Mass Effect Retrospective 17: Commander Shootmans

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 8, 2015

Filed under: Mass Effect 198 comments

Last time I mentioned that Mass Effect jumped from “details first” to “drama first”, and that the resulting shift in focus hurt the series. This new setup either works for you or it doesn’t, but we’re done bellyaching about it for now. Instead let’s talk about…


I like the new combat. I’m not going to say it’s “fun”, but I will say it’s “fun for a cover shooter of this era”. It’s not like I was expecting them to turn the gameplay into Batman, Tomb Raider, or Chime. They’ve tightened things up so it’s clearly a cover-based shooter instead of a “You can use cover and it will help sometimes but your allies might not and they’ll wander into your line of fire during a fight anyway” kind of shooter.

Mass Effect 1 existed in this odd, unsatisfying spot on the gameplay spectrum. It wasn’t number-crunchy enough to let you enjoy radically divergent character builds and tactical gameplay, but it wasn’t punchy enough to be viscerally satisfying. It had a massive skill tree with all these tiny inconsequential bonuses, so you couldn’t ever “feel” the difference of spending skill points.

Mass Effect 2 fixes this by shortening the tree and cutting down on the number of abilities you have to juggle so you have three interesting ones instead of nine weak ones. Love it or hate it, I think it’s good that the game finally committed to a gameplay style. It’s not my favorite gameplay, but at least the series found an identity.

And to be fair, this isn’t just a bog-standard shooter. The biotic powers keep things interesting, the freedom to swap out squad mates keeps things varied, and the visuals have a flair and a punch that was lacking in the first game.

The horrible “trash loot avalanche” of the original has been replaced with something that’s more about making meaningful decisions and less of a “rummage sale” vibe where you scroll through huge lists of crap, trying to figure out what you want or need.

This is all good, since you’re going to be spending a lot more time shootin’ dudes. The Mako is gone. Overall there are fewer conversations in proportion to gameplay, and most of them are shorter than the ones in ME1. There’s less space to traverse between fights and the puzzles between you and your mission goals have been removedNow puzzles are just a way to open optional “treasure chests”.. The loot-sorting is goneNot that many people miss it. and shopping for gear is less of a thing.

For good or for ill, the game is focusing on its central mechanics instead of trying to do a little of everything. But these changes come at a cost. Let’s talk about…

Thermal Clips

This loading screen tip is actually sort of wrong: Clips aren't 'universal'. If you have shotgun ammo, you can't use it in your pistol. But if you kill someone who has a shotgun and take their ammo, you'll get pistol bullets. Hm.
This loading screen tip is actually sort of wrong: Clips aren't 'universal'. If you have shotgun ammo, you can't use it in your pistol. But if you kill someone who has a shotgun and take their ammo, you'll get pistol bullets. Hm.

In Mass Effect 1, the idea is that your gun has a large block of mass inside. It shaves a tiny section off that block, the size of a grain of sand. That grain is then accelerated in a mass effect field, launching it at some ridiculous velocity so that the tiny fragment will still carry enough force to harm your foe. This generated some heat, so you had to let off the trigger every few seconds to allow the weapon to cool down.

Thus your weapon can’t ever run out of ammo. It has “practically infinite”Which in gameplay terms means ‘actually infinite’. supply of shots stored inside its casing.

I liked this, because it nicely merged gunplay with science fiction. Yes, we want our combatants to run around shooting each other with space-weapons that make cool sounds, but the universe will feel lame if all these fantastical aliens are running around using firearms with gunpowder, rifled barrels, shell casings, and all the other things we associate with gunfights on Earth. It makes our universe seem like it lacks vision if all the fights look and sound like Call of Battlefield. The infinite ammo weapons were better than Earth-based firearms, they were new and alien enough to feel sort of sci-fi-ish, but they were close enough to conventional firearms that we could still use familiar shooter gameplay. (As opposed to something crazy and new, like a world where everyone has insta-kill guns that can shoot through walls, or sustained beam weapons that makes killing foes as easy as catching them in a flashlight beam. Those would be plausible alien weapons to put in a sci-fi universe, but they wouldn’t lend themselves to established gameplay conventions.)

But the original idea didn’t last. In Mass Effect 2 they added the idea of “thermal clips”, which work exactly like ammo. Yes, you still have infinite “bullets” but you need these packages of heat sinks to keep the weapon from overheating. If you don’t have a heat sink, you can’t fire. So they aren’t bullets, but they restrict your ability to fire in exactly the same way that bullets do.

This is framed as a technological advancement, but it’s pretty obvious that a gun that can run out of bullets is vastly inferior to one that can’t. This is particularly true when you apparently can’t carry very much of this new “not bullets” ammunition and find yourself changing weapons often when you run out.

Aside: “clip” is the wrong nomenclature. The “clips” we pick up are properly called “magazines”. I realize this is a sci-fi game with space magic, but if you’re going to get so macho serious about your firearms, then can you please stop making all your characters talk like a rube having their first day on the firing range?

'After what you did to those innocent people, I'm gonna empty this entire CLIP into your FACE!' Well, actually your gun uses mag-BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM!
'After what you did to those innocent people, I'm gonna empty this entire CLIP into your FACE!' Well, actually your gun uses mag-BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM!

To be fair, basically all games and movies get this wrong, to the point where it might be easier to change the definition than to get people to use it right. But it bugs me anyway.

But whatever. Thermal “clips” it is.

On one hand, I can appreciate what they were trying to do here. Traditional reload mechanics are a tried-and-true gameplay model. It encourages you to use a variety of weapons to manage your limited ammunition pools. There’s a tiny bit of strategy in deciding when you reload a weapon and when to keep shooting. It fits in with the rhythm of the fight and the way your enemies peek in and out of cover. It lets the main character interact with the weapon, making all those cool mechanical sounds and venting particle effects. It encourages moving around to acquire needed ammo during a fightI guess you’re not supposed to play as one of those sniper classes that needs to stay in cover and engage at a distance., which can encourage the player to make risk / reward decisions about when to leave cover. These are all nominally good things to want in a shooter. In general, all of this moves the game towards mainstream mechanics.

Having said that, I’m not sure the execution here is the right way to go. Reader NaotaDisclosure / fun trivia: Naota is actually one of the members of the Pyrodactyl team working on Good Robot with me. said this in the comments last week:

Thermal clips are a blight, even by normal game design standards. I think it's pretty universally agreed that the idea behind ammo mechanics is to force players to aim more carefully and be economic with their shooting, by tying shooting to an expendable resource. This rewards pre-planning and smart play; if a player stocks up on ammunition and aims well, they won't run out in a time of need.

…but thermal clips are not expendable, and can't be planned around. The damnable things are scripted not to appear unless the player is already low on ammo, and magically poof into the surrounding environment. Thanks to the small capacity for spares, they're needed constantly.

So… the only time you can find more bullets is after you've run out of them, and must flail around awkwardly in the midst of battle looking for environmental cues. You cannot go exploring to stock up ahead of time. But rationing your shots is pointless, because once you're spent the clips will reappear infinitely. We wouldn't want you to actually run out of bullets, after all â€" just to experience the same annoyance over and over with no way to mitigate it.

This is a system designed specifically to capture the biggest downside of ammo-based shooting mechanics (having to dumpster-dive for bullets halfway through a boss battle), while eliminating all of the upsides with precision that borders on the immaculate.

Game design is part of my job. I've built a competitive FPS. I could not make a more horrible mechanical framework if I tried my hardest. Thermal clips are a true marvel.

(EDIT: To be clear, I’m not 100% endorsing the tone of this comment. I’m actually trying to keep this series as low-key and non-personal as possible. Naota posted this as an off-the-cuff comment without knowing it was going to appear in the series. But I wanted to include it here because he noticed several aspects of the system that I’d completely overlooked and this seemed like the best way to include his thoughts.)

To be fair, I had no idea the world worked this way. I always play as a Vanguard, and Vanguards are constantly leaving and running back into cover because of the charge ability. So these magical appearing clips got lost in the chaos. If I ran out, I usually assumed I had been bad at spotting ammo between fights.

Why discard that heat sink instead of letting it air-cool? Why don't we just have several of these in the gun, and it can cycle between them? And why not have it cycle automatically? Wait, isn't that how the old guns worked? ARG I CAN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT THIS ANYMORE!
Why discard that heat sink instead of letting it air-cool? Why don't we just have several of these in the gun, and it can cycle between them? And why not have it cycle automatically? Wait, isn't that how the old guns worked? ARG I CAN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT THIS ANYMORE!

But regardless of whether this works on a gameplay level or not, it’s pretty clear that it makes no damn sense within the established lore of the world. If I’m dumping heat, then why am I throwing away these clips? In Mass Effect 1 I had guns that could fire for fifteen sustained seconds, and cool off in just five. Why can’t I drop back to that firing mode if I run out of clipsI’ve read a rumor (I can’t find the source now) that the guns did work this way during development, but playtesters found it “confusing”.?

The logic problems get worse when you find yourself fighting enemies that have been isolated for decades or centuries, yet they drop these same newfangled clips that were invented just two years ago.

More nonsense: The ammo pickups seem to work a bit like Team Fortress 2, where a single pickup will have just a few rounds for each of your weapons. So I go into a ruin that hasn’t been opened in centuries and inside I find a mook who shoots at me with an assault rifle. I kill him, and he drops this little cylinder-shaped “clip”. And when I pick it up I get 4 pistol bullets, 50 submachine gun bullets, and 3 shotgun shells. I don’t care what sort of excuses you stuff into the codex, that’s crazy bananas.

I really think it was a mistake to attempt to address this in-world. Maybe it would have been better for the game to simply present this change without comment.

I realize this sounds incredibly hypocritical after going on about “details matter!”, but here we’re dealing with a simple business decision and gameplay conceit. There is no way to explain this within the gameworld that will fit, so any attempt to justify it is just going to spread out into more frustrating unanswerable questions.

The design of these robots make me think of the suicide-bombing protocol droids in System Shock 2.
The design of these robots make me think of the suicide-bombing protocol droids in System Shock 2.

I think players are generally willing to meet the game designer halfway on stuff like this. In the first two Witcher games, Geralt’s equipment was ageless. The armor never broke, and his sword never got dull. But nobody ran up to Geralt at the start of Witcher 3 and said, “We’re using this awesome new alloy that makes swords more effective, but now you need to sharpen them!” The game didn’t try to explain why you suddenly needed to repair your stuff, and that was okay.

By presenting the change without comment, it allows the player to file the inconsistency into the mental folder where they keep all the other gameplay contrivances: You never have to eat or relieve yourself, you never need to sleep, you can reload the game when you die, you can see someone’s name over their head when you look directly at them, fat tomes never contain more than a paragraph of text, you can eat an unlimited amount of food in the middle of a swordfight, and so on.

I understand if people want to argue that they don’t like the new gameplay and just wanted the old system back. But if we accept the change as a simple design necessity then I think the best way to deal with the inconsistency would be to downplay it.

In fact, this is what they did with biotics, and I don’t see people complaining about thatAs much. Obviously if you look you can find complaints about almost anything.. Biotic powers got a major overhaul in terms of mechanics, and they didn’t try to explain any of it in conversation. It’s simply presented without comment. The change to biotics is nearly as radical as the idea of adding “bullets” to this bullet-free universe, but people didn’t mind as much because it was accepted as a simple gameplay change, without involving the setting.

Wow. Look at this army of well-armed security droids. Kind of makes you wonder why the larger colony of Horizons didn't have ANY.
Wow. Look at this army of well-armed security droids. Kind of makes you wonder why the larger colony of Horizons didn't have ANY.

On the other hand:

In a game where so much of the lore was re-written, twisted, abused, or ignored in the first hour, the people who care about details are already likely to be really annoyed. They won’t see this as a design decision, they’ll naturally assume the introduction of bullets is just one more sign that the Mass Effect 2 designers didn’t know about or care how the world of Mass Effect 1 worked.

This is just one more area where the bungled opening of the game comes back to hurt our immersion. The player doesn’t have any more room in their heart for hand-waving and letting little details slide, because that goodwill was burned up when the writer blew up the setting and replaced half the codex with little sticky notes proclaiming “PLOT TWIST!”



[1] Now puzzles are just a way to open optional “treasure chests”.

[2] Not that many people miss it.

[3] Which in gameplay terms means ‘actually infinite’.

[4] I guess you’re not supposed to play as one of those sniper classes that needs to stay in cover and engage at a distance.

[5] Disclosure / fun trivia: Naota is actually one of the members of the Pyrodactyl team working on Good Robot with me.

[6] I’ve read a rumor (I can’t find the source now) that the guns did work this way during development, but playtesters found it “confusing”.

[7] As much. Obviously if you look you can find complaints about almost anything.

From The Archives:

198 thoughts on “Mass Effect Retrospective 17: Commander Shootmans

  1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    OK. I’ll jump on the grenade. What overhaul of the biotics? I never noticed. Admittedly, I tended to play infiltrators, so biotics wasn’t a major deal, and I noticed some changes to the tech tree -but that didn’t seem too radical. ME1 tech users had a bunch of grenades that did special stuff. ME2 tech users had a bunch of new grenades that did new special stuff.

    1. Falterfire says:

      The absolute biggest change is that a biotic can fight using primarily biotics. In Mass Effect 1 biotics generally had a 45 second or 1 minute cooldown, and even though the cooldown was for each individual ability instead of a universal cooldown, you still ended up having to use a lot of gun, even if you were playing an Adept.

      In Mass Effect 2 the cooldowns are much shorter, and with the right skills (And possibly gear. Can’t remember if weight was added in 2 or 3) you could clear entire levels without ever firing a shot.

      1. Raygereio says:

        The absolute biggest change is that a biotic can fight using primarily biotics.

