Can I ask a favour? I've rebranded my little marketing business, Chris does Content, and approval from my audience helps me win new customers. If you enjoyed my work on the Fallout New Vegas Tour, I'd be really grateful if you visited me here and clicked the Facebook "Like" button at lower right. Thanks!

29 May 2011

Postscript: how to escape the Sierra Madre with all 37 gold bars

Still geeking: as a bit of a postscript, I discovered how to escape the Sierra Madre vault with all 37 gold bars.... if you take steps to make every second count.

Most of the methods for doing this seem to involve elaborate setups with landmines or cheating with console commands; this method works on my unmodified XBox with patches to date and needs no hackery, although it'll probably take you a few tries 'n dies to make it.

Here's a scribbled walkthrough.... and just for proof, a snap of all 37 bars laid out back at the Brotherhood of Steel bunker, which by the way is ideal player housing for the rest of the game, containing a functioning Sierra Madre vending machine. (You did win the complimentary voucher back at the casino, right?) This is also on my newly-relaunched personal blog, Enjoy!

16 April 2011

My Fallout: New Vegas Tour

The site's now complete. In less than a week it's approached 100,000 pageviews and over 5000 people have watched the videos. But doing a tour based on a videogame remains a fundamentally silly thing to do. So a few people have asked: why did I do it?

Here's my answer: because life itself is fundamentally silly. We're born. We eat, sleep, reproduce. And then we die. We're each an eyeblink even in human history, let alone the history of the universe. There's not a lot of point to any of it; life has no innate meaning or purpose, save that which we impose upon it. So the worst thing you can do is take it too seriously.

Besides, the American West is among my favourite places on earth. The vast distances, the extremes of climate, the hardscrabble characters eking a living from motels and dime stores. There are millions of stories scratched into the sands of the Mojave, with millions more left to be written. In its own tiny way, this trip was one of them.

The only thing left to do is thank my special friend Melissa, source of the idea. (Herself a midwesterner, she once did a tour of Rome based on the much-panned film "Hudson Hawk".) I haven't seen the movie yet, Melissa: it's waiting for us when I see you again.

So there you have it: my Fallout New Vegas Tour, a real-world journey around 34 locations that appear in the game. If you've just arrived at this blog, here's where you start.

Location 34: Hoover Dam

Anyone for skateboarding?
Hoover Dam is an amazing piece of civil engineering, and it's fitting it's both my last photogaphed location and the end of the game.

A shorter drop in-game
It's no longer possible to drive directly over the dam on its top edge; a new bypass bridge came into effect in summer 2010. This means I was one of the last foreign visitors to drive over the Dam itself (last year!) when construction was finishing up.

That's a lot of concrete
Looking over the dam! This is the only location where I've been forced to use different image heights to compensate for the wider aspects in the game (it's a scale thing.)

Everything's wider and lower
But as you can see the game captures the sheer immensity of the 1930s masterpiece quite accurately.A sharp intake of breath at the audacity of those engineers... both civil and software.

Isn't there a shotgun in there?
Seems further to walk
The towers that house the hydroelectric turbines are reproduced faithfully, although without the "Arizona Time" and "Nevada Time" clocks that denote the different states the dam spans.

A glass box in the canyon...
...but concrete suits the NCR better
A point of difference, though, is the Visitor Centre. I suppose the in-game building takes its cues from the 1950s; the current building is quite new.

A couple of wingsuiters
A bit shorter in-game
The angels monument near the visitor centre is also nicely graphic'd up, including the gold-leaf inscription (almost readable in the game - try it!)

Come on in, the water's lovely
Bit too chilly perhaps
This picture showcases a serious point. See the "clean" rocks for a couple of metres above the waterline, leaving a neat bathtub mark around Lake Mead?

 That's how far the water level has receded - possibly due to global warming. You see signs of this all over the West's lakes and forests, and it's worrying.

And that's my Fallout New Vegas Tour! It's been a great trip; thank you for joining me on it. GAME OVER!

15 April 2011

Location 33: Cottonwood Cove

Nearing the end of my tour, I reached my penultimate stop: Cottonwood Cove. Er.... ave?

A ramp for launching boats...
One trap for anyone relying solely on their Pip-Boy/GPS for directions is that there's a street named "Cottonwood Cove" in Boulder City, so my suitably dusty SUV and I bowled up in a neat residential street that's more soccer mom than switchblade maniac.

