Mass Effect EP7: The Gate’s Guarded, Time for Corporate Espionage!

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 4, 2012

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 125 comments

Link (YouTube)

You know those little moments when you leave the ship? “Logged. The Commanding officer is ashore. XO Presley has the deck.” I loved those. You know what else I liked? Leaving the ship. Man, I really missed that airlock. I can’t explain why. I mean, it was just another loading screen, but for some reason the quasi-seamless travel from ship to shore really made the ship feel like a craft that went somewhere, and not a really large menu for selecting the next mission. I know I whined and bellyached about that airlock scanner. (And to be fair, it was kind of annoying.) But I really missed it when they switched to using the dropship.

I appreciate the little touches of quasi-military. The really odd thing is, so many videogames embrace the “explosions, bullets, and shouting” military stuff. They model real-world weapons and vehicles. They take you to real-world locations. But they skim over nearly everything to do with military culture. People salute at the wrong times, handle their weapons in the wrong way, address each other incorrectly, forget about the chain of command, and you never get any of the nuances of military culture. In the United States military, there’s a pretty big divide between the officers and the enlisted. There’s also a bit of sneering condescension between the various branches. Then there’s the wall of divide between the military and civilians. This is mostly lost in videogames, where you just have a bunch of young guys running around screaming “sarge!” all the time.

I understand it’s a game, and meticulous simulation would be just as tedious as the real thing. But the little touches of military culture and formality really made me happy. I’d love to have a game where someone would shout “Captain on the bridge!” when you entered the bridge. I guess I’m not asking for a game that gets it all right, I’m just suggesting that a game that sprinkles these details in will be able to make their military seem more lifelike.

Then again, it just might drive people bonkers if they’ve served in the actual military and all they see are all the little details the developers got wrong. So there’s that.


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125 thoughts on “Mass Effect EP7: The Gate’s Guarded, Time for Corporate Espionage!

  1. Cyranor says:

    I’ll agree that I would like to see more of those little touches. I’m actually entering Navy in January and have already learned a lot of little nuances that you never see in video games with military. It would be refreshing to have a game with a more accurate portrayal of the Military than guys with guns that happen to have a rank in front of their name. (For example there are plenty of people in the military branches that don’t shoot guns that operate in the support capacity that you never get to see.) I’ll agree that Mass Effect 1 had some nice touches of those military moments, and then ME 2 and 3 threw it out the window. (example is you go from being called Commander by other military personnel in the first game to pretty much just Shepard to everybody)

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      I can say that I care a lot less about whether a developer chases all the technical minutiae as I wish they would pay attention to their tone and attitude more.

      I get that these games are power fantasies, but movies and games are the only exposure a lot of people have to the military, despite these things having no real connection to it. The way that the military is depicted in works that carry some pretense of realism and authenticity due to superficial trappings like the ranks and guns will leave people with the impression that the depiction of the people themselves must have some degree of accuracy, too. But these things, moreso than any other element, are written to conform only to notions and desires peculiar to the developers.

      Seeing games and movies screw up procedure and terms of address is not a genuine annoyance, it’s just worth a chuckle. Seeing the image of these organizations used to promote a screenwriter’s worldview as fact to those who couldn’t know better is cause for legitimate concern.

      1. Cyranor says:

        Oh I agree, I don’t want them to be 100% accurate. I just would like to see some realistic military portrayal in video games. Instead the most common is the COD model which is a farcry from any military feel other than people have letters in front of their name and they use military hardware.

        Mass Effect 1 did a good job of it. It was realistic and believable but didn’t get to far into the details of it, but it had the proper feel to their military. The subsequent games however lost this I felt, probably in trying to go after the “bro-shooter” market as some people put it.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          I felt tempted to say it was more the change in writing staff than the change in the series’ direction, but there’s no telling where one ends and the other starts.

          I did very much like how ME1 did it. It successfully hinted at larger, more authentic system than there really was, and this is the make-or-break for making a setting feel ‘real.’ Contrast to Dragon Age, in which I think BioWare went and actually planned and wrote each and every damn detail of the entire world into that game’s script and encyclopedia, but felt so dead and lifeless to me that I could never really see it as more than a game.

          When a game nudges the players’ imagination to fill out the world, they’ve made it larger and more genuine than any amount of manual planning ever can.

        2. StashAugustine says:

          This is actually the reason I stopped playing COD. COD4 had some sort of verisimilitude. I don’t know what an actual soldier would say, but it seemed like it could happen. Then you’ve got guys doing flying leaps in snowmobiles and Russians invading America and it just all goes downhill.

    2. Wraith says:

      If there is ever a (non-milsim) game that ever correctly uses proper saluting protocol I will eat my hat.

      1. I am haunted by the thought that someday after saying that I will have to lose a perfectly good hat.

      2. guy says:

        That reminds me: in the FOB in the ME3 endgame, there are people saluting outdoors. Everyone with basic knowledge of saluting protocol think about that situation for a moment…

  2. Paul Spooner says:

    And then we would get to see Josh step barely on and off the bridge over and over just to hear the “Captain on the Bridge” line like some sort of light-switch rave.

    Good point though. Most games (and creative works of all kind) focus on the stereotypical and spectacular at the expense of the genuine and subtle.