        That wasn’t until ME3 I felt.
        ME2 added different types of layers to the health bars of enemies. Red health, yellow armor, blue shields & purple barriers. All powers were overhauled and designed so that they would be effective against some layers, and ineffective against others.
        An adept definetly still needed a gun in ME2. Especially at higher difficulties as most of the adepts skill sit was ineffective against anything but red health and all enemies has some extra layer.
        In ME3 though, an adept can go around pull-throw-BOOM’ing her way through most of the game. With the occasional Warp-Throw-BOOM for armoured enemies.

        In addition to the already mentioned global cooldown:
        In ME1 the biotic power’s effects poofed into existence wherever your crosshair was pointing at.
        In ME2 they changed it so that when you fire off a biotic power, there’s a projectile that travels from your body in direction of your crosshair, and which homes in on your target. This allows you to curve power around cover, hitting enemies behind it.

        1. djw says:

          An adept could rely on biotic powers to some degree in ME2 if you bring teamates along to burn through shields and armor. Miranda for shields and Garrus for armor, for instance.

          Also, if I recall correctly, a precisely placed singularity could act as crowd control even on a shielded target, since they would repeatedly go through the “got bumped” animation and would not have a chance to shoot you.

        2. Trix2000 says:

          The projectiles also added that extra bit of feedback/game feel that I think the biotic powers really needed. To me, powers (particularly biotics) felt so underwhelming and not all that special because all they were to me where effects – they didn’t look like a whole lot of anything.

          I mean, if you’re gonna be a space wizard/psychic, can’t it at least look like it?

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        The weight thing wasn’t till ME3 and I LOVED that change*. In any game, I always favor powers over weapons when possible. Especially when the powers have a traversal element.

        If you strip down to a single pistol (or later a pistol and one other weapon once you’ve upgraded enough that a couple of weapons won’t hurt your cooldown) you can go full on power usage. In ME3, I got to where I didn’t have to use cover when playing a Vanguard. Just charged and strafed and it was WAY more fun than sitting behind cover.

        *For those who are just joining us, the change is that the less weight in weapons you’re carrying in ME3, the faster your cooldown on powers is. If you go with minimum weight, you can basically lean on your powers. Later in the game, you can make your weapons lighter and make your power cooldowns faster such that you can carry one or two more weapons on you without it crimping your style.

        1. Theminimanx says:

          Yes. So much this. By the end of the game, the Charge cooldown was so short that my gameplay style was basically: Charge, Nova, Charge, Nova, repeat. And I LOVED it.

      3. spleentioteuthis says:

        With high level amps and armor mods you could easily get the ME1 biotic cooldowns down to a point where an adept could always keep barrier and at least one crowd control effect going.

        The more rigid universal cooldowns combined with the other big biotic change of ME2, crowd control abilities not working on shield/barriered/armored enemies, you got some seriously disappointingly… not horribly overpowered biotics.

        Really not a fan of the crowd control change myself, at least from an adept perspective. Felt like there was precious little point ever engaging in any ragdoll funtime after taking out those pesky shields, since any health below them is mostly comparatively tiny and easier to subtract with an application of trusty gun than hokey old biotics.

        I suppose there is the warp explosion too. A neat idea that 3 iterated on further, but even then it could never compare to always launching enemies into orbit instead of having a fair fight.
        Definitely find the leveling and loot progression for adepts in 1 was the most interesting (and most broken) those elements got in the whole franchise. Less so for non-adepts probably.
        A jedi curse upon you and all your descendants, game balance.

        1. Ringwraith says:

          If you play Hardcore or Insanity (don’t play Insanity, damage you take is like 700% of norm, made of glass), in 2 every enemy gets a small secondary bar of armour/shield/barrier. This suddenly makes power usage much more tactical and actually means the “affects a wider area” upgrades to shield overloads and such are much more useful, as everyone’s got some sort of defence.
          Of course it also fixes the weird logical hole of most dudes suddenly not having a basic thing like shields, even geth!

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            don't play Insanity, damage you take is like 700% of norm, made of glass

            But insanity is the most fun way to play.

              1. Ringwraith says:

                The damage scaling is such a ridiculous step up from Hardcore.
                Damage scaling being the laziest way to balance difficulties anyway.
                At least the secondary bars Hardcore applies to everything does actually require a strategic shift rather than just “you take more damage”.

      4. James says:

        So ill do a plug for a awesome series i watched, and explain something.

        in ME1 it is very very possible to just use tech/bio power and sometimes grenades and this is on Veteran (Hard)
        this is part one

        Basically it revolves around Warp for dps and Throw/Lift to throw people out of or off the map. it makes Krogan in the open astonishingly easy to kill because of their charge.

      5. Neko says:

        I seem to remember in Mass Effect 2 I got so frustrated with the combat that I hacked the config files to make my biotic powers a lot more spammable.

      6. BenD says:

        Playing on Casual (so, probably not as intended), I used Warp as my primary weapon and backed it up with bullets. I regularly found ammo when I didn’t need it (and at one point in the late game couldn’t seem to find ammo despite being fresh out). I very much wonder if Warp was that powerful on higher difficulty settings. Not that there is any chance whatsoever of slogging through it myself to find out. So…any other Warpbots out there?

    2. guy says:

      Well, it’s wrapped into the general power changes. First, they’re now on a universal cooldown rather than a per-power cooldown. Second, they are now ineffective against some of the health bars, though I can’t remember exactly which.

      I was not entirely happy with that because it meant that vanguards might not be able to charge to regenerate their shields.

      1. RCN says:

        They became ineffective against EVERYTHING that isn’t the last health bar that is left after shields, armor, barrier and other protections are slowly pelted off with weapons, making playing with an adept a living hell.

        Like Shamus said, he played Vanguard, so none of that mattered much to him. But for me? I had to slowly and laboriously tick off all the different layers of defense before any of my powers could finally actually affect anything. But when an enemy is down to it’s plain health bar it is just much more practical to just shoot it a few more times to finish it off than to use a biotic power to make him levitate away or whatnot, because while Armor is nearly impenetrable to all sorts of damage and shields were regenerated, the health bar behind all that was by far the most vulnerable part of the assembly.

        I really felt completely useless for being an adept in ME2 until the very end where you fight hordes and hordes of husks (who, by the way, also act in a complete different way to the way they acted in ME1) who only have one large health bar. That’s the ONLY PART OF THE GAME where the biotic mechanics felt like it was actually fun, as I pushed husk after husk out of ledges.

        (You could also detonate biotic powers… but for all effects and purposes, it was just a damage combo to do tiny amounts of damage to shields and was no more effective, no, hold that one, it was hilariously less effective than just shooting them up with an assault rifle)

        EDIT: And the best part of all? The goddamn Harbinger (or whatever that Reaper was called) generated bodies that had NO HEALTH and a HUGE barrier pool. If you’re adept, there’s no way around it, your fights with his generated bodies are at your disadvantage. Your weapons skills are so weak that you are constantly running out of ammo AND you have no chance in hell of killing his next host before he takes over, making a bad situation worse, while the biotic detonation barely even break skin, as a manner of speaking.

        I dreaded every time I saw the Harbinger, but not for the right reasons you should dread a boss. I dreaded him because I knew none of my classes perks would do a damn thing against him (just like every other enemy in the game, just even more so), that my weapon could barely hurt him, and that he’d kill me the second I inevitably left cover to look for ammo to finish him off. Have NONE of the testers played the adept class? This is inexcusable.

        1. Thomas says:

          Armour and barriers are specifically weak to warp, it’s shields that biotics can’t touch. Biotic explosions also do a ton of damage if you get them right.

          To deal with shields you just take two tech people with you and continuously overload

          1. RCN says:

            That’s why Mordin and Tali never left my side.

            And that’s missing the point. Warp is a “damage facilitator”, it’s only purpose is doing more damage and that’s extremely boring, ferociously boring. The only use of Biotic powers were enabling your damage somewhat but still be completely subpar compared to literally any other class at damage dealing, while the thing that actually differentiated the class, in fact, the thing that made the class FUN (the ability to pick off enemies and dictate the rhythm of the battle), was completely thrown away.

            It is the equivalent of taking away the charge from the vanguard, the sniper from the infiltrator or the guns from the soldier.

            1. Thomas says:

              Warp still didn’t move like bullets which allowed it to be used very differently tactically to guns, and biotic combos also broke up the playstyle a lot when you got them going.

              I do take the point though, that when you’ve got rid of their shields and barrier, they’re basically already dead men walking which removes a lot of the fun from throws and shockwaves. Biotics are much better on normal difficulty than a high difficult, because most of the enemies in low difficult are still unshielded and provides fun.

              Adept was my chosen class for my first playthrough of all the games.

              1. guy says:

                It’s also a difficulty thing, since higher difficulties give out more health bars. At the difficulty level I played at, all the factions had generous supplies of mooks with just red bars, so all the powers could see use.

              2. BenD says:

                This. Warp is target-seeking. For a player like me, who can’t aim worth crap in third person, Warp is the one true weapon.

            2. Zaxares says:

              It probably came as “too little, too late” for you, but the addition of Flare as a bonus power with the Omega DLC rectifies this. Flare does an INCREDIBLE amount of damage, and the fact that it can pierce shields (and you can further trait the power to do even more damage when bypassing shields/barriers) means that you can use it as your “room clearer” by just tossing it on the toughest enemy in a group and then mopping up with gunfire/squadmate powers. For especially tough foes, use Warp as a debuff/primer and then throw in Flare for an extremely powerful damage burst + Biotic Explosion on top of it.

        2. guy says:

          Vanguard charge is also a biotic ability, though it might work on more of the health bars than the others. I’m certain at least one type of health bar blocked charge; either shields or armor. ME3 changed that.

          1. Slothfulcobra says:

            It doesn’t matter if they withstand the initial charge, since there’s still the shotgun and the fist.

            1. guy says:

              It’s been a while, but I distinctly recall that you just couldn’t charge some health bars at all. Not just that it didn’t do any damage; it didn’t trigger.

              1. SlothfulCobra says:

                Nah, that’s only people who are in areas that you’re not allowed to walk around in. Bioware may have come up with this neat gameplay mechanic, but they never take it into account when designing levels or story beats.

                It really bugged me whenever my vanguard Shepard was stuck down a hole, because he could just fly out.

        3. wswordsmen says:

          My thoughts exactly. I hated ME2’s combat because there was nothing you could do most of the time to stop from getting killed, because if you tried to kill them before they got to you, run out of ammo and have a enemies between you and the next supply, use your powers, most enemies are immune. Adept in ME2 was terrible and the people who designed it didn’t do their jobs.

      2. Nimas says:

        Oh GOD that universal Cooldown. That was my most despised mechanic change in ME2, yes even over Thermal “Clips”.

        I tried to find some way to remove it, but it was basically impossible from what I could gather. :(

        1. Frank says:

          I know it’s been years since you posted this, but shared/universal cooldowns in ME2 can now indeed be removed:

  2. I hated the thermal clips because I really liked the idea of cooling instead. It’s ammo, but not really, but basically ammo. It’s just really disappointing that instead of reworking the cooling idea they just dropped it and went with ammo-but not-really-but-really-is-ammo. The combat was better in ME2 and I had a lot more fun with the sniper rifle in ME2 than ME1, but ME2 felt like they had no idea what to do with some of the most interesting stuff in ME1 and just jettisoned it all in the most half assed way possible.

    I wasn’t that big of a hater of the Mako. Yes, the side planets were all uniform and dull. But, the solution to that for me seems to be make less side planets and make them more interesting and unique. Instead, they just dropped planet exploration like a sack of puppies and we got one of the most boring scanning mini games in history.

    1. Dev Null says:

      I actually liked the Mako. I’d spend ages trying to wrangle it to the top of the tallest mountain in the world, so I could take a running jump off the top.

      1. venatus says:

        I did the same sort of stuff and even liked the mako when I wasn’t able to throw it off large cliffs.

        but then I also played the series on PC and I heard the mako was a lot worse on the consoles.

        1. BenD says:

          I played on console, and it’s possible the Mako was my favorite part of the game. I too would push it to new heights, enjoy the amazing views, then scream ‘fly!!!’ And leap from the precipice. Wheeeeeeeeee~

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I hated the thing. I ended up using the Super Speed cheat code and the super armor and super weapon cheats so I could go on foot for any required Mako missions. Which made it super frustrating when in the final mission, I got to the conduit on foot only to discover that you HAVE to have the Mako on you. So I had to run all the way back out, get the f***king Mako and do the hardest Mako mission when I’d spent the entire game not practicing the stupid thing.

        1. Thomas says:

          Even without the cheats, I discovered the most fun way to fight in the Mako is to get out and shoot everything on foot. When I learned that it made sidequests in ME1 significantly less miserable

          1. Aldowyn says:

            you get a ton more XP that way. It’s a common exploit to get thresher maws and colossi to their last sliver of health, get out, and finish them off on foot.

            1. Mephane says:

              It’s also utterly silly as a game mechanic. Generally, awarding different amounts of XP for different methods to take out a foe promotes metagaming to the extreme and wrecks the 4th at in every single combat encounter. No longer I am choosing this gun or special ability or tool or this dialog option because that is what my character would do – but only because this one awards the most XP (or, alternatively, better loot, more loot, an otherwise unavailable side quest which also equates more XP etc). And no, my mind is unable to “just ignore the XP bonuses and roleplay the character”.

              Games like this only function for me when I am unaware of it happening, they break the moment I realize eventually that I have been wasting possibly entire levels of XP over the course of the ongoing play-through. I couldn’t continue my second play-throughs of ME1 and Deus Ex HR because of this very thing. I am a sucker for good story and roleplaying my character, but at the same time I am an optimizer. I would love if RPGs (and RPG-whatever-hybrids like ME1/2/3) would stop putting these two distinct parts – story+characters vs game mechanics – at odds with each other. Choosing between two possible decision in a quest is interesting; as is choosing between two game mechanics. But choosing between story or roleplaying and game mechanics is horrible.

