Posts tagged with "mass effect" - Faerye Net 2010-12-26T13:38:04+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Top Ten Favorite Fictional Ships 2010-12-26T13:38:04+00:00 2010-12-26T13:38:21+00:00 <p>Because I recently named a vehicle, this <em>burning question</em> has been on my mind. (Wikipedia links contain spoilers, natch.) List subject to change without notice if I remember any more awesome vessels!</p> <ol> <li><strong>The Millennium Falcon</strong> &#8211; &#8220;I got your promise: not a scratch?&#8221;</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Enterprise-D</strong> &#8211; Icon of my formative years. I still physically wince when I watch <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Cause and Effect&#8221;</a>. Or <a href="" target="links"><em>Generations</em></a>, but please, who doesn&#8217;t?</li> <li><strong>Serenity</strong> &#8211; My favorite episode is <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Out of Gas&#8221;</a>.</li> <li><strong>(<span class="caps">SSV</span>) Normandy</strong> &#8211; Hey, <a href="" target="links">giving me a ship</a> is a good way to engage my affections. If you have a yacht on hand, I invite you to check if this works for non-fictional craft!</li> <li><b><span class="caps">HMS</span> Surprise </b>- Yes, I know there are real <span class="caps">HMS</span> <em>Surprise</em>s. But none of them have Jack Aubrey&#8217;s initials carved into the cap of the masthead, which <a href="" target="links">this one</a> does.</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Enterprise (-A)</strong> &#8211; It is a classic, I&#8217;ll admit.</li> <li><strong>The Dawn Treader</strong></li> <li><strong>The White Star</strong> &#8211; Despite the <a href="" target="links">dilution effect</a>.</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Defiant</strong> &#8211; It looks like an anteater, but then, my high school mascot was an aardvark.</li> <li><strong>Johnny Dooit&#8217;s sand-boat</strong> &#8211; From <em><a href="" target="links">The Road to Oz</a></em>. If anyone reading didn&#8217;t need to be told, then I salute you!</li> </ol> Mass Effect 2: Scorecard 2010-12-11T17:14:30+00:00 2010-12-11T17:14:55+00:00 <p>In my fine tradition of <a href="" target="links">playing games long after they come out</a>, I finally played through <em>Mass Effect Two</em> a few weeks ago. As that link I just threw attests, I loved <em>Mass Effect</em> with the force of several exploding suns. That&#8217;s right, <strong>several</strong>. I&#8217;d be embarrassed to find out, let alone disclose, how much time I&#8217;ve spent playing that game. And that was despite its flaws: the annoying vehicle and exploration issues, repetitive planetside encounters, inventory of doom, et c.</p> <p>In the <a href="" target="links">first post here</a> I went over why <em>Mass Effect</em> is so incredibly awesome. In <a href="" target="links">another post</a> I outlined my hopes, as a storyholic player, for the sequel.</p> <p>I didn&#8217;t focus too much on the gameplay quibbles for <em>ME1</em>, and that means I won&#8217;t focus too much on the way they fixed most of that stuff right up. They did fix the interminable off-roading over nearly undriveable terrain in order to do very repetitive planet missions; they did streamline inventory and equipment management. In general, they made the game much less granular. In some cases, like inventory, this delights, while in others it perturbs (the new, less driveable vehicle has no visual indication of its damage level or shield level. &#8220;Volume of klaxon&#8221; is not a system I embrace) and in others it&#8217;s likely to be a matter of opinion (fewer skills is simpler, but it does reduce the breadth of tactical options.)</p> <p>That sort of game crunch aside, I&#8217;d like to assess how they did on my four suggestions (and suggested titles!) from that long-ago post. <!--and then vent the long list of comments which I mostly refrained from unleashing on Twitter, both out of pity and out of late-adopter self-consciousness.--></p> <p>My requests:<br /> <strong>1. Plot-fanciers like to change the world.</strong><br /> <strong>2. We like our interactions to affect character actions.</strong><br /> <strong>3. Use your backstory to more effect.</strong><br /> <strong>4. Animate some object interaction.</strong></p> <p>Did they implement them?<br /> 1. Oh, heavens, yes. It would have to have been a shallow universe not to notice all the stuff my Shepard did last time, and this is not a shallow universe. There were at least whispers or news reports about all my doings &#8212; heck, even my non-doings were noted (I couldn&#8217;t get the <em>Bring Down the Sky</em> expansion to work, so apparently the sky was brought down.) They are making the world even more rich and multifarious, which just makes you hungry for <em>Mass Effect 3</em>. Huzzah for consequences!