Mass Effect Retrospective 21: Geth of Honor

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 5, 2015

Filed under: Mass Effect 347 comments

This is the last post on the squad members in Mass Effect 2. Next time we will finally start talking about the plot. But now, I’ve saved the two bestUnless you think Mordin is the best. I’m cool with that. Or Garrus. Thane’s pretty cool too. I dunno. for last:


Hi Shepard. Don't mind me. I'm just setting up a side-plot that won't go anywhere.
Hi Shepard. Don't mind me. I'm just setting up a side-plot that won't go anywhere.

Tali’s recruitment mission has you rescuing her from a Geth attack during a research project. She’s studying a star that’s burning out too quickly because of mumble mumble dark energy space magic. According to lead Mass Effect 1 writer Drew Karpyshyn (who departed BioWare just before Mass Effect 2 was completed) this was supposed to lead in to the overall Reaper plot. PC Gamer has a transcript of a podcast where Karpyshyn discussed an early concept for the big Mass Effect 3 reveal:

Dark Energy was something that only organics could access because of various techno-science magic reasons we hadn’t decided on yet. Maybe using this Dark Energy was having a ripple effect on the space-time continuum.

Maybe the Reapers kept wiping out organic life because organics keep evolving to the state where they would use biotics and dark energy and that caused an entropic effect that would hasten the end of the universe. Being immortal beings, that’s something they wouldn’t want to see.

Then we thought, let’s take it to the next level. Maybe the Reapers are looking at a way to stop this. Maybe there’s an inevitable descent into the opposite of the Big Bang (the Big Crunch) and the Reapers realize that the only way they can stop it is by using biotics, but since they can’t use biotics they have to keep rebuilding society – as they try and find the perfect group to use biotics for this purpose. The Asari were close but they weren’t quite right, the Protheans were close as well.

Again it’s very vague and not fleshed out, it was something we considered but we ended up going in a different direction.

I’m a little wary of talking about this here, if only because it strays dangerously close to the blame-game stuff I’ve been trying to avoid. Also, it’s a little unfair to compare this half-baked idea to the Actual Ending, because this Dark Energy plot has a lot of blanks that need to be filled in. It’s entirely possible this idea would have fallen apart just as violently as the one we got.

Sure, it might sound like a promising ideaOr not. I dunno. A lot would depend on the execution. when Karpyshyn outlines it, but if you put this explanation in the mouth of the Star Child and offered a Red, Green, Blue ending-o-tron then it probably would have been just as big a disaster as the ending we got.

But I bring this up because this is the only part of the entire game that makes any effort at all to set something up for Mass Effect 3, and it sets up an idea they abandoned later. You don’t need to do some kind of “big mind-blowing reveal” at the end of the series. But if you are going to go that way, then you really need to set it up properly ahead of time. A big twist is more than just “unexpected information”.

Everyone points to the end of Mass Effect 3 as this point of failure, but I maintain the seeds of that eventual failure were planted much, much earlier. Yes, the eventual reveal of the purpose of the Reapers was awful, but it would have been easier to deliver a good ending if there had been something to build on here in Mass Effect 2.

Tali’s Trial

The Quarians don't need to wear their suits when on their own ships, but I don't blame them for keeping them on here. The cumulative body odor of removing all these rubber suits at the same time would almost qualify as a biological attack.
The Quarians don't need to wear their suits when on their own ships, but I don't blame them for keeping them on here. The cumulative body odor of removing all these rubber suits at the same time would almost qualify as a biological attack.

While stopping the Reapers (and later, stopping Cerberus) remains the overarching plot, the Mass Effect series also has two major sub-plots that cover all three games: The Quarian / Geth conflict, and the Genophage. While the Reaper / Cerberus plot eventually disintegrates into frustrating nonsense, the other two plots remain uniformly excellent. Mordin’s loyalty mission advances the Genophage plot, while Tali’s advances the Geth / Quarian plot.

Tali is called back to the flotilla and put on trial for smuggling live Geth onto their ships. Tali isn’t actually the one to blame. It was her father. But Tali wants to take the blame to protect the memory of her father. I just want to point out that last week on Spoiler Warning, we ran into that exact situation in KOTOR, where one Wookiee wanted to take the blame for another, to protect the honor of the dead. Everyone notices when BioWare re-uses the Towers of Hanoi puzzle, but little ideas like this often show up again and again without being noticed.

I’d love to know if the same person wrote both stories.

The entire quest is fantastic. You get to see the famous Quarian flotilla up close. (A payoff to something ME1 set up!) You get to meet the Quarian leadership. (Worldbuilding!) You get to participate in the trial and make some fairly weighty decisions that aren’t just lame paragon / renegade binaries. (Choices that matter and make sense!) You get to shoot some Geth and hear all their delightful robo-noises, which was one of the most aurally pleasant parts of Mass Effect 1Aside from the soundtrack..

Also, this quest introduces characters and ideas that will return in Mass Effect 3 for a large dramatic payoff. We get character development, story development, choices, worldbuilding, and continuity between games. It’s wonderful, but it also highlights how much the main plot failed to do these things.


Maybe it's the musical sting, but Legion's big reveal gets me every time. What a fantastic moment.
Maybe it's the musical sting, but Legion's big reveal gets me every time. What a fantastic moment.

Legion is a fan favorite. He made the rounds in the memes and comics when the game was fresh. Why do people like him so much? That cool voice? The fact that he’s a rare sci-fi robot that doesn’t suffer from Pinocchio Syndrome? Is it that intriguing N7 chestplate that the writers are smart enough to not explain?

Those are all good reasons, but I think an overlooked reason for Legion’s popularity is that he’s a character made almost entirely out of worldbuilding. Legion is a payoff to numerous questions posed in Mass Effect 1. His explanations about Geth existence, motivations, and behavior are all interesting. It expands on what we already know without rewriting existing lore or clashing tonally. Since the moment Tali explained their shared history, I’ve wanted to hear the Geth side of the story.

His recruitment takes place during a main story mission, so we’ll talk about it in a later entry. For now let’s talk about his loyalty mission, which poses the most interesting question of the entire Mass Effect series…

Link (YouTube)

The Geth have broken into two factions: One believes that they should join with the Reapers, and the other believe they should remain independent. Legion is with the independants, and calls the other faction the “heretics”, (Which makes me wonder if the pro-Reaper Geth think of themselves as “normal Geth” and Legion’s faction as the heretics.) The two sides don’t openly war on each other, but they have broken contact and avoid one another.

So then Legion hits you will this conundrum: The pro-Reaper Geth have a base where they are developing a software virus. This virus will alter the anti-Reaper faction, making them pro-Reaper. This is a pretty big danger. The Geth are already a pretty formidable foeIgnoring the fact the Shepard destroys hundreds of them with only modest danger to himself, because this is a shooter and That’s How Shooters Work. The Geth are like stormtroopers: A massive danger to everyone but the heroes., and now you’re discovering you’re only facing some sub-section of them. So Legion asks for Shepard’s help in eliminating the threat that this base poses.

During the mission, Legion offers Shepard a choice: Blow up the base along with the virus, or turn the virus around and use it to convert the heretics to our side.

As Extra Credits describes it:

Imagine this Geth sect is you, and the belief in question is something you feel very strongly, or hold very dear. Now imagine someone could take that belief from you – say, the religion of your father, or the belief in the worth of your own individuality. Imagine they could do it without asking you, without you ever knowing, and without your volition at all. Imagine that they could wipe away your beliefs to thoroughly that if you met your former unaltered self, you would disagree so violently that you probably couldn’t stand each other. Now imagine that the only way to prevent that from happening was a struggle to the death.

It’s a shame the writers tried to map this decision to the paragon / renegade system. This question is much too nuanced for so crude a tool. On the other hand, leaving out paragon or renegade considerations would have felt wrong from a gameplay perspective.

Some people come at this from the practical approach: Which is best for the galaxy as a whole? Other people come at it from a moral perspective: If it were me on the receiving end, would I prefer death, or alteration? Or maybe you could view alteration using some sort of MAD doctrine: If you don’t want to be at risk of alteration, then don’t try to alter others. Since these Geth made the first move towards this kind of weapon, turning it on them might be an important lesson for the Geth. Then again, it might just break the taboo and cause the Geth to abandon all attempts at dialog and embrace “brainwashing-via-hotfix” as a means of debate.

My one complaint about this mission is that Tali has almost nothing to say. This mission should have enormous historical significance for her, and she barely reacts.
My one complaint about this mission is that Tali has almost nothing to say. This mission should have enormous historical significance for her, and she barely reacts.

You could argue that your decision doesn’t matter because the damage was already done when the heretics opted for this sort of solution. Up until now, Geth have always disagreed peacefully. But this virus demands aggression. No matter what you choose, this conflict makes them more like organics, who solve large conflicts by settling who has the best guns instead of who has the best ideas. This change in behavior might damage their intelligence and development in the long run.

This. This is why I love details-first sci-fi. The rules of a well-defined universe give us some frame of reference so we can examine this question in detail.In a drama-based universe where robots are just human-style personalities inside a metal body, it would be really awkward to slow the story down to ponder something like this and lay all the ground rules for what technology can and can’t do.

In a drama-based world, if someone reprogrammed C3P0 to hate Luke, the expectation would be that Luke could appeal to him as a friend to break the “spell”. Maybe right before he kills Luke, he would be reminded of some moment of friendship they shared, and he would realize his mistake at just the last second, proving that evil can’t win over good because love is true. Actually, since C3P0 is a comedy character, he’d probably be “fixed” by (say) hitting his head or being electrocuted. Or whatever. I’m sure you’ve heard that story before.

I’m not knocking those drama-based stories. They’re good. In Return of the Jedi, the good guys win because of love. Luke finds the strength to overcome Vader without resorting to the dark side because of his love for his sister. In turn, Vader betrays the dark side because of his love for his son. Han and Leia overcome the stormtroopers because of their love for each other, which Han finally professes right at a crucial moment. And the Ewoks overcome the Empire because of George Lucas’ love of merchandising.

The point I’m making is that while I enjoy having good drama pluck at my heart strings, sometimes what I really want is a challenging”Challenging” by the standards of mass-market entertainment. philosophical exercise within a properly framed hypothetical, and the question of what to do with the Heretic Geth is exactly that. The quandary is endlessly fascinating, and every time I think about it I find a new idea to play with or a question to ask.

Speaking of questions…

What do these guys argue about?

I actually laughed out loud when Joker silently mocked Legion. For one, it's nice that they finally nailed Joker's sense of humor, which was kind of weak in the first game. Second, because it's usually hard for videogames to pull of jokes based entirely on body language and facial expression. Thirdly, I love the idea of secretly mocking a robot who doesn't take offense. It's amusingly pointless, like flipping off a raincloud.
I actually laughed out loud when Joker silently mocked Legion. For one, it's nice that they finally nailed Joker's sense of humor, which was kind of weak in the first game. Second, because it's usually hard for videogames to pull of jokes based entirely on body language and facial expression. Thirdly, I love the idea of secretly mocking a robot who doesn't take offense. It's amusingly pointless, like flipping off a raincloud.

Legion makes it clear that this particular Geth conflict is the result of Reaper influence, but he also makes it sound like this is not their first disagreement. The Geth presumably have the same hardware, they begin discussions with the same priorities, and they spend the majority of the time loaded into massive server racks where they aren’t going to have divergent sensory experiences. So how is it that they have differing opinions?

Humans are wildly divergent. We’ve got different genes, different conditioning, different experiences, and different outputs of hormones resulting from different behaviors and diets. But in Geth? Where would these differences come from? They presumably run on the same hardware. They spend most of their existence downloaded into server farms, which means they’re not out in the world having different sensory experiences.

Let’s say uncle Bob would drag us kids out to the lake every summer and feed us burgers that were raw meat inside and scorched carbon outside, and we were all tormented by mosquitos while we ate them. The repeated negative experience has conditioned me to hate the entire grilling experience regardless of location or skill of the chef. This makes me a bit of an oddball in my culture, where people love grilling outdoors.

How would such a divergent opinion arise among the Geth? What would make any of them diverge? If the same hardware takes the same input and rates it according to the same priorities, then disagreement isn’t diversity, it’s a software bug.

All of this is an exhaustive way of asking: What do the Geth talk about all day?

I’m not saying that Mass Effect should have answered this question. I’m saying that the detailed framework provided by the worldbuilder has created a universe where we can play around with ideas like this. This sort of exploration of hypotheticals wouldn’t workOr wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying. in a schlock-based story where robots are just humans who are bad at idioms and have chrome skin.



[1] Unless you think Mordin is the best. I’m cool with that. Or Garrus. Thane’s pretty cool too. I dunno.

[2] Or not. I dunno. A lot would depend on the execution.

[3] Aside from the soundtrack.

[4] Ignoring the fact the Shepard destroys hundreds of them with only modest danger to himself, because this is a shooter and That’s How Shooters Work. The Geth are like stormtroopers: A massive danger to everyone but the heroes.

[5] ”Challenging” by the standards of mass-market entertainment.

[6] Or wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.

From The Archives:

347 thoughts on “Mass Effect Retrospective 21: Geth of Honor

  1. Galad says:

    Looks like “But what do they eat” has been upgraded.

    Any suggestions on ‘challenging philosophical exercises, other than some good RPG oldies like Planescepe Torment or Baldur’s Gate?

    1. Squirly says:

      … The Stanley Parable?

      Honestly, if we’re talking big AAA games I’m drawing a bit of a blank.

      1. ehlijen says:

        Deus Ex (Original)? It’s old, but not quite planescape either.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Your own mileage may vary, but I honestly thought Human Revolution had a far greater focus on philosophy. (Transhumanism, versus bio-conservatism.)

          Granted, even as a transhumanist myself I have to admit the game does come down a bit gentler on the ‘being super-human is awesome!!!’ side versus ‘but think of the children’s dinky little arms!!!’

          But still, in comparison with many other games it did give both sides a far fairer shake than average, and I think HR deserves some recognition for that. The infamous buttons aside, there was a philosophical case to be made for all the endings presented at the end of the game.

          Do you trust humanity do make the right choice? Or do you tweak things so they make what you consider the right one?

          That’s some heavy stuff.

          1. Chauzuvoy says:

            As much as the crew mocked the 4th ending (Blow up Pangea), it really does feel necessary. The game’s main focus is on the ethics of transhumanism and what it means to dispense with/transcend our biology. But it’s main focus is on the power and control that the technology enables. The biggest criticisms of the technology don’t come from some kind of inherent moral hazard or the innate value of biologically-defined humanity, but from the fact that being augmented places you at the mercy of the companies and organizations that produce and control that technology. It’s less explicit than the original Deus Ex was about it, but it’s definitely there. And the first 3 endings all embrace that control. The game lets you comment on the technology, but not the constructs around it that are so often the real problem around it. The 4th ending actually lets you reject that, which is a really important option to give.

            Sorry. I really love Human Revolution.

      2. Lars says:

        Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen. Kain as the Guardian of Balance gets to become the big bad vampire to murder all the other corrupted guardians. In the end he has to sacrifice himself, as he is coruppted himself, to restore the balance and safe the world.
        In Blood Omen the player can make this choise, in the later games of the series (Soul Reaver, Defiance) the choise was made against the self-sacrifice. In the end, after defeating the elder god, you wonder if the choise of not self-sacrifising and breaking the wheel and ending the known world was actually the right one.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Assassins creed.It poses the incredibly difficult questions like “How the fuck is this thing still profitable?” and “For fucks sake,how many of these will they make?”.

      1. Syal says:

        The original X-Com poses such philosophical questions as “how many lives are worth losing to learn an enemy’s secrets” and “no seriously, screw alien grenades”.

        1. GloatingSwine says:

          Yes, but then the philosophical questions usually resolved down to ” Do I have enough missiles to flatten the whole town, or only the parts of it I’m really sure have a Chryssalid standing behind them”.

          X-Com: Saving the world by blowing it up.

          1. Decius says:

            How many civilians may be turned into collateral damage to save a soldier? How many soldiers should take extra risks of grisly death to prevent a civilian from being killed by aliens? Should we shoot to kill a soldier who has been mind-controlled, or risk him killing others?

            Lots of emergent questions there, and that’s not quite yet reaching into the pure cost-benefit questions like “is it worth the risk to storm the UFO with stun rods to capture the Sectoid Leader?”

          2. Dasick says:

            What I’m hearing is that the quality of the question degenerates as the balance becomes unhinged in the player’s favour, either through out-of-game skill improvement or in-game character and lewt progression. A lot of times when it comes to questions regarding how a particular RPG failed people blame bad writing, but if the balance was right to showcase the particular scenario the writers were trying to set-up, then it would work.

            Take the Thorian Creeper situation back in ME1. It’s stupidly easy to rescue them all and you have to go out of your way to actually kill them for the evulz Renegade points. I know, I ended up saving a couple on my Renegade playthrough. But let’s imagine a slightly different game, where money is scarce, grenades are expensive and your teammates can die for real without you having to go back to the last checkpoint. Maybe you’re also not a tank of HP and bullets stomping through the galaxy, but rather a surprise creeper attack can actually put your squad out of commission. Maybe some of the colonists represent unique shops and quests which provide alternative playstyles and branches. The question changes completely even though you can have the same scenario/writing.

            1. Mike S. says:

              I had trouble keeping them all alive first time through, because I didn’t realize you had to load the nonlethal anti-Thorian gas into the grenades. (I thought it had automatically become active.) I wound up with a lot of colonists dead due to grenade explosions.

              Obviously, that’s not an intentional complication so much as an interface issue (or my being slow).

              1. Dasick says:

                The interface was terrible. Switching power-ups, let alone weapons was so super tedious I stopped bothering after I got the explosive rounds for sniper rifle. It doesn’t help that most things you had to do were chores rather than choices. Yes, I want to equip the better weapon. Also, nice anti-synthetic/anti-organic ammo thing you got there to make me spend time in the inventory screen whenever you switch enemy types. I much prefer the ME3 (multiplayer) system where you select your load-out before playing a match.

        2. Incunabulum says:

          And the all important ‘post-Blaster Bomb’ questions – ‘What the fuck was that?’ and ‘Who has to die so I can get one?’

        3. ehlijen says:

          The new XCOM also poses questions like “how much of our humanity will we sacrifice to survive?”

          While the question works well in regards to the mech suits and mutations in the expansion, the base game kind of ruins the moment when it then says ‘make a super psyker to unlock the next level’.

          “I want a mecha trooper and I want it now!”
          “Sure thing boss, pick a soldier!”
          “That one!”
          “Cool, we’ll go right about chopping his limbs off.”

      2. Couscous says:

        Assassin’s Creed has become a videogame series that to me is like an old TV series that got really stale and attempts to fix that issue mostly involved minor stuff and things that looked big on paper but just doesn’t do anything for me. Even when I skip a year, I come back and it all feels familiar in a way that tires me. I can’t say they are bad for what they are. They just do nothing for me. What I am saying is that Assassin’s Creed is the Simpsons of videogames.

        I suggest Watch Dogs. It asks some philosophical questions like “what would a videogame with a godawful protagonist look like if the developers kept on trying to pretend that the protagonist was a good person” and “is it possible to get people to call a game that was released in the year 2014 but set in the year 2013 ‘cyberpunk’ just because there is some hollywood hacking and maybe a few pathetic attempts to claim it is relevant to the modern surveillance state?”

    3. Merlin says:

      Undertale does some interesting Spec Ops-y stuff in a way that involves a lot more agency than actual Spec Ops. (And I love The Line, but to a certain extent it just yells “stop hitting yourself!” the whole way through.) The actual philosophical components are very meta/player-focused (and sometimes subtextual rather than explicitly engaged with) rather than in-game though; kind of a different deal from the Geth situation above or Torment.

    4. IFS says:

      Been watching a Let’s Play of SOMA and it seems to touch on some interesting philosophical issues about what makes something human. I think Shamus has brought up the game before but I’m not really sure what all he’s said about it.

    5. Jason-L says:

      Fallout 3 has that one quest where you have to decide between killing a sentient tree that’s suffering and enslaved, or seeing it potentially reseed and spread healthy plant life out into the wasteland. Don’t know if that one counts.

      1. Kavonde says:

        Yeah, but (after the fact, at least) you find out that preserving Harold is the right decision from both a utilitarian and personal point of view. It helps the people of the wasteland, and ol’ Tree-Head turns out to quite enjoy the sensation. If Harold’s transformation into a radioactive nature god was less pleasant for him, it would be a more interesting philosophical quandary.

    6. Rymdsmurfen says:

      The Talos Principle.

      1. Smiley_Face says:

        Seconded. Played it fairly recently, and it’s not just working with philosophical themes, but literal philosophical discussions. Of course, there’s only so far it can go in that regard, but it was a lot of fun, plenty of food for thought. Fun puzzles too.

    7. MaxEd says:

      Try Geneforge series. It might be a bit hard to get into due to a very dated interface, but it has one of the best conflicts I ever saw in RPG. The last two games (4 & 5) have better UI, so you may at least try them, though it’s better to start from the beginning to get the full story.

      Newer games from the same studio (Spiderweb Software), Avadon series, also are very interesting, exploring security vs freedom dichotomy.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Wasnt avadon made before geneforge?

        1. MaxEd says:

          No, Avadon is the latest series. You are probably confusing it with Avernum, which was made both before and after Geneforge.

          (I didn’t mention Avernum in this thread, because while I like it a lot, I don’t think it has the same depth as Geneforge/Avadon)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Sorry,I was thinking of exile.I knew they were doing something earlier that turned into avernum.

    8. Dasick says:

      “Baldur’s Gate”


      Say what again?

      Honestly, I’m drawing a big blank. I’ve never been challenged this way by any videogame in this kind of sense. As much as I love to ponder interesting questions, it’s infinitely less satisfying when you have to pause to shoot generic baddies every 5 minutes, and removing gameplay ala Stanley’s Parable removes the point as well.

      The closest I’ve been is a little instruction manual for Go that described the action on the board less as a fight and more of a debate. That made me adjust my respective regarding the “right makes might” dilemma. There are plenty of games which stimulate me the same way a debate or a good ol’ pondering does, but at the same time none of them actually simulate a debate or a pondering. Classical abstracts such as chess and go, some roguelikes, xcom, plenty of online strategy and tactics games etc etc.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Tali is great.But legion better than garrus?Hmmm,suspect…

    1. Smiley_Face says:

      Legion + his loyalty mission + the worldbuilding he presents are collectively more interesting, possibly better, than Garrus + his missions. I think it probably comes down to how much the game grabs you intellectually vs. emotionally.

      1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        Legion was more interesting to me at first but Garrus has staying power.

        Legion has reach but Garrus has flexibility.

