Experienced Points: Gears of Mass Effect

By Shamus
on Feb 12, 2010
Filed under:
Column

Where most people have the little Angel on one shoulder and a Devil on the other, each arguing over what they should do next, I seem to have an optimist and a cynic.

The optimist loves games, loves gamers, loves talking about games, loves stories, and looks forward to seeing where this brave new media goes over the coming years. The cynic hates DRM, is appalled at how much games have homogenized, and most of all is sick to death of lousy, lazy, incomprehensible, self-indulgent stories.

The optimist wrote this week’s Experienced Points article
.

Then the two of them sat down to have a chat…


INT. DIMLY LIT LIVING ROOM – DAY

CYNIC is sitting on a worn sofa, chain-smoking and expressionless. OPTIMIST is sitting beside him, grinning. He’s holding a controller and playing a videogame. We hear various cheerful electronic BEEPS from the game.

OPTIMIST: Why, it will be awesome! Imagine if the shooter games did this! I could talk to Master Chief’s friends and learn all about the Halo technology, and the gamers who don’t like stories could just skip it.

(Pause.)

They say the books are really good!

CYNIC: That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

OPTIMIST: It would be beautiful! Everyone would get what they want. I would get rich details and characterization, and they would get to play without having all that stuff shoved down their throat.

CYNIC: They would never do that. Nobody gives a crap about you and your stories.

OPTIMIST: I would actually play Gears of War if they did that.

CYNIC: You sicken me with your self-delusion.

OPTIMIST: I wish you could see the future I see. It’s so perfect.

CYNIC: Ok genius, let’s imagine someone at Epic actually wanted to change their incredibly successful and profitable formula to make it more to your liking.

OPTIMIST: Yes! I knew you’d come around.

CYNIC: Who would write it?

OPTIMIST: What?

CYNIC: Just because they’re using BioWare-style dialog trees doesn’t mean they’ll have BioWare’s writers.

OPTIMIST: Oh.

CYNIC: Yeah.

OPTIMIST: Shit.

CYNIC: Yeah.

OPTIMIST: I hate you.

CYNIC: Imagine a dialog tree filled out by the cement-head that penned Unreal Tournament 3. It’d be this looping, tangled mess of bravado and smacktalk.

OPTIMIST: Shut up! You always ruin everything!

CYNIC: You wouldn’t be able to leave the coversation until you’d used up all the options, just like in Silent Hill Homecoming.

Optimist is looking increasingly upset and brittle.

CYNIC: It would be worse than a cutscene you couldn’t skip. It would be a cutscene you couldn’t ignore. You couldn’t leave the room while it played. You’d have to just sit there and click, and click, and click while characters grunted out cliches and quotes from Michael Bay movies.

OPTIMIST: I’m going to kill myself. (Runs out of room crying.)

There is a long pause. Eventually Cynic reaches over and picks up the discarded controller. He plays in expressionless silence for a bit.

CYNIC: I hate this game.

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From the Archives:

  1. Tobias says:

    Dammit, I never know where to comment on your Escapist pieces, being an avid reader of both!

    Damn fine observation, although quite obvious of course. I’d much rather see you do actual armchair game design – the way this column started out. Anyhow, you’re writing entertaining and insightul articles, so I’m not really complaining.

    I guess we’ll see a lot of ME2 nitpicks here in the next weeks, right? Because I’m bloody curious what you have to say on the finale, in gameplay terms.

  2. Sean Riley says:

    To be fair, one hopes that if they went your way, they’d hire some writers to make it work.

    One ho…

    Dammit, my cynic leapt in. “Really, Sean? And how much do studios VALUE writers? Writing is something anyone can do, they all think!”

    Damn it!

  3. Jabor says:

    I’m thinking that if Bioware put out an FPS game, it would be like the second coming of Deus Ex.

    Or maybe like the real “spiritual sequel” to System Shock 2.

  4. Sean Riley says:

    Oh, as an aside: It’s actually kind of intriguing to compare Borderlands with Mass Effect 2. Both are determined to bridge the RPG/Shooter divide, but both take completely different parts of the RPG across.

    I think Borderlands has been better received, which saddens me.