</p> <p>2. They made the squad member rapprochement I used as an example before into a game mechanic, so I guess so! The relationships Shepard had with her ME1 squaddies did create lots of fun results in this game. I mean, I don&#8217;t know how it would have been different if I&#8217;d played through with a more Renegade Shepard in ME1, but the interactions with former squaddies mostly seemed rich. Mostly.</p> <p>3. See #2. They&#8217;ve made the squad members&#8217; histories a big part of the game. As for the history of the universe, well, I think that ties in pretty well, too. If I see one more &#8220;a civilization used to live here but they are <span class="caps">ALL</span> <span class="caps">WIPED</span> <span class="caps">OUT</span>&#8221; planet description, I may cry. As for the big moral questions like the Genophage &#8212; they are plumbing the depths of those issues.</p> <p>4. Yes, they animated some object interaction. Not always well &#8212; while Shepard was wondering where in this large universe the Powers that Be had hidden her boyfriend, she took a few of the proffered drinks, and let me tell you, that animation is hilariously bad &#8212; but they did it. The world seems more endowed with useful objects: not just those you can actually interact with, but those the NPCs interacted with before they were (hey, it&#8217;s <em>Mass Effect</em>) slaughtered. Space coffee machines! Space TVs! Heck, we now have our very own space toilets. Men&#8217;s, Women&#8217;s, and Shepard-only. It&#8217;s the little things, you know?</p> <p>My titles from the previous post:<br /> <strong>Mass Effect 2: Now with 20% More Seth Green<br /> Mass Effect 2: Kill More Things, Take More Stuff<br /> Mass Effect 2: James Bond vs. Spectres<br /> Mass Effect 2: Commander Effing Shepard Beats Up Everyone<br /> Mass Effect 2: The Search for Liara’s Daddy</strong></p> <p>They fulfilled several of these &#8212; I think that was more than 120% the previous Seth Green levels. Joker forever! &#8212; and hinted at several of the others. (Okay, black tie garb does not a Bond make, but I said &#8216;hinted&#8217;.)</p> <p>In general, <em>Mass Effect 2</em> has done a fabulous job of continuing the narrative and deepening the universe of the first one while excising some of the things even die-hard Shepards like myself found incredibly annoying. Combat is smoother: taking cover works more intuitively and consistently, and my squaddies don&#8217;t run around with &#8220;press A to talk&#8221; on them, messing up my targeting. I love some of the new mechanics: the opportunity to do Paragon or Renegade actions as interrupts gets you very engaged during interstitial scenes. The new upgrade system is more sweeping, less fiddly. The game throws some amazing twists your way. There&#8217;s a lot of stuff here I wasn&#8217;t expecting. And there are a lot of fun in-jokes and touches for geeks like me, up to and including the stirring song &#8220;I am the very model of a scientist-salarian.&#8221;</p> <p>This game still knows how to throw out geek references without sounding like they&#8217;re slavishly copying the latest hip thing. Example: <em>Starcraft II</em>&#8217;s attempt at <em>Firefly</em> fan-service was to make a previously non-cowboy character into one, with horrible accent, and ape its soundtrack instrumentation. <em>Mass Effect II</em> does stuff like name a colony &#8220;New Canton&#8221;. Subtlety, people. Subtlety and remixing creativity allows you to have a race in your game that lives in a nomadic fleet after losing their homeworld to an AI race they themselves created, and not have it seem a cheap <em><span class="caps">BSG</span></em> ripoff.</p> <p>The game is not perfect (but then again, what is?) Some of the loss of tactical crunch was regrettable, especially the winnowing of biotic powers that move the adversaries around. As I said, while I appreciate not having to drive over endless mountainous terrain, I don&#8217;t like the new vehicle at all. As is unavoidable in these games, a few important character choices are made for you, which feels unfair when other characters cast those choices up to you. I already wrote about the way the new breadth of potential romances makes you feel <a href="" target="links">harried and beset, and I suggested a social networking solution</a>. This game felt a little shorter than the first, which means it felt a little less replayable &#8212; but we&#8217;ll see.</p> <p>They even improved on some of the things they already did well: I think the soundtrack was better, and the voice acting is even more fabulous (it was already the best I&#8217;ve heard in any game save perhaps <em>Uncharted</em> &#8212; perhaps they used more multiple-actor recording sessions this time?). The cosmetic customizability of the armor adds a layer to the character-customization process they carried over. Changing the Captain&#8217;s Cabin from a useless room to a retreat that holds a few useful interfaces and accumulates souvenirs was inspired.