Mass Effect 3 EP17: The Set-Pieces Must Flow

By Shamus
on Sep 26, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I know my thoughts were really rambling and unfocused when we got to the underground section. Let me try to sand the corners off of this ugly bit of criticism:

They step off the highway and go down a flight of stairs into a section called “the city of the ancients”. The idea that it’s basically sitting under a highway but that it’s completely mysterious is just goofy to me. Who called it “city of the ancients”? And then after all the build-up that this is THE CITY OF THE ANCIENTS, it turns out it’s just a couple of palette-cleansing tunnels. This isn’t really a plot hole or anything. It’s just that the characters tried to heap so much significance on such a small and inconsequential space. Nobody mentioned it before, or after. It didn’t have any bearing on the ongoing adventure.

Also, Liara marvels at the painting, surprised that the Krogan had an artistic side. I wanted to bop her on the head for being so racist. Or perhaps, for being so dismissive of their capacity for architecture, which was apparent long before we got to this small scribble on the wall.

And now for my big gripe about Tuchanka:

me3_bleh.jpg

BioWare, you have an art problem. It’s really bad. You need to fix it as fast as possible. It is completely bonkers to spend all these millions on scenery and then bleed out the contrast and ram the whole thing through a color filter.

Why is the sky the same color as the foreground? Why are the plants the same color as the dirt? Why is the dirt the same color as the stonework? And for that matter, why is the stonework all one color? Nothing here “pops”, and thus the whole thing feels flat and boring. Why is all of it the exact same saturation? Even the fog is the same color. Just… why? Why would you do this?

We’re looking at the surface of an alien world, torn by centuries of endless warfare, and it looks completely generic and uninspiring. You were trying so hard to evoke a sense of wonder with that crap about THE CITY OF THE ANCIENTS in your generic dark empty underground rubble-hallways. You could have accomplished so much more if you’d just kept the maniac with the color-filter away from this vista.

Allow me to bring out an example of a good ruin:

specops3.jpg

The player stands out against cover, which stands out against the sand, which contrasts sharply with the plane, which stands out against the flowing black smoke, which contrasts sharply against the crisp blue sky. Different colors. Different brightness. Different saturation levels. Boom. Depth and visual clarity in a crumbling ruin.

Good art is hard to make. It’s even worse to see it defaced like this. Please, please. Find the art-murderer in your dev team and stop him before he kills again.

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A Hundred!2016There are 136 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Thomas says:

    I’m so glad you decided to talk about the ugliness, the first minute the show started my mind was already on that and you guys were clearly having the same impression.

    The thing is, this is probably one of the best looking sections of the game even (fire pits inside Cerberus base were okay I guess) but it’s so gosh darn unbeautiful.
    My own compare and contrast (admittedly I’m going to be unfair, because I’m going to compare to Uncharted, probably some of the best looking games around)
    Look at this one, it’s pretty much exactly the same image as Tuchanka but just…
    http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb57524/uncharted/images/4/4f/The_Lost_City_Panorama.jpg
    I’m actually going to relink to that Tuchanka shot so you can tab both in a browser window, because the comparison …it’s just not there
    http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120421031518/masseffect/images/6/67/Tuchanka_hope.png

    http://assets1.ignimgs.com/2012/04/11/uncharted-3-drakes-deception-20120411110003154-3625816_640w.jpg
    http://guidesmedia.ign.com/visualhistory/uncharted3art/1280_16_9/sandlantis-interior.jpg
    http://finalcheckpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Uncharted_Golden_Abyss_gameplay.jpg
    (That ones a handheld console screen as well -_- )
    http://i47.tinypic.com/1118i74.jpg

    How about this, a strip of featurless desert that manages to bemore vibrant and visually interesting than Tuchanka
    http://nextgengamingblog.com/files/2011/10/uncharted-3-desert-screenshot-640×360-580×326.jpg

    I don’t expect ME to look like Uncharted, but it should at least try. ME1 and ME2 weren’t bad. Not great but not awful… ME3 … the thing I hate about the game most is this

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Honestly, you’re right. I love the fact that Uncharted uses contract and color, even as far back as the first game.

      That’s a huge problem with ME. No contrast and color at all.

    • zob says:

      Ok this must be my memory playing tricks on me but I definitely remember those ruins more colorful than this picture Shamus shared. Can someone test those ruins with minimum graphical settings or higher gamma correction? I suspect there is some post process shenanigans here.

    • PurePareidolia says:

      I love that when she sees those ruins Liara’s first comment is “Wow, the colour green!” Even though it’s so washed out you can barely tell it’s there.

      Look, if you want to show part of Tuchanka regrowing, make it vibrant and make it everywhere – it should be a huge contrast to the ruins the Krogan live in, there should be vines all over the place with the sandy wind causing leaves or even flower petals to be swept up into the air. It should look like an oasis, not the same thing but with a few roots going through it.

      I mean, speaking purely symbolically, Tuchanka is a representation of the Krogan themselves as a ruined, decimated species, barely standing after all these years of infighting and war. The shroud represents hope for their species, and the potential rebirth of the Krogan race. We should see that represented with the growth of new life, paintings about Krogan families and tribes, indications that maybe they attempted to have a culture but the harsh environment always beat them back into warlike tribalism.

      Shepard is literally walking through the ancient carcass of the Krogan civilization carrying the light of hope for their species, and it’s such a wasted opportunity for it to just be another ruin.

    • Irridium says:

      Uncharted also has a nice poke at this type of thing. There’s a color filter you can unlock in the game called “next-gen,” and it makes everything brown and ups the bloom to ridiculous amounts.

    • ENC says:

      Not everything has to have contrast and colour. Nuclear War is supposed to be ugly?

      I felt like the ruins of Tuchanka were pretty plain though; like the fact that it felt no one ever lived here and it was just smashed up artwork.

    • Eric says:

      My guess is that the poor art direction comes to a) using post-processing as a crutch for consistent art (if you take out all the colour you don’t have to worry about art assets mismatching each other as much) and b) simply an attempt to make the game look “grittier” and “more realistic” in the same way Gears of War did so in the first game by desaturating the entire frame.