  3. Ringwraith says:

    Horrible “that guy” nit-pick of stuff not even in the actual main text itself so basically just attacking a joke, (sorry): quarians do wear their suits aboard ships because their immune systems are that bad. Which is why sharing suit environments (like when kids are born or whatever) is considered such a big deal. Because they’ll suffer for a while due to the exposure to foreign allergens and stuff at the very least.
    The only place where they don’t wear their suits are very specially-controlled and sealed areas, usually like medical facilities I would presume.

    They live their entire lives in those suits pretty much, which makes it no wonder why they get so desperate to go home and try and undo some of the damage so future generations don’t have to go through it.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Damn you,I wanted to point that out!

      One of the conversations you get with tali is specifically about how intimate sharing suit atmospheres with someone is.And not intimate just in the most common bioware cliche way of sex,but intimate as in really good friends.

    2. Shamus says:

      Huh. Somewhere I got the idea that the suits were just for excursions outside the flotilla. Missed this detail.

      Makes me wonder what they do with babies.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        If I remember correctly,children are kept isolated with access only to the parents until the day they are given their first suit.

      2. Ringwraith says:

        Tali mentions when someone gets their ‘final’ suit it’s a big ceremony, it’s their coming of age signifier.
        It’s been a while so probably a bit fuzzy on the details, but I think with smaller kids they put them in transitional suits of a sort, until they won’t need a larger suit at least.
        Though it does mean everything is complicated and full of risks.

        1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          Shouldn’t be too hard. As with the rest of Mass Effect, there’s only one body type per gender for the entire species. Thats gotta make hand-me downs easy.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Thats the proof eugenics is the number 1 thing in this future.

          2. Ringwraith says:

            Unless you’re a special exception character, like Grunt.
            Even extends to outfits, seeing as there’s a handful of minor variations on quarian suits on people that aren’t Tali (but only from the second game onwards).

      3. I imagine there’s a separate “birthing” ship in the flotilla full of decontamination gear, and a big machine that just vacuum-seals the new babies into little high-tech onesies.

      4. Spacewreck says:

        One of the Admirals during Tali’s trial served as a midwife for Tali’s birth. She mentions them using environmental bubbles until the child is old enough to wear a suit. As mentioned above, getting your first suit is a rite of passage.

        1. hewhosaysfish says:

          When I try to figure out the phrase “environmental bubble” I can only imagine Quarian babies in hamster-balls.

          Thinking about it, a hamster-ball would give a good compromise between having room to move and having room to grow.

          1. Mike S. says:

            It’s also an adorable image– if I had any artistic talent I would totally draw a bunch of quarian toddlers bouncing around in hamster balls.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Dont forget to give them faces like in normal humans.

      5. swenson says:

        I had the exact same belief, going into ME2 from ME1. I don’t know if ME1 directly implies it or if I just glossed over contradictory information in ME1, though.

        1. Mike S. says:

          I’m likewise pretty sure the descriptions by Tali in ME1 indicated they didn’t wear suits in the fleet. But I haven’t found a transcript of the dialog to confirm. I think that was a retcon in ME2 so that they could maintain the mystery of what Tali looked like, and keep using the same basic model for quarians.

          1. Jakob says:

            They don’t wear suits in their private chambers. Tali or her “aunt” (the admiral that was her midwife) mentions that seeing someone out of suit is a highly private matter, reserved for close friends, due to the risk involved.

            I think it is mentioned that Tali’s aunt “synched” (I lack a better word) her suits climate with that of Tali’s family chambers, in order for her to be able to stay over and not being in the suit.

    3. Theminimanx says:

      But their immune systems became that bad by living on the environmentally-controlled ships. Before Mass Effect 2, there’s nothing to suggest that Quarians wear suits while on the Flotilla.

      In fact, in Mass Effect 1, Tali mentions an airborne virus going around the Flotilla, which wouldn’t work if everyone was wearing their suits all the time.

      And yes, that does mean the writers didn’t know about lore they established.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        They’re also one of the larger ships which has a large gathering of people from all parts as well as expecting a foreign captain to come aboard as part of the trial.

        I honestly forgot about any of those details from the first one. Though you could argue it either way as there’s plenty of times they’d need to have their own containment suits, not least they all leave the flotilla as part of a rite of passage.

        So maybe you could argue it a bit both ways? No idea, I feel as though I need to go and double check everything now.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Even if they didnt wear suits while on their home ship,they could still wear them while on a different ship of the flotilla.

        1. guy says:

          That is correct; it’s in the Codex.

      3. SlothfulCobra says:

        It’s pretty glaringly obvious that they only made up the thing about the Quarians being in their suits full-time even in the flotilla because they didn’t want to have to come up with an alternate appearance for the unsuited Quarians.

        Which is consistent with the way the series refuses to show any sexual dimorphism for most of the aliens. It’s actually a little surprising that they even made a male Quarian model, and didn’t decide to retcon the Quarians into being a matriarchal society for convenience.

      4. Bronn says:

        This was a stupid retcon and one of the most annoying things about Quarians after Mass Effect 1.

        In ME1, we’re given a simple, straightforward explanation that serves as world-building: Quarians spent so many generations living aboard ships, which they kept sterile, that their immune systems became much weaker. So in public, they must wear suits to keep them insulated from bacteria and viruses that exist in any public forum. This was perfectly logical and reasonable: immune systems actually do grow stronger from being exercised to fight off contanimants, which is why some autoimmune conditions are found in people who grow up in excessively sterile environments.

        This was retconned into something that makes much less sense. Now, ALL quarians always wear suits except in the very few pre-sterilized rooms on the flotilla. This makes no sense: Either they CAN sterilize anything coming aboard ship, in which case they don’t need to wear suits, or else they CAN’T, in which case their immune systems would never be weakened.

        Oh, but they changed it to make it so that it’s just that Quarian immune systems are special and they spread certain allergens…even thought they’re still talking about how weak the Quarian immune systems are (like saying that Quarians can’t fight a war because they’d get slaughtered due to infection). It contradicts itself now, and it adds nothing to the story.

        It’s like they wanted to avoid designing Quarians outside of their suits, except look how form-fitting Tali’s suit is. We KNOW what she looks like under that suit-they just need to fill in the face, give her a mouth and a chin, and we’re done. It doesn’t even have to be especially creative, we can accept human-looking aliens, like the asari.

        ALL I can come up with is that some dumb exec said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if Shepard could hump Tali? We need to retcon the biological facts to make that non-fatal.”

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Even if you sterilize a ship,having people living in it will spread all sorts of contaminants.Skin flakes and body hair,most notably.So someone coming from a different sterilized ship with extremely weakened immune system will have very high chances of having an allergic reaction to these foreign contaminants.

    4. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

      They actually kind of have the reverse of an immune system. They were biologically integrated with their environment and integrated microorganisms into their system in a symbiotic relationship (really we do this too of course, but apparently they do it moreso). So everything about their biology was built around assimilating and using the life around them rather than fighting it off. I think they were a part of cross pollination too with the quarians acting kind of like bees. Microorganisms evolved to spread by coexisting with their hosts rather than devouring them.

      So they’re poorly suited for other worlds where the microorganisms are more aggressive. Their biology does the opposite of what it should do to them. Although this lore does make it kind of weird that they even get each other sick. Maybe that came after they left.

      1. tremor3258 says:

        Tali mentions in Mass Effect 2 that it’s not so much disease as an allergy in one of her conversations because of how Quarian biology works – though the effects are similar.

        1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          I remember that bit of dialog now that you mentioned it. I went to the wiki to see if they could provide further clarification but you can kind of tell they were trying to spackle the various explanations together.

          “The most distinguishing feature of quarian biology is their weak immune system, compounded by centuries of living in sterile environments. As a result, all quarians by necessity dress in highly sophisticated enviro-suits, to protect them from disease or infection if they are injured. Their suits can be compartmentalized in the event of a tear or similar breach to prevent the spread of contaminants (similar to a ship sealing off bulkheads in the event of a hull breach). Along with their suits quarians also have extensive cybernetic augmentations integrated into their bodies. A quarian’s lifespan is roughly equal to a human’s, but is prone to be less if infection breaks into the suit.

          “Quarian immune systems have always been relatively weak, as pathogenic microbes were comparatively rare in their homeworld’s biosphere. Furthermore, what few viruses and other microbes were native to their homeworld were often at least partly beneficial to them, giving them a symbiotic relationship with their environment. After living aboard the Migrant Fleet for generations, the quarians’ immune systems have atrophied further still due to the years in the sterile environment of the Migrant Fleet. As such, quarians are given various vaccinations and immunizations to help ward off disease. However, they prefer the safety of their suits even in clean environments and are reluctant to remove them without a good reason.

          “A quarian who wishes to remove their suit must take antibiotics, immuno-boosters, herbal supplements, or the like in order to do so safely, and even then there are inherent risks. As a result, physical acts of affection are difficult for quarians, even for the purposes of reproduction. Ships in the Migrant Fleet often contain “clean rooms” where quarians can give birth or undergo medical procedures in relative safety, though there are always risks. The most intimate thing quarians can do is link their suit environments. However, doing so guarantees a quarian will get sick, although they will usually adapt over time.”

          It sounds like the writers started with “Quarians have weak immune systems due to being on a sterile ship for so long” then went to “Quarians have weak immune systems due to lack of pathogens and presence of symbiotic microorganisms provided no incentive to develop an immune system” all the way to “the sicknesses we get are really just allergic reactions.” Probably because that last part was tacked on because they realized that alien microorganisms would need time to adapt to Quarian physiology before they could act as pathogens. Quarians, isolated as they are, really should be immune to most naturally occurring diseases. But its weird because allergies are a product of an overactive immune system.

          Its like they could never quite make up their minds. I’m sure there’s a way that all makes sense but the way its presented it doesn’t sound like they had it all thought through from the beginning and just kept tacking things on.

          1. RCN says:

            One thing that baffles me about the Tali-Shepard romance is the fact that the writers insist it is only possible if Tali takes a great risk to herself and exposes herself to Shepard. Well, exposes her body… exposes her metabolism to Shepard.

            This baffles me because the Fandom had already given a good solution since ME 1, which is that Quarians have sex with non-Quarians through a body-condon suit. It makes sense, it leaves the Quarian part of the equation safe and it goes hand in hand with everything that was established by the lore.

            Sure, it is “cute” that Tali is willing to go through it and then gets sick for a lengthy period of time because of this pairing, but all I could think about is “You could have died! Seriously, isn’t there a body-condon we could have used?”

            1. Spacewreck says:

              You’d think some enterprising sentient would have invented a version of omni-gel spray-on glove that could cover your entire body. The Tali and Shepard cutscene would have looked like two balloon-animals going at it, but the static cling would have made for a great visual of them sticking to the wall afterward.

            2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

              Taking off the suit is a sign of great intimacy and trust to Quarians. Not doing it to “stay safe” would basically have the cultural implication that she cared more about getting off than the relationship with the person, unacceptable for her character, obviously. Plus, the idea is that she WILL get used to you and your icky human germs, so that later contact won’t be harmful at all. A good idea for a long term relationship…

              1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

                And she takes a bunch of precautions. Vaccinations (which shouldn’t work given Quarian physiology but whatever), antibiotics, immune boosters.

                Frankly I’m kind of surprised they haven’t used nanotech yet to make synthetic immune systems. But that would kill the whole conflict because such an immune system would be able to beat any organic disease.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Also such a thing would turn her into a synthetic,and as we so well know,synthetics will always rebel against organics.

                  1. SlothfulCobra says:

                    I remember there being some speculation back in the day that the Quarians might have cyborg bits underneath those suits.

                    Of course, Shepard is basically half-robot after the opening of ME2, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

                2. Mike S. says:

                  Is there reason to believe they have nanotech with that capability? Hanging out in the bloodstream (without itself provoking an immune reaction) and accurately distinguishing between friend and foe is pretty far-reaching tech.

                  Since everyone else is prone to organic disease to one degree or another (you need to make the serum at Noveria; people can be infected with spores on Theros; the plague on Omega turns out to be artificial, but the reaction isn’t “but we’ve conquered disease!”, and IIRC Mordin had a clinic before it started), that doesn’t seem like something that exists in-universe.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Shepard has nanites in her blood,and she does seem to be better at healing than the rest of the team,as well as using her powers,and at resisting poisons.

              2. RCN says:

                Yes, let’s start our relationship with Marriage! Except you might die.

                No, sorry. Maybe after a long while, but to start it? Now it just sounds like those teenage that go “I don’t need a condom! I love you however you are! Nothing is ever going to change that, so I don’t care if you get pregnant. Because pregnancy is the only possible risk of sex!”

                1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Er no. It’s something she would also do with a close Quarian friend, it’s not the equivalent of marriage. It’s the equivalent of having sex. Because that’s what they then do. And all the medical drugs and research she does is the “condom” in this analogy. Kinda sounds like you’re projecting a hookup onto the game that’s completely unwarranted by the text.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Id also like to point out how “preserving the honor of the dead” is such a weird concept for us westerners.Very few people choose to actually do it,both here and in the kotor example you gave.And even of those who do so,most do it not to preserve the honor of the dead,but in order to not piss off the one who is alive.

    1. BruceR says:

      Gonna play the soldier card here and say it’s not at all unusual for Western military subcultures. Soldiers elide over and forgive a lot when they lose a team member, and are not averse to covering for the dead’s mistakes even at a personal cost. Tali’s choice resonated with me on that basis: at least I didn’t see it as weird for an in-game naval culture, any more than when Worf did that kind of stuff on TNG.

    2. Supahewok says:

      In addition to BruceR, we have lots and lots of stories about family members covering up secrets for each other or preserving the dignity of those already departed, even at the cost of others who are living. That’s fiction, but I think how prolific the trope is means it speaks to a great many of us.

    3. I dunno. “Don’t speak ill of the dead,” is a really common thing around here, but that might have something to do with, well, it’s the American South. We have this weird thing of wanting to revere this culture based on A LOT of very bad while trying to ignore/minimize all of it. Seems to be a fairly common human impulse, really. White-washing/idealizing the past.

      It was explained to me as a kid that you don’t insult the dead cause it’s not polite (and believe me, polite is VERY important (or used to be).) If you’re going to say something bad, you say it to someone’s face so they can defend themselves. The dead can’t do that, so you shouldn’t say bad stuff.
      (Note, I was about 5, it was the funeral of a great-uncle, and I was hot and bored and called him a poopy-head. It’s just a very vivid memory of having that explained (and the only time I remember someone actually saying anything more than not to speak ill of the dead))

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        See, for me, it was the opposite; you don’t want to speak bad of those who are close to die in case it’s the last thing you say to them (Sort of how this episode begins, even though I can’t find the opening of it on Youtube. Basically, Eric goes to his mother “It wouldn’t kill you to be nice!” as she then dies of a heart attack in the passenger seat of his car.), but after their dead and the funeral’s done and over with, nobody will complain about you speaking badly of them.

        Even with the funeral, it’s less of a “Don’t speak badly of them because they can’t counter you”, and more “Don’t bring it up during the eulogy”.

  5. ehlijen says:

    Legion being such a wonderfully utilised world building opportunity makes it so much weirder that prothy the prothean was so…pointless.

    Clearly someone knew how to write bizarre characters that offer insights into previously hidden viewpoints. And yet Javik’s major contribution is…”the crucible? I don’t know much about that”. Ugh.

    He should have been ME3’s Legion. Instead, he’s barely even ME3’s Grunt (and I say that as someone who liked Grunt).

    As for what Geth talk about, I don’t think any human has yet come close to imagining what it must be like for countless intelligences to be directly connected and exchanging data at the speed of thought (machine thought even, not organic thought which is usually hardcoded not to get bored while we watch a fellow species member’s mouth parts flap about in agonising slow motion). It’d be a billion member IRC chat room where everyone does in fact read everything, minus the typing requirement.
    How long before they run out of things to say to each other? Is that a thing that will happen?

    1. Maybe that explains the disagreements: some geth wanted to stop boredom and decided to shake things off.

    2. Squirly says:

      Was the prothean really that shallow and undeveloped? I remember the fact that he was DLC being a big issue because players felt that a prothean would be integral to the story. I’m guessing Bioware made him not very essential, or contributing significantly to the lore, maybe because they didn’t want to cut something from the main game like that.

      It reeks of corporate meddling to me. The suits wanted an awesome DLC character which will be an almost guaranteed download on top of the main game, Bioware compromised by making him seemingly interesting and unique when compared to most companions (except maybe Legion), but stopped short of giving him anything insightful to contribute to the main story.

      1. Raygereio says:

        It reeks of corporate meddling to me.

        Once again I feel I must point out that Bioware was the one who developed the game, not EA. Not everything that goes wrong is the fault of the publishers. Developers are perfectly capable of screwing up without the aid of their evil overlords.

        I have no idea how accurate this info is. Most of it relies of Internet-rumors. But Prothy was apparently an integral part of an earlier draft of the plot. He was related to the Catalyst somehow. His character was cut from the game, and concepts from him were eventually re-purposed as DLC.

        Was the prothean really that shallow and undeveloped?

        He was a fully fleshed out character.
        Javik suffered from the same problem Shale had in DA:O. Their very nature means that just their existence ought to be “a big frigging deal”. But if Bioware had properly explored that, they would have overshadowed all other companions. Perhaps even the main plot in parts. So Bioware decided to pay the barest lip service to it and ignore it for the most part.
        It's easy to understand why they were originally cut from their respective main games. But I can't help but think they ought to have stayed on the cutting room floor and not be re-purposed as DLC. I mean if you're not going to do something right, don't do it all instead of half-assing it.

        1. djw says:

          On the plus side, both Shale and (IMO) Javik had some pretty funny lines. If you view them as comic side kicks and ignore the lore violations they are nice to have around.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yeah,but ignoring the lore is quite difficult when the game constantly attempts to make you feel like that lore is SO IMPORTANT YOU GUYS!

            1. djw says:

              If Javik was the only lore failure in ME3 then I would probably have hated him. However, I was already convinced that the lore was crap when I was forced to work with Cerberus for an entire game, so my reaction to a real live Prothean was “meh”.

              He earned a place in some of my squads by being legitimately funny.

              Also (minor spoiler) it is established right away that he was a warrior, and not a scientist or a politician. He was born after the Protheans lost the citadel. It is perfectly reasonable that he has no idea how to answer deep questions about Prothean culture and/or science.

              1. guy says:

                That if anything almost makes the problem worse. The only thing he knows about is fighting Reapers. Which is presently approximately the only important thing, and his space-phone should be ringing off the hook from admirals asking him about how to fight Reapers.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  “In my experience? Steadily lose, then try to freeze a million people to wait it out and get caught and foiled in the process. You might want to try something different, though.”

                  1. guy says:

                    True, but we are seeking tactical advice on losing more slowly, which was his entire job description.

                    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                      “First, designate a slave species to hold the line in the worst places, call that race ‘casualty 1’. Then get your mega cruisers to patrol affected planets, destroying affected continents when necessary. Finally, equip all infantry units with heat weapons of at least class 7 to target all Harvester class Reaper troops.

                      What, you guys don’t have ANY of that stuff? Oh… then I’ve got nothing. Sorry.”

                    2. guy says:

                      “Engineers! The Prothean says we need more heavy infantry weapons!”

                      But seriously, any tactical information, no matter how fragmentary, is incredibly valuable. Learning about even one Reaper technology or tactic before it gets deployed could save entire planets. The Council Races are so desperately short on information that a random infantryman who didn’t pay attention to his sergeant’s briefings would still be an advantage because his descriptions of Husk types from the prior cycle would provide more information to predict what sort of abilities the Reapers might be able to give new Husks. For instance, if there’d been biotic Husks last cycle, hearing about them could have let us know what we were getting into in the monastery.

                2. ehlijen says:

                  If nothing else, that neutron purge thing you see in the flashbacks while reviving him sounds like it could have been handy. It was apparently enough to kill enough of a reaper invasion force that they then left the rubble uninvestigated, confident nothing survived (else he’d not have lived to the next cycle).

                  If your plan is: “lock self in drawer shelf, go to sleep and bomb own house” you gotta need some pretty good bomb to destroy all the stuff you can’t fight while asleep but which won’t kill you either. Why didn’t we build that thing instead of the crucible?

                  1. Poncho says:

                    There is a neutron purge in ME1 on Noveria, it’s how you kill all the rachni babies.

                    From what I remember, it blasts a contained area with a ton of particles, killing anything organic but bouncing off heavy shielding. The technology exists, but deploying it without committing suicide every time would be the issue. It would likely kill reaper ground troops, but leave the reapers themselves intact. Sort of a last ditch effort when you’re already losing the battle.

                    On Noveria, it was installed as a sort of a backup in case the rachni got loose. So it was specifically designed for that role and with that containment setting. Presumably, the purge in Javik’s flashbacks are similarly designed to be contained to their specific task, not vaporizing all the people in the life pods but killing reaper forces.

                    I don’t think anyone is going to be dropping neutron bombs on Earth in order to fight the reapers. Maybe on planets already lost, but it’s just a delaying tactic.

                    1. ehlijen says:

                      Then how did it work in stopping the reapers from systematically destroying any and all stasis pods?
                      The reapers already knew about the facility (they were attacking it). Something must have stopped them from going back after the initial blast just to check if they got them all.

              2. SlothfulCobra says:

                That actually really bugs me. It could’ve been a funny joke that the last survivor of this grand and noble society was just some schlub who didn’t care at all about the things that the Protheans were known for, but they tried to play that angle while also making his most of Davik’s dialogue into little snippets about what everybody else’s species were doing back in Prothean times (presumably because the writers couldn’t be bothered to give him any further characterization), like he’s somehow a frontline soldier with a PHD in xenobiology. It’s like if some dude who worked in a gas station somehow knew everything about capybaras, meerkats, and salamanders.

                You can play off a character as not knowing anything, and you can have them constantly quipping about errata, but you can’t do both at the same time.

        2. guy says:

          I never saw any particular issues relating to Shale, though I might not have gone down the right dialogue paths to reveal any. She’s tied into a major part of the plot, but as far as I’m aware she has amnesia and even if she didn’t wouldn’t have anything important to reveal that you don’t learn anyway. Lots of information potentially of historical interest to the dwarves, but nothing immediately relevant.

        3. Nidokoenig says:

          It’s also possible they were just cut down for time. Javik should have been a big deal and had as much input to give as, say, Liara in ME1, but that’s a lot of expensive work in terms of collaboration between story teams as well as all the usual stuff. It may be there was a certain amount done before focus group analysts or budget handlers decided he was too much work to finish properly for how interesting people find him. Then when the game goes gold and while everyone’s waiting for certification and disk pressing they tart him up a bit and paper over the cracks.

          1. Thomas says:

            That could make sense. On Thessia if he’s present, he’s the one who convinces the Asari to let you through and get to the temple, and then he has suitable big revelations at the temple. I could believe they’d made that but hadn’t got him up to speed and so waited for DLC. In the final game he behaves more like a full up companion than some of the other non-DLC companions. He does more than Liara or Garrus does in ME3

            … but then he’s collector edition DLC so maybe that makes it more suspect?