</p> <p>In general, this <em>Mass Effect</em> amply fulfilled the promise of the first: grand, epic space opera with lots of opportunity to affect and shake the world. Complicated politics, characters you can care about, fabulous performances. There were things I really wanted to do, faces I really wanted to punch, that I couldn&#8217;t &#8212; I&#8217;m assuming those will be forthcoming. I cannot wait for <em>Mass Effect 3</em>, and I&#8217;m already a little sad that that will be the last installment. I want to save this universe again and again.</p> <p>P.S. Alenko spoiler: <font color="white">Saving humanity had better count as &#8220;things settling down,&#8221; Bioware. Shepard wants her boyfriend back.</font></p> Mass Effect needs social networking 2010-12-02T17:45:50+00:00 2010-12-02T17:50:48+00:00 <p>I was working on a larger post about how <em>Mass Effect 2</em> stacks up to my <a href="" target="links">cherished dreams and suggestions</a>, but one little digression started to snowball until I gave it its own blog post.</p> <p>So, more generally about <em>Mass Effect 2</em> later. One irritation I had with <em>Mass Effect 2</em> early on was the seeming disappearance of my Commander Shepard&#8217;s love interest from <em>ME1</em>. This was addressed later on, and I am (mostly) appeased. However, let&#8217;s be clear: my extremely Paragon Commander Shepard puts the &#8220;fidelis&#8221; in Semper Fidelis. She is a one-fraternization officer. It does not matter what dizzying array of potential flirtations you put in her way, she <em>is not interested</em>.</p> <p>And wow, does this game have a lot of potential flirtations. Just because I believe in human-alien cooperation, people, does not mean I am interested in <em>that</em>! It got so I was so relieved to chat with Grunt, say, or Miranda &#8212; just because I knew no inadvertent signals were being sent or received.</p> <p>Of course, your in-character interactions in game are scripted, triggered by your choices in the <a href="">conversation wheel</a>, and there&#8217;s no way to tell the game &#8220;Please, stop having Shepard lean languorously at the beginning of conversations and lowering her inconsistently rendered eyelashes.&#8221; No way to preemptively tell all the potentially interested NPCs in the world that they can take a number if they want Shepard to save them from peril, but if they want Shepard&#8217;s number, they are out of luck. I understand, the system&#8217;s limited. How would they do that?</p> <p>How could they implement a passive communication system by which everyone who makes Shepard&#8217;s acquaintance could learn basic information like whether or not she&#8217;s taken? One that operates on a simple system of checkboxes and information fields?</p> <p>Yes, I propose <strong><span class="caps">SPACEBOOK</span></strong>.</p> <p><a href="" target="pics"><img src="" width="500px" title="mockup of Shepard's Spacebook profile"/></a></p> <p>In this as in so much else, your Shepard may vary. But this is my Shepard, and as such, you&#8217;ll note an important detail:</p> <p><a href="" target="pics"><img src="" title="Not interested in Space Dating" width="500px" /></a></p> <p>Many awkward situations could be thus avoided. Of course, Spacebook would be owned through shell corporations by the Shadow Broker, but who are you kidding? The Shadow Broker knows all that stuff about you anyway.</p> Mass Effect Two: Asari Boogaloo 2008-09-25T13:36:45+00:00 2008-09-25T15:10:41+00:00 <p>So, we&#8217;ve covered the fact that <a href="" target="links"><em>Mass Effect</em></a> is probably my favorite game since <a href="" target="links">Nethack</a>. But one of my pals, Rock Star, bought a <a href="" target="links">360</a> and played through the game himself, so I&#8217;ve been thinking about the game a little more. There are, as Rock Star points out, some things wrong with the game. The looting and inventory management are a little too flimsy for the amount of lewt going through them, for example. I&#8217;m sure they have plenty of sarcastic web comics and whiny forum posts that point this stuff out to them. However, I&#8217;m not sure if they have a lot of comments from plot-addicted table-top-gaming English-majorish types like me (and, since I put &#8216;ish,&#8217; like Rock Star.) Who knows if story-loving <span class="caps">FPS</span>-players are even a useful demographic?</p> <p>So here are a few suggestions, most serious, and proposed titles (not at all serious) for <a href="" target="links"><em>Mass Effect 2</em></a>. Many of these suggestions are of the (probably frustrating) &#8220;you&#8217;re doing this well &#8212; but I want more!