      Only things is, Epic learned their lesson with the first Gears and the sequels had far, far better art direction, especially once they were comfortable with the tools and their pipeline. The poor art direction in the Mass Effect series (some of it excellent, a lot of it just awful) is indicative of the rushed production schedule, the lack of coordination between teams, the lack of a consistent vision for the game and probably the use of a lot of lower-grade brute-force grunt work to get things done.

      Considering we are now three games in and aside from raw detail and quality of assets, and that the first game had far better and more consistent art direction, it’s really kind of disheartening to see what was a pretty colourful sci-fi series has gone the way of “realism = brown.”

    • some random dood says:

      Also, how empty the whole place looked. Even the vegetation on Tuchanka was supposed to be able to put up a good fight. That was given as the explanation of why the krogan eyes developed to the side of the head for improved overall vision coverage as opposed to both front-facing to heighten 3d perception for hunters – as the threat from the flora and fauna was so high that even the alpha-species for the planet (krogan) had more need to watch out for enemies than improved vision for hunting. At least, that was from the lore given in ME1… Oh, silly me, all that has been ret-conned out hasn’t it?

  2. ? says:

    Shepard: How can you say that Liara? There is more to Krogan culture than violence! *headbutt*

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      You know, given that Liara is quarter-Krogan…you’d think she’d know that too.

      • Mike S. says:

        Liara and her dad’s back and forth about that is one of my favorite exchanges of the game:

        “Wait– I have a half-sister who’s part hanar?”

        “I thought that wasn’t how it worked.”

        (Shame about Liara’s paternal grandparents, though.)

        • Alexander The 1st says:

          I only did the refuse ending so far – does her father not die in the other endings?

          • Mike S. says:

            I don’t *think* we get a shot of her, though I don’t think there’s any reason to think she’s necessarily dead. Even if there weren’t survivors of the Citadel (which is less clear if in the Extended Cut where it doesn’t explode), she wasn’t necessarily there when it was taken by the Reapers.

  3. Klay F. says:

    Obviously, the person in charge of the art at Bioware ascribes to the Bethesda school of post-apocolypse scenery.

    The most infuriating thing is that Bethesda GOT AWAY WITH IT.

    So many people talk about how Bethesda did a better job creating a post-apocalypse setting than Obsidian. No. No they fucking didn’t. The only thing Bethesda did was make everything not make any sense, then they colored it toddler-poo green.

    EDIT: Also, question: Do the brutes keep respawning here, or are there only like four or five of them? I seem to remember getting extremely tired of shooting them and just running past them like Josh does.

    • Sozac says:

      I think people only say Bethesda did a better job because everyone could recognize DC, and its true I like the setting for Fallout 3 more than New Vegas, but in truth it was just a green filter on brown and gray for the most part. It had its moments, but New Vegas did seem to have a good feeling about itself as well without being “all” brown. Also, it replaced tunnels with caves which, for me can have less all-around atmosphere, but it was less annoying since you didnt have to go through them all the time :(

      • Klay F. says:

        So Bethesda did a better job because…they happened to choose a setting everyone in the world already recognizes?

        In other news I just figured out where Fallout 4 will be set: Liberty Island. I look forward to hearing about how Bethesda perfectly captures a post-apocalyptic feel through no effort of their own.

        • Sozac says:

          I’m not saying they did a better job, it just seems like they did. Like if Obsidian did Fallout 3 it might’ve been better. I still liked F3 though even after I watched SW for it. But Fallout New Vegas is a marginally superior game.

          Also since they are up North, I wouldnt be surprised if Liberty Island was DLC.

      • New Vegas did have some washed out areas, but they were part of the mood setting. Camp Forlorn Hope and Camp Searchlight both had their own color filtration that actually helped set the scene by becoming less vibrant (Forlorn Hope because the place was full of people who were on the brink of desertion and Searchlight because it was bathed in radiation and full of ghouls who were recently NCR soldiers).

        I’m of two minds about vibrancy in video games. Yes, I like to be able to see things clearly and distinguish objects, but there are times in real life where you can’t see everything clearly, making it a challenge to tell if the road continues through some hills or if it ends altogether, for example. I guess it comes down to whether or not the devs are using it as a tool or just being tools.

        • Sozac says:

          I remember playing through Camp Searchlight with the radio off was pretty atmospheric. Like, I completely missed it on my first 2 playthroughs, and then on my radio always off playthrough I went there and I like how in this game places with radiation are actually dangerous. Like rad away and rad x are a bit harder to just find normally, and there isnt much of a point to buying them because it isnt painted with radiation like F3. But I was scared doing that mission (also seen in vault 34) because I thought the radiation or all those damned radscorpians) would kill me.

        • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

          I’m fine with things being difficult to see on occasion, as long as it’s possible to tell when you’re running into a wall. In real life, you can tell things about your environment through senses other than sight. In video-games, when you lose sight, you lose pretty much everything in terms of environmental navigation.

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            Yeah – it’s basically the epidemy of the “Third person limited” viewpoint of games – I can’t see the full 360 degrees around me, but someone walking up behind me or from the side towards me is something I’m going to notice, if only because of the sound and the fact that I can smell them (If they smell distinctly, for example). And in the dark, I can still feel the ground texture as I walk over it.

            In a video game, especially a console video game where headphones are a joke of an answer, and 7.1 is even less likely, if you cut off my sight…you cut off everything.

      • Kdansky says:

        What bothers me about Fallout: Take a look at Chernobyl. It’s anything but brown. It’s a jungle, which is the default state of our planet’s civilised geography if not for human intervention. GREEN!

        • Ah, but in Fallout, radiation is magical, FEV is magical, irradiated FEV is magical, and the whole series is based on the first Fallout games which were, in turn, based on previous tropes about nuclear war and the effects thereof.

          I was talking with one of the people writing the Wasteland sequel, and one of the things he noted was how much Chernobyl and other things had taught us about the effects of radiation over time, and, while they’re still quite bad, it’s not as bleak as was thought during the Cold War (this assumes a war where all life isn’t obliterated in one massive ICBM gift exchange, of course).