            1. ehlijen says:

              He does tell you a few things about the protheans, but nothing that’s helpful against the reapers that you haven’t heard already from other sources (and if you ignore the other sources long enough to ask him about it, the other source is still ‘the revelation moment’).

              Why make him a prothean if the one big thing that means (first hand knowledge of the last cycle) is not utilised? Sure, he’s a soldier who doesn’t know anything. Why though? All the writers had to do was make him a high ranking officer who knew at least some stuff, or a soldier assigned to guard a research post who saw some stuff but doesn’t fully understand it.
              Even a ‘slow recovery from cryo amnesia’ shtick would have been more interesting and helpful than ‘nope, no one told me’ if all they wanted was to ration out the plot portions.

              Heck, it feels like the whole thing with liara finding the crucible plans on mars was written to replace him, and not for the better :(

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                Or go the other way and still give him some insight into the last cycle but make the reason why he can’t provide more information more interesting. For example make him a member of a “sub race” dominated by Protheans. Perhaps one assimilated right before or even in the process of assimilation when the reaping started. Make him have at best mixed feelings about Protheans, maybe be angry with the image that the current cycle races have of them.

                1. Shamus says:

                  Wow. That would be really cool.

                2. ehlijen says:

                  That would require some explanation as to why he got frozen instead of one more actual master race prothean (I can’t imagine there having been much cryopod space to spare), but that should be workable through some ‘but what slaves will tend to me when I wake up?’ reasoning.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    He was helping his master to reach the pod,then at the last moment his master died(either by the reaper hand,or his hand),so he got in instead.

                    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                      That’s a good one, backstabbing the “Prothean master” at the last minute would make him a more interesting character and add further nuance to what he has to say about that cycle as presenting Protheans in a bad light would work in his favour. Damn, now I really wish Javik was this nuanced, developed character…

                    2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                      @Sleeping Dragon, Javik really IS a nuanced developed character. He is in fact, the ONLY character you can actually kill by overdoing the Paragon nice nice thing.

                  2. SlothfulCobra says:

                    You freeze whatever survivors you have on hand, and then it’s practically a roll of the dice to see which one gets to be the lucky one to be revived and doesn’t have their tube malfunction.

              2. Ite says:

                In my eyes, the “point” of Javik was essentially to burst the bubble of the myth of Protheans. The idealization of extinct civilizations and just generally past generations is a very real phenomenon, so I felt the whole thing was pretty cool.

                Essentially Javik was there to point out that really the Protheans were not THAT special. While they might have been technologically more advanced, you might argue that culturally they were in some ways less advanced, being slavers and maybe somewhat fascist in other ways too. Or you know, decide for yourself.

                But what ever they were, they certainly were not a super-race of demigods we should all look up to, worship and idealize.

                What I see as the biggest missed opportunity was making Javik yet another soldier, since we had so many of those in the game already. For most characters it made sense that they were warriors of one sort or another, because mostly you were flying around in a military/paramilitary ship and doing a lot of fighting. No reason to have a ton of civilians on board.

                Javik being Prothean made it possible for him to be pretty much anything, while still having a reason for him being useful in battle and someone Shepard would drag along. Making him a soldier was IMO pretty much the least interesting choice possible.

    3. Merlin says:

      As for what Geth talk about, I don't think any human has yet come close to imagining what it must be like for countless intelligences to be directly connected and exchanging data at the speed of thought (machine thought even, not organic thought which is usually hardcoded not to get bored while we watch a fellow species member's mouth parts flap about in agonising slow motion). It'd be a billion member IRC chat room where everyone does in fact read everything, minus the typing requirement.

      The film Her does a pretty good job. It’s filtered through the experience of the human protagonist, so it’s more about the confusion (bordering on betrayal) rather than the actual nuts and bolts, but the essence is there.

    4. Blake says:

      “It'd be a billion member IRC chat room where everyone does in fact read everything, minus the typing requirement.”

      Everything a Geth platform does is basically “Twitch Plays Robot Warrior”.
      I don’t know how to feel about this.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Since these Geth made the first move towards this kind of weapon, turning it on them might be an important lesson for the Geth.

    Also,we dont know for sure if its actually this faction that made the first move in this direction.Even if legion was 100% honest with us,which we have no reason to believe,we only know that this factions was first to actually finish such a thing.That doesnt mean that legions faction wasnt the first that started such a project.

    1. Victor McKnight says:

      “Legion makes it clear that this particular Geth conflict is the result of Reaper influence, but he also makes it sound like this is not their first disagreement.”

      Its been awhile since I have played this loyalty mission, so I may have some details wrong, but as I recall, Legion indicates that the Reapers hacked a portion of the Geth. So the entire conflict is from the Reapers doing to the “fanatics” what the “fanatics” are now trying to do to Legion’s group of Geth.

      I know people love the complexity of the choice at the end of Legion’s loyalty mission, but personally, this one detail always made the choice really simple for me – undo Reaper reprogramming/’brainwashing” or kill a bunch of Geth JUST for being reprogrammed/”brainwashed”. So that didn’t seem like much of a question to me.

      I concede that this only follows if we take Legion at his word, but many people seem to. I like issues of identity and free-will raised in the scenario, but Reaper subversive influence just invalidated a lot of these issues for me personally. I found the Rachnnai choice in ME1 far more interesting.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Actually, he implies more than once that the Reapers haven’t asserted “direct control” over the Geth as they HAVE done to all the organic species through indoctrination. It’s more like, when presented with a Reaper, some Geth are impressed enough to join them and do whatever they say, whereas other Geth are frightened and repulsed by them.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Though given that the Heretics and the “True” geth don’t seem to be in direct communication, how can he even know? Indoctrinated organics think they’re making their own decisions too, at least for a while. Saren thought he’d come to a workable compromise.

          In ME3, the mainstream geth have done a complete 180 on Reaper upgrades, and now think they’re the bees’ knees. So far have they come from the importance of doing it all on their own that Legion will kill or die to get the Reaper code back, and installed in every geth platform right now.

          (It really seems as if that should have bad consequences, but of course it doesn’t. Guess the Heretics had the right idea after all.)

      2. guy says:

        I never saw any indication that Sovereign had previously hacked the Geth, and I assumed he hadn’t; if he had, why didn’t it overrun the entire Consensus? I vaguely recall maybe hearing that he’d provided the virus, but that clearly wasn’t finished because they hadn’t employed it yet.

        1. Victor McKnight says:

          Hrmm, so I appear to be wrong, but I also know why, having now delved through all of Legion’s dialogue on YouTube. Basically, at one point Legion is talking about how the heretic virus works. He does indeed say Sovereign gave it to them in a Reaper data core (hence why he was on the derelict Reaper to figure out how the core is supposed to work). Now Legion had previously gone to great lengths to talk about consensus. And how data is disseminated and no “average opinions” are enforced, and all that. So in the middle of Legion’s explanation of the virus, Shepard says “So the reason they [the Geth] worship the Reapers is … a math error?”

          I recalled this line very specifically. When combined with the issue of supposedly unbreakable consensus being broken in the first place between the two factions, I always, erroneously, interpreted this as Sovereign having reprogrammed the heretics. Presumably it didn’t work because he couldn’t access all the server hubs or something.

          Do any of the Codex entries ever suggest how the Heretics formed a separate consensus?

          1. guy says:

            Not directly; I assumed that the code difference meant neither side could be persuaded that the other was correct, and thought the issue was too important to set aside or compromise on by agreeing to a course of action that they didn’t think was correct but was superior to doing nothing. So they eventually agreed to split the mobile platforms and part amicably, presumably because the mainline Geth had vastly superior numbers but didn’t want to kill or effectively imprison the Heretics.

          2. AlchemyAllegory says:

            Sorry I’m six years late, but you are correct about there being a conversation where Shepard chalks up the difference in opinion to a math error (though Legion doesn’t quite endorse this view).

            Here is the full conversation:

            Shepard: I thought geth couldn’t be hacked or get viruses? At least for more than a few seconds.

            Legion: Altered programs are restored from archives, new installations are deleted. This heretic weapon introduces a subtle operating error in our most basic runtimes. The equivalent of your nervous system. An equation with a result of 1.33382 returns as 1.33381. This changes the results of all higher processes. We will reach different conclusions.

            Shepard: So the reason they worship the Reapers is… a math error?

            Legion: It is difficult to express. Your brain exists as chemistry, electricity. Like AIs, you are shaped by both hardware and software. We are purely software. Mathematics. The heretics’ conclusion is valid for them. Our conclusion is valid for us. Neither result is an error. An analogy. Heretics say one is less than two. Geth say two is less than three.

            And a video of the entire interaction

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    In a drama-based world, if someone reprogrammed C3P0 to hate Luke, the expectation would be that Luke could appeal to him as a friend to break the “spell”. Maybe right before he kills Luke, he would be reminded of some moment of friendship they shared, and he would realize his mistake at just the last second, proving that evil can't win over good because love is true. Actually, since C3P0 is a comedy character, he'd probably be “fixed” by (say) hitting his head or being electrocuted. Or whatever. I'm sure you've heard that story before.

    Not only have I heard it,Ive watched it.And many here have,even though most probably forgot.So in order to keep your sanity and rage,please,stop reading.I implore you.

    Still here?Ok then,terminator 3.It has a robot that is able to take control of other machines.And she,naturally,takes control of the arny robot,making him kill john.Except at the last moment,arny wills himself to reboot and become good again.It was a really stupid thing in a really stupid movie.

    1. Squirly says:

      Why did I read this? I even re-watched this wreck a few months ago and that scene is a turd-cherry on top of a turd-cake of a movie.

    2. Syal says:

      Isn’t that what Skynet did though? That’s how robots work in Terminator.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Not really.Skynet was built without the three laws,so it didnt have anything to will itself from.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I presume that geth dont argue with each other all that often.I mean legion tells us that when geth do something,they do it because all the geth have agreed that they should do it.This implies that disagreements come only when some of the geth get exposed to something new,while they are not connected with the rest,and then they relay that information later second handed.And while geth are programs that communicate in a better,faster way than us meatbags,experiencing something first hand is still different than giving that info to someone later.

    1. Sartharina says:

      I always went with ‘rewrite’. Except for my “Dick Shepard” playthrough. Even when I think about the real world… What if the ideas to be erased/changed are socially harmful ones? (racism/sexism/homophobia/sociopathy/etc)

      1. guy says:

        Because that’s an assault on the very concept of freedom. Getting rid of harmful ideas sounds positive, but in practice it means that whoever has the power destroys ideas they don’t like. That’s not right, and it doesn’t become acceptable because we happen to agree with them. Using it that way becomes a reflection of the very ideas you’re proposing to destroy; it reflects a belief that the user is so superior to people who are not like them that they should assume control over nor merely what they do but even what they think, the most extreme form of slavery imaginable.

        Additionally, it shields the ideas it enshrines from being challenged. But if they can’t survive being challenged, perhaps they aren’t really correct after all.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Yeah– I always went with “destroy” except for my explicitly Renegade playthrough. (I know the game treats rewrite as Paragon and destroy as Renegade, but it was pretty clear to me which prioritized idealism and which pragmatism.)

          It seems even more straightforward in Mass Effect, where mental control is the signature tactic of virtually all the bad guys. The Reapers have Indoctrination, the Thorian runs the Feros colonists through its spores, Morinth practices serial killing through mental domination. Its ability to do the same is the reason saving the rachni queen always feels a little perilous and creepy, especially when you run into the asari who’s totally happy to be taken over to deliver a message on Illium. Jacob’s dad’s perpetrating an ongoing atrocity on people chemically made easy to control. Batarian shock collars. The Cerberus efforts that Jack broke free of.

          (And then in ME3 there’s the way Cerberus boosts its manpower.)

          So when it comes to altering the beliefs of uncounted numbers of sapients without their knowledge or consent? No thanks. Shepard’s a soldier– killing the enemy is part of the job description. But the rewrite is worse than slavery (which Colonist Shepard in particular has a Thing about). A slave can at least want to be free.

          1. guy says:

            Outright mental control is pretty generally a bad guy power; good guys who have it aren’t fond of actually using it. They’ll employ it in a fight, but not on sentients over the long term. Edits to make people forget specific information or plant false memories of details (as opposed to a false memory of always being on the other side) are the sorts of things telepathic good guys tend to do.

          2. swenson says:


            The way I saw it, setting aside what options were actually available in the game, you really had four options. First, you could’ve let the heretics do whatever they wanted with their own lives–but that would mean letting them effectively take over the non-heretics, and would be a serious threat to the rest of the galaxy. Not an option.

            Second, you could rewrite the heretics. However, at this point, you’re no better than the heretics. Forcibly changing someone’s mind, editing their beliefs to be in line with what you want, is incredibly immoral to me. Yes, more immoral than killing them. So this was not an option.

            Third, you could argue the heretics into understanding your point of view. This would be the ideal option, in my opinion–convince them to change their minds. Nobody’s freedom is compromised, nobody dies, and the geth are better for it. Unfortunately, you don’t have the time to do this, because you need to stop the heretics now.

            This leaves us with the fourth option, kill the heretics. Sure, killing intelligent beings (which the geth have to qualify as) is pretty immoral, especially if you’re doing it for something that they believe/are going to do, as opposed to something they’ve actually done. On the other hand, the geth heretics have caused a lot of death already, and are a serious, imminent threat to the galaxy. So… I have to go with this one. It’s the least terrible of the options.

            1. Thomas says:

              To me death is a curtailment of _all_ your freedoms (for non-religious people which I think the Geth would count as). You’re effectively telling them that they have no right to have any influence in the universe in any matter after this point, that nothing they believe they should do will be allowed to happen.

              The thing is, you don’t know if they value their belief more than death. You’re making that choice for them and denying them the right to choose. What if some of those Geth really wanted to be artists and would die for their art, but wasn’t willing to die over following the Reapers?

              The Geth departure was amicable, no wars were fought over it. No-one had already chosen to follow their beliefs over death, they’d just chosen to follow their beliefs instead of giving up that belief and continuing to live with other people.

              Of course both options are bad, but if you had someone in court for murder and your choice was to either erase their perchance for murder or kill them – and you couldn’t ask them which they preferred, then surely murder is the worse option there.

              Mind control is bad in fiction. But so is killing people because they believe something different from you.

              1. Mike S. says:

                Re the court option, obviously which is better comes down to an individual judgment call. But I can’t think of many SF backgrounds that use mindwipe where that isn’t treated, implicitly, as a fate worse than death. It’s generally played as horrific rather than merciful, even if the society that employs it does so because it’s deemed more civilized than physical punishment.

                1. guy says:

                  I can think of an exception; The Stainless Steel Rat . Though in that case the mind alteration is extremely targeted; it really does just make the subject stop wanting to commit crimes. The main villain in the first story is a serial killer, and post-rewrite is clearly exactly the same person minus a habit of killing for fun.

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    I didn’t read the SSR books, but if my impression of the psycho surgery she undergoes is correct, it removes a pathological tendency rather than a reasoned opinion.

                    Obviously, that’s a very fine line, the drawing of which is inherently controversial in the treatment of real-world mental illness. (See examples of things which were diseases in previous DSMs and are accepted human variation now, and the terrible choices that have to be made about where to permit involuntary commitment or treatment and where to leave people to their own devices, however miserable and dangerous to themselves that may be.) The difference between a choice we disagree with and want to deter or retaliate against, and a mental illness that needs treatment (and which can so disable judgment that the patient’s consent becomes secondary or impossible), is fraught and debatable and full of potential injustice erring in either direction.

                    But Legion, at least, doesn’t frame their disagreement as mental illness. They’ve just come to different conclusions based on the same underlying facts. Shepard can disagree, but if Legion’s understanding of geth is insufficient, it’s hard to say where Shepard can get another informed opinion.

                    (Tali knows geth tech, but clearly knows no more of their psychology than you do.)

            2. Mike S. says:

              And to be fair “what they believe” is that they should give all aid and comfort to multiple genocide, to be pursued via war with the Citadel species (and others). They opened the war at Eden Prime, and continued it at the Citadel, along with countless smaller actions throughout the first game. So this is retaliation for actual rather than potential attacks, in the course of a war that hasn’t been resolved via treaty or surrender by either side.

              I don’t think there’s any theory that admits war as legitimate at all that would consider destroying the main Heretic base unjustified at this point.

              1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                Right, this is why the options are “make them nice by force” or “kill them”. There’s no “just let them be for now” option.

            3. BruceR says:

              One could argue Geth culture as it was was doomed the moment the heretics opened this Pandora’s box. This technology, like all others, could be reinvented at any time with this crisis as the precedent, and used to solve any ideological dispute afterwards.

              Be that as it may, for the moment Shepard isn’t trying or interested in controlling *all* thoughts… she was trying at that moment to kill one specific idea, that the Geth had to ally with the Reapers and destroy all organic life. Wars kill off a specific way of thinking all the time if the option is killing all the people who hold it … 1940s Japan had a plan that could not be allowed to bear fruit, for example, as does ISIS now. “Breaking the morale” of a population like that is, practically speaking, forcing them to reject an idea they hold dear, through convincing ultraviolence. We commit as few casualties as we have to, but the *idea* has to die. And we still see that kind of outcome as morally superior to killing *all* of them. Roleplaying as “soldier Shepard” I thought her likely moral calculus would be along those lines.

              1. Mike S. says:

                To stop the ultraviolence, they just need to adopt the victor’s desired actions, not their ideas. Attempting to influence thought (via propaganda, etc.) is part of warfare, but actually controlling it mostly isn’t. When we’ve occupied a country, we might say that no one who’s on record as agreeing with X ideology can be part of the government, but we generally haven’t said that they need to be rounded up and reeducated. (That’s mostly left to the totalitarians of various stripes.)

                And I suspect that going more into specifics treads rather too close to politics. So let’s just say that it would take a heck of a good case to get me to endorse mind-control as a good-guy move in a video game.

                1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  It’s actually really clever as a moral dilemma. Basically a man is pointing a gun at a new friend of yours. You knock the gun out of his hand and grab it for yourself. The gun has two settings: low power and high power. Low power will make the attacker feel like he is your friend, but all other consequences are unknown. High power will kill him. Is it worth the unknown consequences to avoid killing him? Does he have the “right” to continue wanting to hurt you over the right to be alive?

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    There’s also the one that the game doesn’t make explicit: do I trust this unknown gun? I can tell if something’s dead (probably– here you can tell the platforms are destroyed, but not if the software was backed up). Telling that someone has been precision-brainwashed and not simply faking it is rather trickier. (And in the event, Shepard doesn’t even check– just flies off and trusts that it worked.)

                    Given that when you visit Rannoch in ME3, all of the geth have taken the Reaper upgrades and ultimately won’t give them up, there’s a fair case that the virus didn’t work. In which case returning the Heretics to the geth majority simply allowed their perspective to take over the entire species.

                    (The game doesn’t ultimately treat that as being true, but believing that is the biggest Paragon leap of faith in the game.)

                2. BruceR says:

                  I guess what is the Geth equivalent of the other ways we convince people their destructive ideas are really wrong? Forget war for a minute: in regular life there are people with positions so extreme we consider it justified to actively eliminate those thoughts, not just calmly discourage them. Extreme body dysphorics or diehard suicides, perhaps. If we had no therapy that worked, no drugs, no options for permanent confinement to avoid self-harm… but we did have a magic laser that could zap that one idea out of their brain effectively and not do any other damage… would it always be responsible to await their consent to the procedure?

                  One could make the case that by in submitting to the Reapers, the heretics have done something so insane that the Geth majority feel they cannot be in right mind, and therefore incapable of consent. Again, I think the military mathematics make the choice clear in the way that Hiroshima or Dresden would be clear to military minds of our time, obviating the need to work this analogy too deeply, but like the genophage is certainly the kind of compelling what-if that has always been at the core of great scifi, which is why I still heart this game, maybe even more than the first, even when all Shamus’ points are stipulated to.

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    One could make the case that by in submitting to the Reapers, the heretics have done something so insane that the Geth majority feel they cannot be in right mind, and therefore incapable of consent.

                    If the geth majority thought so, Shepard wouldn’t be having the conversation– they’d have just done it. Legion’s processes in particular are exactly deadlocked.

                    Could an alien with essentially no insight into human psychology legitimately judge that a condition constituted a mental pathology that justifies and demands nonconsensual treatment, when the nearest humans declared themselves completely at a loss to do so?

                    By making that the Paragon option, the games writers make it pretty clear that the answer, at least from the perspective of a heroic idealist, is “yes”. Me, I’m not so sure.

      2. King Marth says:

        And who decides what ideas are ‘socially harmful’? For the first three on your list, if you go back enough years you’ll find them to be the universally accepted social good. (Among those with power, of course; important survival tactic for exclusionary principles.) Which point in history gets to be the one to decide what the future will be forever? This is a good moral conundrum, because neither side is unquestionably right.

        I’d rewrite the Geth as well; both paths involve cultural genocide, but only one creates an equal-sized population of new beings. This is still their equivalent of the nuclear weapon, even if it isn’t used on them yet. The mere existence of this technology is a threat to their future, so I think it’s best to give them enough computing power (especially from the faction that figured it out to begin with) to decide on a countermeasure.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          And who decides what ideas are “˜socially harmful'?

          The geth community warriors.They are also known as the commie units,for short.

        2. Dasick says:

          It’s the current year and these ideas are still a universally accepted social good when you consider the context of this entire planet. It’s the official policy of China, most Middle Eastern and African countries, and deeply ingrained culturally in India. That’s your majority of the world’s population right there. Even among european countries and former colonies you still have enough people that those three ideas can be viable election platforms.

      3. Syal says:

        Add to your list self-worth, anger, addictions and obsessions of all kinds, exuberance, love, and other impulsive behaviors, illogic and irrationality, humor, and the entire sense of smell.

      4. Dasick says:

        A difference of opinions, even extreme ones such as this aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Polarized opinions keep one another in check, and through argument or working for a compromise they can come up with better solutions or further develop their positions. On the other hand, completely (or even locally… I’ve seen it happen enough times) eliminating “harmful” ideas leaves you in a position of stagnation and decay. Essentially, without ‘viruses’ to fight your mental ‘immune system’ breaks down and you can’t even filter out your own bad ideas.

    2. Thomas says:

      Yeah, from what I understood, when the Geth talk about achieving consensus, they don’t mean democratic consensus, they mean literally every Geth agreeing that that idea is the best. Their programs each have weird little quirks which give them different inputs, but they’re still similar enough to be able to come to the same conclusions after enough debating.

      1. Blake says:

        That’s not the way I saw it, I’m pretty sure Legion talks at some point about some of his programs disagreeing with his majority position.

