Mass Effect EP10: Welcome to Feros

 By Shamus Oct 29, 2012 31 comments


Link (YouTube)

Once again I have to applaud the game for letting you hang up on the council. What a fun idea. For a writing perspective, it’s actually easier than trying to give the player all the possible dialog options required to hold an argument. When the player objects, there’s always a question of why they’re objecting.

“Commander Shepard, I need you to board that ship and kill all the infected Elcor before the plague spreads further.”

  1. I’ll get right on it!
  2. I disagree – we should kill all the Elcor, not just the infected ones. This plague is too dangerous.
  3. I disagree – we don’t need to kill the Elcor right now. We might find a cure in the meantime. I’ll just board and diable the ship so they can’t dock and spread the plague.
  4. I disagree – It would be better to blow up the ship without boarding it.
  5. I disagree – I shouldn’t waste my time with the plague when there are bigger problems on the horizon.
  6. Okay – But I’m also going to kill all the Hannar because RENEGADE LOLOLOLOL!

Once you’re dealing with complex questions of morality and pitting idealism against pragmatism, it becomes impossible to offer the granularity players will need to properly express their views. Offering them the agency to make the choice on a mechanical level isn’t that hard. (They can board and shoot whomever they like, tell joker to destroy the ship, or fly away and ignore the mission.) But offering them the multi-branching dialog to express their intentions and argue their position becomes impractical. Letting them simply end a conversation like this is a clever way to escape having to write, record, and script the dozen or so possible conversation paths. You wouldn’t want to use it all the time, but it is a good “get out of difficult dialog free” card for game designers.

Randy said, “There probably wasn’t a right answer to the Rachni Queen [problem] anyways,” not realizing just how totally right he would be when Mass Effect 3 came out.


201131 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Flashfire344 says:

    Set to private. :P

  2. negZero says:

    Unable to watch due to it being private… and Hurricane Sandy.

  3. Irridium says:

    The video has been taken over by privateers.

  4. krellen says:

    RENEGADE LOLOLOLOL!

    (That pretty much sums up what I have to say about Mass Effect as a series.)

  5. The Imposing Snail says:

    “Do not cut me off like last time.”

    “Whoops.”

    I’ve watched that four times now. That scene almost makes up for Mass Effect 3.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      If only, IF ONLY, you could do that to The Illusive Man every time he calls you up so he can ramble incoherently in your face some more. That might almost excuse every other problem with Cerberus in the story, almost.

      • swenson says:

        At least you can do it in the end. I was kind of rooting for more conversations in ME3, actually, in hopes I could hang up on him more.

      • The Imposing Snail says:

        It’s a sad contrast between this and ME2 in regards to character motivation for Paragon and Renegade.

        Here your two options are 1. I’m working with an uncooperative and skeptical council because I believe I can make this work or 2. Screw those guys, they’re all jerks anyway. Culminating in a final choice where you can save them despite all the friction or let them be a “tragic” sacrifice so you can stick more human-centric guys in their place. It doesn’t work flawlessly, for example in this episode where you hang up and they call right back because you still need to hear their plot hook, but it works well enough to give the player a sense of participation.

        Whereas in ME2 your options are 1. work with Cerberus or 2. Work with Cerberus but call them mean names behind their backs.

      • Jokerman says:

        @Gruhunchously

        Ha…if only, Bioware loved the Illusive Man – you can tell when the writers truly love an evil character because they will never let you get the last word….ever….

        • James says:

          i love martin sheen, but even he cant make TiM less fucking annoying as a villan, if they had just written it better, made the “work with cerberus” plot less ret-con-ish, like acknowledged that they are terrorists, maby even make it a alliance shadow op, your working with them to defeat the collectors ‘cus the alliance cant interfear with the terminus, especially now their on the council, all the while your working to take them down, make it a subplot of turning Jacob and Miranda to the “good” side.

          Paragon : Defeat collectors take down Cerburus by removing the head
          Renegade : Defeat collectors take down Cerburus by killing everyone

          not perfect, but i thought it up in 5 minuets not 2 years

    • swenson says:

      Heh. That is such a thoroughly entertaining scene. Joker’s reaction every time is hilarious too.

  6. guy says:

    It would be nice if some game had “This conversation is over” in every dialogue tree. Sort of a more peaceful version of placing “shoot him” in the center of a dialogue wheel.

  7. Arvind says:

    I think your conversation replies show how much of a step back the dialog wheel really is. You’re basically limited to 3 replies at any given time, and ultimately just becomes a way to min-max your paragon/renegade score.

    I agree that it looks cinematic (I guess), but ultimately nothing disconnects me from my character more than selecting something and the character saying something completely different, something that wasn’t a problem at all in any other game!