    • Pete says:

      Personally I do think Fallout 3 has a more post-apocalyptic feeling, and its not really the visuals that do it – its more that the cities are collections of scavenged material, half of an aircraft carrier, or other such things, that people go around looting buildings and a significant amount of the quests is exploring the ruins of an old vault or recovering some ancient piece of technology. New Vegas on the other hand feels more lived in (in my opinion, anyway) what with NCR establishing a proper goverment, the gun runners making new weaponry, things like that.

      Now the issue with that is, with the alleged two hundred years, the setting probably shouldnt be post-apocalyptic anymore in the first place…

      • Klay F. says:

        And here we get to the rub, because I have a special place in my heart for Fallout 1 and 2, take my opinions for what they are: subjective. If they were intent on it being both a Fallout game AND having a post-apocalyptic feel, don’t set it 200 shitting years after the bombs dropped (also don’t have a main plot that can be solved by reading the instruction manual for the first game, but thats beside the point). Yes, yes, they wanted to take advantage of the name and all that other BS, blah, blah, blah. This is a Bethesda open world game. It was going to sell like crazy no matter what the game was called. They added the Fallout elements to the game in a cynical attempt to convince the ACTUAL Fallout fans that this was an ACTUAL Fallout game, and it came across as the class clown trying to fit in at the cool kids table, to use a crude comparison.

        Yeah, I know I come across as grumpy here. Everyone who hadn’t played the originals played Fallout 3 and were like, “Wow! Awesome open world game.” Whereas everyone who did play the originals was like, “WTF this isn’t Fallout!”

        EDIT: While this is awaiting moderation I’d like to add that I’m almost positive we’ve all had this conversation before, and its uncanny.

        • Amazon_warrior says:

          I must get around to playing FO1+2. I have them on disc at home somewhere, but I’m quite tempted to get the GOG versions to play on my lappy while travelling. And at least I *haven’t* copped out and played FO3 in the interim – my OCD regarding playing/watching/reading series in order wouldn’t let me! :p

      • StashAugustine says:

        Yeah, that’s my opinion of Fallout- FO3 definitely had a more apocalyptic atmosphere, it’s just too bad it’s been done to death and didn’t make sense.

      • Both games did the post-apocalypse setting correctly, which involves showing you the familiar in ruins. It’s why the original Gamma World RPG was so much fun. Like Fallout, you had robots, AIs and lasers, but you had the added “fun” of seeing a big hunk of the world after it had been nuked, picked over, then inhabited by sentient cockatiels or other creatures.

        The later editions of the game tried to mix in a bunch of future tech like nanites or bio-engineering to explain “mutations,” instead of sticking with magic-mutating radiation and civilization ravaged by atomic bombs.

        And this does bring up something else. I know a lot of people complained about FO3 and FNV’s 1950’s-60’s retro-future aesthetic not being “true” to Fallout, but it was there in Fallout 1. It’s even mentioned several times in the Fallout Bible that came with the GOG version of the game. I’d rather have it there as a continuation of the franchise, myself, since having ipads or color computer screens would clash with what came before. Also, that era of tech has (at least in my mind) the air of durability one ascribes to old cars, TV sets that refuse to die, old mainframe terminals, etc.

      • Khizan says:

        Fallout 3 has a more apocalyptic feel because it didn’t have Mr. House shooting down nuclear missiles and so it took way, way more damage.

        • Keeshhound says:

          The problem is that it has the WRONG post-apocalyptic feel. It feels like it should be set about 20 years after the bombs fell, not 200. New Vegas is actually a fairly reasonable world for a story set a few hundred years after the bombings; people aren’t going to just leave the ruins sit and wallow in the ashes, eventually you have to clear out the rubble and start over.

          • StashAugustine says:

            That’s why I loved FO:NV. It had a great sense of “bringing order to the wasteland,” where everything you did felt like it was working towards that goal (even if it didn’t have that effect in game.) FO3 just felt like a bunch of irrelevant sidequests to beef you up for a inconsequential main plot.

            • Phantom Hoover says:

              I’d disagree that NV’s about bringing order to the wasteland. As of NV, there *is* no wasteland — the Mojave is essentially the last frontier in the area for the growing civilisations of the West, and most of it is still populated and controlled by some kind of organisation. The Courier isn’t single-handedly beating back the chaos, they’re just another person wandering around and doing odd jobs as part of greater plans and conflicts.

  4. IFS says:

    The krogan ruins felt a bit like the deep roads in Dragon Age, only instead of the darkspawn keeping people from exploring or investigating its Kalros.

    Also I was a bit annoyed when the trailer showing Kalros vs the reaper came out, mostly because I was thinking that there was no way a thresher maw could take on a reaper, and the only way I was going to be okay with it was if it was a very small reaper or a very big tresher maw. Turns out its the biggest thresher maw in existence and the smallest class of reaper, so I ended up liking the scene as it is pretty awesome.

  5. Sozac says:

    For the purpose of the ruins, it seemed like some sort of temple for Kalros. Also, I love Ruts’ oblivion playthroughs. His entire playthrough is like my guy in an Oblivion gate, just run/jumping around trying to get to the end.

    • IFS says:

      Reminds me of how my first character would use invisibilty to just run past the enemies in the fighters guild quests, but would just hit everything in the mages guild quests with a sword until it stopped living.

  6. newdarkcloud says:

    Okay, rant time.

    I personally cannot stand when games throw me in the dark with only a flashlight for no reason and then expect me to be able to navigate. I spent twenty goddamn minutes in the “City of the Ancients” just trying to get my bearings. (I know, I suck.) The least they could have done was given me a map.

    It’s partially my fault because I went looking for credits, but unless you have a very good reason to do so, lay off dark levels. It’s hard to see and sunlight often blinds my TV screen.

    • Irridium says:

      They could’ve had some odd plants growing throughout the ruin. Perhaps glowing plants. Hey, it’s an alien planet, just say the plants mutated due to the Krogan’s self-inflicted nuclear winter and now glow. Or something. I don’t know, it’s a way to help you navigate and add some damn color to the scene. Perhaps have Wrex make a funny quip about these plants or something.

    • hborrgg says:

      Being only able to see with the flashlight would be ok, but for some stupid reason they decided to make it bob all over the place whenever you move and have it fly around like they’re trying to cause a seizure whenever you run. The reason I kept getting lost was because they kept telling me to hurry up, but whenever I did I would be blinded for a few moments, lose my bearings and end up backtracking the entire level.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      BTW, I’ve been waiting to make that statement.