              (And for MMOs, I have adopted the policy of simply not touching at all any MMO that does not completely decouple e.g. the look of my character and the gameplay.)

              1. Bubble181 says:

                Same here; I found the way Pillars of Eternity handled it to be much better. No XP for killing enemies after the first few times, XP for missions/quests is always the same no matter which way you finish it. Obviously, some choices will still open or close some side quests, but that’s pretty much unavoidable.

  3. Alex says:

    “If I'm dumping heat, then why am I throwing away these clips? In Mass Effect 1 I had guns that could fire for fifteen sustained seconds, and cool off in just five. Why can't I drop back to that firing mode if I run out of clips?”

    I’ve said the same thing. Thermal clips should have been a resource you save for when you need high DPS, the same way you might save assault rifle ammo in a game where your sidearm has infinite ammo. You could stick to cover and recharge your shields and wait for your gun to cool down on its own, or you could just chew through your spares with sustained fire, ejecting each heat sink as it gets overloaded.

    1. Leo says:

      The obvious argument against having a system like that is that it makes it nearly impossible for the designers to tell how much ammo/clips a player is going to use throughout a level. But BioWare circumwent that issue by making ammo spawn whenever you were running low, so it wouldn’t have mattered for a hybrid system at all.

      This makes it hard for me to see why they used their system beyond it being convention that more people are used to, which (theoretically) means it’s more accessible, which means reaching more people, which means more money.

      1. Raygereio says:

        If I recall right, during development for ME2 Bioware experimented with a hybrid system. When your gun’s heatsink was full, you could either wait and let it cool down, or pop in a new heatsink in continue firing.

        This was dumped in favor of a straight up ammo system, because apparently playtesters found the hybrid system to be confusing.
        I honestly think this points more towards there being a problem with how playtesting is done, because you can enable the hybrid system in ME2 and there’s nothing confusing about it. Also for another reason why playtesting can be problematic, see Dead Space. That game had a gimmick where you had to target the enemies’ limbs. In the intro level, the devs shout “TARGET THE LIMBS!” 5 times in a row at you, because playtesters were dumb and didn’t get it.

        1. INH5 says:

          I’ve played around in ME2 with the hybrid system re-enabled, and I found it to be mostly superfluous. If you had clips, you were generally better off shooting off the rest of it and reloading instead of waiting for the gun to cool down, and if you were out of clips switching to another weapon was generally better. But it took me a bit of practice to figure out which way of using them was optimal, so for a while it just felt awkward. I think that’s probably what they meant when they said that playtesters found the system “confusing.”

          From my own experience making games in college, I know that it is an easy trap for designers to think up mechanics that seem clever to them, but just end up feeling awkward and off-putting when you hand them to a player who is seeing the game for the first time. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity in mechanics.

          Though I still think the way they attempted to explain this change in-universe was awful. I first heard about this second-hand more than a year before I actually bought ME2 (or any of the Mass Effect games) and even then it made me slap my forehead.

          1. RCN says:

            Like I’ve said before. The in-game explanation for them is tantamount to everybody in the world deciding to go back to using barrel-loaded muskets just because modern automatic firearms jam on occasion.

          2. Merlin says:

            That actually raises a really good point – that the ideal solution probably would have been to lean into the ME1 heat system and forced the player to regularly switch weapons to avoid heat-related helplessness. That’s actually almost more of a throwback than thermal clips are, since it basically simulates the 18th century routine of firing a musket then passing it to a buddy to reload while you fire a different one, but it works within the context of the universe, spares you fiddly ammo pickups, and still engages the player. It’d also push combat towards being dynamic rather than cover-based trench warfare, since your available weaponry (and thus your effective range of engagement and ideal approach) is constantly cycling.

            And I didn’t even mind thermal clips overall – they’re dumb, but no dumber than anything else in ME or ME2. Though it probably helped that I played a Vanguard in both games, and Charge->Punch->Shoot in ME2 was way more enjoyable than ME1’s sloggy combat. Improvements to the gameplay overall make it much easier to forgive small quasi-missteps like this.

          3. Henson says:

            Miranda: “Wake up, Shepard. You’ve been unconscious for two years, but now you need to get moving. Grab your weapon from the locker.”

            Shepard: “This pistol doesn’t have a thermal clip.”

            Me: What’s a thermal clip?

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              “Wow – being knocked out for two years *really* did a number on Shepard.”

          4. Xeorm says:

            Yea, playing through ME2 myself, there were really only two situations where I wanted the old method back: I missed my guns that could fire infinitely, and I missed being able to hunker down behind one piece of cover and not need to move to find some new ammo. You could add the old system, but it defeats the purpose of adding the new heat sink system in the first place.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I would have favored that. I’ve said so myself several times in previous ME discussions on this site.

      Thermal clips do offer one small lore advantage. They’re interchangeable. A clip just absorbs a quantity of heat. So the same clip can be used in different weapons and those weapon’s specific characteristics determine how quickly the clip is used up. The bigger the shot, the more heat it generates, the quicker the clip reaches capacity.

      It makes it a little more believable that there’s “ammo” lying around everywhere for your various weapons because clips aren’t bullets. I understand that ME1’s infinite ammo overshadows this but if not for that, this would be a kind of neat sci fi innovation. If Bioware had just left the hybrid system in place, it would have been all plusses.

      1. guy says:

        The dumb thing about that is that once you pick up a thermal clip, it gets segregated into different ammo pools.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Agreed, that’s kind of dumb. If anything, the clips should have all been available for whichever weapon you were using.

        2. Aldowyn says:

          yep. But, if it wasn’t segregated, it wouldn’t force you to use different weapons, which is part of the “advantage” of an ammo system.

          1. Mephane says:

            I approve of your use of sarcastic quotes. :D

      2. Ranneko says:

        I also disagree that just replacing the ammo system with thermal clips would have passed without comment.

        Mass Effect 1 spends time justifying infinite ammo in the lore. This means that changing to the thermal clip system also had to be justified in lore.

        In Witcher 1 and 2, equipment condition is simply not addressed, so adding a condition systems just feels like the Witcher starting to acknowledge things break.

  4. Falterfire says:

    Yeah, ammo is… Weird. It’s one of those mechanics that’s a holdover from the beginning of shooters that nobody really thinks about anymore. “We have guns? Oh, I guess we have ammo drops then.” Most shooters have exactly the same system: You have a pool of bullets for each gun and pressing the reload button will fill the gun and remove that many bullets from the pool. You get more bullets from ammo caches or from killing enemies, but always in small numbers – Frequently you have military settings where you can’t carry more than two or three extra magazines worth with you.

    I will defend the hell out of regenerating health as a gameplay mechanic. It ensures that the game designer can much more easily design combat areas without worrying about how much health the player has from the last area, and it avoids the rich-get-richer problem non-regenerating health has.

    Ammo feels like it should be in a similar place. Why do you have ammo? So that the player doesn’t hold down the trigger nonstop. Why is that bad? Because the player should have to aim at their enemies instead of flailing wildly. Ammo initially appears to solve this problem neatly, but it really doesn’t because of the important question that tends to break it – “What do you do when the player runs out of ammo?”

    If the game doesn’t have a solid melee system (Or enemies are unreachable with it) and the game requires the player defeat all the enemies before proceeding, the answer pretty much inevitably becomes “Just give the player more ammo.” But if the player gets more ammo whenever they run out, why even have the ammo limit in the first place? The alternative answer – Just force the player to commit suicide and reload from a point where they had ammo – feels wrong, since it creates an unwinnable scenario with no actual game over screen, which is pretty much never what you want to do.

    Honestly, regenerating ammo feels like a pretty solid solution – You don’t have to worry about stashing ammo boxes in places which frequently feel out of place, and you don’t have to put bizarrely small numbers of bullets onto enemies to keep the player stocked.

    1. Phill says:

      And regenerating ammo is essentially what ME1 had, just presented in a different way. If they’d replaced a heat gauge that starts off empty, fills up as you fire, and depletes slowly when you don’t, with an ammo gauge that starts off full, empties as you fire and replenishes slowly when you don’t, you have exactly the same mechanics.

      And as you say, it serves the same purpose as regenerating health: it means the state of the player is reset between each fight, so the designer knows that the player at the start has X capabilities each time.

      I suppose the main justification for ammo from a design perspective is to give the player some high-powered weapons for occasional use that would be overpowered if they could be used more or less endlessly.

      1. Thomas says:

        The two big advantages to ammo in ME2 was
        1) It makes you switch up your weapons more. I don’t know if I ever used something that wasn’t the assault rifle in ME1 (maybe the shotgun?). That’s just not an option in ME2. You either have to kill enemies with your abilities, or you have to shoot some with an assault rifle, then pick off some with a sniper rifle and then maybe switch back after scavenging ammo.

        2) It makes you leave cover. Which is an important part of cover-based shooting design, is preventing people from using one barrier forever. Unfortunately the ‘get in and out of cover’ mechanics in ME2 suck so it was actually forcing you into unfun gameplay, but in something like Uncharted or Tomb Raider or Gears of War it works.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          1)No,it doesnt.Like you said,you either have to switch,or use your powers.But because your powers became so awesome now,you will be increasingly using your powers as you gain levels,so you wont care about ammo anyway.

          2)Um,how is leaving your cover in a cover based shooter a good thing?Mobility is a good thing,but you dont have to leave cover to be mobile.And a much better way to make you mobile is flanking.Either the enemy becomes smart/fast enough to constantly flank you,necessitating your constant shift between covers(which does happen in some arenas in mass effect),or the enemy behind cover becomes as invulnerable as you,forcing you to seek to flank them.

          So no,the advantages of ammo were either made useless by the overhaul of powers system or were used as a poor substitute for a better system that was also implemented in some areas.Which makes thermal clips pointless and frustrating.

          1. RCN says:

            I have no idea what powers you’re talking about.

            Unless you’re talking about Charge. Recharging shields became the only power even slightly useful in ME2, everything else was just either outright blocked from using on enemies with shields, armor or barrier (that is, any enemy that is still a threat) or did diddly-squat to these.

            The first power I maxed out in ME2 was the barrier. Even after it became extremely expensive to improve. Because it was the only power that was actually helping me in combat.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Incinerate+disruptor ammo+tactical cloak=infiltrators that never have to switch to the submachine gun.Couple that with the hacking,and fun never ends.You can switch to your heavy weapon against tougher nuts,but its not necessary.Oh and you can also get reave for double the fun.And lets not forget that you can use companions powers as well,so you can couple with garrus (or miranda) and spam overload+incinerate.Add mording for some chilling finishes if you like.

              1. RCN says:

                Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you were talking about the infiltrator.

                The adept, though, was left with a dinky pistol and waves of enemies that were all but immune to 90% of their power set.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Shockwave,singularity and warp were still useful.But the thing is that in me2 you had to combine your powers with those of your companions,especially on insanity where everyone had all three bars.

                  1. RCN says:

                    Warp was the only tool they gave the adept to stand a chance.

                    The other two are mild annoyances at best… rarely they actually do anything at all.

                    Meanwhile any boss-type fights are just you standing in cover and giving orders to the companions, because it was barely worth the effort of doing anything after casting warp and barrier.

          2. Thomas says:

            Well to respond to your points
            1) Yes it does :p See for example the example of my playthrough. And ‘people using powers instead of weapons’ seems like an equally good design objective that ammo supports.

            2) Yes it is a good thing for people to leave cover in cover based shooters, because the idea is that the dynamism you lose in a cover based shooter is somewhat made up for by having to switch up covers and angles.

            For examples of games with good cover based shooting that have lots of mechanics designed to force you to leave cover and move around, see Uncharted, Tomb Raider and Gears of War

            1. Thomas says:

              I do totally agree with
              “.And a much better way to make you mobile is flanking.Either the enemy becomes smart/fast enough to constantly flank you,necessitating your constant shift between covers(which does happen in some arenas in mass effect),or the enemy behind cover becomes as invulnerable as you,forcing you to seek to flank them.”

              though. ME3 did that a lot more. However I think, since ammo was effective for that and making you use power/different weapons more, combing the techniques like in ME3 would have been better. ME2 was a game still in transition

            2. Trix2000 says:

              Another better example might be ME3, actually, since it had a number of things added that made sitting in one spot all the time a bad idea – grenades, those shield guys, Banshees, etc.

              I’ve been playing through the whole series again, and it’s amazing how much more mobile and dynamic ME3 is from 2 in terms of cover. In 2, I could easily just pick a defensible spot, crouch, and remove all threats from there (with maybe a shift or two for flavor or if somethng was blocking my shots). In 3, not only was it easier/faster to move around and between cover (actual ways to shift cover, a faster more reliable sprint) but the enemies actually gave me lots of reasons to consider my position on the battlefield (whether to get a good flank going, or avoid being flanked myself, to avoid grenades, etc). It’s even more apparent in the multiplayer, since you often spend a lot of time NOT in actual cover there (not that it’s useless).

              I’ll still take both cases over ME1’s cover system, though. It wasn’t the worst, but it hardly seemed exciting to me.

              EDIT: I probably should have read Thomas’s post better. Oh well, just adding to what he said really.

            3. Alexander The 1st says:

              1.) No, it doesn’t. In ME1 I only used pistols with phasic rounds, because assault rifles didn’t do enough damage per overloading, shotguns had a high probability of missing *even in close combat*, snipers couldn’t be zoomed in unless you had the specification for them, and you could much more easily just close the gap. Pistols were *the* best weapon in the game.

              In ME2, when I run out of pistol ammo, I just switch over to the machine pistol, if I’m not switching between those two to take down the various health bar types. That’s assuming you don’t use powers to trivialize it, like anything to do direct damage or the Engineer’s drone.

              The reason someone wasn’t switching to another weapon isn’t that they had ammo for their current weapon – it’s that it’s the best weapon for the current situation.