... or launching campaigns
Not to be deterred, I fast travelled to the correct place thanks to a friendly BLM ranger or two. That's the great thing about American recreation areas - once you get on the right road, it's generally a straight run to the venue.

The first indication I was in the right place came at the ramp; the sloped launchway is easily discernible in FNV, although the water table seems to have dropped a bit.

Latin is a language,
dead as dead can be
First it killed the Romans,
and now it's killing me.

The clincher, though, came with this rocky dune on the left. It's where you peer out after arriving from Camp Forlorn Hope, Boone hissing through his teeth if he's your travelling companion.

In reality, much of the area is concreted over, but the general shape of the bay, jetties, and strollways fits. 

I'm seeing cover, sniper points,
throwing lines...
The lighting's a bit odd in the game here, presumably to create an aura of menace - this is, after all, the second-most Caesar'd up location in the game.

I'm seeing blind alleys, dead ends,
places to die a horrible death...
In reality, Cottonwood Cove had the most glorious weather of anywhere I visited, well over 30C.

Always trust a brown sign
A shout-out here for the USA's Bureau of Land Management (the agency that puts up all the brown signs.)

Especially if it's wood
The rangers you meet in such areas tend to be full of information, friendly and outgoing and obviously enjoy their work although it can hardly be a high-paying job.

On my trip they were a constant presence, a bit like the NCR, and always keen to help out. 


I came, I saw, I conked out
So here's the cove itself: drier in the game, but both pontoons are there. I tried to cadge a lift to the Fort, but couldn't find a boatman to take me there.
Misty eyed as the trip nears its end
It was at Cottonwood Cove that I sensed my strange journey was nearing its end. There was only one place left on the list: Hoover Dam.

Location 32: Red Rock Canyon

We're at Red Rock Canyon! Which was always going to be a difficult one.

It's set in stone
There was no need for the FNV design team to match rock for rock (we all know they hate mountains anyway, since so many are cut down to size in the game) and with such large rocks the game's forced perspective knocks everything out of whack anyway.

Any reason it looks like a tomb?
I'm not pretending there was any exploring involved here. Unlike The Devil's Throat this bit of the American landscape is an easy drive from Vegas, and the route is a paved thirteen miles of scenery with plenty of parking and rest stops.

But the canyon IRL takes your breath away, and the game conjures up exactly the same feeling: the sense of space, the distances, the majesty of the geology. OK, I'll stop.

The only thing that could hurt
this rock is a nuclear holocaust
The game graphics give a better sense of colour than my camera; there's a richness to the reds, especially later in the afternoon, that the game captures perfectly.

Even if the mountains are a bit truncated - even the Great Khans, hardasses that they are, don't want to walk a dozen miles just to feed their Bighorners...

A handy path to stroll along
Now these two pics are interesting: I bet you thought the game inserts all those handy dirt tracks and scrambling routes to guide the player between locations?

Stimpaks aid fall recovery
Well, at least some of them exist naturally - as can be seen from the ledges on the left.

Here's another vid, taken from a different parking lot. Next time you're in Las Vegas, make sure you get out to see it - it's a refreshing change from the neons.

My journey is nearing its end. My penultimate stop: Cottonwood Cove.

Location 31: Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Picnic tables, picket fences ... it's Spring Mountain Ranch State Park!

Picnic, anyone?
The park is a manicured family R&R area in the midst of some awe-inspiring scenery - yes, the red banded mountains are shared with Red Rock Canyon next door.

Calm before the Khans
As an aside, have you noticed how the game designers really had it in for those mountains?

I mean, practically every one has had its summit clipped or great chunks of its sides torn out; we're almost talking "Red Pebble Trench" rather than "Red Rock Canyon". You heard it here first: Obsidian/Bethseda HATE our lumpy geological friends. 

I'm nearing the end of my quest: just a few more locations to go. Next up: Red Rock Canyon.

Location 30: Mojave Outpost

It's a long way to....
We all visit the Mojave Outpost a lot to trade with Lacey; she may be miserable but she's usually got a good selection. And let's face it, you don't get better (or pricier) repairs anywhere in the Wasteland.

Especially when you're walking
Sad to say, there's nothing there in real life - least of all the giant NCR statues.