  7. Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

    Do they ever explain why the Reaper doesn’t just destroy the Shroud? What do they need it for?

    • IFS says:

      Its said right at the beginning of the mission that the reapers are poisoning tuchanka’s atmosphere with it, basically pumping a poison into the air. Why they would expect this to work on Krogan, what with their ridiculous resistances and redundant organs I don’t know, but whatever.

      • Tse says:

        Krogans don’t have the Vorcha regeneration abilities. Redundant organs can’t save you from poison if they are all poisoned. Krogans weren’t even immune to the plague in Omega.

      • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

        But wasn’t the Shroud originally designed to *restore* and maintain the atmosphere? So wouldn’t destroying it… be just as effective as poisoning it, if possibly a little slower?

        • Thomas says:

          I think a lot slower. There used to be many Shrouds and the rest have broken and the atmosphere has still kinda survived. It would probably take a few decades or something to really finish Tuchanka off, that’s not a bad long term plan, but it doesn’t help them cut off Turian reinforcements

      • Klay F. says:

        This is to say nothing of why they would choose such a pointlessly roundabout method of destruction.

        • Pete says:

          You get an extra 150 points for a poison kill, and it stacks with the 200 roundabout bonus you get if your target doesnt have line of sight to you at time of death, not to mention the X2 stealth kill multiplier.

          That, by the way, is my favorite explanation for reapers overcomplicating things: going for bonus points.

          • Gruhunchously says:

            The Reapers have their own scoring system based how many sentient beings they kill and how. Ridiculously convoluted schemes net them more points per kill, and taking shortcuts like seizing the Citadel and locking down all the relays dock them points. Each Reaper’s personal score is combined into a high score for each cycle. Then they try to top that score during the next cycle.

            • Sagretti says:

              So the reapers are really just troll gamers that grief the entire universe? I’d almost think that’s more plausible than some of the actual storyline.

            • Alexander The 1st says:

              Bonus tie-in: The Reaper with the least number of points has to stay behind.

              It would explain why Sovereign was the most intimidating of the Reapers – Sovereign just doesn’t mess around when the fighting begins. The first time he just used his laser to cut a hole to the center of the planet’s core, and ever since then, the only thing he was interested in was pushing a button to bring all the other Reapers in to do the invasion so they could get around to their hair-brained schemes while he just vents all the mass on the Citadel out using the relay after the Reapers leave.

        • Jakey says:

          Is it really a pointless roundabout method though? The only weapons Reapers have are those giant laser beams, which the SW crew previously compared to trying to shade in the area the size of US with a lot of pencils as far as galaxy extermination goes, indoctrination and husks. There’s a reason they’re actively huskifying races just to throw them back into combat to make more husks and said reason is the idea that while they’re hulking indestructible Lovecraftian monstrosities, they’re also slow, deliberate, patient and finally inefficient – be it both by design and sheer logistics. They absolutely need the Robot-Rachni, Illusive Man, Husks etc in order to streamline a ginormous process that even then lasts good 200-300 years.

          I don’t see how poisoning the air supply isn’t a smarter approach than trying to throw waves of Rachni/Husks at a race that excels at close combat bar none or literally glassing the planet a mile at a time with lasers.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            Simpler solution. ROCKS!
            Park a Reaper next to local asteroid belt. And have it deorbit rocks unto Tunchanka. Or one big one. Thats how acutal space navies deal with those pesky ground pounders, if they want everything on a planet killed.

            • Jakey says:

              But that’s a pretty excessive no-such-thing-as-overkill tactic that Reapers don’t usually employ until it’s a last resort kind of thing. There’s no reason not to nuke the whole planet as Plan B if the poisoning fails.

              • 4th Dimension says:

                You don’t need to destroy it. Simply induce another ice age and watch everything above rat size die. In a couple of cycles the planet will recover and will probably give birth to another crop of sentients ready to be reaped.

                • Mike S. says:

                  I don’t think an ice age gets you anything other than angry (angrier), cold-adapted krogan. They’re a multiply redundant species whose defining characteristic is toughness, in a space opera universe. (The last bit being key.) I’ll believe they can be killed off, eventually, by the setting’s official civilization-ending threat, but not by a mere dinosaur-killer asteroid.

              • Luhrsen says:

                Actually the game tells you they did it just because they were in a hurry on smaller population human planets even though humans are the ones they actually want to convert.

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            Destroy the Shroud, and just let the air naturally turn to dust.

            Poisoning it leaves the possibility that someone could simply fix it – if the Shroud is gone…then you can just leave the planet be and let the Krogan toxify themselves.

            • Jakey says:

              But you’re forgetting that Krogans lasted for good two thousand years between nuking themselves into a post-apocalyptic society and the Salarians uplifting them. Yeah, the shroud’s good for rebuilding the atmosphere to better sustain the original lush jungles of Tuchanka, but there’s absolutely no indication that the atmosphere will actually break down, let alone do it in a practical timeframe of less than 500 years. And in regards to somebody fixing it, well, that’s sorta why there’s a big ass Reaper just parked there to prevent that sort of thing.

          • Klay F. says:

            Okay maybe those small reapers only have those dumb lasers, but the Sovereign-class reapers have super huge mass accelerator cannons with which they can bombard the planet from orbit. So yes, it IS pointlessly roundabout. And that excuse about them being slow and deliberate is equally ridiculous. Slow and deliberate does not mean obtuse. “Oh they are unknowable, so they are deliberately using the slowest, least efficient method ever conceived.” Not only that, but they are tying up one of their own on the ground, when he could be better used elsewhere. Seriously, that reaper was just SITTING there twiddling his reaper-thumbs until Shepard showed up.

            We aren’t even done with the stupid yet. That reaper is sitting on the ground, which means he is using the majority of his power on his mass effect generators keeping himself upright and not on, say, his shields. He is, again, pointlessly making himself vulnerable.

          • Ateius says:

            200-300 years? The Prothean flashbacks and VI exposition from ME1 indicated an extremely fast invasion that overwhelmed them before they could prepare a response – heck, almost before they even knew what was happening. That does not really say “centuries” to me, unless the next big reveal is that Protheans operated on a geological timescale.