              2.) With regards to moving out of cover, destructible cover works best here for Uncharted, excluding things like grenades being lobbed at your location (Notably, Uncharted makes a big deal about when a grenade is thrown and where so you don’t just tank it.), or flanking. Having someone need to get out of cover to get ammunition for the weapon they weren’t able to use to clear their path to the ammunition they need creates a bit of a downward spiral as they take more damage because they did badly beforehand with shooting, thus continue to do worse.

        2. Chargone says:

          My experience in ME1 was that the assult rifle was made of arse and a situation didn’t exist where the shotgun or sniper rifle wasn’t a better option. HE ammo only amplified this to the point of insanity. (Shotgun cooled faster than the not dead enemies recovered from the knockdown, sniper rifle was flat out more powerful than the Mako’s main gun. The assult rifle overheated for pathetic (comparatively) damage on the first bullet and took too long to cool.)

          ‘Course, part of that was that i could never hit things reliably with the assault rifle.

          1. Thomas says:

            See that’s kind of why I think the ammo approach is better. I just never tried non-assault rifles in ME1 because the assault rifle killed everything for me and in other games the shotgun/sniper rifle tends to be clunky.

            If they’d had a system that forced me to mix things up, I could have discovered the sniper rifle fun. Whereas in ME2, my rifle ran out of ammunition, so I switched to a sniper and found out that it was a really cool one hit kill that could go through armour like butter with headshots.

            1. Trix2000 says:

              I had a similar experience with my first couple playthroughs – I tended to stick almost exclusively with the assault rifle, because I liked it and it worked. The few times I tried the other weapons I didn’t get the opportunity to make them shine, so they ended up ignored.

              Fast forward to just recently, when I played again, and I actually managed to pick them up this time (except the pistol… it never clicked for me much beyond the beginning). In fact, it got to the point where I was even using the sniper rifle/shotgun MORE because they felt that much more suited to many situations (whereas the assault rifle was always the average “can always get the job done but isn’t amazing”). I was so surprised I hadn’t noticed before, but really the game never gave much encouragement to try (especially since, without points, the sniper rifle was annoying to aim… and the shotgun always seemed a little weird to me).

              1. Erik says:

                Thats the thing though, isnt it? You liked it.

                I’m not saying that the system in ME1 was great, but at higher difficulties you had to use the shotgun to stagger rushing enemies, and the sniper rifles for enemies that where just too far away. And the assault rifle for everything else.

                1. wswordsmen says:

                  In ME1 the only time you got the assault rifle skill was as a soldier. Why were you always playing soldier? All your comments make no sense to me because of that.

                  1. Christopher Kerr says:

                    Bonus talent on subsequent playthroughs?

              2. Christopher Kerr says:

                ME1’s pistols aren’t great unless you’re making use of Marksman.

                By the end of the game, an Infiltrator-Commando (or, I think, Soldier/Vanguard-Shock Trooper with adrenaline burst) can stack enough cooldown bonuses to keep Master Marksman up pretty much permanently.

                Add in the pistol cooldown bonuses you get from the Infiltrator class talent and it’s basically impossible to overheat unless you overdo it with the weapon mods.

                1. Aldowyn says:

                  marksman is great, though, and literally everybody gets it. (even adepts, I think… apparently not Sentinels?) Pistols always win for me because of their sheer versatility – even on Hardcore (I’ve never played the original on Insanity)

                  1. wswordsmen says:

                    Insanity isn’t actually that hard, except for needing to use the Mako, which doesn’t have Specter Master Weapons or stupidly powerful armor. **** the person who “balanced” the Mako at high levels it is easier to get out on foot to kill the Geth than use it most of the time.

        3. Ringwraith says:

          What I generally see completely glossed over is how sniper rifles inherently break cover-based systems, as they often allow you to shoot people in cover, and thus if they had infinite ammo by a cooling system you’d just snipe everything all day.
          There are other ways to try and fix this but they’re not exactly pleasant either like say respawning enemies, hyper-aggressive AI that advances on you (which they did manage with 3, to their credit), or making them so slow they’re not fun to use.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Sniping already is hard,so it having such a big advantage is a good thing.No need to nerf it more by making the number of shots limited.You already need to constantly relocate because you dont want to let enemies get close to you(which plenty of them want to do in me2 anyway),and the time between two shots is significant.Even in 1,where you can make your sniper rifle never overheat,and where only the husks were trying to get near you,you still were firing much slower than with any other weapon.

            1. Ringwraith says:

              The enemy mixes aren’t as good in 2 compared to 3 though.
              There are many fights you can just sit and plink things in the head with perfectly-steady sniper fire from a distance.
              Harbinger is the most consistent thing that actually rushes you, and the krogan gauntlet, because they just keep strolling around.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Mostly its the big tough things that try to close the distance(the ymir mechs,krogans and scions).And of course,the husks(fucking husks!).The thing is,your placement is largely based on the arena:In the places where you have to go from a to b,you can usually just sit back and snipe.But in the open arenas,things often spawn on your flanks.And on insanity,its not that easy to get rid of old enemies before the new ones spawn.

                1. Ringwraith says:

                  Insanity is plain gruelling because you have so little margin for actually getting hit.
                  …and for things like YMIR mechs you have to move around anyway, so you’re mostly using a sniper rifle for damage output rather than its cover-negating properties. Especially if there’s a weak point to shoot and it’s not currently shielded/barriered.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Insanity is plain gruelling because you have so little margin for actually getting hit.

                    Its not so bad if you have cloak or charge,so that you can avoid damage or recover quickly.

                    Dont know how fun it is for other classes though.

    2. Gunther says:

      I always liked Uncharted’s handwave for why Nathan Drake had regenerating health; when you get “shot”, that’s actually just a near miss. Your health bar represents your luck. Push your luck too far and get shot too many times (that is, get near-missed too many times) and you’ll run out of luck and get shot for real and die.

      This is all to explain how Nathan Drake can be a wise-cracking everyman yet shrug off more bullet wounds than Wolverine. Though he still kills more heavily armed soldiers than the Ludendorff offensive every single game, so it doesn’t exactly turn him into a regular Joe.

      Still, I appreciate the attempt at justifying such an unrealistic mechanic.

      1. Falterfire says:

        Justifying (or not justifying) health in games isn’t exclusive to regenerating health. Even in a game where health doesn’t directly regenerate, you almost always have some way to recover health quickly, and grabbing a health pack doesn’t make much more sense than just regenerating health – It’s not like there’s any medicine in the world that’s going to take you from ‘suffering fifteen gunshot wounds’ to ‘just fine’ in three seconds any more than waiting a few seconds without a health pack does.

        Personally I’m almost happier when they don’t try to justify it at all. It makes no sense. There is nothing you can do that will make sense without very heavily modifying the gameplay. The best thing you can do is try to prevent the player from thinking about it at all, at least while they’re actually playing the game.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          Or just use shields. :)

      2. Ringwraith says:

        For a “luck” health system, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway goes further. You don’t even get hit when you’re shot at, the screen just gets redder until you run out of ‘luck’ and then you get hit once and instantly go down.
        The more enemies shooting at you and less they’re suppressed, the quicker they get to zeroing in on you.

    3. Corsair says:

      If Thermal Clips regenerated gradually it would actually be a logical upgrade to the old weapons, it’d essentially allow you to lay down -more- fire rather than having to use only short bursts. But no, that would have been both clever and logical, and this is Mass Effect 2 we’re talking about here.

    4. Slothfulcobra says:

      I don’t think ammo has been a “fun” gameplay concept in any game. The most that it does for you is it can be used to gate off certain weapons so that the player gets an appreciation for them, and it ensures they won’t have too much fun with powerful weapons (I’m looking at you, magnum in Half-Life). ME2 just uses it in the most basic way where it’s there but you don’t have to think about it, although there is heavy ammo that gates off your powerful weapons.

      The thing is, ME1’s approach wasn’t particularly fun either, it just forced you to either wait around for a while after you’ve fired one shot too many, or it forced you to fumble around through weapons that you couldn’t use to find something else that would fit your situation. It was just clunky.

    5. Joe Informatico says:

      How do you feel about those games that split the difference? I.e., you have one or two standard weapons that have infinite ammo, but weapons looted from enemies have limited ammo?

      If the game has weapons that are clearly superior to other weapons, and there are no situational advantages to the weaker weapon–e.g., if an assault rifle is always a better choice than an auto pistol–I can see a design case for the pistol having infinite ammo and the rifle being limited.

      If not, just give every character in ME an assault rifle, maybe have the sniper rifle and shotgun as situational weapons, maybe with a slower rate of fire, and have some limited shot ordinance weapons. Or if you want pistols, maybe the adept and engineer (for example) can’t use assault rifles and have to use pistols, to balance out their biotic/tech powers.

      1. Falterfire says:

        The trick, I think, is figuring out what your goals are and then making sure the system you use matches that. If you give players an infinite ammo weapon and the other (usually more interesting) weapons have finite ammo, some chunk of your playerbase will use the infinite ammo weapon wherever possible because it’s the “most efficient” solution, even if it’s not the fun thing to do.

        Which sorta brings around the important question: Who is your game for? I’m a huge fan of Mark Rosewater (Magic: the Gathering’s head designer) and several of his game design ideas. One of them is that every player plays for one or more of three basic reasons:

        1. One kind of player (dubbed ‘Timmy’ in the Magic system) play to experience things. They’re in it to see what cool stuff they can do. They’re the ones who are most in the game for the ‘pure’ fun of game’s mechanics.
        2. A second kind of player (dubbed ‘Johnny’ in the Magic system) play to show off creatively. They’re in it to try to bend the mechanics to accomplish unique things. Somebody who spends a lot of time with Redstone in Minecraft is probably a Johnny.
        3. The last kind of player (dubbed ‘Spike’ in the Magic system) play to win. They’re the competitive players, the people who are only happy when they’re pushing the game mechanics to their logical end point. Speedrunners and people playing on the absolute highest difficulty are usually Spikes.

        When building a game, it helps to think about what your game offers to each archetype, and what archetype you expect to mostly play the game. Moving this back to the conversation about ammo, I think roughly:

        If you’re designing for Timmy, you shouldn’t worry too much about balance. Timmy will be happier if the cool flashy guns are as powerful as they look like they should be and are usable fairly often. It’s not really about the challenge, it’s about having fun along the way, so why not let them use the cool weapons as often as possible?

        If you’re designing for Johnny, you should make sure the weapons interact well with each other, and ideally have some way to complement each other. I’m less sure how a Johnny would interact with ammo specifically, beyond making sure you have as many guns (and different kinds of guns) as you can available to the player.

        If you’re designing for Spike, you want balance. You want to make sure that there’s no clear ‘right’ answer and you should reward skilled play. Spikes are the ones who like non-regenerating health and other mechanics that heavily penalize poor play. Spikes generally don’t mind losing, as long as you make it clear what they have to do better in order to win. A Spike views a limited ammo pool as a challenge, and is probably far more interested in working with a handful of shots than a normal person might be.

        1. Mephane says:

          The trick, I think, is figuring out what your goals are and then making sure the system you use matches that. If you give players an infinite ammo weapon and the other (usually more interesting) weapons have finite ammo, some chunk of your playerbase will use the infinite ammo weapon wherever possible because it's the “most efficient” solution, even if it's not the fun thing to do.

          As it happens, the infinite ammo weapon is usually your sidearm, a pistol. This suits me quite well, because I both like the long-term efficiency of infinite ammo and pistols. Many a game of L4D did I run around using pistols only, for example.

          P.S.: I am certainly a Timmy-Johnny-hybrid. :)

    6. Abnaxis says:

      Maybe players should have limited magazines, and “regenerating ammo” is feeding bullets into the spent magazines?

    7. Naota says:

      I’ve got no issues with whole-hog regenerating ammo. The classic system breaks up your shooting patterns in the short term with reload times, but that has nothing to do with the economy of your total bullet pool that it introduces. It seems perfectly sensible to me that a game might want to give you a weapon – say a pistol – that needs to be reloaded but never runs out of bullets, or even apply this treatment to the entire arsenal.

      The thing that bugs me so much about thermal clips is that they’re a carefully calculated way to have the player constantly running out of bullets, without ever actually running out. They sprout out of the environment only when you’re low on ammo, but renewably, so the only time when you can act on the ammo situation is conventionally the worst one to do so. It takes the exploration out of finding bullets, the strategy out of preserving them, and leaves only the part where you run out in a time of need.

      This also feels like the game is constantly cheating you into playing by its rules: “I walked by that shelf ten seconds ago with 5/12 sniper shots left and there was nothing on it!

      For context: I, of course, played an Infiltrator and used the biggest, ammo-guzzling-est sniper rifles the game saw fit to provide.

    8. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Making the player run out of a hiding hole to grab ammo drops from enemies is actually a pretty decent mechanic. I don’t think I’ve even played a shooter where I completely ran out of available ammo- just ones where I had to pick up a different gun or run out into fire for a few seconds.

      Also, I don’t see the problem with using it to limit the use of the most powerful weapons. It’s better than either alternative- to not have those weapons be or feel that powerful, or to have the whole game be trivialized by them.

      I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny lately, and that ammo system there works very well. You *can* run out of primary ammo, but it’s pretty rare to. Special ammo runs out quickly if you’re using it intensely, but it drops commonly enough to keep you full. Heavy ammo runs out very quickly, and is rare enough to make you be strategic with its use. For boss battles and other major fights there are always tons of mooks running around, so the battlefield winds up littered with ammo. You just have to make sure to grab it in between spawns.

  5. Alec says:

    Good piece.

    But I always, generously perhaps, assumed that a ‘Thermal Clip’ was a just heatsink that literally ‘clipped’ onto the barrel, like a paperclip or hairclip, rather than a stack of bullets clipped together when there are no bullets.
    It never occurred to me they were using the incorrect nomenclature of an ancient technology of a specific race in a totally inappropriate context. As I said, generous.