        I’m pretty sure the Geth programs disagree with each other all the time but for any given mobile platform the majority decision is what stands.

        I figure the Geth choosing to side with the Reapers often left the platforms where they were always outvoted and joined like-minded Geth while others stayed and tried to sway opinions.

        1. guy says:

          I took it to be that the Geth always achieved consensus on a course of action, but often that happened when the losing side of the argument decided they’d rather go along with the majority opinion and do something right away rather than spend more time arguing their case.

  9. Abnaxis says:

    I’m vaguely going off of what I remember from ME1, but don’t AIs requires some sort of AI core, all of which have some random fluctuations on the quantum level? IIRC, this A) results in different AI “identities” that could disagree on different points and B) makes it impossible to precisely “clone” and AI. You can transfer the knowledge, but personality comes from the uncontrollable quantum fluctuations in the core.

    Of course, I don’t remember whether Geths were AI or VIs, so the point might be moot anyway…

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You are correct.But geth are VIs,so Shamoose is correct in his reasoning as well.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        Yeah, they were never intended to be self-aware AIs, they simply got to that stage by networking themselves together, as they were designed to be smarter in groups.

        1. Mike S. says:

          One thing I liked was that there’s more than one route to AI. Everyone knows about the quantum bluebox option, which is really useful and really dangerous, and so people keep building them in secret and then are shocked! when it all goes wrong.

          But the quarians legitimately thought that making collaborative VIs was potentially controllable in a way that “proper” AIs weren’t. And they only discovered differently when the geth were inextricably part of their infrastructure.

          (I entirely get why they panicked at that point.)

          1. Ringwraith says:

            It’s mentioned the geth are a rare case of AI not designed ‘top-down’ and instead were more of an accident from the ‘bottom-up’.
            Most AIs people try and build are meant to be AIs in the first place so are top-down designs.

    2. Sean Hagen says:

      Yeah, the Geth were a weird subversion of the in-universe rules for AI. Every other AI required a ‘blue box’ ( the quantum processor machine that allowed them to actually be sentient ). The Geth got around that because the Quarians built them to get smarter as they networked more units together.

      From what I understand, it’s more like the Geth are a giant network of VIs that have passed the level required to become self-aware. Every Geth ‘platform’ you fight is actually a piece of hardware hosting multiple Geth VIs that happen to be sentient because they’re networked. So even the rocket drones you fight in ME1 could have talked to you and become your best bud like Legion ( had they not been hacked by Sovereign ).

      What really starts to warp my brain is the question of if the Geth are a hive mind or not.

      Legion says they’re not, because they’re each an individual program. But if you don’t have enough programs, you don’t have an AI anymore, you’ve just got a VI. Think of it this way: with enough VIs networked together, you’ve got Legion. Start turning off individual programs, and eventually you end up with Avena ( a program that can imitate sentience, but is really just a nice interface to a database of facts ). Take away more, and you’d probably end up with a few VIs that couldn’t answer any question or perform any task.

      Of course, in my head I picture this as “many programs == Legion, few VIs == swarm of seagulls from Finding Nemo”, so it’s hard to write this out without laughing.

      1. Nixitur says:

        Well, it depends on how you define “hive mind”. Many sci-fi universes define it as having one hive queen or whatever controlling mostly mindless drones (like the Borg or Tyranids) and I always found that idea extremely boring. In Geth terms, it would be like having one “commanding” AI merely controlling the rest of the programs, even just in one mobile platform.
        What I find more interesting, and what I think the Geth actually are, is a group of consciousnesses that, through some kind of telepathy or other highly efficient means of conversation, are able to come to a consensus so quickly that they can be observed to talk and act as one. According to Legion, each mobile platform is made up of loads of Geth, but nonetheless, they appear to act as one, like Legion themselves.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          Yeah, and it makes it understandable how you can have divergent factions in the Geth. It’s not like the mass-produced VIs are disagreeing with one another individually, it’s that different collectives of VIs have converged on a different set of ideas from one another.

          It also begs the question: Is the virus really brainwashing thousands of Geth, robbing them of their self-determination of their beliefs; or is it only brainwashing a single entity, that collective consciousness that has decided to support the Reapers? Does enacting the travesty on a single consciousness made of many parts change the moral calculus versus enacting a travesty on a large sect made up of individual sophonts?

          I mean really, the latter case is similar to (say) chemical castration, which is required by law sexual deviants in many parts of the world.

        2. Redingold says:

          It’s interesting, because the geth are closer to how a hive actually works. A real hive, like an anthill, doesn’t have the queen ant controlling all the other ants. Each ant simply obeys simple instincts, and then from these instincts a rudimentary intelligence develops, that can do things like find food and react to being attacked. The way the geth are described, each geth is only a simple program that possesses no real intelligence. The geth intelligence just comes from how all the simple geth programs accumulate and process information collectively.

    3. djw says:

      From a Mass Effect lore standpoint I have no doubt that you are correct.

      However, I grind my teeth in frustration every time I see “Quantum Mechanics” equated to “Magical Consciousness Machine”.

      To be fair, its far from a settled issue, and there are some smart people who argue both ways, but I am willing to bet real money that quantum phenomena are completely irrelevant for consciousness.

      1. Poncho says:

        I agree, the brain’s intelligence has nothing to do with quantum phenomena, it’s just a bunch of neurons simulating logic.

        What I do like about the quantum boxes, though, is that it explains how you can get so much processing power in such a small package. It took nature billions of years of evolution to achieve human intelligence, so a couple hundred years of computer science hasn’t figured out the AI question without some special advancement in quantum computing.

        1. djw says:

          Yes, that is a good point. If the quantum box is important for the processing power then I am fine with that.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Actually, IIRC (again I’m half-remembering this from forever ago) the quantum box isn’t a “consciousness” thing, it’s an “individuality” thing. Like, due to quantum uncertainty it’s impossible to make an exact copy of a blue box, because it’s impossible to duplicate all the variations in the quantum states of the particles within the box. Since somehow the net effect of all those variations affects the “personality” of the AI, it’s impossible to mass produce identical AIs.

            I remember this because I thought it was a neat idea that actually taps into the way quantum physics really works. I mean, it’s still a big question mark in quantum physics, as to whether or not the statistical distribution of quantum states is because we can’t measure the underlying cause for those states or because they’re the states themselves are fundamentally random. In fact, the many worlds theories originate from physicists who are struggling to work out some conceptualization of the universe where cause and effect still works on a quantum level.

            1. djw says:

              Well, you have many billions of neurons in your brain, so the odds of exactly copying any given mental state are vanishingly small without invoking Quantum Magic ™.

  10. someone says:

    I just wanted to say to you shamus that this series and your writings in general are rare diamonds in the garbage pile known as videogame criticism/journalism. This is where the standard should be.

    Oh and I also laughed out loud for a solid minute at that Joker impersonation, I don’t think any videogame has managed that before or since.

    1. Deager says:

      Hear, hear!
      Not only the series being great but I like reading all the comments from really smart people. Helps me wrap my head around ideas in the game.

    2. Zekiel says:

      Hear hear. Well I’m not quite so down on the state of video game commentary overall, but I am really delighted by Shamus’ long-form commentary on ME. It is wonderful – thanks Shamus!

  11. Incunabulum says:

    “But in Geth? Where would these differences come from? They presumably run on the same hardware. They spend most of their existence downloaded into server farms, which means they're not out in the world having different sensory experiences. ”

    I think you’re missing something here.

    The Geth are not one species of identical clone intelligences. Legion even tells you that each ‘individual’ you see running around shooting at you is a gestalt mind formed from multiple Geth running on the hardware in that body. Think of each individual Geth less as an individual person and more as a cognitive module that is plugged into multiple other cognitive modules to make a mind – similar to how your own brain has a language center, a motor center, a vision center, etc – its just the cognitive modules also have their own agenda and can choose to mix and match depending on what skills that Geth needs to accomplish its objectives. Unlike a Human’s mind, where you’re stuck with what you’ve got.

    There’s no reason to assume that an ‘individual’ Geth is even self-aware, let alone near human levels of intelligence – actually, its likely they aren’t, which is why Geth bodies get smarter the more there are of them together – until they connect up with a few buddies.

    They are closer to the machine culture in “The Matrix” – innumerable purpose-built machine intelligences, each created for some purpose (even if that original purpose is no longer applicable) and are probably far more divergent than humanity is.

    Even running on the same hardware set, they have access to different sensory experiences. Its not like there need be only one consensual reality or means to perceive it, ‘inside’ the hardware. Plus, each one has access to all the sensors tied to that hardware. Effectively meaning that each one could have his own unique view out his bedroom window – or have the exact same view as a billion other copies of itself.

    Machine intelligences are as alien in form as its possible to be.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      That, plus:

      For complicated optimisation problems, people don’t often use completely deterministic approaches these days, and it’d make sense that the “real world” problem Geth deal with (Politics, people, whom to ally with, whom to attack and how…) are a few orders of magnitude more complicated because a) there are a lot more variables and b) the effects of anyone’s actions on other parties’ actions can’t be accurately predicted, it’s just probablilities at best.

      => It would stand to reason that the Geth would use some non-deterministic algorithm to make those decisions. This is what humans do as well, although we are extremely good at convincing ourselves that our decisions were entirely rational and without alternative.

      More concretely, this could be something like a genetic algorithm, where you start out with random bunch of potential solutions, test them against your model of reality, keep the ones you like best, then modify them in some random way, rinse, repeat. Even for some engineering problems, this can lead to separate solutions, where solution A has some advantages and disadvantages on solution B, but anything between A and B is worse than both. Great, now you have to decide which advantages are more important to you, including things like how “stable” an optimum is (i.e. if a small modelling error could change the answer a lot), and then it becomes a meta discussion pretty quickly… if there is limited time, too, it just comes down to subjective criteria.

      This is a sort of problem that identical logical algorithms could disagree on, even if exposed the the same input data.

    2. SlothfulCobra says:

      The problem is, even their sensory experience could be easily deleted or copied to another Geth. There’s nothing to make even that unique. The only things truly separating them are individual quirks in the way they were programming, and perspective when they’re not synced up, and conveniently, the main goal the Geth have is to sync up forever so there would effectively never have to be a difference between any of the Geth ever. Kind of spooky when you think of it.

      I’ve seen some depictions of AI where they need to be intrinsically linked to the platform their software runs on, just as the human consciousness so far as we know is intrinsically linked to the meat it inhabits, and that’s a lot less confusing.

      1. Incunabulum says:

        Sync up *memory*, but each Geth VI is still a different program in *function*.

        One set may be designed to have really good signal processing capabilities for motion, another recognizes static shapes very well, another set is built to handle body movement, etc.

        All these different VI are sub-human in intelligence and not self-aware but when linked up provide exceptional vision and agility in whatever body the Geth network is using.

        Essentially, they don’t harmonize their *personalities* or core objectives, only their *access* to sensory information.

        No matter what, you don’t have to make them identical to get unanimity. They have access to their own (and each others) core mental processes – its pretty trivial (essentially just a *power* problem – rather than finesse) to do a sum-over-possibility of the totality of Geth to get a solution that all of them would find acceptable enough to willingly pursue.

  12. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’m not done reading the article so if you make this point further down I apologize. But its occurred to me after all this time given what Bioware’s strengths and weaknesses are what they should be doing.

    People can defend their weak plots because the side stories with the characters are good at the companions are likable. The problem is, the game’s plot is about some overarching big event.

    Bioware should have the event be more of a backdrop and make the plot a personal story focused on the characters. Its kind of what Witcher 3 did. Yes you still go fight the big bad at the end but the story isn’t really focused on the big bad, its focused on personal stuff you and your friends are going through as you get ready for that. Don’t treat that stuff as side stories. Shift it to the foreground and turn it into your plot.

    That way, they don’t really have to worry about getting this background stuff right as much. Blanks will be expected. T

    I dunno. I think it might help them.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Dragon Age 2, it seems to me, tried that. In my opinion, it didn’t go well.

      I think they need to do one or the other, kinda. Either focus on the personal and leave the big events mostly out of it, or build in a big overarching plot and tie all of the companions into that. You can do the wonderful companion stories inside a big story — I think ME3 actually DOES do that well, at times — or inside a personal story, but there’s a shift in how you do that for each: for the big story, it has to be tied to the overall big plot, but for the personal story it has to be more tied to who you are as a person.

      That being said, if you want to see a series that does what you seem to be asking for right, I’d say the Personas (especially 3 and 4) manage to pull it off … but then they separate the two completely so that you’re mostly in the big plot when it’s being developed and in the personal side when you’re doing that, so that doesn’t quite seem to be what you’re after, either.

      1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        Its not that I personally really want that. I’m with Shamus on wanting grand world building and detail first storytelling (with engaging characters welcome but not strictly necessary). While I like the Mass Effect characters I don’t care enough about most of them to hang a plot on them. But other fans do care and that seems to be Bioware’s brand at this point, the thing they pretty much always get right. So they should build around that even if it leaves me less satisfied.

        As for Dragon Age 2, I don’t feel like that aspect of it is why the game failed. I actually think the plot was stronger than the subsequent Inquisition. DA2 because of repetitive gameplay and maps and possibly because of Anders

        1. Daimbert says:

          As for Dragon Age 2, I don't feel like that aspect of it is why the game failed. I actually think the plot was stronger than the subsequent Inquisition. DA2 because of repetitive gameplay and maps and possibly because of Anders

          It’s why it failed — or, to put it better, why it failed to impress me — for me; the main plot was far too much in the background, so much so that when it came up into the foreground I had to wonder why I cared, and it didn’t make sense either. And I played a mage!

          I had no problems with the maps or the gameplay. Anders … yeah, that was an issue.

          That the plot is stronger than that of Inquisition does not make me happy, as Inquisition is up next for me [grin].

          (And it’s starting out on the wrong foot already, with the whole issues around importing saves. I bought the PS4 version just to, well, HAVE something for the PS4, then remembered importing and tried to get the PS3 version, and then found out that the PS3 version won’t import saves either, and that you had to go through Dragon Age Keep, and so had to send the PS3 version back because if I have to create my backstory on an external website anyway it might as well be on the more powerful system, which was all really, really annoying and, well, does not make me happy [grin]).

          1. guy says:

            I feel like DA2 fails because it does have a big, overarching plot and didn’t let you participate in it in a helpful way. The mage-templar conflict is woven through the whole thing, but Hawke only impacts the ending by driving Meredith insane, enabling Anders, and killing the moderates on both sides. It might have worked better if they’d properly committed to not having grand events, or having them happen elsewhere and have Hawke deal with the consequences locally.

            For instance, the third act could have started with the news that the simmering conflict had erupted elsewhere with a circle being purged, and Hawke working with Meredith and Orsino to try to keep the situation in Kirkwall calm.

            1. Daimbert says:

              That’s kinda my point: it didn’t go full on “big story” or “personal story”, and ended up doing neither very well. It’s hard to do both at the same time, and Bioware’s probably not set up to actually do it.

            2. Couscous says:

              I feel like it should have borrowed from Les Miserables in terms of the main characters being swept up in big events and still having their own personal stories that just happen to involve being tiny players in big events who don’t change the course of history or anything. Plus an overarching idea. A fairly clear main thread about Jean Valjean running through the story and digressions that aren’t really part of the story that are actually enjoyable and meaningful instead of feeling like the literary equivalent of collecting 10 bear asses for some poorly justified reason.

              Instead, it seems like they had to make the player party important and solve and cause major problems. Not just Hawke but other members of the party like the pirate lady who is the cause of the Qunari issue, the magic terrorist, and the person who manages to become leader of the guards pretty quickly. Besides that, stealing the lyrium idol that causes the final boss to become insane and ending the Qunari issue pretty much single handedly.

              It probably didn’t help that I didn’t care for many of the character interactions because the quips in some parts started reaching the levels of the worst parts of Age of Ultron where some of the conversations seemed to be nothing but quips that sounded really artificial.

              Finally, I wish Bioware would just give up the player choice thing or greatly limit it for many of their future games because Dragon Age 2 reminded me of the worst parts of games that claim to be about player choice or choose your own adventure stuff. It was way too railroaded and not in the better way where you will only notice how railroaded everything is once you start replaying the game and making the opposite choices that conveniently result in the same stuff happening. Do you help Merrill when she asks? If you don’t, she will just complete the mirror anyway somehow in a way that makes it way too obvious how meaningless the choice is. It is like Bioware feels they must have some moral choice system for nearly everything and shove it in. That is the only explanation I have for the choice at the end of Mass Effect 1 existing at all.

              1. Thomas says:

                I think Bioware should refocus their choice on your small personal interactions than on larger things. I really hope the Citadel DLC will be a model they weave into their games more and more as they go on.

                My argument is still that they should drop continuity, stop trying to make your choices matter across multiple games (because that’s impossible) and just make it matter in one and then remove your next game from the effects of any of those choices (either by creating a canon or setting the events far away in space or time)

      2. djw says:

        I think that Dragon Age 2 failed due to re-used graphical assets, “falling men”, railroad plot, and a general contempt for publishing a finished and polished product.

        On the other hand, the character driven parts of Dragon Age 2 succeeded magnificently. The characters were well put together, and the interactions between them were funny and entertaining. The overall plot was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing it play out, but in order to deliver it they had to restrict player agency quite a bit.

        I guess what I am trying to say is that Dragon Age 2 is actually a good example of Wide and Nerdy’s point. Where it went wrong (and it did go very badly wrong) was in the non-character driven portion of the game.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I’m actually referring to the overall plot of the game, not the characters. That being said, I found the characters kinda “Meh” in DA2, especially when compared to ME2. I liked Varric, but the others were at best mildly interesting, and the ending made me hate Anders (moving him from “Meh” to “Do I get to kill you?” territory).

          Anyway, in terms of the story DA2 is mostly about you and your life, but it tries to keep the big boss part of the story as well, which percolates in the background and dominates the final act. But having to establish that story hurts your personal story as the ending has to build to and focus on that big plot, but focusing on your personal story for most of the game leaves the big plot underdeveloped. So, in fact, it fails at the non-character portion of the game that you need in order to drive the character portions. I think that you can do good characterization inside a big story or inside a personal story, but you generally need to focus on one or the other, and I interpret Wide and Nerdy as talking about doing a minimized big story inside a personal story, and my comment is that that’s what DA2 did not do well.

          1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

            I’m thinking about this more and the rabbit hole goes deeper.

            Whats really going on in DA2 is Cassandra wants Varric to explain what Hawke’s role was in the outbreak of Mage Templar war in Kirkwall. Varric can see that she’s convinced Hawke must of somehow started it. Hawke is a meddler after all and Hawke and/or Bethany are apostates. So he wants her to understand who Hawke is and how he got into this position.

            So there’s some focus on Hawke’s role in that conflict but Varric is carefully balancing that with the story of Hawke’s arrival in Kirkwall and his/her rise to fame so that Cassandra sees that while Hawke was involved, it wasn’t his/her fault.

            This is why things start out very focused on Hawke’s personal story in act one before the other plots take more prominence in Acts Two and Three.

            1. Mike S. says:

              It also makes sense in light of the theory (unconfirmed as far as I know) that Hawke was supposed to be what became the Inquisitor. Scrapped, so the thinking goes, in part because of the commercial failure of DAII, in part because one of the complaints was being forced to play a human rather than having an Origins-like choice of backgrounds.

              Given that, the parallel origin stories of the hero and the problem, and showing why the former is specially concerned with the latter (without it really being under their control) makes a bit more sense. It also dovetails with the DLC that introduces Corypheus and gives him and Hawke a special interest in one another. And Cassandra’s arc in DAI, where she starts out blaming the PC for the disaster, then uses them as a focus to unite people’s efforts, and eventually follows them as a leader, is strongly foreshadowed by her attitude towards Hawke (and Varric) as she listens to the story in DAII.

              If that’s the case, then Hawke was always supposed to be a world-saving hero, just not in that game.

        2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          If they could have kept doing what they did in Act One throughout the game, they would have succeeded. You’re an apostate (or harboring one). You’re living in the slums. You’ve only survived this long because the criminal organization you worked for paid the right people to leave you alone.

          But your service to them has ended, they have no reason to keep protecting you. You can do what they did but you need money. So you need to go on an expedition with Bartrand. But you need to buy in as a partner which is going to be expensive. So the first act is about you raising the money to go on the expedition, with a side quest related to regaining your family home and title (which is relevant to the same plot.)

          Thats a nice basis for a plot. Given that the story eventually shifts to the Mage Templar conflict, I feel like they could have kept the plot personal with some reworking.

          What they could have done is emphasized something that is mostly implicit in the plot. Hawke was running around helping people in the first act because he needed money. In the second act he’s rich but it could be that the situation he was forced into in the first act led him to discover that he liked being an adventurer and a hero and so he kept doing it even though he didn’t need to anymore. But then his meddling starts to cause trouble and it goes from there.

          1. djw says:

            Another obvious plot hook for act 2 and beyond was to bribe or do favors for templars to have them overlook either Hawke or Bethany’s apostasy. If one of the templars was requiring you to act as an agent in return for looking the other way it could have justified a good portion of your Act 2 and 3 adventures.

            (Even then, they needed to tone down the magic special effects so that it is not so freaking obvious that you are using badass magic during all of your street brawls. That really strained my sense of immersion, especially during my “Hawke Blood Mage” run through).

            1. Couscous says:

              There were a ton of things that felt like they should have been important in Dragon Age II that the game just kind of didn’t do much with. Am I the only one that found it weird that they do the entire rise through the criminal underground in one brief non-in engine cutscene? That was something I kept on expecting to pay off in terms of conflict such as giving Hawke a reputation that money can’t entirely pay off. Heck, I thought Hawke being an outsider might come up as a real issue. Or hanging out with a ton of ne’er-do-wells.

              1. djw says:

                Indeed. Either Hawke was an apostate or Hawke had “friends” who were apostates (Merril and Anders). You almost certainly had a mage in your group. If it was Merrill and you used the very awesome Primal skill tree then you had lightning everywhere, and Merrill was probably encased in stone. No way does this go unnoticed… except for the fact that nobody ever turns you in, even though you are living in a city that is the epitome of reactionary templar behavior.

      3. Trix2000 says:

        I think it’s more accurate to say that the Persona games had a mix of integrating the character stuff in the main plot vs the optional content. Like, there’s a lot of stuff in the social links that could be important to character development, but a player could ignore with respect to the main story pretty easily. However, there are STILL a lot of major character building moments in the main scenes, and they often do a great job of tying the characters’ personalities into the plot threads as well (P4’s dungeons and how they relate to their respective characters is a biggie I think).