            • Kavonde says:

              No, he didn’t. The Reapers hit the Citadel immediately and shut down virtually all intersystem travel and communication, but the process of exterminating the thousands of planets habitated by the Prothean Empire took awhile. Javik, for example, was born some time after the Citadel fell, and was a respected soldier by the time the Reapers found his planet.

              The scientists, meanwhile, froze themselves as soon as they realized what was happening. They came out of stasis hundreds of years later, figuring that would be enough time for the Reapers to finish systematically annihilating their empire. Hence why a lot of the pods had to shut down in the interim.

              Even from a logical point of view, exhaustively searching the entire galaxy to make sure you got everyone isn’t going to be a quick process. There’s always a chance that your opponent has a single probe out there building pylons while you wipe out his base.

  8. psivamp says:

    I always liked Larry Niven’s Pak as a good hyper-warrior race. It seems that when you hold up the krogan in comparison to the Pak, they’re just so much less complicated and real.

  9. hborrgg says:

    @10:30
    Well I know why you were confused Josh, that’s the exact same cutscene you get when Wrex is dead and you actually are getting into Wreave’s tank.

  10. anaphysik says:

    Time to lore it up: what the FUCK is the Phalanx, a recent Alliance military project handgun, doing on the krogan homeworld?! Just what.

    The technical possibility exists that some idiot thought of Kalros as a “particularly dangerous big-game animal” against which to use it, but seriously? Seriously?

    • Klay F. says:

      Its best not to try and reconcile gameplay with story in Mass Effect. Down that path lies insanity, coupled with an ignoble death in a ditch somewhere.

      Like how do the SMG heatsinks mods work without breaking every known law of reality. Oh crap I just did it to myselfjhafjagfjabfdfjk…

      • karthik says:

        I have been down that road, and gazed upon the many disjointed faces of Bioware.

        I pretty much had to train myself to ignore these discrepancies so I could enjoy ME2 (The shipwrecked crew turned feral hunters from the Gernsback have kinetic barriers?) and as a result I noticed probably a tenth of the weird stuff pointed out by the SW crew.

        • Ringwraith says:

          …and have heat sink weapons, and have LOKI and YMIR mechs.
          I can pass the officers having shields (which they do normally, the normal crew only have them on Hardcore/Insanity), but everything else is such a complete disconnect from the context. Otherwise a good mission though, shame the gameplay designers weren’t clued in on the actual plot of it.

    • Artur CalDazar says:

      Gameplay to your right, Story to the left.

  11. Michael says:

    Urgh. You got Gears of War in my… um, increasingly Gears-of-War-like sci-fi game…

    I saw this sequence in a trailer for the game, and that was when I lost all interest. It looks so out of place. I know EA are convinced they’ll go under if they don’t sell a copy of every game they make to every living thing on the planet, but sections like this feel… weirdly desperate. It’s entirely possible to design impressive set-pieces that feel like Mass Effect and not a different franchise altogether.

    Of course, it feels doubly weird because I’m used to turning on hammers to scare away ant lions, not attract giant space worms.

    • zob says:

      Giant space worms are always attracted to sound. That’s a well known geek reference from Dune and Tremors.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        And Jedi Academy (urgh, that one level!).

        • Atarlost says:

          Terrible level. And I can’t skip it because if I skip it I don’t get the fun powers as quickly and it’s one fewer level running around blasting people with force lightning or bashing them into the ceiling or making them shoot their buddies. And worse it means having only the first heal at the horrible acid rain place if I prioritize maxing out a cool power. Heal 1 is lame and that story segment requires a lot of healing.

          Incidentally I think either it or some comic book, not KotOR is the source for Korriban. The tombs is different, but the valley in KotOR is pretty much the valley in JA with sand up to the doorways. I guess Bioware didn’t have a good stair climbing walk animation.

          So not only are they rehashing KotOR, they’re rehashing something from KotOR that they stole from someone else.

          • Jace911 says:

            Didn’t KoTOR come out like three years before Jedi Academy?

            Also Wookieepedia says the first appearance of the Valley of the Dark Lords was in one of the Tales of the Jedi comics, so you are correct. Have a cookie.

          • Moriarty says:

            The first rank of the shield power makes you completely imune to the acid rain btw. Makes that level a whole lot easier.

            • Tse says:

              Not on the hardest difficulty!

            • Atarlost says:

              Shield is utterly useless everywhere else though because it eats half your force pool and kills regen.

              This prevents you from spamming the good powers. Like lightning, which can wear down most dark jedi, and grip which even high level jedi opponents will occasionally fail to counter fast enough to prevent you from smashing into the ceiling or chucking them off a cliff, and and mind trick which is just incredibly powerful against non-jedi and practically a must have against those big suits and the flying bastards.

      • PAK says:

        Right. To the original poster, the things in HL2 were pretty clearly a sort of inverted homage to the thumpers in Dune.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Gears of War would have done a much better job of setting up the spectacle.

  12. Adam P says:

    I tried to do some basic image enhancement on that screenshot Shamus embedded. Fun fact: Aside from some green and the blue-ish discoloration at the edges, that image is all red and yellow. Orange, actually, albeit dark shades of orange. You might even refer to that color as “brown.” As in, you can flood the whole green/blue spectrum with black and the image is mostly unaffected.

    Here’s what basic color correction on the screenshot looks like, by the way. Look at how the orange edge of the ground pops! The fog is a different color than the ground!

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      That’s… not atrociously bad.

    • TheHidden says:

      Taking up from you, i essentially just did what you did, and added the tiniest bit of additional effort into the process. I took Shamous’ screenshot, did a basic automatic value improvement and adjusted the values afterwards a bit to get rid of the unused spectrum. Then i adjusted the curves for a bit more contrast and just kicked in a tiny amount of actual contrast for good measure.

      It resulted in this.

      It took me less than 20 seconds. It was done in GIMP and i’m neither a graphical artist nor have i any taste.

  13. Gruhunchously says:

    It’s kind of sad how the only non-brown things in this sequence are hold overs fro the previous two games; Mordin’s outfit, Wrex and Shepard’s armor, and the Reaper. Sometimes I wonder if Bioware’s art department regrets making the Reapers purple, and wishes that they retcon them all to be grey and brown and get away with it.

