Tag Archives: shepard

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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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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