    I would prefer to just have the option to engage or bypass the airlock at will. Have a map that you can pull up at any time and click “go this place” and then skip all the walking around… or do it all manually and walk through the airlock, shuttle, whatever. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can have the best of both.

    1. krellen says:

      To be fair, if Josh were a ship captain in real life, he’d probably do the same thing.

    2. ? says:

      There could always be some sort of timer, that would make crew ignore trolling captain, perhaps throwing “With all due respect, are you done, sir?” after a minute. Or call in a medic, because commanding officer clearly is having a stroke.

      In The Old Republic I thought that guards in Sith Academy are kneeling before me as I walk by, as they should and it seemed like clever background detail. Then I noticed that they do it at random, looking quite stupid when there is nobody around. This discovery was kinda disappointing.

  3. el_b says:

    ‘you just have a bunch of young guys running around screaming “sarge!” all the time.’


    1. Gruhunchously says:


      1. Deadfast says:

        ROGER, ROGER!

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:


          Oh,wait,that was actually a good game.

        2. StashAugustine says:


          1. Wraith says:

            STAY FROSTY

            1. Lovecrafter says:


              1. ehlijen says:


                1. Fleaman says:

                  (Wait, what was that last one?)

                  1. gyfrmabrd says:

                    We get semi-random Mass-Effect quotes…
                    OR WE DIE!

  4. anaphysik says:

    Heh. “Bugs” with your elevators. That’ll become technically sort of funny next episode.

    It’s true that that sidequest at the bar doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. Though I guess if you had to be *uncomfortably* close to him to make it work, it might fly.
    What’s hilarious is that Randy probably could’ve completed the quest by just revealing he’d been sent by the asari. Vargas lets his feed get infected and uses it to send them disinformation.

    So, let’s get this straight…. Randy likes Anoleis… but doesn’t like Sir Lorik Qu’iin the Awesome….
    I’m not sure I can stand listening to Randy anymore. Even I have standards.
    That being said, Anoleis’ script and delivery are very good. He’d just quite the cloaca.

    1. anaphysik says:


      And I can’t believe that Randy didn’t give the evidence to Anoleis. *That*’s the troll option.

      Also, Randy complains about not having Intimidate. Then Randy promptly *doesn’t* put points in Intimidate. Intimidate = Energy Weapons?!

  5. LazerBlade says:

    I just amusingly realized that you guys started a show and picked apart and complained about this game a ton, but now as a game next to ME3 you can’t help but praise it in your posts. I chime in that I would have loved to have the rest of the trilogy unfold in this game’s universe, direction, and tone.

    1. Keeshhound says:

      Mass Effect was a good game with a bunch of minor gameplay/dialogue/consistency problems and a few plot holes; it was otherwise a very promising franchise, assuming those problems could be patched or smoothed over. In the attempt to do so, Mass Effect 2 tightened up the gameplay at the expense of both dialogue and consistency and traded out the plot holes for for a plot net.

      1. Khizan says:

        That’s good trade, though. At least, it is for me.

        I’ll take good gameplay with a mediocre to bad story over the opposite any day of the week. ME2/3 are the former; ME1 is the latter. I’ve beaten 2 and 3 multiple times on Insanity; I made it about to where Tali takes the evidence to the Council in ME1, before I quit.

        That’s because ME1’s gameplay is just awful by my modern standards. I start as an Adept. I’m heavily reliant on using cover, with terrible cover mechanics. I’m a ‘caster’ with cooldowns that start out at a minute and leave me plinking with a pistol for the rest of it. My most valuable contribution in a fight is “Hide and let Wrex and Garrus win it.” I get the introductory combat mission and then an hour and more of running around the Citadel checking in at various cutscenes(I count the Fist fight here, since I basically hid behind a bar while Wrex cleared the place). The inventory system is horrible, interface wise. As much as I loved the story, getting the story out of the game just wasn’t fun.

        On the other hand, ME2 and 3 did away with most all my gripes about gameplay. Starting off as an Adept, I got to throw more than once a minute. All the powers shared a cooldown, yeah, but I was using one power every few seconds and not 2 powers every minute. Decent cover mechanics. Killed inventory management entirely. It didn’t start me off with “Here’s a tutorial mission, now jog around the entire citadel for me. Try to take at least 2 hours, k?” I COULD HIT WHAT I WAS AIMING AT. The story was considerably worse than ME1’s, but I wasn’t actively disliking everything I did to further it, which made them far more enjoyable overall.

        1. Wedge says:

          Yeah, this was the same for me as well. I loved the narrative and world of ME1, but the gameplay drove me god damn insane. I basically slogged through it, angry or annoyed, in order to get more of the great story. ME2 came along, and it felt so much better; I didn’t even notice how bad some of the writing was (and ME2 had plenty of good writing, too) because unlike ME1 I was actually having fun.
          ME3 was just terrible, though. Gameplaywise, I felt like it took a step backward, and they dialed the shitty writing up to 11. Kindof the worst of both worlds, to me.