  14. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I apparently have little to say about this episode, so I propose an experiment: if this were ME1, how would it have been handled?

    I think they would have done something like Noveria. First, we would have got to drive the trucks rather than see a cutscene. Then, once we got to the site, we would have reached the lab (maybe had to shoot a few people, but not the giant swarming waves of them) -perhaps even had the option to sneak through the city of the anciets to get there -and discovered the problem. We would have had to defend the lab while Mordin/Wiks figured out a solution -maybe still had to do the dash and hit the buttons part -After which we would have gotten a short cutscene of everyone bugging out while Kalross gave the reaper a facefull of alien wing-wong.

  15. I love how your teammates follow you on your suicide charge to the Reaper, then you get to the other side and immediately tell your squad to run BACK. When I saw that I literally yelled, “SHEPARD! YOU ARE THE BIGGEST A-HOLE!!!” xD

    This set-piece battle at the end really bugs me. You have to activate hammers to call the thresher maw, even though the stomping and explosions of the Reaper beam should do that ALL BY ITSELF!!!

    It’s so pointless.

    And as I’ve already mentioned, I really don’t understand why people like the Tuchanka section so much.

    • Open Source Idiom says:

      I’d guess it’s because both this section and Rannoch build up a good head of steam plot-wise, by virtue of spending a great deal of time in the one area. Both are problematic for various reasons separate to each other, and both share some of the same problems (specifically that they’ve both got _exactly_ the same structure) but they benefit from having several games of build-up behind them and then a decent amount of in-game time devoted to them. That, and the player is given a secret to carry — a pretty damn important one that strokes their ego and makes them feel awesome.

      Tuchanka, of course, is something of a scattered mess. In dividing the entire conflict into bite-sized pieces, everyone’s motivations come across in little sound-bites — more like a political rally than characterisation. And a not entirely honest one either, when you factor in the Salarian Councillor’s characterisation. The game comes down very heavily in favour of the Krogan through demonizing all opposition, and I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that.

      • If it builds up “a good head of steam plot-wise” it’s incredibly superficial.

        Virtually everything to do with the Krogan in ME3 is nonsensical and stupid.

        • Even says:

          Well, the premise does at least make some sense. My Paragon Shepard was pretty much doing what felt right at the moment and fuck all the consequences ever since the ending of ME2 (“Fuck the Illusive Man!” was pretty much my only sentiment at that point), and here on Tuchanka was just happy to support an old friend (Wrex), galaxy be damned.

          Going impulsive is what probably made the game a lot more tolerable in hindsight.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “And as I’ve already mentioned, I really don’t understand why people like the Tuchanka section so much.”

      Ive outlined that during the last episode:You get a tough moral choice,and there is no way for you to win.You have to sacrifice either wrex or mordin,both well established and likable characters,and there is no way for you to weasel out of it.The setup for it may be lame,but the payoff is very good.

  16. Open Source Idiom says:

    Deleted Content Time!

    There’s very little that changed in the development of Tuchanka — it’s one of the few areas that went straight through from the leaked documents to the final production. There seems to have been, however, a lot of debate concerning the sequence’s action climax, specifically whether Kalross killed the Reaper, or whether the Reaper killed the Thresher and then (presumably) Shepard finished it off.

    Also, Kalross was originally male.

  17. Zukhramm says:

    Ireland, France and Europe? What.

    And you really shouldn’t have revealed the sabotage plans. Now you can’t do the renegade stuff ewith Mordin, and that was the best part.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      They went out of their way to customize the save game file for ME1 -> ME2 *just* so that they could save Wrex:

      Do you think they’d go out of their way and save Mordin and kill Wrex?

      …Okay, I’ll admit – the tension is building a bit much. This *is* Spoiler Warning, after all…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Ireland, France and Europe? What.”

      Yes,the three most well known countries of the asian continent.Whats your point?

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok,last episode I said some good things about this mission,and now Im going to go about the bad:

    First,the shroud used as dispersal method.Krogan were given space technology long before genophage was invented,were engaged in one huge space war and one minor one,and reproduce at a rate of brazillian babys per year,and yet they were all diseased by having just their homeworld being saturated by the virus?No.Just not.Especially since said homeworld is a post apocalyptic ruin.

    Second,a whole fleet of ships fires huge slugs at near light speeds(or maybe even light speeds)at a reaper,and it just shrugs it off,yet a single worm lounges from the earth and manages to kill it?*Again,just no.

    Not to mention that thing that was said about reaper beams in the previous game:Its not a laser,its a stream of heated super sped up particles.And yet its unable to plow through a thin layer of ground and flesh?But it was able to easily get through a whole huge metalic ship and its kinetic barriers two games ago?Third time,heck no!

    *Admittedly,its not as bad as single cain doing the same job later,but still pretty bad.

    • Even says:

      While I wouldn’t bet my money on it, the second one could be explained away with the Reaper’s kinetic barriers reacting differently to objects coming at different speeds. At least the personal barriers get away with interacting with the enviroment without the barrier bumping any and all materials away and preventing the person from reaching things. If they were active all the time, you’d eventually suffocate and Shepard would never get to punch people.

      • Thomas says:

        Also the class of Reaper was different. I believe this is the smallest kind of Reaper and the orbital strike one was a destroyer (maybe)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But its not just kinetic barriers and the impact*.Even if we assume that to be the truth,the reapers have the hull,engines and power source that can outmatch a whole fleet.Look how fast that thing moved in 1.Look how it was able to fly easily on a planet,and preform maneuvers inside a gravity well,while even a measly cruiser of other races cannot achieve that**.And yet its superior hull cannot withstand a giant worm?Its superior engines cannot lift a single creature from the ground?I dont buy it.

        *Sovereign went through a ship in 1,so its barriers should be active against (relatively)slow moving big objects as well,or at least its hull should be resistant enough.
        **Which was also something that the third game retconned.

        • Even says:

          One thing I forgot to elaborate on the barriers: You obviously wouldn’t need to account for the same things in the vacuum of space where it’s 99,999…9% empty space. Still, it’s just a hypothesis. The lore isn’t exactly clear but it would support barriers working either way. Just what makes it tick or if there’s a difference between sets of barriers is what would need addressing.