    • Tobias says:

      Really? BioWare will need a new money vault soon thanks to this game, and you’ll have a hard time finding a critic who didn’t rave about it. I guess you mean the crowd that’s gathering in comment threads, but even that is divided at least evenly, with the disappointed half only being the more vocal one.

      I’m one of them, I should know.

      • Sean Riley says:

        True true. We’ll see how it goes in the long run. I don’t know if Borderlands has had quite the sales numbers either, but Mass Effect did have a previous title behind it.

        If I ever create a new game franchise, I’m going to name it [Game Name Here] 3, just to make people think it’s popular and therefore good.

  5. Adam says:

    Responding to the idea presented in the linked Experienced Point article, I would like to see a movement in that direction by videogames as well. I have seen a much earlier example than Mass Effect 2, though. There is a series of videogames called Way of the Samurai that uses a mix of sword-fighting action gameplay and complex branching story structures (the first game has 6-7 endings, the second has 13 or 14, and the third has over 20 endings). The series is currently on its third installment (on the XBox 360 and PS3). While there are some RPG elements to the game (inventory of healing items, upgrading swords, learning techniques), the games are definitely action games at their core.

    (I’m a first time poster, BTW.)

  6. Sean Riley says:

    Replied in wrong place, shoot.

  7. Macil says:

    Frankly, I thought developers were idjuts (or not very creative) for not having more an action-oriented (shooter-esque), in-depth RPGs sooner. I’ve been pretty amazed, in fact, to not see this kind of hybrid more often. I’ve been thinking about/designing games like that (that I hope to make someday) since I was, like, 14 (I’m 26).

    And yet, Deus Ex has been the closest and only thing since the old DOS/Doom-engine Strife (and Strife was doing the Deus Ex thing 4 years earlier).

    ME2 is the first RPG to have a solid (and good!) shooter game mechanic since Deus Ex that I am aware. Even ME1 was sloppy in comparison.

    ME2 still hasn’t quite gotten where I would go if I were the lead designer (ME2 unfortunately lost a lot of the ‘RP’), but its a step in the right direction and I loved it.

  8. krellen says:

    I would love to see more dialogue and story choices in shooters, and I applaud BioWare for trying.

    I just wish people would stop experimenting with genres and styles so much in the middle of series. Create a new series if you want to try something new. That’s why they’re new.

    • Blackbird71 says:

      Agreed.

      I also wish that shooters and the like with more dialog and story choices didn’t come at the expense of classic RPGs; there’s few enough of those out there as it is.

  9. Gahazakul says:

    Speaking of DRM the new Bioshock game has THREE DRM utilities that run in the background.

    • Shamus says:

      I’ve actually been avoiding talking about the whole BioShock 2 thing because it’s so insane. The rampant confusion. The multiple systems. The changing policies.

      It’s just like the problems with the original, ONLY WORSE. The fact that it didn’t cause a firestorm this time saddens me. People are getting used to it.

      Sigh. I’m going to go sit on the couch with Cynic.

      • SatansBestBuddy says:

        I’ve played Bioshock 2 on both a 360 and a PC, and I can honestly say that there’s very little reason to put up with the PC version when it’s only a slightly better looking game than the console version.

        I guess people will put up with a LOT of BS just to get those textures a little sharper and those controls a little tighter.

      • Irridium says:

        Which will in turn cause a lot more publishers to do this, causing a lot more PC games to require like 5 different logins to play…

        I remember when I got Fallout 3. Man GFWL was annoying as hell, thankfully the community created a mod that got rid of that thing from my damn game. And preformance actually improved. I noticed much less stuttering.

        And to comment on the article: I don’t mind less choices in my levels. I’m guessing the reason for this is so that they can add a lot more options for ME3.

        But I’m just being optimistic, I’m sure Mr. Cynic will strike me down soon enough though…

      • Haha! Good to know we see eye to eye on Bioshock Shamus.

        Also on the story…
        SPOILERS
        Bioshock 1 = Your in rapture no clue what is going on, you explore learn some stuff, you meet big daddies and little sisters and weird beings, you save little sisters, you and the little sisters escape, happy ending.
        Bioshock 2 = Your in rapture no clue what is going on, you explore learn some stuff, you meet big daddies and little sisters and big sisters and weird beings, you save little sisters and a big sister, you and the little sisters and big sister escape, happy ending (sort of).
        Bioshock 3 ? = Your in rapture no clue what is going on, you explore learn some stuff, you meet big daddies and little sisters and big sisters and big mothers and weird beings, you save little sisters and big mother, you and the little sisters and big mother escape, happy ending (sort of) ???
        END SPOILERS

        I hope I’m not the only one that think Bioshock 2 should be called Bioshock v2.0 ?
        Still the art designers are damn amazing I’ll give’em that…

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Hey, the DRM on BS2 was a dealbreaker for me, and you know how much I loved the original. I even complained about BS2 on my weblog.