          1. Khizan says:

            Really? I thought ME3 was a lot better than ME2, gameplay wise. Modifiable weapons without a stupid inventory systems. Fairly frequent fights that weren’t just another corridor with barricades. Insanity didn’t have the “EVERYBODY HAS SHIELDS!” crap, yet still felt notably harder. Grenades and husks actually functioning as viable coverbusters. Smoke clouds being real pains to deal with.

            The story was worse, but I found the gameplay so much more fun that it’s still my favorite of the three games.

  6. Jokerman says:

    Getting the little details wrong but still trying is better than not bothering at all. Although i have heard that a lot of military types do play stuff like Call Of Duty as escapism from the real thing that dominates there lives.

    1. Klay F. says:

      I know anecdotes don’t count as actual proof, but one of my best friends from high school, while he was in the Navy, actually got into gaming by playing CoD while he was off duty. Of course, the fact that he likes the game doesn’t stop him from mocking it mercilessly for various reasons.

  7. Guildenstern says:

    A million times this. I can only speak as a man with no military experience whatsoever, but the fact that they at least made an attempt at recognizing some degree of military formality in this game made it all feel so much more engaging. The marines on the bridge saluted me when I walked past, the chain of command was observed when the CO left the ship, and the crew wore uniforms instead of catsuits. Plus introducing yourself as “Commander Shepard, Systems Alliance Navy” sounds so much like “Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the Federation Starship Enterprise” that I couldn’t resist picking that introduction option every time out of pure nerd-joy.

    Too bad ME2 came along and stripped me of my rank, my crew, my place within the military and forced me to work with a terrorist group that killed my friends. But hey, the explosions were bigger.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      There’s a random crewmember in ME3 who salutes you if you press the interact button. I don’t know why, but I really liked that.

      1. Klay F. says:

        Oh God, you mean that random wondering crewmember? I would make a point to seek him out after every mission so he could salute me. I wish that guy had a name.

      2. Guildenstern says:

        I refer to that guy as “Lance Corporal Kiss-Ass”, because it seems to me like he’s just wandering aimlessly, never contributing anything, and then freaks out whenever he sees the CO coming and tries to make up for it by suddenly snapping to and firing off a salute. I’m on to him, though. He’s on latrine duty until he dies.

        Which isn’t really too far off, all considered.

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I grew up as an Army Brat (Officer Country). I agree. Traynor drives me up the wall because no soldier would have ever been this familiar with my dad, who was an LTC -even outside the office. It frankly made soccer games a little weird growing up. Not like excessively so, but there was definite social distance between kids whose parents worked for the other. I don’t think -in retrospect -that it’s an accident my friends tended to have parents who were also within 1 grade of lieutenant colonel. And the exceptions weren’t Americans. And the NCOs and specialists I met were professionals down to their boots. They even walked differently. My brother (who got 7 years more of it than I did) still marches everywhere he goes, and that was just from osmossis. How much harder those who went through indoctrination should have it.

      This was the major thing that bugged me about Gears of War. I never saw soldiers act like the soldiers in the game do. Marcus and Dominic are brutish and thuggish, and I never saw a sergeant or private act that way. They were unfailingly polite, even stiff. Even when off duty. Of course, I may not have gotten a full picture because I was a.) 8, and b.) there was usually an officer standing around (my dad), and c.) it was in Europe where we tended to send our better soldiers for the sake of diplomacy. Still, if a Sergeant had Fenix’s attitude, I think his superiors would have busted him years ago.

      This also bugs me about Price and -to a lesser extent -Soap. But that’s another story.

      1. Chuck says:

        Soap and Price are Spec Ops, though, aren’t they? Those groups usually have some disciplinaray latitude.

        As for Fenix, well, end of the world.

        Generally though I agree, some versimilitude would be nice.

        1. Henson says:

          Great word. Verisimilitude.

          “Merely corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.” – W.S. Gilbert, The Mikado

          1. In these degraded times if they had to reinvent that word they’d go with something like “reallife-y-ness”. Sad.
            “To sit in sullen silence in a dull dark dock . . .”
            There should be an RPG set in Gilbert and Sullivan. Not just one of them, most of them can co-exist pretty well.

      2. Guildenstern says:

        I’ve got a few friends in right now and from talking to them when I get the chance to it seems the Marcus/Dom kind of attitude is more common among the grunts (and some of the POGs) but you’re more or less on the money about that not being the case around officers, at least not as much.

        This was one of the things that bugged me about Vega. I chewed that guy out repeatedly because he didn’t show even a little bit of respect to his CO (me). His attitude bordered on the insubordinate and I couldn’t freaking stand him because of it. Talking to him on the Citadel is better because he actually serves to demonstrate that distance between officer and enlisted what with that sequence in the bar and the old Scottish toast, but then it’s like he doesn’t pay any attention to it once we’re back on the ship and it drives me up a freaking wall. When the game tries to get me to back him going N7 all I could think is that I oughta be busting him back down to Lance because all he’s done is act like a smartass and crash a perfectly good shuttle for no reason.

        1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          He’s a bleeding officer now. Put on a goddam uniform!

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            I don’t think Shepard can really put much heart into that order while cosplaying as Canderous Ordo…

        2. Klay F. says:

          And I know from listening to my ex-Navy friend that you NEVER use any of a captain’s ship-wide nicknames in front of said captain. You’d be fine using it around NCOs or other enlisted types, though.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well soap and price are brits,and everyone knows that those guys care nothing about protocol.I mean,just look at james bond.