          As for Reaper superiority, this particular Reaper is a leagues smaller than Sovereign so I don’t know how far that comparison goes. A line needs to be drawn somewhere. Kalros is still the same size and the amount of force a creature of that size would be able to pull off is no small.

          But yeah, it’s getting a bit too pedantic so I’ll just stop. There’s only so much you can do with all these plotholes anyway.

        • Luhrsen says:

          Maybe if Kalross had used the acid missile that all the other reapers had and we saw that have an effect we could say that damaged the Reaper enough for the rest to happen.

    • Mike S. says:

      We know the Shroud wasn’t the only vector for spreading the genophage, even on Tuchanka. Mordin talks about other methods in his loyalty mission. It’s the reason he’s familiar with krogan hospitals: they were a good location for introducing the modified version. (Thus demonstrating that as far as the salarians know, the Geneva Conventions are a Swiss venue for Galaxy of Fantasy cosplay and nothing else.) The Shadow Broker Files on him, Kirrahe, and Maelon are a transcript of their mission to infect an agricenter.

      Presumably they had offworld missions as well. But if it’s krogan-to-krogan transmissible then getting the homeworld is probably a good enough start. If some krogan subgroup figures out what’s going on and successfully quarantines itself, STG can give it direct attention. (If they need to: a visibly growing krogan colony would be a natural target for desperate Tuchankans, who’d carry the infection with them.)

      In an adventure story, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make a major nexus that can have a planetary impact important. (Sort of like giving a moon-sized battle station a vulnerability that can conveniently be exploited by a manually operated small fighter.)

      Slide it a bit more towards realism, and maybe there can be a discussion of whether to move to a less ambitious, slower distribution scheme that doesn’t involve a confrontation with Kalross and a Reaper Destroyer. But the story says we need the krogan *now*, and the krogan have reason to be suspicious of a plan that will take till after the immediate offensive they’re needed for to come to fruition. That seems like enough justification to let me buy the bit, though of course mileage can vary.

      (Especially when it needs the assistance of the people who used hospitals as infection sites, and the ones who left a giant bomb just in case the horrific disease wasn’t good enough.)

  19. Michael says:

    Did anyone else mentally finish Shamus’ comment, “can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be a reaper, to have a mind capable of contemplating the infinite…” with, “to be stuck in this game.”?

  20. Grudgeal says:

    However cool that little Hierarchy-style walking mode must look to us mere land-walkers, I still don’t understand why the Reaper didn’t just, you know, fly. Even putting aside why the Reapers needed the shroud in the first place when a few asteroid drops would make Tuchanka even more inhospitable just as fast, the Reaper could have guarded the shroud even better while airborne.

  21. Corpital says:

    Am I the only one being irritated by the cobwebs in the dark part of the ruins? With the notable exeption of the Rachni you never see anything resembling a spider or any cobwebs for that matter. Anywhere.

    And no, the Collectors never existed. They were an optical illusion.

  22. Keeshhound says:

    What was up with that glaring shift to cutscene at 11:03? Have I just not been paying attention, and that’s how the game always does that?

  23. paercebal says:

    I disagree somewhat.

    Tuchanka is an almost-dead planet. 4000 years ago, they were the poor survivors of a nuclear holocaust that destroyed their civilisation and most life (quoting ME Wiki on Tuchanka: “A “little ice age” of nuclear winter killed off the remaining plant life”).

    Only a few species survived because they were extra-resistant, the krogan being among them.

    To get an idea of the amount of ecological damage: the powerful and regenerative krogan who kicked the Galaxy’s ass for a few centuries before the coming of the Turians and the Genophage were barely able to survive (“a few warring clans”) the nuclear fallout and winter they had brought upon themselves.

    2000 years ago, they were found by the salarians, who relocated them in less hostile planets and “uplifted” them to use them against the Rachni. Then they colonized (and then invaded) other, less hostile planets, and then, after the Genophage, the males started to sell themselves as mercenaries.

    I guess that since the nuclear holocaust on Tuchanka 4000 years-ago, few new constructions were built on Tuchanka, because the Krogan were either elsewhere, or not really interested in rebuilding a cilivisation.

    So in the end, we have a mostly dead planet, with a poisoned atmosphere kept under hostile temperatures and somewhat cleaned by Citadel’s intervention, and a lot of 4000 years-old ruins.

    If we look at the pyramids, what we see is a mass or stone-colored ruins. Other egyptians temples, unprotected by the passage of time, sun, sandstorms, etc., have seen their colored paintings washed away (only undergound tombs retained their colors, and then, until they were opened again).

    Conclusion: After reviewing the background of Tuchanka and the krogan, what I saw on Tuchanka when playing ME2 and ME3 seems coherent to me.

    Now, perhaps Mass Effect could have profited from more contrast, and wider color palettes. But Tuchanka wasn’t the place to do it.

    Tuchanka was (mostly) dead (something like Fallout 3’s wastelands). What life remains is a pure miracle (or stubbornness). Those “brown/stone” colors were the right ones, as far as I see it.

    Now, about Liara marveling about the Krogan’s art, that is indeed a little surprising. While few in the Galaxy would care about Krogan’s art outside of weaponry (including the Krogan themselves), my guess is that an archeologist, even one obsessed by Proteans, should have been among those knowing about that art, or at least that art’s existence.

    I guess at that point, Bioware’s scripts decided that “Non-Player-Character-1” should marvel at Krogan’s art at that point of the mission, and that for some players, it had been EDI, Garrus, or even Vega. And for those having chosen Liara, well, the dialog remained unchanged, despite not being adapted.

    • Thomas says:

      But you can make old ruins look interesting still. You can convey holocaust without making everything grey and a big mistake with trying to convey the emotion ‘dreary’ is that it’s actually not very fun to spend large lengths of time in dreary environments (and they needed to learn this lesson 100x more with the ending). Besides the screenshot Shamus shows was supposed to convey the story emotion of hope, green, beauty, wonder, awe all things it failed to do yet the whole narrative is pinned on them doing so. Sure if the story was asking us to think ‘nuclear holocaust’ it didn’t do a bad job. But it was actually specifically asking us to think of a part of Tuchanka as _not_ a holocaust wasteland.