  8. Tse says:

    How did you know the Reapers would clone the queen? Did you have a premonition? Did Bioware’s writers see this episode? Or are they just kinda bad?

    • Raygereio says:

      They’re bad.
      It really was predictable. I mean, having the player’s actions have consequences would require effort and such fancy things like planning ahead.

      If Bioware hadn’t handled the Rachni as they did, they would have probably done the even more low effort thing of having the Rachni send you an email or have a single conversation in which you ask for their help and they give you some meaningless war assets.

  9. Otters34 says:

    Best part of that crazy guy’s conversation was around 19.50, where Wrex and Tali look in opposite directions(neither of which the Geth could possibly be coming from) before the attack.

    Also hey! Varren! Apparently the only animal in the entire galaxy that anyone knows about.

  10. Wedge says:

    My favorite part is where Shamus makes a JOKE about cloning the Rachni Queen so you can kill it again and get more renegade points.

    Dear Bioware: your writing is a joke. Love, people who like stories that aren’t shit.

    • Tzeneth says:

      When I heard Shamus say this I facepalmed and laughed at the same time. The fact that Shamus said this as a joke, shows you how bad the writing for Mass Effect 3 is when it comes to “choices.”

  11. Grudgeal says:

    The lack of pre-explained context when answering “yes” or “no” in Mass Effect always annoys me. Especially in the final choice in ME2. I got Shepard’s little speech and basically went: “No, that’s not a good reason for your choice at all!”.

    Oddly enough I didn’t have nearly as much problems with Alpha Protocol only letting you choose “aggressive”, “suave” or “professional” and never telling you what would actually be said. Mainly, I suspect, this is because rendering it so abstract as Alpha Protocol means you can’t really expect anything and thus you can’t get so easily disappointed. And because the writing was usually good: If you pick “professional” Mike will usually go straight for the most obvious rationale, which usually works, or if you’re “suave” you can usually expect some high-class sarcasm. At times it got a bit academic though, especially when conversing with Marburg. Just how is “debate” different from “negotiate”?

    • anaphysik says:

      My main problem with Alpha Protocol is its save system.

      I love hearing all your great dialogue (currently available at a given intersection), Obsidian, but I don’t have the time to either play through the game many times or alt-tab-task-manager-kill-process-reload-game to get around vicious autosaves!

      (Frex, he suave options in that initial conversation lead to some great hilarity, but I don’t want them to ‘stick.’ In a Bioware game, I’d just quicksave before the conversation and quickload afterwards to see everything that can be said in it.)

      (I don’t have time for multiple playthroughs, and when I do they’re basically just refined versions of my initial playthrough. Frex, I can’t see myself enjoying choosing lots of aggressive options. Just not my style. But I can see myself enjoying *watching* Michael ‘Reggiebert’ Thorton make those decisions, eh Josh? Eh?)

      • lurkey says:

        I used to think AP wasn’t that good a candidate for Spoiler Warning – lots of talky bits, paying no attention to them leads to having no idea what’s going on, but now I think it’s not a bad idea at all. The game’s quite short, the controls would be a piece of cake for someone who made through “Assassin’s Crud”, but the biggest draw would be the duel between chaos wrought by Reginald Thorbert’s Chaotic Stupid ways and game’s insistence to weave a coherent story out of whatever it gets supplied with, no matter how nonsensical and contradictory. I’m really curious which would win.

        Also, it might elicit a “Stop shooting me!” or two. I miss those.

    • Moriarty says:

      I couldn’t deal with Alpha Protocol’s dialogue, beause it never stopped judging you. “You were professional in your early conversations. +5 to whatever”.

      Somehow my curiosity to play around with the game was always at war with my ambition to powergame thornton into having the best possible stats. I know the boni were irrelevant in the long run because the stealth tree was ridicilously overpowered, but I still couldn’t help but be bothered by it.

      • lurkey says:

        Heh. For all AP’s shortcomings, judging you was actually never there. You get those 5 also for being suave in your early conversations, asshole in in your early conversations, random in your early conversations…the game generously awarded you for everything. Granted, them perks weren’t all useful, but that’s not a game judging player, that’s player powergaming and metagaming, which is different thing. :-)

  12. GTRichey says:

    It’s interesting that Garrus didn’t have all that much to say even this early in the series. I suppose he must just be the completely no nonsense whatsoever character who spends the entire second game calibrating those guns and this one doing… something to the Mako. Now that I think about it, perhaps he spent the entire game stripping off parts he deemed unnecessary in order to lighten it. This would actually give some in game reason for the ridiculous way it handled, so I think I’ll just believe it’s actually the case.

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