        It’s too bad they don’t want my money, considering how much I want to buy their game. Oh well…

      • Welcome to the club. Here’s your complimentary cigarette and bottle of cheap whiskey.

  10. jokermatt999 says:

    I don’t know, I’d rather have more options for leveling (ME1) vs fewer (ME2). However, if the choice is between more choices but easy to screw yourself over and fewer choices but impossible to screw yourself over, I’d probably take the latter. However, the possibility for screwing yourself over is easily remedied by offering some form of respec’ing, such as in Borderlands. Sure, it doesn’t make sense in-game, but neither do most systems of RPG leveling. Perhaps it should become an accepted part of the system.

    (I know respecs have potential for abuse, but adding some sort of cost to them should offset the abuse. Also, if someone’s likely to abuse the system that way, they’re probably abusing it in other ways already.)

    • Volatar says:

      Plus, these are SINGLEPLAYER RPG’s we are talking about. Honestly, there is no such thing as abusing or cheating in singleplayer games. You play how YOU want to play, not how someone else wants you to play.

      • Irridium says:

        I know what you mean. I can’t tell how many times I wanted to input a code and get god mode and infinite ammo, only to find out I can’t :(

      • Amusing to say Singleplayer RPG’s, a multiplayer RPG would by definition be an MMORPG I guess.

        And single player and cheating should be possible IMO.
        Heck, I wish there was a “God” mode in the options of Mass Effect for example, there are enough ways to screw up (mission/quest/dialog choices) Heck (not much of a spoiler really) the fact that Shepard can die in ME2… is not really related to your health at all.

        99% of games out there has you playing as this amazing hero that defeat the enemy and survives against all odds, dieing from a enemy trooper does not factor into the story at all, you just get a “Retry from last checkpoint/save” kind of box, and you only real choice is say “yes retry”.

        Only game I can think of where this is not the case is Heavy Rain where if a player character die, they die but the story continues through other characters.

        ME2 kinda has it as when Shepard die you do get a slightly different ending cinematic which is way better done that other games bad endings. But in ME3 you’ll play Shepard again so. (you just cant import the save game if you died)

        But as I said, dying in ME2 is not tied to your health, ding is just “annoying” and I’ve played games when cheating where just being shot enough is so annoying that you do you best to avoid being shot at, same end result.

        And all games I’ve cheated in I’ve enjoyed the game immensely, I still get a adrenalin kick in combat, but I can control the pace more. The enemy getting a few lucky shots at me annoys me but it doesn’t end up throwing a reload requester in my face.

        Then again I pretty much only play single player games with a heavy story focus.

        They are experimenting with this in Fable 2 (and Fable 3?) you don’t die but you get scars or some other repercussions if you fail a fight. (when the heck is Fable 2 coming to the PC? and Fable 3 better damn well come to the PC as I own no consoles at all)

        I like games that reward you for playing well, rather than those that punish you for playing badly (usually me).

        The Game Over if you die thing is a holdover from the arcade days where if you died it was game over and you had to insert a coin within x seconds to continue playing, if waiting too long you had to start over, it was aimed at bleeding you for money.

        • Irridium says:

          In relation to your Fable questions, I don’t think they will ever come to PC.

          Since Lionhead is owned by Microsoft, and since Microsoft basically killed a PC version of Alen Wake, the future looks bleak…

  11. Mari says:

    Me, I just wonder where games like KOTOR went. I miss real numbers-crunching spreadsheeting RPGs. If I don’t need at least 2 different kinds of apps just to keep track of how to do my next playthrough differently then the game is clearly too easy. Ideally these games would additionally be well written but that taxes my inner-optimist. I guess I’ll just go sit in a corner and whinge some more that I can’t run Baldur’s Gate on my PC anymore because it’s just too old to run without crashing.