  8. The Rocketeer says:

    A game would be pretty foolish to preoccupy itself trying to seem authentic to actual military folks; if servicemen aren’t already driven crazy by the outlandish depiction of their organizations in media, they probably won’t mind dang near anything a developer fudges or makes up.

    But you are very right that even just a few touches of military goings-on, even if they are just the fiction of the game, go a long, long way in giving a sense of gravitas and authenticity to the proceedings in a game. And if anything isn’t how it should be, hey, it’s a fictional service, they do things different.

    But seriously, nameless individual guarding Legion in the AI core in ME2, your left hand? You saluted with your LEFT HAND? You’d think Jacob would have trained everybody.

    1. SharpeRifle says:

      He was Cerebus…maybe they performed an experiment that disabled his hand to see the effects of left handed saluting on the command structure.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        It has the same effect as any other salute on Shepard: he ignores it entirely, then shoots a million aliens in the face.

        The only time in the entire series I can recall Shepard saluting anyone is in ME1 when they run afoul of Rear Admiral Mikhailovic (which is a great scene!), and even then, they fudge the sequence. But they tried, and that counts. Shepard never returning a salute for the rest of the series makes them seem like a real asshole, though! It’s like leaving a high five hanging, or not exploding your fist pound in unison.

        Just once, solely for gee-whiz purposes, I’d like to see a game in which a bosun salutes left-handed, playing fife, while a distinguished visitor is welcomed aboard a vessel. This would blow the skulls right off the seventeen people that would get it.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Shepard salutes Anderson pretty much every time they talk to each other in ME3.
          He/She salutes Hackett a bunch also.

        2. monkeyboy says:

          You’re walking through the ship and you hear “Sweepers Sweepers man your brooms” or someone strike six bells.

          Shamus wrote a post a while back about adding little touches to his tabletop game about religion, customs and group loyalty (the day crew/night crew post). To riff off of that post, it’s not just inter-service rivalry or officer/enlisted. The “black gang” in the engine room feel they have it worse and hate the technicians, the technicians think they’re smarter than the deck department, and deck thinks they’re the only real sailors on board.

  9. StashAugustine says:

    Okay, on the subject of hard military sci-fi, am I the only one who’d like to see an RPG set in the Starship Troopers universe? Set at the Lieutenant level, you’d manage a squad of troops with distinct personalities, go on missions, gameplay would be tactical shooter. You’d get an interesting and underutilized universe and the ability to jump a hundred feet in the air and shoot nukes.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      That would be pretty freakin’ sweet! Especially if it was also a free-roaming space sim, and you could research the planet-cracking bomb he mentions that one time.
      While we’re dreaming, I still want to play a video game based on this totally satisfying piece of wish fulfillment literature:

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Teachers too would like to help you with that project.

    2. Guildenstern says:

      Make it happen and I shall grant you my firstborn.

      Wait, we are talking about the book, right? Because if you’re talking about the movies then I wouldn’t even give you my 12th-born for an hour to mow your lawn.

      1. StashAugustine says:

        There was a movie?

        And I have thought about it and a) a project that big means I’d wanna go commercial, and no way in hell I’d get the license and b) since everyone else is convinced there’s a movie, it’d be confusing to introduce a radically different timeline. The best option would be to directly adapt the book, but then you’d end up sacrificing a lot of freedom.

        1. ehlijen says:

          The licence really isn’t all that hot. And as far as ‘timeline’ goes, there’s a book, 4 rather different movies, a cartoon show, 2 different PC games, a roleplaying setting and a tabletop wargame, none of which match up to all others.

          Mongoose publishing did probably the closest anyone’s ever done to your suggestion, and they pretty much gave up on it because they just didn’t seem to know how to sell it.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The first one was ok though.Too bad so many people took it seriously.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Man, I loved the first movie.

          Sure, some may see it as a mockery of Heinlein’s political beliefs, but I think it worked regardless.

          Besides, a sci-fi movie that takes place almost entirely inside a classroom, would be rather boring. This coming from someone who loves Blade Runner.

          1. StashAugustine says:

            I woulda loved to see the movie as its own IP. When it’s tied to the Troopers name, then you start comparing the two and you run into trouble. And yeah, you’d definitely wanna break up the classroom scenes somehow.

            1. Klay F. says:

              See, I saw it (at the time) as a pretty subversive satire of the ideas Heinlein championed in the book. I only found out later that Verhoeven never actually finished reading the book in the first place.

  10. lasslisa says:

    When I glanced at this, the “Previous:” header in bold looked like a sub-title. So it read as:
    “The gate’s guarded, time for corporate espionage!” … “And if that don’t work, try more gun!”

    I thought that was actually a pretty good description of several of the missions in the series.

  11. “Then again, it just might drive people bonkers if they've served in the actual military and all they see are all the little details the developers got wrong.”

    Nah. The Air Force personnel in the Stargate program are cool with it. Heck, they’re still working out new protocols for half the stuff they find. If they ever release another documentary, maybe they’ll go into it in more detail.