&#8221; variety. Tiny spoilers (such as that you can save the galaxy in a game about galaxy saving) are contained. Other plot spoilers are preceded by &#8220;<span class="caps">SPOILER</span>&#8221; and whited out &#8211; select to read if you like.</p> <ol> <li><b>Plot-fanciers like to change the world.</b> <em>Mass Effect</em> already does this. Hearing news broadcasts in the elevators about your doings and even yourself is awesome. However, a little more wouldn&#8217;t hurt. Specifically, if I don&#8217;t see a statue of <span class="caps">SPOILER</span>:<font color="white">Ashley (or Kaidan, if your Shepard didn&#8217;t give the Williams family their heroic redemption)</font> in <em>Mass Effect 2</em>, heads will roll. (Who am I to threaten? I&#8217;m Commander <em>effing</em> Shepard. (And so can you!))</li><p><br /></p> <li><b>We like our interactions to affect character actions.</b> In some ways, a more specific version of #1. <em>Mass Effect</em> does have character arcs and Shepard&#8217;s relationships with her squaddies do evolve. I&#8217;m not talking solely about the romance arcs here, but about things like winning Wrex&#8217;s trust and subsequently <span class="caps">SPOILER</span>: <font color="white">having an easier time getting him to stand down at Virmire</font>. More of this would increase engagement with the game (and replayability) for plot-fanciers. For instance, if you play the end of the game with the squad member Shepard has romanced, don&#8217;tcha think it would be nice to mark that in some way? Captain Anderson is not going to court-martial her for hugging. She&#8217;s Commander <em>effing</em> Shepard, after all, <em>and</em> she just saved the galaxy. The more personalized the squad members&#8217; reactions to things are (see &#8220;Don&#8217;t have a panic attack&#8221; in last <em>Mass Effect</em> post) the better. I know it&#8217;s more work, but it&#8217;s not <em>that</em> much more work.</li><p><br /></p> <li><b>Use your backstory to more effect.</b> <em>Mass Effect</em> has obviously been lovingly crafted &#8211; its universe, not just the game. Random worlds have fun, interesting info attached to them. The codex entries are extensive. However, that can mean oversights seem more glaring. I overheard the <em>Turian</em> Council member haranguing Rock Star&#8217;s Jordan Shepard about <span class="caps">SPOILER</span>: <font color="white">killing the Rachni queen</font>. Umm. So, it&#8217;s okay if you do it slowly with a genetically engineered disease? Seriously, the whole krogan backstory makes my head hurt and my I-can-fix-everything gamer-thumbs itch. I hope something happens with that in the sequel. There are also unprosecuted opportunities to tie in squad member history, like the Williams family honor. I like the increased richness the character histories offer, and this would reward us for taking an interest in our NPCs&#8217; lives.</li><p><br /></p> <li><b>Animate some object interaction.</b> This is whiny, and perhaps less English majory than advertised, but it does sort of break the cinematic illusion when all props are handed off below the shot and we spend time chasing a McGuffin only to see the characters stare offscreen at it. If this is too much work, fine. I stop whining now.</li></ol> <p>So those are my main plot-fancier suggestions for <em>Mass Effect 2</em>. Because I am a giver, I have also come up with several possible titles!<br /> <ul><li><em>Mass Effect 2: Now with 20% More Seth Green</em></li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: Kill More Things, Take More Stuff</em></li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: James Bond vs. Spectres</em> (I am officially too dorky to live.)</li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: Commander </em>Effing<em> Shepard Beats Up Everyone</em> (after the famous <a href="" target="links">xkcd</a>, suggested by Rock Star as the consequence of my not getting my statue from #1.)</li><br /> <li><em>Mass Effect 2: The Search for Liara&#8217;s Daddy</em></li></ul></p> <p>I&#8217;m a <em>giver</em>.</p> I love Mass Effect 2008-09-11T10:54:58+00:00 2008-09-12T10:22:02+00:00 <p>I have been playing <a href="" target="links"><em>Mass Effect</em></a>. Yeah, yeah, it came out last November and I didn&#8217;t play it &#8216;til August. I&#8217;ve never claimed to be hip or with it.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t really go in for Computer RPGs in a big way. I enjoy the occasional <span class="caps">CRPG</span> (last one I recall was <em>Neverwinter Nights</em> &mdash; like <em>Mass Effect</em>, by Bioware), but in general I find them too scripted, too limited, and, well, fundamentally based on aesthetics I don&#8217;t enjoy. <em>Mass Effect</em>, on the other hand, is based on an aesthetic I grew up in, one I can wallow in with great pleasure: <span class="caps">SPACE</span> <span class="caps">OPERA</span>. Yes, my friends, <strong>I have saved the universe.