But the road exists: it's the Interstate 15 again, sloping sharply upwards as you head southwest away from Primm, and in these pictures I'm just brushing the edge of the Mojave National Preserve, the park area of the desert.

I can't go much further down this road. Let's check out the scenery at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

Location 29: Camp Golf

No spikes on the green please
Camp Golf is on the shores of Lake Las Vegas, and while it follows the NCR phonetic conventions after Camps Echo and Foxtrot, the in-joke is that in real life there's indeed a resort golf course there.
Course needs hosing a bit?

Lake Las Vegas is largely a private community (many of whose citizens drive around in golf carts) and the whole area has a very Truman Show feel to it, not quite real. I suppose that's appropriate.

My load's approaching 270kg. Let's do some trade at the Mojave Outpost.

14 April 2011

Location 28: Bonnie Springs

Bonnie Springs is an unusual one. The wrecked township isn't a real town... because Bonnie Springs is a theme park for kids!

Head for the hills
Proportions a bit nixed
Shootings and hangings - now that's some all-American entertainment for you.

I notice the hills are looking distinctly the worse for wear after the nuclear bombardments, but I suppose it'd give your house more light.

Doesn't say Wild West to me
Authentic Americana
There's a sign at the town entrance too, and it's another example of where the game does real life a lot better than reality.

It's time to catch up with the NCR at Camp Golf.

Location 27: Quarry Junction

Breakin' rocks...
Fallout fans either love or hate Quarry Junction, the Deathclaw-infested arena near Sloan. And if you thought Deathclaws were hard, try getting close enough to photograph the real thing!

... and breakin' bones
It's a working pit with major machinery moving around all the time; while it's possible to drive up to the site it's not possible to get up close and personal with the quarry's central machine, the vantage point from which you probably picked off the 'claws with your sniper rifle. You remembered the hollowpoint ammunition, right?

 There was some serious wind going on when I visited - not a million miles from the game's dust devils, I suppose; no wonder the Deathclaws stay sheltered in the quarry - but I managed to take a few seconds of video:

I need a break after dealing with those Deathclaws. Let's check out Bonnie Springs.

Location 26: Sloan

Down and dirty in Sloan

You don't get much further from the glitz of the New Vegas Strip than mining town Sloan and its Deathclaw-infested seam Quarry Junction. The rough and ready town actually exists, and it's a working company town.

Downer and dirtier
In our world it's quite new and spruce; in the Fallout world, of course, it's a rustbucket junkyard. I saw no more than half a dozen buildings, most of them simple prefabs or work sheds, and a few shipping containers scattered about.

I'm not sure if it has an actual population or if it's a daytime workplace that happens to have a name - take a look at the video and take a guess for yourself.

With a song in my heart and a Maximum-changed Holorifle on my shoulder, I head down the road to Quarry Junction.

Location 25: Boulder City

Boulder's historic hotel
Not to be confused with the one in Colorado, Boulder City is the town that built Hoover Dam. In real life it's a cheerful place with a historic downtown, where I stopped for a microbrew at the Boulder Dam Brewing Co (hullo if you're reading this. Your beers are great.)

Bit of a strech, but the biz is there
It's also, unfortunately, among the most totalled joints in the Wasteland - with barely two buildings standing. I'd like to think the first one is the Boulder Dam Hotel, a well-proportioned white building in the historic district; it's in roughly the right place and carries on the same kind of business.

In the historic district
Another Boulder building
Also in Boulder  are a number of buildings with arched walkways on the path, of which this is representative.

Realistically, the buildings in the game could have been based on any of these - or none of them.

Next I'm fast travelling a bit, across the game map to Sloan.

Location 24: Callville Bay

Heading for Hoover
We're nearing Hoover Dam!Some way northeast lies Callville Bay, a rest and recreation area. While you can't see the dam in the IRL shot, it's there, just beyond your field of vision. It seems the nuclear wars took out a large chunk of the eastern coastline in FNV.

Lakelurks ahoy
One thing to note here is the "watermark" on Lake Mead. See the cleaner-looking rock dilineated by a horizontal line? That's how far the waters have dropped in our world. It's a real problem for future generations if it continues; many blame global warming. The waters seem to be at a higher level in FNV, though.

Escaping the cazadors, I'm off to Boulder City.