Tag Archives: mass effect

An AoE Grab Bag

You may have noticed that our content sections (Politics & Society for example) have been replaced with column titles. As part of a reformat, we’re moving The Cool Ship to a more author-focused approach to writing, set around a person theme or interest. In my case, I’ve commandeered “Area Of Effect” to tackle the space between politics, social structures, and escapism.

But since there was little in the way of geek related politics (unless you count how FUBAR Black Friday was), this week, I have three other things that deserve some attention. And since it’s my column, I’m going to write about all of them!

Missed Effect, Or Why Halo 4 Is The New Mass Effect

Something about the Halo 4 story (LOL, I know, who cares about the story?!?!) has been sitting weird with me. It was less like combat evolved and more like a reaper invasion.

For all the graphics improvements and combat upgrades (and you do get a lot of both), Master Chief has always been an enhanced dude in a suite of armor fighting aliens. He was never fated to be a Shepard or Neo.

And yet, it’s revealed in Halo 4 that Chief is actually an eventuality built into the human race after it took a beating from the Forerunners the first time it traveled to the stars. That’s right, humans have already been in space. We covered a huge swath of the galaxy until terrible aliens wiped out our civilizations and reset us to the stone age a la KOTOR, Mass Effect, and The Matrix Reloaded.

More than that, we’re destined to assume “the mantle” of what I assume is stewardship of the galaxy… or something. Can’t tell since words like promethium, forerunner, mantle, reclaimer, and on and on and on are thrown around, and I don’t remember a lot of what happened in Halo 3.

What I do recall from the previous game is that there wasn’t a singular, hardass alien villain that’s trying to re-annihilate human civilization by getting a bunch of Macguffins. *Cough Saren * And he has the crazy space armor that everyone, everywhere in Mass Effect wears.

He even narrates your fights with bullshit metaphors and wordy prose that are supposed to sound highbrow and elegant, but make no f****ing sense.

Watch the legendary ending, and listen to the shit he says:

In this hour of victory we taste only defeat. I ask why. We are Forerunners; guardians of all that exists [except humanity, apparently]. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun towards which all intelligence blossoms. 

And on and on he goes. What is he actually saying here? That the forerunners are better than humans even though they lost? That we got tricked and we’ll see in Halo 5? I don’t know, but using a paragraph that says nothing makes you sound dumb. And it’s something reapers did all the time when trash talking Shepard in ME 3.

Cost In Translation

I hate most anime. I used to love it as a teen, but now, I think it’s all awful. And I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until this week. For some reason, I purchased the first Vampire Hunter D novel on my Kindle and read it all in like two days. I recalled being fond of the movies as a teen, but reading a novel translated from Japanese to English makes one realize that some shit just doesn’t come across the language barrier easily.

Instead of trying to describe, I’ve found one of the many passages that made me, literally, roll my eyes while reading.

 The boy galloped off like the spirit of life itself. Doris turned to the still prone D and said, “Thank you. I know it’s the iron law of Hunters that they won’t lift a finger for anything but dealing with their prey. I’d be in a no position to complain no matter how you turned him down. You did it without hurting him… and he loves you like a big brother.”

“But I do refuse.”

“I know. Aside from you job itself, I won’t ask any more of you – what you said to him just now will do fine. I’ll handle my own problems. And the sooner you get your work finished the better.”

“Fine.” Not surprisingly, D’s voice was emotionless and bitterly cold.

Couple things. First, “galloped off like the spirit of life itself?” What the hell? Second, Doris is thanking this vampire hunter for lying to her brother about defending her from the villagers who are going to arrest her. How is that cool? How is it ok to lie to a child’s face about saving his sister?

Also, he’s totally lying about lying because he goes out, without hesitation, like three pages later and defends her from the mob. And he threatens to kill everyone in the village over it in the second act.

Apparently, Dan loves the hunter like a brother… but they met less than 24 hours ago. The dude literally met the kid yesterday afternoon. What is going on? Every page is a litany of awful phrases that could be replaced with a common phrase.

The killing lust in Larmica’s eyes was like a heat ray that flew at Doris’ face. Not to be outdone, Doris met it with a shower of sparks from her own hatred.

Um… what? The guy translating this does know English, right? Do you get these kinds of techniques from the Stephanie Myer school of writing?

And it occurred to me that a lot of this kind of clumsy translating comes across in anime as well. Granted, I also hate that every anime character has to explain their motivations to everyone – even and especially in mid-fight. Sometimes I just want people to do things and work it out for myself.