</strong> And I enjoyed it, too.</p> <p>One of the most fabulous things about <em>Mass Effect</em> is&#8230;well, there are a lot of ways to finish that sentence, but I started it intending to talk about gender. While the default hero, featured on the cover and demo cut-scenes in all his stubbly glory, is Commander John Shepard, the player can also play pre-made Jane Shepard, or make a Shepard from scratch. Since all the in-game chatter refers to the protagonist as &#8220;Commander&#8221; or &#8220;Shepard&#8221;, you can put whatever first name you like in there, and the face-generating interface gives far more freedom than I&#8217;ve ever seen in a game. You&#8217;re stuck with the body of John/Jane Shepard, and there&#8217;s only one voice track for each, but you can run a pretty full gamut of human appearance. (I don&#8217;t recommend trying to make Shepard look like someone in particular though. I tried to make myself for fun and found that my top lip to bottom lip ratio is not an option and, for that matter, that my mouth appears to be narrower than the preset minimum. Sheesh!)</p> <p>Other customizations exist too &#8212; relatively minor, but it&#8217;s nice that your character gets to have a past, and you have some input into what that past is. Namely, you get to choose from three childhoods and three career moments as well as choosing your character class (from the fundamental mix of fighting, tk and tech spheres that the game uses.) Hell, if you&#8217;re female, you can choose whether your character is straight or gay. Sort of. In play. Let&#8217;s not get too far into the political implications or economic advantages of Johns being assumed straight and Janes bicurious, or other associated baggage, shall we? I&#8217;m doing my geekthusiasm thing right now.</p> <p>Moving on to plot and gameplay: the plot is suitably epic, with a few small twists. The plot really inhabits the gameworld, which is fabulous. Some questions about the setting are actually answered by the plot. In addition (and this is why plot and gameplay get one paragraph) the plot pieces are more or less nonlinear, part of the free-play part of the game. You can sit down and decide, &#8220;Hey, I feel like tackling more of the main storyline,&#8221; and zoom your ship over to one of the plot planets, or you can decide to kill things and take their stuff (mostly side-quest style) by exploring the rest of the planets. I like that freedom in time and space when I am playing a game. Conversations are handled by a <a href="" target="links">now famous</a> interface that allows you to choose the drift of Shepard&#8217;s response. Combat is real-time shooter (well, third person shooter) but allows you to pause to use abilities, command your squaddies to use abilities, and even look around/aim carefully. And last but not least, for getting around on forbidding planets, there&#8217;s an <span class="caps">ATV</span> (despite its armaments, I think &#8216;tank&#8217; implies treads) that is so idiot-proof I can drive it, even though driving in video games usually feels to me like one of those nightmares where I&#8217;m driving but can&#8217;t reach the pedals or see outside the car.</p> <p>A note on squaddies &#8212; they actually gave the secondary characters&#8230;character. If you care, you can gab it up with your dudes between missions, and occasionally the two squad members you can bring with you will interact (like on <a href="" target="links">the admittedly slow</a> elevators), which can be amusing. Tip for squad interaction: I think humans are chattier (must be that curiosity aliens keep remarking on) so one human and one alien squad member seems to be a good formula for fun. If you&#8217;re lucky, you&#8217;ll find a combination where they don&#8217;t get along well, and you can have some snark with your galaxy-saving. (<em>environmental noise</em> A: What was that? What was that? B: Don&#8217;t have a panic attack, I&#8217;ll protect you.)</p> <p>The last thing I want to say about <em>Mass Effect</em> here (I could go on and on) is that the atmosphere and production quality are both splendiferous. The music is really good, the voice acting is astonishingly good (Seth Green is my pilot? Armin Shimerman is on the galactic Council?), including, crucially, Shepard&#8217;s voice. (At least, the female Shepard. I have only played the male Shepard for a few minutes out of curiosity.) And wonder. They have remembered wonder, which is crucial for space opera. Stop running across a bridge in the Council&#8217;s space station and look up, at the lakes and parks curving away with the circular hull of the Presidium. Stop your <span class="caps">ATV</span> on a ridge on an alien moon and look up to see the vast scarred planet and eldritch star burning in the sky. Who wouldn&#8217;t want to save this universe?</p>