What Sort of Game Are You Playing?


Let’s Play the New Mass Effect Game, Part I: Origins

Right, so. The game (my imaginary version of it, anyway) is called PARABELLUM. “What’s that all about?,” wondered the fanboys after the big reveal at Comic-Con 2014, or Pax Prime, or whenever it was revealed. There was much gnashing of teeth about the “CoD-ification” of the series, and all kinds of people were just utterly convinced that the transition to full-on shooter was going to be complete. Some people were overjoyed about the prospect. Some people wailed and rent their garments.

Ultimately, BioWare had to remind everyone that despite the awesome potential in the Frostbite3 engine, and the undeniably improved ability to BLOW SHIT UP renewing everyone’s commitment to creating satisfying scenarios in which players can and will BLOW SHIT UP, it was still a Mass Effect game. It was still shooting, traveling, talking to people, jogging all over the damn place, sometimes looting through crates like a hobo, and trying to have sex with aliens. And some people actually chilled out when they were reminded of that. Not many, it seemed at the time, but enough.

And one of the devs said on Twitter that anyone who was truly upset or gleeful would do well to go back to their Latin and Greek.

"Si vis pacem, para bellum," goes the expression. "If you would have peace, prepare for war." Sure, there is a famous type of 9mm ammunition called a "parabellum round," and sure, that name is taken from the same source, but it’s the underlying meaning that matters here.

And when we learned the game was in fact a sequel to the trilogy, that meaning suddenly made a lot of sense.

After the EA and BioWare logos, the text crawl starts up:

"It is a time without precedent. The threat of the Reapers, ancient artificial intelligences that harvested advanced civilizations at their peak, were defeated 120 years ago."

Oooh! straight sequel! I knew it!

And awww, most everyone from the trilogy who isn’t asari or krogan is dead. Womp womp. I bet Garrus died of complications of advanced awesomeness like 50 years ago.

"The war that decimated the galaxy’s mightiest navies came at a terrible cost, but for the first time, the civilizations and people of the galaxy can move forward, farther than anyone has in aeons, and see what lies out there, in the black…"

Ok, wow, they are just straight-up stealing from “Firefly” now… and I like it…

And now, there’s a ship, floating through space. Wow, space looks amazing here. Is this a loading screen?

Oh. Nope, it’s the background for my character selection screen. I get it. I have to decide whose ship this is, and presumably from there the game will tell me what they’re doing.

See, the idea here is that the beginning who-knows-how-many minutes will be like Dragon Age: Origins. Everything comes together at some point, and the story moves forward more or less the same after the first section. What’s different is what part the player-character plays in the story.

Early looks and reports made people nervous about the whole “but my choices need to matter!” issue, and so hours and hours of gameplay got released. It was actually only about 25 minutes of gameplay, but it was over and over again, with variations enough to impress people. A lot.

The long and short of it is, the first couple of hours of your game will take into account what you did with the end of the trilogy, AND start you off on one of several intro stories that all lead into the main plot.

This isn’t too far-fetched (he said, out of character for a minute), considering this is how Dragon Age: Origins worked, and now that we mention it, SW:TOR did this too, to a degree.

It’s almost as though BioWare have been refining and learning with each game released. Hmmm… Oh, and the way your choices from the last generation carry over to the new game? It works very much like Dragon Age: Keep (which at this moment in the real world is still in closed Beta, and no I am not part of it, damn it all). It’s called the Codex.

So. My Codex was lovingly tweaked with all my Shepard’s choices. I even put in his face code — can’t wait to see what that does. It was quite the 350-question walk down memory lane.

One cool feature of the Codex is that I was able to stake out my origin story for Parabellum within the app, as well. I selected the “Info Broker” origin, which led to choices of a salarian, human, or asari as my player character. Cool.

Humans are an option in all six origins, as a nod to the stats that say so damn many players seem to prefer being a human. Their loss.

You can be a Soldier as a human, turian, or asari; you can be a Mercenary as a human, turian, or krogan; you can be a Merchant as a human, quarian, or volus (!); you can be an Engineer as a human, quarian, or asari; and finally, there’s the Diplomat, which is human, asari, or krogan.

You can’t necessarily combine your favorite race and your favorite storyline, but you do still have character class choices within each option. It seems to be a way to make almost everyone happy, most of the time.

All this means that when I’m watching the spindly, spiky little ship cursing through the nebula, it’s a salarian info broker inside it.

This is going to be awesome.

Let’s Play the new Mass Effect Game, part 0

Okay, so the concept here is that I have VERY STRONG IDEAS about how I might put together the next game. There is a real one being worked on RIGHT NOW in Montreal, but that for the moment is still Schröedinger’s Game, thanks to the tiny amount of info contained in the otherwise lovely E3 tease.

Seriously, the fanbase wasn’t teased half as much as Hudson’s hair looks like it was, but it was still a big ol’ teasefest.