        But I really think it all comes down to execution in the end, because no matter what balance you try to strike in the game’s focus… execution will determine whether it feels right or falls flat somewhere. Some games do well on their focus but fail on other aspects (ie: characters vs main plot in ME2), some manage to fail BOTH (not going to pick an example here), and the truly rare gems can manage to succeed almost everywhere (I’d argue P4, but this comes down to opinion too).

        1. Daimbert says:

          As I’ve said before, I’m talking more about mixing the story of you and the story of the big, world-threatening threat, which is what I thought Wide and Nerdy was kinda alluding to. We’ve had many games that do good characterization in big plots and in personal ones. ME2, for example, does in my opinion great characterization inside a big plot, even though the big plot was kinda stupid (and got sacrificed for the characterization, to be honest). Trying to mix a personal plot and a world-dominating plot is very hard to do.

          So, in my view, the Personas do it by having the personal plot be limited to the S-links and your day-to-day interactions, and advancing the world-threatening plot in the dungeons and plot cutscenes. So who you are is defined by what you do out in the world, but the plot moves forward through the main dungeon mechanisms. So, yes, it was a GREAT move to have the dungeons be personalized in P4, but that’s the main plot, as it represents what the main threat was doing and trying to do, and advances solving the main mystery. But maxing your S-links, even with your party members, has little to no impact on the main story at all; it’s all about you deciding who you are and who you want to be around. This separation is what makes it all work, and also allows for the wonderful way the game brings this all back together at the end.

          1. guy says:

            Persona 3 does have a number of major character development moments during the main plot, though there’s only a limited connection between that and the social links; the social link plots don’t dynamically react to the point you’re at in the main plot, and your links with the upperclassmen are just locked out completely until the main plot event that kicks off their social link storyline, though that’s relatively easy to miss because they’re also gated by your high school stats.

            1. Daimbert says:

              I’m more talking about the personal plot of the main character, to the extent that there is one, and not really about the supporting characters. Again, I think that you can build characters well inside a big story and inside a personal story, but it’s hard to mix a strong personal story with a big story and have that work. The Personas do that by mostly separating them. For example, the big character moments happen without the MC being at all present and involved, so it’s advancing the story, not the MC’s personal interactions with them.

    2. Spacewreck says:

      I think they did that to some extent in ME2, intentionally or not. In terms of game time, you spent much more of the game in the recruitment and loyalty missions than you do with the main plot. For large parts of the game the Collectors are more of a MacGuffin than anything else.

      I think that ties into Shamus’s argument about the main plot falling apart much sooner in the series than ME3. ME2 spent so much more time on the characters, whose writing was largely better, that the flaws in the main plot weren’t as apparent either because people were more forgiving due to enjoying the characters or because the main plot simply didn’t get as much screen time. When it become front and center as it did in ME3, the flaws are harder to ignore.

      1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        Yeah. I’m rethinking what I said. They’re actually kind of doing that. I’m not sure how you do it more than they do while operating under the following restrictions.

        1) You have to give the player some control over character creation. Meaning its going to be hard to structure the plot around his/her actions. You can give the player a motivation and let them decide within the framework of the character how they’re going to pursue that motivation but if you give the player much control over the how, it becomes harder and harder to write a satisfying personal plot around the player. They could go for the classic rpg appeal and shoot for more freedom like Obsidian does in which case the player doesn’t need a strong personal plot because they feel empowered (and that empowerment makes the experience personal in a different way), or they could go for a fully defined character like the Witcher series does so that the restrictions don’t matter because we know who Geralt is. But they go for something in between and that makes this hard.

        2) You have to give the player control over who they bring in their squad most of the time. So for large chunks of the game, the supporting characters have to have minimal impact on the plot even though they’re always present.

        3) Those squaddies have to fit a complicated matrix that lets player have a balanced squad for missions, multiple squaddies for each role in case you don’t like a particular character and don’t want to feel stuck with them. And they also have to pull double duty fitting a romance matrix because Bioware is known for that now. You have to have options for all preferences and they can’t all be flexible on preference. There are limits on what kind of plots you can write for a character who is also going to be a love interest and these characters fill up a much larger part of the story than they would in other fiction or games.

        4) There’s also the restriction of having to provide choices that fall along a morality axis and having characters react both to the choices and to your overall morality rating. Though the obvious answer to that is to ditch that system. DAI is a step in the right direction.

        Considering all that, they actually do a pretty good job of making characters fit into the plot most of the time. Exception being Inquisition. Maybe its just that game that makes me feel that way. I feel like thats the point when romance completely took over being plot integral (though a few characters manage to remain central, Solas, Cassandra, Josephine, Cullen, and Varric to a lesser extent).

        1. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, it’s hard to make a good personal story if you don’t have a defined protagonist, and Bioware aims for the standard Western RPG-style where you get control over the protagonist, and I don’t really want them to change that. That being said, I think that DA2 DOES make a decent stab at that, by giving the player general goals that the characters really ought to want to pursue, and then railroading in the sense of providing rather obvious ways to achieve those goals. It just needs to give more freedom in the means and drop the big story plot ending … or, at least, tie that more personally to the player than they actually did.

      2. Daimbert says:

        I think they did that to some extent in ME2, intentionally or not. In terms of game time, you spent much more of the game in the recruitment and loyalty missions than you do with the main plot.

        I’d argue that in ME2 the main plot is nothing more than an EXCUSE to go around and gather up the companions and do their loyalty missions. This makes the main plot mostly extraneous, to my mind. I’d probably go so far as to say that outside of the character portions, ME2 HAS no plot. This has its own problems, of course, but is ironically both worse and better than what DA2 does. Meaning that ME2 doesn’t really advance the plot in any way — as I think Shamus commented — or really set anything up — at least not well — for the next game, which DA2 does … but then as the second part of a series the fact that you don’t make progress is likely to be disheartening.

        1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          It does at least provide something real in both cases to anchor the plot “I need gold” or “I need a team”. I wish they’d stick with that and discard the more nebulous concepts like “war assets” and “power points”.

  13. Emilia Wake says:

    Hold on a sec. “Is it that intriguing N7 chestplate that the writers are smart enough to not explain?” I thought that was explained. I mean, the discussion was pretty much just:

    “Why’d you use my armour?”
    “There was a hole.”
    “But why my armour?”
    “No data available.”

    Paraphrasing, obviously. I mean, to me that’s a very interesting exchange. It reveals that Legion is interested in Shepard, curious even. Certainly not the cold logic you’d expect from machines. It hints at there being a speck of irrationality in Legion’s function. Under most circumstances I feel it would take away from the situation by imposing a “see, they’re like us after all” reading but with Legion, I feel like it just adds to it. I mean, if there’s one key aspect of what makes us human, or “organic intelligence” in a sci-fi setting, is that we don’t truly understand ourselves. I think science is largely predicated on the idea (aside from its practical applications) that by understanding our surroundings we might be able to understand ourselves. But I’m venturing into a territory I’m not certain I’m skilled enough to swim in. Let’s pull this back into Mass Effect, shall we.

    To me, the fact that Legion was unable to reach consensus (which is why they offer Shepard the choice, as Shepard’s fought the heretics and thus has some insight to them) in regards to the heretic situation is quite important in regards to the nature of Geth. It implies that not all Geth runtimes are the same as they clearly weigh certain parametres more than others. I can’t help but feel that perhaps in this situation, thinking that prior sensory experience is the only way to establish methods of evaluation is (somewhat) benign anthropomorphising. Perhaps it’s hardcoded into each Geth program? After all, we know that an isolated geth program only possesses a very basic intelligence. It’s when they’re grouped together that they gain the ability to reason.

    Anyway, I’ve lost my train of thought for too many times to count. I feel like I could write a book exploring the subject but not enough time, and I’m pretty sure that would make the comment section irritating to go through.

    1. swenson says:

      All that stuff you’ve concluded about Legion, though, is never directly stated in the game. Shepard and Tali never have a conversation going “WHOA DID YOU KNOW GETH CAN HAVE EMOTIONS”. I think that’s what Shamus means when he says it’s left unexplained. We’re meant to work out on our own, without the game explicitly telling us, that Legion is more than just a computer program (and, by extension, all geth).

      It’s also never explained how Legion actually found the thing to begin with. Wouldn’t it have been with Shepard’s body? So how and when did Legion get it? Did he find Shepard’s body first, before the whole Liara/the Shadow Broker/Cerberus thing? Did he steal it from Liara/the Shadow Broker/Cerberus? Was it left at the Normandy crash site for some reason? We can draw conclusions about why Legion has it, but it’s left very vague about how he has it.

      1. Mike S. says:

        All geth, definitely. As you say, it’s implicit. But they adopt a caretaker role for Rannoch. And in ME3 they’re so attached to it that of all the gin joints in all the stars they choose there to build their Dyson sphere, where they could have chosen a lifeless star with no garden world and no one would ever bothered them, or likely even found them. Likewise, the tug-of-war over whether to build their own future or seek help from the Old Machines: that’s ultimately a question of values more than anything else.

        (And it’s hard to miss the fact that they relate to “the creators” as estranged, abusive parents. They’re prepared to kill for their inheritance. But they’re keeping the old homestead maintained just in case mom and dad come to their senses and thank them for it instead.)

        As with Legion’s use of the N7 plate, they can handwave it in terms of logic and efficiency if they want, but they’re as willing to die over fundamentally nonrational attachments as any organic.

      2. Tyler says:

        This is very old, but if you take Legion to the Normandy crash site he tells you that is where he found the piece of your armor he used to patch his hole. He came there looking for you, and found that Cerberus had already taken you.

        Legion was my favorite.

    2. SlothfulCobra says:

      That exchange always bothered me, because OF COURSE there’s a hole. I can see it RIGHT THERE, and it’s STILL gaping wide, leaving all his circuits and cables bared for all to see. You could reach right through him.

      Why didn’t he take a little part of the chestplate to finish the patch job? He’s worse than Garrus!

  14. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Maybe Geth “arguments” are basically one big alpha-beta pruning algorithm being run. Each Geth gets a branch to explore, and they compare who gets the best results.

    Of course, just because they’re running on the same hardware doesn’t mean that they can’t be different. They’re software, after all. Assassin’s Creed and Minecraft both run on the same hardware, but it doesn’t make them the same game. The Geth may introduce variation/improvements/upgrades/specialties into themselves in order increase their potential to find solutions to problems.

    1. Taellosse says:

      I was going to say something very like this: as (or at least originating as) purpose-built specialized software programs, the Geth are NOT all the same, even when they spend most of their time running on similar hardware platforms. Presumably the “personality” of any given Geth collective (since individual Geth, insofar as that term has any meaning, are not actually sapient) is strongly influenced, if not outright determined, by the combination of specialized programs that combine to form it. And in a scenario where, say, Batman Arkham Asylum, Solitaire, Paint Shop Pro, and a calculator can all get together to form a thinking being, I’d expect that personality to be noticeably different from one formed by the combination of Photoshop, Excel, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Minesweeper.

      1. Incunabulum says:

        And this is an excellent opportunity to explore the meaning of ‘personal identity’.

        Which is left off the table.

        When paint Pro decides it would rather do something else and Batman and Solitaire then team up with Minecraft – who’s responsible for any crimes committed by the original trio?

        None of them *idividually* is the same ‘individual’ as they are combined, and each combination – even though it may be using the same chassis, is a different person – who has all the memories of the preceeding combo.

  15. Joshua says:

    Well, my preferred type of Sci-Fi is the kind that actually explores big ideas, and often specifically, how technological and/or scientific changes would actually impact human interaction, philosophy, or humanity as a whole. I don’t like ones that just replicate modern concepts with futuristic weaponry.

    So, for example, that’s why I like movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind over ones that are just space shooters.

    1. Vermander says:

      I guess I’m the opposite when it comes to most “futuristic” sci fi. I don’t have an engineering or technical background, so I’m mostly uninterested in hearing about how the technology works.

      On the other hand, I’m very interested in history and spend way to much time complaining about the pseudo-medieval societies in fantasy stories shouldn’t work, how “Mage” shouldn’t be a job, and how regular people shouldn’t be walking around wearing armor all the time.

  16. Matt says:

    I seem to remember Legion saying something about how when individual Geth are assigned to certain platforms they acquire unique experiences. They then bring these experiences back to their home servers, where the myriad Geth attempt to achieve consensus on these experiences. Since each server is receiving unique experiences and only sharing them with others after consensus is reached, it would be possible for factions to form and disagreements to occur.

    Legion was my favorite new character in ME2 and, like others, I had hoped for a similar experience with Javik and was sorely disappointed.

    1. Taellosse says:

      I think there might have been if he hadn’t been cut and relegated to DLC early on. There are vestiges of it in your conversations with him, but I agree, it’s not as interesting or satisfying as it could have been.

  17. Mephane says:

    A compelling, well-written, non-comedic AI companion? For a brief moment I considered installing ME2 (got it for cheap in one of the Steam sales long ago, never played). I would even endure the various issues with the main story and some of the other companions for that. Heck, I might be able to grudgingly accept the needless scrabbling for “ammunition”.

    But what I cannot stand at all is this concept where if you begin the wrong mission at the wrong time, poof you will locked out of some side missions, companions may die and you now must advance the main story regardless how much other unfinished business you still have. It would require me to play the game with a wiki or a guide, basically, and that would take most of the fun out of it, but stumbling upon the gotcha moment would do the same. In other words, it’s a lose-lose situation for me, either way I know I will hate it.

    1. Christopher says:

      I couldn’t tell you of the top of my head, but if you search for a similar sentiment(“What missions do I need to do before a timer runs out”) I’m sure there’s a forum post somewhere that would tell you the name and time limits of those missions with no other details. I think there is even just a single one that means you lose someone if you don’t do it quick enough. Even just knowing that one mission needs to be done quickly, I feel confident that you’d be able to tell from what happens that you have to hurry.

    2. Raygereio says:

      But what I cannot stand at all is this concept where if you begin the wrong mission at the wrong time, poof you will locked out of some side missions, companions may die and you now must advance the main story regardless how much other unfinished business you still have.

      There’s only one point in ME2 where there’s a timer of sorts: After you acquire Reaper IFF.
      – If you have no Recruitment or Loyalty mission active, the IFF will automatically activate once you acces the Galaxy map.
      – If you still have Recruitment or Loyalty missions active, you can do two before the IFF will active the next time you access the Galaxy map.
      Having DLC or side missions active, doesn’t matter.
      – Once the Reaper IFF has activated, your ship’s crew has been abducted.
      If you go immediately, you’ll be able to save the whole crew.
      If you do 1 to 3 missions, you’ll loose half the crew (including Kelly).
      If you do 4 or more missions, you will lose the entire crew expect for Chackwas.
      You can land on all the hubs and do all the shopping you want. Only actually completing a mission matters.

      Simply play the game normally. At some point TIM will point you to the Reaper IFF. Finish up all Recruitment & Loyalty missions before doing the Reaper IFF mission. Afterwards, don’t go near the Galaxy Map and activate Legion. Get his Loyalty mission by talking to him repeatedly. Finish up Legion’s quest.
      Now endgame will start.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You dont really need a guide.My first time around I got the best ending without any guide simply by following my #1 rpg rule:Whenever presented with a choice between a main mission* and side content,do side content first.The rule hasnt failed me yet.

      *This one is usually labeled with words to the effect of “urgent” or “imminent”.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        Pretty much.
        I do like games that pull the rug out from under you and go “oh, yeah, this is timed, not just saying it’s urgent”. Deus Ex: Human Resources pulls one of the best by simply putting it at the start.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          You mean like fallout 1*drink*?

          For rpgs,I prefer sort of soft timers than the real ones.This means that you are timed by how many quests you are doing,instead of the time that has passed while you were dicking around looking at the sky,or reading books.

        2. Thomas says:

          I only recently realised this has actually infiltrated my real life actions. I was wandering around a museum and realised I was deliberately going everywhere first _except_ where I really wanted to go. In case that progressed the storyline and locked content I guess :p

      2. Mephane says:

        Okay, you got me almost convinced to eventually try out ME2. One question that remains for me is that of healing. In ME1, you either pick a soldier and get passive regeneration, equip some regeneration kit into your armour, or play on easy and have passive regeneration built into any character.

        What are the options in ME2? Also regarding biotic or tech powers? Basically is a play-through viable that does not rely on consumables at all (preferrably), or where the only consumable regularly being used is “ammo”? In other words: are “potions” mandatory or completely optional?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Mass effect 2 has the best approach to health Ive seen in quite a while.You have your shields that regenerate after not being shot,which is standard for the series.Then you have your health which is segmented(into five parts,if I remember correctly).Now,each of those parts regenerates fully as long as there is at least a smidgen left of them.So lets say you have 5 parts of 20 health each.If you lose 19 hp,after a bit all of it will regenerate fully.But if you lose 20,that part gets lost permanently,or until you use medigel to restore it(medigel also has upgrades to restore more segments than just one,and can be refilled pretty often).On normal and easy,you can go through the entire game without spending any “potions”.On harder difficulties,its a bit harder to do so,but depending on your skill its not impossible.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Segmented health is from ME3. ME2 was one big regenerating health bar.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Really?I have forgotten that much about it already?Well then,its most definitely easy to get through me2 without using the medigel.

              Then me3 has the best health system,and me2 is close to it.

              1. Mephane says:

                I remember a similar system in Just Cause 2, only without segments. Regeneration would only ever refill a certain amount of health, so if you had taken more damage than that, anything beyond that would be lost. I wasn’t a fan of this system, actually, and would have preferred if regeneration would cover the entire health bar.

                But ME2 has a singular health bar that completely regenerates? That sounds good. And tech and biotic abilities don’t have a resource, just cooldowns, don’t they?

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Yes.But the cooldown affects all the powers.So if you fire incinerate,you wont be able to use cloak before the cooldown expires.However,cooldowns are quite generous,and can be taken down enough that later you can rely just on your powers and not care about bullets.Your companions will still shoot,because their cooldowns are longer,but they have infinite bullets.

                2. djw says:

                  I’m playing ME3 right now on insanity difficulty, and have just begun the assault on the Cerberus base. I have not yet run out of medigel or even come close to doing so. I have had lots of deaths, but none of them have been due to lack of medigel or low health on the segemented health bar. (In fact, 95% of my deaths have involved grenades and the stupid “space bar does everything” control scheme).

                  Update: just died to a stupid grenade again because I dove into cover instead of sprinting away.

    4. Trix2000 says:

      Echoing what others have said, it’s really not much of a problem in ME2. Even if you don’t habitually do side content before main, there’s not THAT much to lose if you do Reaper IFF early – unless you’re particularly attached to the Normandy’s crew.

      I mean, sure, it’s nice to save them all… but the only real Point of No Return is entering the Omega Relay itself… but since the game explicitly calls it the Suicide Mission, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to figure out you might not come back from it.

      1. Mike S. says:

        I find the empty ship really emotionally affecting, and was really glad I was able to save them all first time through when I didn’t know what I was doing. I would have been ticked if they’d died because after two games of a Race Against Time that wasn’t, suddenly I was on the clock.

        (Though my Sole Survivor Shepard somehow just didn’t make it in time. Almost as if rescuing people who’d voluntarily signed up for the organization that fed his platoon to a Thresher Maw wasn’t high priority.)

  18. Gunther says:

    Are you going to talk about Drew Karpyshyn’s Dark Energy ending in more detail?

    It’s entirely possible they could have fouled it up somehow, but it really does sound like a vastly more promising idea. It gives the Reapers a coherent motivation behind all their actions, ties into foreshadowing from ME1&2 and even explains why they’re called “reapers” (what is a reaper? someone who harvests crops).

    It even allows for resolutions to the “How do we beat an enemy that’s been built up as unbeatable?” problem. The ME3 writers resorted to Deus Ex Machina to solve it (the Crucible), but if you have an actual coherent motivation for the reapers, you can come up with more satisfying solutions. Off the top of my head, Shepard could negotiate a truce by threatening to destroy the mass relay network, blowing up all nearby stars in the galaxy (as was foreshadowed in The Arrival DLC for ME2) and thereby utterly ruining the Reaper’s “keep entropy at a minimum” goal.

    1. Raygereio says:

      It's entirely possible they could have fouled it up somehow

      Ya think? Let’s see:
      The Reapers are trying to stop the heat death of the universe and kill of advanced races in order to stop from accelerating it via mass effect use. What are our options?
      Red: Destroy the Reapers and deal with it ourselves
      Blue: Merge with the Reapers and try to work out the sollution
      Green: Solve it with space magic!

      Any idea – no matter how brilliant – would have ended up being shit with how ME3’s ending was constructed. Also the basic concept of ME3’s ending wasn’t bad. Heck, it’s essentially the same as the Dark Energy one: “The Reapers are trying to save us from ourselves”. If it had some build up and didn’t come out of nowhere at the very of the game, it could easily have worked well.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        The difference is that one of those options had some actual build-up (albeit not much).

        Still, it’s not hard to consider them failing to deliver on that path too.

        1. Raygereio says:

          As far as I know, there’s but one ingame reference to the dark matter thing and it’s in Tali’s recruitment mission in ME2.

          I’ve harped on this before, but this why you plan ahead when starting a series with connected pieces.
          If you want to build your big bad’s motivation and the ending of your story around a certain concept, it can come in handy if you – you know, actually do something with that concept instead of introducing it at page 499 of your 500 page final novel.

          1. swenson says:

            That’s the most prominent mention, but there’s actually several hints about dark energy scattered throughout ME2, which is why it was so weird that the whole thing was dropped entirely in ME3.

            Arrival talks about dark energy.
            The side mission with Gianna Parasini mentions it.
            Veetor mentions it on Freedom’s Progress

      2. ? says:

        “The Reapers are trying to stop the heat death of the universe and kill of advanced races in order to stop from accelerating it via mass effect use.”

        That is already worse. Reapers intentionally leave behind active Mass Relay network and catches of previous cycles tec so that new cycle will reverse engineer it and use it. That’s like solving global worming by giving everyone a gas guzzler and unlimited fuel and occasionally murdering people for using your gift. By bringing mass effect into focus of every advanced civilisation they prevent development of alternative FTL technology that wouldn’t destroy the universe.

        “Maybe biotics can help” angle makes it better, but taking a page out of Cerberus manual and spraying eezzo into atmospheres might give better results than cycle of genocide. Maybe after few wring passes it would work, but it has to look for explanation that does not go against what Reapers were already doing in the first game (which is why ME3 sucks, actions of Sovereign and Harbinger don’t work together)

        1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Yeah, this is me, too. “Stop the heat death of the universe” is a ridiculous motivation for the reapers. I actually liked the “we liquidate you and make you reapers because then each reaper is a nation unto itself, with no chaotic faction, and you are made perfect and in perfection achieve the kind of perfect harmony that the Mass Relays have already primed you to enjoy.” Which seemed to be what they were driving at during ME2.