    1. Dave B. says:

      Very interesting article. I love a good sci-fi, but it is hard to ignore how many of them are “x type of naval warfare, but in space.” Star Trek occasionally tries to shoehorn fighters in, even though they don’t make any sense in that setting. Stargate is an interesting case where the ships deployed by Earth feature an odd mix of real and fictional tech, so a mix of space combat tactics make more sense. For example, the fighters. In the Stargate universe, fighters have several specific functions that aren’t given to the bigger ships:

      1: planetary assault. They are often shown fighting near a planet’s surface while the mothership remains in orbit.
      2: gate travel. Most of them can fit through the stargates. This has some obvious advantages.
      3: weapons. The fighters used by the humans can carry missiles with nuclear warheads. These are demonstrated to be effective against many of the much larger enemy ships, provided they don’t have shields (like the wraith).

      I’m not trying to argue that Stargate is “realistic” but I feel like somebody put some actual thought into how their setting should work, and that impresses me.

      1. Mike S. says:

        Stargate and Mass Effect have a lot in common: both are happy to throw in unlikely SF tropes because they’re fun or look cool, but they’ll then step back and work out implications, explanations, or entertaining handwaves.

        (Though after all that time, some alien species should have nicked the idea of putting an iris over the gate. Lots of them saw it during assorted visits and invasions, and it’s a really good idea.)

      2. ehlijen says:

        Stargate isn’t realistic in the slightest, or even consistent. But it does go with the much more probable idea that space combat would be an extension of the air force, not the navy, which makes sense given the high speed nature of space travel and thus combat in all likelyhood. On stargate they then just make the ships behave as though they learned everything from the navy anyway…but at least it’s something.

        1. I found Stargate to be far more consistent than many other sci-fi TV shows, movies, or novels. They also grabbed technology from wherever they went without it suddenly vanishing forever (like in Star Trek) even when it had demonstrable benefits. I can only think of one or two “violations” of their own rules, one having to do with a zip line sent through the gate which appeared on the other side, rather than remaining within the wormhole until the entire object (in this case, the rope) had entered.

          If you’re referring to differences between the movie and the series, I believe there were rights issues at play, not to mention the fact that the film didn’t have much mythology to play with that would make an ongoing show feasible. If it’s something else, you might find an answer on the TV Tropes’ “headscratchers” page devoted to SG-1 (the longest running of the shows).

  12. Jakale says:

    After I thought about it, I always kind of wanted to get to speak with a cook for your ship or a place like this where they cater to multiple species. Don’t remember if there were special issues with most species, but I remember clearly that turians can’t eat human food. Always thought it would be funny to hear the ship cook grumble about all the new foods he has to learn to make because you went and snagged four new species.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      There’s a random Star Wars short story involving (among other things) the Mos Eisley bartender whining about having to be basically a chemist in order to serve everyone that comes in.

      1. ? says:

        And then he uses corpse of Greedo as main ingredient of a new drink

        1. Dave B says:

          I think I’ll do shots of that one first.

  13. Otters34 says:

    Ah, the start of the great Mass Effect tradition “Give up your weapons, please” “NO! NEVER!” *near-shooting* “Hold your fire! I speak on Shepard’s behalf!”

    That and we’ll probably soon meet the best turian ever, Lilihierax. He doesn’t say anything badass, he doesn’t shoot guns, he’s just a nice and friendly guy who seems like the kind of person you’d meet once in a while in that great big galaxy. He’s a great touch because most of the other turians we meet in the game(besides Lorik and Garrus of course) are cold and strict types.

    1. Jakale says:

      So let’s see, we’ve got this place, Jack’s prison, and what else where they ask for your weapon, which means you will be required to use it in that area?

      1. Otters34 says:

        I think the time on Sur’Kesh counts, when Wrex nearly starts a diplomatic incident, and you can’t bring your Wrex along for the fight with Cerberus’ Infinite Army.

        1. swenson says:

          Even Cerberus’ Infinite Army (TM) would have to falter in the face of Wrex’s awesomeness, which is why they can’t let you take him. :)

          Which was sad. I wanted to fight with him one last time.

    2. swenson says:

      I always liked that guy. He’s not important. He doesn’t do much (or anything, really). He’s just… a dude, who happened to get hired as a mechanic, who obviously isn’t a huge fan of the vicious, high-security corporate environment he’s stuck in. And all that comes through from about four lines of dialogue. Having people like him in a game just makes it all feel real and make you think “hey, this is a real world, this guy’s a real person, stuff other than me and my mission exists.”

      (on a side note, there’s never a time when Shepard just… gives up her guns. It’d be nice if there was a point where you could choose to do that (or were forced to), even if there was a convenient weapons locker two feet away from any place where she’s attacked. Not Jack’s prison ship, you’d have to be a braindead moron to give up a gun in a place like that, but in real high-security places where the Alliance is in control. Like why not the Citadel? Even before you’re a Spectre, no one bats an eye as you walk around in full combat gear with a backpack full of guns.)

      1. Klay F. says:

        In ME3 they take all of your guns away every time you go to the citadel. They use this to extremely stupid effect at least twice in the game, maybe even more.

        1. anaphysik says:

          And in ME3 that makes no sense, since you’re a Spectre. (I don’t even think you have a choice, unlike ME2, thus continuing the theme of ‘you’re choices only determine whether we effectively retcon you or not.’)