  12. Nick Pitino says:

    Besides that there is a good chance it’ll be written by idiots, I still don’t think that most game companies will go for it to begin with anyway.

    CiffyB? All he wants is MORE N00BZ T0 PWN! WOOO! (And more ways to screw PC gamers, but that’s for another day.)

    John Carmack? While I do respect the man in many ways considering that he says things like: “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” I can’t really say I expect him to bravely forge forward in the field. (He’s also too busy building rockets anyway.)

    Bobby Kotick? Don’t make me laugh…

    Sigh.

  13. Sander says:

    Bioware writers? Bioware’s writers aren’t all that great. There have to be one or two gems on the staff there, because occasionally they deliver some brilliant dialogue, but overall they also deliver a lot of really bad writing. Game developers won’t need brilliant writers to surpass that level of writing.

    Since Neverwinter Nights, Bioware has only had one general sort of plotline: you encounter a small threat and spend most of the game recruiting help and uncovering the threat. This always turns out to be some ancient, long-forgotten race/group/power re-surfacing, which no one in power initially believes leaving you to do all the work. Then, you destroy it in the end-game.
    Jade Empire was a refreshing exception to that plotline.

    Details of the plot are often badly done, with convoluted and illogical plot points the writers use to justify the finish they want to arrive at.

    Bioware’s conception of romance has been shown to be getting people in the sack within about a day, and creating drama through competing lovers (who are extra quick to forgive a cheating bastard).

    Bioware’s dialogue and cinematic approach is spotty. At times, they manage to create really convincing dialogue that gives you plenty of options. Other times, the choices you get are fake choices (they either mean the same thing only worded differently or have no meaningful consequences). But the most egregious mistake is the railroad dialogue: the dialogue where you know the writer wants the player to go through the dialogue his way, and there are either no choices, or they all end up in the same place. Those dialogues make me feel like I have no influence on my character, or the dialogue is really the other party monologuing with himself.

    The cinematic approach is worse: most of the time when they try to go for the EPIC MOMENT the writers do a faceplant. The result is always laughably cheesy speeches (the Spectre induction ceremony in Mass Effect is especially hilarious) and ridiculous bosses that are more humorous than epic (Mass Effect 2, I’m looking at you).

    And Shamus, you yourself have covered the constantly recurring character types they have trouble getting away from.

    But the horrible reality is that even with all of this criticism, probably only Obsidian is a better storyteller than Bioware in the gaming industry. What a sad state of affairs.

    • Irridium says:

      I can’t really comment on their writing, since their only game I played was KOTOR 2, but it was definitely refreshing.

      Both the story and the characters were a welcome departure from the usual Bioware characters.

      Well, except for the ending, but lets not dwell on that…

      • Sander says:

        Interesting you note that game, because that game wasn’t written by Bioware at all. It was written by the other company I mentioned – Obsidian.

        EDIT: I realise by ‘their’ you must’ve meant Obsidian and not Bioware. Whoops?

        Other games you may know prominent Obsidian writers from (especially Chris Avellone) would be Fallout 2 (especially New Reno) and Planescape: Torment. Fallout 2 had issues with world consistency but had great dialogue and consistent choices and consequences. Planescape: Torment is one of the best written games I’ve ever played.

        • guy says:

          Also, NWN2 and Mask of the Betrayer. The second one is worth the ending to the first one.

          The alternate evil ending to the first one is also neat.

          EDIT: looking up the evil ending to MoTB, I think that is the most awesome ending to any video game ever. Especially the part where you get to take further vengence on Quara, Elanee, and the people other than bishop who betrayed you.

          Bishop is beyond any further vengence as of halfway through the game.

        • Irridium says:

          Yeah, I meant Obsidan when I said “their” :P

          No harm done though.

          And I have played Fallout 2, loved the game.

        • Zaxares says:

          Obsidian has some excellent writers and they can come up with very dark, yet engrossing plots, but they have one MAJOR failing:

          Their endings ALWAYS suck. KotOR2? It was sheer brilliance until the final third of the game, and then it feels like the writers were just running out of time and slapped an ending together half-heartedly. NWN2’s canonical ending was, and I kid you not, “rocks fall. Everyone dies.” Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir fared better, but most of their endings still lack the kind of ‘punch’ that Bioware endings tend to deliver.