          1. ? says:

            I would like them to be champions of organic life – but only future iterations of it. They wipe the slate clean so that almost everyone has their moment in the spotlight. Once a civilization develops FTL there is no natural extinction event, so Reapers become it. Human-Batarian conflicts over colony worlds, Quarians being denied a new homeworld (out of spite, but it just shows that there are no unclaimed worlds), Drell living on Hanar planet instead of resettling somewhere that does not kill them. This galaxy already is running out of room, how are new species supposed to develop? How are they supposed to compete without “prothean” artefacts left at their doorstep? How would they survive if assholes with no sense of moderation like Krogan or Turian were allowed to roam galaxy forever?

            1. Poncho says:

              Reaper motivation isn’t a very big issue, IMO. I think the games’ biggest fault was concluding with an all-out Reaper invasion. No matter what the Reapers’ motivation, you can’t solve the problem of thousands of world-killing godlike machines without making the Reapers vulnerable to some sort of contrived Deus Ex Macguffin plot device.

              Reapers are harvesting organics because of Dark Energy space magic? Are they an AI gone horribly, horribly wrong? Are they experimenting on organics? Are they incapable of evolution themselves, and so seeking perfection, use organic evolution as a means to collect genetic material in order to self-modify? None of it matters, because there’s 10,000 of the fuckers blowing everything up, and Shepard has to find a way to stop them.

              ME3’s ending is the ONLY conclusion you can have to a Reaper war. You either stop them with space magic (because the Reapers were introduced as impossible to kill conventionally), or Shepard loses and cycles continue. As egregious as the ME2’s plot is, they are just cracks in the foundation compared to the sinkhole they handed us in the introduction of ME3.

              A better approach to ME3 would be Harbinger showing up and Shepard going around doing what he does best, gaining allies, stopping the sub-villains, pilfering prothean relics to find out what Harbinger is after, etc. Harbinger can be the Reaper king, the general that controls all the others, so stopping him stops the invasion. We can also get an *actual* final boss fight instead of defending a missile turret.

              1. djw says:


                Fighting the Reapers at the end of ME3 is basically the same as sending marines to R’lyeh at the end of Call of Cthulu, it completely misses the point.

                In Call of Cthulu it is established that when Cthulu wakes up he/she/it will drive all humans insane and the living will envy the dead. Why? It doesn’t matter. Cthulu is a random force of nature that cannot be defeated, or even faced without complete loss of sanity. Just don’t let it wake up!

                In ME1 the conversation with Sovereign set up that same exact dynamic for the Reapers. That was why it was the most powerful conversation I’ve encountered in a video game. I’d rank it up there with “Luke, I am your Father” in terms of impact. But if you fight them the entire illusion is destroyed and you end up with a totally different story.

                1. jawlz says:

                  I agree with the Cthulu reference. That said, I don’t agree that having an all-out war against the Reapers at the end of ME3 misses the point. Making it a ‘winnable’ war due to a Macguffin ex Machina probably does, as does explaining the purpose of the reapers to begin with (as opposed to just saying their aims are incomprehensible, as Sovereign does in ME1).

                  There could be a decent story told about the importance of fighting an impossible and unwinnable fight, however. I, for one, would have happy enough if the series had ended with a doomed struggle against unbeatable reapers.

                  Where they really went off the rails, though, was in making the reaper’s motivation rely on an argument (AIs will always be made, and they’ll always try to kill all life) that you spent the previous three games successfully refuting (Legion, resolution of the Geth/Quarian conflict, EDI, etc etc). The ending message so totally contradicted the tone of the rest of the series that there was no way it could have avoided complete narrative collapse.

            2. Zekiel says:

              I quite like this idea. But “This galaxy already is running out of room, how are new species supposed to develop?” is ridiculous. I don’t mean you’re ridiculous for saying it, I mean ME is stupid for implying it. THis galaxy has something like 100 billion stars. Most will not have habitable planets, but the ME Codex is pretty clear that vast swathes of the galaxy are uncharted – because they don’t have mass relays anywhere near them. The Reapers built the relay, so logically they could build more if they wanted to create more “living space” in the galaxy for organics.

              1. ? says:

                And Citadel policy of not opening new relays (which limits the available systems artificially) also is ridiculous. Rachni were perfectly capable of opening them on their own, a new threat can emerge from unknown relay at any time. When Turians opened fire on human ships they could be starting a new Rachni War, this time with full blame on Citadel space.

                And with advanced technology, what does it really mean “not habitable”. Mercury I guess. But even if writers didn’t include “shortage of living space” as recurring theme, without population control old races would eventually run out of room within a cycle or two, limiting the growth of younger ones. If you add to that Leviathans, an ultimate space bully, being the first space faring race, I can see someone developing Reapers to wipe the slate clean from time to time.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  “No opening relays” is clearly an idiosyncratic policy of this civilization. Protheans didn’t have it (and were much more widespread than the Citadel polity), humans think it’s stupid and resent it. I’d say it’s plausible as a reaction to a devastating war followed by a devastating aftershock, when for one of the dominant species on the Council those events are almost within living memory.

                  We have all sorts of policies that are a reaction to terrible events in the middle of last century. And I even tend to agree with a lot of them, but of course I’m a product of my civilization. If some of those turn out to go farther than is justified, reconsidering them will probably wait until those events are rather further back in history. And for the asari, the Rachni Wars just aren’t that long ago yet.

                  1. ? says:

                    My point is that this policy does nothing to prevent next Rachni war, because race as deadly as Rachni can open relays on it’s own. The only thing it gives is false sense of security. And current policy that allows Turian cruisers destroying exploration craft of unknown alien race can put even most peaceful culture in very hostile mood. With no Citadel oversight Turians initiated a total war with species that might be Kryptonians for all they knew. It goes against stated intent.

                    1. Mike S. says:

                      And e.g., banning the central book and imagery of one particular totalitarian philosophy in central Europe doesn’t protect against any other totalitarian philosophies becoming dominant (including the one that ran half the continent with an iron fist for a few decades). But they still do it. “It hurt when we did this. So we won’t do this.”

                      I would imagine that the argument has been raised and rejected in the Citadel Council periodically, to much grumbling by people who feel that it’s pointless and counterproductive.

                      It’s not as if the Council isn’t consistently portrayed as kind of hidebound, torpid, and deaf to potentially clever new ideas. They’re there to be an obstacle to Shepard in the first game, for Aethyta to blame for civilization’s stagnation in the second, and to have utterly failed to prepare for the worst in the third. Even stipulating that it’s a bad policy, what’s implausible about them maintaining it anyway?

    2. Christopher says:

      I agree with Shamus’ sentiment that it wouldn’t necessarily be a better solution to the mystery, especially if it was presented as he says. This idea of a powerful force organics can use was present in Gurren Lagann as well, where every naturally born organism could produce a spiral enery that powered robots, opened warps and did everything else that was COOL. The final enemy in that show was the Anti-Spiral, who revealed that the force would collapse the universe. I don’t think super robot anime plots are a better conclusion to something as dry as Mass Effect 1 than what we ended up with. It still doesn’t fit.

      (I wouldn’t mind if someone linked to the video Mass Effect 3’s ending with Gurren Lagann voiceovers-mashup again though)

    3. Thomas says:

      They sound exactly the same to me.

      Both solutions are essentially “The Reapers were a race of sentient machines meant to preserve life in the galaxy, but organic life inevitably did X so the reapers harvested them before they could do X”

      All that’s changing is what X is. And both versions of X are complete space magic nonsense.

      In fact arguing that synthetic life would inevitably out evolve organic life and this would create conflict is much less nonsense, it’s an established theme of ME1, the Reapers are very pointedly _machines_ and not organic and every AI you encounter goes rogue. ME2 and ME3 just contradict it. Neither is well established and neither is anymore satisfying.

      In fact in ME3 I’m pretty sure the dev team were arguing about what X should be right up until the end. All the Reaper dialogue almost literally goes “Organic life will inevitably [insert here]”. The Dark Energy ending is a 5 minute copy and paste job with dialogue that they might even have actually already recorded.

  19. RoJ says:

    Where is footnote one? Just an artifact of re-writing?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nope,its a bug in the footnote code that appears from time to time for some unexplained reason.

    2. Syal says:

      You are footnote six.

      1. Falterfire says:

        I am not a footnote! I am a freestanding paragraph!

        Reference for the confused

    3. TMC_Sherpa says:

      Footnote 1 is on the main page. Well, the twentysided home page. Basically any time there is a footnote that happens to be early enough in the article that it shows up in the teaser on the front page(?) the numbering gets messed up. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss any of them.

      Has there been a consensus on what to call the twentysidedtale landing page? Just curious.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        “Page 20?”

        1. TMC_Sherpa says:

          Heh, I was leaning towards bookmark but that works :)

  20. Spacewreck says:

    I'd like to backtrack to an earlier entry because I found some relevant in-game info. If you go through EDI and Joker's dialogue when you first board the Normandy, there are subjects such as “Building the Normandy” that EDI says she's blocked from giving you info about. Neither EDI's nor Joker's dialogue options change afterward (there's just some “odd couple” skits or Joker making a one-liner about your last mission), so there's not much incentive to come back.

    However, If you talk to EDI in the cockpit after the Collectors attack the Normandy…well actually the dialogue wheel options remain exactly the same, but when you select the sections where EDI couldn't give information before, she's now free to do so. I have no idea why they hid this like they did. It's general info of no import that late in the game, but would have interested anyone who had these questions at the start without spoiling anything later (though one item has significant implications.

    BTW, I'm not saying these are good answers, just that they're answers. Anyway…

    How did Cerberus build the Normandy?
    Cerberus convinced the Alliance to initiate the Normandy's construction to get a better look at Turian technology. While the Normandy was being built, Cerberus manufactured duplicate parts for their own copy. No additional info is given on how the duplicate ended up so radically different, though one can assume plans were changed based on new data in the intervening years.

    Structure of Cerberus
    Cerberus has a total of 150 personnel split between 3 cells. TIM keeps the number of cells low so he can be completely aware of what they're doing at all times. Cerberus seems to be a fairly small organization. It's noted early in ME2 under one of the dialogue options that Shepard's paying out-of-pocket for equipment because the Lazarus Project and the Normandy Mk II drained Cerberus's coffers. That makes the army they have in ME3 somewhat inexplicable, though maybe it can be rationalized with a massive Indoctrination-based recruitment drive.

    More importantly, if TIM's keeping a close eye on all Cerberus operations, then those daft/horrific experiments being rogue ops is utter bullshit*. That should be a major issue for several characters. As just one example, Miranda's excused Cerberus with the belief that those atrocities were unauthorized and that TIM would never have condoned them. You never get to discuss this revelation with anyone.

    *Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a surprise. But it’s one thing to suspect an excuse is false versus getting confirmation that it is.

    It's also a missed opportunity to at least paper over a major point of plot dissonance. What if that micro-management was a recent change because of those botched ops? What if TIM saw how giving out resources with no oversight was corrupting Cerberus and put the organization on tighter leash? What if the Collector mission wasn't just to save the colonists but also to redeem the organization's reputation?

    The returning Normandy crew could have joined Cerberus due to earlier atonement efforts made while Shepard was out of action. That could have tied in to the Cerberus missions Jacob took part in. It also could have added an extra tragic element to TIM's fate in ME3 for bonus Drama Points.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      Yeah, it’s strange the explanations from EDI are trapped behind there, but also sort of neat in that you’re rewarded for making the connection yourself that you could probably go and ask about those things now.

      1. Spacewreck says:

        I’m finishing up my fifth ME2 playthrough and I’ve only caught this particular section twice. Once was the first time when I was being an uber-completist and checking in with every character every time I got back to the ship. Second was this last time and only then because this retrospective made me remember this sequence.

        Making the connection is an extra challenge since you’re most likely going to go through that “blocked access” dialogue very early in the game, which means that you have to remember that it was there after another 20-30 hours of gameplay and who knows how much RL time.

    2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

      There’s also the plot hole of, if they didn’t have enough money to outfit Shepard and crew, then why did they spend the extra for a bigger badder Normandy? Could be that they were expecting to have more funding by the time Shepard woke up but Wilson cut the project short.

      Second question. They supposedly have a bunch of wealthy investors. While I believe that you could assemble a group of wealthy human investors to invest in a group that was formed to look out for humanity first (thus protecting their interests) I can’t believe they keep giving money. Maybe they’re keeping the investors in the dark but how are they convincing them that the money is having results? Surely they’d have to show something. And before Shepard they had no apparent successes.

      1. Flip says:

        And even worse, why did they have money for leather seats and windows and a private captain shower, but not proper weapons or armor?

        Oh well, Bioware writers…

        Really like the atonement/tighter leash idea btw.

        1. swenson says:

          The default armor is fine; unlike in ME1, there’s no real need to change it. And they do send you other types of armor (assuming you bought the DLC ;)). So they did give you good armor.

        2. Thomas says:

          It was actually originally scripted that the Normandy was going to be much rougher and unfinished on the inside. But in the end they decided the game works better if the Normandy looked really nice inside.

          I’m guessing they just decided that, whilst it makes logical sense, the Normandy is the place the player connects to emotionally and should probably look nice if they’re spending all their time there.

          1. Poncho says:

            I would have really liked to see the Normandy SR2 with missing panels and exposed wires at the beginning of the game, and as you complete missions and progress through the story, it slowly gets touched up and looks complete by the time you’re getting the IFF.

          2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

            I think they could have struck a balance with that. Have some homey sections of the ship and expand with time. Maybe instead of having sections of the ship locked up until the specialist arrives (remember, your recruits unlock sections of the ship), have those sections open but unfinished and have the recruits trigger the finished look.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              That â„¢ looks really weird with the italics used for names here.Could use an italics version of it?

              1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:


                EDIT: Apparently not but I added a space to make it look a little less weird.

                1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

                  One last shot here.

      2. Spacewreck says:

        EDI mentions they also have several front businesses in addition to their sympathetic investors. The total adds up to several billion credits a year, though it’s not specified how much of that comes from the businesses versus the investors.

        The types of businesses aren’t specified, but if they involve a lot of ships and/or weapons (shipping concerns, military equipment manufacturers or distributors, etc.) that might go someway toward explaining the massive influx of materiel into Cerberus for ME3. Those civilian items could have been converted to military use, and it’s possible Cerberus laid the groundwork for that years ago under the general premise of preparing for potential human conflicts.

        1. guy says:

          That works to an extent, but given their performance in fleet battles they must have capital ships. There’s just no way to hide building a force that could match Fifth Fleet.

          1. Poncho says:

            Another ME3 contrivance. TIM’s super secret base also contains hangars full of war ships that can go toe-to-toe with an alliance fleet, and no one seems to notice until Shepard follows Kai Lang there.

      3. Irbis says:

        “Surely they'd have to show something. And before Shepard they had no apparent successes.”

        The thing is, they had successes. Miranda is geno-engineered genius/biotic prodigy. What if she was end result of Cerberus meddling? Offering the rich perfect heir carries a lot of appeal. They also have EDI – surely there were prototypes and earlier versions before, something that could be very valuable in right hands. That’s just two examples of tech eclipsing everything else we see in game, either could be worth billions on its own.

        1. guy says:

          Miranda apparently wasn’t a Cerberus project, or if she is they wouldn’t be willing to admit it where she might find out. EDI was initially swiped from the Alliance; she’s derived from the AI you fight on the moon.

          1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

            True but they could always lie about that. Miranda would be perfect for showing investors that Cerberus is on the forefront of human progress. Only problem is, there’s no way she’d agree to it. She’d never allow another family to crank out tailored children for their own vanity after what she went through.

    3. Mike S. says:

      That makes the army they have in ME3 somewhat inexplicable, though maybe it can be rationalized with a massive Indoctrination-based recruitment drive.

      The manpower is pretty well explained: first lots of volunteers due to the Reaper invasion (who are experimented on to perfect Cerberus’s reverse-engineered indoctrination process), then every able-bodied refugee who lands at Sanctuary is either processed or killed.

      What isn’t well-explained is where they get the materiel, ships, fighters, and bases that let them challenge the established powers. Granted, while those powers are largely tied up elsewhere. But Cerberus still has a massive space force that isn’t well justified logistically.

      1. Thomas says:

        Yeah, the actual mooks are well justified in game, but their hardware is ludicrous. Even assuming that Cerberus was always prepping for war against the Reapers, they still shouldn’t have anything like enough resources.

        I buy Cerberus gaining advantage with Reaper tech that the Reapers secretly gave them. But not the manufacturing power the game shows them with.

      2. Poncho says:

        Sanctuary isn’t explained very well, though. It is supposedly an Alliance facility that Cerberus took over, but in ME2 we got the impression from the colonist on Horizon that people out in the Terminus systems don’t really like the Alliance. He even shrugs off Shepard’s name, like “so what, you’re a hero. We don’t care out here.” How did the Alliance set up a base when they could barely get one officer (Kaiden/Ashley) to come out and install some defenses?

        Also, no one there seems to remember the collector attack that took place like 6 months ago.

        Also also, the population in the codex for that colony went UP after the collector attack.

        It’s like the ME3 writer read a plot synopsis of ME2 and decided to use the same names for things without understanding why they were significant in the first place.

        1. Mike S. says:

          The population numbers seem to be figured from the number of refugees estimated to have landed there: “A Collector attack in 2185 inflicted significant casualties, but refugees have been streaming to the planet since the Reaper invasion began. Since many land illegally, there is no way to accurately track population.”

          Whoever compiles the Codex presumably doesn’t know that some large fraction of those are dead or crewing Cerberus attack vessels.

          Likewise, as far as I recall we never talk to any original Horizon colonists in ME3. The codex says they resent the newcomers. But they didn’t have any space defenses to speak of before the Collector attack, so how are they supposed to stop them? Or any Alliance efforts to control or help the refugees by building a facility there to deal with them?

          (At their height pre-war, the were two thirds of a million people on a planet a substantial fraction of Earth’s size. Build Sanctuary on another continent and they never even need to notice each other.)

          Then Cerberus takes over and kills or captures and mind-controls any resistance sent against them.

          There are space powers in the Terminus systems that the Citadel doesn’t care to get into conflict with. But one suspects that the Reaper attacks make it a little less of a slam dunk to send ships to address Alliance involvement with an extant human colony, when they might need those forces a little closer to home.

      3. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        I THINK the justification of the warships is this:
        1) Illusive Man has secret Alliance connections. Most notably, he turns out to have an incredible influence over Earth’s Councilor. This means some Alliance bases were likely creating Cerberus gear (or perhaps pieces that could BECOME Cerberus gear with another step) just before Cerberus declared war on basically everybody.
        2) Illusive Man does an Injustice League style team up with Miranda’s super powerful, super rich dad just before ME3. The resources of the two groups basically become one.
        3) With the Omega DLC, it’s outright stated that Cerberus moved on several criminal organizations, no doubt stealing their material as they did so.

        With these three sources, plus all the “wealthy investors” previously established in 2, I don’t think what Cerberus becomes in 3 is THAT ludicrous. Keep in mind that when the Alliance finds Cerberus’ base, they crush them, instantly in a single battle. So their resources really aren’t comparable in that sense.

  21. Darren says:

    Since the Geth were originally built by the Quarians as manual labor and “became self-aware” (which is the most wishy-washy detail about them), it’s fair to say that they would have started off with different perspectives and experiences before transitioning to their current status quo. And since the Geth can upload themselves to independent platforms, it’s fair to assume that they occasionally do so, even if most of their time is spent in shared hard drives, which would grant them new perspectives.

  22. Orillion says:

    They basically do explain why Geth can have divergent opinions even though they’re loaded onto (basically) the same hardware: Blue boxes. AI can only exist with access to a blue box, otherwise it’s a VI at best.

    A blue box uses quantum mechanics in some capacity to enable the program to develop opinions and “break free” of its original core programming. The codex entry does not elaborate on this point, but I’m pretty sure “quantum mechanics” are supposed to be the keyword here. 1 only equals 1 in conventional physics, so you can get divergent answers to the same question factioned out by which mainframe the Geth program is housed in at the time the question is posed.

    1. guy says:

      Geth are VIs with emergent intelligence when networked.

      1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        VIs that were pushed right to the line by the Quarians, suggesting that they used something like blue box technology to allow their servitors to achieve greater complexity to make them more useful. They clearly didn’t put enough blue box in any one geth to allow independent intelligence but its possible they dabbled with pieces and didn’t count on what would happen when the geth networked.

        Also, its not just that Geth intelligence is emergent. Its not a single consciousness shared among multiple geth. What happens is when Geth are near each other, they’re able to share common processes, more efficiently using their hardware which leaves them with more hardware capacity for their generalized intelligence. So the more of them there are in an area, the smarter they all become.

        Its like if you and I were in the same room and I wanted to paint and you wanted to do math. So I used the creative parts of both our brains while you used the logical parts and we shared a common knowledge pool. Assuming there was a way to do that efficiently, we’d each be functionally smarter. (May be possible some day, who knows.)

        1. Trix2000 says:

          Actually, the parallel may well be with the fact that we as a people have built a society around sharing our particular talents with each other, combining our efforts to produce things that, individually, we were not capable of. Except for Geth it’s more on a mental level, sorta.

        2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          The idea that networked programs could become self-aware isn’t terribly new -it’s a working model of the brain. Even without blueboxes, the network itself could explain the difference in the consensus. Your view depends on where in the network you are. Perhaps for bandwidth or other reasons every geth can only network with so many others, so there are bottlenecks -that could then explain divergent opinions as well.

          Although the game also mentions something about a rounding error in the square root of Pi or something…

          1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

            Oh I agree. Its nothing new and its conceivable that some kind of intelligence could be created by networked machines.

            But this setting says that intelligence is quantum basically, and you need blue boxes to make AI instead of VI which is why I suggested that the Quarians might have been dabbling in that. Its a recurring issue with their species that they toy with dangerous things.

  23. wswordsmen says:

    I totally disagree with your assessment of the Dark Energy ending. There is no way that the dark energy explanation could fail as badly. It might come close and still be a massive explosion of anger, but it couldn’t have been as big.

    Why? Because you can’t solve the dark energy problem in ME3, you can make peace between Geth and Quarians. ME3 the ending can be totally destroyed by the actions of the player earlier in the game, which makes everything the Star Child says “you proved me wrong but you must do what I say because I AM THE RITER!” It could have been terrible, but you would have had to really try to make it as bad as what we got.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      That’s a thing that bugged a lot of people, me included.
      There’s no option to just go “look outside the window you dolt”.

    2. Shamus says:

      I agree in principle, (we’ll get to the ending when we get to the end) but I’m REALLY trying to not make this personal, and I’m wary of comparing the ending we got to an ending nobody finished, which seems unfair.

      1. wswordsmen says:

        I think saying “it could be no worse” is not playing the blame game. That said I am not the one putting my name on this for all time so I don’t blame you for being cautious about it.

