Normandy be galavanting around the Galaxy at the most important time of all…. when the Crucible is being activated?  It makes absolutely no sense.  Not to mention, Shepard is the commander of that vessel.  So, why would it be off running around on its own without Shepard, anyway?  The Normandy should be right there front and center to see the fireworks display, not off running around in Mass Effect Hyperspace.  I shake my head at whomever thought that story line up.  Yes, I realize that Shepard’s team was overrun by a Reaper.  But, Shepard has seen worse odds then that. Why would the Normandy suddenly decide to split?  So now, Joker and Cortez exit the Normandy and the rest of the crew, who mysteriously do not exit the crashed Normandy, end up on some random planet stuck there without any way home.

Disappointing ending

There are two paths at the end for Shepard.  Unfortunately, neither of them are particularly pleasant endings for him.  However, once Shepard chooses one of two paths, the endings are pretty similar in his final outcome.  Humanity, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily spared either way.  The Reapers are gone for the moment, but they could still come back again based on the ‘entity’ who lives in the Citadel.  But now, the Mass Effect relays are destroyed either way when the Crucible is activated.  Without the Mass Effect relays, there is no way to fast travel anywhere in that universe.

Unfortunately, the two paths are way too convenient and similar in outcome.  Why isn’t there a non-action path or other paths?  Seriously, why does Shepard have to choose one of two paths?  He could simply walk away and let the Reapers do their deeds or find another way.   Clearly, he hadn’t gotten that far into it to just walk away, but why isn’t there more than two options?  Further, why is it that Shepard has to die anyway?  Although, we don’t know specifically that he’s dead, it strongly implies as much.  Once the ending cinematic ceases, it cuts to every place other than the Citadel.  So, we really don’t know what became of the Citadel.

Rescuing Shepard?

Getting back to the Normandy issue, this raises another concern.  Shepard’s love interest that is fostered during the game, why doesn’t this person stay and try to rescue Shepard?  In fact, why isn’t that person even there.  Seriously, a love interest that just leaves and goes somewhere else?  The Normandy and its rescue shuttles should have been there as soon as Shepard pulled the trigger and, at the last minute, fished him off of the Citadel platform.  In fact, the shuttle itself could have triggered what was necessary (at least for one of the endings).

Plot holes abound here too.  If Shepard is to be the ‘savior’ of the Galaxy, there would have been prophecies foretold in at least one alien culture.  Specifically, I’d bet on the Asari.  But, no prophecies existed.  In fact, they should have.  In fact, Shepard should have been roped into a meeting with a seer of some kind who would give him ‘bad news’ about his ending, but also given hope that he has a choice.

Elusive Man

Another issue that just pokes at me for inconsistency, the Elusive Man’s sudden appearance on the Citadel + Crucible when Shepard is trying to find the controls to open the Citadel for the Crucible. He has never appeared in person at any part of the game other than in his round control room.  Granted, Shepard and enemies make short work of that room leaving it as a disaster.  But, he should have other bases.  Also, what’s with all the black all over the Elusive Man’s face?  I get the distinct impression that the Elusive Man on the Citadel was not, in fact, the Elusive Man.  I believe it was either a carefully crafted AI Robot or a remote controlled clone of the Elusive Man.

Game Play Changes

With this game, the game is about 50% gameplay and 50% cinematics.  Bioware/EA has also opted to add a ‘cinematic’ play mode which, I personally believe, ruined the whole gaming experience in all modes.  Worse, the whole army readiness thing is a severe joke.  You spend a ton of time trying to find ‘war assets’ and at the end it doesn’t appear to make any difference.  I was at least expecting some kind of tactics simulation like Dune or Halo Wars.  So, you could pick troops and make them go after Reapers to see how effective they would be.  Didn’t happen.  In fact, that whole part of the game was, as far as I can tell, a total waste of time.  This game leaned so much toward cinema, I’d barely call it a shooter and it’s definitely not an RPG.  Yes, Bioware left the leveling up and powers in there, but there was so little to do with them.

The Crucible is the only way?

So this device, thing, gadget, just didn’t really work for me.  I mean, there have to be other means at destroying the Reapers than the Crucible.  Sure, the Crucible is definitely one option that Shepard (and troops) should consider, but there should have been at least two or three other options available like some other super weapons discovered in a remote planet.  In fact, there should have been scientists out there devising a means to kill the Reapers through a virus, bad code or even the Geth.  In fact, depending on which fleets you end up having as allies, the method of Reaper destruction should change based on those fleets.  The tactics and methods of destruction should also be available.  This is supposed to be an RPG, so let’s treat it as one.  Alas, didn’t happen.

Best Part of this Game

Basically, you play it for the eye candy.  The characters look amazing.  The environments and lighting are perfect.  The player movements from motion capture, outstanding.  The voice acting, the backstory of the characters and the sheer character interaction is perfect. The music fits very well and works quite well in the game.  When you do get gunfire gameplay, it’s trivially easy, but it is quite fun.  However, there’s just simply not enough of it.  The questing part of the game, of which there’s far too little if this is supposed to be an RPG, is also fun. Don’t go into this game expecting an outstanding storyline.  That’s not where this game shines.  This game shines in how the gameplay unfolds.  Mostly, the interactions between the crew and Shepard is where this game shines and is the most satisfying parts of this game.

Ending

The ending of this game was a complete disappointment on so many levels.  For me, the ending completely ruined the fun I was having with exploring the Milky Way, the Citadel and various other worlds.  The impending threat is always there, but you can safely ignore it until you get to the end. Leave it to EA to mess this one up. The gameplay is, well, what game play?  You’re sitting there watching a cinematic unfold at the end.  That’s it.  No bosses, no battles, nothing.  Just watching a movie.  I didn’t buy this game to watch a movie.  I realize cinematics are a big part of games today, but that was just too much.  On top of that, the story (based on the above) just makes little sense.

Shepard is either dead, consumed or heavily incapacitated.  The Mass Effect Relays are completely destroyed throughout the galaxy (choosing either path) and the Normandy is inexplicably stranded on some random world somewhere remote. Worse, once the deed is done, all you see is some text that says ‘Shepard is now regarded as a hero’.  Wait, what?  Seriously?  You can’t even show a celebration from the troops, a commendation animation, a memorial service, a world rebuilding animation or even a news clip from the news anchor who was on board the Normandy nearly all of the time?  Clearly, the ending was rushed and the game’s story wasn’t that well thought out.  There are way too many loose ends here to call this a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy.  I hope they are planning for Mass Effect 4 because this ending leaves me saying, “huh?” and desiring a whole lot more fitting conclusion to Shepard’s life and celebration of his life.

Oh, and what’s with the severely bad voice acting of the father and son storytelling clip at the end?  Is that supposed to suggest that the whole thing was made up by some guy just to amuse his son?  Seriously?

Randosity Related Article: Analysis of Mass Effect 3’s Ending

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