Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

So I’m done. For now.

Posted by joeabbott on January 8, 2011

I like the game Fallout3 and it’s progeny. I like it a lot. But, it’s not the best example of how to spend my days, and yet, over the last two months, I’ve logged almost 200 hours playing this game.

On 12\22 I completed the game and in this post, I detailed what it means to have completed it. And yet, there was so much undone. I hadn’t heard the complete backstories to my followers, I never visited Bitter Springs, Camp Forlorn Hope was nearly untouched, and I wasn’t close to finding all the skill books. And yet, I called it done, as much to be free of the allure of playing as because I’d completed all the unique endings. And it felt good to be done.

But a funny thing happened on the way to completion.

That is, DLC was made available for the game. Now DLC stands for DownLoad Content and represents additional missions\quests, more stories, and extended gameplay. In the case of Fallout: New Vegas, the DLC was named Dead Money and was released on 12/21.

Well, I owned the DLC the day it was released but held out until the day after Christmas to crack it open. And over two glorious holiday days of playing, I completed the DLC and that sparked my quest to complete the final two achievements for New Vegas: Desert Survivalist and Hardcore.

Desert Survivalist: Healed 10,000 points of damage with food.

imageimageDesert Survivalist turned out to be easier than I’d thought.

When I started out I thought I needed to get damaged for 10,000 points (over the course of many battles … my overall health was somewhere in the mid-200 HPs) and then heal those points by eating food. And in the game, the most common foods would give you roughly 100 points of health. Well that’s a lotta chowing down!

Then things changed … my brother-in-law Steve, who is also playing the game, showed me a thing or two!

The thing he showed me was that you could track the amount of health you’d taken against the Desert Survivalist in your Pip-Boy.

Your Pip-Boy is the in-game wrist-worn device that allows you to manage your health, inventory, and general game data. It was within the game data that I was shown you could track the specific amount of health gained. And so I tracked it indeed.

imageAfter each nut and berry I consumed I’d watch my health grow and I started to find and hoard food. Then I was attacked by some Fire Geckos or something.

I shrieked, I wailed, I finally killed the things and then I ate my food. I ate a lot of food. In fact, I ate ALL my food. And, after my health was restored and my character safe (and my game save made), I realized that I had gained something like 800 points of food health … but my character only had something like 240 HPs max. And so, how did I gain 800 points of health? Was I just not watching closely enough?

And so my quest was on: find all the food I could find and then, in the quiet of the game, after I had a bit of damage … no more than a few dozen points off … consume every last morsel I was carrying.

Sure enough, the points I gained toward the Desert Survivalist achievement was incremented not by how much health I regained, but by how much the food eaten would have healed!

And so the game was afoot: farm the community for food and, any time I was hurt, eat every last bit I was carrying. And it worked. Within a short bit of time, I was able to claim the Desert Survivalist achievement and get on with the game!

I’m not sure I should feel “bad” about this or not, but I don’t. Exploiting a game’s weakness is part of the fun I have. I was having a hard time killing off the final Boss in the game and asked Steve how he did it. Simple: fall off the ledge you’re on when he’s attacking and you land on a spot too low for him to hit you from above, and can’t reach you from below. The Boss uses a melee weapon so you just have to sit there and snipe at him until he falls over. Ta-da!

I loved it. And, in that vein, I approached my last Fallout: New Vegas achievement … complete that game on Hardcore Mode.

Hardcore: Played the game from start to finish in Hardcore Mode.

imageHardcore mode, like Desert Survivalist, also turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be for a couple of reasons.

First, I‘d decided that I would play the least amount of the game that I could and still complete the game: a straight path from waking up after being shot in the head in Good Springs, to destroying the Legion and sending the NCR packing just outside the Hoover Dam. It was harder than it sounds.

Harder to walk just that path, that is.

Like I said, I like this game and the many side quests, stories, and playability of the game would often pull me in and send me looking around the RepConn facility, clearing out homesteads and caves, and helping out factions like the Brotherhood of Steel. Did I need to? Nope … it’s just fun.

Second, I leveraged an exploit.

imageIf the wording sounds tricky you could simplify it by replacing “leveraged an exploit” to say “cheated”.

Yup, went out of my way, I actually worked at it, to get the game to give me more points than it should.

imageYou see, there’s a place in the game where you can make a selection and get 500 XP. Which is 500 eXperience Points and is a lot. The trick is, in this one place at this one time, you can make that selection as many times as you’d like and continue to get 500 after 500 XP. You can get 500 XP all night … or at least until your character has maxed out his\her experience to Level 30. Which I did.

And, to be honest, I didn’t just happen upon this: I predicated my play-through on it. From the very beginning I got my character strong enough to live through the trials of getting to Vault 11, I slipped in, and I tried my hand at the exploit. I then stopped the game, cleared my Xbox cache, removed it from the Internet, entered the game, and then “leveraged the exploit”.

This time it worked (I had to clear that cache because the game engineers had already patched it by the time I gave it a try). I cheated the cheat.

And when I was done, I had went from a Level 8 character to a Level30 character with all the advantages that entails. Once done, I slipped on a stealth boy (a device that renders your character invisible), snuck past the guardians I’d avoided on the way in … in Hardcore Mode, even at Level 30, I was still no match for these robots … and I made my way into the Wasteland and to a game save.

Glorious. The only thing left was to get to New Vegas and complete the minimal steps to completing the game.

imageThe pains that accompany Hardcore Mode are that you now suffer deprivations from sleep, hydration, and food. That is, if you don’t rest your character, have them drink regularly, and eat food, you’ll find you’re compromised to the point of death. I never got close. If you just carry food and water, you’re set. There are also a couple of food stuffs which will help offset the affects of lack of sleep … if you can‘t find a safe place to lay yourself down for the night (enjoy a caffeinated Nuka Cola!).

Additionally, your followers (you can choose up to two companions from a list of 6 or 7) can die. In other modes, they just get “knocked out” and will revive after a battle if they lose all their HPs. In Hardcore when they lose their health, they are removed from the game.

I avoided that problem entirely by not taking on a follower. While they were a great addition to the game, I was never able to strategically use my followers on the earlier play-through and didn’t trust them to “behave” in Hardcore Mode. So, I just didn’t take any.

And so, in the end, I got my last two achievements, albeit by dubious means, and yet I enjoyed the gameplay thoroughly.

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