          But it would make sense to have us sans-arme-à -feu before our instatement in ME1.

    3. el_b says:

      ‘the best turian ever, Lilihierax’

      Is it because he’s an alien, a legal alien, he’s a turian from New York?

      1. anaphysik says:

        I don’t know that much about turian biology, so tell me: do they have Stingers?

  14. Gruhunchously says:

    And wasn’t it nice how, in Mass Effect 1, everyone had practical regulation uniforms and friggin WORE HELMETS IN DANGEROUS ENVIRONMENTS? You know, before Mass Effect 2 gave us squadmates who ran into combat in high heels and catsuits and shirts and bra belts and simple masks that (sort of)covered the nose and mouth to protect them from all the dangers of the universe.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      And then Ashley sexy-ed herself up in the 6 months b/t ME2 and ME3.

      1. Gruhunchously says:

        Nothing represents the aesthetic and tonal changes from Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effects 2 and 3 better than Ashley’s bizzare and sudden change in appearance.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          If I wanted to give the writing staff way, way, way too much credit, you could say it’s a cue to how Williams had to look professional as a Chief, but then she somehow made Lieutenant Commander, and, hey, what’s dress and appearance mean to a field-grade officer?

          I think the real head-scratcher there is how the crap did she go from being an SNCO to being halfway to the top of the officer corps?! The Alliance must have been really impressed with how she bitched out Shepard after getting rescued by them on Horizon.

          1. ehlijen says:

            The sad thing is if the change had happened from ME1 to ME2, that could have worked. People change in 2 years, and it would have supported the idea that she and shepard don’t see eye to eye anymore because things are different.

            But Having seen her in her ME1 look in ME2, the change to ME3 is just jarring.

      2. anaphysik says:

        “Ashley sexy-ed herself up”

        Let us well note that that is only an *opinion*. A veritably erroneous one at that, I could argue. I mean, sure, she probably looks less derpy than Allers and the skin-covered-sexbot, but still…

  15. krellen says:

    I recently ran into this problem in Guild Wars 2, of all places. During the Vigil storyline, you come across a Sergeant. When she gets to where she’s going, the guards on duty say “Officer on site!” and salute. It would have been a nice touch – were Sergeants “officers” of the sort that actually got that treatment.

    1. Alphadrop says:

      Confusing NCOs for COs in terms of saluting is oddly common in games, same with NCOs being called sir.

      1. Hitchmeister says:

        It’s hard to believe that no one making games has ever heard an NCO (or retired NCO) say (even jokingly), “Don’t call me Sir! I work(ed) for a living.”

        1. Keeshhound says:

          Sargent Dornan did.

          I miss Fallout 2.

      2. krellen says:

        When I commented on it in-game, someone actually said “but NCOs are officers”.

        1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Not being totally familiar with Guildwars, but gathering it’s at least vaguely medieval -are there even NCO’s? Sergeant was a fuedal rank long before a military one. Not that you’d salute a fuedal sergeant anymore than you’d salute a military one.

          1. guy says:

            Yeah, medieval sergeants were basically professional soldiers who backed up knights, not officers of any sort.

        2. Alphadrop says:

          Well the O in NCO is officer but the commission is what makes it salutable.
          Also you only salute if they wear a hat or helmet. Not sure if the GW2 dude was. :P
          But yea, medieval sergeant just means he actually knows how to use that blunt bit of steel in his hands that is optimistically called a sword.

  16. pneuma08 says:

    Oh my goodness, Shamus, absolutely. Little touches of things like military protocol are wonderful, like the glimpses of Earth and intergalactic politics, religious rights, ramifications of prenatal treatments…Mass Effect is pretty full of things that are both important and bigger than the player (although the player can have an opinion, it doesn’t change the nature of the controversy). It sends a message that there’s a whole universe out there filled with important things, which I think was kind of lost after the first game.

    1. Ateius says:

      It was, sadly, and it was a big loss. Someone (Chris? Maybe Tasteful Understated Nerdrage) had a video where they talked about conversations in New Vegas, how you could spend a lot of time talking about stuff not directly relevant to the plot or gameplay, but simply to build the world.

      All those little interactions in Mass Effect – from the salutes and announcements, to the airlocks and elevators, to the bouncy-castle Mako to the conversations you can overhear and sometimes participate in regarding the hot-button issues affecting this future culture – those all served the same purpose. It made the universe seem bigger, deeper, interconnected. It was working to the holy grail: Immersion.

      Then ME2 comes along and instead you get loading screens, end-mission score screens, huge annoying popups tracking your progress towards utterly meaningless achievements (5/500 robots shot!) and endless, endless chest-high walls. No variety, no small touches to drive the immersion. And they made you manually drag the Normandy around the system map instead of just selecting a destination. This is what I have a pilot for.

      1. Alphadrop says:

        That was Nerdrage, his video actually made me want to go and replay Vegas just to talk to Hanlon for 15 minutes about nothing in particular.

        Then get his gun.

  17. karthik says:

    “Man, I really missed that airlock.”

    I LOVED that airlock sequence, and you just expressed why (the feeling of having traveled and the sense of place) in one succinct paragraph better than I ever managed.