It occurs to me that some of my cool ideas might be in pretty good alignment with the actual game, in which case not telling you about them now sets me up for clowning later, when nobody believes that I TOTALLY CALLED THAT. Meanwhile, being way off is fine, because I’m just a fan and who cares, right?

So I plan to explain my fanfi— uh, my concepts— by way of a walkthrough of my imaginary next Mass Effect game. Let’s look all the way ahead to Q2 2015, (or maybe Q3), shall we… ?

I’m playing on PS4. I’ve bought a physical copy, because no matter how much Microsoft and Sony try to push downloads, even if it means playing a few hours earlier, even if Blu-Ray discs don’t actually last forever, I am an old person and need physical media.

So I crack open the packaging, and…

Oh, yeah. I should talk about the packaging, shouldn’t I?

There’s a rakishly cool spaceship, against a star field. An arm of the Milky Way arches by in the background. A sweet-looking blue and red nebula occupies the top third of the picture. On top of that in gold and black it says


…and that is how you tease something.

This is why my foreign language was ASL. Gendered nouns can eat a bag o' dicks.

  • French: This chair is feminine! "La Chaise!"
  • Italian: This chair is feminine! "La sedia!"
  • German: This chair is masculine! "Der Stuhl!"
  • English: This chair is a fucking object, I don't see a skirt or a pair of trousers anywhere on its cold hard surface, you people are fucking insane.
  • Japanese: If you don't pronounce chair exactly right, you'll end up saying testicles instead.

How do I Tumblr

Okay, I realize I’m old and sad because I wish blogspot was still a thing (even though I really do not wish that) but is it too much to ask for Tumblr to just stop with the “about a month ago” or “4 days ago” and just goddamn label stuff with the actual date?

Actually, most of the time it makes no reference whatsoever to when it was that someone posted something. Jesus, am I thinking of Facebook? UGH YOU SEE WHAT YOU DO TO ME TUMBLR GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER

You know what…

…In terms of new game development, I would be perfectly fine with the idea of BioWare going to an Olympics-style schedule: give us a new Dragon Age game, then two years later a new Mass Effect game, alternating thusly forever.

That’s four years between installments in either series, but two years between updates to one or the other.

Dragon Age can be the Winter Olympics. You see bobsledders on your TV in February, you’ll be seeing Varric in Q3 the same year. You see javelin-throwing happening in July, get ready for spaceships just a few months later.

I am a genius.

The Night Before X-Mass Effect

I made a little something, and posted it to reddit a couple of minutes ago. For posterity, here it is:

The Night Before X-Mass Effect

’Twas the night before Christmas, and on Eden Prime,
The children had gone to bed - *mostly* on time.

The Relay sat quiet, as if it could sleep,
And longest-range sensors gave off not a beep.

The tendrils of nebulae glistened in grey,
As I steered my ship home from six light-years away.

My recon route finished, I powered the thrusters,
And headed for home with what speed I could muster.

My body felt tired, my eyeballs were hinky,
And after ten hours, yes, the cockpit was stinky.

But happy I was to be heading to base,
So I sat back reclining, a smile on my face.

When what should appear on my screen, straight ahead,
But a ship of bright silver, with trim green and red.

It hadn’t pinged sensors! How was it so close?
It was either a stealth ship, or some kind of ghost!

Evasive maneuvers! I lunged for the steering
When a voice on the comm laughed, deep and endearing.

The laugh sounded human, but pleasant and strange,
Like the way music warps as it comes into range.

I sat there dumbfounded, and chewed at my lip,
Then I opened the channel: “ahoy, unknown ship!”

“You’re approaching my base. Say from where you were sent.
“Please identify registry, faction, intent.”

But the laughter was kind, and its owner was gentle,
“Please forgive me, Lieutenant,” *(was I going mental?)*

“I thought by now you’d be back home, with the boys.
“I’m sorry to startle you. Just hauling toys.”

The deep voice continued, “I mean you no harm.
“The kids have been so good, this year on the farms.

“The Reapers are gone, but things just aren’t the same.
Still, if there’s no Christmas, that *would* be a shame.

“I have proper clearance; I’m sending it now.
But it’s your choice, Lieutenant, if you will allow.

“With all that has happened, I hope that you’re willing.
“Those trees need some presents, those stockings need filling.”

I didn’t need evidence. I simply knew
That the voice was the real thing, the story was true.

He sent his credentials, though, quelling all doubt,
With an audio file ending, “Yes. Hackett out.”

And so, that’s my story, my day in the sun,
And that’s how my call sign became “Rudolph-One.”



Jul 5

Cutest. I love this. I love this. I love that these grandparents were content and able to instantly find their favorite thing about the game and really enjoy it and relive something they love. I love that OP let them just row contentedly, rather than tell them the “right” way to play.


Cutest. I love this. I love this.

I love that these grandparents were content and able to instantly find their favorite thing about the game and really enjoy it and relive something they love. I love that OP let them just row contentedly, rather than tell them the “right” way to play.