But the clunky translations are what really kill the genre for me. I think we need to get a place where translators imply cultural equivalents for the ideas and concepts the characters are screaming at each other, while they are hitting power level 1,000,000 or whatever. If J.K. Rowling can change a philosopher’s stone into a sorcerer’s stone for an audience that speaks the language she wrote the book in, can we get some of these translators to take these ideas we have no cultural context for and make them make sense?

Putting the DELETE in CTRL+ALT+DEL

This weekend, a web comic I’ve been reading for six years ended. Author and artist Tim Buckley concluded a near decade of character-driven narrative (interspersed with random gamer jokes and other oddities) with a definitive ending for his protagonist, Ethan, and supporting characters as part of a comic “reboot.”

Read the explanation here.

Mr. Buckley has, at times, been polarizing for his comic’s content, not the least of which included a story arc where Ethan’s wife has a miscarriage. Penny Arcade and others certainly do hate him for his work, but he’s been able to make a career out of a web comic…which is pretty impressive.

I thought it was worth mentioning because I’ve never seen that from a web comic before. And arguably, after 10 years, it was a more conclusive ending than Smallville.

If you can stand reading jokes about the original release of WoW or Half Life 2, I’d suggest going back and reading some of the series.

[[Featured Image from: http://www.zerochan.net/77223  ]]

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Gaming’s Awkward Adolescence

Ever dug out your 6th grade pictures? I did recently, and boy, I was an awkward-looking kid! I had it all: thick glasses, bowl cut, and pimples. It’s a tough time for most kids. I think we all go through it because the humiliation makes us better people, or maybe we just get better at making fun of other people and taking the heat off ourselves.

Like people, gaming has been aging (albeit more slowly) and going through its own growing pains. Let’s run down the stages before I get to gaming’s current puberty.

1971-1983 – Gaming is mostly concerned with blocks and bouncing balls. In 1983, gaming fell over face first from fatigue and fell asleep for awhile.

1983-1990 – Gaming takes its first awkward steps. Some games are hard due to a lack of fine motor control. Other games are too easy. Some games leave an indelible mark on gaming, setting precedent (and fond memories) for decades to come.

1990- 1994 – More graphics! More colors! Fights on the playground about SNES vs Genesis! Games got bigger and louder and more energetic. We also started to see gaming on the go.

1994- 2000 – Worlds expand with the advent of 3D gaming. Gamers are given a little more freedom to explore their new worlds. Gaming really hits its stride in terms of popularity.

2000- present – The awkward adolescence.

Gaming culture right now is a lot like puberty. Here’s a couple of ways I’ve noted.

1. Trying to be taken seriously

Whether it’s the argument that video games are art (Remember when Roger Ebert kept getting trolled because he said they weren’t? Let’s face it, some of the responses to him were extremely childish and not at all well thought out.) or the need for gamers to justify their hobby (At least I’m not drinking, smoking, or doing drugs! It helps my hand-eye coordination!), many gamers feel a need for non-gamers to take their hobby seriously. They want others to see it as a legit form of expression and amusement.

I still feel the need to justify my gaming habits to skeptical adults. But really, it doesn’t need to be justified to anyone. I like playing, so I do it. I try to do it in moderation and not let it take over my life (gaming as lifestyle rather than hobby can be a big problem), and it gives me a little bit of joy. ‘Nuff said.

2. Gamer entitlement

I’m a frequent reader of gaming blogs and magazines, so I’ve noticed entitlement creeping into gamer culture for a few years now.  It really came to  a head earlier this year, when Mass Effect 3‘s ending was kind of lame. There was outcry, threats of lawsuits, and numerous articles written in favor of changing the ending or leaving it as is.

This morning, I was on the Facebook page for the great little indy game Terraria. It’s basically a 2D Minecraft with a lot more actual game to it. It’s wonderful; the gameplay is nearly endless. It’s been out only on PC for a few years, but word is that another developer got permission to develop the game for video gaming consoles.

This is when the crap hit the fan.

You see, Terraria’s original creator decided to stop updating the game… but these new guys were going to add new stuff to the console version. This made the PC guys very angry. I can see why… kind of. Realistically though, most of these guys have probably gotten 100 hours or more out of Terraria, a game that costs 10 bucks. This whining strikes me as extremely selfish.

I have a bit more sympathy for the Mass Effect 3 players. They payed $60 for a game that didn’t deliver on its advertised promises.

We don’t have to whine about everything. Gaming will mature when gamers can understand the business of making and shipping games, I think. Like a child that doesn’t understand everything their parents have to go through in order to feed and cloth them, gaming culture still has some growing up to do.