    1. guy says:

      They’re cylindrical heatsinks that get placed inside the gun near the stock, where bullets would go in a conventional gun; you can see that in the reload animations.

    2. Yeah. I’m as annoyed as the next guy at the general misuse of “clip” to mean magazine, but the in-universe description of thermal clips is so far removed from magazines filled with bullets that I don’t think the clip/mag distinction has any bearing.

  6. boota says:

    the decision to ditch the old ammo system instead of evolving it made me play with a trainer the first time…

  7. Patrick Mulnix says:

    At DragonCon last month, I went to a panel on “Science in Mass Effect” featuring, among others, Patrick Weekes, a Bioware writer who wrote Mordin along with a bunch of other stuff and now runs Dragon Age, and a gentleman whose name I can’t recall, but who is the current Lead Designer on Mass Effect: Andromedia. The topic of thermal clips came up, and Patrick Weekes reponse was “I’m really, really sorry,” while the Game Designer fellows response was “I’m not sorry at all.”

    The Game Design guy did go on to assure us that even though it was a heavily design-focued decision, the design people at least did take the lore part seriously. Apparently they have long, huge internal e-mail chains where they discuss these things, including people that argue for certain guns to work a certain way based on lore.

    Unfortunately, despite it being Bioware, the story guys don’t seem to have real control over that stuff.

    1. MadHiro says:

      Did the Game Design Guy go into any actual details on how they could ‘take the lore part seriously’ given the obvious ‘no, they didn’t’ result? Or for that matter, why he thought their presence was important in the first place outside of poorly implementing concepts from better shooters without understanding why or how they worked in their own games?

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ah yes,the age old “bunch of lore means we mean business and it makes sense” fallacy.The crutch of people who know nothing about good lore building.

    3. BenD says:

      This bodes so well for Andromeda.

  8. Khizan says:

    I liked Thermal Clips. There, I said it.

    I like the pressure during fights to make shots count. I like knowing that I don’t have the ammo to just hose the enemy’s general area down with my SMG from across the room until I score enough hits. I like having to leave safety to scrounge for more ammo during a fight, because that’s the price I pay for not shooting well enough.

    I dislike infinite ammo main weapons, especially when you can mod them to remove any cooldown time at all, because I think that it cheapens all of that when I can just grab a Hose of Infinite Bullets and wash their cover down from 50 yards away.

    It was explained badly and that should have been handled better, but I think that the thermal clips make for a much tighter shooter, and the shooting is the vast majority of the actual gameplay.

    1. Thomas says:

      I think not explaining it was the only thing that would ever work. The things that make thermal clips good game design are the things that put players at a disadvantage, no you can’t use the same weapon forever, no you do have to make your sniper rifle shots count, no you are going to have to charge an enemy to find bullets.

      And so if you try to think of any explanation for why bullets are now in the game, it’s going to sound like nonsense to the player. They can see that they’re more disadvantaged in fights and anything that tries to explain otherwise sounds ridiculous

      – although if it weren’t heat-based that would break Mass Effect lore badly, and if you do explain that they’re thermal clips people are going to wonder where that came from.

      It’s a difficult writing challenge. Maybe the least worst case is to explain they’re thermal clips but write it as though guns have always used thermal clips.

      1. Khizan says:

        First, I’d say that they’re coolant canisters or something, to explain why they’re disposable. I’d also say that the weapons were adapted to use a common industry/tech coolant. Now you have a reason to have them everywhere.

        Second, I’d say that something about cooling vane damage being the #1 source of weapon malfunctions in combat and talk about how assault rifles could end up with a 5 minute cooling time if you landed on it wrong when you dove for cover and how a dropped shotgun could literally melt the next time you fired it, etc. Now I’ve established a reason for a change.

        Third, I’d say that an Alliance/Turian joint commission researched into the problem and found that their soldiers were not firing more than n shots per average combat mission, and that the coolant tech let them get better weapon performance while carrying 2n shots. Sadly, these weapons are damaged by firing them without coolant, so you can’t just dry fire your assault rifle when it runs dry.

        Fourth, I’d keep pistols on the infinite ammo mechanic. As far as damage goes pistols are generally a slow/big weapon and not a fast/low one so this doesn’t really reward the pray and spray, but it does ensure that you’ll never run COMPLETELY out of ammo and it also makes sense to keep the infinite ammo intact SOMEWHERE.

        Fifth, I’d include grunts somewhere arguing about the issue. Some talking about how the military’s ****ing them over for gun manufacturer handouts and about how this Alliance official got a huge payment from them and so forth, and the others talking about increased muzzle velocities and how much faster coolant changes are compared to cooling times for issue weapons and about how you shouldn’t need more than 2n shots if you’re properly trained and blah blah blah. This acknowledges the change and lets the player write off the change as “the government is screwing grunts over line their pockets, so business as usual.”

        1. Trix2000 says:

          Hmm, I do kind-of wonder if they could explain things as “the new system lets us fire more powerful shots that would otherwise completely overheat old weapons”, demonstrated in gameplay by the fact that enemy health in ME2 tends to drop faster and more noticeably than ME1.

          That way it sounds more like an upgrade – kinetic barriers in the past are strong enough to take a lot of fire, and the new more powerful shots are much better at piercing them (and flesh).

          Still doesn’t explain how everyone managed to adopt them in 2 years, though. I think maybe in that case they should have just had the clips always on your person, regenerating on their own or something. I dunno.

          1. guy says:

            The offical explanation is that it allows for higher rates of fire to more effectively overwhelm kinetic barriers. However, I didn’t really feel like the ME2 weapons fired faster.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ok,then tell me:Why does your precision matter if the bullets wont spawn unless you run out of them,and will most definitely spawn if you run out of them?And how is scrounging for bullets better than having enemies that actually flank you to force you out of cover?

      1. Thomas says:

        Because when the bullets spawn when you run out of them, you have to go the spawn to get the bullets. If you’re sniping and you’re not being careful with your shots, then you have to leave your cover quicker to go and get the bullets. Also when going to get the bullets you are not shooting enemies who might be shooting you. Running out of bullets is still a disadvantage even when there will always be ammo on the map.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          See,the sniper is a class that wouldnt just bolt out of cover.But when they do bolt out of cover to get ammo,they do it cloaked.So you are in absolutely no danger of running out of your sniper ammo while being in a position where enemies can be a serious threat to you.

          But you know when you are in a jam?When you face a bunch of husks running towards you.You can snipe a few easily,cloak,reload and reposition,and then snipe a few more,but then you are on a cooldown,you need reloading,and the husks are still coming towards you.Thats the tense part:Enemies that can flush you out,and not being slightly inconvenienced by lack of ammo.

          1. Thomas says:

            Ah, I’ve never used the sniper class, so I’m learning. Soldier class and adepts have to take more risk to get ammo. I’m guessing vanguards don’t and sentinel is a kind of middle ground where it’s kind of safe but only if you do it right.

            Husks flushing you out are good, but that forces you into a different type of risk than an ammo run (because you just have to kill husks before you can do anything). More flanking enemies in ME2 and different types would have made it better, but I think ammo was a fine pull factor too.

  9. Dev Null says:

    I too had no idea that the drop rate for bullets worked the way Naota describes. Weird.

    But agreed on the downplaying. I remember being annoyed by the frantic handwaving over why we had bullets now, but there were at least a couple of years between playing ME1 and ME2 for me; if they hadn’t pointed it out, I doubt I even would have _noticed._

    1. Aldowyn says:

      I am 99% sure there *are* set ammo points in a few levels (Garrus and Legion’s loyalty missions come to mind), but I’d certainly believe all the levels also have that kind of responsive ammo spawn.

      1. Naota says:

        That’s the impression I got as well. Story-crucial points sometimes had a designated ammo pile set up for you in advance, but elsewhere the game would check to see if you were running low, and drop a smattering of thermal clips in predetermined places all around the area.

        I often gamed the system by wasting a bunch of bullets in my sidearm so I could fill up my primary when I crossed the threshold and the game stepped in to resupply me.

  10. Core says:

    I was under the minor personal impression that the ‘clip’ in ‘thermal clip’ actually just refers to it literally being a clip-on, detachable heatsink rather than the gun term so I never took issue with it.

    And as far as gameplay mechanics go, the clips are vastly superior to the original overheating system simply because they lead to less pointless downtime and more rewards for aggressive play as it effectively flushes you out of cover if you begin running low. You’re forced to vary your weapons quite a bit more too.

    I just…maybe wish every gun also had a possibly upgradable ‘built-in’ heatsink that’d reset at the end of each combat section and a lower total carried thermal clip limit, effectively giving you a few ‘free’ shots with each weapon you have equipped. You could even possibly handwave that away as barrier technology having progressed since the first game(possibly through the study of the geth equipment) to the point where the guns have to be ‘overclocked’ to have any chance of piercing those.

    1. Mike S. says:

      That’s pretty much what I assumed. If combined with modern shields that treat the old guns like paper darts, then there stops being much point in retaining the capability to throw slugs that way, and getting rid of it simplifies the weapon design.

      It’s a handwave– especially the idea that the new tech could become completely universal in only two years, which is basically impossible– but one I can live with. Say you’re mostly fighting top-line enemies, not to mention Collectors with tech you’ve never seen. Though, yes, why didn’t Sovereign give the geth those defenses, or Saren? (Saren is such a bullet sponge on Insanity at the end, maybe he did.)

      The big problem is Jacob’s loyalty mission. Dad crashed ten years ago. There should be no thermal clips anywhere on that planet. And to support the conceit, Shepard should be able to ignore any gunfire directed at the team while tearing through the enemy mechs like tissue paper. At least until the clips are gone, at which point maybe you have to scavenge an old-style gun and use it for much less damage. (Maybe introduce a handwave that deprives your shields of power and requires you to scavenge an old armor set. Though what you do about biotics…)

      But of course that requires specialized mechanics for one sidequest, and almost certainly isn’t economic on the game development side.

      1. Thomas says:

        It would have made the game better if they took that into account though. A couple of the loyalty missions aren’t based around straight shooting, and doing something like that with Jacob’s good have been interesting.

        Maybe no ammo would spawn and you’d have to try and make it through with the ammo you took with you, or the Normandy had to keep supply dropping you stuff. If you reduce the amount of combat it might work.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          Or you would beat everything WITH PUNCHING.

    2. thomas says:

      Yeah it’s definitely not a magazine. It seemed more like they were trying to go for something the cool sounding ejection of an en-bloc clip from a M1 Garand magazine.

  11. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    Shamus, you seem to be missing the main benefit of thermal clips: Planned Obsolescence. The problem with the old heat-sinks was that no-one was buying them since a single heat-sink could potentially last you an entire military campaign.
    Now with planned obsolescence, the manufacturers become incredibly wealthy, since the average person is able to chew through dozens of them within a single fire fight.

    As for why none of the older guns exist: Because Shepard turned them all into Omni Gel in the last game.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      So thats how cerberus managed to get such ridiculous funding!It makes all the sense now!

  12. Chefsbrian says:

    I fell into the camp of people who disliked the thermal clips overall. While the idea of disposing of the heatsink in favor of a new one made enough sense to be believable, the idea that it couldn’t cool down, and allow ME1 style firing just didn’t sit right in my head. Probably because I was already questioning a lot of things that happened in two.

    They could have used the geth tech explanation to tweak things, while keeping both. Let the player have a small stock of thermal clips, let them be replenished frequently, but allow weapons to slowly self cool. You’d see instances where your being faced down by a large group of enemies, you be able to keep up heavy sustained fire at first, making the numbers manageable. As you whittle them down, you start to run out of clips, meaning you still have a challenge in the last few enemies as your effective DPS drops. Enemies could continue to drop clips, and then players would have a more balanced risk/reward decision for leaving cover in the firefight to get them. If your still good for health and shields, you’d be able to make the risk, but if your down to one pip of health and no shields, your still able to fight back to a limited extent without making the risk.

  13. TMC_Sherpa says:

    Don’t sell yourself short Naota, I’m sure you can think of something.
    Of the side of my head every time you reload the max capacity drops by one. Or you can pick up cursed magazines where the bullets heal. They stack with normal mags in inventory so you never know when you will pull one out. Or not giving the player any weapons in a world full of snipers.
    There are thousands of terrible ideas out there just waiting to be discovered.

    1. Falterfire says:

      What other terrible things could we do?

      You can’t get more ammo once you start the level, and levels are long enough that you can easily screw up in the first fifteen minutes and not realize you can’t beat the level until an hour later.

      You have to complete a “Bioshock hacking” type minigame in order to reload your gun each time.

      You have to pay real money to reload like was suggested by that one executive forever ago

      You have to reload manually after firing the last shot. If you attempt to fire before reloading, the gun jams and can’t be used for the next minute.

      Guns are disposable and non-reloadable. You can only get a new gun from killing an enemy, and it counts their shots fired before death against the ammo in the gun when you pick it up.

      There are all sorts of thrillingly unplayable ideas just waiting to be uncovered!

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You could replace the culminating gameplay with an hour long cutscene with basically no interaction and no sane logic behind it.

        1. Falterfire says:

          That’s totally insane. No game would ever do that, certainly not the long-awaited conclusion to a three part series, so that’s a possibility not even worth discussing.

      2. Naota says:

        This is harder than it looks!

        You can't get more ammo once you start the level, and levels are long enough that you can easily screw up in the first fifteen minutes and not realize you can't beat the level until an hour later.

        This was actually the core premise of Crystal Caves – an ancient platformer that realized the one thing it had going for it was that it was designed by the devil. It delighted in trapping you in ways that forced you to kill yourself… if you could even find a way.

        Guns are disposable and non-reloadable. You can only get a new gun from killing an enemy, and it counts their shots fired before death against the ammo in the gun when you pick it up.

        Oni did this, though to be fair it was as much a melee brawler as it was a gun-based shooter. And weirdly enough, it was guilty of the above one too, except the thing that could doom you was extremely stingy health packs, leading to this devilish situation.