(Source: gamergirlreviews)

Why the Green Ending of ME3 Sucks


TITLE CARD: “Ranthagusthia”

TITLE CARD: “a pre-spaceflight planet”

TITLE CARD: “completely untouched by the Reaper War”


A sturdy two-level hut, seemingly built of a combination of sleek aluminum-like metal and dried mud or organic material. There is a bright purple sky above, and the sun is just rising.

TITLE CARD: “Three hours after the Crucible Pulse went out”


TZORT awakes, rolling over and then getting up to place two of his six legs on the floor. He yawns, his probiscus twitching lazily. He tosses aside the blankets and stands up, then shuffles across to the bathroom.


He stands in front of the toilet, camera medium-close on his head and shoulders as he looks down. We notice that he has a delicate GREEN GLOW intermittently passing over every inch of his skin, and his eyes glow softly with the same green color. We hear a rustling sound and…


Aaaaahhhhhhhh! What the FUCK?! Tzingria! Honey! Where are you?


He rushes back out into the bedroom, pajamas still askew. We can’t be sure because of his alien anatomy, but there’s a chance his wang is literally flopping in the breeze. His mate, TZINGRIA, rushes in through the door. She has a similar appearance, and also has the green glow.


Aaaaaaaah! Oh shit oh shit oh shit. You’re green! You’re green!


What are you talking ab— (she has seen him now too) Aaaaaaaaah!




BioWare are clever-pants cartographers

So, for my little project, I’m doing a ton of planning. You kind of have to. Bad fan-fiction, when I see it, which I do as little as possible really… bad fan-fiction reeks of first-draftedness, or worse, stream-of-consciousness. Great as an exercise, but don’t make me watch that, man.

One thing I need to do is decide on the location of a, uh, special location. The MacGuffin is in a place, and I need to know just where that place is. So I’ve been referring to a very cool graphic someone made (if I can find it again I’ll link to it), putting together the galaxy maps from all three games, thus creating a full view of the relay network.

…And thus revealing something that’s just so goddamn clever and triple-A badass I wanted to share.

The nature of the relay network is such that it’s a skeletal framework that goes all over the galaxy. In between the dots themselves, however, there is a LOT of space. Literally. Someone said that the network really only accounts for maybe 3% of the galaxy, and that would seem to be pretty right. If it’s 100 to 150k light years from edge to edge, the galaxy tends to have at least a couple, and often more like 5 or 8 relays along any line that’s a radius. And since the game suggests you can hop multiple relays in one transit, it really is pretty instantaneous getting from Point A to Point B, no matter where they are… as long as they’re near relays.

Logically, therefore, you’d want to build your colonies and outposts near Relays whenever possible. Nobody puts too much effort into better FTL that makes long trips easier, because Relays make travel downright trivial. Sure, there are those places that are a few hours or maybe a couple of days’ travel away from the nearest Relay, but that’s about it.  Story-wise, of course, that’s just the way the Reapers like it. Step into my web.

Our Local Cluster is a little remote actually, which fits the lore very well. We’re not on anyone’s beaten path, and getting to Earth means going through Arcturus first. It’s the only way here. Presumably, nobody else wanted it, because we found it empty.

Once you get to Arcturus and the Exodus Cluster, it’s really very wide-open. Arcturus links to lots of places. Again, smart planning tells a story even when it’s not part of the story. In this universe, humanity spread out a little tentatively at first, then a lot more aggressively. That’s completely logical, looking at the map, especially considering that for a couple of years, we didn’t realize anyone else was even out there.

The krogan and the Council Races are not so far away really, but their local relays link up to the Citadel. The humans have colonies all over the place. Again and again, the way things are set up simply reflects the reality of what BioWare had planned. It’s really quite smart.

So here’s to you, Planning the Galaxy Map People.

Oh god, another one

Yeah, I’m not dead. Whatever. I posted incredibly infrequently on Blogger, and it’s no different now. But this may be relevant to your interests.

I’m … look, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to say it, okay? I’m working on some fan-fiction.

The idea is, I need to get back into writing again, and I need to somehow get myself on to some manner of discipline, and just keep writing. I also need to stop worrying about whether it’s any good.

Oh, it’ll be good. Damn good. Because that’s how much I beat myself up about quality. But the thing is, even if it’s brilliant, it’s frickin’ fan-fiction. Nothing to get uppity about. This somehow helps me immeasurably. Besides, it’s what I’m interested in.

I’m hoping to do both an interstitial, “this is what another ship and crew was up to during ME2, both before, during, and after Shepard was dead for tax reasons” thing, as well as a future, 175-years-later, “don’t call it ME4” kind of thing.

I’m not saying I’m quite this ambitious, but if done well, it could be essentially, Cryptonomicon in the Mass Effect universe. If that elevator pitch doesn’t give you some degree of a chubby, I don’t even know.