Bully: Update!

Yes! I did it! All achievements! I scored 100% on Bully: Scholarship Edition.

Since there are literally dozens and dozens of comments about the difficulty of scoring 100% in Bully, let me jot down my observations.

First, I had gone over the check lists so many times. I did all the mowing. I bought all the clothing and also earned the gold suit. I triple-checked to make sure I did all the bike races and go-kart races. I was still stuck at 99.94%.

Second, I never got the black cowboy hat. I still don’t have it. And I have 100%. So, for the sake of the Xbox 360 version, it can’t be a requirement as many people are reporting. Is it possible that it gives you points toward completion? Sure! But I also think it’s likely that there is some leeway. Maybe the game allows for 102 or 103%. In other words, you can get the black cowboy hat and hit 100%. Or you can skip it and hit 100%.

Third, the difficulty for me hitting 100% was that I stopped getting errands. All through the game, I was inundated with them. Then when I needed them they dried up. People wrote that you needed to hard reboot the Xbox 360 but nothing ever happened for me when I did that despite numerous attempts.

Then I spotted a post suggesting that clearing the cache would help and — lo-and-behold — after clearing the cache I immediately received 8 new errands! I had only completed 31 but I am now at 39.

This makes me wonder about the people who had success with hard booting. I bet it’s more likely that they gave up on Bully, played other games, and then returned to Bully — because, I believe, the Xbox only retains the last three played games in the cache. At least, with the original Xbox, that was the case since the way to clear the cache was to pop in three other games and then return to the original game.

So is that how you clear the cache on the 360? Maybe, but there’s an easier way. I found it here. But if you are averse to clicking on links here’s the process: on the dashboard, go to your Xbox, then go to the settings. Follow that up by clicking on the memory section. Highlight your HD, and then key in the following sequence: Y, X, X, LB, RB, X, X. You’ll see a prompt asking if you want maintenance performed on your HD. Say yes and it clears your cache. Note: it also wipes out all of your game patches (the latter point makes me think this is the reason the code is “secret”). But I don’t think that’s too major since patching on the Xbox is effortless.

After performing maintenance, I fired up the game, re-patched at the prompt, and then traveled from my save at the comic shop to the greaser hangout. Christie asked me to walk her to the motel in the greaser neighborhood. As soon as we arrived, I completed my 32nd errand and — received my achievement for 100%. Yes! Wish I had figured that out a few days ago, but hopefully this information will help others who are struggling with achieving 100%.

Bully: 99.94% Complete

[Update! I hit 100%!]

I beat Bully a few days back but I’ve been toiling toward grabbing every achievement and hitting 100% — something I rarely do. Unfortunately, tonight I hit 99.94% complete and can’t figure out a way to hit 100%. And trust me, I’ve read countless articles on the web about how to hit 100%.

  • Rubber Bands — I have every one according to the in-game stats.
  • G&G Cards — Ditto.
  • Gnomes — Ditto.
  • Complete all 14 Bike Races — I’ve tried re-doing all the final races to no avail.
  • Complete at least 30 errands — I have 31 and no more are showing. Apparently, this is bugged. No amount of rebooting the Xbox matters.
  • Complete all 6 levels of Lawn Mowing — Yes, multiple times, plus I did all the detention lawns and got the prison outfit. The prison outfit did not bump up my percentage.
  • Complete all Paper Route levels – Yep. Multiple times.
  • Side task Boxing — Multiple times.
  • Ride all 3 Carnival rides — Yep.
  • Win at all 4 Carnival games at least once — And yep.
  • Beat Penalty Shots once — And yep.
  • Beat Keep Ups once — And yep.
  • Complete all 5 levels of all classes — Definitely.
  • Get high score in Consumo, Nut Shots and Monkey Fling arcade games — Did this, too.
  • Buy all clothing in the game — I have 333 articles of clothing. Oddly, I read that the two-soda hat did nothing but it incremented my percentage a few tenths.
  • Buy 100 sodas — Obviously (since I mentioned I have the soda hat).
  • Smash all Pumpkins from Halloween — Yep.
  • Smash all Tombstones from Halloween — And yep.
  • Pull 20 fire alarms — Easy.
  • Travel 100 km on a bike — And then some.
  • RUN at least 41.8 km — Ditto.
  • Fail any three classes — And have the Dunce hat to prove it.
  • Take all Yearbook photos — Yep.
  • Win at least the first Go Kart race — And yep, multiple times.
  • Beat up the hidden secret pirate — And I have the pirate hat to prove it.

What’s left? I got nothing. The only thing I can see is that there’s supposed to be a hobo who gives you a black cowboy hat, and that gets you to 100%. I have a brown cowboy hat but no black cowboy hat. I went to the location and waited around for days (literally) and he didn’t show. I tried re-loading from a save at the comic shop many times and that didn’t help. Blah! So close to every achievement, and yet so far.