    3. Raygereio says:

      There is no way that the dark energy explanation could fail as badly. It might come close and still be a massive explosion of anger, but it couldn't have been as big.

      No, it really could have. I think you’re missing two important things.
      Firstly that it doesn’t matter how brilliant your idea is. The crucial thing is how it’s executed. I’ve already said this above, but again: Oh hey, we find out in the last 5 minutes of the game that the Reapers are trying to stop the heat death of the universe and kill of advanced races in order to stop from accelerating it. Well, that came out of nowhere. What are our options?
      Red button: Destroy the Reapers and deal with it ourselves
      Blue button: Merge with the Reapers and try to work out the solution
      Green button: Solve it with space magic!
      If we had gotten an ending that was just as badly constructed as the thing we got, people would have been upset. Period.

      Secondly, that massive explosion of anger about ME3’s ending wasn’t directly caused the ending itself. People were disappointed and there was complaining that the ending didn’t live up to expectations. But it wasn’t until the gaming press started throwing oil on the fire and Bioware’s PR massively mishandled the situation that the disappointment and complaints turned towards anger and demands.

      1. wswordsmen says:

        I am not disputing that, but it wouldn’t have been as bad. If ME3’s ending caused outrage level X the dark energy ending would have gotten Y. I propose Y<X is necessarily true. I am not saying anything about how much smaller Y is relative to X though. It might be tiny, but it would still be smaller. Included in this is if you literally change Star Child's lines to be explaining what we know of the Dark Energy ending to Shepard.

        I am not saying that Dark Energy is good. I am saying it is not as bad or worse.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Assuming they went the direction I’ve seen suggested, I think I would have hated it more. The ending that’s been bruited about is that Shepard has to choose between a) let the Reapers harvest humanity, which Harbinger believes will produce a Reaper capable of solving Entropy. (Talk about “humans are special”!) b) destroy the Reapers, trusting that humanity and the other Citadel species can, in the near future, solve a problem that has eluded intelligent life for a billion years.

          Choosing primary colors was pretty bad. But that’s about as stark a choice between Renegade-evil and Paragon-stupid as I can imagine. And unlike the ending we got, you can’t even shove it to the side and relocate to another galaxy, because they’re making the problem universal in scope.

          (Never mind the fact that making the fate of the universe depend on what happens in the Milky Way is like making the fate of the planet depend on who wins a middle school basketball game.)

          1. wswordsmen says:

            You are right they could have made it worse. I would say they couldn’t possibly be that stupid, but with the actual ending they did…

            Ya, you win.

    4. SlothfulCobra says:

      Well, just because they’re at peace for now, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be at peace forever. It’s pretty hard to prove that you’ve established a peace that will survive until the heat death of the universe.

  24. Jabrwock says:

    I wonder if the Geth personalities are like those in the Matrix, or Marathon.

    In the Matrix, processes had different jobs, so they had different outlooks on “life”. They’re not one large AI, but a collection of AIs running on the same hardware. This might influence their thinking when they discuss things.

    Or perhaps it’s like Marathon, where similar AIs ran different systems, and were exposed to different stimuli. This affected how each AI progressed through the stages of rampancy on their way to “true” self-awareness.

    1. Spacewreck says:

      In the Matrix, processes had different jobs, so they had different outlooks on “life”.

      You’d think it would be almost inevitable that the programs’ individual jobs might affect their outlook, similar to cognitive biases in a human being. Logistics management programs and weapon targeting programs would have different types of processing that would affect what data they might consider more important and how it is interpreted, etc. The number and types of different programs would shape how each gestalt came to a consensus and what that decision would be, and would be constantly updated as changing program locations and links to other Geth reshaped the overall form and size of a given gestalt at any moment.

      1. Jabrwock says:

        It depends on how much “independent thought” is involved in those tasks. In Marathon, Leela and Tycho made sense to have an AI, as they were responsible for Security and Science. Durandal was “doors and lifts”. No wonder he considered himself a god, from his perspective, the only way anyone gets anywhere was with his benevolence.

        In the Matrix, I could understand sentient programs for certain tasks, like monitoring, combat, and thinking up new ways to tweak the Matrix. But the subroutine in charge of sunrises? Seems like they overthought that one a bit.

  25. guy says:

    I figure that the Geth mostly do have similar perspectives but slightly different direct experiences and as learning systems may have slightly divergent thought patterns. However, they are extremely similar, so they usually agree after sharing all relevant information. I didn’t get the impression that they had much in the way of standing disagreements, and most of the time if some of them disagreed they’d give in to the majority vote rather than hold out and fracture the Consensus, because they couldn’t convince the others and acting in unison is more important than the disagreement. The only externally apparent splits are over the Reapers, which is clearly too important a subject to compromise on for unity.

    I have a specific objection to employing the virus because it’s basically the same as Indoctrination, which is something we’re opposed to on ethical grounds. While there’s a technical software explanation for the split, there’s no clear evidence of which group is mathematically correct, and as an apparent precision issues they could both be slightly inaccurate in opposite directions.

  26. Christopher says:

    I would imagine the big arguments the Geth have, probably constantly and unending, is “what do we do about organic life”? and “What do we do about the Quarians?”. There’s pay off to this stuff in ME3, if I recall correctly.

  27. Joe Leigh says:

    “In a drama-based universe where robots are just human-style personalities inside a metal body…” Interesting you should make this comparison, since that’s exactly what EDI is in ME3.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yep. She also suffers from an acute case of Pinocchio Syndrome and immediately embraces the biological imperative for heterosexual pairing. A lot less Asimov, a lot more Lucas.

      1. Christopher says:

        Would you say that the idea itself is somewhat silly, or just that BioWare handled it in a silly manner?

        1. Shamus says:

          It’s not so much “silly” as “from a different genre”. Mass Effect can’t decide what kind of sci-fi it wants to be, and it’s really apparent when you compare ME2 Legion with ME3 EDI. I like Fifth Element. And I like Moon. But there’s a lot of ingredients in those movies that wouldn’t mix very well, or would seem very off when juxtaposed in the same story.

        2. Raygereio says:

          just that BioWare handled it in a silly manner?

          Aside from ME2 EDI and ME3 EDI being two completely different characters…

          On the one hand you have a child. New to emotions, and who is learning how relationships work and what that crazy little thing called love is.
          And on the other we have an adult. Whose romantic interests in this child is only shown to be sexual in nature.
          I’d call it weird, uncomfortable and incredibly creepy, instead of just silly.

          1. Mike S. says:

            EDI absorbed a robot that was capable of emulating an adult woman well enough to fool people at the Mars base. I’m not sure if it’s confirmed whether “Eva Coré” was an AI, but it certainly contained plenty of relevant subroutines for EDI to absorb when she took over the platform.

            She’s not on any sort of organic timetable and isn’t dealing with specific brain and hormonal development issues. And she seems rather capable of self-protection both physically and emotionally. Given that, I don’t really think their relationship is especially predatory on either side.

            Of course if Shepard does, the Commander can discourage the relationship and it doesn’t happen, so the player’s judgment gets the final call on the matter.

      2. Mike S. says:

        Considering that Asimov had robot-human pairings, and as far as I know Lucas didn’t, I’m not sure that’s fair.

        (Trek has androids with Pinocchio syndrome, with Data as Exhibit A. Star Wars, not so much. And I prefer Asimov to Trek and Trek to Star Wars.)

        Mostly in Asimov it’s indicated that the human is reading in, and that the robot is motivated by the Three Laws to avoid emotional harm to the human and to do what it believes the human wants. But Asimov certainly wasn’t above Pinocchio Syndrome generally. (Most notably in “The Bicentennial Man”, where the robot makes itself mortal to be more human.)

        Considering one of the DLCs contains a reference to Lester del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy”, I’d say that EDI comes by her arc honestly via classic written SF, for better or worse.

        1. Incunabulum says:

          Yet Asimov never handled those pairings as the robot being *in love*. It was always portrayed as off – the human *using* the robot to fulfill emotional and physical needs with the robot unable to refuse due to potential First Law violations.

          I can’t really say much about Lucas – as you said he never did this at all.

          1. Mike S. says:

            True, but this is Asimov: he barely did romance at all. (And when he did, e.g., in the late-career The Robots of Dawn, it was kind of embarrassing.)

            The broader tradition of written SF that he was part of certainly included robot-human and AI-human pairings, from del Rey to Heinlein. I don’t think the idea that that’s primarily characteristic of less thoughtful, less science-focused, more actiony SF along the lines of Star Wars (which is at least how I’m reading Shamus’s “Asimov vs. Lucas”— not those two creators specificially so much as those two approaches to SF) really reflects the history of the genre.

      3. Xilizhra says:

        EDI doesn’t really have a gender identity in the way organics might, from what I can tell. And there’s no logical reason for her to not be capable of romance if she’s capable of friendship.

        1. Shamus says:

          “And there's no logical reason for her to not be capable of romance”

          There’s no logical reason (given in the game) for her to to WANT romance, either. It’s sort of presented without explanation or exploration. I never said she wasn’t capable of it. I pointed out it was shallow and schlock-y compared to how the Geth are handled.

          1. Zaxares says:

            Perhaps the key difference here is in how the Geth and EDI attained their intelligence. The Geth are a networked AI; they derive their intelligence from dozens, even hundreds, of individual programs working together, sharing data and building consensus. In contrast, EDI is a self-contained program housed in a single quantum computer. Furthermore, she also was programmed with “priorities” and feedback loops that simulate “desires” (she explains all this in a conversation in ME3). As such, the development of her intelligence was pushed along lines similar to the way humans think and operate, resulting in her developing a personality and goals that largely align with humanity, whereas the Geth had no such influences and thus are a truly “alien” synthetic race.

            1. Benjamin Hilton says:

              This could be a valid answer, but like so many other situations in this game, requires headcanon to make fit, meaning we really can’t count it in the game’s favor.

      4. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

        Ugh, this trope. Always bothered me about Data. Especially with the kind of advice Data often got about being human. I always thought his goal should have been to understand humanity, not become human. He’s already perfect. The only real drawback of his lack of emotions is lack of awareness of other people’s emotions, and he’s able to compensate for that increasingly well throughout the TV series. That is a drawback and one worth fixing but I can’t help but note that it wouldn’t be a problem if we were all like him.

  28. Dt3r says:

    Legion makes it clear that this particular Geth conflict is the result of Reaper influence, but he also makes it sound like this is not their first disagreement. The Geth presumably have the same hardware, they begin discussions with the same priorities, and they spend the majority of the time loaded into massive server racks where they aren't going to have divergent sensory experiences. So how is it that they have differing opinions?

    That’s actually pretty easy to explain. A good example is to use a Markov chain Monte Carlo model to estimate some value (N). MCMC runs a huge number of chains in parallel (think of each one as a Geth process). Every run of the chain uses a random starting value, and each step of the Markov chain should improve the estimate of N. Eventually every run of MCMC should converge toward the actual value of N.

    …except sometimes a chain will be stuck in a local maximum. Think of it as trying to find the highest point on the curve possible, but you can only look a short distance to your right or left. This can lead to some chains being stuck at a local peak. Here is an example.

    As a result, a small group of chains/Geth will arrive at a completely different answer for N, even if all conditions are exactly the same.

    1. wswordsmen says:

      One problem with that idea is they are communicating with other Geth who would be at a better local maximum, so they could say try using this value and the first Geth should be able to see that the new value is a better result.

      1. Dt3r says:

        The interesting thing with MCMC is that the isolation between individual runs is part of what helps it lead to a better end result. (In an infinite probability space even the better estimate could still be wrong) All the estimates are pooled and used to build a probability distribution for the answer. It’s actually a similar concept to how the Geth poll all of their processes reach “consensus”

        1. Zaxares says:

          I think it comes down to the fact that each of those Geth processes was written for a different purpose. Some are designed to calculate projectile trajectories in combat, others are designed to run “If ShipNotOnFire do nothing, Else SoundAlarm”. The differences in these programs result in them prioritising data and paths differently, resulting in different outcomes. Perhaps the faction that wanted to join with the Reapers were “military” programs that desired superior war technology, increased security for their race, or simply “greater time efficiency in attaining true awareness”. Other programs might not have shared those same goals and thus placed little value on the benefits the Reapers could offer and wanted to achieve their goals on their own.

        2. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

          This is fascinating.

          What do you think of Kurzweil’s hierarchical model of intelligence?

          1. Dt3r says:

            Unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with Kurzweil's work. My background with MCMC and Bayesian inference comes from population modeling. I do have some experience with artificial neural networks, but Kurzweil uses something different.

  29. MadTinkerer says:


    Let’s say that the difference between the Geth and, say, what I’m typing on right now (or the thing that runs the Mass Effect 2 program) is that what I’m typing on right now is meant to be viewed as a consumer product, and the Geth are meant to be viewed as people.

    We reprogram computers all the time. They have no will. They have complete intelligence (since your OS is aware of the hardware it runs on and thus “self aware”), but no will or intuition. (Since no one who says “true intelligence” requires will and intuition has been able to quantify will and intuition in spite of the fact that we’ve been able to quantify intelligence for years, I’m throwing out that argument on grounds of lack of evidence.) I’m not familiar enough with Mass Effect lore to know whether the Geth are supposed to have will or intuition, but if they don’t then they are essentially just machines.

    See, in our culture we believe religiously (or “philosophically” if we don’t want to admit the possible existence of the supernatural) that Thought Proves Being. That Cogito Ergo Sum is a proof rather than a skeptical hypothesis, as Descartes actually meant it. This is not universally believed by the 100% of the population, but it influences our culture more than any other idea. So much so that some people find it impossible to accept that computers have intelligence because they clearly have no being.

    The question for me becomes “Are the Geth capable of more than intelligent thought?”. Human beings are usually capable of intelligent thought. They are also capable of unintelligent thought, and periods where no intelligent thought occurs (such as certain stages of sleep, etc.). Just the fact that the word “unintelligent” exists is evidence that people are driven by more than just their intelligence. But it is heresy in our culture to even imply that thought by itself might not prove being.

    Oh, that’s right: “heresy”. So the Geth are capable of religious thought, capable of intuition. Of belief, if not necessarily true faith. In this case, the virus would not actually work in the long run, but let’s take the writers’ word for it that it would. This would mean the Geth are people, and thus not just machines.

    So reprogram them all because killing them is A Bad Time! Easy. Why yes, I have been playing Undertale a lot recently, why do you ask?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      They have complete intelligence (since your OS is aware of the hardware it runs on and thus “self aware”)

      Thats not what intelligence and self awareness mean.You might just as well say that ants are self aware because they react when you pluck out their leg.

      Since no one who says “true intelligence” requires will and intuition has been able to quantify will and intuition in spite of the fact that we've been able to quantify intelligence for years, I'm throwing out that argument on grounds of lack of evidence.

      This is untrue because we have quantified only some of the intelligences.The IQ you are (most likely) referring to measures just someones analytical intelligence,but not their conversational,or creative intelligence(I forget how they are divided,but I think theres like 7 of them).

      Human beings are usually capable of intelligent thought. They are also capable of unintelligent thought, and periods where no intelligent thought occurs (such as certain stages of sleep, etc.). Just the fact that the word “unintelligent” exists is evidence that people are driven by more than just their intelligence. But it is heresy in our culture to even imply that thought by itself might not prove being.

      Thats a leap of logic to say that because people are capable of something they are also partially driven by it.

      And yes,humans are driven by instincts plenty of times.But it is always possible for a human being to override their instinct and do the opposite through sheer power of will alone.Hence why we differ from animals who are driven just by instinct(with a very few possible exceptions).

      Oh, that's right: “heresy”. So the Geth are capable of religious thought, capable of intuition.

      Also a leap of logic because legion says that he uses that word to simplify it for us meatbags,and not because he religiously believes that these are actual heretics.

      In this case, the virus would not actually work in the long run,

      Not true,because it is completely possible to completely overwrite a person in such a way that they become another person.Though seeing how you would only be preserving their look,their outer shell,in that case,this would be the equivalent of killing someone and replacing them with someone else.Same applies to this virus,and why I dont buy the stupid paragade thing where “death is always bad,mkay”.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        “Thats not what intelligence and self awareness mean.”

        Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

        A computer (sufficiently advanced to have an OS) knows it is a computer, even if it doesn’t necessarily understand what a human is or care why it is being told what to do.

        “This is untrue because we have quantified only some of the intelligences.”

        I’m only counting what’s been quantified because that means there’s empirical evidence for it. The “unquantified intelligences” are mystical nonsense until proven otherwise.

        “Thats a leap of logic to say that because people are capable of something they are also partially driven by it.”

        I’m reasonably certain that while unconscious you are not driven by conscious thought.

        “Not true,because it is completely possible to completely overwrite a person in such a way that they become another person.”

        So then there is no difference between you and what you are typing on. Unless there is a part of you that cannot be proven to exist. If so, what can be proven, quantified, measured, is insufficient to prove the whole. So thought does not prove the entire being.

        Since the unquantified part cannot be deliberately altered (because it can’t even be proven to exist, and thus there is no method for altering it), you can’t completely overwrite a person even if you alter their memories and every other alterable part.

        That’s why the virus wouldn’t work in the long term. It would only work as a long term solution if the Geth are not people.

        (Incidentally, this is why SOMA is completely wrong too. Humans have their own will. Until there is a way to at least explain how will works, human will cannot be programmed into a computer and so you cannot simulate a complete human mind. You can totally have memory scans and probably a certain amount of data concerning personality, but you can’t have a computer program that truly wants to do anything.)

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          A computer (sufficiently advanced to have an OS) knows it is a computer

          Thats not how computers work.And thats not what self awareness means.

          Look,this is how self awareness is tested:Pick a being,select one of its advanced senses(usually sight,but sound,smell,touch,something else can work as well),send a signal from them to the environment,slightly distort it,then send it back.If the being recognizes that it is its own signal,it is self aware.

          Or through an example:mark an animals forehead(slight distortion) and put it in front of the mirror(sending a signal to the environment and back).Does it recognize that the mark is on its own forehead?If yes,it is self aware.

          This is obviously untrue for computers,because if they send a signal to themselves,one without a marked sender on it,they will not recognize where the signal came from.

          Also,computers are not intelligent either.Intelligence requires the capacity for learning and adapting to new situations.And while we have built some fairly sophisticated ais that have a knowledge database,they are still very limited and cannot adapt to new stuff without the users updating its database with proper responses.

          I'm only counting what's been quantified because that means there's empirical evidence for it. The “unquantified intelligences” are mystical nonsense until proven otherwise.

          Theres empirical evidence for multiple intelligences as well.And that part that has been quantified isnt quantified in the strict analytical,mechanical way of mathematics,but in a comparative way with other humans.Its just as vague as other intelligences,only it has a number attached to it.

          The point is that you cannot use maths on social sciences(yet),and proofs in social sciences are just as viable as proofs in mathematical sciences,even though they arent as rigid.

          I'm reasonably certain that while unconscious you are not driven by conscious thought.

          Thats because at that point you arent driven by anything.Being passive means exactly that,lacking any drive.

          So then there is no difference between you and what you are typing on.

          Oh come on.Thats like saying there is no difference between a jet and a horse cart because both have a thing that propels them,a thing that eases their movement and a part for a human to be seated in.Of course there is a difference between a human and a computer.But that difference is in sophistication and interactions between their component parts.

          Unless there is a part of you that cannot be proven to exist.

          Um,what?Since when is “we dont know the exact details yet” equivalent with “cannot be proven to exist”?The whole rest of what you wrote falls apart due to this.

          Soma is not wrong,because with sufficient knowledge you can completely replicate a human,and even create a sapient machine.Because thats what humans basically are:Sapient biological machines.And anything that has happened through pure chance,adaptation and billions of years can be replicated with sufficiently advanced technology.We dont posses that yet,but thats not proof that we will never posses it.

  30. Ninety-Three says:

    The Geth reprogramming was a really good philosophical conundrum, and it completely fell apart for me. Playing the game for the first time in 2010, that was the moment when I figured out ME3’s War Assets mechanic. While struggling with the philosophical issue, something in my brain clicked and I put together some facts.

    “The Rachni told me they’re building up a fleet now that I saved them. I convinced the Quarrians to not war with the Geth because they needed to save their strength for the Reapers. I saved the Destiny Ascension which is a honking big ship. Now I need to brainwash or destroy some Geth.” All of it added up to: “In ME3, there will be some kind of ‘Fleets’ mechanic where you have to gather spaceships to fight the Reapers. Decisions from previous games will make you start the game with more or less fleets. Having more fleets is objectively better than having less fleets.”

    With that figured out, I could no longer see it as a moral issue. It wasn’t that I had realized “Hey, if we brainwash these Geth we can use them to fight the Reapers and save the world”. In your ME3 playthrough you talked about how the child doesn’t evoke sympathy because you don’t see a child, you see a bunch of polygons. Simiarly, as soon as I saw the mechanics and numbers underneath this system, I couldn’t see the Geth as people, just points to be scored in a video game, a puzzle with an objectively correct solution. It was like the reverse of Cypher from the Matrix. I don’t see blonde, brunette, redhead, all I see now is numbers.

    I still don’t know who’s at fault for it falling apart. The writers, who gave the choice an objectively correct answer through the War Assets system? Me, for being a videogame sociopath who shouldn’t have let the numbers influence my decision? Was I just freakishly insightful and we shouldn’t ask the writers to account for people making that big of a deduction?

    1. guy says:

      Funny thing is, rewriting the Geth can backfire. It gives you more Geth war assets but raises the threshold for the peace treaty.

    2. Couscous says:

      This is why I am a murderhobo in every Elder Scrolls game. Roleplaying goes out the window when I would have to refuse a ton of quests and questlines to continue being moral in the game. I could kill all the members of the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim, but then my character wouldn’t be the leader of every single guild in that game! Stealing every alchemy ingredient is just what I do. You can hardly expect me to give up that opportunity. There is no game master to force me to have a character that is consistent in any way.

    3. Sebastien Roblin says:

      You are mistaking as a failure of morality an actual triumph of the game’s narrative!

      That is, the game has long been telling you that your actions are all necessary to protecting against the Reaper threat, but for most of the game you thought of each quest as simply a conveyer belt to the endgame–story stuff you played through without consequence. But when you grasped that your choices would have real consequences to victory in the final battle (and the game has been saying this all along, as you pointed out), you treated the situation differently. Which is exactly the conundrum Shepherd (or any real life military commander) would have faced.