    2. Naota says:

      Okay, I’ll bite:

      -“Take cover” bound to the same button as “sprint” and “revive dying ally”. Every flat surface is considered cover.

      -A boss with a giant regenerating health bar that needs to be smacked down before it enters a state where the player can hit its “real” health bar. It becomes vulnerable for five seconds, then the giant health bar fully replenishes. The arena is packed with exploding things and fast, respawning enemies able to knock the player down with a charge attack.

      -A stealth segment that specially rewards the player for never being seen. Doesn’t include a save system or a “return to last checkpoint” mechanic – just “restart mission”.

      -A stealth system that scores and rewards the player based on their play style. Blowing out candles and manipulating doors detracts from the “don’t be seen” style.

      -Online matchmaking in an action RPG based only on lifetime money earned. Death can lose all of a player’s unspent money. Players can trade fully-upgraded items.

      -A boss encounter that requires the player to repeatedly dodge a giant laser QTE-style. Failure is instant death. Death leads to a 50-second loading screen and replays the intro cutscene.

      I uh… may have tipped my hand a little with these.

      1. Ganelon says:

        How about an online RPG where you’re ranked for your performance in PvP, gaining and losing points based on the difference in rank between you and your opponent, and these points can be spent as a currency for superior equipment, thus reducing your rank every time you buy an upgrade?

        1. Naota says:

          How about an online RPG that gives you wings, Red Bull-esque, and then only allows you to fly in towns or over the vast and merciless PvP hellscape without any level bracketing or power scaling? What if the PvP was still based around two-dimensional assumptions?

          Dude, if we combine my idea with yours, just think of the possibilities!

  14. Christopher says:

    I like thermal clips. Yeah, you needed to run and get them. That’s an active thing that you do. The cooldown in the first game just meant sitting there waiting, and the combat was never fun until the very end when it wasn’t a big deal anymore because of my biotics upgrades. Having no periods of just waiting is a part of why the gameplay in 2 is more fun. As a vanguard with a shotgun, I was having a better time immediately than I had in most of ME1.

    The probing, on the other hand…

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But the thing is that crouching behind a single cover while your weapons cool down couldve been replaced with far better systems:Making your powers more useful,and making the enemies flank you more.And what do you know,mass effect 2 had both of those,making thermal clips superfluous at best.

      1. Christopher says:

        Nothing wrong with every system removing that need for waiting. That’s consistency. Nothing superfluous about it. It means one more option is generally available instead of one less.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          You remove the passive waiting by waiting while running around in search of extra clips.Not really an improvement.

          1. Christopher says:

            But I said it was an improvement because that’s something you actually do, you don’t just wait for a cooldown timer, you have to perform an activity.

            It’s not the greatest system in the world. If I had been God, ME2 would have magically destroyed every gun and come up with an amazing character action game system that incorporated jetpacks and mechas and had a space combat part. But it’s better than 1, because it’s more active and controls better and reflects your skill more. It’s not a downgrade.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              But I said it was an improvement because that's something you actually do, you don't just wait for a cooldown timer, you have to perform an activity.

              Um,any activity is not automatically better than no activity.For example,simply clicking on planets and waiting for 5 seconds to get all the resources wouldve been better than actively probing for minerals.

              But it's better than 1, because it's more active and controls better and reflects your skill more.

              That is true.But that is not because of thermal clips,but rather because powers,enemies and reaction to getting hit were improved.

  15. Jimmy McAwesome says:

    The thing that bothers me about the thermal clips was the dumb arbitrary amount of reserve ammo you could have based on your gun. For example, the Assault Rifle Avenger has 10 clips in reserve, but the Vindicator has 4? They each use 1 thermal clip at a time, and they’re universal. Why when I pick up this specific gun do I refuse to put 6 extra clips on my belt? This happens across all the weapon types too.

    It’s been too long since I’ve played, but are the clips interchangeable between weapons too? Do you run out of ammo entirely all at once regardless of whatever weapon you’re using, or do you run out shotgun ammo specifically? If it’s the later then that raises even more questions about this dumb arbitrary system.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The clips are universal when they are on the ground,but once you pick them up they are weapon specific.So if you run out of shotgun clips,you cannot replace them with your full inventory of pistol clips.But if you are at half and half for both weapons,picking up a stack of clips will refill them both.

  16. Slothfulcobra says:

    Sure, guns in Mass Effect can make a block of matter last forever with their mass effect fields, but what’s powering those mass effect fields? You’d think that would run out after a couple hundred shots or so.

    Also, you refused to say it, but I will, ME2 is fun. It’s really fun. Fun in a way that ME1 wasn’t. Fun enough that I bought X-Com Declassified for more of that combat (it’s not that bad). I’ve never been much of a fan of action shooters, so I really liked the ability to constantly pause to reassess the situation and make all sorts of tactical decisions, and when I played through as an engineer, I barely had to fire a bullet, I could just toss out overloads or cryo/inferno blasts for damage, hack robots or toss in drones for distractions and backup when I needed to maneuver around, and then clean up after I’m done with my squadmates’ abilities. It was a totally different kind of game from your standard shooter, and it was great.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes it is fun.But all the things you describe show that it was fun DESPITE of the thermal clips.All the things they did with your powers,with the enemies and enemy types,with the three health bars and with your squad are what made the combat fun.

      1. Slothfulcobra says:

        I would say that thermal clips had no real impact on the fun. There were a couple moments when I had burned through the bulk of my ammo, and that was neat, since it meant that I had just been through one hell of a fight, but it never ran out. The only thing to miss about weapon overheating was the fact that you couldn’t idly fill your surroundings full of bullets, but that’s a moot point since you’re no longer allowed to pull out your weapons in public anyways.

        Thermal clips are only something to complain about from a lore perspective, and even without them it’s not like these guns with infinite energy really pass scrutiny anyways. It’s fine.

        1. wswordsmen says:

          You never played an Adept did you? Want to use your powers, sorry everyone is immune. Want to shoot them? Sorry you ran out of ammo killing the first one. Want to collect the ammo? Sorry it is in an exposed location that leads to almost certain death.

          They are a major problem for game balance. If someone told me that the dev team never beat the game on harder difficulties with an Adept I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact I would be more surprised if they did.

          1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Your Adept comments seem to exist in a world where Shepard is fighting the enemies one on one (this is ONLY true in the “Arrival” DLC). Just as a Vanguard supplements their team with more technical powers to coordinate with their brute strength, an Adept should bring bruisers and complementary power sets to supplement their powers. You can use a Team Ammo power to juice up the Adept’s weaker firepower (comparative to other classes). You can order a bulky teammate (like Grunt) to take on the enemies to reduce their barriers and then blast them with your powers from the background. You can use a heavy weapon with tons of ammo to get rid of truly troublesome threats immediately, and then use a kiting + harassment strategy on the bulk of the enemy units.

            I would certainly agree that the balance changes in ME3 were much needed, but 2 is not nearly as dire as you suggest. It just requires a more cautious and tactical (re: constantly in the tactical pause thing) approach.

    2. Otters34 says:

      Shamus outright said he approved that the designers focused the gameplay, and that it made the rest of the series enjoyable in its own way. Things aren’t either good or bad, there are details to be considered.

      Besides, “fun” is a meaningless description. I was bored to tears by the gunplay in the series and couldn’t wait to be chatting with people again, for me it fell into the awkward region where it’s demanding without being rewarding. Things felt stiff, abstracted and ungainly compared to “proper” shooters. Didn’t have much fun with that side of the games.

    3. Bubble181 says:

      That’s a very, very subjective call to make, though. I hate cover-based shooters. As a result, I never finished ME2, despite liking the world and the lore etc. Well, ME1’s, anyway. It was as much fun as working Excel spreadsheets for me.

  17. INH5 says:

    I agree that the change to a standard ammo mechanic shouldn’t have been explained in-universe. Like you say, that kind of thing happens all the time in video game sequels but no one bats an eye.

    If you think about it, ME1’s overheating mechanics don’t make much sense in-universe either. If your gun had a maximum “heat capacity” of 60 shots, then you could fire 59 shots and it would completely cool down it maybe (this is just an example, I didn’t bother to look up the actual numbers) 3 seconds. But if you fired 60 shots, then it would start beeping and you wouldn’t be able to fire and it would take 6 seconds to cool down before you could fire off another shot. But since the guns already have all sorts of complicated electronic systems, why couldn’t the manufacturer just program the gun to stop firing at 59 shots so it would never overheat?

    Though one thing I note is that the basic idea of removable heat sinks to prevent overheating does sort of have a basis in reality. Apparently modern air-cooled machine guns (by “machine guns” I mean crew served fire support weapons like the M60 or M249, not just guns capable of automatic fire) have removable barrels that are replaced every time the weapon fires about 1000 rounds, to prevent the barrel from getting so hot that it starts “cooking off” rounds. Of course, after a barrel is removed it isn’t thrown away but is instead put into a container where it can safely cool off and then be reused. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is where Bioware got the idea.

    1. Daimbert says:

      But since the guns already have all sorts of complicated electronic systems, why couldn't the manufacturer just program the gun to stop firing at 59 shots so it would never overheat?

      Because you might NEED that one last shot in a battle, and be willing to take the extra cooldown if, say, that last shot was the last hit you needed to kill that big mech that was killing the entire team.

      So giving the ability to fire until lockdown but relying on training so that users rarely did that — or else weren’t good users — is the way to go.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        Yeah, but since it’s always cooling even while firing EXCEPT when you hit the limit, why not just have it reduce the fire rate a bit so that it hovers just below that limit while still putting out shots (albeit, with lower rate of fire)? If anything, that was how I used the sniper rifle and shotgun most of the time.

        1. guy says:

          That’s how I usually used the guns, but on rare occasion I did intentionally hold down the trigger until it overheated because it was tactically useful.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Which is the point of not having the guns do it for you; if you’re well-trained, you’ll keep to that rate of fire yourself, unless you really need to exceed it, and if you ever really need to exceed it, it’s better than the gun isn’t stopping you from doing that. Essentially, it trusts you to know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you won’t do that well, but that’s not the GUN’S fault.

            1. INH5 says:

              Wouldn’t it still make a lot more sense to give the gun different “modes” set by a switch, in much the same way that real assault rifles have semi-automatic, burst, and fully automatic firing modes, instead of expecting soldiers to perfectly time their trigger pulls during firefights where they’ll be absolutely soaked with adrenaline? Especially since, unless all soldiers are equipped with some kind of HUD in their helmets, they won’t be able to see the “heat meter” that the player sees in ME1?

  18. mwchase says:

    The stuff about having to get more ammo when you run out, so it just sort of arbitrarily spawns in reminded me of what happened when I tried to play BioShock Infinite. I’ve played relatively few shooters, I think, and I approached the idea of ammo from a very rigid standpoint of “There is ammo. I conserve ammo. I will conserve this ammo.” Which has very little to do with what the designers intended.

    I should get into shooter playtesting, just to annoy the designers.

    “… and here, he managed to shoot this midboss approximately one thousand times with his sidearm while simultaneously evading its shots and kiting the minions.”

    1. Falterfire says:

      Yeah, that’s how I play things too. If there’s one way of accomplishing something that uses a finite resource (Even an easily obtainable one) and another method that doesn’t use any resources, I go for the free one every time unless it’s so much worse that it’s just not worth it.

      I basically never used Plasmids in any of the Bioshocks for this reason: Since the mana didn’t recharge, I never used the mana. What if I needed it later? I did actually use guns in Infinite, but only because there were usually barrels of guns which basically gave you as much ammo as you needed for that specific fight.

      See also: Grenades in most games.

    2. Alexander The 1st says:

      It also reminded me of The Last Of Us spoiler warning run they had recently – going stealthily to conserve ammo meant that when you needed the bullets because stealth stopped working, you had a small amount of ammo to work with, despite stealthing *specifically* so that you *would* have extra ammo for any fights that broke out.

  19. Honestly, the game was one step forward, one step back mechanically. Movement and command mechanics were greatly enhanced, but the cover mechanic was one of the worst I’ve ever played. I’d take the original’s auto-cover over this turd stain any day of the week.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’d forgotten until recently just how clunky and messy it is in ME2. I think auto-cover is going to be where lots of cover-based shooters end up going to, but less like ME1’s grabby auto-cover and more programming it so that you automatically duck down when close to cover but can move freely.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        I’ve played a few shooters that use something like this and wow is it ever so much better. (Far Cry 3, comes to mind)

  20. Darren says:

    One thing I didn’t like about ME2 which I don’t generally see mentioned is how all of the party members have essentially the same skills. Mordin and Zaeed, for instance, each have essentially identical fire-based skills, though the game describes them as being different. It bugged me that, with a few exceptions, it didn’t much matter who I brought along with me.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Except,sadly,for miranda,who has the one passive skill that increases the effectiveness of your whole team.

    2. Henson says:

      From a gameplay perspective, I disagree. Miranda’s abilities were useful for damaging both armor and biotic barriers, whereas Jack was useless against enemies with either shields or barriers active (or armor? I forget).

    3. Richard says:

      I rather liked that it didn’t matter who I brought with me.

      I enjoyed the banter, and so brought along the characters I liked, instead of the ones whose powers/skills actually complemented each other.

      If it had really mattered who I brought, this would have made the actual gameplay significantly harder and for me, less fun.

    4. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Incinerate fires in a straight shot while Inferno grenades are thrown in an arc. Equip both powers to Shepard and try them out. You will IMMEDIATELY see significant usage differences. Pretty much all the “grenade” powers were iffy to bad in 2 and then generally became very strong in 3 when they put a lot more work into the mechanic.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Actually incinerate sort of homes.Not by much,but enough that you can shoot around cover.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          That’s true, but cover is the real difference between the two. If Incinerate hits any piece of cover (say… the piece you’re standing on), it squibs and does nothing. If Inferno Grenade hits anything, it drops to the ground and explodes. A pretty dramatic difference if anything (say, a different enemy than the one you were aiming for) is standing there.