          • Sander says:

            I hate Bioware endings. Hate them with a passion. I liked Mass Effect’s ending, but ME2’s ending was terrible. I suppose that may just be me.

            I wouldn’t say those endings sucking is a problem on the part of the writers. It’s more a result of a bigger problem they have: they can’t plan. At all.
            All of their games have been incredibly buggy and unpolished, and have had large parts cut (especially KotOR2). This makes it seem as if the writing’s bad, while it’s more that they didn’t have enough time to implement the writing. This is still on them, of course, but not on their writers specifically.

            • acronix says:

              You are confusing Bioware with Obsidian there, since Kotor2 was handed to them to make, and they have some buggy and unpolished rpgs around (Storm of Zehyr comes to mind). Just wanted to clarify.

          • krellen says:

            I blame this on the fact that Obsidian only gets two years to make what BioWare spends four on.

            • guy says:

              That’s not the whole explanation, though. The ending to NWN2 is not merely unpolished, it’s just plain bad. Even “the Knight-Captain lived happily ever after” would have been better.

    • acronix says:

      The plot recipe you say they use doesn´t start with Neverwinter Nights. It started long before, with Baldur´s Gate (the first, not the sequel, which didn´t use the recipe). The thing about BG is that it was the first in using it, so it´s excused of all blame.

      • Axle says:

        My thoughts exactly! (meant to be posted after Sander)
        ME2 utilises the exact same plot devices as DO:A.

        – An ancient evil is rising.
        – The leadership is in denial.
        – Only one person believes you, but he is cosdudered to be a terrorist/witch.
        – After saving your life, he sends you to recruit potential people that will help fight this ancient evil.
        – You help your new rectruits with a personal matter, so they will be more efficient in the final battle.
        – You kill big evil with help of your comrades.
        – You are the hero of the land!

      • Sander says:

        Heh, I thought about including Baldur’s Gate, but I felt like the opening game (basically a revenge story) was different enough to not count. Upon further reflection, I suppose you’re right, though: it fits perfectly with the rest of their games.

        Baldur’s Gate 2 was very different, though, and probably Bioware’s strongest game (at least story- and dialogue-wise) to date. It probably has something to do with being a direct sequel to the previous story.

        Disappointingly, Bioware chose to basically rehash the Mass Effect storyline with Mass Effect 2 instead of evolving and continuing the previous story, like they did with Baldur’s Gate 2.

        • Peachfuzz says:

          Alright, so the talk about Baldur’s Gate got me thinking. That was the one where you’re an orphan of magical lineage raised in seclusion from the world by an elder figure with a mysterious background who gets attacked by a guy in badass armor, setting you off on a revenge quest, right?

          So, Jade Empire wasn’t so much a refreshing change of plotline as a return to an even older one. (Side note, in case my tone doesn’t come across well: I kid because I love. I’ve bought every Bioware game since the original BG and have no plans to stop any time soon.)

  14. Neil Polenske says:

    Honestly, it doesn’t make a difference to me one way or the other. I view it as a side step in fact. For me personally, it’s an issue of a immersion. It’s the reason I tolerate – and HAVE tolerated for a good long while – the mindless stupidity of the average first person shooter over a good Bioware game. While the characters and story in Doom3 or Far Cry were bone dry simple, it didn’t matter because I WAS the character. I could do what I want and react how I wanted and it felt more like it was ME doing it rather than some character I saw on screen. I wasn’t controlling Jack Carver, I WAS Jack Carver.

    But even that doesn’t compare to Thief: DS, which has had the highest level of immersion I’ve experienced in a game so far. That game, Butcher Bay and L4D (the original) are the ONLY three games I know that allow you to see YOUR BODY when you actually look down. Why is it no one else will do this? How am I supposed to pretend the world of Bioshock or MW2 is real when I DONT HAVE FEET!

    So yeah, this whole deal with simplifying the leveling system really doesn’t irk me one way or the other.

    • Galad says:

      “How am I supposed to pretend the world of Bioshock or MW2 is real when I DONT HAVE FEET!”