3. Misunderstanding what mature is

I’ll tell you what maturity isn’t: it isn’t lots of boobs, guts, and violence. It isn’t constant cursing, or acting the way you want to at any given moment. Maturity is knowing when to act and how to act at any given time. Like I said, I’ve been reading  gaming forums for a long time, and while I’m seeing a lot of maturity, I’m also seeing a huge lack of it.

Gaming culture will eventually mature. When it does, video gaming will be taken seriously by the mainstream. Before that happens, gamers will have to take it seriously, though. I hope you know that takes much more than simply dedicating large swaths of their life to playing games. It takes an understanding of how games are made, the consequences of playing them, and a less entitled attitude.

I think all of that will happen…eventually. These growing pains will be good for us.

Until then, be good to each other.

(Note: The Featured Image is of me and my friend Chris circa 1992. Sorry, Chris!)

 

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Confessions of a Casual Girl Gamer: The Couple that Plays Together

My husband will take one look at the title of this article and probably snort. We don’t play video games together enough to suit him. And really (don’t tell him, though) we don’t play together enough to suit me, either.

I enjoy a rousing bout of button mashing, shooting bad guys in the face, and general mayhem as I undoubtedly rush unprepared into the fray. What’s the point of gaming if you can’t have a little fun with it?

But, apparently, there are people out there for whom strategy is a big part of gaming. (I know, right?!) You see these people deeply engrossed in snooze-fests like Skyrim and the Mass Effect games. Just how long can it possibly take to create a character? You collect stuff to make the character better? You level up stuff? UGH! GET TO THE ACTION ALREADY!

I acknowledge that I am probably in a minority with these feelings. That really doesn’t bother me overmuch, though.

So, when my dearest is up to his epaulettes in one of these games, I do my best to aid his cause. Seriously! I provide helpful tips and advice to create a better overall experience for both of us! Because, you see, I don’t like to play these games with him. Even when there is an option for two players, I opt for more of a consultant role. I particularly enjoy providing this service when he’s playing Skyrim.

“What’s that thing following you around?” I ask, secretly already knowing the answer.

“That’s Waoionstoi’xcior (I totally made that up), my (insert random beast name. I choose Cat-Beast) companion,” he says.

“So, he’s like your servant?”

You can’t see the deadly Ball of Yarn +2 attached to his belt. Image found on the Skyrim Forums.

“Not really. He’s more like my companion. He helps in fights and stuff.”

“Huh,” I say. “You should punch him in the face.”

“I can’t punch my Cat-Beast in the face!” he states indignantly.

“You should totally punch him in the face.”

Then, I’ll lose interest in the Cat-Beast and move on to other helpful suggestions.

“Where are you? A tavern? Can you set it on fire? You should set it on fire! Hey, who’s that? Stab him! What would happen if you stab him? STAB HIM! STAB HIM!”

My husband is a longsuffering man. He apparently loves me very much.

The last time I did this to him, he and his Cat-Beast had just come upon some kind of decrepit castle/tower combo filled with religious order types. I’m foggy on the details because, well, I just don’t really care. He and Cat-Beast just strolled around, looking in random chests and taking stuff.

“Don’t they care that you’re taking their stuff?” I asked.

“It’s there for me,” he said.

“Why is stuff for you in their castle? That seems questionable to me.”

Then, I returned to my fail-safe suggestion:

“You should kill these guys and take their castle,” I suggested.

“What?” He was actually a bit indignant. That pleased me.

“Do it!” I commanded.

Then, he did something that underscores why I love him so much: he humored me.

He saved his current game, and then went on a violent death rage, slicing and hacking through folks, while I gleefully looked on and offered encouragement. He totally got into it, too, and confessed that he loves shouting people off high places. (For those of you not familiar with Skyrim, there’s a power where you yell some made-up word and your target goes flying.)

Then, overcome with guilt after slaughtering the entire castle (and his Cat-Beast at my insistence!), he made his character throw himself off the tower, ending the mayhem and enabling a fresh, undeserving-death-free gaming experience.

IT WAS AWESOME!

But, lest you think I’m the only disturbed person in our relationship, let me just say that he gets an unholy amount of glee backseat driving when I’m playing The Walking Dead. It’s different, though. While I offer helpful suggestions, he just enjoys my discomfiture and general inability to keep my cool while fictional terror-creatures swarm my avatar. Oh, he does try to “help” in his way. Sort of. Mostly when I’m a shaking piece of rigid fear on the couch, and he has a huge beard smile.

“Have you tried shooting them?” he asks.