    I rallied and pleaded and struggled so hard for months on the Bioware forums asking them to bring back the airlock in ME3… I never got any support from others on the forum, or any kind of reply from Bioware (not even saying “nope, not happening.”)

    Why did they take it out, though? I don’t understand. ME2 had sections where you could hit “F” to leave an area, or walk up to a door and use it to leave. Something similar would have worked for the Normandy.

    EDIT: I must add that the airlock sequence was a much better way of disguising the loading screen than, you know, a loading screen.

    1. anaphysik says:

      “ME2 had sections where you could hit “F” to leave an area”

      The absolute worst of those was on Tali’s loyalty mission, where it pops up right after the trial finishes, and where there’s a perfectly fine exit to the Normandy just down the hall. Go away, you stupid pop-up, I want to talk to everybody!

      1. Mike S. says:

        It would also occasionally bug out, requiring you to try to replay from the last save. (I remember this happening more than once with Mordin’s loyalty mission.)

        Both ME2 and ME3 also would sometimes just end missions with a fade-out, complicating things if you wanted to do a little discreet looting after finishing a fight. (E.g., the last fight in Grunt’s loyalty mission in ME2, and Sur’Kesh in ME3.)

  18. Lovecrafter says:

    “You mean you get XP for failing the quest? I wish MMO’s did that.”

    Years later, your wish was granted by Anet and their dynamic events. Funny how those things turn out.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ah,the airlock.I really appreciated the airlock and the elevators even back then,when everyone was hating them.Now I can smile smugly and say “I told you so”.Those things really gave you a sense of how big everything was,and how connected everything is,instead of a bunch of unconnected hubs.

    1. C says:

      I really liked the elevators too and never understood why other people didn’t like them. Instead of static load screens, you got dialogue or quest hooks. I thought it was a pretty nice solution to the problem of constant load screens.

      Plus, I really liked the one in the Citadel from C-Sec to the docking bay, because you could look out the door and watch the ground floor as you went up.

      1. guy says:

        Because the elevators have a nice conversation and then proceed to be entirely too long.

        1. StashAugustine says:

          Yeah. As a counterpoint, I liked the scanner in the Normandy in ME3, because it took about 5 seconds while delivering a little exposition about the world. The elevator conversations were nice, the fifteen seconds of staring awkwardly into space weren’t.

          1. gyfrmabrd says:

            Because back then, I only had 1 GB RAM, so the airlock tended to scan my away-team for three to five minutes.
            Which might be prudent and more “realistic” for a team returning covered in geth-giblets and other assorted bits of off-worldy anatomy, but it wasn’t exactly gripping entertainment.

  20. John The Savage says:

    Yahtzee said the same thing about the airlock in one of his columns on ME2, though I’m not in a position to look it up right now.

  21. Sumanai (Asimech) says:

    I’ve likely ranted about this before, but just in case:

    I think this episode highlights why limiting dialogue choices behind “you don’t have enough skill points in Talky Stuff” or “you’re not big enough Asshole to act like an asshole” mechanics isn’t a good idea*. Five options total, a decent amount, but two of those are behind the system so you end up with three in a (RL) time when it’s both expensive to make a lot and where old hats complain about having so few dialogue choices.

    There are few options to start with, why are they limiting them further artificially? It’s simply counter-productive. Not to mention that what the developers have in their head as “consistent behaviour” might not fit with the player’s views or the character they’re trying to play. By giving the players freedom they would allow for more role-playing with no extra effort. In fact it would require less effort since they don’t have to design a system that limits the choices.

    * In my opinion, of course.

    Edit: Of course I’m taking the stance that if we assume all five choices are actually unique, which they rarely are with Bioware, since that simplifies the topic. But taking that into consideration only makes the situation worse, so it’s not exactly countering my point.

    1. Sumanai (Asimech) says:

      Forgot to say: I didn’t remember Randy was so… randy.

      1. anaphysik says:

        “Randy Johnson” seriously sounds like a name to be found in dirty jokes.

      2. Lord ZYRK says:

        Yeah, I’m beginning to think “Randy Johnson” is not what his parents named him. . .

    2. Amazon_warrior says:

      A better solution would be to let the player choose those options, but then slap ’em with some sort of behind-the-scenes diplomacy check that they have a very slim chance of passing. They’ll probably fail, with hilarious and/or conversation-altering results. One of the things that really annoyed me in ME1 was seeing these conversation options come up, but not being able to choose them. If you’re not going to allow me to say something, then dangling the fact that I can’t say something in front of me during conversations is just trolling, imo. I’d rather not know what I’m missing…

      1. StashAugustine says:

        I did love the speech failures in FO:NV, though. Some could be pretty funny.

      2. anaphysik says:

        Are you suggesting a random chance, or a hidden stat check?

        Because to the former, I simply say: Savescumming. I would totally savescum the shit out of that.

        1. Amazon_warrior says:

          Hidden stat check, ideally. Which is why I don’t get why they didn’t do that – they *have* stats for this stuff already! I’d far rather try and fail than not be allowed to try at all.

      3. Sumanai says:

        If you mean it should be allowed, but success random: Yeah, no. As mentioned by Anaphysik save scumming becomes a part of the game and randomness is not something a developer should just toss in to make things “interesting”.