      You still have them, you just aren’t allowed to attempt to shoot yourself in the feet. Lame, I know. IIRC, in Serious Sam: the second encounter you can see your feet in the first person view, you can’t point your crosshair at them though. If anyone can think of a better reason for this, post here :P

      Anyway, that was an amusing conversation. Since I haven’t had a chance to play ME2 yet, anywhere, I’ll try not to spoil myself completely, so I’ll refrain from commenting on the topic.

      Also, I don’t see how some people see it as more of an RPG than a shooter. Unless you’re playing as a full biotic like Liara from ME1( I don’t know if she’s present in the second part) you’re probably gonna end up relying on your weapon, teammates and cover tactics a lot more often than on abilities. It’s definitely more shooter and less RPG, in combat anyway. The fact that it has extensive dialogue trees is a consequence from it being a Bioware game :P

      • acronix says:

        Even if you are a biotic you´ll NEED your weapons or the use of cover tactics. In ME2 most powers are useless until the enemy has the health bar (red). Some enemies have up to three bars: shield (purple) and armor (orange), and mos enemy bosses don´t have a health bar, rending biotic powers useless. If you are a biotic, you´ll end up using your submachinegun or your pistol, along with your teammates. For that reason, I´m using a soldier and a full “shoot that!” squad in my second playtrough of the game, and I think I´m doing a tad better.

        Of course, maybe I´m just a noobish biotic.

        • DNi says:

          Actually, you’re a bit mistaken: Shields are Blue, Barriers are Purple. Once I actually understood it, the Protections are actually something I came to like about ME2. Yes, you can just shoot away at an enemy until his health is in the Red, but that’s a waste of ammo; each of the three types of enemy protections are vulnerable to certain types of abilities and attacks. Shields are vulnerable to Overload and Disrupter Ammo, Barriers are weak against Warp/Reave and Concussive Attacks, and Shotguns and Warp/Reave are just super-effective against Armor. There’s also a bunch of other exploits, but that’s the general plan.

      • Ehlijen says:

        I have a reason as to why I don’t want to ever see a rendered player model in a first person game again:

        The Trespasser ‘health bar’.
        In this game, you couldn’t see your feet because there was something in the way that demonstrated quite amply just how immature the model designer was. Unfortunately, that’s where the health bar was, so if you wanted to know whether you were bleeding (which to be fair was rarely necessary, the game had a very binary alive/dead system) you had to look at them. Every time you were standing on a box planning your next jump down, they’d get in the way.

    • Nalano says:

      Mirror’s Edge.

      You can see your feet there.

      The problem with the immersion of FPSs is that the second your character is railroaded to do something you the player would not want to do (like fall into a trap) you lose that immersion.

  15. fscan says:

    Actually, if you look at it, you have the same amount of usable skills in me1 and me2. They just put all weapon/health/armor skills in one skill for every class. The only annoying thing is that you only have 4 levels per skill (with rising cost)… the good thing is if you buy this 4 levels, this skill becomes really awesome and you can choose between 2 powerful versions of it.
    That said, it feels more like a shooter, maybe because the shooting part is much better than in me1.

    grr .. i want to play system shock 2 again but i can’t get it running on my new pc :(

    • krellen says:

      I pointed this out (to you, in fact) in another thread, but this is simply factually untrue. Not only do you have less skills usable in combat in ME2, but you cannot even create a skill-chain to create a desired effect (such as a Lift-Throw combo to propel enemies), because by the time you can use the second power, the first one has both recharged and (generally) expired.

      You simply do not have the “same amount of usable skills” in the two games.

      • fscan says:

        oh, i guess than i have done it all wrong :)

        • Peachfuzz says:

          You can create skill chains, you just need to use your other squad member’s powers to do it. There’s an achievement on the 360 for doing 20 of them. It’s easier to do if you have the “squad power usage” option to be manual only.

          I’m sorry that I’m nitpicking, but it’s actually a pretty cool feature of the game. I agree with your main point, though, that there’s less usable powers per team member in the game.

  16. Sydney says:

    The conversation between Optimist and Pessimist is one of my favorite things from Twenty Sided since…maybe the Dragon Age Twitter Review.

    Which wasn’t all that long ago, come to think of it. Which takes a lot of the punch out of this comment.

    Meh! [click]

  17. Ramsus says:

    I have a feeling the Pessimist wins a lot of these kinds of arguments. I don’t see this as being the Optimist’s fault though because the Optimist believes in a world where people at least pay equal attention to their Optimists as to their Pessimists. Sadly, the Pessimist knows this is not the case.