Achievements

“I am a die-hard believer that if you finish a single-player game on Xbox 360, on normal settings, you should get something like 600 achievement points,” he said. “It irritates me to death when I get 120 points after finishing a 20-hour game on normal because I didn’t headshot 250 people through the eye.” [gamasutra.com]

I have had a few different conversations about this. I tend to agree that a number of achievements should come about as you progress through the game – and many developers agree. But I’ve also heard the argument that achievements imply a heroic accomplishment and most of them should be more rare to come by – and there are a lot of developers who follow that strategy as well. GTA IV, I think, is a decet example of the latter. Fable 2 is a good example of the former.

Thoughts?

PS The linked article talks about more than just achievements. It’s a good read.

Unified Console?

BioWare’s Dr. Ray Muzyka (my old boss! :)) recently made a comment talking about the future possibility of a single gaming platform. At the BioWare forums, someone shared this Ars Technica article which equates that possibility to a likely monopoly. Most of the forum responses were in agreement. I don’t agree with the concerns and I’m going to share my (slightly edited) response here:

(today’s post: 350 words)

Standards aren’t necessarily bad or representative of monopoly.

We already have DVD standards. It doesn’t mean that one company is creating all the DVD standards, DVDs, and DVD players. It means all the big hardware companies came up with one standard that they can all work with. People can still buy a Toshiba DVD player or a Sony DVD player. They can still buy Warner DVDs or Newline DVDs. Companies don’t need to support alternative formats. Life is easier.

And while it could be argued that competing formats benefit the consumer, I didn’t see much of that with HD versus Blu-Ray. All I saw were confused people not buying either, worrying that they supported the wrong format, or supporting both formats at greater expense.

Likewise…

If there were one standard for games, then Nintendo and EA could make games to spec. Sony and Microsoft could make their own versions of a standards-playing console. Computer makers could tag higher-end PCs specifically for game playing and brand them as such – like “Vista capable” (yeah, yeah – the lack of a standard *there* is not the point).

Things can go on as they are. And we consumers can go on paying $200 for an Xbox, $250 for a Wii, $1000-$2000 for a PC, and $400 for a PS3 so that we can play all the different games, too.

Or…

We can create a standard. And let the big companies compete at that standard. And have amazing competition that leads to better prices or better products for the consumer, and more stable games for the consumer, and easier development for the game makers. And, maybe, get some standardized “achievements”.

Then there is the thin client comment. I’m not going to dwell on that one since I want to wrap this up. I will say I’m not a big fan of the “thin client” idea – as I understand it. But I’m aware that I’m the exception. I think most people would be thrilled if they could pick a game from an all-inclusive, on-line library and play it without ever having to leave the house or pop in a disc.

Fallout 3: First Impressions

(today’s post: 1,416 words)

Fallout 3 arrived in my hands today and I spent a few hours with it.

***
The short version? It’s a lot like Oblivion, which is a good thing since I spent about 110 or 120 hours playing it and the expansion. Combat is similar. Exploration is similar. Graphics and animations are similar. Questing is similar. There’s a more polished story path, but you can also wander off in random directions to take on more generic content. One difference between the two games is that dialogue and characters are better; people are more unique and memorable, and you have a few more choices and more interactive conversations.

But generally speaking, my first impression is that I’m playing a slightly improved Oblivion with a new story and new areas to explore. And I’m very happy with that.

***
OK. You’re done. Really. But if you want the (really) long (stream-of-consciousness) version, and don’t mind spoilers, feel free to read on:

  • I was expecting it, but I really appreciate that I can sync my Xbox Live account with the new Windows Live account. I love Live achievements and I’m glad I don’t have to miss out on them by playing the Windows version of a game.
  • I was recently reminded that in role-playing games, kids never have a mother and a father. True to form, in Fallout 3 your mother dies giving birth and you’re raised by your father – who disappears just as the game starts.
  • I liked the tutorial. Too many games either don’t do them at all or have some immersion-killing sequence where people are telling you to “press X to activate the +1 bonus on your utility device.” Fallout lets you play from childhood and the instructions make sense within the story, “Crawl over to Daddy” or “Try on your pip-boy” (kind of like a mini personal computer – used to manage all sorts of things) and the like.
  • Maybe this is unfair because Bethesda has never been about “choice and consequence” in games, but tutorials can be great stages for setting up relationships and story. Fallout 3 rushed their tutorial and didn’t provide much opportunity for role-playing. It’s as if they see it only as a vehicle to instruct the player and want to get the player through it as quickly as possible.
  • On the other, other hand, I like that you create your character by playing through the tutorial. I didn’t realize that my answer to such classroom questions as what I would do if, thanks to radiation exposure, a third arm grew out of my stomach would actually impact the type of character I made. Fun!
  • I had a bit of trouble getting used to the controller layout, but that’s typical of many games. I also had a bit of trouble figuring out how to do basic things, like putting away my gun, before realizing there is a controller map in the settings menu.
  • Like the Elder Scrolls series, the player is inundated with items. Walk into a kitchen and you’re likely to find a coffee maker, silverware, cups, and so on. You get used checking the weight vs. value ratio and ignoring the cheap, heavy garbage. Fallout 3 is no different. Unfortunately, there’s a third factor I missed in the ratio; I made it to Megaton before I realized that all those “caps” (money) and “bobby pins” (lock picks) I passed along the way would have been very helpful. Oops!
  • Occasionally, I tuned the game to “high” or “ultra high” at 800×600 to get a sense of the graphics, but generally I set everything to “medium” so that I could play at 1680×1050 resolution with a smooth frame rate (I’m getting around 40-60 per second) on my nVidia 7800 GT. The game is very pretty at low settings, just like Oblivion. But it’s not at all colorful.

And now we move into the discussion of combat.

  • Combat was a bit frustrating at first but I’m getting the hang of it. The frustration came from playing with the 360 controller and using the V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) system, instead of “WASD” 1st-person style.
  • AP (Action Points), which come into effect only when using V.A.T.S., was the primary problem. When a guy is running at me and smacking me with a club, it’s hard to get why I can’t fight back. “Low AP” makes sense but this guy has been beating on me for three seconds since I last did anything. Do I sit here and take it? Run in circles? Will moving take away AP? I eventually realized that shooting slower was the best solution, but that, yes, you can move and recover AP.
  • Also, V.A.T.S. is a little clunky. You press the right-shoulder. The game pauses and the camera zooms in on your opponent. There’s another pause as the opponent is scanned, and then you’re presented with “chance to hit” percentages. Aim at the head, for example, and you have a 67% to hit. The torso, on the other hand, is 83% likely. So you pick your part and then accept. A short cinematic is played of you attacking, the opponent attacking, and the damage results. Then the game zooms back out. Whew.
  • Since a combat can last more than five rounds, you have to repeat this process that many times – which really drags out those “epic” battles with cockroaches. : On the other hand, I hit a giant ant a dozen times without using V.A.T.S. and barely damaged it so I feel compelled to use V.A.T.S. until my character improves.
  • Damage is grossly out of proportion with the visual effects. I shoot at someone’s head point blank and get a critical hit. Blood is everywhere. I’m told that the guy’s head is out of commission. But he’s still attacking me and it’s another 4 or 5 shots before he’s dead. Meh. One of the mods I used in Oblivion let me do massive damage if I successfully sneak attacked someone. In other words, one shot to the head and that guy was dead; I can’t wait until mods like that are up for Fallout 3.
  • Speaking of blood everywhere, if you hit a guy in the head and that’s the shot that kills him, he’s decapitated. Every time. Ants? Same thing. This is how Fable 2 works but that game is more fantasy and less realism than Fallout 3 so it really stands out as odd behavior.

My favorite aspects of Oblivion were the story and exploration; that’s why I favored quick, lethal combat. Without that in Fallout 3, I’m reminded just how combat-heavy the game is.

After escaping from the Vault I was positively overwhelmed by the immersive excitement of exploring a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC. This game really sets the mood. I found a school and ventured in, feeling on edge. A woman inside spotted me and I ran back. Exciting! But then I was forced into a fire fight with her. And then another with another guy. And another. And another. And then some dogs. And then some ants. And then some more guys. It feels off. It takes away from the mood, the exploration and story. I went out of my way in the tutorial to avoid killing people. I didn’t want to be a serial killer. But a few hours into the game I’m already jaded about killing people.

But right after this, moving back along the main story path and getting away from the random time-waster “dungeons” I have another cool moment.

On my way to Megaton I spotted a mole creature. It charged at me and I pulled out my gun as a blast streaked past me (from behind) and nailed the beast. Dead. I spun around and saw three guys decked out in heavy armor. Now that the mole thing was dead they were ignoring me so I figured they were some kind of police force helping out.

I ran over to check them out just as they started firing on some scary-looking thing around a bend. One of the guys was killed but the other two put it down. That moment pulled me right back into the game.

Shortly after, I ran inside Megaton – the first town you’re supposed to visit while looking for your dad. What an impressive layout! I love how you walk up little catwalks that lead to rooftops which lead to more catwalks. It feels so organic. And, again, made me want to explore everything and keep playing – which I did, eventually bumping into a ghoul, a prostitute, and a guy in a suit. Interesting characters each.