  24. klasbo says:

    Well, I tried. It’s so horrible by default it’s hard to do much with it…
    (Imgur adds terrible terrible compression and sharpening artefacts)

    There’s no black in the image, only a dark green. And the vignette seems to add a red tint, so the ruins don’t have a consistent colour. And then there’s no contrast, so when I stretch it out you get this ugly banding because 4 bits can only hold so much information…

    It’s like someone tried to do the orange/cyan split-toning, but did it with red/green instead. And forgot that they have 8 bits of colour to work with. For 3 different colours.

    BTW: contrast this with the opening part of the Pirandello Kruger mission in Mirror’s edge! There’s basucally only one hue, but variations in saturation and brightness more than make up for it.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Ah, Mirror’s Edge, an exercise in how to make striking environments with limited colour, although what colour it does have is always very bright, which is why it works.
      They really did a number with the art direction, especially how it tends to guide you through places wherever possible.

  25. Das Tentakel says:

    Apart from the colour / contrast issue, there is a very BioWarian approach to designing their ruins, and partly also to their ‘living cities’.
    If you look at Korriban in KotOR and SWTOR, the Deep Roads and Orzammar in Dragon Age: Origins, DA:O Awakening and Dragon Age II, all of it looks awfully similar.
    It’s almost as if there is a very short checklist to their ruins / ruined city / ‘imposing’ fantasy city design:
    Angular shapes (even the statues)
    Concrete or concrete-like building materials
    Sparse, Art deco-ish, ‘angular’ decoration
    Monochromatic colour scheme / muted colour

    Tuchanka, for instance, looks as if it could be a set of Dwarven ruins from Dragon Age, if it were not for the fact that some of it is still visibly above ground, and the depiction of Krogans in the form of statues and some art. Without it, it might also be Korriban.
    Now, in reality, some ruins will end up looking similar – a wall is a wall, after all, and a pyramidal construction will always look pyramidal – but wherever things like urban layout, wall reliefs, statues, decorative details etc. survive the ruins will get a ‘cultural character’ of their own.

    I would also like to point out that DA2’s Kirkwall, and the pictures of Val Royeaux in the Dragon Age anime, show the same design principles: Concrete-looking building materials, angular shapes, Art deco-ish decorations. Once these places are ruined and given a sepia colour, they will probably look depressingly much like Tuchanka, Korriban etc.

  26. Shamus, another interesting thing about the Spec Ops: The Line image.

    Look at the Humvee, a desert camouflage Humvee stands out due to.
    1. The angle of the shadow it casts on the sand
    2. the smoke between the plane and the Humvee.
    3. the sand behind the rear/behind the engine of the plane is a different tone.

    Result is that the sand camouflage Humvee has surprisingly high contrast against the sand(color) despite having the same color as the sand.

    Also between the hood of the Humvee and the plane is some rubble (that I can’t from the image identify) but it helps highlight the fact that the planes front is partly buried in the sand.
    There is also a spec of light hear a box in the background, breaking up the shadowed sand under the wing.
    And the edge of the engine has a gold trim making the turbine blade look even darker. OR the seam starting to show, where the cockpit structure is attached to the rest of the plane.

    All this helps give a sense of depth and terrain.
    How much of this was planned I have no idea, but whether it was incidental as they played around and tweaked cameras and the engine I just have to assume that, this was discovered/intentional design.

    The Tuchanka (sp?) image is rater boring indeed.
    But it would be ok if BioWare’s intention was to show the planet as a sickly dying world, only to make the the activation of the Shroud to appear that much more dramatic.

    The thing is however… I suspect the “The Line” artists would have been able to keep Tuchanka interesting and add depth to the visual with good contrasts and still keep it looking “sickly”.

    Also look back at BioWare’s KoTOR, remember Tatooine? You would think running arond in the dese3rt there would be really drab looking. But you had a Crawler, smoke, you had those anthill spikes or whatever the rocky pointy things where. Curvey dunes. Even a cave with a krayt dragon (a Krayt dragon would have been a hilarious cameo in the ancient city dungeons josh ran through in this Ep. *laughs*)

    Check these out:
    http://enjoyment.at/2012/06/26/die-computerspielmetapher/
    http://www.gamebanshee.com/starwarskotor/worlds/tatooine.php
    http://firsthour.net/beyond-the-first-hour-review/knights-of-the-old-republic

    Look especially at the first image (on that german site).

    You have the windswept sand lines in the sand, no footprints, this tells you this is a windy desert (nasty sand storms very likely).

    The iconic two suns gives it that alien feel (to Earthlings at least) and tells you this desert gets damn hot indeed.

    You also see a giant crawler with issues. (one of the other links show another angle, not sure but this “older” crawler design seem even larger than the classic trilogy crawlers).

    You see one unlucky (deservingly so) NPC to the far left surrounded by droids.

    The sky is very clear, no clouds, so this is a very dry desert. The grading of the sky also seem to indicate that the atmosphere by not reach that high around the planet.

    There are some “anthill” spikes to the left of the crawler, are those rocks or “anthiils” ?

    A larger dune on the right, and two dips in the ground on either side of the crawler adds terrain to the desert. And in the rear there are rocklike or darker dunes or sandbanks. And far in the back there might be what look like mountains, or it’s so hot that those are just mirrage.

    Point is, the image tells me that this is a place you do not want to get lost in, and it also tells me that despite that, there is still stuff going on in the desert.

    Now consider the fact that KoTOR was based on the Neverwinter Nights engined, and that Mass Effect 3 uses (with some improvements I’m sure) the Unreal 3 engine, that was also used for ME2 and ME1.

    It is easy to criticize obviously, however this is what I see, whether that is due to change in art direction or production design or if those KoTOR artists no longer work at BioWare I have no idea; but the fact is that BioWare managed to do much more with a lot less in the past.

    (this may appear as a double post,m something went wonky during posting (no feedback that it was posted, no chance to edit the post, and it insists I’ve already posted, weird)

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Ah, KOTOR. Still looks gorgeous even nine years after it’s release. That’s the power of good art direction. It’s so sad to see how dull Bioware’s recent games look by comparison. Will Mass Effect 3 still hold up visually in nine years time?

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