    I really have to agree with you that having more interactive plots would be nice but would also probably end in mind numbing tedium worse than anything we’ve so far experienced if it was the standard way all games were.

  18. This is pretty much off topic but I was looking at the dice and wondered, how does Shamus do those, and can I possibly do a very efficient implementation that although may not impress Shamus, may at least impress the regulars here.

    So here it is, a “compatible” comment dice implementation in PHP, the result are the same except that Shamus does have a few other tricks up his sleeves that I did not bother trying to replicate.

    IMPORTANT! Do not use Shamus’ dice without his permission, and especially no hotlinking his dice, the url in the script is just for testing purposes. OK?

    Good, now here it is:
    <?php
    //(C) Roger Hågensen, EmSai 2010
    // zlib license: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zlib_license
    $num=680;
    $dice='';
    $x=0;
    $dicepath='http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/wp-content/plugins/sy_comment_dice/white/';

    if ($num>0)
    {
    $x=(int)($num/500);
    if ($x>0)
    {
    while ($x>0)
    {
    $dice.='<img src="'.$dicepath.'die500.png" title="One Houndred">';
    $x--;
    }
    $num=$num%500;
    }
    $x=(int)($num/100);
    if ($x>0)
    {
    $i=1;
    while ($x>0)
    {
    if ($i>4)
    {
    $i=1;
    }
    $dice.='<img src="'.$dicepath.'die100_'.$i.'.png" title="One Houndred">';
    $x--;
    $i++;
    }
    $num=$num%100;
    }
    $x=(int)($num/20);
    if ($x>0)
    {
    $i=1;
    while ($x>0)
    {
    if ($i>10)
    {
    $i=1;
    }
    $dice.='<img src="'.$dicepath.'die20_'.$i.'.png" title="Twenty">';
    $x--;
    $i++;
    }
    $num=$num%20;
    }
    if ($num>0)
    {
    $dice.='<img src="'.$dicepath.'die'.$num.'.png" title="'.$num.'">';
    }
    }
    else
    {
    $dice.='<img src="'.$dicepath.'die0.png" title="'.$num.'">';
    }

    echo $dice;
    ?>

  19. Another Scott says:

    Hey, did anyone else imagine the cynic as Travis Taylor?

    (After a quick google search…) I mean the Stolen Pixels character and not the author or the football player or anyone else.

  20. Bret says:

    Well, I do think Bungie pulling that kind of idea could work.

    I mean, in addition to generally decent books, there’s Marathon to look back to, there’s the conversations in Pathways into Darkness…

    Loads of good stuff. I mean, sure, Gears would be pain itself, but I think a handful of developers would do something really nifty.

  21. JoshR says:

    I don’t think that the writer matters as how interesting the world is.
    Of course, the two are linked, but you can have the most beautifully written extra info, but if you can’t get people interested in the world, they just won’t read it.
    And that is where BioWare truly excels, you get hooked in and want to know every detail. that’s why when everyone reviewed mass effect 1 (haven’t played 2) even the people who liked the mindless shooters didn’t rate the game purely on the shooting, they were taken off the beaten path of shooting and brought to the arena of fiction.
    If you include a lot of writing, people will read it…

    • Matt P says:

      A friend and I one day hope to convert ME to a PnP system. Bioshock’s obsession with setting fluff both sparked and fueled this move. Sparked, as that codex section just begged to be read (who can stand that bright white ‘unread’ indicator?); and fueled because all that setting information is so dang useful. It’s like the setting chapter of an RPG book.
      We just need to find some site that compiles all those codices to save hours running the 360 taking notes.
      You’re right: the fiction per se didn’t draw me in. It was the fact that that fiction was so (optionally) tangled up in the setting.

  22. neothoron says:

    I believe that has been mentioned in the comments about the “WGA awards”, but I will repeat it: writing does not equal story.

    For me, the brilliance of Mass Effect 2 writing does not lie in the main plot, but in the many lines of dialogue that struck me as witty, funny, or just plain awesome.

    Imagine if you had Mordin saying normal sentences instead of his ever-nervous, hacked speech. Imagine Garrus without his innuendos. Imagine Shepard delivering bland speeches and bland comebacks instead of what he comes up with.

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