“Shut up,” I grind out through a clenched jaw.

“Watch out! They’re almost to you!”

“AAAAARRRGH! WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo?!”

“They’re going to eat you!” he says. “Oh, no! They just got your plucky companion! Why didn’t you protect your plucky companion?”

“STEVE! Noooooo!” I screech, frantically button mashing.

“They’re coming!” he helpfully points out.

“Run away!” I yell, swinging my controller to the side in an effort to make the direction button work better. “RUN AWAY! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

He smiles, and we are even.

We have an interesting and terrific relationship. We sorta game together, and we annoy the crap out of each other.

It’s pretty great.

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The Ending Has No End: Thoughts On The Ending Of Mass Effect 3

By: Danielle Peterson

I have not taken many bold or unpopular stances in my life, and rarely have I shared them with strangers, but step back because I am about to toss down one mighty unpopular opinion-I think that the ending to Mass Effect 3 was good.

Admittedly, I had a different exposure to it. I played Mass Effect 2 after the whole ending debacle earlier this year; the reason I did so was because I supposed that if so many nerds were so angry about it, then it must be a pretty good game to begin with. I was not disappointed with ME2 and bought ME3 after the EC DLC was made available. I installed it before the end, so I never saw the original endings. So, as someone who never saw the original ending, I can provide insight without my previous opinion tainting said insight.

Choice is a big theme in the Mass Effect series. Choices make who we are, and those choices have consequences. A lot of people have complained that the ending was “press the button you want for your ending”. I don’t argue that that’s what happened, but I believe it was intentional. In conversations with EDI, one of the more salient points was that sapient beings make their own decisions. The ending was a decision, and I believe that was an appropriate thematic choice. Choice is what makes a “soulled” AI different from VI or “soulless” AI, at least in my view. VI can only do what it’s programmed to do (or not, although to know the exact opposite of its programming is still a limitation of its programming), but sophisticated/ “soulled” AI can chose what to do, like EDI and the geth.

Secondly, the ending asks you to come to your own conclusions. I like that. It makes the game last longer and gives it an afterlife. Shepard was the first organic to be able to speak to the AI/God/Boy that was the collective consciousness/boss of The Reapers. Rather than leaving Shepard to die, the AI/God/Boy chose to speak with Shepard. Not only that, but it presented Shepard with ways to break the cycle. Why did it do that? What was the catalyst that made this cycle so different from the ones before it?

My theory is that the conflict between organic and synthetics was no longer a certainty. The AI/God/Boy was aware of this, partially because of the choice that the heretic geth made to worship The Reapers. That the geth were able to form factions was a sign that they had evolved past merely AI and into true sapience (EDI’s storyline serves to reinforce this idea). In addition, aside from the heretics, the geth are some of the more reasonable beings in the galaxy. They kept to themselves and didn’t invade other systems. The quarians are at fault for the conflict. The geth have retained the label bestowed on them by quarians (literally meaning servant), which is an indicator of their sentimental relationship with the “Creators”. They do not seek conflict, yet they defend their own existence. Geth could choose to live anywhere as they are not bound by the restrictions of organic life, but they have an attachment to their homeworld, just as other species do.

Legion informs Tali that the geth maintain the homeworld for the return of the Creators. Just the word “Creator” implies respect and even affection for the quarians. They regret the deaths of quarians, yet the quarians that seek peace with the geth are considered to be fringe. The geth have been tempered in fire, during which they have developed the qualities of the Citadel races. AI/God/Boy recognizes this via the heretic geth interaction, and, combined with the tenacity of organics (embodied in Shepard, who, regardless of whether you are a paragon or a renegade, is the personification of sapient organic nature) recognizes that the cycle need not be continued. The organics have finally done their part by completing the Crucible, proving that they can be as smart and efficient as synthetics, and the synthetics have done their part by evolving souls, proving that they can understand organic reasoning.

A short sidebar here: humans have only been on the scene for some thirty years, but in less time than it takes for a highway to be built, we are saving the galaxy. This is side effect of how great we think our own species is. It’s usually presented in the framework of a Goldilock’s Zone: we aren’t as brutish and uncivilized as those Krogan/Klingon/Dwarves; however, we aren’t too smart and cold, like those Vulcan/Salarians/Elves. We are juuuuuust right.

The Reapers themselves are “soulless” AI, unlike the geth and EDI, who have evolved “souls.” The AI/God/Boy knows from its programming that The Reapers are no longer necessary since synthetics have evolved “souls,” so conflict is no longer a certainty because synthetics and organics are finally analogs of each other–albeit in a very early stage. But, as a “soulless” AI, the AI/God/Boy  is unable to make the choice, which is why Shepard must make the choice.. since the Reapers cannot.