  21. Joe Informatico says:

    I really think it was a mistake to attempt to address this in-world. Maybe it would have been better for the game to simply present this change without comment.

    I realize this sounds incredibly hypocritical after going on about “details matter!”, but here we're dealing with a simple business decision and gameplay conceit. There is no way to explain this within the gameworld that will fit, so any attempt to justify it is just going to spread out into more frustrating unanswerable questions.

    This is how I feel after a new edition of D&D comes out. And I’m old enough to have seen it happen five times. (I’m counting 3.5, since the same whinging happened.)

  22. Daimbert says:

    I absolutely and completed HATED both the changes to the combat and the planet exploration. It was almost enough to make me stop playing the entire series. In the first game, I used the pistol almost exclusively, and LOVED that — as someone who was not a shooter fan — essentially I could blast away as much as I wanted as long as I stopped and hid every so often to let the heat die down. Thus, my lack of accuracy wasn’t as big a problem. In ME2, that didn’t work, and so the pistol having a small magazine meant that I ran out of clips for it REALLY quickly, at which point I had to switch to another weapon — one that I wasn’t as good with — because it had clips left. I ended up using the submachine gun for most of the game, swapping in the heavy weapons when needed. In ME3, I switched to the assault rifle.

    At any rate, the hybrid system would have worked better, because it would have punished you less for missing. Some way to balance that was necessary, and didn’t really appear in ME2, in my opinion.

  23. Attercap says:

    To make matters even worse, they basically drop the conceit of them being heatsinks when Anderson straight up calls them “ammo” in ME3.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yeah,me3 is often dumb like that.

    2. Aldowyn says:

      I think that could easily be handwaved as a technically-incorrect holdover from when we DID use ammo. Military tradition and all that.

    3. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Anderson understands that the “ammo… but not” distinction is meaningless and thus calls it what it is. 3 also has weapons that definitely HAVE ammo, like the missile launcher used in the final combat mission, he could be referring to things like that.

  24. Joey245 says:

    Regarding biotics…

    One of the neat little details of ME1 that I loved that no one else seemed to notice was that the animations fit perfectly with the lore. According to the Codex, biotics use their own nervous system to power the element zero nodes under their skin, keying a specific physical movement to trigger a certain biotic power. In-game, each biotic power plays a certain animation – and none of them are just a generic handwave. This is most noticable when playing an Adept, since you can see all the biotic powers during normal gameplay, and if you pay attention, and with a little bit of stretching, you can see that each gesture is vaguely related to the power. Like swinging your left arm to the side to cast Barrier, as if brushing off an incoming bullet. Or gesturing upwards with two fingers when using Warp, as if you’re slicing with an invisible blade. Or – my personal favorite – making a fist in front of you and then pulling it back while twisting it to make a singularity, as if you’re ripping a chunk out of something bigger – which, since Singularity is basically a localized black hole, seems logical. No one noticed it except me, it feels – but it was a really cool little feature.

    In Mass Effect 2 and 3, pretty much all biotic powers are just generic “extend your arm” or “punch the air”, and the unique animations are gone. That’s all well and good, and trying to justify it by saying “it’s a new asari-developed biotic training program with more efficient movements and greater versatility” would sound just as dumb as “the geth did some math and decided that in an age of infinite ammo, going back to finite ammo was such a good idea that the rest of the galaxy basically followed in their footsteps.”

    It’s just another symptom of the “drama vs. details” thing you were talking about. Just thought I’d throw my two cents into the pot.

  25. As many have pointed out the heat sink “clips” can more or less be fixed/improved with some tweaking.

    If such a heat sink was really needed for a game I’d make it this way:

    Each shot generates heat that the sink absorbs.
    The faster/more frequently you shoot the more heat is generated and need to be absorbed (since the heat sink is not able to release the heat quickly enough).
    Eventually a heat sink will suffer from fatigue/degradation and must be replaced.
    A heat indicator is used to show current heat and the heat sink efficiency.
    When the heat sink reaches 0% efficiency it’s useless.

    You can only physically carry so many heat sinks, luckily the heat sinks are universal so can be used with any “standard” weapon.
    There will be a sweet spot where a player can fire at a certain rate while allow the heat sink to dissipate the heat properly (100% efficiency).

    Someone spraying bullets wildly would go through a bunch of heat sinks very quickly, and possibly running out.
    A careful sniper on the other hand may not need to replace the heat sink at all, even during long missions.

    Heat sinks would need to be bought or alternatively repaired/reforged or maybe supplied by a weapons shop/quartermaster? Bought on a store/base?

    This would bring some strategic planning to how you shoot, without the drawback of lugging around a trucks worth of weight in bullets like many shooters.

  26. Jokerman says:

    The thing that big me most about the thermal clips is the fact we have a high level (the highest) military dude having to rely on his enemies dropping ammo for him. This is a commander with Cerberus behind him (who apparently have unlimited resources.) the best ship in the galaxy on the most important mission possible… scavenging for ammo because the dipshit forgot to bring enough.

  27. Irbis says:

    Are you sure complains about heat sinks not being clips (when they clearly aren’t magazines either) aren’t just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking? Say, they could have been named after sound of clipping into weapon. Problem solved.

    Ditto for actual mechanics, maybe auto-cooling gun is better in long term or survival scenario but in real life maximizing firepower is viable choice and most militaries have been doing just that, even at the cost of longevity. If Geth are way tougher than normal aliens, this would be actually realistic development.

    I am sorry, Naota, if you think anti-frustration mechanism (not letting player use all ammo before boss fight if their aiming skills are worse) in a _single_ player RPG game should be compared to competitive FPS, I am not sure you see the difference between these games. In fact, limiting it to being invisible when you’re full was most likely done as optimization choice, especially for consoles. How you think this is bad in any way I have no idea.

    By the way: “The ammo pickups seem to work a bit like Team Fortress 2, where a single pickup will have just a few rounds for each of your weapons.” Say what? I played TF2 for a few hundred hours and it most definitely isn’t how this game works. Pickup will replenish 25, 50, or 100% of your ammo, depending on the source. Few rounds? Huh?

    1. Naota says:

      I’ve got no issues with a system that doesn’t let the player run out of ammo completely in a single-player context. As a failure state that’s pretty much non-recoverable, so it makes sense to avoid it in some way. This is usually accomplished by giving players a weapon with infinite ammo – a sidearm for shoot-heavy shooters or a knife for mobile ones.

      I take issue with the fact that the thermal clip system prevents you from stockpiling and exploring by hiding the ammo explicitly until you’re low on it, and then also removes the classic incentive against wasting it by spawning infinite bullets for you. It’s a choice that prevents you from playing optimally, and forces you into constantly running out of bullets when you need them. It’s designed to repeatedly put players in the most frustrating situation an ammo system can – the one all other ammo systems use as a punishment for carelessness and as a negative incentive to temper your shooting.

      If the guns had an infinite pool of bullets, or bullets were just abundant at all times, at least that would be honest.

      It also just feels kludgy and artificial:

      You walk by another tumble of crates and shake your head. Nothing. You’ve burned through half of your machine gun’s meager allotment in the last firefight, and here come the husks again, happy to see you. You sprint across the room and take up a position behind a bar, mowing them down in waves, but your supplies don’t hold. The final one goes down to your pistol – a plinker, but good in a pinch.

      The door at the end of the hall bursts open. It’s a mech. Are those… miniguns on its arms? This pistol is not going to cut it. You search about frantically, looking for something – anything – to pull you out of this intractable bind. And then you realize it.

      The world bristles with thermal clips. They dangle from ropes, glimmer on bookshelves, and roll from under desks like a swarm of rats. Somehow, none of them are quite within arm’s reach. Nearest to your position, three of the innocuous little canisters are nestled cheerfully in that same pile of crates you just examined… on the other side of a gang of husks. What the fuck.

      In any case, invisible thermal clips definitely isn’t an optimization method. They’re tiny cylinders, probably under 30 polygons, and their textures are loaded into memory whether or not they’re visible on-screen. Moreover, the conditions under which they appear aren’t related to the performance budget – it’s possible to have a very busy screen full of costly effects and also be out of ammo.

  28. Disc says:

    Thing is, the thermal MAGAZINE could work as an innovation for rapid fire weapons, especially ones designed for suppression and/or overwhelming firepower. Only if the change or “reload” was really fast though. If I recall the Codex even makes a mention of “putting more rounds down range” as to WHY the cl..magazines were introduced in the first place.

    Except the weapons you actually get to use are completely backwards and reloading can take several seconds depending on the weapon.

    It’s also very ironic that one of the better weapons in ME3 is an old-fashion assault rifle:

  29. Couscous says:

    A lot of ME2 feels like reinventing the wheel instead of just stealing more from other FPS games like they should have once they decided to go down the path of being more heavily a shooter.

    For example, limited ammo. In a lot of modern shooters, ammo isn’t a big hindrance. In Call of Duty 4-like games, I never really have ammo problems. I can usually bum some ammo off NPC allies. Even without them, it is not hard to keep the ammo pool near maximum. If the designer wants me to use something but only for a bit, they will just have it act like a temporary power up that works until the bullets are quickly gone and then dropped instead of getting more ammo for it. If they want you to switch up weapons, they will usually just throw different enemy types at you. The basic enemy types that have been around in shooters for years and are meant to cause you to use different weapon types in response without needing to force you to run out of ammo quickly. If they are worried about you never moving from a piece of cover during combat, just have enemies with grenades or enemies that rush you.

    Even in non-cover shooters, it is usually not a problem in non-cover shooters either except for the weapons that were supposed to be rarely used like rocket launchers. Maybe if I wildly sprayed bullets and were worse than a storm trooper at hitting things. I wasn’t a great FPS player in those days, and I usually just ended up using some weapons because I hit the ammo cap for them and didn’t want the ammo going to waste even as I still had plenty of ammo with better weapons.

    Ammo pick ups that add ammo to all the ammo pools seems like it makes much more sense in a multiplayer game.

    In retrospect, a lot of decisions now feel kind of weird to me. Another part was that it was like they were making things much less RPG-like in the sense of leveling up being less important and killing the loot aspects even as many shooters were starting to become much more RPGish in that way. Borderlands came out about four months before ME2 did. A lot of customization and upgrade options are now taken for granted in online shooters. Destiny fully embraced a lot of that as well a few years after ME3.

    1. Naota says:

      Now that you mention it, the removal of looted guns also put the later two games in a weird place. Since all of your resources are self-contained systems, there’s almost nothing to find beyond raw cash if you go rooting around to explore the levels. ME2 always felt particularly barren, with its sprawling corridors full of totally static, non-interactable scenery, with a single floating UI element on top of an otherwise unremarkable bit of stuff, denoting a credit or resource cache.

      This might seem a bit nit-picky, but the presentation of finding what little loot they did add to the environment also made discovering it weirdly unsatisfying. It’s interesting to compare the thrill of finding valuable stuff where you would expect it to sensibly be in a game like Thief of System Shock – actually opening the box to see the object and then taking it – and the third person Press-A-To-Get floating menu prompt with no model or animation that the Mass Effect games favour.

      1. INH5 says:

        ME3 actually does bring back looted guns, weapon mods, and armor pieces, which was likely only possible because of the much larger number of weapons that are available in ME3.

        Though even ME2 did have various upgrades you could find by searching levels, even if they were all permanent upgrades.

  30. Pearly says:

    This is interesting to me, because I much preferred the thermal clips model.

    I played the Trilogy on the PS3 (since that was my only option) so my order of playing it was, by necessity of the order the games were released in: Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, and then the original Mass Effect.

    And then, of course, a replay of the other two with a proper save file this time.

    So, maybe it’s because I was first introduced to Mass Effect and their in-universe excuses for the change (and they do place various fig leafs and lampshades over the issue and which, like a dumb nerd, I can absolutely expound on), or maybe because ME2 was my first introduction to shooters, period, but I really, really liked how it felt. Moving back from there to the overheating mechanic was awful. I never got a feel for how long guns would take to overheat, and was nearly always caught by surprise– at which point I would need to take cover and suck my thumb, which was very difficult since the “taking cover” mechanics never seemed to work when I most needed them to.

    Let me tell you, it’s harder to be in awe of Soveriegn when you’re fighting your way down that elevator shaft for the eighth time in a row.

    And, call me crazy, but I just really enjoyed the kind of thing you get when a supposed technological advancement takes you back a step. It felt like the kind of shit you see in the real world all the time: someone “fixing” something by making it less efficient and more of a dumb hack, but now it works in the specific way that it was previously not.

  31. Zaxares says:

    Bioware does lampshade the introduction of thermal clips in ME3, where Shepard has a conversation with Conrad Verner about how they were suddenly introduced and how it seems to make very little sense. It’s especially true if you consider that, judging from real life combat data, soldiers running out of ammo is a much bigger problem than being able to fire faster. Something like 95% of all ammo expended in a battle will not hit their target, due to a combination of missing as well as using ammo as suppressive fire. When you take that into account, it makes it all the more ludicrous that the ME games say that thermal clips are “better” because it allows guns to shoot harder and more often.

    My biggest gripe about the change to biotics/tech in ME2 onwards was how they introduced the “biotics don’t work on shields” restriction. This is utterly ridiculous given the lore and how biotics are explained to work. All kinetic barriers do is stop projectiles coming in at dangerously high speeds. Biotics are a form of mass-altering energy field, and shields are incapable of stopping something like that. (This is why directed energy weapons like lasers go right through shields.) It also kind of negated the in-game lore about how biotic wielders are feared because of their ability to just throw people around even without having a weapon in hand, and nobody being able to stop them.

    I’d have approached it differently. Enemies have several layers of defenses:

    1. Health. This is their HP. When it reaches 0, they die.

    2. Armor. Some enemies are protected by armor, which reduces the damage they take from various attacks. Extremely well armored opponents can effectively shrug off anything Shepard and Co can throw at them unless the armor is first damaged/destroyed via various skills (such as Incinerate and Warp).