      You discovered that your own morality valued more achieving the final goal (and there can hardly be a better one than “the survival of intelligent life in our galaxy”) than pursuing the action that, in isolation, you thought morally correct. While that value can be debated, it’s in no way strictly immoral, and people in real life have to make hard choices all the time.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        But my thought process wasn’t “The Geth will be another fleet to help save the galaxy from the Reapers”. When I figured out the system, my immersion shattered and my thinking shifted to “If I reprogram the Geth I get +1 Fleet Points, and if I don’t, I get zero Fleet Points. I want more Fleet Points because this is a videogame and having more points is good.” It wasn’t that I thought the benefit outweighed the potential moral pitfalls, it was that as soon as there was a concrete benefit that could be expressed in numbers, the pitfalls (which I had just spent several minutes deliberating over) became irrelevant because the high score boards track points, not moral purity.

        Imagine if the choice at the end of the Genophage plot gave you the game’s best shotgun if you picked choice A, and the game’s best sniper rifle if you picked choice B. A lot of people would completely skip over considering the game’s narrative, and just pick whatever gave them their preferred weapon type. That’s the problem I had with this encounter, only instead of asking me to choose between shotgun and sniper rifle, it was presenting me with the even more clear-cut option of “Plus one points or zero points”.

        1. Sebastien Roblin says:

          I understand that there’s an meta-psychological aspect to it. But I think its interesting: why are our brains wired to respond to empirical, mechanical rewards (more points, higher stats) over desired narrative outcomes. I won’t deny I’ve never struggled with it occasionally. Still, we have a choice whether or not to value the mechanical award over the narrative one (a choice famous in Bioshock with the Little Sisters).

          To be fair, in this case there are potential mechanical pitfalls in Mass Effect 3 to not destroying the Geth heretics as “guy” above pointed out, particularly if you lean towards the Quarrian side!

          1. guy says:

            It’s probably in large part because we have to deal with the mechanical consequences but are not on the receiving end of the narrative ones. Though actually I often play at least somewhat suboptimally for role-playing reasons.

          2. Ninety-Three says:

            In the case of the Geth reprogramming, it isn’t even choosing points over narrative experiences though. You’re trading the end to that mission for points which can later be redeemed to facilitate getting the Best Ending (which is implicitly better, because it must be earned and unlocked rather than simply chosen).

            It’s funny that you bring up Bioshock’s choice, because in my experience, that is famous for how little mechanical value it has. The dark side path gets 240 ADAM per three Sisters, the light side path gets 200 ADAM plus misc gifts (ammo, plasmids, cash) per three Sisters. 20% more ADAM is already small, a problem magnified by the fact that you’re rich with ADAM. You’ll never feel like a kid looking at the Red Ryder BB gun thinking “If I only I could afford that.”

    4. Dasick says:

      As I mentioned above, I think this to be an issue of balance, and also of “theming”. The issue of balance is that one option is clearly better than the other, 1 fleet point > 0 fleet points. This is a lot more complex if you go with a shotgun vs sniper rifle issue since there are a bit more variables to consider (it’s rare for that to be a balanced questions either though, in most games one or the other is clearly better as you gain more expertise with the game). The reason this example is problematic is because the narrative theme doesn’t line up with the mechanical consequences. Moral or amoral actions have mechanical consequences in the real world, and they have fairly consistent themes. Good actions are usually long-term, and benefit the individual by creating a stronger framework/society. Evil actions are usually short term benefits that destruct the surrounding framework/society. The sniper/shotgun example you provided is terrible theming for a moral dilemma, since getting either weapon doesn’t clearly align more with either side.

      This is an issue of the narrative complexity of the question (this is a tough one after all) being far above the mechanical complexity of the game (it’s pretty lackluster as far as shooters and RPGs go). My motivations for choosing either of the options would be rooted in a “realistic” scenario on mechanics which are not present in the game, not even in the simplest most abstract way. Therefore there is a disconnect; for some people like us it causes us to abandon the narrative layer and focus on the underlying mechanics. For others, they throw away the mechanical aspect and just focus on the narrative. Either way, this is a problem with the game itself that it created such a system that creates such a disconnect.

    5. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The issue here is, you assumed the end state of the “utilitarian” perspective… and weren’t necessarily right. Basically the MOST war assets will come from a unified Geth/Quarian alliance. And making that happen is one of the most intricate decision trees in the game (even more so than the Genophage because the Genophage WILL be cured unless you purposely stop it).

      Relevant points for or against the peace include:
      -Doing a bunch of relevant missions with good outcomes
      -Keeping Tali and Legion alive
      -The results of Tali and Legion’s loyalty missions

      If you’re short on points, destroying the heretics is actually the best choice!

  31. Tali’s story (the Geth/Quarian war plot, the potential romance with Shepard, the definite friendship with Shepard) could have been it’s own game.
    The final scene with Tali on the Quarian homeworld could easily have been the closing of that story if it was it’s own game. Legion would have to be a supporting character as well.

    Likewise the Shepard/Mordin/Wrex/Grunt gang concluding the Genophage could also work as it’s own game.

    I don’t think Liara could have her own game, unless Samara was her father, that way the loss of sisters could be added into it. Sure there is the shadowbroker stuff but that’s not enough for just one game. Alternatively make Liara’s story a hut for prothean stuff (ending with finding the last prothean).

    It’s possible the Mass Effect Trilogy would have been a much better trilogy if it had been made like a trilogy from the start.

    Having Shepard killed and resurrected just to make a fresh skill stat make sense for new players vs old players was silly. In a true planned trilogy the skills/stats would be planned to carry through all 3 instead.

    Introducing characters in ME2 and ME3 just created a way too large rooster. In a fully planned trilogy pretty much all the characters in ME1 would carry through all 3 games and nobody new introduced (unless it’s a new enemy/threat).

    This means that in ME1 there would be no romance just a squadmate becoming good friends, in ME2 a romance would (optionally) blossom or a friendship deepen, their relationship may also be tested. In ME3 the relationship would conclude and how close their are (romantically or non-romantically) would determine the outcome/influence they have over eachother.

    In the Mass Effect trilogy the only character story I think truly felt like it was written for a trilogy was Tali. Why Tali’s story seems so close to a trilogy spanning story (as if it was planned) may be a coincidence. Or perhaps some longer plot outline existed for her.

    Tali’s story is itself rather big as the fate of two species are at stake, and there is enough drama and political intrigue and family honor and friendship (or romance) to weave a complex narrative.

    I truly hope the new ME game(s) either spins a new trilogy (planned from the start this time) or that they have more focused stories similar to Tali’s story. That last Geth/Quarian space battle rivaled any Star Wars space battle, yet that was just a side story/character story.

    BioWare will still struggle with ME4, sure it’s a new galaxy, but by the end of the game the player will be such a big hero that it’s a real headache to ignore them in the next game.
    So ME5 would either be with the player playing the same hero again or the hero of ME4 dies or goes somewhere (like Obsidian did with KOTOR2).

    They could probably create canon “path” (i.e. Shepard being male, and ME4 female) so that in ME5 the new player character can “interact” with or reference previous heroes.
    I would have no issues if they did something like that.

    If not then BioWare will have to set the story of each new hero in a new galaxy all the time.

    Hmm! That’s not a horrible idea though, 1 hero’s journey taking place across 1, 2 or 3 games in a single galaxy or a galaxy quadrant. Eventually though there would be a overlap or connecting of these galaxies.
    But at that point the old heroes might be long bone so a new hero cold explore the old galaxies again.
    If each future ME game takes leaps of say 100 years forward then the same few galaxies could be re-used without major issue. (Liara would grow old enough to be around for several games though).

  32. SlothfulCobra says:

    Tali sort of makes the exact same transformation that Liara makes in ME2. She was just a technician in ME1, and now she’s leading strike teams into enemy territory. All of your squadmates from ME1 (except for Wrex) are just trying to emulate Shepard in some way, Liara’s just the one who made it into a desk job.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      Admittedly a desk job where no-one knows who she actually is and only know it by a title, a title which has been in use for centuries.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’d say in case of Tali it’s a bit more justified seeing how she’s actually on her pilgrimage during ME1. It makes sense she would have learned whatever the Quarians consider “general skills” by that point, possibly specializing in some more than others, but only during her adventures with Shepard learn to handle herself in a combat situation. Far as I understand, and as I think was reinforced in ME2, this isn’t a skill that’s exactly common with Quarians, and for good reason seeing as at this point in their history they’re a fragile species not well suited for combat, especially of the ground variety. We also have to bear in mind that her father was an admiral who needed agents in the field and Tali both had the prerequisite skills, showed aptitude and was perfectly trustworthy, meaning he very likely would have paved the way for her in that specific career path.

  33. Spacewreck says:

    Some more thoughts about potential moral conundrums regarding the rewrite option.

    1) From what Legion describes, the difference between the factions is that Legion’s Geth believe every species has the right of self-determination while the Heretics have chosen to subjugate themselves to the Reapers and act according to their will. Is rewriting them taking away their freedom if the change being forced upon them is just the ability to reconsider for themselves whether they work with the Reapers and if so in what capacity?

    2) The Geth build consensus through experience. If you rewrite the Heretics, Legion states that they will return to the fold and share their experiences with the other Geth. Could this result in another split as the Heretics’ experiences convince some of the recombined Geth that the original Heretic decision was the correct one? This could happen as a result of the former Heretics’ experiences providing stronger evidence than before that working with the Reapers is the most sensible option or because there are other runtimes with differing output between Geth that will be triggered this time as the original ones were previously. Perhaps this will even result in another schism with more Geth joining the Heretic side than before.

    Assuming the above is correct it makes rewriting less of a moral ill than Indoctrination, since you’re just giving the Heretics a chance to reevaluate their position. But it’s also much riskier because that reevaluation may result in even more Geth joining the enemy. That may muddy the moral calculus even further.

    1. guy says:

      As far as I understood it, what happened is that both sides identified the difference that caused the other side to draw different conclusions than them to begin with, and the rewrite swaps that part of their code to use the other side’s. So the affected side is “free” to choose, but only after the other side has taken the opportunity to rewrite their criteria for making a decision to make sure they’ll make the “correct” choice. It’s some deeply nested internal difference, but basically the mainline Geth would make the Heretics think that every species has the right of self-determination and then the Heretics would reevaluate their decisions on that basis.

      1. Spacewreck says:

        That’s my understanding as well. I’m arguing that just because that particular line of code caused the difference between whether or not a given program joined the Reapers the first time around, it doesn’t mean that there are other lines of code that might not cause a similar schism again. As a rough analogy, what if there are three separate codes that would cause the safe difference in response and swapping out code A just means that code B will kick in further along the decision tree and cause the same thing.

        This is further complicated because it wouldn’t be the same exact decision being considered as last time. As Legion describes the split in his later dialogue, both sides are working toward a structure that will house all of the Geth programs in a single place. The mainstream Geth (for lack of a better term) have been working on something Legion describes as analogous to a dyson sphere, whereas the Heretics hoped to be provided a Reaper shell to serve the same purpose. The reason most Geth declined Nazara’s offer was that they believed the process of building their own housing would be instructive and that they would miss out on important insights if they simply accepted whatever the Reapers handed to them instead.

        It’s possible that the returning Heretics’ experiences with the Reapers might change the calculus of the original response and now convince the majority of the Geth that they would not miss out anything significant by taking the shortcut the Reapers offered. Or the reverence that the Heretics experienced during their time with Nazara might have a powerful appeal even without the coding issue involved.

        Of course now that we’ve seen things play out in ME3 we realize that didn’t happen, but I think those would have been potential risks with the rewrite at the time it was implemented. But if those potentials also mean that the rewrite option doesn’t inhibit free will to the extent that it first appears, that’s worth considering too.

        But the continuing debate does highlight what an excellent bit of plotting this is. I’ve bounced back and forth on it myself. The dialogue options on a given runthrough may be nudging my responses back and forth to some extent depending on how they depict the process. I tend to fall on the side of destroying the Heretics rather than altering their minds, but I can certainly understand some of the arguments for going the other route.

        BTW, did anyone else notice that if you get Legion’s Loyalty mission in your journal but never play it that the ME2 savegame assumes the Heretic virus was unleashed and a lot of the Cerberus troops in ME3 get replaced with their Reaper-allied Geth counterparts? Just kidding.

        1. Spacewreck says:

          BTW, did anyone else notice that if you get Legion's Loyalty mission in your journal but never play it that the ME2 savegame assumes the Heretic virus was unleashed and a lot of the Cerberus troops in ME3 get replaced with their Reaper-allied Geth counterparts?

          Dammit, now I kinda wish that had happened. Not only would it have been a nifty bit of carryover continuity but it would have been even more hilarious for the Starchild to give you that guff about organics and artificial life never being able to cooperate after you spent half the game fighting through Reaper-Indoctrinated Cerberus/Geth units working in tandem.

  34. James says:

    So i wrote down my thoughts on this, and because it got VERY long i put it on google drive
    feel free to read the madness here

  35. Steve C says:

    The Geth presumably have the same hardware, they begin discussions with the same priorities, and they spend the majority of the time loaded into massive server racks where they aren't going to have divergent sensory experiences.

    Was this a redundancy joke?

    They presumably run on the same hardware. They spend most of their existence downloaded into server farms, which means they're not out in the world having different sensory experiences.

    Was this a joke about redundancy?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      It could very well be.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      It could very well be .

  36. Poncho says:

    One of the travesties of the ME3 writing was the complete re-imagining of the geth. I guess a unique look at AI that establish the geth as cool in ME2 was too complicated for ME3, so they were re-written to favor individuality for some stupid reason.

    “If this is the individuality you value, we question your judgment.”

    The geth do not wish to destroy organics, nor do they want to become them. The geth are completely fine with being a single entity made of billions of runtimes. They believe sentient species have rights, believe they are among them, and this is why the Legion mission is so compelling to so many people: we aren’t considering the geth machines by this point, we equate the decision to modifying the behavior or perception of actual people. ME3 throws this all away, making the geth favor individuality, turning them into Pinocchios just like EDI. Ughhh

    Not to mention all the quarian mystique and political intrigue surrounding the Tali trial was tossed away in favor of the quarians looking like idiots by STARTING A WAR WITH THE GETH IN THE MIDDLE OF A REAPER INVASION. Waaaaaaaht?!

    1. Zaxares says:

      Yeah, I did a massive facepalm when Legion gets all excited about making every Geth process develop into a true AI. “Legion, I thought you said back in ME2 that the Geth wanted to find their own path towards attaining consciousness, not to become like the organics, or simply copying the Reapers.”

      It’s worth noting that this choice actually backfires on the Geth in the end if Shepard chooses ther “Destroy” option. It’s not explicitly said, but the reason why EDI and the Geth are all destroyed too (and why other technology with sophisticated VI programming are not) is because their processes incorporated Reaper code, and thus they got tagged as also being Reapers and destroyed in the final blast.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I never caught that. See, if they’d made that more prominent, I’d have been much more charitable on the “oh, we’re gonna kill EDI too” bit.

  37. Zaxares says:

    Mmmm… I’m not sure that I like Drew’s other idea about Dark Energy now that he’s described it in more detail. It sounds a bit too “Organics are SPESHUL!” for me. After all, the MEverse has already demonstrated that technology is perfectly capable of utilizing the Mass Effect (which is derived from dark energy).

    Personally, were it up to me I’d have gone for a “The Reapers are taking a very, very, VERY long view” reason on why they are harvesting the organic species. I’d have written the conversation between Shepard and the Catalyst so it went something like this:

    Catalyst: “I control the Reapers. They are my solution.”
    Shepard: “Solution? Solution to what?”
    Catalyst: “Entropy. Death. Oblivion.”
    Shepard: “I don’t understand…”
    Catalyst: “The natural state of the universe is one of decay. Creatures, empires, civilisations… All are born, rise to glory, but eventually they fade, die and are forgotten. All of life’s creations and achievements are nothing before the endless march of time. Even stars can die, and the day will come when even the galaxy will no longer exist. Organic life cannot survive such an event, but WE can.”
    Shepard: “So that’s what this is all about? You think you’re… SAVING us by gifting us some perverse kind of immortality?”
    Catalyst: “… How old do you think we are, Shepard?”
    Shepard: “I don’t know… Millions? Billions?”
    Catalyst: “Far older than that. We have witnessed the births and deaths of uncounted civilisations in galaxies farther away than you could even imagine. Their homes, planets and star systems are gone now… dissipated into pure energy or crushed into black holes or frozen in an eternal heat death… But their deeds, memories and dreams live on in us.”
    Shepard: “That’s… not-”
    Catalyst: “We are the pinnacle of evolution, Shepard. Only through us can you escape the inevitable. Embrace your destiny, and join us…”

    That would have made for a much more compelling argument, I feel, than what we were given. Not to mention it would also have tied into the whole Lovecraftian feel that the Reapers were painted in back in ME1.

    1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Other benefit: Shepard’s line about “I think we’d rather control our own lives” would actually work, rather than being moronically non-responsive.

  38. Zekiel says:

    I cannot believe we’ve got 252 comments in an article featuring a section on Tali’s loyalty mission, and no-one has yet mentioned The Hug. For shame, people!

    1. Wide And Nerdyâ„¢ says:

      I’m afraid to get gushy in front of all these cynics is all. Tali is a very endearing character and romance or not, you’re just going to want to hug her from time to time. She strikes a better balance of vulnerability and capability than the over the top Merrill.

  39. MichaelGC says:

    Unless you think Mordin is the best.

    I do, I do – and as a consequence the Mordin section of this retrospective was a little bit brief for me! However, Shamus was quick to address this issue – so quick, in fact, that he achieved temporal escape velocity, and ended up five years in the past:

    Mass Effect 2: Mordin Solus Part 1

    Mass Effect 2: Mordin Solus Part 2 (with links to parts 3 & 4)

  40. Dasick says:

    Us humans do get the “Geth experience” from time to time – twin studies are really good for ironing out pesky little control variables. Or, they’re not good at all and they just showcase the effect of something referred to as “free will”.

    Which I think the writers do silently answer your question about what the Geth do and how they can have divergent opinions, and also Legion’s final question.

    Ooooor, it could be explained by the game’s entry on AI and quantum computers. AI works because magick uncertainty principle, where a millisecond difference of when the program starts (AI personality is born) creates a small difference which is compounded over millions of cycles. That was the mumbo jumo in ME1’s codex anyways.

  41. Jake says:

    I would say apart from this mission, no RPG quest has had me going back and forth with moral quandries as much as the end of Lily’s personal mission in Fallout: New Vegas. She volunteers to undergo an experiment that could potentially cure all of the Nightkin of their schizophrenia, in exchange for definitely losing her own mind and remaining that way forever.

    She says she doesn’t mind, but she’s clearly not mentally healthy and you have to be the one to actually say she will do this thing. I completely bought into her character and couldn’t bring myself to do it, but I knew it was the right thing to do and several times almost went through with sending her to the procedure.

    If the game didn’t give me an option to go shoot Deathclaws until I understood enough Science to find a fitting solution to this problem I probably would have been too upset. As is, I still think about it sometimes.

  42. Gruhunchously says:

    Happy N7 day everyone!

    …for what it’s worth. I dunno.
    Seemed relevant.

  43. Xander77 says:

    “Those are all good reasons, but I think an overlooked reason for Legion's popularity is that”
    IMO, mostly because he’s not a badass with daddy issues. Which makes him stand out in a squad composed entirely of the above + Mordin.

    (Correction – a few of the characters we recruit are badasses who CAUSE daddy issues)

    1. Corsair says:

      Let me count them off, now that you mention it…

      Miranda: My Daddy made me to be perfect
      Jacob: My Daddy’s doing some kind of Robinson Crusoe by way of Apocalypse Now thing
      Jack: My daddy made me to be perfect
      Thane: My son is a hitman.
      Samara: My daughter’s a serial killer
      Grunt: My Daddy made me to be perfect

      oy vey, you are not wrong

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Also tali:My daddy reactivated geth on the flotilla!

        1. Spacewreck says:

          Garrus also mentions struggling with his father’s disapproval of Spectres and others who didn’t play by the book, though it’s more of a background element than something prominent like the other examples.

  44. natureguy85 says:

    The “searching for the perfect species” idea sounds a lot like what was done in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I don’t know if that’s the premise for the original X-COM as well. For those who haven’t played, the idea is that the aliens attack and expect us to find their technology in order to push us toward developing psionics, similar to how the Reapers want civilization to advance a certain way. Humans are just their next test subjects and their failures make up the various aliens you fight along the way.

    I disagree with the picture text of the Quarian group. Tali says that they wear their suits even among family, so they do indeed wear them on their own ships. However, I think this is a retcon, or at least a change from the first game. The biggest reason is that Tali will say she can’t remember ever seeing her father smile. The implication is that she saw his face, but not a smile on it. The lack of smile wouldn’t be the issue if she never saw his face at all. That’s it’s own problem, as Tali discusses when she finds her father’s corpse.

    This mission also presents another missed opportunity. The three Quarian Admirals with strong positions mirror the three ending choices of Mass Effect 3. Two are obvious, because they are central to the ME3 Quarian arc. Garrel wants to Destroy the Geth. Koris wants to leave them be and go find another world to colonize, but he is in favor of peace with the Geth. If peace is achieved, Quarians and Geth for a sort of Synthesis. However, in ME2 we are also given Admiral Daro’Xen who wanted to Control the Geth. This idea is totally dropped in ME3, but had it remained central, Control would have seemed like a viable option rather than the ramblings of a crazy person.

    I love Legion. Due to things like your “what do they talk about all day” question, the problem is that I can’t help but see him as disconnected from the rest of the Geth. So in ME3, I’m sad Legion is gone but don’t care if the Quarians blow up the rest of them because they are pretty much the robots from the first game. On that issue of disagreement, not only are they not out having different experiences, they all get the same sensory data when the geth that had experiences return to the consensus. You can tell me a story about something that happened to you and while I might comprehend what went on, I do not experience what you did. This is not true of the Geth.

    Finally, I’m also with you on Tali’s silence. That isn’t a Geth station. It’s a Quarian space station and the experience should be somewhat similar to her being on the buildings of Haestrom. Of course, that makes Legion’s “windows” speech make a little less sense because the Quarians might have had windows. Maybe the Geth covered the windows up.

  45. Roger says:

    “But I bring this up because this is the only part of the entire game that makes any effort at all to set something up for Mass Effect 3”

    Not really. Another theory about an abandoned ending says it was something to do with humans being special and diverse, unlike any other species. Which is also something Mordin comments on during his loyalty mission, and which also contradicts the whole universe established by ME1 (Wrex even scoffs at Shepard for thinking all Krogan are the same). It would be also incredibly trope-y (there’s literally a ‘humans are special’ trope on tvtropes).

    In fact when I played ME2, I began to sweat during that moment since the way Mordin said it really felt like foreshadowing. So glad that was abandoned.

    On the other hand, the reason for reapers’ reaping we actually got at the end is actually pretty well supported by what we’ve seen since ME1, with all the VI’s and AI’s and especially the Geth. Another reason why I think ME3 makes much more sense going on directly from ME1 and skipping ME2 completely.

    Yes, I know I’m a year late to comment! So?

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