        Random stuff makes it harder to learn things and can pointlessly frustrate. While it would be more realistic that NPCs responses wouldn’t be deterministic, I doubt it would make the gameplay more enjoyable or believable.

        If you mean a hidden skill check, then I don’t agree with that either. It undermines my whole point and leaves the problem there. You’re still artificially limited in choices, this time you’re just punished if you choose the “wrong” option.

        Either way, they’d have to double the dialogue for all the responses for the Diplomacy/Intimidate options, which costs money so I consider my approach more pragmatic.

        1. Amazon_warrior says:

          I meant a hidden skill check (could have sworn I answered anaphysik earlier, but it didn’t stick apparently), with a very small random chance of success. Are you really willing to savescum for a <5-10% chance of success? More power to you if you are, I suppose.

          Also, most "fail" responses can just be along the lines of "Lolnowai!" Perhaps with more touchy NPCs you might get a conversation ender if you piss them off.

          Of course, there's always the "Don't show me what you're not letting me play with" option, as mentioned in my previous comment. If I hadn't seen the options, I wouldn't have cared. *shrug*

          1. Mike S. says:

            I preferred having the grayed-out boxes, because it signaled me that I needed to put points into the persuade options. Otherwise I’d never have known that there were alternative options.

            And I won’t lie: on my first ME playthrough, when the option to get Wrex to stand down was grayed out on me, I reloaded a save from upriver on Virmire and put in the points I needed to change that. (It wouldn’t have been necessary if I’d gotten his family armor. But while I’d gone to the planet and killed the guy who had it, I somehow missed the locker it was in.)

            1. Amazon_warrior says:

              Maybe I’m weird, but I quite like stuff like that to be a surprise, and having it hidden makes replays more interesting when I get to discover a New Thing.

              1. Mike S. says:

                Possibly make it configurable, the way the much-reviled SWTOR does with cluing you in to whether a dialog choice will give you light or dark side points.

                (I have it set as blind, since my characters aren’t Force-users and I don’t care much about minmaxing and want to just role-play the decisions. But people who– understandably– don’t want their light/dark-aligned equipment to suddenly, inadvertently become unusable can avoid making an unintended mistake.)

                1. Amazon_warrior says:

                  Yes, that’d be a good way to manage it. Then everyone* goes home happy. :)

                  *Ok, maybe not absolutely everyone. This is the internet, after all…

        2. Amazon_warrior says:

          ….Also, what exactly *is* your solution, then? You have a mini-rant about the artificially limited dialogue options problem up-thread, but don’t have any conclusion or alternatives that I can see, then I make a suggestion that you shoot down instantly, again without offering any alternatives, so… what?

  22. MrGuy says:

    So, a theory on “proper” military culture…

    One thing that I understand from some friends in the military is there are things said in certain situations that simply don’t get repeated. Oh, you got in a fight with another Marine at a bar, over whether the order the LT gave on that last mission was smart or heartless? You don’t tell the NCO who breaks up the fight, let alone the lieutenant in question (and ESPECIALLY not the CO). Those stories don’t get told outside the cadre they belong to.

    And that’s a serious problem for game making. OK, morale is breaking down. You know this because your adjutant just reported we have an increase in fighting and trips to the brig. In a game, you want more flavor than that. You want to experience the fight yourself. Or at least hear what it was about. In the real military, that’s just not happening.

    You have to break with convention (and especially role/rank discipline) for the commander to get the flavor of “what’s really going on,” and you need that flavor for a game to be interesting.

    That said, there’s no excuse for stuff they CAN fix, like who salutes who, soldiers abandoning their post without proper relief, people being allowed to wander near “the good stuff” unsupervised, etc.

    1. decius says:

      There’s always someone who squeals. Normally it’s a senior NCO who hears the grumbling when he isn’t supposed to, and reports “I don’t know why that brawl started, but I’ve heard that…”

  23. decius says:

    Another thing that games and movies don’t get right (that is trivial to research) is airports- the color of the paint and lights in particular.

    There is literally an international standard for what color paint to use for runway and taxiway markings, and yet I still see yellow runway centerlines, like somebody just scaled up a road.

  24. Sean H. says:

    I don’t know if they fixed it for the PC version, but on the Xbox version of ME1 there was a glitch in Lorik’s dialogue that made him an infinite karma dispenser. After taking the blue/red dialogue option, you’re dumped out of the conversation and given +24 Paragon/Renegade. If you talk to him again and ask about Matriarch Benezia, the dialogue options for convincing him to testify will reappear, so you can repeat that quest task and get another +24 Paragon/Renegade points. I discovered this accidentally on my second game, so it might have been a New Game+ Easter Egg, but I assume it was a bug.

  25. natureguy85 says:

    I love the quest with Mr. Vargas. I can’t think of any better outcome than telling him the truth and then lying to the Asari and getting her to pay me for it.

    Although, it’s interesting in light of Lorik Quinn’s comment about conversation being imprisonment. Vargas is “relaxing” in the “bar” and a conversation about the thing he’s devoted his life to is “wasting his time.” Many people would love to talk about their passions to a willing listener.

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