    3. Shields. Most mid-tier enemies will have Shields, which acts as a second layer of Health which must be destroyed first before their Health can be affected. However, shields do not stop directed energy weapons, fire, gas, or biotic/tech attacks, which can hurt enemies (and Shepard) directly even through shields.

    4. Barriers. Biotic foes are protected by barriers, which shields them from biotic (and some tech) attacks. Such foes cannot be affected by biotic attacks until their barriers are destroyed first (which is accomplished via biotic and a few rare tech attacks). In some rare cases, even non-biotic foes might have barriers, granted by specialised tech devices which mimic biotic barriers via special mass-effect generators installed on their armor. (This technology is extremely rare and expensive which is why most foes don’t have it.)

    1. MichaelGC says:

      It’s kinda cool that they gave that conversation to Conrad Verner, as if you hadn’t imported a ME2 save which itself was based off of an ME1 save, he doesn’t show up in ME3. (Emphasis on ‘kinda’.)

  32. Steve C says:

    With clips vs mags it bugs me that it bugs people. It’s like this spatula is NOT a spatula. Even though it is on spatulaplanet, it is definitely not a spatula. It is in fact an “egg lifter”. THIS is a spatula. Note the difference in grip and how they are used- the first is used to lift things, the second is used to scrape.

    There are a bazillion tools that have improper names. Wrenches that aren’t really wrenches. Pliers that aren’t really pliers. Who here knows the difference between an axe and a maul? Now you do. Are you going to insist on correcting someone who calls a maul an axe for those like mag vs clip? Well you kinda have to now that you know there is a very big difference between the two to the point you can hurt yourself.

    My roommate was anal about spatula vs egg lifter to the point of being a jackass. I will always call both a spatula. It does not matter. The “correct” term for any tool can change based on nothing more than where you are. Axe vs maul, don’t care. If I was a game designer I’d purposely use the wrong terms for clip vs mag just to piss people off.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      For added fun, an axe is called a “bijl” in Dutch, while a maul is called….an “aks”. Enjoy this bit of totally useless information!

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Are you going to insist on correcting someone who calls a maul an axe for those like mag vs clip?

      Yes,I am.Its faulty reasoning to assume that “because you dont know everything,you shouldnt try to educate people on stuff that you do know about”.The opposite holds true in actuality,because you dont know everything you should try to educate people on stuff that you know about,and in return expect them to educate you back.

      f I was a game designer I'd purposely use the wrong terms for clip vs mag just to piss people off.

      So,you think your roommate was being a jackass,and your solution is….that people should act like jackasses.

      So far I have not seen a single person being a jackass when someone calls a clip a magazine,but I have seen plenty of people being jackasses in return,because of the “Who the fuck cares?!” reasoning.If you are annoyed by being corrected when you make a mistake,ignore them or try not to make that same mistake.Its simple as that.Ignore the advice or take it,but dont be a jackass and scream “who the fuck cares”.

      1. Steve C says:

        you dont know everything you should try to educate people on stuff that you know about,and in return expect them to educate you back.

        Not when it’s pedantry,no.It is also not a mistake.It’s pedantry that may or may not be correct based on where people live.Regional terms are a real thing.

        I have seen a ton of people get completely bent out of shape on the internet about pedantry.Thankfully Shamus is not one of them.Shamus is a person I appreciate that tries to keep things broad and accessible for general audiences by not being pedantic.He can use completely wrong terms when writing about music and programming and is still very interesting and educational.It cuts through the jargon and makes it easier to understand.Even for specific things he’s named:

        I named these concepts in the code, but since the rest of the team doesn't read the code they don't use the same nomenclature I do. Which is understandable. If I'm looking at a 6-sided solid in a Quake level, I'm probably going to call it a “cube” and not a “brush”, which is what Carmack named them in the code. (For some reason.) Sometimes the rest of the team uses the words “level” and “room” interchangeably with “zone”.

        It's confusing to me to have everyone using random words for things, while I'm sure it's annoying to artists to constantly be corrected when the terms all seem arbitrary (if not counter-intuitive) from their standpoint. (emphasis mine)

        Note that the only person I called a jackass was my roommate(who was most definitely a jackass.)I’m also not screaming,and you are ascribing to me specific reasoning I don’t follow.My point was that this(using wrong terms for things)happens all the time.Most of the time nobody notices,nobody is worse off for it and nobody is better off for being “corrected.”It’s just due to a desire to correct others that it gets mentioned at all.

        Please also note that we’ve been writing to each other for years now and I’ve never once mentioned your lack of spaces after punctuation…until now.It is incorrect to not a space after symbol.In truth it has always kind of bugged me.It is pedantic of me to mention it and I don’t think you should really care.Nor do I think you should change for my benefit.It is also “Shamus”.He has said on multiple occasions he does not like being called “Shamoose.”However that’s not my fight nor any of my business to try and correct.

  33. Fawkes says:

    This article is rather timely, with the Beta of Star Wars Battlefront having just come out.

    For those who haven’t given it a spin or read up on it, Battlefront’s Blasters all have unlimited Ammo with a cooldown mechanic. You shoot, different weapons have different damage and different cooldown rates. If you overheat, the bar goes down again with a small window to hit a ‘active cooldown’ button and be able to shoot again immediately. This window gets smaller each successive use in a short time, and if missed makes you have to wait even longer for it cooldown and work again.

    All in all, it’s a decent system that works fairly well. In a game made by EA. Which really only further supports the point that Bioware didn’t give the cooldown enough of a chance to shine, instead jut scrapping it for what worked in other games.

    Maybe there’s hope for ME4 to look at this system or other similar ones for inspiration. If the people in this galaxy came pre-ME2, it’d make perfect sense for them to still have the original cooldown technology in use.

  34. Phantos says:

    There’s not a lot from the first game that I think didn’t need to be revamped, but the way ME1 handled “ammo” was fine. It’s the only part of the combat in that game that didn’t seem unwieldy and wrong. The thermal clip concept was stupid AND badly handled. I can’t think of any other reason why/how they did it than a cynical, corporate decision to copy the mechanical language of other shooter games of the time.

    Even if it was entirely BioWare’s decision, it feels like such an EA move. “Make it more like Call of Duty to get the dum-dum’s moneys! They can’t handle space stuff in this space game!”

    Which wouldn’t be so annoying if the game didn’t try so hard to BS everyone into thinking it’s an improvement. It really is made worse by how much the game calls attention to it. I guess it’s not so much what they did that bothers me as how they presented it.

  35. Taellosse says:

    I always found the “thermal clips” thing super-annoying from a lore perspective (I could almost see the in-game justification making some sense if the old functionality were retained as a backup, but it was clearly inferior from a tactical standpoint as a pure replacement. Plus, as you said, there were a number of instances where you were fighting enemies that would have no reasonable way to get ahold of this new kind of weapon, and clearly should have been using the old style, but weren’t, which kept bugging me), but they didn’t bother me much from a gameplay perspective. My first time through ME2 I played a Sentinel (character had been a Vanguard in ME1, but I didn’t like the notion of charging about and fighting everyone at close range, with the changes to biotics and weapon proficiencies) and my second time was as an Adept – in both cases I relied on powers, both of Shepard and her squad-mates, to do about 75% of the fighting, with guns as a secondary thing. I seldom was running short of clips in any given encounter. I never even noticed that their appearance on the scene was unrelated to the enemies encountered, but rather was tied to how many shots I’d fired. That does sound like pretty dumb game design…

  36. poiumty says:

    “Man I didn’t like thermal clips. I had to super-cheat my way through the game just because I hated them so much!”

    – 90% of posters here, from what I gather.

    I fucking loved the combat in 2. It took everything i hated from 1 and stripped it away. It made classes matter to the point of being unique and having unique playstyles (it’s why i played it 3+ times). It took all the wishy-washy bullshit combat from the first game and made it *passable*.

    Thermal clips? I disagree with mister game designer over there. Thermal clips are designed to make you move around the battlefield. Because every single game after Gears of War has tried to do that in some way (even Gears had grenades that enemies would throw). Because being completely static in a firefight is boring and not at all fun. And if you’re a sniper? Are you serious. How many times do you do long-range sniping in this game (And I mean ACTUALLY long-range, not just ~10 meters away), and what’s keeping you from activating your class-based INVISIBILITY POWER and going out to look for clips if you’re out? No one can stop you. You’re invisible.

    The limited ammo also makes you use multiple types of weapons, which decreases repetition and keeps things fresh. Which is why every class has at least 2 weapon types.

    People here are salty about removal of complexity. I know; I hate it too. But when virtually all the complexity that got removed was needless busiwork and pointless mechanics, I’ll take not having it over having it any day of the week.

    EDIT: also I don’t think the pedantic brouhaha about thermal “magazines” is worth anything, simply because they’re not filled with bullets. So they can call them whatever they want, really. Not like we’re so strict with the naming terms that we call them “fuel magazines” or “rocket magazines” either.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Except thermal clips are a horrible way to keep you mobile.Much better way is to have enemies that rush you(which me2 has),or enemies that flank you(which me2 has,and me3 has even more of),or enemies that throw grenades at you(which me3 has),or enemies that you need to flank(which both me2 and me3 have).

      Limited ammo also doesnt force you to switch weapons(unless you play soldier) because the powers are both more fun than weapons and more versatile(especially in me3 where you can significantly decrease your cooldowns).And the few classes that have useful weapons(snipers and shotguns)will use those weapons exclusively,and almost never switch to their backups.The only time you switch your weapons is when you face a tough opponent and need to bust your heavy weapon to deal with it,which has nothing to do with thermal clips.

      So all the improvements in combat that me2 did were done despite thermal clips,not because of them.And you cant say that I am just “salty because it changed”,because Ive replayed me2 on insanity precisely because I liked the combat(I hated the story).

      And because I love snipers,I want to address this separately:

      How many times do you do long-range sniping in this game, and what's keeping you from activating your class-based INVISIBILITY POWER and going out to look for clips if you're out? No one can stop you. You're invisible.

      Yes,but thats not fun.At all.Activating the cloak just so you could scrounge for more clips is pointless busywork.It also carries no danger.But using your cloak to relocate because the enemy has come too close,or because you need to flank them is way more fun.

      Also,as an infiltrator,the whole point is to shoot from extreme range,which me1 allows you to do plenty of times,while the smaller arenas in me2 prevent you from doing often,and thats not really a good thing for that class.”You have to do it exactly this way and no other!” is not a philosophy you should use for a game where you supposedly allow for different classes that have different approaches.

      EDIT: also I don't think the pedantic brouhaha about thermal “magazines” is worth anything, simply because they're not filled with bullets. So they can call them whatever they want, really. Not like we're so strict with the naming terms that we call them “fuel magazines” or “rocket magazines” either.

      EDIT:We dont call them fuel clips or rocket clips either.And thermal clips are filled with bullets.If you pick up a single one when you have two empty weapons,both of them will get filled.Its a case of lore and gameplay telling two different things.A ludonarrative dissonance,if you will.Plus,even if we ignore that part,they also dont clip onto your weapon,but are rather put inside,making them into thermal rods or thermal slugs.

  37. natureguy85 says:

    I didn’t really care for the change in Biotics but I didn’t mind it either. You’re totally right that the lack of an attempt to make up BS to explain it led me to file it as a mere gameplay change and roll with it. I also don’t feel it was as radical a change.

    The big thing though is that it didn’t turn Mass Effect’s biotics into something we see everywhere else. It was still biotics. The guns of Mass Effect were somewhat unique or at least different. This change made them just like every other game.

    Second, they weren’t even consistent with how they worked. More so than in any other shooter, reloading before a thermal clip is maxed should make you lose those shots or at least prevent you from “combining”. With bullets, if I don’t lose what’s left in the magazine, I can at least imagine the character moving bullets from one magazine to another. You can’t do this with thermal clips.

    To be fair, I think I remember the game giving an excuse for why you can’t just wait for the guns to cool down; those parts were removed to make room for the new system or whatever. I can’t find it on the wiki, so maybe not. At least they mock it with Conrad Verner in ME3.

  38. GeorgeDM says:

    “I think players are generally willing to meet the game designer halfway on stuff like this. In the first two Witcher games, Geralt's equipment was ageless. The armor never broke, and his sword never got dull. But nobody ran up to Geralt at the start of Witcher 3 and said, “We're using this awesome new alloy that makes swords more effective, but now you need to sharpen them!” The game didn't try to explain why you suddenly needed to repair your stuff, and that was okay.”

    Not a very good analogy in my opinion, even though I understand your point. Repairing items doesn’t change anything about the swords Geralt uses or how he uses them. Mass Effect 2’s change to thermal clips introduced a drastic (and in my opinion shitty) change in pacing and gameplay overall. While the gameplay and pacing of gameplay was changed from Witcher 1 to 2 and 2 to 3, this wasn’t because of the addition of needing to maintain weapons.
    Also adding weapon/armor repairs was a lore friendly change that made sense, while the change to thermal clips was just plain dumb.

  39. Nimrandir says:

    Quick heads-up: a punctuation mark in Naota’s quote has gotten scrambled. I’m guessing it was a dash?

  40. Mr. Wolf says:

    I’m not sure this is the best time to bring up the clip/magazine thing, given that since they don’t hold ammunition “thermal clips” are neither clips nor magazines.

  41. Amelie W says:

    The rumor I heard is that they wanted to keep the cooling heatsinks from the first game and just add the option to swap them in an emergency. Seems like a reasonable plan, and it would explain why you only get to carry so blessed few of the things. Except it was beyond the skills of the coders to make a heat gauge that could go both up and down, supposedly. The spawning clips on the floors was added as an emergency fix to make gunfights winnable, and then I guess they ran out of time to do anything more than write the justifications in the Codex.

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