I could elaborate, but that isn’t the point of this article. The point is that I came up with that theory because the game gave me the choice to do so. It didn’t hold my hand, nor did it give me a big explosion where Shepard is carried up to Space Heaven by space eagles (although it did rely heavily on “space magic,” but hey, that’s a given when you are suspending the rules of physics enough to enable faster than light travel). I am sure lots of people who have put effort into it have come up with their own theories. The beauty of the ending is that these theories can exist.

People have accused the writers of being lazy hacks, but I believe they wrote a massive backstory and have left it up to you to make the ending, should you be inclined to. Not traditional writing, sure, but there are too many variables to make a singular ending that would have satisfied everyone. They have given you the threads, and it’s up to you to weave them together.

Danielle Peterson wrote a book (that isn’t about a video games) and has a website.

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A Better Class of MMO [Rocking the Boat]

John wrote an article yesterday about his disappointment with the current World of Warcraft. I agree with all of his points, but I thought I would take it a step further and talk about the kind of MMO I would want to play. As I was thinking about it, I came up with this formula.

Mass Effect’s character creation + Skyrim’s open world and skills + Minecraft’s building and crafting + EVE’s approach to PvP and economy + Some other stuff + World of Warcraft  = A game that I would throw all my money at for a chance to play.

Curt Schilling, if you’re reading this, and this was what Project Copernicus was going to be,  I am sad for you.

Mass Effect’s Character Creation:

Besides being very customizable, Mass Effect has you answer some basic questions about your character. I’d love to see this affect the game in different ways. I also hope that it would encourage a little more role playing from the people playing the game. I miss having roleplaying in MMORPGs. Large scale RPing would be amazing.

Image: PC Mag.com

Skyrim’s Skill System

Skyrim has a rich, open world for you to explore. Put this into an MMORPG and make it even bigger. Let me pick my own skills rather than be shoehorned into a class. Maybe instead of being a warrior, I want to be a simple woodcutter and carpenter (this ties into my next point). I don’t mind a framework that I could work from, but I hate being forced into one of three roles with my class. Instead, I want to play the game my way, unbalanced or not.

Minecraft’s Building and Crafting:

Azeroth has a problem. Everything is only related to war and making war. You can only build things that have to do with war. I, however, want to stake out claims on land. Build some buildings. Mine some stone. Cut down and replant some trees. Pick herbs and make potions/medicines for various effects. I don’t want to just be a warrior destroying things; I want to be able to create.  And this just doesn’t go for building either.

I want to be able to make my own weapons and armor. I want them to be customizable, I want them to look the way I want. And give them the effects that I’ve learned. I want to sell them and be awesome. This brings me to…

EVE’s Economy and PvP:

A player driven-economy. Let people buy and sell anything and everything. Let people found their own towns, corporations, cities, guilds. Let the player’s recruit new people and send them out on missions.  Yes, this could lead to imbalance. I don’t care. I have no problems living in an unbalanced world. Factions will rise and fall. People will band together and people will betray each other.

Imagine having to hire a high-level body guard. He’d watch your back. Go out and assassinate rivals for you. And you paid him a set amount of money per month… so long as he stayed above a certain level.

Yes, did I mention? PvP and death have consequences. They don’t have to be big consequences, but a small loss of XP and dropping everything on you is fair, in my opinion. We played MUDs like that for a long time… and instead of whining about it, we decided to get better. To play sneakier. To be aware of our surroundings. This would also force you to manage your resources well. Put your money in banks… and other safe havens…. but you might want to buy insurance… since banks can be robbed and safes can be broken into. It all depends on how the players decide to build things. It could be magnificent.

Want to be a dark lord? Do it.

Other Stuff:

I like the idea of capturing random mobs and drafting them into a faction’s army. You could then send this army to attack other factions. The army limit would be based on the cumulative power level of the mobs, and the size of the faction you run. This could replace high level content/dungeons/instances with what is essentially a strategy war game. Coordinate your NPC mobs with the PCs in your faction. Take over your opponents city. Rebuild it in your image.

Finally:

I’m not worried about game balance here… I think the free game market (with certain restrictions) could actually balance out play. Things could get ugly for you… but things could also be awesome. You could run a faction. You could lose everything.

Or you could just build a house in a town or in the middle of nowhere, and just farm, log, or frolic in the grasses.

You get to play your way. With hundreds of others.

Where can I deposit my money to play this?

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